Saturday, April 27, 2013

Feeding the Hordes Continues, Part I

These days, whenever Mike starts a sentence with 'Do you have any interest in ...,' I know I'm in trouble.

A few weeks ago, he told me that one of the Scout moms had volunteered to schedule a fundraising breakfast and she'd done it three times, each time neglecting to check the posted Troop schedule for conflicts.

"Hon, do you have any interest in leading the pancake breakfast on June first?" he asked me the other night as we sat and relaxed in front of a movie.

I hopped up and began to pace, instantly awake when I should have been winding down for the day.

"Me? Don't you have anyone else?" I asked. My heart rate rose. I stalked into the kitchen. Dishes lined the counter and dinner sat waiting to be put into the refrigerator. How long can food sit out before it begins to fester, I wondered.

"Oh man, I'm not done working here," I whined.

Mike raised his voice just a little so I could hear him from the living room.

"I couldn't get anyone to volunteer. People are willing to help, but no one has stepped up to run things."

I walked back out to the living room and looked at him. I'm pretty sure he could see the whites of my eyes and that my skin was a pasty shade of green.

"I don't want to run things. I am not a good leader," I said. He looked at me with those sad eyes. I don't think he even knew he was doing it. I went on. "You do remember, don't you, that I was the one who almost burned down the kitchen a few weeks ago."

"You'll be fine. You don't have to do it if you don't want to." He spoke calmly. It helped to calm me a little. He looked back at his iPhone. The problem with watching someone with an iPhone is that you never know if they're sending an emergency email or playing Solitaire. I guessed he was about to beg for mercy over the Internet. I hated letting him down almost as much as imagining all the ways I could screw this up.

But I could start a grease fire and burn down the building. I could under-cook the bacon and sausage and a hundred people could get intestinal parasites, trichinosis.  No one would show up and we'd have five hundred pounds of bacon left over. Six hundred people would show up and we'd run out of food. I'd be the only Scouter to show up to make pancakes, serve, and accept donations and I'd look like an idiot. Oh, that will happen in any case. Never mind about looking like an idiot. I'd single-handedly burn the place down while six hundred people puked their brains out on undercooked bacon and no one would be there to collect money so we'd be out seven hundred dollars after our fundraiser was over. Meanwhile, the newspaper would come and take photos of me trying to hold a bucket for four puking people while pancake batter dripped from my eyelashes.

"What would I have to do?"

"I have a meeting with the guy at the Eagle Lodge tomorrow at two. You could come with me."

"We would have to place notices in the paper, shop for groceries, and organize people the day of the breakfast. Right?"

"I'm going to be at the Camporee that weekend."

"What? Can't you reschedule it?"

"No. We've rescheduled it three times now," he said. Do you remember the part in 'Puss in Boots' when the kitty's eyes melted all resistance away? Mike can do that and still look manly. How does he do that?

"Okay, I'll do it," I told him tentatively, all the while knowing that something could go wrong. Something could go very wrong indeed.

Thank you for listening, jb

A Message For My Younger Self

It was lovely walking with Teddy today. We passed one lone man and his quiet dog on our usual trail. I'm sure Teddy would have preferred having a busload of boys and dogs to play with, but I liked the quiet. I need the quiet, time to reflect.

I walked slowly. I felt weak from the virus I had earlier. I looked at the sky and at fallen trees and at moss that grew in clumps on tree trunks. When the trail went up the hill, I went that way too, hoping to keep my solitude intact, knowing that pushing my heart rate would be good for me, that being sweaty would help rout the last of the virus in my system. Did you know that? Did you know that if you get mild exercise when you have a cold that it simulates a fever and helps you get better faster? That's what I read anyway. The hard part is knowing how much you can actually do when you're sick and without overdoing it. I seemed to feel it at work while I walked. I sweated more than usual, a sour old lady smell.

I'd like to tell my former self not to be too hard on the old women she meets who have thinning hair and smell like gym socks soaked in vinegar. I'd like to, but my former self probably wouldn't recognize herself in me. It's sad, isn't it?

The movies always portray time travel, someone talking to their younger, more beautiful selves as a magical affair. The older selves are never too old or ugly. The younger selves believe and act just in time to save the day. They never show how it would really be, the younger, more beautiful self jogging away in disgust at this crazy old person who just appeared in front of her and started giving unsolicited advice. Think about it. How much did you listen to people your parent's age when you were young and perfect? No, it would never work. Even if I could convince her to listen to me, I think she'd be so distracted by my flabby arms to hear what I would have to say.

What would I say anyway? I hear myself telling Nick not to bother with people who make him feel bad about himself, that they aren't worth his time. But would I get through to that girl who was me, the one who was so determined to live her own life, but didn't have a clue that friends were actually supposed to love her? No. I couldn't tell her any of that because she needed to learn it on her own. She needed to fuck up to become the not so beautiful, not so independent, not so strong or famous or unique person that she is today. And somehow that doesn't seem at all pathetic to me, though my former self might have thought it was devastating.

Everyone else is asleep. Mike and I watched the end of 'Pay It Forward.' A person can think round and round that concept until they get dizzy. It's a good concept. It's been around since before Benjamin Franklin's time, though he seems to have been the first to have written it down and not lost it.

The problem with paying it forward is that pain gets paid forward too. Which will win? I want to be an optimist and say that love wins, that goodness wins.

Yet, I realized that if I were to try to talk to the people who've hurt me the most, I'd be talking to a blank wall. If I were to try to describe the hurt and how I've suffered, it would go nowhere. Their faces would be blank, uncomprehending.

On a walk earlier this week, a friend told me that Maya Angelou said this:

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

The dog is asleep on the floor to my left with his head on Nick's backpack. I just don't see how that's comfortable, but who am I to judge? He chooses his favorite spots based on smell, but instead of the choosing the couch, Teddy lies close to me when I sit here in the dim light of the computer, looking at a window that only offers reflection, an odd dim double reflection of the room that I'm in with a blurry place in the middle that is supposed to be my face. The best part of this reflection is that there are twice as many twinkle lights on the mantelpiece. My stacks of books look artfully placed. And I know, though I can't actually see them in the reflection, what's in the paintings, portraits, and prints on the walls.

Reflections are blurry aren't they. Maybe I've been a little hard on my former self. Maybe she wouldn't jog away in disgust. Maybe instead, we'd look at each other through a veil of distorted glass, seeing a blurry spot where our faces should be. Maybe something that is unchanged in us would shine through. Maybe she would listen if I told her to hold on, that love would find her somehow. Now that would be a decent message.

Thank you for listening, jb


Thursday, April 25, 2013

'Thrift Shop' is Not Better than 'Stairway to Heaven'

I sat on the couch next to a full bin of Lego parts, helping to make a big fort. I made a kitchen with windows. My kitchen had a stove, a fireplace, and a table with chairs around it. It also had a double dog door and a diving board for the pool that was going in outside. When I was done, I handed it to Nick, who sat with Adrian on the floor. They had spread Lego parts across the floor, making a dungeon and a forge and populating them with evil characters. They wanted to create implements of torture. I wanted a sunny kitchen and a diving board.

