Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 764: Not the right answer

You guys know I love love love SH. I think he is fabulous. He makes me crazy, but it's not like he makes me crazy because he is filthy and lazy and mean. He makes me crazy because he takes five times as long as I do to wash dishes - but the dishes are always clean when he does them - and because he takes longer to make the bed - but he does make the bed - etc, etc, etc. He makes me crazy with an abundance of painstaking attention to detail. I am a big picture person, SH is an ultra-detail, micromanaging person. There could be worse combinations and there could be worse husbands.

He is an engineer. He states the facts. He is not good at watching soap operas, like Friday Night Lights or House of Cards. He doesn't understand subterfuge or trickery - he is straightforward. A thing is what it is. I have to explain why each character is doing what he is doing. I get hidden motives. I was an English major - that's all I did - try to figure out why the characters were doing what they were doing. Engineers look for the objective, correct answer. It's there. They just have to find it. English majors make stuff up.

I am telling you all this as background to this story because I do not want you to get mad at him. I am not mad at him, but there are times when I wish he would lie just a tiny little bit. Just a wee little white lie.

And this is the time I wish he would lie instead of being honest.

Me, after watching a Denise Austin yoga video, she with her six pack, and after watching Zoe Barnes half naked on H of C. Me, after seeing this beautiful fit slim bodies and then making the mistake of looking in the mirror when I was changing into my pajamas: Oh man. I hate my body. I look awful.

SH: What do you mean?

Me: Look at this! It's all flabby! It's all fat! It's never going to change! I am never going to be fit and taut and toned. Ever.

SH [arms around me from behind, looking at my tummy]: Well, we are getting older. And you haven't been going to the gym as much with your new job. You haven't been able to go to classes. And you have been cooking a lot of good food lately.

Me: That is so not the right answer.

SH: But you are a really good cook! I am really lucky to be married to you!

Me: Still not the right answer.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 123: Goose/gander


The great thing about purses is they don't care if marriage has been very, very good to you. They don't care if your thin jeans fit or if everything is going loose. A purse looks great and it doesn't care what size you are and it won't make you feel all ick because it doesn't fit but it used to fit and man, it's a good thing there are no full-length mirrors in your house.

The only purses I have bought in the past 15 years have been on eBay or in consignment shops.  I am not a big-money purse spender. But I last year, I bought what was supposed to be a nice Cole Haan purse on eBay and not four months after I got it, it started to fall apart. The straps tore out a few times. I took the purse to the leather repair shop and the woman sewed them back on for me, but she warned me that every time she put new holes in the straps, it weakened them. Then I took the purse to the shoe guy and he put rivets in the straps and they stopped tearing out when the purse would get caught on something and I would keep moving.

Then the piping wore through and left the little curly wire underpinning visible. Then the stitching started wearing off the sides of the straps.

SH is pretty detail oriented, but women's fashion and accessories is not his thing and he is a guy. Even he noticed that the purse is falling apart.

I wrote to Cole Haan. They told me that I could return it to the place I bought it or send it to them for restoration (at a price). I wrote back and said the problem was that they had not used the proper materials - that I had purses much older than this one that were still in excellent shape.

They never answered.

Cole Haan, if you are reading this now, I was not impressed with your response and I am even less impressed with the quality of your product. 

That's when I thought it was time for me to buy a purse at retail again.

But not any purse. (And for sure not Cole Haan!)

I wanted something that would last me a good long time. This will be at least a five-year purse. I can't justify spending a lot of money on a purse to use it only for a year or two.

I started looking for purses made in the US. I found this - Libby Lane, in west Texas.

Not inexpensive.

It took me almost a year to make the decision to buy one.

I bought one.

It arrived.

It was way bigger than I thought it would be. Still gorgeous.

But you can't return for cash.

So I kept it. It is now my briefcase - takes my lunch and gym clothes to work - and I love it. It feels so elegant. So much nicer than the black nylon giveaway bag I used to use. Want to know something interesting?

Cat hair does not stick to leather!

But I still need a main purse.

So I continued the hunt.

I found Stash in Houston. Koch Leather in I think Arizona. Love 41 in Mexico.

I wanted them all.

Is that wrong?

Is it wrong to have more than one purse? Buying a purse is not akin to marriage. We do not have to commit ourselves to just one. Wait. It is like marriage, but it as if we are renegade Mormons and the purse buyer is the husband and the purses are the wives.

