Don’t Put a Bean Up Your Nose

Mike is asleep on the couch. The poor guy got a nosebleed yesterday that wouldn’t stop and ended up with four inches of packing up his nose. Now, he’s sure he’s coming down with a cold or a sinus infection. I’m pretty sure that his sinuses are just rebelling, causing his nose to run and him to sneeze repeatedly, but who’s to say? He feels like shit, so I’m treating him like he’s got a cold or sinus infection.

He says that time is creeping so incredibly slowly. He says that Monday morning, the time he’s scheduled to get his packing removed, will never come. I know what he means. I had ten days in traction in a hospital once. I felt like that then, the logarithmic increments of time, each second seeming longer than the one before, time stretching out to an eternity of two days.

His ER doc equated the packing with a tampon. She might not have done that if I hadn’t been in the room. It looked thinner than a tampon and nearly the same length. It was unnatural to see that much volume jammed up into Mike’s nose. His reaction, clutching at my hand and groaning, though I know he tried not to, said the same thing, unnatural. The tampon also had a bladder in it that the doctor inflated after Mike’s eyes stopped watering. Great. At least the bleeding stopped.

I’m feeling very grateful for my clear breathing about now. I’ve never had a tampon shoved up my nose, though I put a bean in one nostril once.

I was a kid. You know how that is, don’t you? It never occurs to you to do something strange like that until someone, in all seriousness, tells you not to put a bean up your nose. So I did went into the kitchen, found a dried navy bean, and took it outside to the picnic table and put it into my nose. I panicked right away.

I couldn’t dig it out. I kept breathing hard and it got sucked higher and higher until I very nearly got up and ran, zigzagging, across the lawn and slamming my body into trees that grew there. That bean was stuck and digging with my finger and snorting only pushed it higher. Squeezing my nose from the outside didn’t work either. It was almost up to the cartilage. It hurt, but probably not as much as Mike’s tampon.

I heard a story of a man who went through sinus surgery because he had really bad breath and what his doctor told him was a deviated septum. It turned out that he had a crayon jammed into his sinuses. Easy peasy surgery. They pulled that sucker out and he never had sinus problems or halitosis again. He didn’t even remember putting it up there.

But I remember that bean. It felt as though I had a whole peach pit jammed up into my nose. It was awful. I couldn’t breathe right. I was going to die with that thing in my nose until I remembered the power of the snot rocket. I was just panicked enough that I almost took a deep breath with my mouth closed and nearly sucked the bean even further into my sinuses.

With the biggest breath I could hold, I pinched my other nostril, and shot that bean out of my nose at what seemed like the speed of a bullet. It stung my arm where it hit, bounced, and rolled through a crack in the picnic table and onto the dirt underneath. I leaned over and looked at that nasty bean. Then I pushed it into the dirt with my big toe until I couldn’t see it any more. Damned bean.

I can imagine how Mike feels about the inflatable tampon shoved up his nose. I really can.

I may not be able to make time speed up, but sleep does that. I just wish that Mike could sleep until Monday. Damned tampon.

Thank you for listening, jules

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Adventures in Dentistry

Yesterday, yes on Memorial Day, my tooth broke. No, it did not break on a freakishly charred hamburger or hot dog from the barbecue. No, we weren’t camping in Saskatchewan or anything and I didn’t have to paddle out sixteen miles while blood oozed out of my mouth, but it still sucked that it broke on a holiday. Why does shit only happen on weekends and holidays? Why can’t shit happen when you can call someone to fix it right now?

And you might wonder why that tooth broke. What the hell? How can a tooth break from out of nowhere?

No, it’s not a story like that. I knew that my tooth was going to break. I did. I’ve known it was going to break for the past fifteen years. I just didn’t know when.

My tooth started hurting when my dentist at the time replaced the filling because the old one was ugly. She then proceeded to grind down the perfectly good molar above it as if it were the offender. That pissed me off because the molar on top instantly became this ugly little nub of a tooth that my tongue didn’t like and has been a distraction ever since.