It's nice out, but Nick is still a bit sick. As usual, a melody ran through my head, 'Stairway to Heaven.' Where did that come from? I whistled that classic beginning.

"Hey Adrian, are you still learning how to play the guitar?"

"No, not so much."

"Too bad. You could learn to beginning to 'Stairway to Heaven.'"

"What's 'Stairway to Heaven'?"

Now, Adrian is the more musical of the two boys. Nick likes jazz and pop music, but doesn't plug himself into a headset to escape his life yet. Nick likes everything. Adrian's a music critic. And he's never heard 'Stairway to Heaven.'

I got up to start dinner, thinking about all those hours I spent figuring out that melody on my guitar when I was a teenager. I pulled out my ring binder stuffed with recipes and collected all the ingredients on the counter next to a pound each of sausage and ground beef. Meat loaf. How many other millions of kids learned to play the intro to 'Stairway to Heaven' at the same time I did?  I looked at the pile of dirty dishes. It was time I took the education of these two boys into my own hands.

Instead of emptying the dishwasher, I logged onto my computer. I love that I can cue up a random piece of music that I no longer have in a playable format. I don't have a cassette player, but I have a cassette of Led Zeppelin. I don't have disk or anything by Led Zeppelin downloaded onto my iPhone. Why is that? I'm so lame when it comes to sitting at my computer with iTunes. A while back, I downloaded a bunch of Mark Isham and Van Morrison into my phone. But then, I ran out of time and my playlist was way out of balance. I stopped listening. Why didn't I ever add other music? I'm lazy. I really am.

So I got Led Zeppelin going on the computer and set the volume to its maximum. It's a lame sound system, but it'll do in a pinch. I sang and swayed at the kitchen counter while I mixed up my meatloaf. I thought about how I'd listened to this song in my room while I pretended to be doing my homework. When it was over, I let the silence ring for a bit and I went back into the living room.

"So, what did you think?" I asked.

"I liked it," Nick said. He's in an agreeable mood. You know how you feel when you're sick? Today, he told me he loved me at least six times and he tended to hug me whenever he got off the couch.

"Eh, it was okay," Adrian said.


"Do you like 'Thrift Shop' better? I asked.

"Oh yeah," he said. "Definitely."

And then I realized. 'Stairway to Heaven' could not possibly be a great song to Adrian because I, a very old person from Adrian's point of view, thought it was great. He would have loved it if he'd discovered it himself. I'm telling you. It's true. I remember when my nephew tried to introduce me to this great band, Queen. It was funny to see his enthusiasm. Why couldn't he own it too, I thought. Why did it have to belong to my generation?

Then I put on 'Whole Lot of Love.' That should get his attention. It was a good thing I went back into the kitchen. Those lyrics are embarrassing! The music itself is the rhythm of sex. I hear other moms complaing about the lyrics to new songs, but have they forgotten the songs they listened to when we were young?

I didn't run in and turn it off. It would only have made them pay closer attention. They continued to pretend to ignore the music when I walked back into the living room.

"So, what did you think about that one, Adrian?" I asked.

"It was alright," he said.

"Just alright?"

He shrugged his shoulders and went back to his Lego demons. When I was a kid, I hated listening to Elvis Presley. Oh man, it was so lame, I thought back then. Now, as an adult, I have to admit that I like some of his music. The problem was in the presentation. If my mom loved Elvis and played 'Hound Dog' over and over, I could not possibly like the man. She was so old and her music was so out of date, at least from my perspective. I mean, she was thirty-eight whole years old after all.

Isn't that sad? To Adrian's ears, I'd just played Elvis Presley.

Led Zeppelin. Elvis Presley.

No comparison. Led Zeppelin rocks.

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Productive Dawdling

I stayed home most of the day. Of course, I had to go to the middle school, twice, to drop off kids, first Adrian, then Nick because he was running late. He made it before the second bell, barely, he said later. After that, I had to go to the market because Mike had shopped the day before, Sunday, but neglected to bring home anything to make for dinner.

I wanted brisket. I made it a couple of weeks ago and I wanted it again. So, I bought three kinds of meat for the next few days from the market, talked to the owner and a cashier for a half hour, and came home.

I love the days when I can dawdle around at home. First, I put beef broth, an onion, spices, and the brisket into a Dutch oven and put it into my oven at 275 degrees, setting the timer for six hours. Oh, I didn't make this recipe up myself, but I made do with ingredients I had on hand, following most of the directions from allrecipes. Don't be deceived. The picture on allrecipes isn't pretty, but the brisket is delicious. It's hard for an ordinary person to photograph a hunk of cooked meat and make it look pretty. Salads and sushi are pretty. Brisket? You just have to imagine those smells. I was driving Teddy nuts.

After that was going, I sat with spearmint tea on my deck and looked at how the leaning tree is leaning a bit more than it was the last time I sat at my little table.

I made a list of things I need to do.

I began to ignore that list and I brought both Teddy and Seth out on the deck, both leashed up for their own protection against wandering out onto the busy road. You'd be surprised at how easily the cat lets me put a harness on him when he's allowed to be outside for a bit. I tied his leash to the leg of a plant stand that didn't have a pot yet, so he dragged it around on the deck for a bit as he explored. He found a patch of grass in the ivy and began to chew on it. Teddy made himself comfortable until I noticed tufts of fur fluffing off his thigh. I got out his comb and covered the deck with bits of furry snow, just waiting for the birds' nests. Nick, Seth, and I watched a chickadee last week collecting most of the bits of fur from the last time I'd brushed Teddy on the deck. I figured I'd rather it line a nest than my carpet, so I dedicated myself to that end for a bit. When I looked up, Seth was in line for his turn. It didn't work out so well to comb across his harness, but he didn't seem to mind.

Then, I had to sweep the deck.

I noticed, when I sat back down at my little table that my tea had acquired a coating of dog fur and the primroses from Mother's Day past needed to be deadheaded. I'm actually good with plants if I don't have to be on my hands and knees in them. Too itchy. I'm definitely a container gardener if you can call me a gardener at all. My volunteer Western Red Cedar of the eight inch variety was thriving, but had gotten some cousins and I could see at least six two inch volunteers around the edges of the pot. I'm not sure any of these guys will survive if I transplant them. I guess I'll have to use my trusty Internet to find out how to protect them as they outgrow their little container. My moss is thriving. I'm not sure what was originally in those two other pots, but I like the moss well enough. It's green and has tiny little seeds up on three inch stalks. It's actually spread into a third pot, the one with my primroses in it. It makes the planter much more cheerful, so I leave it there. The tiny bird bath needed fresh water, so I poured clean water into it.

Then, I realized I was cold, having wet bare feet in fifty-three degree weather, so I went inside where the smell of the brisket told me the story of our upcoming dinner. Roasted potatoes, roasted yams, and tender brisket with onions in its own juices.

Before I knew it, the boys were about to get off the bus and I still hadn't showered. Oh, I had to jump into the shower and get dressed quickly so as to offer the illusion that I'd showered much earlier in my productive day. Then, to extend my image of industriousness, I began to vacuum.  Yes, you heard me correctly. I vacuumed, but not before a lot of moaning about it. And, before I was done with the vacuuming, I put in a load of laundry and began to fold clothes.

