Friday, January 30, 2015

The Monster Inside

I've been watching too much Dr. Who. When there's nothing on TV and I'm too tired to do anything else, I watch stuff on Amazon Prime. I know I shouldn't, but I love Amazon Prime. Mike has watched most of the movies and shows there, but I'm slower and working my way through other stuff. I watched almost all the seasons of Nova. I love being able to learn something while I sit on my ass with a glazed look on my face. On the other hand, I'm learning from Dr. Who too.

I just watched the 'Night Terrors' episode. Right afterward, when Nick got home from school, I heard myself chiding him yet again. Why do fourteen year old kids deserve grief every time they sit down after school?

They don't, but I have to remind myself of that once in a while. It's like a free-for-all lecture season. He's old enough to act like an adult, I tell him. He needs to get with the program, I tell him. He needs to think.

Well, maybe he needs time not to think, not to go along with any program. Maybe he needs more time to act like a kid.

I don't know why kids aren't developed into adults at fourteen any more. They used to be.  Was it that life was so much more difficult and they were forced to grow up faster or perish? They used to be apprenticed out at the age of ten, living and working and learning from a tradesman. I'm glad that Nick didn't leave home when he was ten. He wouldn't have been ready. I wouldn't have been ready. He wouldn't be ready to leave home now, though having someone else feed him is something to ponder upon. Nope. I want to feed him, though at this point, I feel like that Stellar's Jay mom I once watched who had three big fledglings in her nest in late spring. She was constantly flying back and forth with food for them. Those things were so fat and garrulous that the nest must have been overwhelming for her, though it was entertaining for me to watch.

I apologized to Nick after I thought about how I was treating him. I'm glad because now he's asleep on the couch. He was tired. It's Friday. He's earned his fatigue. Without waking him up, I sat with him a moment and thought about that Dr. Who episode.

Night Terrors.

Sorry, it's a spoiler.

The little boy himself was an alien, a monster, and he was afraid of being sent away since his parents kept banishing any monsters from the room. Powerful can equate to scary, can't it? Even when the power is in your own hands.

And I started to think about the times I've made Nick feel bad about himself, the times when I lectured him too long, about when I expected too much.

So, I sat next to my boy for a while as he slept and meditated about how I would do my best to protect him from his demons. I realized it's a hard task to take on.

Because at least one of his demons is me.

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Questions of Poop and Loud Commercials

I took a long walk in the rain today and came up with some burning questions.

If they want me to pick up my dog's crap from the leaves at the edge of the trail, why don't they put purple food coloring my dog's kibbles so I can see those stinking piles?

If' they're steaming, stinking and brown, why can't I find them when they're deposited in green grass before I've stepped in the pile? I would blame my progressive lenses, but my ophthalmologist says my vision is fine. 

Why does the dog poop the maximum distance from either of the garbage cans along the trail? Did he do better on that math test than I did? You know the test that I mean, the one with questions like: If a trail is 6.83 miles long and there are five evenly spaced garbage cans along the way and you walk 32 minutes per mile, how long will you have to carry stinky bags full of poop if your dog poops an average of three times at a maximum distance from any particular garbage can for the first three miles.

For extra credit, you can answer the following question: If I use the biodegradable doggy bags, just how long does it take for those things to begin to break down with a hot wet poop inside? Does the size of the poop and the relative temperature affect the length of time they stay intact?

Why do my raspberries need Kotex pads? They don't bleed. I get why meat needs a pad. Sometimes, my meat need a maxi pad instead of a panty liner and they still bleed all over my white linen grocery bags. Just kidding. I have the same motley assortment of ratty old grocery bags that you have. Did you know we're supposed to put our grocery bags in the wash now and then? Don't you hate when you put one in the washer and forget and put it in the dryer and have a million bits of plastic stuck to a whole load of laundry?

If I have a good raincoat, why do I still want to hustle back to the car so I can go home and snuggle into a blanket on the couch with the cat on my lap the first ten minutes? And yet it keeps raining and it seeps through the seams at my shoulders and I've been walking outside for an hour and a half, why do I start greeting people with ,"Beautiful day, huh?"Why is that?

And now that I'm home, I have more questions.

Why don't they put a mandatory time limit on commercials so that when even the funny ones have become annoying, they will no longer be allowed to run?

I thought it was a law that commercials can't be louder than the shows, and yet ...

And shouldn't the shows actually be longer than the commercials? I don't think they are any more. I think for every minute of show you watch, you watch one and one-third minutes of commercials.

