Monday, November 30, 2009

Chats du jour: Guilty

Chats du jour: Picking up the merde

We think Shirley might have a tapeworm. She is always hungry. Even after we feed her, she is on the prowl for more food. You have seen the photos of her eating soap. Anything. She is starving, starving she will tell you.

Then there is blood in somebody's poop (we don't watch the cats as they conduct their business, so we don't know whose poop it is, although we suspect Shirley, as she has not mastered the fine art of covering her poop and it is the bare poop that is bloody), so this morning, I took a toothpick and got a little sample to take to the vet's. Taking a cat's stool sample is easy.

Taking a person's? Not so much.

When I was finishing my Peace Corps stint, I had to go through all this medical stuff so the Peace Corps and the American taxpayer would not be on the hook two years later when I said Hey! I have this pain in my neck and I'm sure it's from the time I was in the Peace Corps and you guys have to pay!

Part of the medical stuff was submitting a stool sample.

The lab instructions were in Spanish, but after two years in Chile, I understood, "half the size of a lentil."

For three days in a row, I took a sample "half the size of a lentil" and put it into a little glass vial. After I had collected my three tiny little samples, I wrapped them in a plastic bag, then enveloped them in an unmarked brown paper bag, and took them to the lab.

I waited at the counter. Once I had the clerk's attention, I slid the bag across to her discreetly. As I did, a man walked up with three tubes in his hand and plopped them down.

Each tube?


Absolutely full. Pushing the cap off full.

Of poop.

He was proud of that poop.

Proud, I tell you.

Or maybe he was used to mighty big lentils.

Chats du jour: Huddled masses

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Marriage 201, Lecture 94: For better or worse or stinky

Achtung! Mom, don't read this. You won't like it. It's tacky and you raised me better than this.

SH: Uh oh. Don't come over here.

Me: Why not?

SH: I farted. I'll leave the room.

Me: Well it's not like it's going to make any difference.

SH: It's still in my pants.

Marriage 201, Lecture 52: Back to basics, or, Remember I am a gold-digger

Me: Maybe we don't really need a second* car. Maybe we could get by with just one car. You work from home. It's not like we have that much overlap in car use. [I go to the gym and faire le nettoyage -- faire des courses? -- in the morning, he goes out to sing at night.]

SH: Maybe. [Eyes car ads longingly.]

As part of our new austerity program, I will be cooking over a wood fire in the back yard.

Me: It would be convenient, but is it necessary?

SH: It would mean you would have to get up really early sometimes to take me to the airport. [As if that would discourage a morning person. It is to laugh hahahahaha.]

Me: I think I am OK with getting up at 5:00 a.m. once a month to save oh $10,000 for the car and then $2,000 a year in insurance, taxes and maintenance.

SH: You'd have to pick me up.

Me: OK. And you could take a cab home for late flights.

[SH looks up cab fares from the airport to our house.]

And catching all of our food. I hear squirrel and rabbit are good this time of year. I was going to post a really cool fish photo that our friend Gary took in Athens but his photo hosting won't let me copy, so just imagine a cool fish photo.

SH: It's almost $45 to take a cab to our house!

Me: And how much do you pay for parking? Even at the cheap lot? [SH is a very conscientious employee. I had to fight to get him to expense his tips.] [Your boss] takes a car service. I think it would be OK.**

SH: Well. Maybe we could take some of the money we wouldn't be spending on a new [used] car and get the Corvair running well enough to use.

Me: My motto is that if we are going to own an expensive piece of machinery, it should be used for more than a paperweight, especially if we have to insure it.

Update: Bonnie's cool fish photo from Athens that I finally figured out how to download from Gary's photo hosting site, no thanks to zenfolio and its little oh I'll save it where I want to save it, thank you very much.

* For purposes of this discussion, we will refer to our prospective purchase as a "second" car, although really, it would be a third car, as we still have the '65 Corvair up at Bonnie and Gary's lake house -- kiss! kiss! They are very generously keeping it in their garage so we don't have to pay to store it as we did the first three years I knew SH. (Oh how that pained my shriveled black stone of a frugal heart.)

