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.