Wednesday, December 31, 2014

I'll See You Next Year in Nineteen Minutes

Happy New Year!

Okay, so it's thirty-four minutes until midnight, but I'm not sure I'm going to be up that late. I'm just a little tired and not a bit tipsy. I didn't even overeat, so I can't blame that either.

Maybe I'm getting old, but those people at nine pm who we watched at Times Square seemed like they were in for a long night. If I'd been there, I might have cheered at midnight, but then I'd have been wondering how long before I could crawl into my nice cozy bed. I love my nice cozy bed. I might have been there with them when I was in my twenties, but thirty years later, not so much. Right now, I'm supposed to be thinking of bringing up a mattress for Nick's sleepover, but I'm more intent on how soon I can call it good and go to bed. I'm kind of trying to make it for those last minutes of 2014, but only for the magic kiss. You know, the magic kiss. I usually like to get my kiss and then go out onto the back deck and bang a pot or blow off any fireworks we have leftover from the Fourth of July, but not this year. The kiss will do. And it has to be Mike or it won't do.

Is it sad that I just want to snuggle up on the couch and watch the fireworks on TV and have someone, Mike, kiss me and wake me up so I can go into bed? Is it sad that we went to a friend's house for a party and all of us were done at 10:30? We cheered when the ball dropped at Times Square at nine. Then the hostess popped some party food into the oven and all the while I was wondering how long before we could politely leave. It was made a little easier that her son was coming back here for a sleepover, so we just had to leave at some point so the boys could get situated on the new video game player.

Oh hell, twenty-three minutes to go and I'm done, kaput, finis. My year is over. I can get a kiss before I fall asleep and I'll get a kiss when I wake up, but will either of them be the magic kiss? No?

I just might be putting a hex on my entire year if I can't make it those next twenty-one minutes, such long minutes. Only twenty more to go. Can't I just celebrate the New Year for somewhere over Wyoming? Can't I?

Nineteen minutes to go.

See you next year, jb

Monday, December 29, 2014

For the Sake of Cucumbers and Butter Beans

I'm tired. I only had a half an hour at the dog park and the man there was one who only wanted to stand and talk. Why can't people jump on that bandwagon of walking down the trail together when their dogs are playing? Then both the people and the dogs get their exercise.

Teddy didn't even get enough exercise. It was because I was on the phone for a couple of hours with my phone people today. It might have been more, but I can't think that clearly.

Here's the lowdown. If you switch from an iPhone to an android and it isn't working, by all means, call Apple to take care of the iMessaging problem you've been reading about on the Internet. The guy you get on the phone will tell you that it's probably your carrier. He tries nothing. He may be right, but you won't think so since he tried nothing. Make sure you have your headset plugged deeply into your ears so you can fold clothes and do a load of dishes while you wait. Then, when the Apple rep does nothing but pronounces that he can't help you further, of course, you should call your carrier, especially if it's AT&T. Then, things get to popping. They may ask what you've done and you tell them that you've send email back and forth between your android friends along with a few other technical things. You mention the blue bubble. It sounds bad to you to say that you have android friends. You begin to realize that it's not too bad being an android and having android friends. Then, a miracle will happen and your AT&T rep, one of the big dogs, will call Apple, a big dog, but not quite as big, and they will speak privately before they get you back into the conversation. You never tell people that you used to work for AT&T because that would just be rude, now wouldn't it? You don't need to. AT&T has your back.

Primarily, the big dog will tell the not-as-big dog that he has to behave. He has to play nice with the little dog, you, the new android user.

Then, with both big dogs on the phone, you'll tell them everything you've done as they run you through a whole bunch of exercises, most of which you've already tried. "Yes, the bubble is green," you tell them. "Yes, I did that," you will tell them as you carefully follow their directions, being careful to stay polite. You begin to respect your Apple representative, an advanced technical support specialist, a woman. Before, when you were speaking to the guy from Apple the first time, he was only only a regular technical support guy. Now, you can tell, you are talking to someone who has earned her technical chops. But you will still say, "And I tried that and changed that and disconnected that," when she asks. You will say it with enthusiasm. You really want that advanced technical support person to tell you how incredibly smart you are, but it wouldn't be true since all the stuff you tried were things you read on the Internet. When tests are running smoothly, the big dog, AT&T, will bow out of the conversation. Finally, your advanced technical specialist from Apple will tell you that you have indeed done everything that she could think of doing. You do an internal fist pump.

That's when her work truly begins. Yup. She finally tries a few things you hadn't tried. She even draws your husband into the conversation. Ha! That's when you discover that your husband hasn't truly received a text message since Christmas. You might think that it has to be an Apple problem since it sits squarely on an Apple iPhone. You might be wrong, but you don't know that yet.

Have you noticed that Samsung, the other big dog, hasn't even made an appearance? You aren't sure if that's smart of them or if they've hung you out to dry. Still, the problem seemed connected to iMessaging at first and then got dumped right onto your husband's iPhone which isn't receiving android texts. Why should that other big dog even bother to come out to play?

And then, your trusty advanced technical support person from Apple gets an idea but she doesn't tell you what it is. You feel her attention diverting from your android and focusing on your husband's iPhone. She tests your husband's iPhone and he doesn't even get a non-iMessage text from her. Now, that is curious, isn't it? She pops back onto the phone with the big dog, AT&T and asks them for their advice about why your husband hasn't gotten a single non-iMessage text since Christmas day. Within minutes, the AT&T support woman has solved the problem - when your phone plan was converted to your new android, your husband's iPhone plan magically lost its text plan. How did that happen?

No one knows.

No one cares.

The AT&T support woman restores your husband's text plan and lo and behold, he gets a single text message from her - test. Then, to be sure, you send him a text and say - 'Whew!'  - and it goes through! See for the past hour, you've been going from your computer to your phone to your husband's iPhone which is on the counter in front of you. But now texts have gone through! At that point, each of the women on the phone give mental high-fives to each other with lots of thank-yous from the little dog to the two big dogs. And you are off the phone and the computer for the first time in thirty-six hours minus the time it took to sleep.

Then, on his way to work, you send your husband another text. 'Can you add cucumber and butter beans to the grocery list?' This is an example of the incredibly important information that must be successfully transferred between the two of you for the next thirty years without interruption.

And your heart drops a few inches in your chest when you receive a text that says, 'Your message did not go through. Please try again later. Error code ooxx102. 2:43pm'

Because your son is in the next room, you quietly utter, "F^@k!" into your fist. Then you slowly pick up the phone once more, wondering if the littlest dog will get any walk at the park all today.

And you get one more text that says, 'Just kidding. Yes 2:44pm' He's a joker, that husband of yours.

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Rocky Transitions

Well, I still love my iPhone, but Mike bought me an android for Christmas and I'm mostly converted after spending a day and a half fiddling with it. What a pain in the a$$! The conversion wasn't easy, I'd imagine, because Apple and Samsung don't want to talk to each other. There should be laws about this kind of thing.

Here's a little of what I learned:

1) Even I can learn almost any answer to technical questions by typing my question on Google and picking one of the top three answers. So far, I've looked up how to put photos back onto my phone, how to sync contacts, how to attach photos to people calling. You know, if my mother's picture is flashing on my phone screen, I might learn not to answer it right this minute unless I have three hours to talk. I can also attach strange pictures for people I don't particularly like since they will never know. And I learned how to download apps by asking my questions on Google. You should have seen me laughing in the kitchen. Google doesn't understand you very well when you're snorting and can't catch your breath.

2) I had to go out of my way to set fingerprints up to unlock my phone, but it seems to be worth it. Who wants to enter an eight-digit password absolutely every time you use your phone? Then, I had to get onto Google and ask it why my phone didn't ask for that fingerprint every time. It turns out that it was set to wait for a while before it relocked. Hmmm. I'm not entirely sure how a bad guy could use that against me, so I left it set to five minutes.

3) There are a couple of ways I can look at my own phone number but I can only add my photo to my own name in the contacts section. I didn't learn that by using Google, but it was close. I didn't want my face to be blank when I was sending text messages back and forth with Mike and yet it still is blank. Go figure.

4) I'll either have to mess with something called 'root' or get a startup app to turn off the sound on the thing when I turn it back on. What the heck? Doesn't Samsung know that there are times when your kid is sick on the couch and you really need to reboot to see if the fingerprint thing will finally work and you do not want to wake him up with the <cheerful> melody of your phone coming back on. The sounds should allow you to do that, like you can reset your car computer not to honk every time you click the lock button or not to beep-beep-beep at you when you have the car in reverse. If I can do it for my car, I should be able to do it for my phone.

5) Teddy won't care that I wanted to figure out how to ask my phone to send a text by talking to it. He wanted a walk instead. I want to be able to send a text while I'm driving and not be headed into a guardrail. Do you know what I mean? It turns out that you still have to look at your phone to find the little microphone and you can't get that icon mixed up with the voice reminder icon which is nearly identical, so I'm not sure I have a good solution for my urge to text someone while I'm driving. 'Just say nothing' might be my best response to that urge. See, the sucky thing about being my age and having text messages pop up on my phone while I'm driving is that I actually thought I learned when it was safe to do it before the whole thing became illegal. Some part of my brain still argues that I can type without looking at my phone in a straightaway and it's safe. It probably isn't, but my brain still believes it can. This talking to my phone thing could be a nice solution to my stupid brain, but not if I can't press the right button without looking. And poor Teddy is lying on Nick's coat next to my seat, as if to say he's given up on me, but maybe Nick will magically get over his cold, get a driver's license, and take him out for a long walk.

