Monday, May 31, 2010

Wisconsin 101: Ask not if there is beer, but where is the beer?

Here's what you get at a Milwaukee Catholic church festival:

1. Raffles
2. Gambling. Gambling!
3. Brats(wurst), hamburgers, fish fry (the double cheeseburger was excellent)
4. Beer. Of course.
5. Music. As in, a Styx tribute band that roars after the third song, "Immaculate Heart of Mary, how ya doin'?"

The "motorcycle only" parking.

You know you wish you were here. If it were like this year round, you couldn't keep people away from this place. Winter keeps out the riffraff.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Marriage 201, Lecture 494: Trophy

SH: Fine. When we're old, I'll just trade you in for a younger model.

Me: Good luck with that.

SH: Isn't old sexy?

Me: Old and rich is sexy. Young, ugly and rich is sexy. Plain old is not.

SH: Is that why you went to Paris with Gomez?*

Me: Yup. I was an idiot. But when you're old, you'll still be sexy to me.

* The Moroccan millionaire.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Marriage 201, Lecture 315: You want me to die

SH: Would you peel an orange for me?

Me: Why can't you do it yourself?

SH: Don't you want me to eat produce? Don't you want me to be healthy?

Me: Depends. How much life insurance do you have?

Marriage 201, Lecture 917: More almond M&Ms for me

SH: That smells good.

Me: Banana nut muffins.

SH: Yuck. Nuts.

Me: You don't have to eat them.

SH: Wait. Bananas and nuts are about the same on the food hierarchy, so the nuts can't make the muffins any worse. But chocolate outranks nuts, so all nuts can do to chocolate is make it worse.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Marriage 201, Lecture 314: Men/women/cars/a means of getting from Point A to Point B

Me: I spoke to the wheel people and they don't have any of the Borbet wheels in the warehouse [to replace the one that was damaged last year shortly after SH bought a new set of wheels].

SH: Crap.

Me: The sales rep suggested that we get two new wheels that are very similar.

SH: That is not an option.

Me: Why not? He said nobody can see both sides of the car at the same time anyhow. He's right. Who cares?

SH: I am not going to have two different wheels on my car.

Me: Whatever.*

* I don't care if my socks match; I really don't care if the wheels match.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Marriage 201, Lecture 920: If a man whines in a forest, does anyone hear him?

SH: [whine, whine, whine]

Me: Stop it. Man up.

SH: But, but, but.

Me: It's unbecoming.

SH: But I've had a hard week.*

Me: OK. Five minutes a day. You get five minutes a day to whine.

SH: But it's been a really bad week.

* He has. He had a big computer failure on Monday afternoon and spent 12 hours trying to fix it. No. He had not backed up his hard drive. Fortunately, it's not the hard drive; it is the motherboard (insert your own joke here) and he has been able, with the help of a Special Cable overnighted via, to use the little notepad computer he got me to hook into his hard drive. Still, he has had to load all his software, etc.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Marriage 201, Lecture 320: Love all

Me: I am not letting you win.

SH: I know.

Me: Even though I want it to be over and hate that stupid tie/deuce stuff.

SH: I know!

Me: I mean, I am competitive about the food I serve at book club. So don't think I am throwing the game just to get out of here sooner.*

* But I have thought about it.

Marriage 201, Lecture 499: For better or for sports

SH: The "Utah Jazz" sounds stupid.

Me: Uh-huh.

SH: You know why they're called that, don't you?

Me: No. And I don't care.

SH: It's because--

Me: I said I don't care.

SH: But you have to know.

Me: I don't want to know.

SH: I have to tell you!

Me: Stop. I don't. Want. To. Know.

SH: Because they used to be in New Orleans!

Me: I don't care!

Just counting my cash

Guess what I am doing right now?

While my newly-employed maid scrubs the kitchen floor and the cook prepares a light repast, I am gazing at the most recent issue of Caribbean Belle, flipping through its glossy, heavy pages, looking for my essay about marrying later in life and having to get used to someone who insists on stacking the silverware rather than just tossing it into the drawer.

That's right. You have before you a published author.

This is all thanks to reader Sayya, who is not blogging or commenting much these days, probably because she is due to have a baby about now. Sayya's sister in law is the editor in chief of the magazine; Sayya sent me to her SIL and voila.

Thank you, Sayya, and thank you, Caribbean Belle. SH and I will be taking that check and buying a winter place in an undisclosed location for reasons I cannot divulge here but let's just say there's a beach and Cuban food. We'll keep SH's phone with the Milwaukee number and whine about the snow in certain conversations while we sit on the patio drinking cafe con leche and eating maduros. Then we'll switch to mojitos and ropa vieja. Or medianoches. Ah, the life of an author.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Chats du jour: When the world is your toilet

I was minding my own business watching Season Two of Mad Men, which finally came into the library, which I had to reserve on both my card and SH's card and why did the hold that I put on it on my card two months after the hold I put on SH's card come in sooner? Why, I ask you? I think some money has been changing hands, if you know what I mean. How else could I be number six of eight for a month on SH's card and yet get it in only a month on my card?

Anyhow. I was in the basement, which was the only place in the house that didn't feel like an oven - thank you, Wisconsin weather, which takes us from needing to turn on the heat and wear sweatshirts one week to braising the next, although I will take heat over snow any day and I keep telling SH that when his plane crashes, I will be out of here faster than you can say, "Kopp's frozen custard" - watching Mad Men. It was the scene where Don and Betty are on a picnic with the kids and Don throws his empty beer can into the woods and Betty snaps all the trash off the blanket and leaves it there. On the ground. No crying Indian in sight. Then they get into a car without seatbelts and away they go.

Yet even over the noise of the TV (maybe it was the stripper scene with normal women, because that one had music) and one floor down from the open windows, I heard Laverne's desperate cries. They were louder than her "I'm stuck!" and "I have a mouse come admire me!" cries. I ran upstairs, worried that she might be dangling from the pear tree, an early-ripened treat ready for plucking, but she was just standing in the flowerbed near Hunting Spot #4. Yes, she was stuck, but she didn't seem anxious about it and when I untangled her, she followed me, wanting to come back inside.