** His employer also has no overhead for SH: no rent, no phone lines, no internet, no parking. They weren't even paying his mileage to the airport until I started doing his expense reports and said, "Hey! Do you know how much cash you've been leaving on the table?!" SH was all Oh it's only $16 a trip and I'm all Hey! I can get a pedicure at the beauty school for that!

Photos of a cool 6th grade moi from the Big Factotum. Of course.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Marriage 201, Lecture 454: The buying of the car

SH: Do you want to go with me to look at cars?

Me: I would rather stick needles in my eyes.

SH demonstrates an early facility with mechanics.

SH: You don't like negotiating?*

Me: I hate the entire process. Hate hate hate it.

SH: You don't even want to test drive?**

Me: No. I hate everything to do with buying a new [used -- we are not idiots] car. I hereby abdicate my role in picking a new car and absolve you of all responsibility. I promise that I will like anything you get as long as it starts every time I turn the key and it has AM radio. I will never complain about anything about this car as long as I do not have to go car shopping with you.

* Car salesmen look at women buying cars and think, "My kid is getting braces. And college tuition. And I'm going to Vegas, baby!"

** SH, being a Terminator Engineer, loves everything about car shopping: the research, the details, the test driving, the discussing of the features, is the Audi like the Passat? what does Consumer Reports say? and so on and so on and so on

Marriage 201, Lecture 634: Throwdown Nocturnal vs Diurnal

10:00 p.m. I am in bed reading.

SH: Are you going to bed soon?

Me: I'd like to turn out the lights in half an hour.

SH brings the new little computer that he bought on for me to the bedroom. The computer is so I have a computer when we travel and don't bother him to use his so I can blog and not deprive y'all. So really this computer is about him. Right now, it is the computer version of the upstairs vacuum cleaner. I think it is a little bit extravagant, but SH is a deal finder who puts extra money toward the mortgage every month, so I trust him.

So far, this computerette has been very useful for him as he spent the afternoon test-driving used cars and looking up their history. Guess what? Car salesmen -- my uncles and cousins in Medford excluded, of course, as they are in a small town where reputation is everything -- won't necessarily tell you that that cute little Mini has been in not one but two accidents.


Me: So what are you working on there, sweetie?

SH: Oh, just looking for a new anti-virus program.

Me: Are you getting close to being ready to come to bed?

SH: Ummm.


Me: So what's that there?

SH: I guess I can't cancel the BMW Club membership from here, but I can cancel the ad for my car.

Me: Are you almost ready to come to bed?

SH: Ummm.


SH: I guess I'll go work upstairs.

Me: What?

SH: I'm not tired.

Me: Then why did you bring the computer in here?

SH: So we could spend some time together.

Me: Why did you stay until 11?

SH: So we could spend more time together?

Me: I didn't want more time! I wanted to go to sleep!

SH: But I was looking at cars all afternoon.

Me: Until 10:30. That was good enough. Didn't you hear the part about I wanted to turn out the lights at 10:30?

SH: You don't care about togetherness.

Me: Nope. I care about sleeping.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Marriage 201, Lecture 352: Out of office

2:13 Friday afternoon. SH is dressed*, I am still in my pajamas. I have, however, put the sheets in the washing machine. I am not a total slacker. Just a partway slacker. Thursday is my usual cleaning day but I skipped it because we were cooking all day. That means some chores get pushed to today. Some. I guess I will not do the heavy cleaning I would have done to prepare for our friends. But I vill not sleep on dirty sheets.

Me: Now that we are not having company tonight, what do you want to do today?

SH: I dunno.

No, this is not under the table. Yes, I dusted this cedar chest. Bernie Staab made it for me. He was my grandfather's friend. He didn't go past 8th grade and wasn't much for book learning, he would say, but boy was he an artist with wood.

Me: You worked really hard yesterday. What does your perfect day off look like? Do you want to spend the day watching football?

SH [in the "There's no basement in the Alamo" tone]: There's no football today! [I double-checked the facts with him on this and he said oh sure there's football but he's not interested. See? I do care about facts. Sometimes.]

Me: Well, whatever. Just saying that as far as I'm concerned, you could play video games all day** and I wouldn't mind. [sigh] I wasted all that time cleaning the guest room and bathroom and the living room and now they're not coming.

