Accidentally Running a Bed and Breakfast

I'm at that point when I really need to sit in my quiet house when I'm not at work and do some work, you know, writing, editing, going through piles of papers I should probably throw out, but now that our house guests have gone, all my friends want to catch up with me. They've asked me to

  • go to the movies
  • get pedicures together
  • have lunch
  • meet for coffee
  • get together and talk about books

That sounds fun, right?

I'm trying not to be crabby about it, but lately I've been dreaming that cretins have been breaking into my house and wrecking my stuff. I've been dreaming of people who walk around behind me and never stop talking. Whenever I need time alone, I always dream that people are running rampant through my house.

So, even with my best friends, doing stuff I love, I'm not quite enthusiastic yet.

I need a retreat. I need a week off from work, a week off from obligations, a week off from talking and from listening.

Finally, I got a job that features my best characteristic, talking with people, and now all I want to do is crawl into a hole and stay quiet for a long while.

It's solitude that I needed but didn't get during my vacation. I knew I needed it. I wanted it. I had planned that whole week as a chance to sit in front of the computer while Mike and Nick played video games. I didn't ask our friends to come visit. It turns out that Mike didn't even ask our friends to come visit. They just announced their visit. They weren't bad house guests. We just weren't in a good position to host.

When we first moved to the Pacific Northwest, a raft of friends came to stay at our house. A week after I moved here, our best friends Jim and Caroline arrived. I was still living out of a suitcase. The movers hadn't delivered my stuff yet. Still, we all explored Seattle and the mountains as if we were tourists. I was a such a new transplant that I was a tourist. I had no idea where I had moved, really, what the place was like. Besides Mike, I only knew one person and I really didn't like that guy. I knew it would be a while until I connected the way I did with Jim and Caroline. So, we had a great time with them, an incredible time.

After that, more people came to visit. For every friend that came, it became a little less fun. I didn't know exactly why at first. It was supposed to be fun. We were missed by our friends. We were not alone out here. Five, six, seven groups of people came to visit within the first year.

Then, a guy called and said he was coming out, Lyle. Mike wasn't good at saying no. We knew Lyle from GE, where we used to work together two years before we moved. And so Lyle showed up. We picked him up from the airport. Lyle was picky. He didn't like what we cooked for him. He was snarky. I felt insulted. He complained about our guest room. He expected us to take off from our jobs during difficult projects. He complained about the car we loaned him for those couple of days we couldn't possibly take off from our jobs. We carpooled together so he could drive the car. He brought it back with a new scar on the bumper. He said nothing about what happened. He stayed for ten days. Ten. The night before he left, he talked about coming back for a second trip. Mike and I whispered in the kitchen over a raft of dirty dishes while Lyle sat in front of the TV in the living room. How could we discourage him from coming back?

Early the next morning, we finally brought Lyle back to the airport. As we watched him walk down to the terminal, we waved at him, then both of us sighed at the same time. I looked at Mike. He looked at me.

Mike said, "Thank God he's gone. It didn't seem like you and Lyle were all that good friends. You were about to take his head off there at the end."

"What do you mean, friends?"

"I didn't know you were friends with him at GE."

"Me? I wasn't friends with him. I thought you were friends with him."

"I was never friends with that jackass."

Yeah, I need a retreat. But I'm willing to pay for it.

Thank you for listening, jules


When Life and House Guests Collide

My vacation is over. Let's see. I may have broken my finger, but somehow we were too busy for me to get an x-ray until our guests left. I'll find out tomorrow.

Teddy, the dog got sick and we still went to see the Space Needle and Pike Market. Mike dropped him off early in the morning after he hadn't eaten for two days. The poor guy had to see the vet on his own and we picked him up on our way home afterward. I felt like a heel when the vet called to ask how he was doing.

Then finally, when Nick got sick, I excused myself from going on the day's excursion so I could make him tea and soup and both of us could hang out on the couch with Teddy to watch stupid stuff on TV.

It was one of those weeks, you know the kind of weeks I mean, when absolutely everything goes wrong and the house guests stay for a week anyway and expect to be entertained. My vacation is finally fucking over. Thankfully.

