Thursday, June 30, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 390: Items appear bigger, or, right before he was arrested

Me: You're going to Target?

SH: Yes.

Me: I love this bra. But the elastic is going. When you're at the store, would you look and - wait. That won't work.

SH: What won't work?

Me: I was going to ask you to take photos of the bras so I can decide if I want to go to the store, but then I realized that it might not be a good idea for you to stand there and take photos of the lingerie.

Later the same day.

SH [on phone]: Check your email. I just sent you something.

Me: OK. Oh. There it is. [Not really - there was five minutes of phone calls and test emails as SH tried to get his smartypants phone, his new gmail address and my email to work together.]

Me: You sent me a photo of bras!

SH: I'm at Target. Which ones do you like?

Me: They're not on sale.

SH: The polka dot one is.

Me: Get it.


Me: Are there any underpants that match?

SH: What? I have to look for underpants now?

Me: The bin should be right there.

SH: Here it is. And yes, there is a pair. Size medium.

Me: Get them.

SH: And one extra small.

Me: Oh yeah that's not an option.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

We are all Joads now

One of the main reasons I have wanted to own a pickup truck was so that I wouldn't have to make five trips to Home Depot to haul home the fluffy pink insulation I installed in my uninsulated 1922 bungalow attic in my Memphis house, which was almost as good at keeping in the cold as our 1928 house here is.

I want a place to throw composted manure and peat moss and all that other stuff you feed your garden. I wanted a place for flats of petunias.

The main reason I don't want a pickup truck?

Because I don't want to help anybody move.

I know that's what people who own trucks do because I, myself, have called upon truck-owning friends to beg their assistance.

In my defense, it has been many, many years since that has happened. Over 20. The rest of the time, I have either been moved by a company found and paid for by my employer (the only way to go), by my now-husband and Penske, by Two Men and a Truck or by U-Haul (and some friends, all of whom got as much beer and pizza as they wanted but in retrospect I realize that still wasn't enough).

By the way, has anyone ever gone to U Haul and gotten the truck they actually reserved? What is the point of their reservation system if not to guarantee that a 12' truck will be available at 9 a.m. on Saturday? No I don't want to upgrade to a 20' truck unless you are willing to give it to me for the same price as the 12' and no, I do not want to go to a location across town to get the truck there.

U Haul operates on the funeral industry philosophy, which is that you are in desperate dire straits and not exactly in a position to be negotiating. You'll take the truck we give you and like it. You'll pay $6,000 for a casket and like it and oh yes, you'll pay for a liner, too, even though NOTHING IS GOING TO STOP A DEAD BODY FROM DECOMPOSING so why don't we just use a corrugated box that costs about $50?

SH has instructions to ask if there are any cheaper caskets in the back. You think I'm cheap, but he is supposed to use the savings to make sure the food at my funeral is really, really good.

Which would you rather have? Me in a fancy casket or a rocking good party?

I pick the party. So should you.

Back to the pickup. I don't want to help people move because I am lazy and selfish and I hate doing that kind of thing for myself and really don't want to do it for other people. Plus now I think about things that I never thought about before, like back injuries and liability and who pays if SH hurts himself getting that sofa out of our friend's basement.

But when our super-nice neighbor who has been so good to us asked us to help her move on Saturday - our neighbor who has shoveled our walk and driveway when we're out of town so burglars won't say, Hey! An empty house! Let's rob it! and who has fed our cats and who has gone over and made sure the windows are closed before the storm hits when I have called her from 60 miles away - when she asked, what could we say but "Yes?"

Plus there was that tiny little bit of moving karma debt I still owed from when my friend Bruce drove his estate sale van here from northern Illinois in 2008 and made three trips from the storage unit that contained most of my furniture to the house, loading and unloading almost everything by himself and refusing to take a penny of gas money. That's a big deal. That's a huge favor for someone to do for someone when there is no [wxyz] involved.

I needed to pay that forward.

But all week, I was dreading the day. SH was more sanguine. "She's our friend," he said. "She has been so nice to us. It will be fine."

I accepted it. He was right. She is our friend. She's been so nice to us. She's a good neighbor. Ex neighbor. Grrr.

On Wednesday, our neighbor emailed me. The other three men who were supposed to help had cancelled. It would be SH, her and me.

Oh crap.

Now I was really cranky. But she was even crankier. To bail on a friend three days before she moves? That's pretty low.

Then a miracle happened.

On Friday, my neighbor's friend's husband came over with his work van. They were going to move a few boxes to her new place, which is about a mile from here.

At 9:00, she knocked on our back door.

"Good news!" she said. "I'm all moved!"

What was this? What good words were striking mine ears?

"We fit a lot more in the van than we thought," she explained. "All we have to do is the washer and dryer and maybe you guys could help with that tomorrow?"

Well sure. That's a piece of cake.

Off the hook. Off the hook without one single one of my whiny words reaching my friend's ears. Off the hook AND WE GOT CREDIT FOR BEING WILLING TO HELP.

That's the best part of all. We got credit but didn't have to do a darn thing. It's like when I offered to host the baby shower for my friend Leigh but then Margie really wanted to do it and I had never really wanted to do it at all but had offered because Leigh is my friend and I love her and I wanted her to have a great shower and it's better to host the shower yourself than not to have a shower at all.

It's just that after the bridal shower where Nancy's dogs peed on Leigh's presents and Nancy still didn't put them out, there were some people I just didn't want in my house.*

I should have realized that Leigh would not stay friends with someone like that and there was no danger of Nancy being in my house, but there you go.

I got credit for offering to have the shower but didn't actually have to do anything. We got credit for being willing to help our neighbor move but didn't actually have to do anything. All the benefits of doing a favor for someone with none of the drawbacks.

Does that mean it's safe to get a truck? Or do I still owe the universe one move?

* And the fact that Nancy presented me a bill for my share of the expenses of the shower, which I co-hosted, even though she had never consulted me about any of the planning or budgeting. It wasn't a lot of money, but considering I wasn't expecting anything as my repeated offers of help had been rebuffed and considering I had brought food, I was not pleased.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 427: Have some whine with that

SH: But what am I going to have for lunch?

Me: There's leftovers. Steak. Lamb chops. The pork from the Hawaiian place.

SH: I want wine with that food.

Me: So have it.

SH: I can't have wine at lunch.

Me: Why not?

SH: It's lunch!

Me: Hello! You're on sabbatical. You can have wine with lunch.

SH: Oh. Yeah! I guess I could go on the European plan.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 639: Don't go in the water

Me: Are you ready to go [play tennis]?

SH: No! I just finished eating! I had a bunch of meat! I need to wait.

Me: It's not swimming. It's not like you're going to get a cramp and drown.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sometimes, 11th place is not so bad

You guys, I am not a fan of 11th place ribbons and the Everyone is a Winner! and Everyone is Special! attitudes because we all know they are crap. In the real world, when performance reviews come around, your boss might be told that she has to curve the ratings and that only one person can get an Exceeds (and hence a good raise) and the rest have to get Meets (which might mean no raise), you know that Everyone is Not A Winner.

