Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Who Owns the Streets

Oh, there's so much to tell you about my rambling life. Nick has another bully. This one has been bringing a knife to school. The days of the elementary school bully, the skinny neglected child who couldn't hurt a fly with a fly swatter are over. Many of the boys are the size of men.

Nick's the size of a man. He has his brown belt in karate. But I wanted to tell the principal of his school that it's all theoretical knowledge. I wanted to tell him that Nick sparred with his friend at a tournament and lost, even though he knew he has beat him sparring many times, because he didn't want to hurt his friend's feelings. I love that about my boy. He could look like a thug, a bouncer, a security detail, a bodyguard, but his mind is still a boy.

I wanted to tell Nick's school principal all that, but I had to keep it simple. What is happening now. What happened last month. What Nick saw with the knife. And the simple fact that I don't want my son to be forced to defend himself. He's a big puppy. He can wrestle in the grass with the best of them, but when it gets serious, he doesn't know how to react.

I got bullied the other day too. I was walking with a friend from church to get coffee. It wasn't even one city block to get there. But at the bus stop, the hair lifted from the back of my neck when I saw people standing there. I knew who these people were, the drug dealer and a drug addict.

"We're going to cross here," I quietly interrupted my friend's rambling. Couldn't she see what was going on? If she hadn't walked a bit to the right, I was willing to shoulder her into the road. I bumped her elbow and she crossed the empty road.

The drug dealer saw us cross. I thought we were casual. I thought we were obviously going to get coffee. I was sure he couldn't hear what I had said. I was sure what I had said was not offensive.

"What the fuck! Are you afraid of us? Do you think we're going to come get you? We'll get you," he yelled. "We're going to get you."

He went on, but my friend continued her story and didn't look up. I tried to focus on her words. I couldn't focus on his words either. I was planning what to do next in case he crossed the road after us. All of my hair was standing up at that point. I was in battle mode. We were almost to the coffee shack. There was a line of cars at the coffee shack. There was safety at the coffee shack, relative safety.

My friend continued with her story. A police car queued into the line. I could finally breathe a little deeper. I interrupted my friend and went to the police officer's window and tapped, smiling as he rolled down his window.

We were safe. I could report the harassment. I could relax walking back to church through another route. I could breathe more deeply in my car as I rolled out of that neighborhood that has deteriorated so quickly that drug dealers believe they own the very streets on a Sunday morning.

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Keep on Jumping

I'm exhausted. Saturday was fine. I laid in bed and watched a girl movie on Saturday. The best part was that the hour and a half movie took almost three hours to play because of commercials. I needed that.

Sunday, we took a couple of kids to the park to toss a football around. Not too bad. We relaxed all evening.

Then, there was swimming on Monday. I loved the swimming, but I was pretty tired when I got done. That night was easy except that my shoulder was so tired I couldn't raise my arm.

The zoo yesterday. We walked all over that zoo. I think we saw every frog and turtle and cub, even the komodo dragon cub, that was in the zoo. The penguins were sharing their fish with a pair of herons though. It was so cool.

When I got home, I was exhausted, but I ran to the grocery store because we needed massive groceries. The kids had run through two grocery bags with stuff like pepperoni, jerky, chips, and cheese. We still had plenty of carrots and snap peas left in the bottom of the bags. We also needed milk. I would swear that Nick drinks a half gallon of milk every day, sometimes more.

Today, we hiked. It was only four miles, but they were up and down and rocky miles. My feet feel worn down to little nubbins. Plus, I ate too much junk food, so I'm almost comatose now. What my endocrinologist would say is that I can't eat more carbohydrates just because I got some exercise. I keep trying though. I had an orange, a handful of Wheat Thins - oh my God, Wheat Thins are so good - a slice of pizza, and some dried shiitake mushrooms coated in a thin film of salt and sugar.

