Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The working life: Cold‏

I am always the coldest person in the room. No matter what, I am cold. Unless the room is overheated and everyone else is sweltering, in which case I am comfortable. But I am always cold. Which is even more reason that living in Milwaukee is a very, very bad idea for me.

I was fine this summer because we had record heat and a drought. Except that meant we had to use the a/c in our house or SH would have melted away in his upstairs office. Remember that heat rises. But work was OK and walking the 3/10 of a mile to the bus in the morning and waiting between one and ten minutes for the 5:51 bus to arrive was OK.

Then it started to get cold.

And I started to freeze at work. I was convinced that it was because they hadn't turned the heat on. After all, an organization that doesn't provide coffee and has about the worst group health insurance plan I have ever seen is probably not going to waste a lot of money on heat. 

I have sat at my desk swaddled in my long winter coat. I have sat at my desk with the logo'd blanket they gave us at some rah-rah meeting wrapped around my legs. I have been cold all day.

I was even colder - but not much! - as I walked to the bus. A camisole, tights, long wool coat, the hat that I lost on the bus and then found again - none of those were enough to keep me warm.

So yesterday, I took two drastic steps, one to address the walk to the bus stop issue and another to address the cold at work issue. 

I'll start with cold at work.

I went downstairs to see the one person you really, really want on your side after the IT people. If you are going to make cookies for anyone, make them for this guy. Better yet, make a double batch and give some to IT, because even if you don't need IT now, you will need them in the future when you accidentally delete all your work files and need them to pull the backup tape from the night before to restore your stuff. 

I went to talk to the guy in charge of maintenance. "Is the heat on?" I asked of the woman sitting at the front desk.

She didn't even look up from her papers. She just yelled, "Hal! This lady wants to know if the heat is on." Then she shook her head and kept marking her document.

Hal sighed. I guess he's heard this question before. "Let's check," he said. 

"I'm freezing," I said. "I've been freezing."

He nodded sympathetically. "I'm always cold, too." I looked at him. The reason he's always cold is because he's about 0.3% body fat. 

I do not have that excuse.

But we persevered. He pulled a thermometer out of his pocket. Shook it. We got to my desk. I looked at the thermometer. "Seventy four?" I asked. "It's not really 74 here."

"Seventy four point four," he noted.

"But it's freezing!"

He shook his head. "Sorry."

I sighed. He left. I opened the drawer with the blanket in it. Wrapped it around my legs. 

I told the story to a co-worker. She scoffed. "I don't believe it," she said. "That thermometer always says 74. I think they make it up."

So do I.

Perhaps the solution is to extend my walk to the bus solution, which is to wear sweatpants under my skirt. Such a flattering look, but you know what? At 6:50 a.m., I don't care how I look and I really don't care any more if my fashion sense impresses the other passengers on the bus.

So now I might just wear sweatpants all day long.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Marriage 501, Lecture 120: Too many chiefs

SH: Hey! The bathroom floor is wet!

Me: Yes. I just washed it.

SH: But I wanted to take a shower.

Me: So take a shower.

SH: But the rugs are in the hall!

Me: Put them back. They'll be OK.

SH: No, you put them back once I'm in the shower.

I ignored him, of course, and went on about my business, which was trying to vacuum the cat hair off the rug, a battle that will never end until the cats are dead, which I hope is a long time from now. Still, it would be nice to genetically engineer a non-shedding cat. I would have to clean about 99% less if we didn't have cats. 99.5% less if I didn't have a husband.

As I am vacuuming:

SH: Hey!


SH: Hey!


SH: HEY!!!


SH: There's no bathmat here!

Me: I know.

SH: But I told you to move it.

Me: And I told you to move it first.

SH: But I changed that plan.

Me: If you want to be in charge of all housecleaning, go ahead.

SH: I don't want to be in charge. I just want to micromanage.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Marriage 501, Lecture 23: No rest for the OCD

Me: What are you doing?

SH: Looking for that bacon. Did we put it in the freezer or not?

Me: I don't know.

SH: Here it is.

Me: Fine. Now would you please close the refrigerator?

SH: Wait! The cheese is all out of order! What do we have here?

Me: Oh my gosh. You are not going to inventory the refrigerator at 10:30 at night.

SH: Just the cheese. This is a mess.

Me: Why do you have to do this now?

SH: Because it's a mess!

Me: But if you are doing something like looking for an item in a box and I suggest that as long as have the box open,  you might as well deal with the rest of the contents, you tell me that dealing with the rest of the contents was not in the original scope and you're not going to have any scope creep.

SH: That's different.

Me: How?

SH: It just is.

Me: I can't stand this. I'm going to brush my teeth.

SH: I'm just about done. What do you think about [wxyz] tonight?

Me: Forget it. You used your [wxyz] time organizing the cheese drawer.       

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Wisconsin 101: They also have cream cheese here‏

Who knew that a post about Ro-Tel dip would generate so many comments? I like it! Let's keep talking about food. 