If you are unfortunate enough to work for a place like I used to, where there was a dedicated elevator - one of the four in the ten-story building - to the executive offices on the second floor - offices that were locked to general employees and once you know that the CEO got a $1.2 million or a $12 million bonus (either one is too much) in the year that over 1,000 salaried employees, including moi, were laid off (they had already decimated the hourly ranks over the previous five years) and the stock price dropped from $42 to $28, thus rendering all my options at $38 completely worthless*, you can understand why those offices were locked because otherwise, we might have been storming them with pitchforks, you might also have the policy that employees in staff groups, like Legal, can't get Exceeds, which means by definition, they cannot get decent raises. You know then that Everyone is Not A Winner.

I don't like stupid ribbons. I don't like stupid ceremonies. I don't even like valid ones. I am talking high school/college graduation here as opposed to kindergarten/sixth grade/eighth grade. Really, people? Really? You want to celebrate that your kid finished kindergarten?

That reminds me of my friends Joan and Steve, who, when Hooters came up and I asked what they would do if one of their daughters wanted to work there, answered, “We really have much higher aspirations for them than that. We think they can achieve more than that sort of work.”

Don't you have higher aspirations than kindergarten for your kid?

With God as my witness, I will never attend another graduation ceremony again. NEVER. Is there anything more boring than watching a couple of hundred of people you neither know nor care about walk across a stage and shake someone's hand? It's boring even if you know the people. As SH and I do not have children, we will never be obligated to attend a graduation.**

Which brings me to a question I see on Dear Abby sometimes. The stressed mother is wondering oh no! How will she allocate the eight graduation tickets among all the relatives?

My answer to her is not to sweat it - that nobody really wants to go, anyhow, and they will be darn relieved to have a good excuse. If there are people who actually like attending graduations, please send them my way, because I have a lot of very tedious and boring yard and housework that I would be happy to delegate.

But this is not a post about graduations. It's about 11th place ribbons and how dumb they are.


Maybe a little bit of encouragement is not so bad.

As in, maybe some positive reinforcement will give someone the confidence to keep trying and to get better.


Oh yes.

With every stroke in yesterday's class, I got progressively worse. The new teacher's solution was to stop the class and give us a long lecture on how different grips affect spin and how we should adjust our grips, which is fine in theory, I suppose, but I am still at the stage where my mantra is, Eye on the ball. Eye on the ball. Follow through.

As in, once I can be sure that I actually

1. Hit the ball
2. In the center of the racquet
3. Every time and
4. Get it over the net and
5. In bounds on the other side,

then I will worry about adjusting my grip.

I hit the ball. Out into the bleachers. Into the net.

"You are getting worse! How can you get worse?" he said.

He lobbed the ball to me. "Don't screw this one up!" he warned.

Guess what?

I screwed it up.

He sighed and shook his head. "You getting worse," he admonished me.

Yes. I know. I know I am a crummy athlete. It is not my plan to quit my day job to become a tennis pro. I am not counting on making money with this sport.

My intent is

1. to have fun
2. and get exercise
3. with my husband
4. as our usual joint activities are eating and watching movies

Therefore, it is not essential that I be perfect or even really good. I will be happy with Good Enough. I will be happy with an 11th place ribbon. Leave me alone, tennis teacher.

* My mom: Why would you pay more to buy stock from your company than you would pay on the open market?

Me: I wouldn't. That's the point.

** Exception: The ceremony when my cousin Eric finished flight school and got his wings was quite moving, but that was more of a family reunion than a graduation.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Space time continuum and squeezing atoms

Remember high school chemistry when you learned about atomic structure and how most of an atom is air (or empty! air is different stuff - you know - elements, which are made up of atoms) and that what we think is solid is not really solid but some nuclei and electrons and then lots and lots of empty space?

So when you look at a table, you think, That's not really solid. That's a bunch of nuclei and electrons jumping from level to level depending on how excited they are and a whole lot of nothing in between, which should mean when I put my diet Coke on here, it should fall right through.

Which it doesn't, maybe because the diet Coke is also made up of atoms and empty space and they latch onto each other the way velcro does. Who knows? After my C in freshman chemistry, I started considering changing my major from biomedical engineering to English and by the middle of my sophomore year, that was a done deal. Good bye, physics and differential equations, hello political science and 19th century British novel.

Ask me about Matthew Arnold and ignorant armies and darkling plains clashing in the night and I can tell you things, but ask me to balance a chemical equation and I refer you to my cousin Becky, a chemistry major who is now an optometrist, or to my cousin Amanda, also a chemistry major who is now a chemistry teacher. There are chemistry genes somewhere in my family, but they are recessive.

But my point is that most of what we perceive as solid and immutable is insubstantial.

Which is why it is so darn frustrating when certain items - shelves or beds or entertainment centers - cannot fit into certain places - our basement stairs.

Shouldn't there be a way to re-arrange the electrons - smash them into the center - and squeeze and compress an item so you can get it to where it needs to be?

Imagine how many household tragedies or at least how many household tantrums would be prevented if that stupid huge oak entertainment center that I never liked to begin with because I think entertainment centers are el tackeo had just fit down our 1928-era basement stairs?

No matter how many times we tried, though, that piece was not going to become any smaller. And no matter how many times we tried, the stairwell was not going to become any bigger.

Instead, we ended up with a frustrated SH, a frustrated mover and a frustrated me, who said to the mover, "Let me try a puff of your cigarette" and I have to tell you, it does help. Menthol especially. I am seriously considering taking up smoking when I am 70 and already wrinkled.

Also instead, we ended up with an entertainment center in our garage that sat there for many, many, many months until someone in our house and I am not naming names but am I the one who cares about keeping the cars in the garage? No I am not because I hate backing the car out of the garage through the Narrow Straits of Scratchingness over the Icy Driveway of Death in the winter. The entertainment center stayed in the garage until it was necessary to clear space for the car. And then it was sold at a loss.

Although perhaps that was a blessing in disguise because had that entertainment center fit down the stairwell, it would be residing in our basement today and I would have to look at it every time I watch TV.

But if I could compress items until I got them to their final destination, I could have compressed the shelves I found for $9 at the flower place set up in the parking lot of the school district HQ and put them in our basement where they would have done some good.

Nine dollars! For solid wood shelves! Sure, they were not the prettiest of shelves, but in the basement, all you want is something to keep your boxes off the floor. Your design esthetic is "Keep storage items from being ruined when the sewer drain backs up, which happens about once a year." Your sophisticated design esthetic, the one that lets the Jones know what's what, is "Keep storage items from being ruined when the sewer drain backs up, which happens about once a year, and do it for only $9."

Why isn't science working on a way to compress $9 shelves so they fit down the basement stairs? Why should I have to deconstruct said shelves (in theory - that would be the only way to do it) rather than just squeeze them?

If I could have squeezed those shelves, then SH would have had more room to store all his basement crap, crap that I would really rather he just throw away although you know there might come a day when we need his phone bills from 1997 or his stepdaughter's college tuition receipts. But SH would have more room for his boxes and then there would be less reason for me to nag him about getting rid of stuff because at least it would be on shelves and you know the rule - once junk is tidy and on shelves, it is official - and it would be a win-win for him.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 672: Retaliatory purse, redux

8:00. SH was supposed to be home at 7:30.

