Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Vacation Thief

Yesterday was a disappointment.

I was behind, sitting at the computer, burning dinner, and watching Nick doze on the couch when I thought about how much Nick now looks like Mike when he's asleep on the couch. I wanted to take a picture of him, one of my bits about gathering evidence of miracles, but I knew that coming that close and peering down at him while he slept would probably wake him up, even if I did manage to make my new phone silent instead of mimicking that stupid shutter sound when I press the button.

And then the landline rang. Nick didn't wake up. I'm not entirely sure why we've had a landline for the the past six years. I almost always ignore it. Sometimes I look at the number displayed. Rarely, I answer and tell them to take us off their list. This time, it was my credit card company. There was a suspicious activity on my card and I needed to call them. This phone number, that case number. Please call as soon as possible.

Here's the thing - when anyone, even someone I trust, leaves a message to call this number about my credit card, I'm suspect. I called the number on the back of my credit card instead.

I have an LL Bean credit card. That means that we can get coupons for free new clothes when we charge stuff on our card. What a great deal, don't you think?

Plus, they have great heuristics and often call to check that a charge is appropriate. The only time they made a mistake was once when Mike and I were traveling in different states and they thought that was weird. It was weird.

The LL Bean credit card woman who came on the phone gave me her name and said she was in Maine. Maine! I love Maine! Mike and I honeymooned in Maine. Right. LL Bean is in Maine. I like imagining being in Maine whenever I talk to these people on the phone. I wanted to ask how her weather was, but I usually have to work them up a bit before I get them laughing and chatting on the phone as if we were acquaintances.

"Thank you for checking with me about this," I said after I'd answered all the special code words only I would know. Even when I did make a charge that was refused for some reason, I try to remember to thank them for being proactive when a suspicious charge comes onto my card. It's hard to stay ahead of the guy who would steal my money, but they give it a good shot.

"Did you charge $173.14 at a bike shop today?"

"No," I said slowly. "I've been at home all day. No charges. Wait, let me think. No. I haven't even bought anything online. I think." Way to be certain of your answer, I thought.

"This was charged in Florida," she said.

"Florida. That sounds nice, doesn't it? A bike ride in Florida." She laughed. We went over a couple more of my charges, more local ones, but there was also a hotel in Florida, the DoubleTree in Orlando, that was refused too. Oh man. A nice hotel in Florida. This guy tried to charge $4000 in just a few hours. Wow!

"Did you charge $42.11 at Albertson's yesterday?"

"Yeah, that sounds more my speed, grocery shopping," I said. Boring. At home. Shopping for food to feed a teenaged boy.

"That four thousand dollar vacation in Florida is sounding pretty nice right about now, don't you think?" I asked. I'd forgotten to ask about her weather. Did she get any of that load of East Coast snow? Was it so cold her tongue would stick to the flag pole if she licked it?

"Yeah, it does," she said. I had her. I could hear the wishful thinking in her voice too.

"You know, maybe I need to double-check with my husband to make sure he wasn't planning an awesome surprise for Valentine's Day. That would be nice."

"But that would have been on his card number, right?" Way to burst my bubble. Her voice went flat. She had burst her own bubble too.

"Well, go ahead and cancel the card and I'll check with him just in case. A four thousand dollar biking vacation in Florida would be fun. I'll call you back if he was going to surprise me. That way, you could let the charges go through. Hey, it could happen, right?" She laughed again. I could picture her responsible but unimaginative boyfriend in that laugh. I swear I could. A good reliable guy, but not too interested in details like Valentine's Day.

Of course, when I called Mike, he actually snorted when I asked him about the great Florida biking vacation extravaganza for Valentine's Day. He doesn't do much for Valentine's Day any more but to his credit, he's learned not to ignore it completely. He tried not to snort, but even though he coughed afterward, I still knew it was still a snort. Yeah, there was a Valentines a couple of years ago. He wasn't feeling well. I told him not to bother, but when the day came and went, I ended up crying and telling him it was okay all in the same breath. He knew it wasn't okay, not really. Nope, he hasn't missed getting me something, anything, a mechanical pencil and a spiral notebook, a dried bunch of flowers from those slimy black tubs, a plastic grocery bag with hearts on it, something, for Valentine's Day since then. He told me to call the LL Bean people back anyway, even though he hadn't gotten me a surprise four thousand dollar biking vacation at the DoubleTree in Orlando, Florida for Valentine's Day.

When I called back, I got the same woman on the phone. I recognized her voice. She had to go through the whole rigamarole asking for answers to code words that she'd asked me before but I knew she knew who I was. She started laughing right away when I began to ramble on.

"You canceled the credit card anyway, but I wanted to let you know that my husband didn't order any stuff from Florida today, not even as a surprise. I don't think he'd even thought about Valentine's Day yet."

She sighed. I'm sure it was an involuntary sigh. I'm sure she was imagining the sad bouquet of carnations or the avocado or the spiral notebook her boyfriend was probably going to pick up for her at the grocery store in a futile attempt to placate her for the Hallmarkiest holiday on the calendar.

"Nope. There's no vacation in Florida for me this spring. Nothing. I have to say that I'm a little disappointed. This thief had a pretty sweet plan, to stay at a nice hotel with a pool, to rent bikes and ride along the beach, to be in Florida, Florida, the state that will probably disappear in the next ten years along with Venice, polar bears, and New York city because of global warming. We'd better get to Florida while we can, don't you think?" I said. Sometimes I don't know when to stop talking.  Okay, a lot of times.

"Yeah, that sounds like a good idea," she said in that tone that says that neither of us, short of using someone else's credit card and someone else's vacation time, was going to bike on a beach in Florida in the near future. "Thanks for calling anyway."

"You welcome," I said and signed off. I felt a little bad, disappointing my new friend in Maine with bad news like that so soon after meeting her. But it was important not to inflate her expectations too high. That way, when her dependable boyfriend came home with tulips and dark chocolate, she'd be happy. Maybe by then she'll forget about biking at sunrise on a beach in Florida for Valentine's Day and having him ask her to marry her there.

Some day I should tell you the story about how Mike asked me to marry him. I was in my pajamas. He's a true romantic, that man. I tell you. I'm hoping my friend in Maine tells her boyfriend about the thief who tried to buy a biking trip and a hotel stay at the Disney's Polynesian Village Resort so he could ask his girlfriend to marry him at sunrise on the beach. It won't make her boyfriend any more imaginative, but maybe he'll remember to buy her a bouquet of tulips and a package of chocolates from the grocery store.

