Monday, September 30, 2013

The working life: The mote in someone else's eye

Another interview today in Grand Fenwick. This time, I learned about dust.

Applicant: There are three grades of dust. The first grade, coarse, is 50 microns and bigger. The second grade is fine, which is one to 49 microns. And the last grade is super fine, which is invisible to the human eye.

Me: Except to mothers in law.

Applicant: Yes! They can always see it!

Me: Because they are looking for it.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Marriage 501, Lecture 856: How we shop

Me: Wow! I am not the only one who wants to know where Brenda on The Closer got her cute purse.

SH: What do you mean?

Me: I googled it and there are nine strong links on the first page with that exact question: "what purse does brenda have on the closer."

SH: You are googling to find the purse a TV character has?

Me: It's a cute purse.

SH: A man would never do such a thing. A man would never say, "I like that character's tie" and then try to find it online.

Me: Well, you can find some cute things that way.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The working life: I am a bad bacon eater who eats only the lean

I am interviewing potential instructors for our regional office in Grand Fenwick. As part of the interview, I have asked each applicant to prepare a short presentation where he teaches me something. It doesn't have to be related to the subject they will be teaching, I tell them. They can teach me how to boil water or how to take a cat to the vet - I want to see teaching style. I know they know the material because of their work history and other credentials. I want to know if they can teach.

What is amazing is that it does not take very long at all to know if someone is a good teacher. The great separate quickly from the good and the just OK. I am not an education professional. But I know good teaching when I see it.

Anyhow, I spoke to a guy in Grand Fenwick the other day who used meat as an example for getting rid of waste in a process.

Applicant: With the meat, you have the fat and you have the good part. You want to get rid of the fat and keep the lean. And that's what you want to do with your process, too - get rid of the fat and keep the lean.

Me: But my husband loves the fat. He thinks it's the best part. When we have bacon, I eat the lean and he eats all the fat.

Applicant: Yes, in my country, everyone loves the fat, too!

I wonder if he thought maybe Americans didn't like fat? I'll bet he doesn't use that example in Grand Fenwick.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Marriage 501, Lecture 797: Trickery, deceit, legerdemain

After we got done playing tennis, my plan was to return home to episode 4, season 2 of The Closer while SH made a trip to Aldi for half and half and other sundries. I was also going to watch episodes 5-8. It is possible to do all this in one night if one clicks one time on the 'fast forward' button. It speeds the action up enough so that the dialogue is not maddeningly slow and cuts the time by about 20%. It's a very efficient way to watch a TV show or a movie. For some British shows, it helps to turn on the subtitles, but I don't need it on American shows.

So. That was my plan. I had done my chores. I had prepared supper and put away my work clothes. We had played a set of tennis (we are hard core) and I wanted to go home.

SH: Let's just run by Sentry.

Me: No! Why? You're going to Aldi tonight!

SH: But I don't want to grill that pork tenderloin tomorrow and Sentry has steak on sale.

Me: So? Go later.

SH: But this is more efficient. We're already here. I don't have to go out of my way.

Me: I hate shopping with you.

SH: And besides, we can get a dozen ears of corn free.

Me: What? That takes a coupon! Do you have the coupon with you?

SH: Yes.

Me: This was premeditated! You had this all planned even before we left the house!

SH: Yes.

Me: You are a big fat shopping liar who tricked me.

SH: I guess so.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Marriage 501, Lecture 868: Sauce for the gander

SH: OK. Is there anything you want me to get?

Me: Maybe some eggs. The sour cream is still good.

SH: You know it's dangerous to send me to Sendik's.

Me: Why?

SH: Because I have to walk past the wine section.

Me: If you buy wine, I'm buying a new purse.

SH: That's not the same.

Me: I'm getting that purse I saw in Texas Monthly.

SH: No way! That costs over $500!

Me: You get wine, I get a purse.

SH: Wine doesn't cost that much! That's like buying a BMW! It's like buying a $200 bottle of wine!

Me: You buy wine every week. I buy a few purses a decade. I think it evens out.

SH: You can't get that! It's too expensive!

Me: If I get a new job, I'm getting it.

SH: No way.

Me: Yes way.

SH: OK. But only if you make more money than you make now.

Me: OK.

Marriage 501, Lecture 756: Wash day

Me: I'm going to do laundry.

SH: But wait! It's not Saturday!

Me: So? I have time now. So I'm doing it.

SH: But you're complicating everything.

Me: What's the difference between doing laundry on Friday evening and Saturday morning? Your dirty clothes should all be down the chute anyhow.

SH: No! It's affecting my underwear strategy!

Me: Your underwear strategy?

SH: Yes. I'm wearing the Good Travel Underwear today because I thought you wouldn't be washing until tomorrow and then I'd have them again when I take my trip on Tuesday.

