Thursday, February 27, 2014

Six Point Three Seven Miles, a Country Song, and Losing My Memory

RunKeeper, an app on my iPhone told me that I walked 6.37 miles today. That 0.07 is important, you know. It's about the distance across the parking lot. Usually when it shows a total that big, it means that I forgot to turn off the app and have jumped into my car to drive home. On those days, it appears that I walked very fast, very fast indeed. Today, when it showed my total, it told me I walked a mile in about 27 minutes. That included picking up Teddy's excrement, taking pictures on the trestle, hooking Teddy up to the leash for passing bikers, watching some rocks coming down in the slide zone, and a few minutes standing around while a Douglas Squirrel teased Teddy from a low branch of a Western Hemlock. I know. It's still a pathetic speed to have walked.

I wasn't out to make a speed-walk record though. I just wanted to be outside with Teddy. In fact, I hadn't intended to go that far. I just didn't feel like turning around when I usually do on that stretch of the Snoqualmie Valley Trail.

After the first mile during which we met up with a couple of friendly mountain bikers, I got to singing. Teddy kept looking at me like I was strange. I'd like to tell him that I am strange, but I was outside, very nearly alone, so when I felt like singing, I sang.

All at once, during a break in my sound track, a song popped into my head, a whole refrain. It was my song.

Oh no. I am not going to put that onto you. No. I'm still trying to figure out if I should apologize for the kid's Zebra poem I posted the other day. Really, I am sorry about that. I just had a picture book appear in my head that day and I pressed 'publish' before I realized the remorse that would occur the next morning when I woke up and remembered what I had done. No, I hadn't been drinking. Isn't that sad? At least, if I'd been drinking, I'd have had an excuse for giving you a zebra poem. I have no good excuses. None.

So I'm not going to give you lyrics to my song. I will tell you that it was a country and western song. Yeah. That. I hardly ever listen to country music. I have no idea why these things are popping up in my conscious mind. Let's just say that it might be related to the source of the zebra poem. Maybe Alzheimer's disease may be setting in and this is its manifestation. I could use that as an excuse. I could.

My song then became an ear worm, repeating and repeating, in this case out loud as I worked on the verses.

It got pretty monotonous. I'm a terrible song writer, so don't go thinking that I've got a hit on my hands. I don't.

But then 'Momma' appeared in the song. Oh, that's what it was all about. I can tell you that in addition to zebra poems and lyrics to country and western songs, you do not want to hear stories about my 'momma.' I have to tell you that I hate it when my subconscious is trying to work something out, something from which I have never healed and, despite my repeated attempts to push it back down, it bubbles up.

This time, it bubbled up in the form of a country and western song. Really? Really?

So, the next time Teddy looked at me and glared, I put the kibosh on the singing. Quiet was good. Yes, quiet was very nice.

By then, I'd reached the trestle and I got to stand up on the edge and cling to the fence while I tried to get a decent picture with my iPhone. It was a little dizzying, thrilling with the feeling I was going to drop my iPhone. I like heights though. I like that zing I get when I look down a great distance and wobble a little with the effect. After a while, I realized a good photo wasn't going to happen. Oh, I know people who can take great photos with their iPhones, but I am not one of them. I blame the iPhone, but I know the truth down deep. I have no clue how to take a good picture.

Then, for some reason, I couldn't make myself turn around. I'd always turned around at the trestle and I knew the trail had a disjoint near Tokul Creek road. The trestle ran across Tokul Creek, so I must be pretty close to the end, right?

Just about the time I hit the three mile mark on RunKeeper, I got to Tokul Creek road. There was a tunnel under the road made out of corrugated aluminum. This place was great!

Someone had made a beautiful graffiti near one end. It looked different when you looked at it straight on as opposed to looking at it at an angle. I don't think the artist took good advantage of that change in perspective, but it was neat anyway. Wouldn't it have been cool to see a totally different picture from the different angles?

Then, I opened my mouth again. Teddy looked at me with alarm, as if to say, "No, not again."

Yes, Teddy, it was time to sing. Thankfully, I left my number one hit country and western song in my back pocket and sang a little jazzy thing to hear the ringing in the tunnel. The corrugated metal gave it a twanging reverb after my last note. I loved that effect.

Am I the only one who likes to sing in parking garages?

This was better.

And best of all, there wasn't a soul around to hear me. I could really sing out. Then Teddy looked up with a pained expression on his face. Maybe there was one soul to hear, one with ears that didn't appreciate that twanging reverb so much.

