Saturday, June 30, 2012

Bears vs. Prowlers

I'm helping the guys pack today and then they're off to Boy Scout camp.  I wish I could come with them for at least part of the week.  I'm looking forward to some solitude, but I'll miss them at the same time.  Will I sit around all week, waiting for them to return, or will I paint my toenails, read a couple of books, and get a little work done?  I'm not sure.  Here's my guess.  I'll miss them for a day or two, then get into the groove of getting up in the morning and setting to my plan.  I might even get to the Seattle Art Museum.

Just a little burp in my plan are those people who tried to get into my car last week.  Mike doesn't think they'll come back.  I'm not so sure about that.  I had that in mind as I practiced shooting the revolver yesterday.   It felt good to be a little more comfortable with the thing in case these guys become more brazen.  There's been a rash of people breaking into houses in broad daylight around here, people who aren't checking to see that the occupants are gone.  Those are the most dangerous types.

Do you remember when I told you about the bear we had getting into our garbage?  It's a pain in the neck, but we moved the garbage can into the garage and we haven't heard from him or seen any evidence of him since, though he visited the neighbors not long ago after they used their smoker.  I liked this bear.  He didn't want anyone to see him.  That tells me that he's still a relatively safe bear to have in the neighborhood. 

The most dangerous bears are the ones who grow accustomed to being around people, the ones that make the connection between people and food.  These are the ones that will approach you during the day.  Back in the 1960s, when I first went to the Smoky Mountains, the bears were like this.  I thought I'd see evidence that black bear attacks were more prevalent back then, before they started educating people not to feed the bears.  Yes, as a six year old girl, my parents gave me peanut butter cookies to feed to a baby bear in the Smokies.  I didn't get attacked, but it wasn't the smartest thing for my parents to have done.  Personally, I wasn't comfortable getting that close, so, much to my parents' aggravation, I rolled the cookies down the hill to the baby bear instead.  My mother had the camera and I remember her yelling because she couldn't get both of us in the frame.  But the statistics I checked shows a lot more bear attacks in the 2000s than in the 1960s.  A lot of them cited that the victim had been leaving food out for the bears. 

So, here's the thing.  We have a bear trying to steal food and we have people trying to steal money.  I'd much prefer to encounter that bear.   I've seen a bear reluctantly leave a Scout's tent with a Snickers bar in its mouth and a guilty look on its face when a person walks toward it banging a pot. Like the bears, the people have succeeded and now they're becoming more brazen.  Money was taken out of the neighbor's car just a couple of weeks ago.  They didn't get anything at our house, but the police said there has been an increase in car prowls in the past couple months. 

I'm going to be alone next week with a dog who's useless when it comes to intruders.  I know I'm going to think about that at night when I should be going to bed.  I know I'll leave more lights on next week.  I also know that I came away from the shooting range with a six inch target holding ten shots just below and to the right of the bullseye.  It was a nice grouping.  I think I'll relax a little, knowing that I'll be locked up pretty safely at night, that I know how to use my gun if I really have to, that the odds are that Mike is right.  These guys didn't get anything from my car and they'll likely try somewhere else next since they failed here. 

I spent twenty years living in this house, practically ignoring those guns that we owned, rarely taking them out for target practice.  Years ago, I let my carry permit lapse, because I didn't like the feeling it created in me when I thought about carrying a gun.  I never actually did carry it around.  I felt that people I chatted with would deserve to know about it.  Even having the permit made me a little more jumpy.  Instead, I had gotten into a peaceful groove for which I barely needed to lock my doors.  More than once, I realized I had no idea where Mike stored the keys to the trigger locks.  I know exactly where they are now and I wish I didn't need to. 

I plan to sleep well next week and enjoy myself because I'll be damned if I let a couple of jerks ruin my perfectly good mom vacation.  I've got books to read, toenails to paint, and a peaceful groove to roll down.

Thank you for listening, jb

Gun Safety

I took the boys to the gun range today.  We had a good time, but it's exhausting trying to stay alert to any safety issues.  They're still working on keeping their finger off the trigger until they're ready to fire.  Shoot, I catch myself doing that now and then, but they listened more intently when I told them how important it was to say something if I failed to follow that rule.  The problem with going to the gun range is that I can't just sit back and relax.  I can't let them do their thing and be independent.  I like it better when Mike goes with us so that he can take the lead.  Then, I get to relax and practice my shooting. 

We printed out the requirements for the rifle shooting merit badge and went through a bunch of the details.  When I got home, Mike said that it all had to be done under the supervision of a certified instructor.  Well, no wonder I was so tired.  There were a lot of safety issues that we covered today.  I like that.  They'll be that much further ahead when they work with an instructor.  I wish that had been part of the information on the page I printed out. 

In any case, they learned quite a bit.  They now know that if a friend brings out a gun to show them, they need to leave the area and notify an adult.  They understand the safe operation of the two guns we shot today.  They understand why a BB gun or pellet air gun should be treated with the same respect as an ordinary firearm.  I got to explain to them that a boy on my street shot me in the leg with a BB gun and I had to pick it out of my leg by myself and use my T-shirt to stop the bleeding.  We talked about hearing and eye protection.  They heard me say, "Always keep your gun aimed downrange, don't point your gun at anything you don't intend to kill, and always treat a gun as if it's loaded."  Shoot, I'm not positive those are the three fundamental rules for safe gun handling, but I'm sure it's pretty close.  This is why they need that certified instructor.  Mom is just not educated enough, though I try.  The good thing is that in this case, they knew they had to listen to Mom's directions because infractions would not be tolerated.

So, it turns out that I was wrong.  The NRA says that the three fundamntal rules for safe gun handling are
  • always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction
  • always keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to shoot, and
  • always keep the gun unloaded until you're ready to use it. 
So, I managed to tell them to keep the gun aimed downrange.  That's similar to the first rule since none of us are shooting anywhere except at the gun range.  I missed the other two, though I did lecture them about their fingers being on the trigger before they were ready to fire.  I'm glad about that.  I hope they saw that both guns were not loaded when we got them out at the range, but that's not as good as explicit instruction. 

Both boys did a good job of handling the guns.  I was proud of them.  I expected no less, but there aren't many eleven year old boys I'd go to a gun range with.  Nick did take one slightly wild shot today, but it was downrange and he was still holding the gun at the end.  He got nervous with my revolver and shot it before he was really ready. 

It's controversial, no?

It is. 

Here is my dilemma.  A curious boy, or worse, two curious boys and a gun are dangerous.  A boy who's been entrusted with responsibility and some privileges and a gun are less dangerous.  A boy who knows how to use a safety is less dangerous.  You notice that I haven't said they are not dangerous.  Yet, knowing my own sense of curiosity at that age, I'd much rather educate them regarding safety, train them to shoot at a gun range with an intimidating NRA advisor in charge, and let them blow up some paper targets instead of hoping they'll never figure out where the keys to the trigger locks are.  Even if we didn't have any guns in the house, there's a good chance the boys would encounter a gun at some point before their twenty-fifth birthdays.  If they have decent training, they might survive it.

I lived on the same street as a boy who accidentally shot and killed his brother when they were playing with their father's gun.  I have a distant relative who shot off his own toe as a boy cleaning a rifle without an adult present.  I worked with a guy who shot himself through the calf trying to do a quick draw when he was out camping with his buddies.  I lost a great-uncle before I was born when he leaned his shotgun on a fence, climbed it, and was shot when it fell and accidentally discharged.  You might think that I'd be afraid of guns after all that.

I am afraid of guns.  I'm also afraid of ignorance combined with curiosity.  If the boy who accidentally shot his brother had kept the gun aimed in a safe direction, they would both be alive today.  Yes, I said both.  The older brother eventually committed suicide.  If my distant relative had been shown how a load can be in the chamber even when the clip is removed, he'd still have that toe.  If my coworker had kept his finger off the trigger until he was ready to fire, he wouldn't have had to get a slug removed from his calf.  I don't know about my great-uncle.  It doesn't take much smarts not to lean a gun against something you're going to jostle by climbing up onto it.  That would probably fall into the category of aiming it in a safe direction.  There they are, five lives that would have been better preserved had they known those three simple rules.

After the boy shot his brother, my dad called my brother, sister, and I together for a lecture.  At first, I thought we were in trouble.  I was only six.  On that day, my dad showed me how to use the safety on his rifle.  "Red is dead," he told me.  He showed me how to use it and proceeded to tell us that if he ever caught us even looking at his gun, he'd kill us.  Oh, he didn't say that exactly, but that's what I generally remember.  Ironic, isn't it. 

I've always believed in education when it came to dangerous situations.  At first, it was only because that's what my dad believed, but after watching the pride and care Nick and Adrian took today in shooting the guns and in cleaning them, I believe I'm right.  Being offered instruction and some limited privileges does make a boy less dangerous. 

I only hope I'm right.

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Looking Out Over the Water

I'm going to have to stay up tonight.  Nick has a stomach bug.  So far, he's sitting on the couch with the small wastebasket in front of him, the television on.  Once in a while, he gets up and walks around until his stomach settles. 

I'm tired now.  I've tried to keep moving, doing things I know I'll be too tired to do tomorrow.

Today, we went to Rattlesnake Lake.  It was beautiful and balmy when we arrived.  It was beautiful and chilly when we left.  I love the rich, deep teal of the water in the middle of the lake.  I love the peak to the North of the lake, the pebbles that line the shoreline.  I love the thick stumps in the water, ones that still hold the mark of the springboard, where the first line of loggers stood to cut the trees down by hand nearly a hundred years ago.  Most of the trees were Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir, and Western Hemlock. 

