Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wisconsin 101: I like how my cousin thinks

My cousin Angie: Those edges are crooked. You need to even them out.

Me: Oh I don't know. Maybe I've had enough. Besides, it's hard to even out with this [butter] knife. It doesn't cut that well.

Angie: Let me get you a sharper knife.

PS Yes that is Rice Krispies treats with banana cream pudding on top, with a layer of whipped cream and strawberries on top of that. Want to hear something really dumb? She offered to send some home with me and I SAID NO. DUMB!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 610: The lazy life

Me: I thought you were going to close that [old] bank account.

SH: I am.

Me: I thought you were going to do it this summer during your sabbatical.

SH: I never had any time.

Me: You had three months.

SH: I mean I never had a time where I didn't have anything else to do and was looking for something to do.

Me: Of course you had time.

SH: No, you have free time.

Me: You had three months.

SH: No, I'm not like you where you have time to read and watch movies. I was busy. I was waiting for a stretch where I was bored and needed something to fill the time.

Me: So you think the only reason I scrub the toilet is because I am bored and have run out of fun things to do?

SH: Isn't it?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Chats du jour: Playing with the box

Me: I'm going to throw this [the orange rubber worm we bought at Fleet Farm for Shirley because she likes to chew on rubbery things like my expensive heat-resistant spatulas and my mp3 player earbuds] away.

SH: Why?

Me: Because the cats don't play with it.

SH: Can't you give it to Goodwill?

Me: You mean so an underprivileged pet can have it?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The life of a gold-digger, part 62

Thursday is the best of times and the worst of times.

It's the best of times because on Thursday, I don't go to the gym.

I "run" instead.


It's the worst of times because Thursday is the day I clean the house.

And I hate cleaning the house.

When I lived in Memphis, cleaning the house was a piece of cake:

1. I lived alone
2. I didn't have cats
3. I had a cleaning lady

Now, I

1. Have a husband who sheds
2. Have two cats who shed
3. Am the cleaning lady, which means I am not a very good gold-digger because any gold-digger worth her salt would have household help.

SH has more hair on his body than I do and it regenerates. He has more stuff than I do. He is pickier about his stuff than I am, which means I do not have the authority to discard the pre-race instructions for the ill-fated half marathon we did in July. The race has been over for more than a month, but maybe we should hold on to the registration materials because YOU NEVER KNOW.

The cats shed. Constantly. Except in the winter, which is the only - the only - good thing I can think of to say about winter. So much for a non-shedding breed.

SH told me once that it was not necessary for me to clean the house every week so I said fine, I won't and let's see what happens, shall we?

It takes only a week for cobwebs to appear on the stairs and under the kitchen cupboards. These cobwebs capture cat hair. In one week.

Now go two weeks without vacuuming and industrious spiders and shedding cats.

The house looked like a spookhouse.

I will also note that the act of washing one's body in the shower does not also clean the tub. That is, the soap leaving one's body does not act as a cleaning agent on the tile and the porcelain.

Instead, the soap leaving one's body collects dirt and body oils and adheres to everything it touches as it washes its merry way into the sewer system, where it waits for a good rainfall so it can climb back up into our basement and soak the carpet.

Sticky soap residue also attracts dirt.

SH was surprised at how dirty the tub got, although he should not have been as it was not his habit to clean his bathroom every week when he lived alone.

Although - when he lived alone, he was not in the habit of bathing every day. It's one of those hazards that goes with working from home.

Tish warns us about being complacent in our grooming working at home. She is correct.

I hate housecleaning, but I hate a dirty house even more, so I have developed some strategies to make it not so burdensome.

Perhaps you can use these strategies in your own home.

Actually, it is one strategy.

I bribe myself with sweet stuff.

To get myself to vacuum the basement stairs, which comes after vacuuming the kitchen, bedroom, hall and bathroom (the living room and the dining room are off-limits to the cats, which means they get vacuumed only when we have company, as I am content to ignore the cobwebs if it is just moi sitting in there reading - it's not like I can see them without my glasses, anyhow), and after washing the kitchen floor and after cleaning the tub and the toilet and the sink and doing three loads of laundry -

sheesh, I hate cleaning the house

I go to the car, open the trunk, and remove a few or more than a few Jordan almonds (don't you keep your candy in the trunk? what happens if you're out and you get really hungry? then what?) and any chocolate mints that happen to be sticking to them (the sticking can happen when it is 95 degrees the day before, even if the candy is in the little cooler you keep in the trunk) and eat them.

Once fortified, I find I can complete the odious stair vacuuming task.

It takes pear tart to clean the stove. Peach cobbler to make the bed.

I haven't folded the clean clothes yet.

I think I might have some frozen custard.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Chats du jour: What do we do with the body?

I am facing a problem that many of you probably face in the summer:

What do you do with the corpse of the chipmunk your cat has just killed?

More specifically, what do you do with the corpse of the chipmunk your cat has just killed when it is Thursday and trash day is not until the next Wednesday?

I have already discovered that a chipmunk killed on Monday morning and tossed into the trash will lead to blue bottle flies swarming furiously above the trash can by Tuesday evening. When my husband is grilling the Belgian endive and the trout.


That was last night. Tuesday was whitefish. Pan fried with butter. Served with Lidia's green beans with anchovies, garlic and lime.

Never mind.