6) No matter what I've done so far, I can't text my husband who is still an iUser. Well, $hit! I can text my other friends, but not my husband. That's just great. It's like being a child of divorce. One parent won't speak to the other, so the kid can never get things like transportation and packing just right. Samsung, Apple, are you listening?

But I'll keep trying. In the meantime, did you know that Renee Zellweger doesn't look like herself any more? Her eyes are different. Could she even play in a Bridget Jones sequel? Well, if she did feel she had to have surgery in order to appease the machine, then once again, our culture has destroyed identity in an attempt at achieving some version of perfection. Renee, if you're listening to all of this hubbub, pay no attention. I'd watch you in any movie no matter what you look like. I just hope you are happy. Perfection is overrated anyway.

You want perfection? You should get a load of my face. Ha!

Nick is making little goat or robot noises in his sleep. I'm not sure if he's dreaming or if his sinuses are just that clogged. Either way, he's a sicky and Mike and I have been sitting in a quiet and dimly lit living room for the past two hours ... still... trying... to... text... each... other. Ugh.

On the bright side - I've taken some pictures with my new Galaxy. I love these new pictures. The resolution is great, but I still suck at taking pictures. No camera can help that. I can tell my phone to do phone stuff. I can ask what time it is, what day it is, and look stuff up on Google without even touching my phone. I even asked the meaning of life. My phone doesn't know either. That's cool.

So the transitions might be a bit rocky, but I'm convinced that everything will work out. That goes for my new android and Ms. Zellweger.

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Beautiful Day

So what it is about going outside in sloppy weather that makes a body feel so cozy when you come back inside and dry off?

This afternoon, I sat on the couch just wishing the rain would go away. To my credit, it was a downpour. Who wouldn't want to snuggle down into her lovely new fleece blanket and go back to sleep when the rain was pounding that way? When Mike and I bought our house, with all its skylights, I never imagined there could be any disadvantages to having skylights, but when it's late on a Saturday afternoon in December and you're sitting under one of those skylights, the rain and the hail will not motivate you to go outside no matter how much the dog needs a walk.

Both Mike and Teddy needed some exercise and I guess I did too. I even folded a couple of loads of laundry before we left. That's how much I didn't want to go. I hate folding laundry.

But I went, dropped Mike off at his gym where he could run on the treadmill in relative comfort, and took Teddy to the off-leash dog park in Beaver Lake. Maybe I could hunker down with other dog owners and grouse about the weather while the dogs played. No such luck. There was one dog already there and Teddy didn't want to play with her.

So, I headed off down the trail. It was squishy, but then there was a little light filtering down through the evergreens. The smell was sweet and fresh, like balsam. I would love to tell you what that smell is, but I've never been with a botanist when I smelled it. Maybe it's the Douglas Fir. There is no smell of home like that smell. It was there in those woods.

We crossed little bridges. We passed stands of sword fern. We found the lake and the lodge. For Teddy, there were a couple of dogs to meet. There's no type of person who uses a park as much as the ones with dogs. There were bubbling brooks and not-too-stagnant wetlands. And the trees. There is something about standing among Western Red Cedar, and Douglas Fir, and Western Hemlock that makes you breathe differently. When they're more than three hundred years old, it's even better. When they get  to be old growth, five or six hundred years old, you feel thrumming of the universe without even realizing it. It's the same feeling you get when you stare at the stars on a summer night, a sense of 'old.'

Old is good. No matter what all those commercials would tell you about the ancient, the wrinkles, the imperfections, old is good. And when you're standing among trees that are older than your own government, you feel time slowing down. You slow your pace, or I do at least. I'm not one of those hikers who marches through the countryside. I could hike all day, but I do it at my own pace usually  stopping to look at details and ambling along.

The walk tonight was just long enough to affect my state of mind. I didn't care that rain was dripping off the back of my beret onto my neck. I didn't mind the mud splashing up onto my track pants I hadn't bothered to change out of when I left the house. Too soon, I had to leave the stand of evergreens during deep dusk because Mike's gym was closing at 5:00 and I didn't want him standing in the rain to wait for me. Isn't that ironic? I was passing time out in the rain, effectively waiting for him, but I didn't want him to have to stand in the rain for me. I'm telling you that it didn't feel at all the same. I wanted to stay out in that rain just a little bit longer. Teddy did to. When we got back to the car, he stood there and stared at me as if I'd just stolen his cookie.

When I drove up to the YMCA, Mike was just coming out of the door. But then, more closely tuned to what was outside my window, I noticed three deer at the edge of the trees. I rolled down the window and got Teddy's attention. "Look!" I said.

"It's two bucks and a doe," Mike said.

We sat there with our windows down in the pouring rain as the deer ate and cavorted and looked cautiously at us now and then.

It was a beautiful day for a walk outside.

Thank you for listening, jb

Update: Today, I read this.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Menace of Mason Lake

I'm back again! Did you miss me again? I have had a month or two from hell, one for which I completed one task after another just minutes before it was due. Why did I volunteer for all that stuff right before Christmas, I ask myself. There was a literary contest I volunteered to judge, songs I promised to sing at church, notices I promised to send out to newspapers for a Boy Scout event, photos to take for the sock hop at Nick's school. And I volunteered for all of them. Why? Things will calm down this week coming up. I love that about Christmas. Just about this time of year, everything slows down a bit and I start to enjoy the season. Today, we're going out somewhere to take our Christmas picture. It will be funny, a challenge for Mike to get into the photo before the timer goes off. I wanted pictures of us in the ferns and trees, but Mike doesn't want to do that. He almost always has other plans. But that's not what I'm here to tell you.

I'm here to tell you about the menace of Mason Lake Trail.

Last weekend, Mike and I decided to take Teddy for a walk while Nick was off jumping on trampolines with a friend.

"I'd really like to be in the woods," I told Mike. I picked up Nick's trekking poles. I had meant to try them out in the woods to see if they helped knees or back. Mike nodded his head and went to sit down at the computer. I was busy getting ready, so I didn't see what he was up to. By the time I was good to go and had my day pack in one hand and my canteen in the other, he was printing something.

We walked out to the car. "You drive. I'll navigate," he said.

"Where are we going? Should we take the car or the truck?"

"Yeah, the truck. That sounds like a better plan," he said. We hopped out of my little car and I climbed up into the drivers seat of the Suburban. I hate driving that truck. I alternately call it 'the behemoth' and 'the tank.' I always feel like I'm trying accelerate a building when I put my foot on the gas and to halt an entire army when I put my foot on the brake. I groaned at the thought of it.

"You said you wanted to be In the woods," he said, grinning at me. We drove out to I-90. I'm telling you that any time I drive East past North Bend and feel the rise in elevation, I always feel like I'm heading into the wilderness. There's a place where the houses just stop. I've always wondered if that's where the Cascades National Forest begins or if it's a natural barrier. These are wild mountains with no houses. There are obvious avalanche zones, strips down mountainsides with absolutely no trees. There are rivers and rocky outcroppings. You can, if you're not keeping your eyes on the road, see the thin groove that the railway carved into the ruffle of the mountains where the Snoqualmie Valley Trail now descends from Iron Horse State Park. But this is not a place where humans reside and I love that reckless feeling of venturing into it.

Mike told me to take exit 45 onto the North side of the freeway to forest road 9030. I knew we were in for a beating when the pavement ran out and the truck began to rock in and out of great potholes. Some of them would have high-centered my little car. Mike was excited. He told me I was driving too slowly.

And then, the road ended, just ended. We were here, already half way up the side of the mountain, but only half way. I knew I was in for a hike.

Within minutes, we were deep into the woods. Teddy left me a deposit and I resigned myself to carrying a little bag of poop the entire hike. Mike casually walked about twenty paces ahead of me. That always irks me, but I know it's not superiority but that I'm slowing him down and he needs his own pace to work on his heart rate. Teddy danced up there with him, happy to be on the trail. Within minutes, I had a rhythm with the trekking poles, but I was heaving and going a bit light-headed in my attempt to keep up with Mike. I could hear my heart beating a trill in my ears. I couldn't talk, but barely gasped out any words when they occurred to me. Maybe Mike had planned it this way. Maybe it was the only way he could shut me up.

I trundled on, using the trekking poles to keep my balance where the land dropped away to my right. I was dizzy. That's not a good combination. Eventually, after pretending to tie my boot lace and pretending I needed to put away my gloves and pretending that I needed a drink to grab some extra oxygen, I slowed down a bit and found a pace that didn't send me careening into anaerobic respiration. I could still hear my heart pounding, but it was a fast beat, like heavy metal, instead of a twitter of a classical flute. I stopped being so dizzy.

We crossed a beautifully arranged drainage that had a trickle of water running through it. I hopped from one big stone to another. Nice. Then, a ways up, there was a creek crossing. Mike waited for me and three or four younger people made their way across. Two of them stopped in the middle, holding out their hands to me. Do I really look that old? Nope. I really look that out of shape. I was probably still heaving as I waited for them to cross, shaking my head in a no-thank-you gesture.

I really used those trekking poles for that crossing, but in a couple of places, I put my trusty boots down into shallow water rather than to step on a rocking stone. I'm a big believer in putting my feet as low in a stream as I can for stability.