Fine. Whatever. Whiny cat taking me away from the hunky, deeply-flawed, wouldn't want to be married to him but don't mind looking at him Don Draper.* I let her back inside, removed her harness, and went back to the basement. And Don.

Whereupon Laverne followed me down the stairs. Went past the sofa and through the door to the furnace room. To the litter box. Where she pooped.

Because that's not something she could have done outside.

Then she wanted to go out again.

* Is Don Draper today's Michael from 30something? They are both in advertising. But Hope is way whinier than Betty is, although that might be period accuracy. Betty drinks the day away, Hope talks about her feelings. Discuss.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Marriage 201, Lecture 31: You are not the boss of me

SH: Look! He wrote "their" instead of "they're."

Me: Whatever. Don't be like your dad.

SH: What do you mean?

Me: I mean don't be petty, mean and didactic over a facebook posting. It's not formal writing. It doesn't matter.

SH: You made a mistake in that spreadsheet you want me to print.

Me: What are you talking about?

SH: You said to meet at "the Smith's" for the block party instead of at "the Smiths'."

Me: Big deal.

SH: My friend Doug thanks me when I correct his mistakes.

Me: I do not thank you. I am not asking.

SH: But you married me. You knew what you were getting. And now you're one of us.

Me: No I'm not.

SH: Is that one of the reasons you wish you hadn't changed your last name?

Me: Yep.

Marriage 201, Lecture 309: Walk a mile in my shoes

SH: Why don't you want to walk to the restaurant [a mile from our house]?

Me: Because the only shoes I have for that kind of walking are my tennies and my hiking boots and I don't want to wear those.

SH: It's not like it's a fancy restaurant. Why do you care?

Me: I refuse to wear tennies with jeans. I am not 70. Tennies are for the gym.

SH: What if I carry your cute shoes so you can wear the comfortable ones and change once we get there?

Me: I don't want to walk. It's inefficient.

SH: You are so lazy.

Me: I know.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Marriage 201, Lecture 395: Let's talk about the weather

SH: Will you play an actual game with me?

Me: What's in it for me?*

SH: I dunno. What do you want?

Me: The rest of the weekend free of any political discussion.


Me: I mean it.

* I don't care if we just hit the ball around, but SH is all, We have to keep score! We have to compete! I thought he was a liberal, everyone's special, there are no winners or losers guy, but maybe that's just for other people.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Chats du jour: The mighty huntress at work

I almost didn't let Laverne back into the house last night after her horrible failure. Four hours in the garden and she didn't catch a single mouse?


She has until 10:30 to catch something or it's bed with no tea for her.

Wisconsin 101: This is Wisconsin, people here get up early

If being late is a sin,* which indeed it is for the Germans and Scandinavians whose descendants populate this state, then being early must be a virtue. Who knows how many souls you get out of Purgatory with your premature arrival? Dozens, perhaps. Arriving on time is expected; pressing that doorbell ten minutes early bumps your cousin from Purgatory to Heaven. And half an hour early? Well. Let me build my riches in heaven, I tell you.

I like this idea of being on time. These are My People. The Tribe of We Who Do Not Waste and Who Are Punctual and Respectful of the Time of Others Even if They Do Not Deserve It.

Wisconsin summer photo.

I am not, however, so crazy about this half an hour early part.

SH and I hired a handyman, who had helped us move from SH's apartment to the house and had arrived an hour earlier than I had asked, after we moved into the house. I cautioned him not to show up early. "8:30," I told him. "Not ONE MINUTE EARLIER. I mean it."

At 8:20, he rang the doorbell. Bless his heart, he just couldn't help it. SH was not happy.

We had an estimator come two weeks ago to tell us how much it is going to cost to mudjack our garage and replace the poorly-done driveway that is broken and casts out chunks of concrete every time I shovel. (More than I paid for my graduate education at a top-20 school, but it was in-state tuition.)

Half an hour early.

At the time, SH and I thought we were reaping what we had sowed, what with trying a little afternoon delight. Who tempts fate like that? For dumb.

But the estimator from the other mudjacking place who came today also arrived half an hour early. I wasn't even at home. SH was on a conference call.

SH told the guy to wait, then called me at the coffee shop where I was enjoying a good gossip with my friend Sue. I had to leave our discussion of who should pay for what in a wedding** to let the guy into the garage.

Some of you are saying, "What are you whining about? At least your workmen show up" and indeed you are correct to note that I am complaining about the good problem, like that woman who sighs that no matter how much she eats, she just can't seem to put on any weight.***

People here have Things to Do, I suppose. They want to get on with it. As the crazy laundry people upstairs from SH's old apartment snapped at him when he asked why they had to start their laundry every single day at 8:00 a.m., waking him in the process, "This is Wisconsin. This is not New York City.**** People here get up early."

* Which makes my church's late starts even more puzzling. Mass starts seven to ten to 12 minutes late or maybe on time if it's that substitute priest, so I never know. I don't want to be ten minutes early, even though my friend Mary Jo has been trying to adjust my attitude and I wish I were more like her. I want to arrive after the opening song (Marty Haugen drivel) and after the mandatory handshaking and introductions of the people next to me. Really, if I wanted to touch people in church, I would be charismatic or a snake handler or whoever it is that hugs and holds hands. We are German Catholics. We are cold people, darnit. Stop the hand holding.

** As in, if you are the parents not paying, don't complain that there isn't an open bar. Your friends can go four hours without a scotch.

*** Do you want to punch people like that? I do.

**** Three years later and we still haven't figured out the New York reference. Do they think it's quiet all morning in New York? That New Yorkers sleep until noon?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Chats du jour: Mighty mouse catcher, yes. Mighty mouse killer, not so much

Laverne caught another mouse last night. She was crying and crying her "I've caught a mouse come admire me!" cry. The mouse was drooping in her mouth like the boneless cat in Charlie Brown. I ran inside to get my camera and stumbled over Shirley, who was standing at the kitchen door.

Shirley tensed. Her ears popped up. She flicked her tail. As I opened the door, she tried to get out. I had to mash* her head between the door and the frame to convince her that no, that was not going to happen.