Thank you for listening, jules

Preparing for a Pill

This is Nick's first day of Senior year. It should have been an event, but it wasn't. Well, not really.

Can I complain?

Teddy is sick. The other day, I bought kitten food for Seth because he's gotten too skinny and we needed to fatten him up. In all the excitement of new kibbles, I gave two kibbles to Teddy which he gobbled down happily. Two. I'm talking about the lentil-sized kitten kibbles. Last night, he walked around the house, moaning, waking Nick up, and puking all over the carpet. Poor baby. I didn't wake up. I'm not sure why. He wouldn't even eat his cookie last night at bedtime. It's my fault, completely my fault.

Then, my pinky finger, for some unknown reason, feels like it's broken. I'm not sure if I hurt it last Friday at Wild Waves or if it's some autoimmune thing from missing a few doses of medicine. It's probably the medicine. But it still feels like it's broken.

That's not enough, right? 

Mike's back is bothering him from doing too much work around the house for the last couple of days. Plus, he's been too busy to do his normal exercise routine at the Y. So, he's hobbling around the house right now. You know, when people can't stand up quite straight and you can tell something is out of alignment. He looks like that.

We have house guests arriving this afternoon. We haven't even met our friend's wife yet. She could be nice, easygoing, wonderful. We could have a great time.

Or she could be a pill. We have no idea. We're preparing for a pill.

The house hasn't looked this good in a while. We all feel like shit, but the house looks pretty good.

Thank you for listening, jules

All Kinds of Karma

It's been a shitty couple of weeks. We have water now, but there are still a couple of half-empty jugs sitting in the bathrooms. Or you could say they're half-full but I'm not inclined. I just gave the neighbor a check for a few hundred dollars for the new pump even though the one we had was still under warranty but the people who installed it couldn't work on it for three or four weeks. Did I already tell you about that? Can you tell I'm still pissed? What good is a warranty if the people supporting it don't support it?

That was a Yelp moment. I like being able to tell my truth on Yelp and helping out gullible people who might have been tempted to use the crappy company who installed our dead/warrantied pump last year.

Then, I had to fight with Nick to get him to submit a change form to drop or change three shitty classes from his schedule. If he didn't choose them and doesn't want to take them, how can they be called electives?

And my stomach has been messed up for the past three days. Yeah, I know I shouldn't say it. Nobody wants to hear about this. Shit.

In the meantime, Mike got disgusted at the thought of giving another $500 to a plumber. this guy didn't really clear shit from the drain the first time he charged us $500 to spend fifteen minutes with a snake in the drain a month ago. Mike went to Home Depot, spent $25 on an extra-long snake, and rammed that thing through a great lump of shit clogging the drain. And now, we don't have shit and dish water backing into the utility sink any more. Yay Mike!

I called home this morning because it was my mother's birthday. My sister was there too and we all got on the phone in a three-way conversation. I started in on Nick's shitty schedule, the shitty warranty for the water pump, my digestive disorders, and finally the shit in the sink. At the point in the story I had worked up to one more form of sewage, my sister started giggling when I tried to tell  her how I felt. Shitty.

Yeah, I have to bleach the shit out of the shit that's left in the sink. My sister tried to sound sympathetic, she did, but she was mostly giggling as she tried, so it didn't work. Then, my mom started giggling and then I even snorted once, but I still felt like shit so it didn't make me feel better until later when I was on my way to work and began to think about it. Then, when I was late for work because construction blocked one lane of traffic to lay some pipes, it hit me. Were they sewage pipes? They probably were.

  • No water. Shitty water pump warranty.
  • Shitty senior schedule.
  • Sewage shit in the sink.
  • Shit brewing in my gut.
  • Shit to flow through the pipes that crossed the road where construction made me late for work. 

God, I must have looked like a lunatic as I passed that flagger laughing until my cheeks hurt. It was finally my turn to get past shit in the pipes.

Maybe I was a real shit in a previous life. Tell me, do you believe in karma?

