Thursday, December 22, 2016

Pink Comb-Overs and Tiny Hands

My friend and I are having a running conversation about a new trend in book titles, curse words included. I love them. She doesn't.

Have you seen Assholes: A Theory of Donald Trump? Oh, I'll be the first to admit I didn't read the whole book, but it's a great title, so great that I bought five copies to give out to my friends as gifts, including my friend who was properly offended.

Mike and I talk about whether I'll be imprisoned eventually for checking out Assholes: A Theory of Donald Trump from my local library. Probably, but I imagine I'm already on someone's bad-list because I marched in protest right after that sham of an election we just had in the United States. I was the one wearing 'Stop Bigotry' on a banner pinned to my backpack. Yes, I'm worried I'll end up festering in a cell while I await trial because I think Trump is an idiot, but in the meantime, I'm distracting myself by imagining myself in there with a whole bunch of journalists from the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Aaron James, author of Assholes: A Theory of Donald Trump. Just the number of times I've typed Assholes: A Theory of Donald Trump will probably get me on that list to be detained interminably.

And while we're all in there, all us who think Donald Trump is a weasel, all of us waiting years to be released from Guantanamo without ever being brought to trial, every single one of us will laugh about all the great books with bitch, fuck, and shit in the titles. And also how Trump looks with his awesome comb-over barely covering extreme baldness. No, I'll be the only one talking about how Trump looks. The journalists and Aaron James will probably be discussing the psychological limitations of Trump and his regime, the laws that might have prevented his approach to the position in the White House if only the Republican-led Senate would follow through with the Russian interference with our election and how Trump has conflicts of interest he has no intention of resolving. I'll just doodle pictures of his pink flip, orange skin, and tiny hands while the rest of them think great and impressive thoughts on freedom and democracy. And I'll have time to hone my list of good curse word titles.

I like this trend. I think Bitch Wine started it. Years ago, I bought a bottle and gave it to my friend so we could open it, bitch and drink. Somehow, she knew I wasn't complaining about her. Good friend. Then, I saw a book called Gluten is my Bitch. I didn't read that book either. I didn't even buy it since I can't eat much gluten anyway and it would be torture to look at recipes for bread and stuff that's full of gluten if I can't eat it. It turns out that there are a half dozen cookbooks with bitch in the title. Nice! I'd cook that shit.

There's also a Fuck It Therapy book. I was tempted to buy a copy for my friend, but she's not the one with issues. I'm usually that person.

So pray for me. I'm probably going to jail after the Inauguration because Trump's aid, that bimbo, you know who I mean, says that discussing democracy is bad for democracy. So is talking about pink comb-overs and tiny hands.

Thank you for listening, jules

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Ugly Ass Comments

I've known Mike for over thirty years now. It's amazing we still have anything to say to each other. When I fart, he says, "Oh my God!"

"I know!" I reply. We've gone through the same routine a hundred times. It's not even funny. I hate when that happens.

I hate being a farty old woman. I hate losing so much hair. And I hate that I'm turning into one of those crabby old women who are secretly the witch in the movies. You know, the one that yells at happy children? I never wanted to be that woman, the farty, balding old crabby woman.

And yet Mike still loves me.

How does he do that? I've never understood. I gained some weight too. I remember a guy I worked with in my twenties who announced to a whole room of women that he'd divorce his wife if she gained weight. I hope she divorced him because he was an asshole. But if I go around thinking that, wouldn't my fine husband have been forced to divorce me when I got crabby with menopause?

I feel much better now.

That's not just a line from Sixth Sense. I really do feel much better. It's hard to keep up the snarky routine now that menopause is over. It really is. Have you noticed that I haven't been here much lately.

Well, I do have some complaining to do. I complain about the Trump regime. I can go on an on about the state of Trumpnation.

Right, I was talking about how Mike still loves me after all these years.  Wow! I'd better tell Mike how much I love him before Tiny Hands liquidates the U.S. government.

Mike does still love me. Go figure. I've got crepe skin. I have a bag hanging under my chin. I have a lumpy butt. Oh, I still have some muscles there and in my legs because I walk a lot, but it's not without its cottage cheese.

Did any of you happen to see Madonna twerking with Ariana Grande? You know, I'm all for having the freedom to wear whatever you want, but I don't have to tell you that you look good in it. That was some awful shit. I'd rather have seen her naked body than see it decked out in the same baby doll dress and frilly underwear that Ariana was wearing. Somebody should have said 'hell no' to that outfit, hell-the-fuck-no.

Wait, wasn't I trying to talk about how Mike still loves me even though I'm not as nice as I used to be?

Yeah, that. Exactly that.

Thank you for listening, jules

The Great American Liquidation Sale

I don't like the Trump regime. His great gift in the corporate world has been to liquidate companies and pool their remaining funds into his own account. Well, that seems to be exactly what he's doing now. Have you looked at the Cabinet he's assembling?

It's the Great Liquidation of the U.S. Government.

Want a National Park? I've got the Arches and Mesa Verde. Would you trade that for the Grand Canyon? Can you picture the neon signs I can put up there? And the gift shops and vending machines on the trails, not to mention the high-end hotels near the bottom, accessible only by helicopter.

Need some low income housing? It's becoming available and you get to raise rents on people who already can't afford to live there. Poverty sucks, but you know what? Death is a solution too, of sorts.

Healthcare? Those elderly and disabled people are sucking our system dry. Let them perish prematurely. Your grandmother? Too damned bad. It was her fault for getting old in the first place. Now, you get to drain your own retirement to pay for her care. Your grandchildren can pay using theirs too. There will be no heart to Trumpcare. You will have to pay to keep that old lady breathing.

Schools? Well, there will be an 'unpresidented' number of children schooled in the anti-fact anti-education education corporation. You could own your very own high school and you can teach whatever the hell you want. There is no such thing as a fact and you can create your own, no evidence needed.

The EPA is going to be converted to a tax-as-you-breathe system. Each human will be charged for air and water and charged again for any unfortunate emissions. They will be required to wear a weight suit to measure volumes in and out. Want to support the U.S. economy? Those beans will create the most volume out per ounce in. If you want to to support greenery and wildlife in your neighborhood, you'll have to pay for the privilege of removing toxic waste and air at a monthly rate.

Is this our legacy?

It is, folks. It really is. But you can pay a million dollars for the privilege of a hunting trip with the head of the regime. He might listen to you. For a minute.

Thank you for listening, jules

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Perils of Dating in the 1980s

The other day, I picked up a book called 'One Continuous Mistake.' I liked the title. I have yet to read the book but I have to say that the title is brilliant. I could have lived this book. I remember a decade that ran between the ages of sixteen and twenty-six that could have the same name. I promise you that when I find out why this book is called 'One Continuous Mistake,' I'll tell you but in the meantime, I have to tell you that dating, for me, was a minefield, what seemed like one continuous mistake.

I'm not entirely sure if it was relevant to dating, but I was a cute girl, absolutely not beautiful, but cute in an awkward, doe-eyed way. And the other relevant fact about my dating experience was that most guys were really horny for girls that were at least cute if not attainably beautiful.

So, it seemed like dating was this slippery dance between keeping some guys out from under your clothes while maintaining hope for discovering a good one who might get there and stay there for longer than a few weeks. It was hell.

I remember the time I reluctantly agreed to join my boss' new venture. Is it sexual harassment when a man pressures you to join his online Jewish dating business? Is it harassment when he says you get to join for free because there aren't enough women signing up?

In retrospect, it might have been because this guy once approached me with this, "That dress looks nice on you."

"Thank you," I said, genuinely pleased.

"You know what would look better on you?" he went on.

"What?" I asked. What a dork, right? You know this one, don't you? I didn't.

"That would be me," he said as he leaned in a little bit.

So yeah, it qualified as sexual harassment. But I'd experienced so much worse that I didn't call him on it. I never really called anyone on it. Those were the early eighties and I worked in technology. Calling foul would have jeopardized my job. I knew it.

The other problem with his dating program, I told my boss, was that I wasn't Jewish. He said it didn't matter and so I agreed because I thought I had no choice. I'd find a way to worm my way out of this kind of trouble too.

The first guy that called, I was assured, was a nice Jewish boy who'd been entered into the system by his mother. This was the beginning days of the Internet. There were no pictures. I don't even remember any answers to questions. I think my boss set it up for me straight from the first applicants.

He called. I listened. He sounded to eager, a little dorky, but I agreed to let him pick me up since he'd been vetted by my boss.

That was my first mistake. Or maybe it was my second.

When my door rang, I opened it right away. I was ready. The boy on my front porch was a genetic anomaly. I'd expected dark curls, thick lashes, that handsome crook in the nose. I could tell this guy would have no idea how to carry on a conversation. How can you know that from one glance? You know what I mean, don't you? There are some people who's looks are directly connected to that awkwardly-social gene buried in every cell.

This guy was puffy with dull brown hair. I didn't want to look into his eyes to see what color they were. He carried mitts for hands that fumbled at buttons at his belly. He was puffy there too. And I couldn't tell that his skin had ever seen the light of day. How could that many mistakes not have been fatal. Oh, that's so mean, isn't it?

But in high school, I had some fascinating ugly friends who were guys. So, I tried to be nice and see what came of it.

He drove an incredibly wide car, an old brown Buick with extra-wide bench seats. I couldn't find a seat belt. We began the 'what do you do' routine. I shut him up when I said I was an engineer. He never did say what he did or maybe it just didn't stick. To tell you the truth, nothing he said stuck because I was immediately too busy.