SH [on phone]: I'm leaving. I'll be home in a minute.

Me: OK.

SH: Have you bought a [Retaliatory] purse yet?

Me: No.

SH: You'd better hurry.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 622: Helpful household hints from the guy on sabbatical

SH: Wow. The whole back of the loveseat is full of cat hair.

Me: That car hair pick-up thingy is on the table by the washing machine.

SH: It needs to be vacuumed.

Me: OK.


Me: I thought you were going to vacuum the cat hair.

SH: No. I was merely informing you that it needs to be done so the next time you're vacuuming, you can do it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 362: Art of the Nag #53 or he was an engineering major, y'all

SH: You're nagging.

Me: No I'm not. I'm just asking you to do something.

SH: Nagging.

Me: Let's make a deal. Why don't I make a list of all the things I would like you to do this summer while you're on sabbatical. You tell me which things you will do. Then just do them by the end of summer. I won't say another word.


Me: So how about setting up the auto contribution to your IRA? That's been on the list since we moved into the house.

SH: That takes time.

Me: I know. Because it's really hard to divide $5,000 by 12 and then pick three funds.

SH: The problem is that 12 doesn't go into $5,000 evenly.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 657: Unbalanced

As we are running in preparation for the stupid stupid half marathon I agreed to do with SH.

Me [whining]: I hate running. I hate every single step of it.

SH: Then why do you do it?

Me: Because I hate being fat more.

SH: You have this triangle: you hate being fat, you hate exercising, and you love to eat. You can never have all of them in balance.

Me: That's right.

SH: Either you have to weigh more than you want or you have to exercise more than you want or you have to eat less than you want.

Me: Yes.

SH: It must be really hard to be you.

Me: It is.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 526: All hat and no cattle

SH: You didn't eat any of this smoked cheddar while I was gone.

Me: No.

SH: Why not?

Me: I wasn't eating a lot of cheese. I was trying to eat beans and lean proteins.

SH: Are you trying to get rid of your Milwaukee Roll?

Me: I'm always trying to get rid of it.

SH: No. You're always talking about getting rid of it, but not necessarily doing anything about it.

Me: Yeah, I guess.

SH: There's a difference between "wanting to" and "trying."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sometimes The Plan is not so useful

1. Google maps lies
2. I am way too inflexible and rigid and sometimes I need to abandon The Plan

Note how I have written the points I want to make today at the beginning of this post. I do this frequently to keep myself from wandering off topic. That's why my posts are always so focused and razor sharp.

You may borrow this technique for yourself if you want.

Google maps is obsessed with highways. Even if there is a county road between East Troy and Lake Geneva - a direct north-south road - google maps wants me to continue southwest to Elkhorn to pick up the highway that then runs back through Lake Geneva. What they neglect to tell me is that the East Troy-Lake Geneva road is COMPLETELY EMPTY and will cut ten miles from my trip.

But CF! google maps protests. It's a COUNTY ROAD! Why would you take a COUNTY ROAD when you can take a state highway?

Google maps also fails to take into account that the state highway in northern Illinois from Wisconsin to Elgin goes through artsy little towns that are jammed with Chicago daytrippers and that it takes five cycles of the light to get past Main Street in Algonquin.

But when I ask google maps if I should just take I94 to I90 to Elgin, google maps says, No! No! There might be construction!

Well of course there will be construction. It's Illinois. It's the highway. It's summer. That's how they roll.

Next time, I do not trust google maps.

Why was I driving to Elgin Illinois you ask?

Because I saw on facebook that my friend Brooke, whom I met in Cedar Rapids 12 years ago and who now lives in Austin and whom I have not seen in 12 years, was going to be there this weekend with her husband so he could compete in a speedboat race.

I looked at the map and thought, Heck it's just 95 miles from my house to Elgin how much trouble can it be?

Then my next thought was, But I have tennis class on Saturday morning and then I have to pick SH up at the airport at 5:30 which leaves me not very much time in Elgin visiting with my friend.

Most normal people, when confronted with a situation like that, would not consider the tennis class to be an unyielding constraint. Picking SH up at the airport? That could not be changed. He certainly would not appreciate being told to take a taxi home, especially after his ten days in a Place That Shall Not Be Named but trust me this was not fun for him.

Most people would think, But if I skip my tennis class, then I can spend more than an hour with my friend!

Actually they would think, I could spend more than three hours with my friend because they think 95 miles = 1.5 hours of driving, which would be the case in someplace normal like Texas or Tennessee or Wisconsin but all bets are off when you get to northern, Chicago-area Illinois. No, northern, Chicago-area Illinois driving follows the Latin America Rule of Travel Time Calculation, which is to take the number of kilometers to be traveled and allow one hour per 50K.

Most people would not think, But the Wednesday class was cancelled because of rain and I totally forgot to go to the Tuesday class, so how can I miss the Saturday class?

Most people would think, Honey. You are not Venus. You are not Serena. This is a hobby. It is not a requirement. Skip the darn class so you can spend more time with your friend.

But I am not most people. I stick to The Plan. Which is good for many things, such as exercising and housecleaning and school, but not so good for unexpected situations like a friend I haven't seen for 12 years comes within 100 miles of me.

Next time, I will skip tennis and spend more time with my friend.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 632: And he's back

SH: When you open the upstairs window, you don't do it right.

Me: Why not?

SH: You don't line the crank up with that part.

Me: What part?

SH: I don't know what it's called.

Me: It's not parallel to the window frame?

SH: No! That place -

Me: Oh. You mean that little place where it rests [when the window is closed and locked]?

SH: Yes. You don't line it up. You don't do it right.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday report

I thought about writing about the discussion SH and I had on the phone the other night about whether I should wait for him to be home to defrost the chest freezer in the basement or just do it now while it's still so darn cold and our remaining venison sausages and bratwurst from my uncle Larry and the tuna steaks that were on sale and the potato sausage that we bought from the butcher on Highway 13 just north of Prentice almost a YEAR AGO and that we had better eat and the llama steaks, also bought last July in Dorchester, won't thaw too much while they are resting in the plastic bins or coolers or whatever.

But you've already heard this story a million times before. It's Variation 24 (b) of the "You won't do it right if I'm not there to micromanage" refrain that includes my Response #562.34 "I ran my life just fine for 42 years before I ever met you."

The problem is that without SH around, I don't have that much material. There is only so much you can write about cats. Shed ^ (infinity) = The Story of Cats and that's that.

Witness: My exciting day. Decaf coffee to start, because I am trying a new no-caffeine test to see if that's what might be causing my headaches. Yes, I know some people swear by acupuncture and it works for them and that's great, but even my orthodox Jewish drug rehab counselor/acupuncturist told me that acupuncture wasn't likely to work on headaches that come about more because of my genetics than because of environmental factors.

Considering my mom, my brother, my sister, my cousin Amanda, my third cousin or is it second cousin once removed? Randy, and probably everyone else I am related to gets them, I would say genetics probably play a part.

