Monday, April 30, 2012

Wisconsin 101: Painting and booze

There was a groupon for an art class, so my friend Lenore and I decided to do it. I think the real way this place makes their money is by selling booze, which you would think would be a highly sustainable business model in Wisconsin but which you would also think would not be conducive to producing good art.

But perhaps there are many great artists who are also heavy drinkers. I don't know. I only took one semester of art history and I don't remember the professor talking much about whether the artists drank, although I suspect the Dutch masters did, if for no other reason than to keep warm.

There are only a few things I do remember from art history:

1. Prof Brown pointing to the middle of that Da Vinci drawing of the guy in the circle where he has four legs and four arms. "The penis is the focal point of the drawing," she said. We all gasped. I had never heard a teacher say the word "penis" before. I was shocked.

2. "Chiaroscuro" means light and dark.

3. If you stand in front of the Bernini columns in Rome at the right spot, the ones in front hide the ones in the back.

4. The key to getting an A on an art history test is to state the obvious. "The light in Painting A comes from the window and falls over the body of the nude. The light in Painting B comes from the candle."

5. Perspective was discovered and it must have taken a long time. There were years and years of people scratching their heads saying, "This painting looks nothing like the model." Their girlfriends would say, "Oh honey that looks great!" but were surreptitiously leaving auto repair training class pamphlets on the dining room table.

The teacher invited us all to buy some booze. Nobody did, probably because it was the middle of the afternoon.

That was a joke. 

I don't know why nobody bought booze. 

The teacher showed us the painting we would be copying, three pears on a table. We put on our aprons and painted the top half of our canvas red, as the teacher instructed, and the bottom half blue. 

It's a lot harder to cover a canvas in a solid color than I thought. Little bits of white wanted to show through. The paint streaked. I finally left it, deciding it showed a rustic authenticity.

It gave me a new respect for the guy who painted the solid gray canvas hanging on the wall at my friends' mom/MIL's house.

"Mrs W," I asked. "What makes that art?"

I was sincere. I saw no artistic merit in that painting. She was an art/art history major. She owned some serious art. "That painting over the fireplace?" my friend said. "That's putting our boys through college." Even I recognized a Lichtenstein. 

She explained. I would pass that explanation on to you, but all I remember is blah blah blah blah blah. Her words meant nothing.

Lenore and I continued to paint. The teacher had us outline our pears in white paint. The other students were slow. We pressed on. I mixed colors - I remembered the color wheel from kindergarten. I painted, I mixed, I even used my fingers to mash paint the way I wanted it to be.

In the end, I got pears in unnatural colors emitting noxious fumes to wherever. Perhaps this is why you are supposed to drink.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Marriage 401, Lecture 317: The golden rule

SH: You're cleaning that [fancy brushed stainless steel] trash can just because your sister is coming.

Me: What? No. I do that every week.

SH: No you don't.

Me: Yes I do. I clean it with windex or else it looks nasty. It gets really dusty and covered with cat hair.

SH: That's something that wouldn't happen if I were the stay at home spouse.

Me: What do you mean?

SH: I would clean to my standards, not yours.

Me: Oh. So you think that all I do around here is what I want? That there is nothing I do just because you want me to do it?

SH: Yep. You just do what you want to do.

Me: I am unfettered by your wishes. I make decisions based only on my desires. I am free, free as a bird. That's what you think?

SH: Yep.

Me: You are so, so full of crap.


SH: You mean you weren't satisfied with my standards of cleaning of cleaning in the apartment?

Me: Nope.

SH: I cleaned before you came.

Me: It was still not clean enough.

SH: It was for me.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Marriage 401, Lecture 315: When a man is out of pepper, he is out of life

We had a pepper emergency that morning. We ran out of pepper. You'd think we'd run out of salt by the way SH carried on.

The pepper mill was empty! Oh no!

This is the Magnum pepper mill that his parents sent him for his birthday a few years before and is probably the only present he has ever gotten from them that he has liked.

Who spends $40 on a pepper mill? Better yet, who wants a pepper mill that costs $40? My usually low-maintenance husband, that's who. He is not demanding about what he eats or about the state of the house or about what I wear or look like or about almost anything, but he likes pepper on his food. There you go. That's his thing. So when we ran out, he was not happy. Why hadn't I kept an eye on the peppercorn inventory, he wanted to know?

I shrugged. I don't care about pepper. It's not at the top of my list.

"I had a roommate once who waited until he was out of things - food, toilet paper - toilet paper! before he would replace them!" he said.

We know we'll never run out of toilet paper.

"Maybe I need to implement an inventory replenishment system like I learned in operations management in grad school," I said.

Panos Kouvelis taught my operations management class. I loved that class. I loved the material.

I really liked Prof. Kouvelis. He was so cute with his tidy sport coat and slacks and slick Italian shoes. I had a little crush on him. He was fun. Smart and quirky with this great subtle sense of humor. He wrote this formula on the board one day, then turned and looked at us. "I would say it's all Greek to me, but..." he deadpanned.

I went to the spice store and asked how long it takes for pepper to go stale. "Years," the clerk said.

"Give me a pound," I said.

That should do us for a year or two. No more pepper fits.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Marriage 401, Lecture 309: Always mad about something

SH: You wanted me to look at that Pick 'N Save ad for the toilet paper?

Me: Yes.

SH: I looked at it, but the brand they have on sale is [X] and that company is owned by [Y].

Me [rolling my eyes]: Whatever.

SH: So I'm not going to buy it.

Me: Yeah. OK. We can stop talking about it now.

SH: You know about [Y]!

Me: I. Don't. Care. You said you don't want it. That's enough for me. Now let's stop talking about it.