Exhausting. I might even have a hangover in the morning. It's not fair, getting a hangover from a handful of Wheat Thins and a slice of pizza. It's only 8:19pm and my body is begging to slide into bed and lay my head on a nice cool pillow. I have to make sure the boys don't stay up all night so I have to make it to 10:00pm. One of the boys has to leave fairly early in the morning and not be crabby. Good. I can go with that.

Tomorrow, Nick and I are joining friends and going to a trampoline place. She said that parents jump for free! That's just great. I get to jump for free tomorrow. I would have been happy to sit with my head between my knees while the boys are jumping, but we're going to jump.

Tomorrow, I'll jump. A little.

Friday, the boys wanted to go to the movies. Yeah, I can do the movies. Yes. I'll even sit through the Sponge Bob movie if that's what they want to see. I might fall asleep. I just might get my bottle of water, my tiny bag of popcorn and sleep in the dark for an hour and a half on Friday.

On Saturday, Nick is supposed to head over to one of the other boy's house for another sleepover. I'll drop him off at noon if they let me. Then, I'll come home, crawl into bed and take a long nap until Sunday when  need to pick him up.

Sometimes it's hard being an old mom. I am an old mom and I'm feeling every second, every single one of the twenty-six million five hundred and seventy million seconds of the life that has piled onto my shoulders.

Still, I'm getting great exercise this week!

Happy Mid-Winter Break!

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, February 16, 2015

Laughing Too Loud

I had forgotten middle school. Or maybe I wanted to forget. This afternoon, I was reminded. The energy, the unresolved tension, coming together, flying apart. They're like electrons at this age, swinging from proton to proton and never staying in one place. But whenever more than one of them is together, there is a lot of electricity.

I was the driver. Picture me at the wheel of my Suburban because I had four boys and possibly a little sister to bring to the pool and needed enough seats for them. The music was not quite loud enough. I could hear every word the boys were saying, even the stage whispers. I pretended I was stone deaf. That helps. They have come to believe that I am stone deaf. Then, after picking up the last boy and finding out that the little sister wasn't going to make it, the boys saw two of their friends, girls, not just little sisters, but real girls, walking on the sidewalk in the neighborhood.

Pandemonium broke out. It was hard to drive. So much cacophony. Rather than be that stodgy mom, I pulled off the road next to the girls and told the boys to roll down their windows and say hi to their friends. I even told Nick to offer for them to meet us at the pool.

Oh, that was too much! Boys, girls, bathing suits, all at the pool together?

Oh no. They were not ready to invite the girls to the pool. I turned on my turn signal since I was mostly, but not quite off the road. Cars zipped past. The kids were yelling to each other. It was a wonder anyone could hear a thing any of them were saying. They were all grinning. One of the girls had pink wires on her braces. The other girl had already had her braces taken off, I realized. Nice. I remember that kind of energy, vaguely. It was agonizing. Did I say the right thing? Did my miniskirt look right? Did I look cool?

I remember walking the circuit at the county fair. You'd think we'd get tired of going around and around in circles, stopping to talk, to flirt, or just looking to see who was looking. This was the very same. Did I squeal in those same decibels? I must have, forty years ago. I'm sure I wasn't nearly as demure as I wanted to appear in my purple miniskirt and white blouse tied at my waist. I must have laughed too loudly at dumb jokes, grinned in that over-exuberance trying to make sure that certain boy know it was him and not all the others that I liked.

I couldn't tell who liked whom today. I've been told that Nick likes her as a friend and has a crush on someone else. The other girl, possibly? I have no idea about the other boys either. I am not to know. It isn't any of my business except where their safety is at hand. Even with Nick, it is none of my business right now. Nothing is happening yet, not even anything simple.

They fluttered in each others presence. Even on the phone, after I had bid them goodbye and had driven off, their voices fluttered. Three phone calls in all. Boys calling out to the girls, the girls calling back responses.

