Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Je Suis le Americain Laid

So, I am going to Barcelona after all! I'm so excited about seeing something that was built by Antoni Gaudi. I realized that I was going to be incredibly disappointed if I didn't get there. Plus, if I can speak any other language than English, it's Spanish, though I'm sure what I'll be speaking is random words I remember from my high school classes. The other day, I tried to say 'This is my sister' in Spanish and what I ended up saying was 'This is my beautiful' instead. Hermosa, hermana. You can see my difficulty. She'll probably like it when I make that mistake though, don't you think?

I have to tell you this language thing has been strange for the past week or so.

First, I was going to meet my sister and niece for a trip to Spain. So, I began to brush up on my Spanish. For that, I folded clothes while watching Spanish television. I can tell you that I understand about every seventh word during a Spanish talk show. There's no context to what they're saying and by the time I grasped even a single word because they displayed a clip from a soap opera that showed a little meaning, they were on to the next subject. Commercials were better. At least they were talking about something concrete, though I doubt I'll have to talk about exterminating bugs or getting car insurance when I get to Barcelona. The other thing I've been doing is reading my bilingual book of Pablo Neruda's poetry. Ode to Socks. Really, I love that man. The nice thing about reading poetry is that it's generally translated line by line and I don't have to look a lot of stuff up.

But all that came to a screeching halt when my niece made the list of all the places she wanted to go once I arrived - Spain, Italy, France, Germany, and Switzerland. All in her two weeks? I wasn't going to have time for Spain. It made more sense for me to meet them in Germany since my sister said the only place she really needed to see was where our great, great - I don't know how many greats - grandfather was the burgermeister. That would be very cool. Will we look like the people there? Will we feel at home? One of those old forefather guys was a wine tester to the Kaiser. Will I like the wine from that region? Probably. Who wouldn't?

The logical thing for me to do, then, was to travel to Germany and meet my sister and my niece at the Rhine river. My only problem with that plan, the one where they circle around to all these lovely places without me and meet me in Germany at the border with France, was that I can only say 'no' and 'thank' you in German. I can't even say 'Hello, my name is ..' when I meet someone. From something long ago, I remember 'Vo ist das ..' or 'Where is the ...' That might get me to a bathroom if I look up that word in a dictionary that I don't yet have. It doesn't get me very far. Not very comforting either.

But, it turns out that it will work better with my sister and niece's busy schedules if I meet them in Barcelona. After flying all night, I'll spend a blurry day looking at Gaudi and the next day, we'll head off to Germany to drink to our heritage. After that, Switzerland, and if there's time, we'll fly to Florence. All in the span of eight days? I can't tell you how much I'd love to go to Florence to see the statue of David, but I'm hoping they squeeze that part in after they tour the South of Spain before I get there. The languages alone have me spinning. Thankfully, I don't have to look anything up in a Swiss language. My sister informed me of that. Yes, I am that ugly American that didn't quite realize that Switzerland is divided between German- and French-speaking people.

I wish I had a t-shirt that says, 'Je suis le Americain laid.' I am the ugly American. Would the French people think that's funny? I don't know. I just hate that it will probably be true. I laugh too loudly too. I will be a spectacle, I'm sure of it.

As for trying to learn French, I'm reading French right now too. At a second-hand store, I found a copy of the New Testament and, having numbered verses, I can see line by line what the translation is. 'Le angle du Dieu dit: ...' And I'm probably mangling that too. But I might be able to bless someone in French by the time I go there. Maybe that will help.

It would be way easier to study just one language before this trip. Way easier. I picture myself getting to France, whose language I can't even hear in my head when I read it, and I could be mixing French and Spanish in an attempt to get it right. Plus, I'll speak French in a bad Spanish accent, or worse, end up saying 'uh, uh, uh...' Oh, this is going to be mortifying, no doubt.

Then, I wonder if I need to bring a German and Italian dictionary with me in addition to the French and Spanish ones I'm planning to carry. That reminds me. My high school Spanish dictionary is huge, brittle, broken into two pieces, and rubbed away on one corner. I'll have to get another one for this trip. That would be four books if I come prepared. Really?

By the time I get there, I'll need to be blessed in French, Spanish, or any language for that matter.

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Rummage, Shoes, and Banana Slugs

Well, rummage is done! Yay rummage! I donated fourteen bags of stuff. Can you picture that? I love the feel of my house when I've gone through and made closets, drawers, and cabinets more accessible.

