Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Latent Regret

Some days are just too mortifying to contemplate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right. The truth? You want the truth?

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

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

Can I just dry up and blow away now?

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Terrorists in the Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Making Lunches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Ride of the Valkyries!"

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

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

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, November 14, 2015

I Was a Dork And Jenny Lawson Was So Nice!

I met Jenny Lawson last night!

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

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

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

Where was I?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is pathetic, isn't it?

It really is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Against All Christianity

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

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

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

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

It's embarrassing. It really is.

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, November 2, 2015

Higher Intelligence

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

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

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

I blame the cat.

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for listening, jb