"Your boots are waterproof?" Mike asked as I placed my pole into a deep spot for balance. The swiftness of the water dragged it downstream a bit. That water was small but mighty. Mike reached a hand out to me as I stepped out of the creek without landing on my ass. I really couldn't grab it because I was still gripping those poles.

"Yup. I love these old boots." I grinned at Mike. We were set to go again.

Something smelled suspicious. Teddy's bag had a little tear in the bottom and a bit of furry poop spooged out. Nice. I wondered if I had poop all over my leg where the bag had banged as I walked. I double-bagged the shit and picked up Nick's trekking poles from the tree where I'd leaned them. Mike looked like I was never going to get going, like a man waiting for his date on New Year's eve.

So, I should tell you that we started our hike in the mid-afternoon. Here in the Pacific Northwest, you start to lose light at about 2:30pm. By 4:17, the sun has set and dusk begins to gather. When I say it gathers, it has a true sense of that. The temperature drops noticeably. Fog gathers among the trees. The vantage points I pretended I needed to study in order to catch my breath really were beautiful as the sun dropped behind them and the sky made colors. I wasn't just faking my awe, just prolonging it a bit.

There's a difference between the way I walk and the way Mike walks. I don't worry about pace. I dawdle, looking at lichen, at the views, stopping to talk to people or take pictures. Mike walks with a purpose and I missed taking the time to really look at stuff, not to mention that I was still on the edge of breathing anaerobically.

Finally, near the top, but nowhere near Mason Lake, Mike stopped and waited for me.

"We're losing light. We need to go down." People crossing our paths with their worn day packs nodded their heads in agreement. Did I really need commentary from those experts?

"I have my head lamp in my backpack," I said hopefully. "And snacks." I'd have loved to dive into a clear pool of water at that point. I was soaked with sweat. But I knew he was right. I didn't want to cross that creek in the dark, not even with my headlamp strapped to my forehead. I have to tell you - I look like a total dork with that headlamp on my head, but I love how much easier it makes fumbling through the dark.

I took another long look out over the valley, and we headed back down the hill.

"At least I'd be able to keep up with you going downhill," I said. Famous last words. Mike strode down the hill, still twenty paces ahead no matter how I tried to catch up with him. I wondered if there was some superiority to it after all. Teddy skipped and danced along side him. I had finally given him Teddy's leash since I was too far away to clip him up when people passed us on the trail. I, on the other hand, still had the little bag of poop Teddy had deposited thirty feet into the woods on our way up the mountain.

My heart rate had slowed, but with this grade, I had to place my feet carefully so I didn't slide. I hate getting old. I gathered a decent pace and stopped trying to catch up with Mike. Apparently, he needed his solitude and to keep his heart rate up.

When the dusk deepened, I realized that we weren't back to the creek crossing yet, but I still didn't quite need my head lamp. The path was wide and not particularly rocky. I liked walking in this low light, but only because I was with Mike. When it's that dark and I'm on my own with Teddy, I start to think about predators. I don't know why. It kind of ruins the experience, but I've learned to trust that feeling.

Eventually, I realized that if Mike weren't thirty feet ahead of me, out of sight, really, I would be stopping to pull out my headlamp. His form, even Teddy's cream-colored coat was only a blur in the distance.

And then, it came on me like a wave. If there were a predator watching us in this light, I would be the one that was picked out of the herd. I imagined all those nature shows where the jaguar hooks his teeth into the rump of the zebra. I tried to walk with strength, not showing that I was still a little dizzy and a little bit tired. The hairs on the back of my neck rose, but I kept up my pace, trying to listen for night sounds in between footfalls.

And suddenly, my body moved as I heard rocks moving on the trail right behind me. I swung the trekking pole in my right hand out to the back and tucked it under my arm for stability in case it hit my target. At the same time I took a deep breath and lunged backward with my right foot, preparing to swing around with the other pole in front of me and face this thing behind me.

Before I quite saw him, a tall skinny kid jumped backward as I lunged. I barely missed poking him in the groin.

"Ahh!" he said. He looked confused.

"Oh, sorry," I said. "I didn't hear you there." But I was not sorry. Hikers do not silently move on a trail in the darkness, approaching an older woman without indicating they are there. It just isn't nice.

"I am sorry. I must have to surprise you," he said. German? Russian? I couldn't tell. He didn't know the rules of the road. Maybe German hikers sneak up on old ladies on the trail in the dark. I don't know.

Suddenly, I started laughing. It was the adrenaline. Mike stopped to find out what was going on. I caught up with him. I couldn't get the words out in between gasping.

"I very nearly gored that man in the nuts," I said, catching my breath. "I didn't hear a thing until he was three feet behind me and I just sort of lunged at him." I laughed uncontrollably for another minute.

"Here's this dorky foreigner," I whispered to Mike, "hiking for the first or second time in our country and as a welcome, I almost gored him in the crotch."

"He shouldn't be sneaking up on people in the dark," Mike said quietly. I started laughing again. Mike didn't get it. I wasn't sure I got it, at first. We went back to hiking on in our separate positions, recrossing the creek, and hopping across the big rocks for the beautifully arranged drainage, nearing the parking lot. I kept bursting out in laughter, not wondering about predators now.

I guess there are times when you don't mess with a little old lady, not certain little old ladies with trekking poles. I like that I'm growing into being that kind of little old lady. I was the menace of Mason Lake.

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Derailed by Dr Who


Maybe I'm back now. I'm not quite sure. I haven't ordered all of my Christmas presents, or sent the ones that are lying on my dining table. I'm still supposed to make up two photo books and a calendar before I'm finished. I'm here anyway. I'm delinquent in so many ways, aren't I?

I really have been busy while I was gone. I promise. One week I cooked a meal for twenty people. Well, it seemed to take a week to shop, cook, and then clean up the mess.

The next week, I judged a literary contest. Me! Can you imagine that? Those people were desperate for somebody to help. "Honestly," I told the woman who asked me, "I'm really not qualified. I have an engineering degree."

"That doesn't matter," she said, pleading with her eyes. "I really could use some help."

So, I immediately went out and bought nice journals and pens for the ones that I guessed were the top three winners. I figured the best advice I could give writers was the advice that Anne Lamott gave me in her book 'Bird by Bird,' to write crap often enough and maybe I'll be able to find something good in it once in a while. I figured that the journals and nice pens might inspire these writers to write more than my judgement would.

And last week I lost to preparation for the big storm. There would be hurricane-force winds, they said. Big trees would be toppled, they said. There could be landslides, they said. Power outages would be widespread, they said. The Weather Channel app on my iPhone had a blinking red warning that only added to my fear. One night before bed, Mike told me that this was supposed to be worse than the wind that hit us in 2006.

The wind storm in 2006 sounded light a freight train going overhead. It went on for hours as we hunkered down in our unfinished basement. We didn't have power for nine days, all just before Christmas. It was so cold afterward that we put our food in a cooler and put it outside, hoping that no rodents could chew their way through or learn to open the lid. Even with the wood stove running constantly in the den, we couldn't get the temperature above forty-two degrees in any of the rooms but the den. Nick's fish nearly died and when I discovered him, he snuggled next to my belly as I hugged his little tank to warm it up. Isn't that sad? Nearby neighborhoods looked like war zones.

So when Mike started to talk about a bigger storm that night, three days before it was supposed to hit, I didn't sleep much after he traipsed off to bed. For two days, I cleaned, ran the dishwasher, caught up with laundry, shopped to feed a fourteen-year-old for two weeks without the grocery store. For two nights, I worried about the worst wind storm I might have ever experienced. I worried about my trees, trying to visualize their roots digging deeper, like toes digging down in the sand. I even talked to them. Yes, I suppose you already knew that I was a bit off, but I talked to my trees and told them that I hoped they'd manage, that I was worried about them. Ever the practical one in our family, Mike went to Lowes and bought a generator. I secretly wondered if a tree would land on the truck and smash it all before we could unload the hulking box from the back.

The night the storm was supposed to hit, I sat at my computer, trying to finish my mother's birthday photo book before power went out. Her birthday had been in August. Yes, I said August. I told you I was behind. So, I was looking out the West window when I saw the cloud. It descended like the cloud that accompanies an alien ship.

Here. Look at this shot! This photographer was outside in all that weather. I wasn't sure I wanted to be in front of the window let alone stand outside. Even the dog didn't want to go outside to pee. He asked to go out, then shivered next to the sliding glass door, staring at me with a pathetic look on his face. There were pine cones hitting him and leaves. Oh, the pine cones. Still, I didn't blame him. I didn't want to be out there with him either.

Yet, we never lost power. I finished my mother's birthday present, finally, and got it sent out to her to arrive just before Christmas. At one point, I turned up the TV so I didn't have to listen to the wind blowing. But where we live, it never got as bad as they expected. That night, I slept. The next day, I slept too, having missed about a whole night's sleep in the past three nights.

I felt like an idiot for all the canned goods and peanut butter I had stored on the counter in the pantry downstairs, for all the tubs of water next to the sinks, for the drink cooler that I filled with water that leaked water all over my shirt when I tilted it and found that the lid wasn't leak-proof.

On the other hand, all the dishes were clean, the floor had been vacuumed, and the laundry was washed, dried, folded, and put away. I'm telling you, it takes the storm of the decade to get me to finish all of that cleaning in just a few days.

Oh, and I have another excuse for not seeing you in quite a few weeks.

I started watching 'Dr. Who' on Amazon Prime. Yup, I'm an Christopher Eccleston fan, though I warmed up to David Tennant and those crazy changes from serious to ecstatic he could do with his face.