Point is that it doesn't take too long for those flies to find a corpse, especially when it's 95 degrees outside. (Which is another thing: if you have to shovel yourself out of your house in the winter, you should not have to be hot in the summer. Just saying.)

So what do you do with the chipmunk? Is the solution to keep Laverne hungry so she'll eat her kills rather than just parading them around the new $5,000 driveway that we got instead of a fancy vacation?

No. That would just mean having to discard the remains of the corpse instead of the entire corpse.

Discarding an entire corpse is not so hard - you just lift it up with gardening tools and toss it in the trash. If it were a gnawed corpse, that might be harder.

What we do with fish remains in the summer (See: Grilled trout) is keep them in a plastic bag in the fridge until trash day, then toss them.

Do I want a chipmunk corpse next to the pear tart, the cubed cantaloupe, and the pesto?

Laverne would.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 670: For better or for career changes

Now that SH is back at the salt mine, earning our daily bread, he has decided that for sure he really really likes having the summer off and how can he swing that every year?

We have discussed a career change and we have also discussed the fact that revolutionary does not pay that much and that it is only the horrible, failed revolutionaries who get their face on a t-shirt, thus earning lots of money, and not the good guys. When's the last time you saw a George Washington t-shirt? I rest my case. You don't want to be the guy on the t-shirt.

So far, the options (outside of revolutionary) are high school math, physics or chemistry teacher, which would require he get a teaching certificate, which would take $ and time and hence is not a great option right now. In some places, Wisconsin offers emergency licenses to math teachers, but I don't think that's an option in our town, as we live in a really good school district that can attract the already-licensed teachers.

The city of Milwaukee takes un-credentialed math and science teachers, but you have to live in Milwaukee, which would mean selling our house and moving a few blocks and we don't want to do that, either.

I also think SH would be a great radio talk show host. He can talk for hours and hours and hours about politics. Hours and hours.

And hours.

Why not use his power for good, I say. He loves to argue about politics. Why not get paid for it?

Then, when he got home, maybe he would be tired of talking about politics. So I wouldn't have to talk about it.

He has also talked about running for office. County supervisor would be ideal. It's officially a part-time job with full-time benefits, including retirement. And the county supervisors here don't appear to do anything except argue.

If you can't beat them, join them.

However, he has learned that the Polka Dot Party already has their candidate for the next election. As SH does not have a trust fund from his father who founded a big company in Boston, he really cannot fund his own campaign.

Which leaves us with my going back to work so SH could enjoy a few years of gold-digging. Which would be fine if I could find something that is low effort and high pay with no annual reviews by a boss who tells me that I use big words that make people feel dumb but then can't give me any examples of such words or any instances of people feeling dumb because of my big words.

I need the high pay because I am a gold-digger and if I go back to work, I would need a new wardrobe, although based on what I see in church, wearing pajamas out of the house has now become acceptable.
LinkI need low effort because even if I go back to work, I will still probably be the person in charge of getting Laverne to drop the chipmunk DROP IT! DROP IT NOW! as I shake her and squeeze her little jaws, which have clamped determinedly on chipmunk #8 of the season.

If Laverne were a fighter pilot, she would have painted on the side of the plane

5 chipmunks
7 mice
1 baby rabbit
1/2 baby possum (part 1 of the story here)

I need a high-paying job that doesn't require that I be at work first thing in the morning so I have time to

1. Get the chipmunks out of Laverne's jaws
2. Go to the gym
3. Check out the bargain counter at Sendik's and
4. Go to the library.

Then I need to be able to come home early in the evening so I can make supper, water my flowerbeds, and play tennis.

Does anyone know of a job like that?


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chats du jour: Straitjacket

Are any of you guys a pet psychiatrist? We need one. Shirley is the oddest duck I have ever seen.

She has OCD tendencies, or, at the least, she has rituals that cannot be interrupted. Every evening, she comes into the bedroom. She scratches the legs of the chair I got from my grandmother's basement. (Better a wooden chair than SH's speakers, which are her other favorite target.) She jumps onto the chair. From there, she jumps onto the dresser, looks for something to knock down, of which there is not anything as I resigned myself two years ago to keeping all my jewelry in a drawer out of her reach instead of in the cute little bowl I got in Morocco.

After walking the length of the dresser, she hops to the top level and sits in front of the mirror for a while, admiring herself. After enough time has passed, she evaluates the distance from the dresser to the bed, which has not changed in the 2.5 years we have had the cats (has it been that long? wow), and after calibrating her liftoff force and the angle of ascent, launches herself onto the bed. Upon landing, she saunters over to my side, hoping I will give her some kitty crack, aka shea butter vaseline, which I dole out in little dibs and dabs in an effort to keep her system slick so hairballs do not come out of her mouth if you know what I mean.

That is Part I of the Evening Ritual. It's not so bad as rituals go. This is not the ritual that concerns me.

The ritual that concerns me is Part II of the Evening Ritual.

That is when Shirley has her daily existential crisis.

Or whatever it is. I don't know what to call an event that includes forlorn, despairing, loud yowls. Very loud, even by Laverne standards and Laverne does not shut up. The most we usually hear from Shirley is a little bit of chirping now and then. She lets Laverne do all the talking. But the P2ER yowling is loud. Very loud.

So here is Part II of the Evening Ritual. Tell me what this means, please, because it has puzzled SH and me for over two years now.