See, I worry that if I finish all the vacuuming in one day, no one will see the vacuum cleaner standing there, plugged in and half done with its work, and realize that the job is in progress.

Then, before I was done folding clothes, I decided I deserved a break and made myself another cup of tea. While the water was boiling, I savored a square of dark chocolate while standing in front of my stove. I might have stood there for a half an hour except Nick wanted company doing his art homework. I went outside with him and prided myself in drawing a picture of our garage that was just a little worse than his. He loves that I'm a terrible artist and he has more natural talent. I think it's important for him to see that I can enjoy something and still be incredibly bad at it. If you looked at my drawing, you could tell it was a building with only slightly distorted perspective.

When I came inside, I put the potatoes and yams in the oven, finished folding clothes, and decided that my industrious nature was sufficiently portrayed. I sat down with my tea and called my sister. Good thing too. She needed me to call. I could tell. I wish I were closer so I could take the brunt of what she's being given by a person who will remain unnamed. I'm tougher than she is. I'm meaner. At least her husband and her children are kind and she has a refuge. At least I could tell her that she doesn't deserve what's being done to her.

By the time I got off the phone, Mike had come home and devoured his dinner. He loved it. I'm sure he'd appreciate if I had more days to dawdle around at home. Funny thing was that, as I surveyed my perception of getting some work done, I'd actually made the house look and smell pretty cosy. Hmm. There is something to be said for dawdling, don't you think?

Maybe I'll dawdle some more tomorrow.

Thank you for listening, jb


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Eagles and Pugs

I took pictures of the herons in the Marymoor dog park today. The camera's battery was almost dead and I stood at my lowly angle, so it seemed like they were going to be lame pictures, but I took them anyway, hoping I'll get something I could send to my brother-in-law. He likes birds. He posts birds on his Facebook page. I have to admit that he takes very good photos. I like to bug him by making comments on his posts like, "Look, a duck!" Is that mean? In the meantime, his friends are busy analyzing the rings around the neck and the color of its tail feathers to determine if it's a 'lesser spotted ringtail spoof' or a greater one.  There may only be ten people in the state of Indiana who know as much about birds as he does. He's really not interested in a lot of other things. He's a good example of the man digging one deep hole instead of many shallow ones. If there are only two remaining birds of an endangered species nesting within a hundred mile radius of his home, he will be the man who finds them.

Despite the rain, I brought the good camera, Mike's Canon, along with his zoom lens. I imagined a muddy puppy jumping up onto it, but the dogs left me alone. It was nice that the rain stopped. Blue-gray clouds looked quite dramatic against the bright green of the new leaves. Still, I couldn't get close enough, being much shorter than the trees where the birds were nesting. I also didn't yet have my camera out the one time one of the herons came in for a landing. I'm hoping that when I crop my photos, I'll find something in the details. 

A year ago, these herons built a rookery right in the middle of the Marymoor off leash dog park. That's where I bring Teddy for his walks sometimes. It's a lovely place and a couple of weeks ago, the park managers cordoned off the area so we can't walk underneath the nests. I'm not sure if it's because the fledglings sometimes fall out of the nest and they need to be protected or because of the birds' large foul droppings. These birds are carnivores. I don't know what that stuff looks like when it falls and I hope I don't find out. I've been on the underside of a sea gull before and it wasn't pretty. The worst part was that I couldn't get it out of my hair.

The nice thing is that park management also posted signs that tell you what the birds are. Hopefully people will stop calling them eagles and cranes. In January, one lady with a big pug told me that she had to keep her dog on a leash because the eagles might carry him off. I told her I didn't think eagles could lift anything very big, but she insisted that they would probably take her dog if she weren't careful. I think the lady was in denial about the pizza crusts and Doritos she'd been giving him. That dog weighed at least eighteen pounds.

Then, I started thinking. I'd never seen an eagle near this park. A bobcat made the news by spending the afternoon in a tree there once, but I'd never seen an eagle here. There are often eagles by the Snoqualmie River and I've seen them over Lake Sammamish, but I'd never seen them near the park. I couldn't imagine eagles hunting where people were so busy walking and yelling at their dogs. Yet this lady with the pug told me with authority that eagles are here all the time. Eagles. Right. I wish I'd asked her if those big gray birds were her eagles.

I got to wondering, though, after looking at this woman's dog, how much a bald eagle can lift, really. This is what I love about the Internet. I can find the answer to this important question. It turns out that an eagle would have trouble flying with anything over five pounds. One site stated that someone once sighted an eagle carrying fifteen pounds. What, did they shoot the damn eagle and weigh it's prey? How did they know? Mike and I have watched the eagles at Rattlesnake Lake as they fished from the unpopulated side of the lake. It was taking turns with an osprey. Once, a caught fish wiggled out of the eagle's grasp about twenty feet up and the fish splashed back down into the water. Lucky fish.

"You should have seen the one that got away," Mike said, imitating the eagle. "It was this big."

I couldn't imagine the eagle getting off the ground with an eighteen pound pug. Can you picture that? Don't tell that lady I said that. I'm sure she loves her pug.

Another time, there was a man at the park with his dog and his daughter. The signs had been taken down after the baby herons had flown the nest the previous summer, but the herons were beginning to hover near the rookery again. The little girl kept dancing along the walkway, holding a stick in her hand like a wand, and talking about the eagles that were up in the trees.

"No, those birds are cranes," he told her. She stopped dancing across the gravel and dropped her stick. The magic was gone from her eyes.

Oh man, why couldn't he have let them be eagles carrying chubby pugs into the cloudy skies?

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Cross-Training, Yeah Right

Well, it turns out that I'm not very well built to ride a scooter any more, at least not more than a half a mile. When you're fifty-three, I guess you have to start looking at stuff like that.

No, I did not fall. There are no ridiculous videos to make you snort soda out your nose.

I'm just sore, going for the Advil before I even sit down. Maybe I should be doing more scootering. Maybe I should call this cross-training and I've hit some muscles that need work. For the longest time, I've limited myself to biking, hiking, and swimming.

I gave up rollerblading when Nick outgrew his jogger stroller. I have to tell you moms that might wonder about that - it's great! Just make sure you're proficient on the Rollerblades before you bring your infant into the mix. And you really need to know how to drag your brake. When I think about it, though, the brakes on the jogger stroller came in really handy. Rollerblading behind a jogger stroller is like walking with a walker. If you start to fall backward, it's total protection. Even when you fall forward, you might pop a wheelie, but the weight up front usually keeps you on your feet. That was Nick's favorite part. His first words, after 'dammit,' were 'faster' and 'again.' 'Dadda' was in there somewhere, unfortunately before 'Momma.' He'd squeal happily whenever I popped a wheelie.

When he got older and I had to ask Nick to hold his feet off the ground as we went, I knew it was time to retire the contraption. Not to mention that the frame had begun to list to the left about fifteen pound past its weight limit. Oh, that was a sad day. I haven't been comfortable on roller blades since. I've thought I might be able to use Nick's trekking poles, but I'm still nervous about it. I could imagine getting tangle up in them as I fell. Last fall, Nick's class had a field trip to the rollerskating rink and I had a great time there. Since then, I haven't been doing much cross-training, just hiking, biking, and swimming.