So, the real reason, probably, that I haven't been here as much as I should have been for the past three weeks, is that I've been traveling the universe with Rose Tyler and the good doctor, whichever one he was at the time. I admit it. I am delinquent.

Do you forgive me?

Thank you for listening, jb

You Have Reached the Answering Machine of

Aw, damn! I just had fifteen minutes to play before I had to leave and there were problems with my computer. I hate having computer problems! Now, I have to go.

I was wondering if you missed me. I was going to tell you a story. I had just enough time.

Sorry, kids. No story this morning. I'll try again later.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Using the Charity Navigator to Test My Favorite Charities

I know that we should give to charity all year long, but we don't keep up that energy sometimes. So maybe it's good that there is a season. And this is the season.

My husband and One year, my husband donated our old Tahoe. It ran, but barely, and it leaked big time so there was a family of mushrooms growing in the back by the tail gate. He donated it to the Humane Society. Think of all the care and kibbles that went to dogs and cats and even Guinea pigs because of that stupid old truck. Then, he found out that he could have donated it to the Boy Scouts. That's good too, but the new truck pays homage to the Boy Scouts even now. Last week, five Scouts and some dads hoofed it in that Suburban down to Ape caves. Mike said I would have liked these big open caves, but that they were all wondering when they discovered that there were some sulfurous vents when you went deep. I'm not sure I'd want to be deep in a cave with gasses leaking into it. There could be red hot lava right behind. What a way to go, if you have to die anyway.

So we give a lot of time and a fair amount of money to the Boy Scouts. It's nice to actually see what our work does for the boys. Last week, at the planning meeting, five Scouts said they wanted to do another fifty-mile backpacking trip. That's what they did last summer, hiked for five days in the Olympic National Forest. That is so good for a soul, being among those trees. It's a way to become an environmentalist without all the lecturing. Plus, it's so incredibly good for their fitness and ability to cope. Even I'm going to benefit by trying to be ready to go if they need me at the last minute next year.

We also donate to our church who sponsors the Mt. Si Food Bank. It's all very local. Very local. I have heard of some families talk about how it got them through a hard season in their lives. Sometimes I wonder, though, if the increase in homelessness isn't linked to that free food. It's never simple, is it.  Believe that the food pantry does more good than harm. Just believe it. Feed the hungry.

I also like the Heifer International. You can send a gift card to a friend saying that you gave bunnies to a family. You can even order a water buffalo, you know, the ones with horns that look like they're wearing a terrible hairstyle parted in the middle. I think I used to have a grade school picture like that before I went back to cutting my bangs. No, I won't post that picture. You can give goats and chickens and books or just plain money to the places where they are needed most. I like giving bunnies.

One site that I use a lot when someone is hawking a new charity to me over the phone is the Charity Navigator. People call and I tell them that I'll look them up on the Charity Navigator, but that I don't give money when it's solicited over the phone. Some people are really nice, even excited that I'm doing it this way, indirect. I'm more certain that my money is going where they say it's going. Other callers hang up on me before I get a chance to tell them to take me off their list. I know where they'll turn up on the Charity Navigator.

Go ahead. Give it a shot. Do you dare look up your favorite charities on the Charity Navigator? I looked up the Heifer International and it didn't look as good as other charities. Oh, it's that cute catalog with all the pictures of kids holding books and bunnies, or hugging their new goats. It's the photos of water buffalos with their perpetual bad-hair days. I'm still putting them down as a favorite anyway.

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Snooping Through Lyrics

I can't believe how much easier it is with my boy Nick now that I'm not quite the big crabby menopausal bitch that I was. I feel calmer with him, happier, able to let go of order when it is obvious that chaos and teenagers go together like hamburgers and French fries, Diet Coke and York peppermint patties, tomatoes and basil. I wanted to say Simon and Garfunkel, but that would have dated me. So would Seals and Croft. What about Jerry and Elaine? Yup.

Oh, I am getting old. And I'm tired.

Teddy is asking if I'll go to bed so he can trade in that warm spot on the carpet for his own bed at the foot of mine. Sorry, hon. I know I should go, but I can't. Not yet.

I've been listening to music with Nick in the car. Some of it is quite good. I was worried there for a while. I thought Nick would never connect with music. Finally, he's daydreaming to it the way I was sure he needed to in order to survive puberty. We listen in the car together on the way home from karate and on the way to school. Sometimes I ask him, during commercials, whether or not he likes the song he just heard. There are no lectures, thankfully. Yes, even I get sick of my own lectures. Music doesn't need that. It's either a balm, a release, an alignment, or we change the station. Tonight, he wrote down a list of his new favorite songs so he can load them onto his iPod. He says he can't find his charger for his iPod, but it'll turn up. He'll get it set up. People, this is the music that will be playing in elevators in the year 2043. Listen up.

Rockin Beats by Chemical Brothers
Centuries by Fall Out Boy 'I could scream forever, we are the poisoned youth'
Happy Idiot by TV on the Radio 'I'm going to bang my head to the wall 'til I feel nothing at all'
Titanium by David Guetta, 'shoot me down but I won't fall, I am titanium'
 Radioactive by Imagine Dragons
Pompeii by Bastille 'and the walls kept tumbling down in the city that we loved'

You know, I love listening to this stuff with Nick, but the lyrics to these songs are pretty intense. Oh forget it. I was young once. Sometimes I forget that. I listened to stuff that would have raised the hairs on the back of my mother's neck if she'd only listened to what the musicians were saying.

Pink Floyd said 'we don't need no thought control, no dark sarcasm in the class room.'
Black Sabbath said 'nobody wants him, he just stares at the world, planning his vengeance that he will soon unfurl.'
The Eagles sang 'you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.'
Elton John said 'think I'm going to kill myself, cause a little suicide.'

I don't know why but that last one was a personal favorite. If my mother had listened to the lyrics of that song, would she have wondered at the volume with which I sang? Would she have called the school counselor, tried to ban it from the radio, forbid me to listen? I don't think my mother had that much time or energy. I was the third child in a complicated life. Maybe that was a good thing. When I became a teenaged girl, I prayed not to get her attention most of the time. It must be hard for Nick, to be an only child. There hasn't been another place for our attention and he endures it.

So in an effort to let him grow unhindered, I'm going to ignore the lyrics to his new favorite songs. He needs me to give advice about managing his time sometimes. He needs a push to do chores and to get started on homework. He does not need me snooping through the lyrics to his favorite music.

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, November 17, 2014

Perspective and Folding Laundry

I have just put my guys to bed and here I am, not quite comfortable with the black in the window in front of me, the abyss. We've talked about the abyss, haven't we? I've told you that my abyss isn't me looking down into a deep crevasse from above. It's being at the bottom, pressed by tons of dirt and rock with no hope of being able to turn over, let alone leave.

Things with my family are good. I remind myself that they really are. We're all relatively healthy. We don't have to worry too much about money or retirement or school. Oh, Nick has some drama, either friends he can't see because they're grounded too long or something with a teacher assigning too much homework. Yet, I have more trouble on these days when I have stayed home and cleaned up a bit instead of taking Teddy for a walk in the open air, instead of going for my daily constitutional. Even a half hour outside revives me as nothing else does. Somehow I convinced myself, while searching for my favorite pair of socks in the rubble we call clean laundry, that I needed to fold clothes until I was done folding. I did need to fold clothes. Nothing screams of tedium like folding clothes. Nothing dulls my brain as easily.

Unfortunately, my shoulder still complains when I fold clothes and I needed to sit down and ice it for a while after I was done. Oh, I figure I'm doing decent things for myself, trying to get my shoulder working instead of babying it. My physical therapist said not to baby it. That includes folding clothes. I would guess it includes vacuuming too. Well, no one else is vacuuming. That's the real reason I need to, because no one else is doing it.

One of Nick's friends came over for the afternoon last Saturday. It was a nice afternoon. They played video games, shot up our pumpkins with Nick's bow and arrows, and played with Teddy in the yard. This boy was supposed to go out to dinner for his aunt's birthday afterward.

And he was covered in dog hair. It was embarrassing.

That's the problem at my house. When I vacuum, it looks like I threw a whole cat into the garbage after I'm done. Teddy is furry. And he lets go of his fur easily.

It wasn't his mom who was looking at all that fur on this boy's clothing as they were leaving. It was the boy himself.

That's what was so embarrassing.

Note to self: when a thirteen year old boy thinks your floor is dirty, it's past time to vacuum, pain or no pain. Actually, I should have had Nick vacuum. It should have been a condition of his being allowed to have his friend over.


This is what happens when I don't take a walk, when I don't get any fresh air, when my brain hasn't engaged properly. I bore you! I bore myself!

Isn't there anything more interesting to tell you? This is my life, or part of it. It's boring. It's difficult to train a teenaged boy to help out when he just wants a break after a week of school. Our lives, some days, seem like a string of mundane chores from which we can't escape. For me, it's laundry again. Dishes again. Dinner again. Thousands of minute complaints that, by themselves, don't add up to anything much, but together leaves a soul in the bottom of a cavern under tons of rubble with no way to get out. 

