Thursday, April 23, 2015

Learning to Drift

Once in a while you get to do things like they do in the movies. For me, today was one of those days even though it rained like hell. No, I didn't get to blow away the drug dealer with an AK-47 when I saw her selling drugs to another young person at the library, but it was very nearly as dramatic. For once, I got to be the hero of my own story.

After watching the drug dealer do her work, I wandered into the bathroom to pee. I was aggravated. I had thought they'd moved on. I had thought that the kids in the library were safer. I hate going into the library bathroom ever since the drug dealer followed me in to ask if I needed anything. This time, I was on my own in there.

Now that my virus has passed, I have a revived sense of smell. That didn't help me much yesterday when I had to require Nick to empty the garbage before it was full. Didn't anyone else in the house smell something dying, rotting, gathering bacteria? Just me? Great. There are a couple of other things I would really prefer over having an acute sense of smell. Better hearing, perhaps? Maybe sight that doesn't require these thick lenses? I might even go for better balance. No. I got smell.Great. Thanks.

I really hope, in this cosmic comedy I'm living, that I don't get reincarnated as a blood hound.

Where was I?

So, pardon the vision, but I was sitting in the bathroom stall with the door closed when I noticed a strong chemical smell. This was not cleaning fluid. There was nothing human about this smell either.

So, I was quick about my business. I left the stall and washed my hands when I realized that the smell was much less pungent by the sinks. Curious, I held onto my damp paper towel and checked the other stall. Not much there either.

I pushed open my stall door again. There it was, something I knew I shouldn't be breathing. I took multiple chemistry classes in college. I worked with carbon-tetra-chloride at one summer job. I also cleaned student apartments at my college another summer. I know the smell of cleaning fluids, even the nasty ones. And I know chem lab smells too.

I actually held my breath a little, as if that would protect me.

There was a tissue toilet seat liner loosely jammed into the tiny ladies garbage bin. I used my paper towel to pull it out and open it up a little. There was something in it, but I was afraid to touch it, or even breathe. I dropped the whole thing into the toilet and flushed. Twice.

It went down, all the way down and with that, the smell dissipated. Score one for the angry moms!

But, as I used my damp paper towel to open the bathroom door, I realized that I should have taken a moment to identify the thing inside the toilet seat liner so that I would know for future use. It made sense to limit my exposure to this smell, but the visual knowledge could have allowed for a great deal more happy flushing. I hope it was an expensive loss for the drug dealer.

And I went on my happy way, running through pouring rain into the grocery store, chatting with another mom there, stopping at home, unloading groceries, and telling Nick to get ready for karate. Things were good. They were very good. I even grabbed my rain coat, opened a bag of sweet potato chips, and loaded Teddy into the back seat with Nick to take him for a wet walk while Nick had his lesson.

We live on a highway. The speed limit on the highway is 55 miles per hour. And since it was mostly straight until we got to town, I set my cruise control to 58 miles per hour. Yes. I know. Officially, I was breaking the speed limit, but you'd be surprised at how slow it seems sometimes when people are passing me, or worse, tailgating. There weren't even any stops for the next ten minutes, or so I thought.

I came to an intersection, not a busy one and knew that the huge shiny black truck stopped there at the T was supposed to wait by his stop sign until I went past. There were cars in the oncoming lane, so even if I weren't there, he would have to stop for them to get out onto the highway.

Then, he pulled out in front of me and slammed on his brakes when he noticed the cars in the oncoming lane. What the hell?

The problem was that he was stopped crossways across my lane and I was going 58 miles per hour!

Time slows when you're technically speeding and there's suddenly a large shiny black truck blocking your lane that was supposed to be waiting at the stop sign.

I slammed on my brakes and the dog hit the back of my seat but it wasn't enough. I remember seeing a face looking out his window at me, a white face. I think it was a man, but I was pretty busy at the time.

My dad's voice popped into my head. I was thirteen when he died, so he didn't teach me, but for some reason, probably boredom, I sat in the back seat of the car when he taught my sister to drive.

"Always look for the way through any situation," he would say. "If you look at the obstacle, you'll hit the obstacle, so always drive looking for the way through any situation." My dad was not a fan of Jersey barriers. And I think he actually lived his whole life this way and not just his driving.

