A Pretty Cheap Rush

I just got unpacked from a quick trip to Las Vegas and guess what?

I’m a winner!

Yes, after three days of gambling, I am the proud owner of seven crisp new dollar bills.

It was great. After arriving, our friends promptly brought us to a casino. I’d forgotten about the smoke. I don’t love smoke, but I can tolerate it. But as for gambling that first night, I realized that I was much too tired to make good choices at a blackjack table. I love blackjack, but when I sit down, I work to stay on top of all that adding. I know it sounds simple to add cards to twenty one, but do it really fast and get back to me.

That night, I watched for a long time, but never sat down. I tried slots, but lost the first few and then went back to wandering around. Losses/gains? Zero if you don’t count the huge bottle of water I bought from the gift shop. I am just not used to how dry I was in the Mojave desert. You could die of dehydration out there, even in the city. People even kind of looked a little more shriveled than in the Pacific Northwest. But even though I didn’t gamble, I had a great time watching.

I’m telling you: people-watching in Las Vegas is great. Our friends take us to gamble at affordable casinos and we walk around and shop at the expensive ones. People-watching is great at the affordable casinos.

The second night, after spending a gorgeous day in Oatman, AZ with wild burros and a bunch of rock hounds, we came back to a casino and I finally sat down at a blackjack table. I never quite got my stride, but I had fun with a nice, but losing table, so later, when I joined the rest of my friends, I’d lost a grand total of $42.

Oh no! Forty-two dollars!

I love when people look at me as if I were going to hell because I gamble. Some people really believe that. I don’t get it. I sat down at a table full of people. We talked about where we used to live as kids and where we used to vacation. No one looked at their phones while another talked. No one. And in a couple of hours, I spent $42 dollars, got to know some strangers, and played a game.

How much do other games cost? Bowling? Pool? Video games?

You get my drift? I played a game. I worked on the math side of my brain to keep up with the dealer. I had fun. I even got a free Perrier. It’s entertainment.

When we got back to our friends’ apartment that night, they decided it was time for me to learn a new game: pai gow poker. We sat on their terrace and played until the pink on the horizon had turned to that dark blue that only a clear sky can achieve. After sharing a beer with Mike, I loved pai gow poker!

On the third night, our friends gave us a night at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel from a comp they couldn’t use. I could have sat longer in that window looking at the mini Eifel tower blink and the Belaggio water dancing, but we had a show to see and pai gow poker to play.

After a great magic show by Murray, we drove to the outskirts of town to the Texas Station Casino for a five dollar pai gow poker table.

I had so much fun!

Four of us invaded a table with a pair of quiet men at opposite ends. I won’t give you a play-by-play, but I made a few ridiculous mistakes. Mostly, I had it down, but I asked for a lot of advice and tipped the dealer when I was winning. In the meantime, we cheered when our quiet comrades won, got a bunch of ice water and juice brought to the table, imagined what it would be like if we just had that two of spades, and we played hard for a couple of hours. It turned out that the quiet guy to my right was a dealer who was finished working for the night, so he helped me out when I was about to lose the power of a straight flush. It was awesome!

You think you get a dopamine rush from fifty likes on Twitter? Try winning a fifty to one at pai gow in Las Vegas.

Okay, it was only a one dollar bet, but it was still an awesome one dollar bet.

And that’s how I went from being down by $40 to being up by $7 by the end of the trip, all thanks to a quiet dealer playing for a while before heading home for the night.

I love Las Vegas!

Thank you for listening, jules

Pearl Jango in Paris

Imagine a sunny afternoon. Oh sure, there are clouds, but the air smells like falling leaves. There is still time to go to the Issaquah Salmon Days if we bring Teddy and tell him that’s his walk. To Teddy, a walk means a romp with puppies in a dog park, but he was disillusioned and kept a smile on his face well into the long leash walk. Mike and I wandered, hoping to find a couple of birthday gifts and a small bowl to replace the one I broke.

It’s funny how you can do something almost every year for more than twenty years and still enjoy it. We stopped in at the Stickman Leather booth and told them the old purse with the long strap and the extra pocket is still going strong and looks even better with a little saddle soap and regular use. But I convinced Mike that I needed a black purse because I needed something to match my black shoes. And I bought a purse for my sister. How many of these purses have I bought her over the years? I have no idea, now that I think of it. She would forgive me. I know she would.

We leaned over the bridge and looked at the salmon swimming up the narrow stream. I swear that if you lined up four salmon nose to tail, you’d span the stream, so it’s odd to see so much happening in such a shallow and narrow place. As usual, I tried to take pictures. From this year, I have a gorgeous shot of half a salmon breaching the water in his enthusiasm. A guy leaning over to look with his girlfriend said, “Look at how they’re killing themselves for sex. I get it, but wow!”

On the other side of her, I laughed.

“I’m sorry if that was too crude,” he said.

“No worries,” I said. “It’s funny and so true.”

Then, because I was never going to get a better photo than the half of a salmon breaching the water, Mike dragged me away to look for a bowl and a birthday gift for his sister.

Oh, some of the booths are just so hopeful. There are dozens of artists with paintings and supersaturated photographs of various quality. So many artists with their art. I loved it, even the ones who were just a little too hopeful for their craft.

And the guy selling his book. Oh, no one manages to sell books at an art festival. No one. But I applaud his courage and hope he made enough to pay for the booth if not the time he spent sitting behind his piles of newly-printed books.

Am I just a little bit jaded?

Yes, yes, I am.

Then we bought roasted corn and sprinkled it with Johnny’s seasoning and were almost ready to go. I like to do that at the end because my hands and face are always greasy after and I have corn silks in my teeth. I always feel like a toddler who’s just eaten a fudge bar though Mike tells me every time that he doesn’t see anything on my face.

Then, I heard some music down a street we hadn’t traveled.

“That sounds like Pearl Jango<“ I said and dragged at his hand to walk that way.

When Nick was small enough to twirl around by his hands, we’d gone to an outdoor concert in Seward Park not even knowing who would be playing that day. We brought a picnic and a blanket and set up. Nick spent the first half of the concert making friends and mooching food from a neighborly picnic party. Then, Mike got to swinging him around. He was almost too tall for me to swing, almost. I tried a few times and his gravity made for a wobbly go of it.

“Again,” he said over and over until Dad had to step in. I sat on the blanket and watched as Mike twirled him around and around and around. There was the sun, an occasional cloud, the music, and the joy on Nick’s face.