Until I look for the joy, find the beauty, until I stand on my back deck with warm water in a bowl to melt the ice out of the birdbath. The chickadees had followed me to my car on my way to drive Nick to school in the morning. They had asked so sweetly for a drink. I had almost forgotten about the chickadees. And really, with a different attitude, I can see beauty in doing those dishes, the glow of a gleaming kitchen. I find satisfaction in finding the match for that last sock. As Nick was putting away his clothes, I remembered how, when we were shopping for new clothes for school, Nick mentioned how I can hold up a shirt and flick it into a neatly folded pile. Yes, I can do that. It's like making a pretzel, a miracle until you know the trick of the flick. And there is the warmth of giving a healthy meal to a growing teenaged boy and hearing him grunt with pleasure as he chews.

There was a place that Mike and I used to love to visit years ago, The Honey Bear Bakery. It was near Green Lake in Seattle and sometimes Mike would send me there so I could bring the best for him to share at a meeting for work. Sometimes I'd buy a dozen pumpkin muffins. The cashiers always seemed surprised, as though most people should only order a muffin and some coffee then sit to read the newspaper for an hour.

Remember reading the newspaper?

But even landmarks go away and I was sad to find, one day, that The Honey Bear Bakery with it's waving wooden bear at the entrance, was no more. It was closed, condemned, gone.

One of the things I remember seeing at The Honey Bear Bakery, as I read a piece from the newspaper or scribbled in my notebook, was a plaque on the wall near the basin for dirty dishes. It said, "Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water."

That is it, isn't it?

Doing dishes, folding laundry, cooking meals. I'll have to do it anyway. And when I do it well, see my life the way I know I can, I see it as a way to make something clean, accessible, beautiful, even if I know I'll have to wash and fold and cook all over again tomorrow.

It is so hard to stay enlightened, isn't it?

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Humans Can't Understand Basic Communication

When I got home, the cat came running at me the way a dog would. I petted him, glad that someone was happy to see me. He followed me from room to room, meowing in a demanding way. I took some extra time to pet him and tell him that I missed him too, even though I hadn't even been gone longer than three hours.

After a bit of that, I tried to walk away. I was hungry. It was time for lunch. As I walked away, one claw caught in my sweater.

"Wow. You really missed me," I said, pressing is fur back from his face to see the tiny kitty bones in all of his ruff. He didn't quite look pleased about this treatment, but he accepted the massage that I offered.

I read that even stroking a cat can release oxytocin, a hormone that makes you feel all homey and connected and relieves pain. I wondered if it did that for the cat too.

Then, I went into the kitchen to make lunch. The cat tried to grab my hand as I went, but I was too quick for him. In the kitchen, I turned around after getting the microwave packet out of the freezer and there he was, alert and staring at me intently.

"You want a cookie? Is that what you want?" The dog ran into the kitchen at the sound of the word 'cookie.' It was snack time. Everyone performed their tricks, even the cat, though I could see that praying for his treat is not exactly high on his dignity scale.

After that, but before I nuked my lunch, I was distracted by the cat peeling out on the vinyl flooring and racing across the living room carpet.

"You want to play? Ah, you have a lot of energy for an old cat. Sure, I'll play with you," I said. He raced around as I thwapped the carpet with the fake mouse on a string. He liked it best when I tried to hide the thing in the blanket on the floor. He pounced, caught the mouse, and paraded it in his mouth with me still holding on as if I were on a leash.

Still hungry, I put the toy down and went back into the kitchen to look at the frozen block of material I was eventually going to eat. The directions on the cardboard box said five minutes, stir, and three more on high. Our microwave, something that came with us when we moved, before we had the house, before we were even married, the one that had been dinging on our counters for the past twenty-seven years, would require twenty minutes of irradiating microwaves before it could cook my frozen lunch block. I never get warm when I stand close, but I still hope I'm not being microwaved along with my lunch by leaking microwaves. Where is all that power going, anyway?

The cat stood in his cookie spot, just staring at me intensely.

"You want another cookie? I'm sorry honey. If I give you too many, you'll throw up." He stared, only momentarily indicating a level of stupidity on my part. I wasn't getting something. Finally, as if trying to make a point to one who is very slow, he walked deliberately toward his water dish.

The bowl had only a bit of water in the bottom. It wasn't quite dry, but to the cat, that's like leaving a person in Death Valley for a week without shoes.

"Oh!" I said, finally getting it. "You needed water. Oh you poor baby."

'Oh you thick-headed servant,' he seemed to say after taking two delicate sips of fresh water, flicking his tail, and walking away with it high in the air. I haven't seen hide nor hair of him since.

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, November 10, 2014

Subtext Guilt

I was telling Mike today that I felt like what I was doing is always inadequate. I'm barely keeping up with all the stuff on my todo list.

I'm not keeping up with Boy Scout stuff either. I spent four meetings with a group of boys to work on a merit badge and only two of the ten boys came to me with the little blue cards to sign even though I've reminded them at subsequent meetings at least four times. Even Nick hasn't asked me to sign his little blue card. Mike says they might have to do the work all over again if they lose their worksheets or I forget who did what or both before they arrive with those little blue cards. Not once during the four meetings were the same group of boys there except for Nick. Mike keeps telling me not to push the boys, that they'll realize their mistake at some point and come running to me to finish the merit badge. Yet it's all so demoralizing, this inability to get it finished with any of them.
Over the weekend, I had to sterilize a whole crate of pots and pans from the last campout in September. Everything in it had mildewed. It was so moldy it was hard to breathe, plus, bleach hurts my lungs ever since an unfortunate experience in my chemistry lab in college when the teacher's assistant assumed that everyone in the class understood the definition of 'waft.' It wasn't my job to unload this crate of moldy gear, but I'm the default sterilizer and the one who manages filthy stuff in general. I also haven't managed to run around to get signatures the way Mike asked me to do when he left for camp. It's someone else's job to get these signatures, but that volunteer is out of the country on a business trip, so it has become my job. Default volunteer

Yesterday, I didn't remind Nick to do his chores. I didn't push him to do the extra stuff he could do to earn cash for Christmas either, and I didn't, in fact, get him to do anything away from the television at all. I didn't walk Teddy either. Teddy's due for a walk today, overdue, in fact.

There are appointments I'm procrastinating. I'm over two years late for my mammogram. Who wants to have a mammogram anyway and until recently, I wouldn't have been able to raise my arm high enough to do it because of my shoulder injury. That doesn't account for all two years of being delayed, but I'm using it. It's a good all-around excuse and I'm using it. I'm using it for my delayed colonoscopy too, not to mention that summer was extraordinarily busy and who knows what was going on before that.

I also agreed to write a blurb for the local newspapers about a Boy Scout tree recycling event that will happen after New Year's Day. It's due in two days and I'll have to pass it back and forth in email to get it approved. Who can think that far in advance? Christmas? New Years? I haven't even caught up with birthdays from August! I'm telling you that I'm behind

I haven't called the roofers to get the garage fixed yet. I can't even remember what else I haven't done. See, I have a pile on the dining room table, which is actually in the living room, where all the stuff is put that we don't feel like putting away, or we don't know where away is for that particular item. Okay, I'll admit that I have three piles on the table at this point, most of which is a pet project of mine that I haven't even looked at in over a month. Yes, I need to go through my piles to figure out what I've forgotten to do and what I still have a chance to get done before deadlines pass.

This morning, I was texting Mike that Nick was nervous about doing the flag ceremony in the school assembly today.

"So you stayed for the ceremony? Good," he responded.

"No. I hadn't showered yet. I just met with Jack's wife to get the paperwork he needed to get signed and her son hadn't remembered his uniform." Why do I feel responsible for this kid forgetting his uniform? Why?

"Ah, okay," he replied. I wondered if there was a subtext in that message, the one that said I should have stayed to watch my boy in action. Mike doesn't usually talk in subtext, but I'm well trained, having been raised by a woman who could compliment me with words and make me feel inadequate with her tone of voice at the same time.

"Just my usual bumblings. Not the good mom, if ever. If Nick had asked me to stay, I would have." That's my excuse and I'm sticking with it.

"Oh, okay. Don't sweat it."

"Just feeling inadequate," I said, still feeling pressure about all this huge list of stuff I haven't done.

"That's the normal state of parenting, in case you didn't know. If there were a Hallmark card that said you were doing an adequate job, I'd buy you that card."

I laughed. There is always so much to do and never enough time or other volunteers to do it. I sent back one more note to Mike. I could see him finding a card for me like that. I would either burst into tears upon opening it, or, in the right spirit of things, I'd laugh until I cried and my sides hurt. I'd like to think I would laugh, getting a card like that from Mike, who isn't good at delivering subtext guilt.

"Thank you. I could use a card like that."

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Moon Shadow

I watched Peter Pan tonight. If I hadn't turned out the TV and the lights, I would never have seen the moon's shadow. 

The wind is gone and branches hang, quiet in a dim glow. My eyes adjust until the night looks bright and headlights along the highway beacon yellow beams. 

The roof line is marked on the lawn. Shadows of trees and bushes are drawn there too. 

I can almost imagine my shadow, perched on an edge, legs hidden, hanging from gutters, arms stretching out across reflected sky, as if I might manage to fly. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, November 3, 2014

Love, Rinse, Repeat

I read on the computer more than I used to. Oh sure, I look at my fair share of funny cat pictures and cars sliding on ice. Did you see this one, where the cars on the hill were sliding down the lane like a bowling ball chasing after ten pins? There are some pretty good parallel parking ones videos too. I would have put the link up for one of the funny parallel parking videos, but I was offended that so many of them were titled them 'Women Can't Park' when it isn't always obvious just who's driving that car. I tell you that I can parallel park my car better than most men. I can even parallel park on the left side, which is an accomplishment for those of us who drive on the right side most of the time.

