29 and hanging on by my fingernails

Oh, you wish!

I have a reverse calendar at work, ticking off the days to when I'm turning the unbelievable age of SIXTY. Why is this unbelievable??? I look in the mirror and I see maybe 40. I don't feel this new age. So, anyway, yesterday it was 30 days to 60. Today it's 29 days. Twenty-nine. I remember that age – vividly. 29 was hard to leave – I went kind of kicking and screaming. The 20's are such exuberant years. You are finally out from under your overbearing parents. You are on your own. Got that apartment. Then married with children. The house.

The 30's came and GAACK, you were really an adult now. All that responsibility. All the decisions with nobody to back you. Everything was a drama. Bills to pay, parent teacher conferences, doctor visits for the kids, hospital treks for the kids, Disney once for the kids, if you were lucky and could afford it.

When I was 39, I worked for a selfish, egotistical, full-of-himself jerk who sauntered in one day and tossed a Reader's Digest at me and said "Here. Type this up for me. It's my motto. It's why I'm who I am. It's why I have made it today."

I glanced at the article: "Success by the Age of 40: Ten Steps."

I started typing and thinking – hoo boy – by 40. I'll be 40 in ten months. I remember it almost exactly to the date – it was the end of June. Success by the age of 40 – I'll never make it. I got more and more depressed and for the next ten months, I spent the whole time being almost 40. I stopped being 39. I kissed the 30s smack down goodbye. I was almost 40.

The 40s are kind of a blur. Kids are growing up and you're worrying about college or they're going off into the service and you're worrying about war spots around the world. The mortgage has been refinanced, credit card companies know you by name and send you deals every day, every single damn day, and at no interest for six months, hallelujah.

And suddenly you are 50. Half a century. And you realize that, gee, I don't think I'm even middle aged. I think I passed middle age five years ago, maybe longer. Holy cow – I'm over the hill and THAT means it's down hill from here, at an ever increasing faster, and faster, and faster rate.

Now I'm turning 60, feel like 30, look like 40 (ok, maybe 45). And I'm thinking – you know – this ain't bad if this is what 60 feels like. I'm still roaring like a lion, getting myself into trouble by pressing buttons I'm told not to, and I'm still creating new friendships, starting new projects as if I'm going to live forever.

I have thought that it might be a good idea to stop reading the obituaries. I find myself looking at the ages in the obituaries and thinking, boy is he old looking or something similarly derisive. And then I'll look in the mirror and think – eek – I'm his age. It gives you pause at any rate.

So – in 29 days from this moment, I will turn 60. Wow.


Help! Help! I'm Falling!

Well, not really – it really isn't that far. Maybe two feet. I won't die but I'll probably get black and blue when I tumble helplessly off the chair while changing a light bulb.

Yep – I have acrophobia which is an unreasonable fear of heights. I know it's unreasonable. I know it's only two feet. Babies are almost two feet long when they're born. So, it really isn't that high. Below my knees, I think. But still – standing on a chair is like standing on a tight wire hung from the Empire State Building . . . connected to. . . where?? And with no net.

My fear of heights is embarrassingly unreasonable. I have a ceiling fan with four decorative lights that has cobwebs and bugs and things and burnt out lights, all four of them. I can't even reach it if I stand on a chair. I have to stand on the kitchen table, which means I have to drag it under the ceiling fan about five feet away; then I have to climb on the table from the chair. Then I stand veeeeerrrrryyyy slowly and try to balance myself on the table. I have to do this when I am alone because my sons just laugh and holler (and the noise adds to the non-equilibrium). Then I have to take a long handled dust mop and swipe at the blades, which start to turn, which makes me dizzy, and even more unbalanced. {shudder} O my.

So I have a ceiling fan that hasn't been touched by mop, dust rag, or anything else from my hand in about five years. Please don't look up when you come to dinner.

I discover new things that add to my fear of heights – besides changing light bulbs and cleaning ceiling fans. Fire escape stairs. I cannot go down fire escape stairs. I can go up just fine.