Is there a culture where the women have more than one husband?

Hmmm. Not sure that would be something I would want. But a few sisterwives might not be so bad. Share the housework, the cooking, etc. Get a trust fund sisterwife and a super detail-oriented sisterwife - we could cover the money and all the picky stuff SH cares about. I could have the vacation SH who plays tennis.

This could work.

Where was I?

I wanted all of those purses. All of them. Even though they all look sort of alike.

Again. Is that wrong?

It went like this.

SH: You can't get two more purses! A purse is something you need one of, maybe two! One for summer, one for winter. I don't have multiple wallets.

Me: How many watches do you have?

SH: That's different.

It's not different. 

It's not different at all.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 762: Hoping that the threat of disinheritance actually comes true one of these days

SH: Hey! You missed a chance to criticize me! [for leaving the refrigerator door open]

Me: Oh.

SH: Don't you want to be part of the Honey family? Don't you want to criticize every time you get a chance?

Me: No! Do you?

SH: What?

Me: Given all that you know about your family, wouldn't you rather not be a part of them?

SH: I don't know.

Me: I wish your mom had had you, but had been married to someone else.

SH: Yeah, but that's not possible.

Me: I know. That's why I wish.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 764: The right way to clean cat vomit off the floor, or, I yield to the expert

The scene: An ordinary evening, a little after 5 p.m. SH is washing the dishes, which is what he does when I get home from work. He takes my lunchbag out of my nice leather tote that is a lot bigger than I thought it would be when I ordered it, even though I had the measurements and kept comparing it to my existing purse. I thought the tote would become my new purse, but instead, it has become my new take my lunch and gym clothes to work bag. I still have my old purse and I hesitate to buy yet another purse because the places I want to buy from make them by hand in the US and do not give cash refunds. I don't want a cash refund, I want a purse, but a purse is like shoes or pants: You really need to try it on before you buy.

Anyhow. I am home. SH is washing my lunch dishes. I have just fed the cats.

I am waiting for SH to finish with the dishes so I can start making more dirty dishes, a fact that stresses SH out to no end. Now that he is in charge of dish doing and vacuuming, he doesn't want any activity that might create mess. Even in the kitchen. Which is where food comes from.

I have reminded him of that - that unless he wants to live on canned sardines (and even those are fraught with danger, because the lid of a can of sardines, placed in the sink, will attract cats and cats getting in the sink is Bad even though the cats go in the sink ALL THE TIME and leave only when they are yelled at or when I turn on the tap and get them wet, which often backfires because a wet cat shakes herself and the water goes everywhere) and cheese and crackers, it is necessary to make a mess in the kitchen.

This, of course, is where he disagrees with me. It is not necessary to make a mess in the kitchen, he would say. It is necessary only to be very very careful while one is chopping veg and preparing food and - HEY! DON'T USE THAT DISHCLOTH TO WIPE THE OLIVE OIL BOTTLE! THE DISHCLOTH WILL GET DIRTY!!!!! - to take like seven times as long to make food as it should take.

SH does not like watching me cook. It stresses him out. He likes to eat and he likes what I cook, but I suppose watching me cook to him is like watching the government in action to me: something that is necessary to reach an objective but absolutely revolting and disgusting to watch.

SH is washing dishes. I have just fed the cats and am waiting for him to get out of the way so I can cook.

Laverne jumps onto the kitchen table. She starts to retch. I hear her retching, but think, "She is not getting ready to vomit because she is nowhere near a carpeted surface or a rug or any other surface from which it would be difficult to remove vomit."

So I watch impassively.

She continues to retch and now her back is arching and I think, "Oh she's going to blow!"

I grab her and put her on the floor so the vomit will fall in one place rather than cascading off the table, onto the bench, and then to the floor.

I wait for her to finish.

I walk to the counter and grab three paper towels.

I walk back toward the vomit.

SH, water still running, hands still full of soap, says, "Stop! What are you doing?"

"Walking to the vomit," I tell him.

"But you have too many paper towels!"

I stop. Turn completely around. Look at him. "Too. Many. Paper. Towels?"

"Yes! Too many! That's wasteful. You don't need that many."

"Yes. I do. Any fewer and I can feel the vomit and it makes me retch."

The water is still running. His hands still soapy. He is paralyzed at the idea of wasting paper towels.

The vomit bothers him not at all. The running water - wasteful - does not bother him. But two extra paper towels?

