Sunday, December 28, 2014

iDivorce You If Only I Could

I've been on the damned computer all day trying to work out kinks in my transition from my iPhone to my Galaxy s5. I didn't really have anything against Apple when I changed. I loved my iPhone, but I needed a better camera. I did. And frankly, Mike wanted one of us to try an android, so I was his guinea pig. I would rather it have been him trying out something new. I was good at using my iPhone. He's just better with new technology. I, on the other hand, have gotten adept at asking the Internet questions about how to do those techno things I just don't want to have to learn on my own.

But after doing everything that everyone said I should do, I still cannot text Mike. He can't text me either.

I keep hoping that iMessages will finally let me go. I turned it off on my iPhone. I turned it off on my computer, which informed me that it had already been turned off. And throughout it all, I sent Mike a bunch of messages:  Anything? Anything?

And then I realized that I had a whole new set of emoticons. I could send the little smiley face, the little smiley face embarrassed, the face confused, then crying, zoned out, exhausted, and then finally dead with little x's over her eyes. I sent a whole series of these guys.  Nothing. I could walk over to the couch and check Mike's phone. There were, under my label, a whole bunch of messages: test, test, test. Creative much?

The Internet finally told me that it might take Apple a week to catch up with it's own information that I have been unregistered from iMessages.

A week?

A week without emailing any of my friends who happen to have iPhones instead of something else? Except for Mike, I haven't paid attention to what kind of phones people have. I don't really care. I figure it doesn't much matter because we have all this technology to hold us together. And yet I'm decoupled from Mike. I'll never again see those little dots telling me that he was composing his reply. But I don't want to be decoupled. I depend on those texts to Mike. I depend on that technology, on those companies that provide it.

And yet the technology fails us, not because they can't manage the 'complicated' task, but because they're like divorced parents. They don't have any interest in cooperating with each other and with me when I'm trying to coordinate something with the other. I'm in the middle, the one who needs to have conversations with each of them. I get nothing but he-said-she-said. It's his fault. It's her fault. There are no clear answers. There is no concern for the feelings of the one in the middle who still needs the two controllers to work together to get something done.

Damn it, if I could divorce you both, Apple and Samsung, I would at this very instant. But I'm sure it would take at least a week for either of you to acknowledge it.

Thank you for listening, jules

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Whose Club Is This, Anyway?

It's a good night to tell you about something I hated, right?

It's just a day after Mike's birthday and a few days before Christmas? Good day for fury, isn't it?

First, I wanted to tell you that I had a good day. Tonight, I sang with my church choir and we nailed it, sang to the rafters. I might have been a little pitchy on one note, but it was short and I'm not sure anyone else noticed. Our church even has three bell choirs that played. That's a lot for a tiny church like ours. The group of little kids was sweet, the adults had come a long way since they started last year, and the college level group, the one that drops in from wherever they've been to play bells on a whim, always blows me away.

So why am I so pissed off, you might ask?

I wasn't mad this afternoon either. For three hours at Starbucks, I worked with a friend of mine who has written a really good young adult book. I mean, this thing reads like it's a movie playing in my head. I just finished editing it and he and I sat over coffee to go over my notes. Oh, I found a few things he could work on, but not anything significant. I was so inspired by our talk, I just wanted to come home and get to work on my own projects.

Nope. I wasn't aggravated by this meeting with my author friend. I was glad to offer him some confidence, to walk away from our meeting knowing that he's just got a little more work to do before his book is ready for print. I can't wait until I have permission to tell you what it is. I can't wait until I'm handing him a copy of my project to edit. No, I'm not fuming because of that. Okay, I'm just a tiny bit jealous, but let's keep that between us. He really did write an amazing book and that bit of jealousy only informs me that I need to get cracking on my own stuff. That wasn't what ticked me off.


Tonight, when all my work was done, and there was prodigious work, Mike and I sat down to a movie he'd gotten from his hold list at the library. I had earned a movie. I was ready for a movie. I picked up the movie case.

"Where'd you hear about this movie?" I asked him as I looked at the title, 'God's Not Dead.' It wasn't his usual action flick or drama. It wasn't a kid movie either. Mike is a thinking man. He's read Nietzsche, Dostoyevsky, Camus, C.S. Lewis, Nabokov. I've never read that stuff. But I hadn't thought he was thinking about God. Hell, I don't mind if he thinks about God. That's his path and I generally leave him to it. He supports me on my path, even got me back to going to church years ago though he described himself as an agnostic at the time. He walked past me and sat down on the couch, patting a spot next to him.

"It was in the theaters about a year ago," he said. "I figured I'd watch it."

"Did you watch it yet?"

"Not yet." And so I slipped it into the disc player and sat down next to him.

First off, the movie was set up so you couldn't skip the previews for the next 'God's Not Dead' movie. Cheap trick. At first, I just thought it was a low-quality production, but I held out hope that it could be interesting. At least, there were a couple of names I recognized in the beginning credits and the premise described on the back of the case sounded interesting - a student debates the existence of God with an atheist. Cool! Debate away, I thought.

But there was all this bad acting and a contrived script. The girlfriend tells the boy to stop standing up for God or she'll leave him. Who says shit like that?

"This is bad. Should we keep watching?" I asked Mike.

"Sure. We have to see if they pull it out at the end or if it's bad like this all the way through."

And then the Muslim character beat his daughter for not sharing the same belief that the rest of the family did. Wait! Don't Muslims embrace Jesus as a prophet? Don't we share an early part of the Bible in common?  That's when I got pissed off. This movie was insulting to a whole group of religious people to portray a typical Muslim family this way. In this storyline, the Muslim father was abusive, the Chinese man was too important and busy to listen to his son, an atheist was aggressive, abusive, and lost, and a whole slew of non-Christians acted intellectually superior toward any Christians that they met. Really?

Well, shit. I've never been treated that way by Muslims, Chinese, atheists, or any other non-Christians when they find out I'm Christian. Okay, once I saw disappointment on my barista's face when I said I was headed to church, but that was just a transitory look and maybe she was afraid I was going to tell her she was going to hell if she didn't join my church. I've been told that I was going to hell too, never mind that I was already going to a different church at the time.

Can those of us who believe in God but don't have any intention to go out and 'preach the good news' go by a different title than Christian? I'll be honest - I'm embarrassed to be defined by people who insist everyone else is going to hell if they didn't pick my church. I'm embarrassed to be defined by people who spew hatred for vulnerable young girls at the doorsteps of a Planned Parenthood. I'm mortified to go by the same name as people who malign anyone who falls in love differently than I did. Can I call myself an Alternative Christian, the way the odd rock band goes by the name of alternative rock? Can I be Christianish, or EquiChristian, or an Evolutionary Christian? I do love evolution and science too. Does that make me a heretic?

Once, a woman told me I wasn't a Christian at all because my beliefs didn't line up with hers, mostly because I don't like selling God on people's doorsteps. Maybe I'm not Christian after all. Wouldn't that be a kick in the ass? Would it be heresy for me believe that Allah and God are the same being? Maybe the fact that I can believe that someone's Allah is wonderful kicks me out of the club.

Maybe so. Whose club is this anyway?

Thank you for listening, jules

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sisyphus and Crocheting Toilet Paper Cozy with the Plastic Doll Head

It's sunny out, but I don't want to go walk the dog. I still have Christmas presents to buy and to make, but I don't want to. I have presents to ship tomorrow. I need to catch up, clean up, edit, shop, and get my act together, but my act is a wreck and I don't want to fix it.

I want to sit in a room and read a whole book. I want to watch a marathon of Dr. Who episodes, the ones with Eggleston and Piper, the slightly mismatched pair who were perfect together. I want to sit with my tea and my chamomile neck cozy warming my shoulder. I want to quilt crazy pieces of abandoned fabric together to make ugly little doll quilts like old ladies are supposed to do.

Did you know that? Did you know that old ladies are supposed to make ugly little things that they can barely give away. They don't crochet those pink and green toilet paper cozies with plastic doll heads because you need them or they would make your bathroom prettier. Nothing will make your bathroom prettier. It's a bathroom. They make those ugly pink and green toilet paper cozies with plastic doll heads out of abandoned pieces of yarn in their yarn basket because these women want to sit and be quiet while the TV is blaring some inane show that they never get to choose, because they don't want to accomplish one more productive thing, because they don't want to get their act together, but they don't want anyone to realize just what a wreck their act really is.

And slowly, over decades, their husbands realize, and then their children and their grandchildren and nieces and nephews and friends and casual acquaintances realize, as they futilely try to refuse one more ugly pink and green toilet paper cozy with a plastic doll head when they already have three tucked away deeply in their linen closets, that this old woman has lost her gourd and they just now realized just how lost it has been for all these years since she began crocheting them.

And by now, there is nothing to be done for it.

