Monday, December 28, 2015

Hi You!

Hello you. There's only one of you reading this. I know that after a couple of years of watching you on my stats. Don't worry. I don't know where you live. You're anonymity is safe.

I've decided, after a few years of trying to hold up two ends of the same thing, and at the risk of alienating you, I'm going to open two of my blogs up to each other.

Maybe you'll like my other place, A Cat on the Ghetto Box. Maybe you'll meet friends among my friends there. Maybe you'll nod your head and say to yourself that you're glad I wasn't always this crabby.

Maybe you won't and that's okay.

I might keep writing in both places. I'm not sure yet. See, I've been feeling bad about all this dead space. It's been hard, while I'm editing and rewriting so much to keep writing in both places. It has. And I don't think I'll be done anytime soon. At least, if you're really bored and want something to do while I'm off in my own ether, you can check out what I'm saying in another world, a slightly less crabby world.

I'm not sure either side is all that different anyway. I was trying to keep the other from being quite so crabby. I was trying to get this to be dark and dirty.

It turns out that I haven't yet reached my limits of dark and dirty. I'll save that for fiction.

Now, don't get tied up in the paradox I've created, okay? I'll see you safe on the other side.

Thank you for listening, jules

Paying for Clean Dirt Will Be Next

Why do companies have to be so stingy with their characters?

Do you know what I mean? You're most of the way through writing a note on your 'free' gift card when you run out of characters, max 150 but you only needed about 173. Really? You don't have room to finish the sentence about deserving time off and by the way, I hope you had a happy birthday and maybe you should celebrate all over again because your present is three weeks late. And it's imperative to include the Love, the imperfect but still thinking of you Me.

No. You don't get to write your real sentiments because you only have 150 characters. There is no room, absolutely no room for a creative thought.

And those 150 characters include spaces and dashes. Do you want to charge for the air in your packages too?

Yes, you do. I know you do. You've found a way to charge me for water by making that tepid stuff you serve from the tap taste like a Coke without the syrup with a hint of chlorine and brown water added.

What do you mean you don't know what brown water is? It's dirty dish water, kiddo, and that's what it tastes like when you get a cup of water instead of bottled even though they are most likely bottled at the same source.

I like those filters and the added magnesium, folks. I have to admit that I like when my water tastes like a cold mountain stream, or what one used to taste like before acid rain ruined them. I also like the clean bottles you get when you buy bottled water. Have you ever looked closely at those red plastic glasses they serve tap water in? Don't.

You're likely to find old lip stick stains and white crud like what grows around the edge of the tap. What is that white crud anyway? It looks like what grows on your teeth overnight.

And forget drinking something that's cold. It will be tepid. If you order ice water, you get freezer-burned ice cubes. And you know what freezer-burn tastes like.

You don't? Let's see. It tastes like that white stuff that grows around the edge of the tap, but add in some stale breadcrumbs. How those stale breadcrumbs get in there, I don't know, but they do.

Now, you see why I'm willing to pay $2.19 for a bottle of water when I can get free stuff for nothing, even if the bottles are clogging up our oceans with flotillas the size of Texas. There are a whole lot of free flavors in the free stuff they put on the table, and don't forget the lip stick stains on the red plastic cup.

Pretty soon, people are going to be walking around with bottles of fresh air in their backpacks, bottles that they pay $22.99 to breathe because it is so much fresher and more reliable to breathe than the stuff near the highways. We'll have bottled air systems in our cars, in restaurants, in convenience stores.

And you know what?

We'll buy that shit because we will have fouled up our air to the point that we'll be able to smell the white crud that grows on the edge of the tap, the stale breadcrumbs, the chlorine, the gray water, teeth crud, and old lip stick stains.

I'd bet someone in Beijing could make a mint off of bottled air right now. Don't forget that it will be purified at the source, people. And if you want to thank someone for that gift, you'll have to pay for any extra characters beyond 150. By God, it's the American way.

Thank you for listening, jules

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

My Plan to Deface School Property

Alright already. I'm here to tell you that I have nothing new or funny or even snarky to tell you. Right this very minute, I'm supposed to be working on Mike's calendar for 2016. See, every year, I get him a Demotivator's calendar. Oh, there are copycats, but Despair, Inc. does it best.

No, they are not paying me to say this.

Hey, maybe they should pay me to say this.

But then this wouldn't be real and I'm always real. Okay, I'm usually real. This way, I'm just some schmuck who loves their posters and calendars. I have been so completely influenced by their truth and humor and irony that today when I came out of the bathroom at Nick's school and was standing there adjusting my zipper, right in front of a motivational poster, a real one, I started laughing out loud even though it's a serious poster about serious stuff.

It was embarrassing to be caught laughing by office folks at Nick's school when I was standing by myself outside the bathroom door in front of a poster that meant to inspire teachers and students into being their better selves. That poster did not inspire me to be my better self! Unfortunately, the person, the vice-principal, who caught me laughing didn't stop to ask why I was laughing so I never got a chance to explain away the lunacy. I wanted to tell him it had nothing to do with my zipper or the bathroom at all. It sucks when you can't explain away the lunacy.

Why do I always sound like an idiot when no one is talking to me? Okay, I sometimes sound like an idiot when people are talking to me, just not as often. Well, it might be about as often.

So, would one of you go out and buy a Demotivator's poster from the real Despair people and hang it up outside the bathroom at Nick's school? Please? That way, if I'm caught laughing as I stand there adjusting my zipper, everything will be okay.

Hey, that's a good idea. I can do that. I just wonder if I can deface school property without getting caught.

Thank you for listening, jules

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Royal We

We don't have running water at our house. Two weeks ago, when a century-old tree landed on the tank house, I thought we were done for. We lost a captive air tank and some of the pipes were broken.

That building looked like it had landed on the wicked witch, all shifted off its foundation and tilted to a forty-five degree angle. But Mike, the neighbor, and even Nick crawled under it, figured out what was disconnected, and cobbled together what was left into a working system. Water flowed, more slowly than before, but I'm not picky. We had water, a miracle.

The next day, the tree guy dropped a large round onto a pipe and dislodged two more captive air tanks. Again, Mike, Nick, and the neighbor guy went down inside the crunched building, cut some more pipes and got the water going using a single captive air tank. Pressure was paltry, but we could do dishes and laundry and even manage showers with the kind of pressure you get at Scout camp. The tree guy never even apologized. He also drove all over our lawn and churned grass into mud because he didn't want to carry wood fifteen more feet than he had to. He left it a churned up muddy mess. I deleted the names I just called him here. They weren't nice.

By then, I'd do a load of dishes or laundry before either was full. I was going to stay caught up, come hell or high water. That building could collapse at any time, I thought.

About a week later, construction guys came to demolish the broken building. Mike took time to show them the single functioning captive air tank and the pipes that held our system together. He explained that six families depended on the water we had left. The men promised to be careful.

They smashed more pipe and a valve. The water went off, but thankfully, I had just showered and I was otherwise caught up. Yet again, my guys and the helpful neighbor jury-rigged a water system into delivering. We were back on track. This wasn't so hard.

Suddenly, the smashed building was cleared, new walls rose along with the skeleton of a roof. I admit that I relaxed. I did. The grocer called to tell me my turkey arrived so I picked it up and even bought a brining package. Brined turkeys are the best.  I also bought cranberry sauce, cubed bread crumbs, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, pumpkin filling, and lots of eggs and butter.

Laundry piled up. Dirty dishes did their usual creep, filling up the sink and some of the counter.

Two days before Thanksgiving, I took a long walk with the dog down by the river. Recent flooding had brought dirt high into the branches that raked my shoulders as I walked. Water, not quite receded, filled the lowlands with mud and silt which threatened to fill my boots and got my jeans ankle deep with goop. The dog happily waded through all of this with me. We came home filthy. A pair of 'Pigpens.'

Wash the dog first, I thought. I'd only get furrier and smellier as I washed him, so I dragged the dog into the tub and began to leisurely bathe him in warm water with what pressure I had. It was lovely. He was clean, though my legs were covered in grit and white fur. Then, as I rinsed him and considered one more lather, I noticed low pressure started going even lower.

And lower.

I turned off the water, dried him off as quickly as I could and jumped into the shower. Piss volume. I prayed that I'd have enough water to rinse my head after I shampooed and washed my face. Barely. By the end, I had rinsed my head and then 'washed' my body in about a quart or two of water. I probably still had soap on my shoulders, but it was done. We were dry.


When I announced the news to my husband, the guys went back out to the beleaguered water system and discovered that the old pump died from all the stress. It was kaput. Dead. Mike got online and found that there weren't any pumps available in a seventy-five mile radius. He even drove up to Marysville, an hour away, to get a new circuit box for the system.

When he got back, he gave me the bad news - no water until Monday at least, five days from now. I told him Thanksgiving was off. We could freeze the turkey and postpone my favorite holiday for another day. There were restaurants that would serve us turkey and it would be a new and unique adventure.

Oh my husband.

"We can do Thanksgiving," he said with enthusiasm. "We'll borrow five gallon jugs from the Scout Troop. Buy disposable roasting pans and trays when you go to the store. We can mix pumpkin pie filling using Ziploc bags the way I do on camping trips. We can do this. I promise we can."

Yes, we did make Thanksgiving dinner. We worked to cook everything on disposable trays and roasting pans. We mixed as much as we could in Ziploc bags. We covered cutting boards with foil. We marked disposable cups with quarter-cup gradations to use, reuse, and throw away. We brined that turkey and kept from spreading salmonella drippings all over our hands and kitchen. We chopped and measured and baked and stewed and steamed and roasted until, six hours later, we had a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat. We only dirtied one pot, one pair of measuring spoons, two whisks, one measuring cup, one cutting board, three knives, and one sieve. We used paper and plastic cups, plastic cutlery, foil, plastic wrap, aluminum baking sheets and roasting pans, Chlorox wipes, Nitrile gloves and an entire roll of paper towels. In the end, Mike made gravy and popped the crescent rolls out of their container. I was the we that did the rest of Thanksgiving dinner.

