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