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tunnels Uphill Both Ways

I'm falling asleep at my keyboard. It's 2:12 in the afternoon and already it's dark out. Not really, but it feels like it. The chili was warm and the cheese melty. It's cool outside, but not quite cold and there isn't any snow. There isn't even any frost heave left. It melted. Maybe I should be glad about that, what with the climate change ice age that dropped on Buffalo, New York. I know those people are used to a lot of white weather, but eight feet of snow - that's just apocalyptic. Jesus, doesn't anyone else know where we're all headed when women are speaking of how the snow burst her front doors open and people had to dig tunnels so their dogs could poop. We're going to have to immigrate to Mexico to evade the cold. Won't that be a switch? What movie was that from? I know immigrating to Mexico to get out of the cold was in a movie, but I don't remember which one. Dennis Quaid.

Mike told me it was 'The Day After Tomorrow.' He remembers everything.

Will our weather continue to shift, to become more extreme? Will our children have a wildly different life that ours? Will they remember when, in stories for their children, they had to tunnel a mile in the snow to get to school and it was uphill, both ways?

I'm telling you.

By the way, they might need different tunnels for school than the ones they dig for their puppies. Just saying.

With even a tenth of the snow that Buffalo got, the folks here in the Pacific Northwest shut down schools, businesses, and roads. It's the hills, the inexperience, and the shortage of plows that does the job. In the meantime, it's dark and cozy here. Our cold weather broke and we finally had rain. The clouds fell out of the sky and laid down on the mountain ridges. I love when they do that. It gets dark so much earlier here than in the Midwest where I grew up and even though it's only late afternoon, I feel like snuggling down under four or five quilts. The only problem with this is that I don't actually sleep more. You'd think I would.

It's the life of an insomniac, using the TV and books for company while everyone else in the house is asleep. Actually, we have two insomniacs in our house, Mike and me both. You'd think that would end in cozy nights with each other and TV for company, but since we both work so hard not to wake the other and we wake at different times, we sneak into different rooms in a lame attempt not to wake the other and face the abyss of a long night that feels alone anyway. And then at 4:37 in the afternoon, I find myself falling asleep at my keyboard and feeling anxiety about people on the other coast.

Oh God, I was going to do something and now I can't remember what it was. 

Isn't it a bitch sometimes?

Thank you for listening, jules

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Walk of Shame

Today, I was walking on the trail with my friend, her dog, and my dog Teddy. We were having a good time, chatting, gossiping a little, looking up into the trees, and laughing at the dogs.

I hate when I'm having a perfectly good time with someone and gas creeps into my gut, changing the way I need to breathe to keep it from slipping out. It can change the timbre of a conversation, going from lightness and the nature of trees reaching for the sun to the way a particularly good looking man once refused to acknowledge my existence in a group conversation. It wasn't as though I wanted to sleep with the guy. I had just had an idea I thought the group might appreciate. This GQ type of guy, seemingly in charge, wouldn't even respond when I spoke, preferring instead to listen to the pretty woman in front of me or spouting his own better-looking ideas.

"People may not remember what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel." Carl W Buehner, 1971.

I had thought Maya Angelou said this, but I seem to have been wrong. That was what happened with this good-looking man and I have disliked him ever since. And, though the incident occurred a few years in the past, its stench hit me with fresh fervor.

And my gut began to hold a slight cramp as I tried to keep up with my friend on the trail. Open air could be my friend, I thought.

So, as I walked, I tried to let her take over the conversation for a bit so I could breathe a little more carefully and let a little gas go. I was grateful when she walked ahead of me.

Thinking I might be in the clear to let it slip quietly into the open air, I paused and let a little distance separate us. Silently, I let go a little of the pressure. Good. Silence is a virtue when it comes to unwanted gas. The breeze in my face was fresh, I then walked on more quickly, thinking I could outrun myself.

No such luck.

My friend paused to let her dog pee and I was forced to either come to an abrupt halt or slow down and still pass her by. I opted for looking sort of natural and passed her slowly.

Then, the breeze shifted and slapped me on the back, as if laughing at his own joke, and a waft of god-awful stench enveloped me. Being outdoors had not made it safe. I could not blame this on the dogs. I was forced to leave a neutral, if slightly awkward look on my face, and pretend that nothing had happened.

After that, even the conversation about how some good-looking guys can be seriously cruel, turned down a blind alley and we walked along in silence.

And I walked in shame.

Thank you for listening, jules

Friday, November 7, 2014

Sanctioned Nagging

I'm mad. I would tell you about the underhanded fat-shaming tactics used by my son's doctors, but I'm don't want to. What I intend to do is change doctors. I'm done with these people. I couldn't even stand to call them when Nick sprained his wrist because I knew they would make the whole session into a problem with his weight. The piss ants. Today, we arrived to get a shot, just a shot. Without my knowledge, the doctor scheduled a visit to 'check his blood pressure' and consult with her. The last few times his blood pressure has been high because he was nervous and was going to get a shot. Well, my blood pressure goes up when I'm scared and nervous too. They used that as an excuse to lecture us about his weight yet again. The last half dozen visits, no matter what they were intended to be about, a knee injury, a shot, a stomach ache, were focused primarily on his weight. Leave the poor kid alone, won't you?

Here's the thing that I shouldn't have to tell you. Nick doesn't drink soda. He doesn't even drink juice. He doesn't eat sugar except a small amount on Halloween and Easter. He eats salads every other day or so. He gets exercise nearly every day.  The poor kid has been struggling to eat healthy since he was in kindergarten. We took him to a nutritionist then and it became my job to nag him about his food. This woman had no children and wanted him to eat only salads, eggs, grilled chicken, and oatmeal made with flax seed oil. I couldn't even eat that shit. We quit with her and after a couple more years of nagging, these doctors convinced us to bring him to 'Wellness' sessions at Children's Hospital. The doctor there said, after six months of strenuous effort and no results, that he didn't keep track of his overall success, but that he had to admit that he didn't see improvement with most of his clients. In the meantime, another nutritionist had us at each others throats, blaming even Mike, for bad 'eating hygiene' even though he wasn't there to defend himself. When I realized that Nick was just feeling worse and worse about himself, I quit the program cold turkey. We could try to proceed with the recommendations we were given, but the nagging and finger-pointing had to stop. Still, Nick's primary doctors were still at it, weighing him at every turn and quizzing him about exercise and soda. The worst part is that these doctors have convinced me to nag him, to push him, and yes, to shame him into eating differently and getting more exercise.

One doctor rolled her eyes when I told her he didn't even drink soda. Plus, she made Nick, then only nine, feel really bad about himself. She was fired immediately after that appointment. The other doctors have been a little more subtle, but not much. Most of their consultations have consisted of coded conversations about his health, his exercise, and his blood pressure. It still left me feeling like I needed to nag and shame more rather than less. Well, shit. I'm sick of it.

Nick has been on steroids all his life for his asthma. Within two weeks of having pneumonia at the age of four, he's been on steroids almost constantly and sometimes oral as well as inhaled. He's had six bouts of pneumonia and countless other encounters with his asthma. The steroids have wrecked his metabolism. Oh sure, he could try to be perfect when it comes to carbohydrates and fat, but he does okay until he starts trying to eat the way his friends do. I'm convinced that he wouldn't be human if he tried any harder.

And after eight years of nagging sanctioned by his doctors, I'm finally convinced that nagging him, shaming him, and coercing him in any way is not helping. In fact, it has done more harm than good.

Thank you for listening, jules

Monday, November 3, 2014

I Voted

Well, I voted. I was too tired to run another load of dishes but I voted.

I was too lazy to walk the dog today but I voted.

I forgot to pick up the mail until I remembered that sometimes people along the road pick it up for themselves if I don't go out and get it. It was prematurely dark, cold, and pouring rain, but I walked out and got the mail.

And I voted.

It wasn't a glamorous election. No presidents were elected tonight. Sometimes I think more gets accomplished that specifically affects me in the local elections. Plus, when fewer people vote during these quieter elections, my vote has more power. There were some state representatives, some initiatives, and some judges. I voted to make class sizes smaller. I voted for Jay Rodne because he showed up at a Boy Scout event. He quietly talked to people and congratulated the Scouts who were participating that night. That's what it took to shift me toward his side - he showed up and he listened.

I'm not going to tell you anything else about the way I voted. It matters to me, but doesn't matter nearly as much to you except the fact that I voted. Tomorrow, my ballot will get postmarked and sent on it's way. It's a privilege and a responsibility at the same time, so I voted.

Did you?

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, October 27, 2014

Coming Out of a Dream

I just had a crazy dream, or at least I hoped it was a dream.