I went to see a friend in an apartment building that had fire escape stairs that went to the second floor. I didn't give it a second thought as I skipped up the stairs to her apartment. Once there I realized that 301 was not on the second floor, it was on the third floor. So I turned to go up the next flight when I froze. I could SEE through the stairs to the ground far, FAR below me. I couldn't move. A couple came out of an apartment and I just stood there.

* Can we help you?
* O no, I'm fine, just waiting for a friend (and I don't want you to know I can't move my legs to go down the stairs)

Off they go and I wait for them to leave the parking lot and I inch towards the precipice of the top stair (having decided I am NOT going up to the third floor, no way, no how). I can't move. I try and try – foot out over the sheer drop to outer space – foot back – try again – foot back. Finally I sat down and scooched my butt down each step. Shredded my nylons. And felt like a total idiot.

To add insult to injury, there was some guy sitting in his car at the bottom of the stairs who had been watching me the whole time. I just noticed him as I lept from the bottom step to the safety of my car. Stared at me the whole time!!!

I visited another friend who lived on the second floor and her stairs were solid – no see through stuff – so again, I thought nothing of going UP the stairs. Coming down was just as bad as the fire escape stairs. So here is my friend, nine months pregnant looking like she's going to pop any second helping me down the stairs.

Hmmm, wonder if that is why I don't get Christmas cards from her anymore.

So, I've figured out that I can go up stairs perfectly normal, whether they are see-through or not. I just can't go down.

Want to know why I'm divorced? I mean really divorced? Because my soon to be husband (now ex) thought it was hilarious that the ferris wheel at the fairgrounds was STUCK with us at the very top and I'm sobbing and wailing. He took his camera out and snapped a picture of me. That's why I'm divorced.



The Critters' Corner

I am a pet orphan as I write this. I really don't know how that has happened, since I have had a cat or dog or both since I was a small child.

I have had cats that live to be ancient wise cats that seem to calmly sit, on a pillow-like throne, ruling the world with just their thoughts. I have had dogs that lived long lives, too, but they always seemed to not age well – they were never wise, as the cats became. They were just less yippy and jumpy.

At one time I had two wise old cats: Smokey who was about 14, very old acting, very wise acting, and very sedate. He would sit and rule the world with his mesmerizing mind thoughts. Squeak, the other cat, was 12, also very wise and intelligent, cleverly out-ruling Smokey with silent shrewd looks at her subjects – me being her main subject.

Along with Smokey and Squeaky was our Pit Bull, Rebel – who the cats knew as Dumb Dopey Dog. Dumb Dopey Dog thought he was a cat and a very unskilled cat. He'd try to purr and nothing would happen. He'd curl up in your lap like he was Squeak – but he still couldn't purr. He was sad about this – he'd roll his eyes up at you with a despondent, sorrowful stare and sigh a heavy sigh and lay his head back down, forever chagrined that he couldn't purr.

As smart as my wise cats were, they never discovered the art of mousing. I'd have to set traps in the cupboards and then carry out dead little bodies to the garbage can in the alley. But one spring day, Squeak discovered her latent ability to catch a mouse. We had a mouse that was daringly walking back and forth in the kitchen, from kitty dish to dog dish, helping herself to a cat morsel and then trying out the dog biscuits, ten times her size, and then washing it down with either dog or cat water. (I had to have separate water dishes on opposite sides of the kitchen and steadfastly point at the dog water dish until Dumb Dopey Dog figured it out that he was NOT going to get to lap up the cats' water while I was standing guard.)

And the mouse-cat-dog parade went on for days, all creatures just missing each other's presence by a hair. Until one day. Squeak discovered this little creature trying out her food dish. That was the moment her instincts took over and she discovered mousing. To Squeak, mousing involved toying with the mouse – not eating it. Blech.

She was like a cartoon cat with a cartoon mouse. She'd grab the mouse's little tail and hold it down. The mouse would run in place until Squeak let it go and then the chase would begin and she'd hunt down the mouse and hold its tail and patiently watch the running in place until she let the mouse go.