It was time to go back. I looked at RunKeeper which said I'd gone a little more than three miles. Crap! My feet suddenly hurt. Couldn't I get somebody to pick me up at Tokul Creek road? I was only half done with my walk.

I shambled back the way I came, trying to change my number one hit country and western song that was still running through my head to something more reasonable. Ear worms don't listen to reason. They don't.

By the time I made it back, I was going to get home an hour late, had sent a dozen texts to Mike about my how much further I still had to walk, and even Teddy was tired. Thankfully, my song had managed to disappear forever in the misty parts of my mind.

There may be advantages to losing my memory after all.

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Rhinestone Cougar

For Valentine's Day, Nick gave me a necklace. I remember that he'd bought something for me at the zoo because he asked me a bunch of questions about the animal I liked the best that day and he borrowed money at the gift shop. I had no idea what he bought for me.

So, on Valentine's Day, Nick gave me this necklace, a wild cat made out of rhinestones.  It looks like a cougar.

I love seeing the cougars, lions and jaguars at the zoo. I think that's what I told him that day. We had spent a lot of time watching the lions. They'd just been fed and they sat at the window with great knobs of bone torn from some unknown creature. They played after that, being full-sized cubs of a mother who barely tolerated their exuberance.

I really did like watching them. Their antics were fascinating.

But today, as I got dressed, I saw that rhinestone cougar on my dresser. I hadn't worn it except for Valentine's Day. I hadn't even worn it that whole day.

I'm not a rhinestone kind of girl. I'm not.

It's hard to put this necklace on, it's so not my style.

But what do you do? If your thirteen year old boy got you a present without ever having to be reminded, you wear that present whenever you think of it. You try to wear that present whenever you think about it. It's a lovely present. It really is.

I hope it doesn't tell any strangers on the street that I'm a cougar. I really don't want to be a cougar, especially not a rhinestone one.

So, if you see me on the street, don't snigger. Just don't. Especially if Nick is with me. It's a lovely present. It really is.

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, February 20, 2014

You Can't Unsee That

I have a friend on Facebook who regularly posts photos of abused dogs. It disturbs me a great deal. I've tried to hide as many of the sites as I can without unfriending her, but new ones slip through all the time. She posts as many as six of them every single day.

Why would I want to avoid this sort of unpleasantness? Don't I need to see it so that I can be indignant and do my part to battle against it?

The problem lies with the images. As the saying goes, I can't unsee those horrifying images. I want to be a woman who stands up against evil, but I don't want to introduce these images into my mind over and over after a casual experience on Facebook. Sometimes, when I first wake up in the morning, it takes me a while to sort out the carnage of those photos that hang in my memory from the night before, waiting for me to take up arms and battle them. I have to remember that it is not an occurrence from my daily life, that it was something I saw on the Internet. I have to work to remember that my life is good and basically healthy and that my dog and cat are safe and comfortable. From there, I think of my friends and acquaintances. Nope. They and their pets are not in danger either. So then, how am I supposed to fight against this unknown enemy?

That's the problem with this barrage of carnage. How can I achieve awareness and effect change without the recurrence of those horrifying images?

Years ago, I watched a news clip of people torturing an American soldier in Somalia. You probably know about that incident. They showed that clip in the news for four days. They made a movie about it. That twenty second image has stayed with me all these years and I still try to figure out how to manage what I saw then. I can't unsee what I saw. Maybe I'm not supposed to. That was news. Yet, how many times did I need to see it?

I've avoided watching the news since then. There's a sensationalism at work in the way news is presented and I don't want to support it, not in the news regarding American soldiers and not on the Internet regarding abused animals. I don't let Nick watch much news and even then, I'm pretty careful to sit him in front of CNN where news is presented in a more classical style. Don't you miss Walter Cronkite? I do. Nick and I have talked about this and when the storm hit the Philippines and the images started rolling in, he warned me not to watch too much television about it. He warned me. Sweet guy.

I had told him about how I'd been glued to the television for weeks after the bombing of the Twin Towers. Apparently, when a person watches the same news clip over and over again, the human mind has difficulty understanding that the event is not happening again and again and again. I've read psychologists analysis of this sort of thing, experts who warn that children should be shielded from seeing horrifying events repeated in the news. What about me? Doesn't my mind need to be shielded too?

So there you have it. I want to help. I really do. But how am I supposed to help this dog that was rescued in El Paso, Texas or Bean Blossom, Indiana or Sochi? I want to be aware of the events in the world, even to see some of the images of it so I can really begin to understand what happened.

