Saturday, March 30, 2013

Biscuits and Jelly

It felt good to sleep in. Mike broke out the crescent rolls. I can smell them, even though the door is closed. With that smell, I am once again camping at Rough River in Kentucky.

It would be morning though I'd have no idea what time. I would be seven, eight, nine, or ten years old. Much after ten and my camping days would have been suspended because of my dad's cancer.

I would have been swimming after getting up quietly near dawn and grabbing my wet bathing suit off the cord strung between two trees. My parents would have been trying to sleep in. I would have luxuriated in the fact that the water was warmer than the air. I'm sure that when the call for breakfast came out, I would have realized I'd forgotten to grab my towel. I'd shiver in the morning air as I'd head straight for Grandma and Grandpa's camper door. The door would squeal as I opened it and leaned in, not even stepping onto their steps, just lying there dripping, with my arms and shoulders on their narrow camper floor. Then, grandma would have dropped a warm flaky biscuit onto my wet hand. I would have jumped up to the table to slather as much margarine and grape jelly as it would hold. I would leap out of their door, not even using their stairs and watch the dust puff up and layer my wet blue Keds. I would have forgotten the chill as I paced around the damp campfire ring, eating my biscuit.

No one would have judged my breakfast. No one made me clean my plate or eat the dreaded egg when we camped. My brother, sister, cousins, and I would eat on the fly, dodging between our mom's bacon and Grandma's biscuits. I remember her making three pans of them sometimes. By the end, I would have been peeling up each layer of biscuit to put jelly in between, about nine layers in all. It looked like a miniature layer cake. Grandma never yelled at me for eating too much jelly. Why would she? She loved jelly as much as I did.

I would have had some jelly on my face as I finally ran back out to the water in my wet bathing suit and Keds. I would have grabbed my brown plaid life belt out of Grandpa's boat and put it on. My dad required us to wear them though we could all swim like frogs. If I'd been the first back to the water, I could have grabbed the best inner tube, the one that didn't go flat in the water or whose valve didn't poke me in the ribs as I wrestled with it. My goal would have been to take a standing dive off that inner tube before the taste of jelly faded from my mouth. I can remember the flying feeling of taking a running leap off the end of the dock with that old inner tube under one arm.

I loved camping breakfasts.

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Marriage Equality

I have a friend who lost custody of her children when her partner died. These two had a marriage that was not recognized by society or our government because they were both women. My friend had not been allowed to adopt the kids, who were biological children of her partner. She would have lost her job if she'd talked openly of her loss, so she suffered through this tragedy alone. The existing system failed my friend when she needed help the most, compounding her loss.

She kept contact with her kids as well as she could and they grew into sweet, accomplished, and open-minded adults. Should this kind of thing be allowed to happen? Really? Think of how slaves used to be unceremoniously separated from their families and how women used to stay with abusive men for fear of losing their children. How is this scenario any different than it is now for my friend?

The law as it exists is simple case of 'some people are more equal than others.'

This is only one example of why the legislation NEEDS to change. Can we learn from my friend's losses? Can we keep from compounding them?

Thank you for listening, jb


Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Okay, so I want you to think about this: why do we need to tell people how to live their lives when they just want to be left in peace, when they're not hurting anyone else, when they haven't been telling us how to live our lives?

Picture this: two people love each other. They live in a 'free' country. They are legal adults. Their love is mutual. They want to get married, to declare that their bond is strong, to live together under a sanctioned umbrella. They want, in some small way, for their love to be acknowledged.

I did that. I lived with Mike for nearly five years before we got married, yet that moment when the judge declcared that we were finally married, Mike and I both had tears in our eyes. Don't tell Mike that I told you that. I'm not sure anyone else could see. That viewpoint was for me and for the judge.

I was waving my hand around my face. People said they thought I was tearing up. I was, but a fly had landed on my nose on the side only the judge and Mike could see. The three of us laughed at it. Maybe God was in that fly, sanctioning our tears, blessing our marriage, witnessing up close what only Mike, the judge, and I could see, tears of joy and laughter at the freedom in declaring our bond to each other.

So why is it that there is a whole category of people who aren't allowed this simple joy?

