Sell Crazy Someplace Else

“The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” ~1984

The country has gone crazy. Or perhaps some people in our society have. Up is down. Wrong is right. Bad actors are victims. I just can’t anymore. It’s like I’m reading George Orwell’s 1984 again. We have a lot of different opinions and viewpoints in this country, and you should expect that in a nation with a population as varied as ours is. There is now and has always been dissent in the United States. While we don’t all agree on many things, we used to agree that our government and its buildings are sacred and worth protecting. We lost our collective mind when terrorists flew a plane into the Pentagon and then learned they had also planned to take down the Capitol. We were so incensed that we went to war about it. American soldiers died because of it. You don’t mess with our institutions. I used to believe we were all on the same page about this.

On January 6th, I had a television news station on while I was sitting at home doing a puzzle. I expected that there might be some hullaballoo around the certification of the election results, so I was listening to it from the other room because I was curious. All I had planned to do was listen. And then I heard the voice of a news anchor note they had just evacuated Mike Pence from the chamber. That got my attention, so I walked into the living room to see what was going on. For the next five hours, no puzzle pieces were placed. I was glued with rapt attention to the chaos I saw unfolding onscreen. I watched as people beat their way past barricades, used any implement they could find to shatter glass, and then crawled their way in through broken windows into the seat of our government. I stood there, head shaking, incredulous for hours. It felt surreal. Tear gas being unleashed. People climbing the Capitol like it was play equipment in their backyard. I wouldn’t have been any more upset or befuddled or shocked if I had seen wild animals from the African sub-continent barreling their way into that building. I was sad and I was scared, scared for the people inside the building, scared about what it meant about our one nation, supposedly indivisible.

In the days and weeks following the attack, I saw more video footage emerge. I saw footage of a Capitol police officer discharging his weapon as someone attempted to crawl through a broken section of a barricaded door outside the House chamber. I saw footage of a man bragging that he had stolen mail from the desk of Speaker of the House and left her a nasty note. I saw footage of men rifling through pages on desks where our lawmakers had recently been There was footage of congressmen and congresswomen being hastily led down back staircases to avoid the combatants. There was video of members of Congress hiding on the floor in the balcony, gas masks at the ready. There was footage of rioters chanting, “Hang Mike Pence.” Hell, the FBI has a tip page loaded with videos and photos of rioters from that day that you can look at right now. Exactly eight months later, we have a preponderance of video and photographic proof of what unfolded that day. Still, some would have you believe you didn’t see what you did. It was a peaceful protest, they say. There were just a few bad actors. It’s all been blown way out of proportion. Some of these people weren’t even our people, they say, despite a lack of sufficient evidence to back their claim. They say these things and they assume that if they repeat them often enough you will come to believe them, come to question what you know you saw and to accept their alternate version of the truth of what happened before our eyes that day.

And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth.”

In the months since that attack on the Capitol, various rioters have been arrested and charged because of the overwhelming evidence on video footage from that day. Now there is another rally planned for the Capitol, a Justice for J6 rally, on September 18th. There will be a march to the Capitol again. This is not to Stop the Steal, but to seek “justice” for those who viciously beat police officers with flagpoles and hockey sticks, ransacked the Capitol causing over 1.5 million in damage, actively sought to harm members of Congress, the Speaker, and the Vice President, and were then held accountable according to the laws of these United States. You just can’t even. I’m shaking my head again.

And all of this leads me to where I landed tonight after learning more about the next rally at the Capitol. It leads me to the film As Good As It Gets, starring Jack Nicholson, because you just can’t add more crazy to what is already batshit lunacy. If an alien ship were to hover above my house tonight, open its bottom hatch, and turn on its light beam in preparation to suck me into their dimension, I would utter this line from that movie:

“Sell crazy someplace else. We’re all stocked up here.”

Being some of the only truly intelligent life in the universe, they would turn off the light, close the hatch, zip away, and never return. Ain’t nothing to see here, folks.

The Church Of The Blue FJ Cruiser

I like road trips. I enjoy driving, but I also like being a passenger. I like waking up in one state and going to sleep in another. This is why I volunteer for these cross-country road trips. Today, after saying goodbye to Thing One, I drove almost 600 miles from southern Washington to Salt Lake City. And I discovered something I hadn’t realized before. I mean, other than the fact that Idaho is too damn big when you just want to be home. I like to road trip alone at least in part because it is an opportunity to listen to all my favorite music, sing along, and have zero responsibilities other than arriving at my destination safely.

