Sunday, September 30, 2012

Wisconsin 101: Where to buy food

I went to the farmers market yesterday. Here's the secret: don't go to the yuppie farmers markets in the suburbs. Go to the farmers market in the poor people neighborhoods. Same vendors, same products, better prices.

Except for the occasional yuppie farmer (i.e., white, not Hmong) who has not studied the marketplace at all and thinks that $1.75 for a bunch of cilantro ($1 from other FM vendors, 50 cents at the Vietnamese grocer down the street) is what she's going to get. Or $3.75 for a tiny little basket of broccoli.

There were no lines at the yuppie farmer's booth.

Shoppers are not stupid. Shoppers know what cilantro and broccoli should cost. Even if you're willing to pay a premium to support a local farmer, you're probably not willing to pay a premium to support a local farmer who doesn't understand her market.

There were lines at the Hmong booths. And at the stand where they were frying brats and roasting corn. And selling red velvet cake.

I didn't buy so much yesterday because I was still using the five pounds of baby cabbage I bought last week. And the cabbage sprouts. And the eggplant. And the tomatoes.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The working life: Whine, whine, whine

It seems that many of my posts are about injustices directed my way.

Perceived injustices.

If I perceive it, does it make it real? If it seems that the man who is sitting next to me on the bus is crowding into my space, on purpose, does that make it so? What's real? It feels very real that he is crowding into my space, spreading his legs to hog up more of the room, even if some of that room is on my half of the leg space. But can I legitimately attribute ill will to him? Is he trying to bother me? Or is it just coincidence?

It does make it seem worse if I think he is doing it on purpose. Which I think he was. Plenty of seats - entire rows - opened up during the ride and yet he remained next to me, choking me with his stale cigarette smell. I wanted to punch him and make him move. Get away from me.

But he is not whom I wanted to write about today.

I want to write about the guy in body pump.

When I came in at 11:59 for my noon class - I don't want to waste time when I am taking my lunch hour to go to the gym and it's not like I have friends to talk to in the class, anyhow. Nobody there talks to anyone. This is all business. Get in and get out and get back to work.

I got into the class. (Yes. I left you hanging with that last sentence. Sorry.) It was crowded, but there would have been room for everyone if everyone had spaced their benches and mats properly. You don't need five feet in front of or behind you. 

I put a mat on the floor behind this guy "Brutus" while I surveyed the space, trying to figure out if I could fit behind him or if there was a better space.

Brutus was in the front row. He had six feet between him and the mirror. He was almost parallel with the instructor.

"You're awfully close back there," he said.

Really? You're going to get pissy with me, Mr Wears A Fannypack Filled With Keys and Gloves to class? Mr Loads Up On the Weights? Mr Could Easily Move His Bench Two Feet Forward?

Not, "That's a tight fit. Will you have enough room? How about if I move my bench forward a little? This class gets really crowded!"

Nope. Just an aggrieved, "You're awfully close back there."

Maybe I would have let it go, but Brutus has already gotten on my nerves.

Have you ever been to an aerobics class where people go, "Wooo?"

I am not a woo-er.

Some people are. Fine for them. I don't. I don't woo.

Some instructors encourage it. They want to build a sense of cameraderie in the class. I understand that and applaud that, but I am not a woo-er. Even when something bad happens, I don't exclaim. I do not sing the song of Something Bad Happened. I say, "Oh!" And then I solve the problem.

There are some classes where people woo and some classes where they don't.

Body pump, which is a weights class set to about the worst music you can imagine - can you imagine a rap version of "The Lonely Goatherd" from The Sound of Music? If you can, then you just have imagined the worst music possible - is not a wooing class.

Body pump is about lifting weights and making it through all the repetitions without dropping anything or hurting yourself or embarrassing yourself by not making it through the entire set, although I would say it's less embarrassing not to make it through the set when you are using ten-pound hand weights than when you are using two-pound ones.

This guy is a wooer.

He "Woos!" all through body pump.

He is the only one.

Sometimes, he has a long woo. He adjusts the woo to fit the routine.

He will not shut up.

So I was not in the mood to be nice back to him when he said that I was awfully close.

I snapped back, "Don't worry. I'm not getting into your space." As if I would want to be. "I'm trying to figure out where there's room."

Then I pulled my mat back and placed it perpendicular to his because that was the only way I could fit into the class.

