Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Breathe In and Out Like This

I hiked almost to the top of a mountain today before I started post-holing in the snow and had to turn around. I met a Buddhist monk on my way back down.

No kidding. He was the real deal, about five feet tall, wearing orange robes, and talking nearly continuously as we ended up walking back down the mountain together because the violet light behind the mountains faded and we realized we were going to be walking in the dark.

I'd like to think I am wiser now, but I don't think I am.

He said so much, I'm still trying to remember it all. He said, "With your son, you'll worry, but don't worry. Be happy. You take care of yourself and he will see. You can't make him take your path. You take your own path. Do your best. Be happy. Meditate. Get peace in your heart so you can go to heaven. It's not just for after you die."

He said, "You worry about your son. Take care of yourself. Walk. Meditate. Learn your weak points. Learn from people, from the world, from this." He pointed to fading light over the mountains. I don't think he paused in his litany to breathe and he repeated himself over and over. There was a rhythm to the repetition.

He said, "Take care of yourself first. Meditate. Breathe in and out like this and feel it leave your head and flow down into your hands. You can meditate sitting, lying down, standing, and walking. You can do it anywhere. Three times a day. Take care of yourself first. Then your son will see your path. He has his own path. He will see you. He's only fifteen. He's not done yet. Don't worry. Kids now don't have the same world you had when you were fifteen. The world is changed, different for him than you know. He's a good boy?"

I said, "Yes, he's a good boy." And he was off again, words flowing like air around me, over me, swirling, repeating, winding around my ears and down my back and down the mountain.

He said, "Your mind keeps going and that's not meditating. You have to practice. Clear it down to a point and put it in your hands. Calm your mind. Breathe in and out, like this. Your boy is a good boy. He's only fifteen. He's not done. He'll be okay. You love him, right?"


He said, "You make mistakes. Everybody is human. Everybody makes mistakes. But if you have a good heart, if you have peace, be happy, you can go to heaven. It's not just when you die. You be happy. Breathe in and out. Quiet your mind. Let the energy go to your hands. Be happy. Then you go to heaven before you die. Heaven and hell are right here."  He patted his heart over and over.

He said, "You breathe. You find peace. Don't worry about your boy. He can't follow your path. You take care of yourself. Breathe in and out. Be happy."

And then it was pitch dark and he was worried about me walking to my car from his. I was fine. I didn't mind walking to the other parking lot in the dark.

I met a Buddhist monk on the mountain and his words flowed around and around and the violet sky darkened to night and stars shone in constellations I'll never know.

He said, "You are a good mom. You love your son. He's not done yet. He has his own path. He's only fifteen. Be happy."

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, December 28, 2015


I have a belated Christmas present for you.

Oh, I know there are only twelve of you out there who are still reading this after all that dead air.

I'm sorry about the dead air. I really am. I'm trying to keep up the pace, but it's hard to read, write, edit, and rewrite all at the same time. I'm really better at one thing at a time. And mostly, I'm trying to rewrite now. After that, there will be more editing, so don't hold your breath, okay?

So, if you're still interested, here's the link to my other, crabbier blog, Showered in Medicated Dog Water. Yes, I have more than one. Actually, I have three, but Wordpress kept blowing things up and information got connected to my Facebook page and my phone number showed up in places I didn't want it to and so I abandoned that place. It's sad, really. It had so much potential for being bad.

Really, I wanted to have some semblance of control over who gets my phone number and what links to my Facebook page. My sister-in-law and my mother would not be amused about what is here, let alone what's in my more crabby blogs. Hell, they're not amused by what I put on my Facebook page as it is, but I keep trying to hold up a cardboard facade with a smiley face and hoping they won't see past it.

So, if you've been bored by all the dead space, if you want to see my nastier side, then check it out and let me know what you think. Aw hell, you can even be a troll. Why not? I am one too though I'll admit that I'm still holding back on the nastiest parts of my psyche. Maybe someday I'll be brave enough to let that out into the world. I'm not sure it'll be safe. I might get arrested.

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, December 26, 2015

There Are No Do-Overs

Well, let's see about a Christmas update. I was late enough with one of the presents that I gave up. It was the photo book for my mother. Who has time to sift through grainy photos before Christmas? I didn't. It was satisfying to finish Mike's calendar, but the photos were overwhelming to think of beginning.

Then, it got closer and closer and later and later and -  boom - I talked to my family on Christmas morning and never even mentioned the photo book to anyone. I gave her plenty of gifts. The photo book can be a Valentine gift, or Mother's Day. Good plan! Mother's Day is a real possibility or a birthday or maybe even next Christmas!

I'm early, not late.

Then, there were a million little things to do. On Christmas eve, I shopped for ingredients for our classic Christmas dinner, a spiral-cut ham, cauliflower and cheese sauce, russet potatoes for mashing, sweet potatoes for roasting in butter and brown sugar, greens for a salad, flour, butter, and pumpkin for pie, and two cans of whipped cream because the day would surely involve eggnog mochas with extra whipped cream and jimmies sprinkled on top.

Here's a hint, folks. Sprinkles are tiny bits of candy in all colors. Jimmies are chocolate ones, way better for mochas and whipped cream. I learned that from living on the East coast. Nowhere but on the East coast do people discriminate between sprinkles of different colors.

It's hard to talk about food here. It really is, but I'm going to persevere.

Mike's birthday headset wasn't the right one, so we sent it right back and I had bought the one he added to his wish list on Amazon. I admit that I may have a problem. It's gotten too easy to order stuff from Amazon and save the gas, energy and time running around to different stores. The new headset came in on Christmas eve. Can you believe that?

I'm hoping these delivery people get paid pretty well. They are running, literally running up my hill and back down to deliver my packages. My postal worker has lost weight. He doesn't actually look quite healthy at his new weight, but I'm hoping it's just leanness and not stress. But that last present was delivered and I was ready. I began to relax.

I was on track, if you didn't count the photo book. Don't mention the photo book. We had our annual negotiations about what hour Nick could wake us up. I sang at church, though Mike said he couldn't hear me apart from the other two who sang with me. That should have alerted us that something was wrong. You can always hear me when I'm singing.

On Christmas morning, we got up at the negotiated hour and opened presents. It was fun. It was sweet. Nick was happy and appreciative. Mike found that he couldn't use his new headset because it wasn't compatible with the PS4. Bummer. But Nick was happy to take it. My new TV was too far from the router to get any channels, but Mike gave me the DVD player he got because his wasn't compatible with his TV. That man is so generous. I guess I know what I'm getting him for Valentine's Day - a new TV and DVD player. Or maybe I'll have to wait until our anniversary, but I'm going to aim for Valentine's Day.

And then, before I could put together the egg strata that I intended to make for a late breakfast, my stomach revolted.

I could not cook. I could not stand in my own kitchen. The thought of food did something wrong in my stomach. Things didn't smell right.

I went to bed, to the bathroom, to bed, to the bathroom and so on for the next twenty-four hours. I haven't yet made Christmas dinner. Mike has cooked and cleaned, but he's left those Christmas duds alone. I think he's waiting.

He's been patient. I'm upright at least.

I ate rice an hour ago and it was okay.

I'm hoping to make Christmas dinner tomorrow or at least the next day. I want that time in my kitchen. Can I tell you that when I'm in a groove with my cooking, it's almost sacred, feeding my family something that I formed with my hands, something made from the best ingredients I could buy. It could explain why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, why I make soup and frittatas and salads for myself, and why I have been able to reclaim Christmas after the stress of buying just the right presents has overwhelmed me. Not this year.

I asked Mike for a do-over.

Mike informs me that there are no do-overs. Christmas won't come back. So, this is the first Christmas I haven't cooked for Nick. It's the first Christmas I spent most of the day in a different room from my family. It's the first Christmas I didn't bug them to take a walk out in the weather after dinner. It was the first Christmas that I didn't say goodnight to Nick and ask him if he was happy. It was the first Christmas I didn't kiss Mike and tell him 'Thank you' more for the life we have together than the thoughtful gifts he bought.

Oh, I'll cook all that food eventually. I promise I will. But it's not going to be a Christmas dinner. It's going to be a meal that I make for my family because of the love that goes into putting together good food. That can happen any day. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, December 11, 2015

A Certain Frame of Mind

For a few years, I've been trying to get at and hold onto something I needed. It's elusive, a feeling, a sense of creativity or contentedness or .... I really don't have a good name for it but I know it when I get it.

I can almost rely on getting this feeling when I walk along a trail with Teddy. The air is fresh. Trees older than I am flank the trail. A breeze rustles leaves all around me and makes me think of how huge and complex this universe is. I get more of this feeling when I notice something intricate like the pattern of spores on the backs of sword fern leaves and I think of how small and complex the universe is.

When I get home, there are dishes and laundry to wash, meals to make, a child or homework to wrangle, and the feeling can so easily slide away. Television kills it. I work to get it back, endorphins, enlightenment, creativity, the spirit. There are lots of words for it, but none that nail it down.

When it evaporates, I miss it as if the air is stale, as if my lungs are bit low on oxygen.

A few years ago, I started taking pictures when I was out, stupid things, moss growing on a manhole cover, fungus growing on a fence post, a wet newt in brown leaves. Going back over these pictures brought this feeling back, at least a little.

Just now, I managed to get it while I was on the couch. I doodled a bit in my notebook, watched the scene in 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty' when Ben Stiller's character watches Sean Penn's character not take a photo of an elusive wild cat. And there it was, that familiar sense of depth that I so badly need, enlightenment, creativity, the spirit, flowing all around me and through my lungs.

What did I do?

Well, I had stuff I needed to get done. I wasn't exactly free to wander trails and breathe clean air. I wasn't going to be among the wild trees though I could stop to look at my family trees out my windows.

