Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Marriage 601, Lecture 873: What eyes do not see, heart does not condemn

SH: What are you doing?

Me: Getting some milk.

SH: But why?

Me: Because this brownie is so rich and a swig of milk will be a nice chaser.

SH: Oh.

He watches me set the carton on the counter, open the cupboard, removed a glass, and pour a small amount of milk into the glass.

SH: If I weren't here, you would probably think about not using a glass and just drinking from the carton.

Me: Ha. I wouldn't even think of it. I would just do it.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Goth Girl and Goth Boy, 15

GG and GB were on the bus yesterday. The first thing I noticed when I boarded was that GG had cut her hair! It was a little longer than shoulder length and now is is short - a little shorter than a Dorothy Hammill. It is cut up in the back but a little longer in the front. It is very cute. She had two little purple barettes securing it on her right side.

I took a photo and posted it here, which prompted a few early-rising friends to ask why I had changed my policy about posting photos of GG and GB when I had previously said I wouldn't. I defended myself by saying that you really couldn't see her face, but I decided that Holly and Dean were right and I took the photo down. It was too invasive.

It is not too invasive, however, to write about them.

So. GG had her short hair. She was sitting cross-legged in the aisle seat, as usual, chin in her hands. She was wearing a purple t-shirt to match the purple barettes. Two wood bead necklaces and one silver chain. A black miniskirt over black leggings. Fingerless purple lace gloves, undoubtedly an homage to Madonna, who is old enough to be this girl's grandmother. 

Wait. Is she? Madonna is what, 53? And this girl is 17 - not 15, as I had thought. Yes - if Madonna had had a baby at 18 and that child had a baby at 18, this girl could be Madonna's granddaughter.

I bet Madonna shudders at the idea of being a grandmother.

I am a step-step grandmother, which is an odd state, because I don't feel old enough to be a grandmother but I AM old enough to be a grandmother. My best cousin, Angie, is nine days older than I am and she has two little grandchildren.

I have three step-step grandchildren, so by the calculus used by the indigenous women I worked with in Chile, I win.

That was always the first question any of these women asked me: How many children did I have?

These women were illiterate and lived on subsistence farms, but they always won because they had children and I did not. They felt very sorry for me indeed. 

For the record, I have never cared about having children, but I am delighted to have step-step daughters and step-step grandchildren. It's all the good stuff with none of the hard part.

Where was I? Oh. Goth Boy got on the bus. Still unshaven. I wonder if he is growing a beard. It's a little late in the season for that. 

He sat. They talked about their weekends. I guess they don't see each other on the weekend, although they could: they are both on the bus line. They could just take the bus to each other's house. Why don't they?

I didn't hear much of what they said because they don't talk while the bus is stopped, only when it's moving and noisy.

There was no shoulder bumping. No tickling. No hand grabbing. But neither was there tension.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Marriage 601, Lecture 123: Holy man



Me: I know we are watching our expenses -

[SH is considering a job change that would require an enormous pay cut. I am not thrilled. Those women who complain that their husbands don't think about anything but making money? You just hush. It's not a bad thing to have a husband who wants to make a lot of money. I like having money. There. I said it. I like having money. I like not having to worry. I like knowing that it will be possible for me to pay my bills when I am 90.]

Me: And that we need  not to waste money.

SH: Yes.

Me: But I don't think we have reached the point where you have to keep wearing these socks.

SH: There is nothing wrong with these socks! They are perfectly wearable.

Me: There are huge holes in the cuffs!

SH: They're not visible. Once they get too bad, I'll buy new ones.

Me: You don't need new socks. You have an entire drawer full of socks you have never worn.