At first, I was in different houses, my grandma's house, my house, and then a freind's house where I'd been taking care of plants. Then, I woke up, or at least I thought I woke up. I was trying really hard to drag myself out of my unconsciousness because someone was in my kitchen making noise. My kitchen. It had registered as Mike since the person was making himself comfortable. I even heard creaking on the steps as he went back downstairs. But it dawned on me that Mike wouldn't be home yet. I heard footsteps downstairs. By now, I had my eyes open but I wasn't awake. Do you know that agonizing feeling when you're trying desperately to drag yourself out of sleep but you're still paralyzed except for your eyes?

Then, I heard growling from our bedroom. It was a deep warning. I wondered why Teddy had been in there without me. But my open eyes saw that Teddy was on the couch next to me, calmly looking at me. Ears dropped, eyes sleepy. Some of that desperate fear subsided, but not all of it.

I actually thought the steps and the growling were real and I'd woken to some strange stuff happening in my house. But the dog was calm. Where was the cat?

I still couldn't get up. I still could only move my eyes. The house still had a smoky smell from a back-draft in the flue. When power went out, we had started a fire, but had to crack some windows open to clear the air. A few windows downstairs were slightly open, but upstairs, it was pretty thick. I wondered, as I tried to clear my head, if the smoke was getting to me. I was still too groggy, but coming awake faster now that I thought the noises might be real.

And then, there was silence. My ears strained to hear something more in my house. Isn't it funny how the suspense raises the hair on your neck when there's a prolonged silence in a room after a strange noise?

Since Teddy was still calmly lying next to me, I told myself it was all a dream. Teddy didn't go nuts when someone came into the house, but he didn't just lie there with his ears hanging limply on his head either.

Our last dog, Indiana, used to go nuts. She even knew if it was friend or foe, mostly. She was good at distinguishing friends from strangers, even through the door. But she hated people in uniform. How could she tell that through the door? I guess Jehovah's Witness folks are as good as uniformed, because she hated them too. Police? No good, even though I tried to get her to understand that they were using their power for good. And delivery guys?

Oh, she hated delivery guys the most, with one exception. She loved our mail man. He gave her cookies. So, without even looking out the window, I could tell if it was the US Postal Service wherein she'd emit happy dog noises, or some other delivery people. With the others, she sounded vicious. How could such a nice dog in general sound, through the door, like she was going to tear the person on the other side apart? I tried to tell her that I wanted those packages. Indiana hated Fed Ex and UPS equally though I always had a softer spot for UPS. Don't ask me why. I tried to tell her that she didn't have to protect me, but she did anyway. Once, as I stood on the back deck in the night, just breathing in the cool air, she growled into the darkness. I have to tell you - that dog would have taken a bullet for me. I'm glad she never needed to.

Teddy is equally nonchalant about any of our delivery guys, even the water guy. If they don't ring the doorbell, I'd never know they'd came. Oh, he might get riled up a bit when a dog jumps up on me too vigorously at the dog park, but he doesn't really have the air of a protector. He's more of a kid that way, more innocent. But I've noticed that I can trust Teddy to be alert when there's a bear or some other creature in the woods. He might not have been appropriately cautious about that bear we saw in the woods last month, but I could tell we weren't alone. He looked more excited about her and her cubs than protective.

So, I looked at Teddy again as I quietly got up from the couch. Teddy was ready to go back to sleep. I casually checked that the cat was also calm. Not upstairs. I tried not to let the steps creak as I went downstairs but it was futile. Calm cat? Seth has been known to get protective, once growling and jumping up onto a relative who was playing too roughly with Nick. I love that about Seth. He's also been known to wake us up in the night when the pack of coyotes run across the back deck. Once, he woke me up and I went to the door and smelled cigarette smoke out there. So was Seth on alert?

Nope. He was curled up on the futon downstairs by the wood stove which had recently been put into action because of the power outage. After the power came on, I had fallen asleep upstairs in my usual spot after getting the water pressure started and checking the stuff in the freezers before they refroze. Then I had gone back to sleep in a warm house. It was a luxury I needed after sleeping poorly in a cold house for two nights.

So, when all the footsteps and the growling happened, I assumed that what I'd heard was my dream. Just to make sure, I opened the front door.

Yes, I am one of those people in a horror flick who always open the front door when they're wondering if there is trouble outside. I do. I admit it. I'd probably be the first one killed in one of those movies.

And there was a package. UPS!

Footsteps? Growling? I had probably heard all of that through the downstairs window which was slightly open. I wasn't used to hearing outside sounds. I had translated them into my dream. I had changed the truck's engine into a protective dog.

Well, I'm awake now.

Thank you for listening, jules

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


In thirty minutes, I have to take the boy to school. Yesterday, the dog bounded into the car with us, as usual, and on my way back into the house afterward, I forgot anything but an extra hour of sleep and forgot that he was still in the car. In the house, as I snuggled in, I didn't even notice his absence.

What does it feel like to be forgotten?

When I was a little girl and got upset, I'd run out into the woods and climb as high into a tree as I could. Usually, I had arrived there in a fury over the fact that no one had listened to me or taken me seriously. In the tree, I'd imagine their grief over their mistake. I'd imagine each member of my family and their remorse at the horrible way they'd treated me, or worse, ignored me. I believed I'd get revenge just by waiting.

The problem with my method was that I was never patient. I am still not patient. So, I'd sit in that tree, crying, and hoping, no, praying, that someone would come looking for me to apologize for the way they had treated me. I imagined the way they would call for me, never seeing me because I was so well hidden in the leaves above them. I would imagine watching their fear that they had lost me.

They never came. Not once do I remember anyone searching the woods or calling my name during one of these episodes.

Eventually, I'd climb down the tree, still hurting, and walk back into the house. It was agonizing knowing that they hadn't even acknowledged that I had been gone, that I had had my feelings hurt so blatantly. It burned, knowing that I hadn't even been missed.

That was the worst feeling, thinking that they cared so little that they never wondered where I had been all that time, that they had never considered their actions and my feelings. I was like a stuffed toy, forgotten in the back of the closet for years while the child grew up and moved away.

When woke up, I went outside and found my dog waiting in the car. He was curled up on the driver's seat, on my seat. He looked up at me with baleful eyes. I apologized, let the rain fall on the back of me as I leaned in to pet his belly and tell him how much I missed him. We spent a long time at the dog park yesterday afternoon.

I don't even want my dog to feel as lost as I had felt when I climbed down from those trees.

Thank you for listening, jules

Friday, October 17, 2014

Not Sorry at All

She parked too close with her silver SUV.  She bumped my door as she got back in. 

She looked me in the eye , no acknowledgement of what she'd done, and then backed out of her spot. When I got out of the car, she rolled down her window, rolled her eyes, and said, "What? It was an accident. All I did was bump your car a little."

"The least you could do is apologize."

"I'm sorry," she said, rolling her eyes again. She looked like a fourteen-year-old, being forced to apologize for telling her younger sister that she was ugly and fat. 

"You don't sound like you mean a bit of it," I said. 

"I'm sorry." She rolled her eyes again and put her SUV in gear. 

"I'm still not convinced by your tone of voice."

"I'm sorry," she yelled at me. She squealed her tires as she sped across the parking lot. 

I have been the mom of a teenager for too long. I should have known that this woman didn't give a shit and nothing I said could make her sound like she did. 

Thank you for listening, jules

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Paying for Air

I meant to tell you how much I dislike corporations that work squeeze more money out of its customers than their product is worth. You know which ones I mean - the people who fill a bag of potato chips two-thirds with air and expect you to be happy because it looks full on the shelf.

I bought a bottle of vitamins. Three quarters of the bottle was empty and there were only thirty tiny capsules sticking to the bottom.

I bought a ream of paper for my son. It looked normal. Eight and a half by eleven, right? It was actually eight by ten and a half. What a load of crap!

Sixt Rental Car company did that to me too. They quoted a price to me and then nearly doubled the cost by adding surcharges to my bill. A sympathetic representative from my credit card company told me not to rent a car without having the representative add up the total cost, including tax, insurance, extra coverage and anything else. That's actually good advice.

I have a better piece of advice for you. Rent from Enterprise, from National, from Budget. They're all good car rental companies, but do not rent from Sixt. You will regret it. I've read complaints that they added charges to someone's bill well after the rental car was returned. For me, they quoted a price then had me sign a million times for extras they assured me I needed while I was in France.
Who knew what I needed while I was in France? I knew I did not need to nearly double the cost of my already expensive rental car.

There are predators out there, lots of them. If you have a wallet, you are prey. Don't let corporations eat you for dinner. I know, Sixt Rental Car ate me for dinner.

Pretty soon, someone will have us paying for air. Whoops! They already did.