When I got to Laverne, the mouse was gone. She had lost it. I detached her leash from the clothesline and let her chase for a little bit, but she didn't find him again.

The mouse must have run by the door within Shirley's line of sight. She was ready to get him. But he'll return to his nest.

Is he stupid? Maybe. Does Laverne keep catching the same mouse? She knows where he lives: under the basement window by the washing machine. She'll sit there for hours waiting for him to emerge.

Maybe he's not so stupid. If it's the same one, he's been caught and lived to tell the tale three times now. Maybe he's got this weird masochistic thing going on. Who am I to judge?

* Not hard! Sheesh! Just enough to make her pull back.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Chats du jour: Mighty huntress? Or not?

Is Laverne becoming a vegetarian tree-hugging cheese-eating surrender monkey? She already eats peaches. And bananas.

OK. I can live with her stealing my fruit. Well, not really, but when you figure out a way to keep a cat from doing something she wants to do that you don't want her to do, let me know. And no, locking her in the basement all the time is not an option because then all I get is the bad part of having a cat (litter box) with none of the fun (cat hair all over the place, harsh, rasping, constant meow demanding attention and food, cat positioning herself between me and the computer or me and the book, whichever the case may be but no matter what, optimizing my inconvenience).

Did she kill it? Or did she just find it there, dead of natural causes? We'll never know.

Here's the problem: Twice in the past week, she has caught a mouse.

Wonderful! you say. Who wants nasty disease-carrying vermin around her house? Not I!

Ah. But there is a difference between catching a mouse and killing a mouse. Not that I am looking for blood and guts, but I am equally unexcited about having a mouse catch and release program in my home. Nor am I excited at the idea that Laverne might keep the mice alive because she wants to torture them to death. Yes, it is what cats do, but it's a little gross.

The first time, I heard her crying outside. When I checked, she had a mouse in her mouth. She opened her mouth to say something and the mouse got away.

Last night, I heard her crying again and I thought it was the, "I want to come inside!" cry. Or maybe the, "I've wrapped my leash around the hollyhock and now I'm stuck, STUCK!" cry. I can't tell the difference.

But once I was out, I was not going back out again, so I detached her leash and brought her in with me. She kept crying and was pulling toward the neighbor's house as if there was something there she wanted to chase. She can see in the dark, I cannot.

I am mean, though, and made her come inside.

Where she promptly dropped a mouse onto the floor.

Which would not have been such a problem if the mouse had been dead.

But it was not dead.

It was alive and it saw its chance and skedaddled toward the basement stairs.

Can you imagine the hissy fit SH would throw if a mouse got into his beer? Or his chocolate?

I released Laverne's leash so she could chase him again. She got him. Dropped him. Which was when Shirley stepped in, batting at the mouse with her front paw and then taking a tentative bite in his direction.


Two cats who just can't close the deal.

Not that I was eager to make the kill, but I am a few steps higher on the food chain and I reserve the right in our invisible hand capitalist society, where resources flow to the most profitable enterprises or they would if the government didn't subsidize so many industries I am talking to you farm bill, General Motors, and Wall Street, not that I had anything I could have spent that money on instead,* to let someone else more qualified do my meat killing for me. I will write spreadsheets and marketing plans and improve processes. Call me.

Two cats chasing a half-dead mouse and they either can't or won't kill it. Are they sociopaths? Or liberals? Either way, I am worried.

* Except shoes, purses, and our mortgage.

Wisconsin 101: The independent gas station

Gas station attendant: How much?

Me: Pardon?

GSA: How much gas do you want?

Me: Um. Fill 'er up. [I cannot remember the last time those words came out of my mouth.]

GSA: Cash or charge?

Me: Oh, credit.

GSA: There's a five-cent discount for cash.

Me: Is that already in the price?

GSA: No.

Me [who just has to tell everyone how to run his business]: That would be useful information to post there. [I point to the price sign that you see from the street.]

GSA: Oh, it's there on the window.

Yeah. In small print. And you have to be stopped at the station and looking at the window to notice it.

Me: You don't want it out here?

GSA: It's a secret.

GSA [looks at pump, which says $35.68]: $35.

Me: Really?

GSA: The discount.

Me: OK.

But I do the math later and he has given me six-cent y pico per gallon discount. Maybe he hates making change?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Marriage 201, Lecture 562: You're not doing it right, part The Lawn

SH: I think I know why the lawn gets raggedy in patches.

Me [remove earbuds and stop mowing]: What?

SH: I know why the lawn has those uneven patches.

Me: And why is that?

SH: Because of the way you mow, pulling the [reel] mower back and then pushing it forward again.

Me [Stare of Death]

SH: But I guess I don't really care as long as I am not the one having to mow.

Me: I guess not.

Marriage 201, Lecture 497: More for us

Y'all, I'm trying not to get too depressed that my cheese grits weren't demolished at my church book club Friday night. We read "Fried Green Tomatoes" and a southern dish seemed appropriate.

I even put a little sign in front of them - Cheese Grits with Cream and Butter - so everyone would know they weren't those plain, watery grits that you cover with your biscuit and ignore politely. Or maybe sprinkle with sugar and try to eat like Malt O'Meal, not that I know anyone who would do that.

No, these were the Good Grits: 1/4 lb cheese, one cup of heavy cream, and a half a stick of butter. Tell me you couldn't make a rock taste good with those ingredients.

But only about one-third of my grits got et. Was it my promotional campaign? Was I not encouraging that first taste? Or was it that once someone had tasted them, they didn't like them?

I suspect the first because once you have tasted Good Grits, you will never go back. I suspect that in Malt O'Meal land, grits are held in high suspicion and even the words "cheese," "cream" and "butter," which should appeal to the denizens of the Dairy State, were not enough to overcome their natural hesitation.

"Oh, maybe I won't try those tonight," is the thought that went through their minds. "That's a little crazy for Friday. Besides, there's fish fry when I get home."

Plus I was competing with Rita's fabulous (it was really yummy - I had to keep myself from being a pig and eating it all) rhubarb chutney and Leslie's pecan tartlets, so what was I supposed to do? I was torn between wanting validation of my cooking because I am totally competitive* and a big showoff and wanting a bunch of leftovers so SH and I could have them all to ourselves.

