Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Z-Ultimate Karate

At his karate class, I have trouble watching my boy, Nick, without feeling a strong urge to get up and copy his motions.  After six and a half years of lessons, he makes it look so easy.  Some of it looks elegant, as if it's a dance, like when he picks up a pair of nun chuks.  I tried using them once and hit myself in the head three times before I stopped.  Nick absolutely loves being more knowledgeable than I am about this.   Some of his moves just look so powerful and with his broad-shouldered silhouette, I can imagine that few will pick a fight with him when he becomes an adult.  Even as a boy, he's used his karate skills to deflect attacks by bullies.  In kindergarten, when he began his lessons, one boy used to hit him incessantly.  The teacher said that this boy would frequently approach her, saying that Nick had hit him.  She told me that what she saw was that Nick had used his forearms to block the punches and that the little boy was confused and angry because his blows ended up hurting him instead of Nick.  I was relieved that she had watched and really saw what was going on between the two of them.

In third grade, another boy began to taunt Nick, calling him fat.  I have a cold hard place in my heart for any child that calls another fat.  For some reason, bigotry regarding body image is accepted by our culture and the cruelty of if hasn't yet reached the full light of day, but that's really a story for another time.  This boy tried to kick Nick and Adrian too, who had come to help his friend.  He yelled, "So, you say you know karate? Huh? Well, show me!"  Nick and Adrian used the blocking system that their sensei had taught them.  Then, Adrian distracted the boy while Nick ran to get a playground duty to show her what was happening.  How smart is that?  The boy was sent to the Principal's office.  I loved when they came home to tell me this story.  Their faces glowed with confidence, even before I told them that they'd made great choices on that playground that day. 

Nick has had the influence of the same sensei for at least three years now.  This guy is very kind, but works Nick until he's dripping with sweat.  He knows that one of our objectives is for Nick to get good exercise.  He's a cheerful guy too which seems to hide the power of the black belt that he has at his disposal.  That's another reason I want karate for Nick - with the confidence his defensive skills give him, it seems like a boy can grow into a man without getting a chip on his shoulder, without needing to prove anything.  This sensei can afford to be cheerful.  He's earned his self respect and Nick sees that.  This isn't just an exercise program we take him to.  They aren't just playing a game.  Oh, I have nothing against team sports.  They're great for kids and can accomplish the same things, the confidence, the skill, and the health. But with karate, if you stick with it, it's all about what you have worked to achieve.  You gain self-reliance because you haven't depended on any teammates to do what it takes to get where you are. 

Nick has participated in three karate tournaments.  He's earned medals of participation, but is still working to earn one of the trophies.  I'm so proud of him at those tournaments.  He takes it so seriously.  The funny, and a bit frustrating thing, is that he's sparred against the same boy two years in a row.  This boy is at least six feet tall and it's hard for Nick to get a blow in that's above the belt.  As I held up my camera to videotape Nick, other parents turned to me murmuring their sympathy for what seemed like a lost cause.  It was over in an instant for Nick and he was disappointed.  Mike pointed out to Nick that he could have tried something else with this huge guy since this kid didn't win out over all of the other kids smaller than him anyway.  There was something Nick had missed.  Am I an awful mom if I say that there may be more value in not earning a trophy as bringing home one that is unearned?  Disappointment is an important teacher too.

Last year, Nick's sensei picked him to have his lessons with a boy who had had a serious surgery and had a port directly over his heart. He couldn't afford to get hit there at all.  I heard the kid's dad say that it was a risk, but his boy wanted to go back to practicing karate, that he was desperate to do something normal.  The sensei said that Nick had a great sense of self-control and he trusted him not to ever hit the kid in that vulnerable spot.  Nick beamed under the praise and lived up to that trust. I'm not sure about how Nick feels, but to me, that is way better than bringing home a trophy. 

Just like with Scouting, I can see how Nick will use the skills he's learning in karate for his whole life, to teach himself, to protect himself, to energize himself, and to gain confidence.  How great is that?

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, January 30, 2012


Because a tired dog is a good dog, I took Teddy for a long walk today with a good friend and her dog. We had so much fun, we lost track of time and I missed an appointment at school. Now my feet hurt. I actually have a blister from walking five miles. That is so pathetic!

Now, I'm waiting for Nick to finish karate at Z-Ultimate. I'm at a nearby Tully's, having earned my tea latte. Why not? It is sugar free after all. I also had a piece of their spinach quiche. I like a heartier filling than they use. Theirs is almost the texture of a light custard, yet I love the way they pepper the crust before they add the egg filling. Oh, I like it here. They don't always know my name, but they know my drink and that I like to chat. I was honored when my favorite barista, whom I'd talked to about my writing, introduced me to his boyfriend. I wish that kind of thing didn't have to be kept quiet, that it was just as normal for a man to introduce me to his boyfriend as to a girlfriend. Well, we can be the change we want to see, right? So I didn't blink, nodded my head, and smiled. It was good. Some aspects of life really have changed since I was young.

Guess what?

No, really! Can you guess?

I had an ordinary day today! Nothing blew up or crapped out. Nothing was stolen or damaged. No one was hurt. Am I taking chances by writing this before Nick and I have made it home from his karate class?

I hate to admit that I'm superstitious. I am. I love science. I really do, but I also believe in that chaos theory as presented in the first 'Jurassic Park' movie. Do you remember when Jeff Goldblum's character talks about how a single flap of a butterfly's wings on one side of the world could be the ultimate cause of a hurricane on the other side? Yeah, that? Isn't that mysterious enough as to be practically superstitious? 

I'm home now and thankfully, Nick didn't break an arm or anything at karate.  I didn't plow into the back end of any other cars on the road.  We seem to be safe inside our little home.  A grand illusion, that safety of being at home, isn't it?

Okay, so I googled chaos theory and I still don't quite understand it.  Weather is a great example of something that is labeled chaotic.  It means that, even though weather effects are 'deterministic, initial conditions and overlapping application of these predictable changes' causes weather to be chaotic.  What the heck is an initial condition when it comes to weather?  I wonder if fractals fit into chaos theory?  Fractals are so pretty, but I could see how they'd act similar to weather in that no two results would be alike.  I am so over my head here, but it's just one more thing in this world for me to learn more about. 

So what I mean about the chaos theory being connected to superstition is that if enough similar random events lead my little brain in the same direction, it leads to a natural sense of superstition.  Here's an example:  Mike and I both became superstitious that if we put away Nick's nebulizer, then he'd get sick again.  (The nebulizer is the machine that allows Nick to inhale his breathing medication more thoroughly.) It happened for both of us somehow, at about the same time, yet quite independently.  For years, it was true, except during the summer, that Nick would probably get sick not long after he got well.  After a while, I discovered that it wasn't just me that felt better leaving the nebulizer out.  Mike did too.  Nick's immune system was so fragile that even though we left that ugly thing plugged in next to the couch, he'd still get sick again before too long.  How many times, though, did one event have to follow another, that we put away the nebulizer, then Nick got sick again, before our brains interpreted it as cause and effect?  Not that many, I'd guess.  So have I made a point about the chaos theory being related to superstition?  Probably not.  It was just a thought anyway.

I'm going to have to think about what I'm superstitious about. Walking under ladders? No.  I walk under our ladder whenever I use the grill.  Mike, in his particular wisdom, doesn't think it's worth putting away since we're up on the roof two or three times a year anyway.  Is that a superstition of his?  I don't know.  I'm also one of those people who think that if I forget my Goretex jacket, it's more likely to rain.  You can't hold off the rain in these parts in any case. 

I believe that if I'm not watching, bad things are more likely to happen, like when the dog casually hangs out in the kitchen, I turn my head for one minute, and look over to see that all the cat food is gone.  That dog is so hungry.  He's not quite forty pounds, but according to Hill's feeding charts, he eats as though he's sixty.  He's just now filling out so that I can't see his ribs, so I don't mind so much.  Maybe watching so bad things don't happen is some kind of corollary to the watched pot never boiling.  I can say, without a doubt, I have watched a pot long enough to see it boil, many times.  It's boring, though a little steam is good for your skin if you lean in a bit. 

I knock on wood, using my head if none other is available.  What the heck does that mean anyway?  Wow! I just looked it up.  Isn't it cool when you find that one thing you believe connects with something else you thought was unrelated.  'The Phrase Finder' site says that 'knock on wood' may go back to touching wood or a tree in the belief that kind spirits reside within.  There may also be a connection to the cross.  I just love believing that the trees in my yard are benevolent spirits.  I imagine them to be grandmothers and grandfathers, letting us stand on their roots the way babies stand in laps.  So I will feel less ridiculous the next time I say 'knock on wood.'  I could have been a Druid in a previous life.  (Uh oh, now I've brought up the topic of reincarnation.  That's a whole different set of beliefs, now, isn't it? A topic for another day, though.)

I'm not sure if it's superstition or just plain fear (remember fear?) that I want the last words I say to Nick and Mike to be 'I love you!' whenever I leave to run an errand or they head off to sleep.  I wish I'd heard those words from my dad before he died even if they weren't exactly the last words he said to me.  Unfortunately, I have no idea what his last words were, though I remember him talking about the velour blanket being the only thing that didn't hurt as it laid over his legs.  So I try to give the 'I love you' phrase to Nick and Mike in case something happens.  I also don't like going to sleep mad at either of them.  I'll even keep Nick up too late on a school night to work out our differences.  That might not be superstition.  It might just be about sleeping more soundly in peace than in aggitation. 