SH: Not really. What if we have someone over for supper soon? You won't have to dust again.

SH had to let his car go today. He sold it to someone who will love it*** as much as SH did. The buyer had a car like this years ago and is very excited to have found one again. He has the money to fix the rust and garage it in the winter.

Me: Um. Yeah!

SH: No! You certainly won't have to dust under the table again for a year.

Me: Of course I will! I would have to dust again in a month!

My house in Memphis, with the Yard of the Month award that a Mysterious Stranger gave me. Yeah. I know there are zinnias growing in the middle of the yard. I couldn't bear to cut them down. It's not like grass was growing there or anything.

* He is dressed only because the guy came to pick up the car already. SH can go an entire day in his bathrobe, a hazard of working at home.

** He wouldn't. He would, however, read, wine reviews and look at We each have our guilty pleasures.

*** I understand why SH would want to wait for this kind of buyer. I was worried about selling my Memphis house. I loved that house and wanted to sell it to someone who would love it as much as I did. It killed me to tear out the flowerbeds and replace them with grass (I didn't think anyone would want to commit to so much work) and I was thrilled when the buyer told me that one of the reasons he wanted my house was just because of the garden and that he intended to restore it.

Chats du jour: Thankful

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Marriage 201, Lecture 62: Darn grateful

Our Thanksgiving so far. But first, some background.

SH has been trying to sell one of the cars. He found a buyer who has worried him to death with long phone calls at inconvenient times and visits and in general pain in the neckness. He met with the guy yesterday to take care of the financials and is getting the car ready today so the buyer can pick it up tomorrow, which means cleaning it out and hauling all the car-related stuff (extra tires, old magazines, etc, etc) out of the basement.

A small proportion of the Lutheran pies last night at the Thanksgiving service. That is Lutheran brandy in the background.

Work has not been slow. He came to bed at 3:45 the other night.

Europeans and Asians do not celebrate Thanksgiving. SH works for an international company. Draw your own conclusions. Wait. Don't. SH has already spent time working today.

So. Here we are.

The pork loin on top, chicken underneath. He has not put on the beef yet.

6:50 a.m. Laverne awakes, jumps on my chest to see if I'm still breathing.

I put both cats in the basement along with their breakfast. Put the strata in the oven and turn it on. Good grief, Kenmore, must your controls make noise? I do not need audible feedback to know that I am turning the burner on or from low to high. I especially do not need the noise to go from the kitchen to the bedroom to wake my sleeping husband who, I assure you, is the least morning person I know.

6:53 I return to bed and fall back to sleep. Based on later reports, SH does not fall back to sleep but lies next to me nursing a small grudge.

7:35 I get up again. I am awake. I make the Good Coffee (I usually just make instant because I am just beginning my journey to Coffee Snobship), which means I have to get the stool out so I can reach the Good Coffee from the top shelf where SH hides it. The coffee maker makes noise. Of course.

8:15 I hear moans from the bedroom. SH is cranky. Highly unusual. SH almost always awakes in a good mood.

But he's cranky because he hasn't had enough sleep all week and he wanted to sleep in this morning and he didn't get to because I woke him up with the oven noise which, yeah, I did and whose stupid idea was to make the buttons noisy anyhow, KENMORE?

9:00 We get to work on the animal flesh for the smoker. We truss the chickens and he freaks out because there is chicken juice on my hands and OH NO IT'S ON THE COUNTER DON'T TOUCH ME! And I say You know people prepare chicken ALL THE TIME and DO NOT DIE. I mutter I prepare chicken all the time and you do not die. Sheesh it's not plutonium.

Then he takes the pork out of the package and it slips and the tray dips and it goes into the sink and OH NO! OH NO! And I say What? And he says OH NO! And I say Big deal. And he says But there's PORK JUICE! And I say Oh for crying out loud when is the last time someone got trichinosis in this country?

Cream-cheese stuffed jalapenos wrapped with bacon. No, this is not the low-fat Thanksgiving.

So we continue to fight and I say why don't you just take a nap and he says I can't because I have to watch the smoker and then my migraine returns.