SH: But none this color.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The working life: Saving money and saving the planet by bicycling to work


How I am saving money by riding my bike to my new job:

1. Pair of biking gloves, $12
2. Workout pants that are snug to the ankle so I don't have to secure the cuffs with binder clips, $40 for two pair
3. Backpack to carry my clothes and lunch to work, $2.99 at Goodwill
4. Spare inner tubes, $12
5. New helmet after I broke the old one, $34.95
6. ER bill after I skidded on the wet pavement and wiped out, probably close to $3,000 but I don't know yet because they haven't put it together, but it was already at $1,500 for the CT scan. Who knows what the doc charges will be?
7. Cupcakes delivered to the guy who found me face down in the grass near the only manhole cover - the only hard item for dozens of square yards - and who took me to urgent care, called Chris, and then moved my bike to someplace safe. He wanted to call an ambulance, but I was cogent enough to tell him no, I have a $2,500 deductible on my insurance. Cupcakes, $39

By the way, I am fine. Nothing broken, no permanent damage, just some bruises and a rather rakish-looking scar in my eyebrow. I was back on the bike two days later.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Goth Girl and Goth Boy, 14

Goth Girl and Goth Boy were not on the bus today, which is why I cannot call them Goth Girl on the Bus and Goth Boy on the Bus, but they had an interesting conversation yesterday about Mothers Day.

(NB I almost slept in this morning, thinking I would go late to work after spending 2.5 hours on the phone last night with Australia, but then I thought, "No! I can't disappoint my friends by not reporting on GGotB and GBotB," but then they weren't even there and I could have slept late.)

GG was saying that she was chastised on Sunday for not wishing her mother a happy mothers day and I sympathized, thinking that I, too, do not like Mothers Day, just as I do not care for Valentine's Day and told SH a long time ago that I do not expect him to observe a holiday imposed on him from without. Valentine's Day is fine for those who wish to observe it and I do not think less of anyone for doing it, but SH doesn't like it and I don't want to force him. It's enough for me that he does the everyday things - cleans the hair out of the drain in the tub, changes the kitty litter, goes to Wal-Mart at midnight to buy and install a new battery for my car (which he did while we were dating). I don't care if I get flowers.

I feel the same way about Mothers Day - it's externally imposed and I am forced to participate not because I believe in it but because I love my mother and do not want her to be hurt that I am not doing it. But if I had my way, Mothers Day would not exist and people would just show their love and appreciation all the time. 

So GG was saying she was chastised for not wishing her mom a happy Mothers Day and I thought, "Oh girl I feel your pain but really, would it kill you to tell your mom that you love her and maybe to spend a few bucks on a card? We all face situations we don't like in life and we do them because standing on principle won't change anything and it will just hurt people we care about."

Then she said that she was going to say something, but by the end of the day, the day was already ruined so why bother? I hope she has had time to reconsider since Sunday and maybe tell her mom that she loves her and that she is sorry for not saying anything on Sunday because again, how does it hurt anyone to do that?

GB said that they went to his grandmother's on Sunday and there were a bunch of relatives, including some people he doesn't like. I can't decide whether it's better to learn at a young age that just because you are related to someone, it doesn't mean you have to like them, or if it is better to have great relatives and enjoy your youth but then be shocked when you get married and discover that some people are real jerks.

I had a nice childhood with nice relatives, so married life has been an adjustment for me, as I had no practice as a kid being around mean drunks or passive-aggressive blind CC'ing emailers. 

Maybe I will see GG and GB tomorrow. Maybe GB will do more than tentatively stroke GG's hair. Maybe her hair won't be covering her face. Maybe she will tell GB that she made her mom a card and gave it to her on Monday.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Marriage 601, Lecture 873: Madonna complex


SH: I'm going to see Catalina tonight.

Me: Oh, I like her.

SH: Plus she's hot.

Me: Yes, she is. And she's smart. She's the whole package.

SH: She sure is.

Me: I worry more about your hanging out with her than I do about your hanging out with [younger, slimmer, prettier friend].

SH: What? Why?

Me: Because you might have a one-night stand with [younger friend], but you could fall in love with Catalina.

SH: Well, I wouldn't! I wouldn't have an affair with her!

Me: Why not?

SH: I can't have an affair with her! She's married!

Me: So are you!

SH: But how could I have an affair with a married woman?

Monday, September 01, 2014

Goth Girl and Goth Boy, 13

Blow by blow, as it happened.



 Goth Girl on the Bus has her hair combed forward, covering her face. She looks like Cousin It.

 She just scooted to the window seat in anticipation of Goth Boy on the Bus's stop.

 And they are talking to each other!

 He is showing her photos on his phone.

 Goth Girl: "These sunglasses are perfect for indoors."

 He just stroked her hair.