I vacuumed the floor and cleaned the toilets. Yes, that's what I did.

And it was amazing. I took a photo of a picture Nick painted for me when he was in elementary school. I love that painting but I forget to look at it sometimes. I made myself a mocha with extra foam swirling patterns on the top. I noticed the beautiful way my vacuum cleaner had been designed to let me whip out the wand and suck up fur collected in a corner, the way it swiveled around table legs and the antique trunk full of love letters that my grandma gave me.

Now, my house feels a little more inviting. It's not exactly a sacred space, but it is more lovely than it was before. Maybe it's time to hang Christmas lights and make the garage and the walkway glow.

What puts you into that frame of mind? Just thinking about it might put you there. 

Thank you for listening,

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Spirit of Sleep

Just about an hour ago, a nap had me by the eyeballs. I had too much to do to go down, but it wanted me the way a demon spirit wants a host body. I nearly fell asleep leaning on the counter while I waited for water to boil for tea. A text exchange I had with a friend was nearly incoherent. I imagine myself, forehead singed by a burner on the stove and drool dripping onto the face of my melted iPhone.

Do you know those days when it's pouring down rain, the wind is blowing, and when you get home, you just want to curl up in a nest of blankets with the cat to sleep until it gets dark?

I was there. I totally wanted to. Even if I only slept for twenty minutes, I knew I'd wake up disoriented. Instead, I fought it. I did. I hate waking up at dusk and not knowing if it's morning or night. The clock says six, but is it am or pm? There's something to be said for that twenty-four hour system, but I'm not about to go walking around saying 'oh eight hundred.' The dusk and the damned clocks collude to confuse a sleep-addled brain into thinking it's time to shower and get ready for a new day.

I just now looked at the geranium that I brought inside to save from the frost. Dead. I've killed two houseplants in three weeks. I have that gift. I'm telling you that if I don't kill it, the apocalypse won't either. I still have an aloe and a cactus. The only other plant, the best one is the Chinese evergreen we keep in the bathroom. It was Mike's mom's plant. I honestly believe that the only reason it's alive is that her green thumb spirit went into it when she died so she can keep an eye on how her boy is doing and sneak a peak at her grandson now and then.

I admit that I talk to that plant. I think it likes the frog tank next to it and mist from the shower.

Do you believe that there is spirit in plants and trees? Do you think sleep is a living thing that flows around crevices on dank days, paralyzing people and animals in a cyclic way? Do demons really invade host bodies?

I don't know. There are a lot of things I don't know. There are a lot of things that nobody really knows. I suspect people would be surprised by some of it if we truly did.

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Almost the Hero

Oh, I don't know what to tell you about my day. It hasn't really started yet. I'm sitting here drinking tea and thinking about what I could tell you.

I could tell you how happy Seth was last night after I put our new memory foam topper onto the bed. At first, he didn't think he was safe on it. I wish I had video of him looking around in fear when his feet and legs started to sink. But once I got it properly covered in sheets, a comforter, a quilt, a sleeping bag because I always get colder than Mike, and a spare pillow with a fleece pillowcase on it, then Seth laid down on it and didn't get up all night. This morning, he seemed reluctant to leave. He likes the comfort of his new throne. I'm not sure how he slept a wink before we got this set up just right.

He's a spoiled kitty.

I could tell you about the guy in the big red truck on the quiet road who stopped by me on the road the other day. Oh, I flashed him with my high beams. I did. Other people have flashed me with their high beams in that very same spot.

There are a couple of young deer who hang out there by the road. They're very furry and small and I think only recently separated from their mother. Mule deer, I think. A couple of weeks ago, I saw the three of them together but yesterday they were on their own.

I stopped, rolled down the back window so Teddy could smell them properly. Then, I snapped a few pictures. They had the cutest, furriest black and white ears and didn't seem too worried about me taking their pictures from across the narrow road.

Then this big red truck came roaring down the road toward us. I decided to flash my brights the way someone had a couple of weeks ago when I was zipping down the same road, oblivious to the deer.

The guy slowed down. That was good, but he was looking at me instead of at the deer. Crap! He could still hit them. At least he was slowing down.

Then, he stopped and rolled down his window. Double crap! I didn't want to talk to this guy.

At first, I didn't say anything. He just sat there, staring at me. It got embarrassing. I had no clue why he was stopped at all, let alone why he had rolled down his window.

"I just didn't want you to ... ," I said and then his hero status dawned on me. He was waiting for me to ask for help. He would help me. He was going to save my bacon. I could see it on his young face, a man about to save the poor old woman from a pitiful broken down car or some such thing. He waited, actually glad to be the hero for a few seconds longer.

The deer, finally disturbed enough by his growling red truck, trotted along the grass a bit, crossed the road, and disappeared into the camouflage woods. The guy glanced in his rearview. Meat.

Then he looked back at me, still silent. I hate leaving sentences unfinished. "to, to, to ...  hit them," I said quietly.

And the guy grinned a carnivore grin, rolled up his window, and roared away in his big red truck.

He was no longer the hero and he knew it.

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Peeing Off the Deck in Winter

We still don't have running water at our house.

Can I complain or do you just get it that it's a bitch to go a week without running water?  I feel for all those communities that don't have water at all. I have to pee right now and I'm thinking about getting into the car and going at the library.

Spoiled. I know. I'm spoiled. Boo-hoo. I have to carry two empty five gallon jugs to my friend's house to fill them.

These days, I can't stand sitting in a quiet room with the lights out, not even in the middle of the day. I just don't want to feel like I don't have power either.

Yesterday, I began to feel better because Mike took Nick and I to the YMCA so I could shower again. It's fun to stay at the YMCA. Are you hearing that song in your head now? We are burning through his guest passes, just for a hot shower. It makes me feel like I'm a homeless woman.  No, I haven't had to deal with all this cold weather and sleeping on the ground, but I feel the poverty of it.

After that, I took time during the Scout meeting to use the church kitchen to do my dishes. Letting the water run felt like a luxury and a waste. I even did dishes from some forgotten meeting, coffee cups and percolators filled with cold grounds. I used lots of soap and whistled and sang and washed dishes until the meeting was over.  It made me happy and I brought home a laundry basket full of clean dishes.

And now a bunch of the pipes have burst because the tank house doesn't have a roof yet. Who knows how long before the new plumber will get things going? The guys fired the one that came yesterday. He didn't do anything. Not one damned thing. Oh, He spread his tools around in the neighbor's yard, but he didn't do anything.

Well, I need to go now. I have to collect my empty five-gallon jugs, and find a place to fill them. Plus, I need to pee and I'm not going to pee off the deck like the guys have been doing. It's a girl thing and I'm telling you, I'm tired of camping so I am not going to pee off the deck in this weather.

Thanks for listening, jb

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Latent Regret

Some days are just too mortifying to contemplate.

It all started off at 4:19 am. Nothing good can come of a day that begins at 4:19. There I was in bed, aimed at getting seven hours of sleep when my eyes just popped open. You know how that happens, when you know you're headed for a busy day and some random task pops into your head and seven hours turns into five and three-quarters?

I have days for which all the planets must align for me to get everything done and yesterday was that kind of day. I had offered to make German food for Nick's German class, pork dumplings, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, and cookies too. Why had I offered to bring cookies? I had told Nick's English teacher that since I needed to be at school anyway, I should work with kids in her class since Thanksgiving was making me miss our usual.  Then, I was supposed to head over to parent/teacher conferences, and after that, quilt night. Easy, right? Just one thing after another and since I had all the preliminary work done, it would be a breeze, right? Sometimes those days just turn around a slight bend in the path and become something not quite what I had envisioned. Usually, that involves me saying something stupid.

At 4:35, I jumped up and found that Mike was already up.

Oh, you don't want to hear the dreary conversation about who slept how much. You do not want to hear every inane conversation I had with everyone during the day, Mike, Nick, Nick's German teacher, Nick's German class - oh, the agony of trying to speak some German - Nick's English teacher, three of Nick's English teachers students, Nick's German teacher's sixth period class, each of Nick's teachers, the woman from my home town who has a girl in Nick's grade, the PTSA women who suddenly wanted to know some details about trouble with our water but really wanted to get me to volunteer more....

And there was the teacher who wasn't Nick's teacher. Yup. I started talking to this guy who is part of the group eating lunch in the teacher's room with Nick's English teacher. I eat lunch with them once a week when I'm volunteering. I can't show my face there again. I just can't.

I had intended to say a simple hi. Then he mentioned an embarrassing conversation I had with another of the teachers who'd been trying to get me to taste his quiche. He called it unfortunate or awkward or some other perfect word. It had been, an intimacy I didn't crave, tasting someone's lunch and this twenty-something guy who was proud of having made his quiche didn't quite realize it. Hell, I didn't realize it because I love talking about food, especially pie crust and all. It was a delicate little quiche, not more than would fill a ten year old. So, I wouldn't take the bite held up for me and this teacher, who was now sitting in the lunchroom waiting to conference with parents had been a witness.

So, I sat down for a minute since he seemed to be in a lull. Why couldn't I see that he deserved his lull, that he didn't need to do more talking with one more hapless parent that was shuffling around the lunch room? Why?

Because I'm a dork that still loves school. Because I get started talking during a busy day and have no idea how to staunch the flow. Because I only got five and three-quarters hours of sleep and at that count, I never have the judgment I might have on a day when I'm rested. Just imagine that on most days, I walk around as if slightly drunk only no one can smell alcohol on my breath. That's about how I am most days, especially busy insomniac days. So I sat down to talk to this teacher that Nick didn't even have.

Right. The truth? You want the truth?