Doesn't mean caffeine can't enhance things.

And I will note that I have not had a headache since I stopped drinking caffeine, which also coincides with the day SH left town last week.

I am not claiming causation with either of the factors. Just noting the coincidence.

After the "coffee," I snuck a trip to Walgreen's for a diet Dr Pepper because I had the tiniest edge of a headache - an aspirin headache not an imitrex one - and thought a few sips of caffeine plus the aspirin might knock it away. Which it did.

Then to the Y for the yoga class with the teacher who blessherheart does not shut up for the entire hour ("Fall into the stillness and be with the Being" and "Identify and claim the space that is all yours") so I just put my mp3 earbuds in and crank up the volume.

Sendik's, where I buy way too much produce when what I really want is a doughnut or a bagel with cream cheese.

Oh refined fatty carbs how I love you.

Then to city hall, where I swear to uphold and defend the constitution of the United States and of Wisconsin as part of my role as a member of my town's historical preservation commission. I am sure I will be doing a lot of constitution defending as part of my role. I'm looking forward to it.

Then home, where I

1. Wash the cat nose prints off the back door window
2. Throw boric acid on the seething teeming pile of ants that has suddenly appeared by the basement window (outside, fortunately)
3. Spray a bleach solution on the drainboard
4. Try to keep the cats away from my lunch
5. Plant zinnia seedlings because I have realized that none of the seeds I planted three weeks ago have germinated and then remember that last year, the same thing happened and this year, I was going to go straight to seedlings but I forgot and now I'm three weeks late into the season
6. Pull the darn ground cover from the flower beds. Someone planted it there on purpose years ago and now it plots a takeover of the garden every year.

Aren't you ready for SH to return? I am.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Chats du jour: Cat in the hat #47

Marriage 301, Lecture 553: Have fart will travel

Yes, this happened a few weeks ago. SH is out of town, remember?

SH: Ooops! I'm sorry!

Me: What?

SH: I farted.

Me: So?

SH: It's bad. I'll move so it won't bother you.

Me: It's too late! It's already out. It doesn't follow you, you know.

PS I am in the middle of watching a movie on amazon prime. I forgot what it's called, but it's a mildly-entertaining flick with Brittany Murphy playing an English chick. Her roommate goes to a therapist for help with his relationships or lack thereof and the therapist defines relationships in terms of farts:

1. The beginning, when neither person farts and both people are perfect (and on their best behavior)
2. The honeymoon, where your partner's farts are cute
3. Reality, where farts are annoying

Wait! I found it! The movie is Love and Other Disasters. From

Therapist: Relationships are best measured by farting.

Peter Simon: Excuse me?

Therapist: The stages of a relationship can be defined by farting. Stage one is the conspiracy of silence. This is a fantasy period where both parties pretend that they have no bodily waste. This illusion is very quickly shattered by that first shy, "Ooh, did you fart," followed by the sheepish admission of truth. This heralds a period of deeper intimacy. A period I like to call the "Fart Honeymoon", where both parties find each other's gas just the cutest thing in the world. But, of course, no honeymoon can last forever. And so we reach the critical fork in the fart. Either the fart loses its power to amuse and embarrass thereby signifying true love, or else it begins to annoy and disgust, thereby symbolizing all that is blocked and rancid in the formerly beloved. Do you see what I'm getting at?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tuesday report

You guys, I'm not sure how much longer I'm going to be able to stand being upstairs. Our neighbors across the street are having their driveway re-done, which means, for those of you who do not have the pleasure of owning one of those money pits known as "a house," $5,000 to $10,000 of expense to bring your property to what it should be at a bare minimum. Getting a new driveway does not improve your property values. It doesn't make your house nicer. Or warmer. Or prettier. It just brings you up to "should be."

As my friend Rob says, it is the buying new athletic socks of home improvements. You have to spend money on something that is not fun and just keeps you from being gross.

The other part about a new driveway is that it is very, very noisy.

I remember our new driveway from last summer. Oh what a fun week that was. Shirley was thrilled because there was constant noise. She loves noise.

Think about what it takes to remove cement. Think jackhammer and transporting the cement chunks to the truck parked right in front of your house. (Or is it concrete? I can never remember which is the component and which is the final product. I tried to make a mnemonic about one is a verb and one is an adjective, but I can't remember which is which.)

Then think about that going on all day long. On one of the few days this spring where it's been nice enough to open the windows. Wisconsin weather, your timing is fab.

I might be forced to go to the basement and watch a movie from amazon prime.

You guys know about that, right? If you are an amazon prime subscriber, which I have not wanted to be because I am not convinced we get out money's worth from it and I have asked SH to do a break-even analysis on what he pays for it compared to how much he would have to pay for actual shipping of the few items he orders, the most recent one being a Spinners CD, which was actually OK with me as I like the Spinners and am going to see them at Summerfest, even though I am not so fond of crowds of drunk and almost-drunk people and young women who are wearing a skirts so short that you can see that no underwear was harmed in the creation of this outfit.

No. I am not making that up. Last summer, I saw a young woman whose nekkid buttocks were visible under the very short hemline of her dress. Maybe it wasn't a dress. Maybe it was a shirt and she had forgotten to put on the rest of her outfit. I wanted to run up to her and tie a sweatshirt around her waist.

Bless her heart.

Where was I?

Oh. Right. Amazon prime - you can download free movies from Not all movies, but enough that it might make sense to keep the subscription for a while. Although now that I think about it, Netflix still might be cheaper.

So I want SH to do that analysis and no I do not care that certain people who are related to him can use his account. Their savings do not factor into this equation unless they are helping to pay for the subscription which they are most emphatically not.

The other thing I wanted to tell you (besides SH will be back in a few days and then we'll return to our regularly scheduled programming) is that when your recipe says to whisk your eggs just until blended, they mean it.

In my latest issue of Cooks Illustrated, there is a story about eggs and why you shouldn't overbeat them, as I did the other day when I was making custard and thought, I'm going to mix in that stringy part of the white, darnit! I'm going to use the electric mixer on this! and then I mixed the heck out of it and the custard tasted kind of rubbery.

You shouldn't overbeat them because blah blah blah stuff about stretching out the proteins and making it easier for them to re-bond more tightly.

You shouldn't overbeat them because it makes them tough.

After reading the story, I made another batch of custard, this one barely whisking the eggs.

This custard is soft and billowy and melts. It is not chewy or tough.

My advice to you and to me is to believe The Joy of Cooking when they tell you to do something a certain way. There is usually a good reason.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Am I scrapping?

Oh man, y'all. This was going to be an easy week while SH is gone for ten days - I was going to do nothing more than throw away things that I can't throw away while he's watching, like the empty cat food bags that we really are not going to need for emptying the kitty litter. But I've had too many other things to do and the only subversive activity I have enjoyed is squeezing the toothpaste from the middle.

Don't worry - I'll smooth it out before he returns on Saturday.