It was his right hand. He was more confident in his own car so he grabbed my shoulder and slid me across the seat and pinned me hip to hip with him. I could feel the sweat-slick on his palm and smell the stench of his nerves. Then his arm squeezed me tighter, as if I were in a head-lock and his hand ran down between my breasts. He couldn't quite manage to drive and grope, so I took advantage of a turn to slide out from under his arm and move to the other side of the car. He tried to carry on his lame conversation and drag me back, but I shifted my should every time he seemed about to get a grip on me.

When we arrived at the club, I leaped out of my side of the car and walked through the parking lot with one car between us at all times. This night was going to last forever.

Then, instead of getting cozy in the little booths, I jumped up to get to the dance floor. I didn't figure much could happen out in front of a hundred other people.

Oh, I was so wrong. The guy couldn't dance for shit, but I knew that when I set eyes on him on my front porch. Remember how that gene connects looks with the ability to socialize? It's connected with the ability to dance too. But that wasn't really his problem. I'd danced with a lot of great guys who couldn't cut a rug with a pair of pruning shears.

No, this guy began the first dance by grabbing me by the hips and dry-humping me on the dance floor in front of a hundred other people. What the hell was that smell? Plus, I was afraid my little blue skirt was riding up in the back under his hands.

Again, I broke away from him.

"I have to go to the ladies room," I yelled over the music. Then, I literally ran away from him and into the restroom as if he were a vampire flying after me. You know, those pumps with four-inch stiletto heels? Girls worth their salt can really run in them. It's a gift. It's a necessity sometimes.

Some genius had put a pay phone inside the ladies room for emergencies like mine. That was before cell phones. People didn't even have those huge bricks in their cars yet. I put in a quarter and dialed my friend, Liz. It was too bad the ladies room didn't have a back exit too. I really needed one. When I told Liz what was happening, she said she'd come get me. I said I was okay.

I wasn't okay.

I told her that I needed her to help me fabricate a good lie to get me home. My period? No longer an excuse and I lacked graphic evidence. A stomach bug? I wasn't sure I could vomit on command. A headache?

A migraine! She asked if I could fake a migraine. I could fake a migraine after watching my college roommate use that excuse to get out of spending time with my family the only time I ever roped her into visiting for a weekend. I could totally fake a migraine. And that way I wouldn't even have to talk.

Liz made me promise to call when I got home safely and I hung up, took a deep breath, and squinched my eyes before leaving the ladies room.

There he was, waiting too close to the women's room door as if he'd been about to come in. Gross. He had to back up a little for me to get through the short hallway. Was I going to have to brush his body to get past? I brought my elbow up, put my forearm across my forehead and declared, "I'm getting a migraine. Can you bring me home?" I forced him to back out of the hallway.

My acting career was born.

"Now?" he asked. He looked at his watch. It was only 9:15. I resisted the urge to look at my own watch. I moaned. I kept my eyes averted. No eye contact.

"I get pretty bad ones," I said. "I could throw up."

That was it. He spun on a single heel and led me back outside to his car. He reached for my hand, but I'd gone to the other side of the row of cars again. He hurried over and opened his car door for me but didn't step back far enough for me to get in without touching him. The creep. I might have to either brush my chest against him or my backside. I chose instead to roughly graze my elbow across his ribs pretending to be dizzy. I pulled the door handle to slam the door as he jumped out of the way. He got into the driver's seat and reached for me. I moaned again. It wasn't hard to imagine throwing up either. It really wasn't.

I curled into fetal position against the cold metal of his passenger door.

"Please, hurry," said hoping he'd just put the key into the ignition and go. "I think I'm going to be sick."

"I thought you had a migraine."

"Yeah, and I always throw up all over the place."

He started the car. His right hand reached out for me and I flattened away from him, partway off the seat, against the frigid door. A bit of air from the window leaked into my face, but I held position until he pulled in front of my house. I had surreptitiously pulled my keys out of my purse and held my house key in my right hand.

Then I realized - he knew where I lived. I groaned for real this time. Before he was completely stopped, I used my left hand to unlatch his door and I jumped out of his car and ran up my steps.

"Good night!" I tried not to sound too cheerful.

For a bumbling idiot, he was pretty quick. He ran up my steps and tried to pin me against my front door and lean in for a kiss, but I was too quick. I rolled into my apartment and jammed a foot behind it with a little gap I could talk through.

"Can I see you again?" he asked as he tried to pry the door open and come in. "We can still be friends, right?"

I kept my foot firmly behind it and I said, "I don't think that's going to work out. Good night." I closed the door firmly in his face.

Finally, one move that wasn't a mistake.

Thank you for listening, jules

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

One Person One Vote

Secretary Clinton won the popular vote. When are we going to rise up and demand fair elections? When will we recognize that the electorate somehow represents the corporations, not the voice of the people?

We deserve to have a system in which each vote counts. One person, one vote.

Nothing else matters if we call ourselves a democracy. Nothing else matters if the United States is really going to be free, fair, and just.

We were robbed of our choice. We need to reclaim it.

Thank you for listening, jules

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

We'll Pay the Price for This Huge Mistake

I don't care that everyone on CNN is making sounds about conciliation. This man is never going to be my president.

He is never going to represent me. He is never going to serve my country. He is absolutely the opposite of what I think a public servant should be.

What I see is a man who has built his empire on the backs of the working class. He's bankrupt corporations. He's managed to evade millions of dollars in taxes. He's made himself ridiculous by appearing on reality TV. He's refused to pay for legitimate work. He's assaulted women, insulted immigrants, and terrified people of different religions. How is that going to make America great?

I can't lose gracefully here. I don't believe a word he says about improving taxes or jobs or healthcare. I think this man is only going to make corporations more powerful. He will increase the divide between the rich and the poor. He will condone bullying, misogyny, and xenophobia.

If this were a business with a new boss, I'd be out searching for a different job. But it's not. It's my country. Where am I supposed to go?

I don't even think the people who voted for him deserve everything he will give them. Did they really think a billionaire was going to bring back their blue-collar jobs? Did they think that their Christian values would be upheld by him? Did they think they wouldn't have to pay taxes because he doesn't? Do they really believe he gives a damn about their healthcare costs?

I wish we had been talking about political positions, but instead we were running a crazy reality show. Lies, lies, and more lies were told. Didn't any of his voters care about that?

People, I agree with the Dow Jones. We are headed for some big trouble and my 'I-told-you-so' won't do a damned thing to help.

But I am going to be a sore looser anyway. I am. I'm going to grieve for my country tomorrow and the next day and the next. This stupid move is not going to work and all of us are going to pay the price for it.

Thank you for listening, jules

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Split Screens

A security guard stared at a bank of split-screened, black and white monitors. He yawned. This was the worst job he'd ever taken, twenty-four floors of hallways, and elevators, only occasionally occupied by people. He yawned again.

He propped his feet up onto the desktop and pretended it mattered the way he usually did. He listened intently as he opened a Sprite. Snap-pop, fizz, a relief from the soundless screens.

Then, a movement on the screen took his attention, another relief. A woman, only her back view at first, but it was a woman who walked onto elevator two. Great. Something was alive in this building.

He knew he shouldn't but he selected the screen and refocused the camera as she stopped, turned, and looked up at the floor numbers above her. He zoomed in and wished for the millionth time it was all in color. His life, a black and white 50s documentary on the content of hallways and elevators. Dry. She was framed beautifully in the screen, eyes, hair, mouth, and cleavage. Thank God for push-up bras. That cleavage was perfect. He zoomed into them for a moment, then backed out until her eyes came into the picture, then her hair just barely fit the screen.

Most people, he thought, took photos from too great a distance. The beauty was in the details.

Then, the woman adjusted her bra. Priceless. He thought that maybe he shouldn't be watching and yet he continued. What she didn't know couldn't hurt him. He almost laughed but stayed silent, feeling like she might somehow hear. Nasty. He could feel it, the nastiness. She deserved this, dressed the way she was. Wasn't that like a woman? To dress that way and then claim to be all innocent when something happened to her. He zoomed out quickly, but as he watched her with that one hand down into her bra and the other supporting the large firm breast, he breathed, moaned really, out loud. She looked up as if caught.

It was funny how many times events on a screen lined movements up with what was happening in his monitor room. It wasn't the first time. This woman was new. The coincidences were not. Life was funny that way, he thought.

Then, she used a compact mirror to put on a fresh coat of lipstick, slowly, deliberately. She rubbed her teeth to get a bit of lipstick off them. Even that seemed like a seduction. Nasty.

Time seemed to slow way down. He didn't even wonder if the elevator was moving, why she hadn't walked off of it by now and onto the next screen. He was mesmerized. What color was her hair? Blonde? Red? He wondered if it was natural. He couldn't tell anyway.

The woman lifted her skirt and adjusted strappy underwear underneath. She needn't have bothered. She was perfect. He was in agony. He groaned again.

At that - another coincidence, he wondered? - she looked directly into the camera lens. She smiled. He shivered at the odds. Those cameras were well camouflaged. He couldn't even see them when he was in an elevator looking for them. And yet. He stared at her. She stared back, then stuck out her tongue.

He leaned back in his chair, unable to look away. She blew a kiss. It landed. Then, she opened her mouth in a smile that widened into a rictus grin. Her face split vertically and snap-pop, fizz. He could hear the sound of it right in his ears. And then there were two.

But two of what, exactly?