 GG: "I didn't have time. I'm just wearing jeans and a hoodie."
GB: "You look fine. "
GG: "I took a shower yesterday. It had been way too long for a girl not to take a shower. I am being European."

 GG: "Can you see my face at all with my hair like this?"
GB: "I can see your chin."

GG: My mom is a huge black man in the body of a little Italian woman.

GB is not fidgeting. GG is Chatty Cathy.

GG put her bag in GB's lap

And they are off the bus. It felt less tense than last week.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Marriage 601, Lecture 123: The clothes probably wouldn't have fit


SH: Wow. You look really hot in that outfit.

[It is the gym pants I wear to ride my bike to work. They are not bike pants - they are regular gym pants with a wide leg. Wide legs do not work well on a bike.]

Me: I know.

SH: So what do the people at work think when they see you?

Me: I don't know. But hey! They are almost all engineers, so they don't make eye contact.

SH: But they still look at your feet.

Me: Oh man. So they see the binder clips attached to my cuffs to hold the pants in. They're probably thinking, "What a dork!"

SH: Nope. They're engineers. They're thinking, "Hmmm. That's a good idea."

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Marriage 601, Lecture 764: Respite for abused husbands who help around the house but do not get enough warm fuzzies


SH: Hey! You've been ignoring me!

Me: What?

SH: I've been doing things!

[He has taken out the recycling, has vacuumed the kitchen - which is one of his chores, and has trimmed the cats' nails. I have done two loads of laundry, cleaned the bathroom, made macaroni and cheese and potato salad and onion-blue cheese tart, cleaned the cat box, gone to the farmers market, done this big financial report thingy for SH's project, and other stuff.]

Me: OK.

SH: I need affirmation!

Me: Oh really?

SH: Instead of saying, "Thank you - that's enough for a while," you're saying I should do more. That's mean.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Goth Girl and Goth Boy, 12

Goth Girl was On The Bus today. Sitting in my seat. My seat. I had to sit two seats behind her in one of the side seats, which meant that every time the bus lurched, I was thrown from side to side rather than from front to back. Side to side is much more uncomfortable than front to back.

Her hair was pinned back with a black leather bow. She was wearing black leggings with lace at the ankle, a purple knit miniskirt, and a gray hoodie. As usual, she looked great because she is 15 and at 15, everyone looks great, even the girls who think they don't.

Goth Boy got on the bus. I saw him from the left and noticed that he has a hoop earring in his left ear. He left his earbud in his left ear so the right ear could hear what GG was saying. It might behoove him to remove both earbuds to concentrate on her fully. There is almost nothing sexier than getting someone's full attention.

I couldn't hear what they were saying very well. There was something about German shepherds and then something about unions - how unions protect you against discrimination and pay you when you've been injured on the job.

I should not expect a 15 year old to understand employment law, so I will not criticize her for being wrong on those issues, but honestly.

I could have heard more if they had talked when the bus was stopped, like the two minutes it took for the driver to help the passenger using the wheelchair get off the bus. (The wheelchair has to be locked onto the floor of the bus during the ride, so getting a wheelchair user on and off the bus takes a little time.)

But they talked only - she talked only - when the bus was moving. She looked straight ahead. He kept turning his head to her. Even though I could see only the back of his head, it was a yearning look, I am sure. 

Maybe some progress? She was laughing and pulling away, saying, "Stop!" I couldn't see what was going on, but was he tickling her or squeezing her knee? Physical contact! Maybe there is hope.

GB, get rid of the earbud. Let her see that she has your complete, undivided attention.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Marriage 601, Lecture 764: Tomayto, tomahto


SH: Hey! Are you going to make me a tomato salad?

Me: Maybe. Are you hungry?

SH: No.

Me: So???

SH: But later?

Me: Maybe.

SH: Are there ripe tomatoes?

Me: Yes.

SH: But are they the Good Tomatoes?

Me: No.

SH: But I want the Good Tomatoes!

Me: You didn't dig up the back yard for a garden. You didn't plant the tomatoes. You haven't been weeding. you have not done anything to create the Good Tomatoes.

[The other tomatoes are the farmers market tomatoes, which are not bad, but they are not as good as the tomatoes from my garden.]