So now I'm going to go soak my feet in Epsom salts, knock on wood, throw my Goretex into my backpack, and yell 'I love you!' to my guys as we all head off to bed. Good night!

Thank you for listening, jb

Fear and Nothingness

I've got nothing to say.  I guess I could just prattle on about nothing.  Nothing went a long way for the existentialists.  Sometimes my nothing rambles turns into something, but I'm not sure it'll do me any good today. 

I went to church.  I didn't get much done in the afternoon because I came home tired and napped too long.  I went to the store, bought food for dinner.  I ran into somebody I knew at the grocery store.  We talked about easy babies and hard ones.  Nick wasn't an easy baby.  Oh, I loved the way he could get people to laugh just by arching an eyebrow, but he wasn't an easy baby.  He laughed any time we said the word, 'Doodlebug.'  It didn't work on my friend's baby today.  Nick also laughed when we whistled.  In fact, when he was six months old, he was holding his mouth in the right way and whistled.  It was just a single note, but he got excited and whistled the same note in and out faster and faster as if he'd discovered an important key to a code.  After that, he whistled a lot while I was changing his diaper.  I whistle sometimes when I'm afraid.

That's it. That's all I did.  Then Mike, Nick and I watched a bad movie from Redbox. 

I think I have an ordinary week coming, but who knows?  What is ordinary?  Well, for me, it's a quiet life.  I don't turn on the television very often.  Tomorrow, I'm supposed to walk dogs with my friend.  I want to begin the work to get rid of and pack away some extra stuff.  We have too much stuff.  It's bothering me.  Mike's office and the cabinets in the kitchens are my first target.  See, there it is.  Nothing.

I did the minimum today.  I cleaned out the litter boxes.  I want to move Buddy's litter box downstairs, out of the kitchen.  There's something nasty about having a litter box in the kitchen.  Bad feng shui, I would guess.  I wonder what the rules of feng shui are.  Yeah, Wikipedia has this college-style essay about feng shui that says nothing.  More nothingness.  Did I lose you yet?

So, I've been having vivid dreams lately.  Last night, I dreamed that Buddy was having kittens, but he was having trouble and was going to die if I didn't stay and help him.  (Never mind that Buddy is a male cat.  This was a dream, remember?) For some reason, I just had to leave him and when I came back, it looked as if he were dead and there was a little wet kitten next to him that I was sure I could never keep alive without him.  I awoke fearful but there was love in it too.  Buddy really is a sweet cat.  My dreams lately have been difficult, full of fear.  I don't know why. 

In church today, my minister said that to follow Jesus you have to give up fear.  Really?  I don't always agree with this minister.  I guess I never have agreed with everything any minister preached except one exceptional man, Dr. Gingery, but then I was pretty young and impressionable back then.  Someone told me once, that I couldn't possibly be a real Christian because of these disbeliefs.  Well, maybe that's true.

I have so many doubts about giving up fear, though.  Somehow that unearned confidence that I've seen shining in people's eyes when they talk about Jesus gives me the creeps.  Life is hard. Sometimes it's scary, really scary.  If you don't understand fear, you could walk down the center of an interstate wearing a black jacket at night and expect to live.  Doesn't fear have an important job?

When I'm walking along the trail at dusk with Teddy, I watch him.  If he's relaxed, I'm relaxed, usually.  He has a better nose than I do and better night vision.  I don't want to walk around in my life being afraid to live, but I'm damn sure I'm not giving up my right to fear.  Fear has saved my life more than once. 


Last night, I told a story to Brandon.  Brandon is the guy who babysat for Nick and Adrian and he helps me in the yard sometimes.  He's a good kid and I'm more honest with him than I am with other kids his age because I know him pretty well.

He called at 5:30 last night, telling Mike that he had a dead battery and his parents were up skiing.  Would Mike come to where he worked and give him a jump?  I knew exactly what Brandon was doing.  He was trying to get Mike out of the house for a surprise party that the Cub Scout den was throwing for him at the Roadhouse to say 'thank you' for all of his dedication.  Mike really did deserve this party and I was happy it remained a surprise to the end.  So at dinner, Brandon was across from me along with a woman I didn't know, a mom of a boy who recently transferred into our Pack.  So I figured I had to entertain them.  That's what I do at parties.  I feel the need to entertain people.

Brandon had been talking about how he's been skiing and that he drove in the snow for the first time last week.  I told him about how my mom made mistakes, but did a few things right too.  She always insisted that I practice doing doughnuts in an empty parking lot every year at the first snow.  If it was a weekday, I'd go to a church.  If it was Sunday, I'd go to school and practice. 

I told him I wasn't sure why I was telling him this story.  It wasn't a story that made me look good.  In fact, I made some mistakes, huge mistakes, when I was younger that could have been fatal.  This was one of them.  Maybe I'll tell you some of those other stories someday.

In 1978, I'd been driving in snow for three years.  I wasn't bad at it, but I took to heart my mother's warning that I should practice spinning around and learning to manage that motion with my car.  I still believe it's good advice.  There was a big snow, a blizzard, really, and there was 39 inches of snow on the ground and in a lot of places, it had drifted.  We all dug out and the plows did their job, but the weather wasn't done with us yet.  Temperatures went to near 32 degrees, long enough for the clouds to throw a layer of ice on top of that snow, then plummeted to a little below zero (Fahrenheit).  The plows came out again, cracked the sheet of ice and laid down another layer of salt. I headed out to the school parking lot to practice driving on the ice.  The lot had been plowed of the big snow, but there was still a thick sheet of ice to play on.  I spun and accelerated into it to make the car spin faster.  It was fun.  I think that what my mother had in mind for me was to try to correct the spin, but I'm sure I got something out of it, just the same.  What I didn't count on was the surge of adrenaline I got. 

When I was done, I headed right out onto a divided highway.  Somehow, with all of that adrenaline, I did the exact opposite of what I should be doing and gunned the engine when I fishtailed a little and spun my ugly Ford Granada straight into a deep bank of snow alongside the road. 

Now, what I didn't know was that the snow up over the top of the roof was undisturbed, that my car had made a single hole entering that tough snow and there was no other indication that anything had happened.  What I did know was that I couldn't see a thing outside my car but snow.  I was completely engulfed.  There was a faint glow of light through the snow and windows and I could see a small hole of daylight out the back of the car.  I couldn't open my door more than a couple of inches.  I was trapped. 

At that point, fear grew in me.  Not only was I going to be in trouble with my mom for wrecking the car, she'd have to pay for a tow truck.  I could even get a ticket if the police found me.  Worse than that, I realized, was that if the police didn't catch me, if no one found me, I just might die in my ugly car in this weather.  Holy crap! 

I jammed the car door into the wall of snow some more, but it wouldn't budge.  I tried the other door.  It was frozen completely shut. I tried the windows but couldn't roll them down either.  I had only scraped small circles to see through. It would be getting dark in a while and what little light I had would disappear completely. What good would it do to scream?  No one would hear me.  I couldn't get out. I was freaked

This was a tomb.

I sat quietly with my fear for a while.  I was getting cold.  I turned the key and started the engine.  Good.  I put the car into reverse and rocked my wheels the way my mother had taught me.  Each time I rocked forward, there was a sickening crunch against the front windshield, but I was determined to keep rocking.  I tried to time my shifting from forward to reverse to coincide with the rocking, pausing a half a beat before putting it into forward again to see if I could keep going backward.  I finally rocked out of that hole, getting up some speed in reverse and blindly backed out onto the highway.  I knew that I might get smeared by a semi truck if one was coming just then. Dumb luck. I got the car moving forward and got the hell out of Dodge. 

A couple of days later, I was headed home from school on that same road when I saw a couple of State Patrol cars stopped by my hole.  Three uniformed men stood there staring into it. I kept on driving, feeling as if they might be able to track me down, wondering what they might be able to see, in that snow, of my story. 

I didn't tell that story to Brandon to talk about fear.  I told it to be funny, but today, it's a different story.  There's a place where fear meets nothingness.  If I had died in that tomb of snow, so what? It would hurt at first, but then it wouldn't, and it would be over.  What would that mean?  Nothing?  Is that where fear comes in, that in the end, it all means nothing?  Or is the fear something else?  Is it so closely tied with hope, hope of simple survival, that it, by itself, can get you out of a hole that feels like a tomb, even if it's just to spend another day making dinner and watching a movie with your family?  Nope, I'm not ready to give up my fear, not just yet.

Thank you for listening, jb 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Password

We had our next to last Cub Scout meeting tonight.  Nick will be joining Boy Scouts in just two weeks.  January is always on our Cub Scout schedule as the meeting to run the Pinewood Derby.  Most kids at this meeting like racing their cars, but then get bored when their car is done.  Mike and I have always advocated for alternate activities, but  the other leaders don't want any extra work.  They're up there, with the cars, watching like little kids and they don't see what happens when a boy is done racing.  Since there isn't much else to do, the kids run up and down the bleachers, and work to tear up the padding on the gym's climbing wall.  One year, a kid leaping across the bleacher benches fell and had to get stitches.  Mike sets up a course for the kids to race R/C cars.  It usually results in sort of a Battlebots situation with the cars crashing against each other but at least they're not destroying anything or each other.  One year a tussle ended up with a kid's foot on another kid's neck.  Up to now, I'd been one of the only adults that would approach the boys to stop this kind of behavior.  The older of these kids see me as just a mom and work to stay as far as possible from me.  This year, I let go of the responsibility of trying to reign in the kids leaping the bleachers and sticking coat hangers into the padding covering the climbing wall, so I took the puppy for a short walk in the middle of the meeting and came back just in time to help clean up, load up, and head home.