That's a problem.

Because I am such a profligate user of paper towels. I use them for

1. washing windows
2. cleaning cat vomit

For everything else, I use cloth rags. I see years of my old wardrobes in my rag bucket. Rags are fine for everything but vomit. I don't have the stomach for it. I want to be able to throw it all away.

Don't worry about Laverne, by the way. She was vomiting only because she wolfs her food down. We are now feeding her in split shifts - she gets half of her food at 5 and the other half at 5:30.

So SH thought I was using too many of our precious paper towels - we go through maybe a dozen rolls a year, if that - to clean the bodily fluids of a cat from the floor.

My boss' boss told me a joke when I was arguing with him about the specs for a Jira website he wants me to put together.

This old man - 108 years old - was being interviewed about being old.

"What's your secret to reaching such an old age?" the reporter asked the old man.

"The secret is that I never argue," the old man answered.
"Oh, surely you must argue!" the reporter replied.

"Yes, of course you are right," the old man answered.

SH: Too many  paper towels! You are using too many paper towels!

Me: You're right.

SH: You're not doing it right!

Me: I better let you do it.


I win.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 76: This is Wisconsin and the winters are long


SH: I got a case of that beer I like.

Me: I thought we were going to slow down on spending money on booze.

SH: I have not bought any wine for over a month!

Me: And the beer?

SH: This is enough beer for the winter.

Me: So you can take back those two growler bottles and get your deposit back?

SH: I might need those. I might as well wait until I get them refilled.

Me: You just said you had enough beer for the winter.

SH: Enough bottled beer. That's not the same as draft.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 653: When the gravy comes

With SH now living the life of Riley, he has assumed many of the household responsibilities. We even agreed that he would take over cleaning the bathroom, which is something he has not done since we bought our house. He claims that a bathtub does not need to be cleaned every week and I maintain that it does, although I am willing to put up with a not so clean tub if I am not the one who has to clean it.

But he was at his mom and dad's and that always puts him in a funk so I guess he thought he might as well be more miserable. I did all the heavy cleaning while he was gone - washed and changed the sheets, cleaned the tub, washed the kitchen floor, and cooked, cooked cooked.

It is so lovely to cook with SH hovering. SH does not really understand the process of how gravy happens. He think it just comes.

But there is a lot of chopping and getting dishes dirty and maybe even spilling things on the floor in the process of cooking.

This weekend, I made

  • Ricotta gnocchi with brown butter sage sauce
  • Tortilla
  • Two batches of these brownies, one for us and one for the neighbors across the street who just had a baby
  • A batch of black walnut shortbread, from the black walnuts given me a year ago by a friend. I made it and then SH said he doesn't like black walnuts and I sure don't need two sticks' worth of butter on my butt, but our bachelor friend K likes almost anything I cook or bake and he was thrilled to have the cookies
  • Charro beans
  • Goat cheese mac and cheese with fresh bread crumbs from the freezer. We have a ton. We did not intend to have fresh bread crumbs. We intended to give a leftover six-pack of hamburger buns to the youth group at church but I turned my back for a few minutes and when I looked at the top of the stove where I had placed the hamburger buns, in a plastic bag, inside a grocery plastic bag, the corner had been chewed off and half a bun eaten. Laverne is  not starving. She is getting fat. She is also very naughty and if we had a time-out cage, she would go into it.

 In the process of making all these goodies, sure, there was a mess made. And then there was a mess cleaned up. If SH had been around, the drama would have been at 11. SH thinks the function of a kitchen is to stay spotless and unused at all times.

But, as I mentioned, he has assumed a lot of the household chores. At work the other day, he messaged me the question, "How do I get mildew off a shower curtain?" and I thought, OK, there is some compensation for having a husband who does not have a job right now.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 23: The economics of scarcity and demand


Remember when you first met your significant other and you couldn't keep your hands off each other? Even my mom, who reads this blog, which means I need to keep this PG, and my dad spent their first date necking in the driveway of my grandfather's farm. Actually, it wasn't a date - they had met at the bar at the bowling alley in town and my dad gave my mom a ride home. This was a super small town so everyone knew who everyone was. My parents had not met before, but they knew of each other.

My dad drove my mom home. They necked in the driveway and then my dad's car got stuck in the snow so they had to wake my grandfather up - who was going to have to get up in just three hours to milk the cows, so was unhappy for many reasons - to pull the car out with the tractor.