And so there I was trying not to look at that shiny black truck I was about to T-bone, trying not to look at the oncoming traffic I could head-on. Where was it? Where was my way through?

And I realized it was a sharp right turn on wet pavement. 

And so I leaned on the horn, turned the wheel as hard as I could without losing traction altogether and I drifted, skidding over wet pavement and still turning until I was on that road going up the hill on the wrong side of the street and bearing down on yet another car. And still I looked for the way through. With a little bit of a jerk on the wheel, I missed him too.

I got the car stopped without hitting a damned thing.

It was just like in the animated 'Cars' movie where Paul Newman was trying to teach Owen Wilson how to drift the turns. I swear, it was a thing of beauty, except there were cars all around me simply throwing on their brakes.

And the last man, the one I almost hit going up that hill, rolled down his window after having a great view of the whole thing and smiled at me.

"You alright?" he asked. I nodded my head. "You might think about pulling over for a few minutes and taking a couple of deep breaths." I tried to smile, nodded again, and pulled a bit further up the hill and got off the right side of the road with my blinker on. Bless that man.

I looked into the rear view mirror at Nick and then Mike's face popped into my head. In one moment, Mike had nearly become single and childless. And then I almost threw up. It took about ten minutes to calm down enough to breathe, to keep my sweet potato chips down, and to drive again. It was strange. There were no injuries. There was no damage. I could take Nick to karate like any normal day only it wasn't a normal day. I had just learned how to drift a Prius. We weren't even late.

When we finally got home, we had a family hug. Nick told Mike about how I'd driven the car like a race car driver. And when Mike went to bed before I did, he hugged me again and said,

"I'm glad you guys didn't die today," so casually, I could have smacked him. A half a beat later, I realized it was a joke.

If my life is a movie, it's usually a comedy, sometimes a drama, but today? Today, my life was an action flick and I was the fucking hero. And I didn't even have to wield an AK-47.

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Mess I Call Chili

It rained last night and the Japanese maple has pearls of water hanging from each point of its leaves. I love when it rains, but the sky is clearing and it looks like it's going to be blue.

I'd rather have the low clouds and a misty rain.

I don't have much to tell you today. I haven't slept enough and when I don't sleep, it affects everything about my day, including what I tell you. I always feel as though I'd bore you to tears if I sat down and told you about how incredibly tired I was.

I'm incredibly tired. Lunch is made for Nick, chili with beans and corn, Stouffer's macaroni and cheese, cucumbers, milk, and one of those little tangerines that peels in one piece. Mike started putting extra stuff in our chili until I'm not sure you can call it chili any more, except we do. It's one of those easy meals, meat, chili mix, sliced olives, corn, kidney beans, elbow macaroni and diced tomatoes. I'm tempted to take the meat out of it altogether. Does that sound like chili to you?

It's not, is it? It's more of a goulash, but we already have two recipes named goulash in our family, so that name is taken.

So whatever. It's chili. I add onions and cheese to mine and Nick's bowls and extra diced tomatoes to mine and Mike's. What I need to do next is to keep the elbow macaronis separated out for Mike and Nick to have so that I don't have to eat them. Oh, I like them. They just don't like me.

I'm telling you, there must be something in the water because each of us has his own kind of food restrictions. It's a mess, but it's our mess and we're managing okay these days.

Isn't it funny how each of us has his own mess to deal with? One friend lost a son to leukemia. Another has problems with a son on drugs. One of Nick's friends had surgery over spring break, but his mom won't say what because it's, apparently, embarrassing. And another friend is getting a divorce. Our mess used to be pneumonia, sleep deprivation, food restrictions and a heart attack. We still have the scars, but mostly it's food restrictions these days. Once in a while, there's someone who's life seems so easy, so rich, and so beautiful, that I forget that there is always some struggle though I am not allowed to see it.

Sorry this is a rambling mess. I was trying to tell you about the mess I call chili.