Nick spotted a bald eagle today, one with a fish dangling from its talons.  We all turned away from the shore to watch until we couldn't see it any more then turned back toward the water.  People do that.  Universally, they stand and look toward water, whether it's river, lake or ocean.  Why is that? 

We didn't walk much today, but instead, watched as the dogs ran around, as the kids climbed trees and rocks and got wet or not.  Now I can understand why Nick didn't get wet.  He was already sick.  I hate when I can see so much in hindsight.  I hate when I realize I should have trusted his sense of that more at the time.  He had said he was tired.  I wasn't very good at listening, so tonight, I'll stay awake as long as I can, watching movies I've seen countless times, and doing little more than cheerleading as he passes the night.  I might be able to imagine the perspective of standing on the shoreline and looking out over the water to get me through the long night.

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Doing Battle Against the Enemy

Today, I took Nick and Adrian shopping.  After saving his allowance for a eleven weeks, Nick bought himself a gas mask at the Army Navy store.  It's not every day a mom shops with her son for a gas mask, the fit, the color, the accessories.  I'm not kidding.  He bought accessories, a cannister, a hat, and a used jacket.
The Army Navy store can be an emotional place for a mom.  There was a name on that jacket.  Who's jacket was it?  How old was he?  Why doesn't he have the jacket any more?  Really, it is too much to bear if I think about it too deeply.  Here's why.  I am old enough to have a boy in the Marines.  That means that I'm old enough to have lost a boy in the Marines, or to have a boy who has returned a different man.  My heart aches for that boy's mother either way.  I also have a boy who is a warrior to the bone.  My heart aches for the future me sometimes too, but there is pride in with it for the man I know my son will be.  But today, he was only a boy, only a boy for just a little longer.

Nick shopped with care.  Adrian sent a dozen texts to his mom with pictures to get approval for his choices.  He wasn't allowed to buy a gas mask or a gilly suit.  I can understand her reasoning, but it was such a boy moment.  The two of them shopped, scanning nearly every shelf in the store, the helmets, the knives, the jackets.  There was even a question over buying an old defunct flare gun.  I did draw some lines.  Today, we didn't buy any weapons.  I'll leave weapons shopping to his father.   When I told them that the meter ran out in five minutes, they flurried around the store like women at Filene's Basement bridal dress sale.   Oh, the choices they must make.  So little time!

I've been working to keep the boys away from the television.  It's been pretty challenging most days.  There aren't a lot of arguments, even reasoned and patient ones, that can compete with the psychology invested in their television shows.  What can we do to hold their attention?  How can we imprint their minds with our product?  How will they influence others, by singing our jingle, to buy more of our product?  It's a hard job for a mother to battle that.  Did you know that the psychology of advertising is more advanced than any other kind?  Does that mean that the most significant portion of our minds has to do with how someone else can part us from our earnings?

Thank God for the Army Navy store.  All afternoon, the boys ran around in the yard in their new camouflage finery, one gas mask in place, toy weapons with their little orange tip glowing in the sunlight.  They hid in the sword ferns.  They rolled in the grass, something resembling Paul Blart doing the dodge and roll that didn't quite make it to cover at the mall.  They shot at imaginary foes.  Probably our viral car prowlers were in the backs of their minds.  I don't know.  I do know it's important for them to do battle, for them to imagine how they would survive and come home a hero.  Many of their enemies have probably come from the television itself.  To battle, men, to battle!  Defeat the beast!  You have taken the command post, and won. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

If Wallace Stegner Had a Conversation with Richard Louv

I'm reading two books right now, 'Marking the Sparrow's Fall' by Wallace Stegner and 'Last Child in the Woods' by Richard Louv.  They seem to be running down the same groove.  Many of the landscapes in Stegner's book are dated, yet the ideas are not.  Unfortunately, as I read, I imagine these places and how they would look to him now.  Are you old enough to remember that commercial of the Native American with a tear in his eye looking out over a garbage-strewn landscape?  That would be Stegner's eye if he were still alive today.  I don't imagine he'd even recognize some of the places he'd been writing about. 

Stegner argues in his wilderness letter that we need wild places simply because we need to hold them in our minds.  I like that thought, except that it may come to more than that. 

Richard Louv, in his book, 'Last Child in the Woods,' argues convincingly that our psyches need to be outside in natural space every day.  He's cited studies of children with ADHD, discusses findings regarding nature and obesity, and describes the effects of programs similar to Outward Bound.  Louv believes that an individual's well-being may be linked to green time, time spent in unrefined nature.  My yard would be good for that, so I'm glad it's there when Nick and Adrian decide to go out into it.  Yet they both resist going outside to just hang out.  Once they're there, they dig holes, hack at trees, and find secret hiding spots.  We have one space I had to rescue from Mike who wanted to cut the bush over it down.  Mike didn't see the space it created, just the ugly and overgrown bush.  He'll win some day and that part of our yard will be much more in control, but for now, he's too busy.  I'm kind of glad of it. 

I've been reading Louv's book in an interesting way.  Everywhere he uses the word 'children,' I put myself in as if he's offering me personal advice with notations.   I have noticed that I respond exactly as he's describing, that I'm happier after a walk, that I feel more creative, and I'm more patient.  I do live in the Pacific Northwest where we don't get enough light and many of us suffer from Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder.  It's just not that simple.  The other day, my friend Rachel and I went for one of our usual walks, except this time we had five school children tagging along.  It was wonderful!  The kids were laughing.  The dogs were running circles around us.  Rachel and I were trying to get our usual talk in.  As usual, I was breathless walking up hill.  We had decided to reward the kids with a stop at Starbucks at the top of the ridge.  The minute we left the forest and began the trek through the new neighborhood with nice houses, the energy changed.  The kids were crabbier.  Rachel became quiet, not a good quiet.  The kids got tired and didn't feel as though they could make it one step further.  It was awful, yet we were surrounded by pretty homes with manicured yards and the sun was shining!  What was our problem?  At some point, I simply told Rachel we should turn around and go back down the forest trail.  She suggested that we could get ice cream when we were done.   Even though we were about a block away from the coffee shop, everyone agreed.  Back in the forest, everyone seemed revived.  Interesting.  This Louv guy is onto something important, at least for me and my family, something that Wallace Stegner tried for decades to describe. 

Oh, these books aren't easy reads, either of them.  Maybe it's why I've ended up reading them together, jumping from one book to the other until I'm a little confused over whose idea is whose.  Stegner, the more beautiful writer, describes canyons that have since been flooded and a man who moved away from his ranch because 'it was so crowded he needed a door on his privy.'  Louv, on the other hand, has me convinced of his truth, Stegner's truth as well, by the power of his persuasion.  He's collected so much information from so many studies.  Nick has never heard me say so many times in one week to turn off the television.  Louv's is a book that has me reacting. 

You might already know that I'm good at reacting, but I think this is worth reacting to.  I want my boy off the couch and outside cutting things down or building things.  The problem is that I'm just not sure how to go about breaking a mind that's drugged on television and video games from its strangled hold on these devices.  Since I'm only half through Louv's book, I'm hoping for some good ideas. 

I honestly think it will help Nick.  It is already helping me.

Thank you for listening, jb


The energy has drained out of me.  Today, I prepared for my quilt friends to arrive for our meeting at my house.  This happens about once a year.  While I picked up things from the floor, I thought of the scary events from the night before.  While I vacuumed, I wondered where Mike had put the gun.  It hadn't been where I expected it to be when I checked.  Believe me, I don't usually check for the location of a gun stored away in my house.  Usually, I'm aware that we have a few of them, but I know they're locked up and I'm not concerned about where they are.  Today, I wanted to know.  Where is the gun?  Where is the ammunition?  Where is the key to the trigger lock? I needed to go to the gun range to practice. 

I kept going through the details of the night before.  After dark, I looked out my window and I saw a very small red light just to the left of my car reflecting off surfaces on the inside of my car.  I saw a small vertically rectangular tail light brighten for a moment in the neighbor's driveway up the hill.  The driveway leans toward the hill and I was below it, so I figured that was why I couldn't see the other one.  Essentially, I saw some unexpected lights outside my window last night.  I live in the woods.  It's supposed to be dark out there.  I kept going over those details.  I am certain of what I saw.  A floating light next to my car that was reflecting different surfaces as if someone were standing there shining it around.  A small rectangular light that got brighter for a moment similar to the way a brake light would. 

I did not see a person.  I did not see a car.  I saw lights. 

But without a doubt, I know that I interrupted someone who was standing in my driveway next to my car, someone who had a car waiting for him just up the hill. 

I say him.  I have no idea who was holding that flashlight but flashlights don't float.

I was jumpy today.  Now that it's dark, I don't want to go to bed.  I don't want to look away from the spot outside my window where I saw the lights the night before. 

When I was a kid, I was seriously afraid of the dark. When my parents sent me upstairs to go to bed, I'd ratchet back and forth between light switches, creating a pathway of light for myself, then turning off the light behind me.  It was all good until I got to that last light.  I couldn't reach the switch in my bedroom from my bed.  Sometimes, I would take a running leap at the same moment that I flung the switched off and all the while prayed that the snakes couldn't make it out from under my bed that fast.  Snakes and alligators.  I believed that I might lose my hand if I casually let it drape off the edge of the bed.  So why did I feel safe within that rectangle on top?  Why did I feel safe tucked inside my quilts?  It's all a crap shoot, I think.  Our minds latch onto an item of safety and that's all it takes.  The quilts that Grandma had made.  Grandma was the one who loved me best.  Her quilts had some sort of power. 

The problem with focusing on that light switch was that a lot of times, I forgot to close my closet door first.  Now, I basically had clothes and stuffed toys in my closet.  During the day, I'd sit in there with my menagerie and make sure each one got a turn at getting my affection.  Yeah, I really was a strange child, but was I really that different than any other child?  Nick's fears make no more sense than mine did. 