11:00 We eat breakfast. SH points out that there was no reason for me to have started the strata at 6:50 a.m. because we are not even eating until 11:00 and I concede that he is indeed correct.

SH sighs deeply again and says that he is tired and wishes he could have slept. He says he just wants a break but he will have to spend all day working on the car stuff and cooking and I say but this is supposed to be fun.

Then he says he really just wants a weekend of nothingness and relaxing and although he is looking forward to seeing our friends and being with people who actually speak wine, couldn't we do it another weekend and would it be too awful if we rescheduled but we can't that would be so selfish?

I said that the beauty of good friends is that you can tell them the truth and they will get it.

5:13 The chickens after smoking but still not done, so SH is about to move them to the grill for finishing. He has spent the afternoon cleaning out the car and the junk in the basement. Finds? A "Howard Dean for President" bumper sticker. Among many, many other things.

So I call my friend of over 20 years Lenore and tell her the truth and she is completely understanding, although she does point out that she was looking forward to the smoked pork loin. As we will have more than eight pounds of it, I am very sure that there will be some for her in the future.

So what am I grateful for? For my friends, who are my friends even though they know me well, for my awesome sweet, generous, sexy, Terminator engineer husband, who loves me even though I wake him up early in the morning and who rolls his eyes as I tell the truth from my perspective even when it does not exactly match the facts, and for my family. Happy Thanksgiving.

Times past

The pilot said, “I don’t tell this to many people, but my daughter is an exotic dancer in California.”

Just exactly how is one supposed to respond to such a statement?

Harpo assures me it is not the way I did, which was to say, “I’ll bet that’s not what you wanted for her when she was a little girl.”

More here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Chats du jour: I'm ready for my closeup

He no eat meat? I make lamb

Harpo: I’d like a sandwich without meat, please.

Clerk: OK, not meat, but ham, yes?

Harpo. No. No meat. No ham. Just bread and cheese.

Clerk: OK, not meat, but beef, yes?

More here.

Marriage 201, Lecture 342: Save it for later

Me: Should we put this stuff in the Goodwill pile?

SH: I don't know.

Me: Well, decide.

SH: I need to think about it.

Me: What's there to think about? Either you want it or you don't.

SH: Stop pressuring me!

Me: Make a decision. This is easy.

SH: No! It's easy to decide to acquire something. It's hard to decide to get rid of something.

Me: No. It's the other way around. Besides, when is the last time you used this stuff? [a picnic backpack and some other junk]

SH: I don't know.

Me: Not since I met you, so at least four years and ten days.

SH: What if we want to go on a picnic someday?

Me: We won't. I hate picnics. I don't want to eat sitting on the ground. It's uncomfortable. Picnics are overrated. I hate hiking. I hate picnics. Picnics are stupid.

SH: Shouldn't you do things just because I like them?

Me: [say nothing but long long look]

SH: Oh. But if you do things just because I like them, then I have to do things just because you like them and then I would have to take salsa classes with you.

Me: Which you have to do anyhow because that was your Christmas present to me last year and no, you are not getting out of it.

SH: But weren't those cancellations* a sign from God that I don't have to take it?

Me: No.

* First cancellation: We call the day before, yes, there is a class, we show up, class has been canceled
2nd: We go to Class 1, plan to go to Class 2 the next week, teachers tell us they are canceling because they are going to a competition in Chicago the next week. Professional. Class 2 has been scheduled for three months
3rd: Class canceled because of swine flu, or as it is officially known by act of Wisconsin legislature, which has nothing better to do, H1N1 flu

Marriage 201, Lecture 12: This whole forsaking all others thingy

SH realizes he really dodged a bullet when the One Who Broke His Heart divorced her third (really nice guy) husband after having a Very Public Affair. I tell him I might not kiss as well as she did, but I will not go from zero to crazy in three months, either.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Marriage 201, Lecture 21: It's about the food

We have embarked on Step One of Holiday Freedom. May I note for the record that I never encountered this issue before I met SH and that's about all I can say except that my mother is lovely in all respects and I should probably stop except I just have to say that if you WANT OATMEAL THEN JUST ASK FOR IT. Do not complain about it a year later. Sheesh.