I'm going to have to remember, in the future, how that royal we actually works. Dirty dishes still sit in the sink.

To his credit, he did stop at the store to buy me ready-made pie crusts. And I really shouldn't forget how many times he fixed our broken water system.

Thank you for listening, jules

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Say That Again Five Times

Well, I'm feeling pretty proud of myself since dinner almost made itself, pork loin from the slow cooker and those little cubes of butternut squash from Costco. I splashed some water and barbecue sauce on the pork loin this morning and when I got home, I roasted the squash in butter, cinnamon, and nutmeg. And my guys loved this food as if I'd worked hard on it.

It's the season for butter, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

I also made mushroom soup yesterday, but I finished the last of it today so you can't even imagine having any. It was yummy, warm, and full of umami. Say that word slowly five times on a crowded plane and I will promise you'll have all the room you like. Umami, umami, umami, umami, uuumaaamiiii. See what I mean? Magic. I didn't actually believe it was a real word the first three times someone used it on me.

I read in a book by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, The End of Dieting, that we should eat mushrooms almost every day. There's a lot of umami in that. Umami, umami. I'm starting to want to move away from myself in the room. Ah, right. The book. So, I also liked that Dr. Fuhrman didn't think people should diet any more, hence the title, but then he proceeded to promote a diet so different than my own that it would indeed be a diet. Well, crap. He suggested that I eat primarily greens, beans, raw onions, cooked mushrooms, berries, and seeds. No, that's not a diet. Not at all. I should put a sarcastic emoji here. There's another word that would be good repeated in a crowd. I guess I'm tired. You know how words start to sound funny when you repeat them. Emoji, emoji, emoji. Some words don't even take all that many repetitions to start being funny and making you sound crazy when you say them out loud.

Sorry? Right. Dr. Fuhrman, I got distracted for a minute. After reading his whole book I only remember the greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries, and seeds and that if I add much else, I'm going to be a victim of cancer, a heart attack, or stroke. Lovely. What does that do to the pork, the barbecue sauce, and the butter of my dinner? Crap! I just poisoned my family. Still, I try to make sure we have a lot of greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries, and seeds in the diet that we do eat. Maybe I should make some more mushroom soup. I'll put lots of butter and half and half into it, not Dr. Fuhrman's idea at all, but at least I'm eating mushrooms and feeling the umami. Feel the umami, umami, umami. Am I right?

Maybe someone should make an umami emoji. And no, they were not magic mushrooms that I put into my soup. Baby portobellos. Portobellos, portobellos, portobellos. Now, I sound like an Italian. Not crazy any more. I got my portobellos at Costco too.

Thank you for listening, jules

Monday, November 16, 2015


This morning, I walked and afterward, I felt so rotten that I went to Costco because no days are as bad as Costco days.

See, I have this friend that I walk with sometimes. For every ten sentences I begin, I get to finish about three. I should count them but that would be petty, wouldn't it? When she interrupts me, I try to take a deep breath in and blow it out slowly. Some people would have me dump this friend but she has a good heart. She really does. And she's funny sometimes.

There's something else that I don't want to tell you. I am one of those people who interrupt people. I'm trying to learn what it is that I do to people. I'm trying to learn how to listen. This friend is my purgatory. She is giving me a life lesson that I so desperately need to learn, one that I've been trying to learn for twenty years. Crap. I'm not very good at learning, am I?

I remember a different friend, twenty years ago, who dumped me because I never let her talk. We'd taken our dogs to see Santa which had been a desperate failure since my pit bull mix had been terrified of both Santa and her Chihuahua. I'd gotten really low blood sugar in all the stress and she'd told me that it wasn't safe for me to even drive. I had stopped for a green light as I chattered away. When I dropped her off at her house, she told me she was done, finished. I'd thought we had a good time. I told her I could change, that I could be a better listener if I tried. She shook her head and said she didn't believe I could. I got back into my truck, drove half way down the block, stopped, and cried. My friend was really interesting. She owned a retired race horse. She talked with her husband about the plebs, the plebeians, of the world. I had become a pleb. I didn't want to be a pleb.

Since then, I've been trying to change, to see why I need so badly to talk that I don't give someone else, even someone interesting, a chance to speak. I've been trying to become a better listener. It's sort of working. I still get excited and cut people off when they're talking, but it's sort of working, I think.

I've decided to continue hanging out with my walking friend to try to figure out chronic interrupters. What is it that she needs? When I stop talking altogether, she can't keep up the conversation completely by herself. She needs more than ums and yesses and okays. See, even this is narcissistic of me, isn't it? I'm listening to someone like me to figure out me. Pathetic.

What I've begun to do though, is worse than being an interrupter or a narcissist. I've been complaining about the time I spend with my friend. I feel really crappy afterward and I've been complaining a lot. I've been acting like I'm doing her a favor, like she's this barely tolerable person. Even Mike has started to ask me how purgatory went on Monday afternoons.

I need to stop. My friend is nice. She really is. I don't agree with all of her politics, but who does? I don't always think she's interesting, but who can carry on like a stand-up comic all of the time? I also worry that I'm turning Mike into a judgmental person by acting this way, calling these walks purgatory. Mike was never like this before I got hold of him. Mike told me she was nice to begin with.

And she is.

And my walking friend can help me learn to listen. She has a need to talk and I need to figure out why. Then, maybe I can begin to figure out why I need to do the same thing. I just wish I could find a quiet mind when I walk with her. Maybe that's the crux of it, neither of us has a quiet mind, like ever. Maybe we're like two puzzle pieces that will never fit together no matter how many times we try to jam them in place.

I'll let you know if I ever figure it out.

Thank you for listening, jules

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Ninety-Three Texts

My son got ninety-three texts last night from three people. His phone was sitting on the end table by the couch and kept vibrating against the wood until I picked it up to see what its problem was. It was the three kids who regularly clog his messages.

lmfao, im so fkd.

lol!!!!! y? yr mom?

gtg, cu.

What language is this? No generation has made so many changes in one decade to our language than this group of teens and twenty-somethings. I don't even understand it anymore and have to look stuff up to snoop.

I guess that's the point. It's like they're a bunch of DaVincis who are afraid they'll be killed if the work is discovered and they spend their wee hours typing into small computers instead of writing backward in their journals.

Funny thing was that in those ninety-three indecipherable texts, they didn't say much, let alone much that was offensive.

I reserve the right to read texts on my kid's phone. So sue me. He's fifteen and still vulnerable to bullying, though their worst insult was that he'd gone to the dark side and become popular. When I asked him about it, he nodded and said that a lot of the football kids were popular and he wasn't going to dis them because of it. I asked about the girl who'd leveled the accusation and he said she put her head down in the halls and didn't look at him any more.

Ah, I understand this one. There was a group of four of them last year, two gregarious and two quiet. The two gregarious ones moved away in the spring and now the two quiet ones are left, a boy and a girl. Awkward! If they like-like each other, neither of them has the courage to admit it. If they don't and they're just friends, the noisy part of their crew, the people that dragged them together in the first place, are missing and nothing requires them to make eye contact in the halls. When I asked Nick if he was still friendly with her, he said yes, but we were in the car so I couldn't tell in his answer if there was any of that nuance that would have told me he like-liked her. He holds that crush very close to the belt.

One day when I brought food for him while he was supposed to be studying, he slammed a year book into his chest and gripped it so I couldn't see any photos therein until I went away. As if I'd be able to figure it out based on thirty pictures in a book. Well, maybe I could have. Poor boy. I snoop openly to protect him, but my curiosity is killing me about the girl. It sucks when you're a teenager and your parents are curious about your life. It does.

At least I'm honest about it. I told him I snooped among his texts because I was worried what they were saying about him. It wasn't too surprising, so I'll let it go for a month or two.

I still won't know about the girl by then. He'll come to it, being ready to show his feelings, in his own time.

In the meantime, that new language. It sucks. I hope it doesn't stick.

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Karma Appears at 6:37 AM

At 4:07 am, Seth jumped onto my legs and proceeded to march around on my hair to wake me up. He had food. He had water. I made sure of it before I went to bed late last night. The dishes were done. Food was put away. The litter box is not too clumpy. It should have been a decent night. Today should have been a decent day, except for the cat woke me up at 4:07 this morning. 

Now it's 6:37 and Mike is in the kitchen, repeatedly whistling the theme song to 'Monty Python's Flying Circus.' The repetition ensures without doubt that I'll be hearing that song in my head for as much as three or four months. The only thing that could circumvent my horrible fate is if I study, yes I mean study, some other music with as many repetitions when I am as tired as I am today.

I don't have time to study music today. I'm meeting with a friend to do some work I haven't finished. I'm supposed to bring Nick home after school because he still has symptoms of a concussion. God forbid he ride the bus. When did he get too good to ride the bus. Then, because I have the commitment, I'm supposed to go back to school, help cook for the rest of the football team, and haul back home any of the usual boys who might have missed the concept that my boy isn't going to practice and won't be carpooling. My susceptibility to earworms has made more misery added to this day inevitable. My life is a circus anyway. Why not Monty Python?

It can't be any worse than 'La Cucaracha' that swirled in my brain for almost a year when I was in high school or the months at a new job with 'If I Only Had a Brain.' I'm certain that boss never did believe that I did have a brain, though I resisted the urge to whistle or sing that one in her presence. Her fury only accentuated the earworm that season, though I doubt I was the actual cause of her attitude. She's dead now anyway. It was a strange moment when I found out that this incredibly cruel woman had died of pancreatic cancer in a long and drawn-out way after I quit being her minion and told her that I would not stand for having anyone treat me the way she had. Imagine what you would think if you heard a tormentor had been kicked in the gut by karma.

The joy of it was short-lived, though.

So, Mike is in the bedroom now, still whistling my earworm fate for the coming weeks. I wish I could whistle it for you. It's actually a perky little song.

The cat has jumped off the couch and is in the bedroom with him, yowling for him to please stop whistling. The cat hates singing and especially whistling. Maybe it's some frequency I can't hear. Mike hasn't stopped. He's walking out the door, still whistling his cheerful song. The cat is downstairs in the foyer, demanding that he stop this instant. Mike is still whistling.