Ten minutes into the class, he pushed his bench forward.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Marriage 501, Lecture 14: Nothing rhymes with orange

Me: Would you like an orange?

SH: Now?

Me: Yes. Now.

SH: But it's suppertime!

Me: You've finished your supper. I thought you might like something sweet. And I'll bet you've had no produce today.

SH: Evening is not the time to eat things that are good for you! It's time for dessert! Who would eat fruit in the evening?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Marriage 501, Lecture 21: You're not doing it right

The other day, I flushed the toilet and Laverne came running into the bathroom. She skidded across the floor and bumped into the toilet, then jumped up onto the seat (the wooden seat that SH got me for Christmas a few years ago so my bare hinder wouldn't freeze every time I touched it in the middle of the winter night when the thermostat in our heat-leaking house is set to 55) and ducked into the bowl for a sip.

I have never seen Laverne do that.

She likes to watch things move, but she has never shown an interest in drinking from the toilet.

 I scolded her, then called SH so he could see what was going on.

He went into the kitchen and looked at their water bowl.

"Their water is empty!" he said. He went downstairs to check their basement water bowl. "This one is empty, too!"

We slipped into our usual argument: SH wanted to assign blame and I wanted to solve the problem. That is, I filled the water bowls while SH asked me how, how could this happen?

 I told him it was his fault (I play the Assign Blame Game when I can win).

SH: How is it my fault?

Me: Because their water gets changed in the morning and you're now the morning feeder. [I don't feed the cats before I leave for work. I leave the house at 6:45 a.m., which is far earlier than they have ever been used to being fed, and before SH wakes up. I don't want them in the kitchen whining and crying and waking him up because a cranky SH serves nobody. They are very much give them an inch they'll take a mile cats: if I were to let them out of the basement to feed them, they would next demand to be let into the bedroom because that window, even though it has the same view as the kitchen window, is better. I don't know why. It just is. Probably because it's behind a closed door and is there anything more appealing to a cat than a closed door?]

SH: But I just feed them. I don't water them.

Me: Watering is part of the morning feeding.

 SH: No it isn't. Watering is your job.

Me: No. It is part of the feeding. Watering is not assigned by person, it is assigned by time.

SH: It's your job. You never told me it was part of morning feeding.

Me: I didn't think I needed to!

SH: Why don't you give them water in the evening when you feed them then?

Me: Because water is part of the morning feeding! Not part of the evening feeding!

 SH: Didn't you notice their water was empty when you fed them tonight?

Me: Of course not. I wasn't wearing my glasses. I couldn't see a thing.

SH: You're not doing it right. Watering is watering and feeding is feeding. They are not the same function.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Marriage 501, Lecture 631: The important things

Me: The firefighters are having their shredding day at the library on Saturday. There's a whole box of stuff in the basement that can go.

SH: Like what?

Me: Your phone bills from 1997. Your stepdaughter's college tuition bills and payment receipts. Your credit card receipts from two, three, and four years ago.

SH: No! I haven't looked at any of that!

Me: So?

SH: You put the wrong year of bank statements in the shredding pile last year. 

Me: OK. So one mistake. Big deal. We fixed it.

SH: But how can I be sure you haven't made any other mistakes like that?

Me: Can you at least decide BY CATEGORY what should go into the shredder should you ever be willing to make a shredding decision?

SH: Not now. I don't have time.

Me: If you drop dead, it's all going into the trash. All your stuff in the basement. I'm not even opening the boxes.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Marriage 501, Lecture 61: Homemade

SH: Oh no!

Me: What?

SH: These shoes [that he ordered online] are made in China.

For new readers - we are trying very hard not to buy things made in China because 1. we don't want to support slave labor and 2. we would rather those manufacturing jobs stay in the US. Yes, I know it's like trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon, but there you go.

What this means for me is that I buy Italian shoes.

Me: Are you going to send them back?

SH: I got two pair. The second pair is made in the US.

Me: I see.

SH: I guess it's better to have one pair made in the US and one pair made in China than to have two pairs made in Indonesia.

Me: It's like carbon offsets.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The working life: RTFM


You know what's embarrassing? What's embarrassing is when your computer fails, you march it over to IT in a lather of righteous indignation - coupled with fear that your hacked hotmail account that you've been looking at AT WORK is what has caused the failure, and the IT guy powers the computer right up.

Because he PLUGGED IT IN.

Which you thought you did.

But when he walks back to your cubicle with you, you discover you did not.