No, I didn't go through the stuff on the floor of my closet. Hey, you weren't supposed to mention the floor of my closet. For that matter, we didn't get to the floor of Nick's closet either, or the bookshelf full of old textbooks I will never use but wanted to keep because I passed that damned class in computer circuits and dammit, I lived with that book for sixteen weeks while I worked to decipher what it meant.

On the floor of my closet, I know I have my daddy's teddy bear, my old piggy bank with the dots on it, the little bulldog stuffed with sawdust that I loved until his ears wore out, two pair of dress shoes, a pair of ratty slippers, a spare blanket, pillows my grandma made, and a pair of cedar shoe trees that should really be in one of the two pair of dressy shoes. There might be some fallen hangars in there and a couple of crocheted throws, but I don't think there's anything else on the floor of my closet. Not really. Nothing worth sorting through and putting into a better pile. Not that I should have shoes on the floor of my closet. No.

We keep the rest of our shoes in cubbyholes by the front door. It's unsightly, but if you need to make a quick get-away, our method is the way to go. I recommend clogs for the quickest get-away. Some of mine have been stretched well beyond recognition, but thankfully, Nick's feet are much larger than my feet now and only Mike will have to worry about protecting his favorite shoes from careless and very wide feet.

I'm not one to stand on ceremony over what belongs in a closet and what belongs by the front door. Shoes are the last thing you put on, so they belong by the door. Besides, if there's a slim chance I won't have to vacuum as often, I'm a fan of shoes coming off at the door, but don't tell my friends that since they'll go home with furry socks if they do. There are about thirty-five pair of shoes, sneakers, mud boots, snow boots, flip-flops, crocks, clogs, sandals, water shoes, and cross-country ski boots by the front door. They are three sizes, large, medium, and extra wide.

That comes from a woman who would rather be barefoot most of the time except that around here, the slugs are a threat even if you don't mind slapping around in wet feet all the time. I stopped being quite so much of a barefoot girl when I came up close and personal with a few of those slugs when I first moved to the Pacific Northwest. My favorite ones are the banana slugs which is native to this area and can be as long as eight inches. They have friendly little faces. Yes, they're shy if you touch their eyes with your rough salty fingertips. I can think of more than one time where I'd like to have been able to tuck my face into myself so no one could see me. After twenty-three years of living here and a complete failure of landscaping, I've given up thinking of them as pests. They're quiet. They don't sting, buzz, or bite. They can carry salmonella, but they kind of let you know not to touch them by being totally slimy. And if you're incredibly brave, their slime can take the sting out of a nettle. No, I look forward to seeing the banana slugs in my yard at this point. They seem to tell me that the forest is in good condition, that it's generally healthy.   Still, it is not fun to step on one.

It's not fun for the slug either. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Not Going to Barcelona

I'm planning to go to Europe in less than two months. So far, I don't know if I'm going to France and Germany, France and Spain, or France and Italy. I have to tell you that in the past month, I had latched onto the idea of going to Barcelona. Now, it looks as though I won't see Barcelona at all and I'm sad about that. Honestly, I hadn't had Barcelona on my radar, but when I started to find out about it, I was fascinated. Antoni Gaudi's work seems, at least from where I sit, to have shaped the art and architecture of the entire city. His work is stunning and strange. He lived and created in the late 1800s and into the 1920s. It all looks modern even by today's standards, the park Guell, the Sagrada Familia.

Who am I to be an art critic? I'm just telling you my impressions. I'm drawn to Gaudi's shapes. They're organic, like the seed pods of a lotus plant. I want to touch them, draw bad pictures of them, make quilts that remind the viewer of something they saw once a long time ago on a trip to Spain. I want them to think of that Spanish man they fell in love with at a cafe, of the heat during siesta, and of the evening sun reflecting off the water of the Mediterranean in shards of light.

Now, I need to go to Barcelona.

That is the problem with traveling. It begets the desire to see further. It's the same problem with art. It begets the need to feel more art. It is like opening a door in my soul and hearing music quietly ringing from inside.

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Growing Moss

"Hon, should I put the little rain cover on my pack?"

"Nah, it won't be that bad," Mike replied.

Yeah, right. Mike and I went on a beautiful solitary walk with Teddy. It was so wet, my shirt was soaked down the front because I didn't zip up my rain jacket all the way to my neck. It was so wet that the rain rolled off my rain jacket and dripped onto my jeans. Jeans were not right for this weather. The water eventually dripped into my socks and threatened the inside of my boots. They're damp now. Then, as if that weren't enough, the wet wicked up under my rain coat and soaked me up to mid-thigh. My rain coat comes down below my knees. Mike's raincoat is shorter and his jeans wicked all the way up his thighs. My back stayed dry though. I had my backpack on.