I changed dentists then. Plus, the woman died, God rest her soul, so I can’t go back to her and complain that my tooth broke because she replaced the filling badly. The statute of limitations has passed on that one. Her soul is probably in one of Dante’s agonies right now since her all-knowing has widened her understanding, on a molecular level, just exactly what she did wrong with my tooth fifteen years ago and how she could have avoided turning the upper molar into an annoying little nub in the process. Hey, Ms. Dentist. I know you didn’t do any of it on purpose, so let it go, okay? You can go back to enjoying your blue heaven.

The person I’m angry at, a live dentist, is the one I’ve been seeing, not in a dating way, just cleanings and fillings and junk, since then. This guy kept telling me that I should save money by putting off any work on that tooth.

Every single cleaning in the last fifteen years, I’ve mentioned this tooth to him and every single time, he had me bite down on a wad of cotton. Pain. Yes, oh my freaking God, that’s the one pain. And he kept saying I should hold off for a while. Why?

Because of that, I’ve been thinking of changing dentists for the past two years. The catch is that he’s a local dentist and I see him walking through when I shop at the market and when I pick books up at the library. There are some problems with living in a small town, I tell you.

Finally, six months ago, he said I should see a root canal specialist. He didn’t even do them any more. ‘Well, what do you do?’ I wanted to ask. Right. You have people bite down on wads of cotton to try to identify what you identified, without a doubt, six months ago was pain, sharp, screaming pain, on that last molar on the bottom.

What did I do when he gave me the referral?

I lived with it.

I decided I couldn’t stand the idea of this man attempting a crown and I lived with it for another six months while I tried to come up with the courage to change dentists. A month ago, at my regular cleaning, he gave me another referral, being a little more certain that the tears that popped into my eyes when I bit down on the little wad of cotton meant that there was, indeed, a problem with that last molar …. well, maybe the next to last molar even though I could chomp that wad of cotton with the next to last molar like a champ.

So, I called his root canal specialist and made an appointment. I even told this guy that I was traveling in two months and wanted to make sure that I wasn’t eating a fresh pain au chocolat at a sidewalk cafe in France on a Sunday morning only to have that tooth break on me.

His advice?

“Let’s make an appointment for a month after you get back. It’s been this long. You should be okay for another three months.”

Yeah, thanks for that. Thanks, really.

Now I have eleven days to get a root canal and a new cap on that tooth before I get on a plane to go to France. And I am getting a new freaking dentist!

Thank you for listening, jules

Eleven Days in Five Countries and My Open When Letters

In a couple of weeks, I’m going to meet up with my sister and her daughter for a trip through France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and Spain. I tell you that one country would have been enough, but this being my niece’s European tour, she insisted that she had to get from one interesting place to the next, traversing the same distance you’d go from Indianapolis to Washington, DC to Atlanta and back. If you tell me that you can see all of that territory in just two weeks, I’ll tell you that you aren’t going to see much with all that Interstate travel. I’d prefer to stay in one village and loop around to see things nearby, like the pig with an extra tail and the cave where Jacque Bartier, a nine year old, painted his hand print and archeologists came and thought it was a discovery of ancient cave dwellers for about three weeks. I’d rather experience the people and lifestyle in one place, walking and eating and smelling the air. I’d like to see how the light is different in this different new place. I’m telling you – I’ve lived on the East coast, in the Midwest, and now in the Pacific Northwest and the light is different in each of these places. I don’t need stand in line to see famous paintings. I just want to see the light that inspired them.

My sister and her daughter are even headed down into Italy, a place I’d love to visit, but on it’s own, and not part of a whirlwind tour. As it is, I’m experiencing a whirlwind just planning on how to be polite and ask for bottled water, salad and strawberries in each of the three languages with which I am relatively unfamiliar, French, Spanish, and German. I am going to be a dork, trying to pronounce something in French and having it come out with a high school Spanish accent. And forget about talking in German.

