Monday, December 30, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 796: 911

My sister's wedding was in Colorado Springs but we flew out of Denver to come home. We arranged to meet a friend of SH's for lunch in downtown Denver before going to the airport. SH had arranged everything. He gave me the name of the restaurant and the address, then he drove while I navigated, which has become a considerably easier task since I learned how to use the talking GPS on my phone.

I looooove the talking GPS lady on my phone. I do have a very good sense of space, although I have never done well on those tests where you are supposed to figure out what the box looks like once it is folded. You know, from the Iowa Basic Skills tests we took in ninth grade - they show you the diagram of a box flattened out - and then you have to pick the drawing of what it looks like once it's assembled. I don't know what skill they were testing for with that one, but whatever it is, I should avoid that profession because I got only an 80 on that section.

Anyhow, if I can see a map of a place so I can get a picture in my mind and then if I have a map, I am fine, unless I am traveling in a place like the Bay Area where they don't believe in putting signs up. If I am looking for the Embarcadero exit, it helps to have a sign noting that the Embarcadero exit is approaching, to give me time to get into the exit lane, and then a sign announcing the exit. But California doesn't appear to believe in that kind of signage. Perhaps they are worried that the Germans are going to invade.

So in a place where things are not marked well, the GPS lady is a lifesaver. She got us from my mom's house in Colorado Springs to the restaurant in downtown Denver and she even knew which streets are one way.

Thank you, GPS lady.

SH and I parked and then walked to the restaurant. Mike was not there yet.

The restaurant was not open.

As in, completely dark. Door locked.

And this is where, once again, you see the divergence in how SH approaches problems and how I approach them. He is the engineer, determined to take everything apart to figure out why it isn't working, which is a good approach in a production environment where you expect the problem to be replicated.

In real life, when all you want to do is eat lunch, it is maybe not the appropriate approach.

What SH did:

1. Cupped his hand over his eyes, leaned into the window, and looked into the restaurant to see if anyone was there.
2. Exclaimed, "But it's not open! Why isn't it open?"
3. Looked for a sign on the door proclaiming hours. There was none - the restaurant was not doing it right.
4. Whipped out his phone and looked up the restaurant on to find the hours. The hours were not posted on Informed me that the restaurant and yelp were not doing it right.
5. Called Mike to inform him that the restaurant was not open.

What I did:

1. Looked up and down the street for other restaurants.
2. Saw a restaurant next door.
3. Walked to the other restaurant, put our name on the wait list, asked how long it would be (ten minutes), and returned to SH.

What happened:

Mike showed up. We walked next door. We ate at the other restaurant.

It was easy.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Travel tales: A perfect guest room

SH and I went to California, as you guys know, because I told you that I met Lisa there and did other California things. I forgot to mention how cool it is to meet other people because of this blog. I have made some really neat friends via CF. In person, I have met Rubiatonta and Holly and have become facebook friends with several more bloggers whom I hope to meet in person someday: Jen, Tish, Marta, and Bethany. Blogging is great: the best part is entertaining people (that's what I hope to accomplish) and the second-best part is making these new friends who enrich my life.

None of that has anything to do with what I'm about to write, but you know I digress. So SH and I went to San Francisco for his work trip and my vacation to see my SF friends, the main one of whom is Kim, who is the wife of my friend Luke from grad school. The network of friends expands through marriage. I can't think of any of my friends' spouses whom I do not like, although SH has an old friend who is not my favorite, probably because this friend told SH not to marry me. Ha. He did. I win.

Kim is my pedicure friend - any time I go to SF, we get a pedicure and then go to the consignment stores. We usually find some nice things, although consignment in the Bay Area is a lot more expensive than in Milwaukee. I went to a consignment store in Menlo Park (after my lunch with Lisa) where there were used items - used clothes! - that cost over $300. I suppose it was a bargain over the original price, but still. Three hundred dollars? For something that someone else has worn? That's a little much for my blood, but then, I work with people who wear jeans to work, so I don't need to spend that much to look better than they do.

Yes, I am a competitive dresser. I might not be as fancy as some others, but I do know to cover my shoulder blades and my bosom at work and I wear dresses or a skirt and a jacket. High heels. But heels only in the office - to walk to the bus stop, I wear walking shoes because I am not stupid. I don't like pain and I do not intend to ruin my Ferragamos by wearing out the soles on the sidewalk.

Back to Kim. Kim and Luke invited us to stay in their guest apartment. It's a small studio apartment under their house. Only one window, which was fabulous for me, because light wakes me up if the cats don't and if I am away from the cats and not on a schedule, I want to sleep as late as possible. Super quiet. Kim runs a school for toddlers and the kids started arriving at 8 a.m., but we didn't hear a thing.

She showed us to the room. Beautifully decorated. Comfy, cozy bed. Anything you might need in the bathroom: toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo. A kitchenette stocked with cookies, chocolate, tea, coffee, beer, vodka, popcorn, and mandarin oranges.

And the best thing of all: the latest issue of People magazine on the TV stand, along with a bowl of sea salt chocolates.

This is not how you stock a guest room unless you want your guests never to leave. This is not the guest room of someone with the "Fish/rotting/three days" philosophy.

But this is the guest room Kim has. It is the perfect bait to get me to return. I might go there and never leave. I will sit on the bed, reading People, eating chocolate, and contemplating my pedicured toes.

PS I note also that my friend Bonnie always has chocolate and several issues of People in her guest room, as well. SH and I are very lucky to have such lovely friends.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 1: Mawwiage

You guys, I have never not had fun at a wedding. All weddings are fun, aren't they? They are how comedies end - the joyful union of two people. Tragedies, of course, end with everyone dead. But we are talking about weddings and happy and fun and joy.

But I didn't know how much more fun a wedding was when it is your sister getting married. It is a million times better than a regular wedding.

My sister got married last weekend in Colorado.  It was so much fun. Almost all of my aunts and uncles were there. Jenny's friends from high school and travel nursing - people I had not seen in 20 or 30 years. Great rehearsal lunch, fabulous wedding and reception, wonderful family party at my aunt's house the day after the wedding.

Jen pulled this all together in ten weeks. While she was working full time. From Washington DC.

It was a short notice wedding, in the planning for a long time but waiting for a complicated divorce to come through.

Caveat: My sister met her husband well after he filed for divorce. She is not a homewrecker. It took a few years for the divorce to come through. The papers sat on the desk of a Maryland judge for ten months - no, I am not making this up - and how do you get a judge to hurry up? You don't. There is no way to nag a judge to make a decision already after all the depositions have been taken.

So. As soon as the divorce came through, Jenny called me to tell me they had set a date and voila. Would I be offended if she didn't ask me to be a bridesmaid? No I would not. Should I have been? I have been feeling a little guilty about not being offended, but her maid of honor has been her best friend for 30 years. 

I have been her sister for longer than that, but I never sneaked out of Jenny's bedroom window with her to go out and do things she was not supposed to be doing. Sneaking out together creates a bond that can never be broken. My best friend bond is with Julie P, with whom I drank rum and Tab when we were in 10th grade. There is nothing like rum and Tab to make you decide that liquor is not your thing.

At the rehearsal, which I attended because Jenny said, "You are really good at figuring out what needs to be done," which is a nice way of saying I am bossy and love to run things, I watched Jenny and Matt practice. I had to keep blowing my nose, not because I was emotional but because it is winter and in winter, even in Colorado, where the wedding was held, I get a runny nose.

It was as I was blowing my nose into the handkerchief that my grandmother had embroidered that I realized what the "something old" Jenny needed to carry was.

The handkerchief.

Into which I had been blowing my nose.

So when I got back to my mom's house, I quick washed it in the sink in very hot water, then ironed it dry. Stuck it in my purse, the one that looks like Brenda's purse on "The Closer," which was not the right purse for a wedding, but SH and I had spent a week in San Francisco right before the wedding, him working at a business meeting that had been planned before the wedding and me on vacation, and I didn't have much suitcase space. I didn't want to ruin Jen's wedding with an everyday purse, but I think people managed to overlook it. Plus I think Jen would rather have had the cheese curds and the eight bags of birdseed brittle that I brought.

I am not going to give you a blow by blow of the wedding, because there is not really a plot and I am not that good at describing an event. But it was fun and wonderful. 

I will tell you that sometimes, staying in a hotel instead of at your mom's place is the way to go, too. I am totally from the Tribe of We Who Do Not Waste, but my brother and his dog were staying at my mom's and my mom was heavily involved in the planning and the execution of the wedding and having two extra houseguests was not going to make her life any easier, even though SH and I try to be considerate houseguests who clean up after ourselves and make dinner and don't leave our towels on the floor or over the wooden chair in the guest room. 