More than once, I've been wearing some Cub Scout Tshirt or other in the grocery store and been approached by a teenaged boy or a young man in his twenties.  That just doesn't happen in the normal course of a day for me.  These guys go on about how much fun they had racing their Derby car or what they did at the camp whose shirt I am wearing.  I like that something as simple as a wooden block carved into the shape of a car can open that strange gate that stops a teenager from talking to a fifty-one year old woman.  Our culture has created this barrier.  I admit that I'm old enough that I remember a time when kids didn't feel that it was a requirement to ignore most adults.  I really hate that barrier.  I guess it's the embarrassement I feel when I say hi to a kid I know from Nick's school and they walk by without so much as a nod.  Eye contact would be enough.

It doesn't have to be this way.  Before Nick was born, Mike and I went up to Alaska with a friend to do some canoeing.  Just South of Anchorage, we stopped for gas on our way down to the Kenai Penninsula where we were going to put in for a five day trip.  I was hanging around the rental car gasing up when a big kid sauntered over.  It made me a little uncomfortable.

"Hi!" he said.

"Hi," I said tentatively.  I ventured a bit of a smile, you know what kind of smile I'm talking about, the one that isn't all that friendly.

"How are you?"

"Uh, I'm fine," I said.  I started looking around for Mike when the kid sat down on an overturned five gallon bucket.  He wasn't getting any closer and his face had kind of an open look to it. 

"Where are you headed," he asked. I started to relax a little.  Mike had left the convenience store carrying a couple of those bear-sized pepper spray canisters and walked toward us.

"We're going to do some canoeing down in Kenai," I said, warming up to this curious boy.

"Well, it's going to be good weather for it," he said.  He went on to talk about people he knew down in Kenai as if we might run into them.  He talked about the brown bears when I asked him some questions.  He told us that some bears, the ones with experience with it, will back off when they even see those big cans of pepper spray being held up.  He talked about the weather some more and grinned big as if he'd like nothing more than to tag along on our trip.  By the time we'd filled the tank and bought some road snacks, I liked this friendly, curious boy. I was struck by how this would never have happened back home in the lower forty-eight.  He waved enthusiastically as we drove away and yelled for us to have a good trip.  Well, in my book, it was already a good trip.  I like talking to people.  It's always part of my adventure, especially when I'm in a different culture.  I hadn't even realized that Alaska would have a culture so different that what I knew.  Across the U.S., there is definitely a difference in culture as you move from one region to another, but it's subtle most of the time so that you have to live in a place to feel it.  It isn't so subtle a difference in Alaska.  Kids there will talk to an adult.

Years ago, when Mike and I lived in New Jersey, he was a Scout leader for an Explorer Post.  When we started dating, I joined too.  It was fun.  I got to go canoeing, climbing, caving, and whitewater rafting.  One of the coolest parts was just hanging out with these kids.  I let the guys do the leader stuff, only speaking up when I though someone was going to get hurt.  We had an amazing time and I could see into a different generation than my own.  Sometimes, because I drove a Blazer, I was loaded with gear and only had room for one passenger.  It was always interesting.  At first, the kid assigned to ride with me would climb into the truck and look at me as though I might bite.  Then, I'd ask him to pick out some music from a box of tapes that I carried.  There was one Led Zeppelin tape in it and that was almost always what he chose.  We'd sit in that truck with the music turned up high for a bit and it didn't take long for him to turn down the music and start talking, as if Led Zeppelin was the secret password to the club. 

These days, after getting the cold shoulder from teenagers for so many years, I'm getting a different kind of treatment from some of the boys I know just a bit in our the small town.  Mike will become the Scout Leader for the local troop in about six months.  Word has spread and I've gone from a person to ignore to being someone to get to know.  Interesting.  Since I like to talk to all kinds of people, I think I'm going to like having this small glimpse into the lives of a population that, until now, has been completely closed off from me.  I may have to dig up some Led Zeppelin music, except that, most likely, the password has been changed. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Imperfect Gifts

So, during our six days and five nights of powerlessness, six people offered for us to come over and shower.  My husband's company set something up for showers on the first day after power went out.  We took one friend up on it after skipping a day and was about to say 'yes' again on day five when Nick got sick and we needed to hunker down with him instead.  Then power came on and I got my shower.  As it was, I had a shower every other day.  If I'd taken everyone up on their offers, I'd have had to take two showers some days.  I know what people are thinking.  A shower feels good when you're cold and dirty.

I had other offers of help too.  One friend brought dinner the day after power came on, saying we'd still be catching up after all of that.  We were.  My house was a mess. 

Another friend had Nick over for a sleepover one of the nights.  He got a shower in and played with his friend as if it was a normal day.  He had a great time and I knew he was clean and warm that night.
Yet another friend offered to loan us her kerosene heater once her power came on. 

So, I should complain.  I have friends, nice friends.   It was great to feel all this caring come my way.  Facebook was a great network for keeping in touch during all of this even though data on my iPhone was sketchy when I was at home.  Once we could get out and about, we could catch the wave and facebook away. 

Here's the problem.  I am not very good at accepting help or telling people how best to help when they're offering it.  More than a shower, I needed help hauling water every day.  My back was killing me after hauling all 144 pounds of it over that sketchy snow on a cheap sled every day once Mike went back to work.  I had back surgery when I was 24 years old and I really shouldn't have been pulling that much weight.  I don't like to complain about it though, so most people don't even know.  I am very careful, so people don't even notice how I manage to stretch and avoid lifting heavy objects.  I could barely handle the five gallon jugs when I needed to fill the toilet tank.  How do you ask for help with that?  Really.  I might have been able to ask my friends to leave a gallon jug at the door now and then, but it's likely they'd have left a brand new jug rather than filling up an old one.  I just can't imagine pouring bottled water into a toilet tank.

I appreciated the meal my friend brought.  I really did.  I had mentioned to her that Mike can't eat onions.  I didn't tell her that, rather than being a preference, it irritated his intestines, that the doctors used to think he'd be a candidate for surgery until he began to manage the problem by limiting his diet.  Her dinner was chock full of onions, diced small so they were hard to pick out.  Mike ate it anyway, but I wonder if he got much work done today.  Plus, it was a pasta dish.  I ate a little bit, but it pushed my carb count too high and I felt drugged and thirsty afterward.  So bringing us meals really isn't the way to go either.  No tree nuts, no onions, no greens, no peppers, no broccoli, no pasta, not much rice, and no bread.  How could I possibly accept an offer for a dinner and then turn around and say all that?  I can't, that's how.  Our family just needs something that is very specific when it comes to food and people don't get that it's a medical issue for each one of us.  Add on top of that the feeling of humiliation when I watched my friend look around at my house before I'd had a chance to clean it up.  There are three people who are good enough friends that I don't mind if they see my house when it's really messy and she isn't one of them.  That feeling was almost as hard to manage as the carbohydrates.

The kerosene heater offered by a friend might have been good too, to go with the wood stove and really heat up the house, but I think Mike has a kerosene heater in the garage.  He always keeps the door opened for ventilation when he's using it, so that worried me.  Plus, it's likely to be a big honking heater and I'd have to haul it back and forth.  Ha! 
The sleepover was great, but Nick, already tired from one night on the floor in a cool room, came home exhausted from staying up until after midnight.  Then he had two more mornings of waking up cold before we realized that one of us needed to get up in the wee hours to stoke the fire.  This boy still isn't very good at snuggling down into his sleeping bag or staying on the sleeping pad when he's cold.  I think three nights of being chilled and one night of staying up really late has contributed to this cold he's battling now.

It's embarrassing to shower at someone's house.  I'm not sure why.  As much as I'd like to, I'm not going to ask people to come vacuum my floors, dust around my piles of books, pick up debris in my yard, walk my dog, or let me come over to their house to make my protein smoothie.  I'm really not.

Now you have it.  I'd like to let people help me.  I really would .... but I'm picky and ungrateful too.
Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Did you want this story about the power outage to continue?  Did you?  Well, I'm happy to say that it's over.  Okay, it's mostly over.  I have power.  It's warm in my house.  I have water.  Hell, I have hot water!  My washer, dryer, and dishwasher have been running almost continuously since noon.  I can't tell you how happy it made me that I can go back to rinsing my recyclables before I put them in my bin.  There is also joy in hearing the ice maker dump a load of cubes into the tray for me.  The little things can be significant.  I hadn't realized how much I missed my ratty old loofah sponge.  My skin is so smooth!  Well, my hands are rough from all the pioneering.  I imagine that won't change this week since I'm going to be up to my elbows cleaning up the aftermath, and hopefully a bit more.  Wouldn't it be nice to call the carpet cleaners?  Oh, you know I pioneered for too long if I'm looking forward to having the carpets cleaned.

In all that dim light, I hadn't realized just how much dirt had accumulated.  I have sooty clothes and dishes.  Do you really need to hear about all the cleaning I have to do now?  Inside and out, our house is a mess.  I can't even think of the landscaping I'm going to need to tackle having lost thirteen trees on our acre and a third of property.  But maybe it's going to be that kick in the pants that I need.  See, I'd much rather write to you than work in the yard or use my vacuum.cleaner. 

