Saturday, September 29, 2012

Claiming the Dead

I just got off the phone with Mike.  There was less joy in our quiet Saturday afternoon without him. 

In the afternoon, I went to a memorial service for a friend.  This woman was so well loved that everyone wanted to speak or sing today.  I guess it's nice when you think about it, that all these people wanted to claim Mary as their own.  Her family was a little flummoxed over it. 

I heard Mary's daughter mumble, "She's going to sing? Well, it's not for us, it's for Mary."  And yes, the singer sang anyway, smiling and putting Mary's name into the song as if it were written especially for her.  I wondered how she got the nerve to stand there even though her song wasn't written into the program.  It didn't seem right. 

Our choir sang too, but suddenly our numbers were doubled.  We sounded okay, but the least they could have done was to show up early for the rehearsal as well. 

When a man got up to speak, a woman in the pew with me leaned over and said, "That guy would speak at services even if he didn't know the dead."  It sounded like that too.  This man had little to say except to repeat what others had said or to comment on it.  He didn't seem to know when to stop either, even when he began to hem and haw. 

It was a long service and the minister finally cut people off and told speakers that they could resume their stories with refreshments. 

To be so well loved that people clamor to speak of you after you're gone.  That was Mary. 

The other part I kept trying to get my head around were the pictures of Mary when she was young.  As long as I knew her, she had looked the same.  Her photos showed a lovely vivacious character.  She looked just like her daughters.  Isn't it something when you find yourself getting to know someone better at their own memorial service? 

I didn't get up to speak, but I wanted to.  It's a little sad, but I'd have liked to claim Mary as my own, but I can't.  Not quite.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, September 28, 2012

Being a Helicopter Parent From Home

Nick is at his first dance.  Mike is sitting by a campfire on his second night of the Wood Badge training. 

I'm at home. 

I tried to take the dog for a walk, but I wore the wrong shoes, it got dark, and a friend called while I was walking.  It turned into one of those nights that Teddy just has to get what he gets. 

Okay, I have to tell you that I'm incredibly curious about how it will go for the boys.  I have no idea what Nick will do with this.  Sometimes, he just glows with his enthusiasm.  Once, when he was about five, we were at Crossroads Mall, listening to some kind of band.  I don't even remember what kind of music it was, but Nick liked it so much that he jumped around and did some break-dancing moves next to the stage.  But then, I've seen him get nervous and skip a chance to perform something he's really good at in front of people.  He flip-flops.  He wore his straw fedora and a tie tonight and it seemed as though he was on the enthusiastic side of the fence. 

I guess I'll find out when he gets home.  He'll be home in an hour. 

The thing I wanted for him was to walk into the dance with his crew, Adrian and Jack.  There's confidence in going to something new when you're with a friend or two.  I know he felt nervous, but excited.  He wanted to ask someone to dance.  I think I know who too, but I don't know if he'll gather the courage.

Funny, I'm not worried that Mike is having a good time.  He's in his element.  He may not be an outgoing guy, but he relaxes when he's around other Scouters.  Why is that?  He usually has an awful time at parties, but anything involving the Boy Scouts and he's at ease.  I told you about the time he sang out 'Deo' and it rang through the camp.  That night, I wondered if alien parasites had taken over my husband's body.  'Daylight comes and I wan go home.'  That moment made me so happy for him, to have that place where he can sing out loud. 

But Nick is in new territory.  I don't even care if the boy dances.  I just want him jammed into that commons area with his classmates, talking, watching, and laughing among his friends.  Dancing is optional.  Really.  Girls?  Who knows what will happen. 

My boy just might fall in love for the first time.  If he heard me say that, he'd tell me he fell in love with Sara in second grade.  They did love each other.  Well, okay, for the second time.

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, September 27, 2012


I'm a single parent for the next three days.  That's because Mike is at the first weekend of Wood Badge training.  I wish I were there.  It sounds like fun.  He's sitting by a campfire right now.  Instead, I'll be helping Nick go through a busy weekend.  I wish we didn't have anything planned so we could go off and have an adventure of our own, but I have to go to a memorial service for a friend on Saturday.  I still want to go to the Outback Kangaroo Farm and to the zip lines on Camano Island.  Maybe we could manage that on Sunday afternoon, but the odds are that Nick will just want to hang out at home.  We'll see. 

The problem I'm going to have is that I tend to wait for Mike when he's gone.  That's not fair to Nick or to me.  We deserve to go do something fun, don't you think?

Mike even said he might be asked to turn off his phone.  Really?  Does that mean I won't see him on the new app he had me sign up for, Find Friends?  Really, it might be creepy to be tracked by this thing if it weren't my husband watching.  I like that he'd be able to find me if I were to get lost while I was out hiking with Teddy.  I like that he could see that I took Teddy to Marymoor while Nick was at karate tonight.  See, we're not hiding much from each other these days.  You might think that our lives are just so ordinary and they are, but it's never that simple, now, is it?  There's plenty of drama in this ordinary life, sometimes too much drama, though it seems to swirl around us most of the time instead of engulfing the two of us.  So, I'll miss being able to see his little purple dot right next to my blue dot when we're both at home.  I wish I could have the purple dot and give him the blue one instead.  Why can't we pick a green dot or an orange one?  Did it ever occur to them that we just might want to pick our own dot colors?

Never mind.

Nick will be doing something fun tomorrow.  He's going to his first dance.  Now you should understand that the kids go in clumps at this age, girls with girls, and boys with boys.  Nick is going with his buddies Adrian and Jack.  They're having pizza first though.  The funny thing was that Jack's mom was talking about how the girls try on clothes to get ready.  Tonight, Nick talked about bringing different clothes to Jack's house to see what he really wanted to wear.  Oh man, I hope I get to see some of that!  Will they be changing clothes all afternoon?  Will I have to run out with Nick and Adrian to pick up a pair of nice pants for Nick? 

I'm glad he's excited about going.  I've been told there isn't a lot of dancing going on just yet, but I told Nick that if he was willing to dance, he'd always have a partner.  I also told him it's great exercise too and that he can just go out and keep it cool if he wants.  It's more likely that he'll hang out with his buddies and maybe, just maybe, talk to some friends there.  I know that one of the two girls he has crushes on is going.  Will he have the courage to talk to them?  Am I ready for this?  Am I ready to watch him fall in love, lose his heart, struggle in that mire that is young love?  I'm not sure anything in life is as difficult as love except, maybe, for death.  Love just might be more difficult than dying.  I'm not sure.  Either way, you must succumb.  I can almost remember my first dances.  I was such a complete dork, but then what middle-schooler isn't?

You have to remember that when I went to my first dances, 'Saturday Night Fever' was just coming out in the theaters!  It was disco, baby!  Ah, ah, ah, ah, staying alive, staying alive.  You have to admit that if you were willing to get out there on the dance floor, disco was fun.  It looked idiotic, but it was fun.  I'm just glad I don't have any home movies of those dances.  I looked better in my memory, I'm sure. 

So tomorrow night, I just get to imagine what Nick's doing.  Remember the angst from that age?  'Should I go talk to him?  Will he even know my name?'  There were people that I just stared at, probably moon-eyed, people whom I'm sure never knew who I was, let alone that I liked them.  Oh, the ache from seeing them in the hallway or even from hearing just the right song.  Oh black water, keep on rolling.  Even now, just thinking about that song, I remember the blond-haired boy I used to stare at in biology class.  It was a tumultuous time in my life, probably in any kid's life, enduring the first crushes.  I can't wish him never to get hurt.  Everyone gets hurt.  Everyone. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wobbly and Hard of Hearing

I'm salty.  Yes, I said salty.  The cat is trying to lick my arm. 

The reason I'm salty is that I sweated like a pig.  You should have seen me, huffing and puffing, while my friend Rachel trotted along ahead of me.  I'd like to say 'like a mountain goat,' but that isn't nearly demure enough to describe what she was doing.  Oh, she said she broke a sweat, but I didn't see it.  I was dripping on myself for God's sake!

Today, we took our dogs up to the Rattlesnake Mountain trail at the new Snoqualmie Point trailhead.  I have to tell you that both Rachel and I thought that the ice storm had dropped a tree on the shelter there, but when we got up closer, it turned out that it was designed that way.  I feel kind of bad for the architect, thinking that.  I'm sure that wasn't the intent when the idea came to mind.  Don't you wonder what people are thinking sometimes?  Now that I know that it was intentional, I think it's pretty.

We didn't have as much time as we wanted since we both have think about kids getting home from school in the afternoon.  So, we started up this trail.  The sign said that Stan's Overlook was 1.9 miles.  Washington Trails Association said it was 2.5 miles.  I like them better.  Don't you just love that you can look up trails on the Internet on the drive to get to a hike? 