The perfect day.

At the end, we bought a CD of the music and we still listen in the kitchen, the only place in the house that still plays CDs.

So, I wanted to go listen to the music.

It was Pearl Jango, even after all these years. These guys play with joy and precision. An accordion, two guitars, a violin, and a bass. I can never explain music and its effects on me. It’s the other side of the brain, the one that’s all feeling and no logic.

Tears came to my eyes and I pressed my face into Mike’s shirt, butter smears and all. For years, this music had been the soundtrack to the happiest days of our lives.

And thankfully, they’re still playing. Those days aren’t over.

“When I get old,” I said to Mike, “I want to walk through the streets of Paris listening to this music.”

“Maybe Wendy will go with you,” he said.

That man.

Thank you for listening, jules

Jasmine Not Mustard

I am an editing queen. I happily spent yesterday afternoon and most of the morning sitting at this computer despite my cold. Here I made editing recommendations to Nick’s best friend about his English paper as I watched the early fall movements of a spider that was productively trapped between my window and its screen. Bug carcasses and gray webs have accumulated between the window and its screen. I should be horrified, but she fascinates me and since there’s a pane of glass between us, I feel fine. She never once moved while I was looking directly at her when I paused before typing my next note to Nick’s friend.

I imagined him hearing my voice as I inserted comments into his paper. By the way, I always made suggestions instead of doing the work for him. If I said the same thing over and over and over again, I knew he would eventually hear my voice in his head to check his verb tense, be specific, and make sure he could copy and paste web addresses into Google and actually arrive at the articles he cited. When he is fifty years old, he might still hear my voice reminding him to stay in past tense though I’ll be long dead by then.

It’s a great thing to know that someone will hear your voice in the future whenever they conjugate their verbs.

“Use the words today, tomorrow, and yesterday at the beginning of every sentence to make sure your verb is in the right time.” I have said this over and over to my students.

“Be specific,” I repeat. I tell students that I want to know if her nail polish was a jasmine yellow or mustard because a character who wears jasmine is quite different than one who wears mustard, right? It is so much more telling than just yellow. Life flourishes in the details.

In my eulogy, I want someone to say that I reminded him to be specific.

No, I’m not dying just yet, but this stupid cold made me feel like going in that direction. I’m glad Nick’s friend’s English paper got me off the couch for a while. It was boring on the couch.

It was so boring on the couch that I was replaying games of Solitaire to get a better score. Solitaire is aptly named, but I am more lonely when I play Solitaire than when I’m experiencing solitude. I was grateful for the excuse to get up and edit.

A hummingbird just flew up over my roof and into my back yard. She examined leaves from the azalea, the geranium though I know they aren’t as sweet, the pot that reverted to moss, and the primrose. She’s so hungry and nothing, not even the buttercup and the stinky Bob, weeds I should have pulled a long time ago, are blooming.

She looked like a female Rufous. Was she lost? Did she miss the migration?

The Internet told me she could have been an Anna’s hummingbird, one of the ones that don’t migrate. I need to put fresh sugar water in my feeder. I need to buy blooming flowers! . I’ll buy flower the color of jasmine.

Yeah, jasmine yellow.

Thank you for listening, jules

Nothing to see here.

Nothing to see here.

Clowns, Closets, Cars, and Dogs

I want to tell you a story, but I’m not sure what to tell you. It’s raining, finally. I love the rain, the sound of it dripping on the deck.

Mike went back downstairs to finish putting together the power-steering in Nick’s car, but he left the TV on. I hate when he does that. I hate coming into the room and getting interested in a movie, then having Mike say, “Back to work.” Then, I’m stuck watching a movie I wouldn’t have chosen on my own.

It.

You know, Stephen King’s It.

Remember the clown in the sewer? I had read that book back when I lived alone in an apartment in a hundred-year-old house. Once I started, I had to finish Stephen King’s big book. I had get to the end, the denouement.

Horror books and movies are that way for me. If I get stuck watching a horror movie, I have to watch to the very end and hope for a decent resolution even if everyone except for the prettiest girl and the strongest boy were killed in the process. I hate that horror movies these days often don’t end well and show a pulsing glob of live flesh hiding in the basement after the credits run.

Yes, I finished reading that book. IT. But, I spent the next year looking down into the uncorked hole in the bathroom sink. I could imagine a river of blood bubbling up and splashing all over the yellow porcelain and the black and white tiles of the floor. That apartment had been built, it seemed, to be occupied by a horror movie. I seldom paused outside at night when I drove under the wrap-around porch to the parking lot behind. I loved that old house, but the night view of it held ghosts and lives that were lived in agony instead of love. Before I was done reading It, I sat at home one night during a storm with the heavy book in my lap. Something suddenly clawed, it seemed, at my window screen. Fear held me to the chair, stopped me from reading.

It could have been my imagination. I went back to my book.

No. There it was, a scratching sound from my open window that was distinct over the rain and occasional thunder outside.

My heart raced but I couldn’t move. This couldn’t be a person trying to get in, could it? Maybe it was something else, something more sinister. I lived on the second floor. I looked out over the porch roof and rhododendrons gone wild.

Sometimes, all you need is to take one slow breath to think. I leaped up into the air, landed in front of the window screen, and looked out with the meanest face I could conjure.

Nothing was there.

Lightning flashed bright the night beyond the screen proving it.

I looked over at the book splayed on the floor. Nothing moved. No one from any of the other apartments made a sound. All I heard was the tap, tap, tap of the rain outside on the roof.

Creepy.

I went back to my chair and gingerly picked up the book. I needed to pee. I didn’t want to pee. I didn’t want to look down into that water before I sat down, wondering what lived, or died, just past the curve in the porcelain.

Right now, thunder is rumbling outside my window. Seriously? Does it all knit together, all that darkness and fear?

In that century room, thirty-three years ago, I tried to ignore my need to pee until I got to an easier place in the book, a lull. It wasn’t easy.

Then, I heard the scratching again, softly grating against the screen.

There’s a certain point in fear that action is required or paralysis takes place. My heart raced and I felt the same dread I’d felt standing at the top of the high dive for the first time hoping I’d have the courage to leap. I was going to die. It was inevitable. No matter what happened that night, I would eventually die and I could either reach out and face my killer or I could sit in my old chair until I peed myself.

Isn’t that the truth of it? You can face your death or you can sit in your old chair until you’re so infirm you pee yourself but either way, you are going to die . You might as well make it a good ending.