This was all good and dandy except for Dumb Dopey Dog. DDD went nutso. He'd jump on chairs and tables and couches and the piano and another chair and another table. Hopping to and fro in a frantic effort to get away from the ferocious, terrifying, horrifying, vicious, dog-eating, cruel, unstoppable mouse. It was David and Goliath! It was chaos! It was pandemonium! If that mouse could get away from Squeak's grasp, Dumb Dopey Dog was as good as Dead Dog!

I came home right in the middle of this fracas. Where's Smoke??? He's hiding under the table, hunched up, hair on end, watching the free-falling Dopey Dog and the stalwart, death-grip Squeak with total paralyzing awe.

I saw immediately that I needed to stop someone from freaking out – and the quandary was, do I put Squeak out and will she take the mouse with her? Or do I put Rebel out and can I chain him to the fence fast enough. I opened the door to get ready and Squeak immediately snatched up her little friend and out the door they went, with Dumb Dog right behind them and now he was leaping over bushes and fences and coming back to look – like looking at an accident – and then he'd jump the fence again and peer through the cracks. In the meantime, Squeak had discovered the freedom of the outdoors and she would take the little mouse tail by her teeth and fling the mouse as high and as far as she could and then chase the mouse and bat him another ten feet and continue throughout the yard. You have to realize that she is my sweet little tortoiseshell kitty that weighs only three pounds ringing wet and is the cuddliest purringest cat you have ever seen in your life. And she has become this brutal, teasing, raging bully!

The mouse finally died of exhaustion and at that point, Squeak went back inside and acted like NOTHING had happened. I rescued the Dumb Dog from the neighbor's back porch and brought him inside, where he made wide berths around Squeak and avoided her for days.

For several weeks after this incident, I put Squeak outside a lot. I couldn’t stand another mouse episode. It wasn't the mouse, exactly, it was the pandemonium that ensued. After that, I would open the front door and find remnants of mice. All headless. Which is another story, I guess. Why????



Jury Duty – Week 2

Well, I was all geared up to be a service to my community and fulfill my obligations and responsibilities as a juror. But that was not to be. The norm of jury duty is that if you are not called to serve on a jury the first week, you won't be called at all the second week. So, I anxiously called in every night after work to see if I was needed the next day, and it was all for naught.

I was disappointed and even depressed about it. (We were warned to not take it personally, but my heart is on my sleeve, and I was just sure it had to do with my legal secretary experience, and the fact I have many police officers who are personal friends.)

During my second week of jury duty, there was a case going on across the hallway from my case. It was the Jay Olsen trial to find if Officer Olsen was guilty of first-degree assault and reckless endangerment for shooting Shonto Pete in the head and firing four other bullets in Peaceful Valley on Feb. 26, 2007.

Amazingly enough, Olsen was found not guilty. This was a unanimous decision of the jury. Now, I sat back and wondered about how this verdict came about. I find it confusing that a police officer was cleared of reckless endangerment – where it was proven that he fired shots in a residential neighborhood while being intoxicated beyond the state legal limit. That alone, I believe, is reckless endangerment.

However, what we DON'T know are two things: 1) What was the law that the judge gave to the jury? 2) Were some jury members swayed by the fact that it was close to 5:00 on a Friday when they made their decision?

1) What was the law that the judge gave to the jury? In my case, the judge said that once the jury was seated, she would give them "her" law that the jury was supposed to base their judgment on. She said it was not what they perceived as the law, but that it was HER law, and they would go by that. So in the Olsen case – what was the law that the judge gave to the jury? We don't know.

2) Were some jury members swayed by the fact that it was close to 5:00 on a Friday when they made their decision? This was a question asked by the judge in MY case. She asked us to take this seriously and consider if we would give in and go along with the group if the jury was in deliberation on a Friday afternoon. Would they cave and give in even though they felt just the opposite of the rest of the jury members?