SH: I can't stand [Y]!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Marriage 401, Lecture 313: Les impots, trois

This is how things go at our house. Usually, I wake up way before SH does, mostly because I go to bed before he does but also because the sun and the cats affect me but do not affect him. The man could sleep through an atom bomb, I think. The desperate cries of a hungry or at least a demanding cat fall on his deaf ears, but penetrate two doors and my earplugs.

But this morning, I slept late. I had stayed up with SH to finish the taxes. Yes, this post is coming to you several days after I am writing it. This is how taxes worked when I was unmarried.

1. I got all the information in the mail.
2. I pulled my "Tax" file from the file box.
3. I downloaded TurboTax (or got the paper forms from the library).
4. I did my taxes.
5. I filed my taxes.
6. I made copies of everything, three-hole punched it, and put it in my "Tax" binder.

All this happened at the beginning of February.

This is how taxes work now that I am married.

1. We get the information in the mail.
2. I pull the "Tax" file from the file box.
3. I wait for SH to download TurboTax.
4. I input the charitable information, the W2 information, my mutual fund information, and my self-employment income. SH says, "Don't do anything with that stock I sold this year." (We decided that with SH taking a sabbatical last year, it would be a good time to sell some stock to keep our income up.)
5. I tell SH I want him to print a draft of what I have done so far so I can check everything against my hard copies. He does not print a draft.
6. I say, "It sure is weird that TurboTax didn't nag me about which states the mutual funds are in, but it just imported them and let me continue, so maybe they finally fixed that."
7. I say, "Maybe you shouldn't wait until the last minute to work on the taxes."
8. He starts working on the taxes on Saturday, April 14, and discovers he doesn't have the basis information for the stock sale, which is really important information, because we did not make $15 a share on that stock! We made maybe 75 cents a share. We do not want to pay taxes on $15 a share. So he has to tear apart his office looking for the documents with the purchase price of the stock.
9. He continues working on the taxes Tuesday night and discovers that when I entered the charitable donations, of which he made a bunch on December 29 for $25 each - - I pointed out that for each donation, I have to look up the charity's address and create a new record in TurboTax so maybe he could make just one $500 donation and be done with it next year, I entered the wrong date on some of them. Oh no. OH NO!


We were going to go to the Big House.

And it was going to be all my fault.

Which is why I was up late. Because I had to sit with SH while he went through every single record to correct the donation dates, even though I pointed out to him that in the 25 years before I had married him and had been doing my own taxes, I had never been 1. audited or 2. imprisoned. Which meant that it took a while to complete the taxes. Which never should have waited until the night before they were due, anyhow.

I was up late. SH went to bed early for him, but only because he had stayed up the entire night before working. He went to bed at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday and got up at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday and was a bit cranky during the day, as you might imagine. He was actually ready to go to bed at 11:00 p.m. after he hit "send" at 10:46 p.m.

We declined to donate money to Lambeau Field, even though TurboTax asked us nicely.

I suppose 11:00 wasn't so late for me, but I didn't sleep well the night before when SH was up all night because I am a delicate princess who is highly attuned to her surroundings and hearing a husband working in the office upstairs and wondering when he is going to come to bed is not restful.

So I slept late this morning. We got up at the same time, which rarely happens, which is fine with me because I like to have the mornings to myself. I like to make my coffee and read my stuff online and then go to the gym.

I am not a chatty person in the a.m.

But we got up together this morning. Which screwed everything up. SH was relentlessly cheery. He wanted to talk. Which I do not want to to first thing in the morning. Not only did he want to talk, but he wanted to talk about things I do not want to talk about ever, much less first thing in the morning, like politics and like querying me about every single item that's in the fridge.

That's the point of this whole post. To tell you what SH likes to do several times a week and to ask if your husbands do this. I am late to the marriage game, so I do not know if this is normal behavior.

Is it normal for a man to stand in front of an open refrigerator and ask his significant other what every single item in the fridge is and what the plan is for that item? Sometimes, the questions go into, "But why did you make it if you don't like it?"

Sometimes, the interrogation expands to the freezer, along with some impatience at the disarray of the items. I do not keep things in the strict order that SH does.

All I want to do is read the paper and my favorite blogs and drink my coffee/milk/half and half/splenda and not be bothered. I do not want to be interrogated about what is in the refrigerator!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Marriage 401, Lecture 312: Les impots, deux

SH: You entered $5,000 for your Roth!

Me: So?

SH: That's wrong! Let me show you. Log into your account.

Me: Why?

SH: Look! See? You only put $4,994.64!

Me: Oh no! We're going to prison!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Marriage 401, Lecture 311: Les impots

SH: Why are you cleaning my [the guest bathroom upstairs next to his office] bathroom?

Me: Because Lois is coming over later and she might want to see the house.

SH: You can't bring her up here! It's a mess!

Me: Yes, it is.

SH: You didn't give me enough notice!

Me: Fine. I won't bring her upstairs.

SH: Or if you do, tell her I've been doing taxes so she'll understand.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Wisconsin 101: Is it like this everywhere part 2

This is what happened when I showed up to take the test.

It started ten minutes before I left the house when I looked at the email again. I may or may not be allowed to use a calculator on this test, the Clerical Support Exam. Could I use a calculator? I may or may not be allowed. Who would think to include such information on an email specific to me, the person taking the Clerical Support Exam?

Oh heck. I can do math by hand.

But what if? What if a calculator might be useful?

I dashed back to the State of Wisconsin website, found the Clerical Support Exam info, and indeed, they actually did tell me that yes, I may use a calculator.