And yes, I could hear some agony in their voices too. How could I not? I remember the pain of all that love, needing somewhere to go. It is like electricity and I remember how it burned me up when it could not escape. And none of it escaped except in occasional kisses, and usually with the wrong boy, nearly always the wrong boy, until many years later.

It's no wonder people don't want to remember middle school. It's no wonder they were all laughing so loudly.

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Quiet Joys

I'm sitting here with a lemon Perrier and a peeled sumo mandarin. Small things bring such joy.

Mike went to bed before I did and I leaned over and rested my cheek against his shoulder before I kissed him goodnight. We had watched a movie, 'Labor Day' together. He's in the habit of not changing the channel every other night after he's tucked Nick into bed and sat to talk to him for a few minutes. I listened to their voices through the closed door, then took control of the remote for the first time today.

I don't have to set my alarm in the morning. I'll wake up when I wake up and I'll be able to sit in the dim light with my notebook and write for a few minutes, not having to rush. I might even light a candle.

Teddy was sleeping on the floor by my side until it got too late for him and he's now moved to the couch. His head is resting on one of the soft pillows and he just sighed. I'm not sure if it's comfort or just a desire for me to finish and turn the lights off, but it's sweet.

Rain taps at the skylights. It's been warm, so my hellebore is nearly finished, crocus are budding and delicate snowdrops are in bloom. The grass and moss are an Irish green. And the fog barely burns off in the sun and sometimes weaves between the evergreens in late afternoon. The frogs sing their mating song. They sound so peaceful and make February my favorite time of year. Most other places in the country are still fighting snow, but I get the gift of bright green moss and happy frogs. We live across from swamp land, so they're loud enough to hear inside the house.

Nick is on a break from school so we have plans to swim, hike, go to the zoo, and have a sleepover. It will not be a quiet week.

I can feel spring coming. Almost.

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Bouquet of Daisies in the Compost

Valentine's Day is Saturday, folks. If you haven't found something on Amazon Prime, you'd better get cracking. I'm stumped this year, totally stumped. What do you get for a man who needs only time and wants only sleep?

I want to tell you about my Valentine's Days. They started with a dozen red roses that first Valentine's Day twenty-eight years ago. The other guy, Asshole - did I tell you about Asshole? - brought me daisies when he realized his demand of more space had come true and I hadn't called him in almost three weeks. Then, he tried to put on the charm as he looked through the door that I opened just a crack.

See, he had called me a wimp when I broke my thumb, made me feel weak and stupid, and I still cross-country skied seven miles to get out of the woods and he had the gall to stop for a burger and a beer before taking me home so I could go by myself for an X-ray of my hand.

Mike was already at my apartment making me dinner that night when Asshole arrived and I wouldn't even let the chain off the door to let the poor fool in. This guy actually whined. I told him that he and I were done, finished. I reminded him through the small opening in the door that he had called me a wimp. I didn't hide the cast on my arm. I didn't want to accept the daisies either. I tried to tell him to leave three or four times.

"Is he in there?" he whined. "Is that guy in there right now?"

"You need to leave. You need to leave now," I said.

"But what about the flowers I brought you?" he said. He was actually sounding pretty pathetic. I was tempted to let him in. Maybe he'd be civil to Mike. The apartment was smelling good and I knew that Mike had dinner ready.

"You can keep your flowers," I said. "Give them to someone else. You wanted more space. This is space. You should give those flowers to your mom. She's the one who deserves them the most."

"He's in there right now, isn't he? You're two-timing me. What a bitch. I can't believe you're two-timing me."

"When you dropped me off when I broke my thumb - remember when I broke my thumb and you called me a wimp? - I told you not to call me again, didn't I? I meant that."

"What a sleaze," he said. Oh, he may have called me a slut, but I'm not sure and I won't put words into his mouth.

"You need to leave. You need to leave now," I said.

"But what about the flowers I brought you. I brought them for you."

"I said I don't want them."

"Here!" he said and tried to shove them through the opening in the door. I always thought that chain was too long. I put my foot behind the door in case he tried to shove his way in.