The trail wasn't steep, really, but it was relentless, going up and up and up until we came into a clearing and could see the valley.  I kept thinking of reasons to pause.  Stop and look at something.  Tie my shoe.  I'm sure Rachel could see right through me, so I gave up the pretense and just stood there and heaved a sometimes.  We came into some clear cut areas, but these were starting to grow again and they left an occasional tree.  I loved it because it was a great chance to stop, resume breathing, and pretend to take a picture to send to Mike.  He's got me on a new app called 'Find Friends.'  Ostensibly, it's so that they can find my body if I die and forget to tell him where I went hiking.   I saw the movie '127 Hours,' didn't you ?  This guy made a point of free climbing in the wilderness without telling anyone that he'd gone.  Shoot, I wanted Mike to see where I was.  Does elevation show up on those things?   I even wished I could send him a recording of my heart rate too.  After crossing a bunch of forest service roads or the same one more than once, we finally got to the fork in the trail to go to Stan's Overlook.  There were a couple of benches where we opened up our packs to get a drink.  I was really glad I remembered my canteen.  It felt like we were higher than Mt. Si!  Actually, we were at 2100 feet and Mt Si is 3900 feet, so I was wrong.  I was just reading a book that said that the altitude of mountains can be confusing for a pilot, that perception can be tricky.  Guess they were right.  Still, we could see the track at Mt. Si High School.  I was still trying to figure out other landmarks when Rachel reminded me that we'd better get moving so we didn't miss the kids. 

Isn't it funny that down hill is so much faster, but not really easier.  My feet began to hurt going down hill.  I felt as though I was going to skid on the gravel that had been turned up.  Rachel was really moving.  Oh, I was sort of keeping up, but she got far enough ahead that I couldn't hear what she was saying unless she turned her head to speak in my direction.  Doesn't it stink to get old?   Wobbly and hard of hearing.  We made it back down in record time.

I'm telling you  this dog-walking thing is either going to kill me or it's going to make me healthier. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Stinky and Sticky

I hate cleaning.  I really do. 

Do you remember the rule that says that if you cooked you don't have to clean up?  I like that rule, but it looks like I'm not going to get the luxury of that rule with the Boy Scout troop.  How do I set that in motion?

After the Iron Chef competition, Mike sent the scouts home with the pots they cooked their masterpieces in.  We didn't get those pots back and were stuck when it came to cooking at the campout last weekend.  We had to scrounge for pots big enough for what we were cooking.

So, Mike was reluctant to send the kids home with stuff to clean after this trip.  Does that mean that I'm stuck cleaning after every campout?  Five crates and two coolers of food, gear, and pots.  Two of the crates held stinky, sticky crud that should have been put into the coolers.  I'd expected that I could rest a bit on Sunday afternoon after I'd cleaned out the coolers.  I'd hoped I could finish the crates on Monday since, or so I thought, I had already unloaded all the perishables.  Not so.  Yogurt spilled and festered inside one crate.  Sticky lemonade seeped out of the top of the drink dispenser, gumming up a cooler, carpet in our truck, the tailgate, and two sets of clothing.  A jar of relish didn't have the lid screwed on tight and dripped into the bottom of another crate.  All of the condiments were put into the crates instead of the cooler and had to get thrown out from sitting out too long.  I had to throw away plastic cups, a fresh box of Ziploc bags, along with a whole package of sweaty flour tortillas. 

So, how do I let these people know that I have no intention of doing this after every camping trip?  How do I make it so that I'm not shouldering the entire cleanup process?  How do I get them to understand that the way they pack up at the end of a campout can mean the difference between me helping and me quitting? Good questions. 

I don't have the answers.

Thank you for listening, jb


Monday, September 24, 2012

A State of Being

I really don't have anything to say.

I lost my purse and I'm annoyed with myself.  I think I left it in a friend's car, but when she drove away and I discovered it was gone, it was too late in the evening to call her and find out.  I got an email back from another friend whose house we'd visited, so I know I didn't leave it there.  I remember seeing it in the seat next to me as I drove to meet the carpool. 

I hate when I'm this dumb.  It happens a lot.  More than you'd expect, more than I'd expect. 

So, you know that state of mind when you need to take care of something but you can't because the whole world around you is asleep?  I'm in that frame of mind and I hate it.

I get there when my house is a mess and I'm awake anyway and I can't vacuum because Mike and Nick are asleep. 

I get to that point when it's 7:55 and I want to call or text someone about setting up our schedules to do something.  I hate when people text me before 9:00 am, so why would I do it back to them?  Still, sometimes, I'm tempted.

I get into a state when I have a problem and I've done my part and another part depends on someone else. 

I hate getting into that state of mind, when even reading a good book won't distract me, when I should be doing other things like sleeping or running the dishwasher or deleting old emails but I don't want to because there's this one important thing that I don't get to take care of right now.

Tomorrow, if my friend doesn't have my purse, I have to call and cancel all of my credit cards.  I have to get a new drivers license and worry that someone has my old one.  I'd have to cancel a bunch of checks, though which ones, I'm not sure. 

Oh man, I'm hoping my friend has my purse.  I don't want to have to go through all that worry again. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Classic Campout

Can I brag?

The food for the thirty-seven people worked!  This afternoon, the kids ended up eating the taco meat straight out of the plastic container after everyone had as many tacos as they wanted.  Three people asked me for the recipe for the beef stroganoff.  It's straight out of the Betty Crocker binder.  Don't you just love that one?  I made some new friends, reconnected with some old ones.  I'm hoping most of these Webelos will move into our Scout troop. 

Over the weekend, the boys ran an orienteering course and made survival bracelets.  We had a campfire replete with bad skits and songs. There was football and flashlight tag to be played, and s'mores to be eaten. 

The boys were even assigned to cook the food!  Somehow I missed that one and had expected to be the one doing the stove work.  Two of the boys even brought everything to do some Dutch oven cooking.  With the two that Mike made, there were four desserts, peach cobbler, apple crisp, chocolate cherry cake, and a delicious pumpkin concoction.  This morning, a couple of the adults were marveling at how much fun the kids had making chocolate chip pancakes, though I had to scrub the dried batter off of three picnic tables.  Did they have a food fight or something? 

Boy, did I sleep last night despite the symphony of men snoring.  There were a couple that might have made it into the Metropolitan Opera.  Thankfully, Mike knew about at least one and set his tent up some distance away.  I set up my lawn chair and bivy near him so I could listen to him sleep.  Isn't it funny that I want to hear the sounds he might make but not the same kind of noises from the others?  I fell asleep just after 11:30 after the coyotes sang.  I briefly woke before dawn to an owl hooting, and the next thing I knew, it was morning. The fog was beautiful.

I've spent the afternoon moving the group gear. I had packed really light, just my day pack, my lawn chair, and my new sleeping bag.  Now, I'm glad because there were two coolers and five crates of group gear, not including the Dutch ovens.  I've cleaned out the coolers.

Now, I just wish I had someone to help me clean up all those pots!  

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Webelos Camping

I'm lying in my bivy near Nick and Mike's tent. It's clear and I can feel the dew falling. My new down sleeping bag is lovely and soft. Though it's rated for zero degree weather, it's just perfect. It's supposed to get down to 48 degrees tonight.

So here's the report - the beef stroganoff was a hit and since it was still cold when we put it in the stove, I don't think it will make anyone sick. It would be a great fail if people got sick from this. One of the dads from the Cub Scout Pack, a good friend, would never let me forget it if that happened. The boys I was working with had never been near a stove and we had to tell them a lot of stuff that seems like common sense. Except they'd never done it before. It all worked out. No one was burned or cut.

I did end up being sent out this afternoon. I missed orienteering and got back just in time to help with dinner. I went home and to REI. At home I took a little time to pet Seth, who eat lonely, then I made myself a mocha. It was wonderful. REI was pretty fun too. I had to buy a new griddle since we never found ours. I also got a couple of those triangle mess kits for someone who forgot theirs. Its made by a company called Light My Fire. Boy I'd like to get one of those. It has a cutting board! I can't justify it though, since I have the same good kit I've been using for the last twenty years. We really needed a bigger cutting board for this trip anyway.

The boys really grooved on the Dutch oven cooking. Mike has been a good influence, with his pumpkin spice cake and the chocolate cherry cake. One boy made apple crisp and another made peach cobbler. Oh man, we ate well.

Afterward, the kids ran off the sugar with flashlight tag. The fog came in and an orange half moon rose and fell. They said it was orange from the fires. What a great night to be out running around in the dark.