So I bit my lip and tried not to inspect everyone else's plate. And then when we were cleaning up, Leslie asked if anyone wanted to take home the rest of the pecan tartlets because she was on a diet (ha as if she needs to be) and I jumped in and said yes before anyone else could because they were so good.

* SH wants to play actual tennis games and I do not because I am not good enough to win and I don't want to play if I can't win. I just want to hit the ball around. Plus I think the scoring system for tennis is stupid. Just say zero, one, two, or three. What's up with this stupid love, 15, 30, 40 baloney?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Marriage 201, Lecture 493: For better or for shoes

Last night, I was forced to admit that some things are more important than Beauty or Fashion or lovely leather BCBG slingback shoes that I got for only ten dollars (TEN DOLLARS!) at the fancy consignment store when I discovered that after walking a mere block from the playhouse, where SH and I saw "American Fiesta" by Steven Tomlinson, which we highly recommend, to the fancy Goodwill store, I was hobbling.

I used to wear high-heeled shoes to work every day and grind the little peoples under my pointy heel just for the fun of it. I wore the high heels and the not too short but short enough to show off my legs because by golly I have decent legs even if I have no chest and the VP, who wrote the dress code when she was the director of human resources yet violated it on a regular basis with her capris and sandals, had cankles, although her cankles did not show in her favorite outfit, which I called "The Philadelphia Pimp" and consisted of (I promise I am not making this up) crushed velvet pants with a paisley pattern, a turtleneck shirt and a leather vest with fur lining on the edges.

In retrospect, this might not have been the smartest of career moves, because when it came time for layoff number 832, the VP definitely did not have my back.

So anyway. SH and I attended the 4:00 p.m. showing of AMERICAN FIESTA BY STEVEN TOMLINSON which you all need to see, then stopped in at the fancy Goodwill store because why not? It's on the way to the car.

As SH was looking at blue shirts ("Look at this one. What do you think?" "I think it's just like the other 87 blue shirts you have at home." "It's nothing like them! I need it." "OK. I don't care." Seriously. It was four dollars. I love the Goodwill.) I was looking at shoes.

And purses. You never know what treasures you might encounter, although I just bought a new purse* at the big consignment sale at the JCC on Friday, so it's not like I need another one so soon, but purses are a thing you should get when you see the Right One because it is so rarely that the perfect purse comes along.

No luck on the purses, but I found some comfy shoes. I was inclined to think kindly of comfy shoes as my feet hurt. Throbbed. Screamed. Did I really suffer like this when I was in corporate America? Or did I wear more comfortable shoes? Was the pain assuaged by my salary? By my knowledge that I was making the VP look bad in comparison? By the fact that I spent most of the day sitting?

I don't know.

I just know that I saw these Nike Mary-Janeish things that didn't look too awful, as in looked like they might be suitable for wearing in a foreign country where SH and I would be doing a lot of walking and nobody I know would see me.** SH said, "Those are kind of cute."

I said, "They're not horrible."

And I thought about taking my hiking boots across the pond on our next big trip and how that would take up space that we could use to bring back cheese and chocolate, whereas if I got the $6 slightly used not horrible black Nike things - well, must I draw you a picture?

So I got the shoes. And SH got the shirt. And another shirt.

And then I sat on the steps outside the shop while he walked to the next block get the car. Because my feet hurt too much and no, I was not going to change into the not horrible shoes. They do not go with my cute red dress and orange pashmina shawl. I have not been reduced to that. I will not wear ugly shoes with a cute dress.

But the BCBG shoes are going into the Goodwill box.

* It is a red Arcadia purse. I had never heard of the brand before, but it is leather and made in Italy instead of plastic and made in China by political prisoners, so I decided it was probably OK. The ladies in line behind me assured me it was a nice brand and at $22, a steal. (I have done some research and apparently, this brand is available at TJMaxx, so $22 might not be such a bargain after all. Oh how the snobby have fallen.) BTW, person who consigned the pink silk and wool Banana Republic sweater WITH A BLEACH SPOT ON THE SHOULDER? Shame on you. Shame.

** Says the woman who does all her grocery shopping and library book picking up in her gym clothes after she has sweat in them.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Marriage 201, Lecture 496: Weed is in the eye of the beholder

SH [as we are walking to the restaurant for his birthday supper]: We're lucky we don't have dandelions in our yard.

Me: What?

My dandelion-free yard in Memphis. Also grass-free, but that's another story. As in, when the weedkiller package says how much to scatter, they mean just that much and no more.

SH: Look at all the dandelions these people have!

Me: You think it's luck?

SH: Yes.

Me: You think it's just LUCKY that all the yards around ours are full of dandelions and our yard JUST HAPPENS NOT TO HAVE ANY DANDELIONS?

SH: Yes?

Me: No. We are not "lucky" [as I do that air quotey thing]. We are "hard worky." I have been pulling dandelions for weeks now.

SH: You have?

Me: You haven't noticed?

SH: No.

Me: Well, I have.

SH: You get the roots and everything?

Me: Yes! When I was a kid, my dad paid me half a penny for every dandelion I pulled from the yard, but it had to have the root attached.

SH: That's not a lot of money.*

Me: It was to me.

* SH thinks I was poor when I was a kid, but he grew up fancy, eating out a lot. His dad was in a union, which I think is silly for professors and not a good deal for the taxpayer, but that is a whole different story that cannot be discussed here.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Marriage 201, Lecture 394: My bellybutton remains unviolated

SH decided he would rather have me accompany him to the bar than stick his finger in my bellybutton, so I steeled myself for a night of loud music, cigarette smoke, and drunks. First, we had this negotiation.

Me: How long do I have to stay?

SH: 1:00?

Me: 1:00 my time or your time?

SH: 1:00 is 1:00!

Me: Oh yeah right. Really. 1:00 my time or your time?

SH: OK. 1:00 your time unless I am the next person to sing. Then we have to wait.

Me: Fine.

We went out to eat, although we had our cake first at home. I highly recommend the "lowfat" chocolate souffle cake in The Joy of Cooking. Substitute half and half for skim milk and throw in some chocolate chips. It's even better that way.