Shirley goes into the kitchen, jumps onto the counter (yes, the counter where we prepare food - if you have any suggestions about how to keep cats from going where you do not want them to go, please, advise me - I am all ears), grabs Laverne's leash in her teeth, jumps to the floor, releases the leash, and yowls inconsolably.

She does this even if Laverne is next to her, so it's not something where she misses Laverne.

She does not do this in front of SH and me. We do not always come out to see what's going on. Sometimes, she does it in the basement if I have been dumb enough to leave the leash looped over the basement stairs. She drags the leash into the basement, which means I have to go downstairs to get it in the morning when Laverne is demanding to go out.

I hate going up and down stairs. I am lazy.

So. It has nothing to do with where the leash is. It has nothing to do with Laverne's presence or lack thereof. It's usually in the evening or at night. Not in front of SH or me.

What does it mean? Tell me, please.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 125: It helps to be an heir for this kind of thing

SH: I don't want to go back to work [after his 3-month sabbatical].

Me: I know. I don't blame you. The golddigging life is a pretty sweet deal.

SH: I want to run away.

Me: And do what?

SH: I want to be a revolutionary.

Me: Does that pay enough to cover the mortgage?

Marriage 301, Lecture 614: He's not responsible

Me: Hey. You're folding that [towel] wrong.

SH: Fine. You do it.

Me: Why can't you do it?

SH: I'm folding my things [from the laundry basket]. You can do your own stuff.

Me: The dishtowels are "my stuff?"

SH: Yes.

Me: So anything to do with the house is mine? And I am in charge of it? You have no responsibility?

SH: Yes. I'm not responsible.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 312: It's a hard job

SH: Are you eating some of those lemon bars? Or just evening them out?

Me: Evening out.

SH: So it's not really eating. It's more like housekeeping.

Me: Exactly.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 612: You're not doing it right #9,421

SH: Hey! You filled my coffee cup too full!

Me: Sorry about that.

SH: Now I'll have to take some out!

Me: Oh no.

SH: Stop! What are you doing?

Me: I am taking out some of the coffee [with a spoon].

SH: Noooo! You won't do it right!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Chats du jour: Dumb like a fox

SH: Laverne! Leave Shirley alone.

Me: Let Shirley handle it.

SH: Shirley's defenseless. She's little. I feel sorry for her when Laverne annoys her.

Me: Uh huh.

SH: I guess maybe I should feel sorry for you when I annoy you. Except you're not defenseless.

Me: You outweigh me by the same proportion that Laverne outweighs Shirley.

SH: But Shirley is mentally defenseless.

Me: Are you saying Shirley is stupid?

SH [pause]: Shirley is very pretty.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 241: Grammar police

SH: Do you want me to print that [job application] letter?

Me: Yes. That's why I sent it to you.

SH: But there's a sentence fragment! And you didn't put "Wisconsin" in the address!

Me: That's because they know they are in Wisconsin and they know [our town] is in Wisconsin. [Probably because our towns share the border of 124th Street.]

SH: And you just wrote "37 Street" instead of "37th."

Me: I know.

SH: But it's wrong!

Me: Not really. That's style preferences.

SH: You're supposed to be formal and perfect!

Me: It's not an engineering job. It's a job at a company that promotes itself as a fun place to work where they are trying to bring about world peace via food. I don't think they are looking for formal and rigid

SH: You're doing it wrong.

Me: Just print it, please.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 601: Fishy tale

The moral of this story is that no matter what the recipe says, sardines need to be gutted.

Sardine poop will ruin the flavor of your meal.

Gut the fish.

When I was a kid, when we lived in Spain, one of my favorite foods was sardines.

Or what I thought was sardines. We always called them sardines and they were little and pickled and we we would eat them with bread and real Coca-Cola, the kind made with cane sugar so it has that burn and not corn sweetener (you can thank the sugar beet lobby for the crummy-tasting Coke we have in the US today, not to mention the loss of candy-making jobs to Canada).

They were not sardines. They were anchovies. Who knew? Recently, my local Sendik's (how I love you Sendik's, especially as you did not make me pay for the not one but two bottles of wine I knocked over and broke because I was charging for the free cheese samples and did not notice the wine display box located strategically at elbow level = swinging shopping basket level) has started to carry pickled anchovies, AKA boquerones.

Before you gag at the words "pickled anchovies," try them. They are yummy. If you like ceviche, you would probably like boquerones.

So I bought some boquerones and they were as yummy as I remembered and I was happy and so was SH because he is an omnivore as well.

Then I bought some more boquerones. As I was waiting there at the fish counter, casually looking back at the bakery counter to see if there was a different clerk there so I could grab another Monster Brownie sample without looking like a pig, I noticed a package of frozen whole Portuguese sardines in the freezer case.

I like Portugal. I like a chance to use my limited Portuguese. Sure, the package has instructions in both English and Portuguese, but I am sophisticated. I will read the Portuguese information and feel superior to those reading in English. Perhaps someone will see me and be impressed. I am feeling very unimpressive these days, so a little admiration from a stranger would not be unwelcome.

And I like sardines. Right? After all, I ate them as a kid. As I thought more deeply, I realized I had eaten them in Morocco when SH and I were in Essouiara. Why wouldn't I not like them now?

My other favorite food from the Iberian peninsula.

I brought them home. Flipped through the Portuguese cookbook I had just gotten from the library the day before (like kismet, right?) and found a recipe for grilled sardines.

That's what we would be having for supper.