Why are there commercials on those 500- 515 channels, the Encore channels, that we've been paying for and not watching for the past ten years? When was it okay to charge extra for a channel AND make me watch the commercials?

And where the hell did they get those movies for those channels anyway? I have never heard of those movies. I've never heard of those actors.

It just seems like poopy business no matter how you calculate it. 

Thank you for listening, jules

Monday, January 19, 2015

What Can One White Woman Do?

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday.

Would he be proud of all that we have done?

Would he applaud that we elected an African American president, twice? Would he be proud of us that there are laws against segregation and hate crimes and that lynching is portrayed as a tragedy in the movies? Would he be moved to know that some epitaphs aren't spoken by proper white people but are bandied around by black people as if they're a dare. There is freedom in that.

Or would he be sad that ministers still have to protest over a boy and a police officer in Ferguson? Would he start the dream speech all over again because of the boy who couldn't breathe, couldn't breathe, couldn't breathe? Would he cry silent tears over the segregation that isn't segregation, the neighborhoods that are uniform and expensive and almost completely white, or the neighborhoods in which whites feel ill-at-ease when they run out of gas and must stop there anyway? Would he hate the disparity in the schools? Would he hate the state of the prisons?

Have we made all that much progress? I still hear vitriol against races. It's stage-whispered, but it's there. I can't have a conversation about race with a black man I met at the dog park because I'm afraid to hurt his feelings and he's too polite to bring it up when it's all the big news. My son's school, an affluent school, is not diverse. I see the boy from Mexico overcompensating, playing a role I wish he wouldn't play.

If we can't talk about it, can we work on this? Is there a way to bring sides together? I've seen good police officers and dangerous ones. I've spoken to good men of other races and I've been afraid.

How can we change? What the hell can I do?

This work, Martin Luther King Jr's work, is not done. Pablum given over to celebrating Black History Month won't fix it. Protests help, but the furor seems to have died down. Why is it over? Isn't it still a problem? Has Ferguson elected an African American mayor or put more diversity into its police force? Has the New York City police force ended their illegal searches of men who 'look suspicious' and are usually just black? Is driving while black okay now? Has my school district paved the way for more diversity? Are there low-income houses going in next to the million-dollar-five-acre-minimum homes? Would that fix anything? Is more money being diverted to poorer schools, predominately black schools?

More work to do, folks. More work on both sides. One side needs to keep shouting. The other side needs to shut the hell up for a change. George Orwell once said that some people are more equal than others. He's still right, even after all these years.

Thank you for listening, jules

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Blue Fuzzy Popcorn and the Terror of Fire Ants

Shit, my windows are dirty. They're so dirty that I don't want to open this one in front of me in fear of letting loose a newly hatched spider egg sac. Have you ever seen one of those things open up? It's like a horror movie from the 1950s only in miniature. It's like looking at the daleks from any season finale of Dr. Who. I remember one movie my parents should probably not have let me watch.

Those were the days when we'd load into the car at 5:30 in our pajamas with two Wonder bread bags filled with warm aromatic popcorn. I could never get my hands on either of those bags even though I sat in the middle between my brother and my sister, even though there was a wide blue arm rest that folded down so I could sit on it and gain a little height to see out the windshield. Keep-away was a serious business when Daddy pulled into the vacant drive-in and parked our car on the berm next to a speaker box mounted on a post.

Daddy always arrived before there were three other cars in the lot. That gave him a half an hour to get ready before the movie started. He spent all of that time shifting the car back and forth for the most natural view of the screen when he had slid down and his head was resting on the back of the bench seat. Sometimes, he pulled into another slot because he didn't like the crackly sound coming from the speaker box. They always sounded the same to me and, like listening to someone from England, I could usually decipher the meaning by the time the Dalmatians or princesses came onto the screen.

Daddy was in the habit of bringing a screw driver to the drive-in.

"Bob, I'm sure the management doesn't want you taking those things apart," Mother would say. Oh, in the time it took her to turn to my father and his business, I had a new bruise and the three popcorn kernels I'd managed to squeeze into my sweaty little palm had already been knocked onto the blue carpet whereupon, Jingles, the dog, had snapped up her unexpected treat. Jingles may not have been invited into the house for the sake of black fur that might foul the new green carpet, but her job of cleaning up detritus in the back seat of the Chrysler was undisputed. She was also the comforter when you were six and no one was letting you have any popcorn, so the popcorn I successfully squabbled over had a definitive taste of wooly dog.