We are having Thanksgiving in our house. We are having Christmas in our house. Maybe next year we will have the weekend before Christmas in our house, too. And world peace. And no hunger. A cure for cancer.

So yeah, we're working on it.

The plan for Thursday:

Breakfast strata for brunch while SH gets the smoker, which has never been used so this will be an adventure, going with a pork loin, some beef (a brisket? something like that), salmon, and two chickens. Might as well optimize the space and the charcoal.

One of the chickens is from the Madison Farmers Market and from some farmers. It lived a happy, happy life and died of natural causes (humans are natural) and the farmer lady swore it tastes way better than supermarket chicken. We bought a regular chicken from Pick and Save for comparison purposes. No turkey. I do not think turkey is All That and I do not want to be eating it until the end of forever.

We are also having scalloped potatoes, salad, asparagus and pear tart with pears from our pear tree. This is a full-fat meal - cream in the potatoes and butter in the tart crust. Lots of butter. Oh how I love Joy of Cooking. We are eating the farmer chicken.

On Friday, our friends Rob and Lenore and their kids are coming from Chicago. We will have the smoked pork, broccoli cheese casserole, roasted onions (have you done this? a bunch of onions with some olive oil and salt in the oven for an hour or so -- so easy and so good), and a green salad. Then chocolate chocolate-chip cookies for dessert. Homemade doughnuts for breakfast along with my uncle Larry's venison breakfast sausages.

Leftovers for the next week while I watch season one of Big Love. I never should have watched those two episodes on the plane.

Blast from the past

Would you take your shoes and socks off at the movies? At a restaurant? At church? At any other public place with strangers where it is expected that you will remain dressed?

No! Then why do people think it is OK to take off their socks in airplanes? Shoes, OK. I can see that, as long as your socks are clean and your feet are not stinky, but come on. No one wants to see your naked feet.

Read the rest here. We've all been there. AT THE AIRPORT. With idiots.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Marriage 201, Lecture 129: Being and on-timeness

6:59 p.m. last Thursday. We are walking into the Milwaukee Public Museum for a lecture on astrophysics at the planetarium. Yes, we are well-rounded intellectual types. Why do you ask? I am nagging SH.There is another couple walking in at the same time.

Woman of the other couple: Are you fighting about the same thing we are?

Me: Do you mean are we fighting about how if your husband said we should leave the house at 6:30, he should have gotten into the shower before 6:15 and if he didn't get to eat any supper before we left, it's his own darn fault and no, I DON'T know where the planetarium is and if we're late, it's his fault and I don't care if we're late for church but I do not like to be late for something like this?

WOTOC: Yes. You are.

Chats du jour: Omnivore

Cauliflower. She wants it. Because it's 4:48 and suppertime is 5:00 and she is starving.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Marriage 201, Lecture 35: Save Big Money at Menard's

Me: You bought another candle*! Just to tick me off!

SH: Yes! And guess how much I paid for it!

Me: It better be less than fifty cents.

SH: NINETEEN CENTS after the rebate. HA! The candle is worth more than nineteen cents and so is annoying you.

* We are ready for three hurricane seasons. Oh. Wait. We live in MILWAUKEE. Where we DON'T HAVE HURRICANES. But I would have to crawl through broken glass to get to the TRUNK TO GET TO THE FLASHLIGHT if we didn't have candles.


Are these the same room? Perhaps. We don't know. My mom does not remember if she was in the Agriculture Hall.

My mother at state playing her clarinet solo when she was in high school. Yes. My parents are from Wisconsin. SH is not. He moved to Milwaukee just because he liked it. And for the beer. And because California taxes make Wisconsin taxes look cheap. I tried to convince him that Tennessee taxes of ZERO are even better than Wisconsin income taxes, but was unsuccessful. Something about you can't buy beer on Sunday in Tennessee.

I moved here to marry him. I have family all over the place here; he does not. It is an odd coincidence.

A lecture hall in the Ag Hall at Madison.

The Agriculture Hall at the University of Wisconsin.

Marriage 201, Lecture 392: Life and death, or, what is the purpose of a car

SH: No! You can't put it [the little flashlight] in the glove box.

Me: Why not?

SH: It won't fit.

Me: Well, I'll take out the owner's manual and put it behind the seat in that pocket thingy.