The other ongoing part of this saga is that Nick has come down with another virus.  I'm really not ready to be up until 5:00 am with a boy who can't breathe well.  "The season is coming," Mike told me this morning.  Between February and May, Nick almost always misses ten to fourteen days of school with his asthma.  I really need more time before that comes, but it could segue right into it from this situation.  Hmmm.

Well hell!  The wind has picked up and the power has gone out in town.  My neighbor said there are branches strewn about on the roads.  I'd better get moving.  I want my flashlight in my pocket while I'm vacuuming. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, January 23, 2012

Stuck Between Two Lives

This is our fifth night in darkness. Nick said, tonight, that the nights are the hardest for him. I find the days are harder.

Okay, let's start with the fact that I know I am spoiled. Lights, heat, cold or hot food are at my fingertips most of the time. I can jump into my car and go where I want. I can meet, call, text, or Facebook my friends. I have access to any number of interesting stores whether I feel like painting or grabbing an organic snack.

Here's what I find difficult. Most of the rest of this area has had power for the last couple of days. School is back in session. My usual schedule of activities are at hand. So I'm getting text messages from people while I'm struggling with the five gallon water jug, trying to fill the tank on the back of the toilet. Other people are calling on my cell phone while I'm trying to fill those jugs in the smelly concrete tank house. It's an awful mix. I can slow down for the camping stuff, then I need to speed up for the rest of the world. The demand is there to get busy.

Today, I was supposed to get Nick to band on time before school, get boxes and wrapping paper at Ben Franklin for the den meeting tonight, shop for dinner and a prescription, walk the dog with my friend, volunteer at school, help with the den meeting, and I had quilt night tonight. Even with all of my modern conveniences, it was to be a busy day. By the afternoon, I couldn't even imagine going to my quilt night in a bright and cosy room full of women who didn't even have the same weather we had last week. We live in the convergence zone and towns just five miles away had it much easier.

I volunteered at school today and the kids are all back to normal and don't have much to say about having lost power for a few days. Even the other parents, looking all clean and coiffed, are surprised we're still stuck. They're sympathetic, even offering for us to come shower, but I don't want to depend on someone else's kindness. There it is. I don't accept help comfortably.

When I got home after my errands, I had an hour and a half to build a fire in the wood stove and get a stew going so we could have some real food for dinner. Then while I volunteered at school, I was worried that I had either scorched my stew or let the fire go out in my absence. Plus, I needed to fill my jugs and drag that fifteen gallons of water back home on a sled with barely enough snow to cover the route. I can slow down to do that work, but then I had to hurry up to volunteer at school and later, to get to the den meeting on time. See what I mean? I was flipping back and fourth between cultures, old and new.

My grandma used to be amazed at all the things I got into, all the things we signed Nick up to do. She told me that when my dad was little, he played with his cousin sometimes, but mostly, he stayed at home with her. She kept that quiet lifestyle throughout her life, though she had most modern conveniences by the time I came along. I do remember when she got a washer and dryer for the first time and she got rid of 'that nasty old wringer' that she feared would take off a finger or a scalp. But I remember how she'd put bread on the outside edge of the oil heater to rise in an old coffee can. She understood a slow life and it was at her skirts that I figure I learned to be comfortable with it. Still, she stuck with it, choosing to spend her days quiet and mostly at home.

In any case, here I am, dirty, tired, and cold and I am truly ready to see the lights go on in my house. The rest of the world isn't stopping. Movies are still coming in from the library. There is work to be done and there are text messages to answer.

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Song Echoing in the Darkness

This is our fourth night without power. Nick has school tomorrow and Mike will be going to work. I'll miss them even though this has stopped feeling like a vacation and become a feat of endurance for the three of us. Most of our friends have power back and they're all talking about the storm and losing power in the past tense. The rest of us look and feel beleaguered. It's easy to see who we all are.

When we stopped by for much needed showers, I can't tell you how much I envied that our friends don't have to pour four gallons of water into the back of the toilet every time they flush. Its really heavy. I envied their casual use of lights, more than one for each room. I envied their hot water, setting it hot and letting it warm my bones.

I am tired of having to bank up the fire at 3:00 am because I wake up cold, of having to put water on to boil twenty minutes before I can have some tea, of wandering through semi-darkness trying to find where I put the things I need or even functioning enough to roast hot dogs and fresh vegetables on the grill.

Today, I emptied the fridge and both freezers. Oh man, I threw away a lot of food. It was sad. Thankfully, we had been trying to use up what was in the deep freeze and I hadn't restocked it completely yet.

I did go to church this morning. It was good for my morale. The turnout for choir was small and the woman who plays piano was absent. I had an impulse to sing in church today but I didn't plan what happened. I sang the 'Ave Maria.' Oh, I know you might want to know which one and I can't remember or find my music to look it up. It's the one I sing in the shower. It's the one that almost always synchronizes with rap music because the beat is right and the contrast is stunning. It's the song I sing when I need to be comforted. So I just got up at the offering and offered to sing. I forgot what my hair must have looked like and I closed my eyes and sang, listening for that resonance in the old church and using it to widen my voice. My favorite place to sing is in a parking garage, but that always raises the question of sanity, so I work with the sound I get out of our little church. There is a small echo there, but it is enough.

For some reason, I played the piano too. There was no one to play a prelude or a postlude. I couldn't remember any of my old pieces except for the 'Fur Elise' and that made me feel as though I were in seventh grade again. So I noodled around at the beginning and at the end of the services. I used a lot of seventh and ninths in my chords, so I could play anything with the rest of the notes. It was kind of fun and I was too worn down to be nervous. Someone actually asked me who wrote that piece. Ha! I did.

I played for the other people who still didn't have power to their homes. I sang because I know how hard it is to feel cold so much of the time and to have to haul water and wood. I played because I knew they might have to sit in the near-darkness for just a few more nights and I wanted my music to echo, even in a small way, in their hearts.

Thank you for listening, jb


This is our third night without power since the ice storm. We lost twelve or thirteen trees in our yard and many other large branches. Thankfully, none of them landed on our house, garage, or cars. How lucky is that? We finally have phone service, but I have to keep this short as my phone is dying and I can't charge it until I get into the truck tomorrow.

We're camping in our house. We have a fire in the wood stove, food in coolers, water in the cistern on the neighbors property, a grill, candles burning, and showers facilities at neighbors houses who have power restored.

We're doing okay, but I'm tired. We'll have so much work to do with the trees, but right now, we're busy hauling firewood, keeping the fire going, cooking in a different way, and bringing in water. Somehow, we walked the puppy today, bought some new snow boots, and found unscented candles. We're doing okay. Nick says we could live like this all of the time, but I know we'll all be glad to have power when it comes.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Weather Drama

The view out my window is a study in black and white, with the neighbors little red barn the exception.   We were supposed to get six to thirteen inches of snow.  People battened down the hatches.  They called it Snowmageddon on the news.  It's hard to find milk and bread at the grocery stores.  Overnight, we got almost an inch of snow.  Since then, we've had five inches more.  Ha!  I just love watching the weather people around here.  There's so much drama. 

I do like that both Mike and Nick are home today.  It has felt like a mini-vacation with all of this expectation of snow and everyone at home.  Yet, I can remember at least one snow day each year when the kids have been home all day without even a dusting of snow.  Really?  After living in this area for twenty-two years, you'd think I'd be used to this.

I moved here in late August of 1990.  Within a month, I had a job with a good avionics company as a technical writer.  That November, we had a snowfall of about eight inches.  I put on my boots, threw a blanket into the truck and drove to work.  I couldn't figure out why there were abandoned cars strewn about as if it was a war zone.  When I got to work, the building was locked up and the security system was on.  I could look through the window and see it blinking.  I couldn't get in.  Oh man, I thought I was I going to lose my job for not showing up at work.  I couldn't remember my boss's phone number.  I didn't want to leave.  I'd gotten there ten minutes early just in case it took me extra time on the road.  I waited at that door until the snow started melting down into to tops of my boots.  I waited in my truck. There were no cell phones back then or at least I didn't have one.  Do you remember those old cell phones that were the size of a brick?   Rather than get hyperthermia, I scratched out a note on a scrap of paper I found in my purse and jammed it as far as I could into the crack of the door frame.  I put down what time I'd come, what time I'd left, and the date.  Then I drove home.  After that, I got out my cross-country skiis and skated down the middle of the empdy road looking at all those abandoned cars.  I almost skiied out to my new office.  I was tempted.  I still wasn't certain I would have a job in the morning.  No one showed up to work for three days and they laughed at all the notes that I had left. 

When Mike got home from work that first day, we both laughed as we watched the weather report.  It was 27 degrees outside and they were calling it an arctic blast.   These people have never seen an arctic blast.  I remember complaining about the weather at my college being down below zero for a month.  My friends who went to school in Minnesota laughed at me.  They wore shorts and played ultimate frisbee when the temperatures got up to zero.  Zero degrees Farenheit, that is. 
I remember this one guy at my college who used to wear shorts every day, throughout that whole cold month.  I finally gathered up my courage, approached him, and asked.  He told me he was from Nome, Alaska and that this weather felt downright balmy to him.  Okay, I was a lightweight.  That was okay with me.  Over the years, I learned that my body could learn to tolerate the cold and that good gear went a long way toward protecting me.

So now, I've lived in the Pacific Northwest for twenty-two years.  I have never once seen a woman wearing one of those long puffy coats out here and yet I hear them complain about the frigid weather.  My weather gear this season has been a fleece vest, a hoodie, and a rain jacket.  I have a real winter coat, but I haven't needed it in a while.  After all these years, it's still funny when the weather dips below freezing and the news people warn about an arctic snap and caution people not to go anywhere if they don't have to.  I will concede that there are a number of steep hills around here that complicate driving.  Plus, the roads are never slicker as when water on them is just hovering at freezing.  I'll also admit that my skills at driving in snow have lapsed a bit.  I'm out of practice. 