Mike will probably remember too because I know he doesn't want to make me cry. I remind myself that even if I had married a romantic thief in Florida, I'd probably wake up one day in a year or two to find my checking and savings account cleared out and new charges on my credit card for a boating vacation at Lake Placid, a surprise for a new girlfriend. That damned thief stole my imaginary vacation.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, January 30, 2015

Too Dumb to Be an Intellectual Snot

Fridays are supposed to be the day I do what I want. This is not that day.

Last night on Facebook, someone posted a list of the books that were referenced in 'The Gilmore Girls.' I watched 'The Gilmore Girls' for a while, but I guess I didn't really watch 'The Gilmore Girls' the way some people do. I didn't study 'The Gilmore Girls.' Sorry.

It's the same way with Dr. Who. I don't feel the need to study Dr. Who either, though when I found out who River Song really was, I had a momentary impulse to go back and look for references to her to see how my perspective had changed. Do you care? I'm sure someone has written about these references, in detail. My mind is jumping (always jumping) to a line in Arlo Guthrie's song, 'Alice's Restaurant.' He wanted us to sing 'in harmony.' Yes, there are lots of people writing, in detail, about Dr. Who on the Internet, and in harmony.

And don't get me started about 'Firefly.' If I were to study a show, I would study 'Firefly,' in detail, in harmony.

Yes, I'm that kind of girl, an almost trekker, an almost fan-club girl, an almost cult-follower of particular shows that got canceled too soon. I went to Comic Con once, but I didn't dress up. I'm that kind of girl.

Right. Where was I? The book list. So, I love book lists, though I'm not one of those people who has made a list of all the books I've ever read either. I took a good look at Rory's list, a good list. I love counting how many books I've read from people's lists of classic books. Even better, I like the arguments that ensue when people make lists like that. Remember the BBC list? There were a whole bunch of people saying that this book or that book should absolutely be on the BBC list. That's only because it was a hard, big book that they had read and they wanted it on the list to get credit, to get an 'A' for effort. Do you know what I mean? Do you even care?

So, I was counting the books I had read from 'The Gilmore Girls' book list and, as usual, I was pretty smug at first. I read four out of the first five books! Yay me! I is such a smarty-pants, see?

But then, I got to books I wasn't entirely sure I had read. Yup. There are book that I'm pretty sure I've read, but I have absolutely no recollection of their contents. Actually, that's a lot of books. For example, I read 'Angela's Ashes,' but all I remember is my disgust that the guy's mom would buy cigarettes instead of food and that the author was such a whiner to the end. I mean, there seemed to be no end to the distress, no ray of light, no redeeming reason except revenge for writing that book. How's that for a synopsis? Pretty lame, right? Do you even care? And that's a book I remember. Sometimes I just remember that I read that book, but I have no idea what it was about. None. Nada. Zippo. Zilch.

Okay, I might have a vague recollection of where I was sitting when I read the book, in the hospital lobby, in the stacks of the library and my dad's college, or in the hundred year old house with the strange noises. Or I might remember a lost friend who insisted that I borrow his book and complained that I had it for three months on my bookshelf. But do I remember what these books were about?

Not such a smarty-pants now, are we? Yes, I have gotten half way through lesser-known titles and realized that I knew the ending. I'm not psychic, but I had forgotten that I had already read the book! I'm not prepared, ever, to teach a literature class. After reading thousands of books, I just don't remember the details of most of them. Sorry.

An ex-friend once quizzed me on the storyline of 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' and quickly moved from friend to ex-friend. I do not need to justify my reading list to anyone, I told her. I had read that book in high school and had easily read a couple thousand books since then. I had read 'The Epic of Gilgamesh!' She looked at me dubiously. I should look her up in a couple of years and quiz her on the nuances of 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame.' Bitch.

But I'd have to reread the book first and there are too many other books on my list to read, some of them from 'The Gilmore Girls' book list.

So, when I got done counting Rory's list, I had about 75 1/2 books or so that I was pretty sure I had probably read. I could not remember for certain. And do you even care how many books I've read? Do you? Should you?

But I like to think that salient concepts stay with me, somewhere deep in my brain. For example, I am absolutely sure I read 'Of Mice and Men' in high school because it was one of a few books on a teacher's reading list that I hadn't already read. I was proud of that fact back then. I knew my details back then. I could quote lines from books I had read, back then. I could provide synopses of any of them and probably did whether or not people wanted to hear them. Oh, I was a smarty-pants.

People didn't like me, sometimes, because I was a smart-ass, I mean smarty-pants. I've come to believe that it's nice to be smart, but it's nicer to be nice. Besides, I can't carry off the intellectual snob thing with my Swiss-cheese brain anyway. Drooling and total dementia are just around the corner, I tell you. I just can't remember enough details to make the intellectual snot approach work anyhow . It was exhausting anyway. There were always people who were better at it than I was and who could make me feel bad in an instant. There were also people who didn't know details but they didn't usually give a shit and that made me feel bad too.

Trying to prove something, other than a theorem, usually leads to a sense of inadequacy. There, quote that!

So, this morning at dawn, I was trying to figure out where I was, trying to wake up, trying to remember my plan for the day. Nick had been up in the night with a stomach ache after eating too much cheese. That kid.

And so I had stayed up with him for a while in the night and ended up getting only half a night's sleep. Yes, it is difficult to hold onto smart-ass details after slightly less than four hours of sleep. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

But this morning, that book list was still with me in some nebulous form. I realized that instead of having a nice Friday doing some of what I had to do first and then some fun things, I was going to spend a good chunk of my day trying to become sane by sleeping until I'd gotten reasonable rest and then struggling, as usual, to get done those things done that I really had to do. Fun things? My own agenda? Out the window, as usual.