Thank you for listening, jules

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Distracting Myself with What Might be Food

The slugs have eaten all the blooms and greens off my petunias. Oh, I don't blame them. Sometimes I imagine that those leaves are delicious. Are petunias even edible? I like nasturtiums, but the first time I tasted them, I was surprised at their tangy and peppery taste. What had I expected? Spun sugar, I think.

It turns out that petunias may be edible, at least according to these people. Do I believe what I read on the Internet? Well, there were a couple of sites that said the same thing, but don't go using my post here to figure out what's true and what isn't. It might be a while before I go outside and sit with the slugs and snack with them. But it is good to know just in case there's an apocalypse and I have to look at my yard to see what's cooking.

It would be nice to eat as I stroll through the woods though. I imagine that's what people used to do. When do you think people settled down to a home-cooked meal at breakfast and lunch? Were they one meal a day people? Nah, the people foraging probably ate as they picked and the ones hunting with the dogs probably did too. Wouldn't surprise me if they had some kind of stone soup method of cooking an evening meal, though. What do I know? If I read it in 'The Clan of the Cave Bear,' does it mean it's true?

Yup, this is stupid stuff, but bear with me. I'm trying to distract myself from the fact that my arm is still fractured, my shoulder doesn't function, and my doctor thought it was okay to wait two weeks to get around to having a deeper look at it.

By the way, I have a new plan. I'm going to get a different doctor. Good plan, huh? It still sucks to have waited. I hope a different guy will be interested in my shoulder.

Back to edibles. I know dandelions are good for you, but have you ever tasted that shit? They taste bitter as if they're poisonous. They really do. Maybe they taste like something that's good for you too. Do you know what I mean? Cod liver oil, beets, spinach, kale. It might be worth saving all that money on pesticides and just digging the damn things up and eating them, root and all.

Now that's good revenge. Nettles are edible too, but only after you boil those nasty little stingers. I could eat for a long time in my yard. Too bad buttercup and morning glory are poisonous.

What's are you having for lunch?

Thanks for listening, jules

Monday, September 29, 2014

Plastic Flowers on My Walker

Don't bump me.

"Bump, bump, bump," they say.

There is that moment when you expect pain, that you get a zinger of pain even when it does not come in 'real' life. I read that people who have sympathetic pains are having real zingers of pain when you tell them about it. My sister is like that. So is it cruel to call her to tell her how I hurt?

"Bump, bump, bump." Mike said when he's bent over the open dishwasher door, looking for a spoon. For me, it's a new tripping hazard.

"Bump, bump, bump," Nick had said last night as he'd picked the last of his Legos off the floor when Mike had told him they could make me fall down.

I'm like a fucking ninety-year-old with her walker. No, I'm not trying to call old women fuckers. That's not what I mean, but I need to express some obscenities here because I'm still waiting to get that MRI the doctor ordered and life is hard. I'm not ready to be like a fucking ninety-year-old woman with plastic flowers on the handlebars and an extra Depends in the hideaway compartment of her walker.

My arm is aching. I need to stop and hobble over to the couch to rest for a bit. The cat is lying across the only spot where I can be comfortable.

"Bump, bump, bump," he will say with his eyes.

Thank you for listening, jules

Friday, September 26, 2014

My Apathetic Medical Team

I'm still hanging out here, waiting for my MRI. Should I tell you who they are? Would it change anything? At this point, I have to wait another week since the nurse told me that their office would schedule it and I believed them. They didn't. That means that the wait will have been two weeks from the time I was told I needed an MRI. This morning, I scheduled my own MRI.

They've left me hanging. Can I vacuum, carry groceries, type for an hour or two even when it hurts? Can I hike, wear my daypack, work out with my trainer? Can I mow the lawn?

My body is getting used to this kind of pain. Is that a good thing? Okay, I'll admit that I get extra sweaty when I load the dishwasher and change clothes. Is that normal?

Oh, I am so sick of the fact that my whole existence is circling around this drain.

I hate the apathy with which the medical professionals so often do their jobs. I'm just another lump in the gravy, waiting to be smashed through the sieve.

Plus, doesn't my doctor know that plunging my toilet with my left hand is really messy and makes me dizzy anyway? Now, that's some scary shit, the possibility of passing out in the toilet when I'm in the middle of plunging with my left hand.

Thank you for listening, jules

Sunday, September 21, 2014

My Crazy Vacation

Okay, it's a good day to complain.

Who wants a week or two to sit in front of the TV nonstop?

Who wants a week or more to get out of making dinner, doing laundry and dishes, and any other kind of housework?

Who wants to take mind-altering drugs that are legal because a physician ordered them? 

Who wants to skip walking the dog and let somebody else do it for a change?

Not me, but that's what I get. I messed up my shoulder by falling off a bike last Sunday. I think I had endorphins for a while early on. It kind of hurt on Sunday night. On Monday, all my bruises hurt, but my shoulder was mostly okay except it was hard to hang wet towels over the shower curtain. On Tuesday, I hobbled around doing stuff, figuring that I'd had enough time off and had better get back to it.

Big mistake.

On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday morning, I couldn't function as a normal human being. Even in the recliner, I had a stitch in my side all the time. I couldn't raise my arm to write. I couldn't type, couldn't even sit upright in a chair for an hour. I couldn't make a lunch. I couldn't remember what I'd just read. I needed to lie down when I was already lying down.

I'm doing this typing under the influence of many pharmaceuticals, anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants. I won't take the pain meds yet. Too freaky. Friday, I spent half the day at the doctor's office. The verdict? Damage to my rotator cuff, a referral to an orthopedic doctor, an MRI, and physical therapy. Surgery a possible outcome.

Surgery? Me? NOOOOooooooooo...........

Plus, I really don't like TV, drugs, even prescribed ones, and it sucks not to be using both hands on the keyboard. And I like walking my dog and cooking for my family, at least most of the time. I've had quite enough of this crazy vacation. Can I go back to work tomorrow?


Thank you for listening, jules

Saturday, September 13, 2014

At Least I'm Not Falling down

Today, I remembered why I hate using the weed whacker.

The lower part of our property, the part the no one sees, had gotten too tall to mow. It was also too bumpy to mow, really. Oh, I could mow it, but I couldn't expect Nick to mow it. And even then, I hit a bunch of bumps and rocks and probably dulled the blade. So today, Mike set Nick up to use the weed whacker on it.

I heard that thing going and remembered the lily of the valley and the poor little laurel lost in all those weeds and I went down after having vacuumed to try to save them. I jumped into a pair of flip flops. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Nick was doing a fine job. He really was. So I told him that I'd get him hearing protection and safety glasses. Then, I stood behind him trying to find the poor little laurel before he whacked the heck out of it. I couldn't remember where it was and I had already run into it a bit with the mower when I was down there last time.

Five minutes after I arrived, Nick handed me the whacker, the ear protection and disappeared. There I stood in my flip flops and shorts. Did I mention that there were nettles and blackberry mixed in with the grass? I started okay. I even caught myself before I whacked the heck out of the laurel when it appeared. I thought, for about the third time, that I should shove a dowel into the ground to mark the pathetic little laurel. I even got into a groove, swinging the weed whacker head back and forth and laying that tall grass down in rows.

Then, I hit a patch of nettle up an incline.  Do goats eat nettle? Maybe I need a couple of goats. And suddenly, a nettle fell across my right foot, the one that I had put up the hill to brace myself. I considered putting the whacker down to go get proper shoes, socks, pants, maybe armor, to protect myself from the briars and the nettles.

Nah, I thought. It was too much of a bother. The whacker was running and I could be done with what I was doing in about twenty minutes if I kept up the same rhythm, longer than it would take to find socks, old shoes, long pants, and try to get the whacker started again. Did I tell you that I'm no longer strong enough to start the thing by myself? It sucks turning into an old woman. 

But what I didn't figure is that it's hard to keep a rhythm when your entire right foot has gone numb, or is stinging from multiple spots in unison. I gave up trying to protect my right foot. It wasn't that bad, I thought.

Then, another nettle gigged my left foot in a couple of places. If I kept this up, I'd be numb from the knees down.

Oh, I finished that job. I did. I ignored the stinging and finished it. Plus, I hoed the weeds inside the driveway circle. Then, I planted the wintergreen, wild ginger, bunchberry, lily of the valley, Oregon grape, and hydrangea that I had bought a couple of weeks ago. I knew they'd be dead in another week or so if I didn't.

I do that.

I go to a nursery, usually in need of a gift of some sort. I get all excited about gardening and I spend a couple of hundred dollars on stuff that I happily put into their intended places in the yard. Then, I look at these plants for a few weeks as they whither, yellow, drop leaves, and otherwise revert from the lush plants I bought to the usual plants that grow in my yard.

Weeds in my yard are lush. Stuff I buy is usually spindly and yellow, with dead branches and a lump where their root balls are beginning to show.

Fortunate for me, my new plants hadn't gone too far into their natural decline. These days, I'm going native.

