Friday, December 30, 2011

Simple Pleasures

Sometimes, the best things aren't the big expensive things. This afternoon, we took a walk along a trail that was new to us, at the High Point exit off I-90 on the North side, opposite where I usually go.  It's a wide trail that runs parallel with the interstate, so it isn't exactly quiet. A the stream also runs parallel with the path and that camouflages the sound just a bit.  My mind kept interpreting the white noise as water running until I moved away from the stream a bit.  Years ago, a landscape architect bidding on some work at our house told me that a small fountain in the front yard would be all I needed to cover the highway noise.  I didn't tell him that sometimes I like that sound, that I listen for the Doppler effect, that I wonder where the people in that car are going.  So I didn't exactly mind the noise from the interstate. 

There were sword ferns everywhere on either side of this trail.  It was drippy and green.  Trees along the stream had interesting roots, as if nurse logs had rotted out from under them and they'd had to learn to stand up on their own.  It made for interesting nooks and crannies, so I asked Mike if there were any geocaches here.  There were, he said.  I have a free geocache app for my iPhone, but I let Mike do the tracking.  I just like exploring off the trail. 

Teddy loved it too.  At one point, I poked a stick between two rocks and there was a small gap.  "Get it, Teddy," I said and he stuck his head in.  Cool!  Then he disappeared completely.  Not so cool.

"Come here, Teddy!" I said, alarmed.

"I see him," Mike said.  "He's on this side.  Teddy had crawled all the way through the small gap between the stones.  He went under roots, around brush.  He seemed to like the hunt though he didn't quite know what we were hunting for.  Nothing, really.  There was a geocache tracking tag in the box and some other small toys when Mike finally found it.  Nick didn't want anything.  I almost took the tracking tag, but figured we weren't going anywhere far away for a while and didn't want the thing to get hung up.  If I had a geocache tag, it would be fun to see where it went, the further the better. 

Nick fought with sword ferns, threw sticks for the dog, and disappeared in the brush wearing his digital camo jacket.  That boy has an imagination and I like that our walks are feeding it. 

After our walk, we were all hungry, so we dreamed up our menu for New Years eve (nachos, pizza rolls, and mozzarella sticks) and headed over to iSushi in Issaquah.  iSushi isn't cheap when you're eating with a growing boy, but I think my salad plates were more expensive than his egg rolls and pot stickers.  I love watching the plates of food slide past on the little conveyor belt, trying new things, and watching the Mexican cooks roll sushi.  We got to laughing about the same pudding that kept coming around and for some reason never stopped wobbling on the plate.  And Nick complained because the fruit plate I picked had a pink umbrella instead of the yellow one.  I had to ask more than once what I was eating.  Turns out that I really like black cod.  I liked salmon wrapped around some crab salad with roe.  I liked the spicy California rolls that were deep fried in tempura batter.  I liked the Ahi salad with roasted garlic, cucumber, and mustard greens.  This one was very similar to what I ate at the Space Needle but I liked how the flavors combined a whole lot better today at iSushi.  And I ordered yellow tail sashimi, my favorite.  My only problem was that I didn't put enough wasabi in my soy sauce, so I never got that satisfying clean burn.  Ah well, there's always next time.

Since we couldn't find a babysitter, we decided to invite Adrian over for a sleepover and make a party here for New Year's eve.  We're going to have a fire in our fire pit, then come in, munch on junk food, and play games until it's time to pop the cork.  Well, okay, we're having Martinelli's sparkling apple cider.  Plus, we still have some fire works left over from the Fourth of July, so we're going to pop them off as well.  Now that's my kind of New Year's eve party. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Through the Eye of the Needle

Even though he's a native of Washington state, Adrian had never been up to the observation deck of the Space Needle.  We had intended to go over the summer, but time got away from us and here it is just two days before the end of the year. 

This afternoon, we made up for that omission, and then some, by eating at the revolving restaurant as well.  The Space Needle, originally sketched by Edward E. Wilson on a coffee house place mat, was refined by architect, John Graham.  The first design was of a tethered balloon, but Graham altered it to be a flying saucer on a pedestal.  Built in 1962, it opened just in time for the World's Fair. The foundation of the Space Needle weighs nearly as much as the rest of it so that the center of gravity rests just above the ground.  That is so cool.  It's kind of like a Weeble.  They wobble, but they don't fall down.

We managed to squeeze into the elevator with eleven other people and I pushed Adrian up to the front so that when we cleared the walls, he took a deep breath in as everything seemed to fall away from us.  I didn't mind the few minutes it took them to seat us once we made it to the top.  I've been to the Space Needle restaurant at least a half a dozen times, but I still love standing with one foot on in the center waiting area and another on the revolving part.  The movement is slow but persistent and is powered by a single horsepower motor.  The first time we went, I absentmindedly put my purse down between the wall and my chair and it rotated around a bit with the outside wall before I realized what had happened. It never occurred to me that the floor might move, but the walls were still.  It truly is an elegant design.

These days, kids and some adults put questions on notes on the railing on the outside wall and as it goes around, people pick up the notes and write answers to the questions.  Nick asked 'What is your name?'  Adrian asked 'What is your favorite color?'  Mike didn't ask a question because he was worried about bothering the other patrons.  We didn't have an outside seat and the boys needed to go between some chairs to put their notes on the rail.  I asked 'Where are you from?'  When we approached a space between two tables, the people there encouraged us to prop up our notes. 

Lunch itself was pretty ordinary for the boys, who ordered hamburgers and french fries.  I got a rare Ahi salad for $27 but most of the entrees were about the same price except what was on the kids menu.  You don't eat at the Space Needle to cut costs.  Even though it was a drizzly day, the views were wonderful, snow in the Olympics, ferries going in and out of Elliot Bay, and gasworks park.  At one point, we looked East and wondered if we could be looking at Mt. Si from where we were. 

Near the end of the meal, we came around to our starting spot and we looked for our notes.  No notes.  Then, a family came in and sat down by the railing, kids from Nick and Adrian's school!  Just then, two of our notes came back.  Nick's friend signed them and gave them back to us.  Then as the check came, the straggling note came back, Adrian's question, with important answers: purple, purple, purple, red, blue, aqua, and green. 

Maybe I should have asked 'What is the meaning of life?'  Who knows what kind of answers I might have received?

Thank you for listening, jb


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mission Accomplished

I'm starting to need to get outside for a walk every day.  Yesterday, I had a hissy fit in the afternoon and I argued with Mike and Nick to go with me.  I really wanted to go do this as a family, I told them.  It took a while, but once we got outside and walking, even in the drizzly weather, I felt fine.  We walked along the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and took a mountain bike trail up one side.  Unfortunately for me, Teddy pooped as soon as we got there and I had to carry that darn plastic bag of it the whole way up the hill and back down again. 

Man, it was a steep trail, full of ramps and skid marks.  I sort of pictured myself sliding out of control, catching that bag of poo on a root, getting it all over me while grappling to catch myself, and having to do the best I could to clean up along the trail using wet leaves and sticks. Ugh!

About half-way up, we found an abandoned car.  There was talk of skeletons and how it might have found its way there.  No skeletons, thankfully, and no obvious way to get a car half-way down a ridge like this. Creepy. We played a game where Nick was a well-armed scout, Mike was a gunnery sergeant, and I was a medic with few means of protection.  There were snipers camouflaged in the brush and enemies trying to ambush us, but the guys battled courageously.

Because we started so late, we hadn't even gotten to the top of the ridge before we had to turn around as daylight faded. Meanwhile, Teddy ran back and forth like an airplane practicing touch and go.  You could really see his Aussie herding instincts kick in.  He never got more than forty feet away from us and managed to go up and down any section of trail three times in the time we traversed it once.  Going down, Nick got into the habit of waiting for me so I could balance on his shoulder at the rocks and ramps.  I liked that.  It made me feel a little old, but it also made Nick feel strong and helpful.

One time I leaned on him too hard and he told me that I had him in a Vulcan grip like what they taught him at karate.  I mentioned the cultural effects of Star Trek.  Then, Nick and I argued over whether the term 'Vulcan grip' originated with the ancient karate masters or, as in my opinion, from a 1960s television show that Nick isn't all that fond of.  Mike, even though he's not old enough to remember the original shows the way I am, finally convinced Nick that 'Vulcan' may have been the name of a planet, but wasn't connected to the ancient ways of karate masters.

By the time we got back to our car, our Goretex was limp and barely dry on the inside and it was almost completely dark, but we were mostly happy.  A stop for dinner at the Raging River Cafe with a hot cup of mint tea  and we were good for the night, though I have to admit that I'm sad they took the chop-chop salad off of their menu.

Today, I asked Nick if he wanted to go walking with me again.  No hissy fit this time, thank you.  He said he'd go if he got to choose the trail.  Oh man.  He wanted to go back up that steep, slippery trail.  Well, whatever gets him out and about.  It's all exercise, right? 

Mike had to go rent some skis for the season, so he dropped us off at the trail head.  This time, Nick's mission was one of stealth.  There were eight wounded men inside enemy lines and it was his job to escort me, the medic, to help bind them up and get them out safely.  Because I didn't have my well-armed gunnery sergeant, I decided that I had more weapons this time.  I guess that's a state of mind.  When Mike's with us, I don't need to even pretend that I'm well-armed.  Since we'd seen some mountain bikes take off down the main trail, I expected to find them heading down toward us at crazy speeds after they'd looped around.  I really didn't want to be on the downhill side of three guys coming over one of those ramps.  Stealth helped, because we could hear just a little better.  We weren't all that quiet either, so I'm sure they could have heard us moving along if they were listening.  We kept our eyes on the up-hill slope, listened for their sounds, and prepared to leap for the brush dragging the dog aside with us. 