Me: Too bad.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Marriage 501, Lecture 744: Life alone and all the responsibilities that go with it

I am a Bad Cat Owner Person Servant. Bad. Undeserving of cat company.

SH was out of town. When SH is out of town, my life gets easier in many ways but a little more complicated in others.

Easier because I go to bed when I want to, ie, earlier than midnight, but of course it's when SH is gone that I usually get insomnia or make the stupid mistake of having a sip of diet Dr Pepper at 1:30 p.m. in an attempt to rid myself of an incipient migraine (caffeine giveth, caffeine taketh away) or drink a cup of decaf at book club at 8:00 p.m. so the going to bed early is all a big fat waste because all I do is lie in bed and think, "I can't sleep. I can't sleep. Why can't I sleep?"

And then I remember that decaf coffee still has some caffeine in it and I remember the diet Dr Pepper and my heart sinks because there is nothing I can do to make my princess and the pea body process the caffeine any faster.

It's easier because I don't have to pull all my work clothes out of the closet and put them in the bathroom the night before. It's easier because when I get up, I can make noise. I can listen to the radio. I can clomp around the kitchen. I put the dishes away wet. I leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight. I am free, free, free!

It's harder because I am the only person in charge of the cats.

Usually, SH feeds the cats their breakfast. But when he's gone, I have to do it.

You might think, "Why is feeding the cats a big deal? All you do is pour food into the bowl and voila! They're fed!"

It's not that simple.

We have two cats. One eats like a vacuum cleaner and the other is the pickiest, slowest, most maddeningly dainty eater you have ever seen.

Laverne has finished her food before Shirley has picked up, examined, and eaten her first five kibbles. Shirley has to think about every bite. Shirley is annoying as heck.

The problem is that if Shirley steps away from her food for a second or takes too long thinking about her next bite, Laverne swoops in and takes over and Shirley just watches. Sometimes, she'll take action and pull the dish away - the sound of the cat dish moving across the floor means I have to get up and referee - but sometimes, she'll let Laverne, who is getting chubby, eat it all.

And then she'll be ticked later because she's hungry and she'll knock everything off the kitchen counter to get our attention. (And no, I do not know how to keep her off the counter. If you do, please tell me.)

All of this means it takes a while to feed the cats because they must be supervised and any leftover food has to be put away or put back in front of Shirley with the impatient hiss, "Would you eat already?" etc etc.

So SH was gone. I was stuck feeding the cats. I was in a hurry. I fed them. Put my lunchbag in my gym bag. Realized I needed a jacket because hello it was August in Wisconsin and if you don't need your A/C, you need a coat, grabbed a coat from the closet, then closed the closet, which had been open because that's where the radio is (don't ask) and I had been listening to the morning news. Because we wouldn't want a cat getting into a closet while I was away from the house for 11 hours, would we? The cats are not allowed in the closets. They like being in the closets, but they are not allowed there.

NOT ALLOWED. They know that.

So I closed the closet and left the house.

For 11 hours.

When I got home eleven hours later, Laverne was not waiting by the door for me as she usually is.

Don't be thinking she's all sweet and missing me - when I get home from work is when they get fed supper. She knows she is about to eat when she hears that key in the lock.

I opened the door.

No Laverne.

That's odd.

I called out. "Laverne! Where are you, kitty?" (As if she spoke English. She's Siamese.)

I heard a muffled meow.

Shirley just looked at me, then looked up at the cupboard where the food is kept, then looked at me again. I could tell what she was thinking: "Aren't you going to feed me? Hurry it up."

No Laverne. "Laverne? Where are you?"

More meows.

Was she in the basement? I put my purse, my coat, and my gym bag on the counter and walked downstairs. "Laverne?"

Meows got more distant.

I came back up. I called - got a meow. I walked closer to the meow. Called again. Louder meow. Called again. I was in the hall. The meowing was inside the house.


I called - and realized. I opened the closet door.

Out ran Laverne.

Who had been in the closet for 11 hours. Eleven. Eleven hours without a litter box.

I closed my eyes and shook my head. Then I turned on the light and looked and sniffed.

One coat had been pulled off its hanger, but everything else was still intact.

There was not one whiff of kitty pee or kitty poop. Not one.

Poor Laverne had been stuck in that closet for 11 hours and had held everything.

She's such a good girl. But this is the cat who will cry to come inside to use the litter box. I have never seen her go outside. I think she thinks that's gross and uncivilized.

She ran out of the closet and ran straight to the water. She was thirsty. Then she ran downstairs to the litter box and did the necessary.

She did better than I would have done stuck in a closet for 11 hours, I tell you.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Marriage 501, Lecture 875: And I helped

SH: Hey. What are you going to do with that fig?

Me: I'm eating it.

SH: But what will you do with the stem? You can't leave that in the car.

Me: Don't worry about it.