Romantic, huh?

When I met SH the first time, I thought he played for the other team, so there was no necking going on. On our first sort-of date - he took a long layover in Memphis and we went out to lunch and HE DID NOT PAY because, he says, "You had a boyfriend at the time so I didn't think it was a date" and I say, "Would I have agreed to take an afternoon off work, pick you up at the airport, and drive you around town if it weren't a date? I don't do that for Just Friends."

And the boyfriend was the Moroccan Millionaire, Gomez, who turned out to be a despicable human being. So I was close to being done with him anyhow.

SH and I didn't have our first kiss until our third date, the second time he took a long layover in Memphis. And then we were all, "Oh this is fun! Let's do this some more!"

And initial years of dating, etc, etc.

You know.

So now - after six years of marriage and nine years of knowing each other. Now, in the dead of winter - yes, already, winter. Now, when I have to get up at 6 a.m. to drive to work in the snow and cold. Now, that I have seen the secrets of a long-term relationship, which include farting, something that did not happen while we were dating. Now, that sometimes, we both just say, "Forget it. It's the weekend. We're not going anywhere. We're tired. It's cold. No showers this weekend."

Now, there is not such a sense of urgency. Now, other things take priority. Sleep. Food. Season three of Rizzoli and Isles.

For SH, the Folding of the Clothes.

Yes, you read that properly. The man who used to drive 500 miles just to see me now won't get into bed until every single item of his clothing is perfectly folded and stacked in the "Too Dirty To Put Away In The Closet Or The Drawer But Not Dirty Enough To Put In The Laundry" stack on top of his dresser.

Including socks.

SH folds his socks and carefully places them on the Stack before getting into bed.

Because - marriage and [wxyz] do not necessarily enhance each other.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 762: Reading is fundamental


SH and I were packing for our trip to Austin for my brother's birthday. My sister had organized everything from afar. Don't be surprised. Organizing a big bash from a distance while she saves preemie babies is just an appetizer for my sister. She gets stuff done. Gets it from my mom, who has, to date, organized I think six - eight? - trans-oceanic moves, although the one to Saudi does not count so much because they didn't take their furniture with them. Still, the furniture had to be dealt with, so yeah - eight. Eight trans-oceanic moves.

My mom rocks and my sister rocks.

It was Jenny's idea to throw a party for Greg for his 50th birthday. It has been a tough 18 months for my brother. He had his own business for over ten years, but had to close up shop when he had some serious health problems start two years ago. But he is healthy now and has a great new job at UT. It's in the basement, but it is a job and he likes the work and he likes the people and someone else is doing the running the business part of the business so Greg can do just the computer part, which is the part he likes. 

By the way, if you guys don't know about this site already, you need to go to Ask A Manager for your job hunting advice. I would not have gotten the interviews and jobs I have gotten without Alison's great advice on cover letters and I was able to share that advice with my brother and I think it helped him get his job.

So anyway. SH and I were very happy to be going to Austin. We had not been since right after we met, in 2006, when we made a trip there so he could meet my friends and my brother. I miss Texas and I am not happy with the early winter we are having. I don't even like winter when it happens at the normal time. And I miss Texas. A lot.

SH has quit his job to search for a new path. I think I mentioned that. Anyhow, he has. We talked about it for two years and I got myself into a better job with slightly better pay so we could afford for him to quit and quit he did.

Which meant that he did not need to take a computer on this trip.

I have known this man for nine years and we have never taken a trip, including vacations, where he did not take his work computer with him. The realities of working now - sure, you're on vacation, but nobody is doing your job while you are gone, so if you don't keep up with the emails, it's just going to be worse when you return.

SH's dad does not understand this. His dad was a college professor who did not do research, so when school was out, his dad was not working. When SH visits his parents, they get annoyed that he works. They think he is a failure because he never got an advanced degree and then he works? all the time? and he doesn't even have a pension? What is that about?

But SH no longer even has his work computer. And he was not going to take a computer on the trip.

And yet- he has to carry a computer bag.

Because, "I have to take something! I have to have room to carry a book!" he said.

"So just carry a book," I suggested.

"No! I need a book and I need the sections of the newspaper that I've been saving to read* and I need some magazines. I need different reading material for different reading times."