And there was a snatch of a detail that remained in my mind from a book I had read: '... the best laid plans of mice and men' ...

which, when I went to find it on the Internet to get the quote right, I had to look through five or six pages of Steinbeck quotes before I could find the one I was thinking of, the one that titled the book. In the process, I realized that I remembered very little of the book itself. Lenny, a wise but stupid boy-man, was accused of a crime he didn't commit. Pathetic. And you probably don't give a shit, do you now? I finally found my quote, wondering why that wasn't the first thing that came up on my Internet radar. I realized that my paltry recollection of the quote, which actually came from a poem by Robert Burns, was worded completely differently than I remembered it. I read the whole poem by Burns, barely understanding it. I'm sure people have analyzed and made lists about this poem too, but I could barely hold the thread that held Burn's poem to Steinbeck's book. Was there a good connection? Steinbeck must have thought so since he made it his title. Those people who quoted quotes would probably be glad to tell me if I asked, but would they make me feel bad in the process? Most of them didn't think it important enough to include in their list of quotes.  Does this even matter? It must have been so obvious that those smart-ass, I mean smarty-pants people out there who were trying to prove their intelligence to the world, wouldn't even bother to add the line to their list.

 So, never mind about the list of books I can't remember reading and never mind about 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' and never mind about Steinbeck and Dr. Who and that guy who wrote 'Firefly.' We'll all be worms some day and none of it will matter anyway. Right?

So why even give a shit?

Why are the stories important? That's all they are, the shows, the books, even the lists of relevant quotes that someone compiled. They're all stories that we cling to.

It mattered so much, Burns wrote a poem. It mattered so much Steinbeck wrote a book using a line from Burns' poem. It mattered so much someone copied a sentence from Steinbeck's book. It mattered so much that part of my tattered mind remembered an element of that first sentence, something that was written when a Scottish poet had a conversation with a mouse invading his house in 1785.

And suddenly, I was that mouse, intent on living in the poet's cozy home, intent on listening to the poet's voice echoing off stone walls, intent on nibbling bits of discarded bread and cheese, only to be thrown out into the cold night, the best laid plans of mice and men.

And the reason that you should give a shit, not because I can prove something I can barely remember, not because I've accomplished bits of a pseudo-important list, but because the stories make a connection through time and space and imagination. We need those stories because they tell us who they were then and who we are now and they remind us that there is a connection, still. They make us human.

I'm going to go eat some cheese and listen to a bit of a story before I snuggle into my warm nest.

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Minor Fear

Last night, after I brushed my teeth, I put the little white rubber plug into the black gaping hole that is the drain. I had never done that before, but I've thought about the protection it might give, the slight comfort.

Something lives down there. It has ugly black and pink tentacles that I sometimes break off when I scrub the drain with that heavy-duty pipe cleaner Mike bought me. When I use my heavy-duty pipe cleaner in that drain, I sometimes feel like a minor super hero at battle with an alien.

When I put toothpaste and spit and kitchen sludge down the drain, I imagine I am involuntarily feeding him. Now and then, when he clogs the drain or makes it slow, I put vinegar and boiling water on his head and I imagine the screaming as the heat and vinegar loosens his grip and he slides away toward the septic tank. He's afraid of the creatures that live in the septic tank. They would devour him, so he grips the end of the pipe and slowly crawls back up into my drain to safety. He's thinner now and missing many pink and black tentacles which the septic monsters ate greedily.

I imagine him whispering up through the pipes that he will not get fat and slow the drain, that he will not reach his ugly fingers up over the edge of the sink and show me his pockmarked and gelatinous face, but when I am brushing my teeth and look down into that black hole of his, I fear that he will leap out of the drain, attach his tentacles to my foamy lips, and kiss my ugly pink tongue. I'm afraid he might find my dark throat a more cozy place to live and that I would be stuck, living a long and agonizing life, with him there.

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, January 26, 2015

'Destiny's Gambit' by R.J. Wood

My friend R.J. Wood wrote a book that I really like, 'Destiny's Gambit!' It's either juvenile or young adult fiction, but I can never remember which is which. Which is older, a juvenile delinquent or a young adult? Either way, it's a good book for your middle reader. Well, I admit, it's a good book for the mom of a middle reader. I don't tell my friends that I read kid's books without being required to, but now you know. When I'm reading a book like this, I almost remember what it was like to be a kid.

I loved that this awkward boy in the story, Jake, ended up being so strong and so wise. Does it always seem like having a rough time of it leads a kid that way or am I just wishing it were so because I was an awkward girl? I'm telling you that, as a kid, I dreamed it would be true, that I would be someone who was hidden at first but underneath, was something special. I'm something all right, but we won't go into that right now.

I really want to tell you the story. That would ruin it, wouldn't it?

Oh, you know I'm going to tell you anyway, at least some of it. If you don't want to hear it, you should squeeze your eyes closed and clamp your hands over your ears, saying 'La-la-la-la-la-la' until I'm done.

Well, Jake finds a boat in the middle of a field of grass. It fuels his imagination and the next thing you know he's off on a nautical adventure. The cool thing is that he finds some intense friends along the way. How can you have an adventure without some friends? The other cool thing is that this adventure is in space so some things are different. Sound in a vacuum, remember that? And 'an object in motion tends to stay in motion' especially when there's no gravity or friction or anything. And what about oxygen? Yeah, well that's all worked out. But the coolest thing is that when you're in space you have to ask yourself what 'up' actually means. Jake has to get used to all this stuff, plus some pretty radical 'people.'

Oh man. I can't tell you the whole story. It wouldn't be fair to my author friend and I wouldn't do the story justice.

Okay, any of you that closed your eyes and are sitting there saying 'La-la-la-la' can stop now. I SAID ANY OF YOU THAT CLOSED YOUR ...

Oh, never mind.

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Funny and Frightening

I haven't told you about books I'm reading lately, have I? I've been reading funny. You know when it's late and you're reading but also trying not to wake people up? If that's what you're doing, you do not want to read 'Bossypants' by Tina Fey or 'Let's Pretend this Never Happened' by the Bloggess, Jenny Lawson. (Boy, I hope Jenny Lawson owns that word, Bloggess, because if she doesn't, some big company is totally going to come along and steal it from her. Bossypants would be a good word to own too, but no one is going to mess with Tina Fey after what she did to Sarah Palin's career. One the same note, no one will bother Jenny Lawson simply because she spends so much time writing about taxidermy and accidentally killing your best friend in your sleep. Seriously, I love reading her book, but would I want to be friends with her? Would I? Yeah, I guess I would, but I'd just have to put my fate in the hands of the great Universe and hope that I really can't die laughing.)

Mike keeps asking me to go to a sleep doctor because I'm not sleeping at night. I blame the funny books. Think about it. They always tell you not to exercise too close to bed time because it'll get your adrenaline running and I think it's the same with laughing until your ribs hurt. I always wish someone was up during the night so I could read sections of these books to them. I hate when people do that to me, but I love doing it.