So, I stood up again. I forced myself not to leap in front of the window screen one more time. Really, I wanted to crawl over and lift my face slowly above the sill. I walked stiffly to the window and knelt down. There was no air in the room. Everything but the tapping rain went still. I couldn’t hear any of the browning leaves blowing outside. Even wet, fall’s leaves could have made a sound in the wind.

Nothing.

I stood up again, determined to use what bravery I had to use the toilet and to look down into that naked drain as I washed my hands afterward. When I turned my back to go, I heard it again, a scratching.

Oh, it was hard not to bolt out of the room.

I did not die in my bathroom that night. I did not hallucinate blood flowing over my hands. Nothing leaped up from the sewer to grab my face, or worse, my butt.

Feeling a little better, I went into my kitchen and dug around in my drawer, you know, that drawer full of junk, the one that’s most likely to have your weapon in it. My weapon of choice was an old one my dad used to use before he died. It had a heavy rubber handle and rubber around its lens, a four pound flashlight that could stand in for a night stick. I dragged a chair away from the dinette set I’d bought at the neighbor lady’s estate sale after she’d died. I wondered if she’d peed herself. The sound of that chair on the linoleum satisfied me. The night wasn’t the only thing that could make noise.

Walking across my living room floor should have been that scene, the one where the actress walks with determination and a flimsy weapon toward her killer and the camera zooms in on the dread in her face.

I set that chair right in front of the open window. I clicked on my flashlight and sat down, as silently as I could. If a wild animal, a raccoon or something, was trying to get into my apartment, I wanted to look at its rabid face, eye to eye, before I whacked it with my flashlight or was slashed across the face with its claws.

At the last second, I stood up and grabbed my book. Death might take a while. I didn’t want to just sit and stew. I sat upright with the lit flashlight in one hand and the big book on my lap and held open with the other. I pretended to be nonchalant. I wasn’t. But I read the next paragraph and the next.

Maybe I’d scared the poor creature off. Or, if someone experienced a psychotic break, climbed the roof of the porch and was trying to scratch his way into my apartment, I’d be ready with my heavy flashlight.

I reread a couple of paragraphs. The kids in the book had gone down into the sewer and were at their most vulnerable. Something was going to pop out at them at any moment. Pop goes the weasel. I had one of those damned things when I was a kid. I loved that thing and hated it at the same time.

Then, something scratched the screen, just one claw dragged across three or four strands of thin wire.

I aimed my light at it, holding the handle like it was a light saber, with authority. There was nothing there. I slipped off my chair and onto my knees. The book rolled onto its face. I leaned in toward the screen, too close for comfort.

It stopped.

I imagined a clown’s face appearing. Stephen King had ruined clowns for me forever, and sink drains too. He tried to ruin cars and dogs and your biggest fan, but clowns, drains, and closets were forever altered.

I could see the flashlight’s beam light up the rain and leaves outside my window. There was absolutely no one else there.

Then, I heard it again. I waved the light around a little wildly, to the right, down at the wet driveway, over to the weeping beech tree, then to the outside wall of my bedroom on the left, a turret room.

A black wire, shiny from the rain, caught in the wind, dragged a cut end across the screen in front of me, then settled back into oblivion against the gray siding.

A wire.

I was afraid of a fucking wire scratching across my window screen.

I blame Stephen King, even now.

Thank you for listening, jules

Smaller Than a Grain of Salt

Hello!

Rumors of my disappearance were greatly exaggerated. My death has been postponed to an unknown date in the future. And they’re serving spicy tortilla soup in the abyss cafeteria this week, so if you can stand the heat of it, things are looking up from here.

The lowdown is that Nick isn’t just surviving his first weeks of university life, he’s thriving. On Tuesday morning, he called it home. On the one hand, it makes me a little sad that home is so easily redefined, but he feels at home there! He feels at home at his university!

So that realization made my empty-nest syndrome much more tolerable. Plus, I’ve tried to keep a busy schedule and am struggling to learn a bunch of new names and faces at work since school started.

The other thing I did was get my thyroid meds adjusted again and I begin to eat differently.

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about levothyroxin. I take a dose that’s measured in micrograms. A milligram is about the weight of a grain of salt. Think about it. My medicine, the stuff that gets me off the couch, that keeps my sleep regular, that keeps me from drowning in the abyss, is less than a quarter of the size of a grain of salt. Oh, the pills are much bigger than that because they fluff them up with sugar and stuff, but the active ingredient is so tiny it might not register to my fingertip if I rubbed it on top of a smooth surface.

Ah, the wonders of the Internet.

I just found this website that says that we can sense wrinkles as small as 13 nanometers with our fingertips. That’s 1/1000,000th the size of a grain of salt.

How cool is that?

I guess if I lost my levothyroxin on the counter, I would be able to find it with my fingertip. A fingerprint ridge is about half a millimeter. If that grain of salt is a millimeter cubed, then a cube of my medicine would be smaller across one side than the the width of one of the lines in your fingerprint.

That is one wickedly powerful chemical. And I have one wickedly sensitive brain. We all do.

Thank you for listening, jules

Regrouping

I made refrigerator pickles and I wish you were here to taste them with me. Sweet and spicy, they reflect my inner space where some things burn and others are sweet and easy.

Never start with a metaphor, my inner critic says. What does he know? He’s actually been kind of mean lately. Nasty critic.

Yesterday, I had two conversations, simple questions, really, that stuck with me.

I tutor a bright little kid who should be learning to hang from a jungle gym, but instead, sits with me twice a week to read and write and perform addition that requires regrouping. Carry the one, I hear myself say despite the change in vocabulary.

Why did we rename it regrouping? What was so wrong with carrying the one?

Personally, I think that to learn early that some ideas need to be carried over is a worthy cause. Carry it until you can put it down where it belongs. Snippets of ideas, litter, bits and pieces, and even addition should encourage you to carry the one to its proper place.

But no. Instead, we regroup.

This boy was too young for all of this, but if I didn’t do it, his parents would take him somewhere else. At least I could try to make it fun. I hadn’t worked with him all that often, but I already missed his older brother who, at twelve, read scientific texts that I couldn’t quite grasp about quantum mechanics, alternate universes, and astrophysics. He didn’t need tutoring either, but I knew I could help him become a better writer. Writing was his kryptonite. No matter how brilliant a person was, there would always be one area in which they didn’t excel. If we taught with that in mind, we wouldn’t put such an emphasis on classical academics and maybe we wouldn’t place brilliance on such a pedestal. It isn’t healthy.