The recipe said it was not necessary to clean the fish. As cleaning and gutting fish is not one of my favorite things to do, I said Well great! Less work for me!

I did not think through the implications of not removing the sardine poop from the sardines.

If you think raw sardine poop is bad, wait until you cook it.

SH grilled the sardines and brought them into the house.

Lo, what a strong and nasty smell filled the kitchen. And the bathroom. And the bedroom.

The cats were interested.

I lit candles and turned on the fans.

But bad smell <> bad taste, or at least not always, so we gave it a go.

"It's not so bad if you take off the skin and don't get any of the guts," I said bravely as I picked at the oily, bony carcass.

SH agreed. "It's not so bad."

After one fish, I said, "I think I'm done now."

"But there are ten more fish!" SH protested. "What about the rest of them?"

"Maybe for lunch," I answered.

Lunch came. I looked at the fish. I looked at the rest of the fridge.

Cheese and crackers it was.

SH was not happy. "You are wasting that fish," he scolded.

He was right. But how much suffering should I have to endure not to waste?

I tried again at supper time. I scraped off the skin and then pulled the flesh off carefully, breaking off the parts that had poop on them.

You can't wipe it off. It's too sticky.

It tasted - OK. But fish cooked with the poop gets a poop infusion that is difficult to eradicate.

The cats, meanwhile, had begun their pre-meal vigil, which is when they find me and whine and whine and whine in case I forget to feed them because IT'S ALMOST 5:00! AND 5:00! IS WHEN WE EAT!

I saw an opportunity.

I am not a cat coddler - I am not SH, who cuts melon into very small pieces because that's how Laverne likes it - but I am a Not Food Waster. If being a Not Food Waster means deboning small fish so my cats can eat it and maybe being called a Cat Coddler, then I am guilty. Not Food Waster > Cat Coddling in my hierarchy.

The cats loved the fish. They had never had such a delightful stinky delicacy before. More please, they asked. Please sir may I have some more?

Happy Cats + Not Wasted Food = Perfect Solution. The End.

Cat Coddler in Chief.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 684: Pigs flying, etc.

Me: HEY! Stop! Get away! [as SH tries to stick his finger in my bellybutton]

SH: I'm just admiring your Milwaukee Roll.

Me: I don't recall promising to keep my weight down in our wedding vows.

SH: I don't care what you weigh. I love you as you are.

Me: Good. [Because I like eating too much to cut back.]

SH: But I wouldn't mind if you would change your political views.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 677: The price of dairy products and chocolate

Me: Look! I found a photo from a few years ago of my belly. [Doesn't everyone take those photos?] I WAS THIN!

SH: Yes. You were.

Me: I was thin and I didn't even know it! I didn't even get to take advantage of it.

SH: But you're happier now, aren't you? Now that you're with me?

Me: I want to be thin AND happy.

Monday, August 15, 2011

General random whining about the DMV

The State of Wisconsin wants me to renew my driver's license.

I messed up when I got the first one, almost three years ago. I went three weeks before my birthday.

The way it works here - I now know - is that you get your first license for three years plus the time to your next birthday.

Had I waited until after my birthday, I would not be getting this renewal notice until October 2012.

The extra money that I will have to pay bothers me - I get only three years plus one month on this fee when I could have had almost four years and you guys know how I feel about wasting money on dumb things like fees and taxes - but even more annoying is that I will have to actually go to the DMV and wait.

Milwaukee's DMV is not a fun place to spend two hours. Unless you really like watching a cross section of humanity. Which I do not. I do not want to hear about other people's personal drama unless I can blog about it and make money. I don't want to watch kids running around unsupervised. I don't want to hear loud conversations about anything. I want peace and quiet and a comfortable chair and none of those are available at the DMV.

Florida has lousy public services. Miami is not a well run place. But they do drivers licenses better than any other place I have ever been, including Wisconsin.

For the record: I have gotten a driver's license in Texas, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Florida, so I have some experience in this.

Here is an example of a poorly-run Florida operation: the vehicle inspection station. Unlike the vehicle registration office, which was open only 9 to 5 on weekdays, meaning people who work 9 to 5 jobs had to leave work to register their cars and pay the extra sales tax on it because the Texas sales tax was not as high as the Florida sales tax and that's exactly why I bought the car in Texas - to avoid paying Florida tax on it - not because I WAS LIVING IN TEXAS AT THE TIME, the vehicle inspection station was open on Saturdays.

That is not the poorly-run part. Open on Saturdays is a good thing. The poorly-run part is that there was no policing of the operation. The station opened at 8 a.m. I got there at 7:30 because I was sure I would be the only person in the world waiting when they opened, as Miamians might be up at 7:30 a.m. but that's because they haven't gone to bed yet, not because they got up early.

I was not the only person there. Surprise. Other people had figured this out and had come straight from the discos to get their cars inspected. There was one line going around the block. When the gates opened, the one line split into four for the four inspection bays.

That's fine. That's fair.

But then a latecomer drove in and zoomed around the waiting cars, pulling up at the front of the line.

Someone LET HIM IN.

Someone let him CUT LINE.

I couldn't believe it.

Well, yes I could. I had lived in Latin America for five years and had traveled in other Latin countries. Stand in line in a bakery in Italy, patiently waiting your turn, and you will never get your bread. Little old Italian ladies will cut you to get to the front. You just have to push your way through. Wait your turn in Chile to buy your metro ticket and you will watch in astonishment as other people cut right in front of you. It's the culture, but that is a cultural difference I do not respect. I suppose if that's all you've ever known, it's fine, but when you are used to waiting your turn, it is shocking to see line cutting being tolerated.