Maybe it is going to be a decent day. Maybe I've just confirmed a much needed hope that karma is indeed real and every asshole gets his due in the end. I just might spend the day whistling the theme song to 'Monty Python's Flying Circus." Maybe there are a few other assholes I can annoy today.

Thank you for listening, jules

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Why Be Normal?

I should be going to bed. Everyone else is in bed, but I suddenly realized, after procrastinating all weekend, that I needed to do dishes and laundry, to order some stuff online, and to stretch. The dog is pacing, telling me he didn't get a proper walk either. I hate when he can so easily state his business with a long stare.

How do they do that? I know exactly what he's telling me. I swear I do.

I also spent the last half hour wondering if my singing drives anyone nuts in church. I hope it doesn't, but I don't sing what's on the page in front of me. I make stuff up. I harmonize. I noodle around in different registers and with slower beats and play as the song is going along. I'm not entirely sure I'm any good at it.

So, should I worry what people in church are thinking about how I sing in church? I'm not doing it out of disrespect. I'm not trying to mess things up. It's what I feel. I like singing this way and I almost feel comfortable enough with these people to do it. Almost.

I hate when I'm a dork and need permission to do things I do out of joy. I hate that. I used to get into trouble for singing at the dinner table. Who punishes a little girl for singing? I'm not bad at singing. I'm really not. I can carry a tune and I've been asked to sing in church before. The choir wants me back, but I'm busy on practice nights and I go to the early service. No choir for the early service.

But am I driving someone nuts and they're too polite to ask me to be normal?

My roommate in college told me that she hated how I always sang the harmonies of songs. She didn't like me anyway, so why did I care? Once, I sang in the lobby of my dorm and someone came up and asked me why I sang like a black person. She meant it as an insult and I understood that. I never sang in the lobby again.

So, is there someone in our small morning congregation who secretly wishes I'd shut up? Am I distracting someone from their own musical meditation? Do I have to be normal? Could I be normal if I tried?

Why should anyone care if I'm normal or not? Some of my best qualities are far from normal.

So why do I ask myself questions like this when it's past time to go to bed? I blame that little girl still singing at the dinner table.

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, October 15, 2015

There's a Nasty Place in My Heart

Well, crap. I dreamed the sound of a step in the foyer. Since it wasn't my husband, I'm pretty creeped out. I dreamed someone was walking around downstairs and he said he didn't go downstairs. People repeat themselves when they get creeped out. I'm trying to make myself go back downstairs and check out all the rooms and closets just to make sure.

It was probably the cat.

The damned cat.

I'm tired this morning, filthy tired, because the cat kept trying to wake me up. He could see the bottom of his bowl sometime in the night. According to him, the damned thing is empty and that justifies walking on my head while I'm sleeping even though he just finished eating a large cat meal and wouldn't get hungry for three or four hours.

Twice or three times, the damned cat walked across my body last night. There are people who hate cats. I see why. I don't hate cats, I just have a nasty place in my heart right now for one cat in particular. I pushed him off the bed in the night. I'm sure I did.

A nasty place. I don't want to look at him right now.

Not to mention that there was quite a bit of food still in the bowl since it was just the center that reflected the bottom. There was a neat little ring of food around the outside edges that would qualify as two or three meals. And for that he needed to wake me up?

A nasty place.

Thank you for listening, jules

Monday, October 12, 2015

Khaki-Colored Pork Sauce

The neighbor is blowing the leaves from our tree back onto our property. Oh, we deserve it. Last year, Mike blew them into a pile just on his side of the line and I promised I'd pick them up but I forgot. I want to go out to the pile now and offer to pick them up, but I'm not sure I'd be welcome. That man must feel so self-righteous by now.

The cat escaped last night and managed to survive the coyotes and the highway, but when I turned the lights on this morning, I heard him crying at the back door. He's asleep now. I wonder if he'll try so hard to get out now that he knows he might end up spending a cold, wet night on the back doormat when he sneaks out past our feet. I wonder if he'll appreciate the warmth and comfort we offer? It seemed instead that he blamed us for his predicament. He looked at me as if I'd betrayed him. We didn't come calling for him. We abandoned him to the elements. He was so cold, so damp. He had no food, no clean water. He felt so unloved. After he came inside, he ate so much food, he puked right then and there into his little dish, a little khaki-colored pile of puke. A lovely way to begin the day, don't you think?

I just looked into cheese drawer and we have four opened bags of shredded Mexican cheese in there. I hate what happens in a refrigerator when I'm not paying attention. Melted pickling cucumbers, unidentifiable green glop that was only the leftover pea soup from yesterday when I remember details. I do not want to eat that shit even if it is relatively fresh.

I took pork tenderloin out of the fridge. It was at risk of going bad before I'd even cooked it. It hasn't been a good season for dining at our house. I blame football season. I have to pick up my boy every day at 5:00 pm and by the time I get home, we're down to chicken patties or hamburgers. Sometimes I think of the simple peanut chicken mix and coconut milk, but only rarely. I shopped and cooked for twenty-two people last Friday, a Scout camping trip, and by the time we got to dinner that night, I had taco meat for twenty-two and chicken fricassee for about thirty set aside for the weekend, but nothing to eat for that night. Mike and I had argued that I didn't need five chickens to feed twenty-two people. It turned out that two big chickens were more than generous. Now our fridge is full of at least three more meals of chicken fricassee, but we're all tired of it by now. Lunches for Nick for the week? He throws away most of his lunch anyway. Why not the leftover chicken fricassee that nobody wants now that they've had it for three meals running?

So, I cut the end of the plastic wrapper and spooged the pork tenderloin out of it into the slow cooker and set it to five hours slow. The honeymoon is over with my slow cooker. I realize that it's only as good as the ingredients I put into it. I've got pulled pork down, I'm telling to you, shredded beef too. Barbecue sauce and meat. It's a plan.

Until it isn't a plan.

These days, my clan rolls their eyes at pulled pork or shredded beef, even when I buy those big sweet buns with the shiny glaze on them.

Mike was in the kitchen making his own lunch, likely trying to avoid the neatly stacked containers of chicken fricassee in the fridge.

"How should I season the pork tenderloin?" I asked him.

"Don't know. Look it up online," he replied without looking up from his task.

"I have looked it up, multiple times, and they keep telling me to marinate it in soy sauce. I tried that and I didn't like it. Too salty."

"Mustard?" So, I got out what was left of the Grey Poupon, the dry mustard, some marjoram, and a little hickory smoked salt and blended it in a small bowl. I dipped my finger into it and stuck my finger into my mouth. Not bad, I thought as I whisked a little water into it to thin it.

"Here, taste this! It's close, but it needs something else. Can you tell what?" I said, handing him a spoon and holding out the bowl with khaki-colored liquid in it. He dipped and tasted.

"Well, you have the savory part down. Maybe a little brown sugar."

So, I added brown sugar. The color was nicer, a slightly darker green than before. I dipped my pinkie and popped it into my mouth. You can use your fingers when you're cooking for your own family, right?

You know when there's that two second delay after tasting something? Usually, it's a good thing, right?


That was the taste I had created. Fresh, unadulterated puke. The only thing I was missing was whole peas. The taste blended with my morning mouth and held on well after I swallowed, salivated some, and swallowed again.

"It's gross!" I cried. "How do I fix it?" I held the bowl out to Mike. He looked at it, green scum floating to the top of a darker brown gunge. I stirred it a little. He shook his head and backed up.

"I'm not eating it."

"Oh, just try it. I really need help now." He shook his head again and pointed to the sink. I dumped the bowl into the sink, splashing a bit onto my shirt. I was going to smell like vomit until I changed my shirt. And I still tasted that crud. How could it still taste so utterly vile in my mouth?

I splashed water around the sink to rinse it and took a sip of water from the faucet, trying in vain to wash down the taste. If I'd still had long hair, I'd have been reminded of my college days. I dried my hands and walked past Mike and opened the fridge.

Barbecue sauce. We were destined to have pulled pork with barbecue sauce yet again. Oh joy.

Thank you for listening, jules

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Mucking Around

I have so much to complain about that I don't know where to begin. First of all, I finally got a break in my schedule and I'm not doing anything with it. Don't you hate that? I know it's okay if I watch a movie here and there, but I'm tired and I've been watching too much. Now, the TV is off, but I want to lie down and watch another one. I really do.

How are you supposed to know when it's fatigue and when it's simple procrastination?

And I need to clean my window screens. They're full of dead bugs and spider webs. There are some things about living with forest on three sides that makes life feel futile. No matter how many times I clean them off, the spiders just rebuild, as if I have just mucked out their stalls, thank you very much.

The sky is blue and I don't think we've had enough rain yet. It isn't supposed to rain until Friday and that night, I'm supposed to be going to a fundraising event that I think won't be my kind of thing. I don't know these people very well yet. I just don't. I don't feel comfortable. I want to say they aren't my kind of people, but that's not true. They're decent people who work hard and support the kids, but I feel out of my element. 

Coffee. Maybe a good cup of coffee would help. Maybe I would get to work. Maybe I would find that niche of friends within the fundraiser group. Maybe the spiders will just have to wait to have their stalls mucked out until another time.

Thank you for listening, jules

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Is Football Healthy?

Why did it have to be football?

I know that there are millions of football fans out there so bear with me. I know that most kids get through football safely. I know that he could go on to college with his brain intact. I know he's not likely to have lasting brain damage, but the concussions. There are so many concussions. Thirty percent of all NFL players will have permanent brain damage. How many from high school football?

Football is a violent sport. It's fun to watch, but why? The game is designed so that boys and men can run around and take each other down, a battle. Can you compare football players to gladiators? At least it's not to the death, but am I sacrificing my child to simple entertainment? This is the first time Nick will be doing something that draws more than just parents of the participants. People are going to stand around watching him mow other kids down. People pay the most attention when someone gets injured. That's when the game stops and everybody looks more closely. What do I remember about the year I dated a football fan and sat (and slept) through hours of football on television? I remember the instant replay of Joe Theismann's knee being jammed backward. That's pretty much it. Oh, I remember how fast Refrigerator Perry could run, but I remember that knee being turned inside out over and over and over until it nauseated me.