But my little friend, the younger brother, is also bright and chatty and I love working with him on elementary pursuits like learning to carry and using second grade vocabulary in stories. He always grinned as he read and I had to keep my library books current because, if allowed, he would read five or six books while I was turned around and working with another student.

Yesterday, he stopped writing vocabulary sentences and asked me, “Why are you so big?”

He didn’t like to write any more than his brother did. I suspected it was a ploy to procrastinate.

“Excuse me? What was that?”

Sometimes, my poor ears disguise nice questions as rude ones and I wanted to make sure. My brain effectively fills in garbled language with words, sometimes curses, that I know can’t be what someone actually said. Surely, this boy was old enough to know better than to ask a woman about her weight. Surely.

“Why are you so big?” he repeated.

Ah, so it was what I thought. I took a deep breath and pushed down some resentment. Would this child benefit from a diatribe on sizeist thought and the new social justice? There’s a spot on the white walls of my classroom where I look whenever I am at a loss for words, as if patience exists in its expanse. I decided to tell him as much truth as I could muster despite my embarrassment.. This boy could easily become a doctor some day and I was going to educate him by answering his question as best as I could using medical terms.

“People have an organ called a thyroid and it sits right here on either side of your larynx. You can feel it when you swallow.”

I went on for a while about the function of the thyroid and a body’s metabolism. Maybe I went on for a little longer than I should have only because I could hear other ears in the room were listening. Maybe I wanted to shame anyone who believed that everyone’s metabolism worked the same way, who believed that fat people simply ate more than skinny people, who believed that fat people were somehow less. Maybe I kept talking medical metabolic smack so I wouldn’t do something embarrassing like yell or cry.

By the time I was done, I felt a little better having been allowed an opportunity to speak rather than simply endure attitudes that felt like sizeism in silence. I could tell I hadn’t talked completely excessively because my little friend was still trying to palpate his thyroid with the tips of his fingers at his throat.

It stayed with me, that question. Why are you so big? I wondered how it affected the other tutor in the room, a scrawny boy in high school who seemed to chafe at having to endure any comment I made to him. Was that sizeism, the assumption that a fat person wasn’t as smart, as worthy to be listened to as a thin one? Or was it that sense, when you’re in high school, that you know more than anyone else could possibly know? Was it ageism, the belief that old people were trivial, or was this boy preternaturally shy? Could my explanation possibly shift that huge chip on his shoulder?

Why are you so big?

It stayed with me when I left work to go volunteer at a festival where I would encourage people, kids mostly, to relax and write freely. Funny, how I was going to continue to work for another couple hours instead of going home to relax. I had volunteered to facilitate poetry at the haiku booth. My job continued.

And I did encourage people, kids mostly, to write haiku and to do their art on the little pieces of paper I gave them along with colorful pens I’d brought. The white pens on navy paper were popular. My co-booth-operator told people of the history of haiku. He was the expert while I was the cheerleader, encouraging people to write, to write anything.

I watched the sky darken while silhouetting trees on the horizon. I breathed in cool, clean air. I tried not to dance too overtly to music beating on the sides of the tent. In between students. I wrote poems on rocks in pink paint. Teaching outside is a joy. A breeze touched my cheek.

By the time we started taking down the exhibit, I thought I’d forgotten the boy’s question from earlier in my classroom.

“Can you return this Leatherman tool to that booth over there, to Arthur?” my haiku cohort asked.

I didn’t know who Arthur was, but I took it, walked across the aisle, and asked for Arthur. A skinny guy turned around who looked a little familiar. I’ve only just begun to get to know people in the larger town near me, the writers and the artists there, but I knew I’d met him at least once. He paused and stared at me for a minute with his Leatherman tool in his hand.

He was about to ask me something. The question came flooding back into my mind, the question. I imagined how I would answer that question if it came from him here.

“Why are you so big?”

I looked into his eyes, begging him not to ask me that question after such a long day. The music stopped. Time slowed. My eyes felt the potential to fill up and overflow. I actually held my breath with my mouth hanging open. Please.

“I’m a big fan of your work,” he said finally.

And with that, I felt like an overinflated balloon that had finally been let go. I wanted to spiral in circles and make raspberry noises all the way home, all the way home, where I could regroup.

Thank you for listening, jules

Fledglings and Their Moms

I’m kind of a mess. Nick leaves for college tomorrow. All week, I’ve been a mess. I keep thinking I won’t know what to do with myself after he leaves, but I have a lot to do.

I will resist the urge to write my list of everything I’ve procrastinated the last three months for you.

You might feel like you’re looking in my purse at that little notebook I keep in there if I write out my list for you. Every morning, that stupid list comes up in my mind. I swear that it’s my mother in my head, always giving me a list of stuff to do that I would never be able to finish.

Do you have your parents in your head too?

Will Nick’s mom-voice nag him to keep his room clean and communicate with his roommate for the things that he needs?

I hope so.

Wait. I don’t know how I feel about that voice always being in Nick’s head, making him feel less than what he should have been in the first place. But then, maybe he needs to hear that voice ringing through his thoughts so that he steps up.

I don’t know.

Our relationship will be different the first time he comes home for a break. He will manage his own stuff, right? Or will he revert to the kid who asked for help before trying himself? I don’t know what to expect.

We celebrated his birthday last night. I think he may have been disappointed in his present. I’m not sure.

He wanted ferrofluid. What came in the mail was smaller than what we all expected.

Maybe we were all disappointed about his birthday anyway. It was hard to celebrate because it was early. It was hard to celebrate because we were all so busy getting ready. It was hard to celebrate Nick’s birthday because we are in the midst of this great change in all of our lives and not one of us feels ready.

Mike finished changing the head gaskets in Nick’s car and buttoned it up last night. He survived the test drive. That was a huge job. Huge. And I finished the quilt I wanted Nick to sleep under at school. That felt like a huge job too. There was a point as I put on the binding when I made one mistake after another, stupid mistakes. It felt like my subconscious asking: If I don’t finish the quilt maybe he doesn’t have to leave.

It’s normal and healthy for chicks to leave the nest. I wonder if bird moms have this same heartache as they escort their newly fledged children around the yard where they are so susceptible to hunters. I wonder how they feel after their babies fly away from them. Do they have the urge to chase after them to tell them, again and again, how to stay safe out in the wild, wild world?