So after I got the light turned off and managed to survive jumping into my bed, I'd often notice that I'd left the closet door open.  The closet door was a double whammy.  If it was closed, the tree people in the grain of wood looked at me.  Worse though, was when I left it open and there was a black place through which any manner of monsters could emerge.  Sometimes, a bit of moonlight would light up the eyes of one of my stuffed toys and I was forced to stare back at it.

See, that was the only way to survive, to stare at it until it blinked.  When I stared, nothing was allowed to come out.  When I closed my eyes or turned away, I put myself in mortal danger.  That was how it felt anyway.  Something, anything, could rise out of the abyss, but only if I lost my concentration.

Sometimes, my sister would come up to bed an hour later and I'd still be staring into that dark corner of my closet.  It may have been dark, but I could always hear the eye-rolls in her tone of voice.  On the nights when I hadn't even managed to turn off the lights, she was most annoyed.  What fourteen year old do you know that isn't annoyed at having to share her room with an eight-year-old?  It was embarrassing, but I couldn't hide my fear.  It was too great.  I was always awake when she came into the room.  I was always vigilant.  Even that annoyed her.  I was the little kid.  I was supposed to be asleep.  When she was feeling generous, she'd wind the music box on the dresser.  I loved that music box, but it never played long enough for me to fall asleep and I begged her to wind it again and again.  Eventually, with her there, breathing evenly, I fell asleep despite the abyss in the closet.  Why was I safer from it when her sleeping body was across the room from me?  Oh, fear is never about logic. 

So as I sit here at my computer, I look out that dark window.  Tonight, I see no lights, but there is some part of it that reminds me of staring into that dark closet corner, checking for eyes that might glitter, searching for evidence of any movement.  If I look away, they will come. 

Oh, Stephen King has written wonderful, awful stories about things like this.  I had to stop reading his work when I lived in an old mansion that was built in 1896.  There were too many odd noises in that second floor turet room.  I loved that room, but the whole house creaked.  Sometimes I'd get home from a late night out and look up at that house and it became a haunted mansion, straight out of Disneyland, only not as funny.

I generally don't feel that way here at home.  This house feels more homey to me, even at night.  But I was jumpy today.  While I made pie for my quilting friends, I imagined that the awful people came back.  Nick and Mike went to check out a Suburban that Mike is thinking of buying.  He wants us to be able to travel with the Boy Scouts more easily.  I was home alone until my quilt friends arrived.

Suddenly, I was in the middle of a fantasy.  My quilt friends showed up and I wasn't there.  The front door was open and there was blood everywhere, on the floor, on the walls.  I wrestled with that story for a while.  I didn't like it.  I had to work it.  I didn't want to have disappeared.  So, in the end, my quilt friends called the police and they found me cowering in my linen closet.  I held a small bloody knife in my hand. 

When they got me calmed down so that I could talk, I told them where I had stabbed the person who kept trying to get me out of the closet, once in the foot, another time in the shin, and once in deep inot his hip. I told them the other guy walked around yelling, but never opened the door.   I told them so they could check out nearby emergency rooms.  The bloody guy had managed to get out of the house and I had stayed in the closet, knowing that I could strike out at him if he opened the door again. 

I was crazed, but none of the blood was mine.  What an awful day dream.  It kept coming back around with new details.  I had the gun in there with me, but hadn't managed to get the key to unlock the trigger. 

I washed my hands and put on a Norah Jones disc.  I tried to sing along with 'Come Away With Me.' 

I had just gotten out of the shower and was trapped in that closet in just my underwear.  I had grabbed my phone and had called the police who showed up just after my quilt friends arrived.

I turned on water to make iced tea.

The creepy guys killed my sweet Teddy. 

I turned on the lights in the living room.  I had to work on that one.  I couldn't leave it that way.

Instead, the guys left the front door open, and Teddy wandered over to the neigbor's house where they sometimes give him nice treats.  The cats hid under the bed downstairs. 

It was an awful day dream, but one tht I've come by honestly with the events of the night before.  I've visualized surviving.  I need to imagine that I'll be okay.  I'm trying to face my fears, not to succumb to them.  I'm staring into the darkness still, unblinking. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Virals Arrive

It should be one of those nights after we've worked in the yard when we come in to start the barbecue for dinner and it's already after eight.  Right now, the sky is a bright blue, though it's 10:00 pm, though the light has left the trees black in silhouette.  I find myself looking for the bats at this hour.  I think it's too cold.  Usually, the bats flitter and swoop in front of my window in summer evenings.  They look very much like swallows, but we live in a forest, not in an open field.  The swallows retire earlier than bats, in any case. 
I like bats.  Any creature that can eat between 600 and 1000 mosquitos in an hour is my friend.  I've been swooped by a bat, but never touched by one.  I've never met a bat with rabies, though I got to see some baby bats on a barn once.  They are very cute, like tiny mice with leathery wings.  I've certainly never had a bat try to suck my blood, though the thought that some bats in Central and South America actually feed on the blood of horses, cattle, and birds gives me a bit of a chill.  My bats are insectivores, likely little brown myotis, one of the most common bats in the US.  As long as I'm not going to be in the movie 'The Fly,' I should be okay.

"Help me, help me." 

I am so old that I remember this line from the original movie, not the one with Jeff Goldblum.  Granted, I like watching Jeff Goldblum, but in this case, I liked the original better than his remake.  Sorry Jeff.  Movies have gotten gory and I'm not a big fan.  I liked it better when they worked up the suspense for the first hour and finally gave you a glimpse of the beast at the end, just before the hero figured out what the monster's weakness was.  Remember 'The Blob' with Steve McQueen?  Same thing.  Back then, everyone was trying to mimic Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense.  Now they run down the tracks dug by movies like 'Pulp Fiction' by Quentin Tarantino or 'Natural Born Killers' by Oliver Stone.  Oh, I'm sure you could make a list of the most violent movies.  IMBD did.  Unfortunately, I'm not a fan of the gore.  I get scared at movies like 'I Am Legend.'  That movie scared the crap out of me.

So, all of this just had a great and terrifying interruption.  I won't feel better, I won't be able to sleep until I write about it.  Even then, I'm not so sure.  I am coming off a huge rush of adrenaline.

I was picturing those scary beings from the movie, 'I Am Legend' again.  That movie kept me from taking the garbage down after dark for a couple of years.  I recently recovered from that.  I've thought about it a great deal, why I might be so afraid of a movie like that.  It's because some people are truly monstrous and more than anything on this green earth, I am afraid of that certain kind of person.  A true psychological analysis might reveal that I'm afraid of that viral and violent person inside.

So, with all of this going through my head, my husband asked me to bring in the Dutch ovens from the front porch.  He has a cold and hadn't wanted to stink up the house with the fumes from seasoning them in the oven.  He tried to season them outside using briquettes.  I think he wanted to know if he could reseason them at camp.  Well, I was standing on my front porch, dumping ashes off the lids into the fire pit, at the same time thinking of these terrifying beings.  I always imagine them coming around the near corner of the house, teeth bared.  I'm less afraid of the bear that roams around the neighborhood, looking for food. 

Here's the thing about phobias.  The best advice I ever heard, and it was from Mike who hates to fly, is to feel the fear and do it anyway.  It's from some book he read.  Well, I did.  I dumped half those ashes into the fire pit while staring at that near corner, knowing that it was really unlikely that anyone would come around it.  But I did what he asked me to do and came back inside and locked the deadbolt.  I don't know why I feel safe after I turn that lock, but I do. 

I messed around in the kitchen for a bit after that and came back to the computer to finish up here.  Now, you should know that my computer is in front of a second-story window with a lovely view of trees during the day.  I also have a good view of my driveway. 

I was standing there with my tea when I noticed a red light blinking on the dash of my car.  Shoot, there's often a red light blinking there.  Then there were two red lights.  One seemed to be higher, moving, and just outside the driver side door.  I saw parts of my car reflecting that light.  The light was moving around at a height that indicated a person was holding it!  Then I noticed tail lights up the hill in the neighbor's driveway, just about even with my car in the driveway.  Someone tapped the brakes and the little rectangular tail lights got brighter for a moment.

Shit!   Someone was in my car!

For a moment, I didn't know what to do.  I wanted to make some loud noise, but I couldn't think how.  I wanted to flash bright lights and expose them. 

Then my adrenaline rush hit.  I am telling you - I am not good with an adrenaline rush.  Oh no.  Not at all.  Did I ever tell you about the time I cracked the pane of glass when I saw a peeping tom in my bedroom window?  It felt like that.  My only thought was that I was going to stay between them and my family.

Without thinking, I actually grabbed my phone, pounded down the stairs, and ran out onto my front porch!

"Hey, you FUCKERS!"  I yelled.  "Get the FUCK off my property.  I have a gun and I'm FUCKING happy to use it on an ASSHOLE like you!" 

Can you believe I said that? 

I can't.  What an idiot.  (That line was from Harry Potter.)

As I was saying this, I realized that I was
  1. scaring the shit out of some teenagers looking for loose change, or
  2. staring into the dark at a viral freak who might actually shoot me with the gun he'd stolen from the last idiot that yelled those words at him.

I don't like those odds.  I stomped back into my house, slammed the door, and locked it.  Then I pounded up the stairs.  I watched out my tower window as the car rolled down the neighbor's driveway.  I saw brake lights a couple more times, and the car drove away rather sedately down the highway.  I expected them to peel out, but they didn't.  Maybe they weren't scared teenagers after all.

Mike came out of the bedroom and I told them there was somebody in the car.  I held up my phone.

"Should I call the police?"  I asked him. 

