The Defender

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The Defender.

“I’ll bounce back.”

My son suffered an MCL sprain at soccer practice last Thursday. It’s a second degree sprain, and doesn’t need extensive surgery, just plenty of ice, elevation, and rest — three things he can ill afford after making his first JV team in the one sport he loves more than his own life.

Alas, considering the alternatives, he’s doing better with the bad news this week, easing into a new normal, and focusing a little more on academics, which took a minor hit with all the practices and games.

Other parents of other athletes who’ve injured out came to me with support and very good, very comforting advice: “It’s one season.” “He’s a freshman. Better now than at tryouts, or worse, playing Varsity his last year.” “At least it’s not his ACL, that’s worse.”

Today, we saw an orthopedic doctor to confirm what the walk-in clinic physician basically said. The good news is, he doesn’t have to wear that initial immobilizer, or even hobble around on crutches for long.

Going to the bathroom has been quite an adventure, for example. We had a good laugh on the drive back home over that. “Mom, it takes me 10 minutes to take a crap! I can’t go with this thing on my leg!”

His new knee brace is called — fittingly — The Defender. The Defender allows for more freedom of movement at the knee joint, locked a few degrees out and in. In two weeks, he can unlock the brace, and move around without any restriction.

Next Tuesday, he goes in for his first physical therapy session with Jeremy, who will, hopefully, show him another new normal: How to properly take care of his soccer body beforeduring, and after play, so James can try to better prevent another similar strain.

Depending on how well he progresses in his physical therapy, there and at home, my son can start training for soccer again this summer, when he’s not learning driver’s ed — in plenty of time to kick ass at Feb. tryouts and maybe make the Varsity starting team.

You never know.

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In one place

He shakes the ground where he stands. Rage between the lines, because he remembers a different view, a heavenly one from above, fast in flight, and only the fleeting touch. He forgets the beauty of stillness.

His salvation (for mankind) is movement, “miracles … happen as we trip.”

Will he give her a symphony when this is all over?

Music isn’t a Pop Game

Music isn’t a game. But pop is, was, and always will be, apparently.

I’m a diehard pop fan. I grew up on the Top 40 and I make no apologies for it. My father and my mother were pop fans too, in their own time. They gave me an acquired taste for bossa nova jazz, rock, and Broadway tunes. My younger brother turned me onto metal, and my former fiancé, alternative college radio (The Caulfields’ “Rickshaw!”).

Lately, I’ve been watching “The Pop Game” on Lifetime, knowing full well this isn’t real music and these aren’t real musicians. Well, except for Ian, the Texan guitarist, songwriter, and singer who has routinely given me chills by tuning the popular masses out and tuning into his own, almost angular vibe.

So, obviously, Cravetay is my least favorite.

Amateur pitchy wannabes like her are the reason mainstream music’s suffered from a disturbing lack of talent, creativity, depth. Like “world renowned” record producer Timbaland says more than once, We can fix the vocals, but you’re born with swag.

I think what pisses me off the most about this show and this pervasive attitude that anyone can be famous is the whole cult of personality disease infecting our free world.

Talent does and should matter. Other art forms require talent, why not music?

Like all art, the best is when the artist allows the muse to flow in then out, projecting his/her true voice without any adulteration, auto-tune, social media hype, or stylist. Art is truth.

No other art form can lay such truth bare better than music. No other art form requires the artist develop his/her voice to the best of his/her ability more.

I’ve heard too many real artists go unnoticed because the big box office studios prefer to go with superficials, the almighty physical appearance, almighty youth, that stupid excuse for bullshit called swag.

Swag is personality. Personality combined with ability equals truth in art.

Watching and disparaging what others do isn’t art. Ask any closet poet who writes from the bottom of a pit of hell of his own making.

Focusing solely on yourself as “the star” isn’t music. The music is what matters. Someone like Cravetay will never improve as long as she plays to that shallow bottom line, even if she will probably win the Pop Game. Because isn’t that what the world wants? Sugar on the fiber cereal, pass the Pop Tarts.

I’m also listening to a lot of fatalistic indie music lately, which drives home the point even more that life’s too short for games of any sort, pop or otherwise.