SH: NO! The owner's manual belongs in the glovebox. Every man knows that. And I don't want you to stretch out the pocket. What if I want to sell this car someday? The flashlight can go in the trunk.

Me: In the trunk? If I need it, it's because there is an emergency!

SH: You can still get to it from inside the car.

Me: With my broken leg? In the dark? You want me to die.

Blast from the past

This is where it gets weird. She looked at me, in my zinc-oxide faced, running/walking clothes glory, and told me to read Revelations, that the fornicators will burn in a fiery lake. Did I look like a fornicator? I was not exactly at the height of attractiveness, unless you consider a 41-year-old woman in running tights and a baseball hat the epitome of beauty. But then, what does a fornicator look like?

Read more here.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Marriage 201, Lecture 450: In Japan, we pee for accuracy

SH is all mad because he wasn't looking at when I made the wrong turn when we arrived in Madison.

Me: But you were done with your web conference and you were looking at your email about wine stuff and people asking you for money and woot captured the essence of the moment, did it not?

SH: Yes, but the facts were not correct.

Me: You are welcome to write a guest post or to get your own blog at any time.

We had breakfast at the Marigold Cafe near the Capitol. The woman next to us used a handi-wipe to clean her hands before she drank her coffee. Fifteen minutes later, when her food arrived, she cleaned her hands again. I didn't notice if she used a fresh handi-wipe. I do know that she did not dig in the dirt or change a diaper or process raw poultry or do anything that the rest of us would consider nasty disgusting handwashing needing.

We went to the Wisconsin Historical Society Museum this afternoon. I saw this alligator purse and guess what? It looks like my purse except my purse doesn't have little alligator paws on it. Alas. Probably because my purse is cow made to look like alligator. I held my purse on my thigh and leaned way back to take the photo because of course I didn't think of this until an hour after I had seen the alligator purse and we were on the other floor looking at Wisconsin manufactures. SH was busy drooling over the Nash Rambler (made in Kenosha), so I ran back upstairs to take the picture and it was not so easy to do by myself. The purse was right by the oldest piece of toast in Wisconsin. Yeah, you had to be there.

Oh you farm kids know what this is.

Yesterday, at the Veterans Museum, we saw that so many Ole Olsons had enlisted in the Civil War from Wisconsin that they had to give them numbers. I think there is an Ole Olson in my ancestry. I know there are Oles and I know there are Olsons.

All the dairies used to have their own bottles.

Marriage 201, Lecture 412: Driving Mr Crazy

This is what it's like to drive someone who's supposed to be on a webcast via his cool cellphone hookup so we can get to Madison in time to go to the Wisconsin Veterans' Museum.

1. At the stoplight where we need to turn left

SH: Why are you stopping here [and not in the middle of the street]?

Me: Because there are cars coming.

SH: But that's how you're supposed to do it! You're supposed to pull into the middle of the intersection and then when the light is yellow, you make your turn!

Me: There's too much traffic. I'll wait until the next light.

A cool thing on campus.

2. On the highway

SH: You're going the speed limit!

Me: Yes.

SH: But why?!

Me: Because it's the speed limit and I am ALWAYS THE ONE WHO GETS CAUGHT.

3. In Madison


Me: Fine. I'm going to find a place to pull over so you can drive.

SH: What? But it will take time for me to shut the computer down! [Because of course he is busy now that the web conference is over looking at]

Me: I'll wait.

4. On the way to Joe and Joyce's house. SH is driving.

SH: Wait. Where are we?

Me: We should be on Wennequa.

SH: But we're on Blablabla.

Me: I told you that we should have been on Bodean or LaDean or something like that.

SH: Let me see the map. No! You should have said "Turn LEFT to get onto WEST Dean."

Me: I said that it looked like that street turned INTO BODEAN.


ME: There is no left turn there.

SH: Yes there is!

Me: Not on the map.

SH: Let me see that.


SH: It's Yahoo.

Me: I would have said "Turn left" if there had actually BEEN ANOTHER STREET ON THE MAP.