But I don't want to fill my mind with gore every time I sit down to catch up with my friends on Facebook. I can help the local friend whose back went out by shopping and making a meal for her family. I can't bring home every dog who has been abandoned or abused in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Windows to the Soul

Damn! I was nearly ready to sleep, but the cat, Seth, jumped abruptly off my lap. Within five minutes, while I contemplated the energy it would take to get up and brush my teeth, he came back up the stairs with a mouse in his mouth.

I could tell the thing was still alive by the way it stayed so still. Its tail stuck straight out and its eyes were squeezed shut. I could only hope Seth held onto it while I ran into the kitchen to look for something to catch it with. My juicer was the first thing I pulled off the shelf.

Really? A juicer?

I ran back into the kitchen and tried again. All I had that had a nearly flat lid was a shallow plastic container that had held cheap ham when I had bought it. It really was a good size for sandwiches. I hated to use it. I paused, grabbed a matching lid and ran into the sewing room where Seth has let loose live mice before. Seth sat hunched in the corner of the room, the mouse still in his mouth, eyeing me.

I bent my knees, put my elbows out, and leaned over like a football player about to start a play. I had the bottom of the container in one hand and the lid in the other. I was ready.

The cat wouldn't give.

He looked at me. Yes, I'd been the one who lost the mice the last five times after he caught them. Yes, I'd chased after him yelling what I'd hoped would be encouragement as he caught them again. Yes, I'd torn whole rooms apart trying to unearth the poor creatures. Yes, I'd nearly whopped Seth on the backside trying to get a good blow in on a mouse with my grandpa's walking stick. Yes, I admit it. I was the weak link here.

I dropped the lid onto the floor and freed my left hand. I petted Seth and told him that he was a good boy, a very good boy. Through my teeth, I told Teddy, the excited dog, to back up, back up, back up.

While I was looking at Teddy, Seth dropped the mouse.

This time, instead of watching for that half-second while the mouse took a breath, I pounced. Seth nearly nodded in satisfaction. I might have been a slow student, but I was learning. I popped that ham container right down on top of Seth's mouse before it had a chance to flip onto its feet. Its head hit the container where I held it. I resisted the urge to jump out of the way. I pressed the plastic into the carpet. The mouse dug frantically at the edges. I took a deep breath.

This is where I'd failed so many times before. I'd have it in my grasp, so to speak, and it would see a tiny opening and escape.

Seth stared at my hands as if to say 'steady, steady.'

I lifted one corner just a bit so I could slide the little red lid underneath. Easy does it. The mouse pressed its nose into the opening. I didn't want to smash a nose or a toe. I got the lid most of the way across, but just as the lid and the container were just about lined up, something caught.

You'd think I was docking NASA's Challenger at the international space station.

I was going to have to lift the container just a little more before I could press the two pieces together and get that vacuum seal. I lifted, just not enough. I lifted again and it still didn't line up. That nose was right there, gauging his shoulder width and possibilities of escape. I lifted one more time and there I had it. I clicked all four corners into place.

Then I put it down so that both Teddy and Seth could look at the creature. Its eyes were open now. It had big ears, a sleek gray coat with a white belly. One foot tried to dig out of the plastic and it made a little vibrating sound.

How long did it take a mouse to chew its way out of a plastic ham container?

It wasn't chewing yet. That one foot kept a fast drum beat on the lid.

Now that it was caught, it was cute. I wanted to look at its tiny feet. It didn't look injured, but how was I to know? Adrenaline could make many an injured mouse look alert and alive. Those bright brown eyes were beautiful as he looked back at me. Is it true that the eyes are the mirror of the soul?  If I hadn't seen four or five new droppings, I would have thought he was relaxed about his situation.

I considered making him into a pet. My brother has field mice that he's captured and made into pets. One word always stops me: hantavirus. My brother lives in an area that doesn't have the hantavirus. I'm not willing to take that chance. I considered keeping him overnight so Nick could look at him in the morning. Nick would absolutely love him. Nick would name him. I resisted the urge.

I didn't want to take him out of his ham container and I knew that a mouse could chew its way out of the plastic while I slept. Besides, I thought as I wandered around the house looking for an alternate container, I'd probably lose him trying to get the poor guy into something more secure. The only thing for us was to take a drive.

Did you really think I was going to be able to kill the poor thing after all of that soulful eye contact? Mike and I have tried that. It's just hard. Once, Mike tried to drown a mouse, but his soft heart broke as he looked at the little guy scrabbling up the side of the container as it filled with water. Mike has no problem with his rat zapper in the garage, but it's harder to look a creature in the eye and kill it. Nick had a vision of hunting with his dad and shooting an elk, but I can tell you that Mike just doesn't want to do it. Oh, he'd do it if we were hungry or if creatures were getting into our food supplies, but he's generally not a warrior type. So, I got my keys from the top of the cabinet. I picked up my wallet and shoved it into my pocket too.