SH: I don't hog all the good food!

Me: I'm not hogging. But I am the one who put all the work into these tomatoes.

SH: You need to share.

Me: This is not Cuba. There is no forced sharing.

SH: When I make steak, I don't keep all the good parts for myself. I share it with you.

Me: When you start raising and butchering the beeves yourself, you can keep all the Good Steak for yourself.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Marriage 601, Lecture 234: Clutterers anonymous


You guys, I think the well has run dry. I don't have anything to write about that I can write about. There is stuff going on - new job, SH's projects - but it's not a good idea to write about work and husband's projects online.

Well, I guess I can write about the impact of SH's big project. Where do you guys stand on clutter? Is there a designated clutter space in your house? I have mentioned before that I grew up in a clutter-free environment whereas SH was raised by hoarders in a house where every surface except the ceiling is covered with tchotkes.

The house of SH's parents is a nightmare. I just read the book "Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?" by Roz Chast. I recommend it. She talks about caring for her aging parents and the problems of getting them into assisted care and cleaning out their apartment, where they had lived for over 50 years. They were collectors. They never threw anything away. Roz had to clean it all out. Actually, she sorted through almost everything, took the few things she wanted, and then left the rest for the superintendent -

Note to those of us who have never lived in an apartment in a big city - I have learned that the superintendent is the person in charge of the building, doing repairs and whatever. This is the sort of knowledge you get from living in New York. This and knowing what a taxi medallion is. If you have not lived in New York, you do not know this stuff. In flyover country, we do our own repairs or we beg our landlord - if we are renters - to repair. In flyover country, we do not take taxis because it is too hard to get a taxi. We drive.

Where was I? Oh! She left most of the junk in her mom and dad's apartment for the superintendent to deal with. I wish SH and I had that option with his parents.

My mom has a lot of stuff, too, but her stuff is organized. Also, my mom is not the kind of person to leave her mess for other people to deal with. My mom will make sure that her house is lean and mean in 24 years, when it might be time for her to move.

NB - My sister's husband has told SH and me that "when it is time, Mom is coming to live with US." My mom is a good houseguest and does not expect to be waited on hand and foot. She entertains herself and does her own dishes. She would be a good person to have as another member of the household.

SH's parents, on the other hand - well, they expect a higher level of service.

And I have gone so far from my main point that I can't even see it any more. What I was getting at was that SH has a clutter problem. The walls of his office shrink a little more each year. It's his office - his space. I don't dictate what happens there.

But when the clutter spills into the rest of the house, I have a problem with it.

His clutter is like a virus, stealthily invading the hallway, the stairs, the guest room, the dining room, and the living room.

SH's defense is that as long as we are not having people over for dinner, the dining room does not have to be clutter free.

I maintain that the dining room should be maintained in its state as a dining room. That I should be able to look at the dining room table and see nothing but table.

He disagrees and of course he is so so wrong. He points out that our house looks better than his parents' house does and I reply that that's setting the bar really low.

So my question - what is the rule in your house? Where is clutter allowed to accumulate? Whose clutter is it? Where do you throw a bit of a fit and insist that this mess be dealt with? Is it when you find your husband's suit hanging from the rocking chair? Even though YOU HAVE A CLOSET? Is it when the pile of empty corrugated boxes in the basement falls over? Is it when you can't walk up the stairs because they are so full of junk mail and things you want to throw away but SH says he can fix?

What say you?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Goth Girl and Goth Boy, 11

Saw my favorite bus driver, Gwen C, this afternoon. We always chat. She is the nicest lady in the world. She is the one who waited for me the day I was at the stop by City Hall that was actually closed and I hadn't noticed because I was too busy trying not to freeze to death. I noticed about ten seconds before the bus was supposed to arrive that I was in the wrong place and an entire block away from the next place the bus really would stop, so I started running in the snow with my heavy coat and snow boots and gym bag and purse and the bus pulled up and then passed me and stopped way ahead on the corner. I thought I was going to miss it and be stuck downtown in the cold for another 30 minutes, but the bus waited. And waited.

When I got to the bus, out of breath, I saw it was Gwen driving. I thanked her for waiting and she said, "I recognized you all the way back there. Of course I waited for you."