I asked my Chilean co-worker, Monica, about the line cutting once as we were waiting to buy bus tickets. She shrugged. "Maybe they are in a hurry," she offered.

So yes I could believe that someone in Miami would let someone else cut line. But I was still annoyed. Waiting our turn is one of the things that separates humans from animals. Line cutting is uncivilized. I know I am being judgmental and culturalist, but there you go. I don't like having to wait longer because someone else cuts line. My time is just as important as theirs.

So a few minutes later, when someone else tried the same stunt, I leaned on my horn and gave the guy the Latin America Finger Wave, which is highly effective in deterring undesirable behavior. It is a simple side to side wave, from 10:00 to 2:00, of the index finger, delivered with an expressionless face - dead eyes help - as the waver shakes her head slightly.

The Latin America Finger Wave means business.

Much to my delight, the other people waiting joined in my honking.

The line cutter was shamed into taking his rightful place at the end of the line.

But the people manning the bays should never have allowed Line Cutter Number One to cut - they should have told him to keep on driving and to go to the back of the line.

The DMV was much better run.

When I got my driver's license, I was in and out in 15 minutes. Why? Because in Miami, you can make an appointment at the DMV. You make your appointment for 9:30 a.m., walk in at 9:28 a.m., go to the attendant who has no line because all those people standing in the long line? They did not make an appointment. Hahaha to them. Have a horribly unflattering photo taken. Leave. It's easy.

But now I have to block out an entire afternoon to drive across town to the DMV, pay $34, find a place to sit, try to read my book while blocking out the loud cellphone conversations around me, and try to remember if it's chin up or chin down to keep me from looking too funny in my photo. I can't wait.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 671: The art and science of nagging

SH: It's going to rain! We're not going to play tennis. Why didn't you nag me to hurry? It's your fault.

Me: I thought I wasn't supposed to nag you.

SH: There are times when you should nag.

Me: When?

SH: If I don't want to be nagged, it's your fault for nagging. If I do want to be nagged, it's your fault for not nagging. The only safe strategy is to ask me if I want to be nagged.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 605: A petty consistency - or inconsistency - whatever - Or, How an engineer eats corn

SH: Oh no! This cob is too big for the kettle.

Me: So use a bigger pot.

SH: That's a waste of water.

Me: Aren't you the guy who rinses my diet Dr Pepper cans before they go into the recycling? That's not a waste of water?

SH: It's because I Care.


In response to Fin's comment that he break it in half:

SH: I hate breaking it in half! It breaks the pattern. I hate eating little pieces. I eat in rows. You eat mostly in circles, but somewhat randomly.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 658: Love love

Why is it less humiliating to be beaten by our tennis teacher's two sons, who are nine and 13, than by the older folks at the tennis club we joined?

Note that this club is not some fancy, expensive sports club but consists of a bunch of people who get together on Friday nights to play mixed doubles at the city courts. Sometimes, people bring snacks. And beer. Because this is Wisconsin. And there must be beer.

There were snacks a few weeks ago and I was proud to note that although SH and I won only two games out of 26, my Memphis Junior League onion dip was gone way before the other snacks were.

I know it's easier to bring store-bought snacks to an event, but they are almost never as good as homemade. I win the snacks.

SH and I joined this club because our town cancelled the social mixed doubles and the social singles that it had last year.


Because SH and I were the only ones who signed up.

When the recreation department called me to tell me the classes were cancelled, I was astonished. Almost any time SH and I go to the nice courts to play, they are full.

"Have you considered putting up a sign promoting the class at the tennis courts?" I asked. "What about announcing it on facebook?" (Yes, the rec dept is on facebook, which is great, but they do not appear to have figured out how to use it.)

The lady paused. "We could consider doing that next year," she said.

"What about now? How about trying to fill the classes now?"

She wasn't interested. She still had a job, even if the classes were cancelled. So who cares?

SH and I joined the tennis club so we could have more practice time and play against people besides ourselves.

We thought we were becoming decent players. After all, this is the third summer we have taken lessons and we have even learned to put spin on our serves. We hardly ever hit the ball over the fence any more. SH has not hit me with the ball once this year. We're not bad.

And then we played the older people at the tennis club.

We thought we were going to kick their butts because we were the only people not on social security there.


We were very wrong.

We've been twice and have only won four games total.

That's games. Not sets.

We have played nine or ten sets there.

These old folks can be pretty accurate with their hits.

Most people have been really nice and they just want to play, but we played one couple where the man sized us up quickly and decided he didn't want to waste any time playing it out. He stood at the net and returned every shot to whichever spot SH and I were not and could not reach even if we had been fast, which we are not.

He was really good.

And he dripped disdain.

He showed us.

He was a better player. Way better.

Thoroughly demoralizing. Not so much humiliating because it is not (very) humiliating to be beat by someone who is better. But demoralizing when you realize your opponent - in what is supposed to be a fun event - holds you in such low esteem.

Made me want to cut off his social security.

We did figure out that if we could just identify and play only those folks who have arthritis, we might have a better shot at winning. They're too slow to get the ball if we can actually get it where we want it, i.e., away from them.

But even the guy with arthritis beat us. He and his wife are 25 years older than we are and he has arthritis - and they still won.

