Don’t Give Me Your Hat

This morning, I found myself yelling to my husband over the phone that people should not give me this kind of work to do. I wasn’t yelling at him. He wasn’t the one who had abdicated his job and left it to me at the eleventh hour. I wasn’t yelling at him, but I was yelling to him. I like volunteering for jobs I enjoy. I do not like apologizing to people I just met, people whose signatures my Boy Scout troop desperately needed. I don’t like asking for money either.

I have a theory. I might be good at something, let’s say engineering. I used to be good at engineering, but I never loved engineering past understanding how something worked. I absolutely loved understanding how something worked, but once that was done, I was pretty much done with it. It was play to be able to describe it. I loved writing about it’s intricacies. I even liked drawing pictures of these intricacies. But I did not like designing anything myself, redesigning it, or even building it. I might be good at a particular job, but I’d never be great at that job if I didn’t love it. I might be able to design something, but it would never be a great design. That should be left to the little kids who were taking apart their parents TV sets when they were five years old.

I sucked at building tinker toy bridges when I was a kid. I excelled at drawing tinker toy bridges. I liked words like cantilever and ultraviolet and radioactive. And I told stories, usually dragging them out well past my brother or sister’s patience and extending the truth to the point of breaking. I was known for my ability to exaggerate. I was the ultimate hyperbolist.

I did not sell lemonade, organize kids to play certain games, or direct other kids to jump out of trees. I liked to talk, but not to the new kids and certainly not to adults in charge, most of whom were terrifying. I was not a natural leader or moneymaker. I joined in with kids riding bikes, playing traffic when they played traffic, stopping to poke a hog-nosed snake with a stick when they found a poor snake by the road and only after they got their own sticks first. I might have made bracelets to sell, but I didn’t come up with the idea and I certainly didn’t make any of the money. I was not the leader. The only thing I ever led, an expedition to find dinosaur bones in the creek in the woods behind our houses, fizzled to a solitary halt when my friend’s big sister came along – she was at least eight- and laughed at the knobby fossil we had dug out of the mud in the creek-bed in the woods. Suddenly, I was alone with my toothbrush, exposing the glittering crystals on one side of my fossil. I had a story about it being a dinosaur’s knee, but no one to tell it to.

So today, when I was asked, no expected, to meet a new Boy Scout executive, to ask for signatures and money, to apologize for what looked like my job, one I had procrastinated well past politeness, I was not happy. It was not my thing, I told my husband, to meet new people while indicating that I was inept at the job I had been assigned because I needed signatures and a check today because today was the deadline.

There’s something about applying for a job. I got to decide what my career was when I went to college and sent out resumes. When volunteering for an organization, especially now that I ‘don’t work and have lots of free time,’ people thrust anything on me that they don’t want to do or don’t feel is worthy of their time.

Keeping the Boy Scout troop running is important to me. The kids really benefit from all the camping, biking, hiking, and swimming. My husband benefits from showing all those kids how to safely go camping, biking, hiking, and swimming. Shoot, I would like to go camping, biking, hiking, and swimming, but I generally don’t get to do that fun stuff with the troop. No girls allowed. I get to do the shit work. I have to use obscure software to keep track of information I don’t care about. I have to ask people for signatures and money. I clean out crates of moldy pots and pans. I get to drive home to get extension cords, gloves, and a Phillips head screwdriver when someone forgot them. I get to do the things, no matter what they are, that other adults were supposed to do but didn’t. Ask me to cook, to bake, to paddle a canoe, to write an article for the newspaper, and I’ll happily set out to work. Sometimes I even like working with the boys on a merit badge.

But don’t leave me to meet with a new executive for the first time with a request that has to be completed today because the whole job was left to the last minute, no, the last millisecond. And yet, if all of this were to be requested of me tomorrow, I’d pick up the slack and do what I needed to do. It’s a labor of love, but sometimes I hate it.

Thank you for listening, jules



I just sent my husband the ultimate guilt text. I know I shouldn’t do shit like this, but I did it anyway.

    ‘My phone just dinged, telling me I got a new text and I got excited because it might be you, but it wasn’t you. It was a reminder for physical therapy tomorrow. It wasn’t anybody. Not really.’