I picture a bird mom chasing after her reluctant, newly independent fledgling and telling him to stay safe, fly straight, and communicate with his friends. Is she a mess after he leaves?

I’m a mess. I’ll be more of a mess in two days when my boy is safely ensconced in his dorm room with his car parked nearby and his quilt on his bed. I will be that embarrassing mom with tears in her eyes as she meets his new roommate, the one who runs out to Target and comes back with more stuff that he’s so obviously going to need. Obvious to me, anyway. I’ll be that embarrassing mom who holds on too long during our last hug. I’ll be the one who cries too long on the drive home.

I know Nick’s not dying. He’s just leaving for college.

But I’m a mess.

Thank you for listening, jules

Listening to Poets in the Park

In the back of the picnic shelter on Saturday, I listened to poets, some sad and anxious, some shy and gifted.

It was chill so I put on my sweater. I wanted to write my thoughts but I was there to listen. Passersby sometimes made so much noise I couldn’t hear. A man carried a boom box at full volume. A gaggle of motorcycles squawked by. Children screamed as they chased bubbles that carried rainbows on the thinnest of shells, so like the words being spoken into air. Ephemeral skies caught in the sun.

And from nowhere, it seemed, I smelled a lake.

Where was a lake near here? What breeze could carry that smell into town, the one you found when you swam in the lake and you floated for a moment with your nose just above the water?

It was always such a private moment, when you stopped splashing, you in that inch above the water, breathing, where your vision cleared, and your nose told you myriad things of creatures too small to see. It was you in your natural environment, you being you, realizing your bones floated with the slightest movement from your paddle feet. You felt a fish kiss your elbow and saw his silver shyly dart away. You knew you could have once been an otter or bigger yet, a whale, so free in its wide water. You watched your pruney fingers, pale fish fluttering in front of you.

You were there, in this underwater picnic shelter, dark green depths of lake beneath your feet, overhanging trees and sky beyond, listening to a murmuring voice. She spoke light and shadow. You looked beyond her at drops of translucent children, sparkling in the sun, dancing to be rainbows, splashing joy.

You were there, breathing deeply the water of her poem, finding your own way home.

Thank you for listening, jules

Procrastination

Well, I’m here and it’s my day off. You’d think I could do whatever I wanted today, but I have joined the adult crowd of working people who try to jam a week’s worth of inconsequential errands into one day.

What does that mean for my poor little cat book, the one that stands edited three times and is one more edit away from being polished? This is the one that was so important to me that I started crying when I finally sat in front of a potential publisher and I hadn’t honed the answer to the question about why the book was so important to me. At that moment, it welled up inside me, the whole truth about how I am broken in the same way my little cat is broken and that’s why I wrote the book. I couldn’t just tell the potential publisher without having all that love rush up to my eyeballs and spill out.

Yeah, it ruined the interview. You’d think that passion would help, but no one wants to work with someone who cries. I still haven’t recovered in terms of my marketing strategy.

I’ll admit that marketing is daunting. Marketing is so daunting that I just now sat at this computer and played Solitaire for five minutes before writing anything more. I try to pretend writing books isn’t important to me. I try, but then I get a desperate feeling at the pit of my stomach as if my reason for breathing has suddenly been at question.

I was going to make some lame analogy about finding out your engagement ring isn’t gold and diamonds but cubic zirconium and a metal that leaves a green ring around your finger.

But if Mike had given me a ring like that, I would have laughed and given him grief about it for twenty seven years while we made our toast and tea in the kitchen in the morning. Twenty-seven years and it still would have been funny.

Yes, next week we will have been married for twenty-seven years. Rings and jewelry are not on our radar. I want more time as an anniversary present and he isn’t going anywhere. The rest of my time-management problems aren’t something he can do much about. He works full time and then some and I work part time, so I’m the one who walks the dog and shops for groceries. I’m the primary cook and cleaner too, but he helps some with that. I can’t complain.

I do complain, but I shouldn’t.

So, about the cat book. Yesterday, I had a conversation with one of my students. Periodically, I’m supposed to lecture them about finishing what you start, about having a good attitude, and generally doing your best. Yesterday, I sat with this bright little girl and realized that she didn’t need any lectures. So, knowing that I’ve got this book that’s practically finished but not quite, I asked her what I should do to make myself finish. She said I should do one small thing, then another small thing, then another. She said if I did that, it would get done.

I plan to finish my cat book when I get that week off before school starts so I can really focus. I just need a week of not working to do it. I just need time to think it through.

But will I be able to focus the week after my boy has gone off to college? Will I? Will I really? Or will I sit at my desk with tears in my eyes and wonder what my boy is doing right at that moment? I could imagine moping around for a month or two just trying to get used to the new silence in the house. And the lack of Nick’s specific energy. That boy vibrates the air when he walks through the room.

So, I’d better get busy before he leaves. I’d better do one small thing today. One. Then, tomorrow, I should do one more small thing. I promised you a new book. It’s a book that means something to me. It’s a book about a kitten and his fears. It’s a book about a woman and hers. I’ll get right on that…

…as soon as I get a little caught up on my errands.

Thank you for listening, jules

Reading Outside Your Zone

I just got home from work, annoyed. I love the nights when I can come home, shake off my irritants, and find that Mike has cooked the food I prepped for dinner, and Nick has done some of the work he knew he needed to accomplish. Wow! It’s a good night.

Annoying students’ faces fade into the background. I get to read. I can try to catch up with the areas where I’m behind.

I need to unlock Nick’s college funds, help him transfer credits from two other universities, finish piecing his college quilt, and practice my math for the days when my coworker leaves and I’m left helping students with calculus. I don’t really want to update my math, but I intend to be prepared. I’d really rather read and write than practice math.

I need to tell you about my brilliant student. It’s as challenging to work with a brilliant student as it is to work with a student who struggles.

This kid is in eighth grade, but has a vocabulary that’s beyond tenth grade. His comprehension is beyond twelfth grade. I told him to read Stephen Hawking and he did. He understood it more clearly than I did. I love working with this guy, but he keeps me on my toes. None of our existing material is challenging enough for him, so I have to push him beyond on my own. I have to push beyond where he is. It helps that he’s an eager learner, but I feel like a fourth-grader trying to teach sixth-grade math. What I do know is how to help him pick amazing books in science so he can begin his career now. And I get to tell him to write, to keep a notebook. He’s an adept writer, but he needs to be pushed to write more, to push his own mind in ways that writing about something seems to require.

