Thursday, September 22, 2016

Procrastination and Snorkeling Snot

Hi. Did you miss me?

I've been.....No, I don't have writer's block. I wish. I'm still writing a lot but I'm trying to send my energy somewhere it doesn't want to go, editing. All the while I'm editing or procrastinating editing, ideas and lines crowd into my mind asking to be laid down on the page. So, I've been missing from here. It's nice here usually, but I've been gone. Sorry about that. I miss you, all fourteen of you. 

Editing sucks. Did you know that? It's easy to start new stuff, hard to edit it to make it bind together into a family of words that feel like a book. I have nine books in progress. The truth is that I have nine books that are almost completely written but I need to finish cleaning them up. That's pathetic, isn't it?

I need a deadline, and I'm not talking about the day I realize I'm going to die and crap, my poor books are going to molder into dust and never find their way into the light of day. Not that kind of deadline.

Okay, I once promised I wouldn't spend much time writing about writing, but here I am, breaking that wall and dragging you into my boring office where I'm sure you don't want to stand around looking over my shoulder.

It's nicer in our story room where we are surrounded by books and stories, Tiffany lights, cozy arm chairs where no one asks you to sit up straight or keep your feet off. And there's a fireplace that never has to be stoked and never, not once, bothers anyone's asthma.

Nick is sick again and I've stopped burning my candle at my desk in fear of aggravating his breathing. He's usually low on the scale of asthma sufferers, but when he catches a virus like this one, it blows up into coughing fits, sore ribs, appointments with his specialists, excuses for school which are never thoroughly understood, and fearful nights watching my boy struggle to breathe all the while jittering uncontrollably because of the high doses of steroids the doctors have put him on to keep his airways open.

There's a balance between his heart rate standing at 125 for a few hours and constricted airways dropping his oxygen saturation to the lower 90% range that makes Mike and I feel like we're emergency room staff. Mike is the one who's good at it, thorough, even when he's sleep-deprived. I get exhausted in the night and fear I'll make a fatal mistake like giving Nick medicine too soon and loading his heart beyond its capacity. Before Mike goes to bed, I write down the time Nick can have the next dose of what and the things I need to check before I give it to him. Last night at 2:00am, Nick sat for another twenty minutes and breathed in the steroids though his nebulizer. He's also on prednisone, and inhaled long-acting steroids. Finally, at 2:45, his breathing eased and he fell into a fitful sleep.His snoring sounded like a bear growling.

He's breathing through so much gunk. I took a video of him last night and Mike thought it was funny, said he was snorkeling. But it's a very dark kind of humor, listening to your child literally drown in his own snot.
So, I'm letting myself take a break from editing for a few days because it's just not easy staying up all night and acting normal during the day. It's impossible to act normal most days anyway.

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, September 3, 2016

A Cheerful CPAP Stepford Wife

I am here to tell you that I have finally been converted. I am a woman of faith in the machine. I am a believer in the the technology. I am new and improved, a card-carrying witness to the sleepless that there is hope for all of you the way there was for me.

Two weeks ago, I got fitted for a CPAP.

I've been healed. It feels like a miracle. I go to bed a little tired and I breathe in the cool damp air provided through a tube. In the morning, I wake up cheerful, happy, whistling. All day long I'm acting this way.

I might be annoying my friends, the ones who have yet to be converted. The ones who liked to commiserate in my misery. The ones who are exhausted. The ones who still complain that they're tired all of the time, even doing stuff they used to think was fun.

I'd like to say I should have done this years ago but I wouldn't have. I just couldn't commit to putting a mask over my nose connected to a hose connected to an air pump. I was afraid of that alien feeling of air blowing out of my mouth when I opened it. Mike couldn't really talk right once he had his mask on at night. I knew it had to feel strange. It does, if I think about it. I was afraid of being choked by the umbilical. I had visions of the Matrix, all of us connected to the network to become batteries for the AI aliens. I wanted to sleep unencumbered.

But I was exhausted. It was excruciating when I was also in the middle of menopausal hot flashes and flares of hypoglycemic fury and while Nick was in the middle of his Neanderthal preteen days. I reached rock-bottom this summer when I just couldn't feel rested no matter how many hours I slept, nine, nine and a half, even ten hours pieced together in a night. Sometimes I was spending twelve hours trying to get eight hours of sleep. I was miserable. I couldn't make a basic decision. I couldn't get anything accomplished.

So finally, after two or three years of snoring myself awake multiple times a night, of being crabby and tired all day, and of telling people I'd never hook myself to a tube that blows air up my nose all night because of my claustrophobia or whatever horror movie fear I harbored, I finally took the plunge and told a sleep doctor I was ready to do whatever it took so I could get a decent night's sleep.