"Yes," he said as he disappeared back into the bedroom.  My hands were shaking as I tried to touch the right keys on my phone.  Mike came back out again, and looked out the second-story window with me while I stood for half a second, the ringing phone to my ear. It was completely dark out there, no lights at all. 

When dispatch got on the phone I think my voice was still really loud, though I left all the obscenities out of it.  I told this nice woman the whole story, even the part about going outside and threatening to kill them.  I didn't tell her the curses I used, but I imagine she could guess.  I managed to tell her I didn't think it was very smart, but in that fight or flight situation, I've always headed toward the trouble instead of away from it.  She was very nice on the phone and managed to get my vital information.  Then I burst into tears.  She was nice for that part too.

My stomach doesn't feel very well, right now.  I think I need to go make another cup of tea.  Good Earth Sunset Red.  I definitely don't need caffeine right now.  I can still feel the adrenaline pulsing through my veins.

So, after I was done crying, done telling the dispatch officer all the details, and done telling her that my husband had gone outside alone.  She told me to ask him to come back inside to wait for the police to arrive and then got off the phone with me.  I felt much better when Mike did come back inside.

We were still standing in the foyer when a light shone on my truck.  For a second, I thought the virals had returned.  Then I realized this was no pen light.  The police had arrived.  Mike and I went outside to meet her, a good, solid police officer from the sherrif's department. 

She was nice too.  I told my story all over again.  Both Mike and the police officer had said, "You thought you saw a car in the neighbor's driveway?"

And both times, I said, "I am positive that I saw a car in that driveway.  I saw the tail lights, small rectangular tail lights."  I just realized that I never saw headlights.  Huh.  We covered the fact that I did not see a person in or near my car.  I just saw a small light waving around.  Neither did I see a car.  I just saw tail lights.  What was I supposed to see out my window at 11:00 at night?  But I managed to keep my tongue.

The officer said she had a few more questions for me, but did I want to go inside and get a jacket first?  I hadn't realized that I was standing there in the sleeveless shirt I'd hiked in earlier.  I told her I wasn't cold, but it was probably from the adrenaline.  She laughed.  Then, as she asked some more questions and filled out the answers on the computer in her SUV, I made a crack about texting while driving. 

I am not good on adrenaline.  Really. 

She actually answered my question logically and with no resentment.  I apologized.  I told her that I was in round three of my adrenaline rush.  First, fight.  Second, cry.  Third, shake and say stupid things. 

After all that, there was absolutely no evidence that someone had been out there.  The ten dollars was still in the glove box so I could get gas even if I ran out of money.  I had thought that it was a twenty, but I told Mike I was pretty sure they hadn't taken my twenty and left change. 

The police officer finished her report and said she would go look for them.

"For what?" I asked. "I have no idea what kind of car it was."

She laughed. 

"You'd be surprised what I can find.  They're out there.  They show up."  I believe that she can. I remembered to thank her before she backed down our driveway.   

It's been hard to settle down.  When we came inside, Mike showed me that he had loaded one of our pistols and had it in his pocket. 

"Shouldn't you have told the police you were carrying?" I asked.

"I'm entitled to carry on my own property," he replied.  Still, if I were a police officer, I'd appreciate knowing if I was standing around talking with a person carrying a loaded gun.

Mike took less time that I did to calm down, bless him.  He held me while I cried again. 

"I don't want to shoot a person," I told him.  "I will if I have to, but it will change who I am if I do."

"You were very brave," he told me.

"Yeah, and stupid for going out there and yelling at them," I said.

"I don't think they're coming back here any time soon.  Good job." 

"I don't know.  It doesn't feel like a good job.  I'm not leaving the boys alone here for a while."

"Good idea," he said.  "Are you coming into bed soon?"

"I can't sleep.  Can I have the gun out in the living room with me?  I need the ammunition and the key to the trigger lock too."  I intend to be prepared in case the virals return. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Walking With My Angel Fox

I walked twelve miles with Teddy this week.  That doesn't include the hour I jumped at Sky High yesterday.  I can't count that since I jumped in one spot and Teddy didn't get to go with me. 

Okay, here's what I'm doing.  I have Maps on my phone.  I have RunKeeper telling me how far I walked as long as I remember to turn it off before I drive away at the end.  That makes for a wicked walking pace.  When I do that, I just guess my distance and since I usually walk the same trails over and over, I can guess fairly accurately.  I also keep a notebook at home with my daily distances in it.  My average is 7.5 miles a week for the past sixteen weeks.  That's no big deal.  Really.  I know people who run 7.5 miles in a day. 

But they're not walking a dog's lifetime distance.  That's what I'm doing.  I know.  It's strange, but I want to know how far Teddy and I will walk during his lifetime.  I'm hoping it is a long and productive walk, say spanning 15 years or so and ranging through parks and off leash areas wherever we can find them.

Obviously, I missed the first few weeks with him.  I only started this tracking in March and I started walking with Teddy in October when we brought him home.  Besides, on those first trips, I often ended up with this little ball of white fur zipped into my jacket with his head hanging out.  I carried my arms under him the way a pregnant woman sometimes cradles her large belly.  That jacket, like the pregnant belly, has never regained its original shape. 

Teddy's way to big for that jacket now, about 60 pounds.  He's a tall dog, with thick white and cream fur.  He has a darker cream Mohawk stripe down his back and what I've heard people call a saddle.  There's long dark fur on his bushy tail with a pure white tip, as if he's showing off.  His ears are edged with a soft latte color and the rest of him is mostly white.  He has big feet. 

Teddy seems to like going knee deep in mud and coming out and looking me square in the eye as if to tell me he was reincarnated from a red fox.  Nick, Adrian, and I saw one crossing the highway in front of us just yesterday.  It had black on its legs and that characteristic white tip to its bushy tail.  Teddy would be a whiter version of the red fox, an angel fox, maybe.  He's such a sweet dog, I could believe that he's built up quite a bit of good karma during his lives. 

There's another one of my weird trails of thought.  I like to think about the people and pets around me and wonder who they could have been in a previous life.  I like to think that they might have loved me so much that they came back to be with me again and again.  I swear that my cat Buddy reminds me of my grandpa.  He's very sweet, playful, demanding, and every day, he tells me how much he loves me with his eyes.  It's further strange to me, or maybe just fitting, that their hair was the same color and they both had issues with heart failure.  Buddy is managing pretty well with his heart, though the vet has no idea how he's managed to live this long.  I believe that love is what's done it.  I believe he's back in my life after having left it abruptly when I needed him most. 

Think me strange if you will.  I don't care.   It's my brain and I like what's in it.  Here's my argument about any kind of afterlife.  I can't prove that any of this is true.  I really can't.  No one can, not even the people who wake from a near death experience and have 'moved into the light.'  They have their experience, but no proof.  Well, sometimes, a person has been known to have accurately described what was happening in the room after his death, with a strange accuracy and a perspective near the ceiling.  I can't explain that, but really, anyone who believes that our species has even scratched the surface at explaining the universe around us deluded.  We're ignorant!  Our minds can't even grasp the distance to the moon in any real sense.  We don't know where the rest of the 96% of the universe is!  Even though I'm not done with my last book, I'm beginning to read a book I got from the library today called '13 Things That Don't Make Sense' by Michael Brooks.  Well, Michael, it's a beginning.  Oh, mind you, I like this book.  I really do.  Any book that covers the placebo effect, the size of the universe, free will, and sex is good in my book.  Okay, you can leave out the rest and just rewrite that last sentence using the word 'sex' and I'd be good with it.  Sorry.  So, I can't prove a thing regarding my ideas of reincarnation.  Oh, I read and reread 'Johnathan Livingston Seagull' in the seventies, and no, I wasn't high when I did it, thank you.  Yet, I know there is no proof of reincarnation.  None! 

And that's the beauty of it.  There is no proof that reincarnation doesn't exist either. None!

So what's the harm in feeling as though I've been loved through the centuries? 

Perhaps my lonely and deluded mind has conjured a whole set of people, furry and otherwise, who have loved me throughout time.  Now isn't that a lovely thought, to have been loved through eternity? You tell me how that might cause damage to myself or anyone around me and I'll stop.  I really will. 

So in this life, I'm walking with my sweet dog, Teddy.  So far, we've walked roughly 119 miles since the first week in March.  RunKeeper helps me log those distances.  During his physical on Friday, Nick proudly announced that we had walked 4.04 miles the day before, as if that four-hundredths of a mile meant something to the doctor.  Okay, he really did have a right to be proud.  He's working to build that up and wants to walk further tomorrow.  Yay, 4.05 miles!

That's where my Map app comes in handy on my iPhone.  Did I tell you that I love my iPhone, even though it's only a 3G?  I can find I-90 on my map and look at towns and points of interest along it.  If Teddy and I had started walking near our home that first week in March, we'd almost have walked to the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park by the Columbia river by now.  That's quite a walk!

Just me, my sweet angel fox, my boy sometimes, my husband sometimes, and good friends sometimes.  It has been a lovely walk so far.  I wonder how just far we'll go together?

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, June 22, 2012

Jump Jiving

I just jumped until sweat flew off me. The best part about taking the kids to Sky High is that I get to jump for an hour. I jump like an old lady. No tricks for me, but it is a great hit of endorphins. I'm a big fan of a natural high. Plus, I get to jump really high once in a while, just to see if I can.

When I was a kid, I went through a stage during which I jumped almost constantly. I'd jump in my bedroom. I'd jump in the kitchen. I'd jump while I was standing in front of the mirror in the bathroom. Brushing my teeth while I jumped didn't work. I found that out.

I just had an excess of energy. I think it was around the onset of puberty, you know, with all those crazy hormone surges and all. It seemed to last about eight months. It was weird, really. Picture an adolescent jumping down to the bus stop and hopping until it turned around the corner a block away. I wasn't totally crazy. I didn't want anyone to see me jumping like that.