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Paddling Across the Sky

At night, I worry about different things than during the day. In daylight, I'm busy processing the myriad errands I have to run, dog walking, groceries, volunteering, and yes, still picking Nick up from events since sophomores aren't allowed parking permits at school.

I like the dog walking. Today was a doozy. The water was rising in the river and overflowing its banks into the dog park. For some reason, bubbles of air and water were blowing all around the edge of the new lake that had seeped inside the fence. It was fascinating.

As I stood there, watching, Teddy ran over, pounced on some bubbles, and started barking at the strangeness of it all. In the meantime, water pooled up over my shoes and I only noticed when my socks suddenly got wet and cold. 'Insidious' was the word that came to mind. The quiet lake grew while dogs frolicked in the pooling water, but then it was spilling over the walkway into the park as I finally decided to bring Teddy home. The park is circled with a lake, but really it's a crescent of river that was cut off as the switchback shortened itself during an old flood and straightened the flow of the river.

I love that.

There are two of these crescents within a few miles of each other, shallow remnants of the river. But they refill and gain strange currents when the river floods.

Our Pacific Northwest rivers are newer and much more susceptible to change than rivers in the East or Midwest. Newer mountains, newer rivers, more change, more unpredictablility.

But that river crept up on me, bubbling cheerfully in one place and threatening to rise to my knees in another.

I never did paddle during a flood. I told Mike once that I wanted to, but he said there would be a strength of current that we might not be able navigate and it was too dangerous. I just wanted to paddle over fields and across roads. You know, the whole valley fills up sometimes and everyone has to evacuate, horses, cows, and even the zebra. But since that time years ago when I said that to Mike about paddling high water, I've seen what floodwater can do. Three hundred year old trees can be uprooted and rolled downstream to be deposited in the middle of a field with a pile of other trees where an eddy formed during a flood. I've seen houses sitting off kilter from their foundations when the swift water took the dirt out from under them. I've seen a highway turned into a weir where flow poured over its length and boiled the far side of the asphalt away. Flood season is a wonder where I live.

But rarely do I actually worry about the floods themselves. I might worry about Nick's social life, his compassion, Mike's heart or tendency to offer too much help, plastic production, climate change. Yes, I worry about each of the plastic containers that my vegetables seem to need these days. I wonder what ocean they will turn up in next. I wonder if I can wean myself off them and back to the flimsy plastic produce bags I used to put my vegetables into before. And am I doing enough to avert climate change? Is anyone? Is it too late to avert the flood of change?

When I wake in the middle of the night, I worry about the effects of humanity on the Earth and the Earth's revenge. Can we survive without all the species we've evicted from the planet? We may not know until climate change and the rafts of plastic overtakes us.

Yes, I'd rather be mindlessly paddling across the flooded sky, navigating fields and roads filled with water, even if the currents are swift. I may need to yet if the water keeps rising. I may end up with oceanfront property and might have to paddle the currents anywhere I go.

Thank you for listening, jules

Monday, October 3, 2016

Why I Write

Do you want to know why I write?

Because nobody listens any more. People used to tell stories from the front porch swing on a Saturday night after chores were done. I know because I listened to them, family stories. Not all of them were completely true. Great great grandpa Pete was never in the Civil War, but that rifle came from someone in our family who was. And he might have been ready to get married again and great aunt Kate broke it up, but maybe she had cause after all the years watching him be abusive to his wife, her mother. Who wants to see a repeat of that kind of misery? That wasn't part of the G-rated stories that were told at grandma's house when I was a kid. Grandma knew how to tell a story, but she left out the gory bits. I'm kind of grateful for that. My other grandma told stories in her kitchen, but she never told the most important ones like how her parents, her sister, and her fiance died all in the same year, so I could never figure out why she'd start crying when she told me at the end of a story, how much she loved me. I used to live for these stories, but I knew when there were holes in them. There were always holes.

Now, it's different though. I have stories to tell. I'm always trying to tell some story or another, sad ones, redeeming ones, funny ones. But these days, people interrupt and you can't get two lines into the preamble of a good story before the conversation has run downstream into the next beginning of a story and someone else is carrying it away.

We  run so swiftly in this current of time that people don't really listen to each other any more. Not really. They're too busy to slow it down and listen. It drives me crazy. I have one friend who asks a question and never lets me get to the end of a sentence before she interrupts me.Most other people only get two or three lines down the road. You have to be the queen of one liners to tell a good story in this environment.

Mike listens to me. He does. This morning, I told him a story about when I was fourteen and he listened all the way through to the end. It was a doozy, the first time I was ever felt up by a boy. Too bad I can't tell you too. It was a good story too, with irony, multiple levels of irony, and a punch line that couldn't be beat.

Now, you want to hear about this story, don't you. Who doesn't want to hear the story of the first time a girl gets felt up?

Am I going to go down this road? It isn't a nice story. Oh no, it is not. There are some people who would go down if I told this story, people who are still alive, people who would be so confused because their denial is so deep. No, honey, I can't tell you this story.

I can just tell you that between the years of thirteen and twenty six, I'd have trouble telling you the truth about myself. I hate thinking about it. I was a lost child. I suffered. I dated rude people and had lousy friends. Oh thankfully, I had a few lovely friends, but too many of them were in it for the control one person can have over another. It took me years and a lot of good luck to form the relationships I have now. I am an incredibly lucky woman.

So, the question is whether I'm going to begin to tell you about those years.

I could write it as fiction and Oprah might be all over it. There's abuse. There's abandonment and loss. There is alcohol, lots of alcohol. There are a few bright friendships, but mostly controlling and demeaning ones. And then there is some amazing kind of luck and the main character escapes and get better at choosing the people around her. And in the end, there is love, true love. And some time in a psychologist's couch.

Oh, I can hear you begging for a story like that. I can.

But how can I tell a story like this, one that would be so incredibly incriminating?

You know, I can't watch Game of Thrones. I just can't. The reason I can't watch it is because it makes me squirm with all the truth and evil in it. I just might start telling you some true fiction.

Fancy that?

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Sleep is the New Sex

I had a sleep study last night. I felt as though I didn't sleep all night long. I woke up and looked at the clock every hour for the first three hours and then lost track how many times I woke up after that. The lights were glaring at me. The lines were tangling around me. Everything was coming unclipped or undone. Something was pressing into my armpit. The wrap holding the heart monitor onto my finger itched. The oxygen thingy was sticking its little prongs into my nose. I hate when stuff is stuck into my nose. My dreams were all about living the rest of my life with these lines connected to my nose and chest and hands.

And of course I have a busy day today and can't go back to bed the way I want to. My life lately has been a series of doing the absolute minimum and going back to bed whenever I can. How exciting is that?

And yet, when I look at my bed, I crave more time there. I was in the kitchen with Mike the other day and he was cheerfully making his protein shake for breakfast. Fuck. I don't do anything cheerfully any more, let alone make my breakfast. Usually, I'm nonverbal in the morning, but I try anyway. The words just don't come.

"So tired," I said. I had splashed the milk and spilled rice protein over the counter around me.

"You're so tired," Mike sang back to me. He stopped and looked at me more closely. "You're going to have to go back to bed for a while after you take Nick to the weight room.

"Bed," I said like an addict asking for a hit.

"Sleep is the new sex, hon."

"Sleep," I sang back to him.

"Yeah, that's it. Sleep is the new sex."

"Sleep," I said again as if saying it could make it real with one word.

So, after I get the results from this study, I'm probably going to get a CPAP machine, more stuff to attach to my face while I try to sleep. Will I dream I'm tied up? At this point, I'll try anything. The doctor already said she'll do the test over if it comes up with a negative for sleep apnea. She's absolutely sure I'm going on a CPAP machine. It probably didn't help that I cried in her office. I've cried for the past three doctors I've seen and she was the first one who assured me we could get me back on track and feeling better.

That would be good. That would be very good.

Dear reader, what are you going to do if I get a nozzle for my nose and end up becoming a cheerful and productive member of society? Who are you going to go to for your weekly crabfest?

Oh, right. You're going to do what you've been doing the past few weeks when I've been too tired or sick or both to write a single word here. You're going to get on with your life as if I never existed.

Thank you for listening, jules

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Spit Casserole

I hate when there are three healthy men sitting my the living room while I work alone in the kitchen. It's past time for dinner. No one has asked if they can help. No one has even looked at the pile of dishes that will likely be my first greeting in the morning. My back hurts. I'm hot. I've wrestled with my day, the same as them. Why can't I just sit too?

I'm tempted to let dinner burn a little. I consider spitting into it, but can't quite make myself do it. That would swing too far, something that I hope only happens in the movies. 

Does it run too far? Did you ever kitchen-spit in someone's meal? 

Should I?

Thank you for listening, jules 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Angel Hair Pasta

I'm hiding in my room. 

It was at dinner time. I'd asked Mike if he wanted spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. He said yes, so I got to it. Mike prefers angel hair pasta, so I made angel hair pasta. I made a separate pot of just sauce and pasta for the vegetarian. I've been making separate meals for him every night. 

No, my vegetarian boarder hasn't moved out yet. He's been here ten weeks now.  He's missed more apartment opportunities than meals.

But tonight, as he served himself a large helping of his specially-made meal, he lectured me about the difference between spaghetti and angel hair pasta. I KNOW the difference between spaghetti and angel hair pasta. 

When I was a kid, all soda was 'Coke.' When people said Coke, someone else might ask what kind and then it would come out that what they really wanted was an Orange Crush. When I moved to the East coast, I found out that not everyone said it that way. They called it soda. Some dialects called it pop. We called it Coke. Go figure. 