When Teddy did his business, I cached the bag of poo because I knew we'd have to pass it on the way back down.  Then I found Mike's walking stick from the day before, and kept my eyes peeled for those bikers.  I really was a little better armed than I had been the day before.  We didn't see a soul. We had gone a bit further up the trail than yesterday, to a particularly challenging ramp before Mike texted me to say he was on his way back.  I would have liked to see what was around that next bend in the trail.  We just had to be near the top of the ridge.

On the way down, Nick helped me at the ramps again, but it seemed a little easier than the night before.  At dusk, it's a challenge for me to have good depth perception and I'm one of those people who can hurt myself if I take a step and it's deeper than I expected.  Teddy was just as excited as before.  He kept picking up sticks and whacking us behind the knees as he buzzed past.  Good thing he's only 26 pounds and still using his puppy teeth.  The abandoned car wasn't nearly as creepy in full daylight as it had been near dark. 

Mike was waiting for us in the car when we got back to the bottom.  Yes, I did remember to pick up Teddy's little gift bag. And we headed home.  I could feel the endorphins working through my system and it helped to make some old-fashioned hot chocolate with real whipped cream after we hung up our wet clothes.  Yes, I did make the hot chocolate with Splenda, so it didn't mess with my exercise-induced euphoria. 

Here's to a year full of walks, successful missions with Nick, and endorphins.

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, December 26, 2011

Recovering from Christmas Eve

Ho! Ho!

Christmas is almost over. Today, we had a sweet and quiet celebration at home.

Yesterday, however, we had tried to go for a walk and our sweet Teddy got bitten by a German Shepherd. His ear was torn through in a couple of places. Oh, I have to tell you it was awful hearing him shriek and believing, even for a moment, that I was listening to my dog being killed. There was blood everywhere. After we got him home and cleaned up, we were still pretty shaken up.

Can you believe I had to pull it together to go to church and sing 'Oh Holy Night?' I did it too. I figured it couldn't be any harder than singing 'Amazing Grace' at my grandma's funeral. It wasn't.

I sang from the balcony. The nice thing about that was that I could sit up there alone for the service and cry without anyone seeing me. I sang well enough, but I started too low and ended up singing in the tenor registers instead of my usual soprano. Ah well, there's always next year. It helped to go, even though it was a really tough transition.

When I got home, Mike and Nick were snuggled up on the couch with Teddy who looked thoroughly relaxed, despite the cone on his head and his bloody ear. Today, we were calling him 'Teddy the Destroyer' because of the way he snowplowed through the living room using that cone. It looked like he was actually enjoying using it to tease the cats.

Still, Teddy showed some anxiety at the end of the day, howling when we left him alone for just a little while. He also did this yelping, biting thing on his back when I tried to get him to go somewhere he didn't want to go. Oh man, I don't want to coddle that into a habit. It was hard to shoot him with the water bottle today, but we had to a couple of times. I was reluctant for him to meet any dogs on a trail today, so the lack of exercise didn't help.

Tomorrow will be a good day for a nice long walk. Did I tell you that I just love the day after Christmas?

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, December 23, 2011

Getting Christmas

It's almost Christmas eve.  Today, after what seemed long delays for one silly thing or the other, we finally took the boys out for some fun.  I had had a difficult morning, still grappling with the idea that someone has stolen so many of my words along with my computer and broken so much trust along with my car window. 

By the time we got our act together, it was too late to get reservations for lunch at the Space Needle.  Adrian has never eaten there or experienced the joys of leaving notes on the railing where they ease away from you and come around from the other direction about 45 minutes later with answers scrawled on them by various other customers.  We'll go there next week, maybe with his family, and then we can take our time.  The boys also wanted to go swimming, but Adrian couldn't find his swim suit in the mess he calls his bedroom.  We ended up going to one of those rare parks with a nice trail and a short zip line on the playground.  Mike can still swing the boys back to get their speed going and the boys screamed with joy.  They were having so much fun, a line of children formed.  I could see that one boy wanted that speed and with every turn, he got a running start from further back than before.  While the guys were playing, I took out my iPhone and found out that there's a big zip line on Camano Island.  I wonder if we could go there next week too!  Oh man, I so want to do that for Christmas!

Later, Nick said he wanted to take a walk and the guys turned it into a mission.  Mike has these boyish ways to make schlepping around more fun.  This time, Mike was the President while I played a very dopey First Lady who seemed to be more interested in clothes than safety.  Nick and Adrian were a SWAT team deployed to get the President to safety.  In the end, I played a double-agent and seized the President and managed him so that I could control his brain, thus controlling the world.  By then, my Christmas spirit had almost returned to near previous levels.  When we dropped Nick off at karate and headed over to the Tree Top Toys to look for stocking stuffers, I was hooked and whistling carols as we shopped. 

We found a toy that lights up and whistles when your body completes the circuit.  We got those paper and plastic lenses that make the Christmas lights say 'Noel' when you look through them.  We bought a pair of foam swords.  Big stocking stuffer!  They really do have more interesting things than your usual department store.  Plus, they wrapped stuff for us. 

Tomorrow, I'm going to be with my best friend for our traditional coffee or rollerblading, depending on how we feel.  Then later, I sing 'Oh Holy Night' at church.  I don't get as nervous as I used to.  This time, I want to sing from the balcony so that the music wafts down over people's heads.  I've been practicing, but I never seem to relax enough to noodle around during the real things like I do when I'm at home.  Maybe singing at home is the real thing.  We really have needed some Christmas spirit around here, so I know that listening to Mike's warm voice humming carols helps.  I like to think I add to that when I sing too.

Playing in the fresh air helps, the music helps, the company I'm with helps.  Peace and joy just may have a chance to return in time this year.  Have a lovely Christmas!

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, December 22, 2011


All day I've been out of sorts.

They fixed my car window, but forgot to turn off the dome light while they were working, so I was left with a dead battery. The smell of the cleaner they used reminds me of the rental car we got after someone had vomited in it and then they quickly 'cleaned' it and buried the smell under 'air freshener.'

Earlier, I was on my cell phone as the house phone was ringing and the FedEx guy was trying to deliver a package, not the one for which I'd left the note on the door two days ago. The guy who delivered today walked away saying that our other package would be delivered by someone else later today. Really? No package.

I kept reaching for my backpack when I went anywhere. The backpack Mike gave me to use didn't have any of my usual stuff in it.

I got gifts for the cats' and dog's stockings and while i wasn't looking, one of the cats tore open the bag and took some toys out and chewed them. They also chewed up the wheat grass.

My sister broke the rules they had made and sent me a present. I'd been trying to figure out how to break those same rules, but I hadn't sent anything to my sister yet. My mother sent me a check for about the same amount I spent on her flowers. It all feels awful. I just wanted my mother to have flowers in the winter and a nice picture of Nick. I wanted to send my sister something, anything, but the only thing I could think of were those donations of bunnies and chicks for a family in Africa. I like those things, but it was too late to get the word out to my sister by Christmas.

One of my dog-walking buddies wanted to walk at 8 am in the morning. I just wanted to sleep in a little and spend the rest of the day with my family. I felt like a bum saying no. I realize I need to put something together for her and her husband for Christmas.

I'm not sure this Christmas season will recover in time for me. I'm working hard to get it there. I'm supposed to sing 'Oh Holy Night' on Christmas eve at my little church. I don't know if I can really feel it this year. I don't like faking that kind of thing. I've got a lot of work to do to pull it all together in just two days.

I'm still stunned by the theft of my stuff. Evil takes so much energy to manage.

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


I'm sitting at my desk where my computer used to be, typing this on my iPhone. I have had a bad day.

Nick, Adrian, Teddy, and I were walking at the park while someone smashed my car window and took my backpack.

It was the first day I had ever put my laptop into my backpack. I had intended to do some work later while the boys were jumping at Sky High.

We ended up getting to Sky High an hour and a half late after reporting the theft to the police and tracking down the serial number to my computer. These people were so nice! Even our Groupon tickets had been stolen and the Sky High staff still let the boys jump for their two hours! I have to admit that their kindness made me cry.

As I waited for the boys, I made out a list of what I had lost, about $400 worth of other stuff. Thankfully, I'd been carrying my summer wallet and my check book in my pocket when we were out on the trail.

Here's the real problem. I feel the most upset about the things I lost that have little or no monetary value at all. It all reminded me of a short story I read years ago called 'The Things They Carried' about what soldiers carried with them.

I carried my favorite picture of my grandma holding a book in her hands. Next to her, I had one of my old dog, Indiana, laughing into the camera. I'll miss the succession of school photos of Nick that showed him growing up. Next to him, I had a twenty year old picture of Mike. People said he looked so young in the photo, but I always saw the same man as the one I know now. I had jammed the fortune from a cookie into it that said 'Happiness isn't perfect until it is shared.' Those pictures were in my main wallet.

Over the summer, I bought a tiny wallet that I could carry in a pocket for walks or time on the beach. It had just enough room for my ID and credit cards. Just yesterday, I had considered putting it all back into my main wallet and retiring the summer wallet until next year. I'm glad I waited. I will miss those pictures though.

My backpack also held the Swiss army knife that Nick gave me for Mother's Day. He got me a glow in the dark one, he had said, so I could find it in the dark if I dropped it.