Okay, I'll admit. I'm not much of a hiker either. I spend more time walking, sauntering, strolling, wandering (in a fog), and loitering than actual hiking.

When I take the kids swimming, I seldom do more than a half a dozen lengths of the pool. Hmm. I'm sensing a trend here.

And my hands go numb when I'm on a bike very long. My butt goes numb too. I'd like to ask those in power why they got rid of the seat shaped like a butt and opted for the banana. Really. You might also think there would be some hygiene issues with the banana. Maybe those seats should come with Maxi pad attachments built in.

Okay, so I walk on a regular basis.

Today, I expected to walk. Nick, Mike, Teddy and I had a good start though he didn't seem inclined to share his scooter. Nick's new Razor scooter has a smooth ride. I think it's the bigger wheels. We went to our usual trail. Since we know it, and most of the people on it, we feel more comfortable letting Teddy run free. He's pretty good about sticking with us and we didn't see another soul today. I like days like that. Nick rolled down the hill. That was fine, but half way back up, he said his knee hurt, the other knee, not the one with Osgood Schlatter disease.

I had actually wanted to try more than a few yards of it, so I decided to have a go.

"Mom, you're forgetting something," he said as he plopped the helmet onto my head and knocking my glasses askew.

"You're right," I said. No use being a hypocrite. He'll have a good reason to refuse to wear it if I won't wear it. Besides, I am the person who'd fall down the minute I decided I was too cool to hurt myself on something as simple as a scooter. Go ahead, all of you old farts, try it. There are ways to fall on your face even with wheels and a handlebar. When I get old, I'll probably find a way to trip myself up using a walker. 

So, I scooted up hill. Doesn't sound right, does it? Are you picturing a dog on the carpet? Stop that. I kept thinking I was getting a great glide out of it, but when I'd turn around, Nick and Mike were right behind me. I pushed myself a little harder. That's probably where I caused the Advil to come into play. Then, I decided to get some extra mileage on it the way Teddy does so I'd scooter ahead, turn around, and scooter down the hill past them.  I even went under their arms and between them once.

Teddy was ecstatic! Finally, I could almost keep up with him. I had it figured out, getting the speed that he's always wished I had. A scooter! That's the trick. He even learned not to run across in front of me. I'd been having Nick offer up a sharp 'NO' whenever Teddy did that and he almost had it down when I got going. I imagine that part, cartwheeling over dog, ass, and scooter over tea kettle, would not be pretty. Might be funny, but not from my point of view.

Is it just me or do any of you also cringe when someone on Funniest Home Videos lands badly? Is that really so funny? Not when it's you.

Maybe the funny video is of me back at home, scooping food into the dog's dish, feet wide, knees apart, groaning as I bend over and hit that sharp sweet spot.  I can imagine what I look like from behind.

No. I'm doing great. I don't need more exercise.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, April 19, 2013

When I'm Eighty

I've worn myself out collecting flotsam around the house to donate to the thrift store and I'm not even half done. I'd forgotten about the childhood side-effect of donating toys - playing with stuff you'd forgotten you loved.  The boys are playing with stuff like littler boys. I like that. There's a robot they're making dance and the Millennium Falcon that used to be their favorite arena for the Galactic Heroes they collected. I made Mike mad when I refused to put those things in the pile to donate. They were going to the pile of things I kept to remind me of Nick's childhood, the small pile of toys that I might pull out for Nick's kids if I ever get a chance at that.

I may not get to. Remember, I was 40 when I had Nick. If he waits as long, I'll be 80 when I get grandkids. Will I be the kind of 80-year-old who plays with her grandkids? Funny, I don't remember any of my grandparents actually playing with me. They spent more time watching.

Maybe when I'm in my eighties, I'll sit in my bedpan, watching Nick's kids play with his old toys.

That would be bad.

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

No Good Answers

In the car, on the way home from his Boy Scout meeting, my Nick asked me why someone would blow up a bomb in the middle of a bunch of people cheering for runners in a marathon. It was dark and I faced away from him, looking at the oncoming headlights. I was silent for a bit. Then, I told him that I don't know. I told him it was an act of pure unadulterated evil. I also told him that I saw,  in the photos and videos that I watched, that there is so much inherent good in people. There were so many heroes there that day. I asked if he'd seen any photos, hoping that he hadn't because some of the ones I saw were pretty gruesome. He said he hadn't. What a relief.

Then, I repeated the story about how Mr. Rogers' mom told him to look for the helpers when he saw a frightening disaster in the news. I told him that if he did see any pictures or videos, he should look for the heroes in it.

Tonight, I watched a YouTube video of a man talking to a few people after the bombing. He said he could only help one person at a time. I watched the clip twice, looking at the way this man's hands shook as he spoke. He was not bragging about what he did. He's witnessing, telling a story he'll need to tell more than once to begin to understand what happened to him. In all that horror, my heart goes out to him too.

We were almost home, driving through the darkness, when Nick asked me if bombings would come here too. I have never been able to lie to this kid, but I wanted to tell him he is safe here, that nothing like that would ever happen to him. I couldn't make myself say it. I've never been able to tell him he was perfectly safe. What I did tell him was that I didn't think it would happen here, that these tragedies happen sometimes, but it isn't likely to happen over and over, or closer to home. Lame answers.

I have talked to Nick about how he almost died the first time he had pneumonia. He internalized that feeling and it seems to make him just a little different than most of his friends who have not yet faced death. But what can you tell a kid about tragedy? That I'd die trying to protect him? That he'd surprise himself with his own courage? That everyone will die someday? There are no good answers.

You might already know that my dad died when I was very young and I work to remember things that he did and said. When my sister was learning how to drive, I often sat in the back of the car, listening. My dad was not a patient man, so I'm not sure why I wanted to be there. I wondered if my sister's learning to drive would kill me. On top of that, it was uncomfortable hearing him yell when she messed something up even though I knew he wasn't mad at me. But I did want to be there. I wanted to learn to drive. I wanted to hear him teach her. There was one thing he said over and over to her then.

Don't look at the obstacles. Always look for the way through.

Now, I wish I could wake Nick up and tell him that he will face tragedy in his lifetime - it is inevitable - but that he should picture the heroes and always look for the way through.

 Thank you for listening, jb


Monday, April 15, 2013

I'm Awake

I was snuggled into my recliner, prepared to augment the 4 1/2 hours of sleep I got last night with a nap when Nick announced that he wanted to go get a haircut. 

Now, the weather has been all over the map today. This morning, it was sunny and fifty-five degrees. Then, when I got as far as I could from my car on the walk with Teddy, it started to rain. I got soaking wet since I'd only brought a hooded sweatshirt instead of my trusty three-quarter length rain jacket. The temperature plummeted too so that when I got back into my car and started it, it announced that the temperature was forty-three degrees. I'm surprised it didn't have a chirpy little frowny face programmed next to it on the dashboard. :< It took me a while to get warm and dry when I got home and that lack of sleep caught up to me. Oh, when I sat down, I got so comfortable. You know the feeling I'm talking about. You've been cold, hungry, wet, and sleepless for a what seems like a century and when you finally get all four parts taken care of, you immediately slip into a state of semi-consciousness that just might be better than sex at that particular moment. That is a sad commentary about my insomnia, isn't it?