In the meantime, I’m trying to imagine the condition of my house and the occupants in it after I’ve been gone for eleven days. My boy Nick may be thirteen, but I’ve only been away from him two days once when he was four. The whole family has been working on his ability to take care of some things on his own, basic cooking, cleaning up after himself, and managing his homework. He’s so aggravating about it that I want to do the job myself, especially in light of the fact that cleaning up one of his messes might have taken me four minutes and would take him twenty-five as he created more messes just trying to clean up one spot.

I know exactly where the idea for ‘The Cat in the Hat’ book came from. Do you remember all that pink snow? That was Dr. Seuss standing by and letting a kid clean up his own mess and watching it spread like mold growing on old bread on a summer day in South Carolina. I’ve stood by and watched as my grousing son made a little mess on a table top into a big one on the table and down two legs, on the back of the chair, on the covers of three books, and embedded into the carpet forever. I’m telling you that I look forward to fourteen hours with a book on an airplane. I really do. I just wonder what the house will look like when I get home and whether or not Nick and Mike will be talking to each other or me when I get back.

So, in light of all that, I’m going to write some Open When letters. You know the ones I mean. Last week, I read about a man who’d been deployed to the Middle East and how he wrote seven or eight letters to his fiance. She was supposed to get lonely and open the one that said ‘Open When You’re Lonely.’ Then, she was supposed to wonder if he loved her and she was supposed to open the letter that said ‘Open When You Wonder if I Love You.’

Well, I’ve been trying to begin Nick’s letters. Here’s a list of the titles I’ve come up with so far:

Open When You Have a Tiny Mess to Clean Up

Open When You Have Made that Tiny Mess into a Big One

Open When You’re Procrastinating Your Homework

Open When It’s a Half Hour Past Bedtime

Open When You’re Whining

Maybe I should rethink writing these letters to my son. Maybe I should write some letters to my beleaguered husband. They might read as follows:

Open When Nick’s Turned the House into a Pigsty

Open When Nick is Whining

Open When It’s a Half Hour Past Bedtime and Nick has Procrastinated his Homework

Yeah, that will do it. I’ll leave Nick a single letter – Open When Your Patient Dad is About to Hit You – and I should be good to go.

Thank you for listening, jules

 

Box Pain and Yoghurt Toxins

One of my family members is making yoghurt in the living room. Oh, I’m not talking about one of those nice little warmers with the jars. I have one of those. They’re nice, but I rarely make yoghurt these days, except when I take too long to do the dishes. I’ve never had the nerve to taste the shit that develops when a glass of milk is left on the counter too long. It’s too dicey. If it hasn’t been primed with real yoghurt, I could be growing something toxic.

When I make yoghurt with my nice little warmer, I spoon in my favorite brand, add milk, stir, and screw the lids tightly onto those little jars in case any of my floating toxic yoghurt germs plan to drop in and start to grow. It makes me think of a book I used to love called Momma Makes Up Her Mind, in which the main character wonders about the safety of eating her Cheerios while her mom is throwing possibly toxic mushrooms onto a white sheet of paper on the kitchen table in order to identify the spore pattern. 

In spite of all that care with my little jars, I made some pretty bad yoghurt. Did you know that when you use real cream, you get this greasy layer on top of what you fermented? I guess that’s butter, but I didn’t want to eat it. Then, I tried to make skim yoghurt for my husband. It was too watery and he didn’t touch it. One of the jars fell over in the fridge and all that sticky muck spilled all over the inside of my fridge. I thought those jars sealed. Guess I was wrong.

On a whim, I tasted the cheesy little glob of stuff that stayed inside the jar after all the sticky mess had drained out. It was delicious. Really! I’m not kidding. I’ve never recreated that stuff, though I’ve imagined the mess I could make trying to let the wet skim yoghurt hang in cheesecloth for a few days while the sticky part drains out, preferably not under my cheese drawer in my fridge.

These days, I’m too damned busy to make yoghurt, rather, the intentional kind. I should, even at this moment, be packing boxes. No, I’m not moving. My mother is coming. My husband has decided that it’s a good time to add stress to that fact by insisting that we get new flooring in our den and guest room, a.k.a., my office, before she arrives.