We had these mushroom ravioli that SH raved about and mused that too bad he couldn't get food like that at home, which I took as an insult, informing him that I could make ravioli just fine, thank you very much. But there are four kinds of mushrooms in this! he said. Yeah so what? I answered. But it's ravioli! he said.

Yeah that's just square pasta or WONTON WRAPPERS IF YOU WANT TO CHEAT I told him. Honestly the man was raised by wolves.

We came home and checked our facebook and email because we cannot be untethered from the eworld for very long, then tried to leave for the bar. SH went out to put on his new CD, which involves getting into the trunk and re-arranging everything to get to the CD holder because nothing ever stays the way he likes it, especially because I picked up the lawnmower from sharpening the other day and MOVED THINGS and he hates the way I move things and don't put them back EXACTLY AS HE HAD THEM. While he was measuring and rearranging, I opened the door and the cats escaped, which they have never, ever done before.

Actually, it was just Shirley. I caught Laverne before she got out. I didn't even see Shirley go. Shirley never has any interest in going outside. It's Laverne who wants to sit in the yard and eat grass and catch mice and then brag about it, which means they escape because she has them in her mouth but has not killed them. Shirley wants to stay inside in her box lined with Marissa's baby blanket.

But I didn't know it was Shirley until I went back inside to double check. I found Laverne but no Shirley. SH freaked out. He accused me of letting Shirley out on purpose so I wouldn't have to go to the bar, which was not the case, but was an excellent idea and I wish I had thought of it.

I got the food box, took it outside and shook it like a maraca. You know, that noise maker thingie? It didn't bring Shirley back, but it attracted Laverne to the side door, where she whined loudly.

SH stomped to the closet to get the yardstick, growling that his birthday was ruined, RUINED. We found Shirley under the car. SH batted at her with the yardstick and I grabbed her when she was close enough. I yelled at her, calling her a little you know what, but SH said she was sweet and it was my fault for letting her out. I reminded him that I am the one who makes him chocolate cake, buster.

We got to the bar about five minutes later than we would have otherwise. SH got to sing almost right away and he sounded wonderful, as he always does. I sat with his sweet friend Tina and we tried to figure out what this guy who was sort of That was doing hitting on a woman who was definitely not all That and we decided that willingness to go home with a guy gives you That points, if you know what I mean. SH had no idea what we were talking about when we tried to bring him into the discussion.

I sang "Jackson" with SH and I have even more respect for June Carter Cash than I did before.

The End.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Homework #2

We have another homework assignment for the writing class. Like last week's, it has to be 350 words. It is supposed to use metaphor or contrast or strong statement or something like that. I can't remember. Last week, everyone wrote about Life Lessons. Recovering From Cancer. Deciding Not To Commit Suicide. Watching a Two-Week Old Baby Die Suddenly and Unexpectedly.

Losing An 18-Week Baby To Miscarriage. The person who wrote that was a 14 year old girl, so we all fell silent as she read her piece, a little doubtful about the veracity, but respectful of her effort as we complimented her on the mechanics of her writing and wondering why she just didn't write about the mean girls in ninth grade because honestly, we've all been there and there is plenty to write about. High school (i.e, human nature) does not change.

I wrote about Putting Lipstick On A Corpse. I suppose my Life Lesson was Put A Makeup Kit In Your Funeral File.

For next week, I need another Life Lesson. I am thinking about these ideas.

1. Cutting my own hair. Don't do it. I have been learning this lesson since I was five and as recently as two years ago. I hope I am done.

2. The time that SH took the maggot-covered dead rat out of my basement and I threw bleach on the spot where the rat was because there were still maggots there. Lesson learned? Throwing bleach leads to bleach splashing back on my gym pants and little white spots near the hem.

3. When I first moved to Milwaukee, I went to SH's haircutter. I didn't like her. Life lesson? Don't use your husband's haircutter because if you break up with her and he keeps going to her, it will be awkward.

4. Pyrex is not heatproof enough to use on top of the stove, especially if it contains milk, eggs, butter and chocolate chips.

5. When I lived in Chile, I stayed home from work one day. The maid was there. (Yes, I had a maid when I was a Peace Corps volunteer.) She was cleaning the toilet with a hand brush, even though there was a perfectly good toilet brush standing behind the toilet. "Marisol," I said, "I didn't know you brought your own supplies."
"I don't," she told me.

"Then whence the brush?" I asked.

"This is the one from under the kitchen sink."

"That's the one I use for scrubbing vegetables!" I told her.

"Oh!" she said. "I'll put it back."

"Never mind," I answered. "I won't be using it any more."

I'm not sure what the Life Lesson is for that one other than maybe I now have a lifetime immunity to typhus.

Marriage 201, Lecture 304: If you can't stand the heat

Me: Do you want me to make you a [grilled cheese and proscuitto] sandwich?

SH: Yes.

Me: Are you going to get out of the way or should I just watch while you do it?

SH: You do it.

Me: Are you going to let me cut the bread?

SH: Yes. Wait.

Me: You don't like how I cut it?

SH: No, but you don't cut it straight.

Chats du jour: Big baby

Shirley thinks the presents I am preparing for Marissa and Brian's baby are for her. Or maybe she thinks she's the present.

Marriage 201, Lecture 71: They say it's your birthday, Part 2

Me: Watch it, buster.

SH: What?

Me: Step away from the bellybutton.

SH: You mean I don't get to touch your bellybutton for my birthday?

Me: You want that to be your birthday present?

SH: May I?

Me: If you stick your finger in my bellybutton, then I don't have to go out with you tonight.

SH: [Finger hovers over my bellybutton] Let me think about it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Marriage 201, Lecture 71: They say it's your birthday

SH: I don't want that much. Just for you to go out with me, bake me a cake, and play an actual game of tennis with me. You don't have to buy me anything.

Me: If I buy you something, can I get out of the rest of the stuff?

SH: You don't want to go out with me tomorrow night?

Me: Not really. But I will.

SH: That's fine. You don't have to. I'll go out by myself on my birthday.

Me: Oh stop all that passive aggressive crap.