Then, I had a thought. Both Teddy and Seth had followed me around as I gathered my stuff and put on my coat. Seth surely deserved a treat for this bold capture. I got the alligator snacks out of the pantry. On a whim, I had bought these snacks from Petco that were made out of real alligator meat. Even Seth liked them. I gave one to Seth. I gave two to Teddy since he was such a good sport and very excited about Seth's victory. Then, I put one in the palm of my hand as I put the container away. Boy those things stink. I knew that I'd regret holding that tiny treat in my hand later when I tried to fall asleep. Even after I've washed my hands, I could still smell those things.

I let Teddy out the door and we both jumped into the car. My mouse in the plastic ham container sat in the passenger seat. I imagined him, as I sat in the glow of the dashboard, finding a way to escape and living in my car for the rest of his life. I turned on the dome as I drove to look at him. Still there. Still trying to dig his way out with that little rat-a-tat sound. I turned off the dome light.

I did not want his little face popping up out of the heating vent while I drove. I'd probably go off the road in surprise.

I decided to drop him off between the Little League field and the horse barn. There was lots of tall grass there and he'd never make the distance back to my house. I resisted the urge to turn the dome light on and look at him again. The smell of the alligator treat in my hand made me a little nauseous along with that word hantavirus. I'd handled the outside of the container. Was that all it took to contact the disease?

I turned off the main road. The gate across the Little League parking lot was locked. I stopped in the middle of the side road and opened my door. Made it. I left my car running and considered whether I should let Teddy out to watch while I released my captive. I was too close to the highway. Plus, my mouse had probably had enough excitement for one night. It was cold out too, nearly freezing. I felt bad about dropping him outside in this weather.

I put the alligator treat down at the edge of the grass. Who knows if some other tiny creature who lived in that long grass didn't instantly awake and smell an exotic and wonderful smell? I figured it was a consolation prize for my little mouse. My house was indeed a wonderful, warm place to make my nest. It had food, heat, and a clean supply of water. I don't share that with the hantavirus, not even in the name of a cute little mouse.

Then, I tilted the plastic ham container and hoped my mouse wouldn't bite me on his way out. He didn't. He fell about four inches, leaped up, twisted around, I saw a flash of his tail, and he was gone. I wondered if he'd run so far away that he'd lose his snack. I hoped he wouldn't. That food would help him keep warm, I reasoned. I've had mice stand there and stare at me for a while when I freed them. One time it seemed as though one little mouse wanted to come back in the car with me. It never did run. This guy didn't wait that long.

We might have had a moment as I looked at him through the translucent plastic, but it was over. He was a Little League mouse from now on.

"Good luck," I said and turned and got back into my car.

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Art Versus Cleaning for the Modern Mom

I cleaned the kitchen. I did laundry. I made beef stew and chicken noodle soup. In a little while, I'm going to leave my sick boy and take Teddy for a walk. When I get home, I may make steak and vegetable pies. Nick loves steak and vegetable pie. Can you tell I need a project?

I hate when Nick is sick for too many days in a row. Yesterday, I think I was sick too. I didn't do a thing. I just slept. Sometimes I can't tell if I'm sick or just tired. Oh man, do you know how you grow up hearing your mother's voice ringing in your ear? I just heard an echo of her voice say, "I am sick and tired ..." Well then.

Today, I have more energy, almost the kind of energy that a tiger has in a small cage. I'm pacing. I should get a good project going and that would help. The house is due for a rummage sale. I'm not sure that was the kind of project I had in mind. I'd rather paint a terrible picture of the cat. There's always a battle between the stuff I want to do, like quilting and terrible art, and the stuff I need to do, like painting the walls and boxing up stuff that I don't need any more and hauling it away. I love painting bad art, but I hate painting walls. Why is that? I have a storage area filled with odds and ends that I feel the urge to pack up and donate to the thrift shop. I give the thrift shop some good stuff. I really do. Sometimes I give them new stuff, with tags still on them.