It's his accent, English and I wanted to hear him talk more with his mouth. I wanted to imagine the perspective of a British teacher lecturing about American History. So, I rattled on and on and eventually asked him what Nick should read. I imagined my Grandpa who was always reading some history book or other. I actually pictured these two men sitting over coffee after Thanksgiving and my grandpa asking if he thought it was really the Spanish flu that ended the war.

So, yes, I had a parent/teacher conference with a teacher who didn't have Coop in class.

Can I just dry up and blow away now?

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Terrorists in the Garden

I'm here to write some crap for you. That is my plan and we can either go with it together or you can do the rest of your stuff that you were really supposed to do and I'll miss you terribly.

The universe must be off its gourd today because Nick is out of the shower ten minutes early.

Or maybe I'm running ten minutes late. That could be the difference.

I thought by now I'd have something interesting to tell you, but I don't. Not yet. My best ideas are thrown at me while I'm out in the world and can't sit in front of the computer. My clearest thoughts come when I'm rambling in the forest. Last Friday, when battles raged in Paris, I rambled through the woods, my mind in the clouds. I hate missing important news, but I so desperately need that time to have my head in the clouds.

Paris, right. I intended to talk to you about Paris. Usually when the city of Paris comes up, people get stars in their eyes, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Left Bank, Gertrude Stein, Matisse, Hemingway. We get all fuzzy and creative thinking of Paris that way, don't we? But now, when someone says 'Paris,' we must think of the poor people who were slaughtered. Terrorists invaded our beautiful reverie of Paris.

Someone argued that terrorists also killed as many people in Beirut on the same day and weren't we racists for not mourning them with the same fervor that we did for the people of Paris?

We're not being racist by mourning for Paris. Care and love for someone should never hurt someone else. Right? I can love more than one person at a time? I can love more than one culture? I can. I assure you.

There's another reason we didn't mourn Beirut. What images pop into your mind when you hear the name 'Beirut?' I imagine war, serious reporters standing in rubble. I imagine never-ending battles, no schools, no art, no peace. I'm worn down hearing about the troubles in Beirut. I've heard the name of Beirut and 'war-torn' together since Walter Cronkite talked to my father from a black and white TV when I was a child. Yes, I ache for the people of Beirut, but terrorism seems permanently ensconced there.

But in Paris? In the dream I have of visiting there in my never-ending search for art and beauty? I did not want to be taken out of my reverie over Paris. I wanted to stay in that continuous dream of Paris and edible delicacies and Impressionism and lovely literature tangled together in one place.

So pay attention you non-racists praying for Beirut. Perhaps the world will wake up and see Paris injured, it will gather its strength, and find a way to heal wounds there, will find a way through terrorists intent on spreading their agony. Perhaps if we can achieve the simple act of waking up and seeing all that pain, Beirut, after so many decades of unrest, will follow Paris toward peace. Then, maybe someday we can sit in a reverie over the beauty and culture of Paris, and of Beirut as well.

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Making Lunches

My reflection in the dark window told me that my hair stood up on one side. Some people call it bed-head. I call it hair-fuck. Why do I have to be that way with words? Why can't I think like normal people do?

Mike whistled cheerfully as he chopped vegetables in his khaki dress pants and a plaid shirt. I still wore pajamas and grumbled as I stared into the fridge, hoping for something new to appear. His song was getting into my head already.

I leaned past him to put cream of mushroom soup in the microwave. I made it yesterday. Homemade. Would plastic leech into the soup and poison Nick as I heated it in the microwave? Really, I'm giving him cream of plastic soup with mushrooms. He might be better off with Campbell's Cream of Mushroom since that was the flavor I'd aimed for anyway. Why did I always end up recreating Campbell's soup flavors when I made homemade?

I still couldn't fully open my eyes. They were gummy and my throat was sore as if I'd been snoring. I snore. So sue me. Lots of women do, but for some reason, it's like farting - we're supposed to pretend we don't, despite the evidence.

I popped the door of the microwave and tapped the side of the soup container with one finger. I'd been burned before. Still tepid. I sloshed it back in and set the timer for a few more minutes then stared into space as I waited for it to heat. Damned dinging. It was like an alarm. Why don't they make microwaves silent?

Mike blended a yogurt smoothie with strawberries and banana, still whistling his tune. What was it? Opera? He was whistling opera?

I fumbled with mustard. Vinegar came out first and splattered over everything but the sandwich I was trying to assemble for Nick. I smeared it around on the counter with a dry paper towel.

I dusted off the thermos as Mike packed his tidy lunch into his white canvas bag. How does that thing stay so white?

Soup coming from the wide plastic container spilled out over both sides of the thermos as I poured still tepid soup into it.

"You missed a spot," Mike said, still cheerfully. "Don't they make wide-mouthed funnels that help with that sort of thing. You should put that on your Christmas list. It would make a great stocking stuffer."

"Mustard enhances the flavor of the soup," I mumbled. I threw out another dry paper towel filled with mushrooms and tried to pick up chunks of mushroom with my kitchen sponge. It had gone rancid and my hands would smell like that even after I used soap and water on them.

"What?" he said and then went on whistling. He leaned over me, the kitchen dance, and rinsed the sponge after I put it behind the sink, still goobered with soup and mustard I had smeared on the counter. He went on whistling as he dried his hands. Was he helping me or trying to tell me something?

And what was that stupid song? Why is it legal to whistle opera at 6:24 in the morning? He picked up his packed lunch bag and his smoothie.

"Bye hon," he said. He leaned over to kiss me and paused for a long hug. "Have a nice day, okay?" Words hung in my throat, not quite coherent.

"Bye!" I yelled after him as he walked down the stairs. I heard the front door click open. "Ride of the Valkyries!" I shouted.

"What was that, sweetie?" He paused and yelled up the stairs.

"Ride of the Valkyries!"

"Never heard of it!" he cheered and he snapped the door shut behind him.

"Ride of the Valkyries," I whispered to thin air.

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, November 14, 2015

I Was a Dork And Jenny Lawson Was So Nice!

I met Jenny Lawson last night!

You know, Jenny Lawson the Bloggess, author of 'Furiously Happy.' I met a famous person and she was nice!

I was almost late for the reading, but so was she. Traffic was so bad and the limo bus in front of me was having as much trouble getting anywhere as I was, not that Jenny was definitely on that limo bus, but I waved at the back of it anyway, just in case she was sitting in the back seat looking out the window.

When I got into the book store, a spot on my leg, varicose veins I think, went numb immediately when I realized there was standing room only. I stood even though some idiots had saved seats for friends who never came at all. How rude is that? My varicose veins were zinging and throbbing as I stood there and when Jenny came in and started to speak, I wanted to wave at her to pause for a moment while I wrangled a chair from the bitches who saved seats for invisible people while real ones, tired ones, ones with throbbing varicose veins, were standing behind them so politely. I really should get that checked out. It could also be my back pressing on a nerve again and that's bad, but it doesn't throb all the time, so I think I'm good. I've had it on my list of stuff to do for months now, but I never seem to call my doctor. Nick has been to the doctor multiple times since I added my varicose veins to my to-do list, his broken finger, his braces, his lungs, all of it except for his concussion because those people never called me back after three weeks. Really, what is that?

Where was I?

So, Jenny. Remember Jenny? She talked at the podium and she was funny and gracious and didn't have to clutch at it in fear the way I would if I were up there. I loved listening to her read her book and hearing stories that she didn't include in the book because no one would believe they were real. The rat. Oh man, the rat story was great. You should have heard the rat story because it's totally not in the book. She mentioned her influential authors and I loved three out of five of them and I was impressed at how much Jenny and I had in common, good books and all. And people were asking question after question and she was still really gracious even when they asked her about trolls and if Victor is really patient with her. I could never be so gracious as she was, but that's Jenny. Yup, I read her first book, 'Let's Forget This Never Happened' and it was funny. And I read her blog and sometimes I even added a comment. I wonder if she ever read my comments. I wonder if she liked them.

But I stood in the back behind the bitches with the empty saved seats while she spoke. When Jenny was done speaking, I felt the floor move a little as everyone got up. Seriously? Were the floors rated for all these people crowded together in one place? I tried not to estimate the weight of all these people. I remember being at the top of the Twin Towers years before they were bombed and the elevator guy said it was normal for them to sway up to a few feet in either direction in the wind. Once he said that, I was totally sure I could feel those damned things swaying out of control and what happened when they got to swaying in different directions and how close were those things to each other anyway?

Don't you hate when you're really into what you're doing on the screen and your computer pops something up in front of you and you have to pause and think about what it is telling you? I hate that. Whose computer is this anyway? Yesterday, a guy I know said that we don't really own any of our computers, that the companies that put the software on them really have control and they use them to serve themselves and make more money from us.

It's getting that way, isn't it? Think about it. How much of what your phone and your computer does is something that you get to decide? How hard is it to turn that off?

Jenny. Right. I was telling you about Jenny and how I chatted with her. There were so many people standing around afterward that the bookstore had handed out tickets for organizing how Jenny would sign their books. Yellow tickets were given to people who had bought their books at the right bookstore, Third Place Books, and red ones for the slackers who'd saved money at Amazon ahead of time. There is that whole long discussion of independent bookstores and the big brick and mortar bookstores and eBooks and Amazon. Complicated, but from the very beginning, I stood in the camp of the independent bookstores like Eliott Bay Books and Third Place Books. So I didn't mind getting Jenny's book from Third Place Books especially if it got me a better ticket for my three minute conversation with Jenny.

Some woman who was shifting from foot to foot next to me asked what color my ticket was and I wondered if her yellow ticket was proof of her right-mindedness on the argument of independent bookstores and Amazon, the king of book delivery.
She asked me again as I stared in space.