SH: I'm not being passive aggressive. I'll go out by myself. On my birthday. Without you. Even though I've done some really nice things for your birthday. I've already told all my friends that you're coming, but I'll go alone. You can stay home.

My homework

Y'all, my writing teacher is the nicest, sweetest lady. No, I do not share her passion about nature, but she is so sincere and so eager to share her knowledge about writing. She is giving us some excellent tips. And she liked what I wrote. She even suggested I submit it for publication. Not to brag,* but she didn't say that to anyone else in the class.

She also said that I had "a very nice sense of pacing." I had pointed out that SH noted that I had sentence fragments and didn't I think I had to follow the rules? I told him that no, I do not, I am not in 8th grade thank you very much.

Another student in class said that next time, I have to read last because I guess I stole the show. But the other students had good stuff, too. It's just that mine was funny. BTW, we all wrote about Death. What is it about Serious Writing and Death? Really? I told everyone that next week, they have to write about weddings.**

Anyhow. Here is exactly what I wrote. I was tempted to tweak it, but that would be cheating. And yes, this is a true story.

I push through the chattering crowd to the coffin. My grandmother lies there, still, a rosary laced through her clasped hands. She has a ring on almost every finger and her long nails are painted perfectly in red. Eyeshadow, rouge, lipstick. All nicely done. She doesn’t look bad for a woman of 96.

But something is wrong. I stare, trying to figure it out.

Her lipstick. It is the palest, softest, barely-there pink

I have never seen her in soft pink in my entire life.

Imagine soft pink lips pursed around a Virgina Slims held in those red-tipped fingers. Letting loose some choice words as the owner slipped and fell that time on the calf-poop covered tailgate. Sipping a beer straight from the bottle. Asking intercession from the little St Christopher statue on the dashboard before we drove to Shopko so I could spend the dollar she gave me. Reading The National Enquirer at the grocery checkout.

You can’t.

Those lips have to be red, red, red.

The funeral home had obviously not known my grandmother.

I call my cousin, my sister, my mother and my aunt over.

“Look at her lipstick! It’s all wrong!”

Aunt Pat agrees. “When I cleaned out her room, I found 12 tubes of lipstick, all red.”

We decide we have to do something.

“Does anyone have a red lipstick?” I ask.

We all dig into our purses. My friend Ilene, who has come to the funeral with me, triumphantly yanks a tube from her bag.

We all pause as we think about the next step. We have the lipstick, but do we have the will to put it on a dead woman? Is it appropriate to touch up the makeup of a corpse? What if we get in trouble? Could the owner use the lipstick on her own lips again?

“Grampa Al won’t know her without red lipstick,” my mom says

It is essential.

“I’ll do it,” Ilene, a pediatrician, says. “I had to touch dead bodies in med school.”

When Ilene finishes, Granma looks just like herself. She can rest in peace.

* OK, I am bragging.

** I am thinking about writing about SH's wedding present to me, which is that his parents will never live with us.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Marriage 201, Lecture 393: It's just a piece of paper

SH: Stop! What are you doing?

Me: I'm going to put the proof of insurance in the glove compartment.

SH: No! Don't!

Me: Why not?

SH: Because I have a special way I like to do it.

Me: That you like to put a piece of paper in the glove box?

SH: Yes.

Me: Oh good grief.*

* This is why I will never re-marry after SH dies.

Wisconsin 101: The cobbler and the pyschic

Tell me you wouldn't have looked at this sign on the door of the shoe repair guy's shop and thought, "He's dead!"

(He's not. He's taking an EMT class. That might have been useful information to put on the sign.)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Marriage 201, Lecture 492: Cinderella

Me: This is so gross. I can't get the tub clean.

SH: So?

Me: It's all sticky! I can't get the soap scum off. This cleaner isn't working.

SH: But it's environmentally responsible! I got it at Menards.

Me: It's crap. It doesn't work. I want Ajax.

SH: But that's harsh.

Me: It will get the tub clean.

SH: That's so irresponsible.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Marriage 201, Lecture 210: Yet he buys the spirally lightbulbs

This is what marriage means: It means sitting by watching your husband rearrange the freezer again and again with THE DOOR OPEN WHILE ALL THE COLD FALLS OUT. CLOSE THE DOOR! CLOSE THE DOOR!

Why does he have to rearrange the freezer? Why?

Because he wants all the bacon in the same place. That's why.

How does this work?

He pulls every item of food out, calls out its name, muses on how it should be prepared and what should accompany it, then places it back in the freezer while I shudder.

It's cold in here.

Marriage 201, Lecture 495: Tourist stuff

Me: So if we go to Paris, it's going to be pretty much to eat.

SH: Not just to eat. We'd walk a lot, so we'd burn a lot of calories.

Me: Oh yeah. That always works.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

We'll always have chocolate

The good thing about throwing a casual party on short notice that nobody attends is that you have leftovers. A lot of leftovers. Can you call it a leftover if there was no event? Then it's just the thing, right? Well, we're not going to debate semantics here, although I do love to be the person who corrects everybody else's grammar. Yes, there is a smug English teacher inside of me, dying to catch errors, red pen at the ready. The only problem is that every time I am ready to pounce, I do something dumb like misspell "weird" and then I am hoist on my own petard (which means "fart" or something like that), so now I try to avoid making public corrections of other people's mistakes.


I am pretty sure I have not been shunned by the other women in my neighborhood. One of them had called to say she couldn't make it. The other had come by beforehand with a bottle of wine and said she would be late because she had another event. I guess her thing ran longer than she thought it would.

I saw another tonight as I walked to church and she was as friendly as could be - she didn't run inside the house in an attempt to hide as I might or do the fake friendly thing they do in the south when they really hate your guts. I think everyone was just busy and it was just short notice, which I knew might be the case but I thought well heck, I'll give it a try because you never know.

But the good part: now we have a ton of zucchini bread and brownies.

The really good part?

Brownies do not freeze well.

By that I mean that yes, you can freeze them, but they do not freeze hard because of their high fat content. Even mix brownies, which are not bad, so don't be acting all superior like you never make mix brownies, have enough fat with their one-third cup of cooking oil per recipe not to freeze all the way through.

What does this mean?