As I've gotten older, the nature of gifts has changed. My house is full. I have most of what I need. The rest of what I need is specific, so even Mike gets it wrong sometimes and he's paying attention. At least with Mike, I could exchange it if I want to. My mother has no clue how to buy for me any more. I feel bad about that. Am I picky? I think maybe I am, coddled by years of getting just what I want and exchanging what I don't. People ask me how much something cost and I can't tell them. I have no clue. I don't look at prices. Spoiled. I will tell you, though, that I'm not a shopper by nature. Mike is more of a shopper than I am, so when I say I want something, he usually nods his head. Usually. Don't ask me why it took him two years and a lot of back aches to agree to get me a new mattress. The other reason I'm not a shopper is that my house is filling up. I have a problem with art. I love having new art on my walls, but I already have good art, too much art. People tell me I should buy more art and rotate it. Usually the people who tell me that are good artists who want to sell me that painting that I love. I agree with them, but I don't have good storage either. It's all filled up. So, I have a plan to give away something. I figure I should spread the joy.

There's a cute little thrift shop in town now, with a sense of style. I'll go there first. I want to support this woman. She's sweet. That's the nature of living in a small town. I know the owner of the food market too. When I asked for Greek yoghurt, he stocked it. At this point, I prefer to shop there. When I walk in, they smile and say hello. It's real, not just an automatic thing they're supposed to say. There's one woman who asks me what I'm cooking for dinner. Or I ask her. Sometimes, if she says lasagna, that idea sits in my mind until, a few days later, when she asks me again, I give her the answer she gave me days ago. I wonder if she notices that. I don't mind if she does. I can tell she's a good cook, though she's more of an expert on comfort foods. Tater tot casserole. Oh man, I loved her tater tot casserole, but I have to be careful because I can't eat very much tater tot casserole. Still, it's nice to live in a place where you can walk into a shop at 7:45 in the morning after you've dropped off your kid at school and you get to jaw with people in your pjs while they stock shelves. I've solved quite a number of parenting problems in my pjs on those mornings.

Well, I'm off for a nap. Yup, that energy just hit the afternoon lull. I hate the afternoon lull, but I read that taking a short nap was good for your heart. I have to be good to my heart, don't I?

Nick is watching 'The Rabbids' on television. I love that show. Mike doesn't get it, but I love it, a bunch of animated bunnies who don't talk but get themselves into trouble. Today, they're painting and playing the piano. Here's where I could get into trouble, watching television when I'm tired and never quite feeling rested all afternoon. 

So much for my big project. Welcome to my world.

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Good Valentine's Day Gift

Twenty-seven years ago, Mike sent me a dozen roses. I was in love. That Valentine's Day, he cooked me a meal, sat with me on the kitchen counter of a friend's house where he was house sitting, and told me he'd make a great husband.

He was right.

I've gotten lots of roses over the years. Back in the nineties, I told him to spend the $80 on something besides roses. I figured he could bring me roses for $20 any other day. He got me an Ansel Adams print of Half Dome. I loved it. It still hangs in our living room, a testament of some kind. Mike is as solid as that rock.

So, this year, I told him things I thought I needed, more notebooks, pens. I've forgotten all the junk I told him. In the past few years, I told him I only wanted him to make cherry pie. Dammit, I can't eat cherry pie any more. It's a bummer, but it's the truth, so I try to ask for other stuff, stuff I might buy for myself anyway if I were out shopping.

So, I wasn't sure what to expect on the actual Valentine's Day. Mike and I value our relationship. We do. I want him to take note of Valentine's Day, but I don't want him to spend $120 on a dozen roses that will surely be wilted and black in a week. I don't want diamonds either. Not my idea of a good time. Mike had a wedding ring designed for me and that has meaning. He's bought me some cool necklaces and earrings over the years, and I wear my grandma's wedding ring on another finger, but I am not overly interested in diamonds.

So last weekend, Mike and Nick went swimming with the Boy Scout Troop, but I needed to take Teddy out on a long walk. Teddy hadn't walked in a couple of days. He was jittery with excess energy. After procrastinating a couple of hours, I went off to my new favorite place - the trail head I'd seen on Sunset way in Issaquah. The first part of the trail is 0.26 miles of up. It's up enough that I've been getting some elevation training, but not so much up that I feel defeated. It connects to the Lake Tradition trails and I can head up to Poo Poo Point, an elevation test, if I feel ambitious. Otherwise, I can hike Brinks Trail along a ridge, Round Lake trail, yes, around Round Lake, or take the Bus trail to the Issaquah High School parking lot.

That day, I wandered around Round Lake, which was encrusted with ice. I got cold just looking at it. I had gotten too warm and a little sweaty from that first rise. The problem with getting sweaty when you hike in the winter is that when you slow your exertion, you can actually chill because your clothing gets soaked, especially if you wore cotton like I did that day. By the time I got to Round Lake, I was chilled.