There were deer ferns and piles of moss on the rocks and fallen logs. Streams danced across the trail. There was no way to keep them from the trail, so the trail-blazers simply put in a rocky route across. It was beautiful and I was initially pleased that my new boots stayed dry inside. I won't return them, since they only got wet because wet came down from my ankles.

The evergreens had bits of new growth. Deciduous trees were that pale green that's almost yellow. The canopy in the forest dripped less on us than out in the open, but it was if we were entering Dorothy's forest when the trail went back in. It was so dark in there, it was almost ominous. Given another three hundred years, you wouldn't be able to walk between the trees.

When we made it back, soaked and happy after our short walk, I unzipped my backpack to put my notebook back in. Not a good idea.

Everything inside was soaked. I mean dripping.

So, when we got home, I emptied the First Aid kit and laid band-aids, gauze pads, bottles of Advil, Benadryl, and Neosporin onto the dining table. I took out my Ziploc full of snacks, packets of peanut butter, tomato juice, a tuna salad packet, some spare rooibus tea, a couple of soggy packets of stevia, a pack of pepperoni, and GoGoSqueez. I hung the scarf and gloves. Soaked. My glasses case was dripping. My portable towel had soaked up as much water as it could. The strike-anywhere matches weren't ever going to strike anywhere again. Even the little red rain cover for my pack needed to be stretched out to dry.

So, my advice is that if your husband gets you a nifty little backpack with a little red rain cover velcroed inside a pocket, then you should use it when it rains, even if he says you needn't bother.

Welcome to the Pacific Northwest. If you leave it out in the weather for a season, it will either melt or grow moss. I believe that I've grown moss.

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Giving Stuff Away

I have learned how to best procrastinate. Pinterest. Today, I downloaded a bunch of dumb pictures I had taken. It's addicting and way more fun than sorting through old stuff I think I might want to get rid of but can't quite let go of for some reason. So far, I've actually deployed one box while retrieving the box. I only have six of boxes left for other stuff and we're going to put the whole downstairs into storage so we can get new flooring put in.

I managed to discover that I had eleven paper bags from Taco Time that I could use for donations. Hey, I really adore that Taco Time has moved away from plastic bags and stuff, seeing how the flotilla of plastic in the Pacific ocean is the size of Texas. That's great. If Taco Time only used handled paper bags, I'd get more use out of the brown recycled bags that they give me with my salads. Now, I have the perfect use for them - to carry out all my donations without losing those storage boxes. I can probably even get away with going to Taco Time tomorrow and getting another brown recycled bag for my donated items.

Today, I logged in a new lego set still in its box, a pair of ski gloves, nearly new dress shirts, six pair of shoes, a new food processor in the box, Webkinz animals, and a shell for snowboarding that was used as a raincoat. This is some heavy stuff, folks. It's going to bring somebody some cash. If I only liked garage sales, that person would be me.

I'm telling you, I hate the idea of putting out a sign saying, "Garage sale! Come buy my junk." Even if I'm giving away some decent stuff, I don't want to have to sit in my driveway watching people plow up my grass trying to turn around for eight hours. That is worth the loss of any cash I might bring in. It's worth it, I'm telling you.

That said, I'm hoping I can go to the consignment shop and sell some of the larger things that I'm trying to get out of my house too.

Here's a sad thought. Nick used to have this friend to whom he gave all kinds of great stuff when donation day came. I mean, if this kid wanted it and Nick was even half way done with it, off it would go. Sometimes it made me mad to see Nick give away something I didn't think he was done with. We never missed a thing though. That's the truth. I never thought, "Boy, I wish Nick had that xxxxxxx back." Never.

But now, the sad middle-school truth of the matter is that Nick's friend started being a little mean to him now and then. He makes fun of him and Nick hasn't asked the kid over to the house in a while. The interesting yet sad thing is that Nick and his dad had a conversation about selling Nick's skateboard.

"Dominic wants my old skateboard."

"Does he?" Mike said. He has that gift for nonspecific replies.

"Yeah, he says he'll buy it if I really want."

"What do you want to do with your skateboard."

"I could give it to him, but I could also sell it."

"You could sell it on eBay or Craigslist." They talked about how much Nick might get out of it. It wasn't much, but Nick was a little excited earning money for it. More than that, his eyes looked sad. There was more to this than money.