But at least it wasn't the hacked hotmail that caused the problem.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Marriage 501, Lecture 399: Anniversary/Engagement


I don't think I've ever told you guys about my engagement trash can! I have referred to it, but never told you the whole story. Here it is.

We had decided to get married. When is this - summer 2007? Oh sure SH had been in loooove with me for a long time and I was crazy about him, but we were both a little skittish about this marriage thing, he because he did not have a good experience with his ex and I just because I had dodged some bullets already.

I was not unmarried because nobody had ever proposed to me. Oh no. I was unmarried in my early 40s because I treasured my independence. I liked living alone. I don't like compromise. 

I still treasure my independence and don't like compromise.

Several boyfriends in my past had wanted to marry me. Several, I tell you. But fie, fie with them.

SH was the first I wanted to marry. He does have his weirdness, but he doesn't do things like leave all the cupboard doors open so the cockroaches won't have a place to hide. Or mash the little ends of soap in the corner of the bathtub.

Everyone does odd things and I have my own weirdnesses - I always keep a safety pin around so I can get gunk out of my teeth because one of my paranoias is that I have something stuck in my teeth but it's really not paranoia because I have very stuff-prone teeth so often, there is something there - but maybe true love is when you find someone whose weirdness you can live with. The boyfriend with the cupboard/soap thing was wonderful in many ways, but I just couldn't take all that gray slimy soap in the corner.

But SH - well, he was different. My life is better with him than without him. I missed him too much when he's gone.

We started talking about rings. SH sort of wanted to buy me a ring.

I don't wear rings. I wish I'd known that before I spent $200 on my college class ring, which has not seen my hands since 1987. I could have paid my rent with that money.

I don't like them. My hands aren't that nice. I have icky nails, unlike my mom and my sister, both of whom seem to be able to extrude ceramic from their fingers. Rings get in the way. I do too many things involving my hands to want a ring. You can't wear a ring when you garden. When you work with weights. When you do housework.

I didn't want one. I especially didn't want SH to spend thousands of dollars on a ring. "We could go to Paris for that money," I tell him. "Or put it toward our mortgage." I'd rather have a grand trip to Paris to look back on than a ring any day.

He was frustrated. He wanted to do something.

"Get me a decent trash can," I told him.

I hated the trash can in his kitchen. It was about 14" high and you had to push the lid with your hand to open it. I hated bending over to open it or lifting my leg 16" to mash the opener with my foot. I hated bending over to peel onions into it. I hated the little bags it held. I hated it.

"I want the fancy trash can like Leigh* has," I said.

Leigh had the nice, tall, chrome, foot-operated trash can. It doesn't break your back to peel onions. You just step with your foot to open it.

She has since gotten the trash can that has the laser beam opener. Maybe for our 10th anniversary.

But the ordinary, non-laser fancy can wasn't cheap.

It was about $60. For a trash can.

I tried to put that into beer units for SH so he could relate. He and I have different ideas about how much to spend on everyday items. I think it's worth it to spend a little more to get higher quality in something you will use every day. He is more of the "buy cheap" school (except for car accessories and wine, but even his cars have all been used - he is not a spendthrift). I tell him buy nice or buy twice.

He wanted to wait until he could find the trash can on sale. That's fair. I don't see the point of paying more than we have to.

But it didn't go on sale and didn't go on sale and didn't go on sale. We knew this because SH scours the ads in the paper every Sunday. He will even find a lower price on something he already bought and go to the store to get the adjustment. Target does that, you know. SH is not wasteful with money. Unless you count buying a lot of wine, which I do count. As wasteful.

After nine months of watching, though, the darn trash can never went on sale. By now, I had sold my house and moved into SH's apartment, so his trash can had become a real issue.

One evening, he came home with a big box. It contained the trash can. "I got it for you," he said. "And it wasn't even on sale."

I knew he loved me.

* Leigh is the friend whose presents got peed on at her bridal shower by the hostess' neurotic, yappy dogs. The hostess was a psychologist. The dogs peed on Leigh's presents. The hostess still did not put the dogs out. Psychologist heal thyself is what I said.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The working life: Keeping us safe


I had to go to the courthouse today. I remembered being told I could not bring my Swiss army knife in the last time I went, which was to pick up copies of our wedding license, as I was unwilling to pay the county $20 to stick them in an envelope and mail them - how much are those clerks making, anyhow, that it costs $20 to mail something? The guard saw my knife on the x-ray and told me I couldn't bring it in. I took it back outside and hid it in a planter.