During the course of my day, I checked my messages at various rest stops. What I discovered is that extroverts think road trips are an excuse to have phone conversations with you. I had three phone messages from different extroverted, social friends and family members telling me that they were calling to keep me company while I drive. The first time I heard the recorded message offering to chat with me to keep me company, I laughed out loud. Do these people not know me at all? I don’t like to talk on the phone to begin with. I find talking on the phone while driving a distraction. And I especially think it’s a distraction when what you are distracting me from is the mental peace and quiet that comes with listening to my car stereo loudly enough that the speakers audibly vibrate. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get me out of my head for a few minutes? A solo road trip day is my introvert church. It’s disrespectful to call someone when you know they are at church.

The gold of western hay fields
If you weren’t sure about the drought conditions, this is what eastern Oregon looks like right now
Snake River
Nothing but wildfire haze as far as the eye can see, which isn’t that far

Rat Pizza At A Child Casino

Anyone up for some Skeeball?

Sometimes I see things on Twitter that make me think. Other times I see things on Twitter that make me laugh. But I especially like posts I can relate to. So for everyone who, like me, has been inside of a Chuck E. Cheese, I present this beauty:

You’re welcome.

The Burger Brawl And Pickle Problem

We have two sons who were born three weeks less than two years apart. We have been fortunate. Our sons have been best buddies from Luke’s arrival. I don’t know how. People used to ask how often they fought. The answer was almost never. They like the many of the same things, but they are not alike in personality so they balance each other out. This is not to say that they don’t bicker, debate, tease, or torture one another. It’s just that it’s never been mean spirited. They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They look out for each other. They love each other even when they are acting like jerks.

They are 20 and 18 now, which means they are legally grown. And yet their conversations often sound like the ones they’ve had forever. They love to argue about nothing. They have argued about nothing for as long as they’ve been brothers. Tonight in the car on the way home from In-n-Out, they were arguing about burger toppings. Luke, the purest, said the best burger was the basic one, just meat and bun. Joe’s burger choice, Luke said, was too complicated. Joe thought this stance was insane. A burger with pickles is NOT complicated. So, he began hazing Luke about a burger without pickles. The guys despise anything made with vinegar, but for some reason Joe’s vinegar aversion stops at pickles. Luke finds them disgusting. But, Joe has ADHD and that gives him a superhuman focus when he is invested. He was invested in arguing about pickles.

“What is wrong with pickles?” he prodded.

“I don’t want your vinegar cucumber chips,” Luke snapped.

And they were off. Bickering about nothing after a previous argument that was also about nothing…again.

Joe goes back in college in Washington in two weeks. Although I chided them in the car about their constant arguments about nothing, I will miss hearing them. Don’t tell my sons, but those arguments make my heart smile even as they make my mouth grumble. I think it’s because I know that no matter how old they get or how their lives change and grow, they will continue to get together, make each other laugh, drive us crazy, and squabble passionately about pointless things. That’s just what they do. It’s a gift.

I don’t know that Luke will ever like pickles, though. This argument might come up again.

Flipping The Script

While searching my brain for something to write about tonight, I found this gem on Facebook. I love the idea of flipping the script, taking something basic and turning it upside down until it looks a little more intriguing. When I was years and years younger, I did this with my career as stay-at-home mom. I told people I was a “Wildlife Manager,” which was infinitely more descriptive and appropriate. Seriously. Have you ever tried to manage two boys under the age of 5? They are a bit much.

So much of what happens in life is predictable, prescribed, and ordinary. We fall into boxes readily, like cats into taped off squares on the floor, because they make us feel secure. Student. Business professional. Realtor. Doctor. Parent. Dog mother. Athlete. When you meet someone new, what is the first place the conversation naturally flows? “So, where do you work?” If you’re lucky, you get a more nebulous, “What do you do?” We are comfortable when we can rely on these scripts. We feel good about ourselves when can give someone the elevator-chat, ten second version of our life, a version that usually revolves around what we do, not who we are, not what makes us happy or interesting or passionate. I think this is a crime.