Tickets? I didn't even have a ticket. I hadn't even gotten a chance to buy a book because traffic was so bad and I got there late and it never occurred to me to buy a book on Amazon because I've told Mike I'm spending less so that he can retire sooner and I didn't want him to open the package full of books I bought when I have a perfectly good Nook sitting on the shelf with its battery completely drained because I haven't plugged it in for so long let alone read it. And I thought of all of this as I wondered if I there were even any copies of Jenny's book left for me to buy so she could sign it for me while we chatted for three minutes.

I followed a few people behind Jenny as she was escorted past after she was done speaking and I wandered around to the cashier and found that there were two books left on the shelf that held her books. I was tempted to grab them both, but I didn't really need two books. If I bought two, one for me and one for my friend who couldn't come and whose birthday was two days ago, would someone already have given her the same book already because they knew she loved Jenny too and her birthday was over already and I was belated? And if I bought two hardback books, Mike would definitely notice that I hadn't been saving money and it was obvious that I never wanted him to retire at all. Mike is not like that. He's not, but I worry that he will be sometimes.

I was starting to get a little hungry as I paid for my book and got a yellow ticket, group C. Wow! I would get my time to chat with Jenny in about an hour and a half. Hopefully, I wouldn't be vacant and crazy from lack of food by then. I'm not entirely sure why I didn't go to the food court except that I didn't want to miss my moment with Jenny.

This is pathetic, isn't it?

It really is.

After that, I decided to buy the book that Jenny had suggested that I still hadn't read since I'd most likely love it. I loved two or three other of her other recommendations, hadn't I? Christopher Moore and, crap, I can't remember any of the others she mentioned. Memory of a sieve, I tell you.

I wandered over to that part of the shelves. Fiction. Neil Gaiman. 'Sandman.' There were people in my way and they reluctantly moved from the G section with books in their hands. Had they taken the last copy of 'Sandman?' Really? How unfair was that? The bookstore should have ordered extra copies ahead of time, right? So I scanned the other Gaiman books and there was one with the word 'ocean' in the title.

I wondered why I always read books with water in the title. I'm not kidding you. I do. 'Like Water for Chocolate,' 'River of Doubt.' Why can't I remember any more of those titles? And why are they allowed to put oceans and rivers and water in their titles if the stories aren't about oceans and rivers and water? I pulled my ocean not ocean book off the shelf and wandered away because there were more people who were clamoring to look at Neil Gaiman's books. Did we all think we were going to have a better three minute conversation with Jenny because we'd bought the books that she recommended?

All in all, I had wondered if I should ask Jenny if she'd had a chance to see Seattle, if she liked the weather here, if I should tell her she didn't have to sign my book, that she could just sit there for a minute and pretend to sign my book and take a deep breath and stare into space, and I had wondered how she tolerated living in Texas with Dubya there. I wondered if I could show her the pictures of the elk I took that morning as they crossed the road. I wondered if I should show her pictures of Mike and Nick and ask her if she'd be willing to read my book when I finished it. I had had at least seven three minute conversations with her before I even arrived in the Third Place Books parking lot. So I stood in the D section and stared into space for a bit while I thought about that.

I perused more of the fiction section, looked at the B section where my book might be if I ever finish it. Crap. Bottom row on the end. There couldn't be a worse place for my so-called book. It'll be mid-listed for sure if I can even get an editor to pick it off the slush pile, read it, and send me a hefty advance so Mike can retire.

Then I went into the bathroom to check my hair and ... My hair was flat from all the rain and well, I don't have much hair to begin with, so a drop of rain makes it flat. And of course there was that one curl, my superman curl, that I can never do anything with, but I figured that Jenny would forgive my superman curl. She would, wouldn't she. She's nice that way.

I unzipped my jacket in front of the mirror to see if I looked a little more relaxed but I realized that I was wearing my pajama shirt instead of something normal. Seriously? I'd come to meet Jenny Lawson in person for the first time and I'd walked out of the house in my pajamas? She was going to think I was a total dork.

Oh right. I am a total dork. I was standing in front of the mirror worrying about a three minute conversation with a woman who was out there having a three minute conversation with over a hundred and fifty of her new best friends.

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Against All Christianity

It is a bad time to be a Christian. I don't have a lot of time this morning, but here's my short list:

1) Planned Parenthood - I loved that Planned Parenthood helped me when I was a young woman. No, it's none of your business what they did for me, but as a Christian, I believe in the separation of church and state. The United States was founded by people trying to avoid religious persecution and now this? Get your laws off my body, people.

2) the 2016 election - I'm sick of it already. Do I really want a "Christain" president who calls immigrants names and maligns them? If a single one of the these "Christian" zealots who call themselves candidates were of another faith, Muslims for example, and saying the same things they're saying, people would be angry. Why aren't more people angry about closing the borders on our nation built of immigrants?

3) Starbucks - It's a freaking coffee cup, people, not a statement against all Christianity.

It's embarrassing. It really is.

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, November 2, 2015

Higher Intelligence

Teddy is so sensitive to the cat's messages that he won't even go into the kitchen after I put out his dog food. Damned cat.

When Mike or I add water to the water dish they share - now don't go telling me to put out more than one water dish because neither of them will drink from the spare - Seth guards the water for a bit after he drinks his fill. He just stands there staring at Teddy who won't look him in the eye, who paces back and forth a bit as he contemplates the fresh water in the bowl. Now that is just mean. Eventually, Seth ambles off as if guard duty is beneath him and Teddy rushes in for a quick drink. I wonder if he is eternally dehydrated.

Because Teddy's food dish is next to the water dish, Seth will guard that too after I put the wet food in, the good stuff. It really aggravates me when the glop gets the little brown tinge on the edges because it dried out as Seth guarded it and Teddy gave up on eating it and went to sulk on the couch. Oh, I don't put out anything new, but I hate seeing those dry brown edges. I buy good food for Teddy, but it ends up looking like last week's leftovers.

I blame the cat.

I seriously believe that cat's will be considered the higher life form if we are discovered by intelligent beings from another planet. See, we were smart when we started feeding wolves. They were scavengers and cleaned up our messes. Plus, they were good for hunting, understanding how to work as a pack the way we do. I'm convinced that Border collies were the first breeding program because they could cull one of the smaller bison calves from the herd and the tribe would eat well for a week. That is definitely a symbiotic relationship.

The cat, however, is a parasite. Oh I guess you could argue that they took care of rodent populations better than wolves. You could also say that they purr to heal themselves and I've heard that there is a similar frequency to aid healing in our own bodies. I swear that my father would roll over in his grave to hear me talk about frequencies and healing in the same sentence, but who am I to say? They use ultrasound for healing, don't they? That's a frequency we can't hear.

So, you could argue that cats are people too, that they contribute as much, that they are symbiotic and not just parasites.

Personally, I think they saw the way that wolves got treated and were jealous of all the attention. Then they came into the tepees and decided to make it all just a bit better for themselves than the dogs had it. They would not follow orders. They gave orders. A long stare meant to provide kibbles and fresh water. A certain meow meant for the human to sit down and provide a warm lap and some much deserved affection. Forget the dog, that sound seemed to say. What you need is to attend to me.

Sorry. I have to go clean out the litter box before Nick takes the garbage to the curb. See what I mean?

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, October 18, 2015

In the Spirit

I've been asked to host Halloween in front of the church again. Four people asked me last week and one asked today. Yes, I told them all. I like being that person, the lady that hands out candy and cocoa with marshmallows at the church. I don't like handing out fliers on Halloween. I don't want to proselytize. I want it simply to feel like a gift, a place for children to roast marshmallows at our fire pit, an open door with a sign toward a bathroom, a generous source of candy and cocoa, an open place for teenagers to hang out when it gets late and they're out of toilet paper.

I love the gathering. People come to say hi, some friends, some acquaintances, some strangers. Some, I don't even recognize at first because of their costumes. I love the feeling of community, the cheerfulness. This town is generous on Halloween. People decorate, buy eight or ten bags of candy at a time, spend their evening handing it out to the hordes who walk the streets. I've walked with Mike and Nick and often an extra child or two. People have offered me wine and extra chocolate. They've chatted and hugged me in middle of the street. Once a man sat on his porch with a mask, straw hanging out of his sleeves and cuffs, and reanimated whenever someone had the courage to take a piece of candy from his basket. It was freaky fun. Nick stood on the sidewalk for a long time that night before he got the courage to take a piece of candy, courage at the age of six. I loved it. For a while a family on the outskirts grew a small corn maze and once, a small business in the middle of renovation converted themselves to a haunted house complete with a coffin bearing a live dead person who sat up just as you thought you were done. For a few years, there were homemade movies replete with local children acting as zombies that were shown in the Masonic Lodge. It was fun to see Nick's friends on the screen even if the movies were terrible. I miss those movies.

So, I feel like we're giving back on Halloween, me and anyone who shows up to help that night. We'll have a tent with lights, marshmallows and sticks to roast them on, cocoa, candy, and a place to stop for a while and warm your hands by the fire.

Last year, I tried to take some pictures in the dim light. The pictures were awful, but every single one of them showed a transparent orb in the foreground. I probably had something stuck to the lens of my camera.

Or maybe Spirit came to church that night and played.

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Effects of the Flu on Stew

I need to tell you something. I feel really badly that I didn't tell you at the beginning of the spring because there have been so many gaps here and you deserved an explanation for why I seemed to have abandoned you.

Despite a total lack of supporting evidence that I'm qualified, I'm editing material for a book. It's a long process and I don't usually like to write about writing, but I promise I haven't intentionally left you, all twelve of you, in the lurch about what lunatic thoughts I've had in my head in the past few months. I'm trying to clean my ideas up as I edit, but my head is revolting, rebelling, not actually disgusting though that's not far from the truth of the matter. My mind doesn't want to be cleaned up, so I'm having trouble editing the spooge that flows out of it. I keep telling it to behave but it's like a nasty little sister, swishing its hips and snorting at the same time with its middle finger up its nose. My sister used to hate when I did that.