"I think I'm going to sell it somewhere else. Dominic kind of wants me to give it to him for free. I don't think it's fair that I have to give it to him for free. I think I'm going to see if I can sell it for thirty dollars somewhere else instead."

The whole conversation made me sad. Here was a boy who used to give barely used toys to his best friend. And now, something happened to that relationship. I'm not really sure what it was, but that best friend isn't a best friend any more.

Middle school is hard the second time through too. I may not be living it, but it's still hard to think of this lost friend. And he is probably well and truly lost at this point.

Nick has plenty of friends. He does. He's got a group of boys coming to the house on Friday night. They'll have a great time. I know they will. But part of me will wonder if Nick will think about Dominic sometime during his party and the way the two of them used to be together.

I know I will.

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, April 14, 2014

Rummaging Through

Today, I began in earnest to get rid more than a year's worth of stuff that has accumulated and is clogging my closets and drawers. I once read a collection of stories, 'The Things They Carried' by Tim O'Brien. Since then, I've believed that what a woman carries in her purse and what she puts in her underwear drawer defines her. Emergency packets of peanut butter, pepperoni, GoGo squeeZ, fingerless gloves, a rain jacket, Advil, band-aids, a compass, a pocket rock, Mike's love letters, Nick's baby footprint, ... I was going to tell you more, but I also think that how a woman defines herself in her purse and her underwear drawer is her own business. Ha! Think about it. What do you carry? What do you tuck away? Not something you're going to list, is it? Now, that's the interesting part, the stuff you're not willing to admit to having.

Does what you carry out of your house define you as well? Or maybe it helps to define what you are not. I am not that faded pair of comfortable jeans that suddenly began to fail by slowly letting the zipper down as I walked. I am not the broken toaster oven that I know Mike will never have time to fix as much as he would like to. I am not the Silver Palate cookbook or the black clogs that are a half size too small because the sales guy wanted to impress me with the idea that I could actually have feet that were smaller than they actually are. I am not the bright orange Cub Scout t-shirt or the narrow wicking yoga shirt that shows the roll around my waist.

I am not the pair of martini glasses and the shaker. In fact, I never was. I hated martinis after the first time I tried one and if I'm going to order an appletini, I might as well just order a daiquiri or even a smoothie since that's really what I wanted in the first place. My favorite mixed drinks used to be either a Kahlua and cream or gin and tonic. These days, that easily translates to a breve mocha or a lime Perrier. I don't usually miss the alcohol and I still have beer and wine when I do.

So what does it say about me that I'm giving away googly eyes, colored pencils, stickers, and an art box? What does it say that I'm giving away a beautiful baby scrap book that I never used for a single photo of Nick? I feel bad about the scrap book. I do. I have a bin full of photos that I love and would race to retrieve in a fire, but the standards for scrapbooking are too high for me. I will never make a color coordinated page, let alone a whole book out of those photos and the pretty paper I browse at Ben Franklin. Have I let Nick down?

Maybe I have, but he's not sitting around and looking at photos of himself. He's more aggravated by my attempt to get him to go through the stuff in his room. The truth is that he's not ready to let go of the stuff he loved when he was little. I get that. I tried to tell him that we could store things he loved, but I don't think he's even ready to decide which to store and which to give away. He tried. He really did. I think he'll feel better if I pull some things off his shelves for him. He asked Mike what it said about him that he still liked some of his action figures.

"Don't worry, Nick," Mike said. "There are grown men that still like their action figures." That put the smile back onto Nick's face. I can help him pare down that collection though. I can identify the ones he really liked.

As for me, I think I'll get rid of the sizes I don't wear. I mean really. Why do we torture ourselves? I am not the same size I used to be when I was fourteen. Big whup. I'm not supposed to be. I don't look like the old women in the black dresses yet either. You know the ones I mean, the ones that spent all day on Sunday making dinner for the family, the ones that had to stand on tiptoe to stir the stock pot with the tomato gravy in it. I was told by one of those women in a black dress that I should never call it spaghetti sauce. Never. It was tomato gravy. No. I look pretty good in comparison to the women in the black dresses. I'm just not going to look like my younger self, so it's okay for me to get rid of those skinny jeans. If I happen to get skinny, I can go shopping. Right? Am I right?