SH needed another stay at a Hampton Inn to get his 2014 status anyhow, so we stayed at a Hampton a few miles from my mom's house and it was really nice. The nicest thing about it was that we could have the room as warm as we wanted and we wouldn't see it on our heating bill next month. The next nicest thing was there were no cats, no dogs, and no other people to wake us up in the morning, so we slept until the shockingly late - for us - hour of 9 a.m. And I watched TV until I was sick of it and reminded that we did the right thing to cancel our cable three years ago. Once every three years for "Say Yes to the Dress" is enough. 

PS Obviously, that is my sister up above. Isn't she gorgeous? I think this is one of the best photos I have ever taken, despite the blurriness. She was so happy and so were her friends. I loooove this photo.

PPS My brother tried to get the pastor to say, "mawwaige" during the ceremony,  but was unsuccessful. However, Greg did catch Jenny's eye during the vows and mouthed "mawwaige" to her, causing her to break into uncontrollable giggles, reminiscent of our youth when Greg and I would get Jenny laughing at supper and milk would come out of her nose. Some things don't change.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


It's so nice to have so many of Lisa's readers over here. I'm glad to have you!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 745: Secret Santa

My grandfather and moi, fishing. I didn't know enough when I was 12 to hate my body, although I knew I was a chubby kid, so I wore halter tops and flaunted that Milwaukee Roll.

I have a question for you guys: What is your family strategy on Christmas gifts? (If you do, indeed, celebrate Christmas. If you do not, please substitute the gift-giving holiday of your choice and know that I am not deliberately trying to exclude you, but I do celebrate Christmas and come from a Catholic/Lutheran background, so this is my only experience. I cannot speak to anyone else's experience, just mine.)

Back to the question: When I married SH, I acquired four wonderful nieces and nephews and an awesome sister in law (and her dad!) who are just the nicest people you would ever want to meet. But SH and I have not been in the habit of buying gifts for the siblings in law and the nieces and nephews.

I also acquired two wonderful step-step daughters, their husbands, and their three wee little boys, all of whom have this lush, silky, strokable black hair that I covet with a fierce passion. Plus I love their fat little cheeks and their fat little hands and their fat little feet.

But we do not give gifts to them - nor they to us - during the holidays. Yes, wedding and baby gifts for the steps. Yes, high school graduation gifts for SH's side. But not birthday or Christmas gifts.

Perhaps it is because I come from a big family. I didn't used to think it was that big - doesn't everyone have 26 first cousins? It is a normal-sized family for where my parents are from. Actually, it is a small family for northern Wisconsin. My dad's father had 11 siblings and each of those siblings had at least six children. My dad's cousin Greg came from a family of eight. Greg's dad died before he was 40, leaving a widow with eight children - who remarried a man 15 years younger than she was. She must have been some hottie. My dad's dad and mom - Al and Sylvia, had only three, so they were not holding up the family duties.

But even when I was a kid, family presents were not Done. I don't know if it was a money thing - probably - or because we were rarely together during the holidays - because of my dad's career, we were all over the world. But we did not exchange cousin to cousin gifts or aunts and uncles to nieces and nephew gifts at Christmas. So that's how my expectations were set. And that's how I have acted.

My sister was married last week. She acquired an instant family: a 4 year old stepson, a teenage stepdaughter, and an adult stepson whom I have yet to meet. He didn't attend the wedding. No I do not know why. I want to know. I intend to find out.

And of course I acquired new nephews and a niece.Which is wonderful. The niece knows all the words to "Bust a move," which I may have mentioned or will be mentioning in my post about the wedding, and can dance like a rock star. The nephew is a sweetie - good natured and loving. He loves my sister, he loves my mother. My mother is so happy to have some grandchildren that she can hardly stand it.

At the rehearsal lunch, some of the guests were talking about wedding to Mark, the stepson, and telling him that I was his new auntie. "You know what that means, don't you?" one of them asked. "More presents at Christmas!" Then she looked at me expectantly.

I froze. I am not a good spontaneous liar - I really have to think about a lie and craft it and practice it so I can deliver it with confidence. But caught on the spot, I blurt out the truth unless I can keep my mouth shut, which is not my wont.

So I just shook my head, laughed, and said, "Nope. Not in this family."

Which was not the most politic thing to say. But it was the truth. Not that the truth should always be said out loud. Like if your best friend in the world asks, "Does this dress look good on me?" and it's way too short and totally mutton/lamb, you might not say, "It makes you look like a hot mess." Instead, you remember this is your friend and you love her and try to adhere to these guidelines:

1. Is it true?
2. Is it necessary?
3. Is it kind?

Then you say, "You know, I think there are other dresses that flatter your beautiful (arms/ankles/neck) more. Let me see if I can find something." You have told the truth but not in a hurtful way.

So I have two issues here:

1. I was too blunt, although really, it's not like a four year old would notice, especially a four year old who was already so rattled by the whole experience of flying to Colorado and meeting two dozen new people, including 12 new great-aunts and uncles.
2. Do I get Christmas presents for the four year old? I don't get them for the steps, who are all under three. So I can't use age as a cutoff.

I wouldn't want to say, "But these kids are my sisters. They count more." I don't want to make those distinctions: SH's steps and his nieces and nephews are my family as much as my sister's family. We are all one. Indeed, my uncle's daughter from his first marriage (this uncle is married to my mom's sister) commented to me that my grandmother - her stepgrandmother, never treated her as any less than a full grandchild. Laurie told me how grateful she was for that as a kid.

And another aunt, who had a small child when she married my mom's brother (her first marraige), told me she had been so worried how my grandmother, a devout Catholic, would treat her when she joined the family. "She loved me and she loved my kid," my aunt said. My grandmother was not one to condemn others - all she did was love, which I think is a far more Christian way to live than to tell other people they are doing it wrong. I am not a big fan of proselytizing - people come to the faith far better by watching someone like my grandmother than by being told, "Do this!" by someone who is not conducting a loving, exemplary life.

But I digress. I am not talking about preaching or anything. I am talking about Christmas presents for nieces, nephews, and grandkids. What do you guys do? Does it depend on the number of people? Do you have different rules for different statuses? (Stati? Or is it a Greek word that doesn't take the "us" to "i" conversion for plural? The plural of octopus is not "octupi." It's a Greek word.)

Man I am long winded. I haven't written in a while. There's a lot going on.

Anyhow. Tell me what you do about gifts in your family.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Travel tales: The joys of blogging

Last week, when SH and I went to California, I got to meet Lisa at Privilege. If you don't read her blog, you should. She is super smart and super interesting so of course I was completely intimidated to meet her.

First, there were the clothes. I was going to spend six days in California and then fly to Colorado for my sister's wedding. In my suitcase, I had to pack clothes for California and clothes to wear to the wedding and I had to keep my winter Wisconsin clothes because I am not going to fly into Milwaukee wearing shorts. I am not going to fly anywhere wearing shorts. I have a sense of propriety and showing the tops of my thighs seems very mutton dressed as lamby.

Not to mention I refuse to be cold. It's not even the lack of style for the people I see in sloppy shorts and t-shirts at the airport that bothers me - it's the idea that they might be cold. I wore my Lands End rated for 15 below down jacket even when I was indoors in San Francisco. There are people who are about to walk out into a Wisconsin winter - which SH claims are not as harsh as they used to be but dang it's still cold - 9 degrees is cold - wearing nothing more than shorts. For dumb.

Anyhow, I had limited packing space what with the clothes and the cheese curds for my brother and Kim, my pedicure pal in SF, and the birdseed brittle that my dad's cousin had given me to give to my mom. She gave me about 15 bags but I only took half of them to Colorado.

1. I had limited space.
2. The birdseed brittle is really good and I wanted to hoard it for myself.

So I didn't have a lot of room for nice clothes.

And Lisa has such great style. Not that I think she is a judgy person. I mean, we all judge. We do. Don't think you don't. But it's the people who judge out loud who are tough to deal with. Those of us who just think to ourselves, "Well, that's not the look I would choose" are not harming the feelings of other people. And I also have to admit that I have, on more than one occasion, gone to the grocery store, the library, and Target in my gym clothes and snowboots, so whom am I to judge? But I will say I have never gone out in public in my pajamas. One has to draw the line somewhere.

The good thing is I live in the midwest and really, people here are not that fashionable, so you don't stand out that much if you aren't all Done.

But I was worried about meeting Lisa just because when you meet someone you admire, you want to be admired in return and I didn't want even a slightly raised internal eyebrow commenting silently on my midwestern casual vs California chic.