We are not good at all. We are not as bad as we were when we started, but that does not mean we are good. I don't mind being beat by clearly better players, but it is humiliating to be beat by older people with arthritis.

Last night, our tennis teacher brought his two kids to class. Both kids play tennis. The teacher told SH and me to play his boys. We were hesitant - "They're a lot better than we are," we said.

The teacher laughed. "Just wait for them to start fighting with each other. Then you can beat them."

Nope. Even fighting, those boys beat us. Maybe I am just getting used to losing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 642: Proof of life

My mom: There is a duplicate photo in this album [that I put together using an online program of our trips to Europe].

Me: What?! Hey SH! I asked you to proof the book before I sent it to print. How come you didn't catch this?

SH: What are you talking about? I did proof. I caught some comma errors.

Me: But you didn't catch this.

SH: They are different sizes.

Me: They are THE SAME PHOTO!

SH: But different sizes.


SH: You didn't tell me to look for duplicate photos.

Me: I asked you to proof! What do you think that means?

SH: You left out some periods. I caught it.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 669: Driving me crazy

Not the Corvair. The Corvair is green.

Here's the Monday drama.

You may know that SH owns a 1965 Corvair, aka Something That Takes Up Space In Our Garage, which is better than Something We Have To Pay To Store In Someone Else's Garage, which was its former name.

This car is mostly decorative. SH goes to the garage every now and then to admire it and to make sure I have not gotten any fingerprints on it. I don't want to touch that car, but it is in the way so sometimes my hand comes to rest on it.

Sometimes SH drives it. Maybe once or twice a month. In the summer. Which is not comfortable because he has to run the heater all the time to discharge heat from the engine. It would be a good winter car, but NOOOOO! We cannot take it out in the winter because it might get dirty.

In SH's defense, he is right on that one. A little bit of salt on the bottom of that car and it's rust city.

I want to sell it, but SH says if we sell it, we have to buy a replacement car because how could we function with just one car for two people?

I remind him that in the winter, we do function with one car for just two people because of the rule against taking the Corvair out in bad weather.

He is unconvinced. He must have his freedom. He must.

Plan B, if we are not going to sell this car, is to make it safe to drive.

Which means taking it to a mechanic to have it inspected and repaired where necessary. ("Necessary" would include having the headlights repaired so the car can be driven after dark. See "I have to pick SH up at 1:00 a.m. because the headlights went out.")

You would think, "Mechanic? How hard can that be? Those old cars have simple engines. Why, even CF used to be able to change her own oil and belts on her 1980 Chevette."

Oh no. Nononono. A Corvair requires a Special Corvair Mechanic. Because Corvair engines are special.

The nearest one of which can be found being on the south side of Chicago. One hundred twenty five miles away.

SH's plan was for us to drive 125 miles together - well, him in the Corvair, me in the red car, drop the Corvair off, and then drive back together in the red car.

A nice little 250 mile jaunt.

Through Chicago, which is awful to drive through.

Not awful to be in, but awful to drive in.

I whined because I hate long car trips and I especially hate driving through Chicago. My whining was fruitless. I was stuck.

Then I had a flash of brilliance.

There is a train from Chicago to Milwaukee. SH could take the train!

It even made financial sense:

1. Driving the red car would mean 250 miles on the car, gas (250 miles/30 mpg ~ 8 gallons, 8 gallons x $4/gallon = $32) and tolls.

2. Taking the train would mean $24 for Amtrak plus whatever the commuter train fare is.

It's cheaper to take the train plus I don't have to be in the car for six hours.

SH pointed out that the nearest commuter train station to the mechanic is six miles.

SH has run that far back from the red car mechanic before. We have walked that distance from the mechanic before.

But those are six Chicago miles and everyone knows they are different.

I shrugged. Just take a cab, I said.

Nooooo! No cabs! You can't get a cab there!

Then ask the guy at the shop if he'll give you a ride to the station, I suggested. Honestly, if someone is about to make a few thousand dollars in repairs, he's probably willing to spend 15 minutes driving someone to the station. Not to mention this cannot be the first time this situation has arisen, what with other people coming from all around the midwest to drop off their cars.

Now the real drama started. I had suggested that SH ask someone for a favor, which is even worse than asking someone for advice or directions.

He didn't ask and didn't ask and didn't ask.

I had to nag.

Well, I didn't think it was nagging. "What did the Corvair guy say about getting to the station?" = nagging to SH.

On Thursday, SH emailed the guy.

On Friday, the guy called SH. Oh sure it would be no problem at all for him to take SH to the station. No problem at all.

I was off the hook!

Still not as good as just selling the car as is, but at least I didn't have to participate in the six hour drivefest. SH drove and I sat on the sofa and ate bon-bons.

Monday, August 08, 2011


After meeting my mom, my aunt and my sister, my former boyfriend, John, said, "It's not just that the apple didn't fall far from the tree. That tree placed the apple exactly where it wanted it to be."

SH is coming up with his own theories about me and my mom after spending a few days with her. Now he knows that I cannot escape my destiny. I am who I am because I have no choice. I look at my mom and I see what I will be in 20 years: the desire to get in shape for a class reunion never goes away. Or at least it does not go away before the 50 year reunion.

SH notes that I come by my avoid the sun, go to bed early, and talk about my dreams crazy honest. "Your mom is paranoid about the sun," he said. "She has to go to bed early. And yesterday morning, the first thing she said to me was that she had had a strange dream. Then she started telling me about it."