And there are things in my closet that I will never, I mean never wear, even if I thought I could get away with it. Mike has been telling me that some of my more sophisticated looks have not aged well. I guess it has been a while since I needed to wear a dress for anything. Padded shoulders? Not good. I have a black silk skirt and a Chinese silk jacket. Next thing you know, those will be out of date too. The thing I love about living in the Pacific Northwest is that people don't dress up for much. Shoot, I went to a funeral the other day and a bunch of people came in wearing blue jeans and cowboy boots. I thought that was a bit tacky, but it freed me up a bit for the next one.

So, I'm going whole hog with my spring cleaning this year. I'm getting rid of two or three truck-loads of stuff. I can feel it. There's even a nearly new skateboard in there.

Want to come rummage through my rummage?

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Growing Away

Well, we're about to go biking. Nick had a two-night sleepover and he's not motivated. I've been cold all day and I'm not motivated. Mike hasn't yet showered, but he's off the couch so that means he's at least somewhat motivated. Teddy is motivated. He's been motivated all day, bringing us his knobby toys, swinging them around like they're nun chuks, and whacking our knees. Yes, Teddy is very motivated. Seth, on the other hand, just wants to keep a lap handy all afternoon. It's a beautiful day out. Seth hates beautiful days.

We're going to bike on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail. I'm hoping that Teddy can figure out how to manage to run without running in front of our bikes. That way, he could go six or seven miles with us. Otherwise, I'll have to fall back, stow the bike and walk with him. I'm hoping he can figure it out. I want us to stick together today.

Harry Chapin's song 'Cat's in the Cradle' coincidentally played on either television on two different stations in the past three minutes. Is that weird or what?

No, Universe, I don't need that message. I have done things with my boy. We took a friend to the aquarium just the other day. Last night, when he was on the second half of his sleepover, it felt empty in the house. I kept listening for Nick's sounds.

This morning, Nick rolled around on the carpet in a blanket and watched television. I asked if he missed us and he said, "Nope."

Then he looked at my face.

"Well, maybe a little." A little is good. I can handle a little.

"Could you have gone three or four days away, do you think?" I asked. I'm not sure what I was hoping to hear.

"Yup," he said, still looking at the television. Well, okay. Just a year ago, he wouldn't have said that. Five years ago, he said he never wanted to move out of our house. That struck me with a load of fear in the pit of my stomach. I've seen those boys, the ones that never leave, the ones that set up a constant video stream in the basement with a periodic supply of food delivered by mom. No, I don't want him to live here forever. Eight years ago, he told us that we all had to move to Ireland together and that we could go home until he got married, but I'd have to come back and live with his family for four years when his wife had a baby. He was sure his wife would want that kind of help. Oh, honey.

Now, he's ready to be away from home for a week at a time.

But am I?

Thank you for listening, jb

Training Seals

I am procrastinating. I told myself I was going to make progress donating stuff we don't need in the house. I said I was going to box things for storage so that I can plan the installation of our new flooring. Instead, I caught up on email, I made waffles for my sleepover boys, did a load of dishes, another of laundry, made cookies, and then watched funny cat videos for a while. The boys are hoping for a two night sleepover. We parents haven't committed to that so far. More has to be proven.

Yesterday, I took Nick and his friend to the Seattle Aquarium. It was a lovely day and the boys weren't yet crabby from staying up too late in the night. Did you know that sea lions, especially Barney, the old guy at the aquarium, actually know to pose for photos? They do it automatically. This is Sika. She is a little shy, but she likes being told that she's beautiful.

They also do tricks for their snacks, holding out a flipper, leaning back, or opening their mouths while the handler taps each tooth. The docent said that they get their teeth brushed every day and that they have a number of tricks they do so that the veterinarians can examine them properly. They seemed excited to do these little jobs. I guess the snacks were delicious. Smelled kind of fishy to me.

I'm glad I took the first shift with the boys. They are now headed over to play tennis with another mom while I hang out at home. I had scheduled a contractor to build a new set of stairs leading to the back of the house. These men are working very hard. I like them, but more importantly, I respect them. I wonder what would happen with this sleepover if I had sent the boys outside to work, to haul gravel, to shovel dirt, to rake up any messes that they had made. I don't think it would have gone very well, but it would be good for the boys. I am certain of it. Really, I was doing okay with them until I asked one boy to roll up his sleeping bag. You'd have thought I had asked him to muck out horse stalls and solve the unified field theory simultaneously.

"I don't know how to do that," he said with disdain. That was my cue. Hands on hips, I stood while he hemmed and hawed.

"You can do this. It's not that complicated."

He folded the sleeping bag so that all four corners were aimed in a different direction.

"Nope. You need to do it neater than that. Start over again," I said.

"But I can't," he said. You can't or you won't, I thought.