It means that when you decide the next morning, after you have put all the "leftovers" in the freezer, that you absolutely have to have some chocolate for reasons I shall leave to your imagination but you women know what I am talking about, it is not difficult at all to chisel out a "few" bites with a knife. You don't even have to wait for them to thaw. They are delightfully chewy just as they are.

SH puts his in a bowl and thaws it in the microwave, but then, he is way too fussy about these things.

Friday, May 07, 2010

I'm good enough, I'm smart enough

You know that nightmare you have all the time about throwing a party and then nobody comes but then you wake up and think, That could never happen! At least one person would show up!

Although having just one person come might even be worse than nobody because then that one person sees your humiliation whereas if nobody comes at all, then you can just pretend to all of them that yeah, the party rocked and no, I didn't even MISS you! What do you mean something came up at the last minute? I thought you were there! But yeah it was crazy so I can see how I might have overlooked you.

But with just one person, someone else knows the truth.

Anyhow, you know that neither of those possibilities would ever really happen - that you would throw a party and nobody would come or just one person would come - so then you go on to part 2 of the nightmare which is that you throw a party and don't have enough food for everyone.

Except last night I lived the nightmare.

I threw a party and not one single person showed up.

I didn't think this was possible.

Although maybe it could have something to do with deciding to have a Thursday party on Sunday, distributing invitations on Monday, and not asking for a response because hey, if people are free, they're free and if they're not, they're not and this is totally casual, so show up or not it's just a little thing where I will bake all day Wednesday but whatever.

SH kept asking what if nobody showed up, but he is such a pessimist. I told him that if nobody came, that was just more zucchini bread, macarons, and brownies for us.

I joked.

Little did I know.

Last night, after I finally turned out the living room lights and put the food away, he asked if I was feeling abandoned.

Oh no. I'm not abandoned. I'm not bitter. I'm not socially scarred from not having been asked to a single high school dance. Or from never going with anyone until I was in college.

Or from my own short-term high-school boyfriend #1 who kissed me once, then told me I tasted like macaroni and he didn't like macaroni and never kissed me again. Sure, he turned out to be gay, which I learned 25 years after the incident. But I wasn't scarred by that.

Or my high school boyfriend #2 who ditched me right before prom and took that ugly redhead in my gym class instead - the one who always asked me how David was before he ditched me and back when we would spend lunch necking behind the chemistry building.

I'm fine. Really.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Marriage 201, Lecture 451: A speedy trial

SH: Are you going to cut the brownies now?

Me: No.

SH: To keep you from eating them?

Me: Yes.

SH: Are you going to wait until just before they get here?

Me: Yes.

SH: That won't keep me from cutting out a corner.

Me: Please don't.

SH: Because it will dry?

Me: No.

SH: Then why?

Me: Because it will create an open edge.

SH: And you won't be able to resist?

Me: Yes.

SH: But I want a brownie now!

Me: You can have one later.

SH: A brownie delayed is a brownie denied.

Me: No it's not. Eat a cookie instead.

Marriage 201, Lecture 22: Honoring

SH has many, many fabulous qualities, including the ability to fix things like major appliances and cars, thus saving us lots of money on repairmen that can be redirected to more important things like shoes and purses, a prodigious memory, including knowing the anniversaries of things like our first kiss,* and an ability to laugh at himself that lets me write about him in this blog without his getting cranky about it. Plus he is a hottie.

But perhaps one of the best things about SH is that he does not expect me to take over his holiday obligations just because we are married.

As in, I am not responsible for his mom and dad.

As in, they're his parents. He sends the cards.

As in, he buys them. He signs them. I do not have to sign them. My name is not on them.

As in, if there are presents involved, he chooses them. I might say, "You have got to be kidding. We are not going to spend that much money for this event," but that is the extent of my involvement.

As in, he gets it.

* Although he does not always use his remembering power for good. Shouldn't he just not notice that there is now a burn mark on the kitchen floor? I would not notice it if he had made it.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


Here's the thing with African food: it takes a long time to prepare. And I'm not sure it's worth the effort/payoff ratio. But even though I had made African food before, I decided that I had nothing better to do for a few hours and I would try the recipe for Khimi Chapati in my new issue of Saveur magazine.

I should mention I have never liked anything I have made from Saveur. I read it for the photos.

So who's the dummy?

First, the initial traumatizing African food experience. When I lived in Memphis, my friends Leigh, Megan and I started the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers group there. We did it as a way to meet men. Our intention was to throw parties. We were done with volunteering. Been there, done that, had the GG shot every three months.

There was one killjoy who insisted at our first meeting that we do "socially relevant" projects. Having spent some time managing people who have great ideas, I knew what to do. I told her she was in charge of all such activities.

We never heard from her again.

In the meantime, I went to the bathroom, which is always a bad thing to do when a group is organizing and choosing officers. When I returned, I discovered I had been elected president of the group.

We were always looking for fun things to do,* so someone came up with the idea of an African cooking class. One of the volunteers knew a few Ethiopian ladies who were willing to teach the class. I got about 15 people to sign up at $20 a person (the money was going to the ladies) and told everyone to show up at Leigh's house at 11:00 a.m. on a Saturday, with the idea being we would eat at noon.


The food was not done until 5:00. People had left. Megan had come and gone a few times, saying, "I've lived in Africa. I know how this works."

I have to say the food was fabulous, but I should have learned an important lesson, which was if you want African food, go out for it.

And yet, here I am ten years later trying African food again. This is a Kenyan recipe for a sort of empanada. You roll out little pieces of dough, throw in some meat filling, crack an egg over the top, then fold up the dough and fry. Simple, right?


There is all this fancy stuff with the dough about rolling it out, spreading it with ghee (the recipe calls for one cup of butter for six pastries, which makes me wonder how anyone over there could be thin), then folding it like an accordion and then making a spiral and then rolling it out again.

Have you ever rolled out dough that is spread with a lot of butter?

Doesn't work too well, even if you say, "Lord have mercy no way am I using an entire cup of butter for this. My clothes are already tight enough." Even if you just put the lightest brushing of butter (no, I did not make ghee - please - I'd be cooking until midnight), the dough gets all slippery and uncooperative and you pretty much have to be the boss of it and slap it around to get it to do what you want and then your hands get all buttery, which is not necessarily a bad thing, except you are not supposed to be spending your time licking your hands.