But now, I can hear a couple of guys snoring. I'll be joininge in the chorus in a minute.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Webelos Campout

Well, we're mostly packed for tomorrow's campout.  Thirty-seven people.  I went around all day telling people I don't know how to cook for thirty-seven people for a whole weekend.  I told at least three people at the middle school fundraiser.  I told a couple more people at the market where I get the good meat.  We'll see if I'm right.  There's nine pounds of stew meat in three quarts of broth that simmered on the stove today for two hours.  It smells like stroganoff, though I didn't taste it to see if the beef was tender.  There is an additional six pounds of ground beef cooked up with McCormick's taco seasonings packet.  The boys got hungry as I was cooking.  Shoot, even I wanted to have tacos for dinner.  Dinner's always an afterthought when I'm cooking for some other event.  You should have seen the day I made eleven pies for the Cub Scout bake sale.  That was a good day, but Mike knew it was a pizza night when he walked into the cloud of flour in my kitchen.  It was kind of fun today too. 

I forgot to listen to my book on tape as I worked.  I'm listening to 'The Girl in the Blue Beret' by Bobbie Ann Mason.  It's a good book, with quite a bit of French dialog thrown in for flair, but the narrator's intonations annoy me.  Sometimes I wonder how much I'd have liked reading a book as opposed to listening.  I can tell you right now that I never would have gotten through Melville's 'Moby Dick' or Barbara Kingsolver's 'Poisonwood Bible' if I'd had to actually read them.  Does it count that I listened?  I think so.  Otherwise, all those book conversations I had with my grandma, who had macular degeneration and was stuck listening, were with someone who hadn't 'read' the book.  Let's not be snobs about this, okay?  So, Mason's book is about a WWII pilot who was shot down in Belgium and was helped by the French Resistance out of the country.  I like when I can get a little history while I'm cooking.  But today, I forgot to listen.  Sometimes it's as entertaining listening to Nick and Adrian in the living room.  Their first school dance is coming up next Friday and while I worked, I listened in. 

So I did all I could to cook ahead.  Mike didn't want me to cook anything ahead, but even at home, I'd cook ahead for a group this size.  Now, it's just a matter of hauling all this stuff out to the truck in the morning, packing it in, driving the ten minutes to Tolt-MacDonald, then loading it into wagons and dragging them across the bridge and a mile down the trail to our campsite. Whew!

This camp doesn't get a lot of traffic, so we're hoping our plastic bins will be good enough to keep the rodents out.  If a bear comes along, Mike said we'd bang pots and shoo him away and then figure out how to hoist up three crates of food and a couple of coolers.  Is that still called a 'bear bag?'  That would be a great adventure. 

I really hope these boys have a good time.  We're camping with about a dozen Webelos from a couple of different Cub Scout Packs.  When I asked about bringing the bag of assorted balls, Mike said,"This is a campout not a party."  It was like I was watching the movie MIB when Zed says, "We're not hosting an intergalactic kegger out here."

What?  I'm supposed to be the one who's all serious and stuff, not Mike.  But he's got plans for the boys.  There's an orienteering course over at the park and they're going to take advantage of it.  I heard talk about geocaching.  A couple of the boys that are going were with Mike when he hiked to place a geocache on that side of the river, so they might go find that one.  Plus, I'm slated to make survival bracelets with the boys.  I made more than twenty for Nick's birthday party, so I can do it. It's been cool seeing some of Nick's friends wearing them.  Shoot, I showed Mike how and he made a few too, so he could do it if I'm out getting something from the store.  Besides, there are instructions right in with the supplies.  The best thing will be if I show a couple of the boys and then they teach each other.  That's the way I want to do it.  I'm not up for teaching a class.  I'm not sure what else they're going to do, but I know my job will be to run get stuff we've forgotten.

Already, I'm slated to go to REI in the morning.  We can't find our griddle.  I know it's somewhere, probably in the shed in a bin that's up on the loft and shoved to the back.  But it won't hurt to have a second griddle.  There are going to be more campouts and if things go well, we could have these same thirty-seven people on more trips and we'll really be able to use two griddles.  I'm telling you - one griddle on Sunday will be a great bottleneck.  At least with the griddle, Mike will be able to make four pancakes at a time.  With three pancakes apiece, that will be 111 pancakes.  Four at a time, Mike will have to make twenty-eight batches of pancakes.  That man is going to be making pancakes until it's time to heat up the taco meat for lunch.  But what is camping if it's not about food? 

Unfortunately, I won't be around to tell him 'I told you so' because I have to sally off to church on Sunday to play the piano.  Yes, I did say that.  I'm going to play the piano at church on Sunday.  You just know how I like doing that, don't you?  My skills are rusty.  When I get nervous, my fingers freeze up and I can't read a sentence and understand it let alone read music.  Add to that the fact that my glasses don't have a middle setting and I'm leaning forward, trying to tilt my head back so I can read the blurry little notes.  Yeah, I really thinking that when I'm done, they'll be begging our half-time pianist never to go away on vacation again.  Well, hopefully.  I really don't have room for one more commitment.

It's enough for me to be feeding thirty-seven people over the weekend, don't you think?

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Feeding the Hordes

So this morning, Mike told me he hadn't slept much.  He said he was figuring food for our campout this weekend. 

Did you ever feel like a bowling ball just dropped on your stomach?  In that moment, terror made the hair raise up on the back of my neck and all of my internal organs readjusted themselves. 

I have to feed 37 people this weekend.  I've never cooked for that many people before.  Well, I have fed forty people for Nick's birthday party, but that was one meal!  This is four meals and we don't have enough pots for stroganoff on Saturday night.  I figure we need two huge pots for the beef and at least one to boil six bags of egg noodles.  We don't have enough coolers to keep all that food cool.  Shoot, we wouldn't have enough room in our refrigerators at home to keep this food cool. This kind of job really needs a walk-in refrigerator.

A chef would be nice too.  I'd really like to call this man we know who owned a restaurant for thirty years.  Yeah, he could take over.  He could make this happen.  People would go home praising his cooking abilities.  I'm not so sure about how Mike and I will do. 

I stood in my kitchen in my pajamas and pictured 37 boys and their dads in their tents puking their guts out early on Sunday morning.  It would be like the pie-eating contest  scene in the movie 'Stand By Me.'  Do you remember that scene?  It's really funny until it's you throwing up.  Worse than that is if you're the cause of all that sickness. 

How can Mike stay so cool, calm, and collected?  While I stewed, Mike sent out a couple of emails.  He's acting like he does this kind of thing all the time.  Coolers.  Stock pots.  He's good under pressure.

I, on the other hand, am not good under pressure.  I spin around.  I try to do three things at once.  I step back and try to simplify.  That's the big picture here.  I'm going to simplify.  Tomorrow, I'm going to simmer eight pounds of stew meat in 72 ounces of beef broth with the right spices long enough to make it tender.  Then, I'm going to make up five pounds of ground beef for tacos.  Mike is going to commandeer two or three huge stock pots and three or four coolers from people who are coming anyway.  It's either going to work out, or it's going to be a great comedy that I'll entertain you with later. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Love and Charity

Oh, I was going to tell you about a backpacking trip I took, but I'm just not going to right now.  Instead, I'm going to close my eyes and type without thinking.  Can I do that?  There's nothing there in my head.  It's empty.  I was busy today and I'm done.  Oh, there was nothing exciting happening, but I just feel done.  You know, that happens when you start your day at 5:30 in the morning.  By 10:09, the energy just isn't there, no matter what went on during the day.

This morning, I woke up dreaming about how I was in a movie about an insomniac. I didn't like this movie because the script writers changed me into a man and made me miserable and divorced.  Mike thought it was funny.  Paul Giamatti.  Really?  I'm going to be portrayed by Paul Giamatti? 

I tell you, I need a pair of ear plugs right here by the computer so I can't hear the infernal television while I'm trying to work.  Why didn't I work while everyone was at work and school today?  Don't know.  Just didn't.

Yup, you're just going to have to wait for the backpacking stories.  I'm going to go sit and watch TV. 


Well, that didn't work either.  I either want to get to it or go to bed.  Now, I've got my ear plugs firmly squeezed into my ears and I can barely hear the commercials when they raise the volume to get your attention.  Isn't that illegal anyway? 

I did manage to burst into tears in front of Nick's fifth grade teacher today. Can you believe that? I hate those days when I do that. See, I'd dropped the boys off at school. Then I got a hair cut. I can't tell you how much better I feel, like I don't have to put on a baseball cap every time someone walks into the room. Then, I figured I'd stop by at the elementary school to drop off box tops the middle school doesn't use and to donate money. See, the janitor there is a wonderful guy, cheerful, helpful, and he really claims that school and the kids as his own. The wooden floors just gleam under his care.   In the morning, his habit is to stand at the main entrance to say hello before he gets back to work.  Kids running past him give him high fives and scream hi as they bolt around the corner.  Sometimes kids just grab him around the waist and hug him.  So, the sad part is that he found out over the summer that he has leukemia and the kids decided to contribute to help cover his medical expenses. I was feeling pretty good about dropping in a twenty dollar bill, but then the receptionist said that one kid emptied his piggy bank into the bottle and it totalled $246! Can you believe that? I'm telling you, this is no ordinary janitor. These kids accumulated over a thousand dollars in just one day. Can you see what kind of man this is?  Incredible.  Love and charity go together, you see.

