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

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Love of Chaos and Mini-pads on Meat

Well shit. I haven't exactly been a Pollyanna for the past month, but I haven't seemed to come up with enough complaints to fill this space out. I am telling you that I can come up with some complaints. I can. I promise.

You want to know what the bad news is? Do you?

Are you a gossip in hiding? Do you thrive on other people's miseries? Are you happiest amidst chaos, when it's not perfect, when those perfect, smiling moms with the honor roll students finally get some comeuppance?

Good. Me too. And I'm sitting on a gold mine. I am. It's better than the guy who hit a boy at camp. Whoops! Did I say that? Did I?

Well now, I can't exactly tell you the detailed story in case anyone finds out and points a finger at me, but there's a mom who dumped us a few years back. I mean, she went from calling me twice a week for playdates for our toddlers to making every excuse in the book for why our boys couldn't play.

Ah crap. I just can not tell you her business. It's not happy business and it's so bad I can't even feel good about being justified in being rejected by her. Besides, I'm not absolutely certain about the details and if it isn't true and I just don't like her husband, then it would be seriously bad to spread rumors about him. I mean it might just be evil.

So, I'll just stick to my own business. How does that sound?

I'm not using my kayak as much as I though I would. Today, I could have gone to the lake, but it was a tad bit too cold for me and I slept instead. No, I don't watch soap operas and drink beer in the afternoon, but I'm not an exercise freak who paddles her kayak in forty-eight degree weather either.

Am I a wuss or what?

Yup. I've figured out that I have a limit on the amount of rain that can be raining and the depth of the temperature before I start making excuses. Yesterday, I had said I was going kayaking come hell or high water. I guess fifteen degrees off from frost will do too.

Maybe I should get some stuff done here anyway. The funny thing is that the couple of times I made excuses that I had too much to do, I didn't get all that much done anyway. Today is no different. I'm still not showered. I've yet to eat lunch and I don't think dinner will be done by dinner time after all.

You know, when you get a crock pot for your birthday, it only works if you put stuff into it before noon. I set it to high, but I doubt it will be done in time for dinner tonight. Besides, that fucking chicken was frozen solid when I tossed it in there. I ran it under hot water long enough to thaw the little mini-pad the butchers put on it. But it still had the pouch of innards frozen inside. I figure I'll pry that thing out in an hour or two. Even though I got raw chicken juice all over the inside of my sink and on some dirty dishes in there, I pried the mini-pad off.

Butcher dudes, you need to use maxipads on these fucking chickens! Blood is overflowing and the fucking chicken juice is spilling all over my new white pants.

I would swear that butchers like having blood everywhere. Did you ever notice that they always wear white fucking aprons? There are some jobs that are just so obvious. It's not politically correct to be a serial killer, so why not manage those urges by working as a butcher? You can't be a serial rapist, so it might be a good idea to get a job in gynecology. Am I being too cynical here? Sadism? Mammography is a good replacement. You know my opinion of mammograms. I'm not a big fan of pap smears, but it helped a lot when I was in my mid-twenties and I finally switched to women. You figure, at least, that they could be in it for the babies.

Oh, I'm not saying that every guy who becomes a gynecologist is a serial rapist. Some of them are incredibly gentle and manage to be sweet. But I'm telling you that I went to at least one of them before I switched to women doctors for that. If he appeared in the news as a felon, I would not have been surprised.

How did we start down this road?

I was telling you the myriad ways I can mess up dinner.

And here's something that I've wondered about. Does anyone work to make sure that those minipads on our meat is safe to be in contact with our food? What about when you put the hot bacon on paper towels to soak up the extra fat? Are they clean and free of carcinogens?  And what about those little white packets in jerky and pepperoni that are supposed to soak up any excess moisture. Is that shit safe in our food? What's in those things? I'm pretty sure it's not rice, like what you use to try to dry out your phone when you drop it in the toilet. Is there anyone out there asking these questions?

So, here's your not-quite-daily dose of pessimism. My ex-friend who suddenly ten years ago believed that she was too good for me or just got mad at something stupid I said might be in for a load of shit with a husband who may or may not be in too deep. I'm a wuss who's a little lazy and afraid of the cold wet weather. I can fuck up a chicken nine ways to Sunday with my new crock pot. People who have urges to do evil things can still earn a good living. And I may be poisoning my family with mini-pads on my meat, the little desiccant packets in pepperoni and jerky, and by putting hot bacon onto paper towels to soak off the excess fat.

There you go. Chaos.

Thank you for listening, jules