I ran upstairs, borrowed a 25 year old solar calculator from SH, shaking the dust off from it as I tucked it into my purse next to my granola bar, cheese sandwich, and hard boiled eggs, and ran back downstairs. I got into the car and pulled the email from my purse and looked at the address again, along with the little map I had drawn to UWM. Simple. Drive Center to Humboldt - I know Humboldt - it's where the consignment store is that had the Lucchese blue lizard boots for $38 that I didn't buy because I already had boots and is that the stupidest reason ever for not buying boots? - then north on whatever to whatever then east to whatever, then start looking for free parking.

Which of course was non existent. So then Plan B, which was the parking garage.

And of course the parking garage was poorly marked.

And I was getting worried because it was 4:40 and the email had said to arrive 30 t0 45 minutes early for the 5:00 exam and I hate to be late and what if I missed something important? What then? I could totally blow my chances ever for being employed! Government employment is the holy grail. Not necessarily challenging, fulfilling employment, but a job for life, and after my experiences, all I want now is security.

I finally found the garage and a space and ran to the building. The instructions just said "Lapham Hall." I assumed that Lapham Hall was therefore 1. small or 2. that there would be clear instructions within Lapham Hall about the state testing.

You are laughing.

You are laughing because you have dealt with government before. "Ha!" you are saying. "CF! As if! As if government is interested in making it easy to deal with it!"

I must say that the government employees I deal with in my city are pleasant and competent and eager to do a good job. I am on a commission, I volunteer as a poll worker, and I volunteer at the library, so I have a good amount of contact with city employees. They are all good.

The woman at the county clerk's office, though, who issued our marriage license, was a complete idiot who would not have lasted two seconds at McDonald's. She is the one who insisted that I complete the "race" field before she would give us a license, although why my race is relevant to my decision to marry still remains a mystery to me.

But she pales in comparison to the people at the civil service office in Madison in her incompetence. I don't know where they come from. Do they have any idea about what they are doing? Do they think through what they are telling people? Do they do any user testing? Do they analyze their instructions? Does anyone raise her hand and say, "Perhaps we should tell people exactly where the test is?" Or is finding the test part of the test? Perhaps they are really hiring for the new Lewis and Clark.

A friend told me, "I knew of a group at a company I used to work for that gave vague directions to where they were located to see if the applicants could find it. Part of the interview. Although I have to say some of the people in that group were pretty whacko, but boy, could they find where stuff was located."

Lapham Hall is enormous. It is several floors high. I wandered around looking for a sign. I had entered what I thought was the main entrance - by the street address given in the instructions. Yet there was no sign of any testing. I asked some students if this was the main entrance. Well, maybe the other side - opening to a courtyard - could be considered a main entrance they told me.

I threaded through a maze of halls and happened upon a lecture hall in front of which was a small desk at which were seated two women. No sign. "Is this the state test?" I asked.

They nodded.

I showed them my email. "Did I somehow miss the room number for the test?" I asked politely. I was serious. I wanted to know if I was losing it.

The one lady glanced at my email and shook her head. "No, they just don't always put it on there."

I swallowed, then said politely, "Maybe that would be useful information to include."

She looked at her colleague, raised her eyebrows, and nodded thoughtfully.

No she didn't. I joke. She just looked at my ID, crossed me off her sheet, and handed me a registration sheet.

I walked into the hall and a monitor directed me to my seat. It was 4:50. I filled out my bubble sheet with my name and birthday, then read my book. Of course I had brought a book with me. I have gone to the DMV before. I am no fool. Then I noticed that it said, "No food or drink" on the blackboard, so I ran outside and ate my sandwich. Is there anything worse than being hungry and not being able to eat?

At 5:00, the monitor said, "We're going to give it a few more minutes," which made me want to scream, because why were we supposed to show up 30-45 minutes early if we were just going to wait for people to be late? Why are the prompt people always punished? Why can't the late people ever be punished?

At 5:05, the monitor told us to fill out our registration sheet. Which is what I thought the 45 minutes early was for. Then she explained that if we wanted to leave the room for any reason, we had to give our test materials to the monitor. Then she repeated herself, saying people don't seem to remember these instructions, which made me think, "Then why not just write them on the board next to the part about 'no food or drink?'"

She passed out Number 2 pencils, which made me wonder why I had been instructed to bring two Number 2 pencils at all.

At 5:25, I finally got my test. At 5:30, she told me I could start.

The two and a half hour test took me 90 minutes and would have taken me less time if the calculator hadn't been flaky and if I hadn't been worried that the question "Is 1/8 = 0.125" was a trick question because at first I thought, "Well DUH of course 1/8 = 0.125!" but then I thought, "But is it? Of course it is but maybe I just think it is and my math is wrong and I'd better check and it seems too simple."

There were a lot of questions like that. Questions that were so simple and seemingly obvious that I thought, "State of Wisconsin, you are really not asking me the difference between 'their' and 'there,' are you? Really? Really?"

And then I had to laugh at this question:

Emily's cat is sick. She takes it to a

1. Veteran
2. Veterinarian
3. Vegan

I thought, "Nobody gets that one wrong. Do they?"

Then I got confused at this one:

A customer comes in and is very upset. You

1. Tell her you are closed and go away.
2. Tell her to go to the next window.
3. Try to solve her problem.

I got confused because I started to wonder, "They hire people who answer '1 or 2.' How can people who give that kind of answer have a job and I have no job at all? I can't even get an interview! And I write - I think - a killer cover letter. I use all of askamanager's great ideas. I have good accomplishments at reputable organizations. Why can't I even get an interview? Maybe I'm just crap. Maybe I'll never get a job again. Maybe I'll just end up as a bag lady. Maybe I've really screwed up my life. I've blown it. Now what am I going to do?"

And then I got depressed, which meant it took me a lot longer to answer the Excel questions and calculate payroll.