SH: But what will you do with it? Are you going to toss it out the window? That's littering!

Me: This is not your problem to solve.

SH: But I want to know.

Me: I told you not to worry about it.

SH: I want to know!

Me: None of your business.

SH: I'm just trying to help.

Me: I don't want your help.

SH: But I just want to help!

Me: I want your help on things like vacuuming and doing laundry, not on what I'm going to do with the stem.

SH: I don't want to help on that sort of thing. I want to help by telling you what to do.

Me: Don't help me.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Wisconsin 101: Cleaning up by cleaning house

I was listening to a podcast of The Boss Show, which, if you have a boss, I highly recommend because you will learn that You Are Not Alone and let's just leave it at that because although I would like to change employers, I want it to be my choice, not theirs, and they were talking about dual-career couples.

Now, they were talking mostly about the issues faced by dual-career couples who also have children, which are a million times tougher than those issues faced by dual-career couples without children.

I am not going to even try to pretend there is any equivalence between children and pets. You guys know where I stand on that: I am not my cats' mommy. The Big Factotum is not the grandma. They are cats. Not humans. SH will baby talk to the cats, but he knows they are not babies. They are cats.

For those people who cannot distinguish between pets and children, let me offer a few points that should make the differences clear:

1. Cats do not need to be potty trained. They get it.
2. Cats meow. They do not talk. I know what the meows mean:
a. Feed me
b. Let me out
c. Let me in
d. Pay attention to me
But that does not mean they are speech.

3. Children need braces. Cats do not.
4. Children go to college. Cats do not.
5. You can train a child to stay off the counter.

So even though SH and I have two cats, we do not face the same issues that dual-career couples with children face. We have it easy. We have first-world problems.

Still, our first-world problems are a problem to us. And the Boss Show guys addressed one of the key problems: The getting and maintaining of a clean house.

The way it works now, I spend Saturday mornings doing laundry, cooking for the week, cleaning the bathroom, and cleaning the kitchen. SH vacuums the entire house and cuts the grass and calls the roofers to give us an estimate.

We are moving towards a more equitable split of chores, but it is a zero-sum game: for me not to have to do something, SH has to do it. SH is not in favor of this system.

(I am assuming that we want to maintain a base level of cleanliness here. Sure, we could let the place go to heck, but we are drowning in cat fur as it is.)

(Let me add to the above list of the differences between cats and children: Children do not shed,)

The Boss Show guys said, basically, Quit making yourself crazy spending your free time cleaning your house and hire a cleaning lady. It doesn't cost any more than a nice dinner out.

This idea does not bother me at all.

I have a friend who says she takes some crap from her friends for having a cleaning lady, but I shrugged and said, "You're paying someone to do a service. Is that bad?"

I was in the Middle East on a business trip a few months ago. My colleague, Steph, and I were at a dinner with someone from the country, Ayisha. She had to call her driver to arrange to be picked up. Her car was in the shop, she explained.

Steph and I looked at each other and raised our eyebrows, thinking to each other, The car is in the shop so her driver has to pick her up.

I asked Ayisha if there was a good place to get an inexpensive pedicure.

Oh, she said matter of factly, everyone I know has the beautician come to her house.

I see, I said.

We got on the subject of in-home help. Of course she had a maid, she said. A maid who worked every day.

Steph and I explained that in the U.S., only rich people have daily maids.

Ayisha asked, puzzled. Then who cleans your houses?

Steph and I looked at each other and laughed. We do!

Ayisha looked horrified.

We explained that ordinary people might have a cleaning lady every two or three weeks, but nobody we knew had a daily maid.

Note that Ayisha lives in a country with lots of resident aliens who can never hope to achieve citizenship who work for very low wages.

SH and I talked about hiring someone to help. I had a cleaning lady in Memphis and when I was a Peace Corps volunteer. (You can afford a weekly cleaning lady when you are in the Peace Corps because the rest of the people around you are so poor. Which is kind of stomach turning.)

I looked on Angie's List. Found one of the top-rated cleaning ladies in my area. Called her.

I wanted to test her out and I wanted to hire someone to help me for two hours a few nights before The Big Factotum gets here.

I was thinking $25-$30 an hour, which is actually more than I take home after taxes. And although I acknowledge that it is not easy to clean a house well, it is still harder to do the job I do for money than to clean my house.

When I talked to this cleaning lady, she said her initial fee for a house my size - three bedrooms, two baths - and situation - two adults, two cats - would be about $175 to $250.

Which was when I said Thank you very much, but that is out of my budget. So I guess I will continue to spend my Saturdays cleaning my house and letting my standards slip. And I will consider starting my own housecleaning business because it seems pretty lucrative and I wouldn't have to prepare one more financial presentation ever again.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Marriage 501, Lecture 456: Why nothing ever gets done at our house

Me: I looked. There is a market for used BMW magazines on eBay.