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Alone Yet Not So Alone

Mike and Nick have gone camping with the Boy Scouts this weekend and I'm on my own. I'm not good at being on my own, but it was okay because five minutes after I began to weed a tiny spot in the yard and slow my breathing, Nick called and told me to bring his hammock. I insisted that he ask me nicely to bring the hammock before I agreed. I'm not sure when he got a fancy hammock to sleep in, but all the boys are doing it, so Nick's going to trying it out too, in a fancy new hammock that Mike probably bought for him while I wasn't paying attention. I hadn't even gotten settled down from the flurry of getting them down the driveway when Nick called. Sometimes it takes me more than five minutes after Nick leaves for my breathing to return to normal.

See, Nick seems to think that he can get mostly ready, mostly. That means that his backpack was packed, minus sun screen, bug repellant, his hammock, a tarp he decided was essential at the last minute, and please tell me he's packed his EpiPens and inhaler. I'm not at all certain he packed his EpiPens and inhaler. Then, regardless of how many times Mike told him to load it all into the truck before he turned the TV back on, he didn't. So, that all had to happen at T minus three minutes. And of course my boy tried to get it all out to the truck in one trip and was confused why we wouldn't drop what we were doing and pick up all the stuff he spilled in the driveway. It didn't help that his backpack wasn't zipped. We wouldn't drop what we were doing because Nick was supposed to calmly do this job twenty minutes ago so that he'd have time to make two or three trips and think, calmly, about any last minute items, such as the tarp and hammock, that he might want to bring.

And in the end, Nick made Mike ten minutes late. This happens every time we go out the door, only for campouts, it is made more complicated by the loading of the truck because of multiple-trip-to-the-truck problems. I'm glad that Mike refused to make himself twenty minutes late by trying to locate the last-minute tarp.

And the next thing I know, I'm standing among boys and men and just a few moms at the Scout shack, chatting it up before they all leave for their camping trip. After Nick came to get his hammock, I let the dog out so he could run with the boys for a bit. It's good for dogs and boys. I chatted easily because my job was done, nearly done. To be honest, it is my job to chat to dads and a few moms who are dropping off their boys. Of course it is. Mike is too busy to chat, organize gear, dedicate seats in various trucks, and gather all the necessary paperwork by himself. So, I gathered paperwork and chatted.

And suddenly, I was hugged and they were all loaded into trucks, gear was packed, and they were gone. I quickly ordered Teddy into the car so I didn't have to stand there and look pathetic after everyone left. I felt pathetic and elated at the same time.

How is it that being a mom is so complicated?

I should either be pathetic and lonely or I should feel elated and free, not both at the same time.

I still feel both, even now. So, Teddy and I took a long walk on the trail where we had seen our bears in the fall. I wanted to see the mamma bear. I wanted to see if the cubs had gotten big and grown hair on their legs. Oh, you know what I mean. My boy is at the age when one of his friends can suddenly sprout and look like a man in just two weeks. Shoot, I still look at Nick and wonder where my boy has gone and who is this hairy man-child? His face still looks boyish, but his legs are so seriously man-legs. His toes are still cute, bigger than they were, but cute still. But he keeps getting this hair that grows unevenly across his cheek. My child has stubble!

So, I wanted to see the big baby bears on the trail, even if I ran into momma coming around a corner, freaked her out, and found myself swatted down a hillside of sword ferns.

Maybe it was good I didn't see momma bear and her big babies. Teddy got very excited at one part of the trail and I realized that it was very nearly the same place we saw her the first time. He kept running up and down this side trail, one that ran straight up hill from where I stood. This was not a place where people had gone. I looked for elk tracks. Not elk either.

But there was a bear print.

I'm telling you that there were four toes in a row, with claw marks, and it was at least five inches across and dug deep like it weighed a lot. This was fresh evidence that I was on the right trail if that's where I wanted to be.

And then I realized that I was alone. I usually think, when I'm in the wilderness, how I'd call Mike first before I called anyone else, even the police. And today, because he was half way to the Mukilteo ferry, and he had a commitment to eighteen boys and four men to lead a camping trip, I wouldn't be able to call him the way I usually might. I'd have to call the police first, or Jennifer or Alison. Could I even call Alison? She still had that nasty cough that reminded me of the six times Nick had pneumonia. I actually got a little shot of adrenaline the other day when she and I took our dogs for a walk and she coughed. I thought of Nick immediately, my little boy Nick.