No, I am not naked.

I'm trying to get my yard to look like the most beautiful parts of the forest. I figure that if the plants are lush in the forest with no supervision, then maybe my yard could run the same way.

Fat chance, I think, but it's worth a shot. Nothing else has worked any better. Things I plant either die or they grow twenty feet taller than they were supposed to and start crowding over other plants like kudzu in Louisiana. Don't remind me about Forget-Me-Not. I can't forget it. It's still growing. Everywhere.

To my credit, I didn't plant the blackberry, the morning glory, the Stinky Bob, or the nettles in my yard. They came with the house. Actually, the Stinky Bob came with the first landscapers we hired. There's a reason these people aren't still working on my yard. Stinky Bob. Thanks for that. It really is stinky.

Today, it was the nettle that got me. By the time I was done, I was covered in sweat and chunks of weeds that the whacker had splattered across my legs. I showered and still had little bits of green stuck to me.

I wondered if I'd have been able to blend some of this stuff. I'm sure it would have made a healthy smoothie, minus the stinging nettles, which would require time in a hot tea bag to lose its sting. I didn't though. Most of it ran down the drain. The rest, I picked off with my fingernail as Nick played his new game, Destiny. Apparently, Nick doesn't dance, if you wanted to know. I was disappointed that he doesn't dance.

It sucks to be the age at which you worry what other people think, even if those people are just characters created by anonymous people across the country who have no idea who it is that's doing the dancing. Nick is convinced that only nine year old kids are doing the dancing.

Bummer. That would have made me feel better, to see all these warriors dancing.

By the time I got most of the green picked off my shins, I realized that I had a boot of sting on my right foot. Seriously. I was too damned lazy to shut off the whacker and get some damned shoes. On my left foot, I had a line down the inside arch and one bright spot in the middle of the top of my foot.  But my right foot is a boot of numb and occasional reverb of stinging.

It reminds me of how my right foot felt just before I had surgery on my back, numb and tingling with occasional shooting pains. Oh, I had forgotten how scary that time was, thinking that I wouldn't feel my right foot for the rest of my life. Falling for no reason. Getting stuck in a standing position half way to my car because I couldn't make my right foot move forward. I was in traction for ten days before I had that surgery. They were awful, painful days, and long, painful, and terrifying nights.

And except for the falling down and the getting stuck half way to my car, this is how my right foot felt. I had forgotten how it had felt. I had been glad to have forgotten how that right foot felt.

At least I'm not falling down.

And the nettle stings will go away tomorrow. I can be pretty sure the boot of pain and tingling will go away tomorrow.

They will go away. Won't they?

Thank you for listening, jules

Monday, September 8, 2014

Twenty-First Century Job Skills for a Librarian

My librarian was pissed off today.

No, it wasn't because I forgot to pay my overdue-book fines. I did forget. She wasn't actually pissed off at me. She likes me even though I chat too much. She was pissed off because she witnessed a drug deal and the recipient walked into the library afterward and was high. He smelled bad too. Is there a smell to meth users like there is for alcoholics? The Internet says there is.

So, imagine this librarian back in the days before she got her first job. You tell her that part of her new job will be to identify the smell of a meth user. What do you think she would have said? The librarian in charge of children's literature needs to know what a drug looks like so she can identify it before a kid gets hold of it when a dealer puts it into a particular book for a drop. She will have to monitor the use of the bathrooms in case anyone is using there. In addition to recommending books, she will have to train patrons on the right circumstance in which to call the police regarding drug deals to minors in the parking lot.

It's no wonder my librarian was pissed off today. She lives and works in a quiet town but needs police training to do her job. Instead of focusing on helping patrons get job interviews, find books, research the Internet, and teach our children to love books, she's busy monitoring the activities of a few known individuals who are using our libraries as their private opium dens. These guys are brazen. Maybe the library should hire a few officers to work at our bookshelves.

Doesn't that piss you off too? 

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Junk Food Hangover

Nick is lying on the couch with a stomach ache. It's 12:13am on the second day of school. The second day!

He ate a bunch of junk on our vacation, a big bunch of junk. Just two and a half days ago, he had a root beer float and and a day and a half ago, he had two root beers and a couple of over-sized corn dogs at the fair. My husband allowed it while I rolled my eyes and made my lips go thin trying to stop myself from nagging the whole time we were on vacation. Nick knew exactly what I was thinking. Mike knew what I was thinking. The kid has known that he has a fructose intolerance for three years, yet he wants to drink soda when the other kids do. I just grit my teeth when Mike lets him do it. And now Mike is in bed because he has to work and I'm up with a 'sick' child. I am not allowing Nick to miss school tomorrow unless he actually manages to throw up or get a fever. It's going to suck for him. I know it.

I don't know for sure that it's the high fructose corn syrup that's causing his stomach to hurt, but I can be pretty sure that Nick doesn't need another three-hour breath test to confirm what we already know. Soda guarantees him a stomach ache.

Now, it could be something else, a virus perhaps, or food that wasn't quite right, but my bet is on the high fructose corn syrup. If it were a virus or food poisoning, he'd have heaved by now. This is his classic response to high fructose corn syrup. He had to leave Boy Scout camp midweek two years ago when Mike let him drink too much Orange Crush and eat too many Doritos. Did you know that Doritos contain high fructose corn syrup? It does. Just look at the label.

Yes, it is my bet that high fructose corn syrup is the culprit and I don't have a lot of sympathy for the boy. He may be feeling sick, but his doctors assured us that this intolerance caused no damage and that the stomach aches would pass if he limited his diet properly. They said that it could take a couple of days for a stomach aches to appear after a binge.

Well now.

I know I'm supposed to be that caring and concerned mommy when my boy is sick. Oh, I know he's feeling pretty sick and he's tired by now too. I understand he doesn't feel well. I also used to know people in college too who expected sympathy after a drinking binge. If I had had too much to drink, I expected to have a hangover. It was that simple.

And this is nearly that simple too.

Or maybe I'm just cranky because I'm over-tired.

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Bit of a Mess

I went to a friend's house and she had the audacity not to clean before I came over. I actually saw a dust bunny in a corner. She had shoes on the floor by the door. There were personal items on the counter in her kitchen and a couple of pine needles on the floor mat by the door.

What is happening with this world?

Doesn't she know she was supposed to get up at 7:30 this morning so she could vacuum and dust the entire house before I arrived? Didn't she know I would be offended if I saw anything that was left out on tables and counter tops? Was she aware that items that weren't staged for show should be put away?

The dust bunny totally interrupted our conversation. I couldn't focus on the lunch that she served because a few plants grew too tall outside her back window. I didn't want to walk through her dining room in case a pine needle got stuck to my shoe. I didn't want to sit on her couch in case a cat hair stuck to my old jacket. I was horrified.

How could she? She didn't even apologize!

I once read about a culture who believed that it was okay to have people visit without scouring the house before they arrived. I wish I remembered which one it was. If I ever remember, I might have to move there.

I relaxed in my friend's living room and realized that I'm so tired of having people over to my house because I'm tired of keeping up with the Jones. I realized that this woman can come over to my house any time where I might hedge if it were someone else, someone else who has that perfect house, the one with no dust bunnies, the one that has that unused decorator living room. With my friend, I can focus on how I want my house to feel for my family and not just for guests. I didn't have to worry about where I sat. I might have made a butt print on the fancy couch in the unused living room. I didn't have to take off my shoes at the door. Plus, she wasn't too exhausted to hang out and chat for a while when I got there. I used to have a friend who would begin to clean up something slightly askew in her house while I was there. Twenty minutes later, I was still waiting for her to come chat with me. I don't visit that woman any more. Holy cow - how did we get going down this path that said our houses have to be perfect before anyone can step over the threshold?

Thank you for listening, jules

Monday, August 18, 2014

More Video Games!

The three sleepover boys have been playing video games since three this afternoon, except for eating two large pizzas, except for trying to burn something aerosol while I was gone, except for trying to shoot the rat in the yard with a sling shot and a BB gun, and except for the time they ran downstairs to get their third round of sodas, except for trying to shoot on either side of the sleeping cat with Nerf guns.

Should I stop them? They're actually much easier to control when they're playing video games. Their hands are occupied. They aren't able to pick up junk food while they're playing. The can't maim, kill or otherwise torture small wild and domesticated animals, and they can't burn down my house.

So why do I hate video games so much? What was I thinking? They could be cheaper too. Why shouldn't I let them play all night? If they sleep all day tomorrow, they will save me from spending money on them to race around in go carts. Good plan, mom.

Play More Video Games Guys!

Thank you for listening, jules

Sunday, August 17, 2014

I Want To Go!

Now, I want to go.