So after I'm done with my editing, prodigious volumes of futile editing, I'm hoping to convince a publisher to print at least twelve copies of my book, one for each of you, and to send me on a world tour so I can put my book directly into your hot little hands. Would you read it? Well, you're still here and after years of dedication, so it's the least you deserve, don't you think?

Here are some titles I've been toying with:

Finding Joy in the Lunatic Mind
Dog Poop Stories and other Adventures in Holey Plastic
Bitch Mom
Love and Misadventures in a Canoe
Ravings and the Corporate Manifesto on Getting More for Less
Distortion of Memory and Why I Jumped Out of the Damned Tree
Simple Rantings

Do you think that more than the twelve of you would buy a copy? See, I haven't done a thing toward the publishing end of it. Not one thing. All I've done so far is write crap and look for typos and other garbage to delete. I may have deleted a whole volume by now. Think of the size of Diana Gabaldon's first book of Outlander and she, so successful in the words that she wrote. I wonder if my volume is like antimatter to her volumes of matter? Every beautiful thing must have its opposite.

Have you ever noticed that? Beautiful women so often have ugly hands. For all the mountain and lake scenes, there are a dozen ugly soy fields or littered alleyways. Everyone with a favorite teacher or coworker has had the control-freak teacher or avoided the creepy guy who worked three cubicles down and seemed to walk to the parking garage the same time as them every night. Good and evil, yin and yang, matter and antimatter.

I need to stop now.

The more recent news is that I avoided writing about the effects of the stomach flu I had this week. I'd bet you would thank me for that. The worst part was what it did to my mind to have to cook for my family anyway. I made stew. Ew. See, as I stirred the thickening pot, odd ideas crawled into my mind. I hate when that happens.

I didn't yet have an appetite, so it was hard to cook. It was hard to see the similarity between Teddy's dog food and what I was making. It was hard to think of the microscopic creatures that might fall from my face into the stew as I stirred it. It was hard to think of what might have been living in my very breath as I looked down into the steamy lumpy gray gunge.

Nick and Mike ate that stew enthusiastically. I couldn't stomach it. I'm better now, but I still can't.

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Fine Art of Using Scissors

I hate that Nick and I still have to argue about homework getting done. I hate it. I do.

Sometimes I think it would be easier to do it myself.

For example, tonight, I looked at Nick's grades and noticed a missing assignment in math. Nick is in the advanced class for math. Math isn't hard for him. Yay! I can brag a little here, becuase, let's face it, I need to brag a little, damn it. I need it because of this:

Nick, it seems, is currently getting a B in Math because he was missing an assignment to put a cover on his math book and bring it in to show his teacher.

Yes, my son is bright. Remember that I just told you that he's in the advanced class? Did I tell you that the dreaded common core test results came back and he scored in the advanced levels for math and science?

Did I?

Did I tell you that? I needed to tell you that.

So what the hell is going on with wrapping paper around the outside of a text book and showing it to his teacher? What? The? Hell? Why is this hard?

Nick actually tried to blame me for not buying him a book cover. Who the hell sells book covers anyway? Don't they call those things paper grocery sacks? You pull out tape and a couple of grocery sacks and a pair of scissors. It always takes two sacks because you forget to close the book while you do the back cover. Then, you can doodle the hell all over that text book cover and it never gets messed up, not even when you spill milk on it. That grocery sack is built to handle a little Cheerio flavored milk.

But it took twenty minutes of arguing and the involvement of both parents to get that damned math book wrapped. Apparently, my husband has a very different view of how a book should get wrapped. Engineers. And you'd have thought that Nick was seven, the way he acted like he couldn't handle the scissors and the tape. Didn't they cover the use of scissors in second grade?

Am I being too sarcastic here? Or am I right? A book cover. In Nick's advanced math class.

The hell.

The damned thing is wrapped already.

Then there was more arguing about who had to put the damned scissors away.

Really? Really?

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Drama of the Game

I'm starting to see the fascination with football. Nick's team lost tonight. It was very nearly a shut-out, but one kid, number 85, got his act together and caught the ball in the end zone. Except for number 85, who started to shine at the end of the game, who made the team's only touchdown, the offense was off its game.

It was a really cool moment for me when I asked if anyone knew who 85 was on the field, when I said that kid was playing a great game and a big man two seats down from where Mike and I sat turned around and grinned and said that was his boy, Andy. I love when I can do that for people.

The team's defense was pretty good, but needed to catch up after a rocky start. Then, they sacked the quarterback a couple of times. It was Nick's friend, Jim, who was up there doing sacking and tackling and generally being a great defensive player.

We yelled a lot for Andy and Jim tonight. I may be losing my singing voice this season.

Nick didn't play at all this game. The coaches kept the first-string players on the field all night, but it wasn't enough. Nick didn't seem to mind all that much. He's sitting on the couch right now doing his math homework.

The interesting thing, the really interesting thing, is what Nick explained to me on the way home from the game, the thing that explained everything, the thing that made all the pieces fit into place in my mind.

During the game, Jim's mom, who keeps a running commentary about the plays so that I can understand what's going on, asked about two players who usually run the offense, whose names are usually called over and over by any kind of announcer that we have for the freshman team. I told her that maybe they were injured, that I didn't see them on the field.

It was more interesting than that. Nick told me that these two kids got caught stealing and drinking and now they're off the team for two years. Nick explained that they won't be allowed to play until the middle of the season in 2017. Nick went on to tell me that these kids let the team down with their actions. Wow! That explains a lot.

And the cool thing is that Nick totally gets how this works, including how he might not play for an entire game now and then, and especially how the actions of the team members off the field can totally impact everyone on the field.

Football can be a little bit like a soap opera.

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Trying to See the Darkness

It's a clear night. Eleven minutes before the climax, Mike, Nick and I drove down the road to find the blood moon.

And there, by the Little League field, it hung, red and difficult to see in the headlights of other like-minded people, over the farm with the windmill and two horse barns and a long white plastic fence.

I thought of ancient people and their fear at a moon that bled in the sky. I was a little frightened myself, though I stood among quiet strangers with binoculars and real cameras. I wanted to know these people, to shine lights in their eyes to find friends. I wanted to hug a stranger as the full moon darkened in the sky.

Everyone whispered so that I didn't recognize voices. We stood staring over that farm as the red shifted to orange, curled and lightened around the bottom edge of the moon. I thought of how a solar eclipse is more crisp and how in the lunar eclipse, the light bends around the earth to shadow the moon with the infrared end of the rainbow.

I wanted to see the moon more clearly. I blocked out headlights with my hands, even the lights from the horses' barns. I looked through a hole in my fist. I closed my right eye, the weak one. It was only a bit clearer, the ordinary moon's face darkened in sadness, anger, surprise?

No, just physics. Red light bends less than blue light. Am I right? The beautiful blue light of the usual moon was blotted out by our shadow. The moon was nearer than usual, at its perigee, hanging large at the horizon which added to the red.

I wish that someone with a real camera took a series of shots to capture the strange light of the moon. I took pictures with my phone. They were lame and blurry, but I took them anyway.

I took the stupid pictures because something happened tonight, something I needed to see, to stare at, to ponder. I needed to stand quietly among strangers in an empty field, looking out over a farm with horses in their barns, a sky full of stars, and a moon that speaks of bloodshed.

I needed to try to see.

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

I Am Not Dead

I am not dead.

Since I wrote to you last, I have collected $2200 in donations for an auction that doesn't appear as if it will be well-attended. At last count, fourteen people signed up. I've brushed Teddy's and Ringo's teeth daily only to find that plaque still wins. I've separated a friendly dog who has been exposed to kennel cough with no cough so far from other friendly dogs on the trail. The friendly dog is sad.

I've escorted a boy to the doctor to find that he's broken the same bone in the same finger yet again. He does not, it seems, know how to catch a football. I have yelled at said boy for getting all A's except for Art, wherein he was failing. Now, he's recovered to a C. How do you get a C in Art?

I've fed 180 football players and done dishes afterward. Then I've fed 125 Boy Scouts and did dishes afterward. It turns out that I like playing with an industrial dishwasher. I wish my own kitchen were as well equipped, stainless steel everywhere and a floor with a drain that can stand to get wet. Come to think of it, I'd love a whole industrial kitchen, separate sinks for handling meat and vegetables, can-openers that work, knives that are sharp, and a place for everything. I love having a place for everything. You should have seen me working in those kitchens. I could actually see myself being the lunch lady. I could. No laughing.

I've argued with a boy about how he can lose two pair of special-order shoes in a week. Don't leave your shoes in the stands before a game. Don't leave your shoes in the locker room after practice. One pair of shoes showed up, but not before I emailed the coach about missed games due to lack of cleats and, of course, not before ordering a new pair.

I have not cooked well for my own family. Chicken patties, sloppy joes, ham, just ham. Can you imagine having just ham for dinner and calling it good?

I guess we're all tired. I'll see you soon. I promise I'll come back soon.

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, September 7, 2015

Finding Art in the Air, the Wood, and the Stones

Mike and I took Teddy down to the Snoqualmie Falls tonight. Magic. First, I found Mike's silhouette in the stones. He just happened to be standing there when I saw that the boulder right behind him had his profile. Did he do that unconsciously or did I see what I wanted to see, a face I loved reflected in stone?