I wondered about that because I experienced something similar a couple years ago. I was in mediation over my mother's estate and what I considered was owed to the estate by a sibling. We were in separate rooms and were negotiating what was due to the estate. It took hours and hours. We started at 9:00 in the morning and by 8:00 in the evening, I was exhausted and totally warn out. I caved at $35,000 instead of holding out for the $150,000 that I had receipts for.

So, I wonder now if the jury had a couple that caved.

Jury duty is a critical and necessary responsibility. It involves clear thinking, being very objective, discerning fact from fiction, discerning the credibility of each witness, and holding to your convictions once you have made your decision.


The Cabin Fever Kit

Waiting for Spring

O, yeah, I'm definitely waiting for spring. Spring cannot come soon enough for me. I think I am permanently and terminally cold. I'm cold down to my marrow. I don't have enough layers of clothing. I think the cold somehow found its way inside to my core.

I think I have Cabin Fever. The time change was a glimmer of hope that spring was in the air. And then abruptly, overnight, temps went right straight down to zero! ZERO. I had to pull out my down comforter that I had stored away only two weeks earlier. I had to drag out my down coat that I moved to the back of the closet because I thought my fleece jacket would be sufficient, where it is only good to about 40 degrees.

Anyway, Cabin Fever. It brought up a memory from way back when I was first married and my husband and I were stationed in Val d'Or, Quebec, way far north in the "bush" country, where upon leaving your house, you looked both ways for either rampaging moose or runaway snowmobiles. My mother sent us a package that contained two kits, one for me to make a beaded purse and one for my husband to make a string art ship. It had to go through customs and when it got there, well, it started an international crisis in a minor way. Mom had labeled the return address as "Ye Olde Rice Cabin Fever Kit" (Rice is my maiden name).

Mr. Customs Guy (who speaks with a very heavy French accent): Yes, we have a package here from Ye Olde Rice Cabin Fever Kit, but I can't find it listed on our company list.

Me: uh, it's from my Mom.

Mr. Customs Guy: Is this a company in Spokane, Washington?

Me: uh, it's from my Mom.

Mr. Customs Guy: Has Ye Olde Rice Cabin Fever Kit been registered with the Canadian Customs Corporation Department?

Me: It's from my mother.

Mr. Customs Guy: (sighs) Ok, I will register Ye Olde Rice Cabin Fever Kit as a foreign corporation.

This is the short version. It went round and round for about fifteen minutes with Mr. Customs Guy growing increasingly short with me and me growing increasingly frustrated with him and my mother.

We finally got our cabin fever package and enjoyed several days of assembling our different projects.

And even today there is a listing on the register in Quebec for Ye Olde Rice Cabin Fever Kit Company.




So I voted today using my mail in ballot. It said don't sign the ballot because if you do, it won't be counted because you have identified yourself. Then you stick it in a yellow security envelope with the admonition to not identify yourself on the security envelope. I placed my yellow security envelope inside the white Official Ballot envelope. Licked it shut and then noticed a little flap that can be pulled open with this printed on it: "Do not remove this piece. It is here to protect your privacy." That is on the left. On the right is my preprinted full name and address.



The Mechanic and His Cars

My Significant Other is a mechanic. He is an excellent mechanic and can fix any problem in any car and especially loves the older, pre-computer cars. He's detailed, intricate, dedicated, and painstakingly thorough. If you have a problem with your car, take it to MechanicMan and it is a done deal.

Now, if the car belongs to MechanicMan there is a whole other set of rules that are followed. Mechanics do not fix their cars the same way they fix yours. They do whatever is the least possible method of patching the car. MechanicMan's cars were always very old (he calls them classic), rusty (character), and noisy (proof they are Mopar). Once my sons compared his car to John Candy's "Uncle Buck" car and it caused me to look out the window and see the twin sitting in my driveway, right down to the smoking, popping, and growling engine that just would not shut off.