It's a miracle that I ever got anywhere at all in the FORTY TWO YEARS before I ever met the man.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Speaking truth to power

We are in Madison using a free hotel night before it expires because Lord knows it's better to drive 90 miles and buy meals than to let something free go to waste. I will write about Driving Mr Crazy later. Yes, SH let me drive, which is a nightmare for the both of us because of course I do not Do It Right and I hate to be bossed around by the Driving Nazi but he had a conference call and as much as he would like to think he can multitask, he cannot, especially when it comes to using a computer while he drives, heck he can't even have a conversation while he drives or answer a simple question like, "Don't you think that's a cute outfit on that girl over there?

For now I want to write about our supper with my Peace Corps friends Joe and Joyce, who live here. Joe's great-niece is married to Robert Downey Jr, which was always my fantasy (before SH of course), but without the heroin. That's not relevant to this story, but it's good if you know me and need a connection for the Kevin Bacon game.

The boat in question.

Joe and Joyce joined the Peace Corps six years after Joe retired from the University of Wisconsin wood research lab. He is a big-time expert on wood and has lectured on wood around the world.

Joe is in his mid 80s. He is about 5'4" and always wears a frayed flannel shirt with rolled-up jeans and boots. He has twinkling blue eyes and a ready smile. You would think you could steamroll over him but you would be wrong.

Joe built this wooden houseboat that he has parked in his driveway. A neighbor complained that it was unsightly and Joe got a citation for something. "Unsightly premises," or something. Neither SH nor I can remember.

A building at the University of Wisconsin.

The moral of this story, before I get much further into it, is don't mess with a retired wood expert.

Joe went to court. He tried to subpoena everyone involved. The city attorney wouldn't let him subpoena his accuser, but would let him subpoena the building inspector, who is supposed to be the only one with the authority to issue such a citation.

Joe challenged the citation on two grounds: what is "unsightly" and what was wrong with his boat.

A classroom on campus. We walked around to see what our tax dollars were being used for and also to get to Babcock Hall, which youse Cheeseheads know is where the DAIRY STORE is.

The woman from the building inspector's office claimed that the green on his boat was from algae, which was proof that his boat was rotten and deteriorating.

Wrong, said Joe. Algae does not rot wood, fungi does. And the green was from paint. Ha!

Then the woman said the boat was unpainted and hence unprotected.

Oh no said the wood expert. Paint does not protect wood [insert wood expert stuff here].

Joe won his case. "Last I heard," he said, "that woman isn't working for the Building Inspector. Now I am trying to get that law rescinded. The people on the City Council go the other way when they see me coming. But look at my gray hair. I got nothing better to do."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Marriage 201, Lecture 81: It's important to have common interests*

He acts like he doesn't care about gossip, but we all know the truth.

SH: You know who Wayne Gretzky is, right?

Me: The one who married Janet Jones.

SH: What?

Me: Or was it Carol Alt?

Long pause pregnant with disbelief and a deep sigh.

SH: He's just the greatest hockey player ever.

* I mean interests in common

Marriage 201, Lecture 92: We each have our kryptonite

SH cannot let a Sunday go by without a trip to Menard's, but I think that is just a guy thing, although I wonder if other men read the ads to look for things they already bought.

"Ha!" he'll say. "I got a way better deal on our TV." Sometimes he'll find that Target has dropped the price on an item we bought in the past 60 days and as he is going that way anyhow -- Target is next to Menard's (both of which are conveniently located by Culver's-- it's not as good as Kopp's but it's there and sometimes they have a flavor he likes), he takes the receipt from his Leaning Tower of Visa and gets the markdown.

So all of that might not be a guy thing. Some if it might be an SH thing. But it all adds up to pay for the ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY DOLLARS WORTH OF WINE THAT I WILL NOT DRINK so I guess that's OK.

But SH's real buying problem?

Woot. Have you heard of it? It's a website that offers one item per day, so they create this artificial scarcity that instills panic and desire in the buyers. They employ excellent copywriters, perhaps the people who used to work at Banana Republic back when Banana Republic was a fun place to shop and had that catalogue that made you feel like you were preparing for a Grand Safari and the Adventure of Your Life. Now the name "Banana Republic" has about as much connection with the store and the clothes as -- hmmm- well, as some metaphor that will come to me tonight as I am about to fall asleep. But nothing. The name has nothing to do with the store and the clothes. There are no pith helmets in the store any more.