All last week, I've been telling Mike I'm his backup for his fifty-mile backpacking trip with the Boy Scouts tomorrow. I thought of the idea when Mike told me he wasn't sleeping and that if things went south for him, the whole trip would have to be canceled. He's one of two adult leaders. So, I told him that I would be his second.

I wasn't sure I could manage it. Last Monday, I hiked nine miles. At the end, my left foot was sore, but on Tuesday, I could have hiked again. I was too busy. On Wednesday, I hiked four miles in the time that I had available. I could have gone four more. I think I could have. On Thursday, I jumped on a trampoline at SkyMania for a full hour. I overdid it. Then suddenly, I hoped and prayed I didn't have to go.

Could I sleep six days on the ground? I'd probably have trouble sleeping the first night. After that, I'd likely be so tired I could sleep on a nail bed. I wouldn't like it, but I could do it.

Could I get up and walk another 8.3 miles after walking the two days before? I'm not an idiot. I know that it's the third day that counts. If I could hike the third day, I could continue indefinitely until my food ran out. The glorious thing about the third day is that you can really begin to feel your pack lightening because you've eaten a lot of the food out of it. It's a lovely feeling.

Could I manage my sugar levels? Sure. I've been exercising more and my sugar levels are evening out. Plus, I have a better idea when they go low since I've been paying attention for six or seven years. I'd probably eat just like the rest of them if I went. I'd need the carbohydrates.

Would I get lost? One trail, Mike says. Not a lot of places to go down the wrong trail. I've been noodling around here for years. I've always walked by myself, well, with a dog. I feel at home in the woods. I've gotten lost. Besides, there would be five other people on the trail ahead of me, watching out to see if I eventually come down the trail.

Suddenly, this morning, I remember how beautiful it is in the Olympic mountains. I remember looking out over Lake Quinalt at dawn. I would feel the beauty and the dampness of the temperate rain forest. I would be in Big Foot country if you need that to picture the place, ferns, old growth trees, and dew hanging from branches.

Plus, Mike found powdered peanut butter. Oh man. I want to go. I want to go. I want to go!

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, August 16, 2014

What Kind of a Dork?

The good news is that I didn't have a heart attack. The bad news is that I thought I might be having one and dragged Nick off to the ER yesterday when my chest and my left arm began to hurt after an hour on a trampoline on Thursday.

Honestly, I stayed on my feet the whole time I was jumping. I didn't do any tricks. I didn't even jump and spin the way I usually do. So, afterward, when my left arm began to hurt, I wondered what the heck I could have done to it. It's not like my legs hurt. They barely even registered the exercise.

So, having pain in my left arm, chest pain, my usual dizzy self, and an occasional sweaty hot flash and I'm off to the ER to make sure I'm not dying.

Well, everybody is dying, but I didn't want to die yesterday. Not today either.

I'm not dying today. The ER doc said I had some abnormalities with my EKG, but that I've probably had them my whole life. He told me that I should get a stress test. He also said that I have some minor nodules in my lungs. I've had nodules in my uterus and my colon too, so nodules in my lungs don't surprise me. I'm old. I'm lumpy. I'm scarred, inside and out. TMI, huh?

When the ER doc got done talking, I told him that I felt like a dork.

He laughed and said if I'd talked to him on the phone about my symptoms that he'd have told me to come in. Better a dork than I dead dork, I told him. He laughed and nodded his head. He was very politely trying not to agree that I was a dork. I'm more in favor of laughter than I am of politeness, but he was a kind doctor. And no matter what he said at that moment, I was going to feel like a dork.

Today, I felt a little better after a long hot shower and my arm and chest felt a lot better after some stretching. I'll tell you the truth - I stole my son's personal trainer this morning. I wouldn't have except that Nick wasn't getting ready in time. He was languishing in the shower, almost as if to prove to me that he could. When it got so late that we would have been embarrassingly late, I left that boy behind. I just got into the car and drove away. I felt like a heel doing it, but I'd had enough of nagging him to get ready. Nick's personal trainer told me it was fine, that he'd work with me today and so that's what we did. He's a nice guy.

I'm telling you that it pays to have someone in the know show you how to stretch properly. When my hour was up, I felt incredible. Thank God for insolent and indolent boys, huh? I took what belonged to Nick. I needed it. I did some work with my lats, with the muscles by my shoulder blades, and I did some squats. Oh, squats do not look good when you watch yourself in the mirror, but I guess I did them pretty well. Oh my son's personal trainer was working to find something to compliment me on. He did. He also told me that the strength of a person's quadriceps was linked to longevity. Imagine that? I tried to tell myself that an old woman has to start somewhere and this is where I started today. Hopefully, it's not the end of it. I'm going to steal my son's nice personal trainer a little more often even if I look like a dork whenever I look in that mirror.

I've been a dork for fifty-four years. I'm always going to be a dork, but maybe I can be a healthy dork with some decent muscles at some point.

Thanks for listening, jules

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Accidentally Watching Inappropriate Stuff With My Mother

Bitches Gotta Eat - Oh my God, this is funny!

I don't even need to write anything. I can just sit here and point you in the right direction and enjoy the ride. I wish I could look over your shoulder and laugh at the parts that are making you laugh.

Don't post it to your Facebook friends if you're worried about what people think of you. Don't let your kids see what you're reading.

Don't you just love when your kid is watching cartoons on TV and you're sitting at the computer, laughing about inappropriate stuff? You tell them not to use those words. You change the channel when anything regarding sex or violence comes on the television. Tell me you aren't completely weirded out when you're sitting on the couch as a family and a sex scene comes on the TV. You are. Admit it.

I just remember when I was sixteen and my mother suggested a movie, an R-rated movie. My brother and I went to that movie. It was the last time I went to the movies with my mother. It was a misery. I wish I didn't remember. There was a closeup of her breast in the bra, his hand, her naked chest. Oh crap, stop me now. I didn't dare look at either of them. I stared into my bucket of popcorn and pretended we were at a horror movie.

We were at a horror movie.

And now, I have a thirteen year old boy. He won't even watch the kissing scenes when I am in the same room with him.

What would he think if he knew I was laughing at inappropriate shit on the computer?

He would die a million deaths.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, August 1, 2014

My New Duct Tape Toilet Seat

Oh no! I haven't been here in a while. Did you think I'd abandoned you? Were you pissed off, crabby, cantankerous?


I've been pissed off quite a bit today too. My new wood laminate floors are buckling. It sucks. There's one spot where I can feel about a 3/4 inch drop when I step on it. Another place moves a bench whenever I go by. I wonder how long it will take to break the boards, with them popping up and down like that? I don't imagine it will take long. I called the flooring people to have them come fix it and they said they would with no problems and they'd call me back to schedule the 'repair.' I wanted to tell the guy that it isn't a repair, that they installed it wrong or it wouldn't be buckling after just a month of use, but I kept my mouth shut. I did. I promise. Not even a little bit of sarcasm leaked out of me during that conversation.

They haven't called back.

That pisses me off. Tomorrow, I won't mind if some of my sarcasm leaks out. If they give me any grief, I swear, I'll tell you who they are so you'll know too.

Plus, I got mad in the bathroom today. Two weeks ago, my husband put a new toilet seat onto the toilet. I loved it. It looked nice. In other words, it didn't have any places on it that always looked dirty even after it was just cleaned.

I was just sitting there, minding my own business, when I heard a slight pop.

Really? Really?

My toilet seat just broke. I swear I wasn't doing anything strange to it. It's not like I was standing on it or anything. I hadn't banged it.

Plus, it's not like I'm huge or anything. It's not much, but I'm the smallest person in the house.

That toilet seat should not have broken!

It's made by Bemis. Do you think they decided to stop making toilet seats that lasted a lifetime and start making ones that lasted two weeks and we wouldn't notice? Did they think we'd blithely go to Home Depot every two weeks and buy another one just like it for our toilets?

The worst of it is that it pinched my leg every time I tried to use it. Duct tape helped, but it isn't pretty any more. Not unless you're one of those duct-tape-solves-everything kind of people. No, I'm not going to buy a duct tape wallet or hat. Just no.

And by the way, Sixt still hasn't agreed that $185/day is a ripoff and refunded my money. I asked the customer service woman if she'd pay that much and her answer? "Of course not."

Thank you for listening, jules

Monday, July 14, 2014


It's too hot out and even though it's 7:37pm, it's stuffy inside my house. Last night we had a red sunset that, along with the heat, made me think we might be experiencing Armageddon. We have yet to cross that threshold for which it is cooler outside than inside the house. I want to open the windows wide to let in the cool. The cat wants to sit in the fresh breezes by the screen door.

It's hard to sleep in this weather. I like sleeping under a pile of blankets. I like the weight of them, so a thin sheet just won't do. And I can't imagine sleeping without being covered. Hot or not, I want to burrow in at night.