No that's not why I cried. That would have been a good reason.

I was just about to leave when Nick's teacher grabbed me and said he had a book I'd loaned the class.  I couldn't remember which one it was, but I walked with him to get it.  It was Benjamin Franklin, by Enid LaMonte Meadowcroft.  Don't recognize it?  Don't feel too badly.  It's a Scholastic book printed in 1962.  I tried to tell him I was so glad to get that book back.  I clutched it to my chest. 

"My favorite teacher gave me this book," I said.  I tell you, I never know when to stop talking. 

"She was this great big woman.  She kind of looked like a battle axe."  Did I really just say that? 

"She seemed so mean on the first day of school, telling us about her rules for us students, but by the end of the year, I just knew that, that, ..."  Then I paused, trying to take a steadying breath.

"She loved me." 

And then I burst into tears.   Oh man, I hate crying in front of people I don't know very well.  He was very nice to me as I tried to walk quickly out of his classroom, saying that he had teared up when he talked to his class about the janitor and his plight.  Then, I had a fresh wave of tears.  This poor man in front of me.  I imagine he didn't know what to do with me.  I told him a quick thanks and bolted. 

I hate being the crazy lady.

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Life's Mysteries

Just at noon today, I happened to be driving past Mike's office and decided to ask if he wanted to take a walk with me. 

In 'True Lies' the husband shows up to take his wife out for lunch and she's off having an illicit lunch with a would-be lover.  Well, that didn't happen.

Instead, I picked Mike up and we headed down to Marymoor to let Teddy run.  That may be the nicest off leash dog park in the world.  The dogs there are so happy and Teddy quickly found a new best friend, a brindled pit bull.  Does he know how much we love those dogs or is it just chance that he almost always plays with one when he's free to choose?  Life is full of little mysteries, isn't it?

Most of the dogs were soaking wet when they came over to Mike and I to get petted.  Here's another of life's mysteries - though they greeted me, three of these dogs leaned against Mike's tan dress pants instead of my blue jeans.  Oh, it didn't end there.  As Teddy dashed about wrestling with his new best friend, Mike and I stood by the water greeting the friendlies.  A quiet greyhound stood on Mike's black work shoes while I massaged her back.  This girl didn't want to play with the other dogs, but was happier having me ruffle her coat, sending bits of fur she'd shed straight to the knees of Mike's damp dress pants. 

See, we were standing at one of the gravel beaches by the slough.  There are at least four terraced areas along the Sammamish slough where the dogs congregate for water games and general cooling off.   Enough dogs had come out of the water that there was mud pooling in places.  There are usually four or five dogs of different colors playing chase, two or three focused on the ball chucker in their owners hand, and some, like the sweet greyhound, just saying hello to the people.  The hard part is when there are too many white dogs and it's hard to keep track of where Teddy's going.  Today, as he played with the brindled pit, it was easy.

Well, it should have been easy. 

They raced.  They dashed.  They rolled and wrestled. 

Then they came up behind Mike and rolled into his knees.  He almost fell, but caught his balance just in time, taking a deep half moon step around Teddy as if he were practicing karate.  It was a beautiful catch, but some people around us laughed anyway. We talked about how dogs do that sometimes and we were chewing on that for a bit.  See, people at Marymoor don't usually get all that much exercise except for the muscles in their jaws.  There's a lot of talking going on.  If you want exercise, you have to take your dog to a real trail.  Even if you walk into the deepest part of Marymoor and back, you can only get a scant mile in.  It isn't much, but the dogs?  That's a different story.  Teddy was having a great old time, rolling and wrestling his buddy.

And then, as we humans were almost done expounding the relative merits of the dogs' breeds, Teddy and his cohort rolled squarely into the back of Mike's knees again.  He tried to catch his balance, almost did it.  It was a slow motion upset.  I could have tipped him back in my direction with just a hand to his elbow, yet I didn't manage it.  Teddy was down on his side doing his baseball slide and Mike sat right down on him, one hand and an elbow flailing into a puddle.  His back side was smeared with whatever goobers Teddy's buddy had left along with a great dark streak of dirt.  Well, I hope it was dirt.

Did you know that all the mud, crud, and drool at an off leash park is magnetized and clean dress clothes are most strongly attracted to it?  Yup, one of life's mysteries. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, September 17, 2012

Dried Apples, Duluth Packs, and Oatmeal Packets

I've gone back into my kitchen.  We're having enchiladas for dinner and I could hear Mike breathing a sigh of relief on the phone when I told him as much.  We're also planning meals for about thirty people for a campout over the weekend.  It's a Webelos invite, so it's going to be car camping at its best.  We're only going to be fifteen minutes from home at Tolt-MacDonald park, but we're walking to the far campgrounds so there will be the illusion that we've really gone somewhere.  There's going to be some schlepping involved, though Mike's planning to bring our wagons for people to use.  I'm going to be the runner, the one who heads out for more ice or for hot pot tongs or whatever we left at home.  I get a lot of exercise as the runner and sometimes I can spot a Starbucks and sneak in some civilization while I'm out gathering stuff to schlep back to camp. We're going to be a party of thirty for this campout.

I've never fed thirty people before.  It's a challenge to think of where the bottlenecks will happen.  Mike and I are in negotiations about making pancakes.  I don't want to be making pancakes for thirty people on Sunday morning.  Imagine flipping pancakes for that long, especially with fifteen hungry boys staring at you and all the while trying to steal the chocolate chips.  The pressure will be immense. Can you hear me saying 'will be?'  Mike is going to win this battle.  I just know it. 

Mike's also wants to make beef stroganoff.  My recipe calls for the stew meat to simmer for a couple of hours.  I say my recipe, but it's really a recipe from the Betty Crocker cook book that my mother gave me when I left home.  I didn't use it until one day Mike opened it to the stroganoff/goulash page and said, "I want you to make me one of those for dinner."  But for thirty people? That's ten pounds of stew meat,  two and a half pints of sour cream, sixty ounces of beef stock, five small cans of mushrooms, and three bags of egg noodles.  Cooking for that many people is different than cooking for a large family, let alone my small one.  We'd have two extra large stock pots full of meat simmering that has to have an adult watching over it all afternoon.  Hey wait, I could be that person!  Then, I could sit and read my book or carve a walking stick all afternoon while the meat tenderizes.  Mike doesn't want to precook the meat.  He wants the boys to get the authentic experience of cooking outside.  Would any boys actually be helping with the cooking?  We'd better call the market today though if that's what he wants to do.  It's not like we can sally in there at 4:00 pm on Friday and walk out with ten pounds of perfectly cubed stew meat.  Oh, and I want the good stuff.  This is Painted Hills beef, the good stuff.

My experience doesn't cover this many people.  Most canoe trips Mike and I took were limited to about fifteen people.  That, I can handle.  Did you know that Costco has Mountain House dehydrated meals in bulk now?  Isn't that cool?  At least with a dehydrated meal packet, you know you just plan one for each meal, as if it's an MRE.  Just add water.  If you don't feel like washing dishes, you can eat it right out of the pouch it came in.  But the more trips I went on, the more I steered away from the packets of food.  For a group of fifteen, I'd use dehydrated packets enhanced with some dehydrated veggies.  I heard that Mountain House is pretty good.  More recently, our trips were smaller, no more than six people.  Then, it's easier to get away from packets of dehydrated food.

For these smaller groups, I learned to spend a couple of weeks before a trip dehydrating fruits and vegetables. Dried apples sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar are the best, a staple.  Do you know what happens to your digestion after a week on dehydrated food?  The apples are best when you slice them thin with a mandolin slicer to make crispy chips and the key to keeping their color is to dip them in lemon juice before they're sprinkled with the sugar and dried. Kiwi is good too. I like the texture of the seeds in the chewy fruit, but I seemed to sprinkle a lot more sugar on them though, since they're wetter.  The kiwi needed a lot more time and I turned my dehydrator on high for the first hour or so to dry up the extra liquid. I don't bother with dehydrated strawberries any more.  I never seemed to get my them dry enough.  I really like the freeze dried ones better anyway.  My favorite is 'Just Strawberries.'  Carrots need to be shredded so it doesn't take forever to rehydrate them.  Peas are interesting too, but I found that using the freeze dried ones worked better.  Same company, only 'Just Peas.' Adding these vegetables makes the dehydrated food feel like a real meal.  My favorite veggies to dehydrate are black olives.  They turn into salty, nutty snacks that make spaghetti much improved if you can keep people from cleaning them out before spaghetti night.