The other hugely popular item at our party was the Memphis Junior League onion dip. I had seen the recipe when I bought my mandatory to purchase Junior League cookbook when I joined the league at the order of one of my Memphis fairy godmothers. ("It's a good way to meet men!" "It's a group for women!" "They have brothers.")

What I discovered about the Junior League is that it is for relatively affluent women, which I am sure comes as no surprise to any of you who pay any attention to stereotypes. Sometimes stereotypes exist for a reason. 

I discovered that there is a serious financial commitment to being in the league, which is why I almost dropped out after the first year. I didn't, because a friend wanted me to recommend her for membership. I should have told her fine, pay my fees. It cost almost $200 a year in various commitments! Plus all that volunteer time. But I knew that all going in the second year, so I have nobody to blame but myself. And I do now have a really good cookbook, as do my sister and my mom and my friends who got one of the six cookbooks I had to buy.

So. I had read the recipe but it didn't sound that good to me, which makes me think that I didn't have a good command of what makes food taste good back then.

Tell me - do you read this list of ingredients and say, "Eh. Whatever?"

cream cheese
Parmesan cheese

Really, what's not to like?

But I read the recipe - because I read cookbooks for fun the way some men read Playboy for fun - to look and dream about things they can never have - and it didn't hit me just how good some hot, salty, onion-y fat could be.

So I ignored it. Just as I ignored the recipe for tomato aspic because I hate jello and anything that is like jello. Tomato aspic is tomato jello and it is a standard dish at Memphis baby showers, along with cheese grits, which are delicious, and little ham biscuits, which are also delicious. How tomato jello made it into the baby shower food lexicon I will never know because it is disgusting.

I rightfully ignored the recipe for tomato aspic but wrongfully ignored the one for onion dip.

How dumb was that? How much time did I go without Memphis Junior League onion dip unnecessarily?

Then I went to a party. Probably a Junior League party or work event. Maybe the work event at the house of the woman who had a brand-new house with five bathrooms and a separate refrigerator just for drinks that she kept by the back door on the way out to the pool. 

There was this delicious concoction - a dish of hot, salty, fat next to a bowl of chips.

I tried some.

And wondered, as I have with so many foods, such as grits, Nutella, and Velveeta, "Where have you been my entire life?"

Then I made it for SH and he asked the same question. I serve it at all my book club meetings. I think it's the reason people are willing to come to my house for book club, even though it's always cold in our house and our pretty sofa is very uncomfortable. The comfortable furniture is in the basement with the TV and the cats. It's also cold down there and there is cat hair, despite my best efforts, but at least it is comfortable. On the rare occasions when SH and I watch TV - this is not a snob thing, it's a time thing, we wear sweats or PJs. We don't dare wear nice clothes on the comfy sofa unless we want them to be covered with cat hair.

Where was I?

Oh, right. Book club likes the dip. SH likes the dip. The people at the party liked the dip. And you'll like the dip.

24 oz cream cheese
2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
12-16 oz chopped onion, frozen and then thawed so a lot of the liquid goes out of them

Mix it all up in a bucket, then put in a pan and heat it at about 325 for 10 or 15 minutes, until it's bubbling and it's warm all the way through. Serve with chips. Amen.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Wisconsin 101: Little old men fishing‏

I went running (what I like to call "running," as it makes me sound athletic, but is really a very slow plodding accompanied by the thought, "I hate this I hate this Ihatethis," and also by the thought, "But I like to eat, so keep moving") the other day during lunch. It is a fun way to explore downtown Milwaukee, although I have discovered that the slightest breeze off the lake becomes an icy-cold hurricane once it is funneled through the streets. 

I think I told you that I talked to a Chinese student who had been in town for two days. "Are those skyscrapers?" he asked as he pointed to Milwaukee's pretty but not high skyline. Nope. A ten-storey building is not a skyscraper. But it is tall enough to concentrate the wind and turn it into something more powerful than a delightful zephyr.

I went down the river and to the lakefront, along the Summerfest grounds, where, incidentally, I found some good spots outside the grounds where I could probably hear the bands for free. Not that Summerfest is expensive. Perhaps the greater advantage to being off the grounds would be that I would be distanced from the stupid drunk and vomiting people who think that a music festival means drinking as much beer as possible in as little time as possible.

I digress.

I went along the river and then along the channel under the big bridge toward the red lighthouse. There were men fishing. Yes, men. I didn't see any women fishing, so lay off with your accusations that I am gender stereotyping and not using inclusive language.

By the way, may I say something about the gender stuff? 

It's sex.

Male and female are sexes, not genders. Gender is what your verb is in Spanish. La or el. People have sex, at least when they are not exhausted, and verbs have gender. Write that down if you need to.

There were men fishing. One man had four poles attached to the rail. I stopped to ask how it was going. He stood back from the poles, next to his car. He was an older man with two St Christopher medals around his neck. I think they were St Christopher. Maybe not. He was listening to a transistor radio, which I didn't even think existed any more. 

Me: Are you catching anything?

Fisherman: Oh, not so much, hey? Just one perch so far.