Now I am waiting for my score, which will take six to eight weeks, which makes me wonder if they are sending these test by pony express to Siberia to be read by Braille. All so I can be qualified for a job that pays $13 an hour, which is not enough to cover the bills. The End.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Wisconsin 101: Is it like this everywhere?

I signed up to take the Office Support Exam, which is required for anyone applying for a clerical or administrative level job with the State of Wisconsin. No, it's not my dream to be a secretary, but an employed secretary is better than an unemployed manager any day. Nine to 5 with dental: that's what I'm looking for now. The corner office is so far from my imagination that I can't even see it with a telescope. A job. That's all I want. A job.

The test is at 5:00 at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a place where parking is very hard to find. Free parking, anyhow. It's always like that around college campuses, isn't it?

The test is at 5. Which is suppertime up here.

So. My big question: How long does the test last? This is important because 1. I need to know how much to feed the meter and 2. I need to know whether to take food. Although I have mostly banished my headaches by cutting caffeine from my diet, I can still get one if my blood sugar gets low enough. That almost never happens because eating is my main hobby, but if I am away from the house, I have to make sure to take provisions.

You would think that I might not be the only person with this question. You would think that information would be provided on the website describing the test or in the email confirmation I got after I signed up for test.

You would be wrong.

So I called.

Ha. Calling the government. That's funny!

I called the number in the email. I got a four-minute recording telling me everything that was already in my email, along with the instruction to write down the address where the test is taking place.

If that is how they have to treat the people taking this test, I am a shoo-in.

Nowhere in the message did it say how long the test lasted. I couldn't zero out.

I went back to the State of Wisconsin website and found another phone number, this one the general number for all civil service exams. Finally got a person. Asked her how long the test lasted.

Person: Two, two and a half hours. [For a CLERICAL exam? I had physics tests that didn't last that long.]

Me: May I make a suggestion? This might be good information to provide on the website or in the email.

Person: That's why we have this number. So you can call and ask questions.

Me: But I had to listen to a long recording at the other number and it didn't tell me what I wanted. Then I had to look for this number. It would be better to have the information in the email.

Person [long pause]: But each test takes a different amount of time.

Me [slowly]: Yes, but each email is customized for the test the person is taking. And each test has its own signup page.

Person: But each test takes a different amount of time.

Me: But the emails are specific to the test.

Person: But each test takes a different amount of time.

Me: [I surrender.]

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Marriage 401, Lecture 696: Chip on my shoulder

SH: Hey! What are you doing?

Me: What do you mean?

SH: You can't eat the Pringles! They're mine!

Me: Watch me.

SH: You can't bring those upstairs! Those are basement food.

Me: Watch. [I climb upstairs, Dill Pickle Pringles can in hand.]

SH: You can't do that!

Me: Oh yes I can. [I eat a chip.]

While SH checks something on his phone, I eat another chip. Then I take the can back downstairs.

SH: Hey! Where are the chips?

Me: I took them back downstairs.

SH: But I was going to have some!

Me: You said they were basement food.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Marriage 401, Lecture 369: That frosting will kill you

SH: I have to take a dessert to this political thing tonight.

Me: Do you want me to make something for you?

SH: Maybe.

Me: I have some cake mix and frosting that I got from the bargain table.

SH: Let me see. That frosting has transfats in it!

Me: It's all part of my plan to take out the other side.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Marriage 401, Lecture 179: Dewey or Library of Congress

SH: What! What's going on?

Me: Laverne jumped off your magazines and they fell.

SH: What are you doing?

Me: Putting them back.

SH: You can't do that!

Me: Can't do what?

SH: You're not putting them back in the right order!

Me: OK Sheldon.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Marriage 401, Lecture 325: Optimizing whining

SH: Would you do me a favor?

Me: Sure.

SH: Would you get the stuff I put in the dryer while I finish shaving?

Me: OK.

When I'm in the basement, I gather the shirts I had hung up to dry the other day - five of SH's buttondowns and three t-shirts.

SH: I should have known you would do more than just get the stuff from the dryer.

Me, preening, thinking he is going to compliment me on my efficiency, my drive always to do a little more than necessary, my desire to be a good housekeeper: Thank you.

SH: No! I meant that now I have to fold those shirts!

Me: Oh it's so hard for you to be married to me. How long is it going to take you to fold those?

SH: That's not the point. Why do something now when I can put it off until tomorrow?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Chats du jour: Diana triumphs again

Laverne has begun hunting again. The moon is full and it's time.

Wait. The moon isn't full. But it's still time.

She has been going out in the evening for a few weeks now. She crouches next to the basement window where the field mice have a little nest. Until yesterday, all her waiting had been in vain.

Then last night, after she had been out for over an hour - over an hour without whining, which is a record for her, because she usually wants to come in five minutes after I've put her out because it's cold or there's a dog barking or someone is running a lawnmower or she has to use the litterbox, she started the Whine of Triumph. It's the whine she gives when she has something in her mouth that she wants me to admire.

I turned on the garage lights and went outside.

She had something.

I looked - it looked like a rather large mouse. It was no longer alive or at least it was doing a good job of pretending to be dead. I picked Laverne up and made her drop the large mouse. I called SH outside so he could see her trophy and admire and praise her for her good work. She does this while harnessed, you know, and with clipped toenails.

I didn't feel like moving the corpse into the trash, so I left it for this morning.

When I went out this morning, I saw it in daylight.

It was not a mouse. It was a rat.

Good riddance, I thought. The world is better off with fewer rats. I picked it up with my tulip hole digger and tossed it into the trash. I don't like throwing away the dead mice and the dead chipmunks because they are so cute, but rats are not cute. Yes, I know that is not the proper way to determine which beings are deserving of life and which are not. Cuteness <> deserving of life. But rats are nasty and we can hate them for other reasons besides their lack of cuteness. The bubonic plague, for one.