I thought, when I was writing it, that it would make him laugh. He laughs at existential angst. He reads Nietzsche. He does. I can’t stand Nietzsche. I tried to start a book by Nietzsche again the other day.

I’m still unpacking books that I’d put into storage back in June when we got new flooring and had to pack up all our bookshelves, all six of them, to get them out of the way. I haven’t been as conscientious about putting books back onto the shelf afterward as I was about packing them away when I found out my mother was coming for a visit and could possibly look at all of those titles. ‘A Natural History of the Senses’ by Diane Ackerman? It has a naked body on the cover. I just didn’t want my mom looking at that in my house. I loved that kind of book, but I couldn’t picture my mother knowing that. And there were titles my husband had added like, ‘On Being and Nothingness’ by Jean-Paul Sartre. Really, if I pull that book out and read it, I imagine that I’d follow right in the footsteps of Robin Williams, minus all the sweet and funny stuff he gave to the world. Nope. Didn’t want my mom thinking about that title either.

When I put the Nietzsche book back up on the shelf, I found an old photo of me in it, a photo my husband had taken, one he’d had on his desk for seven or eight years until I stopped resembling it in any way shape or form. I was cute back then. I really was. What the hell happened? And why the hell was I ever on a diet when I looked like that? So I took a stab at reading Nietzsche again, seeing as how my photo had resided there for who knows how long. Big mistake.

The man hated women. He hated any kind of spirituality. Worst of all, he wrote whole tomes about thinking. How do you do that? What is there to say except “That shit, that babbling stream of language that flows through my head, is just crazy.” Nietzsche didn’t say any of that, but I was spiraling down and down and down the toilet as I read, so I took my photo out of it and put it back onto the bookshelf.

For some reason I can’t fathom, my husband likes Nietzsche. Oh, he’s read Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Nietzsche, Sartre, Nabokov, all those serious authors. Me? Not so much. I read literary candy. I spent four nights trying to read Dante’s ‘The Divine Comedy.’ Every night when I sat down to the spot where I’d finished the night before, I’d had to backtrack and figure out where I was in the book because nothing had stuck in my head from the night before. Nothing. Maybe I should read ‘On Being and Nothingness’ after all and see if that sticks.

But I can appreciate my husband’s love for the existential suffering. I can. If you pull that string really hard, it gets funny. I think it’s the only way he and I get through any kind of suffering together is to see how funny it can be. For a while, we had this early morning joke about how Paul Giamatti would play me as the insomniac, the person who sleep-walks through parent-teacher conferences, the person who walks out of the house wearing wool socks and Berkenstocks, the one who accidentally uses salt when sugar is needed. That shit made my husband laugh. It was better when Paul Giamatti played it. He’s just that good.

My problem is that I’m not as funny as I think I am sometimes. Sometimes I’m just pathetic. My phone just buzzed.

    ‘Ding! How are you today?’

It’s from my husband, the sweet guy. My text must have made him feel guilty. I didn’t help matters by replying about the bathmat, the one that had gotten wet last week when the toilet overflowed, yeah, that bathmat, and how it had been jammed into the hamper still soggy and now there is a hamper full of laundry that smells pissy and mildewed. It didn’t help that I texted about my favorite pissy-mildewed shirt and his pissy-mildewed plaid button-down and his pissy-mildewed gym shorts. It might have helped when I told him those shorts probably smelled pissy and mildewed before the bathmat even goobered them. Maybe.

I’m telling you that Paul Giamatti could do it all funnier than I could, but then my husband and I would have a different relationship than we do.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Thank you for listening, jules



One and a Half Levels of Hell

I hate when I’m tired at night, but by the time I get dishes done, a load of laundry going, teeth brushed, and goodnights said, I’m wide awake again. By this time, the rest of the family is asleep and I’m pacing.