I propose that we mix things up. Let’s stop talking about what we do. Let’s start talking about who we are. Wouldn’t a cocktail party be much more interesting if instead of starting with work talk (because who wants to talk about work when not at work, anyway?), we asked what someone’s first concert was or which television character they would invite to dinner if they could. And what if our ten-second, elevator-chat personal description went more like this:

“I’m Justine. As a child, I was terrified of anything having to do with UFOs. I played cymbals in high school marching band. I suck at throwing frisbees. I’m a die-hard introvert, but I love to plan parties that I preferably would not have to attend. Oh, and even though I’m 53, I sleep with a stuffed dog I named Eliot.”

Imagine what we would know about each other, imagine what we would learn about ourselves, if we stopped putting people into boxes based on religion, politics, and career and began talking to each other as if we were all the unique, interesting individuals we are. What barriers might we break down? What assumptions about others might we lose? I think if we started flipping the script, we might be able to raise the level of discourse in this country. Let’s re-enchant life by focusing on the parts of our human experiences that make life worth living.

The Hummingbird Parallel

Hummingbird haiku

I was sitting on the back deck today as a hummingbird blew past me on the way to our feeder. I love watching them, so I was grateful when we finally got this feeder up and less than an hour later we had a visitor. I gazed at this speedy creature, mesmerized by its grace and fluidity as its wings fluttered at 53 beats per second, and then it whizzed past me again. It was gone. I realized then what a hummingbird reminds me of. A hummingbird is basically a teenage boy. He’s invisible most of the time. You can’t find him when you are looking for him. But when you put food out, he shows up, blowing past you as if you are of no concern. He devours what you offer. And then the teenage boy, like the hummingbird with its belly full, is gone again. But don’t worry. He always needs food, and as long you provide it you will occasionally catch a glimpse of him, no matter how ephemeral it might be.

Home Sweet Home, Indeed

You got that right!

After racking up about a thousand miles driving around Colorado this weekend, we arrived home late this afternoon. We’re filthy, the camper still needs to be cleaned out and put back together, and we had to order in pizza because the fridge was empty, but we’re home. Funny how walking into your home after time away feels heavenly. Nothing has changed. It’s the same place you left not that long ago. But somehow it’s renewed. Maybe it’s just because I spent the past four days living in a tin can on wheels, but our home felt like a palace when I walked in. It seems huge. I’m feeling pretty spoiled.

The walls might start to close in on me a little tomorrow when I have to catch up on laundry, go grocery shopping, and fall back into my normal housekeeping job, but for tonight this house is the Four Seasons with a luxurious king bed and top-of-the-line bath products. Now all I need is a decent night’s rest and a long, hot shower that turns me into a Disney princess.

They say home is where you hang your hat. Tonight I am grateful that my hat rack is no longer on wheels.

Both Of Us Are Dogs In This Scenario

I am a border collie.

Emphasis on the word border. I know my job. I herd. I round the family up. I make sure no one gets left behind and that we all proceed according to a plan. I keep us moving. When I am not herding, I like my space. I am affectionate, just on my own terms. I am reserved around strangers. I am smart, adaptable, energetic, and driven. I know what I want and what I don’t want. And I’m not doing any tricks or jumping through any hoops unless it aligns with my own agenda.

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Current mood

Our dog, Ruby, is also a border collie. I can tell you everything you need to know about Ruby (and, by proxy, me) in a few anecdotes. At Puppy Kindergarten, Ruby would practice the new trick we were working on 3-4 times for a treat. Then she would walk away and curl up in the corner with her back to me as if to say, “I got where you are going with this. I’m done with your reindeer games.” Ruby likes her space. If she is on her bed in the living room and I come and sit down on a chair next to her, she will get up and go to her bed in the other room. We used to try to leave Ruby in the yard when we would go out. Sometimes she would oblige. Sometimes she would walk to her kennel, curl up inside, and obstinately refuse to come out. Eventually, she trained us to ask if she wanted to be inside or out because it became clear she would only do what she wanted. Ruby is my spirit animal.

My husband, Steve, is a Labrador retriever.

He is all the things that have made Labradors the most popular dog breed in the United States since 1991. He is cheerful, affectionate, and active. He loves to be around people and is eager to please. He looks forward enthusiastically to all things, meals, walks, sports, and social activities, in particular. You never have to go looking for Steve. He is right there when you turn around, always. And, much to my delight, he does retrieve things including groceries and my morning latte. He is amiable, sweet tempered, easy going, and happy to a fault. Everyone loves Steve. He is inherently lovable.