* There is a stack of newspapers 18" high on our kitchen table. On SH's half of the kitchen table. Because it's still news two months later and there is no way ever to see that information online.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 764: Double Indemnity

  • Last night
    SH: Look at my thumb. It's cracked! It hurts!
    Me: That does look bad.

    SH: It hurts! And it's not healing! And it's hard to keep a bandaid here.

    Me: Why don't you paint some fingernail polish on it?

    SH: WHAT?!

    Me: I do that all the time. Or I glue the wound.

    SH: That's crazy!

    Me: No it's not. Ilene [my friend the Bodacious Red-Headed Pediatrician, who, unfortunately, no longer blogs] said it's OK. She said surgeons use superglue. But suit yourself.

    Today, via facebook
    I have a bandage on my finger (and went to bed with one last night). It is helping, but I hate wearing bandages on my fingers.
  • Me
    Maybe try the nail polish?
  • SH
    Not now.
    You want me to put toxic chemicals inside a cut!
  • Me
    I have glued my cuts before
    and used nail polish
    and YET I LIVE
  • SH
    You want to poison me.
    Maybe you have headaches because you poisoned yourself.
  • Me
    not now
    you don't have enough insurance
  • SH

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 145: The unexamined life

Did you guys know that SH is taking a break from work? We agreed that he would get a year to find something else. He has been doing the same kind of work for over 25 years and has been at the same company for 15 years.

Creative, bright people get tired of doing the same thing over and over, even if they are being paid well to do it.

Their wives do not get tired of it. Their wives do not get tired of their husbands being well paid.

But the wives and the husbands make a spreadsheet of their expenses and of their savings and assets. They make a budget. They look at how they spend and identify places to cut back.


(Not purses.)

They discuss and discuss and discuss and finally, they agree to a year. The wife is reassured by the news that a co-worker of the husband's announces she is taking a year off work to stay home with her kids but will be back and the company is OK with that. The husband's employer tells him how much they like him and yes, he is always welcome back. The wife thinks, If he doesn't resolve his midlife crisis (why doesn't he just have an affair or buy a car?), then he can probably go back to work for the same company.

So the husband quits his job and the wife is totally stressed out and hyperventilating but she survives. And she appreciates that the husband has taken over the laundry and the yardwork and the vacuuming. She appreciates that he has finally, after three years, consolidated all the bad swirly lightbulbs to take them to the hardware store for disposal. She appreciates that he has replaced the broken doorstop. That he is going to grout the bathtub.

What she does not appreciate is his complaining when she gets home from work - remember, she is the only one with a job now - that the medicine cabinet - actually, a bin under the bathroom sink - is disorganized.

As she never has any problems finding what she wants, she does not understand what the issue is.

But the husband had to look through the bin and then look in the bathroom drawers to find the bacitracin and apparently, he had something better to do with his time.

Looking for bacitracin does not come with dental.

Monday, December 08, 2014

The working life: Hitting the AARP level only not being retired - seriously, who retires at 50 who is an ordinary person?

I had to go to a three-day training session in Chicago for work. It was good training - this was the engineer/marketing training.

On Thursday, SH took the train down to meet me and we at at Eataly, which does indeed have a Nutella shrine.

The guy sitting next to me in class was an Indian who lives in London. He had been in Chicago all week. Didn't really know anyone there. Was traveling by himself. Seemed a little lonely. I asked if he wanted to join SH and me for dinner.

Yes! He did! Thank you!

He met us there and it was nice and then he discovered that SH had quit his job.

Indian engineer: Aren't you scared of not being able to find another job?

SH: Maybe.

IE: Is it scary to be your age at work?

Me: Oh yes.

IE: Because you are too young to retire, right?

Me: Oh yes.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 753: Boiling point

Scene: SH has been trying a new, local coffee roaster. It has taken only a few years for us to go from non-coffee drinkers to full-fledged coffee snobs. We started with the gateway coffee of Starbucks mocha, which is coffee-flavored hot chocolate with extra fat, and moved to ground coffee from the store and then from Costco to coffee beans and our own grinder to the glass beaker thingy and water heated in a special water heater. We got the beaker thing at a church youth group fundraiser, right about when our microwave started to die (and no, we have not dealt with that issue - we are working around it - people got along just fine for millennia without a microwave and we can do it for a year or two), so SH stopped in at Goodwill and picked up one of those plug-in water heaters. Not the immersion kind, but more of a plug-in teakettle, only not for brewing.