She wanted to go out again tonight. Again, after she'd been out for about an hour, I heard the Whine of Triumph. Only when I got outside, I couldn't see anything. I decided she just wanted to come in, so I brought her inside.

Before I could remove her harness, she pounced on something, then flew down the basement stairs. I turned on the light and ran after her. I saw something small and dark streaking in front of Laverne.

She pounced again. I got close enough to see that she had a tiny baby mouse trapped under her paw.

The mouse got loose. It ran behind the crappy made in China CD storage cabinet that SH bought from Menards before we started our made in China boycott and before he stopped shopping at Menards. Laverne ran to the other side of the cabinet and forced the mouse to run out from the side by me. I wasn't prepared. The mouse saw me and ran back behind the cabinet. It sat in halfway between both sides, quivering.

I grabbed the handkerchief I had left on the coffee table downstairs from when I was watching a very sad movie. I wanted to rescue the mouse, but I didn't want to expose myself to rabies. One series of rabies shots in the stomach in a lifetime is enough.

I tried to reach behind the cabinet, but there wasn't enough room. Laverne crouched at the other end, just waiting, tail swishing.

I heard SH coming down the stairs. "Hey!" he said. "You didn't do the dishes!"

"Bring me the yardstick!" I yelled.

"But the dishes!"

"Bring me the yardstick! Now!"

"Are you sure you don't want the tape measure?"

"I'M SURE! Bring me the yardstick! NOW"

The last thing I needed was for the mouse to escape into the wilds of the basement and then die. Dead mice can be very stinky.

He grabbed the yardstick and thundered down the basement stairs to find me on my hands and knees next to the cabinet and Laverne poised near me.

"She caught a mouse. I didn't see it," I explained.

"LaVERNE!" he scolded. "Bringing mice into the house!"

He moved Laverne out of the way, then stuck the yardstick into the other end of the cabinet. The mouse ran toward me and got past me. SH jumped up and chased the mouse. It ran toward the laundry room, but he trapped it with the yardstick. I covered my hand with the handkerchief, then gently closed it over the mouse. I held it close to my face so I could see. It stuck its tiny little mouse head out of the handkerchief.

It was so cute. SOOOOO CUTE. Take a look at this photo, which I didn't want to copy here because it's copyrighted, to get an idea of the cuteness of this mouse. It was about the size of a quarter. No wonder I couldn't see it when I checked Laverne's mouth for trophies. It was all the way in her mouth.

I carried it outside and put the handkerchief on the ground near the mouse nest. It scurried away. It lives for one more day, but it might not be so lucky tomorrow.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Marriage 401, Lecture 353: It's not in my job description

Me: Oh good grief. Look what Shirley did. She scraped dirt out of the plant.

SH: That's going to be a pain to clean up.

Me: Yes, it is.

SH: Well, you better get to it.

Me: Me? But you're her favorite.

SH: You're the cleaning up person around here.

Me: If you have time to waste arguing with me about politics and whining about being sick, you have time to clean up after the cat who is your favorite.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Marriage 401, Lecture 174: The model patient

SH: I'm sick.

I know that. I've been putting up with the whining and the moaning for several days now. One of the reasons (besides the fact that I just wasn't smart enough) that I decided not to try to go to med school was that I realized I don't like being around sick people. The past few days have confirmed my feelings.

Me: I'm sorry sweetie. Is there anything I can do to make you feel better?

SH: No. My head hurts. My sinuses are stuffed up. I'm all congested.

Me: If only there were some kind of magic potion that would take away those symptoms. If only.

SH: What! Are you suggesting over the counter drugs?

Me: Crazy, I know.

SH: They don't do anything!

Me: Except you know, decongest.

SH: I don't take drugs. I'm not going to poison my body.

Me: And yet beer and wine are just fine.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Marriage 401, Lecture 475: Too noble for drugs

SH: My throat hurts.

Me: Is there anything I can get for you to make you feel better?

SH: No. Besides, I'd rather whine.

Me: Whatever.

SH: If it still feels bad, I might take an aspirin before I go to bed.

Me: Does aspirin help with a sore throat?

SH: Of course it does! What else would you suggest?

Me: A throat lozenge.

SH: Why would you ever imagine I would take a throat lozenge?

Me: Well, I wouldn't. That's why I said it in a very small voice.

SH: Throat lozenges taste bad.

Me: So does beer.

SH: No it doesn't.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Marriage 401, Lecture 351: Selective boycotting

SH: I'm kind of glad that Dutch oven [that arrived today in the mail] was made in China.

Me: Why?

SH: Because now we aren't spending our money at Walmart. [Because I am going to return it. I had read this item was made in the US. That, plus its endorsement from Cooks Illustrated, helped me decide to buy it.]

Me: You really hate Walmart.

SH: Yes, I do.

Me: Does that mean you will no longer be buying your car batteries there?

SH: I think I can make a car battery exception.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The moral is just buy the doughnut already

The moral of this story is not to be a pig.

Or maybe it's that you should just eat what you want instead of eating all around it and not getting what you want.

I felt like eating a doughnut the other day. That's one of those foods we rarely have in our house, mostly because neither of us has much self control. You know about SH and the Dill Pickle Pringles in the basement. Just today, I brought home a bunch of post-Easter candy from Walgreen's. It's half price after Easter. You knew that, right? They even had robin's eggs this year. The past few years, they've been running out of those before Easter. I got two bags of the Cadbury dark chocolate eggs and a bag of dark chocolate M&Ms. All of this at SH's request, I might add, so I asked him to hide them from me.

