When introducing the uber-cool poet for the job you feel unqualified to have, don't take a drink just before beginning. You'll feel the need to belch the whole time you are speaking.

More importantly, don't dwell on the text message you glimpsed, just enough to see that your father and his wife, who you had planned to see in two weeks, have tested positive. No need to wonder what for. Don't dwell on what the rest of the message that you didn't see says, or you'll feel the press of tears and the tightening of your throat while trying to maintain the professional demeanor you were faking anyway.

You won't know until after you've read the uber-cool poets bio that the rest of the text says they're already feeling better, but now, you want to call them instead of listening to the uber-cool poet.

I've heard it said that dogs, after a time, start to look and act like their owners. I don't know if it's true, for Max is a strikingly handsome fellow. On the other hand, we share a love of long walks and our creaky joints are matching up pretty well.

He hates bulldogs. He starts acting like a rabid squirrel when he senses the two neighbor Frenchies before I even see them. Toby, the English bulldog, just wants to play and be loved, but Max will have none of it. His best friends are corgis and Jack Russells, but the bullies, large and small, just piss him off.

To my recollection, he's never met an American Bulldog. Except, of course, the one within himself, revealed only through his DNA test.

Does Max hate that mysterious part of himself? Has it always been so, or has Max really come to look and act like his owner?

Write about a time you lost something or somebody. From My Shouting, Shattered, Whispering Voice: a Guide to Writing Poetry & Speaking Your Truth by Patrice Vecchione

That One Time I Was Cool

On the junior high bus the cool kids have a tape recorder, Hot Child in the City drifts down the aisle, a welcome distraction from the tobacco spit rolling back to front.

Wanting a distraction of my own, I ask Dad for a tape recorder. And he gets me one. It's not a boom box, the kind guys carry on their shoulders, but one a businessman would record an important meeting with. It fits in my backpack.

It doesn't occur to me that it might not have been new. I sprawl patiently on the living room floor in front of the stereo speaker, pressing record three seconds after my favorite songs start.

On the junior high bus, I'm cool with my distraction from the black eye-lined, scary-mean girls in the back seat. Companions to the spit- source that runs under the seats where you never put your backpack, always holding it in your lap no matter how hot and dry the air. My stomach doesn't even flip when they look at me, for the first time, me with my new tape recorder.

After first hour, at my locker, I can't believe what I don't see. It's gone. Incomprehensibly gone. I check back between every class, but it does not reappear.

On the junior high bus, I am not cool.

Until now, I've never told anyone what was taken from me, and I've never stopped opening my locker with a faint hope. A hope always deflated. I'll never forget that one time I was cool.

I open the garage door, and as I pull forward see that Patrick’s van is gone. It’s the first thing I always see when I come home, and when his side is empty it expands my heart, lifts my mood the teensiest degree. Today is no exception, for I’ve left work early. The instant I realize he’s gone I make plans.

I can take Max, my second-class dog for a walk. Just the two of us. Don’t get me wrong. I love Pal. But he’s desperately needy and consumes attention like a leech. Leaving almost nothing for the only thing I have left to care about, Max. So I’m looking forward to spending some alone time with my favorite.

But first, I need a moment of privacy. I'm in my basement lair and, as I sit, vulnerable, shorts at my ankles, I hear the wheels of Patrick's chair on the floor above and lament the loss of freedom. The window of opportunity has closed and we won’t be taking a special walk today.

I almost convince myself I've imagined it, when I hear Patrick yell my name. I don’t respond. I’ll be upstairs in a matter of minutes, I reason. But another three seconds pass and I’m getting a text. My phone isn’t accessible; I’ve left it on the side table. I didn’t think I’d need it for the few moments I had wanted for myself. And I really only need another moment before I’m right upstairs. But it doesn’t matter. Now the phone is ringing, insistently. Demanding an answer.

I hurriedly finish my business, alarmed at the urgency of Patricks repeated demands for my attention, and trudge upstairs, my dream walk thoroughly in ruins, worried that something seriously pressing awaits.

Will you help me feed Pal?

Dumpster Raccoon

This little guy seems to be in a spot of trouble. Max and I were walking past the country club and we veered towards the dumpster to leave a deposit. I peeked in to make sure it wasn't a recycling dumpster and he was just laying there on his back breathing hard. It was hot, and I assume he'd been there a little while.