So today, I thought I was so smart. I removed my knife from my purse before I left work. Ha! They can't get me, I thought.

But when I went through security, I got stopped.

"Do you have a tweezers in your purse?" the deputy asked politely.

Well of course I did. Doesn't every woman carry a tweezers for those chin hair emergencies?

I removed them. I removed the nail clippers. Good for fingernails, although now that I do not have an office but a cubicle, clipping my nails is not something I can do at work. It drives me crazy to hear all the chewing going on around me. People here snack on celery and apples, not chocolate, like normal people. Chocolate doesn't make noise. I do not want to contribute to the din by cutting my nails.

The deputy shook his head.

"I'm afraid you can't take those in," he said.

"Why?" I asked. "Is it illegal to give someone a pedicure in the courthouse?"

He smiled. "You may leave them outside, you may leave them in a locker for 75 cents, or you may leave them with me to become property of the sheriff's department."


I rolled my eyes.

"There are some good hiding places outside," he offered. "On the window ledge. Don't tell anyone I told you."

I went outside. The ledges were at eye level and stark. If anyone saw my stuff there, they would be sure to steal it because who doesn't keep an eye out for an extra pair of tweezers?

But there were some cracks in the concrete at the base of the wall at the corner. I looked around to make sure nobody was watching me - there were some poorly-groomed women who were undoubtedly waiting to pounce, bent down, and placed the tweezers and the clippers carefully in the crack.

I went in, did my court business, and came out.

They were still there. Much to my surprise. I must be a very good hider.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The working life: My cubicle brand

There was some muckety-muck from Upstairs in our little corner of the building the other day. He commented on my co-worker's cubicle, which is adorned with photos of her dog and paintings of dogs and dog memorabilia.

Another co-worker has his university stuff: lots of Gopher paraphanalia, Greek jokes (he is Greek), and a few Star Wars action figures, aka "dolls."

Yet another has photos of her children and of London. A small replica of a London red phone booth. English stuff.

The muckety-muck looked at my cubicle.

I have a plant. That HR gave me on my first day. That I thought, "Oh GREAT. Now I have to water a plant. Why couldn't they have given me chocolate?"

I would never give someone a plant. Why not just give her a puppy? It's the same level of unwanted, unrequested responsibility. IF WANTED A PLANT IN MY CUBICLE, I WOULD GET MY OWN!

But they were just trying to be nice. I have to remember that.

I have a plant. And a phone. A stapler. A calendar. The calendar, I brought from home.

But that's it.

The muckety- muck asked, "Where's your stuff?"

I answered, "I'm here to work."

My boss liked that answer, but the MM said, "I like to know something about a person. I look at the books, the plaques."

Yeah. Those are things you get when you have AN OFFICE. Honestly - each job I've gotten has been worse than the previous. I have gone from a window office with my own secretary (although it was a pain in the neck to write my letters and memos longhand and give them to her to type) to a window office with no secretary but a computer to a cubicle in a converted, window-less warehouse where you were advised not to walk to your car alone after dark to a cubicle with natural light. So maybe this new cubicle is a step up.

In the meantime, there are empty offices.

But my co-workers and I do not rate those offices. We do not even rate phones with caller ID. You have to be a higher level than we are. (I KNOW! Because caller ID certainly isn't something that would help us do our job better!)

So the MM thinks people should reveal themselves at work via their office/cubicle decor.

I think it's nobody's business. What do you think?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Marriage 401, Lecture 224: Want to see my etchings?

SH: I don't understand why women dress up to go to the gym. When I was going to a gym, I was there to work out. I got in and I got out.

Me: Maybe some women might want to meet men there.

SH: Maybe. But when I was working out, I didn't have time to socialize.

Editor's note here: SH the Engineer is highly focused on the task any time he does a task and it is almost impossible to distract him. This is good for work but not so good for anything involving me, as in, if he becomes fixated on a political issue, it is impossible - and trust me I have tried - to change the subject. There must be people who would be delighted to discuss tax policy over Sunday morning breakfast, but I am not one of them. I want to discuss tax policy with SH never.

Me: Maybe you missed your opportunity. You could have met a nice, working-out lady and married her instead of your ex. I am always telling my brother to go to Jazzercise.

SH: But that's all women!

Me: Exactly.