Football is a team sport. When Nick got good at karate, no one knew. It was expected that he stay quiet about it. He wasn't out in front of people, showing his skills. He just wasn't. Oh, I could brag now and then, but people don't know how dangerous his skills became. The whole philosophy was to stay quiet. In football, the better you are at mowing the opponent down, the louder we're supposed to scream.

Nick told me himself that being good at football might make him popular. He reassured me that it wouldn't change him.

Is it terrible of a mom not to want her child to be popular?

It is terrible. I know. I just think he'll be healthier if he isn't popular. I just want my boy to stay healthy. So sue me.

Thank you for listening, jules

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

That Crazy Lady in the Parking Lot

I yelled at a heroin addict yesterday.

Mike and I had stopped by the market after a beautiful walk at the falls with Teddy. The setting sun had made a rainbow in the spray and I found a Pacific treefrog that waited while I stared at his greenness. I was feeling good.

Then, on the way home, I realized that my dinner plan wasn't going to work since it was late, still summer light but a school night. We needed to stop.

Mike and I walked out of the store with a loaded cart, milk, bread, rice, a kielbasa, sour cream, sparkling water. As I wrestled my cart over a curb, a man appeared at the slot where the grocery carts belong. We wrestled with the cart too, but I knew not to speak to him.

First, there's a silhouette to a heroin addict, gaunt and hunched. Usually, a hat and heavy clothing cover bad hair and lesions on the skin. This one had both. He didn't walk as much as shuffle. If he had smiled, he might have had one or two teeth left, but I didn't smile at him. Heartless, I know. If I had come close, I might have smelled that chemical smell. Not a chance in hell. I won't go near that smell.

I've noticed that the fleshy woman who sells drugs at the library is nearly unrecognizable these days, thick dyed hair replaced by stringy gray hair and weight dropped to anorexic levels. I once went into the restroom at the library and she was there. The stench was overwhelming. I didn't even want to pee in there. I was afraid I might catch something.

This man could have been her new twin. He seemed short. I didn't want to meet his eyes. There is no soul in a heroin addict's eyes. He placed a heavy crate into the grocery cart and shuffled across the parking lot. He was headed out the lane when it hit me.

I get angry. Over and over other people, not me, have given them opportunities. You can call me a cold-hearted bitch now if you want. Lovely people offered cash for work to the 'homeless,' an honest day, a few dollars here and there, a free cup of coffee. Over and over these people have stolen despite their charity. The till was taken. The poor church was robbed. People have begun to carry their purses after services and warning others to do the same. I've been told the drug addicts only need a chance, some charity, a good turn, an offer of rehab.

These drug addicts don't want to be saved. They want their next hit. Quitting is hard. Their brains are rewired.

I stood in that parking lot, staring at the man stealing a grocery cart from a friend that owned the store. How much do those things cost? What kind of crap was getting all over it that I didn't want touching my groceries? Who the hell did he think he was?

I got mad.

"Hey! You!" I yelled. "You can't take that cart. That belongs here."

"Phil and Mona said I could." He shuffled a little bit closer to the road.

"No!" I shouted. "That cart belongs to Jim. That cart belongs here in the parking lot."

"But Phil and Mona said I could have it." He looked at me. I didn't look away. I usually look away. Drug addicted eyes have no depth. A wild animal's eyes have more depth.

"You need to leave that cart in the parking lot," I yelled, gathering steam. I rolled my cart toward his. Mike swept four bags of groceries out of our cart as I pushed by.

The man shifted his eyes away. He lifted his crate out of the cart. He scrabbled away. His crate looked heavy. He moved quickly across the street.

I nested his cart with mine and turned it back toward the store. There I tucked it in with the others. I put one foot on the automatic door to open it.

"There's a guy outside trying to take your carts."

"Who?" the cashier said. Customers, the cashier, and I looked at a man trying to hide around the corner of the building across the street. He still wanted his cart, but he knew we were looking.

"Okay, thanks," the cashier said.

Customers went back to their shopping after staring at me for a moment, not with awe, but with amusement, holding a certain distance.

I was the crazy lady that yelled at drug addicts in the parking lot. Great. This is the cost of drugs in the community. My future is cut out for me. That crazy lady.

Thank you for listening, jules

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Hell of Being a Football Mom

Can I complain for a minute? Can I? Isn't that what this is for, so I can complain without looking bad in front of my friends?

I'm not a football fan. I'm just not interested.

Now, my son is on the football team and I have to pretend I'm interested.

If only Nick had decided to really go after his black belt in karate. He's a brown belt now. He's lethal. I love watching Nick at his karate.

If only Nick had decided to paddle our canoe every day over the summer. I could walk around the lake or along the river four days watching him paddle a canoe.

If only Nick had an interest in music or art or wanted to swim the English Channel.

Why did it have to be football?

Since practice has started, I've been waiting for him in the stadium seats looking out over a sea of red jerseys. Which color socks did he wear today? Were his practice pants grey or black?

Oh, I can spot him in a sea of red jerseys. I can. He's the one at the back of the pack, one of the few that looks like he belongs in those shoulder pads I want to call a cage. Most of the other boys look like kids in costumes on the field. In the distance, without proper perspective, my boy looks like the classic football silhouette. He's not tall yet, but he's thick and, according to his coach, as strong as an ox.

But now I'm dedicated to watching him play.

The family was eating out the other day and there was a football game on the screens over Nick's head. Football. Of course.

I found myself looking for a guy with Nick's silhouette, following his moves, watching for signs of either injury or enthusiasm. I found myself watching each play for this NFL version of Nick. I kept worrying when he got hit hard. I kept wanting to ask him if he still loved the game after all these years.

Football is going to be hell.

Thank you for listening, jules

Friday, July 31, 2015

Karma and Knowing When to Walk Away

I hate when someone makes me feel ugly and stupid. Oh, I can handle when people make me feel ugly. My friends don't do that to me, but I can handle it. But there are special people who manage to make me feel both ugly and stupid.

I want to grab the mallet and bang the gong to get this person hustled off the show of my life. It can't happen fast enough.

You know, it's not like I'm working at a job here where it's part of my job to get along with people. I was volunteering my time. I don't have to volunteer one more hour, not one more minute in the presence of this person. Next time, if Nick wants to volunteer for this kind of service project, I'll be happy to drop him off and pick him up when it's over. I don't care how few people show up to help.

There's probably a reason why so few people showed up to help.

It's over and I'm out.

Don't you hate when people start talking about a situation and they don't use details? Don't you hate that? I hate that, but I need to keep it this way when I'm bitching about someone. 

I should delete this whole post. Not enough details. You need details. You need to see a gray pompadour hair cut. You need to see a dismissive wave of a small hand with a large signet ring of an insignificant university. You need to hear how I tried, without success, to find a way to mention the prestigious university where I attended, the degree I received there, the names of the corporations where I worked. It was futile, I realized as I found myself searching for those moments and I didn't want to go there and join in that battle for position and posturing. You need to hear the tone that crept into the voices of other people in that room who assumed that gray pompadour was correct. They didn't know me. I gave up before I began. It would not work. I was doomed to be ugly and stupid in this room.

Do you believe in karma? I want to believe.

Oh I think that karma is wishful thinking for those of us who really want life and the big wide universe to be fair. Life is not fair. Life has never been fair and karma feels like wishful thinking. Black holes suck up perfectly beautiful suns.

So, this guy won't necessarily get what's coming to him. He won't. He might end up being successful. He might find important friends and meet famous people. The only karma that might exist here is that he has to live with his sorry self and I have the privilege to walk away.

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Threat of Salad Dressing

So, the TSA agents didn't give me grief this trip. In the past, I have been chided for wearing a skirt, for carrying three ounces of salad dressing in a Tupperware container, and for bringing Matchbox cars to entertain my toddler.

I was sick of it and wore the very same skirt that caused problems more than once in the past. I had a plan to rip it off showing shorts beneath if a TSA agent were to harass me again. I'm not sure I'd have the courage, but I had imagined it, dropping that skirt and exposing my lumpy butt in a pair of black bicycle shorts. I had wanted to embarrass that TSA agent into leaving middle-aged women in skirts alone. But it wouldn't have worked.

See, they have the right and duty to harass me, but rights and duties, blended together, are an interesting thing, aren't they?

Psychological studies have shown that people given power will begin to abuse it.

I never have figured out why my salad dressing in a Tupperware container would be a problem. They wanted it to be in a manufacturers container. It was not. I wondered if this harassment became an abuse of power, a way to put pressure on an already beleaguered woman with a young son who was struggling to catch a plane.

A recent article exposed the fact that the TSA cannot prevent 95% of all illegal materials that were carried in a test past their inspection. Think about this article. This includes extra X-rays that we're exposed to and the fact that most of us have to walk barefoot and holding up our pants through their checkpoints.

Did the Germans require people to remove their shoes and belts at checkpoints in Berlin? Did they irradiate children and old men? Did they strip them of their wallets and all possessions while they were searched? Did they argue with middle-aged women about their clothing, their food, their children's toys?


Last week, I got onto a plane and realized something awful as I pushed my backpack into the overhead bin. I had forgotten to explore the small pockets on the hipbelt. I suddenly imagined myself lying face-down in the aisle with twist-ties holding my wrists behind my back. I was already on the plane. What should I do?

"Mike, I forgot something horrible in my backpack," I whispered. I could feel my eyes dilate. I remembered those TSA agents and they way they reacted to my salad dressing and my skirt.

"What is it?" he whispered back.

"I have my spray, you know, the one you gave me when I started hiking with Teddy." His eyes dilated too.

"Turn it in. You don't want that thing discharging at altitude." We were talking in code about a small canister of pepper spray I carried when I hiked. Our community has a virulent heroin problem and Mike didn't want me to come across any of them unprotected while I was out with Teddy on my own.