The cat wakes up too and sometimes I chase him around the living room with a water bottle in a lame attempt to get him to stop yowling and knocking my stuff off the bookshelves. I guess he doesn’t like when people go to bed when he’s wide awake either. Right now, he’s pissed that I’m ignoring him and he trying to jump onto my lap as I type. When I block him with my elbows, he rubs his head against the fatty part of my leg that hangs off the edge of the chair. It’s an uncomfortable reminder and he knows it, I’m sure. I’ll be going to bed in a bit and he still has to wait until the wee hours of the night before one insomniac or the other gets out of bed and gives him a lap on the couch. Maybe he’s the reason why there are two insomniacs in the house. Maybe he’s just quiet enough at 3:48 in the morning when he knocks around by the door that neither of us realizes that he was the reason we’re again wide awake but we’ve only slept four and a half hours.

I’m reading Dante’s ‘Inferno’ in the night when I wake up. I’m at the beginning. I was going to tell you that no hell is as deep as that of an insomniac, but I would be wrong. I was just sitting here thinking, and my sleep-deprived brain just came up with six or seven scenarios that would make Spike Lee cringe. Insomnia makes any suffering tenfold, but it is not the worst hell on earth. It does make life seem more bleak, though. I’m just wondering how I will manage to get through all of the levels of hell in the night.

Wait, don’t tell me. I don’t want you to spoil the ending for me.

Today was a good day, despite the fact that I couldn’t see the partial eclipse for the ten layers of clouds over the sky. I poked a hole in my magazine in hopes I’d get a clearing in the sky and there was a thirty-second one as I was driving from the library to a friend’s house to pick up some Scout stuff. I pulled my car off the road and held my magazine up to the light, but I’m not sure if my hole was irregular or if I was actually seeing the shadow effect of the partial eclipse. I saw a little circle with what looked like a bite out of it, minus the teeth marks. And then it was gone.

If you ever get into the situation where you can check your pin-hole against an eclipse, I strongly recommend that you don’t look at the shadow through that pin-hole and drive at the same time. It may not be illegal, exactly, but the oncoming car might be a better way to focus your attention.

I didn’t exactly want to stand in my friend’s driveway with my silly magazine, so I went to her door and hoped she’d come outside with me so that we could stand in her driveway together. Neither my friend nor her son had any interest in going outside to see the eclipse. How can you NOT be interested in seeing an eclipse? While we were standing in her living room talking about the subject, the sun poked out of the clouds at least twice. Well, crap.

Then, I still had a tiny window left in the timing when I got back outside, but the clouds were thick by then. They were mocking me. I was sure of it.

And here’s one last question I have for you – Why is it that when you check the weather report and it says there’s an eighty percent chance of rain, it’s always raining and they never change that chance of rain to one hundred percent? Why?

I took some pictures to prove that it was raining, but of course, I can’t control my technology and you’re not going to see them here. One hundred percent, people! I swear on my mother’s ironing board that it was one hundred percent chance of rain.

The weather people are mocking me too. I’m sure of it.

Thank you for listening, jules

The Opposite of Healthcare

I’m scheduled to get an MRI a week from today, two weeks after my doctor found a bone chip in my arm after a fall. This sucks. It really does. I get all sweaty from the pain of loading the dishwasher.

Do I really want to whine about my shoulder? Not really, but I want to scream out about a medical system that acts as though injured people are a pain in the ass. We are. It’s true, but why the hell become a doctor or a nurse if you don’t want to help those whiny people who come into your office?

Here in the Northwest, we are the leaders in HMO insurance. Copays, paying the doctors for the list of well patients of on their computers, ten minute appointments. It’s all there, guiding the doctor to do the least that is necessary, to limit contact.

Last week, the nurse spend the first five minutes in the room with me with her back turned to me. What the hell? Are you talking to that computer or to me? If I hadn’t felt so shitty, I would have waited for her to look at ME before I answered any of her questions.

They don’t like it when you advocate for yourself, but I have to tell you that last week, I was so unused to the pain that I was in a fog. I couldn’t advocate for myself. I came and went without anyone making any kind of personal contact. They didn’t tell me about limiting activities, about medications, or why it would take two whole weeks to get scheduled for an MRI. I called my insurance company this morning and I don’t even need preauthorization to get an MRI. The people at the imaging center said I was good to go as soon as someone called to schedule the appointment. The problem, apparently, is that they wrote on my orders that they would schedule it and let me know. A week later, they still hadn’t picked up the phone to schedule my MRI.