Then more magic. The rainbow. Okay, it's true that if you walk down to the falls on any sunny evening, you're likely to find a rainbow in the spray, but it's still magic since I've only seen it twice. I love watching the roiling red mist and on the bottom side, the narrow band of purple haze. It never surprises me that the Snoqualmie tribe holds the falls sacred. There is energy there, pure, clean, and surprisingly powerful.

I wasn't done with the evening's magic yet. Mike had walked downstream while I scrambled around the big boulder to look at the rainbow as close as I could without slipping on the wet rocks. When I followed him back downstream, I got stuck in the sneaker-deep creek that joins the river just below the falls. Wet feet be damned. As I made my way through, I tried to get to the other side through tall grasses, not the kind the grows in your yard, but the kind with wide green leaves that grow thigh-deep in shallow water. I was about to crash through a web with a large spider in it. I stopped just short and there, to my right, was a Pacific treefrog. He held his blade of grass and waited. I leaned closer to see the black stripe that runs across his eye like a mask. I looked at his tiny toes, not webbed, but I couldn't see the disks that helped him hold on. I told him he was beautiful and though I could see he was about to leap to safety, he didn't. He might have let go of a held breath as I passed between him and the big spider web and trundled away to higher ground.

One more. When we went up the other trail, we passed over a large felled tree that had a chunk carved out of it so travelers could step over without having to scramble. Growing there was an artist's fungus - yes, that is it's real name from a book - a large semicircular fan with concentric brown and gray circles drawn onto the top and white as paper flesh on the bottom.

I think I met the artist down at the falls.

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, September 5, 2015

As Long as He's Having Fun

I've been gone from here. I hadn't meant to be gone so long. Can we just slow things down? There was Nick's birthday, back-to-school business, football practice, end of the summer stuff, and then Nick was actually back to school and my free time was supposed to be free. The only problem was that I went  back to school as well.

Why do I volunteer my time away? I helped for pictures. I did a PTSA finance audit. Why did I agree to help with a PTSA finance audit? I don't want to add up numbers and crap. I just don't. I only agreed to do it because my friend is the PTSA treasurer.

I also agreed to help with meals for Nick's football team. I like feeding kids. I like the feel of the industrial kitchen at the school. It's so clean and efficient. I did dishes on Thursday. I actually liked doing dishes there. I wish my kitchen were set up so I could get water all over and that would be okay.

Next week should be easier. It should. I don't have much planned except for the food for the football team. The nice thing is that I'm not organizing it. I've organized food for 37 people for a camping weekend and that was crazy. I don't want to figure out meals for 158 people once a week. I'll chop vegetables. I'll serve portions. I'll do dishes. I like feeding the kids, but I don't want to organize it.

In the meantime, I'm drinking too much coffee. For three weeks, I've been waking up before 6:00 am even on days I'm able to sleep. After dropping Nick off, I've been going to a coffee shop and they give me a bigger size coffee than I'm asking for. It's nice, but there's a reason I'm asking for the smaller size.

This is all boring shit, you know. Boring. BORING.

So what else can I tell you about?

There's the waiting. Nick's football practice hours are a suggestion. I can show up on time to pick him up and he isn't done for a half hour. What the hell? I've had parents say that there isn't time to do homework on game nights. Really? He isn't expected to do his homework?

I'm sorry. This is boring too.

Can you see I've been sucked into the machine? I'm volunteering a bunch of my time for an organization that don't have any idea of what I really intend to do with my time. I wanted Nick to get exercise and he is. His calf muscles are showing the lines and form of each muscle these days. His shoulders are wider. His coach said he's as strong as an ox.

But I also want him to get an education. In the long run, he's going to need the education more.

I have to remind myself that this isn't about what I want for him any more. This is about what he wants for himself, with a little bit of mom-wanting thrown in for good measure.

But why did it have to be football? Why couldn't it have stayed karate? Why couldn't it have been swimming or music or art? I get those things. That's one of the challenges of being a parent, isn't it? It's my job to support what he loves, even volunteer my time for it. But football?

I have a boy who is a lot like me in temperament, but who is interested in stuff that is entirely different than stuff I'm interested in. I'm watching a bunch of football these days. I never watched football before. In the afternoons when the kids aren't done practicing, I walk up into the stadium and find myself looking out over a sea of red jerseys and searching for my boy's silhouette. What is he doing? How is he feeling?

I'm not entirely sure he's all that good. He's not experienced with football. I can see that he's not the first to volunteer when kids are called. He stands at the back of the crowd. By looking at his silhouette, I can't tell that he loves it though he says he does. When he finally gets into the car after practice, his chatter is all about bruises and plays and what the coach said. So what do I know?

So far, I haven't been expected to sit through college or professional football games. If I did, I'd pick a player that had Nick's solid silhouette and I'd privately cheer him on. I'd watch for evidence of his enthusiasm from across the field. I'd look for injuries. I'd try to see, after all the years of practice, if it looked like he was still having fun.

As long as he's still having fun, I think, but what about me?

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Banging Pots in the Early Morning

It has been a hot, dry summer for us and I think everyone, even kids, are ready to head back to school. Football practice starts tomorrow. I'm sure there's an email I need to check with details. Mike is asleep on the couch with a movie on.

Oh, there's another story that I really shouldn't tell you at all. Nick had trouble with a couple of friends who spent the nigh and I really should not tell the story. I'm not willing to take the risk of complaining about people when they might eventually recognize themselves. Even for a kid, it doesn't seem right though they would be least likely to encounter themselves in a middle-aged woman's rantings. Especially for a kid, it isn't right to broadcast mistakes, but I want to complain. I really do.

Okay, you're right. I won't tell all of it. Kids make mistakes and these didn't involve the big three, sex, drugs, or alcohol. So, the whole thing could have been worse. Still, I was so angry that I cried, but not in front of the boys. I'll keep those pesky and most interesting details out of the story.

Here are the basics. Two boys came for a sleepover and did things with food that were revolting. They left gross chunks and splatters of food everywhere, on my carpet, on my futon, on the lamp stand, on the coffee table. Some of it had to have been thrown to get where it was. I could see trajectory.

Who does that in someone else's house?

The funny part of it was that Nick, having tried to keep these boys from doing what they did, didn't get into trouble and was commended for his attempt at doing the right thing. He described how some boys he knows are not disciplined enough and so they behave badly wherever they go and the others are disciplined too much and they act out when their parents aren't around. He told me, yes me, that he was so happy that we were in-the-middle kind of parents. He's also taking quite a bit of interest in our anger. I think he was so relieved not to be in trouble, that we compared his past mistakes as easy compared to what these boys did. It was even better when we said that even what they did wasn't the worst a kid could do. Nick is pleased to know that he's not far down the scale. I've been trying to remind him more often that he's a good kid since it seems as though he needs to hear it. I hadn't noticed that need before, but I did in all of this.

In the meantime, I had to tell the parents of the boys what happened. That was hard to get to. I don't like complaining to people about their kids. Mike's response surprised me. After I discovered it, I stood, furious, in the kitchen and whispered fiercely to Mike that I wish I had his patience. Nick and the offenders slept in the next room. I was tempted to bang pots until they were awake. I was tempted to drive them home at six in the morning. I wasn't sure why I was whispering.

"Well, maybe patience is not what is needed here," he whispered back. It was then that I realized that parents should be involved.

And maybe a little early-morning pot banging too.

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, August 15, 2015

A Spooky Dog at the Faire

We went to the last Saturday of the Midsummer Renaissance Faire in Bonney Lake today. It was the first time we'd ever been there in cool weather. It was mostly great, eating meat pies and turkey legs, watching people in their exceptional and sometimes half-hearted costumes, watching magic and juggling and jousting and sword-play. It was mostly great, except ...

Teddy got spooked by the sound of distant cannons. Okay, I didn't even hear them at first but his dog ears did and he was constantly reminding me with a hard tug which direction the car was parked. That dog could get me home in a thunderstorm. Most of the time he's light on the leash but tonight, my hands are sore and I wished more than once that I didn't have one of those nylon ribbon leashes. Actually, I wished more than once that I hadn't brought him or that it was actually cool enough to bring him back to the car. I never did see where they were shooting off those cannons, not that I would have gone near them with Teddy on the line.

I didn't know what to do. He slipped his collar twice and tried to crawl under tent flaps until I found a man with a riveter who punched a row of holes in his leather collar. Teddy wasn't happy when I tightened that thing around his neck and wrapped the leash around my waist as ballast against his straining. He calmed himself down when we stopped for a show and he crawled under us in the bleachers. He just needed a tight spot to hang out. After that, we watched a number of shows. We liked the rat show, Cirque du Sewer. She's got the cat trained to play in the rat show! It was a good show. And as we sat on the bales of hay, Teddy crawled under our knees. I spread my skirt out over him to make a tent around him. That did the trick and afterward, Teddy sniffed hello to a few dogs and saw that they weren't shot through with cannon-fire so he relaxed a bit. Then, there was a bakery woman with beautiful tarts and pies and a friendly dog. Teddy found he could be social again. Sometimes I really miss eating junk food. These baked goods were beautiful sugary things, bound to kill me with their sweetness. When I die, I want to die of key lime tarts, if you don't mind.

Really, I'm not going to bring Teddy to the fair next year. It's just easier than trying to calm him. I've heard that if you ignore fearful behavior, it'll go away, but my hands hurt and it's not worth retraining him for something we do once a year. It wasn't like bringing him to a Fourth of July celebration, but it was enough.

Plus, Teddy ate junk today. He was too quick for me to see what things were before they went down the hatch. I'm just hoping stuff doesn't come back up in the middle of the night.