Which he did.

In a place that I found in about two seconds.

When I hide his dark chocolate nonpareils from him at Christmas, he cannot find them. I am a far better hider than SH.

Back to the doughnut. We don't keep them in the house because we cannot control ourselves and doughnuts are not something you can hide easily.

I've made doughnuts from scratch before, but they haven't turned out too well. Using the deep fat fryer is kind of a pain and you really have to be careful not to make your doughnuts too big or they will be raw in the middle. Still, when you get it right, they are awesome.

That's one of the keys to a successful doughnut experience: the doughnut has to be fresh. Fresh. Stale doughnuts are no good.

So the other day, when I was craving a doughnut and the craving wouldn't go away, no matter how many Cadbury milk chocolate eggs I ate - the bag came back with SH from California, courtesy of our friend Kathy, perhaps the solution should have been to buy a darn doughnut already. Seventy five cents for a doughnut. The budget would bear it.

That would have been the logical thing.

Instead, I stopped at Sendik's on my way to the gym. Instead of heading right to the bakery for a 75 cent apple fritter, I went left to the produce department, which is also where the bakery day-old cart is.

Sometimes, it's worth it to spend the money.

But there was a package of day-old doughnuts on the cart. Four of them for $1.50. Seventy five cents is cheaper than $1.50, but $1.50 divided by four is less than 75.

I bought the day-old doughnuts.

I sat in the car. I pulled the plastic wrap off the package. I pulled off part of the cruller and ate it. It was stale.

I pulled off part of the lemon-filled doughnut and ate it. It was stale.

I pulled off part of the cherry fritter and ate it. It was stale.

I pulled off part of the chocolate-covered doughnut and ate it. It was stale and way too sweet.

So did I do the logical things? The logical things being, 1. to stop eating the stale doughnuts and 2. to walk back into the store and buy one good, fresh fritter.

No. I did not.

I just ate most of the rest of the stale doughnuts. Then I drove across the street to the Y. Even though I had licked them off, my fingers were still sticky, which meant I had to drive by touching the steering wheel only with my palms. Fortunately, I didn't have far to go.

I got my gym bag out of the back seat. What to do with the remains of the doughnuts? I had already decided that they weren't very good, but I also knew that not being very good would not be enough to stop me from eating the rest of them when I got done swimming.

I did what I had to do: I took the remains of the doughnuts with me so I could throw them out.

Only I didn't want anyone to see me with a tray of half-eaten doughnuts, so I held it close to my chest. When I got to the door of the gym, a woman whom I really like from my aerobics class was coming out. I would like to be friends with her, but who is going to want to be friends with a stale doughnut eater?

She started to talk to me, but I ducked my head. "Have a great Easter!" she said.

"Oh you too!" I answered as I walked right past her to the trash can.

As soon as she was gone, I threw the tray with the dissected doughnuts away.

She has a great figure and she actually exercises when she's in aerobics. She'll even sweat. I make half-hearted moves and glare at the instructor when she wants us to "Woo-woo!" I am not a "Woo-woo-er."

I really don't think she'd want to be friends with a stale doughnut eater.

About half an hour after I had finished eating what I ate, I started to feel sick to my stomach.

Stale doughnuts do not leave you feeling good. I felt sick while I swam and then all afternoon.

The next time, I am just going to go straight to the bakery counter and buy one fresh doughnut.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Marriage 401, Lecture 335: Saving money on shoes so I can buy more shoes

SH: Who are you calling?

Me: I'm trying to find someone to sell me heel taps.

SH: What are heel taps?

Me: You know. The rubber thing at the bottom of the heel of my cowboy boots. They're worn through on two pairs.

SH: Why not just take your boots to the cobbler?

Me: Because it's going to cost $15 a pair to have them replaced and they only cost about $1.50 for the taps.

SH: So did that place have them?

Me: She said they don't sell them.

SH: Does that mean they don't have them? Or that they have them but won't sell them to you?

Me: I don't know.

SH: Why didn't you find out?

Me: Because it doesn't matter. The only thing I need to know is that I can't get them from that store.

SH: It does matter.

Me: No it doesn't.

SH: Yes. Maybe you have a reason to be outraged if they have them but won't sell them. I think you should be outraged. It's a conspiracy to get you to pay the shoe repair guy $15 to do it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Marriage 401, Lecture 628: Cutting off his nose to spite his face

SH: Do we have more ketchup?

Me: No. You threw out what we had, remember?

SH: Yes. It had high fructose corn syrup. I am morally opposed to HFCS.

Me: Yeah. You showed them. You threw away something we already owned.

SH: I'm opposed to it. It was hurting me.

Me: Right. Because we eat so much ketchup.

SH: Almost a bottle a year, probably.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Marriage 401, Lecture 368: The death of a thousand cuts

SH: You're not doing it right.

Me: Does that mean you want to do the dishes?

SH: Yes. Look, you're left soap on the dishes. You're trying to kill me.

Me: We've known each other how long and yet you live?

SH: It's probably a slow buildup, gradually killing me.

Me: We're all going to die.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Marriage 401, Lecture 363: Matalin and Carville

SH: When I married you, I decided that [wxyz] and cooking were more important than agreeing on politics.

Me: So you compromised.

SH: And now, I can't divorce you because a second divorce might affect my future in politics. [If he decides to run for office some day.]

Me: I can't believe that your side would be bothered by two divorces.

SH: Maybe not. Especially if I divorced someone from your side.

Me: All they would say is, "What took you so long?"

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Taking candy from babies

I don't know if I was a bitch or not. You tell me. I am feeling a little bit guilty.