I also remember how someone laughed at the way I pronounced 'peony' as if I was in a piney woods. Hey, it was how I was raised to speak the word. I remember how stupid that person made me feel. That was at least twenty years ago. 

The vegetarian boarder thinks he's smarter than I am, thinks he might properly educate me if he keeps lecturing. Or maybe he's just mad that I made him clean his shower after he clogged the drain and grew pink slime on the shower curtain. 

Thank you for listening, jules

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Drill Some Holes

I'm having panic attacks. My friends, good friends, are trying to help me. Mike is trying to help me. Talk to your nephew, they said, give him a deadline, tell him how you feel, tell him all the ways it will benefit him to get his own place. Set boundaries.

See, in March, my nephew called and said he was going to stay in a hotel because he got a job out here and was moving here. After that, he left room on the phone for a long pause in the conversation. I hate the long pause in a conversation. I fall prey to the long pause.

After a couple of conversations, Mike and I decided that the only thing we could do was offer him a place to stay until he found his own. We had no choice. We couldn't deny him this help. Conversations with his mom and his sister and his grandma just confirmed it. Pressure was intense.

So, I got on the phone with him and told him he could stay here, but just a week or two until he found his own place, I don't do well with house guests, I told him. I paced the kitchen as I talked. I looked out the window. I tried to picture it working out this time.

Just a couple of weeks, he said.

You'll be fine, my sister said.

He'll be helpful, my mother said.

It will only take him a couple of weeks to get his own place, they all said.

He drove into the driveway on April 4th. Today is June 11th.

Last night, I sent a text to my friend:

I talked to him - I said I feel this way and I feel that way. We didn't set a definite deadline, but he said he got the message, said he'd gotten an apartment on his own in college, that he didn't want my help. He said he could afford to get a place. I stayed calm. I told him I didn't want resentment to build any more than it was, that I felt very uncomfortable when I was at home, that I'd lived in dumps myself when I was in my twenties, that it wasn't him but it was me. 

Tonight, he told us he looked at two places, one in a drug neighborhood, the other not quite as dangerous as if I require that he choose between the two. Now, he's sitting downstairs in the dark with the speakerphone on so loudly that we can hear everything he and my niece are saying. It's awful, absolutely, stunningly awful. By the time he's off the phone, his whole family will hate me. But maybe they probably already do.

I'm trying not to hyperventilate. Mike's helping but there's no escape.

Oh, I have good friends. My friend texted back and forth with me for an hour even though she has to work in the morning. She's a veterinarian. When she has to work in the morning, she really has to work.

She said I need to let it go, that it's okay for my family to hate me if it means standing up for myself, that I don't need to feel guilty - he's an adult and I am not responsible for him or his happiness.

She should write a book, my friend.

I texted her that I'm trying not to unravel.

Maybe a hotel tonight, she asked. By then, I had joined Mike in the garage. He was drilling holes in leather to put in rivets on a project. I asked if I could drill holes. Drilling holes would feel good. They did. I like drilling holes.

I should drill more holes when I can't breathe.

My friend even offered to talk with my nephew. Hammer time, she said. She could be the bad guy, she said.

That made me laugh. It helped to laugh when I couldn't breathe. She talked about the families that we adopt. She is my adopted family. She is, and my three other friends who have been coaching me to keep breathing, to own my own space, to keep from being a scapegoat, to send my nephew on his way even if I were blamed for what happened to him next. It is easy for me to fall back into the role of scapegoat.

Repeat a mantra, she texted me.

And then I drilled a few more holes for Mike. He's lucky I didn't ruin the holes. I'm not entirely sure how I did it, my breath hitching, my eyes blurred, my nose and eyes running. A mantra. What would my mantra be?

Find your power, she texted me. Yes. I need a mantra. I need to find my power. And I need to drill some damned holes. Do any of you have a project that requires lots and lots of drilled holes? When I can't breathe, I could imagine sitting with my head in my hands, repeating, "I need to drill some holes. I need to drill some holes." It's just like me to pick a mantra that will make me look like the crazy lady standing on the corner with a cardboard sign. I need to drill some holes, I need to drill some holes, my cardboard sign would say.

Thank you for listening, jules

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Looking Into the Currents

Back aching,Gut bloating,
Eyes burning,
The need for sleep surpassing all desire
and most needs.
A need for breath, deep enough for oxygen,
Not the panting breath
that only limits.
Ordinary chores ease.
Fold clothes,
Run errands,
Plan lunch with a friend,
Make a nice dinner,
but it all arrives again with the cook,
burns dinner,
brings tears.
From home to chaos
In nine easy weeks.
Does praying even work?
Is there a layer of hell
In which there is no room
For one soul,
In which someone else's soul
gets to fill the room?
Is this a test of suffering?
Most surely a failed one.

If, in dreams, a house is a soul,
This one is full of strangers,
Hangs on a cliff,
The Abyss,
Stands upon a precipice,
Looking into the deep,
Deception Pass
-Don't fall-
Where the river's current
Runs one way,
the tide runs the other,
deceptionally beautiful, but
Don't get caught in an eddie.
It'll suck you down.
It'll suck you right down.

Does it help to pray?
Make the abyss go away?
Suffering remains.
Wounds still bleed.
What is the point?
To breath in and out
More deeply?
To ask for help,
first silently
and then out loud?
To measure time with words,
To suffer, yet
Open the door a crack and let someone,
anyone in.

Thank you for listening, jules

Monday, June 6, 2016

Don't Stand Under a Heron's Nest in June

I'm here to write some crap. I just said goodnight to Mike.

"Go write, hon," he said. "You'll feel better."

He's right, you know. When I sit down with nothing to say, I feel better when I'm done. And sometimes I actually come up with something decent to tell you. Don't expect that today. Nope.

I stood in dog water today. Sounds, gross, doesn't it? It wasn't. Marymoor has a dog park that runs along side the Sammamish slough. I stood knee deep in clear water while dogs swam around me and stood and shook water onto my shoulders. The slough has been reconfigured in the past years so that it runs clean, more like a river than a canal. It's actually lovely, with herons standing knee deep, fishing, dogs leaping chest first into the water after balls and frisbees and retriever toys, rowing teams working together to add style to the view.

And don't forget the heronry. Right now, the baby herons are big and noisy, demanding more and more from their mothers. Are the heron moms tired? Do the dads help? You can see that I know little about these prehistoric birds except the joy of their head movements when they're about dive for a fish. They're patient fishers, standing, silent, focused. But how do they feed two or three big baby birds and stay so patient? I'll never understand.

Don't they ever get frustrated with the little squawkers? Do they ever stand waiting for dinner to be ready and say, "Fuck it. I can't do this. Can't someone to get up off his butt to help me?"

No. They just feed and feed and feed their big babies until they're done needing to be fed.

So why can't I do that? My squab is big and demanding and isn't even close to fledging. It's impossible to feed him properly and he makes huge messes when I'm not there to threaten to turn the TV off if he doesn't clean up after himself. So, why don't I get to stand silently in the water while someone else listens to the racket? Have you ever been under a heronry in June? It's as loud as a construction site and there's bird shit all over the leaves below the nests.

These kids don't clean up after themselves either.

I do feel better.

Thank you for listening, jules

Saturday, May 14, 2016

I Am Bob

The other day, I went for an angry walk. You know the kind of walk I'm talking about, when you leave the house in a huff and you walk it off. 

I went for that kind of walk the other evening and I felt better when I found this. 

Thank you for listening, jules

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Perpetual House Guest

I am miserable. I'm ready to get a hotel.

I have a guest who has stayed for a month now and I'm ready for him to get his own place. He has every excuse in the book. "That place was a dump," he said. "You don't want me to stay in a dump, do you?" Another time, he said, "This place was nice but I'm not sure I would like being that close to a family I don't know." And then there was, "That other place was a wash, a dead-end, not right at all."

My house guest has stayed too long to be a guest and since he doesn't pay rent, he's not a tenant either. He's not immediate family, so I can't fart in front of him. He's taking up a whole bathroom in our house so in the morning when I have to pee, I have to do the dance if someone's using the other bathroom at the time. The guys can just pee off the deck, which is gross, but I can't quite imagine how it would look to my house guest/tenant/new family member if he walked up the steps and caught me hanging off a post of the back deck exposing my bare ass so I could pee without peeing down my leg. Wouldn't be pretty. I'm tempted, but it wouldn't be pleasant.

I'm supposed to be a pleasant woman, but I'm not.

My long-term house guest came downstairs this afternoon on the pretext of helping with the groceries that I didn't need help with and I had just farted in the foyer. Mortifying. The whole thing has become so mortifying that I find excuses to leave the house and stay away for a long time. Tonight, after dinner but before I had a chance to sit down and eat, I left the house to 'go walk the dog.' I was angry. Dishes were piled up and this extenuated house guest had said he'd help with dishes. This actually means that he puts all my stuff in different places every time he unloads the dishwasher. If he loads the dishwasher, he never starts it, or if he does, stuff doesn't come clean. There's always two lids stuck together or a bowl full of water after he runs it. But you'd have to actually put a tab into the dishwasher and press some buttons for the dishwasher to run. That must be too hard because most of the time, my eternal house guest doesn't do it. So, tonight, I was making dinner and didn't have all the utensils and pots I needed because too many dishes were dirty. As I struggled to make this meal, I got madder and madder. On top of it all, I have to make a separate platter for this guy for every meal because of his food preferences. Three times, he has cooked for us, but each time has made food that I can't actually eat. And each time, he buys duplicates of ingredients I already have and it clogs the refrigerator. And who really needs a quart jar of pickle relish? So, I tried to work on this meal and not one of the three men in the living room got off an ass to come into the kitchen to help. And so, I served this meal and, before I could eat any of it, I left on the pretext of walking the dog. This actually means that I resisted the urge to toss the hot half-cooked meal onto the carpet in front of the guys and say that 'Dinner is served. Tonight we feature big-asses-sitting-on-a-couch.'