By the end of the day, Teddy learned the trick of being in a tent of my skirt and we watched the jousting show in relative peace. We were seated right behind the queen's chair. Teddy tucked under my skirts and looked out from under the queen's chair at the horses and people playing games on the field. Most of it was relaxed play and lots of cheering except that one horse freaked out when his rider pretended to fall off and he was suddenly riderless. Teddy knew just how that horse felt, like the world was coming to an end and cannon-fire was approaching on the horizon.

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

One in a Million

I found the perfect pocket rock the other day. Why is that important? I'd really like to know why I saw this unassuming rock lying on a beach full of rocks and I knew in an instant how it would feel in my hand. It was like love at first sight, on a smaller scale of course.

I hate to tell you, but I like the feel of this stone more than the polished worry stone I bought when we went to visit my family. I like it more than the heart-shaped glass a little friend found for me at a garage sale. I like it better than the round white stone a friend brought back for me from a white beach in Ireland. I might even like it more than the rock I've been carrying in my pocket for the past three or four years, the one that's polished smooth from so much worrying, the one that Nick gave me, the one that is black with red veins running through it. I suppose I still love the stone Nick gave me best, but there is so much potential in my new pocket rock. Two or three years will tell the tale. I've been carrying Nick's pocket rock that long.

I tried to hand the perfect pocket rock to my friend on the beach at the moment I found it but it didn't strike her as perfect so I tucked it into my own pocket before she lost it among the multitudes of stones. When I got home, I showed Nick, but he held it in the wrong hand and I knew, though he loves a good pocket rock, that this wasn't his perfect fit. It is decidedly a left-handed pocket rock, being wider on one end for grip and having the perfect spoon for my left thumb. I even tried to get Mike to see it's perfection.


How is it that three perfectly sane people who knew me could not feel the beauty of this stone?

Now, I'm about to admit that I have a problem. It isn't often that I end a walk without a rock in my pocket. My mother sent me a crystal bowl when Mike and I got married and I filled it with my favorite rocks. When my quilt group came for my turn this year, I moved a bunch of my found rocks outside as if they belonged there. 'Cleaning.' I hate cleaning. When I turn out my pockets at the airport, there is always a rock with my keys and my wallet. The dryer often tumbles a rock or two. A couple of years ago, a friend introduced me to a Zentangle class and we doodled on found stones. So now, I have two or three piles of stones in the house waiting for me to doodle on them. There are doodled stones in every house plant. There are stones on windowsills.

This habit of doodling on stones is meditative. It does make me happy when I end up liking a pattern I've drawn, usually emphasizing something the stone held to begin with. When I don't like my results, I toss the poor rock back into a pile of rocks by the river or into tall grass where it can recover and grind my insult away against other stones. I've intentionally left other doodled stones, a blessing of sorts, at places I love, at my trails, at the river, on an ocean shore, at my son's schools and dojos and fields and pools.

The stones never stay where I leave them. Sometimes I look for them when I come back through and they always disappear. I like that. Once, I found one of my stones in the home of a friend. What are the odds? Well, since this friend walked the same trail I did on occasion, it wasn't that much of a stretch.

But the most important part is choosing the stones. I would swear that they choose me. One minute, I'm having a perfectly sane walk on a rocky trail and the next, there's a sweet stone, just aching for me to pick it up. Right now, I'm collecting flat round stones. I used to collect red ones or green ones. Then, I went through a long stretch of finding wounded stones that had healed. I may not be the only crazy person in this world because I recently learned that the healed stones, the ones with lines all the way through them, are called wishing stones.

I never made a wish on my wishing stones, but I have meditated over them. I have carried them miles with me before depositing them somewhere new. Geologists be damned.

Usually, my found stones lie among thousands of other stones, but something makes me single them out. I've given up prying a stone out of a tight spot. If a place is going to look weird when I walk away, I don't want to disturb it. Some of my trails are nearly paved with stones embedded in mud. I leave these alone. It's a stone that's been uprooted, that has hung alone at the edge of a trail or been kicked loose by someone on the trail ahead of me that captures my eye. My stones have a hopeful sense about them, one of art and traveling and love and wondering where a soul might end up.

These stones find me.

My perfect pocket rock found me too. It is safely ensconced in my left pocket. I can reach in when I need tangible reassurance and it is there.

Strange, right? I told you I had a problem.

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Zip Thrills

Well, I'm here to tell you that the ziplines are about exciting as I expected. I love safe adrenaline surges. I love jumping out of trees. What I didn't manage was to simply leap. Every time, I sat down into the harness first, felt the safety of it, and then pushed off from the edge. I never managed to leap, that leap of faith, that sense of letting go, losing control. I consider my way to be the recliner method, not the young hip adrenaline junkie method.

I'm not sure I could make myself jump out of a perfectly good airplane, not even with a parachute on my back, not even in tandem. I want to try some day, but I'm not sure I can do it.

I did zip though and I didn't scream too much. The best zip at Canopy Tours NW is the one at the smaller tree, the tree that swayed. It was a tall tree too.

The funny thing, the thing I didn't realize whenever it was my turn, was that I had a death-grip on the locking carabiner that clipped me in and the backup line with my other hand. I am a true fan of redundant systems, especially when my life is connected to them.

So, each time I finished zipping, as the guy settled me back onto the platform and began to unhook my lines, he gently reminded me to loosen my death-grip and take hold of the cable on the tree.

I had to laugh every time. I hadn't realized that my grip was that tight. It was so tight my hands ached the next day. They even ached two days later. As an old woman, I want to keep working to maintain my grip. I don't want to be the old lady who has to wait for four days until somebody comes to visit to ask them to open a jar of pickles. Ziplining was very good for that future jar of pickles.

There was another benefit too. See, I've been more and more dizzy since my pregnancy. I can get dizzy in a swing, looking at an optical illusion, and standing at any edge. Roller coasters are a riot but so was the ziplining. I don't fall or lose my balance, but I'm much more dizzy than I ever was before.

The cool thing was that I got an additional zippy feeling in the backs of my knees when I stood on the step after I had zipped. I stood watching everyone and looking down below and there it was, not quite as strong as actually zipping, but jangling my knees and belly anyway. It was there when I leaned over the rail to spit into the abyss. It was there whenever I moved away from the rail toward the edge of the platform even a little bit. It was there whenever I put my back toward that edge, even if the rail was in my hand. Free adrenaline spikes, little ones, but it helped make the whole thing more exciting.

The strongest adrenaline surge was when the guy sent Nick on his way and right after he leaped, the guys yelled, "No, wait ..."

It was a joke. I realized it the second time he did it. I told him that he'd just given me the biggest jolt he could have given me. It told him that the mom jolt of adrenaline isn't as much fun as the others, but I was still laughing so he kept laughing too. He didn't do it to Nick again though. Good thing. I think my heart might have stopped.

Now, I just need to go to the fairs and ride some roller coasters. Eventually, just standing on the ramp to the roller coaster will be a thrill.

Cheap date, but I still know how to have fun.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, July 31, 2015

Hoping I Get Properly Zipped into My Zipline

I'm going ziplining tomorrow!

Did you hear that? I got excited just looking at the videos at Canopy Tours NW. I've gone climbing on cliffs. I've rappelled those cliffs. Exciting. I've whitewater rafted and canoed and backpacked and hiked and swam in all kinds of waters, but I've never leaped off a perfectly good tree into midair.

Oh right. I did leap out of a perfectly good tree when I was about nine. I was too high and I knew it when I leaped. I fractured my leg when I landed. Another time, I jumped off a limb holding the rope swing in our back yard, swung wildly out and back and then hit another trimmed limb and got a nasty round bruise on my butt. I guess I'm not new to jumping out of trees.

But that was when I was a kid. Now, I'm fifty-five years old and even being harnessed in to within an inch of my life, I'm going to feel like I'm nine again, flying through the air.

I hope I don't scream.

I hope this becomes a thing that we do, ziplining wherever we come across a zipline tour. Mike says he's not that interested. There's no skill. Maybe it's kind of like bungee jumping for him, a test of equipment and the focus of the people who hook you onto the line.

Me? I'm in. I'm all in. I'm going to leap.

I'll let you know how it went, okay?

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Search for Happiness on TV

Last night, I watched two movies. Mike and Nick were working with a friend on a project to get ready for Boy Scout camp and there were these two movies I knew I wasn't going to get to watch if I didn't take advantage of the time. 'Wild' and 'Hector's Search for Happiness' were the ones that had arrived at the library together. I thought watching those movies would make me happy.

I was excited about seeing 'Wild.' I'd read the book and thought the load of gear and incredible inexperience on the trail could make for a few funny scenes. I thought I would relate. And I had seen a great preview of 'Hector's Search for Happiness.' Simon Pegg. I love watching Simon Pegg.

Plus, since I was making dinner for the guys, I figured a plate of pasta and a glass of wine would make me happy too.

I started watching 'Wild.'

Unfortunately, the screenplay emphasized redemption from sex with strangers and heroin use. Not my thing, seriously not my thing. I get how being on a trek can cause a redemption, but I'm much more interested in a lower form of redemption, something there in surviving, surely, but more subtle.

Don't get me wrong. Anyone who can come back from a low that low should write a book. They should be proud. They should tell their story so that others in the same situation can see a ray of hope.

It's just that ...

I'm not entirely sure what it was. I guess I just wanted to be entertained on the order of Bill Bryson's 'A Walk in the Woods.' I wanted fluff, fluff with some redemptive power, but fluff still. I wanted to see how someone like the girl I had been years ago could go for a long hike and be redeemed even if she hadn't taken the heroin road. I wanted to see myself on that trail.

When I read the book, I managed to see myself on the trail.

There was a time when I was twenty three years old that I was sent on a business trip to Phoenix and I decided that I was going to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back while I was in the right state. I had a spare weekend after the training and my boss even said he'd pay for my rental car for the weekend. Those were the days, weren't they? I hadn't asked for my boss to pay for my rental car, but he paid for it anyway.