For those smaller groups, we'd buy McCormicks packages of alfredo sauce or brown gravy and make up dinners of our own using noodles or minute rice. We used to like using the boil-in-bag rice. Do they even make those any more? I've also noticed that it's hard to find dehydrated chicken or beef any more. What is it with that?  At the end of a trip, when supplies ran low, we'd throw in whatever we had left, laugh, and say, "Chicken beef!" It became one of those phrases that made us laugh without any reference to reality.  It really didn't matter what kind of dehydrated meat we used in the meal. They were little cubes of either blond meat bits or brown ones.  It was protein and we needed it. On our trip to the Diablo this summer, we had to bring cans of chicken.  Not my idea of packing light.  I know I could dehydrate meat, but I worry that it would go bad heating that slowly in the dehydrator.  I guess I could follow instructions.  Fancy that.

Let me tell you about my favorite part - dessert.  The best was instant chocolate pudding in a graham cracker crust. The worst was instant jello.  Oh man, I never got hungry enough to willingly eat that jello.  It didn't help that much of the time the kids didn't mix it up well enough and there were dry lumps in it as well as the nauseatingly slimy clumps.  Chocolate mousse made with dehydrated milk was good.  There was even a cherry cheesecake mix that came with graham cracker sprinkles that we never bothered to press into the bottom of the pan.  I don't even know if they still make that stuff any more.  It was one of those things that we never made at home because it just wasn't that good, but at camp?  Whew, it was delicious.

The last thing that seemed to feed the soul on a trip like that was to have those packets of cappuccino mix and a selection of good hot chocolate.  These days, we travel with peppermint tea in case anyone has an upset stomach and a selection of herbal teas.  Neither of us can sleep if we drink caffeine.  I can't usually take in that much sugar either, even on a camping trip. I really miss the cappuccinos.   Doesn't it stink to get old? 

For years, Mike and I had the same argument over and over when it came to planning food for our trips.  I wanted to bring more food.  He wanted to bring just about what we needed.  I'm not very good at carrying just about what I need when it comes to food.  I was like a kid who'd had rickets during the depression.  I was worried about having enough.  Eventually, we got that argument honed down to Mike saying, "You just need your oatmeal packet." 

Then, knowing that he'd planned a little extra for the trip, I could relax. We did need that extra food on a trip.  We were in Alaska in June.  Out of common sense regarding bears and rodents, Mike was draining the noodles for our dinner right into the pit toilet when the whole clump slipped out of the pot and we lost it.  I was really glad to be carrying extra food near the end of a trip.  There's a certain smell that all of that food, packed together in plastic, takes on in the food bag after a hot week in a canoe.  It's not as if the food smells like it's foul, but the blended odors don't go well together.  I never managed, except when it was well sealed, to eat what was left in that bag when a trip was over.

I'd guess that our Duluth pack, the one we always used for food still has that smell.  Ew.  Don't get me started about that Duluth pack.  Lets just say if it got burned up in a campfire, I'd be happy to replace it with almost any other kind of pack.  Please.  Mike loves his Duluth pack.  I don't.  It is the most gawd-awful, uncomfortable pieces of equipment we ever spent good money on.  It's so ridiculous that it actually has a tump line that you're supposed to put on your head to take up some of the pressure off your spine.  Now, you chiropractors out there, picture this - a seventy pound pack with leather shoulder straps so wide they cut circulation completely off in your arms.  You can't get into or out of them without help.  Well, I can't anyway.  Then take a strap that angles up from the widest part of the pack to wrap around your forehead relieving just a little of the force from your shoulders onto your neck. Yeah, you get the picture.  Your neck just isn't equipped to handle that kind of pressure.  How did I get to talking about the damn Duluth packs?  It tell you, there's yet another argument that we all know I'll never win, but I can roll my eyes and groan whenever he pulls that ugly thing out of the closet. 

I'll let you know how the stroganoff turns out.  It could be good or it could be funny. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Kielbasa, Tomato Paste, and Pride

I don't want to complain about how sick I've felt the last couple of days.  I had a bad reaction to an antibiotic after I had a minor surgery.  I still feel like crap, but you don't want to hear about that. 

You sat down here to listen to the story of how dinner came about and how I made myself eat it anyway. 

Late this afternoon, being hungry, I dragged my butt out of bed and I went to the fridge to see what I could eat.  I hate when I look at the food in there and realize that unless I'm eating sliced cheese, I'm going to have to actually prepare food.  Something told me I should try to combine the snack with dinner plans, since it was going on 4:30.  If I was actually going to cook, I'd need some time.  I'd need to concentrate or we'd be having hockey pucks or mystery scramble.  My guys love to eat good food, but have the grace not to label a meal until after I've declared dinner to be a nuclear waste site.  When I'm a good cook, I'm really good.   One taste of my lemon meringue pie will tell you that.  When I'm bad, it's still mostly edible, though it's up for pot shots and attempts at laughing tears into my eyes.  Hopefully, you'll never be invited for one of those meals. 

So, I pulled out the ribs I'd gotten the other day, spray coated a baking sheet, and opened them up.  I should have checked the sell-by date before I glommed up my kitchen scissors on the packaging.  It was yesterday's date.  The rank smell that wafted up told me that, in reality, it was quite a bit beyond that.  I may be sick, but I still have a sense of smell.  I had intended to use Susan Branch's recipe for spare ribs in pineapple juice.  Let's just say that Susan Branch would never let good ribs go bad in her refrigerator, no matter how lousy she felt.  Absolutely every recipe in her book, 'Vineyard Seasons' is delicious.  Her Welsh rarebit recipe is perfect comfort food.  Her spare ribs recipe has us drinking the juice out of the bowl after the ribs are gone.  I shouldn't even be mentioning her name in the same place where I talk about how my ribs had gone bad before I began.

So, what does a woman do when she's wearing her pajamas in the kitchen at 4:35pm on a sunny Sunday afternoon?  What does she do when she's been upright for all of two or three hours in the past four days and this is her first foray into her usually happy kitchen in that time? What does she do when she hasn't even begun and the kitchen starts to smell like a grease trap?

I burst into tears. 

I'm ashamed to admit that this isn't the first time I burst into tears in the past few days.  I cried in the pet food aisle when I tried to take Nick to karate and had to make a quick stop at Fred Meyer.  I very nearly called Mike to come pick me up that night.  I cried at church when I was supposed to make dessert for coffee hour and nothing I bought at the market was going to turn into a dessert.  Honestly, I would have bought muffins, but they'd been picked over and all that was left was flax seed gluten free muffins.  The mix I bought at the last minute required an egg and I hadn't brought one to church.  I very nearly called Mike to come pick me up then too.  Instead, I stood in the bathroom and cried while I let him convince me to just come home.  No one would even notice, he told me.  The hell of it was that no one did notice.  A few of them talked at me, but never looked at me until one sweet man asked me if I was alright just before I drove away in my car. 

Nick happened to be the one guiding me this afternoon when I needed to lie down again. 

"I'll make dinner mom," he said. "I'll just make my goulash from the Iron Chef competition at Boy Scouts."  When he'd gotten home from that Scout meeting, he'd glowed with happiness.  His patrol won the competition with his recipe.  He even had me copy it down into my special book of recipes. 

And so he did.  One kielbasa and two cans of tomato paste later, he had made a meal.  Mike had warned me that he'd used about two tablespoons of black pepper in it and the onion wasn't quite caramelized yet, but if you were to put kielbasa and tomato paste onto a plate, that about sums it up.  He even forgot to add the bow tie pasta.  That might have helped.

He stood there, grinning with pride, after he brought me a plate full.  He waited. 

I wanted to tell him that I wasn't very hungry.  It was smeared onto the plate, lumpy and red.  I wanted to tell him I needed to go back to bed. 

Instead, I ate it.  It wasn't bad.  I'd never eaten pure tomato paste before, but it wasn't bad.  Certainly not nuclear.  I can tell you that I cleaned my plate tonight.  It seemed important.

"Man, this stuff is delicious," Nick said as he scraped the last bite off his own plate.  They say that being hungry is the best seasoning, but I think pride does a pretty good job as well. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

To Pivot Around One Moment

Well, I made it through, mostly.  Yesterday, I had a cancer spot removed from my forehead.  It wasn't a worrisome type of cancer, but here's my message for the day:  use sunscreen!

I feel like I've been kicked in the head.  I have a row of stitches under my bandage that makes me look like Frankenstein.  It was strange to see, but they took pictures of it as they progressed.  So, I took some pictures too.  I just wanted to send a gross shot or two to Mike.

I've been good for nothing for the past twenty-four hours.  Poor Teddy had so much energy and I just couldn't walk him, so he went off to puppy camp for today.  He'll have a good time, he'll run his energy off with the other dogs, and I'll get some rest. 

Yesterday, I watched 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.'  Yesterday was 9/11.  I had picked up this movie from the holds shelf at the library and it was some kind of strange fate that on a day when I had other things to take care of, namely the removal of an itchy red growth, the Universe dictated that I needed to pause and reflect about the families who are still affected by the attack on the twin towers and the Pentagon.  Yes, their lives pivot around that moment when people in the towers and on the planes knew what had happened, when many of them managed to call their families to say their last goodbyes. 