I've had to clean the cat hair from the edges of the drawer underneath the stove because I made the mistake of looking too closely when I was trying to un-jam the pizza pan from in between the top of the drawer and the bottom of the stove. I've had to wash all the cat hair from the fruit bowl and tsotchokes stuff on the kitchen counter. I've had to brush the cats and brush the cats and brush the cats.

Are you sensing a theme here? THE CATS ARE MAKING MY HOUSE A MESS.

And they are distracting me from my new project. Yesterday, groupon had a coupon for, which is a website where you upload photos and they print a book.

Which makes me think about that movie, New in Town, where Renee Zellweger has been sent from corporate to a factory in a small Minnesota town. She is taken about by the natives, one of whom asks her, "Are you a scrapper?"

I am not a scrapper. I do not make scrapbooks documenting every bit of minutia of my life (that's what a blog is for), but I don't mind having a nice little book of photos of our trips to look at. It's not like you sit down at your computer and click through your travel photos. A book is easier and far more portable and you can inflict it on other people.

Oh yes. I will be getting even with everyone who made me watch a video of her wedding and who has made me look at his photos on his camera of people I do not know.

Or not. But when we are old, SH and I can look at these books of our trips to Morocco, Spain, England, France and Germany and ask, "Now where was that? When did we go?"

Here's the catch, though. I am having to sort through a ton of photos. Remember when I had the blog with the service that will not be named but they lost FOUR YEARS OF ARCHIVES, went out of business and then didn't even refund the unused portion of my fees?

To upload photos to that service (a privilege I had to pay for), I had to resize my photos, as in shrink them. So now I have all these compressed photos - blog sized - that need to be re-expanded to fit into a photo book. Which doesn't work because when you compress a photo, it's not like the little pixels are squeezed into smaller pixels. No, the number of pixels is reduced (I am theorizing here) and the resolution goes all to heck. When you enlarge the photo again, you get a blurry version of the original.

So I am having to go through all my photos, check to see if I have the original, then delete the compressed version. Then I have to decide which photos to include. I could do this later, but the coupon expires in September and I don't want this to be like our restaurant coupons of which we bought too many and then have realized WE HAVE TO USE THIS COUPON BEFORE TOMORROW! Which means we have to take a shower and wear decent clothes! Better to start it now and be done by the deadline so I don't have a book of nothing but fuzzy, unlabeled photos.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 659: The race

I think you guys know I made the stupid, stupid decision to run the Summerfest half-marathon with SH. He proposed this in March, in the dead of winter, and July 10 seemed so far away and running outdoors seemed like a fine idea when it was something I couldn't actually do because of the cold and the snow and the ice and the fear that I might slip and break my ankle and be an invalid for months, having to navigate the slushy, icy parking lots between car and grocery store and library on crutches.

I wanted to encourage SH to exercise more than he already does with his current "walk from the second-floor office to the basement where he has hidden the dill pickle Pringles from himself" regimen, as I need him to be somewhat heart healthy and in decent shape. He gets the AD&D portion of his life insurance only if he dies in an actual accident. His dying of a heart attack or stroke would not benefit me financially so much.

SH and I have been training for the race. At least, SH has. I continue my plonking short runs with the idea that if I have to walk 13 miles, smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer in the true spirit of Summerfest, I will.

SH, however, is consumed with the desire for Authenticity and wants to run the entire 13 miles.

I have run 13 miles before. I did it shortly after I graduated from college, back in the days when I was running four miles every day after work and eating whatever I wanted, which in retrospect was really probably not that much as I was using 11% of my pre-tax income every month for student loan payments and couldn't afford that much food. Perhaps the reason I was able to keep a trim figure had more to do with the fact that I took only a peanut-butter sandwich and an apple to work for lunch every day than with the running.

In any case, one Saturday I decided to see just how far I could run without stopping. I went around the campus loop three times, plus a little extra. That was 13 miles.

I spent the next day in bed. Running 13 miles can take it out of a person.

When I moved to Memphis, I somehow decided it would be a good idea to complete a triathlon. This was before I owned a house and when I obviously had way too much time on my hands.

I am a very competitive person. I hate losing. Hate it. Which is why my decision to compete in an area where I am so ill equipped to compete is such a joke.

This triathlon had a quarter-mile swim, a 12-mile bike ride, and a four-mile run.

I was the absolute last person to finish. Not the last one in my age group. Not the last one of the women. The absolute last person. I was passed by a man in a wheelchair. All the cheerers had abandoned the water stations that lined the hot Mississippi road where the bicyclists flew by. Not one person at the water station in the woods where the trail went up, up, up in an Escher-print like impossibility but where my dismay at the abundance of rise and the lack of lower was overshadowed by my fear that I would trip on one of the thick tree roots that protruded from the loamy ground and there would be nobody to hear my screams.

When I arrived at the victory tent, where there were supposed to be snacks - watermelon, oranges, BBQ - paid for from my entrance fee, the food was all gone. They had already announced the winners and people were going home.

You would think in light of that auspicious beginning that I would have said, You know, I think triathlons and competition really aren't my thing, but you would be wrong. Nothing like suffering a humiliating blow like that to make one more determined to suffer on a larger stage.

I don't know why I was so set on proving myself in this environment. I already know I'm a crummy athlete. I was the last one picked for kickball in school. The one time I actually hit the ball during fifth-grade softball, I hit it too late and hit it into my face. I had come to accept my non-athleticness and had focused on my ability to cook, instead. Everyone has to have something.

Yet I signed up for another triathlon the next summer. This one had a half-mile swim, which I already did almost every morning before work at the JCC by my office. Twenty-five mile bike ride. Six-mile run.

On the back of the calf of each competitor was inked the person's age and his race number. The swim portion of the race was a staggered start - we went in order of age from younger to older, with three seconds between every group.

I started with the 37s, three seconds after the woman with the number ahead of me. The swim was awful - in a lake with a bunch of thrashing people who were not necessarily good swimmers who were churning up the water, making breathing during the crawl practically impossible, forcing me into the breaststoke as I am incapable of holding my breath for the time it takes to swim a half a mile, which is about half an hour for me under ideal, in my own lane, perfect-temperature pool circumstances.

The ride - a little better, although riding a bike wearing shorts over a swimsuit is not the most comfortable way to travel.

No I did not buy special triathlon clothes. This was my last triathlon. My only objective was not to finish last. It was not to be comfortable while I didn't finish last.

I wasn't last. But during the run, during which I sweated and tripped and swore and was horribly uncomfortable in the July Memphis heat and humidity, which still can't hold a candle to Houston so don't think I am complaining about Memphis weather because I would take it over snow and ice any day and really I probably wouldn't have been so hot if I hadn't been wearing a heavy long-sleeved t-shirt over my swimsuit but I really don't want those leathery, brown-spotted forearms that Women Who Tan Too Much get.

I think I lost myself in that sentence.

During the run, a man passed me. This is not an extraordinary event - remember the guy in the wheelchair passed me in the first triathlon. But this man was 76 years old and based on his race number minus my race number times the three second intervals between the starts and then the rest of the math, he had started 20 minutes after I did.

As in, I had a 20 minute head and 40 year head start.

And he was still passing me.


This is why I don't compete.