I lost my favorite scarf, a tan and orange wool one that Mike's mom had bought for him before she died. She would have liked how many times Nick ended up wearing it when he hadn't dressed warmly enough for the weather.

I lost a notebook that I was half done writing. Nick had drawn some pictures for me in it. Worse yet, I'm mortified to think of this person reading what I wrote just as I woke up in this morning. Mike, in all earnestness, said it would probably end up in a garbage can somewhere instead and that was some small relief.

Okay, it was just stuff. No one was hurt. We had backed up our computer not too long ago. We can change passwords. I keep trying to tell myself it could have been so much worse.

There's one more thing, though. That thief stole my Christmas spirit.

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Lull in the Christmas Storm

I'm either almost done getting ready for Christmas or I'm in the eye of the hurricane. It's strangely quiet here.  I think maybe this lull is going to be short, but right now, I'm sitting here after a long walk with Teddy and his best dog friend, Max.  He's still dirty, but he's asleep on the couch.  In front of me, I have a bowl of tomato soup which I doctored with a bit of cream and bits of Dubliner cheese.  When I stirred in the cream, it made a heart shape in the center and the Dubliner cheese gives an occasional mellow tang to the sweet acidity of the tomato. 

I'm listening to my favorite Christmas CD, ' A Charlie Brown Christmas' by the Vince Guaraldi Trio.  It's mellow and jazzy with just enough melancholy to take the edge off all that manic Christmas music I've been hearing since the day after Halloween. 

I know I should tell you about how, on Sunday afternoon, Mike asked me to make small pies for thirteen of his favorite employees and how I managed to shop for it, make a quadruple recipe of pie dough, and work until 12:30am getting them baked and wrapped in pretty cloth and ribbon.  I should also tell you how, at 9:07pm that night, Nick came up with four more teachers he needed to give Tully's gift cards to, and how there was one more at 7:34am that he remembered the next morning.  Yesterday, after stopping at the grocery store for the second time in a disorganized, sleep-deprived haze, I found that I had put my socks in my pocket and never managed put them on.  No wonder I was cold.  I met up with Nick at school at lunch time, gave him the last of the cards to sign, and asked him if he wanted me to drop them off in the teacher's mailboxes.  

"No Mom," he said leafing through the cards.  "I just want to give out these four myself." 

"Okay, but if you get in a hurry, just drop them off in the school office," I said.  When I pulled out Nick's lunch bag from his backpack after he got home from school, those four cards came tumbling out.  Oh man.  So I shouldn't tell you about all of that. 

I worked hard to put together a package and deliver it to Mike's office by 11:00am so he could mail it for me.  He likes taking advantage of the corporate discount.  This didn't get delivered either, and instead came home with Mike to be sent tomorrow.  To his credit, Mike said that since he had to send it second-day anyway, he might as well send it second-day tomorrow and it would still get there before Christmas.  Right.  So why was I running around in a rush with my socks in my pocket?

Somehow, I managed to get most of my errands run, take a short nap for sanity, and make an apple pie for Mike because yesterday was his birthday.  Later, when we were at dinner, I was almost too tired to enjoy myself.  That's what I don't like about his birthday being so close to Christmas.  We don't get to linger over him.  There's all this Christmas stuff to manage before and after. 

Today, I still had to stop by at school with two more gifts for my reading buddies that I'd almost forgotten, yet I'm more relaxed.  I still have gifts to buy, gifts to make, a quiet Christmas dinner to plan, but it all seems just a little easier. 

To be honest with you, I get a overwhelmed by the frenzy with which we celebrate Christmas It lasts so long and there is such an obligation to give something to every single person that we know.  My little secret is that I look forward to Boxing Day.  I believe it originated in England, a rebellion for folks who worked hard to make Christmas for other people and wanted a holiday of their own.  I can get with that.  My Canadian friends say it's a big shopping day, but for me it's a great day to stay at home and relax.  I'm free from shopping, running errands, or making calls. 

If I go anywhere on Boxing Day, most likely, I'll remember to put my socks on my feet instead of jamming them into my pockets and running out my front door. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, December 16, 2011

Joyful Noise

Call me crazy, but I love the sound of three boys running through my house, screaming their heads off.  Some people hate that.  As I hang out in my kitchen, I can tell exactly what they're doing and where they are.  I know if they're having fun or getting bored.  I can even tell when they're starting to get hungry.  I only worry when they start to get quiet.  When the kids start whispering, I start wondering if they're up to something they shouldn't be doing.

Today, Nick and Adrian had another friend, Jack, come over.  It was great because they were so excited, it was as if we were having a real party.  So, I put out cookies that Mike's sister sent from Pennsylvania.  People, do not send cookies across the country!  You can't imagine what they look like when they arrive.  Crumbles.  Still, ten year old boys don't care if they're eating crumbles. 

Yes, I even allowed them to have those tiny ice creams that Haagen Dazs makes, the single servings.  One of those things looks like a mini-me of a pint of ice cream. It's so cute!   Did I put out anything healthy?  Not this time.  It felt like a party, so I let it be a party. 

After a wicked Nerf war, we went around picking up bullets so the cat wouldn't get a chance to leave some of them in the litter box for us.  The battle was kids against adults, since Mike came home from work just as we were gearing up.  Mike and I took the stairs and charged up.  I shot everyone at least once, got wounded trying to gather ammo in the field, but in the end, the kids won anyway.  The kids always seem to win. 

Now, they're playing video games.  This is gaming at it's best, two people playing and the rest of them, Mike included yelling out helpful and sometimes not so helpful instructions.  Nick sat and poked Jack with the straw end of his Harry Potter broom for a bit so when it was Nick's turn to play, Jack returned the favor, just a little, so he could see what it felt like.  I like that, for the most part, they monitor themselves and I don't have to step in to make them stop the way I used to when they were in kindergarten.  These are good boys. 

I never did get Jack to eat anything healthy.  I hope his mom wasn't depending on him having dinner with two servings of vegetables or anything.  Cookies and ice cream.  The chicken fricassee isn't quite done and I have to stop over at the market and pick up some frozen peas since I dug through both freezers and couldn't find any.

Here's a couple of lines I heard the boys yell:

"Ran into a rock! I'm done."

"There's blue blood on Uranus."  They're playing against the Navi on the Avatar game.  Does that explain any of that?  Well, they are ten year old boys, after all.

"Dude, we have this place in the bag right now.  Don't tell me I suck.  I'm the Commander!  Woo hoo!" 

I hate to put an end to this, but I don't want Jack to get into trouble for being late.  Let the party evacuate to the car so we can drive Jack home and take Adrian to meet his mom for the hand off.  Adrian is going out for dinner. 

Tomorrow, they slumber party.  Boys call it a sleep-over, but it's the same thing, playing hard, talking a lot, eating junk, and staying up late.  It'll just be Nick and Adrian this time, but the Nerf battle will rage, sugar will be eaten, and kids and the man will yell at video game designers.  I'll be the one who has to go into their room near midnight and tell them nine times to be quiet and go to sleep.  They might not, but their noise will be sweet, nevertheless.

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, December 15, 2011

In Between Books

I'm tired.  I don't want to write about how much my old bones hurt after I walked with Teddy today.  I don't want to tell you about how mean boys can be at this age, except to say that Nick is making me proud by sticking by his friend Adrian when Adrian wasn't invited to a big birthday party.  I don't want to tell you about how our little family had a talk about whether it's fair for Teddy that we don't have quite enough time for him.  All of these are the important stories that I should tell you.  All I have is fluff.

Instead, I'm telling you about how I'm busy trying to do the last of my Christmas shopping and it's harder than usual because my extended family has decided for the first time not to exchange gifts.  Oh man.  A few years ago, it was my idea.  Now, I'm the one who doesn't like it.  I had the alternate idea of making gifts, but I'm already not doing so much around here, so even that hasn't gotten done.  The irony is that this whole thing is harder than buying the presents for everyone was.  Go figure.

I'm trying to get all the little gifts together for school, for the teachers, the bus driver, the mailman, FedEx, and UPS folks. Yet, I don't even know what to get for my best friend!  How lame is that? 

So, I'm going to bed early and the only way I can do that is if quit now and take my book to bed.  Even that is a story.  See, I finished a book on tape that I liked this afternoon, 'Nanny Returns' by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus.  It was fluff reading, but it was fun fluff reading.  There's something that happens to me when I finish a fun book and don't have the next one lined up - I end up feeling kind of deflated.  Isn't that ridiculous? 

So, what book should I start now?

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I'm Doing It Wrong

Why is it that when you have either a puppy or a baby, people feel compelled to tell you what you're doing wrong?  I am aware that I'm making mistakes with my puppy.  I know it.  I'm sure a good trainer could tell me that right away.  In fact, when I took the puppy training class last Saturday, they were very nice about helping me with my training issues.  Even at Petco, they're working hard to help me without being judgemental, like how to keep my dog safe in my car and how to keep my car safe from my dog. They showed me how to use a Gentle Leader harness when I told them that my hands were sore from walking and trying to teach Teddy not to pull on his leash.   

Tonight, as I tried to walk Teddy with his new Gentle Leader, a man, a total stranger, came up to me and said, "He doesn't like how you have tied up his nose."  No kidding.  So that means that, despite the fact that it's the first time I felt like I wasn't being pulled in the Iditarod, I'm supposed to take this small loop off of my dog's nose because some random guy thinks I'm being cruel. 