I could go to bed right now, but it's only 7:33 and I'd wake up at 2:43 am and have to watch multiple episodes of Dr. Who until everybody got up. Sometimes I do a load of dishes in the middle of the night, but no one appreciates the vacuum when they're sleeping and it's too dark and scary outside to mow the lawn.

Funny thing about the dark. I am scared of the dark. Really. You should have seen me trying to take out the garbage after dark after I saw the movie 'I am Legend.' That movie drove me inside my house at night for at least a year. And it was worse whenever I would see anyone walking along the highway outside my house in the evening. No. Sorry. Can't think about that movie too much or I'll go right back to that place.

But do you want to know the funny part, the thing that's strange? When I go camping, I totally love walking around at night in the dark after the campfire has been doused and most of the time, I don't even bother turning on my flashlight. Can someone explain to me why it's so different? Dark streets in a city freak me out but not in the wilderness. Oh, that was totally logical. I managed to spend weekend nights in New York city for eight years and I learned to stay in the light. If it's dark down that alley, you do not want to know what's in there. But I live with woods on three sides of my house with a nearly impenetrable hillside behind it. If anyone is coming from back there, they're falling. So why isn't it the same at home as it is at camp?

Maybe it's the people I'm camping with. I don't like camping alone. Not one bit. One time, I tried to camp by myself and I didn't sleep all night. There was no peace. Another time I car camped on the way to visit my family and I slept so close to my car I might as well have been sleeping under it. I could smell antifreeze. Must have had a leak. No wonder that car froze up one day and never ran again.

It still doesn't make sense, because those same people are usually the ones sleeping in my house when I'm freaked out about going outside into the dark. Mike loves to give me a little bit of grief about 'I am Legend.' Is that funny?

Hey, what happened? I was supposed to be telling you about the funny books I've been reading. Sorry. I just carried away. Plus, I caught a bit of a stomach flu. It was hard to watch the bridal shop scene in 'Bridesmaids' last night. It's not quite as funny when you feel that way too. I haven't hugged you lately, have I? Don't think so. Good. Go wash your hands, just in case.

I told Mike that I'm almost better except that I felt bloated all day. He started singing 'bloated on the river' to the tune of 'Proud Mary' as he made up plates of turkey, mashed potatoes, and vegetables for Nick and himself. I ate oatmeal. Turkey didn't even smell right. I yelled into the kitchen to ask him if that was the search and rescue theme song. He stopped short for a minute, a plate in each hand. Then he burst out laughing. I made him laugh! Why is drowning on the river funny? Why is getting food poisoning in a movie? Why?

Maybe Jenny Lawson is rubbing off on me. I will not tell you the real story of my stomach flu. I keep telling myself I won't tell you. It might have been funny, but it wasn't funny yesterday so I don't want to tell you and maybe I won't, not even for the sake of making you laugh.

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, January 24, 2015

My Grandma's Rocking Chair

Today, I gave away my grandma's rocking chair. I wasn't supposed to give it away. I was supposed to keep it in the family.


Here's the thing. I don't remember Grandma rocking me in this chair. I remember what it looked like. It was a simple chair with a leather seat with a lion embossed in it. There was a pattern carved in the headboard. It was pretty. And yet already the details are fading. What I do remember is that it was more narrow than I am and when she gave it to me, Grandma warned me not to let anyone too big sit in it.

Well, then.

What do you do with a rocking chair that isn't for someone too big? I could never have rocked Nick in it. I could never have taken comfort by sitting in Mike's lap in it. I could not welcome people to sit down in my home without worrying that if they were 'too big' they might break Grandma's chair. What kind of hospitality is that?

What do you do with a chair like that?

This poor chair sat in the corner downstairs for twenty years, forlorn and abandoned. Sometimes I piled clothes to donate on its seat. There were no joyful memories in Grandma's poor chair. I couldn't even remember where it had stood in her house.

Please don't think this is the only thing my Grandma ever gave me. It isn't. I have many things. I have her china cabinet. I remember standing in front of it in her tiny dining room, looking at the treasures inside. Once in a while, Grandma would take down the ornate key and gently open her china cabinet so I could look at a bowl of marbles, Daddy's red wooden yo-yo, or the blue metal donkey that had a slot in its back for coins. I loved that china cabinet with its curved glass doors. It sits to my left, filled with treasures, my tiny bear from the Smokey Mountains, Daddy's college mug, Mike's great-grandfather's meerschaum pipe in its little case lined with red velvet. When he was small, Nick often stood in front of that china cabinet, begging to look at the treasures that lay within. He is gentle with the key, careful of the glass. That china cabinet will be handed down to him some day with love and memories attached to it.

Today, after twenty years of neglect, I gave Grandma's rocking chair away to a new home, to newlywed friends with an empty house. I might have been able to sell it in Snohomish, but I didn't. I wanted to give it away. I wanted to give it to someone I cared about, someone who might eventually need a rocking chair to rock a tiny baby. They could form memories in that old rocking chair. Grandma's chair now has an opportunity to achieve beauty and love and a sense of family after all these years of sitting alone.

My friend's new bride glowed when she looked at that chair. I told her that it had belonged to my grandma. I wanted to tell her how much my grandma had loved me, but I stopped short. That story is too long to tell.

"We'll take good care of your grandma's chair," she said quietly and I knew it was going to a good home.

It's a good thing I'm not giving away kittens.

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Not the Red Caviar

Nothing to say tonight. Nothing.

Well, you know how far that goes, don't you? I'll come up with something to tell you. I don't see you too often, after all. I'd love to know how you are right now.

The thing is that when I sit down to write, you're a friend I don't see all that often. You're a friend I can tell anything to. You don't mind if I'm not quite normal. You laugh when I tell you how things fell apart today, how all the mugs fell into the sink and only your favorites were broken. How is it that the ugly mugs all survived? What are the odds? You think my strangest thoughts are okay. You don't roll your eyes when I tell you that there's a whole universe in that drop of water hanging from that leaf or when I tell you the trees feel time differently than we do. I think they look at us the way we try to look at hummingbirds. Hummingbirds move so fast we can't feel them sync with our breath. You don't mind the altered me, the one who was accidentally caffeinated by the coffee shack in town or the one who's so tired she can't come up with the right words for ordinary things.

I appreciate that, you know.