So he mastered the art of grinding the coffee while the water was heating and then carefully pouring the hot water over the grounds.

But then he tried this new coffee roaster and this new bean and the coffee was way too tannic so he tried different things - all kinds of stuff except just taking the bag of beans back to the store and telling them it was too tannic.

SH: How's the coffee been?

Me: OK, I guess. I haven't been paying attention.

SH: I've adjusted the grind.

Me: OK.

SH: And tomorrow, I'll have my new water heater.

Me: What? You think money grows on trees?

SH: It goes to 190 degrees.

Me: So?

SH: I can't get the old one past 180.

Me: So? Just use a kettle and put it on the stove.

SH: No! Boiling is too hot!

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The working life with engineers: Not the smartest kid in the class

Here is what I am thankful for:

I am not the smartest person in the office.

I am not sure I ever was, but I can tell you for absolute positive sure that I am NOT the smartest one at my new job, because I work with a bunch of really, really smart people. And they all want to do cool things and do a good job and it is a joy to work there.

Except for the lack of windows and the location - out in the burbs with no sidewalks.

But besides that, it is a great place to work. I like working with smart people. I like being around smart people. It makes me feel smarter just to absorb all that smart energy.

How do I know I am around smart people?

Here are some of the things I have not had to explain to my current group of co-workers or boss. Actually, let me be more specific. These are things I have not had to explain to my boss. Blesshisheart.

1. Slovakia and Slovenia are not the same country. They're not. Look it up if you don't believe me.

2. I know it is illegal to do business in sanctioned countries and I know it is illegal to do business in South Sudan and it is not my fault that the Cairo office signed a contract with South Sudan. I know I am in charge of the Cairo office, but you, my dear boss, signed the deal with the Cairo office and we explained to them in writing in which countries they were to operate. South Sudan was not on that list. I did not think that it was necessary to explain to them that they were NOT TO OPERATE OUTSIDE OF THE CONTRACT.

3. It is illegal to recognize revenue for official accounting reports until the service or product has been delivered. What this means, boss, and OK fine, get someone from accounting to come over and confirm what I am telling you but I tell you the truth, is that even if a customer gives us $100,000 two days before the end of the fiscal year for a series of classes that do not start until after the fiscal year, we cannot show that $100,000 in this year's earnings. I mean, you can if you want to, but it will be your signature on that financial report and you will be the one going to the big house. I will put it in writing up and down the reporting chain that I warned you not to do it.

4.  What is social media. I have not had to explain to anyone at my current job what social media is. I have not had anyone at my current job ask me two days before a big conference to put together a huge communications plan for the Cairo office - communicating what, I am not sure, then sit in his office, along with the communications director, who wrote most of the plan, explain exactly what we plan to do with facebook, twitter, and LinkedIn, only to arrive at the end of the report and be asked, "But what about that social media? Are you doing anything with that?"

Monday, December 01, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 12: In which there is some spontaneous you know what

A few weeks ago, SH and his friends moved our dining room table for a video they were making. (The friend was running for a local office and SH was helping on the campaign. They shot the video at our house because the friend has a baby at home, etc, etc.)

They moved the table against the wall so they could set up the shoot.

They promised they would move everything back.

They didn't.

Probably because SH was hyperventilating when they first moved it and didn't trust them to move it back, plus now that he is in charge of vacuuming, he decided he should vacuum the rug.

So for a few weeks, the dining room has been all askew and it has bugged me and I have been suggesting to SH that we move the table back and he has been telling me he is too busy.

Tonight, as SH was walking up the stairs with a handful of chocolate covered coffee beans and as I was closing down my work computer - I worked from home today because I had oral surgery in the morning and it's probably not a good idea to drive with two valiums and half a vicodin in your system, even though valium does not relax me and I was completely aware that Dr S was cutting a piece of flesh from the roof of my mouth, I sprang to my feet, ran to the hall, and said, "Let's move the table!"

"I'm busy!" he protested.

"It will take one minute," I said.

"But we need to plan for this!"

"No we don't. All we are doing is moving the table. It's not that complicated."

"But you should have warned me!"

"Why? If I had said something earlier, you would have said you were busy then and to ask you again when you weren't busy. Then, if I would ask you again, you would say I was nagging."

He laughed. "No I wouldn't."

I rolled my eyes. "Yes. You would. Because you do that all the time."

"But I'm busy now!"