Thank you for listening, jb



I don't really have anything to say tonight. I should go straight to bed, but I'm not going to. I know it. I just finished having my second salad for the day. It was one of those salads you buy at Whole Foods that's all put together and ready to eat, yet it had so many cranberries and candied nuts in it that it was like having dessert. I managed to push half of the sugary part aside to eat later. I hate when candy parades itself as something healthy. So just now, I put together the remaining cranberries and candied nuts, the part that I so dearly love, and added more greens and ordinary nuts. That way, I spread that candy out across the whole day instead of just one meal. The last time I succumbed to that salad at Whole Foods, I ate the whole thing in one sitting and felt completely sick afterward in what I know is a glut of sugar coursing through my veins. I very nearly fell asleep on the drive home. This time, I was a bit smarter, but only a bit. I should have divided the candy part in half and saved it for a salad tomorrow. Better yet, I should have pushed my cart past and resisted the siren song of the sugar disguised as real food. Those Whole Food salads used to be balanced perfectly, with a thin layer of the nuts and cranberries on the top. Lately, the greens are a thin bed on the bottom of the plastic container.

Oh, it's not the fault of Whole Foods. People are moving toward more sugar, craving it. It's as if I can see it happening as I struggle to keep my intake in check. It was years ago when I realized, while eating MacDonald's french fries that what I liked best about them was that they had a hint of sweetness under all that salt. Salty sweet. My downfall. That, and cereal. Since then, I see Tony the Tiger prancing about on the soccer field pretending to represent a healthy cereal. "It's a part of this healthy breakfast!" Does anybody really fall for that? I see the healthy moms in the commercial tell me they don't mind giving yogurt to their kids, but there's more sugar in them than in ice cream. Then, you add the layer of granola. Oh, granola. I remember the days when I used to love having granola for breakfast. It's no wonder. It's dessert.

And have you ever noticed that teriyaki and even the sauce on beef and broccoli is just a hip way of serving the meat and vegetables dripping in syrup?

It sucks to have to pay this much attention to sugar, but even now, I can feel it in my system, a pressure behind my eyes, an uncontrollable need to sleep. Really, the noises of a five year old boy could not wake me up when I've had too much sugar, I was that far gone before I changed my diet. It's too bad we all thought I was just napping all those years. I might have been diagnosed earlier. But it means that I'm watching, with envy, how there seems to be sugar in everything these days. There's even high fructose corn syrup in the breakfast sandwiches Nick and I used to have for breakfast! Why do you need corn syrup in what is supposed to be bread, egg, and sausage? You don't, but our taste buds just love that savory sweet. Mine do too!

I'm sorry I'm complaining so much. I need to get back on the wagon and walk studiously past those yummy salads at Whole Foods.

At quilt night tonight, my friends offered me cake, berries, and ice cream. As they loaded one plate after another, I had to ask three times that they leave off the cake and only give me a half a scoop of ice cream with my berries. Thankfully, the berries didn't have added sugar, but the plate they finally gave me had one and a half scoops of ice cream. I should have said 'no thank you' but I didn't. It's almost as if they want me to slip into that dreamless sleep right there in my friend's living room. The last two times I went, I ate the polite amount and pushed the rest around on my plate. I was given a look, a subtle look, but it was a look. My mother used to use that look when she found too many green beans under the edge of my plate. Then, as everyone laughed and stitched, I proceeded to slump down into my chair and struggle to stay awake. I don't have fun at quilt night after I've eaten the requisite sugar. I need to remember always to say 'no thank you' when they offer. I can still have tea. But I want it the way an alcoholic wants his next drink and I can't resist when it's on my plate.

It was hard to drive home from there. I opened the windows, turned the music up loud and scratched at my wrists on the highway home. No, that is not fun. Not really.

So what am I doing finishing off my dessert salad? What was left of it was sitting in the refrigerator, beckoning me when I tried to slip in for a glass of milk. Tomorrow, I promise myself, I'm going to eat clean food. I'm going to keep it simple. I'm going to eat good clean food and walk right past the sugar saying, 'no thank you' with a smile on my face.

I know I'll feel better tomorrow.

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, March 21, 2013


Ever since I was asked to chase down a known meth dealer, I’ve had a yearning to go to the gun range to practice shooting my husband’s gun. This is another one of those things I never thought I’d ever hear coming out of my mouth in my lifetime.