I wanted to tell you how the lady at the salon was reading the ingredients for her hair color to her client. Do people do that now, look at the ingredients for hair color? Well, this one did and I woke up from my stupor holding People magazine only to laugh out loud, to snort audibly when she read, "black caviar and truffle oil." Did I tell you that already? I imagined that she was some crazy woman who had been invited to the party. You know, that party, the one you can't afford to dress for, the one that's all get-up and little black dress, the one where people there ask you how you haven't read their book yet as if you're an idiot because you don't recognize them. I went to one of those parties once or twice. One of them was put on by Bell Labs and I went and they served black and red caviar and people were standing there talking down the red caviar as if it were generic beer and Hostess Ding Dongs on the platters. I thought the red caviar tasted almost identical to the black caviar, though most people had had enough to drink, I wasn't sure anyone could really taste their food any more. I always felt like a dandelion in the rose garden at parties like that. Couldn't they see that my white polyester slacks were from 'the rack' instead of 'Macy's' proper? I was always sure they could. I didn't spend $100 on my hair cuts and I never colored my hair.

So, for a moment in that salon, I felt all over again like I was a fraud and I'd been caught. That I laughed out loud at the ingredients was their clue. They didn't need to look at my torn Levis, stolen from a boy who is taller than I am, or at my beat up hiking boots. No matter how many times I brush the dirt off them, I just replace it the next day on the trail. These two didn't have to look at my worn LL Bean t-shirt or my comfortable LL Bean hoodie or my slightly overgrown hair cut. They just knew, because I snorted slightly when I laughed. They knew that I didn't belong at this party.

If the heavens broke open and I were to be invited to the Academy Awards for some odd reason, I'd be better off wearing those muddy boots on the red carpet because you could dress me up in blue velvet and I'd still have this crazy hair and I'd still snort when I thought people were making a joke about smearing black caviar and truffle oil into their hair. I'd expect them to go on about how the red caviar would never do. Never.

Because the red caviar is just so common.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, January 16, 2015

Moss on a Fence Post

Good morning! It's cold out there, a brisk 34 degrees, according to my phone. It's also dark and wet out there, but such is the life of a soul in the Pacific Northwest.

I've been looking at water. I guess I've always looked at water, moving and still, but I've been looking more closely at water in the past couple of days. I am a Pisces, after all. The funny thing is that I've found myself trying to take pictures of what I'm seeing. I'm a hell of a photographer and that's not a good thing. My photos are often blurry, badly composed and I have yet to figure out how to get rid of power lines through perfect settings. Just yesterday, I took a gorgeous shot of Mt. Si in the late-afternoon light. I failed to notice a dog pooping in the foreground. But, frankly, this is not about the quality of the pictures I take.

The other day, one of my random pictures took my breath away. I couldn't describe what I was feeling. I wanted to describe it. I had found ordinary moss growing on a fence post. You know, I tell my family in the Midwest that I can put a rock out in the fall and it will have a little green hat of moss on it by springtime. I don't think they believe me, not really. This was the same kind of moss that sprung up in my Mother's Day planter by September, replacing the petunias and the geraniums that were originally there. It's very pretty, but I noticed that it had tiny brown stems with tiny brown leaves or seeds or something that hang about a quarter of an inch above the bright green moss that I loved so much. The tiny brown stems originally looked to me like sad, dead little heads hanging there. When I first saw them in my planters, I was tempted to trim them off, to make the moss consistently green, to make it prettier.

I'm glad I didn't.

I hadn't really looked closely at this moss with its tiny little stems reaching above the rest by a full quarter inch. I hadn't really looked at them before last Sunday when I went for a contemplative walk with Teddy before I met some friends in Seattle. And, to tell you the truth, my vision isn't good enough to have seen all this without the help of the camera on my phone. But when I looked at the picture later, it took my breath away. I kept going back to the pictures I took of this one little hunk of moss that had grown on top of a fence post. I kept looking at the tiny little brown heads that hung over the moss. Each one held a perfectly tiny drop of water, as if that was it's only reason for existing. An entire universe of living in miniature opened up to me.

The next day, I tried to show a friend.

"You're a very good photographer," she said as she looked at my picture. I'm not. I know I'm not, but worse than that, I wasn't showing her for that reason. I felt deflated as I protested and she blithely scrolled through my other pictures, complimenting me. I wondered why she didn't pause longer on that one picture. Couldn't she see it?

The day after that, I tried showing another friend. I prefaced it with a long-winded rambling about looking at the stars and feeling insignificant.

He looked briefly at my picture and pulled out a couple he had taken of dewdrops on a rose. There was mild competition in his reaction. I wanted to stop him mid-sentence. Couldn't he see what I saw? Couldn't he see the perfection of the moss?

I thought for three more days, only once more telling a friend about my photo. I didn't even show it to her. I was afraid she too wouldn't see. I talked and talked but couldn't put it into words, even then. And then I decided to take my walk again. I decided to visit my tiny garden, the moss on the fence post, a microcosm.

That word 'microcosm' is the perfect for what I saw. I stepped quickly until I got to it. It was raining, but only that drippy kind of rain that we have here in the temperate rain forest. I found my patch of moss on the post. Did anyone else stop here to look at this small miraculous thing? Here was this miniature scene in front of me, magnified by my camera. I could see that this form of life had a completely different way of being, a way of existing within a different set of rules. Even the physics of a drop of water was different at this level. When you're this small, how do you hold onto water? How do you keep it from draining away?

You grow tiny little brown stems that hang a quarter an inch over your lush green leaves. Your tiny brown stems have two tiny brown leaves that perfectly hold a single droplet of water. And you quietly sip, as if through a straw. In this way, there is enough for you to grow.

I could see it. I could see perfection in this universe, as tiny as it was.

Thank you for listening, jb

The Wrong Time for Silence

Lunch is ready. Breakfast is ....

I have nothing for you. Nothing. Sometimes when I have nothing to say, I close my eyes and type and something comes out. Usually, that means a lot of spelling errors but I always come up with something. I'm just one of those people. Blah, blah, blah. I can go on and on and on. Let's see what happens today.

So, my eyes are closed. Dr. Who music is singing through my head. I know I've been watching too much Dr. Who when the theme song rings through my head in the morning without being prompted. I suffer ear worms. Always. It's one musical track or another. It can be a blessing because my life has a sound track. It can also be a curse. I'm very susceptible to 'La Cucaracha' and 'It's as Small World After All.' Torture. Apparently, I'm a sucker for the Dr. Who theme song too. That's not so bad, actually.