So this is SH's latest purchase from Three pink foam desk fans for 99 cents each. "For a little girl!" he told me. Alert readers have probably noticed that SH and I do not have any children. Are unlikely to have any children. Even if we were to have children (unlikely!!!!!) we would not need to hold onto THREE PINK FOAM DESK FANS until such time that unlikely children would want to use them. "But we could give them away!" he said hopefully.


I cannot be too critical. I might not have my Sunday Menard's ritual, where I return with candles for the bathroom (even though we have candles), refills for the soap dispenser (even though we have half a gallon of soap refill, "But it was a good deal!"), and two carloads of insulation for the attic and I am not going to complain about that one at all because our heating bills are outrageous and that's with keeping the house cold, with apologies to all houseguests past and future.

No. I don't have Menard's, but I have Goodwill.

Where I found these treasures yesterday.

Which leads one not to the question of who gives silver plate to Goodwill but why does Goodwill charge $6.99 for a used sweater that is pilled and smells a little bit but only $1.99 for a silver plate serving dish that needs nothing more than a quick polishing?

Chats du jour: Kitty Weight Watchers

This might be a totally stupid question and you are free to laugh at me in the comments or to your friends or wherever you want but -- does a cat need to consume 3,500 calories to gain a pound?

Oh please. Please.

I ask this because Shirley, who finally convinced us that she was starving, yes starving to death so we started to feed her more, has gained either half a pound or an entire pound in the past two weeks. (Our digital scale weighs in half-pound increments.) Let's go with a pound. So she's gone from seven to eight pounds, which is what, a 14% increase? On maybe half a tablespoon more of food every day?

I know I could gain a pound in two weeks. I have done so before. Yum. Cheese. But my normal diet isn't just one-third a cup of cat food a day, which is I don't know how many calories because they don't put the calorie information on the cat food bag. And my starting weight isn't just seven pounds.

I don't care how much the cats weigh except the vet told us not to let them get fat because of cat diabetes. I also don't want them to be hungry. So there is the issue.

What we have learned from this experience is that no matter how much we feed Shirley, she will still jump into the sink and try to eat whatever is in there. So maybe she isn't hungry. Maybe she is just feeding other issues and needs therapy. Which our pet insurance does not cover. So it's the church basement and the 12-step program for us.

Chats du jour: Indian name

Must Get High

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Marriage 201, Lecture 499: A friend will help you move*

Much of the gossip at book club last night and at my volunteer stint at the Lutheran Third World Shop yesterday morning was about Holiday Family Drama and How It Gets Resolved (Or Not) Without Murder.

I have just recently been thrust into this sort of drama myself, being relatively newlywed. We did not have The Drama when I was a kid, probably because we never lived close enough to my grandparents for it to be an issue but also possibly because my family is sane.

My mom is one of seven children. She is on the far left holding one of her nieces in her lap.

Flying across the Atlantic just to spend Christmas with relatives was not an option. Driving from Texas to Wisconsin to spend Christmas with relatives was not an option. Flying from Texas to Wisconsin was not an option. We were not rich people.

We never heard the whine, "But you're abandoning us by not spending Christmas here." We spent a few weeks with our grandparents (and aunts and uncles and cousins and second cousins and first cousins once removed and whatever other categories there are) every time my dad was PCS'd, which was every three or four years, and that was it.

Which reminds me that the military is missing out on a huge recruiting benefit: Join the military and avoid the hassle of deciding where to spend Christmas and Thanksgiving! Eliminate the manipulation and guilt! Sorry mom and dad. We're in Korea/Panama/Florida and can't get leave. We'll just have to have a peaceful family Christmas on our own.

But yes. I am learning that not everyone is like my parents, whose attitude was if you build it, they will come. That is, if people like being around you, they will want to come to your home and visit you. Sure, you can whine to get your children to come for Christmas, but do you really want to create that level of resentment in the people who will be choosing your nursing home?

My siblings and moi at our first Christmas in Spain. Notice the lack of teeth. My mom made those cute dresses.

* A good friend will help you move the body

Photos courtesy of The Big Factotum