My first mistake was that I let myself get cold. I hadn't brought any more layers because I don't like my pack. It's built for someone wider than I am and it keeps slipping off my left shoulder. Being more of a book bag, it doesn't have a chest clip. I love that backpack in most ways. Remember that it was the one I retrieved from the time people broke into my car? I had washed it, cleaned out the broken glass, and gone back to using it like a great big purse. It had everything in it. It was nearly ready for a three day trip wherever I went, just needing a change of clothes and a couple more books to complete its contents. The only thing I didn't like about my backpack was backpacking with it. So I had gotten into the habit of hiking without it, jamming my pockets with my iPhone, gloves, a hat, a packet of peanut butter, my keys, and my wallet. I didn't care that I looked ridiculous. I was comfortable.

Then, the pockets of my favorite jacket got stretched out and stuff has been falling out of them. I learned to fold my gloves and tuck them in. I lost at least three pair of earbuds and a Chapstick. My wallet slid out once, thankfully slapping the floor when I bent over so that I didn't actually lose it. My hip started to hurt when I tried carrying that fat little wallet in my back pocket. My tiny purse was too small for extra stuff and, having a single long strap, made my back ache when I walked very far wearing it, so I got into the habit of shoving it under the front seat of my car and shoving my wallet into my pocket. I just kept checking my stretched out pockets and hiked that way anyway. It was the easiest way.

Being the Scoutmaster's wife, I figured, if I included the packet of peanut butter, I had six of the ten essentials. Nick had quizzed me one day. Four of those ten were apps on my iPhone, a map, a compass, a light, and an emergency contact. Did I ever tell you how much I love my iPhone? I did? Oh, right. Well.

So, there I was, wearing all my layers and realizing that hat and gloves weren't quite a whole layer, one of the ten essentials, seeing that I was still cold. Plus, it had begun to rain. I'd left my big red rain jacket in my car. Brilliant. I could see why that was one of the ten essentials, especially in the Pacific Northwest.

Then, I realized that, by using the Runkeeper app on my iPhone to check my distance, I was running down my battery. I'd walked nearly three miles and it was getting dark. I started to realize that my flippant answer to Nick's question about packing my ten essentials, that I had four of them on my iPhone, might actually become a problem. If I depended upon my iPhone for my map, my compass, my flashlight, and emergency contact, I could run into trouble if I ran the battery down using Runkeeper to check my distance.

I had a great walk, yet, at 3.56 miles and 5:27 pm, my iPhone battery was nearly dead. I found the intersection to the trail and began to walk back down that 0.26 miles in near darkness, without using the LED light app on my iPhone.

I was thirsty too, really thirsty. I hadn't carried water either because it didn't fit easily into my pockets. There I was, a quarter of a mile from my car on a trail I didn't know very well. I was cold, wet, thirsty, and walking in the dark. Great. I'm married to the Scoutmaster and, if I got turned around on this network of trails or tripped over one of those roots, I was going down looking like a total idiot.

It might have been worse. I'd been wetter. I'd been colder. I'd walked in the dark, but usually on easier stretches of trail. And I'd been hungrier. That packet of peanut butter hadn't gone very far either.

I started to shiver as I walked very carefully down the steep trail, across roots, steps, and rocks. I didn't fall. Thankfully. When I finally got to my car, I breathed out a sigh of relief I hadn't realized I'd been holding. My car was the only one left in the parking lot. I got a bottle of water and an apple sauce pouch out of my backpack. I pulled a vest out of the compartment on the bottom that was so well hidden that I hadn't known it was there the first three years I had the pack. I put my rain jacket on too, useless against the wet of my cotton jacket, but still useful against the cold. Then, I got into my car and headed home.

Taking a walk around this area can be tricky. It all looks so nice, pretty trees, graveled trails at least at first, parking lots at the edge of a town I knew very well. But a lot of these trails connect to a real wilderness. The trails at High Point can easily lead to getting lost. I thought about a time I'd hiked around Lake Tradition for an extra hour when I'd gotten turned around on a power line trail. That time, I'd brought water and my lunch yet I was very thirsty when I was done. Yes, there's a difference between taking a walk and taking a hike, but those differences blurred because I could have walked eight or ten miles from where I started and I wasn't entirely sure whether some of the trails connected to longer ones.

I got home well after Mike and Nick did. Mike pretended not to have been worrying, but I told him how I'd come down that slope in the dark. I told him how I'd begun to shiver in my wet cotton jacket. I told him about how thirsty I'd gotten. I promised him then that I'd bring my old backpack with me when I took a walk with Teddy even though the strap drove me nuts when it repeatedly slipped off my left shoulder. He nodded and didn't say much.