Not sure why. Maybe because my own time is at hand (I’m in my 50s, not getting any younger, and there’s this shooting pain near my pelvic bone) and the universe likes to fuck with me like that.

Those musicians have a shit-ton to say, and they say it thoughtfully with a whirlwind of artful instruments at their disposal, distilled down to the raw, gritty nub through their flawed, heartbroken, heartrending, imperfectly open humanity.

They’re not about putting on a glamorous show where one guy wins, and the other loses. They’re about collaborating so we can feel better about ourselves, so we don’t feel as alone, so we can feel something.

The only thing I feel when I watch “Pop Game” is rage, and the urge to throw my remote at the TV as hard as I can.

Sidelined

We attended the soccer match tonight. It felt good to support the team, even though my son injured out with a fractured knee and MCL sprain.

People showered him with love, from his teammates to his English teacher whose son played for Varsity. She gave him a muffin. Once, I looked up through the early evening shower to catch one of the JV defenders pat him on the back.

He would never admit this, but he was glad I made him go when — at the last minute — he tried to back out.

We plan to go to every game to support the JV and Varsity squads. They’re his teams too, even if he can no longer join them on the pitch, in the heat of battle. I hope one day he will understand how much it means for him to be there.

Most people go their entire lives going the easy route, staying home, nursing their private wounds, checking out because they can’t be a part of the action or, heaven forbid, the center of attention.

I never want my son to be one of those kind of people. They’re a dime a dozen.

Final scores: Kamiak JV lost 1-4 in a brutal match, but Varsity beat Mariner 2-1 in a very heated game with terrible refereeing. I’m banking on our Varsity team winning every game from now till the end of April for personal reasons.

Go, Knights!

Spring

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My parents never told me what it is to die a slow, painless death. But I came from a time where you didn’t talk about these things. You just ate the last cocktail olive, wiping away the crumbs with a paper towel, and waited until the children were in bed before taking the knives out.

Somehow, while I spent my entire lifetime chasing their mottled, three-car garage dreams, I forgot to look at myself. My shadow has wandered off between 30 and here. I am a ghost, waiting to remember my epitaph.

And, I never danced with you.

Touch and Go

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She sits by the computer window, waiting to hear a personal moment — usually tucked in the middle of his fire and brimstone sermon. Usually, she is there, dressed up as a life lesson, an example to be made of sacrilege.

Casualties of war, they once bonded over forbidden fruit, the cut of the smallest piece of cartilage, the impulse to flee, imagined hurts, daydreams of resurrection — real fire and brimstone, as they bore into flesh, tore apart the good bones of the brokenhearted victims of her anatomy.

With every passing service, he worshiped away the remains of his angry young man into the role of the pious, spouting scripted Scripture, carefully maintaining polite society, strangers gathered together on the first day of Bible study.

Every other year, she pores over transient pages of their shared past, drawn together by mutual hatred of the prodigal daughter who got away — the one he fantasized about the fucking from behind, the one who blamed her for everything.

In her intermittent dreams, she sits there still, three rows behind the exit, waiting for his return, wading through the grandchildren, the ex-pat rejects, hungry parishioners unlocking their jaws for one more crumb from the Bread of Life.

The hours between Sabbath and Monday are always the loneliest.

 

Loosely covered purveyor

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It is 30 minutes till the show, another dream. I am reviewing the artist’s live album, I think he is the late Tim or the established guest artist in town for another round.

You are there setting up. So is she, a rotating vocalist with children straddling her hips, begging for attention.

I can’t figure out the headline. These are covers, sure. Damned good covers, of songs nobody listens to anymore. They cross mainstream lines but originate from the classics. He plays… electric guitar… leading the musicians through everyone’s favorites. I scribble words, taking a stab in the darklit confines of this blue room.

Somewhere in between the downbeat and the first set, we find time to embrace.

“How are you? Are you in a better place?”

“By better, if you mean the same, yes.”

I should write.

The Northwest Jazz Collective reconvenes at the Anchor Pub in Everett, Wash. 7 p.m. tonight. For real.