I'm still miserable. I have to face that filthy kitchen in the morning. I'll be damned if I clean it. I will be dammed, I'm sure.

Thank you for listening, jules

Monday, May 9, 2016

Don't You Wag Your Fingers at Me

What is wrong with people?

I wish I knew.

Today, I was struggling to finish some work at a computer in the library. If I have to wait for Nick to finish at Driver's Ed, I might as well get something done. Using the library computers helps to keep my load lighter. All I have to carry is a small binder with notes and a thumb drive.

I sat there, stumped about where I needed to put some text. People around me were loud and obnoxious. Some guy across from me tried unsuccessfully to get the librarian to fix his problem. I would have sworn he was the same guy monopolizing the librarian last week. People chatted. They talked to their computer screens. It was not easy to concentrate.

Then, the man who was sitting to my left caught my eye and said, "Let me use your pen."

Now, I like my pen. They don't make this kind of Itoya pen any more and it's getting harder to find refills. People might not realize it, but when I give them one of my Itoya pens, it's a high honor.

This guy did not register on that scale so I pretended to be hard of hearing.

"Let me use your pen," he repeated and pointed.

"What?" I said, finally looking at him, not moving toward my pen.

"Let me use your pen," he said slowly as if speaking to an idiot. Then he waggled his pinky and his ring finger together. That motion that is so akin to a finger snap that I hate it and anyone who uses it.

"Oh, this?" I slowly held up my Itoya some distance from his hand, wondering if I should refuse him. It seemed petty to refuse, but I wasn't above slow motion. He waggled his fingers at me a little more.

Then, he proceeded to fill out two pages of an application while I waited for him to give my favorite pen back. I stared at him, willing him to write faster so I could go back to focusing on my work. I did not want him to think he could walk off with my favorite pen while I wasn't looking. Reading his paperwork didn't work. I tried, without success, to focus on my own work.

Then, he got onto his phone and had a conversation with someone as if he were in his own living room. Do people realize how loud they are speaking when they're on the phone? The man held my pen in the air. Finally, he got off the phone, finished the second page of his application, and handed my pen back to me.

"Thank you," I said, trying to be civil. My words may have been civil, but my expression could have started a war.

I went back to work on my aggravating text and just when I thought I might have a solution, the man said again, "Let me use your pen."

What the hell was wrong with this guy? I made him repeat himself again, but it didn't deter him or lead him to be any more polite than he had been in the first place.

So, as I watched him scratch away at another page of his application, I saved my document, gathered my stuff, and stood up.

He didn't look up from his work when I stood over him with my bag in hand. Finally, I dug into the depths of my bag, located a free pen from a hotel I'd visited, and pointed at the pen he was using.

"I can't spare that pen. I can spare this one. Here."

He kept writing for a moment. I leaned over him and put the pen next to his hand where he couldn't keep writing.

"Take this one. I can't spare that one." And I plucked my Itoya out of his hand.

He glared at me. I rolled my eyes at him and and tucked my favorite pen deep into my bag. I noticed that the cheap pen was a different color on his application. Good. Then, I turned and walked to a different computer and sat down to get some actual work done. I don't know if he noticed my new location. I didn't look up from my work. 

When I left the library, I walked back over to where the man had abandoned my free pen from the hotel. I tossed it into my bag for the next asswipe that that wags his fingers at me.

Thank you for listening, jules

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

My Own Opinion in My Own Kitchen

I'm better than you because my house is cleaner than yours.

I'm better than you because my SAT scores, IQ, grades, education were better than yours.

I'm better than you because I drive a more expensive, a more in-vogue, a faster car and live in a bigger house in a better neighborhood than you do.

I'm better than you because I work longer hours at a cooler company than you do.

I'm better than you because I'm busier than you, more important, less expendable than you.

Everyone is expendable. That's how it works. If you do things right, love well, care, serve, and provide, you will leave a hole when you die, but you're still ultimately expendable. That hole will fill in with other people who do what you did, love well, care, serve, and provide.

And nothing, not even intelligence or money or your job, makes you better than anyone else. 

I'm living with a person right now who plays one of these games, the one regarding intellectual prowess. I hate that game. He lives in my house yet I'm made to feel stupid so he can feel smarter, better, more worthy. Whatever.

I need to ask him to stop it. I want to have a normal conversation in my kitchen on a Saturday morning as I make pancakes for my family and I don't want to have to cite my sources when I say that commercials are not healthy for a person. I am allowed to have an opinion. It's just a fucking opinion and people are full of lots of them, some logical and some not and I don't care to judge whether or not I'm right, smart, better than you as a result of this opinion, on a Saturday morning as I make pancakes for you in my kitchen.

Thank you for listening, jules

A Racist Term Deleted Fire Drill and Dirty Dishes

I've got a lot to complain about right now. Why won't anyone do the dishes?

I'm supposed to do the dishes? There are other people in this house eating. Why do I have to do it all of the time? I've even got an extra guy here and he does no more dishes than the other two. This morning, he asked where he was supposed to put the dirty cutting board because the sink was full. Well, in the dishwasher, I wanted to tell him. I didn't. I should have. It would have been good to tell him that Mike and I expect him to help out since he's getting a free ride here until he gets his own place.

That has ground to a halt too. At first, he was actively looking for his own place to live. Now? Not so much.

On top of that, our schedule is packed. I know these are the last days of me carting Nick from one place to another. I'm now in the passenger seat much of the time since he has his driver's permit. He's a pretty good driver and I almost checked out yesterday. He's not ready for me to check out while he drives. But right now, the driving just makes our schedule that much more crazy, practicing backing around the corner, lane changes. Why does it seem like it takes longer to get places when Nick drives? And I've never played the Chinese fire drill as much as I have these past weeks.

Do you remember doing a Chinese fire drill? High school pranks. Usually, it was when we were at a stop light in a car. Everyone would jump out of the car and run around to get in another door.

No, Nick and I are not doing our Chinese fire drills at stop lights. We're doing them off the road in a safe place.

So, is it bigoted to say Chinese fire drill? Is it derogatory? I'm not sure why they're called Chinese and not Cherokee fire drills or Hoosier fire drills or teenage fire drills.

There's probably something derogatory about it and I'm just clueless.

Sorry, folks. I didn't mean anything by it. I just looked it up. It was originally a commentary about a fiasco in translation during a fire drill in the early 1900s, but later, the term was used in a demeaning way. So there's one more thing I really shouldn't say if I'm going to be polite. It makes sense for me to be polite, but is it still a bigoted thing to say?

It is.

It's like saying you got gypped, which is rude to gypsies, or calling someone an Indian-giver, which is rude to Native Americans. English is a linguistic minefield, but it's worth taking the time to look at the original meanings of common terms we say so that we're not promoting bigotry.

It is, isn't it?

It reminds me of the statues of Southern civil war leaders that recently had to come down. Now, remind me why these people can't be respected again? Is it racist to maintain a statue of your great great grandfather in the local park if he served in the civil war?

So now I can complain that there are terms I grew up saying that I have to relearn now that I'm old. It's hard to relearn so many things. It's like my mind wants to keep going down the same tracks it always did and language cuts a deep groove. 

I'm getting old, people. And that, by itself, causes more problems than it solves. And it still doesn't solve the problem that I am the only one doing the dishes around here. It doesn't. Maybe if I don't do them for another day or two, someone will step up.


Thank you for listening, jules

Monday, April 18, 2016

Dr. KnowItAll, PhD

"Did you like this book? I asked in the used bookstore.

"Of the genre, this book is rather blah, blah, blah, and it falls in the dark period of blah blah blah something else highly intellectual and isn't it obvious that it sourced from me, the speaker, who by proxy is as cool as the author who wrote it? ..." the guy spoke and I have no idea what it was that he said past the word 'rather' because I kind of tuned out. This was not an opinion but an analysis for which I do not, nor do I ever wish to have, the background. Do you ever ask a question that you know within the first three words of the answer that you should never have asked in the first place? I won't go into that bookstore any more. They should teach their cashiers that it's not nice to analyze people's book choices even if they are leaning on the positive side of their analyses? Even if he was asked his opinion?

I just wanted his opinion, not a dissertation.

I got this treatment over The Sandman by Neil Gaiman. I bought a copy today because Jenny, the Bloggess, said she loved it. She didn't say that I'd love it. She's polite that way, respecting that I'll have my own opinion, but I've loved every other book she's said she likes. Sorry, I couldn't find the post where she listed her favorite books and asked her readers to list their favorite books. If you can find that page, it's a reader's orgy.

No, Jenny didn't analyze The Sandman. She just said she liked it, loved it. That was enough for me since she also loves Christopher Moore and Terry Pratchett, two others of my favorites. I showed Nick my new-used book and told him it was a cult classic. I don't know it is a cult classic, but I suspect it is since I've heard it spoken of in those terms since I first heard about it from Jenny. Does that mean that once I read it, I'm part of a cult? And Jenny likes it.