I'm on the fifth season of Dr. Who. I had to look up the seasons on the Internet because there was this crazy jump to a new doctor. If he's not taking somebody's body, how does that work exactly? I miss David Tanner. He seemed more vulnerable than this new guy. I really wanted the David Tanner Dr. Who to have someone. I liked Donna, even though they weren't, you know.

I've been watching too much Dr. Who.

I've also been too social lately. Yesterday, in the name of writing, I went to Barnes and Noble with a friend. There, we wandered the shelves, looked at titles and ate a bunch of snacks and coffee at the Starbucks in back. We tried to make up stories for the people walking by. One guy looked suspicious to me, as if he'd just broken into a car and took a new iPad and a receipt for Best Buy, getting the money for a purchase he never made. It's not really fair, is it, to make up nasty stories about a man just because he's wearing a hat I don't like. Does it do damage? Is it wrong to put those annoyingly loud people at the coffee shop into my stories as the people who have bad things happen to them?

Does talking about writing make you a writer? If I talk about it long enough, then surely it's me, right? Is that the secret? Will a book appear if I talk loud and long enough? My friend and I talked for hours. I accomplished nothing yesterday. Not a damned thing, except in my imagination.

When my friend dropped me off, she had to stay for a bit because there was an accident in front of my house on the highway and her car got blocked in, first by the tow truck, and then by the police car. The woman sitting on the ground next to the car said that she got a wheel off the road. She said that one minute, she was headed toward an oncoming car and she spun her car in the other direction, overcompensating, spun, and hit the tree instead. The men who had stopped to help her were kind. I wanted to ask them if they were Eagle Scouts. One guy even said it was okay for her to cry if she needed to and hugged her when she did. He probably averted a good case of shock when he did that. Why don't I get people like that when I get hit by a car?

Once, I got clipped by a car on I-90 going sixty miles an hour. That guy got out of his car and banged it on my window as he screamed. He was not right, if you know what I mean. He was altered somehow. Another time, I got rear-ended by a Dominos pizza truck when I stopped first to make a right on a red light. (There was a police care driving through the intersection at the time.) Even though we had to wait forty-five minutes for the next police car to arrive, the guy wouldn't give me a slice of pizza. He kept trying to tell me it was my fault that I had stopped in front of him and that's why he hit me. My brother used to make arguments like that. "If I'm swinging my arm like this and walking forward, it's not my fault that you get punched in the jaw when you get in my way." The woman sitting on the ground tried to make it sound as though she'd just saved some people's lives by the way she handled what happened. Well, yes, but you did start off somehow in the lane with the oncoming car, I thought. I didn't say it. I wanted to say it, but the men there were being so kind. Who was I to rub some reality into her shocked mind?

I wonder if my tree hurts today. She hit one of those two hundred year old Western Red Cedar trees that stands around my house. The impact would have seriously hurt someone in the passenger seat behind her had there been someone there. The door was all crunch in. This woman was probably injured, but she didn't feel it yet. My tree probably hurt too. I love those trees. I have volunteer baby Western Red Cedars growing in pots I've left too long on my back deck. I'm letting them grow a little longer before I transfer them into the ground where they'll have to compete with other plants and possibly overcompensating cars. I was mad at that woman for hitting my tree. Even though it's not on my property, this tree is tall enough to take out my house if it falls and besides, no one across the road has claimed it. That makes it my tree, doesn't it? Okay, not technically, but in my head, it's my tree. Or maybe I'm it's person.

Later, when my driveway was still blocked first, by the tow truck and then by a police car, my friend and I walked down to get my mail. Okay, we were gawkers. I could have gotten my mail later. I could have. But I didn't. I wanted to thank the police officer, but I got my mail and stayed out of the way. He made brief eye contact. He was busy directing traffic, so I didn't say anything. I didn't need to bother him, really. I was a little ashamed at my gawking. I wish I had spoken to him.

Then, the woman who had been sitting on the ground stomped over to us and began chatting as if we were old friends. Sometimes it's better when people keep their mouths shut.

"You know, I've learned something today," she said. Oh, I thought, maybe she would admit that she hadn't been paying attention to the road. "I've learned that I should never call the police. I should have called AAA and they would have handled all this for free." She waved her arm toward her crunched car. The tow truck was trying to move it forward to get it off the road and the wheels weren't tracking properly. That thing was totalled.

"I should have called AAA instead of the police," she repeated. A bit of spittle flung off her bottom lip and hit my jacket. "That guy just gave me a hundred and thirty-five dollar ticket for reckless driving," she said. I don't think her voice was quiet enough against the grinding of her wheels behind the tow truck, so I was sure the officer could hear her. I looked over her shoulder in his direction. He waved a few more cars past the tow truck while holding his hand out to restrain the ones going in the other direction. I tried to give him one of those sympathy smiles. He didn't make eye contact.

I can't believe myself.

Finally, I had the proper place for my big mouth. My ideas could spill out unmolested. I didn't know this woman. I didn't need to protect her fragile feelings. I wanted to yell out a thank you to the officer for his work. I wanted to tell her that the ticket was a very cheap lesson in paying attention while she drives. I wanted to tell her that the disruption she'd caused probably cost much more than the ticket did. I wanted to tell her to keep off my highway. I wanted to yell at her for hurting my tree, even as it stood stoically behind her. I wanted her to learn a lesson, a real lesson about consequences.

And yet, I stood there, completely dumbfounded at her indignation. I just could not say a word.

I feel like I owe that police officer an apology.

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Winter Solstice Plus Seventeen Days

Are you all bored of 2015 yet? Have you broken your New Year's resolutions? If I had bothered to make one, I would have. Yesterday, it seemed as though I was doing great, ...

... but only if my resolutions were to show up five minutes later than usual, to get distracted, to cook more junk food for my family, and to stay up too late watching TV. Yup. I am a champion of resolutions.

Here's something for you northern hemisphere folks - each day is getting three minutes longer than the last. That means that today will be about fifty-one minutes longer than winter solstice. Can you even tell the difference yet? I can't.

I have just created a mystery for myself. Without nuclear time or even pocket watches to tell them how much time had elapsed, how did people of old, you know, the men who built the neolithic tombs, even know when the solstice was? How did they know the longest or shortest day so that they could place their stones properly? How could they tell the difference between December 21st, the shortest day on the north side of the Earth, and today?