Fortunately, Lisa warned me that she would be wearing tennies because her foot hurt and jeans because she is retired. Even so, she looked smashing in her black motorcycle jacket and her chic, blonde going on gray long braid.

The second reason I was intimidated is she is such a fabulous writer. I like what she has to say and I like how she says it. She writes so elegantly, so intelligently. That Shakespearean rag. She writes about everyday things but looks at them in a way I have never considered. I love this post.

So I was already nervous to meet her and then I had to drive. In northern California. On the highway. I hardly drive on the highway here. I take the bus to work. SH is a control freak who has to drive whenever we are together. I've probably got about 20 hours behind the wheel this year.

I have become a little old lady on the road and omigosh they drive so fast in California! And the CA Dept of Transportation does not believe in signage, so I had to completely trust the lady on my GPS to know where to exit. If I had just trusted my reading ability, I would have ended up in the ocean. Signs, California! Get some signs!

And then I had to find a parking space and figure out if I needed the purple zone or the gray zone. It was exhausting. I was a post-adrenalined wreck.

But then she was right there on the street corner and we went to lunch and y'all, it was so great. I realized how much I miss being around smart people. I'm with SH every day and he's a genius (or pretty close), but I don't work with people at Lisa's level or SH's level. I'm not at their level, either, but I sure appreciate their level. (I was always the smartest kid in the class until I graduated from high school. Then I went to college and realized that holy smoke, I was nowhere near the smartest person around and never would be the smartest person again. I'm used to it now, but I love being around smarties.)

And although SH is super smart, but he is not well read because he majoring in engineering instead of English, which was quite practical of him and if I had to do it again, I would stick with engineering, but man is it fun to be around someone like Lisa who is smart and majored in literature so can make all the in jokes.

We talked about blogging and Tish Jett and her book, which I am about to get - I had to wait for the second printing. And we talked about mawwaige and work and aging and the loss of beauty even when you didn't think you had any beauty. Oh - the "you" in that is me. I have seen photos of Lisa in her 20s and she was lovely then and she is lovely now. I am the one who never thought she had any beauty but has discovered that youth by itself is beauty and the loss of youth is a loss.

She insisted on treating lunch, which was so nice of her. She wanted to have leftovers for SH. That's our meal in the photo above. My plate is the one with the fork. I have not learned to eat with chopsticks and really don't have the patience or the interest to start now. SH loved the leftovers - he had them for breakfast two mornings in a row - and we also had a supper of them. Lisa went a little crazy ordering, but we sure enjoyed it. We don't have a big Asian population in Milwaukee so don't have the dining options they do in California.

It was a great day. The end.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 631: SH misunderstands the purpose of a vacation day

SH: Would you peel me an orange?

Me: No!

SH: But you're home.

Me: Yes. I am home.

SH: And it's a weekday!

Me: Yes. I am taking a day off from work.

SH: So you're home.

Me: Yes.

SH: Doesn't that mean you can peel me an orange?

Me: No. It means I am taking a DAY OFF FROM WORK so I can do things I want to do!

SH: Doesn't it mean that you want me to annoy you?

Me: No. It means I want  you to go away. GO AWAY!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 623: For better or for annoying

Me: My gosh you are being annoying. Would you please stop?

SH: I haven't seen you for two days!

Me: Are you saying you have a lot of annoying built up and it has to get out?

SH: Yes. I'm annoyed at work.

Me: So why don't you take it out on work?

SH: I can't. I have to take it out on you because I am married to you.

Me: That's so great.

SH: I'm sorry for being annoying.

 Me: That's a big fat lie. You are not sorry.

SH: Wait! So I apologize for being annoying and that's not enough?

Me: Nope. I want you to actually stop being annoying, not just say you're sorry.

SH: I don't think that's possible.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 745: Unequally yoked


SH: Maybe I'll vacuum while you're at the gym tomorrow morning.

Me: The class is at 9:00.

SH: I know.

Me: You're funny.

SH: What do you mean?

Me: That you would actually be up and doing chores at 9 a.m. on a Saturday.

SH: It could happen.

Me: Yeah, right.

SH: It could!

Me: Well, if it doesn't, why don't you go ahead and wash the kitchen floor, too?

SH: What? I already do a ton of stuff around here! I'm going to put the snow tires on tomorrow!

Me: I clean the bathroom, do laundry, change the sheets, and cook every week. The tires get changed twice a year. Are you really trying to claim that a twice a year task means you get out of every weekly task?

SH: Changing the tires is a pain in the neck.

Me: Yeah whatever. Why don't you wash the floor?

SH: Because we don't have a mop.

Me: I use a rag.

SH: Because I don't want to.

Me: Yeah, but if you'll wash the floor, then I won't nag you about vacuuming. I only want you to get the vacuuming done on Saturday morning so I can get my chores done early.*

SH: I think I would rather vacuum early than wash the floor.

SH: Oh no! Look at my socks. These are my Good Socks, but they have holes.

Me: Too bad. I guess you need to throw them out.

SH: That's wasteful! Can't you darn them?

Me: I could, but I won't.

SH: Why not?

Me: Because I hate darning. And you have an entire drawer full of socks. You might have enough socks to last the rest of your life.

SH: But I really like these socks.

Me: Nobody said you can't darn them yourself.

SH: I don't know how.

Me: Figure it out. I did.

SH: Please?

Me: I will darn your socks if you will wash the floor.

SH: I don't know.

Me: Up to you.

Saturday, 2:27 pm. The house has not been vacuumed. The tires have not been changed.

But the sheets have been changed, three loads of laundry done, and the menu planned and ingredient prep done for the upcoming week.

* SH is of the "Relax first, work later" school whereas I am German.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The working life: Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?

You guys, I came to coffee late in life, which is of great sadness to me because I think about all the missed coffee opportunities that I can never reclaim. I didn't sip coffee in coffee houses in Chile or Brazil or Ecuador or Guatemala. I didn't try coffee in Italy when I was there with my sister taking the cooking class in the afternoons and the language class in the mornings, the language class where one of our first lessons was about all the different kinds of coffee to be found in Italy: macchiato, espresso, cortado (that might be Spanish), etc.

I didn't try coffee in Spain or France until a few years ago.

I started my coffee journey with the gateway coffee: mocha. SH and I were traveling and decided to try one. He had started to drink coffee so he could stay awake during business meetings when he traveled. They all seemed to start at the unreasonable hour of 8 a.m., well before any rational person has gotten up, so he needed the caffeine.

I tried a mocha and thought, "This is chocolate milk with a little bit of coffee flavor in it."

I liked it. It was good, if a little too sweet. But I kept drinking it and then when SH bought a coffee maker for our house, I thought, "I bet I can make this at home."

And I could and I did.

Then I discovered that caffeine was the main provenance of my headaches, so I had to switch to decaf, so I just bought a jar of instant decaf and made my homemade decaf mocha that way.

Then I thought, "I might like plain coffee," and I did, as long as I added enough milk and cream.

I still used the instant coffee, but noticed that it did not taste as good as the occasional latte I would buy from the coffee shop formerly known as Alterra and now known as Colectivo, a name bestowed by people who have obviously never been in a colectivo before, because anyone who has ridden in a shared taxi in Latin America knows that is not the image you want to give to your brand.

I started to develop a coffee palate, as did SH. Which meant we started to get the Good Beans and grind them ourselves. And we started to notice that hotel coffee is swill and would pay to get Good Coffee at a coffee shop rather than drink the Free Swill at the Hilton Garden Inn or wherever we were. (Maybe Hilton has good coffee - I can't remember. But the place we stayed in Memphis last month had really crummy coffee.)

Once I had to get a job - I know, I know - you weep for me that after several years of being a golddigger I was forced to rejoin the working world that almost everyone else participates in as almost none of us are trustafarians - I realized coffee was even more important.

For one thing, walking from the office to the coffee shop was a way of getting away from The Man. All I will say is I am friends - as in, we have socialized with each other even after I am not longer sharing a workspace with them - with almost every boss I have ever had. The only one I am not friends with is the guy who laid me off and I would still meet him for coffee if he asked.

I do not see that ever happening in my current situation. Let's leave it at that, shall we?

So coffee at work - a big deal. A  nice little break in the morning, a way to socialize with my work friends, a little treat to make up for the dreariness of working for The Man, of getting up at 5:45 a.m., of waiting for the bus when it's 18 degrees (in November),  of having to do the TPS reports that nobody reads, of being in a cubicle, of having to hear the people around me eat carrot sticks and dry granola all day long.