Beyond that, I just don't understand the complaints about the weather.  The snow is beautiful, great for packing into snowballs and building forts and snowmen.  The puppy loves when we throw snowballs for him.  The kids are enjoying the sledding hill/driveway.  And I have my whole family with me here at home.

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Through That Dark Tunnel

I hate trying to blog when I'm tired.  I'm tired now.  I did sleep last night, but I walked the dog, shopped for groceries, played with boys, listened for unhappy yelling, yelled a couple of warnings, made hot cocoa and beef stroganoff, served snacks, took pictures, and refereed a sword fight.  Some people go to work and have children.  I don't know how they do it.  I get tired by this time in the day.  I didn't get a nap in.  Oh, whine, whine, whine.  I need someone to rub my feet and draw a bath for me.  Maybe a glass of wine instead.   

The boys had a snow day.  They slept late, but not late enough.  They screamed around the house, played games, pretended to be warriors, played with action figures, played 'funny falls' on a camping mattress, careened down the driveway on sleds, and played video games for just a little while. 

It didn't even snow here today.  There wasn't even a half an inch of snow left after the mist slushed it away this afternoon, but two miles away and a few hundred feet higher in elevation, they got seven inches of snow last night.  I love that about this area.  I can have wilder weather than one of my best friends three miles down the road, mostly because of the gradual climb to my house.  Nick's school, four miles away in the other direction, can have wilder weather than we have because they are just that much higher than we are.  One night, I was driving home from Fall City in a driving snowstorm and could barely discern a line across the road ahead of me and an unnerving darkness beyond it.  It was as if the world ended beyond that point.  I was already moving slowly, so I crept toward it and was suddenly out in an ordinary night before I realized I'd abruptly left the storm.  There was actually a line where the snow on the road suddenly ended.
So today, when I left Adrian and Nick by themselves so I could walk Teddy and pick up some groceries, I told them to call me if the traffic slowed down on the highway or if it began to snow and looked serious outside.  Of course, I was just getting warmed up on the trail with Teddy when Nick called.  He sounded a little worried.

"Mom! It's hailing," he said, "really hard."

"Well, are the cars slowing down outside?"
"Wait a minute," he said.  It always feels strange to hear phone silence.  It was a long silence.  Teddy came leaping back to where I stood on the trail.  I stood with my iPhone to my ear, my finger over the hole in the top of the phone to keep out drips.  I looked at the display to see if I'd lost Nick. somehow.


"Yup, I'm here," I said.

"They're going fast out there," he said.

"Okay, that's good.  Call me in fifteen minutes if it's still hailing super hard," I said. "Wait, no, call me in twenty minutes.  The roads can't get that bad in the next twenty minutes that I couldn't get home to you."  Actually, that isn't true.  Just at freezing, the roads can go from slushy to treacherous in minutes, but I wasn't going to tell Nick that right now.  He sounded worried that he'd be stuck alone there with just Adrian for the next week if the weather turned.  I knew he'd be good for the rest of the night if he had to, but he wasn't sure of it.  I figured I had time to enjoy my walk and take that risk.  It might be good for him to be on his own for a little longer.  Eleven is such a funny age, so full of confidences and insecurities all blended together. One minute, he's acting like a man and the next, he's my little boy again.

So I walked, kick up the snow, thought of my boy, and watched Teddy romping around.  Teddy danced circles around me, got into a muddy trench to darken his ankles, then ran through two tunnels, coming out the other side all proud of himself and dirty.  We had a nice walk, but when the snow really started coming down, I turned back, ready to reenter the noise of happy boys playing in my house.  I made it home to them with no problem, but I sort of look forward to the day when Nick goes off on his own, through a dark tunnel, and comes out the other side, dirty and proud of himself for having survived.

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, January 16, 2012

Snow and Hot Cocoa

I am happy to announce that we finally retired the ghetto box, the cardboard box from Christmas 2010 that Buddy the cat adopted when noone was willing to save him a lap.  Neither of the cats seem to be missing it.  There's no circling around that spot, no crying while looking there, no lashing out at the puppy.  They don't even seem to have noticed.  Somehow, I expected to keep that stupid box until Buddy really did reach his expiration date.  The sweet guy is still going strong.  I've tried to give him more lap time, but walking a dog has dug into it.  I like resilience and determination in a cat. 

I'm looking out on the front lawn where the boys seemed to have dug up every inch of snow in an attempt to built a snow fort.  It takes a lot of snow to build a fort, but I can tell you, this snow is perfect for building.  It packs tight and holds onto other snow.  We're all hoping that it will snow some more and the kids will be off from school for another day.  A minute ago, I wished we were all still outside playing because the trees joined in the game and began to drop great snowballs from their boughs.  It is a wet snow, so each branch is outlined in white.  It's pretty, but I'm glad it's dropping off since it's supposed to snow again later and the branches are already weighed down pretty well.  There's another big snowball fight happening outside.  The trees play even when we've quit and come inside for hot cocoa. 

I've been making homemade cocoa for Nick and Adrian, using milk, half-n-half, stevia, and unsweetened cocoa warmed on the stove.  Then I have them whip up some cream to top it.  My mother used to make hot chocolate that way.  My mother did some good things.

She also made snow ice cream after it had snowed long enough.  My dad used to say that the act of snowing cleaned the air so that after six or seven inches of snow two or three days in a row and finally he'd declare that it was clean enough to eat.  I've read that there is no place in the world left where it's safe to eat the snow.  That stinks.  My mother would have us get a stockpot full of the cleanest snow we could find.  Then she quickly added sugar, vanilla, and a little milk and stirred it up and served it before it melted.  It was so different from regular ice cream, more strongly vanilla flavored and grainy from the sugar.  We loved it.  It's funny how we could come in from playing in the snow, our skin still cold inside our clothes, and we'd sit down to eat a bowl of snow ice cream. 

You can see why I'm insulin-resistant, don't you?  I have eaten enough sugar in my lifetime so far for two whole lifetimes.  Sometimes I wonder if I ate more sugar because I was insulin-resistant or if I was insulin-resistant because I ate more sugar?  I know I had the same trouble with low blood-sugar when I was a kid.  I couldn't think.  I got really shaky and sweaty and would often feel nauseous if I had to wait too long between meals.  Now, I know that if I feel that way during a normal interval, I'm eating too much sugar and need to cut back.  I carry food with me everywhere, tomato juice, corn nuts, apple sauce, and turkey jerky.  Protein is the safest way for me to take care of that feeling, but I can't tell you how tired I am of eating jerky.

I'm starting to get warmed up after being pummeled with snow balls.  The boys teamed up against me and, though I got them pretty good a couple of times, they really got going and I was done for.  Now, we're back inside.  They played out in the snow from 8:00 am until about 1:30 pm, coming in to warm up and eat before they went back out.  I think they're done for now since Adrian fell and bruised his knee.  I might make popcorn later.  Oh man, my mother used to make popcorn balls too.  Basically, you make popcorn and roll it in Karo syrup and butter.  All of those winter foods have so much sugar in them.  I was thinking of making cookies later too, but that's just sad without sugar.  It's sad and hard but we've lost so many of those traditions.  How can I justify it when Nick has the same problem that I do with sugar? 

So after the boys came inside, I made up salads with romaine lettuce, cheese curds, fresh pineapple, chunks of summer sausage, and raspberry viniagrette dressing.  It was delicious!  I could have made soup, but I'm kind of tired of my cheesy brocoli soup and haven't been otherwise inspired. 

The boys are lost in a video game.  The skies are heavy with unshed snow.  I'm going to head into my kitchen, turn on my audio book, 'Historian,' by Elizabeth Kostova, and see if I can gather the ingredients for chili.  It's a good night for chili.  Now that's a winter tradition I can keep.

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, January 15, 2012


It's finally snowing.  There's nothing like a snowball fight and a romp in the snow with a puppy to get through that afternoon tiredness that demands a long nap.  The problem with actually taking that long nap is that I often wake up disoriented, with a headache, and it interferes with my sleep during the coming night. 

Last night, I woke to a long, loud cry, a sound that seemed to be coming from inside the house.  In my confusion, I went upstairs, thinking that Nick might still be feeling sick and that the noise came from him.  He was sound asleep.  As I crawled back into my bed, I heard the sound again, a coyote howling, this time a little further from my window.  Hopefully, my coyotes were thinning the rodent population around my house last night.  I've never seen my coyotes.  They come late at night, romp across the back deck, never pausing, singing in the night.  Their cry is more eerie than a loon's, ranging from a dog's howl to a woman laughing in the dark.  I love the sound of their voices, but it raises the hair on the back of my neck.  I don't stand outside when I hear them howling so closely.  I love to look into the cats' eyes when we hear that wild sound together. 

I wondered what they thought of the new smells, of Teddy and his his yellow snow.  Can a canine smell age in the marks that are left behind?  I'm sure they can smell the richness of the food offered to our little guy.  Can they tell how brave a dog is, or how tired, or how healthy?  Dogs can smell cancer.  Are the other things apparent as well?  I'm sure they can smell that this dog is always accompanied by a human.  I hope my human smell will help to protect us since we walk, sometimes, at dusk.  In my mind, dusk is a hunting time, but I've never heard coyotes howl before 11 pm.  Maybe it's because I understand black bear better than coyote.  Black bear, in all the camping I've ever done, have always come foraging for food at dawn or at dusk. 