I tapped the shoulder of a flight attendant who had been helping another passenger.

"Excuse me. I need to give you something. Oh, I am so sorry. I forgot. I really did." Did I sound like a woman on the edge? Was I about to be put down for the safety of everyone on board? Would I be ejected from the plane?

I reached up to the small pocket in my backpack. I felt like I was drawing a gun out of a pocket in front of a police officer.

"What is it?" the flight attendant asked. Her voice was too loud for comfort.

"I need to give you this," I repeated, hoping that she saw I meant no harm. Other passengers looked up at the tone of my voice. I hoped they didn't have any ideas of the heroism they might be capable of in the face of a woman on the edge with a pepper spray in her hand.

I reached into the pocket with two fingers, the same two fingers I'd use to prove I didn't have a finger on the trigger of a gun.

I pulled it out, dangling it from my two fingers and put it into her hands.

"It's pepper spray," I whispered.

"What?" she asked, still too loudly.

"I forgot to look through these little pockets and I go walking alone with my dog in the woods. I forgot. I'm sorry. I didn't want this to discharge when the pressure changed. I didn't ..." I was babbling, sounding to myself more like that crazy woman than one who was calm and self-assured.

She took it and patted me on the shoulder.

"No problem, ma'am. I can take care of this."

She did not strong-arm me to the floor. She did not kick me off the plane. She did not call for a TSA agent to remand me to prison.

It was strangely uneventful.

So, why did I have to worry about wearing a skirt? Why did I have an issue because I carried Matchbox cars to entertain my young son? Why did I have to argue that the salad dressing in a small Tupperware container was my allocated three ounces?

I inadvertently carried a weapon onto a plane, yet salad dressing was somehow a threat.

I think that the TSA checkpoints at airports should be removed completely. They aren't protecting us. There is no way to protect us completely from salad dressing, Matchbox cars, and long skirts.

Thank you for listening, jules

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Spark to Light the Fire

Nick has been playing football for exactly six days, eight if you count the games he's watched on TV. On Monday, he was arguing with me about playing despite doctor's orders regarding his broken finger. On Tuesday, he came home from camp ready to quit. The difference? A coach.

Nick has had one kind of coach or another since he was eighteen months old, karate, swimming, fencing, T-ball, baseball, gymnastics, soccer, tennis, and even cross-country. The cross-country coaches were amazing, encouraging him despite the fact that he's built like a fire-plug. Nick's been practicing karate for eight years. He played soccer for five, baseball or T-ball for three. He's had multiple coaches in each one. He's not new to coaches.

Yesterday, a coach yelled at him because he didn't know the game, totally killed his enthusiasm. Enthusiasm for a game never precedes learning the game and most of the time, it comes from a single source, a coach. A coach remembers his days playing the game and decides to give back, to be the man that so many kids looked up to on the field. And lots of times, it a coach, not a parent or a teacher or a friend, who truly lights the fire in a kid's belly. A kid doesn't start out great. He might show the determination to be great on the field, but it's always a coach who provides the spark.

Or kills it before it's lit.

We were told multiple times that Nick could sign up for this football camp with no experience, that the coaches would teach him the right way to play the game, but yesterday, a coach spent most of his time with the boys yelling at Nick because he didn't already know the rules. What the hell?

On Sunday, I was told that a parent would be ejected from the stands for yelling at a kid, that a boy's enthusiasm was that important. It's even in the team's mission statement. So how is it that a coach gets to do the all that yelling? Since when does a kid need to know how to play a game before he's learned how to play the game?

Just asking.

Thank you for listening, jules

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Whose Living Room Is This?

Since when do children rule the household?

I'm sitting on the couch in my own living room. When the kid wakes up, I should be able to continue watching the movie that I put in. It hasn't even started yet. I'm still watching previews.

But, no. It's rated R, so the plan has to change. Nick isn't quite ready for stuff that's rated R. Instead of switching to some girl movie or an episode of Ellen, cartoons are instantly in order. Ellen is not R rated, but still it's forbidden in my all-male household. Spongebob. Why is Spongebob better than Ellen? Why?

"You know, Mom," Nick begins as he settles into the other end of the couch. "I think I've actually seen every single episode of Spongebob in existence. I have not seen every single episode of Ellen. I just haven't. Ellen is a treat, a rarity, a bit of gold in a stream full of rocks, Spongebob rocks.

"I think I have too," I reply. Nick laughs, but I'm not joking. I watch for a little while, playing a solitaire game on my phone. Sleep overcomes me since I woke with the sun and these days it's still not a whole night's sleep from dusk to dawn. Twenty minutes pass. Just twenty, not enough to make up for sleep losses. I hear a doorknob turn and open one eye.

"Good morning family!" Mike says cheerfully from the hall when he sees that I'm awake. He's always cheerful in the morning, even when he hasn't slept. What is that? Why can't I do that?

It turns out that Mike has slept. Why can't I do that?

"Dad, if I play until ten, I can get an upgrade for my character." Until ten?

"Mom, I'm going to play my game and I'm putting on my ear thing." He talks in a loud slow voice that is used to annoy people with disabilities. I interpret that to mean that I am to be silent now. I start to laugh. He gives me the stink-eye.

"So, I can't sing the upgrade song for your video game?" I ask. Mike laughs quietly.

"Mom!" He puts his hand to his ear and checks to make sure his Bluetooth is muted. He glares at me. It is somehow funnier because Mike laughed. I giggle audibly.

"So, I can't ask about your naked baby pictures?" Mike laughs again, but silently.

Mom!" Nick might kill me with those eyes.

"So, I can't fart either? What if I need to fart? How far do I have to be from that microphone for these total strangers not to hear me fart?" Mike snorts out loud. Success.

"MOM! Stop!" Nick is seriously angry now. I'd better change tacks. I'm not ready to take away the TV, but I want him to think.

"Can I breathe in here? Do I need to stop breathing in the presence of your almighty stranger friends in my living room?"

Just asking.

Thank you for listening, jules

Friday, July 3, 2015


I no longer control my phone. Have you noticed that happening with your phone? Have you? Is it driving you crazy too?

It began with the insipid little ad banners that scrolled whenever I played the free game that I downloaded, the one that came completely free with the last phone. Then, it escalated to pop ups with an X in a new place every time that required me to click the X and that delay forced me to view their ads. Then, they started making me wait on my phone, five seconds, ten seconds, fifteen seconds, before I could click the X and go back to playing. At that point, it was not truly my phone any more. It belonged to the advertisers.

Now, companies can banner events on my home screen. This morning, I awoke to an important announcement that I needed to respond to before I could open my phone. The only problem was that it wasn't my event. I hadn't added it to my calendar.


Thu, 7/2/2015
The Dojo that now controls your calendar
1234 SE In-Your-Phone Avenue
Call now to schedule ...

This event hadn't registered on my consciousness as remotely important. I hadn't even allowed someone else to add it to my calendar.

Yet apparently I had.

Yet again, I have to go into my settings and try to keep the riffraff out of my business. I have to try to keep the damned phone from beeping, buzzing, chirping and blinking at all hours of the day and night.

Yesterday, some idiot texted me at 12:14 in the morning to invite my son to ride with them for a football practice the next day. Even though I had my do-not-disturb settings ranged between 9:00 pm and 7:00 am, my phone chirped. What the hell? I didn't need to wake up to hear this thing in my ear. I didn't need to respond to this arrogant person who believed that her invitation for the following day was so damned important that I needed to get up in the night to address it. I did not want to see or hear anything from my phone at that hour, unless it was an emergency regarding my husband or son and I knew they were asleep in the house with me.

Yet, when my husband or son try to contact me on my phone, it is somehow silent on occasion. What the heck is that? They are the only two people I'm interested in hearing from day or night.

And there's Facebook. Yesterday, I looked at my profile and discovered that the way the idiot got my phone number to text me at 12:14 in the morning was from my Facebook page. Somehow, a whole lot of information about me was downloaded automatically and my phone number was included. It added work history that I wasn't interested in broadcasting. Really, does everyone in the world need to know that I once worked for BigImportantCompany? Do they? I thought it was funny that FastFoodFlunkieJob popped up whenever I checked out my own Facebook profile. Somehow, it connected with LinkedIn and downloaded my whole resume instead. What the heck? Did it ask me if I wanted it to do that? No! I was happy having FastFoodFlunkieJob displayed whenever anyone wanted to see my work history on Facebook. I'm not on Facebook to get a job or to impress anyone. In fact, I'd rather not play into that I'm-smarter-richer-better-than-you game that happens there. And I'm not entirely sure how either of them got my phone number. I don't want that number floating around because riffraff get hold of it and buzz, beep, chirp, and blink me awake at 12:14 in the morning.

And now, since it's 7:33 am, the riffraff are satisfied that Nick doesn't need a ride, the dojo is closed, and I've stared at a sufficient number of ads for fifteen seconds at a time, I'm going back to sleep to see if I can be uninterrupted by my phone for one sweet hour of peace.

Thank you for listening, jules

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Mom's Video Game Games

I am having a great time with Nick's new video game.

No, I'm not playing. I haven't played a video game since the last time Nick was sick.

"Mom, will you play a game with me?"

"Honey, I'm terrible at those games, but if you don't mind how terrible I am, then I'll play."

So, we had a good time setting me up in pink and purple armor and got going. Then, right there at the beginning, it started to go wrong, oh so wrong.

"Mom, you need to look up. It's the toggle on the left. No, your other left. Now, just point your gun at the hive and shoot. There, with the target. No. Look down and aim. Behind you. Follow me. I'm over here. No, the other way. No, mom, you have to move the left toggle down so you can see where you're going. The right one moves you around. Then, when you get the hive in the cross-hairs, you shoot. Use the right trigger. You just changed guns, Mom. Mom. No, press the X button. You're shooting straight up, mom. That's... No....Stop..... Hide behind..... Aw, now you have to wait to respawn."