Coffee: one of the few good things that happens in my day before 5:25 p.m., which is when I return home.

But I am not profligate. I do not buy coffee every day. It is not cheap, and my take-home pay after taxes is not that much. It's demoralizingly not that much - such is life when one returns to the workforce after a long absence: one must take pay that is much less than one earned before.

So I do not waste money on coffee. Indeed, I have a strategy: on coffee day, I buy the largest size available, where the cost per ounce is the lowest, but then only drink half the cup. I save the remaining half for the next day. I write my name on the cup and I put it in the break room fridge and the next day, I take the cup to the microwave and heat it and voila! coffee!

I have been using this strategy for over a year.

Yesterday, I went to the fridge to retrieve my coffee.

I looked in the door where I always put it.

It was gone.

I closed the door, opened it, and looked again.

It still wasn't there.

I closed the door again. Waited a few seconds. Opened it again. Not there. Not anywhere else in the fridge. It was gone gone gone.

Someone had stolen my coffee. With my name on it. Someone had stolen it.

I stormed back to my desk. Then I went to my friend's desk. Told her what happened.

"Oh," she said. "I bet I know what happened. I've seen Carly throw things away out of the fridge."

"What?" I asked.

"Yeah, I was in the kitchen and saw her toss a cup of coffee once. She said, 'That's been in there a while.' I didn't realize it wasn't her coffee until Maggie [our mutual co-worker] came over to me an hour later and said that her coffee was gone! Carly threw away Maggie's coffee! It had been in the fridge for one day!"

I seethed. That bitch. Throwing away someone else's coffee. Who does that? Well, obviously, Carly.

I went over to Carly's desk to ask if she had tossed my coffee, but she was out for the day.

So I made a sign and put it on the fridge, telling people not to throw things away that do not belong to them. I was tempted to go to Carly's desk and throw away her food, but decided that might not be such a good idea. But I will be watching her like a hawk. And I will now have to put a sign on the coffee similar to what I had to write on my Dr Peppers after they started to disappear - I put a sticky note that said, "Don't touch. I have ebola." I will write, "Carly, touch this coffee and  you are a dead woman."

Monday, December 09, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 654: Dry as dust, just like my mom used to make

Me: What should we have for Thanksgiving?

SH: Steak.

Me: What else?

SH: I don't know. You said something about Caesar salad.

Me: I guess.

SH: I could grill the lettuce.

Me: That might be good.

SH: Or creamed onions. We could have creamed onions.

Me: I don't want to be cooking all day.

SH: All you do is throw the stuff in a pot and cook it!

Me: What?! No! You have to make a cream sauce, which means starting with a roux and then adding milk. It's some work.

[I reach for my notebook and start writing.]

SH: What are you doing?

Me: Writing this down.

SH: For your blog?

Me: Yes. Of course.

SH: But you just open a can of soup. That's all. If you write down that I said it's no work, then you are not being accurate.

Me: Whatever. I am not aiming for accuracy here.

SH: It's just soup.

Me: Soup?

SH: It's my mom's recipe. I want you to make my mom's recipe.

Me: [long silence, as SH's mom is not the best cook in the world or even anywhere close. SH thinks that Oreos are the best cookies ever, probably because he never had a decent homemade cookie when he was a kid.]

SH: It's just the Cream of Shrimp soup, some sherry,* and the onions.

Me: Oh. OK. That's not much work.

* When SH's parents are involved, alcohol is never far away.]

Friday, December 06, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 653: And on the seventh day, God created you to annoy me

SH: Wait. Are you doing laundry tomorrow?

Me: What day is tomorrow?

SH: Saturday.

Me: And don't I always do laundry on Saturday?

SH: You're not going to do it without notice, are you?

Me: How long have we known each other?

SH: Eight years and three weeks.

Me: And have I not done laundry every single Saturday since we've met, except when we were out of town?

SH: Yes.

Me: Does that not count as notice?

SH: No. You have to tell me, "SH, I am doing laundry" so I can decide which clothes need to be washed.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 763: The price one pays to dance

SH wanted to have a political fundraiser at our house. I did not. We argued about it and I finally said Fine but I am not doing anything for this event, including cleaning, and I will not stay in the house while it happens.

SH said fine but would I please please please make my Memphis Junior League onion dip for the event. I said OK but that's it.

And of course I ended up setting the table because it's easier to do that than to deal with a stressed-out SH but I extracted promises of reciprocity from him, the main one being that by gosh this winter he was going to take dance classes with me or else you know what.

It was just supposed to be wine and cheese, but not the Good Wine because unlike Jesus, we do not serve the Good Wine to everyone. We are not that generous. So SH had to order Not So Good Wine. I didn't care because I don't drink wine and if I did, I know where SH keeps the Really Good Wine.

He bought some cheese and a few of his political friends said they would bring cheese so that was it.

But then he worried what if someone doesn't drink - what can he serve them?

One friend said diet soda, but SH did not want to have diet Coke sullying the table, even if he wasn't serving Good Wine.

He decided to get sparkling cider. And then we thought about coffee.

Which made him worry. We have several coffee mugs, but he is emotionally attached to them, especially to the Good Mug that he got in Bayfield at the artists shop three years ago when we were on our way to Madeline Island and were waiting for the ferry. He loves the Good Mug and has asked me not to put any silverware in it when it is sitting in the sink because what if one of the cats knocks into the silverware and knocks the mug over and it breaks? That would be so bad. It would lead to the Song of Something Bad Happened with the additional trauma of not being able to fix the problem as is usually possible. This would be the Song of Something Bad Happened And It's Irreversible, which would be a level of drama that I have yet to see.

I said just put out the darn mugs. He hesitated.

But not the Good Mug, I said.

He pulled a few out of the cupboard, but still hesitated.

What do you think is going to happen? I asked.

What if they get broken? he asked.

I laughed. These are your people! You really think they are that klutzy? I am not worried they would break them. I am worried that they would expropriate them or tax them!

He rolled his eyes. He does not think my political jokes are as funny as I do.

Nobody drank coffee.

Someone spilled beer in the living room. And someone I didn't even know asked if he could take some of the leftover cheese home, which I thought was a bit tacky, but whatever.

And now we dance.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 124: It's not even a pass/fail test

SH: I  have to do that stupid fast for work.

Me: What do you mean, a fast for work?

SH: For my blood sugar. For the health insurance. To get the discount.

Me: Oh.

SH: So it's a good thing I already finished those M&Ms. Now I have to go twelve hours without eating.

Me: I couldn't do that.

SH: It's not so hard. Hey. What are you doing?

Me: Eating.

SH: Eating what?

Me: Bread.

SH: Aren't you going to offer me any?

Me: I thought you were fasting.

SH: Oh yeah.

Me: So do you only get the insurance discount if you get a certain score on the blood test?

SH: No. I just have to take it.

Me: So it doesn't matter if you show high blood sugar on the test or not.

SH: No.

Me: Want some bread?

SH: Yes. Give me some. And a clementine, too.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Wisconsin 101: We are not very good at standing up for ourselves

SH and I went to Santa Fe with our friends Pete and Julie. It was a weekend of sleeping late (as late as one can sleep with a skylight right above the bed) and eating. Not much else, which was fine with me, because I can't think of a much better way to spend a weekend.

Mostly, we ate green chile in any variation, but to celebrate Julie's birthday, we went out to one fancy restaurant, where I did not know how to interpret the menu and neither did anyone else. I was with some pretty bright people, so I have to say it wasn't us, it was the menu.

Our waiter patiently explained things to us. When Pete asked about the sea bass, the waiter, whom we'll call Chad, said that the sea bass is "an excellent fish that is redolent of the sea and not too fishy."

The salmon, however, did not "speak of the sea" to Chad. He was very careful to note that was his own experience and our experience might be different. "To me," he said. "The salmon does not speak of the sea to me."

The duck - ah, the discrete elements of the duck dish "allow the duck to do what duck does."

None of us knew what to say to that, although I was dying to ask, "What does duck do?" But I didn't want to look dumb in case everyone else already knew what duck does, so I kept my mouth shut.

I also kept it shut when I got my pork, which had a weird texture. I couldn't figure it out. I tasted a little piece and I didn't like it, so I ate the rest of the food on  my plate and some of SH's food. By the end of the meal - pork chop untouched - SH and I had figured it out: it was undercooked.

Undercooked meat really grosses me out.

But SH said we would just take it home and cook it and it would be fine. And that is what we did do in the end.

But in the meantime, Julie told me I needed to say something.