"Ah, but you can," I said. "I happen to know that you're on the honor roll at school. That means you're very smart. So, I want you to spread out the sleeping bag on the floor and fold it lengthwise first."

He nearly stepped on a remote and a pillow and he threw his sleeping bag on the floor face down.

"You'll need to turn it over. Fold the inside inside." He stepped on a pillow and his foot slid sideways a bit. He looked at me piteously. I know that this boy is not uncoordinated either.

"Why don't you move things out of your way first. It will make it all easier" He stood up and stepped away. I could see that I was losing him, as if I hadn't already. I picked up the remote. He stood there with his arms crossed. I tossed a pillow onto the couch.

"Okay. Throw that other pillow onto the couch and turn your sleeping bag over," I ordered.

There was silence as he stared at me. I stared back. This is game I play with the cat too and I always win. It seemed like longer, but probably thirty seconds passed. He bent over, picked up the pillow, threw it on the edge of the couch, and it fell off. He looked at me. I stayed quiet, but I looked him in the eyes until he looked away. He picked up the pillow and put it on the couch. Then he flipped his sleeping bag. It didn't land flat.

"Okay, great. Now straighten that side." He stood there for a minute. The side was closer to me than to him, but this wasn't about proximity.

"Look, I made you waffles. Did you like the waffles?"

"Yes, but ..." He trailed off.

"Then you can roll up your own sleeping bag. I will tell you how. Now, straighten that side." And I stepped away from that side. He finally managed to get corners to meet and I knelt at the opposite end of the elastic loops and rolled a bit of the bag. He stood back with a smile on his face watching me. He even picked up the controller for the video game and began to play.

"You'll need to put down the controller. Start on that end and roll up the back as tightly as you can," I said as I unrolled the bag and stood up.

He very slowly put the controller down. Then, he bent over and folded the sleeping bag four times and picked it up.

"You can't get the loop over the end with it that loose. You'll have to unfold that and roll it tightly."

He shook out the bag.

"And now you'll have to start over," I said with a smile. It was a bit of an evil smile, I have to admit. We started the whole process again. Then, when the sleeping bag was folded lengthwise, I got onto my knees and showed him how to roll it again. Again, he picked up the game controller.

"No, you'll have to put the controller down to do this," I said. "Why don't you kneel down here so that you can really do it. You can't do this standing up." Finally, he knelt down and rolled the sleeping bag into a loose roll.

"That's not very tight, but it'll do." I knelt down beside him. "Now you'll have to take these loops and wrap them around the bag." I pulled out a loop and let it drop. He was altogether too willing to let me do the rest, but that wasn't the deal. I held the sleeping bag while he pretended to struggle with the loop.

"It's too loose. I have to roll it again," he said.

"No, you'll do fine. You'll figure it out." I held onto the bag even as he tried to unroll it. When the center nearly squeezed out, I pushed it back in. Three tries with the loop. Four tries. And finally, he had the loop around the sleeping bag.

"Now get that loop around the center of the bag. It's not going to hold where it is on that edge." He nearly let the whole thing get away from him, but I held it steady as he fixed it.

Just then, my boy walked into the room.

"Nick, fold those blankets and put your mattress away." I said. Nick picked up a wad of blankets and threw them onto the couch.

"No. I wanted you to fold the blankets. I know you can do this." Nick knows when I get that evil-mom pretending-to-be-patient-sound in my voice. I went into the kitchen with some plates and a water glass. When I came back out, the blankets were folded nicely and the rolled sleeping bag was lying next to it.

"Great job guys!" I said enthusiastically. 

When I'm done with this gig, maybe I should volunteer as a handler at the aquarium. By then, I might have the experience to train some seals. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


Okay, so yesterday, the television chattering all day drove me nuts, especially the commercials. Today, Nick is at a friend's house and it's way too quiet in here. Oh, I could put on some music or an audio book, but I haven't yet. I'm reveling in my loneliness, sulking, as I read posts from black sand beaches in Hawaii and even looking at cheerful photos taken from restaurants on the Oregon coast has me looking like grumpy cat.

I'm still mad about any spring breakers who got on an airplane. Don't come back and tell me how beautiful it was there or where you ate and forget showing off your new tan with that sleeveless white shell. I might smile but I'll be hideous inside.

I could put on a happy face. I'm at home. It's warm out. I could bring out the table and chairs for the back deck. I have too much sulking to do to have any fun.