It turns out that this same rule applies to family members of MechanicMan including his girlfriend, who happened to be me. I had a 13-year-old Datsun B210 that I faithfully took in to be serviced every six months. MechanicMan would take none of that and he started "servicing" my car. I'm not saying anything negative about MechanicMan – he is my partner of 22 years so there are many endearing qualities – however, his idea of tuning up my car was to take the one iffy sparkplug out, sand it a bit, and put it back. Good as new!

This went on for several years and eventually the poor car was just getting old and things were kind of falling apart, but MechanicMan would keep it going by sanding here, oiling there, and every now and then replacing the starter. In fact he replaced the starter about once a year until he finally went and bought a top-of-the-line expensive starter that lasted for several years.

In the last year of owning the Datsun, though, things started to happen. There was something wrong in the ignition system and MM could never trace exactly where the source was. I would coast to a stop at a light and the car would die. I would slow down to exit the freeway and the car would die (usually followed very closely by a semi right on my ass). The kids and I would chant as we approached lights with "stay green stay green stay green stay green" until we safely made it through. Those times we stalled, the boys would get out while I put the car in second gear, and they would push me until the car started and they'd run and jump in and away we'd go.

Eventually, MM gave me a screwdriver and opened the hood and showed me where the starter was and said to touch that with the screwdriver and sparks would fly and the starter would kick the engine over. So, I had my trusty little screwdriver with me all the time. And then one day when I was opening the hood, the hood release inside the car broke off in my hand. MM gave me a pair of pliers to pull the hood release to open the hood so I could run around and spark the starter. Eventually even my emergency break quit working. So, now the car would die, I'd use the pliers to open the hood, jump out and use my screwdriver and wincingly tap the starter, which would spark, and start the car, and I'd jump back in. I looked like a one-woman keystone cop show.

One evening I was leaving work with everyone else and just about to reach the main road while on an incline when my car dies. DIES. I'm sitting there quietly going insane because my emergency breaks don't work, I'm on an incline, I can't get out of the car, I'm absolutely wigging, when the driver behind me (who had heard my tales of woe for endless days) tapped on my window. "Hand me the screwdriver." He started my car, handed me back my trusty screwdriver, and off I went.

I went straight to Dishman Dodge where I knew the manager and told him I could afford $150 a month for a used car – that works. He said for that amount I could afford a brand new car. So I bought a brand new car and added an additional ten-year warranty to it and told MM he could keep his screwdriver and his pliers and he could not touch my car. Ever.



Spring Has Sprung a Leak!

Woohoo! It’s Daylight Savings Time. And about time, too. I think they should do away with Standard Time. Why change the time so it’s dark earlier? It just makes me grumpy. And tired. When it’s dark, I keep glancing at my bed like it’s calling my name. When it’s dark, I lose my metabolism.

When it’s light out, I’m energetic and running around finding things to do. Go outside and putter in the garden. Sit in a lounge chair outside and read. Go for walks and look at all the life around me. Daylight Savings means Spring is coming! It is just around the corner!

When it’s dark, nothing appeals to me except snuggling on the couch, reading a book, taking naps, and generally wishing for just one sign of spring.

Now the time has changed and it’s instantaneous and miraculous. I’m ignoring the snow piles still remaining after our record breaking winter. However, I have two container planters where the chives in one look smashed beyond repair. Will life come back in my chives? All the perennials are flattened by the weight of the snow and the weeks and weeks under that snow. I only recently, in the last week, saw sign of my container planters. Birds and squirrels are scampering across the yard, zigzagging snow berms. Quail have come out of their hiding places and are scurrying through the field across the road.

I am claiming Spring is here! Never mind that it snowed last night. Never mind the bitter wind that whipped me yesterday. Never mind that it is Snowing. Right. Now! I mean, look out the window - there is literally a blizzard going on - I can't see The Davenport next door. No, I'm not going to look. It is NOT snowing on my Spring watch. I am damned tired of winter and I'm not taking it any more. I do not care if it snows ten feet. Spring is here! Dag nabbit.



Jury Duty: Week 1

Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Thomas Paine, 1789: "I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution."