Meanwhile, he had eliminated about fifteen of the hive and was battling against the big guy somewhere and I couldn't find him. I died, respawned, hid, tried to catch up, tried to look up but not straight up at the sky, tried to shoot and run at the same time, tried to run and see where I was going at the same time, tried to avoid the purple streaks that were killing me, and wait patiently every time I had to respawn. I finally found that if I gave up trying to shoot anything, I could almost look around and run at the same time and keep up with Nick.

In the meantime, Nick got bored and frustrated, switched the mode of the game, and started shooting right at me while I was still trying to figure out where I was after I died and woke up in another place.

"Hey, you're spawnkilling. No fair!" I said. Nobody likes a spawnkiller.

"Mom, you stand there for an hour before you take a step. That's not spawnkilling."

"Yes it is. I wake up and there you are shooting at me."

"It's not waking up. It's spawning."

"Exactly. I spawn awake and there you are, shooting at me. You don't even give me a chance."

"Okay, I'll give you more time."

"Good. I need more time." I respawn and almost have my bearings. I'm running toward where Nick's character is standing and then he starts shooting at me again.

"I'm not having any fun. You keep shooting at me right after I figure out which way I'm going."

And that was the last time I played video games with Nick.

So now, I have a new game to play with him. I think it should be a Seth Rogan movie. Were you around the other day when I complained that Mike and Nick were watching YouTube videos of people playing video games?

Basically, these people think their banter is funny, so they play the video game with their cameras set to their faces and the rest of us in the world have the ultimate privilege of watching them sit on their asses talking to the TV while they play stupid video games. And that's somehow supposed to be entertainment. I think it is for video game nerds.

And as I watched Nick and Mike watching this YouTube video, Seth Rogan's face popped into my mind. He's got the camera set to his face. He's using his entire vocal range to narrate this game. He's cool. He's funny. There's a pile of candy wrappers, pizza boxes and beer cans tossed around him but he doesn't think that shows up on camera. He's wearing his pajama bottoms under a cool T-shirt and doesn't realize that viewers can see them too. The movie moves back and forth between his impression of himself over the Internet and the conversation between video game nerds about him in an entirely different home where they are playing his YouTube video.

Today, Nick is wearing his bluetooth ear set thingy. I picture him in our living room as the Seth Rogan character, capturing video of himself to be played later by other video game geeks.

I just got home from church. I'm played by someone like Melissa McCarthy, only older since she's not old enough to have a teenaged or twenty-something kid like Seth Rogan playing video games.

"Hi! I'm home," I shouted as I came up the stairs.

"Shhhh!" Mike said. "He's on Bluetooth."

"Oh, that thingy in his ear that keeps blinking? Okay."


"Oh, sorry." And I walked back through to the kitchen. Mike quietly sat on the couch.

I carried my groceries around in the kitchen and forgot myself.

"Hon, do you want brisket for dinner tonight? I bought a brisket if you want brisket," I yelled from the other room.


"Oh, sorry."

And I went back to unloading groceries and chatting to Mike and Nick in my head as I put stuff away.

"Sweetie, I bought you two bags of raisin bran. They didn't have the Maltomeal stuff at QFC, so whenever I'm at the Farmhouse Market, I have to get extra so it'll last you for a couple of weeks."

"Mom! I'm on a mission!"

"Right. Sorry, hon," I said, but by then my mind went around some kind of corner. You know the corner I mean. Those days when nothing is going right and something breaks in your mind and suddenly you're driving seriously slowly because of the tailgater behind you. Your you pick your nose and wipe it on the counter the day you're really sick and after waiting for a half an hour to talk to the pharmacist about an over-the-counter prescription, he's condescending and all he'll say is that what you want is in aisle four on the left.

Yes, I am ashamed to say my mind careened around a corner at that moment and I was an older version of Melissa McCarthy. I walked into the room and held out a glass of liquid toward Nick.

"You are ultra, dude," Nick said, but not to me.

"This is my favorite gun. See, isn't it a good gun." He's still not talking to me. I wait for just the right moment. It's coming.

"Did you see that nube?" he said a bit too loudly.

"Honey, here's your laxative. You should take it now so you don't get constipated later." Spawnkill number one.

Now, Nick mouthed an emphatic 'NO' at me. Finally, eye contact. He can't kill me with those eyes. He can't kill me with those eyes. I walked back into my kitchen. Another plus is that he was trapped in front of the TV and can't get up and get into my face either. In fact, he couldn't say anything rude at all because it might have hindered his view of himself on this mission. I almost finished loading the dishwasher and there was slimy goo on my fingers from a bowl that someone didn't rinse out. I walked out into the living room, still holding the bowl and looked at the TV.

"Dance! You're at the dance pavillion. Dance!"

"Mom! Stop!" He whispers fiercely as he tries to cover the microphone. Spawnkill number two.

I walked casually back into the kitchen and dropped a tablet onto the little door of the dishwasher. I didn't shut the little door thingy because it never springs open and I always have to run the dishwasher again. I thought about my next attack.

"Honey," I yell to Mike from where I stand. I am at full volume. "Did you schedule that colonoscopy yet? You're past due."

And I peek out of the kitchen. Nick has sunk down into the leather chair, his face four shades of pink. Nailed it. Spawnkill number three. I considered walking in front of the TV again and farting loudly, but even around that crazy corner, I had my limits.

And that is my favorite way to play video games.

Yes, Melissa McCarthy, you have permission to play me in the movie even though you're way too young and you're prettier than me and way funnier too. You could probably blow me out of the water with what you yell from the kitchen at someone like Seth Rogan playing video games and recording himself for YouTube. But please pick someone younger than Seth Rogan so he'd be young enough to be your kid. I hate when casting gets that stuff wrong and I'd never believe that old person is her kid. That's the problem with all the Botox and pouty collagen lips and shit. I never believe that face has lived for five minutes let alone borne a child and nagged for fourteen years straight. After fourteen years of continuous nagging, I deserve to have some wrinkles and if you're going to play me in the movies, you'd damned-well better have some wrinkles too.

Thank you for listening, jules

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tepid Showers and Unused Couches

Nick just used all the hot water. We leave in a half hour, just enough time to regenerate hot water. Not fair. I'm either going to have a cool shower - he never uses it all - or I'll go grunge. I've never been a big fan of grunge, but it's better as music than it is as a state of cleanliness.

There's a fad out there not to wash your hair for weeks at a time. While canoe trekking, I've gone four days without washing my hair and I don't like to think of the state of my fingernails after washing that. Especially out in the woods, my nails end up with black stuff under them and it feels absolutely divine to have a clean scalp when I scrub in some shampoo and toss a bucket of cold water over my head.

No, I'm not a fan of not washing my hair either. It's happening in New York. I guess it works for them. They're so cool, they could make pink mold on vegetables the next new thing.

Oh, I'm not a clean freak either. There are people who barely let their families exist in their homes for the cleaning that has to go on. I was raised in a house where we weren't allowed to sit on our couch. It was for company. It was so bad that when I moved away and came back to visit, the ban still existed. The house would be bursting at the seams and not a soul sat on the couch. When my mother got rid of that couch, it was barely used. There were no worn spots, no butt prints, no marks of any kind. The edges of the cushions still looked crisp.

Why even bother? It wasn't as if it were a large house either. About a fourth of the house was never used. Why does our culture do that? Why do people set up museum spaces in their homes so that it 'looks good?'

Does it really look good? It looks inhospitable, unfriendly, sterile. There are no books on the tables, no blankets thrown across an arm, nothing.

Just saying.

I'm going to go take a tepid shower.

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, June 11, 2015


I had some crabby material here, but I deleted it. It just wasn't nice. I suppose you're here for the intrigue and the feelings I create that go against the grain, but I'm just not here to lambast anyone. Last night, I was rude. I was. So, I'm deleting it.

Sure, I was mad. Sure, I had a right to be mad, but I'm as mad at myself as anything. I'm fifty-five years old. I know how to get past that point where people who casually judge my life make me feel stupid, right?

I guess not. I still feel stupid and that makes me mad. I'm not stupid.

Today, It's cloudy. Thankfully. I'm ready for rain, but I don't think we'll be so lucky.

What else can I complain about? People keep chatting to me about this wonderful weather. It's not wonderful. It's dry as a bone. It's sunny and the plants I like best are suffering. I want to tell them that the river is as low as it usually is in August. If this keeps up, it'll be dry in August. I don't want to see the dry riverbed. I just don't. I want that dripping rain that makes the sword ferns and Western red cedars happy.

There. Did I distract you from what used to be sitting here waiting to be read? Did I?

Should I complain about the spiders, the early-morning sunshine glaring in my windows at 3:30 in the morning, the cat waking me up, the dead dry grass in the spot where the canoe laid for two months, the number of people on the trails. early morning pee on the floor? I could go on.

I do go on, and on and on and on.

Thank you for listening, jules

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Faking It at Being a Football Mom

Mike used to study kung fu. I used to practice tai chi, but love watching any of it, karate, kung fu, tai chi.  And Mike and I were river rats. We've paddled canoes, rafts, and kayaks. I still consider myself to be a river rat, just an old dried out one. We were never team sports people. We don't really watch sports on TV unless you count curling and the Olympics. So, it is with some regret that I'm telling you that Nick has joined a football team.

I'm trying to be enthusiastic. To the outside world, I'm talking to new coaches and fellow parents with pride. I described my uninitiated son to the new coach as a novice, but a very strong kid. The man was genuinely enthusiastic when I described his build. Then, I went on to talk about his history in karate.

"He's a second degree brown belt," I told him.

"He's very good at sparring and grappling," I said. I love watching Nick practicing in his karate uniform. It suits him. He's been training since he was six, eight years ago. I would have told the coach about how lethal he looks using his nun chuks if I could have found a way to tie it into football. I couldn't.

I would have told the man how he looked paddling a canoe, how his J-stroke is coming along and we're thinking of taking him down a simple stretch of the river in the bow soon to get him started reading the river. I would have told him how Nick said he loved our canoe, that we were planning a three day family trip this summer with two of his best friends. I wanted to find a way to work the river into the football story I was telling the coach. I couldn't.