We headed back to where a landscaper was working at the front entrance and he said he would go to the shed and get a board for the raccoon to climb out on.

Max and I continued on our way and the landscaper continued doing his job. Seriously! Who does their job when there's a little raccoon in distress?

No worries. I dragged a large branch from the vacant lot next door and propped it in the dumpster, hoping the little dude would take it from there. On my way to work, I rubber-necked and saw that the branch had been removed and there was a 2 X 6 in its place. That landscaper is redeemed (for now).

On the way home, I rubber-necked again and the board was gone. I choose to believe that racoon is safe and sound in his nest, only a little worse for the wear.

It's official. I am a guerilla gardener. Not a good one, mind you. But I am a guerilla gardener.

Last fall, when I had a yard, I popped the heads off the dead zinnias, dried out the seeds, and saved them in a brown paper lunch sack. When I moved to an apartment, I brought the seeds along, but had no where to plant the massive amount.

Every morning, Max and I walk between thirty and sixty minutes and we see a number of dirt and weed patches along the hike and bike trails. So I started filling my pocket and dropping seeds any place I saw naked ground.

All spring and into summer I've been looking. Hoping to see results. And I hadn't seen a single zinnia. Until last weekend. There are three rogue zinnias to the east of Antioch just as the trail turns south under 435.

If you're out biking or hiking and see one of these few intrepid survivors, that was me.

At 12:30 I noticed that I hadn't heard from The Club about my AC. This seems strange since it got up to 100 degrees yesterday with high humidity and it's looking like the same for today.

I placed a new work order at about 1:10 pm to tell them I've taken my dog to my son's house and they can enter at any time.


The mice are back I moved in to my apartment on February 1st, 2019 and immediately started transitioning my food in to air tight, glass containers that mice can't get into. In very early March I got a cat in hopes of keeping the mice off the kitchen counter. Kramer caught his first mouse on March 3rd. Good kitty.

After that, I started setting live traps and letting the mice go near the stream in the park across the street. On March 16th, the first day I started video documenting their release I caught three at one time.

I caught a mouse every day until March 24th when, in response to the next door neighbor, who didn't have mice until I got Kramer, complained to the office and I assume they put poison out. Or maybe the weather got nice and the mice quit coming back after their relocation.

Until two days ago. I hadn't been checking the trap; in fact, I don't recall there being food in it before shoving it to the very back of the cupboard. But Kramer was showing much interest as I was moving pots and pans around and I found a dead mouse in the trap. Ooooops. Not a live trap anymore. I reset it and based on Kramers midnight behaviour I'll be making a trip to the steam this morning.

I don't know why, but I persist in trying to effect positive change here. On Thursday, 8/2 I called and left a message with Robbi Parker, the Director of Facilities for BH Management, the company that owns The Club at Indian Creek. I thanked him for getting the leaky washer fixed when I had had no luck after six months of trying, I told him I was excited about the upcoming gutter and downspout repairs, and that I was still concerned about the non-existent recycling program. I pointed out that both the BH Management and The Club websites advertise on-site recycling, but that I continue to photograph my recycling in the trash dumpster after leaving it out, per instruction, for Valet Trash Service. I'm pretty sure I used the word fraudulent somewhere in that message.

The following day, after speaking with a friend, I called an apologized for that message explaining that I was (and still am) upset because I actually care about this issue. I assured him that I have no interest in suing anybody and if I came across that way, it is not what I intended. I then shared information about The Department of Health and Environment's Green Business Program and thanked him before ending the call.

The following morning Amber Pettijohn (515-410-9336) left me a message saying they are interested in hearing more about the program and to call or email her. I also received a message from Crystal in The Club office.

“Hi Helen! I wanted to let you know that I am working with and reviewing this with my upper management team. We love this idea and would like to arrange a time to meet with you and discuss. Would you have some time next Tuesday or Thursday to come meet with us or chat on the phone?”