I didn't finish last. But I was not impressed that a man 40 years older than me had trotted right on past me.

So why now, ten years later, I think it's a good idea to run a 13-mile race? The only race where I've ever had success was the American Heart Association 5k that I did with Megan, Steve, and Leigh, where, when we arrived for the warmup, we saw people wearing jeans and smoking cigarettes. Steve looked at them, then looked back at us and announced, "We're going to win this race." Which we very well may have done had the course been marked and we had not run an extra five blocks.

I am doing this because I am dumb and because I want to have a hobby in common with my husband. But I suspect it will be a disaster not unlike the triathlon. I will do it. It will be done. And then I will never do it again. And I am not joking about the beer and the cigarettes. I will start drinking and smoking just to give me something to do for 13 miles.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Chats du jour: Remember cats are nocturnal

Our usual procedure is that the cats start out in bed with us at night and then SH puts them in the basement in the middle of the night. When SH comes to bed after I do, which is frequently, as we are in complete disaccord on bedtime, he puts the cats out then. I sometimes hear him coming down the stairs - I wake up just a little - and will notice Laverne diving from the top of the bed to underneath it. She knows what those footsteps mean.

Laverne under the bed = SH with the flashlight and the broom handle. Laverne has no interest in leaving the bedroom for the basement.

While Laverne is distracting SH, Shirley will hide under the chair.

Except Shirley - well, she is very pretty. But she is not very smart. And hiding under the chair means that SH turns around after he finally grabs Laverne and scoops Shirley up from her perfectly well-framed and outlined position. At least Laverne knows to go under the bed to the very back. Shirley thinks that just because there is a chair seat above her that shazam! she is invisible!

And while all this drama is going on, I pretend to be asleep. I don't want to get involved.

When SH is gone, I usually don't bother with putting the cats in the basement in the middle of the night.

I put them there at the beginning of the night.

SH says I am being mean by not letting them sleep with me and that they are lonely, but I am not terribly concerned with the emotional state of mind of my cats. I feed them and clean the litter box. That's enough. If they become cat models and make SH and me rich, well, then I'll reconsider.

But as long as they are making no financial contribution to the household and are shedding the equivalent of three small kittens every day, which means there are cat hair tumbleweeds rolling across the desert of our wood floors, no matter how many times I sweep or vacuum, I make the rules.

And yet last night I felt sorry for them. Shirley was so happy to see me last night when I got back from my little volunteer thing at church. She trotted around the kitchen counters, keeping up with me. When I relented and brushed her for a while, she put her front paws on my shoulder and did that rubbing thing that cats do, pushing their jaw against your cheek, and purred and purred and purred.

This is a triumph of sorts. Until recently, Shirley has been enigmatic, aloof and mysterious, which has made SH crazy to get her affection. Hard to get always works. Laverne? She's a puppy cat - she follows me around all day and sits on my lap and cries at the window when I go outside. She just wants to be with me or whichever human is around.

But Shirley doesn't care. She shows up for meals and then sometimes not even that.

For whatever reason - perhaps she realized she better be nicer to the people who give her food - and as I type this, I realize that the timing coincides with when we put them on a slight diet because they had each gained a pound, which isn't much for people but is 14% of body weight for Shirley and 12% for Laverne - for whatever reason, Shirley decided to be nicer to us and has become this Miss Lovey.

As Shirley was all Oh I missed you! I was so lonely! I thought maybe the cats might be not getting as much attention as usual what with SH being gone again and having been gone last weekend. I felt sorry for them and decided to let them sleep with me.

That was a stupid idea.

Just as I was about to fall asleep - and sleep has not been easy for the past two weeks as I have gone cold turkey on caffeine (except for a little wee tiny bit of coffee the other day and yesterday) - Laverne started giving herself a bath.

Laverne is the loudest licker in the world. She sounds like an obscene phone caller. I reached over and kicked her from under the covers, but she refused to stop. I put in my earplugs, which I usually don't have to use when SH is gone because when he's gone, there is nobody to snore but me and I don't wake myself up, and finally fell asleep.

I didn't wake up at all during the night, so didn't have an opportunity to put them out.

At 6:00 a.m., the cats decided they had had enough of this sleeping and wanted to push through the blinds to look out the bedroom window to do the morning rabbit and varmint report.

The noise woke me.

I put the Laverne out of the bedroom. I didn't see Shirley and thought she had already gone into the kitchen.

I was almost asleep again when I heard Shirley scratching on the chair. She has a routine: walk in the door, scratch the chair that is one of the eight I got from my grandmother's house when my grandmother died and that has seen far worse abuse than cat scratching, then jump on the chair and from there, jump onto the dresser. Once on the dresser, look for something to knock to the floor and then look at herself in the mirror. Then gauge the distance from the dresser to the bed, crouch, spring and land on the bed. Walk over to me to see if I will give her some vaseline, which is her kitty crack.

That's her routine.

So I got out of bed again and threw Shirley out before she could disturb me further.

Almost asleep.

Laverne sat in front of the bedroom door and started to meow. Wasn't I going to feed them? It was light. It was time. Wake up. Wake up!

Lord have mercy can't a person sleep past 6:30 a.m. around here? I pushed the earplugs further into my ears and rolled over.

After 45 minutes of whining, I finally gave up and got up. But I didn't feed them right away because I was ticked off at them. Noisy bossy thinks the world revolves around them cats. Ticked off at them and I couldn't even have coffee. Not a good start to the day.

I no longer feel sorry for these cats. They are not abused or neglected and if they want attention, they can get it when it's convenient for me. Tonight, they sleep in the basement. I sleep alone. In peace. Past 6:00 a.m.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

A friend will help you move, a good friend will help you move the body

I read a lot of murder mysteries. Not infrequently, a deranged killer hacks up his victims. The coroner and the cops are always a bit mystified at how did the killer cut up those bones? And look at the surgical precision on this one - are we dealing with a doctor turned killer?

Until now, I have scoffed at this. How hard can it be to cut up a person? I have cut up many a chicken, a skill I learned from my mother, who also taught me how to separate an egg and to chop an onion, which is why when I went to one of my fancy French vacation cooking schools, I was not pleased that we spent one afternoon on egg separating and another on chicken cutting up. I was not paying to learn the skills everyone should have learned by the age of 11. I wanted the fancy stuff.

It is easy to cut up a chicken. Chickens have light, hollow, made for flying bones.

Mammals do not.

It is a lot harder to cut up a mammal.

I have a lot more respect for deranged killers than I used to.

Last weekend SH went to his friend Doug's annual party in Indianapolis. I did not attend, as the only time I get to see my boyfriend is when SH is out of town. He returned with smoked turkey, smoked pork, brownies, and the neck of the venison that was also smoked.

"I thought we could make stock out of it," he said.

"Yes! What about the turkey carcass?" I asked. Alas, someone had thrown it out before SH thought to ask.

People. You do not throw away the bones. You simmer them for a few hours, strain the liquid out, reduce it, and throw it in the freezer for when you need stock. It's a almost no commitment cooking project that yields a product that is essential for good home cooking. You don't even need to do the fancy stuff they tell you to do in the cookbooks, with the aromatics thrown in and skimming the foam. Just simmer the bones. Period.