Then I realized that if I got mauled by an angry momma bear and her big strong hairy babies, I could probably call Alison and she wouldn't mind. I could call anyone on my phone, even Mike, and any one of them would come.

So, I took a good picture of these huge toe prints in the mud.

And I sent it to Mike. I guess I'm not so alone after all.

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Nine Words, Sixteen Years, and Still No Comeback

Okay, so I've changed my mind about chia seeds in my oatmeal. I admit that I have some tricks to wanting chia seeds in my oatmeal because I tried it once and didn't like it all that much. First, I was hungry this time. I hadn't had many carbohydrates all day, if you don't count the little packet of peanut butter that's labeled honey but doesn't have any honey in it at all. I looked at the ingredients after I'd eaten it and found that it was filled with sugar, only a teaspoon, but even that's too much for me. Of course I would crave peanut butter packets with sugar in it. Second, I added fruit to my oatmeal that already had little seeds in them, blueberries. I figured chia seeds would have the same consistency of the little seeds in the blueberries. Strawberries might work too. Haven't tried that yet.

So, I figured I could have some oatmeal before I go to bed which is the absolutely worst time for a hypoglycemic to eat sugar, but there you have it. I wanted something. It was probably the craving effect of that teaspoon of sugar I ate with my peanut butter. So I got out my tiny bowl, not my tiniest bowl, but one of the tiny ones. I should be okay. No diabetic coma tonight, I hope. If you don't hear from me again, I take it all back and I don't recommend even a tiny bowl of oatmeal for a hypoglycemic just before bedtime.

I am an adrenaline junkie with these risks I take, I tell you. I added a quarter cup of quick oatmeal, two tablespoons of chia seeds, a tablespoon of cinnamon, a half teaspoon of stevia, and a half cup of frozen blueberries and then I microwaved it to melt the berries. I poured boiling water to cover it all and waited five minutes before I stirred it up. Then, horror of horrors, I added a half tablespoon butter and a tablespoon or two of half and half.

I was raised with butter and cream on my oatmeal. So sue me.

Once years ago, I was in the little kitchen of a corporate job making myself a bowl of oatmeal when a skinny minny, a total stranger, came walking into the room. She took one look at my oatmeal and said, "Now that's a healthy meal."

I want to tell you that fat people do not appreciate hearing judgements about what they're eating, not even positive ones. We just don't. I was quite a bit heavier then, but I was in the seven years of no-man's land before any doctor actually tested me for thyroid issues after I suddenly gained weight. Mostly, the doctors yelled at me until I finally found a good and curious doctor who responded when I said I was exhausted all of the time. Seven years is a long time to be exhausted all the time. That was when I finally got help.

So, I smiled at this skinny minny in the corporate kitchen and tried not to thank her for her approval of my breakfast. I was an apologist back then. It came with offering too many 'thank you's as well.

Now, you know a conversation has stuck with you when you remember the look on a total stranger's face after nine words and sixteen years.

I reached into the fridge and cut a thin slice from the stick of real butter that I had brought for my breakfast, figuring that most of that butter would be gone by the end of the week because other people would steal it. Why the hell is there always someone who steals your labeled lunch and yoghurt out of the corporate kitchen? There is a place in hell for these people.

Skinny Minny got a new name when she saw what I had added to my oatmeal.

"Butter? That's so disgusting," she said. At that moment, she became a food Nazi.

Now, I wasn't yet going through menopause then or I might have said something rude and gotten fired for it. I kept it to a deep eye roll. I remember being disappointed that I couldn't say something smart and demeaning to make her feel like the ass that she was, but maybe there's less valor in striking back. I'm not sure. I can say that I'm still disgusted by this woman's condescending and judgmental behavior toward a total stranger.

Maybe there's a place in hell for food Nazi people as well.

And I still eat my oatmeal with a little bit of real butter. Julia Child ate real butter. See, I still don't have a good comeback for that food Nazi bitch, but I know how to live, don't I?

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Plan that Isn't Really a Plan

I dreamed that I was pretty and good at acting so Tom Hanks let me lean on him and hold his hand for a bit before a scene. Nice. Then, I realized that the roles that Tom Hanks plays are a lot like how Mike is in real life and there he was, my Mike next to me, and I wasn't doing anything wrong as I enjoyed my position. I love that about dreams. They let you realize something about your situation. Oh, it's always a metaphor, so you have to think on it for a while, but it's there.