About that mouse

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Pat me on the back.

I’ve really been good about calming my innumerable phobias during the one week when the shit truly hit the fan (Eeek! A mouse!).

What helped?

People who went beyond the “I’m praying for you” platitudes to share their own experiences, even if it was, “You’ll be fine. It’s not personal.” (Said at an actual Home Depot in Everett.)

As I drove my son home from his soccer practice, both of us barely simmering with anxiety — hey, he’s the one who stared down the mouse in our family room — I took this moment to go over another life lesson, mostly to calm my own ass down.

“I know I say this a thousand times, but it bears repeating,” I began. “We learn from bad experiences, so that when others go through something similar, we can help them. Don’t ever forget that. I know it sucks right now to have a mouse in our home, or back when you didn’t make Premier tryouts. But I never want you keeping it to yourself if you have a chance to reassure someone else who maybe thinks the world is ending. Too many people keep things to themselves, or act like they got their shit together. You don’t be that person. Don’t waste what you went through.”

Have I done any good in the world today? Have I helped anyone in need? Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad? If not, I have failed indeed. Has anyone’s burden been lighter today, because I was willing to share? Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way? When they needed my help was I there?” — Will L. Thompson (music and text)

If we’re too busy to help other people, we’ve missed the mark. Taking the time to spontaneously — as well as planned — helping other people is one of the greatest joys in life. Helping others opens you up to new sides of yourself. It helps you connect deeper with those you help and humanity in general. It clarifies what really matters in life.

—Benjamin P. Hardy, “50 Ways to Live On Your Own Terms,” Thrive Global 

As Thomas Monson has said, “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.” That would truly be a failure.

This mouse situation has scared us all. But the people who extended themselves by sharing their own stories…it literally only takes a minute, honest to god… they helped the most. They gave me the courage, the confidence to plow through my fears.

Imagine what a better world this would be if we all did this. Our experiences are similar, the good and the bad, they bond us, really.

The worst feeling in the world is feeling alone, or worse, abandoned.

My inclination is to always reach out. Unfortunately, too many of my so-called friends and family choose to take the observer role, as if they’ve never ever been through anything negative like that — until it happens to them. They seem to perch on their thrones, issuing simulations of compassion (appropriate words) but little else, making sure I know that such a terrible situation has never happened to them.

That’s not helping. That’s certainly not being a friend or using our time here wisely.

If I acted like that, I’d end up in the funny farm real quick.

So after the mouse incident, I went about my day quietly freaking out, trying not to make a big outward display of it as to scare strangers. Alone.

My husband left for work, his day job and his musician gig. He would be gone all this weekend, leaving me to deal with Mickey Mouse and god knows how many cousins were running around in our family room, and a teenaged son who wanted to stay in his own hotel room (“Can they go upstairs?”).

The fate of the world depends on me? We’re fucked!

Oddly, strangers were the ones who helped me out the most…random strangers at a Walgreens, where I loaded up on mouse prevention contraptions and athletic tape for my soccer-playing teen, and Home Depot, more mouse contraptions and home-spun advice.

After weeks of getting four hours of sleep on average, now this, running around trying to get a handle on what’s going down at my house, wondering if I’ll ever focus long enough to prevent more shit from hitting the fan navigating invisible rodent minefields … I finally cracked in Aisle 1.

A few tears spilled out as I thanked a Home Depot lady for bothering with me. She’d carefully explained the various options of no-kill traps. Now, she was patiently listening to me as I blathered on about potential airborne dangers.

“You’re gonna be fine. It’s just a mouse, who probably strayed into your house and is just as eager to escape. Don’t take this personally.”

Two friends did stand out when I texted about my dilemma. Even though one was very sick with a cold after a hard week of working long hours, the first thing she told me was that she had plenty of mice come in and out of her home. Her cats would bring them in, and they’d humanely take them out, no problem.

Another friend today immediately texted back that her family had a mouse they called Houdini who lived in their home for a month before they found him with his hands on the back of a toilet and his little feet against the wall. A month! Can you believe it?