Last week, when I was swimming, a woman got into the lane next to me. When I stopped for one of my frequent breaks (because I am lazy and hate exercising and sometimes try to fool myself that being in an exercising place is the same thing as actually exercising), she tapped my shoulder.

"Excuse me," she said. "Would you tell me when you're done swimming?"

I thought it was a stupid thing to ask. So I did a stupid thing.

"Why?" I asked her.

"Because they put a rope up above that lane for me."

I looked up. There was indeed a clothesline-type rope running about six feet above the water, parallel to the lane.

I raised my eyebrows. "I'm blind," she said. "It's so I can stay in the lane."

I looked at her more closely. She couldn't have been completely blind or else the rope would have done her no good at all. It wasn't a rope for her to touch, after all. Not only that, but if she can see well enough to see a clothesline six feet in the air, she could surely see a 12" black line painted on the floor of the pool.

"The wall lane is empty," I pointed out.

"I can't see the rope from there," she said. "It isn't as good." She sighed. "Just tell me when you're done." Then she sighed again.

Which was true. There is a definite hierarchy of swimming lanes. The lane nearest the wall is usually the worst lane because the water is the most choppy there. (Remember high school physics and wave refraction?)

However, I would rather be alone in the wall lane than share one of the middle lanes. The Y ropes off the two far right lanes as single lanes, then leaves the middle two open as a big shared lane. There can be two swimmers on the lines (the line painted on the floor of the pool) and then one swimmer between the lines. The two lanes furthest to the left are where the old people have their water aerobics class. Lanes 1 and 2, old people. Lanes 3 and 4, combined for lap swimming. Lanes 5 and 6, single lanes for laps.

I hate swimming down the middle and I hate swimming on the painted line if someone else is swimming down the middle. Most of the swimmers at the Y know how to share a lane, but there are a few amateurs who splash about madly and flail and knock their arms into mine or force me to hit the lane ropes.

So if I can have lane 5, I'm going to take it. It's the best lane. If I have it, it's mine. Mine.

So the blind lady didn't want the wall lane, either. She stared at me with her "I'm a blind old lady" look. Except she's not completely blind.

I sighed. "Why don't I take that lane and you can have this one?"

She was happy to make the switch.

But when I got home, I complained to SH. "Why didn't she just ask me to switch lanes?" I asked. "Why did she go through all that passive-aggressive crap?"

Today, she showed up again. I was in lane 5 again. She was in the middle double lane. I watched her swim. She seemed to do just fine. Even when she was swimming backstroke, she didn't veer off the line, didn't knock into anyone.

After about ten minutes, as I returned to the end of the lane, I saw a hand stuck underwater in my lane, waving at me. I sighed. Well, not really, because you can't sigh underwater. But in my mind.

I stood. The blind lady asked, "Would you please tell me when you're done swimming?"

"Sure," I said politely. Then I dove right back in the water.

I swam another 400 yards, which takes me about 11 minutes - I am very, very slow, then stopped. She was waiting. "Are you still going?" she asked.

I looked at her. I looked at the water. I looked back at her again. "When I get out of the water, that's when I'll be done," I told her very politely.

She was almost motivating me to go for 3,000 yards, just out of spite. But I was too tired, so I did only 2,500. When I stopped, she was swimming away from me, about halfway to the other end.

I wasn't going to wait. She was even slower than I am.

I got out of the water, grabbed my stuff, and went into the hot tub next to the pool. As soon as I got out of the water, she slipped into my lane.

I stayed in the hot tub for five minutes, then got out and went back by the pool to get to the locker room. She got out of the water and stopped me.

"Perhaps I didn't make myself clear before," she said.

"What are you talking about?"

"I asked if you would tell me when you got out of the water."

"Yes, but you were halfway down the pool when I got out," I told her.

"But I'm blind."

My jaw dropped. Later, I thought I should have said, "But you moved right into my lane so what's the problem?" but I never think of these things in the moment. I also maybe should have said, "If you're blind, then how come you saw me get into the hot tub 15 yards away?"

But I didn't. I am usually not prepared with snappy comebacks for old blind ladies.

I just shook my head, shrugged, and said, "Oh well." I think she was ticked that I hadn't offered her my lane again but there was no need to do so. She reminded me a little bit of the people (very few of them) who get offended when people without handicaps use the handicapped stall in the ladies. I'm supposed to wait longer just on the off chance that someone with a handicap might come into the bathroom while I'm peeing? Yes, if there is a line and the handicapped stall becomes free, then sure, let the lady in the wheelchair cut in front. But otherwise, the rest of us are going to do what needs to be done.

What do I do next week when she pointedly asks me again to tell her when I'm done swimming?

Friday, April 06, 2012

Marriage 401, Lecture 627: He loves me, but he loves the cats more

SH: You didn't like how I was getting out of bed last night.

Me: No! You were lifting the covers and all the cold air was getting in !

SH: I was trying not to disturb the cats.

Me: But you were disturbing me!

SH: But the cats!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Taking the cats to the vet to be tutored

Today was our annual trip to the vet. A fun time for all.

I got the carrier out of the basement and set it on the kitchen table. Neither cat seemed too concerned, which makes me wonder if they're as smart as I think they are. Well, Laverne, anyhow. Shirley is very pretty.

While Laverne wasn't paying attention, I picked up her up and nonchalantly stuffed her in the carrier. She caught on at the last second and did that thing where she splays out her legs and holds them stiffly so she won't fit through the door, but I was faster than she was, for a change, and still got her in.

Shirley was sunning herself in the kitchen window. SH got her down by bribing her with a treat, a treat that she heard rattling in the jar and saw in his hands but wouldn't believe it was for real - we almost never feed them outside of meals - until he dropped it into her dish.

Laverne heard the rattling and then heard something drop in the dish - she knows that sound quite well - and began whining even louder because where was her treat?