I want him to write his ideas down in one place, to begin to keep track of his thoughts the way Leonardo Da Vinci did. I loaned him a book by Henry Petroski, Engineers of Dreams: Great Bridge Builders and the Spanning of America. I haven’t read it yet. I loved Petroski’s To Engineer is Human and The Evolution of Useful Things. Nerd alert. I love reading stuff like this. I told this student to write in pencil in the margins of the book. He said he won’t do it. I said that it would help me understand what had an impact on him. It would. I should read, chapter by chapter, along with him. Yeah, that would be good for both of us.

And I need to look up a list of books for scientists.

Here’s my list:

Carl Sagan

Stephen Hawking

Jules Verne

Da Vinci

Henry Petroski

Dr. Oliver Sacks

David George Haskell

Robin Wall Kimmerer

Isaac Asimov

I’m sure there are more, but that’s my preliminary list. I’m going to sit down and read now. I’m going to try to stay a chapter ahead of my brilliant student. I’m going to write in the margins. I’m going to write about building bridges.I love the metaphor. Hopefully, I’ll take my brilliant student outside his comfort zone.I know I’ll be outside mine.

Maybe you should read outside your comfort zone too. We can all be uncomfortable together.

Thank you for listening, jules

Getting Oriented to a New World

Okay, I’m back from my parent orientation at Nick’s new school, Washington State University.

It was awesome, not perfect, but awesome. I was absolutely right in my previous post that I didn’t need to go. I didn’t. My son would have been fine on his own, but Nick’s friend Andrew drove out with a buddy and every time I saw him, he waved and smiled as if he wanted to see a friendly face. I’m glad I could be that friendly face.

I am so tired. Two nights on a narrow concrete mattress in a noisy dorm room was enough. Ten hours riding in a car was enough. Ten miles of walking up and down hills was enough.

But the kids were so excited. They sang outside the dorm rooms the first night. A thunderstorm came through the second night and they cheered every time lightning lit the sky. Seriously. They decked themselves out in school logos and colors. They went to every lecture. They lounged in the Student Union. They acted the part of college students until they were.

As for me, I imagined working there in the Humanities Department or the library. I pictured myself editing my next book at a study carrel. I wandered under trees, looked out over the valley, found cozy corners where I might sit and read. I remembered some of the good things about being on a college campus. I grew up in a college town. I miss the flavor of having students come back from summer break. I always loved those first weeks. The energy in town was great!

I want to tell you what this remarkable university is doing: They pick a single book that they recommend to the students to read over the summer, Common Reading Program. Then, many of the classes use that book in their curriculum. This year, they’re reading Refuge: Rethinking Refugee Policy in a Changing World by Alexander Betts and Paul Collier.

I love it! A book club for an entire campus.

I’m reading it now. It will help fight the agony I feel over refugee children separated from their families and living in concentration camps at our southern border in the U.S. It will help direct my protest. It will help me point to solutions instead of lingering in anguish and shame.

I’d like to get my son and his friends to read it too, but after talking to them on the way home, I don’t see much hope of that. Still, if you get an entire community to read a single inspiring book, can you change the world? Can you?

I think you can.

Thank you for listening, jules

A $ingle Purpo$e

Tomorrow, I go with Nick to his college orientation.

No, I didn’t have to go. I didn’t have to sign up for the parent segment of the orientation either. Nick’s best friend is also going tomorrow and his mom likes for things to be organized. She’s the type of person to sign up for the bonus orientation for parents. I usually like that about her, but I’d rather have a weekend to walk around campus and enjoy a long lunch at a sidewalk cafe with a notebook and a book on the table next to me. Instead, I’m going to two and a half days of parent orientation at my son’s college.

Here’s my version of parent orientation:

  1. Your kid is going to college.

  2. You are staying home.

  3. You will miss him.

  4. He will miss your lasagna.

  5. He will bring home a huge pile of laundry for occasional weekends and breaks.

  6. He will experience the rich love of learning at his college. Just kidding. He will experience his first hangover at his college.

  7. He will probably change his major at least once.

  8. He might graduate.

  9. You still have purpose.

  10. You pay for college.

  11. He can get student loans if you fail your purpose.

Get the picture? So, what else could I possibly need to know about being a parent with a kid in college that I need to go to this parent orientation?

Tomorrow, I’m going to find out.

Thank you for listening, jules

Up All Night

Do you think of old women as people with rich histories?

I don’t. Isn’t that sad? I am one and I still don’t.

I knew this woman who was nearly a hundred. She was frail and her hands shook. At her memorial service, I saw and heard about this adventurous life she’d had living in the Adirondacks. At first, I was dubious, but there were photos. Then, I was surprised. And now, enough time has passed that I’ve blocked out what she actually did and I only remember her as the frail quiet woman she had been when I knew her.

I’d like to say I awoke to my mistake, but then it happened again. Another friend died, one who wasn’t quite as old, but at her memorial service I saw photos of her water skiing. Her family said she’d been in a water skiing show. I had never imagined her water skiing let alone being in a show. It just seemed like an anomaly, a trick picture.

I’ve begun to feel that kind of response from people when I talk about my younger days. Yes, Mike and I really did take ten days off from work every year to spend time canoe-trekking in the wilderness. Yes, I’ve been charged by a bear, twice. Yes, I was almost struck by lightning and the tree next to me exploded. Yes, I was rushed by a bull once when I tried to cut through his field. Yes, I cross-country skied at 3:00 am in temperatures at twenty below zero. Yes, a train came as I crossed a trestle and I learned to run on railroad ties. Yes, I played in a band on New Year’s Eve in a private club in the Bronx. Yes, I’ve eaten a feta cheese omelet at a Greek diner at dawn after a night spend dancing in NYC. No, I’m not using my active imagination. I did these things.

Yet, I can see doubt in people’s eyes when I open my mouth to tell about my life. And I don’t blame them. I doubt women’s stories too.

Why is it that when an old man has lived a full life, an adventurous life, no one doubts his stories of running with the bulls and shooting the rapids? Why do people look at an old woman as automatically docile, apt to have made cookies, to have stayed at home to watch TV, to have no history other than cleaning her house?

It makes me want to take a hike, to get out on the water, to sleep under the stars, dance all night, but I might fall and break my hip. Just kidding.

It makes me want to hear more stories from old women.