YouTube videos are good, but I actually read content on my computer too. Today, I procrastinated my work and my walk by reading my favorite bloggers. I've told you about The Bloggess, haven't I? A lot of hers are comic classics even when she just wrote them last week.

But I've noticed something. Some of my favorite writers have issues with anxiety and depression. There's The Bloggess, HeyNatalieJean, and Jane Kenyan. I love Kenyan's book 'Otherwise.' It's just beautiful, despite its melancholy.

So, the thing that made a difference today was a post by Natalie. She wrote about an anxiety attack. Especially when I read through to the end. It made a difference for me.

Oh, I don't suffer from depression. I wouldn't trivialize the pain, numbness, or fear that people with depression or anxiety have by calling my blue day a depression. I'll admit that I have insomnia and there's always more anxiety at 3am than in daylight. But it wouldn't be fair to call it depression when I have one of those days that's just off.

Today was a blue Monday for me though. The only excuse I had was that I didn't get out for a walk in the rain the way I should have. Every time I walk, even when I don't feel like it, I come home nearly elated by the freshness and the beauty of the green around me. Today, I dragged my feet, procrastinated my work, and my poor Teddy is pacing now that it's too dark out to go. It's also the beginning of the dark days. I forgot about the challenge of walking my dog early throughout the dark days.

So, the cool thing about Natalie's post. Remember Natalie's post? She wrote about what gets her through an anxiety attack. As I read, I figured that she'd write something about breathing or focusing or music on her iPhone or something like that. I thought to myself that everyone has different methods to get through stuff and it's never the same for any one person. I was ready to read what she wrote and let it go like a half a million ideas that I've read in blogs and books and magazines in my lifetime.

But her method is good. She said she thinks about love. She looks at someone, pictures them as an infant in her arms, and she imagines the love flowing from her to them. Not from them toward her, but the other way around. The love comes from inside her and flows out and that makes her feel better.

Now, that's good. That's something that could work for any of us. It could work for me. Any time. Over and over, like the repetition of washing dishes. Love, rinse, repeat.

Love, rinse, repeat.

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, October 20, 2014

I Still Have Time to Enter the Gates of Hell

I'm trying not to fall asleep as it's only 7:20pm and I only slept four or five hours last night. Sitting down isn't really a good option here, but that's too bad. I really don't feel like doing dishes, stacking books on the bookshelf, or vacuuming. So, here we are.

I've been listening to Dan Brown's 'Inferno.' I like when an author is compelling enough to get me to look at art and read other books. Brown's book makes me wonder if I should read Dante's 'Divine Comedy' after this. I mean, Brown even says, through his character Robert Langdon, that I should study this book as though it's the Bible. Really? I'm not sure I want to read it or listen to it, let alone study it.

There are a huge number of art pieces that derive from Dante's work. I remember seeing Botticelli's painting in an art history class. I wasn't particularly fond of that one or others like it. They were just too icky. Yup. I wished that the professor would just stand up in front of the class and tell us that it was okay to be revolted by what I was seeing because it made my stomach feel as though it was full of worms.

I try to read the classics. I do. I've read Herman Melville, Ralph Ellison, the Bronte sisters, Austen, Steinbeck, Stegner, Shelley, Shakespeare, Stoker, Orwell, Tolkien, Alcott, Bradbury, Twain, Salinger, Pirsig, Hersey, Hugo, Henry James, Verne, and even Homer. Yes, it took the voice of Ian McKellen to get me through 'The Oddessy' and it was wonderful for it.

This is what I get for studying engineering in college. I'm stuck feeling like I have an incomplete education, but I didn't have classes to tell me what I was supposed to think either. I liked 'Moby Dick,' especially learning how a whale is rendered right on the ship and the danger of it all, but Melville needed an editor. Seriously. There were places in that book where I checked out no matter how many times I went back over it. I liked the Bronte sisters work but I only tolerated Austen. I don't know why. I even read 'The Epic of Gilgamesh' and the Bible. I have to tell you that the Bible was really, really, seriously hard for me to get through. There was so much smiting and revenge. And what is it about Leviticus? Yuck. Where is the love, people?

My favorite of the classics was 'Invisible Man' by Ralph Ellison. Why isn't this on the goodreads list? Why? And why is 'Lord of the Flies' listed twice? You know, I tried counting how many of the 100 classic I've read, but I got bored about half way through the list. I think I cheated a little by reading 'Travels with Charley' by John Steinbeck instead of 'Pearl' or 'Grapes of Wrath.' I still have time though. I'm not done reading yet.

So, do I need to read Dante? Do I really? Can't I just read 'Lord of the Flies' instead? I'm worried that my own levels of hell will come to mind if I spend two or three weeks in Dante's hell. I will tell you that I've worked seriously to get to the level of purgatory where I currently reside. I'm not quite in paradise, but I'm seriously out of the depths of hell I endured when I was a kid, a teenager, and a young woman.

I'll let you know what I decide in the end. I still have time.

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, October 13, 2014

Don't Tell Me My Toes Are Nasty

Thank God. I can finally reach my toenails. They were growing into little claws that caught on my sheets. Mike and Nick had a long argument over who had to help me trim them. I even threatened to get another pedicure. We're trying to save money after our summer spending spree. That motivated Mike to argue more vigorously, but it didn't motivate him to capitulate to Nick's resistance. I held it out there - a pedicure. I hate pedicures. In my lifetime, I've had two. With the first, I just assumed that the woman was ham-fisted and vigorous about the cleanliness of my nasty little toes. Just in case I was wrong, I waited eighteen years before agreeing to go with a friend for another. This guy was a little gentler, but I couldn't get over the concept that a Korean man was hovering over my toes. There are so many cultural issues about kneeling in front of someone and about touching people's feet. Even my own family wouldn't do it, so it was incredibly awkward to have this immigrant, a man no less, caring for my toes.

And it still didn't feel all that good. I guess toenail clipping has so much potential for pain. And don't come near me with that exfoliating scrub.

So, when my new physical therapist told me to start stretching out in front and to the side, I thought I'd give my toes a shot. It took three days to stretch my shoulder to reach that far, but I did it. Now, my sweet little toes are nestled comfortably in a row in my wooly socks, finally shorn of their nasty claws.

It's about time. I'm going for a hike today.

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, October 6, 2014

Around the House

I don't feel like telling you how crappy I feel. I've had my MRI. It hurt. I have a new doctor that I will see in two an a half days. Everything else is the same. I'm waiting.

So, I struggle to find beautiful things like the things I am used to finding all around me on my walks. I decided that if I have to lie on the couch, that I'd have to work to find things around my own house that I hadn't noticed. Oh, maybe I'd noticed them, but I didn't really work at seeing them. I came up with a few things. I did. It seemed to ease the pain.

The frogs often sit at the bottom of their tank, looking at each other the same way I do when someone sits on my couch with me. What would they say to each other after three years together in the same three-quarter gallon tank on a shelf by the shower?

What do Mike and I talk about?

Maybe they talk about the weather, squalls that never leave raindrops in their pond. Maybe they argue about what's for dinner yet again. One of them doesn't have fingers on his left paw. Maybe they talk about how that happened. Maybe they talk about their aches and pains and how yoga and meditation doesn't always help. Maybe they talk about viruses that are going around in the wild ponds.

Mike and I have never run out of things to say. And he's the only one with which I can share a companionable silence, the only one. Maybe that's my problem with Nick, that I haven't learned to be quiet with him. Maybe I could work to listen more carefully. It's hard to listen to a fourteen year old boy who doesn't quite want to tell you stuff anyway, but he does. Quiet would help. I could learn from my frogs.

I found leaves that had fallen on my deck and in my driveway. I may be one of the few that thinks that fall's leaves may not be sad for my trees. It might be nice for them to drop all that weight for a while and sit quietly. It might be nice not to have to work so hard to be green all of the time. It might be nice to show the beauty of your bones, the elegant way your branches reach out. It might be good to focus on your roots.

I think about my Japanese tree by my front door. She has grown at least fifteen feet taller than the nursery employee said she would. I look at the robe of leaves that have fallen at her feet. I see her grace, nearly naked to the clouds.

Even when I look for beauty at my house, it is in what is living, breathing, and growing around me that stands out. It is in the quiet. It helps.

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

As Soon As Possible

I was lying on the couch, thinking that I should get up because I needed to pee and get a drink of water. Twenty minutes later, I was still on the couch thinking the same thing, only more intensely. Today, I'm dizzy. I'm very dizzy, and my orientation with the world feels off when I'm upright. 'You need to lie down,' a quiet yet insistent voice in my head repeats. Another ten minutes pass. That walk I took yesterday was not a good idea. That short walk, just over a mile, moved too much shoulder. I looked at the water bottle on the coffee table as if staring would make it float to my side. The phone rang. I couldn't get up fast enough. I'm getting a fair bit of exercise in my core by getting up without using my right shoulder, but I still can't leap from the couch like a ninja. It hurts to move my broken shoulder.

Yes, it is only fractured, not broken. Nick keeps reminding me that a fracture is not the same as a break. Kid, when you have a bone chip floating in your shoulder, you can minimize the tingling and the ache and the dizziness that I have had for the past two and a half weeks since I fell.