In answer to your question, I have to say that yes, indeed, all of this is true to the best of my telling.

Just in case you don’t know me very well yet, I’m an ordinary mom. Seriously. I’m two sizes too big, overly concerned with homework and too many video games, and I make lunch for my boy in the morning and put it into an LL Bean lunch bag rather than have him eat the school lunch. Just in case he forgets his lunch, I keep a balance on his lunch room account. I’m a member of the PTSA, though I try to keep off those email lists when they’re recruiting for a new president or treasurer. Right now, I’m supposed to be cleaning my kitchen and my boy and his best friend are blowing zombies away on their latest video game.

Last Monday, I’d stopped by the library to pay my fines and pick up my holds before taking my dog to the park to run. I always talk too much and got caught up in a conversation just outside the library with another mom about how our kids are doing in the school, or rather how the school is doing with our kids. So when the librarian and another mom came running out the door and asked us if we’d seen a little girl leave with ‘the tweaker,’ I had to stop the high frequency of the conversation and ask, “What’s a tweaker?”

“A drug dealer!” the librarian said, lowering her voice just a little bit. “I can’t leave the property. This guy deals meth. He’s been banned from the library. He left with that little girl. Can you see them? They’re down there. See his bike? Can you go see if the little girl is okay, if she’s supposed to be going anywhere with him? She shouldn’t be going anywhere with him. God forbid she’s supposed to be with a man like that. Can you go down there?”

The other mom and I looked at each other for a moment and started walking in the direction of the bike that was parked at the market. The librarian still hung out the library door, urging us to hurry.

“What are we going to say to this guy?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I guess we’ll think of something,” the other mom answered. She was walking faster than I was. I wished I hadn’t lingered so long to talk. I wished I was in my car on the way to the dog park. I didn’t want to confront a meth dealer about what he was doing with a little girl. We found the bike parked at the market, a little grocery store that sells a wide variety of items ranging from gluten-free foods to beer. The other mom and I stood by the door where a Girl Scout sat at a table full of boxes of cookies.

“Do you want to buy some cookies,” she asked innocently? Didn’t she know I was busy trying to figure out what I was going to say when I confronted the meth dealer? Usually, I chat with these girls and leave four dollars poorer. I just wanted her to pick up her money-box and go inside with the cashier who was also a volunteer fireman. She’d be safer with the fireman than with me and this other mom as we planned our attack.

“Do you think that’s him,” I asked. There was a man at the register with a pile of candy and junk food. He looked as if he smelled like a homeless man. I could imagine the smell of him through the glass door. He wore a baseball hat backward on his head. His cheekbones protruded. Skeletal was a good description.

A few years ago, another one of the Facebook moms posted before and after pictures of meth addicts. I showed my boy and his best friend. I showed them to scare them, to gross them out, to warn them. I never thought I’d use those shots to identify the characteristics of a guy standing in front of me, separated only by a thin pane of glass. The people in the after pictures were thin to the point of being skeletal. Their hair hung in limp strands around their shoulders. Their eyes seemed to have shrunk into their heads. They had lesions on their faces. And they looked soulless.

The hair rose along my spine and on the backs of my arms. I shouldn’t be staring through a single pane of glass at someone who looked like this. I should be walking away quickly and deliberately.

But there she stood, the little girl who left the library with a meth dealer. She was chubby and cute. I watched, stunned into silence and immobility, as he paid for the junk food then walked with the little girl out of the store. They passed us and I could almost feel the oxygen being sucked out of the air around this man’s emaciated body. This was not good.

The little girl hung the bag of junk food on the bike. The other mom nodded her head at me and moved toward them. I shuffled along behind her. My muscles tried to tell me not to walk in this direction. I’m always telling my boy to walk away from trouble. That’s what I wanted to do. We walked abreast of them. They were still fiddling with the bag of junk food and the bike when the other mom stopped and turned toward the little girl.

“Hey, aren’t you in school with my daughter?” the other mom said cheerfully. “Are you in third grade? My daughter’s in third grade.” Brilliant. This other mom was brilliant and I had become a deaf-mute.

“I’m in fourth grade,” the little girl said. The other mom actually got the girl to tell us her name. Brilliant.

“Hey, is this your dad?”