I still feel a little that way, embarrassed to be seen jumping, all that oldness flopping around. I can guess that it isn't pretty. Really. Not. Pretty.

But I'm out there, jumping until the sweat flies off my hair, feeling my heart pumping, surging in endorphins, almost that energetic young girl once again. Well, maybe just in my head.

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Showered in Medicated Dog Water

Teddy is stretched out at my feet.  He looks really fluffy.  A couple of days ago, he rolled in elk poop at the Three Forks Off Leash Dog Park and I just had to give him a bath when I got home.  Oh, he had smeared most of it into his fur and washed some of it off in the swamp water by the park, but I really needed to give him a bath anyway.  I couldn't imagine hugging him and letting Mike and Nick wrestle with him after seeing that huge smear down his right side past his cheek.  He was due. 
So when I got home, I dumped him into the bath tub, despite his protests.  I wondered how much elk poop got smeared onto my T-shirt when I lifted first his butt end, then his front end into the tub.  Nick helped me wash him even though he was still sick with this yucky flu bug.  This one gave us crusty, sore eyes, nausea, a cough, and no appetite.  We're on the mend now, but I really wasn't feeling up to spending a half an hour on my knees by the tub, you know.  I had wanted it to be easy, a stand-around for me while Teddy played.  It was a piece of cake, until the elk poop.  Like I said, Teddy was due but I hadn't expected due to be today. 

My cats don't really get dirty.  Oh, they jump onto my lap smelling of cat litter once in a while, but they don't go outside, so there's no matting, no strange smells to mask their predator nature, no burrs.  Nothing but cat litter.  If that's clean, then it helps when I have to think about where those sweet little paws have been.  Besides, have you ever tried to give a cat a bath?

Dogs are different.  Dogs get baths.  Swamp water bathing doesn't count for getting clean.  It really doesn't.  So every couple of months, Teddy gets a bath.  He doesn't know this.  Being just eleven months old, he hasn't gotten them enough for it to feel like a habit. 

After we wetted him down, Nick and I scrubbed Teddy with a nail brush.  Teddy was cowering with his head jammed into my armpit, but the way he stretched out his back for this part, I knew it felt good.  We used some six year old medicated shampoo that was left over from the last dog, Indiana.  Poor Teddy gets all of Indiana's hand-me-downs.  Even his collar is a hand-me-down.  This shampoo smelled almost as bad as the swamp water. I know I should just throw it out and get a new bottle, but I just can't seem to make myself.  Better yet, I could just use Pert on him, the same stuff Mike and Nick use.  Then he'd have the benefit of the 2-in-1 conditioning.  That could feel really nice on his fluffy fur and he'd smell like the rest of my family. 

As we scrubbed him, a handful of fur came off in the brush.  We got him rinsed using the hand-held shower head.  I like putting it down into his fur and floating out the soap, but Nick wanted to do it and he kept missing.  He sprayed me a couple of times and got Teddy in the face.  Poor Teddy.  I think Nick even sprayed himself once or twice.  Eventually, we got all the smelly soap out of his fur and I began to think about how to get him out of the tub without splattering water all over the bathroom.  I sent Jack to get more towels.  By this time, Seth had opened the pocket door and was inspecting the scene.  Can you imagine a cat who is smart enough to open a door?  It annoys me.  When I realized that the door was left open, I imagined Teddy running through the entire house dripping and shaking off water.  All over the kitchen counters.  All over my books in the bookshelf.  All over the video games and controllers.  Now, maybe that calamity wouldn't be so bad.  'Sorry honey,' I'd say without smiling. 'Teddy shorted out both the X-Box and the PS3.  Would he believe that though?  Probably not since Nick would be howling if he saw me using the squirt bottle on his precious game systems. 

So I closed the door with my toe while I hugged Teddy in one place.  By now, I was pretty wet, not clawed up like I would be washing a cat, but sopping and smelling worse than swamp water.  Then I laid the clean towel along Teddy's length before he shook.  He shook anyway.  Books in the magazine rack.  Wet.  I tried to rub him dry, then took the next towel that Jack was holding out.  Teddy shook again.  The toothbrushes by the sink.  Wet.  I'm not mentioning that both Nick and I are under this super-soaker spray.  Have you ever seen the slow motion shots of a dog shaking water out of his fur?  They are pretty effective.  Water goes everywhere.  I took the third towel and tried to dry the longer hairs on his chest.  When he's rolled onto his back, Teddy's chest resembles the long white hair on the chest of an old man.  He's kind of pink underneath.  This fur was no longer dripping.  It had been flipped off of him and onto any of the medicines on the IKEA rack.  Note to self.  Cabinets with doors would have protected these containers better than an open rack.  Once I thought of it, I realized that the blond wood of my nice cabinets were also dripping with medicated dog water. 

What the hell.  I opened the pocket door and let the poor beast out. 

I used to have a nice carpet.  After twenty one years of dogs, cats, and kids, I can no longer say this.  Still, I try to keep it nice.   Wet.  So were my socks. 

Teddy ran through the kitchen.  Counter tops?  Wet. 

Through the living room.  Laptop?  Wet.  Thankfully the top was closed, but the paper in the printer was bubbly. 

I sat down in my recliner and closed my eyes.  A good nap might take care of all this water. 

It's funny how that happens.  An hour and a half later, it was all gone, except in my mind.  Plus, I could still smell that medicated shampoo. 

Teddy eventually dried out and I took the special rake through his fur.  None of the other brushes I had bought would go through his thick coat.  The third thing they sold me at Petco was called a rake.  Gobs of fur came off that poor dog.  I thought he'd come out of it all naked and pink.  He didn't.  He had plenty of fur left.  Now, my damp carpet was covered in a layer of white fur.  Lovely. 

Teddy was beginning to look fine.  I mean, I hadn't realized how pretty he'd look after a bath and a good brushing.  He must have lost the last of his puppy fur for the handfuls of fur I got.  He looked absolutely sleek.  His long guard hairs glistened in the sun.  See, I had actually gotten a good idea part of the way through the brushing, that was to take him outside to finish brushing him.  Then, my patio was all covered in white gobs of fur. 

The end result is that Teddy looks fine, and I mean fine like an NBA player in an Armani suit.  The medicated smell has worn off of him and he simply smells clean.  His feathers are feathering, his tail is waving.  Teddy is a new man, well, dog. 

My house, however, still smells somewhat medicated.  There are water spots on my kitchen and bathroom cabinets, as well as the top of the computer.  The books in the magazine rack are a little more wrinkly than they were and a little more moldy smelling too.  The toothbrushes had to be sanitized.  There are three medicated towels hanging to dry in my laundry room along with the sprayed ones Mike, Nick, and I had been using.  I'll have to do an extra load of laundry tomorrow.  My carpet still seems a bit damp and somehow, the fur in that brushing spot wouldn't quite vacuum up, but it comes off on my black socks just fine.  I imagine that the germs have died by now, 72 hours later, on the lids of the medications on the IKEA shelf.  There are clumps of white fur on the patio and in the bushes next to it where a breeze has blown it around.  I have a lot of cleaning up to do.  I guess it's my usual SNAFU, Situation Normal, All Fucked Up. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, June 18, 2012


It's not fair. Nick and I have a virus. Our eyes are gummy, we're chilling, and Nick, being a day ahead of me, is nauseous. This is how we must begin our summer vacation?

It's definitely not fair but then there have never been any guarantees. I wonder what kind of crazy world it would be if there were.

Thank you for listening, jb

Flying Dragons

Even though Nick had a fever of 101 last night, we decided to go to the 14th Annual Olympic Air Show for a while today.  Mike's reasoning was that it was Father's Day, Nick seemed well enough, and he had already bought the tickets.  My reasoning for agreeing was that Nick has the hardest time napping except when he's in a car.  If he got a couple of extra hours of sleep, it would be very good for him and an hour or so walking around outside wouldn't be so bad.  I also figured that Mike deserved to have a decent Father's Day since Nick always seems to get sick on holidays, birthdays, and Mother's and Father's Days.

We kept it short, but had a good time.  I loved the the spirals on the propellers.  I know it's an indicator so that a person can see that the propeller is spinning, but it's also cheerful.  Can you imagine that?  They started putting the spirals on the hub of a propeller after a few people walked through the blades, or rather the blades spun through them when they didn't notice that it was spinning. 

My favorite plane was the glider.  It soared silently, like a leaf on the wind.  I liked the French jet too, but it was hard to figure out which one it was from the newsletter. My favorite was watching a WWII fighter jet (the P-51 Mustang?) flying tight maneuvers in the air.  That pilot was aggressive and confident with his plane.  I told Mike he was the pilot I wanted to fly with, but only for three minutes and on an empty stomach.  I have this dream that I'll get to fly a loop-the-loop, a barrel roll, and a cork screw before I die.  Is that crazy?  I just know I'd spend the whole time feeling sick.  Still, there's a possibility that I'd be so excited that I wouldn't feel a thing until it was all over.  It was like that when I took a helicopter ride once and told the pilot I wanted to really feel it.  He flew so low, it felt like we were on a motorcycle as we ran the length of the Snoqualmie River, except when we leaped over the bridge. It was so exciting that it made me cry with exhilaration. I think I forgot to get sick to my stomach that day. 

We spent a quite a bit of time walking through the WWII encampment.  There was a jeep there with a number of guns on it and I was shocked that Nick knew what they were.  Have I missed something?  Later, Mike told me that Nick spends lots of time on his video games switching out his guns.  Well, I guess he's learning something from playing those things. The boy who was telling us about the guns looked like he was a reincarnated soldier, canvas spats and all. 