A few years ago, SH and I were at a potluck at his church. We were done eating and cleaning up. One of the ladies came out of the kitchen and asked if anyone wanted the hambone.

I wanted it, but I am Catholic and lower on the hambone hierarchy than the Lutheran ladies who belonged to the church, so I sat on my hands.

But nobody said anything. All these practical Lutherans and nobody wanted the hambone?

"I do! I'll take it," I finally blurted out. How do you make good bean soup without a hambone?

Also - I have said it before and I'll say it again until I have convinced everyone. Bacon grease is not to be discarded. It is to be saved in a jar in the fridge and used for making the roux for your gumbo, for pan-frying your green beans accented with roasted red peppers, for braising your collard greens, and for spreading on your toast when the butter is too cold and hard. Do not throw away your bacon grease.

I have more respect for deranged killers now and I also have more respect for my uncle Larry and my cousins who have the deer-processing business in northern Wisconsin and make the best bratwurst in the world and if you've been allowed to eat my uncle's bratwurst, know that you are indeed a worthy friend or that SH won the argument.

It is very difficult to cut up a deer neck into pieces small enough to fit inside an 8-quart pot. You might think you can just use your six-inch cleaver that has served you so well with chicken, but you would be wrong. I raised the cleaver above my shoulder, which was already sore from two hours of tennis, and brought it down smartly on the neck.

Nothing. Nothing except the faint mocking laugh from the ghost of a deer.

I hit it again, harder.

Here's one of the problems: you - or I - can't hit the same place every time, which truly diminishes the impact of the knife.

Success = repeated hard blows on the same spot. I was giving multiple moderate blows in different spots. I have bad aim and I was reluctant to try to hit it too hard because I have a very healthy respect for knives and didn't want to lose a finger or a hand somehow.

It could happen.

I hacked and hacked and rotated the bone. Bits of meat and tiny shards of bone were flying. The cats were thrilled as they sniffed their way around my feet, licking venison off the floor. I had to stop to sweep it up as I was not sure that bone fragments are the best thing for cats to be consuming right before bedtime.

It wouldn't separate. I tried breaking the somewhat-weakened section off. After some pushing and twisting, a four-inch segment broke. I still had about ten inches of neck, which wouldn't quite fit into my pot.

I started hitting again. This bone seemed to be harder. Perhaps bone density changes in various locations? I grabbed the bread knife. It's serrated - I thought a sawing motion might be useful.

No. A bread knife will not cut a deer neck.

I grabbed my Good Knife that I use for almost everything. It has slight serration and just got back from the knife sharpening guy two months ago.

No. Not a scratch.

I hacked some more and sent more meat and bone fragments flying. I pulled, twisted, pushed, and hit the bone against the cutting board.

It refused to yield.

I surrendered. Squeezed the bone in the pot and made a mental note to turn it as it simmered so all sides would get in the water eventually.

Today, I cooked the bones and learned the secret to dismembering a mammal. After you've simmered it for eight hours, it falls apart. This information, along with a huge kettle, might come in useful some day.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 326: Depends on who's in charge


SH: Wow. The tub is dirty.

Me: Yeah. I didn't clean it last week because you were out of town and it didn't look that bad. Plus I hate scrubbing the tub. It's the second worst chore after washing the kitchen floor.

SH: I guess it does make a difference when you clean it.* I can really tell when you don't.

Me: I had forgotten how dirty it can get.**


SH: You cleaned the tub.

Me: Yes.

SH: Because it was bothering me?

Me: No. Because it was grossing me out. Besides, I thought you didn't care if the tub is clean.

SH: I don't care if I am the one in charge of cleaning it. But if someone else is - well, there are standards to be maintained.

* SH was not as focused on housecleaning as I am when he was living alone. He cleaned his apartment before I would visit and he is not a slob, so it never got gross, but he doesn't see the need to clean a tub weekly.

** Apparently, the tipping point for a tub is nine days plus one day of barefoot lawnmowing.

*** My cousin Suzanne tells the story of a woman she knows who grew up in a wealthy home with maids. This woman had never cleaned a bathroom in her life. She got married and moved into an apartment with her husband. After they had been there three weeks, she called the building manager in a panic - there was something wrong with the bathtub. The manager came up to look.

It was dirty.

She had never seen a dirty bathtub before.

Marriage 301, Lecture 502: The Good Shampoo

Me: Where did this [weird off-brand] shampoo come from?

SH: That's mine.

Me: Where did you get it?

SH: Menards.

Me: I thought you weren't shopping there any more.

SH: I got it months ago. It was free after rebate.

Me: Oh that's a good way to buy shampoo. [I myself buy the expensive hopefully won't strip all the Clairol #24 Clove from my hair golddigger shampoo, which costs a lot in beer units, although I have stocked up at the big Target sales.]

Monday, June 06, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 667: Bad gold-digger

Me: That boyfriend from [Belgium in this story, Amsterdam in the link below when I was trying to be more discreet] found me on LinkedIn the other day.

SH: Oh?

Me: The first thing he did was try to get me to hire someone he knew.

SH: Why?

Me: He thought I could do him some good, but it's been over five years since I was laid off, plus I am not necessarily in the mood to do him any favors when it seems like the only thing he wants from me is a job. Then, when I told him I had gotten married, he told me congratulations on achieving my "master plan."

SH: Your master plan?

Me: Yeah! Like I had always wanted nothing more than to be married and not work! If that's all I'd wanted, why didn't I marry him? He had a lot more money than you do!

SH: Are you saying he is calling you a gold digger but that you are not a very good gold digger?

Me: Yes. If I were a good gold digger, I never would have married you. You're not rich.

SH: That's because you're not doing it right.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

The story of the Yard of the Month award

My neighborhood in Memphis gave a "Yard of the Month" award every month. I thought I deserved that award - I had a killer garden in my front yard. People would take walks in the evening would come down my street just to see my garden. The man who bought my house was one of them - said he had admired my garden for years. I had dug up 2/3 of my front lawn for flowerbeds and had everything. It was gorgeous.

But I never won. In seven years in that house, I never won.

After a few years, I wrote a satirical essay that was published in the paper in which I claimed that the award was obviously fixed because I had never won it. The satire would have been obvious to anyone with a drop of sense. Yet one of the people on the garden committee, which was anonymous, actually called me to indignantly tell me that the award was NOT fixed and that the reason I hadn't won was because they preferred a more formal garden.

When I told a friend's mom about the phone call, she laughed. Mrs B had been on the committee years ago. "It is so fixed!" she told me. "This other girl on the committee wanted to be invited to join the Women's Club so she asked us to give the award to the chair of the membership committee. That's how it worked."

Ha. I knew it.

My then-boyfriend, John, got tired of my whining and made me the great sign you see in both photos. The top photo is my garden here; the bottom is in Memphis. My garden here is not as nice as the one in Memphis. I don't get enough sun and the growing season is shorter. But it still is nice.

