Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Breathe In and Out Like This

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, December 28, 2015


I have a belated Christmas present for you.

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, December 26, 2015

There Are No Do-Overs

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

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

I'm early, not late.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I ate rice an hour ago and it was okay.

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

I asked Mike for a do-over.

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

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

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, December 11, 2015

A Certain Frame of Mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

What did I do?

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for listening,

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Spirit of Sleep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Almost the Hero

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

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

He's a spoiled kitty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was no longer the hero and he knew it.

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Peeing Off the Deck in Winter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for listening, jb