Thank you for listening, jules

Staring into the Gaps

I just finished listening to Jodi Picoult’s book Leaving Time two days ago in my car. (Yes, I have a car that’s so old, it still has a CD player in it.) In the vacant space left by the end of that book, I popped its first disk back in to listen to it all over again.

I’m vulnerable in that space between stories. Are you? It’s like the edge of midnight when darkness looks different than it had the moment before. I sometimes look at the clock right at midnight. It feels like there’s a gap in reality that I don’t want to see during those seconds, especially when Mike has put in a horror movie and gone to bed before the end. I hate when he does that.

Leaving Time has me looking into those gaps a different way. Her story is about psychics and souls and elephants. It’s a lovely mix.

I used to be afraid to admit my sense of the souls that shift in and out of my life despite their deaths. But once I began a study of quantum physics, it has become easier to admit.

Quantum physics is weird. It theorizes the existence of parallel universes.

What separates these parallel universes?

Psychics talk about a thin veil between our reality and the other side. How is that any stranger than the existence of a worm hole or a universe in which my alternate self just made a slight right turn where I went straight?

The veil, for me, comes loose in dreams. I have seen my grandpa twice in dreams, my dad once when I had just awoken. These feel very real, surviving for years when less substantial dreams have faded away.

Do you have that, dreams that stay with you through the years, dreams that don’t fade?

I do.

One of my very first memories is a dream. My family was in it. The five of us sat on the bar stools where we ate most of our meals. In my dream, the bar stools stood on a wide square of wood flooring with a square hole in the center of it. The flooring was identical to what we had at home before my mother got her new green carpet. I was young when she got that carpet, around four years old, so this was a very early memory. Around us, everything was black, like being in space, but the square hole in front of us was a blacker place, a place that terrified me. We sat and talked about how we got there, what was going to happen to us.

Then one by one, all the members of my family fell into the hole and was gone. I was terrified to be left alone. When I was thirteen, my dad died and that memory-dream shifted so that the first person who fell was him. I honestly don’t know any more if it really was him who fell first or if my memory of the dream shifted it into position afterward. It doesn’t matter.

At four years old, I stared into the abyss. I couldn’t see beyond the veil. I felt as though I would never see the ones I lost ever again.

But it hasn’t felt that way for the rest of my life. Sometimes when I look at Nick, I think, ‘So, what do you think of my boy, Dad?’

I always get a flood of tears in my eyes at the silence that ensues. This doesn’t feel like an empty abyss. Sometimes, it feels like my dad is on the other side of something I can’t see through. Sometimes, not always, I feel him there. When I think of him, he is not the skeletal man who died of cancer when I was thirteen, but the strong and slightly pudgy man I knew who was in his prime, the man who submarined and clung to the ski rope for almost two minutes when he tried to get up on one ski behind my grandpa’s boat even when it wasn’t powerful enough to pull him out of the water. I feel the man who leaped into frigid water on April Fool’s Day one year to be first in for the season even though he came out of the water blue and chattering after swimming for just a few minutes.

So when I think about parallel universes, I also think of that unknowable thing that separates me from people I love who have died. Maybe that’s why I keep staring into the abyss and waiting for something, someone, to stare back.

Thank you for listening, jules

The Big Finish

Have you ever finished a big project? Do you remember that feeling when you realized it was out the door and, good, bad, or ugly, it was done.

I feel that way today. Maybe my son Nick isn’t quite grown, you’d tell me. Maybe he’s still living at home and not within his own means, you’d say, but he graduated last Friday, I would reply to you. I watched as he tossed that mortarboard cap into the air, as it confettied with the caps of elated students. I saw the joy on his face. Or was it relief? I want to think that whatever he chooses to do from this point is his own business and my job has become to watch, to cheer for his success and ache for his heartbreak. Well, and maybe throw money in his direction for a while longer.

He sits on the couch right now, exhausted. I figure he needs a week to absorb it all. I know I do—struggling with a challenging schedule, missing all his finals in January when he had the flu, working to catch up, applying to college, getting accepted, feeling the fear when his Calculus teacher miscalculated grades and they just looked so terrible, and rushing at the end to a lovely prom, to the pomp of graduation walk, to all night grad night, and then to all the parties in celebration.

I hope I don’t get started thinking what I should have done differently for Nick. It’s easy for a mom to get lost on that path. I’m too damned tired, too damned tired.

Now, we have summer. We can sleep in, float for a while, just go to work and not much else, soak in the sunshine, shop for his move to a dorm room, transfer his credits, send a transcript, take him to orientation at the college.

Oh God, I have a lot to do before August comes. I’m not ready. This isn’t the end. It’s just a lull. Crap!

Thank you for listnening, jules

Let's Get Sustainable

I’ve always wanted to write about products that use less plastic in their packaging.

Why is that important?

The whale, the dolphins, the albatross, even us. We’re all eating plastic and we don’t yet understand the effects, do we?

Voting with our pocketbooks is a great way to encourage these great companies.

Quaker Oats Oatmeal. I’m so glad that oatmeal comes in a round cardboard container. It’s simple. There is a plastic seal with a ring you have to pull off, though. I wonder if they could use wax to add that? The seal makes us feel safer even though it doesn’t actually make us safer. Did you know that? Wax would make me feel safe, as if my letter hadn’t been opened without my knowledge. So many other companies have converted, probably spent millions of dollars, for new packaging and it almost always contains more plastic than it had before, not less.

Am I the only one who buys according to the amount of plastic packaging when I can?

Arm and Hammer is another great example. Their baking soda comes in a cardboard box just like the ones I used in the 60s when I was learning how to bake cookies. I still love that little flap that folds down to allow me to scrape off the heap so I get a good measure. Does Arm and Hammer have a monopoly on baking soda? If they do, I’m okay with that. I still bake cookies and stuff. Plus, I use it to clean my oven and anything else that’s dirty and needs a little scrubbing with grit. I always feel safer knowing I didn’t use any weird chemicals that will bake into the food in my oven.

Arm and Hammer also makes good cat litter that comes in a sturdy recyclable cardboard container. There’s a plastic handle that I can pry off with a butter knife when I’m recycling, but it’s a minimum compared to the other brands that use heavy plastic tubs and jugs. I collected a good number of those tubs and jugs before I realized I had more than enough tubs to store stuff and too many reusable jugs for recycling used motor oil. Plus, I buy the fragrance-free cat litter and, again, there aren’t a bunch of chemical smells floating around my house. Most fragrances give me a headache anyway. My only question is why their unscented cat litter still has a smell? I had to learn the hard way, twice losing a day to migraine, that unscented and fragrance-free is different. I have to wrestle with that cardboard, again with a butter knife, to get it flattened, but I’m excited to tell you that cardboard is solid enough that the boxes have never trailed bits of cat litter across my floors. I just wish my cats could do that.