If you’re breathing differently and have a mini-panic attack just trying to imagine your mother coming to visit, then you may know what I mean. If you’ve got that kind of mom whom you rush to call when the baby spits up for the first time on his own, then we’re in different camps and you just need to keep quiet and nod your head while I whine.

This insistence my husband has to finally get around to putting in a floor over the painted concrete foundation after twenty-three years of living here means:

1) My husband is indeed cowed by my mother’s personality after twenty-three years of acting all cool and wise while visiting her house.

2) I’m in charge of boxing everything up – the contents of four bookshelves, all the Christmas ornaments and stuff stored under the stairs, all the camping gear, all forty-six blue decorative and commemorative plates his grandmother used to decorate the walls of her apartment before she died, and all the toys and clothes my boy has outgrown but we can’t seem to throw out or donate.

3) We seem not to be able to part with a lot of stuff, but this activity definitely puts us out of the running for the next hoarders episode. I’m pleased to tell you that all parts of things that might have been repaired if we just had more time are now history. I just knew that the toasted toaster oven was never going to work again, but I quietly nodded my head at my husband’s insistence that he’d get it working again. In another life, he did indeed get that stuff working again. Someday, you can ask me about the TV in our bedroom, repaired six times without a schematic.

4) This means that my stress levels about cleaning the cobwebs off the second floor windows has just quadrupled because I don’t think I can wash all those windows AND pack half of our possessions into boxes so that careless men can come to my house and do a shitty job laying flooring a week before my mother comes to visit.

5) My neck hurts from hauling all this crap over to our new storage garage. Maximum amounts of anti-inflammatories, ice, massage and procrastination have not loosened it. Right now, it’s hard to drain my Perrier because my neck doesn’t go that direction. So when people ask me how I’m faring with my boxing project, I can say, without blinking an eye that it’s a pain in the ass, I mean, neck.

6) While I’m procrastinating packing all those damned boxes, I’m also ignoring my usual duties and there is yoghurt growing in my  living room. Maybe I’ll taste some this time, toxins be damned.

Thank you for listening, jules

How to Push Them Out

I think I got some people arrested yesterday. I’m not sure because Nick and I left just as the police arrived. By the time we turned left out of the parking lot, Nick said he saw at least one guy in handcuffs. I didn’t get a good look because I was driving, but there were two police cars and about six officers. One person had his arms held up away from his sides and was getting frisked.

I did that.

See, I often stop at the library when Nick is at karate. It’s cheaper than going to Starbucks and I can browse for new books. In the past year, I’ve noticed a huge decrease in my sense of security as I walk from my car into the library building. Stuff happens right at the entrance there, people fighting, others cursing and obviously delusional. The police are there almost half the time when I drive past.

Yesterday, on the way home from the karate, I needed to return a couple of movies. Nick said he needed to go into the bathroom, so I dropped him at the door of the library and drove around to find a parking place. Teenaged boys like having that little bit of freedom to walk into a place by themselves.

After I parked and walked to the entrance to the library, I decided to wait for Nick outside. A large group of people were congregated near the main entrance. They were loud and scary looking. I sat down at a bench. One of the group rode a little bike over to where I sat down to wait for Nick. Little bikes spelled drugs to me.

“Hi, do you need anything?” he asked.

“What?” I said.

“Do you need anything?” He was a little less certain once he looked me in the eye. “I mean, there was a kid looking for his mom.”

“I’m fine,” I said a little more confidently than felt. He didn’t move away, effectively blocking me with his bike if I had wanted to rise from the bench.

“I’m fine.” I stared him in the eye until he rode his bike back over to the group of six or seven people standing in a circle.

I pretended to read my book, though I kept my eyes and ears open as I waited. People coming to and from the library grabbed their children’s hands and held them tightly as they exited the building. People walked quickly and deliberately, like they were in Newark or something. One lady looked at me gratefully as if I were a lifeline to her safe passage into the building.