"Mom, I want to go get my hair cut," Nick said, pulling me up out of the downy sleep I was sliding into.

"What?" I said. Had I been drooling?

"I want to go get my hair cut." I thought about that for a minute and hedged my bets. Nick had Scouts at 6:30. If he procrastinated enough, I could stay where I was. He needed a hair cut. I needed a nap. Whose need was more important?

"Okay, here's the deal. You let me sleep and you get all the way ready. I just need to grab my keys and I'll be ready to go. You're not going to wake me up until you're sitting there, ready to go, with your shoes on and your EpiPens and inhaler in your pockets. Deal?"


And so I drifted off to sleep. Five minutes later, Nick handed me a moist towelette packet and asked me to open it for him.

"Really? You couldn't open this by yourself?" I fell back asleep easily, wondering why he needed a moist towelette to get ready to get a hair cut.

"Shoot!" he said.

Okay, I was awake. Seven more minutes had passed. I said nothing and tried to close my eyes again.

"It isn't working."

"Nick, you need to let me sleep."

"This game still isn't working."

"I thought you wanted to get a hair cut."

"I do, but this game isn't working."

"That's not my area," I told him. "Call your dad." And I went back to sleep.

Six minutes later, I woke to the sound of paper rattling next to my head.

"Can you do that somewhere else?" I mumbled.

"I can't play my game, so I'm writing Dad a note to fix it."

"I don't care what you're doing. Don't do it next to my head while I'm trying to sleep."

It went on this way in four minute intervals. Nick stomped around my chair. He always stomps. He crinkled his paper a few more times and grumbled loudly about the game. Then, there was thunder and lightning. The dog shook his collar. The cat jumped into my lap. When Mike walked up the stairs, I was awake and wondering if a forty-five minute nap dispensed in four to seven minute intervals does anything for a body. Probably not. It's why the lights, sirens, and loud music was such an effective torture at concentration camps. At times like this, I wonder if a person can die from being woken up. Mike was cheerful, but not particularly quiet, and Nick was still stomping around. I gave up on the idea of a nap and sat up.

"Dad, I want to get a hair cut."

"That's a good idea," Mike said, looking at me.

"I told him I'd take him," I said, "and I was trying to get a nap in while he was getting ready. So far, I've waited forty-five minutes."

"That's a pretty good nap," Mike said. I didn't slap him. I tried to lean back and slide down into my blanket again, but just then, hail began to play high hat rhythms on our sky lights.

"Oh man," I said and sat upright.

"I'm ready mom. I've been waiting for you," Nick said, grinning at his dad.

"You don't have your shoes on," I said, but I got up, grabbed my keys, and headed for the door. Just as I opened the front door, rain began to pour down despite the shining sun. There was a rainbow somewhere but I didn't care. My trusty three-quarter rain coat sat waiting for me on the floor of my car, fifty feet away. As I pulled out of the drive way, lightning struck some distance away and it took a few seconds for thunder to rumble over our heads.

"I'm awake," I said.

Thank you for listening, jb

Waiting for Cheesecake

I'm making cheesecake and I have to wait until the center of the thing is 150 degrees. It's only 128 degrees so far. The problem with cheesecake is that I like a dry version of a New York style cheesecake so when I was searching for recipes, if it said it was incredibly creamy, I went on to the next recipe. The cheesecake recipe I finally ended up with will probably be a little too creamy, but at least I learned I didn't have to bother with a water bath. That sounded like a pain in the neck anyway.

I read a whole lot of reviews of these recipes. The funny thing is that the reviewers seldom said that they made it and it was good because it tasted a certain way and had a certain texture. What they usually said was that they made it, changed this and this and that from the original recipe and it was incredible. Really? So how am I supposed to figure out if I'm going to like this recipe by reading your review then? And if you changed so much about it, why didn't you post a recipe yourself? Then, there were the critics. One guy wrote a half a page about how he'd know a good cheesecake because he'd been in the baking industry for ten years and we were supposed to believe that this cheesecake recipe was absolute shit. It just wasn't nice and I wanted to tell him that I didn't care how long he'd been baking cheesecake, I'm just as good at telling what I like to eat as he is and couldn't he just talk about the specific reasons he didn't like this recipe. My mother's been making cheesecake for forty-five years, much longer that the critic, and she loves her own cheesecake. I don't like hers as much as a New York style cheesecake because hers has jello in it, isn't baked at all, and sometimes has pineapple in it. Now, that tells you something about her recipe, doesn't it? If you happen to like the jiggly texture of a no-bake cheesecake, then my mother's recipe is the one for you.

Did I change anything about the recipe when I made it? Well, I pretty much followed the directions except that I sweetened it with stevia so I could eat it and I wouldn't have to rein Nick in quite so thoroughly. I tasted it before I added the eggs and the taste, if not the consistency, were just right. Baking it will do the trick. Once the baking is done, I still have to leave it in the oven for a few hours. That's a new one to me, but didn't I tell you I've never made cheesecake before? To tell you the truth, it was easy to put together, much easier than making pie. I just wish I didn't have to leave it in the oven for so long. My house smells delicious and I'm waiting here with a mean craving to visit a diner in New York city.

Thank you for listening, jb


Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Vortex of Evil

I don't know what to write about tonight. I'm not sure I should write about the people outside the library, the other library where I go sometimes when I'm waiting for Nick to get done with karate. What is it with the libraries these days?

See, a few weeks ago, I had the problem of being asked to chase after a known meth dealer to see why he had walked away with an elementary school kid. That was my home library, a place where I know and like the librarians, where I run into friends. It was an effort to go back in after that episode. I've seen the girl around since then. She won't make eye contact with me. She's been with other people, but these people don't look so good either, like they too are on their way down the meth drain. Seeing this girl makes my heart ache, but I can't do any more for her than I did. My sister and the school principal told me that I shouldn't be more involved than I was. The results of the conversation with the principal are confidential.

Nothing significant is going to happen with that chapter of the story, at least my part in it. I did have a heartfelt conversation with the librarian who was there with me that day. She'd been worried about me. She's a wonderful woman. She shouldn't be exposed to drug dealers. She should be talking to people about books. I love the books she recommends. She shouldn't have to figure out what to do when the drug dealer arrives or worry about his impact on the children hanging out there. I suppose, when you think about it, we all have to be exposed to drug dealers, especially when it comes to protecting our children. I just didn't think my exposure would be this close or relating to elementary school children.