Me: Perch? That's an expensive fish.

Fisherman: Yah, that's why I fish for it.

Me: Can you eat the fish you catch here?

Fisherman (surprised): Of course!

Then a conversation about how our gardens didn't grow this summer and it's probably because of the drought. I learned tomatoes need a lot more water than I thought. Everything needs more water than I thought.

Me: Well, I need to get back to work. Nice talking to you.

Fisherman: You have a nice day, dear.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The working life: They say it's your birthday‏

SH says I am being pissy and difficult.

I think I am standing up for a long-denied right in corporate America: the right not to have your birthday celebrated at work.

I don't like work birthday celebrations. At least, not mine. If it's for someone else and it involves cake, then I think it's just fine. But I don't want to celebrate my birthday at work. I want to take the day off and sleep late and goof off and eat whatever I want, which I have to admit did not work out so well this year, as a diet of Fritos, cheese, polenta cake, and chocolate chips is almost guaranteed to lead to feeling crummy by 5 p.m.

A few years ago, when I turned 40, I took the day off. I did not tell anyone it was my birthday. It was nobody's darn business.

I returned to work the next day to find my office decorated with black streamers and other turning 40 junk.

The admin in my group had gotten my birthday from HR.

I was ticked. I don't care if people know how old I am, but I don't like to be the center of attention unless I am controlling everything.

I discovered a few weeks ago that my new employer publishes employee birthdays on the intranet.

Who does this? This is nuts! Shouldn't they ask, when they are doing all the other crap you have to do when you start working - signing up for crummy health insurance, turning down the pet insurance with the muttered comment that you would prefer decent human insurance, signing the internet policy so they have an easy way to fire you if they don't want to go through a performance improvement plan (I cannot be the only person who checks facebook every now and then while I'm at work), if you want to opt in to the public birthday program?

Opt-in and opt-out programs are not unknown. You have to look for them. To opt out of having your name and address on your drivers license being public information, you have to read the forms - the back of the forms - very carefully and check that No! You do not want the State of Tennessee or Wisconsin selling your name and address to anyone who wants it and why would anyone ever think that was a good idea?

Government for the people, my aunt fanny.

So I discovered my birthday listed online.

So I sent an email to HR, asking them to take it down. I was polite, but implicit in the request was, "I cannot believe you guys would do such a thing."

I don't even have my birthday on facebook.

Honestly, people. If nothing else, this is personal information that can be used by identity thieves. At best, it leads to situations where you have to endure attention you don't want just because you don't want to be a bad sport.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Marriage 501, Lecture 45: The love candle

SH: Hey! What are you doing?

Me: Lighting a candle.

SH: But why?

Me: Because we're having a party and it's nice to have a candle in the bathroom.

SH: That's not the usual bathroom candle.

Me: No, that one is almost burnt out.

SH: But you're using a special candle!

Me: Special?

SH: I got that candle for - you know. Don't use it in the bathroom!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Wisconsin 101: How our old ladies roll

Oh you guys. When I saw the two old ladies get on the bus this afternoon, I had a flashback to my granma, who died a few summers ago.

Actually, to both granmas. Both of my grandmothers were plastic rain-cap wearing old Wisconsin ladies. Both the mass every morning at 6, then to the post office to pick up the mail, then working in the garden and baking something for the church circle, then sheepshead and lunch at the senior center grandmother and the beer-drinking, card-playing, red lipstick-wearing grandmother.

(The one to whom we had to re-apply lipstick in her coffin because the funeral home had put her in pale pink lipstick. She was unrecognizable. My friend Ilene, who went to the funeral with me, donated her red lipstick to the cause and even applied it. "I had to touch dead people when I was in med school," she said matter of factly.)

I hadn't seen those rain caps in years. I don't remember seeing them much in Texas, probably because I don't remember much from that time, period, although the food does remain with me, including the Ro-Tel and the 14 Dairy Queens between Houston and San Antonio on I10 that my college roommate Heather and I made a point to stop at on a weekend trip to my mom and dad's once, but maybe because it doesn't rain as much in Texas as it does here.

In Miami, it does rain,  but little old ladies there do not have white hair. Their hair is dyed black and they are in full red lipstick. Cuban ladies do not go out in public without their lipstick. I love Miami, but I have to tell you, it was a relief to move to Iowa from Miami. I saw white hair again, I saw windows without bars, walls without graffiti, grocery carts that weren't blocked from leaving the front door of the store, and people stopping at red lights. 

Oh yes. You take people stopping at a red light as a given. Maybe even a yellow light!

No, this is not how things work in Miami. You better count on at least three people going through the red before you dare take your green. Unless you want to be hit. Which is one of the reasons auto insurance costs twice as much there as Iowa.

I digress. I saw the rain-bonneted ladies. I haven't seen this sight in years and years. It made me smile.

And then a 40ish black lady got on the bus, wearing some nice high-heeled black boots and a sequined top under her raincoat. She, too, had on a rain bonnet. 

Which really made me smile.