"Wait. Wait one minute," I said and I closed the door just as he pulled his hand back from the small opening. I stalked into the kitchen, grabbed my garbage can and brought it to the door. I unlatched the chain, opened the door a little bit wider and propped my foot against it again. I didn't trust this guy. He shoved the daisies though the door at me as if that would make everything right. He shook them a little.

"I'm telling you that I don't want your flowers," I said evenly.

"Just take them, you bitch," he said. Good answer, I thought, so like him. So I took them and jammed them down into the potato peels, paper towels, and melon rinds that were already in there. To this day, I remember those pretty flowers smashed into my compost. What a waste. His mother would have loved them. He wasn't very nice to his mother, though, either.

Oh, there was plenty of drama that night but that was what it took to get Asshole to go away. It was worth the quiet smile on Mike's face when I came back into the kitchen and tucked myself into his shoulder. There's a spot where I fit him, inside a coat if he's wearing one, a cheek on one shoulder or the other where I can put my nose into his neck. Mike has to bend down a little to kiss me and a little more for me to kiss his cheek or his head. I like kissing his head too. He has a good head.

I kept the petals from the red roses he gave me for a long time in a little basket my grandma had given me. Oh, I don't have them any more. They stopped smelling so sweet and you can't keep everything, you know. You can keep the memories but things, especially rose petals, turn to dust and muck up the carpet when the cat knocks them over.

I'll tell you about other Valentine's Days later but none of them are as dramatic. Right now, I have to go buy fish. Salmon, trout, or maybe something exotic. Mike wants fish tonight so I'm going to go get good fish.

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


I made soup.

Well, if you need me to be specific, I added sauteed eggplant, onion, bok choy, baby chard, black olives, and garbanzos to a carton of cream of chicken soup. It's good, restorative. I feel like someone is taking care of me.

That's me!

My mother says it's hard to think of cooking for herself. I love it. I add whatever suits my fancy. Today, it's eggplant, Chinese eggplant, to be precise. And doing something simple like this makes me feel like I'm worth a little time. That's what I wish my mother knew, that taking a little time with food is worth it, even if it's just you.

The eggplant is a little bit sweet and the black olives are salty. The flavors haven't melted into one thing yet. It's a good soft food for a stomach that isn't ready for a salad. Yet, it is a salad, sort of. It has the variety of a salad, just softer.

I like cream soups. Cream of tomato is my favorite, but it's so easy to make, it doesn't make sense for me to buy it. Tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, basil, a dash of white pepper, and a little cream added after it's off the burner. Sometimes I put little chunks of Dubliner cheese into it and microwave it. Then, it's like having grilled cheese and tomato soup. Do you remember grilled cheese and tomato soup on a cold wet day?

Can you tell I'm still trying to get back to normal? My stomach is touchy. I'm still tired though I slept the entire morning away.

I feel quiet. I never feel quiet.

But it's a good quiet.

I didn't get anything done today. I didn't walk the dog. I didn't pick up groceries. I didn't see any friends. I think I might go take a nap, just for a little while. I wish I could offer you some soup.

Thanks for listening, jb

Monday, February 9, 2015

Chug It

This is my week for 'routine screenings.' I'm telling you that routine screenings are often anything but routine.

Here's your warning. If you have a sensitive stomach, you should stop reading now. Just stop. No need to keep reading as this is going to be a TMI moment. Really. Just click that little red X in the upper right-hand corner and go read something else. I won't be offended. You're not going to miss anything. Really. 

Still here? Think you're tough, do you? Don't say I didn't warn you.

My mammogram went fairly well last week, but I'm sure that woman cranked the vice grips until my mouth came open. That was her cue that it was tight enough.