In between pretending to read, I kept one eye on the hallway where the bathroom was. A lot of roughhousing was going on down there.

Then, I heard one of the people in the loud group bragging about his ‘kit,’ about having a razor blade. They were passing what looked like a small bong from person to person barely concealing their activities. One guy dropped a box full things along with what looked like joints or hand-rolled cigarettes. I got nervous as I waited for Nick. What was taking him so long? I wanted to get out of there. Suddenly, I didn’t want him to be alone in the restroom either. He’s thirteen and not small, but I was seriously uncomfortable about his safety. Eventually, I walked into the building to see if I could find a library employee to yell his name into the mens room to see if he was okay. I was talking to a librarian about the problem outside when my son returned.

“Can’t you do anything about those people outside?” I asked her. “It looks like they’re doing drugs right at the door.”

“Are they in the building?” she asked.

“No. See, there. They are standing right there by the bench. The librarian held up her hand for me to wait and disappeared into the office. Another librarian came up and stood with us. Otherwise, I would have considered leaving.

“Mom, there was a seriously scary guy in the bathroom. He …”

“Did he do anything to you?” I interrupted.

“No. He looked just like those meth guys in the pictures.” Nick had shown me a website the kids had looked at in Health class of before and after meth photos. The after pictures were pretty wicked looking. Zombies, really.

“Did he try to talk to you?”

“No Mom, he but he was in there for a long time and he …” The librarian came back out of the office.

“We can’t call the police unless they’re in the building. Will you call 911 for me, please?” she asked.

“Really? You’re not allowed to call yourselves?”

“No. Would you mind calling them, please?”

“Sure.” I hate calling the police. I always feel like one of those busybodies when I call 911, bugging them about stuff when they have more important things to do. But this librarian was standing there looking at me.

I dialed 911.

“911,” a woman at dispatch said.

“Hi. Uh, I’m sorry to bother you with something that may not be a total emergency, but there is a group of people in front of the Redmond library who seem to be doing drugs right out in the open. They asked me if I wanted anything.” She switched me to the Redmond Police and another woman continued asking questions. I tried to answer as clearly and as calmly as I could.

“What kind of drugs are they doing?”

“I don’t know. I’m not all that familiar with drugs and its paraphernalia,” I said. I went on to describe what I had seen them doing.

“Do they have any weapons?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t see anything like that.”

“Mom, tell him about the guy in the bathroom.” I tried to relay information to dispatch about the guy in the bathroom, but from what I could tell, looking like a meth user wasn’t actually a crime.

“Do you want to talk to a police officer?” dispatch asked. Nick was saying something, but I didn’t catch it.

“No. I hope you don’t mind, but I need to get home with my boy.” I didn’t tell her that I’d really rather my teenaged boy not see any more of these people than he needed to.

“Thank you for calling, ma’am,” she said. It was a relief to hear that. I didn’t want to be that irritating person who called the police too often.

“The scary guy in the bathroom? He left a little package by the sink,” Nick repeated. Shit! Now, that could have been a crime.

“That man smelled terrible, Mom.” He went on to tell me about how the man smelled like chemicals, not just normal stink as we walked out of the library.

As we crossed into the crosswalk, a female officer walked quickly toward the entrance, keeping close to the side of the building. I gave her a thumbs up and mouthed a ‘thank you.’ She put the hand sign for a phone to her ear and I nodded. Nick was very excited. I just wanted to hustle him into the car and get the hell out of Dodge.

By the time we pulled out of the parking lot, there was a crowd of police surrounding the group of people in front of the library.

“Mom, can I have your phone? I want to call Dad.” I handed my phone to Nick in the back seat.

“Hi Dad?” There was a pause. “Guess what? Mom got a bunch of druggies arrested.”

This is not a normal thing for me. A normal thing is making lunches, assessing homework, and taxiing Nick from one activity to another. So, it’s been on my mind.

On the way into school this morning, I suddenly knew the answer.