Thank you for listening, jules

A Privileged White Doofus

In between reading for entertainment, I work on my education. See, I didn't receive much in the way of literature, sociology, or rhetoric in engineering school. I've had to do it by myself and now, I'm in a phase of reading literature on social justice. The most instructive, so far, is So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. I need to read it again so it'll really sink in. It's an important book. The book that was the most fun was Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell by W. Kamau Bell. There's nothing better than being educated by a comedian.

I've read quite a few books in the same vein by now. I feel compelled to keep reading. I'm not entirely sure what my questions about social justice are, really, but I'm only beginning to feel some answers. I usually let my need for particular books run its course. One time I read about twenty romance novels with barely a break for any other books in between. What the hell was that?

At least I understand one of my reasons. This trend of reading about social consciousness feels so compelling considering the way the underbelly of racism and xenophobia is so exposed in the United States right now. I can't tell you how many clips of racists yelling at people I've watched lately. How is it acceptable to behave this way?

Oh right, our president.

That isn't the only thing driving me. What do I still need to know?

For many years, I've lived in a racial vacuum. Where was the diversity, I wondered? My son's school system didn't even come close to being represented according to national populations of different races and religions. Why is that? What could I do from here? How could I do my part at easing racial inequities if I lived almost totally among the privileged whites?

As I read, I realized that I live in a segregated community, a privileged segregated community. I live in an institutionally racist system. Ugh.

And I, like the doofus that I am, tried to ask the one black friend I had what she thought about it. She hated it. She hated the question. I'm so sorry that I hurt her feelings. Even my earnestness was offensive.

That's the thing I'm still stuck on even after all my reading. I've always believed that asking questions helps make a way through difficulties. So, when I might offend someone by asking a question, I feel stuck. It's hard to even admit to you that I feel stuck. I'm so privileged. I know I am. But if we don't talk about it, how do we solve it? And if talking about it hurts our friends, then shouldn't we just shut up? I'm not good at shutting up. It's a conundrum, isn't it? Thankfully, there are many voices publishing books and maybe I can read my way through the problem.

I feel better equipped than I was, but I'm sure to be an idiot in the future, especially since there are so many ways for me to screw up when I open my mouth.

I listened to an African American poet speak a couple weeks ago and I loved her poem about a family reunion. But as I ran up to tell her so, I wondered if I was allowed to relate to her story, if there really was a similarity between hers and mine. Was I negating her black culture by relating? When I opened my mouth, I wanted to say I loved the part about the food and how people who hadn't seen each other for a year could settle right into gossip over a paper plate piled with three kinds of homemade pie. Instead, I stumbled over the words regarding our simple connection and pressed my knees together as if I had to pee.

It also stuck in my craw that African Americans were somehow excluded from the Women's Marches. Why? There are parallels between misogyny and racism, aren't there? Shouldn't we all fight inequality together? What happened there? I'm sure I read about it, but I'm not sure I really understand it.

Oh, I'm probably being a doofus just asking that question. The problem is that I'm probably being an idiot by writing about the books I've been reading to educate myself. But I want to ask what I should read next, what would finally nail the ideas deeply enough into my brain that I knew I could be kind in a conversation with an African American about race even if I couldn't possibly be cool.

I want to better understand this culture that exists right here in my country, a culture with which I have very little contact.

There's one more thing. I tutor children. It's a diverse group and it's my job to talk about brain development and language skills. Many of my students, kids whose English is as precise as my own, were born in other countries, China, Vietnam, India, and South and Central America. So when I'm trying to encourage them to listen for grammar or learn other languages, I often ask them if they speak any other languages and if English is a first or second language for them.

My point in asking is that if English is their native tongue, they can hear correct grammar without ever knowing what a gerund or a past participle is. It's more difficult if they learned English more recently.

And then, I wish them to continue to speak, read, and also write in their first language because of the effect on their brains. I tell them that I wasn't lucky enough to have learned a foreign language before I was twelve so that part of my brain does not light up the way it should. Theirs, on the other hand, allows them to pick up new languages much easier. Plus, multiple languages makes their career more attractive globally. Their parents love hearing that their children will be recruited more often with their added skills.