Other people on the sidewalk steered clear of us.  "It must be a mean dog," one of them said, looking at me accusingly.  I wasn't sure if he meant that I was a mean owner or that I shouldn't bring a dog like that into the public.  The Gentle Leader is a single narrow strap the goes over a dog's nose and causes his head to be pulled down whenever he pulls on the leash.  It's really very effective, stopping Teddy from being a powerful bucking bronco as he did his dance to try to escape the loop.  Unfortunately for those frightened people, the Gentle Leader doesn't restrict a dog from opening his mouth at all.  The way Teddy was writhing, I'm surprised someone didn't call Animal Control with a report of a rabid dog in the neighborhood.  Poor boy had suffered his new seat belt harness plus the Gentle Leader all in the same night.  He was getting a lot of new input and I thought he handled it pretty well.

Another guy told me he wanted Teddy to jump up on him.  "He's so cute," he said  "It's fine if he jumps." 

"It won't be quite so cute when he's sixty pounds and jumping on a kid who's only forty," I said.  The man kept pulling Teddy's paws up on his leg as I struggled to keep his paws on the ground.  The woman with him looked at me with something akin to disgust, grabbed the man's elbow, and pulled him away.  What did I do?  Oh right, I ruined that poor man's puppy experience.  Well, I'm sorry if I'm required to teach my dog bad habits in order for him to have that boyhood moment he missed with Benji when he was twelve.  Okay, now I'm being downright crabby.  I want Teddy to be able to walk in public, but I get tired of the public's opinions of what I'm doing with him. 

Earlier today, I was dropping off a student after reading time at school.  I ended up standing in front of a woman I should know better than to start talking with at all.  I had already encountered her opinions.  When she asked me how I was, I was driven by some stupid impulse to entertain her with my puppy foibles.  So I started in, telling her about the things that Teddy has chewed and how he's getting into trouble.  She wasn't satisfied with my comedy routine, interrupted me with a hand in the air, and said, "Is he getting enough exercise?"  I nodded, tried to go on with the job of making her laugh when she said, a little bit louder, "Does he have anything he can chew?"  Oh my God, the woman thinks I'm a moron.  She went on for a bit, but I ended the conversation, knowing that nothing I said would make a difference or make her laugh.  The only thing I came away with from that conversation was, 'You're doing it wrong.' 

Yup!  I'm doing it wrong.  I admit it.  I am not perfect.  It's just like that time, way back when Nickie was three months old, when a total stranger in the grocery store came up to me, ignoring the sweat pouring from his brow and said with a whithering look to me,
"That poor boy needs some shoes!"

I wish I'd been able to do a little tap-dance routine and say, "What? So he can do this?"  I'm sure if I'd put shoes on him, another woman would have rushed over to exclaim that the poor baby was overdressed and I was going to stifle him.  Fortunately for me, strangers stop giving so much unsolicited advice by the time your baby is as tall as your nose and has hair down to his shoulder blades. 

It's a fact, I can't please people.  It doesn't matter what I choose to do, I'll be doing it wrong.  Didn't Aesop write a fable about that? 

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Getting Out of the House

Today was another one of those days for which I'd like to have a rewind setting.  It was mostly good, for a bit, in the early morning.  That is, it was good after I managed to figure out how to get Teddy to stop his incessant whining. Oh my God.  Just put me out of my misery now, please.  A single shot through my forehead would do.  Squirting him with the water bottle only made him whine more.  Closing him into a small space with his portable fencing and throwing a blanket over it worked.  Thank you, sweet puppy trainer from heaven.

Then, I was free to order the last of my Christmas presents online.  I hope I managed to foil any keystroke virus on my computer by entering all the numbers out of order and mixed together.  It doesn't stop anything but the bugs that monitor keystrokes to look for that magical sixteen number combo that almost always translates to a credit card.  I'm getting used to this method.  Too bad it doesn't solve all the rest of the problems of credit card fraud.  I'm sure some resourceful hacker with no scruples will find yet another way to strip me and millions of other people from our money.  Online Christmas complete, I put the puppy in his crate, locked the cats out of the room, and fell asleep, hopefully to garner that magic total of eight hours when combined with the not-quite six I got last night. 

No such luck.  My phone, silenced, but still lethal, buzzed loudly against the bed frame.  I had to take it and she wanted to talk. Then, after walking quickly outside to relieve Teddy, the cold had shaken away any cosy sleepy feelings I still had.  After that, I got sucked into a time warp and lost two hours trying to make myself a salad, take a shower, and head out for a long, hopefully exhausting walk.  I kind of know what happened.  The dog wanted to be with me in the kitchen.  That necessitated treats, a little training, and about five times the normal hand washing.  I think low blood-sugar snuck up on me then too, since I found myself getting more and more distracted by the dog's antics. 

After I managed to eat my salad, I figured Teddy could safely be penned on the couch since he looked a little sleepy.  I opened up his portable fencing so that the couch was included.  He and the cat, at opposite ends of the couch, looked pretty cosy when I left to take my shower.  Now, I didn't linger in there.  Gone are the days when I run the hot water dry taking my shower.  This was ten minutes and even then, I wondered if I'd made a mistake, as I was quickly towelling off. 

When I went into the bedroom to get dressed, Teddy had escaped, but things seemed pretty good so I brought him in with me and tried, unsuccessfully, to distract him from the clean socks in the laundry basket and the interesting things that were stored under the bed.  I'd forgotten we even had that egg-shell foam pillow that he pulled out from under there and began to disembowel before I could stop him.  I managed to get into some of my clothes before I realized I'd have to do something else so that I could finish getting dressed.  I brought Teddy out to the living room, holding onto his collar at an awkward angle.  Something was off in there, rank, vile.  So, I got smart a bit too late and moved the portable fencing to make a very small space and put Teddy into it.  It took me a while to realize that the living room wasn't the source of it.  That smell was wafting around the corner and up from downstairs.  Really? 

I had to go clean it up, treat the spot, then clean that up as well.  While I was down there, still not quite dressed, mind you, the UPS truck breezed up the driveway and the driver hopped out with a package.  Those folks move fast. Here, I need to remind you that we live in the middle of nowhere along a highway.  The closest house is barely visible through the trees in the winter, not much need to drop the shades when I get home.  There I was, bent over in a Tshirt and underwear, wiping up the mess on the floor, my backside to the window.  What's left of my hearing saved me and I leapt for the stairs to get out of sight.  I like to think that the driver didn't see me.  I did notice, though, that it was a new driver, a woman.  Thank God for small mercies. 

In the meantime, Teddy jumped up on the side of his portable fencing, pushed just hard enough that the whole thing leaned over, then flattened out with him inside.  He was okay.  I consoled him anyway and then finally managed to get dressed and move us both out the door.  Still, it wasn't the leisurely walk and stop for one that one item at Petco that I'd hoped for.  Let's just say that when that box says 'fits all vehicles,' it isn't necessarily true.   It took enough time for Teddy to chew my backpack and stick his head into a grocery bag for me to find that out.  Now I have to go back to Petco tomorrow too.  Thankfully, they told me it would be no problem if I needed to return it.  They must get that a lot.  What I did realize with my head inside the back of my car is that I can raise the headrests on the back seats and they form a series of bars that will be hard for Teddy to get through, especially since he's growing so fast.  It doesn't stop him from chewing the upholstery off the backs of the headrests, but it is a barrier, of sorts.  Now, I just have to move the reusable grocery bags, spare shoes, and First Aid kit out of the back of the car.  I can leave the wool blanket.  If it gets cold enough, that blanket will still keep us warm even if Teddy has layered it with his own fur and some dirt.  There they are, those those small mercies again. 

I tell you, I really need those small mercies.  I try to be aware when bits of my life go right.  Once in a while, though, I have to close my eyes, ignore the whining, and tell myself that things really aren't that bad. 

They just seem that way.

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, December 12, 2011

Getting Things Done

I didn't get anything done today, unless you count chasing a puppy through the bushes before I took Nick and Adrian to school for band practice. Unless you count waiting at the grocery store for forty-five minutes because the pharmacy wasn't open yet. I'd forgotten to pick up Nick's Advair yesterday when I was already there. Nick really depends on his Advair and it was completely empty.

I didn't accomplish anything unless you count cleaning up puppy pee right after we came in from outside. Unless you count throwing the rug into the washer that Teddy had peed on a half an hour later. These days, you're supposed to clean up the mess, then treat it with some stuff that keeps the puppy from wanting to pee there again. Then, you have to clean that up. Productive, right?

Do you count picking up the pieces to the headset that he chewed and spread out on the floor? Do you count going to school to read with your buddy only to find the boy and his mother leaving school early?

What about 'No ... Leave it! ... Give! ... Quiet!' Does that count?

Does it count as productive that you are washing your hands eight or nine extra times while trying to put lasagna in the oven because you have to touch the puppy in between for corrections, treats, and pats?

Sometimes it's easiest for me to physically move him away from something he's getting into and regardless what the trainer said, I'm going to have a dog that allows me to take something right out of his mouth if I need to. Teddy likes to chew on candy wrappers. Plus, I'm spending lots of time giving him treats for what he is doing right. It's hard to think of cooking without more hand washing after I've handed him a treat. If I throw them, they just bounce off his head.

Okay, so what did I accomplish by teaching Teddy to wave? Oh man, that was so cute. Nick and I are also working on having him fall over and wave his legs in the air when we say 'Bang' too. It wasn't really accomplishing anything though, right?