Can one of you scientists develop a bottle or jug that can biodegrade with the application of something cool like ultraviolet light or heat? Really, I would imagine it is possible, a rugged, stable solid that melts or crumbles to reusable dust? Wouldn’t that be cool?

On that note, I’ve heard that some of the 3-D printers work on recycled plastic. We need to do anything we can to get that plastic out of circulation. Anything.

And there’s tea. Today, I’m drinking Choice Organic Rooibus. The cardboard boxes have a clear plastic layer around them that I have to throw away. Could they make that out of waxed paper or something else biodegradable? After that, both the box and the teabag wrappers are paper. What I love about my tea is that it has one ingredient: rooibus. It’s a simple flavor and if I wanted a little vanilla, I could just add a drop of my own. I never do, though. Other types of tea come in foil and paper combinations and I have no idea if they’re recyclable. My husband drinks Red Rose Decaffieinated tea which comes in a cardboard box and the individual bags aren’t even wrapped, one step closer to a sustainable solution.

One more thing that I’m proud of: I’ve been using my insulated klean kanteens every day and I’ve only drank from one disposable plastic bottle of water in the past eight months. Dare me to do better than that in the next eight months. The bottles keep my water cool so it’s more refreshing. When I put hot tea in them, I have to leave the lid off for a little while so my tea will cool down soon enough for me to drink it. It stays warm all day and into the night. I put both the stainless steel and the lids into the dishwasher on a daily basis. Lately, I’ve been adding lemon or lime to my water because my urologist said that lemonade reduces the formation of kidney stones. Yay, lemonade!

And have you seen Boxed Water? Like the little cartons of milk, the cartons used for Boxed Water are recyclable. I’m going to get some for emergencies in my car because those things won’t leach plastic into the water when they get hot in the trunk in the summer time. Isn’t that a great idea?

No, I’m not being paid to write about any of these companies. I just thought you ought to know they’re doing the right thing without being harassed to do it.

Okay, so I want to know what other companies are doing the right thing. Really, don’t you get to a point when you’ve done everything you can think of to get to sustainable and you still need to know more about what responsible corporations are doing so you can support them? I know I do, so please leave comments.

Thank you for listening, jules

A Quivering Pickle

Suddenly, I’m a judge?

Somehow, someone applied voltage to my ordinarily inert state and my electrons have jumped into a higher orbit, something like the way a neon bulb lights up when you plug it in. Did you know a pickle will do that too, but you have to be really cautious about applying voltage to that pickle quivering there on a plate. Make sure it’s a ceramic plate so you don’t get zapped by electricity trying to go to ground. Seriously. And turn the lights off so you can see the glow.

Tomorrow at 2pm, I’m going to be a poetry judge at the Poetry Coffeehouse competition at the KCLS Redmond Library! Me. Imagine that. Either somebody thinks I can write or nobody else would show up and I was the dope who felt honored enough to say yes anyway.

Then on Sunday, I’m going to host the haiku booth at the Cinco de Mayo festival at the new Downtown Park in Redmond. That, I can do. I’m good at standing there while people work. I can be encouraging, too. That’s the only talent it’ll take, right?

Watch out..

I know I’ll have fun, but by Sunday evening, I’ll probably emit photons when I drop back to a lower orbit. I’ll just be a quivering pickle on a plate with no glow.

Thank you for listening, jules

Be the Show

I have to admit that I’m still having a vulnerability hangover after attending the Seattle Writing Conference on Saturday. It saps energy to sit in front of someone and condense the last year or two of your life into a three minute nugget. You have to justify the time you spent in front of a computer every step of the way. Will it sell?

Memoir takes the whole process to the next level. Ultimately, pitching a memoir to an agent is like reviewing your life.

“Couldn’t your character have done something a little more out there?” they seem to ask.

“Uh, um, my character is me. I’m not willing to decorate my cat at Burning Man or to leap from a helium balloon to snowboard Mt. Everest naked while detoxxing from methamphetamines.”

“Did you grow up in a cult or a brothel? Are you a member of any thrill-seeking fellowships, cosplay clans, or poetry slam charities?”

“Uh, I’m still in Scouting but I’m not as active now that I’m writing.”

“No, I’m thinking something quirky.”

“I’m quirky!”

“In what way? How does that manifest in your story? Do you have any issues with gender fluidity, mental illness, political resistance, or social justice? Those areas are hot right now. Hot.”

No, this isn’t the real conversation I had with an agent, but a river flowed under the surface. Don’t write what you know. Be the show.

It takes the navel-gazing of writing memoir to the extreme. Were the results of my life marketable? Would my actions sell a million copies and the rights to the Netflix special?

That could be the question that I am asked on the threshold of my death and my answer would have to be that I took a lot of walks and talked to a lot of people.

Thank you for listening, jules

Why Cats?

So many things in this world are such a mess right now that it's a wonder that everyone on the bus doesn't have their noses buried in a book about a kitten. Do you ever wonder why cats_of_instagram has 10.2 million followers? I don't. I know exactly why.

We need a break. We need to be drawn down the path of a story, something that will make us laugh, cry, and help us face the world when we turn the last page of the book.

Wouldn't you like to take a break from work and the news to follow a lumpy middle-aged woman into a room with a kitten that weighs just over a pound? If it were a battle, would you bet on the determined woman or the kitten? It may not exactly be a battle, but by the end, the woman lies face down on the floor and asks for reinforcements.

Two beings enter and only one leaves in one piece.

Clumps and Turds

What do you do when you have a cat that finally wants to be petted, but rolls in the litter box right after you clean it? I mean, what does it mean for a litter box to be clean, anyway? All I do is sift the clumps and turds out of the box and throw them into the kitchen garbage where they sit and stink up my kitchen for an hour and a half because the boy refuses to get off his video game in the middle of a mission to empty the garbage.

I only change all the cat litter in the box when it starts to smell even after all the clumps and turds are cleared out.

Am I supposed to empty the whole thing every time? Am I supposed to wash it, bleach it, and wipe it dry every single fucking time the cat pees in there? Who does that?

I might have to.

Thank you for listening, jules