"Don't breathe," she said every time she reached that point. How could I? My breast was clamped to the point of bursting. If she had asked me to tell secrets of national security, I would have spilled my guts, told them everything. I would have made up a list of communists on the spot. I wondered if anyone ever burst a boob on her watch. But, to her credit, she was quick and there were only four clamps and I was done. The warm robe was nice, but nothing, I'm telling you nothing was going to make me forget that this wasn't some sort of sadistic day spa. It's a mammogram people. The spa atmosphere just didn't do it for me. It might even give me the jitters when I'm about to get my next hot stone massage. Will my therapist be confused as to why she's there? If she tells me not to breathe, I am jumping off that damned table, hot stones and all. My breasts are aching just thinking about it.

Moving on.

Now, it is 3:27am and I'm preparing for a colonoscopy. I only have three more glasses of that stuff to drink and then I can relax. Well, I'll be spending the next hour in the bathroom, but I can mostly relax. I hate drinking that stuff. It makes me gag.

Being a frequent flier with colonoscopies, I recommend that you make sure your bathroom is clean, heated, and cozy for your visit.

----I just deleted a bunch of details I wrote. -----

It may be 3:53 in the morning and I'm nearly drunk on MoviPrep and not eating for two days, but I will not tell you the gory details, not even for your own good.

Don't you just love when some old fart tells you details about his colostomy bag or his gall stones or his hernia as if it's for your own good?

Oh God! I've become that old person. I have. I promise that I will not tell you details of my latest surgery. My grandma used to do that, scars and all. It was horrifying. No six year old girl wants to see the eight inch scar across her grandma's belly. I used to try to tell her that, but did she listen? Did she? Crap, she should have known by the look on my face.

And here I am telling you about colonoscopies. Sorry. There is a reason I stayed away all week. I was trying to preserve your sense of control over age. Here's the truth. You don't get as much control as you get older. It gets worse and worse until you're finally hooked up to machines and they breathe and eat for you. I'm telling you. Getting old sucks and I'm going to fight it all the way.

But I am on a schedule for my screenings. I'm not sure if I'm losing control here or maintaining it a bit longer because I'm trying to stay healthy.

Guess what? I've just finished the last of my MoviPrep. If they tell you that you need MoviPrep, they are NOT giving you a package of popcorn, soda, and your 3-D glasses. Drinking that stuff is the worst part of the whole deal. I think it helps to use cold water even though the instructions say to use lukewarm water. It's also better if you close your eyes and don't breathe while you're drinking it. It's flavored something like Gatorade and I'm not a fan, so I just chug as if I were still in college. Remember those people yelling, 'Chug it, chug it, chug it' until somebody puked? At the end, I wanted to smash that glass right into the fireplace in victory.

Now I just have to let it pass. That's the thing about these 'routine screenings.' There's a lot you just have to endure in the hopes that you won't have to do it for another five years. Well, it's a year for your mammogram, but who's counting?

Thanks for listening, jb

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Revenge of Chicken Neck

Good morning.

Can I just go back to bed now? Can I? I think I have a sore throat. My eyes are gummy. I'm supposed to get a mammogram today. I could call the mammogram people and beg to reschedule because I could be contagious. Then the whole procedure would still be hanging over my head. To tell you the truth, I think I got a pill stuck in my throat yesterday and it's still hanging there. But I didn't sleep well. My mouth is dry. My car is low on gas. It's a full moon. Do I still have to go to my appointment anyway?

Mike calls it the smash and grab, the boob crusher, or man's revenge. I'm not sure what it's revenge for. Probably, all those years ago, some cute girl in seventh grade called a geeky boy 'chicken neck' because he was skinny and had dry skin. And since that geek boy was the one who invented the mammogram, his subconscious just wanted to smash the mammies right off that girl. One man's revenge.

Can you think of any other reason that a man could justify smashing the pumpkins of a few million women every year? Can you?


I wonder if there is a special hell for that geek boy? I wonder if he'll be in hell with that cute girl yelling "chicken neck, chicken neck, CHICKEN NECK!" for all of eternity, plus flames, despair and agony on him, deep dark depression, excessive misery.

Thank you for listening, jb