We planned to leave after I picked up a couple of shells for Nick, a 50mm shell from a machine gun and a 30 caliber from the P-51 Mustang.  I tried to take a picture of the guns on the Mustang, but they're embedded in the wing.  Cool design.  I found that I liked looking at the machine guns from the WWII era.  Many of them had such elegant features. 

Then just before we left, I looked up close at some of the paintings on the sides of the planes.  These guys really took ownership of their planes.  Would the Air Force allow men to paint their planes now?  I loved the teeth and the Betty Boop paintings, but I had to admire the Japanese dragons.  Did that make them feel more powerful, to have the dragons flying along with them? 

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Chatterbox Resume Detective

When I was a little kid, my family called me a chatterbox.  I'm sure that my friends would not be surprised at that nickname.  I've tried to give it up, but I can't.  I found that lately, I couldn't walk through the elementary school in less than a half an hour because I'd get into a conversation with one person or another.  Today, I went to the town festival and found the same thing happening.  For example, Mike asked me to get cups and water from the market, two short blocks away.  I had six conversations on the way there, offering to meet one parent with our brood of kids in a week or so, telling someone else I'd be at an event when I very clearly had a conflict which I discovered when I actually looked at my calendar, and volunteering to edit a resume. 

We solve problems that way.  We make plans.  I volunteered to do more than I'm actually capable of doing.  Why do I do that?  I'm busy enough.  This resume.  Why did I offer?  I haven't written my own resume in over twelve years.  I just spent the last hour and a half redoing it for her.  I kind of enjoyed it. 

When I worked in the corporate world, I was frequently asked to help choose candidates by reviewing their resumes and sometimes by interviewing them.  I was much better at eliminating people based on their resumes.  I could spot woolly-words from a mile away.  'I was sent to get coffee' turned into 'I expedited the alleviation of appetition.'  I could see how they organized information.  It turns out that people who can organize information can also organize their projects.  Straight-forward people use straight-forward words.  I could even spot holes in the dates that were inconspicuously left out that indicated joblessness or the fact that the person didn't actually complete the degree, but quit after three years.  I loved being a resume detective! 

It became natural that I'd be able to create a solid resume as well.  I've helped twenty or thirty people write their resumes.  This is the first one in a long time, but I don't seem to have lost the knack. Still, I don't think I want to do that sort of thing unless I know and like the person.  It's people-watching at its best.  Yes, I am a nosy creature.  I try to remain a benign nosy creature, but curiosity is definitely part of my makeup, along with being a chatterbox.

People don't seem to believe me, but after a couple of hours of chattering away, I relish my silence.  That's what I'm doing here, on the computer, at a quarter to midnight.  It's a way of being a chatterbox without having to move my mouth.  What a great life I'm allowed to lead.

The dog is groaning.  It's bedtime and I'm keeping him up.  Poor baby.   I guess I'd better put myself to bed so he can relax.  Isn't that a funny role?  This sweet guy can't go to bed until I do.  He really is a wonderful companion for an exhausted chatterbox.  We all have our roles to play.

Thank you for listening, jb

The Producers

I just got home from ...

I can't do it.  I can't write about this funny, funny production of 'The Producers' at the Village Theatre.  I'm just too tired.  I was out of the house this morning at 9:00 am.  I got home for a half an hour this afternoon at 5:15 before I left to meet Rachel to go to the play.  I'm past tired. 

Let's just say that these players were so good that they got us laughing when no one on stage was saying anything, just a pause, a slight adjustment on stage and we were all laughing again.  The way Franz Liebkind's eyes didn't quite track correctly drew a horse-laugh a couple of rows behind us during his song Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop.

I have to go to bed.  Today was limo day for five fifth-graders, including Nick.  Imagine that, fifth-graders getting into a limo.  I felt faintly ridiculous taking pictures of them. 

I'm beyond telling you how Leo Bloom was able to fall down, to roll, to take a hit as if he were Charlie Chaplin in a silent movie, and the way he could raise one eyebrow after another got more than one horse-laugh from the audience.

I went to Nick's assembly this morning.  The kids from jump rope club spent at least twenty-five minutes showing us their tricks.  It was fun, but when a kid misstepped or lost the swing of the jump rope, they'd leave the stage only to pop back on later.  Some of the kids came back onto the stage three or four times, hoping, no doubt, that they'd be able to do it better than they did the last time.  They usually didn't.  I was far enough away that it was hard to see the jump rope so sometimes, so it just looked like a kid hopping really fast on the stage.  One girl just started dancing behind another who was having trouble with her rope.  I think I laughed when I shouldn't have.

In the play, Roger Debris, dressed in drag in a Chrysler building strapless dress, made me snort out loud.  He was better dressed as Hitler, still very classically gay for the song 'Springtime for Hitler.'  Oh this should have been offensive.  It wasn't, at all.  I can tell you I get uncomfortable even seeing a swastika, but when they're all sequins and glitter lights, it takes away the sting.  I was not offended.  Maybe I should have been.  I didn't stop laughing to think about it. 

This afternoon, Nick's class had their fifth-grade celebration.  I was pinging between people, trying to dodge someone.  What do you do when your son wants to hang around with someone who's parents just don't have the same views you have?  What if you don't want to talk about President Obama because you like actually him and they liked W?  What do you do if you don't want to participate in a conversation about how bad the school is when you like the school and the president of the PTSA is standing ten feet away?  What do you say when you see this person's daughters spitting on each other and their mom is right there, never asking them to stop?  I'm a coward.  I have trouble telling Nick that I just don't want to be around that more than I have to.  How do you tell your boy that you can't choose his friends, but you can choose for him not to be around them very often.  It was a farce.

So it was a good night for an outlandish comedy, something just so far off the beaten track that I could laugh when it was inappropriate, laugh because the play worked to layer one inappropriate snort onto another.  I could laugh because these people on stage were just so much fun to watch. 

Oh, just go see the damn play, especially on a night when you need to laugh you ass off. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


I made a quiet day for myself.  I should have gone into town to pick up that last teacher gift.  I should have watched the morose movie that needs to go back to the library.  I should have cleaned the kitchen, vacuumed, weeded in the yard.  I really should have seasoned the Dutch ovens.  Usually, they're so well seasoned that when Mike makes his cherry chocolate surprise, it doesn't stick at all.  I have to try to season them while Nick is out of the house because the smoke from having just the right amount of heat on the oil bothers his asthma. 

I hate to tell that boy, but his asthma is going to keep him out of the military.  He'll need to be free of his inhaler by the time he's 14 for them to take him.  Still, I can tell him that his grandpa worked for the Navy without ever enlisting, that his grandpa designed weapons.  Nick has a notebook devoted to the weapons he's designed.  His grandpa would be proud.  My dad was in the ROTC, but never enlisted.  He worked for the Navy, but never had a rank, unless you count GS-13.  It's funny that a kid can listen to little details like this and remember them forty-four years later.  I sometimes wondered if my dad had wanted to be in the military.  I know he wanted to be an astronaut because he looked up the requirements and discussed them with my mother.  She wasn't going to move away from her parents.  She was adamant.  He didn't say any more about it, but I could tell he was sad, that this exciting time in NASA's history was going to leapfrog over him if he didn't move quickly. 

He wouldn't have had a chance.  It wasn't long after that discussion that my dad found out he had cancer.  It was a very dark time in my childhood.  Mostly, I was expected to act as though I didn't know he could die and to continue as if nothing was happening at school.  I remember looking around at my classmates one particularly difficult day and feeling as if all of these people were strangers, like I'd landed here from another planet and only just looked like a human being. 

Oh, I know I'll have to write about those long and difficult days some time, but not just now.  I'll have to gird my loins before I'm ready for that.  I'll really have to clear a wide path before I can begin to write about those days. 

I found out today, that a childhood friend died on Sunday.  Oh, I won't tell you her name because I'd hate for anyone from her family to find this chatter in their grief over losing her.  She was a year older than I am and grew up in the house next to mine.  Her dad, a mechanical engineer, also worked for the Navy.  Our whole street was populated with men who carpooled together to the base every morning and designed weapons in secret.  My friend was a sweet girl, though she always made it clear that she was the boss because she was a whole year older than her little sister and I.  That year used to make so much difference back then and it's so irrelevant to me and my friends now.  I have friends who are twelve years younger and other friends who are ten years older than I am. 

My friend was always there when we were playing on our bikes, when we jumped rope, when we climbed trees in the back woods.  Even as a kid, she was a capable person, knowing just what to do when her sister jumped out of the tree and broke her leg.  She sent my brother to get her dad and held her crying sisters in her arms until he arrived to carry the poor girl away.  I just stood there with my head hanging, as if he was going to take the time to yell at me because of what we had been doing.  My friend was quick to laugh and quick to hug and that's what we did the last time I saw her about ten years ago, before her father moved out of the old house.  Her only son is twenty, too young to be losing his mother.  I pray he can find solace.

That's all I can think of, that he'll be able to find peace, that his dad will help him through, that they will really be together in their grief instead of separated the way it is when so many people grieve, the way it was for me, alone in my own deep well of pain.  I know that grief is always personal, but some families manage to support each other.  I pray that my friend's boy can find that kind of support.

I needed that quiet day today. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summer Vacation

I am so ready for summer vacation to begin.  Yes, as a mom that hangs out with the kids all summer, it's my busiest season, but we have a lot more freedom to choose.  I'm mostly going to try to let the boys decide what they want to do this summer.  My only rule will be that they need to get lots of exercise.  The catch is that they're going to be the ones organizing a lot more of it this summer, the who, the what, the where, and the when.  Once a week, I want them to invite a bunch of kids to meet at a particular place to hike, to bike, to swim, or otherwise to hang out. 

Here's the list that we've collected.