Today, I was walking into my other library. I had a movie to return, the new 'Red Dawn' which I didn't even watch because Mike said the original was so much better. I also carried my notebook, in case I wanted to get some work done, a magazine, and a library book I'd already checked out. I was thinking about how I might finish reading my magazine, 'The Week,' and continue reading a book I picked up about how your brain works instead of actually getting down to my work. This book is a pretty good book, but I don't like being seen with the title, 'You Are Not So Smart' by David McRaney. It's like being seen with the 'Software for Dummies' book or 'anything for Dummies' for that matter. I'm willing to walk around with McRaney's book because it's about how procrastination works, how your memory is mostly fiction, and how people in an emergency often underestimate the severity of their situation. I love books about how your brain works, or doesn't. I've read at least three books by Oliver Sacks already. So, I was thinking about McRaney's book when I walked into the library. I was wondering if I'd fallen prey to his description of procrastination. I was thinking I'd renewed this book twice, knowing full well that I wanted to read it and that I'd better get cracking because I wouldn't be able to renew it again. I'm an efficient procrastinator. You'd know that if you ever saw how beautifully I stack dirty dishes. So, I wasn't really looking at the people outside the library as I walked in. There are always people going in and out. It's a diverse and well-used library. Obscenities caught my attention though.

Now, I'm not offended by bad words. I hated giving them up when Nick was born. Some good bad words add emphasis to an interesting conversation. In high school, I was so annoyed by the saccharine-sweet girl who said 'piffle' whenever she got angry. I used to wonder how that was different than any other curse. The only difference I could see was that most of the best words ended with a solid stop. 'Crap' is a good example. Think about those other words. They're rock solid.

I knew I had to give up cursing, though, when Nick's first word was 'damn.' I'm embarrassed to tell you that. When they say that kids are little sponges, they aren't kidding. He was lying on his changing table, looking up at me after having peed in my eye and he was grinning. So is it any surprise that what came out of my mouth wasn't nice? Is it any surprise that he grinned even bigger at the look on my face when he repeated the word I'd just said? That put a stop to my colorful language, but I occasionally like the feel of it in my mouth when I'm around adults. So, obscenities tossed into normal language don't bother me a bit, but you can tell when something doesn't sound right. I was passing the bench where so much seemed to happen.

I've noticed the police near that bench by the entrance more than once. I'd seen them with the belligerent homeless man. I'd seen them with groups of agitated people. Once, I decided not to stop at the library because too much seemed to be going on and I wasn't up for it. Today, I didn't initially see much, but there they were as I walked toward the door. It looked like they were going to come to blows. Really? This is supposed to be a nice quiet town. What is the deal?

So, in my usual fashion, I did not walk past them into the library. I walked toward them. At first, I thought that the small woman was going to get hit by the large man bearing a number of tattoos. He was yelling obscenities at her and leaning in too much. He didn't seem quite right. I thought she'd be best suited to walk away from this guy, but she didn't. She kept yelling, throwing her own curses at him.

I held up my phone and began to get video of it. Okay, I know it's not so smart to join into what might become violent, but I thought that if this guy knew he was on camera, maybe he wouldn't hit her. I didn't get too close in case I had to run. I heard someone say something about the police, so I figured that part was already in progress.

As I stood there, I looked at the small woman. She was pissed! In fact, she didn't seem quite right either. And the man who stood just behind her looked gaunt and vacant under his hoodie like the pictures I'd seen of drug addicts. Oh man.

I should not be standing there visibly filming two addicts who were about to get violent. What an idiot.

Suddenly, the tattooed guy seemed to pop. Words flew out of him and his arm flashed out, but he backed up at the same time and didn't actually hit her. He was quick. I was not far enough away. Thankfully, he stalked away and I had that great excuse to pocket my iPhone and walk into the library.

When I went in, I asked the librarian if he knew what was happening outside. He told me the police had been called but that he'd go see if it was continuing. I found myself a table and had just evened out my breathing by reading more of McRaney's book when the librarian said that the police officer outside wanted to speak to me.

I see nothing. I know nothing.

I couldn't say that, now, could I? So, I gathered up my stuff and went outside, my heartbeat back up to speed.

Generally, I'm not afraid of the police. I met one on Long Island near New York City that scared the bejeezus out of me, but most of the ones I've met were good guys. That Long Island stop was a good story, but I'll tell you about that some other time. I just wasn't thrilled about going back out to the crazy vortex by that bench.

This officer was a good guy. I could tell by his easygoing manner. He was kind of cute too, like a kid who'd just graduated college. He stood facing me while tattoo guy gesticulated with his back to me and cursed some more. Did I really want that guy to turn around and get a good look at me?

No, I did not.

The officer excused himself to come talk to me and I felt tattoo guy looking in my direction. In my peripheral vision, I couldn't see any fury aimed at me but I didn't turn my back on him though. I told the police officer that I'd seen the guy arguing with a small woman and that another, smaller man, stood behind her with his hood up. I didn't say that he was a poster child for meth use. He asked if I had called 911 and I told him I hadn't. It was embarrassing, but I told him that I'd used my camera as they yelled at each other. I said that words were exchanged, but nothing physical happened while I watched. This got me a nod from the officer. I added that their conversation wasn't exactly child-appropriate and that got me another nod. He said he'd work on that. I also managed to tell him I'd like to see less going on near this bench. In other words, I didn't have anything useful to tell him, except that there was a vortex of evil that existed around this bench and he was one of the few who might be able to vanquish it.

Afterward, back at my table in the library, I thought about his calm demeanor. It is a true gift in a police officer, when everyone is escalating, to be able to bring the energy down to quiet again.

I should write a note to the police department about this stuff happening at the bench. I should bring my video to a town meeting and talk about the time I drove past the library after seeing yet another group of derelicts being lectured there as a couple of cruisers waited with with their lights flashing. I'd never be able to live with myself if Nick or one of his friends started to look like those people at the library by the bench.

I should get involved, but I'm not sure I will.

I have family pictures to scan, work to procrastinate, a house to clear of rummage. I have to plan for the merit badge counseling I'm going to do with the Boy Scout troop this summer and the reading to do with my student at the elementary school. I'm busy volunteering at the middle school library, scheduling work in my yard, and finding a painter for inside and out. I really don't have time for this. I really don't.

I really don't want to have time for this, but maybe McRaney is right. Maybe I'm already in the middle of a shit storm and I don't realize it yet.

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Decorum at the Swimming Pool

For today's spring break schedule - swimming laps.

Do you remember way back when that your parents used to make you wait a half an hour before going into the pool? Well, it isn't a bad idea after all. Somehow that got messed up today. The problem is that the dog park was way closer to the house than the fast food the boys wanted. So it seemed logical for us to run the dog first, just enough that the dog wouldn't chew up stuff in the car or go crazy on the cat at 1:45 in the morning. After we walked, I ran through a drive-thru of a fast food joint on the way to the pool. You would have thought I'd be okay. I got a salad. After we arrived, I took some time to eat slowly while the boys ran on into the pool and jumped in. They had jammed their burgers down in the five minutes it took to drive from the drive-thru to the pool. After I ate, I got into my bathing suit and jumped into the cold water. It's no wonder 1960s moms talked about getting a cramp. It seemed like my stomach landed in the water behind me and a half a second later.  The boys were already out in the middle where their toes barely touch the bottom. They were excited about that. They used to nearly drown in that deeper center part. I hopped to the middle of the pool to greet them wishing I didn't have to duck under the ropes separating the lap lanes. It was cold. After I got the shivering stopped, my stomach kept communicating. I was not to do any laps, not just yet. No diving, no jumping, no somersaults, no swimming of any kind. Just standing there was fine.