For Valentine's Day, Mike got me a new day pack. It fits like a glove. For the last couple of days, I've worn it on my walks. I'm carrying food, water, my trusty red rain jacket that you can practically see from space, my vest and even my headlamp in case I come down that hill in the dark again.

Now see, that is way better than a lumpy old diamond any day. That snug little pack really tells me that Mike loves me and wants me to hang around a bit longer. What a nice Valentine's Day, don't you think?

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Zebra In the Snow

I'd love to have a zebra .
to play Marco polo in the snow.
He'd laugh amid bare branches.
I'd call to him soft and low.

I'd never see his body,
white stripes a camouflage.
But when he snorted happily
I'd stop and see him in an age.

He'd win each game of hide and seek.
He'd win at zombie tag.
I never had a chance to shoot
when we played army stag.

I could hardly ever see
the striped bandanna that he waved
I'm sure he won capture the flag
because he was a little bit afraid.

I could only win at hop scotch
when he'd topple on the ground,
his four hooves in just one square,
my balance finally found.

At sunset, he would snigger
that the game was still afoot
and I'd look into the darkness
and see ghosts stripes quivering up.

His stripes flipped inside out then.
He was white with black stripes too,
a game for him of vision.
Instead, can we play Clue?

Sometimes I wish I still had a little kid.

Thanks for listening, jb

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Olympic Crash and Burn for NBC

Dear NBC,

You have ruined the Olympics. Two and four years ago, you started messing with the sports we loved, blending different events until my husband and I were exhausted by staying up until midnight every night to finally see what we were most interested in. Eventually, you managed to satisfy us to some extent. At least we could switch to the Canadian channel when we couldn't see the whole picture. Or we could sit down at the computer and pull something up on the Internet.

This year is different. Your stupid domination is so complete that in the three days the Olympics have been on television, we haven't seen more than three minutes of programming we'd like to see. That's it. Three minutes. I'm sure we've watched ten times that much in commercials just trying to hang in there. You might call that a success, but it's not if we stop watching. Right? You're losing us here.

My husband and I like to watch figure skating. That's pretty much it. Oh, we'd watch curling and the biathlon if you managed to show them at any hour but 3:28am, but we'd be happy simply seeing the skating since you can't seem to cover much else of what's happening in Sochi.

First, you aired the men's short program the night before you advertised the Opening Ceremonies. Shoot, as far as I knew, the Opening Ceremonies was the beginning of the Olympics, so I didn't know that we had already missed a sixth of what we most wanted to see before things even started.

Then, you buried the women's short program this afternoon. We had no idea we were missing another sixth of our favorite part of the Olympics.

Tonight, at 7:00 pm, my husband dutifully sat down and started watching. Nothing. Oh, you've shown guys crashing on snow boards and people flouncing around, dancing, in ridiculous outfits on ice skates, but you didn't show him anything he wanted to see, so he went to bed. Done. Tried that. Three hours later, he was done. Cooked. Finished. Great job, NBC!

At some point, rather than give his full attention to the television, he got onto the computer. You did want his attention, didn't you? Lost it! He looked for the men's and women's short programs, the third of what we were really interested in, remember? He figured we could watch it somewhere on the Internet. Somebody, YouTube, maybe, would show some of the spectacular falls and surprising grace of figure skaters around the world. He couldn't find any of it on the computer. Anywhere.

We were willing to watch your damned commercials in order to see it, but where the hell is it?

He checked Xfinity On Demand, but you have your hooks into them as well and all we could get are two minute highlight clips. We want to watch the whole thing, not just a couple of the Americans or a famous Russian. You know, there are more than just two countries in this world. Have you checked the map lately?

Years ago, when we first started to watch the Olympics, we could sit down and see someone from Indonesia floundering on the ice. It was great! We could compare Russian skaters, Canadians, Japanese, and Chinese to each other and to the skaters from the United States. It was riveting. There was so much going on in our living room and it was all focused on that one television station.

Oh, there were a lot of commercials, but it we loved it and sat absolutely glued to the television. It was like having a Super Bowl party over a period of a week or so. We invited friends! Then, there was the analysis afterward. We even watched that. You had us, NBC. We watched falls and foibles over and over and over again. We loved it, commercials and all.

Four years ago, you started blending other sports together with what we really wanted to see. Our interest waned. We'd flip channels back and forth until a piece came on. We stopped inviting our friends over to watch The Olympics. We tried to see what was happening in other countries as you made them fade into the background. Then, it seemed as if there were only three or four countries and little content. Same volume of commercials, but we were stuck watching skiing, speed skating, and the luge. OH MY GOD! It was boring.