On Thursday, 8/8 I responded by email to amber.pettijohn@bhmanagement.com and MGR.IndianCreek@bhmanagement.com saying that I would love to meet on Tuesday, but that I was unavailable on Thursday and that I was excited to work on this with them. I sent a 2nd email on Sunday with how I would response to the Green Business application question of “What are your green goals?” if I were the owner of The Club.

We want to make recycling easier than throwing trash away.

Our lower level apartments have spacious patios. We want to give residents tools to maintain their own patio spaces. Currently, there is no easy way for residents to dispose of weeds, grass clippings, and general garden cleanup.

We’re looking for an easy solution for residents to dispose of large furniture items when they leave instead of filling the trash dumpster and leaving items next to the dumpsters.

Our overall goal is to make it so easy for residents to take care of all waste appropriately, that they don’t have to think about it. The most logical choice will be the best choice for everyone. As an apartment complex, we can’t control our residents behaviour. But we can put systems in place that let residents participate in maintaining our grounds without them even realizing it. We would like to identify those systems.

On Monday, I hadn't heard from either, except that Crystal closed the work order. I called Amber at around 2:00 to touch base and again mentioned that Crystal had requested a Tuesday or Thursday meeting. She emailed back and said that Crystal would be my point person and that she would get back with me next week. So I wait.

I can't tell if I'm being harassed.Someday I'll tell you about the July 10th newsletter. For now . . . on 8/6/19 I was notified via a letter on my door that staff would be entering my apartment to label the breaker box. They came on Wednesday 8/7 and Brea took a fairly intimate tour of my entire apartment, entering my closet and checking out the patio area. She commented “that's cute” as she left my bedroom.

I did show Brea where I had just that morning discovered the large living room window was leaking and the gentleman from maintenance said he would open a work order and appeared to do so on his phone, although there was not ticket open on the website.

8/13/19 I woke up around 1:30 to discover the AC is out. It's currently 76 degrees and yesterday it was still 98 at 6:30 pm.

I realize I sound paranoid, but I'm wondering if this new problem with my AC isn't really a coincidence. At first, I was confident they were here on Wednesday gathering evidence to try and evict me. They got plenty, for a have a hospice foster dog that I had thought would have passed by now.

Now, I can't help but feel like they're trying to make it so unpleasant that I give up and break my lease. As I sit here sweating and listening the familiar sounds of mice chewing something, I admit, I'm thinking about it.


I've been continuing to harass my apartment complex about the non-existent recycling, but haven't done a good job of documenting because I really, really believe lawsuits should be the absolute last resort after every other possible solution has been investigated. I'm committed to seeking a positive solution, but I don't understand where the company is coming from and I haven't been able to stop focusing on what's been happening instead of what can happen.

I was explaining to my good, super-smart friend Polly what's been happening, why I care, and how scared I am of potential retaliations and eventual eviction from an apartment that I love.

There's an article in the Summer 2019 JoCo Magazine about businesses that have adopted green practices. “All of the 2019 awardees started by working with Johnson County staff through the free consultation program offered by DHE as part of their Green Business program. In addition to the free consultation, the department offers $500 in financial assistance for eligible projects . . . .” I was saying to Polly that I want to take a copy of the article to the office. “You do it” she said. “They're just doing their jobs and they've got bigger fish to fry. So you do it.”

Told ya! Polly is brilliant! I care about recycling and would so much rather spend my time working to install a robust program in my community than snapping pictures of dumpsters and harassing people.

I've sent the article to the apartment management and have asked that they let me work with DHE on starting and maintaining a recycling program.

Ball's in your court B&H. I hope you're willing to play.


We've heard “closed work order” before, but this one is exciting because the issue has finally been fixed. There have been nine closed work orders since February 1st regarding the leaky washing machine. Even after the leak was fixed it still took one more additional work order to get the job completely done. That's just how we roll at The Club.

Here it is: 7/12 Closed work order “Found a 4” floor clean out had it's cap laying off to the side and sewer gas coming out. Reinstalled cap and sealed it. That should help.”

Ya think? Snake and Rooter supposedly came on Friday 7/1, which means my neighbors and I had been subjected to this smell that vacillated between unpleasant and horrific for eleven days. And not a single one of my neighbors thought that reporting it to the office would result in the problem being fixed.

If you move to The Club you can expect to be your own property manager, only you won't have the power to take care of anything yourself.


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