You know, the depictions of men back in the days before lights, pocket watches, highways, cell phones, and books are that they were stupid, but if you ask me, it takes a lot more smarts to be able to figure out when winter solstice is without a calendar and nuclear time than it does to check your phone. Someone actually had to figure it out without any help. Think about it. Could you do that?

Maybe you could. Sorry. I didn't mean to imply that you were as ignorant as I am. I'm sure there is someone out there still managing time without checking their smartphone every five minutes, but I'm not one of those people. I would probably have been relegated to grinding corn or washing the buffalo robes in the creek. Still, someone has to double-check that nuclear clock though. What a job, huh? Can you imagine the morning when it hiccups and his alarm didn't go off at the right time. The whole world would be an hour late for work. Would anyone notice?

"Yeah, uh, I'm in charge of winding the nuclear clock," said the guy at the dinner party when you asked him. That would be a conversation killer.

And for that matter, how did anyone know how to use the stars to navigate to that pilgrimage site? How did people even meet up at the mall before they had cellphones? I have lived though times such as those at the mall and I can't even remember.

Right. I do remember a night when the guys went on into the movie theater with our tub of popcorn while I popped into the bathroom and I ended up wandering though the theater whispering their names to no avail. Eventually, I sat down and watched the movie. It was sad and lonely, sitting there by myself with no one to whisper to at the good parts and no popcorn. What I hadn't realized was that Mike and his best friend Harry, along with the tub of popcorn, were in a different theater at an oh so slightly later showing of the movie I was seeing.Even after the movie, I stood around like an idiot for twenty minutes, leaning on Harry's car, before the two of them arrived and asked where I had been all night. The conversation just went downhill from there, if you can imagine.

So, I've got to give credit to those people who wandered away from their tribes to find one of those Neolithic tombs in time for the winter solstice. If it had been me, I would have gotten lost and ended up at the wrong tomb or worse, showed up on January sixth, no today is the seventh, isn't it?

See what I mean?

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The River is Not Running Red, Not Yet

I sat working at my computer all day. When Mike got home, he showed me how rivers had flooded, elk were stranded in belly-deep water, hillsides collapsed, schools were evacuated, buses and trucks were abandoned, towns became islands, roads were closed. I had no clue. I'd been listening to a rock and roll station while I worked. Apparently, they don't do news.

Mike was looking at my Facebook page. Mine!

Yet, I was the one who had no idea what was going on. There was one video of a local bridge that had a huge cedar with its rootball intact that scraped slowly along the bottom side of the bridge. It cleared, but you can tell that the person with the camera ran off to the side before it hit.

The rivers are nearly peaked now. The Snoqualmie river will peak in Carnation at 51,100 cfs. That's cubic feet per second. Usual flows are about 3,700 cfs. Flood stage is 20,000 cfs. At this point, families, school children, horses, cows, and even a zebra have been evacuated. There were offers of more help as I scrolled down the list of local friends who posted.

Occasionally, I hear from people that Facebook is frivolous, that it's a waste of time, that it's about showing an unrealistic self. Still, Facebook has a presence in my community when it comes to getting important information about what is happening. Just today, one friend offered her services and her trailer for helping to evacuate horses. She loves horses. Another friend brought a meal to another friend who had posted that she was seriously ill. There was news from a couple of sources saying that there may be a medical breakthrough with depression. Now, that's important stuff.

I get some of my best information from Facebook. Granted, it may not be totally reliable information, but I know how to look for more details.

Oh, I don't like some of the political crap that appears on Facebook. There is nothing more divisive than posting political opinions there. I try to avoid it, but I couldn't help reposting the news that the Native American Council was considering a partial amnesty to 220 million illegal white immigrants. Oh, that is going to chap some asses. Sorry Facebook friends. You know who you are.

And I can't stand the religious dreck on Facebook either. I'm telling you, people, I might go to church and enjoy a good sermon. I might even sing in the choir for the Christmas services, but I can't stand ninety percent of the religious stuff I am exposed to by some people reposting. I don't mind if you have something to say, but do you have to repost six or eight offensive sites every day?  DO YOU? You know who I'm talking to if I'm talking to you. The rest of you, the ones who post uplifting information, stuff with content and spiritual stuff in it - I don't mind that at all. Keep up the good work.

So, how can you tell the difference?

Here's a formula:

new information * funny information * positive attitude / exclusiveness - the obligation to repost or something bad will happen = a highly rated post

You got that, verse-quoters? I don't need to have you repost it. I've read it and am perfectly capable of reading it again under the correct circumstances. Make it funny and informative, and I just might look it up. If, for example, you had quoted something relevant from Revelations today, something about the Armageddon along with a photo of the river rising, the elk standing helplessly in water up to their flanks, trees crashing into bridges, and collapsing hillsides shoving homes off their foundations, I might be running to read what the Bible says. Just please don't tell me the river is running in blood. That would really freak me out.

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Simple Plan

Today was the last day of having the family together before we went off in our separate directions, work, school, and wherever it is that I end up most days.

Where do I end up most days?

I spend a lot of time walking in the woods, on trails, being jumped on by puppies at the park, and at one of the five different grocery stores where my family's favorite foods are offered. I am seldom at home for long, so I have trouble saying I'm a stay-at-home mom. I'm an errand-running mom, a volunteering-too-much mom, a walking mom, an air-head, wandering, library-cruising, head-in-the-clouds mom, but I'm seldom a stay-at-home mom. 

And yet, I long for more time at home.

A friend of mine said she had heard of a new thing wherein you're supposed to think of one word to use for the upcoming year. It sounds suspiciously like a resolution. Did it sound like a resolution to you? I'm not sure I like resolutions.

But before she had finished her sentence and told me that she wants her word for 2015 to be 'active,' a word had already sprung unbidden to my mind.


Oh, there are a dozen resolution words I could have picked: finishing, cleaner, caught-up, which is really two words, but maybe hyphenating negates that. I could have picked: organized, cool, pretty, fashioned, crafted..... Oh, I could go on, but most of those words are potentially a death-knoll to my happiness. Can I imagine this being the year I cleaned? Oh, the agony. What about pretty? Not even possible and I'm beginning to think I've reached the age wherein any attempt at pretty might be hazardous, or worse, ridiculous. Do you know what I mean? Have you seen the fifty-something women who are drawing lipstick outside the lines of their lips and it's seeping into the wrinkles growing at the edges of their lips and they look a little like a kid who's just eaten a red popsicle? So, pretty is out. Cleaner is out. Caught-up is two words and it's a fairy tale anyway. No one interesting is ever caught up. Finishing is a fairy tale too. And who's to say those unfinished projects that are gathering dust should be spared my time anyway? I mean, if they were any good, wouldn't I have finished them? It might be simpler to get rid of them.