I have no idea what you're up to here. Are you systematically driving us away from watching the Olympics? Would you like us to simply give up and wish the athletes that we love all the best without ever seeing a single event?

Seems like it.

You need to know that it's 10:46 pm on Saturday night. My television is off. I don't intend to stay up until 12:53 in the morning to see my favorite part of the Olympics because you thought you could keep us hanging on, watching other crap, until then. In the past three and a half hours, I hadn't seen a single thing I sat down to watch. Why should I keep trying?

It's as if you've blended the Super Bowl, the NCAA final four championship, and the world ballroom dance championships into one event. Your avid Seahawks fans would tear down the pergola if you tried to make us sit through that shit. Well, they already did that, but you get my point.

You can't make us fans of downhill skiing if we aren't. You can't keep our attention during snowboarding. You can't expect us to begin to enjoy ice dancing if we don't. You're right up against losing your entire fan base in this house.

Is that really what you want to accomplish?

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Being Too Sick to Skip School for the Seahawks Parade

Nick is at home with the flu. I've put things on hold and have been at home with him. Tomorrow morning, I head out and I'll leave him to be home and sick by himself while I go to a meeting. The problem with him being sick tomorrow is that the Seahawks parade is also tomorrow and everybody is going. I mean everybody. One parent guessed that three quarters of the student body will be out of class tomorrow. Wow!

One school district told their kids to go have a good time. Nick's school actually sent out an announcement that tomorrow is an academic day and that, despite what parents think, kids are expected to attend and will have to make up work that they missed.

So, what do you do when everybody's skipping and your own kid is really sick?

It isn't fair.

I wish Nick were going to the parade. Or I wish he were going to school to get kudos for showing up when everyone else skipped. He isn't getting either. I'm tempted to send an email to the school saying as much.

Life is like that some times. Everybody else is getting into trouble and you're trying not to get into trouble, but your excuse sounds lame when a bunch of other people use the same excuse. I guess those are the breaks.

My parents tried to teach me that life was going to be fair. Oh to unlearn that stupid message. My dad used to get mad when people broke or bent the rules. Life was supposed to be fair and he was supposed to make it fair whenever he could. Sometimes I could see that he wanted to make people follow the rules. I go three or four miles over the speed limit when I'm out and about in my car. I just know that would have annoyed the shit out of him. He would have hated lots of things that I do.

He died when I was thirteen. It may have been almost forty-one years ago, but I remember how hard it was and I still miss him, or my idea of him. Have I turned him into someone else in all these years? Oh, I almost definitely have. It takes some work to get myself near the truth of my father. I love when I can remember some detail about his joy, but there were also those uncomfortable times when he was angry about something. I didn't want to be around him when he was angry.

He would not have let me go to that parade. I just know it. I watched him fight with my sister when she was a teenager. She was easy. I would have been much harder. I rebelled. More than once, I wondered if I didn't have it easier because I didn't have to battle my dad for control of my life when I was growing up and leaving home. He didn't let her get a job until more than half way through college. He kept telling her that school was her job. She lived at home and took so many classes that she graduated within three years with nearly all As on her record.


I wanted to experience college, the dorm, the parties, pulling all nighters before a test, sleeping through class and even struggling through some of the same classes my father took. He was married with two children when he was in college. He struggled. He didn't experience classic college life either, so he wouldn't have understood what I wanted if I'd had to make an argument for it. How do you explain the value of standing outside on the coldest night of the year, a weeknight, and watching for three hours as the Nude Olympics were run in the quad? How do you explain how it felt to walk into the same bar every Friday night and have the crowd cheer your names or the fact that your crew gave you money for gas so you'd still have 67 cents to pay for your first beer? How do you explain Pink Floyd and Rocky Horror and buying new underwear instead of doing laundry? That's a hard sell, don't you think?

So, let's say Nick wasn't as sick as a dog tomorrow. Would I let him go to the parade? I might, but only if I thought it would stand out in his memory of the one big events of that year. I might if he were a real Seahawks fan and not just a kid who noticed when they won the playoffs and all the other kids were talking around him. I might if three or four of his best friends were also going and they could all go as a crew to cheer the team as they returned victorious.

I might.

But unfortunately I won't be. I'll get up early and sound guilty as I call Nick in sick on the attendance line. Instead of cheering at the Seahawks parade, he'll spend the day on the couch, watching cartoons, eating soup, and coughing. And his teachers will be mad at him when he returns to school anyway.

Life is just not fair, is it? And it's not supposed to be, is it?

Thank you for listening, jb