There are events that have affected my life.  You could, in fact, argue that every moment affects the rest of my life, even casual decisions.  Yet, when I think of how a life can turn in the opposite direction all at once, I always think of when my dad died.  I was thirteen.  He'd been struggling with colon cancer for a year and a half, so it wasn't exactly one moment in time.  That was the hardest change in my life so far and in strange ways, the most productive.  When I first realized that, I was actually angry about it, to think that wonderful things happened to me as a result of my dad's death.  It still galls me.  I became independent and resourceful.  I found that anger had a purpose and I learned how to use it.  I thought about all those things my dad had nagged me about and suddenly took them seriously.  Among other things, my dad wanted me to educate myself, to read, to learn, and to be curious about the world around me.

I used to believe that, when my father died, I became part of a legacy, that I would die at about the same age he died, probably of cancer.  I used to think I needed to follow in his footsteps to the very end.  For a while, especially when I lived past his age, I thought I had to give up that legacy.  He was thirty-seven when he died.  It isn't true that I had to give it up.  I just didn't carry the legacy that I thought I held.  I can't follow in his footsteps.  I'm not like him in too many ways.  I can't talk about my real legacy without a sound-byte effect and I won't cheapen it by trying.  Besides, there's so much of it that I still have to explore.  I wonder if any of the family members of those who died on 9/11 have gotten to this same point?

I'm going to lie down and think about that now.

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, September 10, 2012

Iron Chef Scouts

I'm sitting here with my sliding glass door slid a bit open though the breeze is too cool, 54 degrees.  I'm listening to our barred owl calling.  After hearing these guys when we were on Diablo Lake, I like the sound.  It does sound a little lonely though. 

I should be in bed.  I hate the effects of procrastination, yet I do it anyway. Why is that? Tomorrow, Mike's Scouts are having an Iron Chef competition and I blithely volunteered to pick up supplies for it even though I'm scheduled to get a big hunk of skin cut off around some skin cancer tomorrow morning.  I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be good for much the rest of the day.  So, this morning after I dropped Nick off at school, I half-slept through a bad movie before I got my act together.  Then I was behind for the rest of the day.  I ran to the doctor's office for my annual (bleach), stopped at the store and the library, picked up four bottles of propane, and had a meeting with Nick's cross country coaches.  Oh man, I am proud of my boy.  He's the slowest member of the team and he's struggling with his asthma and his quadruple-E width feet, yet he's managed to capture the hearts of his team members and coaches and wants to stick with the program.  After that, I helped Nick with his homework while I distractedly made dinner.  It's a wonder I didn't burn anything, going back and forth the way I did.  Nick is learning exponents using factoring techniques.  It all comes down to the basic math.  Then, after Nick was safely tucked into bed, I ran back to the grocery store and picked up ingredients for this cooking competition.  I bought four of everything except onions.  Mike said I wouldn't need more than three onions. Hmmm.

The premise is that we give each team the same basic ingredients and they make us dinner. Sounds like a good plan to me, except that I've seen the way these boys cook. On a camping trip last spring, they didn't tell the new Scouts to drain the noodles before adding the cheese to the boxed macaroni and cheese they were making.  Reading the directions might have been useful there.  I didn't have to be a guest at that table, but Nick told me it was pretty bad.

Then, at WashJam, some of the older boys bought about twenty dollars worth of candy, added some water and tang, and cooked it down for three hours on the stove on that really hot day, the day none of the rest of us found the strength to unstick our legs from our camp chairs.  Remember those 97 degree days this summer? They said the candy-making was a tradition.  Interesting tradition.  This stuff came out a gummy green mess.  I tasted it.  It was actually good, like sour candies, only drippy and green.   The other adults looked at me as if I'd just taken a swig of wood alcohol laced with hemlock and slug bait.  I didn't even get a little bit sick.

On that trip, I also watched them chipping their pancakes out of the 'nonstick' pan because no one brought oil and they didn't think to cook their bacon first and save some of the grease for the pancakes.  Then, they forgot that they were supposed to cook up twice the amount of bacon at breakfast so they could make bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches for lunch.  They jammed bacon until they were sick of it, experimented with making bacon pancakes, then threw out the rest.  For one meal, they simply ate hot dogs.  Most of the boys didn't even bother with a bun or condiments.  At least they got some protein.  I didn't see a vegetable on their side of camp all week.

Meanwhile, the adults ate jambalaya one night and peanut chicken the next.  There were pies, apple and chocolate, which were lustfully eyed by the Scouts.  Many meals were accompanied by a salad.  Mike even made chocolate chip/cranberry pancakes for breakfast one morning. 

I'll be interested to see how the four patrols manage with a what's-in-the-fridge approach.  Shoot, it'll be fun to see them divide the three onions for the four groups.  I could tell them that if they cut each onion into fourths and hand out three bits to each group, everyone will have the same amount.  Basic math.  Time will tell if they will think of that.  Time will tell if any of the Scouts has any idea how to use spices.  Mike is also supplying cayenne pepper.  I have visions of tall glasses of iced Pepto Bismol for the judges later in the evening. 

So I'm not quite thrilled by the thought of having dinner out tomorrow night, at least not if the Boy Scouts are hosting. Unfortunately, the leaders aren't in on the competition. Now, that would be a camp stove I'd like to visit.

Thank you for listening, jb 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

At Opposite Ends of the Spectrum

I don't know what to tell you about today.  Should I tell you how I walked really fast when we went to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail with the dog so that Mike and Nick had to work to stay ahead of me while they ran?  Nick was proud of himself for winning though I'm a pretty fast walker these days.  Should I tell you how I managed to get my boy to work with an older Scout to help organize the Iron Chef competition they're having on Tuesday night?  It involved making a couple of phone calls.  Oh man, this kid hates talking on the phone.  You should see him when his grandma calls.  Still, he called the older Scout back and even had an idea of what to do with the list of ingredients.  The prize is a gift certificate for each boy in the patrol for Scott's Dairy Freeze in North Bend.  I love that place, but their food is junk food at its best.  Ha!  The irony, giving them junk food for winning the cooking competition.  Good one Mike.

So those are the good mom items.  I think I got two good-mom points for those.

But then there's the way I ignored Nick for five whole minutes while I played my game on my iPhone to show him how it felt when he did the same thing to me.  I just wanted to point out the cat lying on the dashboard of the car as we left the restaurant.  You just don't see cats in cars all that often.  I had also tried to carry on a conversation with him at dinner at the Raging River Cafe about maybe using all this running training to build up to running in a 5K competition.  I mean, isn't it good to set goals? 

Don't try to set goals with a boy who's head is lost in an iPhone game.  Hell, I like my iPhone games too, but I don't ignore people who are talking to me when I'm out to dinner.  Eventually, I took Mike's phone away from Nick.

Ignoring him?  I think I lost a point there. 

Then, there's the fact that almost everything with this boy, anything that has to do with him taking care of himself, participating, or helping, has become contentious between us.  Mike would let him go a couple of days without showering, but I don't want him to become known as the smelly kid.

Whoops!  I just lost my last point by complaining out loud about my son.  No good mom complains about her children these days.  It's in bad form.  Sorry.

Now, I'm down to a zero.  I get no points.  I'm exhausted from the constant resistance.  And Nick still didn't take a shower today. 

On Facebook, I put on a good show, but in real life, I have to push Nick to read, to bathe, to floss his teeth, to help carrying groceries, to eat a healthy diet, to stick with the sports he signed up for, to send thank you notes for gifts he is given, to go to bed so that he'll have slept enough to get through a day of school.  I'm exhausted. 

I wish I knew the truth.  Do other moms really get through the day without enduring these battles?  Do they have patience with their boys and never lower themselves to treating them badly to show them what it feels like? Last year, teachers said that their goal was to get the kids to take ownership of their lives.  Great plan, but Nick wasn't doing anything on his own.  He still isn't.  So, I'm supposed to let go of it all?  I shouldn't care if he skips showers, if he eats junk and never gets up from the television,?  I shouldn't blink if he doesn't do a bit of homework, if he gets gum disease the way his grandpa did and loses his teeth at the age of 23?  I shouldn't care if he never reads another book in his life? 

Oh man, I am not good at this part, this letting it all go part.  I don't have good examples to go by either.  My life was in shambles when I was Nick's age.  I worked desperately to hold it together, though it didn't hold together anyway.  Oh, I got good grades.  I didn't rebel, but the rest of it fell apart.  So, here we are at opposite ends of the spectrum, Nick and I.  I lived in totally different diorama at Nick's age.