I put the sign out the other day and my neighbors and friends have been asking if I really won the award. I think about how gorgeous my tulips were and how lovely the irises are now and I just say, "Yes."

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 352: He married me for my mind

Me: Look! That woman is running in a bikini [top].

SH: She doesn't have a lot upstairs.

Me: Yeah, but it still hurts to run without a sports bra.

SH: Even for you?

Me: Yes! Even for me.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Drop and give me 20, maggots

You guys, I've never walked out of an exercise class before.

Wait. That's not true.

I've walked out, but it's been because I had a headache or because I was hungry and had left my emergency peanut butter stuffed pretzels in the car or because I didn't want to do shoulders because that's about the only part of my body that looks good naturally so why bother to work if I don't have to although having good shoulders not very useful in a cold climate where even now, at the beginning of June, I am wearing a sweatshirt and SH and I debated long and hard last night about whether we should put the space heater in our bedroom away for the season. We did. Put it away, I mean. But it's just at the top of the stairs where we can get it again if we need it.

But I have nice shoulders if I do say so myself, not that anyone ever gets to see them, but a Milwaukee Roll - that's year round, baby. It's always there and hard to hide.

I've never walked out of an exercise class after the first five minutes because I knew the instructor was going to drive me crazy and even the prospect of getting really good material wasn't enough to keep me there. But that's what I did yesterday.

My friend Michelle warned me about this instructor. Dolores is the Thursday yoga teacher at the Y. I had never had her class before. "Don't do it!" Michelle said. "She yells at you if you don't take off your socks."

I went to the class anyway.

1. I didn't believe Michelle. Yelling at someone for not taking off socks? I keep my socks on during yoga because

a. my feet get cold and

b. it's just a little gross to have bare feet on a mat that someone else has had bare feet on. Yes, I know this reaction is completely inconsistent with my usual lack of squeamishness - I have peed in public restrooms at bus stations all over South America and Turkey and honey, once you've squatted over a hole in the ground and kept your balance even though you still had your big backpack on and while the old Aymara woman and the little Aymara girl watched you in the reeking bathroom at the La Paz bus station - because of course there were no walls around the holes, just holes - nothing ever bugs you again. And also, why am I OK with putting my hands on the yoga mat where the bare feet of others have trod but not my feet? I don't know why. It's inconsistent. I admit that. Plus I don't want to be bossed around about my socks.

2. SH was going to be leaving town with the car before lunch yesterday morning and will be gone until Sunday, so yesterday was my only chance to go to the gym until Monday.

I got to the Y and walked into the class, which Dolores appeared to have started early. The students were on their backs with their legs against the mirrors.

"Push, push, push!" Dolores was urging. "PUSH!"

She had a slight Spanish accent, so it was really more "Poosh, poosh, poosh!" But from here on out, you have to imagine her accent in your head because I am not good at transcribing accents.

I got a mat and found a space against the wall. By now, Dolores had everyone standing, preparing for the next move. But before she showed us what to do, she gave us the sock warning. "You cannot do yoga with the socks! You must take off the socks to do yoga unless you have yoga socks!"

I looked at her, looked at my feet, thought about Michelle, thought about other bare feet on the mat and thought, No, I don't think I am going to mind her on this one.

Then she went to a mat and demonstrated the next move, which involved bending from the waist, which we all know can be very complicated, and putting the arms on a chair. (Yes, everyone was supposed to be armed with a chair as well as a mat.) She explained that it was very important to have the back straight, not arched, and if we get a back injury, we cannot blame yoga because it was really because we had not listened to the teacher.

"It is not the fault of yoga!" she scolded. "You must to listen to the teacher! If you do not do it right, you cannot blame yoga!"

We all tried the pose.

"No, no, NO!" she chastised. "You were not watching when I show you? When I was yoga student and the teacher show us something, I did not stand in the back to see. I come close! I come to see! You are not doing the back right! I try to tell you but you are not doing it right!"

My mind flashed back to the swing dance lessons I took in Memphis. As we were practicing our steps, the teacher would stop the class, lift the needle off the record, look at the ceiling and say, "SOMEone is not rocking back on the two count."

The other students and I would look at each other, wondering, "Is it I? Is it I who is not rocking back on the two count?" And then we would wonder, "Why doesn't she just go to the person who's not doing it right and tell him directly?"

Dolores is of the "I will scold you anonymously because I don't have the guts or the interest to correct you individually," even though none of us could see what we were doing because we had our butts against the mirrors and our heads down. Do you know if your back is arched when you are doing a weird yoga pose? I don't. If I'm doing it wrong and am going to injure myself, I would appreciate it if the instructor would tap me on one of my awesome but usually covered shoulders and tell me so.

As she continued to scold the class, I thought, "You know I don't think this is for me." The other yoga instructors are annoying because they never shut up, talking about the third eye and the heart space, but at least they are positive and soothing and never scold the class.

Mind you that the exercise class I took in Memphis was run by a man who had been a drill instruction in the Marines. He was not soothing at all. He yelled. He pushed. But he yelled and pushed to encourage, not to berate. He didn't warn us that if we got injured, it would be our own stupid fault for not listening to him. He yelled that we could do one more pushup. He yelled at me to correct my form but told me exactly what I was doing wrong. He didn't insult us. I have a pretty high threshold for exercise teacher obnoxiousness, but I don't want an hour of shrill scolding.

I caught the eye of another student and rolled my eyes at her. She rolled hers back. I put on my shoes, took the chair back to the chair place, and walked out, my heart thudding in my chest because I was WALKING OUT and what if the teacher yelled at me? But she must have been used to it, because she ignored me.

As I passed the front desk, I saw a friend who works at the Y. I stopped to tell her that man, that Dolores is rude! My friend asked, "Would you like a comment card?" Another front desk person rushed over and said, "Yes! Really! Here's a comment card."

As I filled it out, noting that Dolores had preferred to scold the class rather than offer individual correction, my friend and I chatted.

My friend leaned across the desk and whispered confidentially. "You know, we were just talking today about how Dolores is so rude!"

See? It's not just me.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 666: What the meaning of "is" is

SH: I guess I promised that once I started my sabbatical, I would get take care of those stacks of magazines.

Me: I hope by "take care of," you don't mean just "move to another location."

SH: That doesn't count?

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 569: Save big money

As we are walking into Target.

SH: We need to plan our strategy for using the $5 gift cards [that we will get for buying the $5 gift card items].

Me: Strategy?

SH: Yes. Like, I'll buy the stuff that gets the cards and then you use the cards to buy the rest of the things we need.

Me: Why don't we just ask the cashier to break it into two transactions and tell her we want to use the cards from the first transaction for the second one?

SH: You can do that?

Me: I do it all the time.

SH: If I'm alone, I buy my first batch of stuff, then go to another cashier with the second batch and the cards.

Me: That's crazy. Just tell the cashier what you want to do.

SH: She'll let us do that?

Me: She's making $8 an hour. She doesn't care.*

* I certainly didn't, when I was working at Macy's. If the store allowed it, I did it. All I wanted was to finish my shift and go home.

Chats du jour: Why play with the toy when the box is so much more fun?