Their shared stories did more to help me than all the “Oh, that sucks!” “I’m sorry you’re going through that. It must be awful” well-meaning bullshit.

Btw, what’s with everyone recommending I get a *cat?

  1.  I’m allergic to cats.
  2. Cats aren’t a guarantee against rodents wandering into the house. Haven’t you watched YouTube videos of cats farting around with mice already inside?

Here’s how it works, kids. You go through your own particular brand of shit. When someone else goes through something similar, you step up and let them know your story, including the part where you freaked out first.

You don’t leave them hanging. You don’t keep to yourself. You don’t talk around the problem. You don’t go around hand’s off. Any computer simulation can be programmed to do that.

*Fuck it. I’m getting a dog.

Diamond Girl

“Can’t you feel the whole world’s a-turnin’
We are real and we are a-burnin’
Diamond Girl now that I’ve found you
It’s around you that I am” —Seals and Crofts

“The Big Lebowski’s” on HBO, Seals and Crofts are playing their greatest hits, and I’m on the precipice of a decision: Writer or Slouchy Hat?

This dream, I knew it would be involved, intense and erotic, a whirligig of early Beatles impressions on a post ’60s high — with influences from the pulled pork Eggs Benedict I just ate rotting and shooting up my esophagus, as well as several weeks of major insomnia from the thundering approach of menopause.

I’m back in the music world, accepted as one of them even though I don’t play a note. These musicians, a startling array of them, seem to want something from me ticket money can’t buy. They play and I respond, or maybe vice versa.

One of them’s playing now, an aging rock star with a familiar lick from my childhood. I remember jumping down up front onto a pillow to get a closer look. He only cares about his show and the fact I nudged a bassist friend’s guitar face up, because he’s too famous.

As I debate whether to right the bass up, “Diamond Girl” pipes in from stereo speakers everywhere. Maybe the Seals and Crofts song has been playing all this time, waiting for me to pay attention.

The universal language of dreams is energy, we all exude some form of it. The closest manifestation of that energy, for me anyway, is music — music I can identify with, whether it’s a scorching solo out of nowhere that burns down forests, or a 1973 pop hit that used to play constantly on the radio when I was a child running around in Louisville, Ky.

I hear music constantly, dreaming or awake. Music or lyrics, makes no difference. It’s the vibe, the soul, the spirit behind the notes.

Sometimes the music is original. Other times, it’s this… A dedication of sorts from this man I know in real life who plays flugelhorn — someone who would be one of my best friends growing up in Kentucky chasing fireflies and exchanging comic books from our rising collection — waiting patiently through some amazing sets for me to look up and hear myself in the song he plays in his head over and over.

When I stop filling up the precious seconds with borrowed chatter, I finally do, as if hearing it for the first time. I hear it through his point of view, incredulous, almost disbelieving were it not for the Greek chorus in the many people who have crossed my life, many lifetimes.

Yet, this is the kind of lovely sentiment for other women, beautiful, charming, normal, accepted women, women up there on the marquee and the center of attention at cocktail parties — not me.

“You,” he said. “Only you.”

I looked at him, too, for the first time. Words could never describe what that meant. Therapy and truth. Support and freedom.

Everything at this point opens up and I’m blinded, as if I just stepped into the early morning light on the first day of spring.

There’s no attachment here, not to the past or the future, societal rules of etiquette or who’s fucking who, just pure mushin. Dreams, real dreams, aren’t about that boring life stuff anyway. Musicians know. Why do you think so many of them are misunderstood?

Energy, remember? I do and I did, and it was — for a blissful moment — wonderfully validating.

When I woke up, I immediately went to Google for the lyrics and then YouTube to listen to my song. It really does fit, in a spectacularly offbeat way.

And hey, the song’s not bad either.

Passwords and Mice

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From Nik Payne’s “Case Study—Starbucks Bathroom Codes

 

I didn’t get much done this week.

I had no idea a mouse was in the house as I blissfully crocheted stitch after stitch night after night for two, three weeks, oftentimes up till 6 a.m.

That is, until my son James loomed in the doorway Thursday morning before school to tell me “a rat’s running around in our living room,” right where I was crocheting.