Thus begins my first jury duty experience. I'm in the middle of a two-week stretch. I tell you, I find it the most fascinating thing I have done in a while. We first gathered together in one large room, called the "Jury Lounge" not to be confused with the "Jury Room" which is the room off from the court room that the jurors meet in. There were approximately 200 of us in the Jury Lounge the first morning. It was buzzing with quiet chatter as we waited to begin. We were shown an orientation film that clued us in on what would be happening and it started with the quote above from Thomas Jefferson.

A judicial assistant (JA) came in and said she was going to call 30 people. As she calls them up, they are assigned a juror number and line up according to the numbers. And off they go. Than a JA came in and called out 10 names and they were assigned numbers and off they went. 30 more were called and the room was still fairly full. Finally a JA came in and said she was going to call 90 people. That was astounding to me. 90 people is a lot of people to narrow down to a 12-person jury. I was #52. I have since learned that the lower the number, the higher the chance you have of being picked for that jury.

It was an amazing process that took nearly three whole days. Finally a jury was picked from the first 24 or so people and the rest of us were released to go back to the Jury Lounge and get new assignments. We were also given today off.

I really wanted to be on this jury. I think that I am very good at impartial thinking and that I could be fair and objective. But one question gave me pause: If you have heard of this case, have you formed an opinion? Well, I had heard of the case – I won't talk of it now until it is over. And I said no, no opinion. Later in bed, I thought about it some more and thought, gee, who wouldn't have formed some kind of opinion? And unfortunately, our opinions are based on the media output. Another question was asked: How can you tell the credibility of a person's statement? And there is no good answer. I knew this had to do with testimony. How can you tell if a witness is credible in what he is saying? All you have are his or her words. And I am thinking that it is very subjective. Would it be his tone of voice? His posture? His body language?

We were constantly cautioned to not read the paper, not watch the news, and not go on the internet. This was so we would be pristine in our thoughts and so we would not have a pre-conceived mindset of what this case involved. The judge asked each of us to define our interpretation of what we heard as "news" on the case. And it brought to mind a question: How often has the news media inadvertently interfered with justice and a fair and impartial jury? We are no longer getting the facts. We are getting conjecture and assumption.

The juror has a monumental responsibility of first wiping his mind clean of anything he has learned through the media prior to the case. I wonder how much that is like being told NOT to think of a pink elephant in chartreuse tennis shoes.

Anyway – a fascinating experience. I am enjoying every minute of it.

Could you be impartial and objective and just gather the facts and evidence presented to you in court and to clear from your mind any tidbits of gossip or tales heard outside the court?



When is Ignorance Not Bliss?

Recently things have happened to remind me that I am still na├»ve and gullible. How gullible?? Oh, you just wouldn't believe it. People who know me, know to never be sarcastic with me because I take them literally. I think everyone is honest and straightforward and no matter how often they fabricate something and I believe them wholeheartedly, I keep on thinking good thoughts about them – that they are still honest and straightforward. I had a boyfriend once, after I had divorced my husband, who took this "ailment" I have as far as he thought he could.

I had been going out with "Jim" for only a month or so when I made a picnic dinner which included potato salad; my famous potato salad that everyone I know asks me to bring to pot lucks. After dinner, he called me the next day to say he thought he had food poisoning.

"What kind of potatoes did you use?" he asked.

"Well, regular Idaho potatoes," I said.

"Were they male or female potatoes?" he queried.

Uh, I don't know a male potato from a female potato. I mean, do female potatoes have dents and male potatoes have bumps?

"I'm so sorry," I apologized, "Maybe male potatoes. . . ??"

And then we went back and forth that my boys didn't get sick and neither did I, and him saying that it only affects adult males.

"That's it! " he exclaimed, "I'm allergic to male potatoes."


Then there was the time that I was cleaning his house and he called me to remind me to feed the fish.

"What fish?"

"The ones in my water bed."

"You have fish in your water bed???"

"Yeah. They eat the algae and keep the water clean so I don't have to change it."