Have you gotten your MRI yet?, you might ask. Thank you, but no, I haven't been able to get my doctor to give me an MRI yet. I was given a copy of the orders with instructions to wait so the doctor's office could schedule it. After a week of hearing nothing, I scheduled it myself. But when I called to tell them that I'd scheduled it myself, the nurse was annoyed that I had circumvented their usual routine. Oh, I kept the MRI on my schedule, but I still have to wait until this next Friday. Had I already told you that the orthopedic surgeon's office forgot about me for more than a week? I did? Oh, sorry. I'm repeating myself.

Last night, I dreamed that I was floating in the ocean, wishing I could swim fast enough to cross paths with the cruise ship that I'd fallen out of. They had this game where I was supposed to jump really high at the same time that the captain gunned the engine and I was supposed to keep from falling out. Everyone on board was laughing as I rolled into the water and they left me in their wake.

So, this morning, I was still thinking about getting up to pee and to get my water, about thirty-five minutes after I first began to think about it when the phone rang. Remember the phone?

Well, by the time I wrestled with the blanket, threw the pillow onto the floor, kicked the recliner footrest until it clicked into place, levered myself into a standing position, and waited for the wave of dizziness to pass, someone was already speaking to my answering machine.

It was my doctor's office, the ones that first told me I needed an MRI, the ones that sent me to their orthopedic surgeon's office where I was left to wait it out for ten days before I finally scheduled my own MRI. It was them, the doctor who was supposed to care about me the most.

'Oh good,' I thought. 'They're calling to see how I am doing.' Relief washed over me as I thought that they might help me get the process moving more quickly to fix my shoulder.

"Hi!" a cheerful voice began before I could pick up the receiver. "This is Evergreen Family Medicine calling. We have received a notification letter from Xxxxx Gastroenterologists that it is time for you to have a colonoscopy. They tried to contact you but were unsuccessful. So would you please give them a call and schedule an appointment with them as soon as possible."

As my hand hung inches over the receiver, she hung up.

A colonoscopy. As soon as possible. Right.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, September 26, 2014

'Harris and Me' by Gary Paulsen

Sometimes I read children's books. There. I admitted it, my big secret. I am a closet children's book reader. So sue me.

Tonight, I pulled a book off Nick's shelf. There stood books that had waited for a couple years, books I doubt he'll ever read. It's a shame too. I read the first two chapters of Gary Paulsen's book, 'Harris and Me.' Oh man. I was hooked by the time old man Louie scarfed the first nine pancakes at breakfast. What this guy writes is alive. But I'm only Nick's mom and I can't make him like reading at this point. If I encourage him, he'll just think it's an attempt to educate him. Well, I am, but there's something else he's missing that I can't seem to get across.

I love to be so far into a story that my life peels away and I'm somewhere else. After reading a little bit of 'Harris and Me,' I'm solidly in my own childhood.

I'm living a lie. I'm not all grown up and living in a cultured neighborhood. I'm not. I'm still that kid who ran barefoot through the woods, the one who had a crush on her brother's best friend. I'm the kid who climbed trees and spit. I'm the kid who pressed melted tar with her big toe in the street to feel it squish. I'm the kid who poked a hog nosed snake with a stick to see him play dead. I swatted flies with a wire fly swatter while my grandma sat in the squeaky porch swing and grandpa talked so much that most of his cigarette hung precariously between his forefinger and thumb as ash almost an inch and a half long clung before it shook loose. If allowed, I would put five layers of jelly on my flaky biscuits. And yes, I even pulled six legs off a granddaddy long legs to see if it could walk on two like I did.

I love when any book makes me remember me more clearly. I needed that.

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Don't Read This - Too Much Complaining

Too quiet in here?

<crickets chirping>


<even the crickets are quiet.>

Bear with me. I'm hurt. I fell off my bike and hurt my shoulder. I got a big bruise on my leg that's purple, yellow, and green. It was heart-shaped until I walked around on it too much and it grew. Sometimes I think I should get a tattoo, but then I look at how my leg looks with these pretty colors and I realize that it would be a bad idea. My lumpy legs will never look good with a tattoo, even if it is heart-shaped.

I've gone to the doctor three times since last Friday. Finally, I had Mike look at my back under my shirt. There's something there, a strange rash that not one of the doctors caught when they 'examined' me. You'd think that at least one of the three would have looked under my shirt to find a strange rash that accompanied burning and itching there when I complained.

The big problem is that I can't raise my right arm. It hurts to have it high enough to type. At least the second doctor took an X-ray and he saw a zig-zag in my bone and a little shard floating out there. I don't like having floating bone shards or zig-zags where straight lines should be. He said I needed an MRI. That was Monday. This is almost Thursday. Why does it take so long to get an MRI? I'm just complaining because I can't use my right hand. Oh yes, I can write with my left if I go very slowly, and some of my letters come out backward like in kindergarten. I have trouble opening cans and with the way I feel, that's mostly what we're eating, stuff from cans. Chopping fresh vegetables? No way. It's not safe to be in the kitchen with me when I have a knife in my left hand. Mike is doing a lot of the cooking anyway. Still comes from cans with him. It hurts to carry a bag of groceries in my left hand when it's very heavy and I have to use muscles in both shoulders to heave it.

So, Mike is doing the shopping too. Besides, I'm too dizzy to drive. I almost hit the counter the other morning. That might have tattooed me with more pretty colors. Might have been the drugs the doctors prescribed. I don't like these drugs. I feel drugged. I hate feeling drugged. So I stopped taking them today. I'm back to Aleve, Tylenol, and ice. Much safer. My pharmacist said that one of the drugs can damage my kidneys if I take it for more than five days in a row. Neither the second or third doctors seemed to have much to say about that when I asked them.

I've been watching too much TV. I'm bored. Nova specials on Amazon Prime have been saving me. Mars, robotic cars, tornadoes, fractals. I love that stuff even when I'm dizzy. I finished reading three books last week. I reread the same paragraphs this week when I was on all the crazy pain meds, anti-inflammatories, and muscle relaxants. They made me fall asleep two or three times during one Nova special. I'm so bored, I'm sitting here typing even though it makes my shoulder ping and zing as my fingers move. Better stop.

I'm a mess. I fell down. No, I didn't break my hip. Yes, I can get up.

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dead Batteries, a Tunnel, and Falling Off My Seat

On Sunday, I fell down.

Fall down and go boom. Badaa boom. No, I'm okay ... mostly. The seat on Jill's bike was set too high and my headlamp decided to die right inside the tunnel. I had checked the batteries earlier in the morning, but they didn't decide to die until I was on Jill's bike with the seat set too high in the tunnel. Did I tell you about the tunnel?

The Snoqualmie Valley Trail has a tunnel up by Iron Horse State Park. It's so much fun. Even if you don't want to shuttle a car to Rattlesnake Lake and ride 21.5 miles, you can go through the tunnel and then turn around and go back. It's a great thing to do on a hot day because it's nearly 50 degrees inside the tunnel.

You really need a flashlight though, and spare batteries too.  I had spare batteries, but my headlamp didn't fail until I was just inside the tunnel. Doesn't that just suck?

Then, having borrowed a bike from Jill, one with fat tires because my bike has skinny tires and can't make it through gravel, I didn't get everything set up just right before everyone took off. Oh, I thought I did, but the seat was just a little bit too high and when I stopped in the dark to put new batteries into my headlamp, my toes just didn't connect with the ground properly and I went over. Dumped. Fell down and went boom. Big badaa boom.

Since I was close to the tunnel wall, I reached out with my hand, but it didn't really connect either but the wall managed to catch my upraised hand and I fell against the underside of my shoulder with my arm raised and hyper-extended it.

Now, I've been watching Nick put his hands together above his head and stretch his shoulders in what looks like an unnatural way. It works for him. It doesn't work so well for my 54 year old shoulders.

I also bruised my thigh. The handlebars, I think, grabbed a hunk of fat on the inside of my thigh above my left knee and twisted it.

Mike came back to see if I was okay.

I was mostly okay. I could feel where my shoulder hurt, but I could comfortably stretch it out to hold the handlebars. Jill has longer arms than I do, but I managed.

And the bruise on my thigh was just a bruise. It was even heart-shaped for a little while before it spread.

I decided to keep going. Hell, I had only biked a few hundred yards before I fell. I wanted to go the whole distance. I did. I figured I could turn back in a mile or two if I didn't feel well enough to keep going.

This is biking at its best, for a novice biker, anyway. Twenty-one and a half miles of gentle down hill. I barely had to pedal. It was fun. Oh, my leg ached when I hit bumps and the fat on my leg jiggled, but I've had bruises before. This was a simple bruise. And my shoulder didn't hurt much at all while I reached out for those handlebars.

After a while, I think I got a hit of endorphins because I just felt so good, except for my jiggly bruise and my sore shoulder. I chatted with my friend Suzanne the whole way down the mountains. I think she felt bad because I fell and she didn't come back to see if I was okay. Oh, they all waited at the end of the tunnel and having that many people stopped inside the tunnel would have been a mess, but I'm glad Mike did. It's one of the things I love about Mike. He checks to see if people are okay. 

He was more worried about my bruise. "It's a nasty bruise," he said.

"It's just a bruise," I said. "I'm more worried about my shoulder."

"Do you want to go back?"

"No, I'm going to go on and see if I need to turn around in a mile or two." I really wanted to do this ride. I have always wanted to ride down a mountain. I did it once in Montana. Mike drove me to the top of Sun mountain and I rode to the bottom on my bike. It was no fun though. I spent the whole time holding onto the brakes and trying not to skid out around the switchbacks. If you want to ride your bike down a mountain, Iron Horse State Park is your ride. Just bring your Discovery Pass for your cars.