The other day, it was deep dusk when Teddy and I walked our familiar trail up by Lake Alice.  We met two groups of people we knew from school and from church.  We stood and talked while the kids played with the puppy.  As each group departed, someone always said to watch out.  One said to watch out for the coyotes.  I doubt that coyotes would mess with a thirty pound dog and its owner, even if the dog is still clumsy and curious.  Still, the warning did its job.  The second group warned me that they lived further up the ridge and to watch out for the cougar.  Now, I've never seen a cougar in the wild.  I've gone backwoods camping in Maine, the Adirondacks, North Carolina, Indiana, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington state, and Alaska and I have never seen or heard a cougar.  Yet there are cougars around here and in every state where I've ever camped.  I'm not exactly sure what I would do if I encountered a cougar.  I've been told you need to face them down and back away trying to look big.  Well then.  I'm not sure what I would do.

With a black bear, I'd sure be excited and a little scared, but I'd bang pots, clap my hands, and yell.  I wouldn't approach a bear with food or cubs or an injury.  Well, I wouldn't approach a black bear at all, but I have been known to move toward our bear bag that wasn't hung very well with a pot and lid in my hands, banging.  Granted, there were four or five of us doing the same thing and the bear ambled reluctantly past our tents, back across the river, and out of sight.  Black bear don't want to have to work that hard for their food.  I know black bear fairly well.  I don't feel as confident about grizzly, but the only place I ever camped with grizzly in the woods was Alaska and that's another story entirely, one for another day. 

So that night, as the full moon shone through a gap in the clouds, Teddy and I walked cautiously back along the trail.  Well, I walked cautiously, setting my walking stick a little more firmly on the ground.  I watched Teddy for any sign of caution.  He may be a puppy, but I've seen his hair go up for one reason or another.  I thought about how I felt about this cougar and I realized one thing.  I'm not really afraid of cougar, being fifty-one years old and never having encountered one.  I am most worried about one predator over all the others, man.  That lone man on the trail was what I was looking out for as we headed back to our car.  Years ago, there was a park I used to visit after work, but when the same stealthy guy just happened to appear for the third time in a row, I stopped going there altogether. 

Today at the market, I saw a woman with her hood pulled up over stringy hair.  She had open sores on her face, was gaunt, hunched over, and had a look on her face that I recognized but never became familiar with. The hair on the back of my neck rose.   I finished my shopping and left quickly.  Unfortunately, our town has a meth problem.  Most of the time, my daytime activities don't have me crossing paths with the darker, more unpredictable element of town.  Today, I was probably in more danger than I would ever be in my back yard in my pajamas with a fluffy little meat snack at the end of a short cord, coyotes howling all around us. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Yelling at the Game

I left the guys this morning at 9:00 am to take Teddy to puppy training.  Nick couldn't go with me because he has a virus and still isn't feeling well.  The two of them were playing video games.  Now, it is 5:41 pm and, guess what?  They are playing video games, still.  My motherly requests that they try doing something else has fallen on deaf ears.  The fatherly response is to keep playing so why should the boy stop?  This is definitely something that I don't think is healthy for Nick, but no amount of nagging will bring my husband to my side.  One of the things I hate about all-day-video-game days is that they start yelling at the screen.  Really?  I frequently ask Nick, "Does it help to yell at the programming?"
Apparently, it does. 

I'm bored with this argument and yet I can see many unfortunate effects of all this.  Sometimes I concede that, when he's sick, Nick might as well be playing video games as lying glumly in his bed.  I'm not one of those moms that say 'no' to any television when a kid is sick.  I know what it feels like to be too sick to read and it's nice to let the TV entertain me then.  I tried audio books, but get lost in the story when I fall asleep in the middle of the disk and have to figure out where I was when I drifted off.  Listening to a book is much easier for me when I'm on my feet, doing mundane chores like cleaning the kitchen.  During a good audio book, my kitchen is never cleaner.

I started listening to a new audio book today, 'Historian' by Elizabeth Kostova.  It has a good beginning. A girl finds a mysterious book in her father's library ... and then it spirals down into yet another vampire story.  At least there are no werewolves in it, yet.  The best and most predictable part about vampire stories is that itchy feeling that the main character gets late in the afternoon as the light ebbs, but then bats come out.  Bats?  Really? 

Okay, I'm not being fair.  I like this book so far, despite the vampire.  It's narration is a three layer deal.  The girl talks.  The father reluctantly and fearfully talks to the girl.  The academic advisor talks to the father, fear and dread in his voice.  It's an interesting structure, but since the academic instructor has disappeared, that part will have to be suspended.   So far, I haven't found much to be fearful about except the probability that there is truth in origins of Dracula, Vlad, the Impaler, who impaled many of his enemies and some of his subjects.  Ew.  Do I really need to hear the details of this? 

And yet, I continue to listen to this book in the same way that Nick and Mike continue to play a game that annoys them to some extent.  Maybe I should try yelling at the book to see if it helps.

Thank you for listening, jb 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Making Soup

I'm making soup.  My boy, Nick, has a stomach bug and was up all night.  I'm not sure the soup I'm making is bland enough.  I'm not even sure that Nick will have an appetite when he wakes up.  So far, I've used broccoli, chicken stock, and tiny bits of chard in my soup.  I've seasoned it with sea salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder.  I want to make a cheese soup, but even on a good day, that's too rich for him.  His favorite soup is Progresso's Italian Wedding Soup, which is harder to find around here than it used to be.  Isn't it funny how you get hooked on something and then it changes, your favorite grocery store stops carrying it, or they stop making it altogether? 

So why am I trying to recreate a soup that I have stockpiled in my cabinet?  That's a good question.  I don't even have all of the ingredients for it.  One of the big draws for Nick is the tiny meatballs in it.  He loves meatballs, in any medium.  I even make him meatball salads, using romaine lettuce, Swedish meatballs (which I can get frozen by a company called Rosina) and raspberry vinaigrette dressing.   Right now, it's his favorite salad. 

When Nick is home sick from school, I slip into a different mode, staying up with him and sleeping when he sleeps.  Unfortunately, I still have things to do today and tomorrow.  I hate when that happens.  The puppy still needs to go for a walk.  His energy levels are rising and in a bit, he's going to get into trouble.  Adrian is still coming over after school in a few minutes, so I'm not going to get that extra nap in unless Nick wakes up and feels like playing.  I really kind of want to keep them apart as much as I can so that Adrian doesn't bring this nasty virus home with him as well.  Plus, tomorrow morning, Teddy has the first class in another round of training. 

There will be no rest.

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Letting Them Work It Out

Teddy was in the same car for the first time with another dog today, a really big dog.  I'm trying to be a fan of letting them work out their own status, but I did wish a couple of times that I'd brought a squirt bottle.  They were rolling around, teeth bared.  It looked pretty scary, but neither of them were making much noise.  Teddy just wouldn't let that poor guy alone and he got tired of it.  A squirt from a water bottle would have told Teddy that he was going just a little too far and deserved it when the big guy held him down by his neck with one paw. 

Later this afternoon, Nick told us that he had a paper that was due tomorrow, a paper that was a big part of his grade for the term.  Oh man.  I really hate that last minute push to get a big project done.  If I was really doing my job as a mom, I would have let him struggle with it, let him fail even.  That would have been like letting him work out his own status, the way the dogs were doing in the car.  I didn't do it.  I guess I'm still a brown-nosing teacher's pet wanna-be.  I always was and I always will be.  Nick is not.  He does care what his teacher thinks of him, but he's no brown-noser. 

Instead of letting him fail, I helped him.  I printed out relevant material.  I read to him and let him take notes on what was interesting.  I even typed half-way throug, when he started flagging.  He's coming down with a cold and sounds pretty pathetic.  I'm sure that part of that sound was for my benefit.  Still, he's finished now, or rather, we are done now, and he's still sniffling and saying he doesn't feel well, while playing a few minutes of video games before going to bed. 

To my credit, this is the first time I've really helped him with homework all year.  His teacher made a point of telling us parents that the fifth-grade kids needed to be more independent, even if they didn't do any homework at all.  I have tried to honor that.  I really have, but the stricken look on Nick's face when he realized that he had a whole week's worth of work to do in just one night struck a chord. 

When I was seventeen, I had a single paper that I wrote for one class.  There were no tests, no quizzes, no homework.  Just one paper.  I'd done the research, the notes, the draft.  The teacher had set us up with interim deadlines to teach us to work to a schedule.  He clearly delineated the stages and gave us grades for those parts, but the final paper was worth 51% of the grade. And guess what?  I procrastinated. 

My brother, home from college for spring break, stepped in and typed my entire paper for me that night, all thirty-four pages.  We progressed page by page, editing as we went.  He typed.  I talked and read from my draft.  When I froze, thinking of all the work I still had to finish, he'd ask me a question to redirect my attention.  It was 3:00 am when we finished typing the last page.  In the end, I got an A+ on that paper and for the class.  The only reason I got it was because my brother helped me.  He kept me from failing.

I don't know if that makes it okay, the fact that someone helped me back when I was struggling.  Most of the time I did good work, earning the grades that I achieved.  I guess I'll have to remember that with Nick, that he'll be better off if he does most of the work himself.  He'll be in a small place with the big dog one day and he'll have to stand on his own then, just not today.