A full stomach does seem to float better than an empty one though. That was a plus because floating was all my stomach would let me do.  The boys were in the same boat. Full. Slow. Standing or floating. Not swimming. No. One half hour.

So, we basically floated in the water for a half an hour before we got to swimming. First, the boys invented some new swimming strokes. There was my stomach's favorite, the wave. The idea is to lie on your back and wave your hands and feet to see how fast you could move. The boys beat me in that race. I'm not sure I moved off the starting block. I blame the weight of the salad. Then they invented the taco. That name almost brought up some sympathetic ingredients, but I didn't make them change the name. It was too much effort. The point with this stroke is for you to lie on your back with your arms slightly out and your ankles crossed. Then, you alternate slapping your thighs while returning the opposite hand to the slightly out position. Now, that was just about my speed, a little faster than the wave, but still pretty slow. Still, the boys were quicker in the water. Then, as my stomach quieted down, we practiced the corkscrew, one crawl stroke, one back stroke, and repeat, trying to go in a straight line. I like that one. I lost track of the different strokes we invented.

The next thing we did was to rescue each other. I learned that twelve year old boys usually drag your face under water most of the time as they're rescuing you. It's a good thing to remember. Then I taught them to look closely at the frog I'd caught in my fist and it spit at them! I'd done this before but I still got the splash in the face at the end. I tried to teach them how to cup your hands together to get maximum splash, but I was afraid the lifeguards would whistle me to stop. I hate getting into trouble. So I walked on my hands until they stopped splashing me.

It feels great to be able to walk on my hands at my advanced age. I also like being able to do somersaults and back flips. I have to be honest that I could only ever do these things in the water, even when I was young and strong and flexible. I'm still better than the boys at walking on my hands. Ha!

Did someone say I probably looked ridiculous out there? No! Not me.

Then, we played hoops. Oh man. I wished I'd had the excuse of the floating stomach then. I got slapped in the eye, kneed in the knee, foot-stomped, and thumb-wrenched. I had to pause with that one, when my thumb was accidentally pulled backward and I heard a pop. Nick told me he could tell which word I mouthed as I pressed the offending hand to my chest and danced around. Three minutes of dancing, some eye squinching, finger wiggling, and, later, a couple of Advils, and I'll tell you that my thumb is fine, sore but fine.

I won the match, by the way, two against one, if you must know.

I ROCK at pool hoops!

Then we found a bunch of creative ways to toss the ball to each other. Somehow, we ended up being the only three in the pool, but we had another half hour and by God, we were going to use it. So, there was the volleyball spike, the basketball handoff, the ballet toss. I tell you, the ballet toss was not my idea and it was hilarious. Then, the shot in the chest throw, the shot in the head throw, the shot in the arm throw, the slow motion shot in the face throw, the slow motion, banana peel slip toss, the Matrix dodge throw, and the breached whale flipper thing. Somebody is training to become a stunt man. We even tossed that ball to each other with our feet.  We were a pretty creative crew.

Then, times up. Out of the pool! Since my stomach had settled down, I could have stayed in the pool for another hour or so. I never did get a chance to swim laps.

Thanks for listening, jb

Monday, April 8, 2013

Mile Three and Fifty-Three Sixty-Fourths

It's spring break and everyone but Mike got to sleep in today. Nick, Adrian, and I also had time, after an eye doctor declared that Nick had eagle eyes, for a long walk before Adrian had to leave for a baseball game.

How do you keep a kid from complaining about walking four miles when he's got a doctor's note that says he can't push against that sore knee for a reason? You get out his old Razor scooter and have a new friend convince him that it's cool again.  Thanks Ryan! At least that's how the four miles begin.

At the beginning, I start my RunKeeper app even though this trail is marked with accurate quarter mile markers. I love my RunKeeper app.

Mile one - Two dogs and two boys race ahead enthusiastically! One boy is happily gliding on his scooter. Did you know that the kid actually burns more calories on a scooter than I do walking behind them? The smaller dog, a pug, trots along with a grin on his face. The larger dog does fly-bys but never actually knocks anyone over. I try to keep up, picking up poop piles as I go. My carpal tunnel syndrome kicks in as I grip the knots I tied in the plastic bags. A numb finger and thumb. The grass is green as if it's St. Patrick's Day. Trees are blossoming pink and white all around me. The sun tries to shine.

Mile one and a half - I can feel my fifty-three year old feet in my boots, already a bit sore. The boys and dogs race ahead but stay in sight. An unfriendly dog causes us to leash our enthusiastic ones for a bit, but we get to let them off again around the bend. The horses at the horse farm are excited to see us, but we don't approach them, respecting the signs that indicate the property lines. It's hard to keep the big dog from rushing up to the fence, but he follows directions. A little further down, there are elk tracks! Nick drops his scooter and we head up a side trail, tracking animals. How do I know they are elk? There's a common comment I hear from other folks walking this trail, that they saw the elk herd along the way. Nick announces that they are deer tracks, too small to be elk. I don't correct him. I think it's important that we don't become the people who always have to be right. Really, it could be deer. It could. Before we reach the falls, I look at the pug, snorting each breath now, and ask Adrian if we need to turn around. He informs me that his dog is still bouncy so he's okay.

Mile two - We arrive at the overlook and give the dogs a snack. The pug looks relieved as the boys and dogs all snuggle together on the bench that has the best view of the falls. High water has filled it out and made the rumble more audible from this distance. I finger the single applesauce pouch in my pocket, wishing I could surreptitiously suck it down without telling the boys. I ask them about that one bit of food I carry, and everyone abstains, looking proud of themselves since I don't have enough to share.

Mile three - Adrian announces that his feet hurt. The minute I look at him, he begins to limp. His toes are rubbing, he says. I try to stay enthusiastic as I tell him how much further we have to go.

Mile three and a quarter- Adrian tells me that his feet really hurt and he slows down to granny gear. I keep up my enthusiasm, staring at his feet as he walks, as if that might help. It doesn't. Nick and the two dogs are up ahead, still enthusiastic. It begins to rain, just a little bit.

Mile three and three-eighths- Adrian tells me that the reason his feet hurt is that he's not wearing any socks. I try not to express my udder disbelief that he could get out of the house with the intent to go for a walk without socks. He tells me he was in a hurry when I drove into the driveway. Somehow, that puts it back on me. So this is my fault because at some time in the past, I asked him to look for my car out the window when I'm coming to pick him up in the morning for school. I get an idea.

Mile three and seven-sixteenths - I yell for Nick to wait up for us.

Mile three and 15/32 - I ask Nick to give up one sock for Adrian's sorest foot. When Adrian tells me they're both sore, I tell him he can switch it at the half-way point. The rain comes down a little harder. I notice that neither of the boys are wearing rain gear.

Mile three and 17/32 - I can tell by Adrian's pace that this isn't going to be enough. I offer my socks to Adrian, but he won't accept them. I have another idea.

Mile three and 21/32 - Nick isn't going to like my idea.

Mile three and 23/32 - I ask Nick to wait up and to think if there's anything else that could help Adrian.