I didn't get anything done by walking Adrian home in the dark and taking Teddy up the neighbor's steep driveway a couple of times to burn off some puppy energy while the half-assembled lasagna sat on the counter.

What about running around the house trying to find one of the four squirt bottles Mike bought to spray a puppy who is barking at an irritated cat?

It wasn't useful to run to the store yet again, this time for chocolate coins and candy canes, before the Cub Scout meeting tonight either. Those kids need candy like they need holes in their teeth.

We finally ate lasagna at 8:15 pm because it took so long to finish making it. Now the day's over and I didn't accomplish a thing. Still, I like the wave. Teddy is just so cute when he waves.

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Good Work

It was a beautiful day by Pacific Northwest standards.  At about noon, the clouds wove into the trees indicating which were near and which were further away.  I love how that looks, the trees inherent shapes revealing their identities, even from a distance.  My favorite are the long bowed branches of the Western Red Cedar.  Since it was also dry out, it was a great day to be outside. 

I hadn't planned to work outside, but the neighbor boy, Adrian, owed me some work and outside work was all I could think of for him to do.  See, on Saturday, Nick wanted a friend to come over and I laid down the law and said that if I didn't have some reasonable help cleaning our house that no one could come over.  Ever. Things in the house had gone too far for too long. 

The boy Nick wanted to invite lives in a House Beautiful cover story.  I figured his mom might just drop him off, but she might also come in and look around at our living room while I was making her a mocha.  After we cleaned, I was quite a bit happier in my living room. Even Nick liked when his room took shape from the bulbous mass of toys and costumes that it had been.  In fact, Jack's mom just dropped Jack off.  Nick said that all we really had to do was clean up the foyer, but I reminded him that the cleaning was for us as well.  I even figured that we might go the extra mile and set up time for the carpet cleaners to come next week.  Nick glared at me over his gaming console at that one.  Now that Teddy is having fewer accidents, I told him, it would be nice to have that done.  No response.  Still, Nick got a great afternoon with his friend and I get to hang out in a clean house.

So when Adrian came over this afternoon, I was ready for him.  He owed me work for a toy I'd bought him from ToysRUs over a month ago.  You know how a kid will ask for something and when you say yes, they up the ante and what they want actually costs twice as much?  Sucker that I was, I said yes.  I'd begun to think he didn't really mean it when he said he'd work to pay for the cost of the toy.  At one point, a couple of weeks ago, I pressed him for a plan.  He didn't make one, so I took the end-run around him to his mom who had him delivering a detailed plan within 48 hours.  Mike said I was mean and should have let him off of the hook, but Adrian's mom agreed with me.  I don't know who's right.  Mike says I'm mean a lot of time, like, whenever I hold the boys to their word or make them help out.  I told Adrian that he'd feel better about himself if he did the work.  The look on his face said:  Yeah, right.  That's just something parents say to get kids to do stuff they don't want to do, like clean the toilet and take out the garbage.

The first session of work with Adrian didn't end well.  Adrian didn't put his back into it and I had to tell him more than once that I pay different rates for different levels of effort.  Nick had worked alongside him and Adrian sulked when I paid cash to Nick and when he seemed to get nothing for himself.  It didn't help that I pointed out that he already had this great wrestling action figure in his hot little hands.  When I made him help me with the math, what he had paid of his debt, he got even more annoyed.  I told him that if he always relied on his boss to figure the hours and the rate, he might end up losing money some day.  I told him I wouldn't cheat him, but somebody else might.  So, you do trust me, right Adrian?

Today was very different even though Adrian showed up two hours late for work.  Without saying anything about the work, we got to cutting and pulling briars.  Now I've told both boys that I offer hazard pay when they're doing anything with thorns or nettles.  Adrian hadn't remembered that and so after we finished a bit more than his allotted half hour, I told him again.  This time, when we figured the math, Adrian was grinning.  He only owed me 24 more minutes of work.  I even gave him the chance to keep to his original schedule and I'd pay him cash for the remainder.  I figured it was so close to Christmas and he might have some shopping to do.  He opted to pay off his debt and even told me he had some fun doing it. 

I guess chopping down thick canes of Himalayan Blackberry is kind of satisfying, especially when you're doing it with someone else.  At the end, we'd cleared a good section and filled the yard-waste container.  A long time ago, I learned from experience that you don't ever compost Himalayan Blackberry, unless you want a brand new blackberry patch.  One six inch length of  stalk can start it's own plant in three months or less.  See, all that rain we get isn't always a good thing.  I like the moss hanging from the trees and the four-foot sword ferns, but I could live without the joys of blackberry trying to pull down my shed and garage.

Now Adrian can see the light at the end of the tunnel of debt he'd accrued.  I'd like to think he'll work with me again after he's done the work that he owes me.  I keep pointing out to the boys that there are a couple of hundred dollars out there in that field of blackberry.  At first, they thought I meant literally.  Ha!  I should have left them to think that and they'd have plowed the thing down in a weekend. 

After Adrian had finished up, I stayed outside by myself for a little while, enjoying the clear air.  There's a tree, I don't know which one, that smells so fresh and sweet, a little like cotton candy and a little like balsam.  Years ago, that smell made me fall in love with my yard.  It was peaceful out there.  Adrian had run inside to play with Nick and Mike while he still could.  They haven't had much time together lately and I didn't want him to miss that.

Even after I rolled the filled yard-waste bin down to the road and put away my loppers, gloves, and Felco pruners, I wasn't ready to go inside.  I need time to breathe outside, sometimes, when I don't even realize it. I found the Christmas lights Mike had intended for the little pine tree by the garage.  I forget what kind of pine it is, but it's a fat little thing that friends of ours gave us for our wedding almost twenty years ago.  I got out the step ladder and lassoed lights around it by myself.  It doesn't look too bad.  A couple of years ago, we got fourteen inches of wet snow and it looked like Dr. Seuss had designed it, with tall caps of snow and colored lights glowing underneath.  I hope it snows soon.  I want to see those lights in the snow again.

Just before dinner, Adrian ran home happy and his mom texted me later that it was a right that we held him to his word.  I'm proud that something I had lectured about really was true, that you feel good about doing good honest work. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, December 10, 2011


I just finished ordering Mike's annual calendar. I've lost track of how many years I've been getting this same thing for him for Christmas.  I am a bundle of creativity, aren't I?  A vest for my brother, a ceramic vase or platter for my sister, money for the older kids.  Mike always reminds me to get him a demotivator calendar from Despair, Inc., as if I might not remember.  Well, okay, there have been years that I didn't remember, years when he got his calendar on January 11th after we'd taken the Christmas tree down.  I really am a pathetic wife, sometimes.  Mike gives me credit for trying.  I really am trying, but I get distracted.  Why?  You tell me. 

Nick is in the other room, trying to come up with reasons to stay up late.  I read him a chapter from our book, 'Skeleton Key,' one of the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz.  Have I told you I like his books?  They're great for boys.  They read like an action flick.   Right now, Alex is a prisoner and his plan to escape in the trunk of a limosine has failed.  Nick likes imagining himself battling the bad guys in the book, but I wonder if this is the right book for inducing sleep. I think E.B. White had it right, ending so many of his chapters of Charlotte's Web with a sleepy pig. Alex Rider never sleeps, unless someone has drugged him, poor kid. 

So, while I was trying to finish ordering Mike's calendar, Nick needed to get up for some water.  He wanted an apple.  He needed to tell his dad something.  He needed to show us a good night routine that involved jumping around and rapping.  He was still hungry.  His toe hurt where he stubbed it.  He needed an ice pack.  He needed to tell us he loves us.  Nick really has trouble settling down to sleep.  It seems to take two of us to hustle him into bed and sometimes we've posted guard at his door, pretending to keep him company.

Yes, I am distracted.  Thankfully, Teddy is asleep already.  Earlier today, I took him to a three hour Puppy Manners class.  Oh, he had a great time.  These classes are so helpful and the puppies get to play.  Imagine that, a room full of fluffy puppies rolling around on the floor.  The trainers answered all of the questions I could remember that I had.  'You're doing it wrong' never once came up in conversation.  Becky Bishop and her team are wonderful with the dogs and diplomats with people too. I was doing it wrong, but nobody said that out loud.  Okay, to my credit, I wasn't doing everything wrong, just the areas where problems were coming up. 

See, I'm even distracted when everyone has finally settled down to sleep.  I think I crave this time, staying up a little later than everyone else because I can finally gather all the loose threads I call my thoughts, make my list of what I really have to do in the next few days, and settle down.  I think Nick is more like me than I imagined.  I can seldom walk away from a busy room of people to go to sleep.  I like being in this quiet room.  Well, the dryer is still going and there are still cars out on the highway, but if it gets too quiet, it's unnerving.  I was at a friend's house once and I kept bouncing off the chair to look around until I realized that I was used to more noise than this.  So, to me, this is quiet.  The Christmas tree is reflected in the window in front of me.  The lights on the play fort outside are shining through the boughs of Red Cedar.  It's as if someone has thrown a blanket over my crate.  I'm starting to settle, except that I'm hungry.
I'm finally done with Mike's calendar.  The fun part of putting together this calendar is that you're allowed, for a small fee, to add holidays.  I go through the year and try to imagine Mike sitting in his cubicle, reading what to expect for his day.  This year, I came up with a few that I liked, but I can't remember any of them now.  Ha!  I have the memory of a steel sieve.
Oh, here's the one for our anniversary:  For 25 years, it's silver, so for 20, it must be mattress ... or maybe dishwasher.  Oh man, that's not funny at all.  These are the things I keep asking Mike to give me for Christmas, my birthday, our anniversary.  Is it funny to nag on a calendar?  It's definitely not funny if I have to explain it.  Sorry.  One fake holiday I made is called 'You're doing it wrong!'  I've been getting more and more rude every year, but Mike still asks me to make him another. 
One year, my niece helped me come up with the rude holidays.  Now, she was much funnier, not that I remember a word she said.  I have to tell you that I have always wanted to be funny, but Mike tells me I'm only funny when I don't intend to be, like when I spill stuff on my shirt, or fall into hip-deep muck, or say something rude when I didn't realize I was actually speaking out loud.  It's disappointing.  Now, when Nick was describing the way that puke was rolling to the left when the bus went around a curve and then toward his feet when the bus accelerated up a hill, now that was funny. 