I didn't want to say anything at this point because there really wasn't anything to be done. The time to have said something was when I first tried it, but I didn't know what was wrong with it. I do not mind at all complaining about something when I am on solid ground, but if I think, "I just don't like this," I don't feel I can complain - I just feel that I have chosen unwisely.

But the pressure got to me and I said something to the busboy, who holds all the power. "Tell the cook that next time, he should cook the pork more," I suggested.

The busboy looked startled, but nodded, took my plate, and left. There. I was done. Confrontation dealt with and over.

Then Chad returned. "And how was everything?" he asked.

I felt a kick under the table.

I hesitated. Then spoke. After all, this was not an inexpensive meal. "I think my pork chop was undercooked," I confessed. "It wasn't very good."

Chad stared at me,silent for two whole seconds, which is a long time when a stranger is staring at you. Then he scolded me, telling me that the time to have told him was when I got the pork chop, not now. Which of course I knew. I felt my face get red. Nothing like a little shaming to keep me in line.

But I defended myself. "It took me a while to figure out what the problem was," I said.

He sighed. After a great deal of explaining of how things work at a fine restaurant, he said, "I could take your meal off the bill."

I reddened further. "That's not what I was intending," I said. "I just wanted to let you know." By now I was regretting ever having opened my mouth. I hadn't even thought of having it taken off the bill, especially because I had eaten everything else and intended to take the leftovers with me. I wasn't trying to get out of paying what I rightfully owed.

I just wanted to tell someone so they wouldn't do it again. It is one of my greatest joys to point out when other people are wrong, but I so seldom indulge myself, as it is not a good way to keep friends and friends are more important than being right.

He gave a tiny, almost imperceptible shake of the head, and walked away.

I just wanted to escape.

Three minutes later, the chef came out. She was concerned about my pork chop. Apologetic. I just wanted to stop talking about the darn meat.

"Your dessert is on me," she said.

Well OK. That's fine. We had planned to order one dessert for the table, but were having a hard time choosing. If we were going to get a free dessert, we would take two.

Chad returned after the chef had left. "I'm going to treat you to dessert," he said.

Wow! Even better! Two free desserts.

We ate our desserts.

Chad brought the check.

The pork chop was still on the bill.

As were both desserts.

That's when I said screw it. I am done. I am not setting myself up for scolding by strangers any more.

But I am not going back to that restaurant.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 23: The basics

Me: Why did you marry me?

SH: I don't know!

Me: Why?

SH: Because I was lonely. Because I love you. Because you're good at [wxyz]. Because we have a common background and common values. Because I like being with you. Because you're a good cook.

Me: Not because of "A shared dedication to fixing the “ills of the world,” which were being addressed by the self-help, peace and antiwar movements?"

SH: No!


Monday, November 25, 2013

Travel tales: What happens in Memphis does not stay in Memphis

We were on the plane to Memphis from Atlanta. SH planned a trip to Memphis for me as a birthday present and a wonderful birthday present it was.

We were sitting about 12 rows back from first class.

I saw a soldier board the plane and walk past us to get to the back of the plane.

A few minutes later, the flight attendant started walking through the cabin. "Where's the soldier?" she asked. "A passenger in first class wants to give him his seat."

Well isn't that nice, we all thought. Someone who wants to make a small personal sacrifice to recognize the much larger sacrifices that so many of our military personnel make. That makes me feel good about being human.

And we all basked in the reflected righteousness of a Good Deed. We were complicit by our mere presence.

A few minutes later, after the soldier had taken the first class seat, we heard a loud, shrill voice coming from first class. She loved the military! LOVED it! God bless our military! she said.

A few seconds later, we heard, Girls weekend! Only rule is you have to eat and drink!

And then, We're from Salt Lake City!

I thought, She's not Mormon that's for sure.

Heads had started to lift. Eyes were looking to first class. I saw someone put on a set of noise-cancelling headphones.

We had not even taken off. The doors hadn't even closed. Yet headphones were being donned.

The loudness continued.

The guy sitting across from me muttered, in a thick Middle Eastern accent, Now we know why he move.

Shocked silence, then hearty laughter from everyone in our section.

Even once the plane had taken off, we could hear her. Inside voice! I called, but it did no good.

When we landed, I watched her stand up. She couldn't keep her balance. It was hard to watch - she was pathetic.

She stumbled off the plane.

As we disembarked, I expressed my sympathies to the flight attendant. It's so hard when they get worked up like that, she said.

We need to bless her heart and pray for her, I said.

I lost sight of her until we were waiting outside of baggage claim for Leigh, who had actually done the hard thing and gone inside to wait for us rather than do a drive-by pickup. I saw the not-Mormon drunk woman pull out a cigarette, light it, then put her arm around a cop. That's when Leigh showed up.

Look! I said. That woman was drunk on our plane!

Leigh gasped. She's the one who fell as she came into the waiting area!

We shook our heads. I put something on facebook about the cigarette to follow my previous posts

You can't even see the wagon she fell off of, my cousin's wife wrote.

When SH and I took a walk down Beale Street that night and saw all the staggering drunks (not the best face Memphis has to present), we looked for her. We didn't see her. I hope she was somewhere sleeping it off.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Wisconsin 101: Wisconsin granmas

I thought of my sweet Wisconsin grandma when I saw this post.

My grandma didn't drink. (Well, not this one. The other one did.)

She didn't swear. (But the other one did.)

She didn't go to supper clubs. (The other one did.)

But she did go to church not only every weekend but almost every day. I don't know if she was a bingo player, but she played a mean game of sheepshead, which is a card game I have never seen outside of Wisconsin. It is such a big deal here, though, that they have it at Germanfest. People go to this festival with the ham hocks and the beer (to be fair, there is beer at every festival here) and the pretzels. The first tent you see to your left when you walk in is the sheepshead tent. Germans.

She baked. She baked for her grandkids. One time, I visited her from Texas and she sent me home with a Crisco can (she did not waste) full of cookies. It wouldn't fit in my suitcase, so I had to carry it with me on the plane. I was walking through O'Hare with a Crisco can under my arm and people were looking at me funny, but they probably wouldn't have thought anything of it if I had said, "My grandma."

When I was little, she would put French braids in my hair and let me help her bake. She must have had the patience of a saint. I have seen those photos of my siblings and me helping and it's a mess.

She made almost all of her own clothes. She mended her pantyhose. She grew her own vegetables and canned. She baked her own bread. She didn't do this to be trendy, she did it because she was very poor when she was little and that's how poor farm people survived 100 years ago.

She didn't get married until she was 28. She only went as far as 8th grade, even though she was very smart. For several years, in the winter, she worked as a maid in Milwaukee in one of the grand houses on the lake. She would walk on her day off rather than take the streetcar so she could spend her money on a chocolate bar.

At her 50th wedding anniversary, she wore her wedding dress. It fit.

She painted. She painted whatever she could. Every Wednesday, she went to Mr O'Brien's art class. Some things she painted OK - flowers - but others, like people, you could tell she lacked the technical training.

If she could have, she would have gone to art school in Paris. That's about the only personal thing she ever told me. I had no idea. I had no idea that this super competent, raised seven kids of her own plus another several foster kids, always the first one there when someone needed help person wanted to go to art school. In Paris.

That's my grandma. She would have been 100 years old this year.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wisconsin 101: In the end, we all dress for winter anyhow, so it doesn't matter

You guys, I hate shopping.

I like getting new stuff, but I hate the process of getting it. Of going to the mall.

I do like shopping online, especially if I am supposed to be doing something else, like working. I like looking at shoes and dresses. (Why won't manufacturers put sleeves on their allegedly "career" dresses? Where is it that professional women go sleeveless to work? Armpits do not belong in an office. Nor do bare shoulders, Mandy. I thought I was the only one who noticed her inappropriate outfits, but a male co-worker referred to her today as "Low-cut Mandy.")

Online is a great place to browse. I have even shopped for men online. was a man mall. I met a really nice boyfriend on I haven't looked there lately - I don't think they are even in business any more - but it is kind of fun to scroll through the photos and read how people describe themselves. Memo to men seeking women: Most women are not going to be terribly impressed by or attracted to the fact that you are an Elvis impersonator, so you might want to leave that little bit off your bio. Or at least use a photo of you as you rather than you as Elvis.

But it can be dangerous to shop online. Everything looks good on a teenage model who is 5'10" and 120 pounds, which is both taller than I am and lighter than I am.

Not everything looks good on me. I need to try something on to decide if it is horribly nasty or bearable. Part of the equation is not wanting to throw up at the image of my almost-nude body reflected in the dressing room mirror under the dressing room lights.

Retailers! If I don't want to vomit when I see myself, I am more likely to buy your product! Invest in some decent lighting and good mirrors!