The rest of the ride was uneventful. Really. Lunch on a sunny day. Cold spots of air and warms spots flowing down the mountain sides. Bridges over gullies. People with dogs. Walkers. Intrepid uphill bikers. Climbers on one section of vertical rock. More dogs, and at the end, when we turned off the trail to get to the Rattlesnake Lake trailhead, people with dogs and inner tubes and swim suits and hot dogs and canoes. Oh, it was a lovely day.

And then, when we got home, the endorphins wore off and I could feel my shoulder and my jiggly bruise. I took Aleve and Tylenol. I iced both places. I worried a little until Mike and I went through his way of diagnosing my symptoms. Mild pain in my shoulder. Soreness and stiffness when I raised my arm. No bumps. I looked pretty even. He told me to rest it for a couple of weeks, ice it, and take anti-inflammatories. So I did.

Yesterday, I stayed on the couch most of the day. I felt bad enough that when I needed a drink, I thought about it for about a half hour before I got up. Ice, Tylenol, and Aleve. I was pretty good but I was sore, really sore.

This morning, I felt just well enough to use the computer. I love WebMD. It's a way to go to the doctor without having any copays, without having to get an X-ray, and without having to explain the stupid thing I did to get myself into this mess. I used the symptom checker. It came up with exactly the same diagnosis that Mike did. Isn't he smart?

Now, I need to rest, take my anti-inflammatories, and ice my shoulder and my jiggly bruise.

I guess I'm not going to Costco today.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Learning When to Say No

Sometimes a small job generates its own work. I volunteered to help some Boy Scouts with the Citizenship in the Community merit badge. This is not an easy merit badge. Oh, it started all simple and stuff.  I printed some copies of the requirements and the worksheets and we started banging away at them at a meeting. The best part was getting the boys to understand that you can be a decent person, have a job, pay taxes, follow the laws, and even vote and not be an exceptional citizen. They finally started telling me about coaches who had gone out of their way to help their teams and kids who had been good leaders when others were making mistakes. These people were heroes.

I had started out with a zombie apocalypse theme that seemed to fit most of the requirements. Hey, if the CDC can do for hazards preparedness, why can't I? Zombies were people who broke the laws, stole things, littered, or dealt drugs to school kids. Non-zombies were ordinary people who did their jobs, paid taxes, and sent their children to school. Operatives were the heroes who volunteered their time and energy, the police officers, teachers, and fire fighters who's jobs put them on the line every day. At the first meeting, we talked about who a hero was and  how zombies could affect schools,  libraries, and hospitals. We even talked about whether zombies have rights! I thought it was fun.

The next week, I planned to talk about how we would begin to rebuild our community after the apocalypse. We would figure out what services were critical, like police, libraries, and fire departments, and what places needed to be protected, like the hospital, the schools, and the natural resources like our river. But, a wrench got thrown into the works. An almost completely different set of boys showed up. So, we spent a bunch of time catching the new kids up and suddenly, when one boy said the zombie thing was stupid, the air let out of my balloon. I let them vote on how they wanted me to present the information. It seemed to be unanimous. Straight up, no chaser. The zombies were out.

After the meeting, I walked out with a Scout who had joined us even though he had already done this merit badge. "Boy, I wish somebody had done this merit badge using a zombie apocalypse when I did mine," he said. It made me feel better. I had been about to go home with my tail between my legs because the zombie approach failed. Maybe it didn't fail completely. Well, it did, really, but at least one guy appreciated my effort.

Next, I organized a trip to a city council meeting and a few totally different kids showed up. Plus, I started getting emails from Scouts who hadn't shown up for the first two meetings and wanted to start working on the merit badge in the middle, with the city council meeting, except that they couldn't make it to this city council meeting.

I'm not sure how far back to go with these new kids. So far, I have about six Scouts who have done everything except the service hours and the interview. And there are three who haven't really started and have expressed some interest, or at least their dads have. Finally, there are three or four dads who wanted the paperwork. Are they going to earn the merit badge, I wondered? Where do I draw the line?

I've decided. I don't. I'll keep working on this until all of the boys who express an interest have been given the most of the same opportunities I gave the first six Scouts.

Oh, I'm not done yet. At this meeting, the mayor encouraged me to get the boys enrolled into a seven week course the city offers that covers some of the same material that we had already covered and then some. And then a lot, actually. Its a course that's geared toward adults. It's an hour and a half each week plus an all day Saturday class. It's seven weeks long! My boys were having trouble staying awake for an hour and a half council meeting. My Scouts are back in school six hours a day.

How do you say 'No, thank you' to the mayor?

I'm really not in this to torture kids.

Then afterward the meeting, two of the speakers offered to present their information to the boys in person. In more detail? With a different perspective? One of them said we could drive into Seattle to meet with her. Oh, how do I tell these enthusiastic and dedicated people that most of the boys are in middle school, that they barely understood what was presented the first time and a repeat probably wouldn't be necessary or appreciated. I tried to indicate that I was interested. Carbon footprints? New trails to hike? Heck yeah, I'm interested. Yet I already can't keep up with all of the things I'm interested in volunteering my time for. I have a responsibility to these Scouts plus a few more and I'm trying to help them with a merit badge.

It was supposed to be simple.

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, September 8, 2014

Go LL Bean!

So, I talked to my credit card company yesterday about my claim against the Sixt Rental Car company.

This was a woman whose specialty is managing credit card disputes. What a nice woman. Whenever I've talked to these employees, they are outgoing and helpful. I get off the phone and I'm actually happy. How do you do that when you're talking to someone about misuse of your credit card?

Have I ever told you that I love LL Bean?

Well, I do. My husband and I visited Freeport, Maine after we honeymooned for six days in a canoe along the Alagash waterways. That was twenty two years ago. We were tired, happy, and ready to start our new lives together. Somehow, we both agreed that we wanted to decorate our house in a cabin theme. Canoe bookshelves, a green and tan futon, a green Waterford wood stove. Oh, it was going to be beautiful. The only problem with what we wanted to buy in Freeport at the main LL Bean store was how we would get everything home. By the time we left there, our suitcases and the new suitcase we bought were all stuffed tight.

We also came home with new LL Bean credit cards. Do you remember those days, when every department store offered you 15% off your purchase when you opened a new account? Well, our LL Bean credit card is the only remnant of those days. We buy things on credit and we get coupons for free clothing. I'm wearing three very comfortable articles of LL Bean clothing as we speak.

So, we've also worked with the LL Bean credit card company for a while now. These people are totally proactive about misuse of our credit. The Target kerfuffle? New cards were sent before we found out we were involved. Someone used our number at They guessed it wasn't us and let us know. It was a funny conversation when I called to see what was up. I had to get off the phone with the 'lost and stolen' people and actually ask Mike if he had, by any strange coincidence, used the services of to match him with another woman. Then, when I got the same LL Bean representative on the phone after that awkward call, we both laughed until I cried a little.

So, I love the help I've gotten from my LL Bean credit card people.

Yesterday was no different. I needed to confirm that a letter I sent was received. At first, the woman was very professional, but then she remembered that she'd already talked to me and she relaxed a little. Do you know what she said?

She said that she hoped that it worked out in my favor because the outrageous cost of the extra insurance for this rental car from Sixt was something that nobody should have to worry about when they are traveling. Even when I told her again that I had indeed signed a contract with those numbers but that I hadn't calculated the cost in my head, she said the fact that the company hadn't been explicit in discussing the extraordinary cost with me should be enough for me to get a refund. That's what she said.

She told me she was on my side!

Go LL Bean!

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Remembering Grief

Mike didn't sleep on Friday night after beginning a new medication. When I awoke, rested and curious about why his pillow had migrated to the couch, he told me that he hadn't slept, not one moment.

My breath went. I went into the kitchen to make breakfast and tried not to cry. A weight settled on my soul. I remembered that same feeling after my dad had died when I was thirteen. I would wake in the morning refreshed and as I got my wits about me, I would remember and a weight would descend on my heart. My breath would become shallow.

Grief is heavy.

The thing is that I hadn't realized just how hard it had been the first time Mike went through this. We just did what we needed to do. The summer days changed, became more quiet. If there was the slightest possibility that Mike was falling asleep, I shushed anyone in the house and turned down any lights. At any hour, we were prepared to go silent. Mike missed a few weeks of work, didn't drive safely, and couldn't decide simple things like what he wanted for dinner, let alone anything important.

He held my hand.

He didn't want to be left alone.

We were all afraid of what his sleeplessness could do. The list was frightening. The whole family felt the effects. After seeing three doctors and getting some help, Mike slowly began to sleep. After a month, he'd average two or three hours of sleep. When he got up to four hours, he went back to work and managed, though he didn't thrive there for a long while. After six months, he announced that he'd gotten six hours of sleep and I wanted to throw a party. Who would come to a party like that if they didn't know what it meant to us? We didn't care. We were happy. All I wanted was more of my ordinary life with this man. Was that asking for so much?

It took almost a year for Mike to get seven hours of sleep and he would occasionally get eight. His remaining doctor called his condition adrenal shock. It had a name.

And I very nearly forgot what that time in our lives was like. Nearly.

Until yesterday morning.

Thankfully, Mike slept last night. Oh, I don't think he got eight hours of sleep, but he said he rested. That translates to at least six hours of sleep.

Today, I'm breathing again.

Thank you for listening, jb