Thank you for listening.  This is a good time for one of those little smiley faces.  :jb

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Little Faces of Gods

This morning, some kid puked on Nick's bus and as the bus accelerated, this oozy stuff with brown chunks trailed along toward the back of the bus.  The way Nick described the puke rolling into kids' feet, backpacks, and lunch boxes was like a cheese-touch scene out of the 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' series.  Unfortunately, Nick's backpack fell prey to the puke-touch.

I had just managed to get to sleep after everyone left for work and school.  I figured I had all morning to make that 6 1/2 hours of sleep add up to just enough.  Remember, I had asked Susie if we could work on training next month?  Yeah, I actually did that.  Poor Susie was rejected because her house is too well-organized, but my morning was free so I could take care of me.  Doesn't that sound nice? That was when Nick called from school.

"Mom, could you come pick up my backpack and bring me a new lunch?" he asked.  "Some kid puked on the bus and it got on my backpack."

"Did it get into your backpack?" I asked.

"No, Mom, but it's just so gross.  I just can't eat it."

"It's pizza."

"Mom, please?" he asked.  Then he described what had happened and I told him I'd be there before lunch to give him something different to eat.  Shoot, my morning was back on a schedule.  Still, I figured I could get a little more sleep.  No dice.  The phone rang twice more and, even though it was on vibrate, I answered it.  After a half an hour of sleep, another twenty minutes, and then forty-five minutes, I was done trying.  Technically, it added up to a decent night's sleep when you put all the parts together. 

Then, I tried to get onto the Cub Scout database, but I couldn't because someone else was using it.  Crap!  They were all supposed to be done by then so I could collect the information and head into Seattle to buy the awards for Friday's meeting.  One den leader was going to make it so that none of the dens was going to be able to get their awards!  I ran out of time waiting and emailed this guy before I had to run into town to bring Nick his lunch.  He and I had a nice lunch together, except that I dropped the lid to his salad and it stuck, sloppy side down, onto my pants leg.  Yesterday, I'd had to retire a pair of jeans that had worn through in an embarrassing place and realized that I was down to two pair of jeans that I liked and felt comfortable in.  Crap! Now I have to go home, get onto the database, throw in a load of laundry, and then, if I still had time, drive into Seattle to buy this month's Cub Scout awards.  As I was leaving, Nick handed me a large garbage bag with the puke-touch backpack in it.

When I got home, after I'd started the load of laundry, I found Seth, my gray kitty, snuggled into my favorite white sweater which I'd spread out on the bed, still a bit damp.  There was a gray ring on it where he'd made himself comfortable.  I wondered if the little gray hairs would come out by just putting the sweater into the dryer with my penultimate pair of comfortable jeans.  We won't talk about why I only have two pair of jeans that are comfortable these days, now will we?

I sat back down at the computer to check the Cub Scout database and the same guy was still holding up the show.  So I managed to find his work number in one of my directories and I called him. 

"Oh, I guess I forgot to log out," he said after I explained who I was, why I was calling, and why I sounded like a freight train was going to run me down in the next sixty seconds if he didn't let me get onto that database.  Then, I got a text from Claire asking me if we had her pretty platter that she left at the bake sale last Saturday.  I didn't know, so I texted Mike, asking him.  In the meantime, the landline rang.  I missed that one and it was some cheerful nurse telling my answering machine that all Nick's tests were negative, now isn't that just great news?  I hate when you know that something medical is wrong and you really need to find out the answer and they tell you they have no idea what's wrong after running a couple of tests and try to get you to believe that's a good thing.  Mike texted me back that he had Claire's pretty platter.  And then the doorbell rang. 

Not only was there a Christmas UPS package on my front doorstep, along with a produce bag of Teddy's poop that hadn't made it into the garbage bin, but there stood my friend, the cleaning hobbyist with a dog crate in her hand.  My house, remember, was too messy to invite in poor Susie and here stood Martha Stewart's younger jazzier sister at my door.  'Oh man,' I thought.

"Hi!" I said.  I resisted the urge to use my foot to block the door from opening any further.  It was too late.  She could already see the cardboard boxes that needed to be broken down and put into the recycle bin.  I was going to do that.  I really was, but not just this morning.  She explained that since we'd had Teddy in that very small crate, she thought she'd bring over this one that was surely two sizes bigger so that Teddy would be more comfortable now that he's grown.  Thankfully, the crate she was talking about was in my car, so I walked out, in my stocking feet, and we looked at them together. 

"Oh, I think mine's taller," she said.  They were the same height, just a slightly different proportion.  I smiled.  Now I'm going to have to hang onto this duplicate crate for the next two or three months in the spare closet space I don't have, before I can give it back to her gracefully.  This is how neatnicks keep their houses clean.  Let someone else store it for them.  Don't even get me started about the shed and the corner of our office that is filled with Cub Scout stuff that no one else is willing to store.  Mike couldn't say no.

I tried to keep a smile on my face, put her crate where mine had been, and stood there with my perfectly good crate, hoping she wouldn't ask to come into my house.  The last time she came in, she suggested, three times, that Mike and I buy another bookshelf for the left side of the fireplace to balance out that bookshelf on the right.  Doesn't like asymmetry, I guess, but I wasn't going to jump into the car right then to go look for that bookcase with her.  I wondered, if she came into the house, if she'd suggest that I needed to place dirty dishes on both sides of my sink to make them balance the room there as well. 

It was rounding on 1:30pm, the hour beyond which I wasn't going to be able to get into Seattle and back home before the boys got off the bus.  I told her I really needed to go pick up awards and started to head back toward the house.  She walked alongside me until I stopped, half way to my door.  This wasn't going to work.  I stood, trying to listen to her conversation and to think out a plan at the same time.  I wasn't ready to leave yet, but I could fake it.

"Hon, I was about to head out to the Scout shop to buy awards," I said, trying to look enthusiastic.  "Why don't you come with me?  We'll have lots of time to chat in the car.  You can help me get awards at the shop and we can do a drive-thru at Taco Time for salads on our way back?" I tried my most winning smile. 

"Uh, no, I need to go anyway," she said backing away toward her car.  Bingo!  She was out of the driveway in five minutes. I had remembered that my cleaning-hobbyist friend is not a fan of fast food.  My iPhone said 1:18 pm, nuclear time.  Twelve minutes was enough to grab a shower, print the list, and head into Seattle.  Well, you might have figured.  Twelve minutes wasn't enough.  The printer decided that this was the best time in the world to smear each page with little globs of ink.  Right.  I printed two pages again, then carefully laid each page out to dry and finally headed out the door without the comfort of a shower.  Ew.

On my way into Seattle, my friend Laurie called about a Scout award that hadn't made it into the database because, "somebody's hogging the database."   I began to tell her about my lack of sleep, the cat's tinsel-puke, Nick's puke-touch backpack, my jeans, the database hog, and the identical-puppy-crates storage issue when she interrupted me.

"You'd better use latex gloves on that backpack.  You have some disposable gloves, don't you?"

"Sure, why?"

"I just had that stomach bug and believe me, you don't want to get it."  Then she proceeded to tell me about her past four days, in technicolor, and four-part harmony.  I started to feel a little queasy.  There are just some stories a person doesn't want to hear in detail.

Just as Laurie hung up, I began to imagine a family of gods that were sitting on a heavenly couch watching the universe unfold using a remote control that tuned into a sitcom channel.  All comedy.  All the time.  And today, that comedy was me.  I had become an 'I Love Lucy' rerun.  I remembered the time, twenty-six years before, when a whole bus-load of kids were yelling at me in my car at a stop light.  I had left my biochemistry book on the roof and it was heavy enough to have stayed there for a while.  Just then, a bus drew up alongside me on I-90. A couple of tiny kids in the very back row looked over, grinned, and waved at me. 

I waved back.

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Today, Teddy chewed the back off my good hand cream. Buddy gave me a tinsel-puke present. Seth jumped into the linen closet and rubbed his big self all over my towels. There's just something wrong when I think of the cat sitting on the nice hand towels that I use to dry my face. The nice hand towels aren't as nice any more because of the dirt left on the boys fingers whenever they wash their hands. I know I should have been a good wife and made my house look like Martha Stewart lived here, but I didn't manage it.

Tomorrow, my new friend Susie is supposed to come over to learn about a Cub Scout administration program. I read that in the Netherlands, people don't wait to invite their friends over until after they've cleaned. Boy, I want to move there.

For the last month, Susie and I have been walking our dogs together and she's been saying how awful her house is because they are renovating. It made me hopeful that I'm not the only one with a messy house around here. I thought I might be able to invite her over without worrying.