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Nothing to Prove

I sing in a very small church choir every Sunday.  We have three sopranos, three baritones, four very quiet altos, and a single tenor, more of an ensemble, really.  We aren't very good, but we try and we have an amazing pianist.  Even in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, there are music students who couldn't make a living as musicians and are now working in some other field.  I don't know what our pianist does for a living, but it's not music.

Recently, we lost our director to a move and one of the members of our choir stepped up to fill in.  She's very talented, pushing at the edges of our abilities to get us to blend and use dynamics.  She was born to teach.  For a while, I tried to help and got to using my Indiana heritage as a way to introduce diction into the conversation. 

"Well, my choir in Indiana," I'd say with a dumb-hick accent, "would say 'thuh' earth instead of 'thee' earth."  It was funny.  People laughed and that one voice I'd heard singing 'thuh' would switch.  I did that a couple of times, all the while thinking of the church choir I actually sang with in Indiana.

When I was a kid, I went to a rich church in Bloomington, Indiana.  Some people went there to be seen going to the best church in town.  I didn't like that.  The minister, Dr. Gingery, didn't like it either and preached that Jesus would welcome someone in cut-off jeans and flip-flops as much as someone in a new dress with a fur coat.  That was the height of the sixties, after all, and our town had its share of hippies.  Oh, I was enamored of the hippies and would have loved for them to have walked, en masse, into our church one Sunday.  It didn't happen. I loved Dr. Gingery anyway, for his openness and his warmth.

The other cool thing about our church was the music.  The organist was Charles Webb, the Dean of the School of Music at Indiana University.  He played the organ in a most fluent and almost playful way, never leaving the tone of the hymn.  His influence also brought in the most amazing voices to sing, ethereal sopranos, deep basses.  He could even gather a volunteer orchestra at a moments notice.  Take out a few rows of pews and we were good to go.  Every week, we heard voices of people whom everyone expected to go on to sing at the Metropolitan Opera and around the world.  While I was listening, I didn't mind that some of them were only there to suck up to Dr. Webb. 

Well, there was a boy I had a crush on who was in MYF with me at church.  He was really a good musician too and one day, he got it into his head to join the choir.  I couldn't believe he wanted me to join too and when I told him I wasn't nearly good enough, he told me it was a church choir, that anyone could join.  So I screwed up my courage and went with him.  I was a second soprano and sat opposite him in the rows of basses, baritones, and tenors.  The sopranos moved over to make just a little room for me.  I sat next to the one older soprano whose voice quavered a little.  She kept coming, though the other sopranos, the young college students, seem to be trying to make her feel bad enough to quit.  I liked that woman's determination and she could read music like nobody's business.  So she belonged there, quavery voice and all.  It was a church after all.  I learned that every one of them turned the page almost a whole stanza early, that if I didn't really focus, I would be lost entirely.  But I kept going.  My crush made certain of that by asking me to pick him up for practice.

Eventually, I started to feel more comfortable.  I learned the harmonies for the common hymns and got to where I could keep up, learning a new classical piece each week, usually in Latin.  I barely kept up, but I did keep up.  It helped to be surrounded by the finest second sopranos in the nation.  I matched my voice to theirs, my breath to theirs, and tried to sing out without standing out.  That, my friends, was a feat. 

Now, it wasn't long before I realized that my crush wanted a ride and no more, and I moved away from music when I headed off to college where there wasn't even a music program.  That was the first and last time I was ever surrounded by voices of that caliber.  I will never forget it.  I also have cassette tapes they sold to us after we performed each orchestrated mass. 

So last night, at our rehearsal, the new director used my choir as an example for the fourth or fifth time, saying "Don't sing 'HAL-le-lu-jah' the way the choir in Indiana sang it.  Sing 'Ah-le-lu-jah' with your jaw dropped."  You know, I'm allowed to make fun of myself, but when someone else makes a habit of it, it kind of torques my feelings.  This woman might just stop if she heard the tape I had of the very song we were mutilating from the Faure 'Requiem.' 

I rushed home to find it, play it for them next week, but I couldn't find it.  All I had was a copy of Handel's 'Messiah.'  It put me into a situation I hate.  I really want this woman to stop what she's doing and be duly impressed by my feat, but I want it to look like a natural part of the process.  If I bring in that cassette tape, not music that we're actually practicing, it's just me with my low self-esteem, trying to feel better about myself.  It makes me look pathetic.  I don't want to look pathetic, but with the dumb-hick Indiana jokes, I feel pathetic anyway. 

I don't like playing those kind of games with people.  They either like me and appreciate my talents or they don't.  No amount of trying to prove myself to this director will accomplish anything.  Hell, she can hear my voice.  Before she got up front, she sang next to me for a year.  She hugs me and gives me solos and calls me her friend, but there's just a smidgen of competition there with our voices.  The interesting thing is that when the sopranos are supposed to hit a high note, she and I absolutely do not blend, no matter how hard I try.  So as a rule, we decide who's going for the note and the other person harmonizes.  It's much prettier that way.  Yet there is that existing tension between us, even though she's directing now.

My job here, is to resist the urge to bring in that tape of me sounding amazing with that professional choir.  In order to be true to myself, I need to let it go.  I dug this hole and there's no getting out of it with an old cassette tape of music we're not even practicing. 

Oh man, give me the strength to resist humiliating myself just that much more.

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

History Lessons

Nick is studying the Revolutionary War.  I just happen to be reading '1776' by David McCullough.  I'm finding it to be a slow read, yet I really like how McCullough personifies the military leaders in this book.  I almost didn't get through the first 100 pages because he didn't start by telling what precipitated the war.  He just dropped the reader into the middle of a Battle in Boston,  after the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party sometime in 1775.  The only reason I know that much about what started the war is that Nick brought home a USA Studies Weekly, a kid's newspaper, that described the causes of the Revolutionary War. 

I did keep reading '1776,' though, and now General Washington has brought his troops down to New York and is trying to defend it against the British.  In time, we are squarely in the 1776, so at least the title is descriptive.  I suppose I should look at a timeline because the war is waging and it's past the signing of the Declaration of Independence and July 4th.  When you're a kid, it seems like the war must have been won on that important holiday or why else are we blowing off fake artillery and singing the national anthem?  The Fourth wasn't the beginning of the war either.  So am I right, thinking that it was then that the impetus of the war changed and Americans no longer considered themselves British citizens trying to iron out a sticky problem with their king?

McCullough's book misses some battles entirely and sticks with General George Washington from Boston onward.  I guess it's a sign of a good book to incite questions and drive a reader to further research, but maybe it's just a sign of disorganization here.  I am still reading though, and I like McCullough's characterization of George Washington, often in his own words. I had no idea how precarious was the situation with our troops.  I find it fascinating that part of winning the battle in Boston involved deceiving almost everyone about how few American soldiers were prepared for war.  The book describes the rags that some of the soldiers wore and the squalid conditions in camp very clearly. 

I figured that Nick might benefit from the timing of our mutual reading and I asked him about this newspaper that he had in his backpack.  My first question was whether he needed it at school or was this to bring home.  I'm still the primary person organizing his backpack.  Then, after I was certain he hadn't missed any homework, I started asking him about his newspaper and about the book I'm reading.  I told him it didn't tell me what instigated the war.  He got excited and told me about the stamp act, that any printed documents were taxed.  In the same breath, Nick assured me that he only needed to read that one article. 

"Honey," I said, "I thought you liked history."

"I do," he said, a little defensively.

I started in about getting out what you put into something, but stopped.  It was a tired discussion between us. 

"You know, your Great Grandpa Paul loved history," I said.  "He didn't even have a high school diploma, but he was one of the most educated people I know.  Grandpa liked reading and talking about history."

"Did I know him?" he asked.

"No, honey, he died years before you were ever born.  Did you know that he came home one day and told my sister that he had to drive all the way over to the library in Washington.  He said he had read every decent book in the library in town."

You know, I believe that story.  I can imagine him in a mild huff about having to drive the extra twenty minutes to get there.  I can picture him sitting in his chair by the kitchen with a thick hardback book in his lap.  Grandpa was always reading something, usually something nonfiction.  As a kid, I never understood that.  I liked stories.  I just had no idea that real life could be as interesting or more interesting than what people made up.  Now, I would love to sit down to a conversation with my grandpa, to talk about McCullough's book.  I'd love to talk politics with him, to debate the merits of freedom versus protection in light of our more recent history.  Oh, Grandpa and I would have a lot to talk about and we'd read each other's books.  My grandpa was very interested in my education, my real education, not just the classes I took or the grades I received.  I believe he was proud of my curiosity more than anything else.

Here's the thing, without a single lecture, he would have been able to get Nick, a boy who loves history and battles, to talk and to read about the Revolutionary War.  There wouldn't be a defensive word regarding what was assigned and what wasn't.  I loved that about my grandpa.

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, January 7, 2012


After last night's revelry, I feel like I'm still celebrating the New Year.  I'm tired, but I have to admit to you that I don't mind that feeling of hanging around and taking it easy after a good celebration.  I didn't even have a drink or scream along with a loud band.  Oh, I am getting old.

I suppose that no one would mind if I leaned my recliner back, snuggled up with a tea latte and my book, '1776' by David McCullough, and fell asleep reading.  No?

Thank you, jb

Friday, January 6, 2012

Smoke Bombs, Black-Out Nerf Wars, and Pizza

I might be crazy.  Nick invited a couple of boys to come for a sleepover tonight.  Whew!  Jack's mom just asked me why they call them sleepovers when no one sleeps!  I don't know.  She also called me brave.  Two boys are easy to control, but three sort of run their own show. 