A friend of Nick's is moving away. I dreamed of him too, out in the wilderness by himself and that Nick and I left sandwiches on his trail so he'd eat well.  Suddenly, our plans for summer are dashed. Well, they're more complicated than they were before. These two boys were so good together that watching them hang out made me happy. So now, I have to make sure that his mom knows how I feel and that I'd like to try to make things easier for them and keep them connected. I hope I can do that.

The complication here is that she and I haven't known each other for long and I didn't call or text at all during spring break because I had this stupid virus. So, it probably doesn't have anything to do with me, but she didn't respond to my last text. So what's a dork to do?

Okay, I'm not back to normal here. I'm phasing in and out of this, not quite well, not quite sick. I could sit here all day and not really get anything accomplished. Teddy needs a walk. I need a dinner plan. I don't even feel like taking a shower. On Sunday, I took a shower to go out and I was exhausted by the time I got dry and had to go lie down again. Yesterday wasn't like that, but I can tell I'm not jumping back up onto my feet with this virus. Is this how people feel when they're turning into zombies?

Am I becoming a zombie? No fair. I didn't know I was turning into a zombie. I don't want to eat brains. I don't even like brains no matter what they call them at that fancy restaurant I went to in New York City once a long time ago. Are all the people who ordered that on the menu already zombies? Is everyone I know who already had this virus already a zombie and their husbands are hiding it by bringing home already-roasted chickens and bags of green beans that will steam in the microwave?

I can't believe I went to the grocery store last night and I didn't get anything for dinner. Don't you hate when you do that? Now, I have to go back out and shop again.

Wait, was there supposed to be whine with this meal? 

No? Sorry. I thought you ordered whine.

Okay, I have a plan. Keep it simple. I will need to shower. And I need to make a dinner plan. After that, I can go back to bed if I want. Doesn't that sound nice? Don't you just love that feeling when you get to crawl back into bed and snuggle down into the sheets?

I'm not ready for prime time here. Maybe the plan is to let Tom Hanks pick up one of those already-roasted chickens and a bag of green beans that steams in the microwave and let the dog walk himself on his own inside the house. Then I can crawl back in bed to cozy up with those sheets and that fluffy pillow. Yeah, that.

Good plan, Mike. Don't tell anybody I'm turning into a zombie, okay?

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Looking for Good News at 3:31 in the Morning

I'd like to find something to complain about, but that would be no fun. It's 3:31 in the morning. I'm awake at 3:31 in the morning. It's not even close to dawn. It's not even close to the sound of birds singing or Nick and Mike sitting down to another video game marathon and some hearty arguing about whose turn it is on Skyrim. So, I'm sitting here trying to figure out what is good to say.

I'm a little more upright than I was yesterday or the day before. The virus doesn't seem to have hold of me by the neck the way it did. What else?

The hum of the refrigerator is keeping me company. This is one of those nights when it might be a joy to open it up and stare at the contents, but I know what's in there and if I were fourteen, I'd stand there with it open for ten minutes and declare to no one in particular that there's nothing in the fridge.

There's nothing in the fridge. The truth is that I'm incredibly bored by what is actually in the fridge. Uncooked bacon, cheese, smoked salmon, four or five kinds of cheese, three kinds of milk, old strawberries, ham, one serving of chicken fricassee with too much rice, flaccid celery, apples, a kiwi, an old grapefruit, snap peas, hummus, a cucumber if Mike hasn't finished it, shredded carrots - can you tell that I'm going drawer by drawer in my memory now? - Perrier, two kinds of plain Greek yoghurt, uncooked cheese tortellini, tomato soup that I made yesterday. Mmmm. Tomato soup.

Okay, so maybe there are some things in the fridge, but I'm not clicking on anything, so I need to go on. What else is there that's good to say this morning?


I'm thinking. Hold on a bit.

Teddy is snuggled up on the pillows on the couch. What is it about making something forbidden that gives it so much allure, even for a dog? I've given up and we now have flat, earthy-smelling pillows on the couch. The good part of that is that when we are eating a meal balanced on one of those pillows on the couch, there's a very good chance that we are boosting our immune systems. Did you know that having pets in the house boosts your whole family's immune systems?