These are the days of three bean salad, cooking on the barbeque, and finding water. Tomorrow, we go to the pool, but the other mom I'm going with doesn't want to swim. Well, we do have some work to do, so Starbucks will do. I say that as if going to Starbucks is a consolation prize. If Starbucks has a decaf sugar-free iced mocha with my name on it and if it has an air conditioner, I'll be the regular fan that I am. I have a friend who works at Starbucks, so sometimes I send him a text with a picture of my coffee saying, 'paying your salary, one cup of coffee at a time.' I think I'm so funny. I'm probably not, but I go a little loopy in this heat, never quite relaxing unless my feet are in water and I can feel a cool breeze. I don't get much done when it's this hot. I fell asleep on the couch today and woke up all sweaty and disoriented, something like the way I woke up in this morning, the sun beaming onto me from the skylight and feeling all sweaty and dreaming of water. No, I don't get much done.

What I'm supposed to be doing is bringing boxes and boxes back into the house from the storage unit. Our floors are finished, but now we have to find places to put all that stuff that was so neatly stored away while my family came to visit. It looked like we'd just moved into half of our house. To me, it'll look right when we get more of our stuff put into place, when the books are on the bookshelf, and when the pots and rocks and camping gear are stuffed into corners. Who wants to see corners of floors anyway?

But it's too hot to haul boxes of stuff. I've managed to get ten or fifteen boxes moves, but it involved a lot of unnecessary sweat and an aching back. Two boxes didn't even make it into the house. They're waiting out in my car, in Nick's preferred car seat. That might get some feedback from him, but will it get me some assistance?

I don't know. I'm too hot to care.

People, I live in the Pacific Northwest. I'm not suited to this hot and dry weather. Can you please order some rain for me? I'd really appreciate some rain. A few drops? A drippy faucet?

Thank you for listening, jules

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Gobsmacked at My Fury

I'm still crabby. My house guests have left, but I'm still pissed off.

I'm still mad because on Monday, I have to call the septic people to have my septic system drained.  Two of our house guests showered until hot water was gone on a daily basis, overwhelming the system. The rest of us were frequently stuck without hot water or had to wait until it regenerated. Twice, I couldn't do dishes because they wouldn't have come clean without hot water. I did laundry, but had to put it on a delay cycle. I would never think it was okay to visit someone's house and shower until the hot water was gone, especially when there were eight people in the house.

I'm still angry because one of my guests, who supposedly has a problem with things being clean, left hair on the floor, on the toilet seat, next to the garbage, and in the sink after showering. If I had a problem with being clean, I'd try to leave a bathroom as clean as it was when I walked into it.

I'm still annoyed because someone consistently claimed the front seat and put my mother in the back seat when the honorable thing would have been allow her the front seat. Her age and her condition should have guaranteed her the front seat if she wanted it. I told him he had to share, but he didn't. He only relented and sat in the back seat when I personally took my mother's elbow and ushered her to the front seat. If I were chauffeured around in someone's car, I wouldn't think it my right to sit in the front seat all the time. I might take a turn in front, but I would share. If there were a much older and debilitated person, I would let her sit in front the whole time.

I'm still steamed because there were two people out of the six that visited, males, who never lifted a finger to help the whole week. Cooking and cleaning up after is not a woman's job. I realized that they were guests, but even guests have responsibilities. When someone cooks for me, I think it polite to at least offer to help clean up. If I'm staying for more than a day, I'll help cook too. If there are more than four people in the house for multiple days, everyone should take a turn cooking and cleaning.

I'm still fuming because we loaned one of our guests my car and he ran it into the rock wall in our yard and damaged both the wall and the car. He never apologized for that, never offered to get either fixed, and continued to use the car as if it were his own. He was consistently late returning when we had decided on a time to leave together and once locked himself out of the car, requiring seven of us to drive 45 minutes to where he was and rescue him. I didn't even know he'd driven into the city with my car. If I borrowed someone's car and crunched it, I'd hand back the keys, offer to have it fixed, and apologize profusely. I wouldn't go places in it without their knowledge. If I held up a group of eight people, I'd apologize and resolve not to let it happen again. I'd probably feel bad about borrowing someone's car to begin with and just rent a car if I wanted to have one available.

Is that enough reason to still be torqued twenty-four hours after my house guests have gone?

Thank you for listening, jules

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

I Was Robbed by Sixt Car Rentals

Well, guess what?

I was charged $185/day for a Renault Clio by Sixt Car Rental while I was in Europe!

Did you get that?

One Hundred and eighty five dollars a day!

In Strasbourg, France, when the woman behind the desk at Sixt said the car would cost about $100/day, I was shocked, but I figured stuff costs more in Europe. It was hot. We were tired. Two other rental car companies didn't have any cars left. So, when the woman behind the desk quoted $100/day, we decided to go for it, exorbitant or not. I was willing to pay the $100/day. It was crazy expensive, but I figured that's what people paid to rent cars in Europe.

I looked it up. You can get a quote for renting a car for $25/day in Europe. Don't fall for the hype. You shouldn't have to pay $100/day for a tiny little Renault Clio. I mean, this is a subcompact, people. It's not a luxury car by any means.

Yesterday, I got the bill.

Sixt charged me $185/day and when I called, they said they couldn't adjust the charges in any way. I talked to my credit card company. They said that since the numbers add up correctly, there isn't anything they can do.

I heard a story of an American tourist in Italy being charged $250 for a taxi ride from the airport to a hotel. Yeah, I said, that would never happen to me. I wouldn't be conned that way. I would never fall for crap like that.

I just did.

Remember that name - Sixt. They will take a month's rent away from you in charges. They won't do a thing about it when you complain.

And this company had the gall to send me a rewards card with this perky little letter about all the benefits of having a 'streamlined car rental experience.' They tell me that they look forward to providing me with excellent service in the future.

My ass.

Thank you for listening, jules

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Crabby Traveler


The movers are coming in twelve minutes and this is the first twelve minutes I've had to myself since June 6th.

Okay, I know I shouldn't complain. I went to Europe for eleven days with my sister and my niece. It was fun, but do you know what happens when you get three people together who all talk as much as I do? Somebody has to shut up and listen. I'm telling you - if you organize a trip through Europe, definitely add that soulful listener to the group. It'll make your trip so much better.

On the other hand, I was the only one who was crabby. My sister and my niece come from the same cloth that my grandma was made from, chatty but very sweet. Don't you just hate that? Not once did they crab back at the way I was sweaty or the way I always glommed onto the extra room in the suite when there was one or the way I thought my pocket had been picked but wasn't. They never once complained about money. They didn't even complain about my driving on the autobahn though I was white knuckled most of the time. I was actually sore after the second day because I was so tightly wound about it.

Nope. My sister and my niece only barely fought with each other and that was just because my sister was tired and my niece wanted to show us the best of her Barcelona while we had the time.

It sucks to be the crabbiest person on a trip. It really does.

It could have been worse. We could have had three crabby people on our trip, or two. Really, I wasn't crabby the whole time. It's just that I got sick on the day we traveled from Strasbourg to Zurich and was still sick the next day when we caught a flight to Barcelona.

I'm telling you - this was a zippy trip. Switzerland to France to Germany to France to Germany to Switzerland and down to Barcelona. There was no time for having a cold and no time to be crabby.

The food? I almost ate frog legs. Thank God I didn't order them that night in Germany. The guys from France, our cousins, told us not to eat the frog legs in Germany, that they were only good in France.  Good thing. They weren't on any menus put in front of me in France.

I ate a lot of cheese though. Fromage. I love fromage.

Thank you for listening, jules

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Spontaneous Combustion

So, I'm supposed to read one of my stories at church tomorrow, a churchy story. What was I thinking?

So far, I've read this thing aloud three times, first to my minister, then to Nick, and just now to Mike. Every single time, I've cracked and stopped reading in three different places because I couldn't continue for the sobbing that wanted to bubble out of me. In the movies, do you remember the sound that a man makes just after someone cuts his throat? That's not possible, really with the vocal chords out of commission, but it's the sound I've been making.

Why did I agree to this? I'm going to embarrass myself completely. It will be mortifying, worse than hitting a high note and running out of breath in the middle, worse than starting to sing at the wrong time and having the choir come in at the right time two seconds later. It will be worse, even, than farting at the lectern.

I'm going to experience spontaneous combustion. 

In case you want to want to know what I'm going to struggle to read tomorrow, I figure I might as well throw some kerosene on the fire and post it for you. I actually like this story. I just wish it didn't mean so much to me.

A Bomb Went Off and Then There Was Light 

I'm supposed to tell you about my spiritual beginnings. The trick here will be to make you cry without turning into a burbling mess myself.