Mile three and three-fourths - Nick admits that the easiest way for Adrian to get back to the car is on his beloved scooter. I pull the hood of my ugly red rain coat over my head, feeling a little guilty at being dry inside it.

Mile three and 25/32 - Nick reluctantly gives his favorite scooter to Adrian to use. He tries to complain just out of earshot as Adrian glides ahead, but I shush him. I tell Nick that people can tell you're complaining about them even when they can't always tell what you're saying. We both agree very quietly that Adrian wasn't prepared and that Nick is sacrificing because of it. Then, I try to change the subject. The big dog is still doing fly-bys past the pug.

Mile three and 51/64 - Nick tells me that his knee is hurting him. Ever since we went to the doctor and she gave it a name, he uses the terminology whenever I'm supposed to feel bad for him. Osgood-Schlatter disease. I remind him that the doctor said that walking was okay. He reminds me that she said I needed to have him stop whatever he's doing whenever he said his knee hurt. Point taken. I didn't know I needed to be a lawyer to go on this walk. I would have prepared by looking up some important Osgood-Schlatter cases.

Mile three and 53/64 - Nick talks about making up a liability form for Adrian to sign on the possibility that he'll hurt himself on the scooter and sue for damages. I offer Nick the GoSqueeze pouch from my pocket to shut him up. He sucks it down before Adrian looks back. I even take the empty pouch when Nick is done. I usually refuse to carry his garbage. Adrian glides down the really big hill and turns around to wait for us with a huge grin on his face. He offers up the scooter to Nick. We walk four paces and Adrian tells me that his feet hurt even more. We see a snail in the grass alongside the paved trail. It seems to be moving faster than we are. My flannel-lined blue jeans are getting wet below the knees where my rain coat ends. The boys hair is plastered to their heads. The pug tries to walk between my feet as if I'm going to be a great big red umbrella for him.

Mile three and 59/64 - I can see the fence at the end of the trail, but Adrian stops to put the sock on the other foot. My big dog does a couple more fly-bys while the pug stands, panting, as he watches Adrian play with Nick's sock.

Mile three and fifteen-sixteenths - I can see my car. The rain lets up a little. Another dog comes along and my big dog pulls his head out of his collar to go play with him. Nick, seeing the car, offers up the scooter. Adrian, also eyeing the car, refuses with an air of self-sacrifice. The pug is panting and walking along behind Adrian with his head down. My feet hurt. I imagine I'll soak them in epsom salts tonight.

Mile four and 1/32 - We arrive safely back to the car, hop in, and head home. The sun shines through the rain, but I can't see the rainbow from where I'm positioned behind the wheel. I may have put in my miles today, but I think my patience has been more thoroughly tested than my feet.

Thank you for listening, jb


Sunday, April 7, 2013


I shouldn't be writing at this hour. I should be going to bed. I'm tired. Aren't you tired? Mike is brushing his teeth. Nick is asleep after staying up an extra hour to watch 'Kung Fu Hustle.' It's a strange, but funny movie.

It was a quiet weekend. We were busier yesterday, but today, Mike and I napped this afternoon while Nick watched television. It was cold and raining heavily so we napped. I heard some kind of commentary about what ancient people used to do in a heavy rain, find shelter, hunker down, get some rest. So, it's in our genes to sleep when it's cold and rainy. We didn't go for a walk. We didn't go anywhere. Well, Mike ran to the store while Nick and I made dinner.

We ate shish kebab. It's such simple, ancient food, but I love it. The mistake I make every time is to cut up too much of everything. I peeled two sweet potatoes when one would do. The whole onion was the only thing we finished. One steak, not two, would have been sufficient. With a couple of small white potatoes, a small sweet potato, one steak, one onion, a handful of cherry tomatoes, and a small zucchini, we would have been good to go, more than good. Nick and I chopped up too much food and we had about twice as much food as we needed. They'll be nice leftovers for my salads though. None of it will go to waste. I tell you that the sweet potato was great with barbecue sauce. Neither of the others tried it, but I loved it. It was probably all the sugar. My sense of taste doesn't care what combinations I use for sugar any more. I crave sugar the way a smoker craves his next cigarette.

Do I? I'm not actually sure. I have never smoked enough to crave it. Not really.

Want to know something funny, though? Promise you won't tell Nick?

I like the smell of cigarette smoke. It reminds me of both my grandpas and one grandma. My parents didn't smoke. No, they lectured me heavily not to ever start. See, even in the sixties, people knew that smoking cigarettes killed you.

I was one of those lucky kids to have a relationship with all four grandparents. Okay, one grandpa died with I was fourteen, but I had a close relationship with him. I can still hear his voice as he sat at the dining table and told my grandma, every breakfast and every lunch, "Get me some coffee, Margie. I like it black!" She would pour oily coffee out of a pot into his cup along with whatever coffee grounds that came with it. I tasted that shit once. Just once.

And on my mother's side, the grandma that smoked was certifiably crazy. She was kind of sweet, but she was pretty far out on the neurotic rope. Still, I loved my grandma. She was the only one who ever let me eat Fruit Loops. She never stopped talking either. I guess I had to get it from somewhere. She never admitted that she smoked, but when you'd go into the bathroom after she left it, it would be thick with the smell of air freshener and cigarette smoke. Who did she think she was fooling? Deluded and crazy. I'll probably never tell you about just how she was crazy, so don't even bother asking. You only need to know that she was sweet and broken and neurotic. She was also addicted to sugar the way I am. I remember watching her spoon grape jelly onto bread as her hands shook with hunger.

Oh, I come by my sugar addiction honestly. My dad's grandma was diabetic too, so it was on both sides of my family. My only grandparent that didn't smoke told me that I was most like Grandpa's mom. Rita was her name. Grandma said I looked like her, acted like her, and even sang like her. And we both had problems with sugar.

Do you believe in reincarnation?

If there is reincarnation, I am not an Egyptian queen. I am my own great grandmother, circled back on herself, holding onto traits I've inherited from her, genes intact. Sometimes I feel the curve of karma wrapping from her life into mine as well. She was a battered wife. I find myself being almost militant with Nick that no one in my home, not even the cat, even feel as though they are going to get hit. When Grandma told me about her, I felt as though the pieces finally fit together, my grandpa's contrarian nature, my dad's bad temper, my brother's inherited anger, and my own defensiveness.

I've read that it takes four generations to right a wrong. Who's culture said that?

I can't remember.

But I can feel these lives unfolding out from the abuse lashed out on that one woman. When Grandma told me, it was as if things, even in my own life, suddenly made sense.

Generations continue to feel the reflected waves of that evil, though they've died down, at least in my family. You can never be sure what's happening in anyone else's house but your own, can you?

So maybe it isn't reincarnation, but genetics and psychology. Who really knows?

Still, I'd bet that in the next fifty years or so, science will discover things that seemed an impossibility right now. I won't be surprised if they discover something that we all thought was hooha. I'll like that. I'd like if reincarnation were true.

In the meantime, I am my great grandmother's child. What is left of her is me, my brother, my sister. I got the biggest share of her and somehow I'm comfortable with that. It's not always easy handling karma that was handed down to through the generations, but I'm giving it a good shot. I hope she could appreciate that.

Thank you for listening, jb