Nick wants to:
  • track animals in the woods
  • practice shooting his rifle once a week
  • set a snare for a rat in the garage
  • go scuba diving (It turns out he needs to be sixteen for that.)
  • learn to drive (He should be sixteen for that too.)
  • play paintball
  • go to the movies
  • chop down a tree in the back yard
  • run a psychology experiment using video games, board games, and outside play

Adrian wants to:
  • go biking on his new bike
  • go to WildWaves
  • go to WildWaves
  • go to WildWaves

I want to:
  • visit the Outback Kangaroo Farm in Arlington
  • go swimming at a lake
  • play Frisbee golf in Carnation
  • ride the electric boats on Lake Union
  • go whale watching at Friday Harbor
  • go see the Ballard Locks
  • walk the dog in parks and on trails all over King County
  • picnic
  • bike across I-90
  • go see the ice caves
  • walk on Alki beach at low tide
  • go on a zip line at Camano Island
  • take a flight on a float plane
  • draw and read outside

Well, what do you think of our list?  It's an ambitious list.  In other summers, we went to WildWaves, flew in a single engine plane, rode the ducks, the amphibious vehicles from WWII that were converted into a tourist trap, found geocaches, played in the fountain at Seattle Center, picked blueberries, paddled the canoe on Rattlesnake and Pine lakes, swam at Idylwood and the Bellevue Aquatics Center, visited the reptile zoo in Monroe, played at the Museum of Flight and the Pacific Science Museum, rode horses at Stillwater Rance in Sultan, and generally lived out of our picnic basket.

What are you going to do this summer?

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, June 11, 2012

Ninety-One Percent Is Still an A

I was nervous tonight when I walked into the middle school Nick is going to attend in September.  Many of my friends are planning that drive to take their kids to college in the fall.  That's what happens when you're an old mom like I am.  I'm still getting my son on the bus in the morning.  My nervousness was made much worse when I realized that, though I was only four minutes late, the principal had already introduced himself and had begun his presentation. 

-3 points for tardiness

I found my friend Rachel, but someone else was already on one side of her and she was at the end of the row.  I dragged a chair from another row and sat down next to her.  I was thankful that it didn't scrape loudly, but people looked up anyway.

-2 points for disturbing others

The principal told us about the school's awards, about the general schedule, about the different tracks for the different levels of kids, and about extra-curricular activities.   I wrote my notes in between the sentences of the sheet he gave us instead of writing in my notebook, which would have been awkward since I couldn't hold it open comfortably in my lap.  The page was a mess.  I'm not sure I'll be able to decipher it later.

-2 points for disorganization

I got distracted and missed a couple of key items the principal was discussing.  My mind had just drifted off for a minute, about how bleak I felt during my own middle school years.  I had leaned my head back to stare at the disco ball hanging from the ceiling between the stage lights.  Suddenly, it was the seventies and disco was king.  I was twelve.  Oh man, there had been that deep crush on Jimmy Black, who was the cutest boy in the play the school put on the year I was in seventh grade, Tom Sawyer.  Of course, Jimmy was cast as Tom.  Then there was my soon-to-be-ex best friend, Tina, who  flirted with Jimmy even though I had told her that I liked him that way.  Then I found them kissing during the cast party, even though Tina only had a bit part in the play.  The problem was that I'd been cast as Old Widow Douglas and no boy in his right mind would want to kiss me after my wrinkles and gray hair had been painted on.  How I stayed friends with Tina until the end of that year, I'll never know because I can remember the sour taste in my mouth as I watched them kissing at the back of the room, two people who had said that my feelings mattered to them.  It didn't help that I lost my father that year.  Yes, middle school had been a horrible time for me, truly a time of simple social angst aligned with deep and despairing grief.  Yes,middle school was awful for me, but did it have to be that way for Nick as well?  Would he have to follow the legacy set out for him?  Would he have to endure a broken heart?  Yes, he probably would.  But will he have to suffer grief during those years as well?  Probably not, but I do have that fear.  I was also a mess the year I turned 37, the age my dad was when he died.  It was a truly strange moment when I realized that I'm older than my dad ever was.  And then I leaned forward, my eyes pulling away from that infernal disco ball.  And then I missed getting the number of the transportation director, whom I knew I'd need to call to do my check to make sure Nick's new driver was trained in the use of his EpiPen.  Oh man.

-4 points for not paying attention

After the principal was finished, he said he was available for questions and that we could tour the school.  I was glad because I'd only ever seen the lunch room and the gym.  The classrooms were a mystery to me.  Really?  I've been in so many classrooms and these were no different.  They were a bit more mature than the elementary classrooms, but still not as serious as high school and college.  It actually looked like a pretty nice school.  I chatted with some of the parents I knew as we walked around.  Then I grabbed the mom of the other boy who also has serious allergies in Nick's class.  I asked her if she wanted to provide a united front and ask the principal about accommodations for those special boys.  I had heard that he managed another child's allergies carefully, so when I introduced the two of us, I began by telling him that I had heard good things.  He beamed at us and seemed happy to answer our questions.

+2 points for teamwork

When it came to the school tour, I was seated and listening to a presentation by the PTSA before I realized that I hadn't gone to all the places I'd needed to see because I'd been chatting with the other parents.  By then, it would have been rude to get up and wander over to the tech room and the gym.  I really wanted to see the tech room.  To me, a tech room could either be full of computers, or it could be a clean room laying down narrow strips of silicon.  Oh, I knew what the tech room would look like, lined with computers, but I still wanted that concrete visualization of the space.  I don't want to be that mom who is hanging around in middle school watching her child, but it helps me to be able to imagine the places where Nick will be when he's at his new school. 

-2 points for not completing my work

Then, I really started to listen to the PTSA presentation.  It was about what is happening in the minds and bodies of kids entering puberty.  The woman recommended books, recommended strategies, and and told us that a lot of the behavior I've already begun to see in Nick is perfectly normal.  Oh thank God!  He's doing fine.  I stayed to the end and thanked the woman whose name I had missed because I had been chatting.  She didn't care.  She loved her subject and we talked a bit longer, about more specific details in the parking lot after she adjourned the meeting.

+2 points for extra credit

And I thanked her again, saying that her presentation was really going to help me with my boy.  It was. I'm a firm believer in checking out library books, especially the ones that help me to solve problems or understand human nature. 

+2 points for being courteous

I earned a 91% for this assignment.  It's not perfect, but it's still an A. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Carrying My Donkey

I hate when someone makes a judgemental comment and it hits home at least a little.  Then I end up thinking about that comment too much.  Worse yet, I start thinking I need to do something about that comment. 

While we were camping, Mike's friend Jack teased us about Nick being spoiled. Yes, he is spoiled, I wanted to say, but he's a nice kid, a good kid.  We've given him a lot of advantages, but we're not talking about an adult here.  We're talking about a kid.  We let him play over the weekend.  After weeks of a hard schedule and a heavy load of school work, he needed untended play time, some time to dig in the sand and not have to move on to the next thing unless he was hungry or tired.  Still, I wanted to point out to Jack that Nick helped get himself packed for the trip and he helped load and unload the truck.  He and I set up the tent when we got to camp while Mike made some stew.  He helped with the dishes for most of the meals when we asked him and he helped pick up trash around camp when it was time to go. He's not exactly a self-reliant kid, but he's a good kid, no more spoiled than Jack's kid, to tell you the truth. 

So why do I need to do anything different? Somehow, I'd feel like an idiot if I never listened to what anyone ever said to me about my life, about my family.  Some advice is good advice.  Still, I can't see living my life according to what everyone else says I should be doing.  Aesop wrote a fable about this.  Do you remember it, the one about the man riding, or walking with, or carrying his donkey?  That's a good fable.  Of all the ancient thinkers, Aesop was the best at putting common sense advice into a form even a child could understand.  So, the one about the donkey means that you'll drive yourself and your donkey crazy if you take the advice of everyone that passes by.  What about listening to friends?

Aesop was something like my Grandpa Roy, I would imagine.  I'd bet he liked to talk, but was a thoughtful and patient man.  I would imagine that he gave good advice, which is how someone probably came upon the idea to write down his stories.  Aesop was a diplomat.  He didn't name names.  Oh, I would guess that everybody coming to him for advice knew who the turtle was and who was the hare.  Still, Aesop made up stories with animals where the offenders should be, where the idiots should be.  I would have liked to have lunch with Aesop. 

If I had come to Aesop for advice, he might have told me about the man who ended up carrying his donkey into the village because of the people who scolded him.  And in the quiet part of my own mind, that part that might sound like my Grandpa Roy's voice, there is Aesop telling me that it would be ridiculous for me to carry my donkey because you can't please everybody.

Our relationship with Nick may appear one way to Mike's friend, Jack, but he would see something entirely different if he could see the whole picture, the very different ways that Mike and I parent, the struggles we've had with Nick's health, and the gifts and challenges of Nick's nature.  People are quick to judge, but slow to really understand. 

And yet, there was that nugget of truth to what Jack said.  Will I be able to pick up that nugget and leave the sand dunes behind?  I don't know.  I hope so.  Mike was asking Nick to pick up some things before he went to bed tonight.  Nick was complaining, but I was relieved that it wasn't me asking for a change.  Maybe Jack's comment will do us some good, will help shift the difference between what Mike and I expect from Nick.  Maybe I can back off a bit if Mike picks up some of the slack.  There is a time when a boy needs to stop getting as much direction from his mother, when his father and other people start taking up the slack. 

There will be the time when the boy will start thinking of the things he needs to do on his own.  We aren't there yet, but Nick is going to begin to do his own thinking, his own planning, and his own implementing.  Oh, this summer is going to be interesting.  I just hope that Nick doesn't go into it kicking and screaming. The summer will be as exciting or as boring as Nick makes it.   Let the summer games begin!