And I read in Oluo's book that I may be offensive to people of color by asking. And sometimes I see that in their faces when I begin the conversation. I hate insulting children.

So, I need to learn this. I need to get it right. I need to stop being a privileged white doofus and learn to ask the right way.

Do you have any ideas for me? Or should I keep reading and shut the hell up?

Thank you for listening, jules

Turkey Legs and Corsets

We don't have running water at our house right now.

Yes, you can picture a counter full of dirty dishes, clean paper plates, cups, and plastic cutlery stacked on the counter next to them, collapsible jugs by each sink, toilets that require me to lift and tilt a forty pound jug of water to fill the tank after I use it. No laundry. No showers. No watering plants.

Mike took us to the YMCA yesterday as guests so we could shower. That seems like days ago. Last night, he drove the car to a friend's house to fill up six five-gallon jugs with water from a spigot. He'll go again tomorrow if the guy who installed the new water pump in the community well can't get the thing running again soon.

I'm sticky from the sunscreen we needed at The MidSummer Renaissance Faire in Bonney Lake today. I almost didn't want to go once I realized I would have to sleep in my sunscreen tonight and go to work tomorrow with it still tacky on the back of my neck even after I tried to sponge it off. I hate being sticky from sunscreen and sweat. My hair looks ... well, my hair looks like crap.

Ah, never mind my hair. It looks like crap most of the time anyway. Hell, it looks like crap all of the time. But at least it usually feels clean.

I feel like crap. I look like crap. My hair itches. I want my running water back.

There is some irony in the fact that we went to the renaissance faire today. The renaissance was a time when running water ran through creeks and rivers, when maybe once a week, people heated water for the tub and reused it until the last family member was clean, when a bowl was filled for your daily ablutions, when you peed in a chamber pot in the middle of the night and shared a pit toilet during the day. Think about the three-holed outhouse. Just think about that.

I don't want to live back in renaissance times, not even if I could be royalty. I don't want to have to wear corsets, layers of petticoats, and woolen underwear. I want running water, flushing toilets, sunscreen, and yes, I want my daily shower.

And one more thing: I think turkey legs have too many tendons running through them. Can't somebody do something about the tendons? But I do love the meat pies, the shops, and the shows.

Thank you for listening, jules

Here We Go


I skipped the detention protest on Saturday because I had to work for the first hour of it and after that, I was tired. I was tired. What kind of an excuse is that, I ask myself.

I was tired. I came home and went to bed, covering my whole head with my comforter.

Is that some kind of protest to protesting? Was my mind just too overwhelmed to consider one more moment in a crowd with signs and chanting? Did I wonder if it was all a little too surreal and whether I'd somehow landed myself in an alternate universe in which an overweight reality TV personality kept trying to ruin the country? Two years ago, if I wrote the story of this Presidency, everyone would have said it was obscenely fantastical.

And yet, this is were we live now. Everyone who runs a department in the executive branch believes that department should be dissolved. Our schools, the protection of our environment, our State department? All fizzling under anti-management. Our country sends toddlers to court by themselves, then puts them back into cages when they are done. Our country reverses clean air and clean water protections that are in our self-interest. Our country aligns itself with dictators and human rights violators and alienates peaceful democracies we'd worked with for decades.

I could go on and on, but it sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?

In the meantime, birds continue to sing. I remember that when my dad died, I wondered how the birds could continue to sing, but they did.

I wondered how I could laugh sometimes, but I did.

I wondered why the sun rose, why the sky was blue, why flowers bloomed, but they did.

I couldn't imagine my life being a peaceful one, but it was.

I think that's why I hid under my covers today instead of protesting. Like after my dad had died and I had wanted to wake up having forgotten the horrifying truth, today, I wanted to wake up after a nap with a clean slate, in an alternate universe, looking at a cheerful family with plans to make a nice dinner, clean up a little bit, and read my book.

I am the reason fascism can rise, aren't I? I am the reason, along with millions of other paralyzed people like me. I promise, I pinky-swear, that I will get back to protesting, writing letters, and contacting my representatives after I've built up endurance again.

Thank you for listening, jules