SH gave her some treats, too, which she tried to eat while she was crying, which is impossible, so she alternated between eating and crying in despair over her recent incarceration.

She cried all the way to the vet's. Shirley said nothing. That's usually how it works: Laverne does the talking for the both of them.

At the vet, Laverne, crying, walked right out of the carrier because even though she was distraught and upset, she still wanted to see what was going on. He weighed her and took her pulse and her temperature and looked in her ears and at her teeth. She cried the entire time. Then he put her on the floor, where she wandered the perimeter, crying. She found the door and tried to open it. No luck. Too heavy and latched.

Shirley had no interest in coming out of the carrier. The vet reached in to pull her out and she hissed at him. She hissed again as he pulled her out but what was she going to do? She weighs six and a half pounds and he weighs 170. There is no contest.

Still, just to make it look good, she hissed at him again. That would show him.

Yet her claws remained sheathed and she didn't try to bite him. All bark and no bite, that Shirley.

When he told her she was so cute, she hissed at him again. It was a hiss laden with meaning. It was a hiss that said, "I am more than just a pretty face. I am so tired of the condescension of humans who think that just because I am beautiful, I am not intelligent. Those qualities are not mutually exclusive, you know. I want to be loved for my mind. And just so you know, I can open a door by myself. I do know how to do it. It's just easier to let humans do it for me. You think you're so smart, but who's cleaning up after whom here?"

The vet laughed because he loves animals.

Then he gave her the shots and she hissed again. That was a, "Don't mess with me, Big Boy," hiss, but the vet, he was immune. He sees her type all the time.

Laverne cried the entire time. Shirley hissed occasionally.

Laverne wanted to get out of there so bad that she crawled back into the carrier. Shirley had to be convinced. She doesn't like to be trapped, although she always finds small places to nest at home. Maybe it's a control thing.

Laverne cried the entire way home.

Fortunately, neither of them blamed me for taking them there. They just hate him, not me.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Marriage 401, Lecture 319: SH is for Sheldon, part 2

SH: You're not doing it right.

Me: Now what?

SH: You folded my t-shirts wrong.

Me: You mean the t-shirts I washed and folded for you yesterday while you were out doing your political stuff? Those shirts?

SH: You didn't do it right.

Me: And what's wrong with how I fold, Sheldon? Remember I worked at Macy's over Christmas a few years ago and folded shirts professionally.

SH: They're too wide.

Me: Too wide?

SH: They need to fit three to a drawer, side by side. You folded them too wide.

Me: I guess maybe you should be in charge of folding your own shirts from now on.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Marriage 401, Lecture 319: You're in my spot


After SH was gone for several days.

SH: Hey! You're not doing it right!

Me: What now?

SH: You have your towel in my towel place and mine in yours.

Me: So?

SH: That's wrong!

Me: Why does it matter?

SH: Because that's my spot! And you're in my spot!


Monday, April 02, 2012

Marriage 401, Lecture 319: Just the facts, ma'am

SH called me on Friday morning to tell me that he wouldn't be in on the earlier flight. "Did you get my email?" he asked.

No, I hadn't. He had sent it to my gmail account and I have stopped using gmail and other google products when possible because I am not happy about their concern that I never have to look hard for anything. Don't worry! they say. We'll just look at your email and your searches and everything we can get into and figure out what you might want!

No thanks.

So he told me that he didn't have a chance to get the earlier flight out of Minneapolis because his flight to Minneapolis had been diverted to Salt Lake City, etc, etc, etc.

"This is all in my email," he said.

"Did you get to see M and V?" I asked. They are his stepdaughters from his starter marriage.

He sighed impatiently. "That's all in the email!" he said.

"OK, OK, Mr Cranky. I'll look at it when we get off the phone."

And I did.

This is the entire email:


My flight from San Francisco to Minneapolis started very smoothly (and took off early) but was diverted to Salt Lake City because of a medical emergency. A fairly young woman apparently had trouble breathing and was taken off the plane here by paramedics.

We should be taking off soon for Minneapolis, and I'll get there too late to catch the earlier flight to Milwaukee but in plenty of time to make my scheduled flight.

I had very nice visits with V and M and their families.

I ask you. If you want to know if someone visited someone else, do you really want just a yes or no answer to that question? Or do you want information?

I picked him up at the airport a few hours later. "I saw your email," I said. "All it said was that you saw them. What else?"

"What do you mean, what else?" he asked.

"I mean, what happened? Anything of interest? Anybody say anything of interest? Any news?"

"I saw them, OK?"

"Yes, but what did you talk about, Sheldon?"

It took me ten miles to pull this information out of him, information I think we will all agree is worthwhile intelligence and definitely in the "what else?" category:

Both of them are thinking about having second children
M is thinking about going back to school to become a dental hygienist
She had thought about acupuncture but the school's too expensive
Mateo (M and B's little boy) was sick but still wanted SH to play with him but SH is germ phobic
M and B's cat, Hattie, has decided that Mateo is old enough to be accountable for his actions and she no longer puts up with having her tail pulled
V is finishing college this semester
She and E are still living in his mom's house with his brother but they want to buy their own house

This is all news. This is all more than "Yes, I saw them." Honestly.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Marriage 401, Lecture 632: Russian nesting dolls

Me: Why do we need all these boxes?

SH: What if we have to ship something?

Me: And the last time we did that?

Me: What's in that box?

SH: Packing materials.

Me: What's in that box?

SH: More boxes.

Me: Just what we need. Boxes of boxes.


SH: Hey! Good news! I've rearranged things down here. Now there's more floor space.

Me: So we have more room for more empty boxes?

SH: You just don't understand the hoarder mentality.