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The smell of a campfire in my hair

I can still hear the murmur of the last kids to go to sleep after we doused the fire. Their dad is quiet and the older boy's voice is subdued. He's eleven. It the voice of the seven-year-old that I hear best. He's not good at quiet yet. He's giggling. I don't mind their voices. Everyone else is either asleep or faking it. Jack isn't snoring, so I know he's faking. He said he forgot his sleeping pills. Poor guy. I hope I hear him snoring at some point soon.

The stars are out. The air is clear. I'm surprised there isn't a hint of seawater in it. Bummer. I like that smell. I'll be able to get that tomorrow in the car on my way home. Nick brought some barnacles on a crab shell. He was going to keep them alive, but he didn't bring any water.

I need to tuck in to sleep, but think of dogs happy to run, a crabby campground host, a bag of BBQ chips from the general store, barnacles, Dutch oven chocolate cherry surprise, boys throwing sand, songs around a campfire, commercials around a campfire, night-time voices, and dogs barking from a distance.

Thank you for listening, jb


We're camping with the Cub Scouts tonight. We took a ferry to an island in the Puget Sound. We love this trip, so even though we've graduated to Boy Scouts, we invited ourselves to come. Even though we got here late, Mike made a great stew, a chili sort of meal in the Dutch oven. Nick ate five bowls and one of the other boys came around after his dinner and had some too. It was good, but I know that being outside, even for a little while, is good for the appetite. I had peppermint tea in my thermos. The other part of the meal was that it was good to be eating hot food since its damp and in the mid-forties tonight.

I found myself telling stories of when Mike and I were in the Adirondacks and I made oatmeal pancakes on the fourth morning out and everybody loved them. A couple of weeks later, I tried making them at home and they were gross. It's funny what hunger does to your taste buds.

We joined another guy and his son around their camp fire and the boys got to playing in the fire.

Stories were passing back and forth, so I told them about when we were in Alaska, how the ground was so dry, you could hold your hand eight inches above the dirt and bits of static dust would rise to cling to your hand. The trees seemed ready to burst into flame. The day we left the Kenai peninsula, they had begun to evacuate people from the forest because of a forest fire. I was just happy I hadn't started that fire.

Boy, I have to stop for now. I'm shivering in my sleeping bag and bivy sack and need to tuck in and zip up.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, June 8, 2012

'Sarah's Key' by Tatiana de Rosna

I don't like being quite this busy, especially when I have a good book.  Yesterday, I wanted to tell you about how the dog ate half of a pepperoni pizza while I was grabbing Nick and Adrian to rush home from swimming to get ready for their band and choir concert.  Somehow, in that process, we lost Nick's swim suit.  It didn't appear before the band concert last night or after.  It didn't appear later at dinner at a restaurant we used to like, but don't now since they changed cooks.  The bathing suit still didn't appear anywhere at home tonight after countless errands after which I finally sat down to some peace but then remembered that we needed the bathing suit for camping this weekend.  Well crap!  Do you think I'm distracted?

This morning, I looked forward to running my errands with my new audio book, 'Sarah's Key' by Tatiana de Rosna.  Yesterday, I had listened to a bit while I waited in the parking lot at Frankie's Pizza in North Bend.  They made me a good Greek salad and when the pizza was done, they brought it right out to me!  It was kind of a surprise since I was so engrossed in the story. 

The book switches between the plight of a ten-year-old Jewish girl in Paris in 1942 and a modern day middle-aged American journalist in Paris.  It tells of the Vel d'Hiv roundup of Jews  through the eyes of these two people.  During this roundup 13,152 men women, and children were arrested, confined in a velodrome, separated from each other, even toddlers from their mothers, and then sent to Auschwitz.  That part of the story is true, horrifying, but true.  Can you see how I'd be so focused on this that I'd fail to notice the pizza girl standing beside my window with my large pepperoni pizza?
I know I shouldn't have left a ten month old dog in the car with a pizza, but I had had it on good faith that he'd be a good dog.  Just last week, I left steak and vegetable pies in a package from British Pantry with him while I popped into the grocery store.  Now these are delicious pies, but later, every time one of them came out of the fridge, Teddy reminded me, using his eyes, that that they smell so much like his own canned dog food, only better, and didn't I notice how patient he'd been in the car with them so couldn't he have a little now?  The box had been only slightly dented when I got back into the car.  Plus, before picking the boys up from school, Teddy had romped at Marymoor's off leash dog area and he assured me that he wasn't going to move from his reclining, eyes-closed position while I ran in to the pool to get the boys.  Besides, he seemed to say, cardboard boxes are pretty complex contraptions when you don't have thumbs.  Five minutes.  I swear, I was gone five minutes.

It was good pizza too, but my piece was slightly mangled, though still in the box.  The lid was closed and I wondered how Teddy had managed to get pizza out of the box without actually opening it.  I tried not to think about how much dog spit I was eating.  The other half of the pizza looked untouched and the boys said they didn't care.  I was too hungry to argue either.  We didn't have time to stop anywhere else and we couldn't afford to go hungry until after the concert.  Yes, I have sunk just that low.   We rushed about, trying to make the seats decent enough to sit on since they were smeared with that special orange pizza juice.  That must have been when we lost Nick's bathing suit.  It may still be lying in its bag in the road. 

We listened to my story about Sarah on the way home.  I figured the boys could use a good history lesson, but in reality, it was greed, total and utter greed for the story to further unfold to me.  My mind slipped easily back into the story after the crash and burn of surprising the boys with such a great snack to tide them over until after the concert. 

This morning, after I dropped Nick at school and retrieved my guitar from the music teacher, I began my errands with the box of discs on the seat next to me.  My errands were mostly fun today, but so time consuming.  I had a list of Barnes and Noble gifts, camping gear from the new Cabela's in Tukwila, and rat traps from DIY Pest Control.  Then, I was supposed to have time to run to Marymoor for Teddy before I got home in time to take Nick to karate and then to a test run at Cold Stone Creamery.  In between stores, I became engrossed all over again in my story.  I can not tell you what happened at this point.  It would ruin it for you.  You should know, though, that with a book this good, I'm not good for much else.  Can you tell?  I'm losing bathing suits, being convinced that my dog would never, ever, no, not me, touch that beautiful pizza in the back of the car. 

In between stops today, my mind sank down into the story like a head on a feather pillow, the dream story rising before the fluff is settled around my ears.  Before I even got into Barnes and Noble, I lost my list twice and by the time I'd written it a third time, I had forgotten both the end-of-year teacher gifts and the Father's Day gift I needed for my brother-in-law since I missed his birthday two months ago.  Tatiana de Rosna's story is just that good.  Cabela's was a treat, since I actually like shopping for camping gear.  Yes, Mike really did need the huge spool of parachute cord that I photographed and texted to him.  This is a lifetime spool of parachute cord, even for a new Boy Scout Master with eager Boy Scouts tying up every knot they can think of using, hopefully not on the Boy Scout Master.  I was still having fun until the eagerness of the new help at Cabela's threatened to rock my schedule too far off kilter.  No time for rat traps!  No time for Marymoor!  I'd be lucky to get home before the bus arrived, but I got to go back to listening to my story. 
I didn't even mind the traffic jam along the I-405 corridor at 3:00 pm.  I hadn't figured on the late afternoon shift traffic from Boeing.  I'd probably make it and besides, the rats could wait.  Could Teddy?  My distracted mind settled intently back into my story.  I feel like the woman who's chatty neighbor threatens her soap opera schedule.  Just leave me alone, let me listen to the rest of this story.  I have to know what happens to this little girl.  I have to know what happens to her brother.  Did I tell you about her brother?  At the very beginning of the story, when the French police arrive at their apartment, the little girl hides her four-year-old brother in a hidden closet and locks it to protect him, thinking that they'd be back before dark to let him out.  Oh, the agony of knowing what their fates will be.  Both children might die, you know.  There isn't a guarantee of a happy ending here.  Why should there be?  This is part of humanity's most shameful history.  I made it into the driveway within minutes of the bus dropping the boys. 

On the way to karate, I was so disappointed when Nick wanted to read his own book instead of listening to fragments of mine.  I relented and switched on the classical station instead.  Then, while he was at karate, it took every ounce of my resolve to walk Teddy instead of sitting in the car with the next disc in the slot.  I took Teddy to Mud Bay to be lavished with snacks and love.  Then I bought some cat toys since he's chewed up nearly all of Seth and Buddy's catnip mice. I had time to walk him around a bit, but I knew that he'd still have too much energy pent up since he wasn't going to go off leash.  When I picked Nick up from karate, we headed over to Cold Stone Creamery so he could practice asking them to mix his ice cream on the allergy board.  Next week, he's going there with his friends and I wanted him to be safe and know what to say.  He was in heaven.   We hardly ever stop for ice cream and we'd never been to Cold Stone.  It was lovely and I was momentarily distracted from my story.  On the way home, Nick wanted to chat, so I put my story on hold yet again.   He informed me that he needed boards to break for the talent contest tomorrow.  Boards?  Yes, I do vaguely remember him asking us to get something like that for him.  Shit!  One more stop.  One more delay to listening to my story.

The guy at Home Depot was wonderful.  Did you know they have a chart that shows how wide to cut the boards for the different ages of the children?  It was a very sweet moment.  Nick was so proud to be able to say he'd broken boards wider than that.  The man who helped us was wonderful, making Nick feel so proud even before his demonstration.  I actually didn't think of my story again until after I got home, realized we'd lost Nick's swim suit, searched the house, then noticed, with some eiderdown floating around my ears that some dishes needed washing.  On nights like these, it's hard not to stay up all night cleaning the kitchen and listening to my story. 

Thank you for listening, jb