And I am here, on the other side, telling you that if you suffer from snoring, if you snort yourself awake even once a night, if you drag your sorry ass through every meeting, though every movie, though every conversation as if it's a chore, it may be time for you to convert too.

Join us, the enthusiastic, the merry, the gordamned go-getters of the world. CPAP users unite! Or maybe you're afraid we will kill you with our cheerfulness during the movie.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Science of Beauty

Mike and I took Teddy to the dog park this afternoon. Oh, the happiness of that place bubbles over and dogs grin as they chase and wag and leap. Joy runs in globs of saliva and in joints loosened by play. It shows up in smeared mud across backsides.

When I'm at the dog park, I get caught up in all the joy. Teddy introduces me to people, people with dogs, young people, old people, kids, and even good looking people who might not ordinarily be seen talking to a ...

A what?

Well, my looks are not in favor in this culture. I once spoke to a big ugly woman who had just returned from Africa. There, she was a beauty. She told me that the culture reveres large women. Incredible. She said it was hard to come back to being ugly again.

I always feel a little bit more beautiful because of Teddy. He's sleek, silky, and very friendly. That makes up for a lot of my medical ugliness.

Yes, I said medical ugliness. I'm frumpy and don't have good hair any more. It's an autoimmune issue. It's not that bad, really, not having good hair. I try to remember that it's superficial, not relevant to what I'm trying to accomplish in my life, but I still struggle with it. Vanity versus medical ugliness. Damn.

Ugliness is just a measure of DNA regularity anyway. Did you ever hear about that? The most beautiful people are seen as beautiful because their features are so incredibly normal. Average. Typical. Standard. Ordinary.

That's not how you usually think of beauty, is it?

So all of those kids in high school, the ones struggling to fit in, those staring across the lunch room at a boy who will never know their name .... They're just looking at the most ordinary of ordinary boys.

Ha! Gorgeous is simply a matter of being normal and who really wants to be normal anyway?

I guess I still do. At least my dog is normal.

Thank you for listening, jb

Exhaustion and an Endless Campaign

I think of six things to tell you every day. I do. And sometimes, when I hear the same news cycling around again on the radio, I think of the same six things to tell you again, stuff I never get around to telling you in the first place. Then, when I'm finally home and my hands are no longer busy on the steering wheel or chopping vegetables the teenager won't eat or trying to make enough for leftovers when the teenager insists that what I made isn't even going to be enough for tonight. Yet when I'm finally done with all of those things, I can't think of a damned thing to tell you. By that hour, I'm a flake.

Yeah, you're right. I'm always a flake. I forgot to call the neckerchief people again today and I'm still not sure if I need to make 37 blank neckerchiefs so the neckerchief people can silk-screen them by next week. Mike. I blame Mike. He got all het up about it on Sunday and we went out and bought 17 yards of black fabric that he said he'd help make into the blank neckerchiefs. Then, we all went into a coma after I made him calzones. And yesterday and today, I forgot to call the neckerchief people to see if they could actually make the neckerchiefs as well as silk-screen them with our logo. And even if they can, I'm stuck with 17 yards of cheap fabric to make 38 more neckerchiefs than we actually need.

I'm pretty sure, too, that the fact that the neckerchief people didn't call when they said they'd call on Monday doesn't mean that they've got it covered and the neckerchiefs are on their way. I haven't even had a quote yet. That's not good. They might not be able to find the blank neckerchiefs and I might be sitting on a time bomb that'll go off right before we need them next Thursday night. Well, crap.

That wasn't one of the six things I had intended to tell you. Neither was the fact that the theme song from 'The Brady Bunch' kept going through my head earlier and I remembered just how lonely I'd been watching all those stupid seventies sitcoms when I was a teenager in the seventies. I blame my sister. She wants me to write about my dad. I don't want to send her stuff I've written about my dad. The last time I told my extended family that I was writing, it was chaos.

Here's what one person said, "Nobody reads that magazine anyway."

Someone else told me, "People tell me they like my writing all the time. I should write something and send it out to be published. I could be famous."

Another said, "I don't have time to read stuff like that."

And another told me that I had to sign everything I gave her for a while because it would be more valuable that way. She made me sign a freaking birdhouse. I am not kidding you. Keep your eyes open for the priceless birdhouse at Sotheby's. She wouldn't even put it outside so it could have the decency to host baby birds or even rot properly.