All you mothers out there take note. Cleaning, to a certain degree, is not good for your health. When I tried to put that onto the page, it resisted. My mind went to salmonella and bed bugs and the way there are as many germs in your kitchen sink as in your toilet.

Not a good thing to think about at 3:58 in the morning.

I was just trying to make some messy moms feel better.

I know, but it's gross.

All things in moderation then. Right. Let's get on with things. I was coming up with good things to tell you at this hour.

The highway is quiet. Oh, I don't mind the highway. I've always liked it if I'm telling the truth. It's like a river that runs past my house. We live in a tiny eddy off the main current. People flow along the river.

In both directions. That's rich.

Yes, in both directions. I listen for the Doppler effect, that lowering of the whine of the tires as a car goes by. There's something satisfying about that moment, when the sound releases, like going just past a climax. In a story. Right. In a story. At this hour, I can tell you, the highway isn't a constant flow of sound, but single events. The good thing about that is that I imagine that population that is usually going by my house at sixty miles an hour and I can tell you that most of them are at home asleep right now. Blissful sleep. There are a few people rushing, either going to an early job or coming home late. The good thing about that?

I don't know, routine, maybe? Peace found in a busy society. You have to imagine that person who's going to work at this hour can be by herself for a bit before the morning rush begins. There are things to do, but no one else is hovering over her as she does it.

And there are people who's nights have just ended and they're finally going home. I try not to think about how safe my road is at this hour. What time do the bars close, anyway?  I've heard difficulty out there on occasion. Mostly, people are getting home in one piece. That's a good thing.

Okay, I'll admit that it's hard to come up with good things at this hour.

<more crickets>

Well, you couldn't really tell, but I just took a little break to futz around in the kitchen for a moment. It's nice to futz around in the kitchen at 4:39 in the morning. And I've come back to sit with you with some good news.

The good news is peppermint tea. Yes, if you have to be up at 4:41 in the morning, peppermint tea with just a touch of sweet in it it will cheer you right up. Your favorite mug will warm your hands and the steam will soothe your sinuses, and you have to admit that it reminds you just a little bit of Christmas.

The other good news is that if you cut up your flaccid celery and put it into a dish of cold water, which I did yesterday, it perks right up and tastes fresh again, as long as it wasn't slimy. There is no perking up slimy celery, so just throw that shit out.

Of all the things in my fridge, you might want to know why I'm going for celery. The answer is peanut butter. If you can't crash around in your kitchen without waking the whole family, peanut butter is your man, well, your legume. And it will help with your tepid response to that celery, even after it has perked up in the cold water in the fridge.

I always feel a little like a kid when I eat celery and peanut butter.

And here's one more trick. You know those foods that are the new thing? Like, what is it about quinoa? I had never even heard of quinoa a year ago and now it's in almost everything. Quinoa groatmeal, and quinoa burritos, and quinoa smoothies. Yuck. I just haven't found a way to incorporate quinoa into my daily diet. So, forget quinoa.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a package of chia seeds. Chia. Spellchecker doesn't even recognize chia, so I must be on the leading edge of this health food wave. Ha! Me, on the leading edge. Imagine that.

I read a book that said I should be eating a lot more seeds and nuts than I am. Well, okay, I'll try to eat more seeds and nuts. Peanut butter counts, right? Especially since I buy all natural peanut butter, right? Never mind the sugar in it. Never mind that.

So, on top of eating more peanut butter, I tried finding ways to incorporate chia seeds into my diet. I started adding it to stuff. I tried them on my salads and it didn't quite work. I tried chia in my oatmeal and it wasn't bad, but I wasn't amazed. They have very little taste and the consistency of kiwi seeds and I didn't want kiwi seeds in my oatmeal. I couldn't think what I was going to do with this huge bag of chia seeds that seemed to spill all over the floor and the counter whenever I opened the bag. Then, I dipped a bit of peanut butter into a tiny bowl of chia seeds I had leftover from a salad one day. Perfect.

Chia seeds make your smooth peanut butter taste crunchy without messing with your fillings. And that makes eating a whole bunch of previously flaccid celery a lot more appetizing. There, without realizing it, you've eaten whole servings of celery and didn't even grimace once.