Oh, and let's throw out 'organized.' That's not me at all. Plus, it's way over the top as far as resolution crap is concerned. Neither is 'cool' or 'fashioned' part of my persona. Those are just high school wishes.

'Crafted' might be fun, but I suspect it might drive Mike nuts. I imagine sometimes that I have time to carve curlicues into my deck or paint happy purple doodles on one wall in my house. Once, I asked Mike about painting a wall and he almost put his foot down. He looked downright consternated. He also didn't want to put a slide where the stairs were on the outside of the house when Nick was a little kid either. That would have been so absolutely cool! Normal people could have come and gone from the house in the usual way through the front door, but Nick and I could have slid down from the second floor via a slide out of the laundry room door. Ah well.

Mike knew I was strange when he married me. I'm only getting stranger. It won't be long before he comes home one day and I'll appear with purple paint in my hair and tell him I've painted a wall of the guest room downstairs with runes.

Isn't that the part of the movie when you know the main character is off his gourd? Indiana Jones, the Transformers. You know what I mean.

But it's also where Gaudi transformed a whole city in Spain. There were curves and spirals and broken pottery in his houses and cathedrals and parks. It just explodes into your consciousness and never quite leaves. I like that about Gaudi.

Mike gave me stone-carving bits for Christmas. He must be at least a little interested in me doodling in odd places. I think he envisioned it as something I did with Nick. Oh, any moments we had at home, Nick was glued to the television. It was exhausting. I realize that quite a lot of creativity goes into creating those video games, but to watch and listen is draining.

So, even if I stick to this idea that I can categorize an entire year using one word, 'simple' might be a good way to go. Simple might mean clearing enough time to finish writing. Simple might be time to wander in the woods and feel the spirit of the trees singing through me. Simple might be learning how to be quiet with my best friends. I have trouble being quiet with any other person besides Mike. I'm learning how to quiet myself with Nick and I like how he's responding. Oh, I still tell him to pick up his socks from the floor, but I'm trying to quiet myself around him.

To be honest, the best resolution I ever made was to have a damned good year. That was about twenty years ago. I shocked some people who were very intent on losing weight or exercising more or getting their act together. One of my friends back then told me that it was important for her to be rich and she'd discovered that no man would ever do that for her, that she had to do it for herself. Then, she tried to recruit all of her friends, me included, into buying insurance. What good does life insurance do a single girl? "You could make your brother your benefactor," she told me with intensity.

I'm not friends with her any more. I'm convinced that you shouldn't get rich on the backs of your friends, even if they might happen to need life insurance. Plus, we weren't exactly a buried treasure to mine anyway. For that, you need rich friends who need life insurance.

Not my deal, I'm telling you.

So, here I sit on the eve of what I really see as my new year. That Monday, when the Christmas break is over, when the sleepovers are done, when the pinball museum has seen my backside going out the door, when the family walks are done, when gifts have been give, when Mike goes back to work, when Nick is back to school, that is my new year. That is the beginning.

I have a clear day tomorrow. I might have errands to run, but I haven't noted them yet. I will probably walk the dog. I might stop at the grocery store for dinner ideas, but the day will be my new beginning.

Any guesses what I'll do with it?

I could sleep in, make tea, and sit on the couch with a book and the cat on my lap. Now that could be considered a simple plan.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, January 2, 2015

Centrifugal Versus Centripetal and a Picturesque Promenade

We walked around Lincoln Park today. First off, the way Mike described it was that it was longer and deeper in the woods than what was there. Second, the zipline at the playground was seriously fun because it had a hard stop and it made an adult me swing up until my legs were pointed toward the sky and I was leaned way back but still not falling out of the seat because of centrifugal force. Or is it centripetal? I can't remember.

Wait. I'm going to look it up.

Okay, I think I have this thing. When you're spinning on a merry-go-round, centripetal force is how hard you have to hold on to keep from flying off and landing on your butt. In my case on the zipline, the centripetal force was how hard that fat cable had to hold onto my butt in the swing to keep me from flying at a tangent to the circle I was spinning at the hard-stop-end. No flying off into the dirt. Yup. I thank the force that fat cable endured to hold onto the adult me. I know, I know. I looked a little ridiculous standing in line with all those little kids, but this thing was seriously fun.

Centrifugal is what happens when the fat cable doesn't have the tensile strength to hold onto my adult butt and inertia sends me flying, which it didn't. It's also what happens when your brother or your dad is spinning the merry-go-round too fast and your little fingers can't hold on and you go flying into the dirt, breaking that front tooth on a rock that was just supposed to be pretty and skinning both knees and the palms of your hands in the process. Yup, you can probably close your eyes and remember the feeling of that inertia and the friction required to stop you when it happened.

So, the lesson is that centripetal force is fun until your stomach rebels and you toss your cotton candy. Centrifugal force is simple inertia and usually hurts when you land after your short flight out of orbit.

 I was going to tell you about Lincoln Park.

It's late. I'm getting tired.

Here's the lowdown. It's more of a promenade along the Puget Sound than a hike. It's stunning to see and I'm glad we went. Imagine Alki beach only facing out toward the Olympic mountains. Today, it was clear and blue and the mountains looked like a row of low snow-tipped clouds on the horizon. Beautiful. Ferries and ships loaded with containers travel along the channel, made for picturesque scenes as the sun dropped over the mountains in the West. 

But it is well traveled and I felt like a dork with my fully-packed day pack.

I liked the bluff trail and there was a good geocache up there that we plundered. I surrendered my emergency blanket from my pack to the cause. It really wasn't as good as the coin we took, something we'll have to log on a geocaching website and send onto its merry way. It had a canoe on one side. An canoe! Maybe I'll carry it in my pack for the right moment since I'm usually the only one with a pack when we stop at a casual geocache.

And, after a good long walk, not a hike, I'm telling you, and another round on the zipline with the hard stop centripetal spin, we were on our way back home and trying to figure out what to do for dinner.

Here's the secret we learned for getting our fourteen-year-old son on and off the trail without a complaint: bring friends. He won't notice that he's getting any exercise.

Thank you for listening, jb