But SH and my mom are both stuff that goes into the recycling rinsers, AKA water wasters.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Further observations on ovine husbandry and the shearing guy

SH said it out loud first, so I don't feel bad going public with this: but that sheep shearing guy, shown in the photo in the previous post, was a hottie.

Well, that's not exactly what SH said. What SH said was that Shearing Guy (SG) had really nice muscles and my mom agreed and I agreed and we decided that the muscles one gets from doing honest labor as opposed to the muscles one gets from spending five hours a day in the gym (I can barely stand to be in the gym for one hour because it is so darn boring, which is why I don't have a gym physique - I have a "I exercise just enough so I can eat Oreo cake at the fair" physique) are a lot nicer. Gym muscles are fakey and look kind of useless. Working muscles develop in response to an actual need and lead to a more balanced physique.

SG looked very balanced indeed. Very nice.

Plus he was passionate about sheep and passion + nice muscles = wow.

The three of us cornered him for about 20 minutes after the shearing demo, asking various sheep questions. Did you know that the reason a sheep's tail is bobbed is to keep if from getting poop on it? Too much poop and flies lay eggs in it and then you have maggots, which is a very uncomfortable situation for a sheep or for any living creature.

But you have to bob the tail the proper amount. It should be long enough to cover the female sheep's parts, which do not have wool and are unprotected. Imagine completely exposed - parts. Ouch. In England, the amount you can bob a tail is legislated. Normally, I would go into "Why the heck is the government interfering in private business," except I do think that it is appropriate for the government to regulate how living things are allowed to treat other living things when the living things of the first part have shown themselves capable of being very cruel.

Wool is worth almost nothing these days - a few bucks for a shearing. So you have to have a lot of sheep to make a living at it. If you are going to throw a dairy operation on top of raising sheep for wool and mutton, you will get some very expensive milk. I decided this is not SH's and my retirement plan. Back to winning the lottery or making the cats work.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

At the fair

Busy times here chez Factotum with the Big Factotum here, comfortably ensconced in the guest room we now also use as a meat locker. Having company, even when it's your mother, means 1. being fully dressed when out of the bedroom and 2. planning meals that are more than standing in front of an open refrigerator and eating out of the closest tupperware.

We do OK with food in this house, but preparing a sit-down meal for three persons where everything is ready all at the same time is a little more work than I am used to. That said, I am blowing on my fingernails in self congratulation as I think of the whitefish, corn on the cob, tomato/basil salad, and spinach with pine nuts and garlic meal that I slammed on the table Thursday night.

Our big adventure so far has been going to the state fair, which always starts out with the challenge of finding free parking. SH feels his manhood is diminished if he resorts to paid parking - it is the first resort of losers who don't know how to find a Deal. I am of the "Park in the first spot you see" school, although that philosophy is tempered by a desire to hold on to my money as well. SH doesn't want to pay for parking because he is a guy. I don't want to pay for parking because I am cheap. But there is a time/money tradeoff to be made.

When money is not an issue, I am definitely of the First Spot With No Qualifications School, but SH still insists on driving around and around to see if we can find a closer spot. I point out that 1. we are not crippled, 2. it will not kill us to walk 100 yards to our destination and 3. we would be there by now if we had just taken that first space and walked rather than circled the lot for five minutes.

But we did find free, legal parking yesterday only 1/4 of a mile from the fair. My mother said she wanted me to be her personal trainer. This is training. And justification for the Oreo cake and the kringle and the fried macaroni and cheese on a stick. If you burn 100 calories for walking a mile, then the 25 calories we burned on the way in covered all that fair food, right?

We started at the sheep shed with the shearing demonstration, where we learned all about sheep and their tails and how short they should be cut and why and what happens when the mother sheep has triplets. (One of them dies unless humans are willing to hand feed it warm milk every three hours - just like having a human baby except there will always be poop but there will never be college bills.)

Then we saw the Glee-type performance by the Kids from Wisconsin, which my aunt Rita had ordered us to attend after seeing them at the Taylor County fair two weeks ago.

On to the Wisconsin Products pavilion, where we ate. And ate. Oh that Oreo cake. Sure, I could make a chocolate cake covered with white buttercream frosting and then dusted with pulverized Oreos, but why? I can buy it at the fair.

Then the Neil Diamond tribute show, where we sat. Because sitting for a while on a hot day at the fair is a good idea.

Then the horticulture and food competitions. In my next life, I want to be a cheese judge like our friend Patrick and a food judge at the fair. With the furnace metabolism to go with, of course.

Then Senator Kohl's milk shed for some 25 cents chocolate milk. I don't always agree with Sen Kohl, but I do like his chocolate milk. Then the rabbit and poultry exhibit. Who knew there were so many different kinds of rabbits and chickens? And so beautiful! But yes, rabbits also shed, so they are not a good pet substitute for cats. Hens, on the other hand, not only do not shed but they contribute to the household.

And finally, the baby animals exhibit where there are little lambs and goats and chickens (They're so fluffeh!) and ducks and pigs and calves.

Young people, if you are considering tattooing your lovely unblemished young skin, perhaps you should spend an afternoon at the fair looking at what happens to tattoos on AARP skin.

You might change your mind about permanently disfiguring your body.

And put down that funnel cake. You will regret it later. Trust me.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 652: Sit and wait for instructions

SH: Where are you? [as he is climbing down the stairs]

Me: I'm in the basement.