Most of you know that I lost my dad when I was thirteen. What you don't know is that when my dad died, a huge group of people evaporated from my daily life, about ten men and their families that my dad worked with at the Navy research base, fifty or more people who used to go camping whenever my dad mentioned it in the summertime, neighbors who gathered for such events as blowing up a stump, church kids who went with us on retreats, and even the ones remaining in my immediate family. Sometimes during those long days, my dad's spirit was all that I had left. That same summer after my dad's death, my sister moved away and got married, my brother became a counselor at Boy Scout camp and then left for college that fall. And my mother went to nursing school and got a job in the very hospital where my father had spent his last months.

I spent hours and days with my grief, alone in a dark empty house. The next summer, when I was fourteen and had spent a year reading and cleaning and cooking for myself, I finally figured out that during those ten to twelve hours I was to be alone, no one would miss me if I left the house. I started going on long and rambling walks out my back door. I can tell you from personal experience that you should never cut through a field if there's a bull in it. There are times when you learn just how fast you can run and how high you can leap over fences. I learned that carrying a walking stick has a dual purpose, one that most territorial dogs can understand with a single wave. And I learned that those warning signs on train trestles are really true. Sometimes a freight train can sneak up on you and it's hard to get to the other side in time. I can also tell you that being lost in a thousand acres of corn can be like standing in a cathedral, blue and gold all around.

My religious roots came from my dad. He got his from his mom, but I'll tell you about my grandma some other time. I find myself telling people the same stories over and over about my dad:  He liked to fix things. Because of that, he loved going to the junkyard to see what treasures he could find. He was an engineer in the truest sense. Our television and vacuum cleaner were found items that he had fixed. He did all the maintenance on our cars. He always had a project or two going around the house.

He built a patio off the back door of our house. It was white, two and a half feet thick, the size of my living room and took him about three summers to finish. He built it from abandoned blocks of limestone he brought back from the quarry. He chipped each piece into the right shape himself. Here's how he  cut a limestone block in half. First, he scored the stone with a chisel. My dad used a straight-edge. You could say that for is whole life, he used a straight-edge. It was his best and his worst feature at the same time. Then, he put on his safety glasses, positioned the blade of the chisel along the score he'd made, right in the middle, tilted it for the angle he wanted it to break, and then whacked it hard with a mallet. Rock chips would go flying and that stone, if he was lucky, broke into two pieces along the line he'd scored. It usually didn't. I got hit in the ankles with these flying rock chips more than once when I stood too close. It didn't usually bleed, but I learned to stand back or put on blue jeans when I talked with him as he worked on the patio. My dad sweated over this job. I think he liked sweating over his work. He didn't like when the limestone broke a different way than he'd planned. My dad also taught me to swear.

My dad believed that children could be shaped in that very same way as limestone, chiseled until they were just right. This wasn't always easy. Right was right, and wrong was wrong, he said. My dad was sometimes better at managing rocks and electronic parts than people, especially kids. Sometimes, when he couldn't manage the thousand questions I brought him, he got mad and I learned when to leave him alone. More often than not though, he kept up what he was doing and answered those questions as he worked.

So, when I asked him how the car worked one day as he lay under the Chrysler New Yorker in a pool of motor oil, he told me. From underneath, he pointed at parts, describing the ones he couldn't see until I pointed in the right direction. He started with mixing air with gasoline in the carburetor and ended at the tires. I loved when he told me how things worked. I can still tell you how a car works for a curious six year old girl. The spark plugs are set to a timer like the one on the oven. They work like matches that spark but don't quite light. Their noses are stuck down into pistons which are closed tubes that get a shot of gasoline and air in them. When the spark plug sparks, tiny bombs go off inside the pistons. The tiny bombs make the piston longer for a little bit. This happens over and over making a rod go up and down. Since these rods are connected to the tires, the car moves.

Bombs go off. I loved it.

So one afternoon I was just trying to annoy my dad and I asked him why the sky was blue. He told me. He stopped this time, looked up at the sky, and told me the whole thing. He even told me why it turns red and orange at sunset. I still remember that answer too if you ever want to know.

When I was in grade school, I understood words like ultraviolet, infrared, semiconductor, and capacitor. Once, he and I even argued about which was better, infrared or ultraviolet. He liked infrared because it was slower and easier to use. I liked ultraviolet because I told him it was prettier. How do you argue with that? I knew those words because more than once I asked him what he did at work all day.  Without giving up any of the Navy's secrets, this is how he explained his work to me.

Though he didn't explain God, I knew that God worked in a way that was very much like and engine or a sunset. Instead, he buckled me into the middle of the back seat of that Chrysler New Yorker and took me to church every Sunday with the whole family. It was the Sunday School teacher's job to explain God. The Sunday School teacher's God was never as interesting or as clear as my dad's descriptions of how a car worked. I can just imagine him telling the story - In the beginning, a bomb went off and then there was light.

Still, we went to church every Sunday that we weren't camping. Church was required and we learned not to argue. Even camping, we went to church if there was an amphitheater and a minister was going to show up. My favorites were the camp sermons under the trees.

When my brother and sister got old enough to join the MYF, our church youth group, there wasn't anyone to lead, so my father volunteered. The church owned a retreat called Rivervale. I loved going there. The whole family went. Even my mother went along, but it was my dad who organized the outings. It was my dad who brought the spirit. He loved any excuse to go camping, even in the winter.

Rivervale had a wide cabin in the middle of the woods with two dorms attached to a kitchen, and a great room. We played games of Andy Over across the roof of the cabin. There were nature walks, burnt hamburgers and hot dogs, and singing around bonfires. 'Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog' will forever be a hymn in my book, along with 'Holy, Holy, Holy,' and 'Michael Row Your Boat Ashore.' I also learned to sleep on my hands for those weekends. The bigger kids wanted to dip my hand into warm water while I slept to see if they could get me to pee in my sleeping bag. They never succeeded.

It was there at Rivervale that my dad taught us to pray. He was generally awkward at praying out loud - he was a scientist and an engineer so those words just didn't come easily- but at Rivervale, my dad taught me my favorite way to pray. I remember him instructing us.

First, you wander around in the woods until some tree seems to get your attention. It looks right. It feels right. There might be a mossy place at the base where you can sit and lean against the trunk. Then, you close your eyes and talk to God. Out loud or quietly, it doesn't matter. What you say is your business. Just picture God there with you and that's all that matters. You stay there until you've said what you need to say and until you've heard what you need to hear. You feel the tree trunk at your back, the moss under your fingertips. You might look up into the canopy of the trees and you ignore where anyone else is sitting and what they're saying. You pray and then you listen. That's it. That's the whole thing.

The youth group was also in charge of getting the Christmas tree for the sanctuary at Advent. My dad's humanity came through when he required that everyone have fun when he'd arranged the fun. Sometimes that took effort. Yet, buying that Christmas tree for the church was fun. After hiking in the freezing wind for what seemed like a million miles, my dad and a kid or two would argue and finally agree on the best and biggest tree in the whole farm. Then, he'd start up his chainsaw and drop it. By then all of us were cold and probably gloveless, but we dragged that heavy tree back to the truck where my dad propped it up like an arrow over the cab and trussed it to within an inch of its needles. Back at the church, most of us would drink hot chocolate and eat cookies while my dad and a few of the bigger kids tried to keep our magnificent tree upright in a stand that was too small for it. Sometimes, my dad would have to fire up the chainsaw again and reshape the trunk of the tree to fit. The trees always seemed to want to lean in one direction and my dad, always prepared, would rig invisible guy wires to hold them in place. By then, most of us would be standing around, trying to peel sap off our hands and jackets. That was futile until my dad set himself onto this new problem. My family was probably the only one in the whole church that came equipped with solvent to get that sap off. If I get cancer, you can blame my dad.

When my dad got sick with cancer, all that ended, but he still tried to go to work. Sometimes, one of the guys from his carpool had to bring him home in the middle of the day, but he always tried to go in the next day. We still went to church too, but now we sat in the back row for a quick exit if he was too nauseated to stay and also so that the 'putt-putt-putt' of his colostomy wouldn't offend anyone. Still, we went. Church and work were all that remained.

When I was twelve, when my dad had lost eighty pounds and was in constant pain from the chemotherapy, church really clicked into place for me, not just when we were outside and quietly listening for God in the trees. It was in his last days, when I slowly and agonizingly lost my dad, that I found that church and the people in it held a deeper meaning than I could have ever seen before. I could never completely let go of that lesson no matter how far afield I roamed after that.

It may have been my father who taught me that I could listen for God anywhere, even leaning on the trunk of an old tree. But it was losing him that taught me that to stop and listen for God because that was what I needed the most.

And that, in a nutshell, is how kamikaze works. By this time tomorrow, I will be a pile of ash and bones with flies landing on a couple of bloody spots in the middle.

Thank you for listening, jules