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