Unless it's all part of their plan to keep Women of a Certain Age from buying their product so as to preserve their image.

But that's not working. I saw a Woman of More Certain Age than I at the airport last week. But that didn't stop her from wearing a miniskirt, 4" heels, and a tank top that showed her bra straps, and from painting her fingernails (purple) as she waited for her flight to board.

Your brand is going to be destroyed. You might was well make some money in the process.

I had to go to the mall the other night to return some items I had ordered from Banana Republic, a store that used to be really fun to shop at but is now just another store. I liked going on a jungle safari. Life has changed. But sometimes they have nice clothes.

Then I went to The Limited. I would have been Mutton Dressed as Lamb for most of their items.

I walked past a J.Jill. I thought, "Those clothes might be OK. I need a black skirt." So I walked in.

And noticed right away that their saleswomen were wearing Sensible Shoes.

Which I admired.

Then I looked more closely. The saleswomen were Women of a Certain Age.

Not like Banana Republic or The Limited or Ann Taylor, where I am old enough to be the mother of everyone working, which is a weird thought because I don't have kids, so I don't usually measure my age that way, but one is forced to confront reality sometimes.

It was My Peeps at J.Jill. 

I looked more closely at the skirts.

Elastic waistband.

Then I looked at the one other customer in the store.

She looked like my grandmother. I mean my grandma 10 years ago, when my grandma would have been 91. And alive. But my grandma.

My grandma and I were looking at the same clothes.

I shook my head and left. I want to be the one destroying the brand, not fitting it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 745: Happy as a pig in mud

Bless his heart, my dad was a worker. He was not one to sit around and do nothing.

[Note that I use "bless his heart" in the good sense here, not in the alternative sense that really means "bless his stupid, moronic, idiotic heart" that one uses when talking about one's enemies or the people who annoy one. "Bless his heart" is a useful phrase, as it can be defended as a nice thing to say about someone to those who would take offense - oh, bless my husband's mother's heart for sending me a purple crystal seashell for my birthday! - but can have the hidden meaning of "bless her clueless, oblivious, doesn't care what I might really want despite SH's conversations with her that we really do not need more tchotchkes in our house heart" to those who know the situation. And in some cases - as here, it really is a nice thing to say. Bless my daddy's heart. He was a good man and a good father and I was lucky to have him.]

When German blood flows through one's veins, it's hard to relax. Your genes are urging you to invade Czechoslovakia or Belgium or Poland. Sitting still is for lazy people. Germans are not lazy. We are doers. I can't lie in bed on Saturday morning. Saturday morning is meant for chores. Laundry, changing the sheets, cleaning the bathroom, cooking so I will have something to eat during the week.

My friend Heidi just returned from living in Germany with her husband and kids. He was stationed at one of the air force bases there, but I think they lived off base. Heidi told me that there are many rules in Germany. The ones she told me about seemed to deal with ensuring that people keep their yards and houses tidy and that they not annoy other people while doing it. That's the Germans - lots of rules. An emphasis on productivity and efficiency.

How to you overcome such a tendency? If it's in you, it's in you. I myself, even though I am less than half German - my dad's side is German and Flemish (to the American eye, there is not much difference between these two, except some geography), my mom's is Slovak and Norwegian, have that tendency. That German can dominate and turn a person into a bossy know it all who is unable to relax because there are Things To Do.

My dad had even more German in him than I did. I at least have some Slovak and Norwegian, not that either of those, based on how my grandparents were, have a strong tendency toward lying around doing nothing.

So my dad was compelled to act.When he would visit me, he would repair things. He would patrol the perimeter of my house, identify items that needed repairing, and get to work - even though when he was alive, I was only renting and problems with my abode belonged to my landlord, not to me. When I took him to my friend Terri's lake lot to go out on the boat, he identified a problem with the boat lift and helped Terri's husband repair it. Sitting on the dock drinking beer was for lazy people or for people who had finished their chores. It was not for someone who knew there was work to be done.

My mom, who does not have as much German in her blood as my dad did, is the same way. She showed up at my house in Memphis with her gardening tools and her regular toolkit. She took care of my garden, replaced the missing screws in my doorknobs, and did other stuff I don't even remember.

SH is a relaxer. That is what I thought. SH knows how to relax. On the weekend, when I want to clear the junk (not my junk) out of the dining room (a dining room is not a staging area for projects in my world but for SH to limit his junk to his office, the basement, and the dining room is a major triumph of wifely request over nature and nurture), he informs me that he is too busy.

I tell him that knocking on doors campaigning for someone else's run for office is not "too busy." I tell him reading political screeds online is not "too busy."

We do not agree on this issue.

This is how he is when we are at home. He is a relaxer, not an do-er.

He is of English extraction. I have never thought of the English as a particularly retiring race - they did have an empire for a while, but perhaps they are not as compelled to act as Germans are.

But when we are in Memphis visiting my friends there, he is Mr Fixit.

Which is cool, because it gives me street cred with my friends. A husband who can fix things is a valuable man indeed. Not that my friends have incompetent husbands. Two of these husbands have renovated houses all by themselves. Another one is in charge of all the maintenance for a huge property. These guys know how to fix things.

I don't recall ever having seen a repairman at our house when I was a kid. I suppose it could have happened - kids don't remember everything - but when there was a problem, my dad fixed it. He fixed the car, he fixed the house. When he and my mom wanted a patio in the back yard, my grandfather and two of my uncles came down to help build it.

And we have only had a repairman at our house the one time SH almost fixed the furnace but it turned out to be a problem that was unfixable and we got a new furnace instead.

Back to Memphis. SH is always telling me he doesn't have enough time to relax, but when we were in Memphis, at Leigh's house, he noticed one of the pocket doors in her 1895 house that she and her husband Stephen have renovated - she even learned how to plaster - was off track.

"I can fix that," he said.

Which is a slightly fraught thing for one man to say to another about a man's own house, because what you are not saying but what is understood is that house owner man cannot fix the problem. It's a little alpha-ish, but SH would never have intended it that way and would never have wanted to do anything to give offense to our friends.

Instead, for SH, it's because he lacks a filter for that kind of thing. He has no guile. When he sees a problem, he wants to resolve it. He's an engineer. And why wouldn't someone who has a problem want it fixed?

Fortunately, Leigh and her husband are also of an engineering mindset and also want to solve the problem and not get into a contest about anything. Leigh was thrilled - she had thought they would have to tear out the wall to repair it. So SH continued the pattern that has been held by the men I love - that of fixing things that need to be fixed and doing things that need to be done. He and Stephen repaired the door and it was done.

Then they moved a dresser from upstairs to downstairs.

Then it was time for beer. Once the work was done.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 314: Yes I know I am a snob

Me: What would you do if you had a client who wanted you to decorate around a Thomas Kinkade painting?

My friend the decorator: A what?

Me: You know. Thomas Kinkade. That guy whose art is mass produced and there are people in a factory who dot some paint on top of the prints.

My friend: That would never happen.

Me: It could.

SH: Unlikely. The universe of people who hire talented decorators like [my friend] and the universe of people who buy Thomas Kinkade paintings never intersect.

Me: But what if it happened?

My friend: I wouldn't be able to take the job. I couldn't do it.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 652: My boy toy

SH: Look! Fritz* sent me a text - it's a photo of the Padron peppers that they grilled tonight.

Me: Let me see. Did you tell him that we finished ours, too?

SH: Yes. I told him I had grilled some trout, too.

Me: What did he say?

SH: Look.

[Shows me his phone. The text from Fritz asks, "Trouser trout?"]

Me: What's trouser trout?

SH: You know.

Me: No I don't.

SH: [Points at the relevant body part]

Me: Oh for pete's sake. How old is he? Twelve?

SH: Sweetie, we're all 12. You're the only one who's not.

* Not his real name but I want to protect the guilty here.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 312: The Cheez-Its stand alone

On Saturday:

SH: I have to tell you something.

Me: What? [Dreading what I might hear - he is in love with another woman, he has lost all of our hard-earned money playing online poker, his parents are moving in with us, the basement has flooded again, he's been laid off from his job, etc, etc, etc]

SH: It's a confession.

Me: What?!

SH: You know those Cheez-Its in the basement?

Me: Yes.

SH: I opened them.

Me: So?

SH: On Wednesday.

Me: On Wednesday?

SH: And I've been eating them since then.

Me: You! You are a Cheez-It eater!

SH: And I put them back in their place on the shelves in the basement so you wouldn't know they were opened.

Me: You ate Cheez-Its without me!

SH: I'm sorry sweetie.