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Boy’s best friend

Our first dog, Machiah, was a Labrador. I can tell you everything you need to know about Machiah (and, by proxy, Steve) in a few anecdotes. Machiah hated to be alone. She would let loose with the most pathetic, heartbreaking howl when we left the house with her behind in it. Machiah never missed a meal. In fact, an hour before mealtime she began reminding us that mealtime was on the horizon. She ate like she’d never see another bite of food, and then she ate things that weren’t her food or even food at all (including, but not limited to, a lampshade, a bike seat, tissues, and bottles of contact solution). Machiah, in her older years, would rest in the grass in our backyard and let our two year old use her as a pillow. She just wanted to be close to you with her heart of gold. Sometimes I wholeheartedly believe that Machiah lives on in Steve from beyond the Rainbow Bridge.

I write all of this both as an homage to our dogs, past and present, but as a way to explain to you what life locked down in our house right now is like. Picture that exuberant Labrador, full of energy and excitement and love and affection, following that border collie around in 1300 square feet, 24/7. Imagine that border collie slowly realizing there is no place to which she can escape. That is where we are, folks.

Welcome to Day Two of the Occupation.

The Avocado Advisement: A First World Story

“This is the first time in history when you can save humanity by just sitting on your couch and watching tv. Don’t f*#k it up.”  ~timely Internet meme

We are spoiled Americans. As a family, we are fortunate enough to be able to afford most of what we want when we want it, within reason. I mean, we don’t drive new Jaguars or BMWs. We do not live in a huge, stately home in a golf course community. We don’t take yearly trips to Europe. But we are able to buy a movie on our Apple TV without considering if the $20 is a waste, and the four of us can dine out a few times a month at decent, sit-down restaurants without being unable to pay our other bills because of it. If our sons need new jeans, they get them. If I want to buy a $75 concert ticket, I do it without guilt or stress. I know it is a gift to be in this position. And I do realize it makes us unlike most other American families. We are the lucky ones.

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The ghost of avocados past

A few weeks ago, when I saw the writing on the wall regarding this pandemic, I went shopping. I didn’t panic buy or hoard multiple packages of toilet paper, but I was able to purchase about two weeks’ worth of groceries in advance knowing we wouldn’t be going to the store as often once the virus began to spread widely among our population. Perishables were mostly off the table on my stock-up trip. Not a problem, I told myself as I bought some frozen fruits and vegetables. Then this morning I decided I would love an avocado for my bagel. Alas, there were none.

In my past life, I might run out to Safeway and grab a few of those bumpy-skinned babies to satisfy my craving. But, that past life was in the olden days two weeks ago. Now, I honestly have to look at a trip to the store differently than I did then. Now there are exponentially more people walking around unknowingly affected by COVID-19 than there were two weeks ago. My risk of contracting the virus is much higher, at a time when the hospitals are becoming increasingly overwhelmed. So I had to have a long talk with my fortunate self about going without. I suspect that over the coming days and weeks I will have to lecture myself many more times about the importance of remaining at home. I need to learn the delayed gratification I have been delaying learning. To that end, I made myself this flow chart, which I can refer to in the future replacing, as necessary, “avocado” with whatever thing it is I think I desperately need but really don’t.

 

avocadochart
On voluntary house arrest, there is time to create flowcharts

This is our new normal. It may be our normal for eighteen plus months. I need to adapt to these temporary restrictions. They will be short-lived and my efforts could save lives, including my own and those of my husband and sons. I’ve lived a fortunate and entitled adult life, thus far, traveling freely through the world, buying grass-fed tenderloin steaks when I felt like spoiling myself. Now it’s time to do with less. In the grand scheme of history, what the times are asking of me is not a lot. It’s simply the matter of a small adjustment.

Someday the virus will run its course. Someday we will have a treatment or a vaccine. Someday we will once again be able to run to the store on a whim for that one topping we wanted but didn’t buy the first time through. When that day comes again, you best believe avocado toast will feel like the decadent treat it is and always was. We just didn’t realize that our last avocado toast would be our last avocado toast for a while. Live in the moment, my friends, and make sure to appreciate what you have today because tomorrow you might not have it. I’m grateful for the opportunity to remember and appreciate my great fortune and teach my sons to do the same. And when this is behind us, we’ll celebrate. We’ll don toilet paper togas and feed each other avocado toast just because we can. And then we’ll fold up the toilet paper and tuck it safely away for a later crisis because you just never know what tomorrow might hold.