So she is my bud and I saw her today because I was on an early bus. I asked her if she ever drove GG and GB home. I see them only in the mornings - I have never seen them in the afternoon. Gwen drives an afternoon shift, so it's possible that she might have seen them.

I described them and their situation - they had been together but now they're not and it looks like she's been punishing him - "Oooh, he's in the doghouse!" Gwen said - but might be relenting a bit.

"Why do you think they broke up?" she asked.

"I don't know," I told her. "Have you seen them? We need more information."

No, she has not seen them. But she wants to know what's going on.

"You wouldn't believe the things people tell me," she said. "They get on this bus and tell me things about their lives and I just go um, um, um."

"You're like a priest," I said. "You're anonymous and safe."

She laughed. "They just need someone to tell their troubles to, I guess."

She will be on the lookout for GG and GB.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Wisconsin 101: Not always so nice here


SH and I were returning from downtown and stopped at a traffic light kitty corner from the police station. As usual, SH was being a bit cranky because the light was taking too long and oh man why does it always take soooo long?

SH sometimes thinks that the laws of the universe should not apply to people who are in a hurry.

I just turned the radio up and watched the oncoming traffic. A car to our left turned right in front of an oncoming SUV. It is not a turn I would have made - there was not enough room - and the SUV driver had to slam on her brakes.

Naturally - wait, not naturally - this is Wisconsin and people here are pretty nice or pretty passive aggressive - pick your poison - and it is rare to hear a horn honk. Really. You almost never hear any one honk a horn. If someone is not moving and not moving when the light turns green and it goes on more than a few seconds, you will not hear blaring horns from all the cars behind but one polite quick tap of the horn that says, "Excuse me but perhaps you didn't notice the light has turned green. If it's not too much trouble, would you mind lifting your foot off the brake and touching the gas?"

It is a very demure honk.

I don't honk unless someone is not moving or unless the rare occasion occurs in which I encounter a complete idiot. That seems to be the practice here.

The SUV driver honked.

Rightfully so. It was a "Did you really do something soooo stupid and dangerous that I was compelled to give a real honk? Honey this is not New York City. We do not drive crazy here. We do not drive rude. We have time to get to where we are going. Your behavior is unacceptable."

It was a righteous honk of the horn.

The driver of the car slammed on her brakes. Stopped the car with the back end of her car in the intersection, forcing the SUV to stop IN THE INTERSECTION.

The car driver flung open her door. Got out of her car. Marched back to the SUV, shaking her fist and (apparently - the radio was still turned up) screaming.

"Did you see that?" I gasped to SH.

"See what?" he asked.

SH remains focused on the task at hand almost all the time. We were walking through the airport in Milwaukee once and two monks in saffron robes approached us. "Did you see that?" I asked after they had passed us. It wasn't like I could say, "Hey! SH! LOOK AT THE GUYS IN THE SAFFRON ROBES!" That would have been rude.

"See what?" he asked.

"The two men in saffron robes who JUST WALKED PAST YOU!"

He shook his head. He had not seen them. I do not get it.

"Look at the woman over there!" I said as I pointed.

He looked.

The drama continued.

The car driver continued to scream and then stomped back to her car, leaned inside, marched back to the SUV, and THREW A BOTTLE AT THE SUV.

My jaw dropped.

I expect this kind of drama in the movies or in New York, which has people from cultures that express their emotions, not Milwaukee, which is filled with Germans and Scandinavians. We don't do any dancing that involves moving our hips and we certainly don't scream and throw bottles at people who have offended us.

Oh sure we march east and invade small, defenseless countries. Iowa, do not get on our bad side. But we do not throw bottles.

I gasped again. I keep thinking that I have seen all there is to see in daily life but I am continually proven wrong.

Our light turned green. SH took his foot off the brake and put it on the gas.

"Wait!" I said. "I want to see how this turns out!"

"Are you crazy?" he asked. "I want to get out of here."

Which made me remember that he is not concerned with plot at all. And which makes me think this post should have been about how engineers look at everyday occurrences and deviations from everyday occurrences and how English majors look at such things, but that means I would have to rewrite this and I am too lazy to do so.

So. Take what you will from this, as we do not know how it ended. People here are not nice all the time.