Whine, whine, whine.

This week, I’m getting used to the pain and I want to know if I can go hiking with the dog. I need to mow my lawn and vacuum the floor. I need to sit at the computer and type even though it hurts. I have work to do and no one has told me that I shouldn’t.

No one has even told me to go off the anti-inflammatory the pharmacist said I should only be on for five days because it might damage my kidneys. Okay, I’m smart enough that I went off of it, but I’m in more pain than I was. Do they give a shit about that? And as far as they know, I’m still on that shit.

Nope. They probably don’t. And they probably don’t care.

I’m telling you people, if your company offers you the option of an HMO at a reduced cost, don’t take it. Your health is worth staying with regular insurance. When the doctors and nurses around you start getting into an HMO mentality about your care, you’ll be calling 911 from the waiting rooms of their offices, hoping that someone will get to you before you become unconscious. You’ll be living with injuries for a lifetime because they weren’t handled with care at the beginning.

Unfortunately, the poison of the HMO has traveled throughout the Pacific Northwest and across the country because it is a great way for insurance companies to save money. And the doctors? They’ve got 1000+ patients and they could give a shit who you are. You get better answers from WEbMD. Welcome to twenty-first century medical care.

Thank you for listening, jules

Among the Trees

I walked to the falls today. Even the trees seemed relieved that everything had cooled down, that the skies had grayed over. The leaves were no longer limp. Drops of recent rain hung from upturned tips of Western Red Cedar branches. I had thought that the summer heat would never end.

There’s something about being with the trees. When I look up, I have a sense of them waving in the breeze, a sense of altered time. I have to work to remember that half of a tree’s body lies underground, out of sight below me. Do the trees stretch their toes the way I do into warm sand?

When I look out my window, I can now see leaves moving slightly in the breeze. It is the breeze, isn’t it, that causes them to move? I presume.

In ‘Travels with Charley,’ John Steinbeck wrote about sitting under the giant sequoias:

“To me there’s a remote and cloistered feeling here. One holds back speech for fear of disturbing something – what? From my earliest childhood I’ve felt that something was going on in the groves, something of which I was not a part. And if I had forgotten the feeling, I soon got it back.

“At night, the darkness is black – only straight up a patch of gray and an occasional star. And there’s a breathing in the black, for these huge things that control the day and inhabit the night are living things and have presence, and perhaps feeling, and somewhere deep-down perception, perhaps communication.”

“And only these few are left – a stunning memory of what the world was like once long ago. Can it be that we do not love to be reminded that we are very young and callow in a world that was old when we came into it? And could there be a strong resistance to the certainty that a living world will continue its stately way when we no longer inhabit it?”

Sometimes I wonder, do the trees feel my footsteps? Do they sense my need for support as I struggled down the steep path toward the falls? The trees, their age, some two, three, four hundred years, make me feel like a child standing in her grandmother’s lap.

But people are not as benign as all that. The trees bodies littered the edge of the river. There were remnants of the slaughter. Stumps with springboard notches in them remained from trees that were young and lithe in the forest when Da Vinci sketched the ‘Vitruvian Man’ in his notebook. Every child with an axe is a menace. I was no exception. I used to peel bark as easily as I laid on my back to look at the sky through the branches.

If I were a tree, would I chafe at the rootedness? Would I despair over wind and floods and man’s intentions? Would I have the patience to wait until man discovered relativity and claimed it as his own? What is time to a tree, I wonder? What is distance? Does a tree bask in the morning sun the way I sometimes do? Does it raise it’s arms ever so slightly to welcome the rain when it finally comes?

Thank you for listening, jules

The Mean Mom

Okay, I’ll admit that I miss my guys. They’ve been at Boy Scout camp since Sunday. My husband is the Scoutmaster, so my entire house is quiet. Well, I still have the cat meowing at me at 11:30 at night and the dog sighing this afternoon because I haven’t taken him for his promised walk yet.