It was agony. I'm telling you. Since then, if they ask if I'm writing, I tell them I'm not with a straight face. I lie right through my teeth. I know. I'm bad, lying to my family that way, but I do, so don't say anything to any of them, okay? I may or may not send my sister something I wrote about my dad. I haven't decided yet.

And that's not one of the six things I've been meaning to tell you either.

Here's one thing:

These days I switch the radio to pop music any time NPR is talking about the election for the millionth time. Oh, I hear the worst of the gaffes, and there are many. I've listened to snippets of debates, but I'm so damned sick of it all. The last time I really listened was when Chris Christie dropped out. Man, that was going to be the best movie, Chris Farley runs for President. Oh right. I'm sorry Mrs. Farley. He's gone and can't do that movie. I miss him too.

And I didn't want to bother with the other candidates. It was way too many people! So, I let it go for a bit until it died down. But now, look at the fix that we're in. There has been other news, right? People are still doing other things or have we seriously paused in all relevant world news for this great breath of idiocy we call the campaign trail. At this point, it's as much of an endurance race as taking the Oregon trail only on the Oregon trail, you started in March after the snows and hoped to God you made it to the Pacific ocean by November so stuff didn't freeze and they didn't name a pass after your starving cannibalistic ass. The campaign trail began more than a year ago! We're dead now. The snows have come to the pass and there's no end in sight and the reporters are still going on and on and on, reporting over our frozen and gnawed carcasses. I don't want to hear any more about the campaign trail.

So give it a rest and don't bring it up again until October, okay?

Yeah, that'll work.

Thank you for listening, jb

A Handsome Heart

Last week, our family went to the Midsummer Renaissance Faire in Bonney Lake. Sorry, it's over for the year, so don't bother looking up the days and hours, but you can go next year.

We had a great time. We did. We ate meat pies, bought leather for projects we'll never do, watched live chess, participated in the axe-throwing tournament. Yes, I did hit the bulls-eye three times with the metal part of an axe, but twice it was broadside and once it just bounced off like a rubber mallet. Nick's friend had actually practiced beforehand and won the youth tournament.

But there was one thing that I wish had gone differently.

See, Nick's friend wanted to get arrested again. For a small fee, you can have your children or husband or whoever arrested and thrown in jail. It's brilliant, a show, great income for the ones that run it, and totally worth it for people like me who want to be entertained.

So, after seeing our group casually saunter by, I paid the fair maiden my money and she wrote down details on a certificate. We both waited for a jailer to become available. The Scottish brogue was going on a break. The truly scary guy was arresting someone else, thankfully. That left the guy who could have been on the cover of GQ Knights, and his cheerful, but powerful cohort.

GQ looked over the fair maiden's shoulder and she held up the certificate to him. Right then, Cheerful walked up to her other side. GQ looked at the certificate, at me, and then did a familiar dance that I recognized right away. He shook his head almost imperceptibly, almost. His dark, almond-shaped eyes squinched a little as if he was in pain. And he took a half a step back. You might think that was the moment I'd liked to have changed.

But it wasn't.

Cheerful, on the other hand took the proffered certificate, smiled, and walked away with me.

"That's not right," he said quietly. I knew what he was talking about - the rejection. I admit that it had hurt, but just a little.

"Oh, don't worry," I said. "It's ugly-woman syndrome."

"Oh!" he said, brightening as we walked. "I have ugly-man syndrome."

At this point, I wish I'd said something wise or sweet or encouraging. I didn't. I rambled on about my own affairs and never once said what I could have or should have said.

Don't you hate that?

I could have said that a good man was much more valuable than a pretty man.

I could have said that my first impression of him was cheerful and strong and there was a lot to be said for that.

I could have told him that his looks weren't ugly, just not dangerously handsome.

I could have told him that he could save a lot of time this way, not having to sift through a raft of silly women who'd just hurt him in the end if all that was important to them was finding a man who looked a certain way.

I could have told him that the right woman for him would feel his strength, cherish his cheerfulness, and soak his kindness down into her bones like a nutrient.

I could have, but I didn't. I hate when I can't think of that perfect line. I just can't. Those lines pop into my head in the middle of a dark night, in the shower, on the road running errands during endless radio commercials.

But I am sitting here, more than a week after the incident, remembering this man's sweet face and his kindness. I might not have said the right thing in the moment, but it can't hurt for me to send a soft blessing through the ether to a wife this man hasn't quite met, a message for her to cherish this man's strong, handsome, and kind heart for an eternity.

He was kind to a frumpy middle-aged woman and there is nothing more handsome than that.

Thank you for listening, jb