I'll warn you that you'll spend the next twenty minutes picking fluffy chia seeds out of your teeth, but it's all worth it in the name of staying healthy. Plus, I think they puff up in your stomach and make you feel more full after eating a bunch of celery. Calories? Forget calories.

My guess, based on the current wave of chia in health food, you can eat as many chia seeds as you can fit onto a big glob of peanut butter.

And that's my good news for the night.

The last bit of good news I have for you is that it feels divine to crawl back into bed at 5:23 in the morning, absolutely divine.

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Adopted by Trees

You know that feeling after you've been caught for the first time by a big wave? You know what I mean. Your sinuses are burning from seawater that was pushed up your nose. You still feel breathless from being held under for too long, dizzy, not quite sure which way is up. And when you find your feet, wobbly from it all, you realize that you've got sand packed into your left ear and only a little more swimming and a rest on the beach will take it out.

That's how I feel, only there is no hot sun stinging my shoulders and nose. There are no glints of sunlight on water. There is no staring into the distance over the water, the infinite so close at hand.

There's just the radio playing a song you don't quite like, the pile of blankets on the couch, a pile of tissues in the bin, and the cat nestled into the sleeping bag you got out because you couldn't get warm.

The burning in your lungs has passed, that feeling that was like the time the TA in chemistry lab said to 'waft' the odor from the test tube and you snorted a whiff of chlorine gas and your lungs hurt for a week. At least that has passed, but you still have sea water up your nose and sand packed into your left ear.

And you're dizzy.

And disoriented at the colors in the room though you haven't left them for four days.

And feeling oh so slightly better so that you can tolerate sitting upright and understanding a whole movie on TV.

And it feels good to stare at the clouds out the window at the deepening dusk, all color washed but a pale shade of blue behind the silhouette of your home trees, your family trees, the ones that casually brushed the hair off your temple last weekend when you were working on the ladder. Your trees, your home trees. And they feel like family, like the cat and the dog only you wonder if you aren't the cat or the dog because they have lived here so incredibly long and you may have been adopted by them instead of the other way around. How would you be able to tell if you'd been adopted by a family of trees? How would you be able to tell how they cared for you?

Yes, I've got a cold. I'm starting to feel better, but this is usually where I am at the end of a cold, well enough to brush spring fur off the dog on the back deck and stare into the deepening sky.

And wonder if we've got it all wrong and it was the trees that brought us back here day after day after day.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, April 3, 2015

Mediocre Meditations


When this was the music of the day,
did people flutter more?
Did they think in triads and trills
and grace notes?
Did they hum a twinkle tune
as they fried sausage
on the wood stove?

Life was harder then, wasn't it?
But did this violin or that harpsichord
ease the tightness of their corsets,
or the itchiness of their wigs?

Did the poor at the pub
loosen their stays before sipping stew,
warm their clogs by the fire
to a fiddle or a flute,
looser bits, but still in the style,
or the strum of a guitar?

The value of a human voice
is seldom exposed now
except in church.
Did they sing easier then,
the embarrassment balanced
by the need for sound?

Did slowness make it easier?
Was it really harder without TV
and radio commercials blaring?
Without tater tots and drive through food?
Did bread on the rise
and greens from the little plot out back
make it richer?

I've tasted those greens,
that bread.

A man made a table then, made it of wood.
There were no children on the other side of the world,
and it was not made of wood particles and glue.
Slavery has just changed its name.

Was it humbling to build your own,
grow your own, no exercise routine needed?
Butcher, baker, carpenter, maid.
Was the music leaven for them too?

The next day, 9:19am

Fog on the lake,
patches of blue sky
reflect off clear water.

Fish jump.

The ledge above me
to the North
is wrapped in gauze.

My boat hugs me
like a sleeping bag.

I hear people murmur
on the shore,
my paddle dripping,
birds singing,
geese muttering contentedness.

A dog barks.

Shore noise fades as I paddle West
to the far end of the lake.
Only the birds stay
and the dripping
of my paddle.

I am alone in my thoughts.
My mind settles,


Birds sing,
my paddle riffles the water,
droplets fall

and the sound of fog
touches tips of trees
as it dances
along the ridge.