There's a real problem in this area with homes that look too nice to actually live in. Ours just doesn't fall into that category. One of my friends calls cleaning her house her hobby. Oh man. I live in the wrong neighborhood.

I'd like to have an organized house, but I don't. I set other priorities, like reading, writing, quilting. Shoot, straightening up is just about at the bottom of my list of fun things to do.

I've also gotten to the end of my closet space and don't know what to do with half of Mike and Nick's stuff that's lying around. I mean, I don't even know what some of this stuff is, let alone where it belongs. I've made mistakes like throwing away the main screw to the tripod when I do get to organizing. I try to manage my own things yet I always have a stack or two of books on the table next to the couch. I have two or three projects out on my quilting table. Cub Scout things are in a pile by the computer where I use them most.

My house feels like a functioning mess, but it is a mess. My best friends know me and love me anyway. Some others, like the cleaning hobbyist, aren't invited over unless I've just had my carpets cleaned. With new friends, I'm cautious. In any other region of the country, I'd worry less, but some of these folks live in $1M homes and have house cleaners and landscapers. I can't compete with that!

I don't want to. Well, I try to tell myself I don't want to, but I do have residual guilt from my neatnick mom. When I grew up, my family was never allowed to use our living room. My mother would vacuum your hair if you were in the way when she was coming through. In the face of that, some kids would comply and some would revolt. I revolted. I just wish I hadn't revolted quite so well.

So Susie is supposed to come over tomorrow and I've never seen her house, but Mike was just there for a meeting last week and said it was spotless. Shoot! I'm going to have to text Susie in the morning and tell her I'm still down with my cold.

See, I could have skipped this and gotten a fair amount done, yet I didn't. And it is true I haven't caught up with things since I slept a lot today, trying to get better. So: I'm not feeling very well yet, Susie. Can we postpone until January?

Maybe I can get my carpets cleaned in January. I always get organized when I get my carpets cleaned. Or maybe not.

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Little Left-Out

I hate writing about when I have a cold.  You really don't want to hear me whine about it, especially how I wasted a beautiful weekend sleeping on the couch.  Here's what my family did without me. 

Nick had a fasting blood draw on Saturday morning.  He's been really tired, I mean really tired, so we figured it was time to see the doctor.  So before I even got up, Mike trundled him off along with a plastic container of cereal and a thermos of milk.  Nick really loves his Corn Chex.  They told me that the vampire, also called a phlebotomist, took six vials of blood.  The doctor is checking for lots of things: thyroid issues, insulin resistance, CBC indicating infection or anemia, and Celiac disease.  Any of these would be a bummer, but we'd really like our active and enthusiastic boy back.  After that, they went to the toy store.  Years ago, whenever Nickie got a shot, I took him to the toy store afterward to try to make it easier, so the tradition has held even though it isn't as hard for him now.  He got some action figure from a video game he likes to play.  Also, they threw away Taco Time wrappers when they got home.

Then, yesterday afternoon, Mike and Nick sold the last of the baked goods at the Holiday Bazaar.  That's such a cheerful event and the bake sale table is right by the door.  Nick said he opened the door for about a hundred people.  There's live music, tons of my friends hanging around, and art.  Oh man, I love going to see what the artisans have made that's new this year.  I knew about the hand-felted penguins, but I really wanted to see the knitted hat that looked like a curly blonde wig.  After that, they went to the choir concert at the elementary school where Adrian was singing and over to the tree-lighting ceremony.  Fall City looks really pretty with all of the cherry trees lit and decorated along the river. 

Today, the two of them went to church without me.  Nick is going to be Jesus in the Christmas pageant.  I think they picked him for that because of his long hair.  Jesus, really?  Don't tell Nick I said that.  He really is a good kid.  Afterward, they handed out popcorn that Nick sold for the Cub Scouts.  One woman has slipped out on us three weeks in a row.  She did this last year too.  Then people oohed and ahhed over Teddy when they pulled him out of the car for a mini-walk.

This afternoon, Mike and Nick headed over to Tolt MacDonald Park where they were meeting two of the boys in the Cub Scout Den who hadn't finished all their requirements for their Arrow of Light Award that will be given next Friday.  Now, they made hot chocolate and cider, packed for a trip, put together a dehydrated meal, and let the dogs play.  They took Teddy along with them and another of the boys brought his dog too.  When they all walked back into the house at the end of the day, Teddy walked slowly up the stairs and jumped right on top of two pillows on the couch and fell asleep.  He looked like the princess and the pea. 

What did I do this weekend?  I slept, blew my nose a lot, washed my hands, and tried not to touch anything that either Mike or Nick was going to use. Mostly, I tried not to feel left out.

Thank you for listening, jb 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Give-Away Bake Sale

Every year, for the past five years, I've baked pies for the Cub Scout bake sale at the Chief Kanim Holiday Bazaar.  The bazaar has a surprising number of interesting booths including felted art, hand-painted Santa ornaments on oyster shells, wreaths, amazing cakes, and live music.  I didn't get all the way around this morning after I dropped off my pies, but one booth was selling knitted Viking helmets!  Oh I wanted one of those, but knew I'd never have the courage to actually wear it.  I'm just not one of those people who likes to be out on the edge with anything, let alone fashion.

Last year, I worked in my kitchen all day on the Friday before the sale and made eleven pies. I even made a lemon meringue which sold for $14 within five minutes of its arrival at the bake sale.  By myself, I brought in $124 dollars for the Cub Scouts and got kudos for my pie.  I like making pie.  After working at the bake sale table for a while that year, I had discovered that some people had bought cookies and repackaged them for the bake sale.  Oh, that made me mad.  I mean, why bother?  I would hate to buy something at a bake sale and realize in the first bite that it wasn't even homemade. 

This year, I was feeling bad because I only had time to make four large pies and three single-serving ones.  I worried, as usual, about handling food for sale to the public.  I wash my hands a bunch and tried to follow the rules I learned when I got my food handler's permit.  In the end, my pies looked good and I hauled them to the bake sale early this morning, wrapped, labeled and priced. 

Every other year, we've charged $10 apiece for a whole pie except the lemon meringue.  I only asked them to charge more for that because it's so labor intensive to make.  So when I labeled my pies, I priced them the same way we always did.  I have to tell you that I buy quality ingredients for my pies, fresh lemons, organic King Arthur pastry flour, a variety of crisp apples, organic eggs.  I make for other people what I would serve to my own family.

So, as I was walking away from the bake sale table, someone dropped a tray of baked goods, including one of my pies.  Then, someone else was using her fingernails to try to lift off a label I'd put onto a pie.  I paused to see what was up.

"Oh, we're pricing all the pies the same," she said, smiling up at me.

"How much?" I asked.

"Five dollars," she said as she went on with her fingernail scraping.  Oh man, I was speechless.  I ended the conversation, tried to keep a smile on my face, and left.  I can't even gather the ingredients for a pie for $5.00.  I roll out my own pastry, chop up my own fruit, sometimes using berries I've picked and frozen in the summer.  It's a labor of love.  This year, I used canned cherries and was feeling bad about the short cut.  Now, I won't worry about it for a minute.  This year, making pie was a labor of love handed out for free.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, December 2, 2011

An Early Birthday and Christmas

Mike's birthday is one week before Christmas.  By the time the expiration date on the milk in the fridge is Mike's birthdate or later, I know it's time to get on the job of buying his presents for him. Over the years, he's learned to be very specific about what he wants.  We don't like returning things.  We will, but we don't like it.  Mike likes getting just exactly what he wants.  Most of my surprises are a bust anyway.

This year, the top thing on Mike's list was an iPhone 4s.  His old 3G was getting painfully slow.  Oh, I think it was the comparison with the way my iPhone 4G worked.  Did I ever tell you how much I love my iPhone?  Well, Mike and Nick love it too and it seemed like they were asking to use is more and more.

So last night, I made myself a decaf breve Earl Grey tea latte and when I put the half-and-half back into the fridge, I noticed that it was time to get Mike's birthday present.  One of the milks even had a New Year's expiration date.  Oh man, it's time to get going!

So after I dropped Nick off at karate, I headed over to the AT&T store.  The first obstacle that I had was getting my name onto the account so that I could make changes, like buying Mike a new phone for Christmas.  It turned out that if I have all the information, I can add myself to the account.  Scary.  So I got onto the 611 with a rep and did it, after a few problems hearing him over the Christmas music in the store.  I won't tell you my address, phone number, or any social security numbers, or you might be able to add yourself to our account too. 

Then the cheerful woman helping me asked if I wanted a 16, 32, or 64 Gig iPhone.  I would guess 64, because Mike likes his toys to have some punch.  I remember the days when 16K was a lot of memory for a computer.  I'm so old!  Shoot, I remember when my dad came home and told me about these great inventions called microchips and how you could fit an entire computer into one small room now with 1032 bits of RAM.  Ha!  He would have loved that I have 32 million times the memory in the palm of my hand now.  Those things amaze me too, stuff all the rest of you take for granted.  Twenty-two years back when I was working for AT&T Bell Labs, I got a tour through their clean room for a project I was writing.  I remember the man telling me that the silicone lines on the cards were so small, you'd have to blow the card up to the size of a football field to make the line three inches wide.  He was so proud of his tiny silicone lines and the microchip that allowed you to have a 64K computer on your desk!