Then there are little holes in the dough because you used the Good Salt instead of table salt because you have about a gajillion pounds of Good Salt now and it shouldn't just be a darn souvenir, except guess what property table salt has that the Good Salt harvested by virgins at the full moon in a leap year does not?

Table salt is tiny.

The virgin/moon Good Salt has big granules, which I suspected might be a problem but then thought, Oh, they'll dissolve in the water that I am mixing with the flour.

No, they did not dissolve. Instead, they made little Good Salty chunks in the dough that tore as I rolled it out. And when chunks of dough tear out, eggs leak out of the hole.

Eggs leaking burn as the thingy is cooking.

And yet. They are done.

The zucchini bread I made with frozen zucchini without squeezing out the extra water?

Not done. Baked for an extra hour. We will be eating it with a spoon. Can I still serve it tomorrow night when I have the neighborhood ladies over to talk about a block party?**

* To meet men.

** SH keeps asking if I have heard back from any of the women I've invited. Nope. I haven't. He is very worried that we will have all this extra food.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Marriage 201, Lecture 892: Fashion above all

Me: I'm leaving.

SH: Bye.

Me: I'm driving.

SH: To the library?*

Me: I want to wear cute shoes.

* It's three blocks from our house.


I know many of you wonder, "What is this glamorous gold-digger life of luxury that Class Factotum leads and how can I get one?"

The secret, of course, is to marry a rich divorced engineer and suck him dry while he slaves and slaves until the wee hours to keep you in pedicures and bon bons. That's my strategy.

Let me tell you what could be yours. Here is my life since yesterday morning.

Do a load of laundry and hang on the line.

Throw cats off the island where they are trying to eat the peonies and the tulips. Repeat ad nauseam. Leave cats in the basement when I go to the gym so they don't eat my flowers.

Go to the gym. Sort of work out but not really because hahahahaha SH can't afford to divorce me so who cares if I look good?

Grocery store: what's on the bargain counter? Oh. Wait. I don't care about saving money! Lobster! Danish butter at $7/lb! The sky is the limit.*

Go to Target to see if the scarf I bought two weeks ago has been marked down even further so I can get another price adjustment like I did last week.

Garden shop. Are the tomatoes in yet? Nope.

Home. Prep the chicken and veg for tonight's supper. Throw nasty chicken-juice soaked container in trash with note to self to put out for collection Wed a.m. before it starts to stink.

Clean the garden window of cat hair** and cat noseprints. This entails climbing up on the footstool, then balancing on the sink to reach all the way back to the box window. Remove every item from the windowshelf (the window is about 28" deep***) and wash it. Cat hair is flying.

Think about washing the outside of the window again even though I just did the windows two weeks ago and decide no, why bother.

Collect and fold laundry. Leave SH's t-shirts unfolded because he doesn't like how I do them and I am OK with that.

Pull more dandelions from the front yard while I wait for the driveway guy to come to give us an estimate. Wait. Wait. Call after half an hour. Oh, he's not going to be able to come tonight. That's a mark on his permanent record.

Distribute invitations to a few women on my street to come over on Thursday night to clear out the leftover chocolate in the house so SH and I can get back on the straight and narrow.

Plan menu for said event: macarons, brownies, zucchini bread, cheese and crackers, Halloween candy.

And blah, blah, blah.

Today, I have already cleaned the cat box, planted tomato seedlings from the other garden place (Ha! I spit in your face, Fate!), made SH a lovely lunch sandwich of roasted garlic, cheese, and smoked beef tenderloin, washed my down vest by hand, including scrubbing the dirt off the hem and the pocket area with a brush, planted more flowers in the front, and eaten a small bag of peanut M&Ms left over from my Halloween stash because I feel fat.

* Not really. I got zucchini.

** From our allegedly non-shedding, allegedly Siamese cats.

*** I ask SH how deep the window is. "I don't know." "Estimate." "About two feet. But now I have to know." So he measures. It's actually 28".

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Marriage 201, Lecture 42: Going straight to the fun part

Usually, new babies look like monkeys to me, but this baby is really cute.

SH: Marissa* had her baby yesterday.

Me: Oh! And?

SH: And what?

Me: What is it?

SH: A boy.

Me: And?

SH: And what?

Me: What is his NAME? How much did he WEIGH?

This would not be so bad if we had not been through this before when his friend Jon's baby was born. All he knew was that the baby had arrived. He had not gotten any of the important information. The only reason he had the information about Marissa and Brian's baby is because they sent it all in an email. Is this an engineer thing or a guy thing?

PS Yes, this makes us step grandparents. I am OK with that.

* SH's stepdaughter from his first marriage.

Marriage 201, Lecture 302: Sick and tired

SH: I’m feeling better.

Me: Good.

SH: You don’t want me to get better. You want me to suffer.

Me: Of course I want you to get better. You are incapable of suffering in silence.

Marriage 201, Lecture 378: In sickness, unfortunately

SH: [whine, whine, whine]

Me: I don't know why you won't just take some drugs.

SH: It's a false solution.

Me: What's false about it? They address the symptoms while you heal.

SH: It's more noble this way.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Marriage 201, Lecture 333: What are the odds of getting sick on a Saturday? Like one in a thousand?*

SH: [Whine, whine, whine]

Me: Poor baby.

SH: Whine, whine, whine] I have a cold. I feel miserable. This is so unfair to be sick on the weekend. By the time I feel better, it will be Monday and I'll have to work again.

Me: You don't come from a stiff upper lip family, do you?**

SH: [Whine, whine, whine]

* From Homer Simpson.

** For the record, SH has to pull it out of me when I have a headache, a not-infrequent occurrence although better since I started taking depakote. Of course, the depakote gives me nightmares every single night and I awake with sore jaws from grinding my teeth, but whatever. I don't whine.

Marriage 201, Lecture 552: Absence

SH: I miss the kitties when I'm gone.

Me: What about me?

SH: Well of course that goes without saying.