SH: What are you doing here? [as he goes into the laundry room to get some potato chips]

Me: Watching a movie.

SH: You're not at your computer!

Me: I know.

SH: But I just emailed you something funny!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 623: The joy of air conditioning and of being right

The Big Factotum will arrive this evening after a two-day drive Colorado, through the middle of nowhere. (I.e., Nebraska and don't be hating on me, Nebraskans - I am talking about the highway through the middle of your state where there are miles and miles of miles and miles, which is not very exciting driving but even more, a bad place to break down, especially if you do not have a cellphone, which my mother does not, despite my constant nagging her about it. How come I had to listen to my dad's advice about what to pack in my car to come north when they were living in Minnesota and how come I had to send them a fax every time I could on my ten-week trek through South America but I am not allowed to be the boss of her when it comes to cellphones?)

Her visiting = having to clean the house for real, although I think snatching her glasses and hiding them as soon as she arrives is also a good option, as I hate to vacuum and dust.

Unfortunately, hiding her glasses does not solve the cat hair problem. My mom is allergic to cats, so I have to get rid of as much hair as possible. "As much as possible" = "not very much," as we are at the peak of Shedding Season, which lasts about eight months chez nous.

Oh those non-shedding Siamese.

How did I get Fake Siamese cats not once but twice? (See: Snowshoe Siamese are Fake Siamese.)

I don't know why we just can't shave them bald in the summer. SH is against it, though, complaining that Shirley is "pretty" and he doesn't want to take that from her.

Laverne is pretty too, you know. Just because Shirley is SH's favorite is no reason to insult Laverne.

The other issue we have had to address is the air temperature problem.

SH and I rarely use our air conditioner. I hate a/c on principle - I spend so much time here being cold that it is a relief to be warm, finally. I also hate paying to make the air cold. I hate even more paying to make it cold just for the cats. Sheesh.

But there are times when it gets too warm even in our house, which is odd, because our house holds cold very, very well in the winter.

We have an old house - built in 1928 - with a retrofit air conditioner that is outside of our bedroom on the first floor.

The guest room is on the second floor on the other side of the house.

Remember what you learned in 8th grade science? How hot air moves and how cold air moves?

What we have in the guest room - the place in the house furthest from the air conditioner - is a perfect storm of hot air/cold air mismatch.

The cold air from the air conditioner is supposed to move upstairs and across the house to replace the hot air that is collecting in the westward-facing guestroom.

It doesn't work very well.

The few days it is ever hot enough to use the air conditioning in our house always seem to coincide with the few days we have company.

The Big Factotum, she does not do so well when it is 86 degrees in her room at night.

In past years, we have tried setting up a series of fans across the upstairs, but to no avail.

This year, when she asked if she could just sleep downstairs in the living room, we had to take action.

Not that it would be any skin off my back if she slept there, but it is not the best sleeping location in the house.

SH decided we needed a window unit air conditioner.

Did his research. Took his measurements. Made his decision. (Without consulting me, but I didn't care. I am a big picture person, happy to delegate the details to someone who is obsessive about them. All I want is the result: my mother sleeping happily in the guest room. If he wants to do all the work involved in getting a window unit, more power to him. There are some advantages to being married to someone who is very, very picky. Some.)

Went out to buy said air conditioner.

And there were none to be found.

Because apparently, summer is not the time that stores keep air conditioners in stock.

He came home, cranky. In solidarity, I was cranky. My mom would be cranky, too.

I didn't want a cranky mom. Neither did he. So he persisted. Went back online. Searched and searched and searched. Found some at Best Buy. Left. Returned with a box. Took it upstairs. Took the air conditioner out of the box. "That will never fit," I said. Crap.

He put on the pleated attachments that go on either side of the unit.

"That'll never fit," I said. "You'll have to leave off one of the accordion side thingies."

"I measured. Yes it will," he said.

It didn't fit.

Ha. I love being right.

Except I hate having an uncomfortable guest room.

"Maybe if you take one of those thingies off the side," I suggested.

"That won't work," he said.

"We can try."

"It won't work."

"Why can't we at least try?"

"It won't work."

"Is it so hard to just try it?"

He surrendered. Removed one of the accordion side thingies. Tried again to fit the unit into the window.

It fit.

Ha. I love being right.

And I love having an air conditioned guest room.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 491: Penny wise, pound foolish

This is a word problem.

1. The Good Saran Wrap costs about $3 a roll. Which is less than one Beer Unit.

2. We use maybe two rolls a year. About one Beer Unit.

3. The enemy of food is air. When you freeze food, you want it completely airtight. It is a bigger sin to underwrap than to overwrap. Which would you rather do? Spend an extra two cents on the Good Saran Wrap to protect a $10 steak or save that two cents by using less Good Saran Wrap?

4. One of us freaks out about wasting paper towels, the other one thinks paper towels grow on trees. Which really, they do.

Question: Which of us thinks the other is a Good Saran Wrap Waster?

Monday, August 01, 2011

Marriage 301, Lecture 676: If a man whines in the forest, does anyone hear?

Our retirement plan. One hundred workers should get us enough.

SH: And then I have to wax the car and then I have to put another coat of varnish on the porch. And then I have to go back to work in three weeks.

Me: Let's wax the car. Hurry up. Let's go.

SH: You want to help me wax the car?

Me: I want to give you less reason to whine.