My bag of tricks for today includes going through boxes shelves and closets to donate stuff. Can you tell I'm procrastinating? It's 12:16 pm. After I get done with that, I get to pack up a couple of bookshelves of books so we can get ready to put new flooring in downstairs. Oh, I really want the new flooring, but I don't want to pack up half of my household and put it into storage to prepare for it. Can't they do all that? Mike says they could, but it will cost a lot more. Well, he doesn't realize it, but it has already cost him to have me do it. First, there's the two year wait for me to get started. Maybe three. And it will cost more before I am done. There's the fact that I will have a curmudgeonly attitude as I work, try as I might to be a cheerful soul. Then, when I finally get into the swing of it, I'll miss a couple of dinner plans. Near the end, I'll lose steam and the whole house will be in an arrested uproar like when the mouse got into the cabinet and I didn't put it back together after I cleaned for an entire month. Yes, my poor Mike, and Nick too, are going to pay.

I'm not doing this on purpose. I just know myself.

I think I'll put on loud music while I work. That might make the whole thing go easier. I'll pretend that I'm at the world's craziest dance party and I'll dance my way through packing those boxes.

Yeah, right.

Thank you for listening, jb

Being Okay With Where I Am

It's spring break and Nick and I did nothing today. We watched television. Nick kept saying he really wanted to watch the movie that was on. The first time he said that it was a Jet Li movie. I watched it with him and I played solitaire on my iPhone. There are times when I get to playing that I'm unimpressed with myself. I actually play the baker's game, not your usual version of solitaire. I wonder if it is good for my brain because I don't know why else I would play. It's addicting. The second time Nick said he loved the movie playing was for 'Dragonball Z' and I was feeling the pressure of having done nothing until late afternoon. Plus, I hate all the commercials.

Mike texted me a couple of times, asking what we were doing. I finally told him that it was hard to get Nick moving. It was hard to get me moving. We sat on the couch together and once in a while, Nick would say something like, "I love you, Mom" or "You're the best mom ever."

But why? I hadn't done anything.

His friends have gone on vacation. I didn't have anything planned. Nothing. I had hoped that someone would be around. Here are the places they went: the Oregon coast, Whidbey Island, California, Hawaii, and Palm Springs. Two more of my friends are in Hawaii. I have to say that I was pretty jealous, not so happy to be home and sleeping in.

Television seems to have that effect on me, yet I sat and watched. There I sat, crabby about other people's vacations, unimpressed with my game of solitaire, and annoyed by volumes of commercials. I even told Nick he should do some homework since I figured the day was a bust and when something good popped up, I didn't want to be bugging him about getting it done before we went.

Nick didn't even want to go to the movies this afternoon.

To my credit, at about 10:00am, I said, "Where do you want to go. We can go anywhere, the Museum of Flight, Sky Mania, the pool. I'll even take you to Friday Harbor if you want to go."

That was when he first said he wanted to watch the movie.

"But what about when it's over. "

"Mom, I'm just tired."

I knew that wouldn't fly with Mike. Mike would want Nick to have done something, gone somewhere, been entertained, hung out with friends. It makes school breaks more stressful. Sometimes, Nick waits too late in the day to plan anything and I end up texting one mom after another in an attempt to find someone who's not already doing something good. 

Eventually, I got going and ran out to get Mike's prescription and some food. The fridge was empty after we had smoothies and salads. And Mike needed his scrip.

When I got to the pharmacist window, I could see that Natalie was there. She's a sweet woman who does more than just fill your bottles. She sees herself as a force for good.

"How are you today?" she asked me. I'm one of those people who believe in telling the truth. Why even ask if you don't want to know the answer?

"Oh, I'm okay, but I'm getting nothing done. It's spring break and Nick and I haven't done one thing."

"Boy, that sounds nice."

"We're just watching movies at home all day."

"Sounds really good to me, bonding time with your son."

"No, I mean, everyone else is on vacation. Nick doesn't feel like doing anything. We've watched movies all day."

"Yeah, that sounds really good about now. I'd love a day to kick back and watch movies all day."

I stopped. I looked Natalie in the eye. She didn't look away, but she did grin at me.

"You're right. Thanks for that."

I went home, prepared to sit in front of the television with Nick for the rest of the afternoon. Suddenly I missed his sweet face, the one that caught my attention now and then to tell me that he loved me or tell me something funny. We had watched the talking boat video at least three times. I'd laughed so hard my ribs hurt. We had also watched two hamsters on a wheel. That was good for multiple viewings too. Nick had told me a couple of jokes. Of course I can't remember now. I can never remember jokes any more.