Me: You are not.

SH: A little.

On Sunday:

Me: I feel a little bit sick to my stomach.

SH: What's wrong, sweetie?

Me: I had to take an imitrex and they always make me feel kind of crummy.

SH: I'm sorry, sweetie.

Me: And maybe it's because I was eating Cheez-Its this afternoon.

SH: Cheez-It eater!

Me: Now I feel sick.

SH: Should I not have told you that I opened the Cheez-Its?

Me: Nope. You should have kept it all to yourself.

SH: But what if I had finished them and you didn't get any?

Me: Then I wouldn't feel sick. This is all your fault.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 345: For better or for cutting up produce

Me: Here. I'm done.

SH: But there are some black spots!

Me: So? It's roughage. Eat it.

SH: I don't want to eat it. You're supposed to cut the bad parts out for me.

Me: No, I'm not. You can cut the bad spots out yourself.

SH: But you're the pear cutter in the house.

Me: I did cut the pear for you and it was a favor, not a responsibility.

SH: But you're supposed to cater to my wishes. I'm used to having my fruit cut up for me.

Me: No, I'm not. Just because you were raised by someone who overcatered to you doesn't mean I am going to.

[NB This is usually where I say something stronger, like, "Just because your mother thinks the sun shines out of your - you know - doesn't mean I do." But I didn't. Even though that is the case. That SH's mother thinks the sun shines - well, etc. SH can do no wrong in her eyes and I am the evil temptress who steals his love away from her because love is a zero-sum game. That's a different story, though. Also part of this equation is the fact that SH's parents peel every piece of fruit they eat. But they do not own a potato peeler. Just a paring knife that hasn't been sharpened in - well, ever.]

SH: That's how it's supposed to be!

Me: Funny. I don't recall hearing that in our wedding vows.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 123: Not only do we not serve the Good Wine last, we don't serve it at all

SH: I ordered wine for the [political fundraiser that he is hosting at our house for a candidate I don't support but then, SH and I will never agree on politics].

Me: What?!

SH: Yes! You don't think I'm going to serve my Good Wine at this event, do you?

OK. So we might not agree on politics, but we do agree that the Good Wine does not get served to anyone but our friends.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 135: While the cat's out of town, the mouse gets down

1. My boss left for vacation last week and will be gone all next week. I am happy, happy, happy.

(Delete, delete, delete everything I was going to write about work. Not prudent.)

2. SH is gone for the long weekend to see his parents for a command performance that one hopes will prevent any drama at the holidays, although I am not holding my breath. They will still get angry and still think that he should spend the holidays with them and not with me, even though he has not done so - except for one Thanksgiving where we both just rolled our eyes and he took one for the team - since we married. They would put up with my accompanying SH to their home if they had to, but they would much rather have their Only Joy all to themselves. Anyhow, enough of them. Pah, pah, pah.

So I have solitude at work and solitude at home, which means a bacchanalia of doing what I want to do when I want to do it.

I love SH, but there are times I miss being single and being the Mistress of My Home, with nobody else to offer an opinion or have a way of doing something. I like doing the dishes my way and I like eating what I want to eat when I want to eat it. I am not good at compromise. I think it's just my personality, although getting married for the first time later in life after many years of living alone can't help the situation.

So here's what I have done this weekend that would make SH hyperventilate:

1. I have worn his favorite sweatshirt, the one from Summerfest 2006, with the collar that is wearing away. Yes, I have my own sweatshirt, but it has a hood and if I lie in bed to read while I am wearing my hooded sweatshirt, the hood bunches up under my neck and it's a wee bit uncomfortable.

2. I have worn my biteguard. I usually wear it only to sleep, but I like wearing it at other times because I clench my jaw all the time (See: Work) and grind my teeth and the biteguard helps with that. SH does not think it is particularly attractive. Can't imagine why.

3. I have cooked and cooked and cooked and left the dishes to do until later because I have been cooking. When SH was a bachelor, he ate a lot of crap. He had things like Hot Pockets in his freezer. He had almost no vegetables because he hates chopping things. When he did cook, he would make a steak, which does not use a lot of dishes. But when I cook, I make things that have ingredients and everyone knows that ingredients require dishes. SH seems to think that the function of a kitchen is to look like it is never used.

He also thinks that a kitchen is a place where one goes to read a newspaper without interruption. But I think that a kitchen is where food happens and if someone happens to be reading the paper while I'm cooking, well, that someone can keep me company. SH is torn because he likes eating good food - which was part of the deal when he married me, a woman who cooks - but he does not like mess, his office notwithstanding. And, if challenged on that, he will point out that his office has a lot of stuff (ie, junk, such as training manuals from his job for products that no longer exist and newsletters about things to do on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan in 2011) but it is all in neat stacks.

But it is all still junk. If he were dead, that would be the first place I would clean out, not just because I hate all that junk but because it's about the only part of this house that has junk. Any portion of the house under my control - the CF zone, which can be reached after escaping over the wall near Checkpoint Charlie - is tidy and spare and uncluttered. I have nothing to throw away.

After his office, I would go to the basement and throw away all the boxes of SH's that we moved into this house over five years ago and have not been opened since. If you can go five years without something, you don't need it.

Anyhow. I cooked. I made 23 jars of pear jam, caldo verde soup, roasted beets, roasted red pepper and goat cheese lasagne, charro beans, and cornmeal pear cake with rosemary glaze.

SH thinks that food just comes. He is wrong.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 62: Because I am the only person who likes living in a clean house

SH: Would you do me a huge favor?

Me: No.

SH: Please.

Me: No.

SH: Oh come on. I just want you to iron-

Me: I hate ironing. No.

SH: Please?!

Me: You owe me.

SH: Why?

Me: Because this is a huge favor.

SH: I do things for you all the time!

Me: Like what?

SH: I vacuum. I cut the grass.

Me: Those things are not for me. Those are for us. That's something you do because we live in this house together.

SH: They're for you.

Me: I used to do all those things before I got a job.

SH: But if I vacuum two weeks in a row, it's for you because if I lived alone, I would never clean that much.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wisconsin 101: They do Halloween wrong here

SH and I are going through our annual Halloween debate. We have had this discussion every year since the second year we were in the house.

The first year, Halloween fell on a Friday and we noticed nothing amiss. (I think - I think the rule is either Friday or Saturday trick or treating. I could be wrong.)

Wait. We weren't even here on Halloween our first year. It was our second year that we realized that something was amiss.

We realized that our neighborhood - indeed, the entire Milwaukee metropolitan area (doesn't that make us sound fancy and grand!) - refuses to honor the actual date of Halloween and instead bends Halloween to its will, its will being that Halloween, as so many other things in the Great State of Wisconsin, will be subject to the whims of socialist control, or German control, or perhaps both. This is a German state, y'all, and I understand completely the German desire - the German compulsion - to order the world to be more efficient and to make people follow the rules and to make them conform. I understand because I have lots of German blood in me, but I have lived in non-German places, including a significant amount of time in Latin cultures, where rules are suggestions and one is to shrug at the idea of someone else bossing you around and being obsessive about being on time and in order.  These values are German but are not necessarily universally held.

The way it works here is that trick or treating happens at the whim of the township. In our town, a Milwaukee suburb, in our neighborhood, trick or treating will happen on the Saturday before Halloween.

But that's not all.

To participate in the neighborhood trick or treating, you must be a member of the neighborhood association. You must also contribute 50 pieces of candy to the cause. I think you then get some candy to give out.

This race to the bottom means that people don't buy good candy because what's the point of buying good candy if you have to give it away so it can be given to someone else to distribute? If I am going to hand out Good Candy, ie, little brand-name chocolate bars, I want the credit for it.

So you have to sign up, join the neighborhood association, and give candy. Then you get some special sign or something to put in your window so people know your house is safe.

Kids who are participating - because of course you have to sign up if you want your kids to be able to trick or treat - get a special thingie - I think a glowstick - to indicate they are of The Elect.

This event is not open to people who live outside the neighborhood.


1. The kids don't trick or treat on Halloween
2. You have to pay to give out candy
3. Kids from outside the neighborhood are not allowed.

Every single one of these things is wrong, wrong, wrong.

We live in a city that has a lot of poor people. It used to bug me that kids from outside of my neighborhood would trick or treat in my neighborhood. Then I realized their parents just wanted them to be able to go door to door in a safe neighborhood. So it cost me $20 for candy for non-neighborhood kids. Big deal.

Not trick or treating on Halloween is just dumb. What's so bad about celebrating the holiday on the holiday?

And don't make me pay an extra $10 just to give out candy.