I had asked my husband about the night when family usually visits. It’s Friday, today, but earlier, Mike had said that it might be a bit far for me to travel. The camp is near Mt. Rainier. How far could it be? That mountain hangs over the water whenever I cross one of the floating bridges on a sunny day. I started thinking that maybe I shouldn’t go because it would might give my boy a reason to miss his bed and come home early. I looked on the sheet for parents and on the website. I didn’t see anything about visiting in either place.

I looked up the trip on my iPhone map. It’s a three hour drive to get there!

It’s a bit much to think of driving six hours to eat dinner with my son and turn around to go home, don’t you think? I had thought it was an hour and a half away, two hours at most.

All week, I’ve been checking my text messages, which are sporadic because of poor coverage and email, which is a tiny bit better, but still unsatisfying. Yesterday, I was called in from my hike with a friend because I had to run home and look up a phone number for a sick boy’s mom. I get that. He’d been pretty sick for two days. His mom drove down to get him last night.

Today, I got an email from Mike that I’m to come pick up Nick because he’s sick but that he wants to wait until after the campfire because he’s planned a skit with his friends.

So, …

I’m supposed to drive three hours to a remote camp, eat dinner, hang out, go to a campfire that would likely end at 10:30pm, and only then drive three hours home with my sick kid? Right.

I’m supposed to sit in a moving car the same amount of time it would take me to get to the Western border of Montana? Absolutely.

I’m supposed to get this sick kid home at 1:30 in the morning when he would have been leaving camp the next morning anyway? Totally.

Oh man.

The hardest part is that my son must have been informed at some point that this scenario was a possibility. And who was it that informed him of this?

It was my generous, patient, kind, and ever enduring husband.

I sent both a text and an email that I will come pick up my sick boy to bring him home. I will.

But if I come, we’re leaving camp at 7:30 pm. He’ll miss the campfire, his skit, and possibly snacks that come afterward. And I’ll be back to being the mean mom, the villain, the one who doesn’t care.

It sucks being the mean one. It does.

Thank you for listening, jules

Let the Poor Boy Sleep

My boy Nick is asleep on the couch. One instinct is to creep around and let him sleep. It’s 10:13 in the morning. My other instinct is to do what I normally do. Don’t I need to vacuum about now? Don’t I need to hammer something on the wall above the couch? Can I put the washer straight onto the spin cycle?

Nick is a teenager. He’s a boy. He’s a man. I never know which I will meet when we make eye contact. He’s tired. Imagine when you’ve broken something on your body and it’s working to heal itself how tired you become. I remember that when I had back surgery. It took me a year to feel normal again. Now, make your whole body do that. We don’t call it healing, but the process is the same. Great volumes of cells are being produced and packed onto different places in the body.

Yesterday, Nick looked at my china cabinet and said he thought he’d grown. He said he can’t look straight into the old curved glass and see his wavery reflection any more. He has to bend over to see himself.

Is it any wonder teenagers stand in front of the mirror in the bathroom for so long? Their bodies are changing. I have a friend whose children both went through a phase in which they had these huge brow ridges and the rest of their heads were like the beautiful children they’d always been. It was hideous, especially for my friend’s girl. I wonder if she stared at those brow ridges and wondered how she went from being so pretty to such a Neanderthal in such a short time? I hope she didn’t. I hope she was blind to it. She’s beautiful now. Oh, she still has that feature of a prominent brow, but she has an angular jaw and gorgeous cheek bones to match.

Nick is going through that now too. His ankles are huge manly things, but until recently, he still had his little boy toes, smaller than mine. His face is getting more angular. I looked at him the other day and thought that he really was quite handsome. Well, he is. He’s my boy and he’s handsome, especially when he grins and has that spark in his eyes and that one eyebrow is oh so slightly raised. I love that eyebrow, the one that has a natural arch in it.

Oh, he was born with that. One eyebrow is very even and normal. The other has always had a little Spock point to it. He will always have that, no matter how much he grows.

His mother may not be the only one who thinks him handsome when all his features have finished growing.

I guess I’ll let the poor boy sleep. If I don’t, his toes might never catch up with his ankles. I wouldn’t want to interfere with that. The spin cycle can wait.

Thank you for listening, jules