"They won't mind if I fix the speaker," Daddy would say as he focused on the tangle of wires inside the speaker box.

"But what if they see you?"

"Damnit. This place is run by sixteen year old boys. They don't care what I'm doing." He was right. I don't ever remember anyone asking him to stop, though he wasn't a man you'd think of approaching when he had a screwdriver in his hand and that manic look on his face when it came to the noise that came out of those speaker boxes. Maybe they even knew him by then and figured if they switched each bad box into that fifth-row middle spot for places away from the sound of flushing toilets in the lobby, eventually Daddy would fix them all and they'd save some money.

I was going to tell you about that movie, wasn't I? I got distracted by the popcorn and the dog and Daddy spilling the guts of the speaker box on the floor before magically putting the whole thing back together just as the movie started.

For me, the beginning of any movie is still tainted with that anxiety that we would get into trouble, we would be asked to leave like my mother said, or that the drive-in would fill up completely and we would be stuck with the one remaining speaker box that didn't work because its only resistor had fallen out onto the floor and rolled under the seat. Sometimes I wondered if Daddy wasn't going to whip out a soldering iron to reattach it after he got out of the car and dug around until he found it.

The Wonder Bread bag of popcorn was usually down to the old maids by the time the dancing soda cups started singing, "Let's all go to the lobby, let's all go to the lobby...". Then, in a moment timed to the millisecond, just before Mother would pop a fuse and yank the popcorn away from my brother, he would oh-so-sweetly hand the flaccid bag over to me saying in a loud voice for everyone to hear, "Here you go. Why don't you have some popcorn?"

Mother would look on with pride as I sat in my elevated middle seat holding the Wonder Bread bag containing a handful of mostly old maids and a few blue-furry kernels that Jingles hadn't found, but my brother had carefully replaced for my dining pleasure.

And after the dancing soda cups, Disney took over and all was not lost. I loved when the princess would break the spell of the witches and she'd get her bag of popcorn and it was new and fresh and didn't have any kernels in it with blue fuzz attached.

But when that movie was finished, there was a long intermission for another round of that 'let's all go to the lobby' song, a cartoon or two and by the time the next movie started, all good children were supposed to be asleep in the back seat with little bits of popcorn still gripped in their sweaty hands.

I was not a good child.

I learned to act as if I were asleep so as not to be yelled at to go to sleep. Just when did yelling at a child to sleep ever truly lead to a kid falling to sleep? Never, but I still yell that phrase now and then and so did my parents. With three kids, they rarely got a night out and this was it and, damnit, no antsy child was going to interfere with that.

And then the next movie started.

Immediately, there was the scene during which a woman stood on a log and was devoured by fire ants crawling up her arm as she reached for the cameraman for help. Even if I closed my eyes, the music coming through that speaker box turned to maximum, only magnified my horror. I was too terrified of my parents to call out for comfort, but I was also too tired to stay awake to see that the ants were eventually killed at the end of the movie and a happy ending happened so we could all go home feeling safe.

No, I still think about those fire ants when I look at that fuzzy white ball just inside my screen. Did that thing move, just a little bit?

Thank you for listening, jules

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Watching Video of People Playing Video Games

Okay, so our household has achieved a new level of gaming: the gaming channel on YouTube.

So, what's happening at our house is that Mike and Nick, and me by default because I never get the remote, are watching people play previously recorded video games on TV. And it goes on and on and on and on. Save me, please!

So, in order to maintain some semblance of sanity, I've imagined that Seth Rogan is the little guy in the corner of the screen and he's playing his game with all his people in their respective houses. The guy who's really in the corner, Adam, looks more like Jason Lee, but Seth could do that little guy in the corner some justice.

"I smell your blood," someone says in good imitation of Morgan Freeman. Can't Kevin Smith do something with this? I would come see it. I would. It would be ridiculous, just like what Nick and Mike are watching.

Both Nick and Mike are laughing their asses off. I'm mostly watching feel-good Facebook stuff on my phone and playing Words with Friends in between providing platters of junk food to the eating machines in the living room.

But can you picture Seth Rogan sitting in his underwear playing this game, yelling at his mom to bring him some nachos, and laughing at nothing on the video game? Can you?

See, it would be a little like Seinfeld, a show about nothing, a bunch of guys laughing at themselves as they play video games, and not very well at that. Nick keeps yelling at the TV the way you do when, during the horror flick, the girl answers the doorbell when it rings and the music goes all spooky.

"Don't open the door!" you yell and the girl opens it anyway.