Me: So let's sell them.


Me: Now.

SH: No. Later.

Me: Why not now?

SH: Because it's too much work.

Me: I'll do it.

SH: No! It's too much work!

Me: I'll get them out of the attic.

SH: You won't do it right!

Me: How can I not get magazines out of the attic right?

SH: What if you don't know where they are?

Me: They are in the stacks of magazines in the attic.

SH: But you might get things out of order! You might make a mess!

Me: Fine. Then you get them out.

SH: I don't have time.

Me: How much work is it to get some magazines out of an attic?

SH: I don't have time.

Me: Do you want to sell them or not?

SH: I don't know.

Me: Oh for crying out loud. Would you make a decision? Yes or no.

SH: Not now. I'm too  busy.

Me: Just tell me if in principle you like the idea of selling them.

SH: OK. Fine. We can sell them.

Me: When?

SH: Later. Not now.

Me: No. Let's pin down a date.

SH: I'm too busy!

Me: You are not. Just commit to a date between now and Christmas.

SH: Not now.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Marriage 501, Lecture 985: Hoarders here we come

Me: What are you doing?

SH: Going through my magazines [that have accumulated in his nightstand].

Me: Why? You're supposed to be clearing your junk out of the guest room. [Winter clothes that have been there since May, an article about Shakespeare that his dad wrote years ago, empty boxes]

SH: This is part of that project.

Me: Hey! DO NOT PUT THOSE MAGAZINES ON THE FLOOR! You do not get to bring more junk into the bedroom. Our bedroom is not going to become a repository for your junk. You have an office.

SH: But my office is full.

Me: Then throw something away from your office.

SH: I can't make that decision now.

Me: And do not put those magazines in the attic.

SH: Oh! I forgot about the attic! I can put them there.

Me: Why?

SH: Why what?

Me: Why put them there? You have magazines there that have been there since we moved into the house five years ago and you have never once said, "Oh. I think I need to refer to one of my attic magazines." It's just crap that we'll have to throw away when we move out.

SH: I need to keep my Corvair magazines.

Me: Why?

SH: What if I sell the Corvair and the buyer wants the magazine?

Me: Did the guy who bought your BMW want the BMW magazines?

SH: I didn't think to ask. I still have them.

Me: So why not throw them away?

SH: I might want them someday. Or I might be able to sell them.

Me: Is there a big market for used BMW magazines?

[There might be - I just looked on eBay and saw 44 "sold" listings for old Roundel magazines.]

SH: I don't know.

Me: Why don't you just put something on craigslist that you have a bunch of old magazines to give away?

SH: That's too much work.

Me: How come when I ask you to do something, you tell me it's scope creep, but when you do something, you vary from the original goal?

SH: This is part of the guest room project. There are magazines in the guest room. Besides,  scope creep when I am getting rid of things is good.

Me: If you actually get rid of things.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Marriage 501, Lecture 764: Clean room

We've been having this fly problem. Three days of flies. Three days out of the entire summer - I am writing this in August, even though I said I was going on blog break. I lasted one day. But I thought I would build up some inventory. And who knows how I'll feel tomorrow? Right now, I am getting ready for a nice evening of watching the second chunk of the British version of House of Cards. If you have not seen the American version or the British version, get yourself to the library right now. It is riveting.

BTW, "getting ready" means, "Washing the outside windows first while it's overcast - I can't stand the filth any longer." And then "preparing to send a little present to a former boyfriend because I found something at the state fair that I thought he would like." And then "sorting the laundry for tomorrow."

SH and I are so different. I can't relax until the chores are done and he is perfectly willing to let the chores wait until Sunday night.

When they do pre-marital counseling, the questions should not be about politics and religion but about how one does chores and whether you do your taxes as soon as you have all the paperwork, like at the end of January, or on April 15.

You guys may guess which of us is which.

I was talking about flies. We have had very few flies this summer because it hasn't really been summer. Global warming has brought us cold, cold temperatures, such that I turned the heat on at the end of July and have had to wear my fluffy socks to bed more than once.

SH is an amazing fly killer. SH is also quite fastidious about cleanliness and washing things for about two minutes each with a ton of soap and he thinks I am sloppy and dirty but may I note that I am not the one who gets sick around here, probably because my immune system is so solid after two years in South America with limited access to running water sometimes.

We had this conversation after I had killed a fly on the windowsill above the sink.

Me: Oh gross. I can't reach it to get it.

SH: Just brush it over here.

Me: That won't do any good. I need to get it to the trash and I don't want to touch it. How can I brush it over here with the flyswatter and then get it onto the flyswatter to carry it to the trash?

SH: You don't have to carry it to the trash.

Me: Really? What's your brilliant idea?

SH: I just brush them into the sink.


SH: And then I turn on the garbage disposal.

Me: You. Are. Disgusting.