When I got in the door with my bags of groceries, Nick came downstairs and carried three of the heaviest bags for me. What a sweetheart.

"So, what's up for the afternoon? Did your movie end? Did anything else good come on after that?"

"Yup, but can you take me to karate tonight?"

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Why I Do It

I'm having blueberry ice cream.

Diabetic, you say?

Yes, but I took blueberries that I picked last summer and put into the deep freezer, poured half and half and a bit of stevia over them, and now I'm having ice cream. Sometimes I add vanilla or cinnamon. Today, I'm just going with the fruit and the clog-my-arteries fat. It has been one of those kind of days.

The day started with me trying to make a decent lunch for Nick before I had even had a chance to pee and at the same time trying to show Mike what had been delivered to Cabela's for pick up. Why the hell didn't I pay the shipping costs? Why? It was going to take all afternoon to drive up there, pick it up, and drive back home again. Plus, I had ordered a pair of shoes that I didn't really need and told the woman at the Renton store it would be easier to get them at their other location which was also up north. Big mistake. All day, I tell you. This was going to take all day. I barely noticed when Mike told me that his back was bothering him.

I finally made a decent lunch, peed, got the information on the Cabela's delivery, and made my own breakfast, in that order. All during that process, I complained to Mike about how three weeks ago, the - what is the word I used? - idiot at Cabela's had ordered the exact shirt I brought with me to work out sizes and styles. I complained that I had specifically told her that my husband did not want another one just like it. Yet she ordered it anyway. That would be one bullet I'd have to dodge, I told him. I didn't stop complaining about the day I had planned until he left for work.

After that, I managed to get up I-5 without running into the usual massive traffic jam. As I sped along, I noticed that flags were flying at half mast and that the road to Arlington was closed. I thought about the people in the mudslide at Oso. I turned off the radio for a bit and just thought about the people there. They had lost more than a mixed up order at Cabela's. They had lost people they loved. I have nothing to complain about, I thought. Nothing. I tried to breathe in and out slowly, visualizing peace for them, visualizing some resolution and some relief.

But then I arrived at Cabela's and I got to work. Finally back home after hours on the run, I heard myself complaining to Mike about the limp salad I ate for lunch, the boots I bought that were too big and had to be returned, the trip to drop Nick at karate a few minutes late, a rushed run through the grocery store, driving past one of the shoes Nick had left on top of the car last Saturday, just one, and finally the mess in the house from what Mike brought home from his muddy weekend camping trip. I was complaining because, even though I had thought of the people in Oso for a bit, I was still stuck in my own head.

Just a little while ago, I started a load of dishes, faced two Dutch ovens that needed to be reseasoned, and looked at a muddy cooler that might never be the same. I started to bitch and moan to Mike again. There were three unopened but soggy boxes of hot cocoa mix. There were eight russet potatoes in a plastic bag that would begin to rot them right away if they weren't taken out and put in the vegetable bin. There was no counter space left because of all the camping stuff that had accumulated there. And there was my little cooler on the floor, covered in mud.

When Mike stood up to come help me, I remembered that he had sent me a text earlier that his back was still bugging him and he was headed home early. He couldn't even stand up straight. He hadn't complained all night while I went on and on. I could tell his back hurt. I knew what that was all about. Shit, I had been there, exactly where he stood. It stopped my bitchy mood in its tracks for the second time in one day.

I'm telling you that I am not the perfect person to be the scoutmaster's wife. I get going with a bad attitude. I'm not patient. I don't listen very well. I resent running the errands, managing the extra chores around the house, missing the good trips, and doing all the damned cleaning and seasoning and unpacking and airing out.

But Mike loves doing this job. He's not well. He's had a heart attack. He has terrible insomnia. And now his back is out. He can't do this by himself. I know he can't. He's behind, not really in the kind of condition it takes to do all of this. He's older, sicker, and more tired than he's ever been.

And I have to remember that I love him and want him to be happy. If he wants to give his time to a muddy camping trip with a bunch of Boy Scouts and their fathers, I'm going to help him do it, even if I can't always go with him for the fun stuff. I'll scrub muddy coolers, reseason Dutch ovens, hang awnings to dry, make trips to buy his shirts, take his son to karate, and run through the grocery store, the camping store, and the shoe store.

I sent Mike to bed as if he were a sick child. I massaged his back and then turned off the light.

I'll do it. I'll do any of it if it helps him do this thing that makes him so incredibly happy. I forget that sometimes. I wish I didn't.

Thank you for listening, jb