Jenny is my friend. Well, I like to think that Jenny is my friend, but don't we all wish we were friends with that great, crazy author who wrote the book you just felt in your bones when you read it? Yes, Jenny is that author. 'Let's Pretend This Never Happened' is that book. For that cashier, maybe Neil Gaiman is that author, but he could have just said it kept him from committing suicide when he was fifteen and I would have known better what he was saying. He didn't have to go all Dr. KnowItAll, PhD on me. See, Jenny is a better friend than that cashier, isn't she? Even though I don't know her, not really. I only ever read her books and her blog. And once, she signed my book after I waited in line for an hour.

And that makes me one of those people, the tag-alongs, the wannabes, the I-wish-I-were-as-cool-as-Jenny kind of people. But I never will be as cool as that cashier, now, will I? Never.

Thank you for listening, jules

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Squelched Controversy

There's a teacher who is leaving Nick's school. He's not one of Nick's teachers, but I heard a little about his story. His crime?  He talked in class about something controversial. He's been quietly reprimanded and has decided to leave rather than teach in the proscribed environment.

Wait? What subjects are not tolerated in high school? When Mike got home and settled himself onto the couch to relax, I asked him, "Which controversial subjects would you want teachers not to discuss in school?"

"None. They should talk about everything." Then he went back reading to his magazine. He likes to keep abreast of what's happening in the world. To him, the answer was as simple as that.

When has it become worthy of a reprimand for a teacher to speak, to encourage discourse, to even allow respectful disagreements? Why can't school be a place where kids learn that the world is full of people with varied opinions? Why can't school be a place where kids learn, with respect, to debate their opinions without others losing the right to believe in their own? When did schools become a place in which a narrow view is taught and nothing outside of that is allowed? Are they going to start banning books next? Are our rights to free speech going down? Is it propaganda that's being taught in lieu of open discourse?

I want my son to be educated by people brave enough to talk through controversies, who encourage kids to tolerate people with other viewpoints, who teach enthusiastic debate, to talk about and write about details and possibilities in our universe and in our cultures. I want my son to be free to discuss everything. This is his time to discover the complexities and nuances of the world, its sciences, religions, political climates, and its cultures. More discussion rather than less is in order at his age. When I was in high school, we talked about transcendental meditation, Buddhism, astral projection, LSD as an experience, and psychokinesis. It didn't mean that I believed all of it, but we discussed these things thoroughly. How much further out there can you get? It did me no harm to try to promote my studied opinions. In fact, it made me stronger and smarter to learn how to talk about varied controversial subjects, and to hone my opinions in healthy debate.

So what is happening here?

For every vociferous parent who squelches open discourse, there are fifty, a hundred, maybe a thousand who quietly hope for the continued right to free speech in schools and the ways it can educate our children to becoming open-minded, creative, and thoughtful adults. Apparently, we're going to have to make some noise.

This teacher is funny. He's creative. I wish he'd been my son's teacher. I hope he continues to teach wherever he goes. I hope he continues to discuss anything and everything, especially that which is controversial.

Thank you for listening, jules

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Sharing the Stink

For now, I share a hallway and a bathroom with my nephew. I can't tell you how awkward that is. Oh, he's a good guy. He is. He's thoughtful and relatively neat, but there's something about passing a guy less than half your age in the hall just outside the shitter when one of you has just been in there shitting. And that bathroom, unfortunately, has no fan, only a window that props open and brings in ice-cold fresh air. Afterward, it still smells like your business, just colder.

The worst part is that my nephew is also aware, oh so keenly aware of the awkwardness of our situation. I can imagine him on the other side of his bedroom praying for me to leave the hallway quickly so he can take his morning piss.

So, we've come up with alternate plans for going up and down that short hallway. At ten-thirty, he leaps up to 'go to bed' ten minutes before I might mention it. I've never seen a twenty-something so eager to go to bed. Plus, he's desperately plunging through one apartment or another in an attempt to move out. There are days when it's obvious that the boy should take a break from his search and prop up his feet, but he's on a quest. I don't blame him. I try very hard not to encourage him to a degree that it makes me look like he should be leaving the day after tomorrow, but I've felt my face lighting up whenever he mentions a potential place.

The other day he said, "There's a place I might be able to get into." I'm sure you could see the relief on my face. But he went on to say, "but it doesn't come available until the fifteenth." I tried to keep my face cheerful about ten more days of awkward encounters in the hallway outside the bathroom, but I'm sure the joy left my eyes as the smile stayed plastered to my face.

"Oh, that's no problem," I said. "You can stay as long as you need to." Did you notice that I used the word 'need' instead of 'want?' I'm sure he did. Like I said, he's a sensitive soul and my cheerfulness just seemed to pain him.

A day or two later, he stood towering over me with downcast eyes and said, "That apartment isn't going to be free until the twentieth." He didn't apologize but the boy seemed absolutely small. That's hard for someone who's six foot four with size thirteen shoes. For a moment, I forgot the stupid bathroom/hallway problem and felt the pain of living with your aunt, uncle, and cousin when you are in your twenties. We all know it's only for a few weeks because the job is there, just not the apartment. But somehow it's worse than living with your parents. You can't quite relax into your usual routine. It's more akin to living with your grandma only Grandma is better at making you feel cozy and you can feel like a six year old in her fluffy little house. So, yeah, it's about the worst way you can move out, living with your aunt and uncle and sharing a hallway and a stinky bathroom. 

"Oh hon," I said to him, "just relax. You'll find your own place in good time." I meant it this time. It's going to be okay. I know it will. I keep telling myself that and after my nephew finds his own place, I'm sure the hallway encounters will lose their stink even in my memory.

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Mysteries of Things that Go on the Pile

I hate how stuff collects under the couch. I found Nerf bullets, cherry pits, Sharpies, Bics, clear plastic wrappers, crackers, Nerf cartridges, cat toy puffs, dried olives, a button that said "My Melody" with an ugly bunny on it, iPhone charger cubes, couch screws that explain why the whole couch twists when Nick pops the foot rest, Post-It Notes, mechanical pencils, a warren of dust bunnies, and dried cat puke.

There was no remote.

Mike and Nick were both still sick with that nasty flu last night. Nick went to bed after coughing up a lung until about midnight. Then, Mike came out and watched some television and coughed up a lung until dawn. I'm surprised I didn't find chunks of lung under the couch.

This morning, when I made a little morning noise, woke Mike up, watched him shamble into the bedroom for more sleep with the TV still stuck on the Amazon Prime station, I noticed there was no remote. I stuck my hands down into the cushions. This action is remotely dangerous since some staples came out of the wood after ten years of activity. Yet it's also fuzzy with dog hair and crunchy with crumbs, a tactile buffet. Funny, how a variety of blind sensations is so unpleasant when combined. I don't get grossed out fishing those last crunchy bits out of the bottom of the bag of tortilla chips. I definitely don't mind running my fingers through Mike's hair or Teddy or Seth's fur. I don't even mind picking up an olive when I drop it on the carpet. And yet ...

The Universe said it was time to clean under the couch. It was. I get it, Universe. I'm not sick any more. Family arrives tomorrow. Your message speaks loud and clear. And I get that you're not going to give back the remote until the house is picked up, extraneous stuff is donated, windows are clean, the piano is dusted, the floor under the bed is vacuumed, dog-fur-dust bunnies are evicted, and the new remote arrives from Amazon on Saturday morning.

I get it, Universe. Gratitude. Gratitude for the lesson. This is where I might put the sarcastic emoticon if there were one. But maybe I shouldn't. The Universe is not forgiving. It's not. Have you ever seen the Sahara or the asteroid belt or the pit of a volcano cauldron?

Thank you for listening, jules

P.S. Just now, my husband went after the couch in search of the remote. I would have said I searched it thoroughly. He didn't find the remote. He didn't. It is well and truly lost. But he did find the wallet he lost with over $500 in it. Thank you, Universe! Thank you!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Perfect Response

I never have as much to say in the morning before I've done anything and at night, when I'm full of stories like when the man near the top of the mountain on the blustery day told me I was having a bad hair day, I'm too tired to write about it.

Well then, I just did write about it, didn't I? The bastard. I looked at his balding head. I couldn't think of anything to say about his hair, or lack of it.

Sometimes you want to go back up the trail to that same situation, to that same grouping of people who snickered when he said what he said and you want to redo the conversation. You think you might come up with that perfect reply.

Say, I was coming down from the top of Rattlesnake Ledge. Let's say I was elated because I was past four miles and would hit 6.4 on Runkeeper by the time I got back to my car. Let us also say that I had an adrenaline rush from having a slight case of dizziness combined with the gusting wind at the top. And suppose that a group of us were on our knees or sitting up there because of the howling wind that pushed through that crevice in the ledge that always seems to threaten to succumb to gravity and fall onto the trail below. We looked to the West to see another ugly front on it's way toward us. So, I had spent less time than I would have liked at the panoramic view of mountains and valley and nasty weather headed in our direction and I had traipsed happily back down the trail.

"Hello," he would say the way he did yesterday and he would have stopped to chat the way he had then too.

"Nice weather up at the ledge," I said. "You're almost there. When you get there, you can see the next front coming in from the West." I would have replied just the way I did. I had pointed though trees and steep hillside that blocked our view and shielded us from the wind. More weather was coming.

"I can see that. It's bad enough to cause you a three-alarm bad hair day, huh?" he said. That was when the boys behind him snickered.

"I hadn't thought about the way I looked," I actually said before I added, "Have a nice hike." Then, I walked on down the hill, stewing the way a person does when they miss an opportunity to parry after having been wounded by someone's words.