“No, it’s my, my … my uncle’s best friend.” This man could be no one’s best friend. The man looked up and stared at me for a moment. If I weren’t frozen before, I thought I might turn into a pillar of salt under his gaze. My mouth was hanging open. I carefully closed it. The other mom ran out of questions and I was in no condition to hear how she ended the conversation, gracefully or not.

The little girl jumped onto the back of the bike and the meth dealer pedaled away with her. The other mom and I walked back toward the library. When we got there, the librarian was talking to the little girl who was squirming, holding the bag of goodies behind her back. She looked like she was in trouble. The meth dealer was outside on his bike, pedaling past the glass windows on the front side of the library. He was headed toward the elementary school. When the librarian let her go, the little girl walked toward the far room where other kids sat at tables. The other mom, the librarian, and I stood in a tight circle and talked. I watched as the little girl dumped the goodies the meth dealer had bought onto one table and sat down with two other girls her age. They reached out and touched the goodies before I turned away. I should have run over and swept those things into a garbage can. Had the meth dealer managed to put some extra ‘goodies’ into the bag or had we spooked him?

I felt as though someone had stuffed cotton where my brain was supposed to be. I wanted to go home. I wanted to hug my boy. I burst into tears when the mom and the librarian decided that I should write an article about what happened. I didn’t want to write an article. I didn’t want to be brave.

That was four days ago, and all I can think now is that the next time I face a real life zombie, I want to be wearing armor like what my boy configures on his video games. I want to be carrying an AK-47, a pistol, and a boot knife. I want to have society’s permission to blow the guy’s head off his shoulders before he looks up and watch as his body melts away into oblivion and his blood soaks into the cracks of the sidewalk.

Or maybe next time a librarian tries to send me to confront a known meth dealer, I’ll have the presence of mind to tell her to call 911 so that an armed police officer can take care of this meth dealer instead of me.


'The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian' by Sherman Alexie

Oh, I am so grateful to have a couple of ordinary days in a row. I hung out with friends this week too. I have healthier friends than I am, so we walked instead of going out to eat or drinking too much at a bar.

Here's the thing about having some nice ordinary days - the strangest things pop into my head. My characters think funny lines and I need to listen to them. Cleaning doesn't seem like such a chore.  I'm a better mom to Nick because I'm not overwhelmed when his problems seem to pile onto my own. This morning, we turned up the music on the radio on the way to school. The boys like the pop music, so 'Thrift Shop' by Macklemore has been running through my head. I have to admit that I made up lyrics for the woman who had to sell her thrift store after too many people popped tags and walked out the door with her profits. She still only had 'twenty dollars in her pocket.' I am such a mom these days. You should know that I was never, even as a teenager, a fan of shoplifting. If I thought it was overpriced, I voted with my wallet and walked away. At least I didn't tell the boys my special lyrics. Nick's had enough lecturing for a while and he's as honest as they come.

I'm lucky that his problems are simpler, doing his homework, getting to all of his activities, and hanging out with his friends. He's also interested in a different girl, but he's suddenly shy about it and I don't want to press the issue.  God forbid that he tells me personal details and I post them here for everyone to see.

I listened to a really funny and poignant book the other day, 'The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian' by Sherman Alexie. I want Nick to listen to it. Holy crow, it's a good book. I'm ready to get online and reserve every single book that Alexie ever wrote. It's boy-angst. It's funny, honest, and should be required reading in middle school. Want to know what it feels like to be bullied? This is your book. Want to laugh and cry at the same time? This is your book. Yes, this should be what they're reading in school instead of 'The Great Gatsby.' Oh, I don't have anything against F. Scott Fitzgerald. I liked his books well enough, but they just didn't relate to me when I was in school. Now, I get it, but back then, it was some old white guy writing about what adults do. Alexie wrote about what kids do, what kids think, how kids survive. Kids need books like this. Books like this can save a kid's life.

Ah, the boys are home. I hear them chatting as Nick puts his key into the lock. Teddy is whining and grabbing his squeaky hedgehog. It's finally time to play, as long they don't get sucked into the television.

I'd better make some snacks. They're going to be hungry.

Today, and today only, I'm prepared to be a good mom thanks to Sherman Alexie.

Thank you for listening, jb