The Only Math Lesson I Ever Understood. s. C sen

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In the days before we owned a decent set of sharp knives

If you’re part of a couple and you’ve been together for a while, you have formed couple habits. Some of these are beneficial. My husband, for example, has become my “coffee bitch” (we can’t remember who came up with that label), which means he makes my lattes on the weekends and brings them to me in bed. For my part, I have become his on-call detective, regularly locating items that have gone missing after he either puts them someplace “safe” or accidentally leaves them someplace rather unusual. These are perks of being in a relationship and being partners with someone. You give a little. You get a little. It’s symbiotic.

Because there is yin and yang in relationship, however, there are also scenarios that develop that become an annoyance, a skipping record that you can’t seem move to the next groove. These are the things about your partner that drive you batty. Steve, god bless him, has to deal with the fallout (sometimes literally) of my habit of not screwing the caps back onto things well, if at all. Like the time he pulled a Costco-sized bottle containing 500 Advil out of the cupboard only to have it slip from his hands, littering the floor with hundreds of tiny brown tablets that would have been safe and secure had someone replaced the cap correctly. Oops. That’s on me.

One thing that makes me mental is when my husband requires help putting his thoughts on paper. It might seem like a no-brainer that I would be a perfect person to help him with this being that I am a writer and all. And it’s true. But it drives me nuts. Here is why.

Yesterday we received some bad news about a friend’s parent being gravely ill. We wanted to send a card. So, I grabbed one from my stash, got his approval on its outer message, addressed the envelope, and asked him how he would like to proceed.

“The card is blank inside,” I called from my office. “I can fill it in for both of us and you can sign it or we each can write our own message. What do you want to do?” 

“I would like to write my own note,” he decided.

Now I will tell you that I knew after almost twenty-five years of marriage to this man we were headed into familiarly exasperating territory, much like Charlie Brown experiences with Lucy and the football. Not wanting to land with a thud again like Charlie Brown, however, I tried to convince him I could handle it.

“Are you sure?” I called back. “It’s really no problem for me to write a note for both of us. Save you some time.” 

“No. I’d like to say something myself,” came his reply.

Maybe this time would be different, I thought. Maybe this time he really wouldn’t need my help. I wrote out my portion of the card and left it on the table for him, letting him know he could add his thoughts at any time.

This morning he sat down to do just that while I addressed Christmas cards across the table from him. He picked up the pen, leaned over the card, read what I had written, and then had the audacity to say this.

“You wrote what I was going to say.”

“And THIS is why I said I would write it out for the both of us. I’m sure you can figure out something to add,” I said, hoping to encourage him to find his words. He’s a smart man who is well-educated. Certainly he could do this.

Nope. He stared at the card for a minute, then looked blankly at me.

“I need some suggestions,” he said.

And this was the point at which I decided he was incredibly lucky that the kitchen knives were not within arm’s reach. I wanted to stab him. Not hard enough to kill him or anything because then I would miss him and, let’s be honest, my weekend lattes in bed.

To avoid the assault charge, I rattled off a couple suggestions with what little patience I had left, the phrases escaping my mouth in a sigh like a punctured balloon losing air. He took the advice, put the card in the envelope, and sealed it. And we moved on. Well,  other than the fact that I felt the need to write about it.

Someday, when my sons ask me how they will know when a partner is the right one for the long haul, I will ask them to consider one of the vexing situations that has repeated itself over the course of their relationship. Then I will ask him to think of something wonderful he gets from the relationship and to subtract the frustration of the first instance from the joy of the second. If the joy is greater, he’ll have found a suitable partner, someone who will enhance his life while only providing minimal headaches. Marriage comes down to both loving and being able to tolerate that special someone with all their quirks for the rest of your lives.

Don’t get me wrong. Some of the perpetually repeating scenarios in our marriage make us wonder if we will make it to thirty years of marriage without an assault charge. At the end of the day, though, you just have to ask yourself one question. Who will make your lattes or find your lost keys then?

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Proof that neither of us has fatally stabbed the other….yet