In a perfect world, I would have found other lines, trying out one after another in a forgiving space-time continuum until I got it right. Have you ever seen the outtakes of a Jonah Hill movie where they let him riff until he nails it? So, in my imagination on the way down the ridge, I tried out other responses to my fellow hiker.

"Why would I give a crap about your opinion of my looks? I don't recall asking for any opinions that came from that radiant head of yours." Lame.


"I'd rather be an ugly woman than a short, chubby dick-wad with snot-squad spawn like yours." I don't like insulting anyone's children.


"Are you training these two sperm-stripes how to treat your momma?" I couldn't insult his momma.


"Did you know that you're standing here out of the wind and it already took off the whole top of your head. You'd better put on a hat before you get to the ledge or you'll be completely bald coming back down."

I'm not ready for a blockbuster movie. I could never say any of those things to an actual human being no matter what they said to me. That's why those movies are so great. Sometimes I wish I could.

Thank you for listening, jules

Friday, March 4, 2016

A Certain Kind of Movement

I used to be terrified of spiders. One time, on the way to go sailing with a boy, I even crashed my car into the back of a semi truck at a stop light because there was a spider rappelling off the visor into my lap. Now, though I'm the only woman in the house, I'm the one who's called when there's a spider on the wall. Most of the time, I use a glass and a piece of paper to get them safely moved outside, even the big ones. I don't mind the big ones. Usually, I wish them good luck when I put the glass down outside where they will start their new lives. I don't like all of them though.

Yesterday, there was a spider in my car again. Funny how a certain kind of movement will put a creature into a totally different frame. This one died. I just knocked that sucker to the floor and ground him into the carpet with my heel. It was the way he had moved, completely still at first then quick and aggressive when I brought my hand holding a piece of paper near him. He leaped toward my hand instead of running away. So, I smashed him, turned him into a streak across the bottom of my boot.

Like a water snake.

I don't mind most snakes too much, but I don't like water snakes. One time, I had slipped into the water from my grandpa's boat and a couple of water snakes swam toward me instead of away. Freaked me out completely. I practically leaped back into that boat.

So there you have it. Most animals I would likely respect in the wild by walking a wide berth around them. But certain ones will put me right into flight or fight mode. Either I am out of there or it is going to die.

Certain people freak me out too. To be honest, I'm more afraid of a particular type of human than any other creature on Earth. I was walking Teddy in the woods with a friend the other day when we came upon a guy who seemed to want to talk. My friend's dog growled low so the conversation was short. I love her dog. He brooks no idle chatter with certain strangers. He has RADAR.

So when my friend and I got back to our cars, she and her radar dog zipped off down the road and I sat for a few minutes in my car looking at the rocks I'd picked up by the river. Then silently, the same guy came back up the trail. Hair stirred at the back of my neck. Oh, he didn't try to get into my car exactly, just got a conversation going. I started my car just in case, but that man wanted something that wasn't only talk. He used talk to try to get it. Usually, I like a sort of chatty person.

Not this one. The whole time he talked, the hair on the back of my neck stood at attention. He was gifted at holding a person in place using her sense of courtesy. You know the kind of person I mean. Think salesmen or someone looking for a handout. You know how they try to keep you talking, keep the eye contact going? Only we were at a nearly vacant trailhead. And it was worse because at least with a homeless person, you know what they want. On about the third try, I got my 'I gotta go' to stick. I put my car into gear, and pulled out before he wandered off to his truck. I watched my rearview as I drove down the road.

I'm not sure what would have happened if I'd lingered, but I'm telling you that if that guy had been a spider, I would have ground him into the dirt with my boot. Kind of gives me the willies just thinking about it.

Thank you for listening, jules

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Battle Against Insomnia and Anxiety

I have things to complain about but I'm not going to write about them right now.

I'm going to write about insomnia and anxiety. I'm not entirely sure if my insomnia causes anxiety or if my anxiety causes insomnia. Actually, what I tell people is that I have insomnia and when I'm tired enough, it causes me anxiety. I won't break the silence about mental illness. I'm sorry. I know I should but insomnia is acceptable, even a favored difficulty. Having anxiety means I'm crazy. But what I'm sure about is that they move together.

Everything is wrong at 3:07 am when the cat comes downstairs and wakes me up to tell me that my husband is awake. See, I don't actually have an anxiety problem or an insomnia problem. I have a cat problem.

No, I'm not getting rid of the cat. Nor am I going to sleep through the lonely yowling that will ensue on the other side of my door if I close it, therefore I have an insomnia problem along with Mike though we've tried separate beds to try to help.

You see how problems multiply? In every adventure wherein the adventurer ends up dying, it is a series of small mistakes that lead to his ultimate death. I say his because Sheryl Strayed didn't die, though I'm not sure how she survived. Dumb luck? I've survived due to dumb luck myself. Someday, I'll tell you how I walked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back carrying only two Snickers bars and two cans of Dr. Pepper. Someday. Not today. Suffice it to say that I was an idiot and could easily have died if circumstances hadn't assisted me.

So, insomnia, anxiety, cat problems. Right. I was telling you about how all that worked.

Sorry. I didn't sleep last night. I'm not functioning on all three cylinders. That was a car joke. Did you get it?

So, I'm reading Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. It's a good book though I'd tell you I enjoyed An Ocean at the End of the Lane better so far. Just now, I looked up the pronunciation of Gaiman's name. In his own words, it's pronounced Gay-Man. So there I have it. In this country, that would have set him up with a problem in grade school, problems that would have magnified in middle school and settled into a deadening routine by high school. I don't know what the UK did with him. But it would have done no good to change the pronunciation. Once those problems attach, they don't come off easily.

Where was I?

Right, the trouble with insomnia. See, Gaiman's stories have given me an idea. My problems, when anxiety grabs hold of my throat at night, are large and impossible and I can never get up and do anything about them at 3:07am. No, it won't help to call the company that's supposed to be making spare neckerchiefs for our new Boy Scouts next week because they are closed and most of the people I'd have been trying to speak to are asleep. Or they're lying in their beds trying to settle their own problems and get them to let go of their throats too. Either way, I can't solve most of my problems at 3:07am. Vacuuming? Weeding? Forget it. It's 3:07 am. There's no sense letting everyone else know how crazy I am. It's bad enough that the cat wakes me any time Mike wakes up. See, I've got insomnia because Mike has insomnia and I'm a light sleeper, especially when the fifteen pound cat treads across my face and starts licking my hair.

I forgot what I was trying to say.

Okay. So, I had the idea that all of those terrible ideas are actually alive, the ones that make it so I can't take a deep breath at 3:07am, the ones that take away the purple swirl of sleep and put white dots on the backs of my eyelids so I have to finally open my eyes and turn on the reading lamp for a distraction.

These ideas are shifty creatures. They're large and terrible in the night. Every one of them, even the neckerchief problem, has tiny white teeth that hold me by the neck at 3:07 am and if I don't distract myself, they will make their way into my brain where they swirl around in circles all the while blocking my windpipe with their foot. You know, the kind of foot a clam has that lets it hold on or move to a more inviting place. My throat seems to be the most hospitable environment for the foot of my awful idea. There, its body can swirl around in the tide of my brain while it collects and feeds on tiny plankton ideas that are already there, innocent and beautiful tiny ideas. This makes the one that's fixed in my throat and swirling in my brain all the more powerful. Do you see how that happens? Have you had that guy clutching at your throat too?

For example, the Boy Scout neckerchiefs are never going to get done if I don't call the company and find out what they're doing. Never mind that they were supposed to call me. That they didn't call doesn't mean that the company is on track and everything is fine. It's not. I'm sure of it. And that idea swirls around until, in my mind at least, Mike is accusing me of never having loved him or supported his dreams from the beginning and he's walking out the door with my boy at which point I will drown in my own tears and die an ugly prolonged death by starvation, loneliness, and television. I know what it's like to drown in a television. All you have to do is whisper the theme song to 'The Brady Bunch' in my ear and I can remember nearly dying from that method when I was young. No, this one tick on a to-do list has grown into a monster thanks to the time it has spent lodged in my throat.

Never mind the other ideas that compete for space in my throat as well, the roof and the weeds in the yard and the finances and the mouse that has taken up residence in the wall by the kitchen. All of these are waiting for their chance to stop me from breathing normally and whisper of their dire existence into my ear at 3:07 am until it is daylight and the chance to sleep has expired. These ideas conspire together to make insomnia a misery. Otherwise, it would be a great time to finish reading my book in the relative silence of the house. No blaring music. No television. Yes, without these creatures, insomnia would be quite a joy. I might read a whole book and look forward to my nights of insomnia.

But I don't.

Then, when daylight comes around and I no longer have the opportunity to sleep, the neckerchief idea settles down and camouflages itself. I go all day without ever thinking about the neckerchief problem. It never occurs to me to call the company that's supposed to be making them until it's dark out and it's too late to call. They've closed at 5:07pm.

I actually think these anxieties have a slight poison that they secrete, like a date rape drug, so that during the day, I can't see them, I can't hear them, and I certainly am not going to remember to do anything about them. I'm exhausted, remember?

And then it becomes dark out and the anxiety can come alive to my brain to feed yet again.

I'm not sure there is a happy ending to this story. I haven't died yet. See, like viruses, the anxieties can't let me die because then they would die with me. Lethal viruses aren't as successful as annoying and persistent ones.