I was an independent adolescent, often walking a four blocks from school to piano lessons, then walking back past school and on up the hill to the hospital.  There I'd wait in the lobby an uncertain amount of time until waiting hours were over and my family came down from my dad's room and took me home.  You got it, when I was Nick's age, my dad was taking the long road toward dying of cancer.  I practically lived in the hospital lobby, doing my homework, eating vending machine food for dinner, reading my book, trying out each of the different seats to see which was the most comfortable.  My favorite spot was a leatherette chair three sizes too big for me next to a palm tree that nearly sheltered me from the comings and goings at the nurse's desk.  I wasn't allowed past that desk and I'd stopped asking.  I could go up when I turned fourteen.  I never left home without at least two of the books I'd checked out from the library.  At that age, I'd often walk the five blocks to the library after school before walking back up the hill, knowing that I had a couple of hours to kill before I was expected in the hospital lobby.  There was a lot of freedom to that life, but it wasn't freedom I'd wanted just then.

Yes, I was quite an independent girl when I was twelve, though in the long run, it didn't solve anything except my family's dilemma about how to get me home after piano lessons. 

Nick has no idea.  Maybe it's time I start telling him my story. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Common Sense and Your Life Jacket

So, we did go to the river yesterday, but instead of everyone hopping into rafts and inner tubes to float for three hours down the Snoqualmie, two of us, the moms, camped out on the Tolt river, a tributary to the Snoqualmie and we watched the boys run upstream to the bridge, drop their floatation in and hop on for the ride past us.  There weren't even many riffles and the stream is about half the width of the Snoqualmie, but the water was swift and deep in the middle.

I brought the life jackets and before they got in, Nick and Adrian put them on and let me check that they were tight enough to work.  They knew the drill.  See, a life jacket that isn't strapped tightly  around your waist can pull right off in a current.  You don't want to be struggling to keep the thing on while you're struggling to keep your head out of the water.

How do I know this?

Before Nick was born, Mike was a weekend raft guide and I was a raft-trip mooch.  I learned as much as I could, but told the owner of the rafting company that I didn't want to be a raft guide, to have the responsibility for six or eight souls on a rock and roll river.  I knew I could easily be distracted and miss something critical in the view downstream.  Oh, the owner put me to work anyway, running shuttles and helping with lunch.  Plus, I gladly checked life jackets after the safety lecture before each trip.  The rule was that a life jacket had to be tight enough to stay on when we pulled a floater out of the water.  In other words, it was their handle and if their handle came off, they didn't get back into the boat safely.  Remember when I told you about the time I was a floater on the Suiattle river?  That was a long time ago, but I still remember how hard it was to stay above the water in that swift current, even wearing the best life jacket that money could buy.  I remember finally getting to knee deep water and being pulled back out to the center by the swift current.  I'm not naive about the power of that much water.  I know just how much pressure it can exert.  If you want to know about how much force a river can exert, check out this site

So, yesterday, my friend asked if the kids really needed to wear the life jackets for this river. Hmmm. 

"Yup," I said pretending I had confidence in my answer. "I know of at least one man who drowned in knee deep water because the current was swift.  This is deeper than that.  Besides, it's the law."  It's true, King county has an ordinance that anyone swimming or floating the river must be wearing a life jacket.  There's an $86 ticket for anyone who is caught without one. 

Should the government legislate common sense?  I don't know.  I do know that people die every year floating the Snoqualmie river.  Our last death was on August 15th, one of the crazy hot days.   This guy wasn't wearing a life jacket.  His fine was more than $86, don't you think? 

So my friend's kid argued against wearing the thing.  He nagged.  She hemmed and hawed.  Finally, I told her, as I tightened the nicest life jacket we own onto his frame, "You can decide for him, but Nick and Adrian can't go deeper than their knees without their life jackets on."  Nick and Adrian know me.  They don't argue about helmets either.  She finally told her boy he had to keep his life jacket on.  I was relieved since I didn't want to have to dive in to save a kid who wasn't wearing one. 

So, they ran their length of river and eventually took off their life jackets and sat in the shallow water, throwing rocks and just hanging out.  It had been a busy week and they were all tired.  It was a good hot day to sit in the cold water and just hang around.  I wished more than once that I was sitting in the shallows too.  It was a beautiful afternoon.

Today, it was hot and sunny again.  Instead of playing on the river, we took Nick to his karate test, out to lunch to celebrate, and off to buy good running shoes for him for cross country.  My son has size seven feet, men's size seven.  That's not so odd at twelve.  They're quadruple E width!  Oh man, the kid has flippers.  No wonder his poor feet hurt every time we go for a walk. 

So this evening, after we got back home, I got on Facebook and noticed that my friend had posted more pictures of that same spot where the boys played.  They'd gone back.  What a good idea.  I wished we'd had time for something like that today.  And then, I looked at the pictures again. 

This time, her son wasn't wearing a life jacket.  I showed Mike the before and after pictures.  "So," I asked him, "should I have relaxed and let them go without? Maybe I was a little too persistent."

"Nope," he said. "You did the right thing.  Even on that part of the river, they needed to be wearing their life jackets." 

Whew, that's a relief.  Mike has common sense plus experience. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, September 7, 2012


I have ten minutes before I need to leave.  I'm meeting a friend to run our dogs and get coffee.  The dogs are funny together, both puppies, though Teddy is a year old now. 

That's not what I need to get posted.  I need to write about fear.

See, yesterday, a different friend asked if we wanted to go along with them down to the river.  As I talked to Mike about it, I realized that what she was talking about was floating the river.  The Snoqualmie.  Remember what I told you about what happened on the Snoqualmie a couple of weeks ago?

Today is Friday.  Mike is going to be at work today.  That would mean that, if we really are going down the river, I'm doing it with a bunch of kids, including my only kid, and an adult with little experience of the water.  I don't even know if she has a canoe or a raft with paddles.  I don't know if she expects to use life jackets.  I don't know.

And worse than any of that is that Mike can't go.  He's my rock. 

"Honey, if that's what she means, you should go.  It would be fun!  You can read the river.  You can bring the canoe, the throw bag, and extra life jackets."

"I can't paddle that canoe without you!  I can't even get it onto the truck without help."


I have no fear about getting the damn canoe onto the truck.  My friend could help me with the weight.  I could tie it on properly.

My fear is about being in a situation without Mike.  I'm not good when my adrenaline spikes.  I don't want to be the one who has the most experience.  I want Mike to be that guy.  I have all the bravado of a cowboy, but when Mike's not in the picture regarding traveling along a river, I roll over and throw my paws in the air. 

What I'm afraid of is that I'll be standing there with a throw bag and I'll throw like a girl.  I'm afraid I'll miss a strainer and we'll all pile up into it.  I'm afraid that I'll look the run up on the Internet and I won't see a big fat warning about something dangerous we should avoid.

I'm afraid without Mike.

Oh man.  It feels pathetic. 

But yet it feels smart too.

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Learning to Cooperate

Well, I'm telling you, it's hard to write with the TV on.  My days have been blocked out with trips to Costco, the grocery store, karate, the dog park.  I've almost caught up with emails.  I hate catching up with email.  For every useful email I get, I have to delete ten others.  I've been unsubscribing as fast as I can!

I just don't want to write crap today.  I'm going to write crap.  Watch out.  You might step in it. 

I was listening to the Democratic National Convention.  When it comes to political parties, one side says something bad about the other.  Then, I think, "Really?  That's bad."  Later, the other side says, "That's not what's happening.  This is what's really happening and it's us that makes it great."  I will never know the truth.  Shoot, even if I could be there, sitting under the desk in the Oval Office, day in and day out, I wouldn't really be able to get my mind around everything that is going on in the government.  Think about it.  There's a 256 page document for the budget alone.  Then, there are all the people, the military, the postal service, the IRS, the FBI, 2.65 million federal employees in all. 

Oh, there's shooting on the TV behind me now.  Mike has the remote and I'm on the other side of the room.  It's some war movie.  I want to sit in the same room with him or I'd leave so I can have some peace.  There are always compromises that must be made.

Mike has gotten bored with the political stuff.  The DNC is in the depth of commentary right now.  I want to find Michele Obama's speech and listen to it.  I heard that it was electrifying.  Just how electrifying can a speech be?  I'll find out.  I wish we could get some real energy into this election.  I wish it were about the experience, charisma, and honest intentions of the candidates.  It's not.  It's bipartisan.  Though I'll admit I lean to the left, I'm getting really sick of the division between the parties and how ineffective it renders our government. 

Okay, this is just crap.  I am not a political commentator.  I'm an ordinary woman with a family and struggles of my own, but I can tell you that I'm sick to death of the way the political parties refuse to work with each other.  Just get real folks.  You can't wish away your opponents here.  You can filibuster all you want, but all that means is that you're breaking down the process.  When you do that, you might just trash the work the other side has struggled to accomplish, but you also damage our country.  When you denigrate the other candidates, you lose my respect.  When you twist the truth, shoot, even outright lie, you should be fired.  There are times when I think, 'Somebody is lying here, but it's hard to know which side it is.' 