So our debate goes like this:

1. Are we going to pay to give out candy?

The answer to that one is "No!"

2. Are we going to buy candy to give out on Halloween, because despite the rules, there are some kids who still trick or treat on Halloween. These are kids after my heart. They are doing it right.

The answer follows this additional question, "Should we spend money to give to kids who insist on doing it right?" Which of course is "Yes!"

Which is why SH looked at the Sunday ads, saw a coupon for Reese's peanut butter cups and for Kit Kats, and said, "I'm going to Target to load up." Which is better than our usual strategy of saying that we're not going to do it but then seeing all these cute little kids wandering the street and thinking, "We should have candy!" and then rushing to Walgreen's to pick up the dregs.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My friend's book!

 You guys, I can't believe I haven't done this already - but my friend Tish, who lives in France and so is very stylish, who writes the fun, friendly, accesible blog A Femme d'Un Certain Age, has published a style/beauty book based on her experiences with les femmes francaise.

You need to buy this book. Go here to buy it. You won't regret it.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 76: Another issue that should be covered in pre-marital counseling, or, This is Wisconsin people here get up early

SH: When you're with a group of people, the group should time itself to accomodate the slowest person.

Me: What do you mean?

SH: I mean, if there is someone who wants to be early to everything and someone who is usually late, everyone should wait for the late person.

Me: That is total crap!

SH: No! Otherwise the late person is stressed and miserable because everyone is pushing him to be early.

Me: And you think the people who are waiting for the late person aren't stressed?

SH: It's not hard to wait for someone.

Me: Let me explain something to you, as I know you have never once in your life been the person to wait for someone who is late. Being the on-time person being forced to wait for the late person is a miserable, miserable experience. It is better for one slow person to be miserable by being rushed than for five on-time people to have to wait for a slow person.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 631: My way, highway

Me: You are just as controlling as he is.

SH: I am not!

Me: You are so!

SH: How's that? He tries to get everyone to do things his way.

Me: So do you!

SH: I do not. I do not try to impose my way on other people.

Me: You do. You don't like the way other people do dishes. You don't like how people stack dishes in the dish drainer. The knives. You always re-do the knives.

SH: That's not imposing my will.

Me: Yes it is! You are always trying to make me do those things your way.

SH: It doesn't count when I do it with you.

Me: Yes it does.

SH: No. I do not impose my will on other people. I am polite and patient with them.

Me: But not with me.

SH: I don't need to be. You're stuck with me. They're not.

Me: Don't count on any [wxyz], buster.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 23: What's mine is yours except for spit

Me: Let me try that.


Me: That's good!

SH: But not as good as Kopp's Tiramisu custard.

Me: Nope. Ben and Jerry's always tastes a little too sweet for me.

Me: Hey! What are you doing?

SH: Rinsing the spoon.

Me: But you're wasting ice cream.

SH: I'm going to be serving more ice cream.

Me: So?

SH: I'm not putting the spoon you tasted from back in the ice cream container.

Me: Why not?

SH: That's gross!

Me: You and I are the only people who will be eating that ice cream. You kiss me. We share utensils all the time.

SH: I don't put the spoon back in the ice cream container, though.

Me: Guess what? I've been doing it for years.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Marriage 601, Lecture 763: The proper use of trash bags

SH: Wait! What are you doing?

Me: Getting a trash bag.

SH: For what?

Me: To put stuff in for the Easter Seals pickup.

SH: But that's a Good Trash Bag!

Me: So?

SH: You can't use a Good Garbage Bag for that!

Me: Yes I can.

SH: No! You need to use one of the Bad Garbage Bags.

Me: Then get me one.

SH: OK. They're in the basement.

Me: What's the difference between a Good Trash Bag and a Bad Trash Bag?

SH: The Bad Trash Bags are really cheap.

Me: Then why did you buy them in the first place?

SH: They were probably only a dollar at Menards.

Me: Whatever.

SH: Hey! You have these pillows in a Good Trash Bag!

Me: So?

SH: That's a waste of a Good Trash Bag. I'm going to switch it to a Bad Trash Bag.

Me: You may use your free time as you see fit.

SH: You have to help me.

Me: No I don't. I'm leaving. Wait. First I need to take a photo.

SH: Are you going to blog about this?

Me: Yes.

SH: See? I give you material.

Me: I'd rather have less drama.

SH: Here's a good line for your blog: Part of being a garbage bag user is knowing when to use the Good Garbage Bags and when to use the Bad Garbage Bags. That's really funny, isn't it? Hey! I just saved us three Good Garbage Bags!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Wisconsin 101: Clear eyes, organic heart can't lose

SH and I have these friends, Bonnie and Gary, who have a vacation lake house about an hour from us - Gary says it's a "cottage," but if you look at, you get this definition of cottage:

a small house, usually of only one story.
a small, modest house at a lake, mountain resort, etc., owned or rented as a vacation home.
one of a group of small, separate houses, as for patients at a hospital, guests at a hotel, or students at a boarding school. 
Which their lake house is not. 
Regardless of what you call it, it is a lovely place to be and we always have fun visiting them. Bonnie saves all her People magazines for me and puts chocolate on our pillows. Last time, there were organic dark chocolate peanut butter cups and I was thrilled but SH does not like to mix his chocolate with anything but more chocolate, the argument being

Any other material is inferior to chocolate and therefore diminishes the whole.

He also does not like peanut butter, although my Cote d'Ivoire peanut butter soup is fine and peanuts in the shell are fine. Peanut butter, however - nein. Nasty texture, he says, and he will go on to explain in great detail why he does not like peanut butter - or any other food on the Bad List - unless you tell him to shut up, which still doesn't work, so you have to shout, "Squirrel!" and that usually does the trick.

I explained to him that it is Not Polite to criticize a gift so he did not need to mention to Bonnie that he does not like peanut butter. And, to his credit, he did not bring it up, although the topic came up in conversation and I was unable to steer it the other way. Fortunately, Bonnie and Gary have known SH for a long time and know what he is like. 

Last time we were there, Bonnie and Gary had bought a side of beef, which included the tongue and the heart. They had no interest in either item. Nor did I. But my mom likes those things, so I told them I would take them and give them to my mom the next time she visited.

Then my mom had to cancel her trip and I didn't want a heart and a tongue languishing in our freezer for a year - I need that space for pears - so I asked around for someone who might want them.

Our friend Christina - the Nighttime Wife - said her mom would be thrilled.

Senora B. was born in Mexico City. She worked at a sausage factory. She knows meat.

She invited us over for dinner to enjoy the lengua and the heart.

We went.

Appetizers of chicharrones, which were good dipped in the homemade salsa and guacamole. Also Carr Valley cheese, the good cheese that you put out for company and not what you make a meal of with your afternoon bourbon. 

SH, Christina, and I ate chicharrones and cheese while Senora B. cooked the tongue and the heart. She had cut the heart into little pieces - maybe half an inch long. Then she fried them in a pan with some eggs. Scrambled eggs with cut-up heart in them.
The tongue was boiling in a kettle. She took it out of the kettle and set it on the cutting board.

It looked like what it was - a giant tongue not attached to anything. 

My stomach is turning a little bit now just thinking about it.

She put on some plastic gloves, then started pulling something off the tongue - perhaps the membrane on the bottom? Definitely not the top part with the taste buds. I'm not sure because I couldn't watch.

Then she cut the tongue up into little pieces as well.

She threw some corn tortillas on the burners - gas stove - to heat them. Put them in a basket. Put everything on the table.

Gestured for us to eat. She didn't have a plate in front of her. "Oh no!" she said. "It is way too late for me to eat! I eat at 5:00!"

She passed the tortillas and the heart/egg mixture to me. I took a tortill and a tiny amount of the heart. Poured on a lot of salsa. Bit. Chewed. 

Heart is very chewy. But I couldn't taste much because of the salsa, which was fine with me. There was a piece of meat that fell out of the taco that I had to eat by itself, as I Do Not Waste Food.

It was chewy and gamey. Very gamey.

SH made his taco and started eating. He liked it.

She offered the tongue to me. "Oh no," I said politely. "I am full."

She insisted. SH said I should at least try it. I said I would try a bite of the meat by itself.

That was a mistake. 

The taste buds had not been removed.

I could feel them on my own tongue.

Which was a gross sensation. A bad joke about French kissing a cooked dead cow comes to mind, but it's not funny once I think about it.

It was gamey. Gamey and gross.

I grabbed a plain tortilla and ate. Anything to get the sensation of the tongue out of my mouth.

SH kept eating. He liked it. He liked the taco de lengua. He had three of them.

But he doesn't want peanut butter.