"You're supposed to feed zombies to the dog," Nick yells, but these guys don't get it and they spend a half an hour not knowing what to do with the dog in the zombie game.

And, yes, it's contagious laughing when they laugh, so maybe the new movie should include footage of the lame families that watch Seth Rogan play video games on YouTube, even though he's horrible at it, being ranked 3/15 people playing and they suspect he's sitting there in his underwear. My role, the mom who's walking back and forth with dinner and cleaning up spilled pop and crushed corn chips, and also being bored out of her fuzzy slippers should be Melissa McCarthy, even though she's a lot younger than I am.

The funniest thing about these guys is that they think they're very funny. And that, by some miracle, makes it funny.

In consolidation with this new form of entertainment, I'm having roasted chicken and corn chips for dinner. Corn is a vegetable, after all.

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Pig In A Blanket and Ten Thousand Imaginary Steps

I got a new phone for Christmas. I haven't quite discovered all the features that came on it, but I turned one thing on right away, the pedometer. I thought I might see what my usual number of steps is. I thought I'd see if I surpass the measly 10,000 steps a person is supposed to get on one of my ordinary days running a million errands and walking the dog. Ten thousand steps is nothing, my friend. I was sure I walked more than that in just an afternoon.

Apparently not.

So, now, I look at my phone sitting on my desk as I sit here sweating over my work. I walked two miles with it in my pocket and only put it down when I sat down a moment or two ago. I've been in and out of the kitchen at least six times in the last hour. I've started dinner, gotten myself a snack, made tea, fed the dog, and looked at the pile of dishes that needs to get into the dishwasher, all the while, my lazyass phone sat there at my desk refusing to count my steps.

Not fair!

First off, I paced back and forth in the kitchen with it this morning as I worried if Mike slept and then I made pigs-in-a-blanket for Nick's lunch. Yes, there is that stupid yet ironic name for my day, pig-in-a-blanket. Then, I took Nick to school. My car sits in my driveway at least a hundred feet away. Did my phone count those steps?

Then, after I dropped Nick off, I walked back up the stairs to my living room, sat down on the recliner and snuggled with the cat in my brand new blanket. The irony.

As I lay there, I wondered if my phone counted the Soccer dance I did on Saturday when I got cold at the tree-recycling event. Probably not. I didn't actually move forward, just side to side. Then, I wondered at the work I did on Monday, hours at the computer when my phone told me, blithely, that I had only walked 803 steps by 3:14 in the afternoon. Liar!

I forgot to look at it before bedtime, but that phone only registered me at 7984 steps at 6:15 on Tuesday evening after I had walked 2.37 miles with Teddy. That stingy phone.

At that point, after worrying at least 50,000 steps, I fell asleep on the couch while the phone sat peacefully at my side. Maybe my phone has more of a cat personality than that of a personal trainer. I'm not sure I could ever get it to pay attention to ten thousand steps, even if I started walking in the morning and didn't stop until midnight.

I think my phone would make a good pig-in-a-blanket with me. I'm thinking of turning off the step counter. It doesn't seem at all accurate.

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, January 1, 2015

No Promises for My New Year

Happy damn New Year. It's just a number. Numbers have to cycle. What difference does it make whether it's the beginning of 2015 or the end of 2014? Really, one minute doesn't feel differently than another yet we stand up like a bunch of idiots, count down, cheer, kiss, and blow off fireworks as if it's the middle of the summer whenever one year turns into the next.

I'm fifty-four fucking years old and every year I expect that there is a magic moment, a time between space, when I will feel different because a marker on my calendar has passed and I have to go out and buy a new one. Why is that? What is so special about 12:00am on 1/1/2015? What?

Just in case it really does mean something and there is that magic moment, that time when you have to kiss your favorite person or lose that spot in time and space for a whole year, I'm going to pay attention. I'm going wait until midnight. I'm going to kiss my husband. I'm going to hug my son good-night. I might even hand him a pot and a wooden spoon and let him stand on the back deck and yell and make some noise in the middle of the night. If we had any fireworks, I might let him set them off too.

But I look forward to my sweet warm bed. I look forward to closing my eyes and waking up in a new year, one I haven't sullied with resolutions or diets or broken promises to get more exercise or keep my house cleaner or to finally put those photos into scrap books.

Did you hear me clearly? I'm not making any promises, so if I don't show up for a lunch we've planned next week, don't be surprised. I just might be lounging in my cozy bed for an extra hour or two. 

Wouldn't that be nice?

Thank you for listening, jules