Another day, 5:32am

When we're young, we run,
feeling wind in our hair.
Old now, we no longer run.
We only feel that a train
has rushed past
and we clutch to stay upright.

Were we supposed to be
on that train?
We can't remember,
but it seems so.

Other people wear beautiful dresses,
carry intelligent passion
on their faces.
We imagine large homes,
honor roll children.
They have hair that combs
just so.

But did any of them see
the way moss grows
in the cracks of this manhole,
the green bright against rusted iron?

Did they see how graffiti
is peeling in a spiral
like a galaxy?

Did they recognize joy
in the baby's face
as she was carried
by her mother,
and her curiosity
about all these people?

Did they find meaning
in the bloom of color
on a teenager's cheek
and a gleam in his eyes?

Did they listen frogs singing
in a swamp across the street,
a mating call?

Or did they feel a sigh
of coming spring
across their cheek?

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Peace and Loons Calling

There's always that blank page to consider when I sit down with you. You are so quiet. Can't we just have tea and imaginary cookies? No, that doesn't help. Imaginary cookies leads me to crave real cookies and that's bad for me, so how about some fruit? I'm not a big fan of mango unless we're in Hawaii, but then why can't we be in Hawaii?

We could be looking out over an angry ocean, one for which the surfers eternally hope. We'll watch, feeling a bit of adrenaline and sympathetic pain with each crash. Neither of us really wants to leave the shade of our umbrellas to find a board, though I might feel differently if it were kayakers I was watching. Why is there that difference? I've seen people in kayaks surf a wave. I've seen them crash and roll for a bit before the wave spits them out. It was always a bit beyond me anyway, those big waves. When Mike and I rafted big waves sometimes, I was usually happy to graze the edge of anything absolutely crazy. The Methow was my limit, just a little beyond, I think. He and I were suited that way, enjoying about the same amount of risk with our adventures. We liked some big water, but we weren't quite adrenaline junkies. I think the trekking was more about the solitude and the independence. There is something empowering in being able to carry everything you might need for a week and living out in the wilderness, in being able to handle what you encountered.

There were so many peaceful evenings after dinner was made. Loons called. In the movies, a loon call is made to sound creepy, but when you're outside, dinner has been satisfying, your arms ache with ten or so miles of paddling, and the loons appear in silhouette on the lake and cry back and forth, it is a sound of beauty and solitude.

They seem like ancient birds, black and white dots and herringbone plaid with their black beaks and red eyes. They're curious and sometimes when we paddle, they come up near our canoes and look as if in staring they could remember what kind of big animal this is that smells of human but floats on the water like waterfowl. And we have too heads and sometimes three, but the three-headed ones smell of a mix of human and dog. Many of the animals, moose, bear, and deer, don't recognize people paddling a canoe as actual people and their fear is abated.

But the loons time is dusk and there are sunsets reflected in water with a silhouette of a loon, something I never managed to capture in taking a million pictures. Do you remember when you had to carry rolls of film? For one trip, I accidentally switched my contacts and I have three rolls of exposures of blurry loons. But it's the sound of a loon in the evening night that brings me so much peace. Mike used to be able to mimic the sound and get a loon to answer him. That is one of the things I have always loved about Mike.

Maybe we should meet on a lake in the Adirondacks at sunset. What do you think?

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Catching Up on Meditating

6:58 am

Stuff I need to do.
The yard, the house, dust
to be silent.
Why do I start off talking? Why?
I need to be silent.
Cobwebs, dead-letter blogs, weeds,
the repair of the garage roof.
Why am I itchy?
The dog needs a walk.
I need a walk.
Piles I need to sort.
Piles, books, junk mail,
fliers I thought were important,
old lists of stuff to do.
Rummage to collect.
Where is the good in hunger
and lists
and procrastination?


The pattern of light
through my eyelids,
footprints squeaking floor boards,
a lull in traffic noise
reminds me that it's Saturday,
sleeping in for all those people
not on the roads,
one eye open
to a photo of us in the Bahamas,
gleaming eyes,
my boy with hair grown,
I will have time to sew
and sit on the deck with a book,
and coffee
feeling cool air
touch through my shirt
across my shoulders,
a fresh awakening.

Thank you for listening, jb