Adrian came right off the bus at 1:45 pm.  We had to run the dog a bit, but the party really started at dusk when Jack arrived a couple of hours later. 

Add to that the fact that we lost power at 11:00 am when a tree in the neighbor's yard split and fell across the lines.  It didn't come back on until about 7:30.

First, they exploded all the Pop Its leftover from New Year's eve and lit the smoke bombs we had after the Fourth of July.  I started to think the guys fixing the power lines by the road might be worried about what was smoking.  The boys were rolling the smoke bombs down the driveway and pretending they were fighting in a Revolutionary War battle.  They were the colonists.  I shouldn't have worried since the yelling probably alerted the power company guys that boys were causing the smoke.

Just as we lit the last smoke bomb, Mike drove up the driveway and the game changed to some outdoor battle with headlamps, flashlights and Mike as the enemy.

Then there was pizza by candlelight.  Mike lit a fire in the wood stove and we left them alone for a bit.  On my way up the stairs, I said, "Let me know if you need anything."

"I need fifty dollars," Jack said.

"I just need twenty-five," Adrian said. 

After pizza and another outdoor battle, they came inside and insisted that we leave the lights off.   Nick decided we had to have a black-out Nerf battle, parents against adults.  Mike and I were doing pretty well, holding the stairs, until the boys discovered the strobe setting on the headlamps and stormed us. 

With three boys and two controllers, video games didn't last long, though I give them credit for passing the controller to the next guy with every death. 

Mike pulled out the Dread Pirate game and Jack yelled, "Popcorn!" I had two orders of dirty popcorn and two of clean popcorn.  Dirty popcorn is something I came up with when Nick couldn't eat the Scout caramel corn because of the 'traces of nuts.'  I make popcorn on the stove in a stockpot with a heavy bottom.  I can't tell if it changes the flavor, but I use olive oil.  The boys came into the kitchen, grabbed pot lids as shields and demanded that I take the lid off and let it pop all over.  Teddy loved that, gobbling up anything that flew onto the floor.  He also liked the melted butter part, but I made him wait until I'd finished and delivered the bowls to the game before I let him lick the bowl I melted it in. 

You want to know what dirty popcorn is?  Really?

Okay, it's simple.  Melt your butter and pour it over the popcorn.  Sprinkle three packets of Splenda (or three teaspoons of sugar) over a large bowl of popcorn.  Then sprinkle a heaping teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder over it as well.  Stir until it looks pretty even.  The clean popcorn was just buttered and salted. 

They're starting to bicker over the game.  Mike's fading.  Teddy's asleep under my chair.  I think we'll send Mike to bed soon and set up the sleeping bags.   Then I'll have them pick out a movie and leave them to their own devices.  Oh, I worry a little about leaving three ten-year-old boys in my living room by themselves, but am I going to stay up until they fall asleep?  I don't think so.  I'm too old for that.  Besides, these are good boys that I can trust, for the most part.  I might pop up before I go to sleep and see what they're up to.  I have the mom's prerogative.

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, January 5, 2012


My espresso machine exploded.  To its credit, this espresso maker has been on my kitchen counter, making the best mochas and steamed milk for tea lattes since 1996.   It's a Krups.  When Mike gave it to me for my birthday, I was dubious.  I didn't even use it at first.  Poor Mike had to figure out how to use it and make me a mocha before I was convinced.  For a while, we bought the half gallon sized Hershey's syrup with a pump.  One day, I calculated that since I made at least half of my mochas at home, I was saving between $500 to $800 a year.  Funny how that adds up.  Eventually Mike was hooked too and that number doubled.  So then, we figured out that we could make them just the way we liked at home.  In 2005, when I was diagnosed as insulin resistant, that I couldn't tolerate any more sugar without becoming diabetic, Mike figured out how to make my mochas sugar-free using Stevia.  Then I went caffeine-free and started making tea lattes at home.  My current favorite is a decaf Stash Earl Grey tea latte with Stevia.  But today, my Krups exploded.  It was probably my fault. I'm not sure why, but I have that effect on machinery.

I was steaming milk.  Suddenly, there was a crack like a glass window being hit by a BB pellet.  I ducked, but none of the steaming milk hit me, though it splattered about a foot away on one side.  There were coffee grounds, some ash-colored stuff, and spilled milk everywhere.  Coffee grounds? 

I can't see what's wrong with it by looking at it and I don't want to turn it back on.  I let Mike do those things.  He likes fixing things that have broken.  That's what makes him a good engineer. 

There's the bus, dropping the boys off from school.

I guess this is as ordinary a day as I can get.  Even on a quiet day, I need to endure a shot of adrenaline.  I really did think the window was broken except the sound came from somewhere else. 

So the boys are playing outside the window.  I like watching them when they don't know I'm looking.  It's deep dusk out, a kind of a grayish purple.  Mike should be coming home in just a few minutes since he goes in early.  That's a plus.  I love this time of day here.  The light can be anything from gray to purple or even salmon sometimes.  Our skies are so variable. 

Maybe that's what I need to remember, that the days are colored so that every day is different.  There are no ordinary days.

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Look Out

I am always surprised at how powerful and awful I feel when I get angry. 

On New Year's Eve, Mike got a phone call from a woman who had found my backpack that was stolen out of my car.  I was so excited to be getting back some of my things.  We arranged for me to pick it up today because of the holiday and I had spent the last couple of days wondering what I would get back and about this kind woman who had called.

She was wonderful.  She had opened things up just enough to let them dry a bit even though it smelled foul.  She was really concerned about the people who had done this who were driving down her dead-end road, and  she generally exuded an air of a good woman trying to help.  She wouldn't even take a reward, though I'm glad Mike recommended that I bring flowers.  She liked the flowers.  She even hugged me and that made me cry. 

Then, thankfully, my sister called just as I got into my car to go home, so I talked to her the whole way and tried to ignore the smell that emanated from the backpack.  My sister helped too, by listening to me.  And then there was Nick, who totally understood my anger, being the small warrior that he is.  When he got home, Mike listened to me and made me cry again when he said that I should get a new backpack if this was too difficult to manage.  I'm trying to really take a moment here and think about the good people in this picture.

You see, my backpack, though intact, smelled like vomit and was filled with the broken glass from my car window.  When I got home from the sweet lady's house, I sat in my living room and tried to watch a movie while I took stock of what I had recovered.  I don't even remember the beginning of the movie.  What I was looking at in my backpack was that compelling. 

I got all of my pictures from my wallet back.  They'd stripped the cheap wallet, but the photos from it were all there, even the fortune from the cookie that said 'Happiness isn't perfect until it is shared,' something that I had slid onto the photo of Mike.  The picture of my old dog, Indiana, was ruined, but Nick's growing up pictures were going to be okay.  My favorite picture of my grandma was just a little damp.  There were pictures of Mike and I in a photo booth that I'd forgotten about.  I even got back my library card and voter registration.  I guess these people didn't want to get caught by the police with my name in my stuff.

Can you see me trying to tell you about what was good in this picture and avoiding the bad? See, they ripped the pages out of my notebook.  Most of the pages were wet, yet still legible.  I'll be able to piece together most of the ones that were torn.  But they were ripped and wadded up.

I have to admit that while I sat there with that pukey smell emanating from the pile on the floor, I started to get mad.  I got madder when I had to vacuum up some broken glass that fell out of things that I'd picked up.  I was fuming as I ironed the sheets of my notebook and tried to figure out how they went together.  The audio book from the library  had been fine.  Even the paperback book by E.O. Wilson was intact, my bookmark in place.  Really?  And you just had to rip the pages out of my notebook? Did you need some paper? 

Okay, you can see me going off here, can't you?  I did.  I went off into a train of thought and after a warning, both Nick and Mike were smart enough to let me alone with it.  Mike took Nick to karate and then to Jack-in-the-Box for dinner.  I cleaned.  After I vacuumed the rest of the living room floor, I turned the pukey and empty backpack inside out, dumping the broken glass into the garbage.  Then, I put it on the longest cycle my washer had available.  I was on a roll.  I swept out the garage. 

The car was next.  I took everything out of it and vacuumed it until there wasn't even a pine needle stuck in the threads of the carpet.  I vacuumed down into the crevices.  I moved the seats all the way back and vacuumed, then all the way forward and vacuumed some more.  I took out all the mats and vacuumed them.  Some of the positions I was in were better than yoga moves.   Then after that, I steam cleaned the inside of the car. 

There is something therapeutic about cleaning when you're angry.  The best part is that in my head, I battled with these people who did this to me.  I made them pay for everything they did and every other evil thing I suffered at the hands of people like them.  There was the creepy guy in the grocery store when I was ten, the girl who stole my credit cards and check book while I was in the hospital, the guy who was high at 8am who sideswiped me on I-90, the Domino's Pizza guy who rear-ended me and tried to say it was my fault, the cruel landlord who I could hear beating his wife and infant child, the boss who harassed me, all of them and more.  There are lots of stories here, aren't there?  Well, you're not likely to hear them, but maybe I'll change my mind and tell them some day.  Maybe.  In my imagination, these guys got all their evil back and then some. 

The last few words to my imaginative scenario was them saying, 'It'll be our word against yours.  We can sue you for doing this to us.'

And my response was going to be , 'Not when you're dead.'

Boy that was a good fantasy.  I'm feeling much better now.

Thank you for listening, jb