"We don't have any of the 64 Gig phones in stock right now," the cheerful sales woman said.  "You'd have to come in earlier in the day.  We'll get another shipment tomorrow."  What?  This was going to go the way of the Tickle-me Elmo.  I was going to have to wait until tomorrow and I'd get there it was going to be out of stock until December 23.  I would end up going down to a Renton store on Mike's birthday eve, where they still had a couple in stock.  Then, I'd find that, after driving for forty-five minutes through stop-and-go traffic, they'd just sold the last one to that nice man over there. See?  The next shipment comes in two days.  I was going to have to consider tackling that man, throwing my Visa card at the nearest cheerful sales woman, and run screaming out of the door with the last 64Gig iPhone in the entire state of Washington. 

"I'll find out what he wants," I tell Cheerfulness herself and I turned my back as if she was going to look over my shoulder and read as I texted.

"Do you want 64 Gig for your phone?  They have 16 and 32 as well.  I'm assuming black, not white," I wrote to him. 

Cheerfulness and I stood there trying to look useful while we waited for his reply.  I went to check out Otter boxes and earbuds.  She played with her computer.  I wondered if she played Scrabble Free with anyone anonymous.

"Ping!" my iPhone said without too much delay.  Thank God!  He wanted 32 Gig and black.  Even though I knew we'd both wish we got him 64, I rushed back to the counter and told my new sales friend his answer.  I was still picturing how I'll end up in handcuffs down in Renton being half-dragged out of the AT&T store because I'd tackled that guy and he'd still get that last 64 Gig iPhone in the entire state of Washington, plus have a good story to tell his wife on Christmas eve.  The worst of it was that she wasn't even going to even appreciate the fact that he got her 64 Gig instead of 32.

So then, Cheerfulness and I went on our way through the process.  I was spending all of Mike's hard-earned cash and Cheerfulness herself was selling the only 32 Gig iPhone she'd sell all week.  We were both very happy. 

She started in on asking me about sim cards.  I answered her questions thinking of the old days when you just slipped one sim card out and slid the other one in.  Oops, I forgot that I was in the dark ages and there's no getting into the back of my iPhone now.  It's probably a good thing for most people, but Mike is a software engineer and good with mechanical problems.  He could handle it without breaking it.

"Well, you can take it as is and bring it back after Christmas to get it activated, no charge," my friend said, still smiling.  We were both imagining the lines out the front door of the store on Boxing day.  I realized I don't have to do that even though she will, regardless.  I felt some sympathy for this woman.  I wouldn't want to spend all day on my feet watching that line creep along, getting nowhere.  One fewer person in that line would be just fine with me.

"I think I'll just go ahead and do it now," I told her. "Why wait?"

"You realize that your old phone won't work after we make this change.  Will that cause any problems for your husband?" she asked.  She really is a nice woman, sales person or not.

"Oh, he'll be okay.  I'll text him," I said, getting a gleam in my eye.  That time, I didn't turn away from her as I texted.  I even read it out loud as I typed:  Your phone is going to stop working.  Now.  Ha!

Then I sent another one: Happy Birthday! Merry Christmas!

"Oh, you are just bad," she said, laughing.  I figured Mike was out walking with Jay and he wouldn't really need his phone for that, even though he and Jay are both attached to their phones with very short mental leashes.  While my friend was working on setting up Mike's new phone, I sent Jay an email just in case Mike's texts didn't get through.  She read my mind. 

"Oh, he got it, but he didn't get that second one you just sent."  We were both laughing then, as I handed over my Visa card without looking at the total.  I think she knew how men are with their toys.  By then, she was all done and handed me a cute miniature shopping bag that reminded me of the Clinique bags I used to come home with from Macy's, with the lipstick, blush, and the mini samples in it.  I loved those bags. 

I wasn't quite ready to stop talking to my new best friend yet.  I wasn't going to get the chance to talk to her the day after Christmas after all, so I clutched my tiny bag and told her how I was a convert to texting and living with my phone even though I'm old and should still be using a flip phone for emergencies instead.   She nodded and smiled.  I'm sure she was thinking of the kudos she'd get for getting rid of one of those old 32 Gig iPhones. 

After picking Nick up at karate, we drove home and gave Mike his present.  He wasn't surprised at all, but he was happy and suddenly, it felt like Christmas.  I put Dr. Demento's Christmas CD on the stereo.  Nick played with his new/old iPhone 3G.  Mike got to work playing with the voice recognition on his new toy.  Later, while it was syncing, we put lights up on our naked Christmas tree.  Now, I won't have to make that trip down to the Renton police station after all or stand in line for an hour in the rain on Boxing Day.  Life really is pretty good, isn't it?

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Filling the Void

I'm still trying to fill Nick's Advent calendar. This morning, I scrambled to find something to put in for December first. We used to buy the paper Advent calendar with the chocolate disks behind each flap, but Nickie started having trouble with chocolate processed in a plant that also handles tree nuts. So a couple of years ago, Mike came home with an Advent calendar that looked like a tall narrow doll house with twenty-five little numbered doors. Each compartment is about an inch and a half square.

I was surprised that Nick was enthusiastic about a dollar coin, a paper dollar, and a chocolate coin hastily placed there before he rushed out to find it this morning. Whew! That's one day. I just had to get the rest of the twenty-four days filled.

Last Saturday, Mike and I had gone to Target. We picked up one present from Nick's Christmas list. One. He's eleven. It starts getting harder as they get closer to being teenagers. I started looking for the tiny toys I could put in. Nothing. He's done with Bakugan. Beyblade won't fit. The tiny little figurines that look like erasers don't interest him. The silly toys that look like horse pills and move strangely because they have a ball bearing in them don't cut it any more either. Nick still likes the mystery mini Lego kits, but Target didn't have any of those. Argh.

So this morning, after I got Nick and Adrian to band practice before school and after just a little more sleep to top off my night, I headed out to ToysRUs. They had the mini Lego kits, Halo Reach Mini Megablock kits, small funky candies shaped like soda cans, and a mini slinky that probably won't work right anyway because the weight won't be right. Plus, I got a package of Butterfingers shaped like bells and Santa's coal bubble gum. Slap me now because I spent $54 on this junk.

So finally, Nick had gone to bed, with his usual excuses for staying up and a few extra. It's 11:15 pm and I'm still up trying to get this thing loaded. I dropped the cash box that only had coins and no singles in it, so that Mike's slippers probably now contain an assortment of cash. The ghetto kitty is pawing at my leg for attention.

The mini Lego and Megablocks kits don't quite fit. I got one jammed into the hole by letting the air out of the package. It's kind of like the time my brother's RV got jammed under a bridge that had sunk a few inches. They finally got it unjammed by letting the air out of his tires. That didn't fix his crushed air conditioner, but that's another story.

The dog is begging me to go to bed. The smell of chocolate is making me hungry. The tiny soda cans are just big enough that the magnets on the doors won't catch. The bubble gum just doesn't fit. No way, shape, or how.

And Nickie is up again, this time with a cough and a stomach ache.

Oh man. I just want to get to bed before midnight. Next year, I'm going with money, pure cold hard cash. It's got to be cheaper than this.

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Scrabble Friend

I have a friend about whom I know nearly nothing. That is the state of affairs in this modern world. I don't even know whether to refer to this person as he or she, but I've been picturing a woman at her iPhone so I'm going with it. That's my first assumption.

I've been playing Scrabble Free with my anonymous guest for the last two months. We're in our third game and except for a few scant clues, I'm clueless about her.

I know she gets up at 7:00 am on Sundays. She has more time to play on the weekend and I thought I lost her a couple of weeks ago because she didn't play for more than fourteen days. I picture her as a working woman who had a big project to finish. That was my second assumption.

I also imagine her as my age or older and a little bookish. Who plays Scrabble that isn't? Still, that's my third and fourth guess about my friend.
I must not be far off though, because she comes up with words like noble, fungi, and coot.

She's tenacious because she's lost every game so far and is still playing. That makes her a better woman than I am too.

Plus, she has a thick enough skin to have tolerated when I used the words urine and poop successively. Oh, I might have quit over those words, assuming that was a little creepy. I only used them because I got triple word scores on both of them.

There's a little chat bubble at the top in the game, but it only works with people who aren't anonymous. Bummer! Wouldn't it be cool, like having a Scrabble/penpal? She could tell me what state she lives in and I could tell her I like quilting. I'll bet we both have white dogs. I'd like her to be from Maine. I like Maine and we'd be from opposite sides. There I am again, with presumptions five and six.

Shoot, I could put her in a novel, the bookish older woman who plays Scrabble with the librarian because her husband doesn't want to play. He's more of a poker man. Guesses! It can go on and on.

I have to tell you that I play this kind of game all the time, guessing things about people. Most of the time, it's too easy. Airports are great for this guessing game. You have lovers parting, adult children reluctantly returning home. You have evidence of divorce with kids flying alone. You even have trysts. Oh, tell me it isn't fun to see the couple who is determined to become members of the mile-high club. Even you can spot them!

I even imagine stories for the car I hear passing my house at 3:00 am. I picture people inside, in despair, in ecstasy, or even struggling to stay awake.

My Scrabble friend offers me so few real clues about her life. Even the words she chooses are sometimes predestined. I'm always a little sad when the teacher on the game offers the same word I've picked even though that means I actually thought of the word that gives me the highest score. Couldn't I be more original?

I'm going to keep playing with my anonymous friend. We get along so well and so far, she has no flaws, except that she gets up and plays Scrabble on Sunday at 7:00 in the morning.

Thank you for listening, jb