SH: I did relax after working out by sitting in the hot tub. But there were never any women there.

Me: I'm shocked.

SH: That's when I would have wanted to talk to them. Why didn't they go to the hot tub if they wanted to meet men?

Me: I don't know. I sure can't think of anything more appealing than getting into a body of germy water, wearing almost no clothes, with a bunch of men I don't know.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Chats du jour: Stuck!

Last night, Laverne was playing with the paper bag with the twine handles. I brought it home ten days ago with my restaurant leftovers, planning to save it for a time when I might need a small paper bag with twine handles. But I didn't put it away right away and the cats thought it was a toy just for them. They climbed inside the bag, the climbed out. They dragged it on the floor. Shirley got in the bag, Laverne pounced on the bag with Shirley in it, Shirley ran out of the bag - usual cat stuff. After a few hours of cat toyness, the bag was not suitable for other use, so I just left it on the floor - next to the box that my eBay Ferragamos arrived in - as more evidence that we are a household run by cats and SH and I serve as their staff. Cat-less folks do not have empty boxes and bags on their kitchen floor. Cat-less folks do not have furry toys and feather stuff on their floors. Cat-less folks do not have cat vomit on their floors.

Sometimes I envy cat-less folks.

Laverne - not Shirley, as I would expect, as Shirley is the pretty cat, not the smart cat - kept getting her head caught in the handle. Which led to a paper-bagged cat walking around the house. Which I let drag on for more than a few minutes because it is funny to watch your cat walk around with a small paper bag attached to her body. The look Laverne gave me - the "What happen is THAT?" - is also fun to watch.

Not so fun for her, but fun for me. I know, I'm a big meany for letting my cat be encumbered by a paper bag. Sue me.

Last night, SH saw Laverne get her head caught in the handle. I resorted to my usual snickering, but SH said, "She could strangle on that!"

Pfft, I dismissed him.

But then I thought, "How dumb would I feel if Laverne did indeed strangle? Perhaps I should do something to prevent such an event from coming to pass."

"Fine," I said. "I'll take care of it."

I got the scissors out of the junk drawer and snipped each twine handle.

There. Strangle-proof.



SH finished washing the dish that he was taking three minutes to wash - because he washes to 100% whereas I wash to 99%, which takes only 15 seconds per dish - and saw that I had merely snipped the handle.

"That's not right!" he said as he looked at the mutilated paper bag.

You know how he is.

I rolled my eyes.

"Where are the scissors?" he demanded.

"You know where the scissors are," I replied.

"No! The ones I like! Not these!"

He was looking not at the junk drawer scissors but at the silverware drawer scissors, of which there are two identical - IDENTICAL - pair. Pairs. Whatever.

"There are scissors there," I said.

"Not the ones I like!"

I was befuddled, as the scissors that reside in the silverware drawer are exactly alike. They are kitchen shears that I use for cutting flower stems and basil and that kind of stuff. The junk drawer scissors are the kind you would use for cutting fabric if they weren't so dull from cutting paper and twine handles.

SH scrambled through the silverware drawer to find the other pair of kitchen scissors. Then he went through the dishdrainer, which is where they were found, much to his relief, because he likes that pair, not the other pair that is IDENTICAL.

Then he went to the bag and neatly trimmed the handles off flush with the bag.

"That looks better," he announced.

I rolled my eyes again. Lord have mercy being married to an engineer can be trying at times.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Marriage 401, Lecture 204: Having my cake and eating it too

Me: You need to eat the rest of that coconut cake tonight.

SH: The rest? Why? What if I just want half of it?

Me: You have to eat all of it.

SH: But why?

Me: To keep me from eating it.

SH: Why can't you just not eat it?

Me: I can't.

SH: So what - either I eat it or I hide it?

Me: Yes.

SH: Just don't eat it.

Me: I can't. I can't help it. I'm a victim.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Marriage 401, Lecture 695: Hairspray

SH: I need your help.

Me: What?

SH: I got ink on my shirt.

Me: How?

SH: From my pen!

Me: Who keeps a pen in his pocket?

SH: Where else am I supposed to put it?

Me: I don't put pens in my pocket.

SH: How do I get it out?

Me: I don't know. Hairspray?


Me: But I don't have any.

SH: You don't have hairspray?

Me: No. When have you ever seen me with sprayed hair? Never.

SH: I thought all women had stuff like that, whether or not they used it.