Tonight, I sat on the bench outside karate watching Nick with his sensei and another student.  It was a balmy night and the sky had lost its pink colors.  As darkness approached, everything went blue as if I was looking through a filter.  As I watched, I noticed the two students shared the time with their sensei, taking turns with her attention, each doing something different, different styles, different intensities.  You can really see the manliness in Nick coming out whereas his partner looked as though she was dancing.  They knew that if they both talked to their sensei at the same time, if they competed for her time, neither of them would get anything done.  They knew the rules and followed them, each accomplishing bits on their own, parts with their sensei, and at other times, moving as one.  Nick learned how to do this when he was a white belt as a six year old boy.  This is how our government should work, taking turns, cooperating. 

But it doesn't.

Thank you for listening, jb


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Value in the Wrong Sport

Nick joined the cross country team today. No one told him that cross country is for kids that like to run, for kids that run with ease, for kids that are built of feathers and hollow bones.

Nick is built like a football player. When he was four, a man at the playground picked him up and hugged him, then held him high in the air. It freaked me out. It freaked Nick out, though I quickly saw what the story was. This man had brought two tiny girls to the park. They were all dressed in pink.  The man himself had a football build. His problem was that he was jealous of me with my little boy, my boy that was packed solid and broad-shouldered even at that age. Nick is still built like a brick shit-house, if you'll pardon the expression.

One of my mom friends used to harass me about getting Nick signed up for football. She was relentless and seemed to have nothing else she wanted to say to me unless it was about Nick playing football. She didn't seem to believe me when I told her we let Nick choose his own sports and he chose karate right then. I finally told her I'd discourage him from trying football if she couldn't stop bugging me. I'm happy to say that she and I are getting along fine now that her boy has filled out into a classic football build. We talk about all kinds of things now and I won't be surprised if someday Nick wants to play football.

In the meantime, cross country will be very good training for him. It will be good for his karate too if he sticks with that. I don't see cross country as his primary sport though, shot putt maybe, or he could become a caber toss champion in the highland games. Do you remember that NFL player they called 'the refrigerator' back in the mid-eighties?  I briefly dated a guy back then who watched football religiously.  That year, I saw about fifteen replays of Joe Theismann's knee being forcibly turned inside out.  And there was 'the refrigerator.'  These are the only scenes that I remember from that short season of watching football.  Man, that guy could run and he was built, well, like a refrigerator, like a brick shit-house.  My boy Nick is built that same way.

Nick's problem is that he has asthma and has never run fast. So Mike and I were shocked when he said he wanted to go for cross country. We think it was because his friend was going, but you can never tell with those kinds of decisions and who are we to tell him he can't?  At school, when I tried to sign him up on the first day of school, they discouraged him. They warned that it might be too much for him, that he might not be able to keep up with school work.  We told him to go ahead and join if that's what he wanted to do. Any amount of running would be good for his asthma as long as he paid attention to his breathing. It would be good for his karate. It would be good for his overall health.  It would make hikes easier for him, and, yes, it would be good for him if he ever plays football.

So, when I picked Nick up after practice today, I asked him how it went. 

"It was horrible.  I hated it," he said.  I looked at him in the rear view mirror.

"Oh honey," I said. "Did your shoes hurt?  Did you have trouble breathing?  What happened?"

"No, my shoes and my breathing were fine, but I was the slowest one.  I was in the back all by myself and when I came in, they all started cheering for me."

"Were they being mean?" I asked.  I wanted to cry.

"No, they were nice, but I don't like that much attention, especially not from big groups of people."

"Don't worry about what anyone thinks or says, Nick.  Just try to do better than you did the day before."

"I know Mom, but the coach said that until we can stick together, we have to stick to running around the school grounds.  I'm never going to get any faster and they'll all be stuck waiting around for me forever."

"Uh huh."  I didn't know what to say.

"But maybe one of them could run in the back with me.  Don't I have a right to do cross country if I want to?  Just because I have asthma..."

"You do," I interrupted.  "Can you try it again tomorrow?"

"Sure Mom," he said.  Later, when Mike asked him how it went, he said, "It was good, Dad."  And then, I did pop a few tears out, I was so proud of him. 

We'll see if he sticks with it.  I know it won't come naturally to him.  I could see that before he started.  But every day, it will be a little easier for him and every day he tries again will help his asthma, his health, his confidence, his karate, and maybe even football someday, but don't tell my mom friend that I said that. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, September 3, 2012

Will We?

It was a run-around day.  Here are the questions that remain:
  • Will Nick's cross country coach accept his Boy Scout Medical form until I can get Nick's doctor to sign that he's healthy enough to run?
  • Will our new dishwasher wash the dishes well enough that we don't have to wash them before we put them into the dishwasher to be washed?
  • Will Nick's shoes hurt him tomorrow when he tries to run cross country?  The length of his feet are men's size 6, but the width and the measurement around his big ankles puts him into men's size 9. 
  • Will the men who deliver our new dishwasher on Thursday be able to traverse the new toys that Nick got for his birthday that are scattered around the living room floor?
  • Will Nick's cross country coach encourage him even though he runs slower than I can walk?
  • Will Nick's doctor acknowledge that the published side-effects of his asthma medication is actually causing his stomach aches and fatigue, raising his blood pressure, and slowing his growth?
  • Will Nick have the energy after running to go get a hair cut or go to karate class?
  • Will Nick like this new sport or will the $75 athletic fee be washed down the drain?
  • Will I get a chance to schedule a hair cut for me?
  • Will I be able to get up at 5:15 to make Nick's lunch, harass Nick to get ready for school, fill out the athletic forms, pay the athletic fee and drop off the forms at school, drop off the form to the doctor, shop at Costco, walk Teddy who was cheated of a good run today, plan dinner, pick blueberries, make blueberry pie, and shop for running shoes with Nick after cross country practice before I drop dead of a coronary? 

I guess we'll have to see, won't we?

Thanks for listening, jb


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Bad Books, Titles Deleted

We finally went to see 'The Hunger Games.'  I'm bummed since I wasn't finished reading the book. Good movie, though. 

My reading has been lame lately.  Do any of you notice that when you have a book in your left hand and your iPhone in your right, your right hand wins?  I play Scramble and Baker's Dozen Solitaire.  I check the Weather Channel.  I look up facts on Safari.  Today, I looked up the side effects for Advair and I found out that Nick had five of them, including slowed growth.  Bummer.  It sucks not being able to breathe though, so I guess we'll keep him on it if his doctor doesn't have an alternative.  I look at YouTube or Facebook.  They're both entertaining.  My friends on Facebook are very funny in print.  Today, I asked what kind of dishwasher I should get and someone said 'one that looks like Brad Pitt.'  Good one.  I check out my totals on RunKeeper.  I'm up to 162 miles walked with Teddy.  Over the summer, our weekly average dropped.  Teddy just had to go to puppy camp too many times and we went on vacation a lot.  When the stars are out, I even use Starmap to see what's up in the sky.  I like that. 

I'd probably choose the book more often, but I'm reading a very slow book.  I have to admit that I don't understand part of it, but I'm working my way through anyway.  The old editor in me suspects it would be more widely read if the author worked to make it more clear.  That's not a well-known fact about editing a book:  when your mind wanders or is fuzzy about details as you read, something needs to be edited.  Oh, we all know about split infinitives and matching verbs, but reading something in perfect grammar that bores or loses us still needs some work.  My favorite example of this is 'Moby Dick.'  Herman Melville needed a good editor.  I haven't yet read 'War and Peace' or anything by Umberto Eco.  Haven't these people ever heard of 'The Elements of Style' by Strunk and White?  Okay, that was a joke.

Plus, my book on tape is pissing me off.  Here's the thing.  I totally don't agree with the politics of this book and have decided that, though I'm listening through to the end, I'm not even going to grace this post with its title.  Hey author dude, do you feel slighted? 

See, this book is a novel, but it's fear-mongering novel.  The author is acting like he's reporting on what could happen while portraying himself has the big damn hero because he knows so much.  Can you tell that I really want to talk enough about the details, to argue points, to complain about the book's hype and bad writing?  I really, really want to, but I'm not going to because with any book, movie, product of any kind, even negative attention is still attention.  I don't want to spark a debate, or worse, additional interest in this book. 

I can do that.

I'm not a reporter.  Suffice it to say that I find it hard to listen to the opposition when they're spouting off this kind of crap, though Mike keeps telling me it's important to know what they're saying.  It's worse when part of the crap sounds logical and the rest is supposition made out to look like fact. 

Oh crap, I really want to tell you about this awful book that I'm finishing.


I've deleted the details.  You can return to your regularly scheduled programming. 

Thank you for listening, jb