"He doesn't have to know anything. We'll train him right from the beginning," the coach said and my eyes began to glaze over.

I'm going to have to go watch football games. I'll do it. I'll cheer. I'll be proud of my boy, always. See, I've already taken some pictures of him out on the field. I've looked at the faces of the other parents who are also snapping photos of their boys.

Do they really think their sons are going to be the stars of the team? Do they dream of a high school career, college, or even the NFL for their children?

I don't. Not really. The only reason I want Nick to play is that I want him to get some new form of exercise to keep him moving. I want him to meet some people from his new school. And I want him to have fun.

That's it.

Is it bad that I don't really want Nick to play football for the next four years? Is it wrong that I would dread college or professional football the way I'd dread if Nick took up cage fighting? I'm not hoping he'll be a star. I don't exactly see that popularity as being good for a kid. It might be a relief to some parents. The other day, I ran into a friend and her son in the grocery store. He was so cute and personable. I was sure he was among the top-tier of the popular kids. I could tell that she was proud of that. But not being popular builds resilience. What was this boy going to do when something went wrong? How would he tell the difference between people who genuinely liked him and those who liked him for his looks alone? What if things didn't go his way after high school and he ended up stuck in that high-school zone? I saw the most popular girl in my high school stuck in that zone ten years after we graduated. She worked at K-Mart as a cashier and still had the audacity to look down on me though I'd graduated from college as an engineer and was doing well at my aerospace company.

No, I'd rather Nick not be in the popular crowd. Oh, I don't wish him to be a pariah either, but he's always been too social for that. He has a few good friends. What else does a kid need?

So today, I sat in the stands, clicking photos of Nick in a futile attempt to get something worthy of Facebook, and I secretly hoped that Nick would have fun at football but decide to go back to karate when the season is over. I hoped that he'd plan more time on the water next summer. I hoped that football would give him strength and agility and that he'd be able to bring all that back to karate and paddling our canoe and exploring the wilderness.

I just hope I cheer at the right times from the stands.

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Stick a Needle in Your Eye

I'm here to complain.

My resident hummingbird seems to think I'm an intruder on my deck, but then he has the audacity to get agitated when I take his feeder inside to replenish his sugar-water. He chases away the other birds too. Their crime was to take a leisurely bath in the terracotta saucers I fill for them. If size weren't at odds, I might think that my boy was a hummingbird in a previous life. My boy is taller than I am now and hairy, but he does that same thing now and then, fluffing himself up and coming at me with his chest out as if I'm in his way. It's a good thing hummingbirds come in small packages. They'd be a menace if they were larger.

Lots of things are like that. The Japanese have magnified moths, ants, and lizards to great effect, but does anyone think about how that needle beak would look if it were six feet long? And those wings? A hummingbird could probably make a Vietnam helicopter vet look like an amateur.

There are lots of things that are like that, creatures with voracious appetites whose small sizes keep them from being terrifying. And hummingbirds would fit in there with the best of them.

As it is, I actually like his audacity, chasing off birds ten times his size and making me, a regular behemoth, take a step or two back on occasion. Maybe it's the red jacket I'm wearing with my yellow shirt underneath. Maybe I look like a giant red flower.

Ha! I feel about as much like a flower as a rhino feels like a flamingo.

More complaints. I have a clogged tear duct. No big deal, right? Not really, except that I've got one great big bag under one eye and a zit where I might otherwise put eyeliner. I'm supposed to sit with a warm compress over it until it clears. Since I'm almost blind without my glasses, I can do nothing while I sit holding this thing over my eye. And since it takes a whole hand, I can't type or write. I can't read. I can't watch TV. I can't safely walk around. It's ridiculous and the damned thing hasn't popped yet. Oh, it oozes when I'm done, like a slow drain, but it's not clearing. This is going on a couple of weeks and I just don't have time to sit staring into the middle space in front of me for a couple of hours every day while I cook my eyeball under a hot wash cloth.

The alternative?

Do you really want to hear the answer?

One time, I ignored one of these little suckers. It zitted out my lower lid for about three months, looking rather contagious and oozy. Still, I managed to ignore it as long as I wasn't blinking or looking in a mirror.

And then I went to my eye doctor, who proceeded to tell me about the perils of an infection in the eye. That man immediately scheduled me for more time on his docket. I should have paid attention to his enthusiasm. I have a different eye doctor now.

He numbed me in the lower lid, just inside the lid, with a shot! Yes, I had to watch this man come at my eye with a needle. Plus, there was some horror-movie contraption he used to keep my eye open and to squirt saline in my eye periodically. Honestly, he got my eye all trussed up and I wanted to run screaming from the room. Then, though I could feel tugging and scraping and I was forced to see every move of the scalpel, he cut that clogged tear duct right out of my lower eyelid.

Did you throw up yet? I almost did, except I kept thinking of the perils of an infection in the eye.

And that's why I've been sitting out on my deck, being harassed by my resident hummingbird, with a hot washcloth pressed against my eye.

Hey, you asked, didn't you?

Didn't you?

Thank you for listening, jules

Friday, May 8, 2015

Sunny Mornings, Graduations, and Too Much to Do

There isn't a cloud in the sky. Most people love when there isn't a cloud in the sky, but I have to be different, crabby about good weather, a curmudgeon. Why does it seem like there are more obligations when it's a sunny day?

"A good day for a walk," someone might say.

"I'm trying to catch up on my yard work," someone else mentions. My yard has weeds that are two feet tall and theirs looks like a golf course.

Oh, my only problem is five and a half hours of sleep and too many obligations. I have a meeting this morning, Nick's physical therapy this afternoon. The roofing guy is coming soon after that, and Nick has karate tonight. No time for a break. No time, even, to make a decent dinner, not that I have anything planned for dinner.

Tomorrow, on a morning when I should be sleeping in, Mike is going for a hike. That will involve extra morning noise. And Nick is supposed to meet a friend for a movie. Who goes to the movies in the morning?

See what I mean? Curmudgeon. I can't even enjoy going to the movies at this point. I'm not sure what I need, but it isn't going to the movies. It isn't taking my son to karate or talking with a roofing guy or going to a meeting.

I also have the problem of the too early dawn. This is the time of year that it's light out at 4:30 in the morning. I need black-out shades or those little silk blinds for my eyes. I know there's a word for that, but I can't think of it. It's too early, not even 6:00 am. I wake up before I need to. I wake up crabby and tired and there's a hectic fizz to the days.

Next week will be better, I tell myself. Next week isn't as busy. But I need to call landscapers, schedule the roofers, get notes from Nick's doctor and physical therapist for football, buy dress pants for Nick's middle school graduation, go through my pile to see what I missed. You do have a pile, don't you? I'm sure I've missed something.

And why the hell do they have a graduation from 8th grade? Sure he's going to a new school next year, but it's with the same kids he's hanging out with this year. And he's not done with school. He's not nearly done with school. What's the big deal?

I'm not a big fan of fanfare either.

See what I mean?


Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Insomnia, Ravens, and the Qur'an

9:05 am

I'm awake. Really, I am. Can't I go back to sleep for five more minutes? Just five. That's all I need. Just five more minutes.

Minutes. Why is 'minutes' so hard to spell?

Okay, an hour would be good. An hour more of sleep. I'm up. I'm up. The whole world got up and got out today at 7:00 am. Some people got up and out earlier than that, but my crew left the house at 7:00. I got back from dropping Nick at school and went back to bed.

I should feel bad about that. I know I should, but I was so damned tired. See, I went to bed early last night.

Yes, it is a problem. I'm telling you that it's a bad night when I got to bed at eight in the evening. I sat in my recliner, barely holding onto consciousness at 8:04pm and instead of struggling through and going to bed late the way I usually do, I dragged my butt off the recliner, collected my magazine and my book and went to bed. I didn't even brush my teeth. For all my nagging Nick, you'd think I should brush my teeth like a zealot. I'm not a zealot when it comes to my own teeth. I know I should be ashamed of that. I should. I hope Nick doesn't realize that I don't brush my teeth twice a day the way I should. I don't want him to think less of me, knowing that I only brush when I go out, about once a day and when my teeth get that grotty crud on them and I can't stand myself.

I woke up at 11:15 pm last night. Three hours of sleep after going to bed exhausted at 8:00 pm and I woke up after three bleeping hours of sleep. It isn't fair.

Instead of getting up, I rolled about in bed and read. I should have gotten up. I'd have been a lot less sore this morning if I'd just gotten up for a little while. My bed is like a concrete slab. Plus, it wasn't too late to take melatonin at 11:15 when I woke up. Instead, I lolled about.

I finished reading my magazine from last year. I'm trying to get through my huge pile of old magazines that have accumulated. It's slow going. I've forgotten that what I really want to do is just read the articles that I really want to read instead of reading everything as if it's a current event. But I finished that one and set it aside to be recycled.

I'm not sure I remember a thing that I read at 11:15 last night. Isn't that sad?

Then, I picked up my library copy of 'Ravens in Winter.' It was written by a scientist, Bernd Heinrich, who spent three winters so far, often in sub-human temperatures, watching whether or not ravens share when they eat. This man found animals dead along side the road and hauled them up to his cabin to carry on his research. He went to farmers and carried off dead cows and goats and calves. He dealt with maggots, sometimes. Maggots! Dedicated much? He writes of watching ravens on Christmas day, once getting stuck there in an ice storm and missing his family celebration.

This is a story, people.

Really, I wanted to cheer last night when all of his people showed up in bad weather to help him tag the ravens so that it would be easier to track and analyze their movements. I didn't cheer. By then, it was about 12:45 in the morning and I didn't want to wake up the normal humans in the house who were actually sleeping. But I wanted to cheer. Finally, he wasn't alone in his quest.

I like this guy. He climbed a tree in a blizzard to get his data. He skipped making coffee sometimes in an attempt to alert the ravens to his presence when he woke up past dawn and they were already there. He didn't want his smoke to change the situation.