And then I proceeded to hike sixteen and a half miles in my Keds to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back in one day with two cans of Dr. Pepper and two Snicker's bars in my jacket pockets. Those were the days.

Mike likes to use my example as a what-not-to-do when planning for time in the wilderness. I told him he should. But every time, he points out that I did it with perseverance and managed to get back up the trail. There was redemption in hiking that trail. If I could hike a mile deep into the earth and back in one day, I could do anything I set my mind to doing.

But the movie 'Wild' wavered back and forth between the kind of redemption I knew and something much more sinister. That movie did not make me happy.

So then, I fed my guys. A plate of pasta and a glass of wine later, I started the second movie. I almost never have either, let alone both carbohydrates and wine. I should have known better.

After the guys went back to work, I was alone again and feeling a bit fuzzy. Hector definitely worked better for my tastes in movies. Simon Pegg's character was a psychiatrist who wondered what made people happy. He was living a seriously ordinary life and it made him wonder, at first about other people's happiness and ultimately about his own.

I loved this movie. I sat in my muddled state and made a list of things that made me happy as I watched:

walking on my hands in a pool
watching Nick's left eyebrow
touching Mike's beard in my hands
looking at sunlight on water
watching Teddy run
walking in the forest
standing ankle-deep in an ice cold river
looking at Nick's feet
writing things down
feeling Mike lean in when he hugs me

Oh, I could go on and on and on. I really am a pretty happy person as long as I'm getting enough sleep. When I'm sleep deprived, my sunny life can be seriously worrisome. But that movie made me think about what makes me happy.

I loved this movie and waited for the happiness to hit me as the movie was coming to a close. It was a very good movie. It was a bit fluffy, redemptive, and I love watching Simon Pegg.

But it did not make me happy. Why not?

It turns out that watching a movie by myself can not make me happy. I can be happy enough watching TV with Nick and Mike. I can snuggle with Mike and stare at Nick's big feet, but watching alone doesn't cut it. So why did I waste my time? I'm old enough to have known that by now, but I did it anyway.

Sometimes I think of all the things I'll do when I have all the time in the world. It's a pipe dream that will never work for me because I'm pretty sure that time in my life will be when I'm alone. It might be hard to be happy when I'm alone and don't have any responsibilities. I'd better be careful what I wish for.

Still, if I'm listening to that happiness list I won't be drinking wine and watching movies by myself when that day comes.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Blueberries Are Killing Me

The blueberries are killing me.

I just checked the pork loin and it needs at least forty-five more minutes in the oven. What the heck? It was only a little frozen when I put it in the oven. You know, that squishy kind of frozen when it hasn't defrosted in the fridge quite long enough.

Damned safety people, telling me I need to defrost my meat in the fridge. Blueberries? Right, I was telling you about blueberries.

There's also a blueberry cobbler in the oven with the pork. The pork was supposed to come out fifteen minutes ago and the cobbler was supposed to come out of the oven in about a half an hour. Perfect timing, right?

I am a good enough cook, but I never did get that timing down. You know, the cooks that have the Thanksgiving turkey coming out of the oven just when the yams are smelling up the house and the kid - me - has wrapped the spoon up in the mixer in an attempt to help whip the potatoes?

Yeah, that. I did it. That spoon was suitable for jewelry after I was done with it.

I can make some meals, but there's fifty-fifty potential for hockey puck food when I've been gone all day and am scrambling to get a hunk of meat and some vegetables on the table when everyone is finally home and staring at me, yes me, with those hungry eyes. Tonight, it's not hockey puck food, but it is raw. Raw pork. That's bad. What was it, trichinosis, that you can get from raw pork? So, we wait. We might be eating blueberry cobbler before the meat is close to finished. I'm still trying though. Me. I'm the only one in the kitchen. Well, I'm not in the kitchen, not exactly, but it's me who's paying attention. Me.

To Mike's credit, he made dinner last night and once last week and now and then as far as I can remember when we've all been too busy to be home at a reasonable time.

Mike's dinner was perfect and perfectly timed. It all came out at once. I suppose I could argue that beans and rice don't exactly have to be timed. First, he layers cooked minute rice on the bottom of a microwaveable plate. Personally, I like jasmine rice better, but I have to admit that the minute rice is quick. Still, it always irks me that it takes a whole five minutes for minute rice. Shouldn't they call it minutes rice instead? Isn't there a law about truth in advertising?

So then Mike adds diced tomatoes and sprinkles it with basil. That's the most important part of the layering. See, I always forget and add the basil after the beans and the flavor isn't just right then. The tomatoes love the basil. They really do. Beans? Not so much. After the basil, Mike adds the beans, hence beans and rice. And he tops it with a layer of shredded cheddar cheese, ready to be melted in the microwave. I like a quarter of an inch of cheese which almost makes it taste like beans and rice pizza, but Mike is a little more scrupulous with his cheese. Damned heart attack.

This is one of those recipes in our family that I'm not allowed to mess with. Kidney beans, not black beans. Canned tomatoes and not fresh. And no damned lime juice. Personally, I love the lime juice, but then it would not be beans and rice as we, in our family, know it. It would be something else.

And in the meantime, the blueberry cobbler is done, just bubbly and browned and the damned trichinosis pork loin is still raw in the middle.

The guys are digging into the blueberry cobbler now. Blueberry pie for dinner! Yay!

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, July 5, 2015

When Hot Isn't So Hot

I have become a Weather Channel addict. Right now, in my neighborhood, it informs me that it is 87 degrees Fahrenheit. It is supposed to get up to 96 degrees before the day is done. More than twice a day, in this heat, I'm checking The Weather Channel.

I'm dying here, wilting, liquifying. It's going to be 96 today!

Some of you might be used to Celsius. That's 35.5. A few days ago, the Weather channel said we were supposed to be over 100 degrees..... Fahrenheit. I've figured it out, just now. Finally, something about Fahrenheit makes sense.

So, Celsius is more organized. It's linked to the rest of the metric system. It is based on water, freezes at 0 degrees Celsius and boils at 100. Logical. I like to think that Spock would have been a fan of the metric system.

Fahrenheit, on the other hand, seems to be more related to human capacity. At 0 degrees Fahrenheit, humans are pretty uncomfortably cold. At 100 degrees, we're uncommonly warm. We don't make sense even in Fahrenheit because if we did, we'd be perfectly comfortable at 50 degrees. Bummer. We don't make it to comfortable until about 70. Why can't we be consistent?

Because we're human.

So, if anyone tells me that we're going to change to the metric system and we have to learn what 35.5 feels like and remember that we can complain then, I'll be ready to go. And I'll try to remember that I can survive below zero if it's Celsius. Won't that be a hoot? Some of us suggestive types might just get hypothermia in our jackets at 0 degrees Celsius and die just because it sounds so incredibly cold.

But I'd manage after a while and some close calls with forgetting my jacket. And really, 35.5 just doesn't seem all that hot right now. Maybe it makes sense to change in the summer then the climate change record heat won't seem so bad.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, June 26, 2015

Sweet-Home-Alabama Pride or Is He Just a Bigot?

I have an opinion about the confederate flag. Do you know the story that I'm referring to? There were nine people in a church in Charleston, North Carolina who were murdered. Nine African American people. The murderer had a confederate flag on his license plate. Now, use of the confederate flag by state governments is in question.

My first opinion is that attention has been taken away from that vile act against our African Americans and in a church no less. Now, instead of talking about mental health issues or rampant racism, our politicians argue whether the confederate flag should be a symbol in the South or not. Why can't they stay focused on the real issues?


My second opinion is that the confederate flag should go. Oh, I know those people who loved the confederate flag for its representation of redneck rebel pride, Lynyrd Skynyrd, off-road trucks, and spicy pulled-pork sandwiches.

Still, I never saw a black man waving that flag and eating a spicy pulled-pork sandwich. Never.

Did you?

Show me a black man waving the confederate flag and I'll show you a Jew waving a swastika.

Think about it. Five thousand years ago, the swastika was a Sanskrit symbol for good luck or well-being. Then, it began to be used as a symbol of 'purity' by the Nazis. Purity, really?

And that ruined the use of the symbol forever. It was used to create terror and to incite an evil pride instead of wishing people good luck. Can you imagine trying to send a swastika to anyone as a sign of good luck now? It just doesn't mean the same thing any more.

One time, I had a difference of opinion with a friend's son. He insisted that he was a 'hacker' and was completely offended when I asked if he'd done something illegal. After that conversation, I learned that a small group of computer experts were calling themselves hackers. At the time, my only comment to him after he explained that he wasn't breaking any laws was that if a large population defined a word in a negative way, a small group of people co-opting a different meaning of the word would have to live with the consequences, with the confusion, with the negative association the larger agreed meaning would bring.

Did that just make sense?

I told him that if he called himself a hacker, most people would assume he was breaking the law, that his small group of people couldn't just change the meaning and argue that the rest of us were wrong.

He hung up on me.

And so it is with the confederate flag. A large population see the confederate flag as a sign of oppression. I used to wonder why I got so nervous at a party whenever I met a guy driving a truck with a gun-rack and a confederate flag in the back window. Now, I know. That flag could either have meant that this guy liked his pulled pork spicy and would sing along whenever 'Sweet Home Alabama' came on the radio or it could mean that he was a bigoted - and that often went along with being a misogynist - man with a bunch of guns to back him up. With the confederate flag, you could never tell which man was which until the party had gone on too long and the beer was flowing freely.

Yes, I think the confederate flag should be removed from any government buildings and license plates. What you do with your own gun-rack is up to you, but don't be offended if I wonder if it means you're a bigot. Okay?

Thank you for listening, jb