I needed to own the place. I needed to write an editorial and challenge good people to take five minutes to sit down at the entrance to the library. There should be a forum and it should take place right there where the drug dealers do their business. People who cared about the community should congregate.

There should be music.

Girls Scout should sell cookies.

Cheerleaders should hold a car wash. The fire department should hold a bake sale. People should let their dogs meet and greet and stand there talking while they play.

If all of us moms who want our children to be safe should own that place. Children and friends welcome. No drug dealing allowed.

Thank you for listening, jules

Lederhosen and a Helmet with Horns

Summer may last until September 20 for you or it may seem over already, especially if you’re affected by an early start of school. For me, today is the last day of summer. I don’t know why we’re doing what we’re doing. It’s a nice day. We could be at the lake. We could be hiking. We could have floated the river.

We’re being vegetables. The TV’s on. I’m noodling around in the kitchen. The dog was pacing and has finally settled down with his head on the pair of Mike’s slippers that we all use to go out onto the back deck. He’s been sighing and groaning. Poor guy.

After a summer of not walking much, my back hurts and I’m out of shape. Poor Teddy has been patient with me, but I wish I could explain to him that grocery store parking lots are dicey places for a dog in the summer time, even if we are on our way to the park after that.

This isn’t what I wanted to tell you about today. It really isn’t. I sat down at my computer intending to tell you some opinion about opera.

….

….

Are you still there? Anyone?

….

Anyone?

I always think of Julia Roberts’ response to opera in ‘Pretty Woman.’ Somehow, her reaction made her good enough for this snooty GQ kind of guy even though she was a prostitute. Oh, I’m like all the other women. I watch it. Even though I know how it ends, my heart stalls a little when she drops the cash and walks out of the hotel room door.

You know, I never once believed that a girl brought up fixing cars with her brothers would ever become a prostitute without being drugged. And I never believed she’d listen to opera for more than one minute.

I’m finding that, as I get older, I appreciate opera more. To my credit, I’ve always loved classical music. I grew up in a college town where I could walk around the conservatory, listening to amazing voices and incredible musical instruments. I usually only stopped at the rooms with pianists in them. I played a lot back then, but I knew I would never reach the pinnacle of what these people were achieving during simple practice time. The vocals, on the other hand, I could imagine myself being able to accomplish, but I had no desire to sing that style of music. Classical vocals annoyed me. Don’t ask me why.

I have a voice for opera or country music. You’d be surprised to know that the same strength serves both styles. Yet, as a kid thinking of studying music, I had no interest in either. So, I studied engineering instead. Smart. Really smart. Eh, I guess I got a job after college. I was never completely broke except during college, so I did alright. I don’t quite understand, but my tastes have changed as I’ve gotten older. I’ve gotten an appreciation for country music and opera, not an enduring love, but an appreciation. So, I have to tell you, I have no idea why I’m about to do what I’m about to do.

I’m going to sing opera at a talent show in October. Oh, I have wanted to do this for a while, ten years, at least.

Picture a man introducing me, “This is our last entry for the night and I’ve been instructed to tell you that it’s not over until the fat lady sings. Let’s give a big round of applause for …. ”

I know it’s not nice. It’s mean to any fat people out in the world. Maybe I shouldn’t use that line. I’ve always wanted to, but not everything I’ve wanted to do is nice. Maybe I’ll keep it simple and just show up without the intro.

I’m going to appear on the stage wearing leather armor, lederhosen, and Nick’s helmet with horns. Can you picture that? Yet, I know that what I sing will be good. I can sing. I tell you, I can really sing.

Am I insane?

I think so. To want to appear as a parody of an opera star playing a viking warrior female and to sing some serious opera and to want, in all seriousness, to sound amazing just doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t. Still, there’s some part of me that said that Steve Martin, standing with an arrow through his head, was really very good at playing the banjo. Do you remember that? He was a good musician, but he was very funny on top of it. I think I have my work cut out for me. Don’t you?

I’ve always wanted to do this. I really have. It’ll either fly, or I’ll have a story to tell. So, wish me luck.

Thank you for listening, jules