Dedicated. I love scientists, but I don't think I'd realized just how dedicated they have to be sometimes to get their data. This story is a quest, an absolute-Don-Quixote-esque quest. And I can't wait get to the end to hear his answer about why ravens share their food.

Then, at about 1:05 am, I still wasn't tired, so I switched to a more sedate read and got out the translation of the Qur'an that my friend loaned me. I've wanted to read the Qur'an for a long time and this is only part of it, the first part that children are usually taught. It's good to read, though it was hard getting through the introduction where the translator spend forty pages explaining that you can't really get the experience of the Qur'an unless you read it in the original Arabic.

I get that, I wanted tell him after the first ten pages. I really get that. But the problem is that no matter how hard I might try to learn Arabic in the next fifteen years, I would never get a sense of it the way I might be required to do in order to truly experience the Qur'an the proper way. Have you heard my French? Did you know that I told many casual acquaintances that I was in heat last summer when the temperatures were in the nineties and I thought I might carry on a bit of a conversation with them? No, it would not help for me to learn Arabic first so that I could get a better sense of the Qur'an. I just want a good translator to help me out.

The thing that strikes me most, as I read these prayers and blessings and talk of the faithful, is that Muslims are very dedicated to God, that there are many parallel messages with Christianity. The Qur'an speaks of asking forgiveness of the little children, of having faith, of counting your deeds, good and bad. The Qur'an is a beautiful, reverent, and holy book. I could be wrong, because I haven't read much of it yet, and because I have never and will never read the Qur'an in the original Arabic, but dedicated and faithful Christians should be able to relate to its message. If you traded my Bible with the Qur'an, I would pray and think of my deeds, good and bad, and work to keep the faith. Would my spiritual life really be all that different?

And that is my insomniac message for you from last night. There may be something good that comes from insomnia after all.

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Racecar Mom

Fuck. I almost died today. Did you ever pull a move that looks like what they do in the movies? Cars are going in every direction and one car maneuvers through the middle of it unscathed?

That was me!

I even drifted my Prius on wet pavement with my son in the back seat. Oh, he was so impressed. I never get to drive that way in front of him. I have to provide a sedate example. The man in the shiny black truck that pulled out even though he had a stop sign decided to slam on his brakes in the middle of my lane when he realized there were cars coming from the other direction. Everyone threw on their brakes, even me. I was going 58 mph in a 55 mph zone. I had the right of way. Shit!

Yet if I'd simply slammed on my brakes, I'd have hit the driver's side of that shiny black truck anyway.

I actually drifted over wet pavement to make a sharp right turn instead. I followed very old advice my dad had given my sister in 1972 in her new Chevy Nova and I looked for the way through the problem instead of at the obstacles. I could actually feel my car gaining and losing traction as I drifted. I could feel how much I could push the curve without losing it completely. It was just like in the fucking movies!

Why didn't I roll the car? No clue except that I think the Prius is heavier than it looks and low to the ground. I didn't hit a thing. We weren't even late for karate, though I had to pull over to the side of the road for a few minutes to keep from throwing up.

Sometimes I love driving. I saved two, maybe three lives today. I did.

It was great!

Thank you for listening, jules

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


I yelled at Nick tonight. Is it a requirement that we have to yell at our children to do their minimal chores? Is it impossible to get a kid to clean up after he makes a mess without yelling? Do I have to yell once for each and every piece of garbage, fork, plate, mug, and errant bit of food?

I ask you. I really want to know.

My sister is very sweet and she said she yells at her kids. One of my friends tell me she has to bring the hammer down, and by that I'm assuming that she yells. I hope that's what she means and since her boy isn't walking around with great bruises, I would guess I'm right. This is a kid who wears shorts all the time, who likes to peel his shirt off when they're playing Minecraft for too long, so I'd probably see if he were blue or green instead of pink. Yes, I'm sure that's what she means. Still, it's not the predominate message I hear when I'm talking to other moms.

It is exhausting, pretending that I don't yell. I read an article a long time ago, one that has stayed with me for years, that if you have to yell, you're doing it wrong. Was the author a human being? It said that you should set up consequences that are immediate so that kids never get you to the point of yelling or repeating yourself.


I wonder if the author of that article knows just how much angst he or she created with that pious message over the fourteen years I've been trying to be a mom. I tried to put it out of my mind. I did. But there's the subtext that if I resort to yelling, I'm not a very good parent, that I could actually be like the mom on the PBS show 'Little Bill.' Where is Little Bill now, huh? I ask you.

But the message from that article has stuck in my craw. There isn't anyone out there saying that it's horseshit. The resounding implication is that I can be the perfect parent if I try hard enough. I try not to yell. I do. I really do. 

I've managed it sometimes, but asking nicely doesn't work, not even asking nicely four or five or even six times over a period of three or four days. Taking away his allowance hasn't worked. Taking away TV pisses him off, but doesn't always get him going. The absolutely most effective tool in my arsenal is to say, in a loud voice, "Do it! Do it now!"

Oh, I don't call him names. I try not to make him feel stupid, though 'rocket science' spills out of my mouth on occasion. I try not to say 'rocket science,' but sometimes it spooges out anyway. I tried crying. Okay, I wasn't acting. I really was overwhelmed that day a week after I tore my rotator cuff and everything I needed to do was piling up and the tears came out and it worked, but it doesn't work all of the time because 1) I am a terrible actor, and 2) that shit gets old. Did you ever sit with that girl who was dumped eight months ago and she's still crying about her ex-boyfriend's loser ass? I don't want to be that girl. I can't be that girl. I'm too pissy to be that girl.

So, I yell at my son. Most of the time, I wish I could hide it, but I find it acceptable anyway except when I really hurt his feelings. I don't like when I really hurt his feelings. And then there are times when I hear him yelling at his dad, "Do it! Do it now!" And then he sounds just like me except he's more intimidating, and has a lower voice. And it's mortifying.

Maybe the person who wrote that article about how we all just need to be nice was right. If I could just be that perfect mom.

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Between the Hoarder and the Neater Me

I am almost over my virus, so there shouldn't be much to complain about. Have you ever noticed how little you notice when you're really sick and how much you notice when you start to feel better but not better enough to do anything about it? You lie there and you think, but you're not quite ready to get up and get to work.

The floor needs to be vacuumed.

My three piles are slipping off center and threaten to fall down. People keep bumping into my piles and I know I should go through and recycle most of it, but I don't quite feel like it, so I yell at the people bumping into my piles instead.

The dog is shedding and even though I brushed him yesterday, the day before, and four days before that, clumps of fuzz are coming out all over and clogging up the Velcro on the ten below sleeping bag that I've been using in a vain attempt to get warm on the couch. Yes, I could not get warm in a sleeping bag rated to ten below zero, Fahrenheit. But I'm almost better now. Almost.

Okay, so Mike vacuumed. I brushed the dog again and left the piles of fluff out in the ivy for the birds to collect, and I managed to pull out all reading material and whittle my three piles into one small pile that I actually need to pay attention to. I even recycled a bunch of periodicals. The trick is to flip through each one and only stop on articles that I really want to read. And then I read them. At some point, I realize I'm not going to keep up with everything so I only hold myself to reading the most recent ones from cover to cover. The rest can go into the recycle bin. There is almost a joy in letting go of all that backlog of reading material now and then.

I made a pile of library materials that I'm not going to read and are probably overdue anyway.

This shit is boring. Who wants to read about how a reformed hoarder tries to stay reformed?

Well, maybe one of my friends out there is a hoarder and could use some sweet ideas. The other thing I'm going to do is pretend that there's a rummage sale and I have to get my stuff to it this Thursday.

Did you ever have an argument with yourself? Did you? I have arguments with myself all the time.

The hoarder in my head mumbles that I might need to know what happened in Croatia last September when I wasn't reading my issues of 'The Week.'

Generally, I like knowing that something significant happened in Croatia, but the neater me says that it's not timely news any more and unless I'm burning to know, I should throw that issue out. Besides, neater me says in my head, if I'd actually read this article in September, I would have forgotten it by now, so there. And on top of that, neater me says, not a lot of my friends are standing around discussing current, or not so current issues in Croatia. Oh, it's not as if my friends don't care, but we're all inundated by too much information. We are. We all have to find ways to deal with it, so neater me says to read only what really draws my eye and I'll be done reading that September 2014 issue of 'The Week' in a jiffy.

The neater me is kind of a bitch, sometimes, if you might know.

But hoarder me would get buried neck-deep in 'The Week' if we didn't throw some of that shit out.

Notice the royal we that the neater me uses when discussing this shit in such a civilized passive-aggressive way.

The nicer, neater me will ignore that.

And make note that those little parts lying on the counter for the past seven months that neither Mike nor Nick seem to recognize, the ones the neater me would have me toss into the garbage, those parts become apparent only after we throw them out and when we go to put away the tripod and we find that the little part from the counter was the one that held the base of the camera upright on the tripod and now it keeps tipping over as if it has a broken neck. Well, shit. It works that way, doesn't it? The little parts only become significant when the tripod gets put away. And eventually, that tripod will be put into the pile to be donated because it's useless without that little part that holds its neck upright.

But we won't get rid of that tripod for three years, will we because Mike will say he can fix that shit, but he won't, will he? So this is why spring cleaning is such a hazard. Someone's favorite toy, something's missing part, a book or a magazine unread, great-grandpa's broken toys, grandma's ugly china, a project abandoned, supplies set aside and lost and bought again. Those are the hoarder's hazards. The neater me battles uphill.  But here's what I want to tell the hoarder me, that if I can just do these three piles today, the top shelf in that closet tomorrow, if I can just go through two drawers and take out anything that floats to the bottom and makes it hard to close with one hand, then we will feel better next week. We can fill up the truck with things people will be happy to collect and we can drop them off at the thrift shop without opening our eyes to all the junk within. Then, when we get home and we can bump the table without toppling our pile, we will feel so light, so organized, so happy with the things we decided to keep, that it will all be worth it.

Humph. Until Mike comes up the stairs with the tripod and he's looking for that little part that holds the camera upright.

Thank you for listening, jb