I think that Post-It notes are a weapon against insomnia and anxiety. I feel some relief from all the 3:07am pain when I write down what it was that I needed to do. I can attach them to my calendar and I have evidence in daylight that the awful problems exist and aren't quite so awful. And sometimes I don't get distracted by the fog of fatigue and I solve them. They usually aren't fatal after all.

Really, what will happen in my yard if I don't pull the weeds? What? I'll still have weeds in the morning and they haven't yet consumed my entire house before I reduce the problem for a while by pulling them back.

As for the neckerchiefs? Mike won't leave me if I don't get them done, though I do hate seeing  disappointment on his face when I mess up.

I'm not sure there is a solution to the problem of the cat though.

Thank you for listening, jules

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Defcon Elevated


Do you pay attention to the hair on the back of your neck?

I do.

There's an abandoned car by the road. We live in the middle of nowhere along a highway. The last couple of times there was a car by the road or near our house, we were robbed. So you can see why my hair goes up when a car is stopped near here.

Oh, people have gotten stuck in the ditch. People have run out of gas. One guy even got a flat in front of our house and did a 360 when he braked to get off the road. These people hang around for a bit. They knock on the door. They ask for help. They talk until the adrenaline wears off a bit and they go on their way. Most people who have stopped along our section of the highway are decent people with a bit of trouble.

The night we moved into this house twenty-five years ago, we heard a loud dull thud at about midnight. Then, the doorbell rang. That night, Mike and I took up our new roles. I answered the door and Mike stood at the bottom of the stairs, out of his sight, with a gun in his hands. The kid at our door was white as a sheet.

This was before most people had cell phones.

"Can I use your phone?" he panted.

"Um. Are you okay?" I said calmly. I held tightly to the door. I wasn't about to let a total stranger into my house without an explanation.

"I ran into a ditch. There was a dog. Maybe it was a coyote. I ran into the ditch. My car is ... I didn't want to hit him. I went off the road. Oh man, my dad is going to be so mad." He rambled. He started to sweat, but he began to breathe too, gasping for air as if he'd been held under water for too long. It's a little freaky when there's someone with very white skin at your door who doesn't appear to be breathing. Gasping was a good sign. Then I signaled Mike an okay and brought the poor boy inside and sat him on our couch with the phone. He called his dad and told the whole story again to him, breathing a little more evenly by the time he was done. The boy's dad showed up to get him. Nice people, really. They both thanked us profusely.

The next day, the police showed up and asked if we thought this kid had been drinking. I told him that he hadn't been. I hadn't smelled alcohol. I had liked this kid. I had believed he was telling the truth. I had already heard coyotes howling in the night.

There are a lot of decisions to make when you open your door to a stranger. Is it safe to open the door in the first place? Except for once, I have always opted to open my door when people rang the doorbell or knocked. That once, a woman banged on my door and screamed for someone to let her in. I silently looked at her from the upstairs window and was totally freaked when she suddenly stopped screaming, turned around, and looked straight into my eyes through the window. That time, I got 9 and 1 dialed on my phone, and just waited for her next move with my thumb over the last 1. I stared down at her. She stared up at me. Then, she slowly turned her head back to the door, turned around and walked away. I never knew what that woman wanted. I didn't want to know.

Another time, Nick and his friend said there were a couple of guys in a truck by the mailboxes. One of them came to the door, but I'd been in the shower and I hadn't been able to get to the door in time. I made the boys stay in the house and lock the door. I told them to look out the window at me and call 9-1-1 if they were worried about what was happening. Two guys were sitting in a truck. I pretended to get the mail. I screwed up my courage, walked in their direction, and yelled to them.

"Do you need any help?"

A tattooed guy rolled down the passenger side window. I'm not fond of the idea of a tattooed guy getting out of his truck near my house.

"We ran out of gas."

Right. That's a classic story. I didn't walk any closer to them. I peered into the windshield to see the driver. He was fiddling with his cell phone. He rolled down his window and leaned his head out.

"Somebody from the office is going to come with gas. They might take a while, but they can come."

It's in a person's tone. I listen for any tightness of tone. I look at how their eyes meet mine, or don't. I want to hear them talk. Are they cautious? I want to see how they breathe. Even in an emergency, people breathe differently than they do when they're up to something. I don't want to see any shifting or calculations. This guy had an open face. He was frustrated, but not dangerous looking.

"I can get you some gas but it's up at my garage." I actually turned my back on these two to walk back to my garage to get the tank for the mower. They got out and followed me. I wished I had some excuse to make them walk ahead of me. Thankfully, they didn't follow me into the narrow place where I unlock the door to the garage. I hoped they wouldn't look too closely at the expensive tools in the garage.

"Do you want me to leave my license with you?" the driver said. They stood back from the garage door as it opened. Oh these guys are okay.

"Naw. There isn't much gas in here, enough to get you down the road. Bring back the can or don't. It doesn't matter that much. This thing is old and beat up and my husband could use a new one." I tried not to emphasize the 'down the road' part of my message. They might be decent guys, but my motivation was to get them moving along.

Those guys filled the tank at the gas station and brought it back to a spot next to the garage door. I didn't even hear them come. I actually like when I can help people who are stuck.

What I don't like is when I smell that someone has been in my yard. Yes, I said smell.

Have you ever stood too close to a homeless person and smelled a sick, chemical smell?

That's what I smelled today when I went out to the car to take Teddy for a walk, a sick, sweaty, chemical smell. I got into the car and sat there for a moment. The hairs on the back of my neck rose. That smell was not a part of the normal flora and fauna of the area. The air in my driveway usually smells like balsam. Occasionally, when the landscaping company down the road gets delivery, the smell of manure floats around for a day or two. This was not manure. I grew up in the Midwest. I know the smell of manure.

Finally, I got back out of my car and let Teddy out too. It's good to have a big dog loose near you sometimes.

"I SMELL YOU!" I yelled toward the abandoned car. I amped it up a bit, but I was careful not to go too far into a threatening tone. "I SMELL YOU AND I KNOW YOU'RE THERE. IT'S TIME FOR YOU TO MOVE ALONG," I yelled trying to sound authoritative but not quite ready to scream into the air that I would kill it.

I heard some dull thuds, as if someone fell against a wall. I turned toward the sound


I tried to look calm and serious as I turned and opened the door for Teddy and got back into my car. I sat for a moment before I put on my seat belt. Teddy hadn't left my side. He hadn't danced around or picked up a stick or wandered around sniffing anything. The hair was still up on the back of my neck.

I backed my car up and aimed down the driveway. I didn't see anything. If I left, would someone see that as an opportunity to break into my house?

I pulled out onto the highway and fumbled with my headset. Mike. Mike would know what to do, if I should go back, if I should call the police. I left a long message for him and nearly arrived at the park to meet my friend when Mike called back.

We decided that I should go back home, check out the abandoned car, and call the police. I quickly called and canceled the walk with my friend. When I got home, I put Teddy on leash and walked with him  to the road to look into the abandoned car. It was full of junk, had a flat tire, and I noticed a small generator like the one we owned on top of all the junk. It was work to keep Teddy on the ditch side of me while I walked and looked. I didn't smell anything.

I walked back past the mail boxes and looked into all the buildings on the lower part of the neighbor's property, the pump house, the tank house for our community well. I clicked on lights and looked for anything that might be disturbed. Our neighbors were neat people. The buildings were well organized inside. Their shed was locked and looked secure. Then I walked back to our property. Our shed was locked tight. I popped the clicker to the garage door. It looked the way it should. Teddy walked with me casually. The hair on the back of my neck was comfortable and flat. I even walked down to the old dog run that we've never used for Teddy and leaned over to see into the old dog house. Nothing. I didn't notice any footprints around this area. I looked all the way around our house and still saw nothing.

When I went inside our house, I looked in every room. Nothing. I rehearsed what I was going to say to the police. I was not going to tell them I smelled a man who was probably on drugs. Maybe I should have, but it just sounded too crazy.

'I'm sorry to bother you, but I smelled someone at my house today.' I could imagine the look on the face the dispatch officer after saying that. I told her the license plate number, the make and model of the car. I told her that the last two times a car had been left here, we'd been robbed. It was true. I told her that I was just not feeling right about the situation, that I didn't feel safe. And then I got off the phone.

Then I stewed and stalked back and forth looking out the front window. The damned car was still there. Mike texted me, saying I should have told them I smelled a dead body, that they'd be out in a flash if I said that. I texted him to say that the smell was gone. I was beginning to imagine there was nothing to worry about.

I stewed a little longer, made myself some lunch, and looked out the window while I noodled around on the computer. When it was time for the bus, I donned my rain coat and went outside to wait. Not even a fifteen year old would get off the bus by himself today.

Everything looked fine. Nothing was disturbed. The well house was still empty. When the kids got off the bus, the neighbor kid said he'd seen the truck stop by the side of the road and turn off his lights. He'd said the driver got out of the truck and ducked down out of sight. The neighbor kids was kind of freaked out and nodded his head when I said I'd smelled a person in my driveway. I told him that if he were uncomfortable, he could call and we could be there in two minutes. I said he could hang out with us if he wanted. Then, I sent Nick up to his house with him to do a walk through before leaving the boy at home alone.

When Nick came back down the driveway, he grinned and gave me the thumbs up. I was glad I'd sent the two of them on their own. Walking back to the house, Nick told me how he'd protect us. Karate, marksmanship. I think he would.

Then, on the uphill side of our driveway, much too far from the highway to have been tossed, we found an empty water bottle and a single fresh footprint in the dirt.

Defcon elevated. Patrols required. I'll let you know if I start carrying my gun.

Thank you for listening, jules