The rat turned out to be a mouse, and we still don’t know how Michael Jackson got in here.

The Terminix guy came today to inspect the crawl space and assort other hot spots. He looked for telltale signs of a rodent infestation — mouse poop — but didn’t find any, which was odd. He didn’t find any activity under the house, either. The crawl space was definitely compromised, though. So somehow this mouse or mice found a way inside, worked through to the plumbing under the sink, and Bob’s your uncle.

My husband discovered about 10 rice-sized droppings under the kitchen sink three days ago, but didn’t tell me, which was dumb of him.

Terminix thinks it’s a stray mouse, again, very rare. We’re having a specialty team from Terminix come in this next week to double-check all possible entry points, to see if there are any new holes into and out of the house, then to fill them up.

If you know me, you know I’m quietly losing my shit. Oh, lots of people say they’re losing their shit. But I really take losing my shit to the next level. I am the President of the OC-D Anxiety Club.

Every fear, every phobia, every minor worry is triggered right now.

When my son went downstairs Thursday morning to get ready for the bus, he came face to face with Michael Jackson right near my crochet projects, the yarn, the hooks, my quarter-filled cup of coffee, everything.

MJ tried to bolt but saw my son in the way, turned tail and headed back under the ottoman and the very lounger I sat on night after night crocheting “Chain one, single crochet…,” probably over all that beautiful yarn and all those beautiful Starburst Granny Squares.

{{Sound of a middle-aged woman screaming into the night}}

Having no idea how long the mouse was living under the same roof, I (il)logically concluded that I inhaled its many viruses through the 1, 2, 7 afghan throws and scarves, plus one new hat I’d been obsessively chain one single- and double-crocheting the entire month of Feb.

Fuck!

Not only did MJ possibly give me Hantavirus, but he effectively shut down my crocheting operation and the one hobby that gave me a mental escape from my daily stresses.

We also got a new, big screen TV screen, with Fios, Netflix, and YouTube, which I’d been enjoying with my cup of coffee or tea and crocheting. Well, that’s over.

I suppose I should get off my ass and do something more constructive. Like continue reviewing music on Medium, adding to my novel in progress, be with real people outside this house, bake another bundt cake for a friend, go running…

Earlier in the week, I experienced a really bad IBS-D attack right in the middle of getting Panda Express take-out for my son. I knew it was building as I drove from Trader Joe’s, my third grocery stop, but pressed on. I try to avoid stacking errands, because I tend to have accidents at the most random times and finding a public restroom nowadays is tantamount to a top secret special forces mission (thanks, homeless druggies!).

After I picked up the takeout in the drive-through, I thought, “Maybe I should be smart, park right here, and stop in the Panda Express restroom.” As I turned off the ignition, I felt my bowels unlock. The act of physically moving out of the car turned on the faucet completely, releasing the floodgates.

I reached the door, praying for the flood to ease up so I could at least clear the residue and empty the rest in peace when I saw a line of people order to my left, then walked for what seemed an eternity to find the restroom door locked with a numbered combination and that familiar sign, “See us for code.”

Fuck!

The rest of my untamed shit came flooding into my Depends, forcing me to go back into the car and make the longest drive of my life home.

Of course I wound up behind someone sitting at a green light — with five minutes more to go, refusing to go. I felt like getting out of the car and smearing some of my shit on the guy’s window.

Once I got home, it took me an hour to clean myself and the downstairs bathroom.

I didn’t just shit liquid. No, too easy. My shit contained twigs, pellets, bark, nut shavings, god knows what else, chunks that flew out every which way as I wiped the upside of my backside, the toilet seat, the floor…

In the middle of all this, I’ve been having a helluva time simply loading the Starbucks app so I could pay for my other habit by shaking my cell phone. How can one person memorize so many passwords? Another app, ala a new dedicated password memorization program to load.

Fuck!

To top it off, for some mad reason, Christina Aguilera’s “Come On Over (extended version)” kept playing in my head the second my son reported the presence of Michael Jackson.

I think I’ll play that while I Google some more about mice, mouse traps, the Hantavirus, and forgetting passwords.