I shook my head. "No. Come on. This won't even take a minute. Look - I've already moved the chairs."

I stepped around between the wall and the table.

"No!" he said. "No! You can't do that side!"

[Do you see why I am exhausted most of the time? There is way too much drama in this house. Honestly. The growing up that SH must have had that every single little thing had to be scrutinized and criticized and analyzed and criticized again. The main activity of his dad is assigning blame and criticizing.]

I sighed and moved to the other side. I was not emotionally invested in a side. I just wanted to move the darn table.

We moved it. Was it centered under the chandelier? Did we want it centered there? We couldn't remember where it used to be.

But it looked fine where it ---

"No!" SH said. "Look. Here are the marks from where it used to be. We need to move it back two inches."

We did.

From start to finish, including the arguing, it took us 97 seconds.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 134: Pot, meet kettle


Did I mention that SH joined me in Chicago when I was there for the conference? A paid hotel room - why not?

Did I mention how good the food was at the conference? And that my company allows only $35 for dinner? Which is not enough to get more than fast food in downtown Chicago? Or not enough to get more than just a bare minimum entree? No soup, no salad, no drink, no dessert? Not that I spend that much money on eating out in Milwaukee (BTW, $35 is not enough to get all that in Milwaukee, either), but when I am away from home and have to eat out, I like to do something nice.

What this means is that I was compelled to save yogurt and hard-boiled eggs and chocolate croissants (I would have saved chocolate croissants even if I had an unlimited allowance for dinner) so I would have something to eat in the evenings. I could have gone out to eat, but I would have been stressed about staying under the limit - sure, I could spend more, but that would have been my money - and annoyed at not being able to eat someplace good.

Besides, I don't really like eating out by myself. I barely like eating out with other people because it usually takes way too long and I would usually rather be alone unless I am with someone I really like. SH takes forever to eat. There is a reason we do not eat together at home. The main one is that he doesn't want to eat until after I want to be in bed, but the secondary reason is that it takes him 20 times as long to eat as it takes me and it is boring to sit at a table waiting for someone else to finish eating.

The other thing is that the $35 is a per diem, so if I don't spend it on dinner, I get to keep it.

A perfect storm:

1. I don't like eating out by myself
2. I don't like fast food
3. After a day at a conference, the last thing I want is to be around more people
4. If I eat a couple of eggs and some yogurt in my hotel room, I get to be by myself and I get to pocket $35. And I get to do this while watching three straight hours of Big Bang Theory.

I was at the conference all week. SH joined me on Thursday. Friday night, we had dinner with our friends Lenore and Rob, which was fun and not stressful because I have known Lenore for almost 30 years and it is very easy to be with her. Plus we were eating tapas and what's not to like about eating tapas?

On Saturday morning, as we were packing, SH called me a little old bag lady because I still had hard-boiled eggs and yogurt and chocolate croissants.

In addition, I had grabbed a few of those cute little jams.

Here is a question to consider: if someone else orders room service and then doesn't keep or open the little jams and then leaves them on a cart in the hallway, is it stealing to take the little jams? They have been paid for.

I don't understand why someone wouldn't keep them. The little jars are perfect for other things once you have eaten the jam. That's where I keep my migraine painkillers. Imitrex and relpax come packaged in these horrible blisterpacks that are very difficult to open. The last thing a person needs when she has a headache, especially in the middle of the night, is a blisterpack that takes several steps - and possibly scissors - to open.

So I open six of them at a time and store them in a little jam jar. I also usually only take half a pill at a time, so it is good to have an easy way to store the second half of the pill.

So maybe I saw some unopened little jams on a tray on a cart in the hallway and maybe I said, "Oh! Little jams!" And maybe I grabbed them and stuck them in my pocket and then put them in my suitcase next to the eggs and the yogurts and the chocolate croissants - because we had gone out to eat on Thursday and on Friday - and next to the little Nutellas because maybe I had saved two of them from the lounge at the Drake, which is where we stayed on Friday night with SH's hotel points that are about to expire.

And maybe SH called me a little old bag lady.

And maybe when we got home and we were unpacking, I saw that SOMEONE had also packed the little Lavazza coffee pods from the hotel room.

And maybe it wasn't ME, Little Old Bag Man.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The working life with engineers: Packing for a conference


Remember how I was at a conference with all engineers except for the one other person who was a liberal arts major? Bless their hearts, engineers are fabulous, but they don't like the abstractions involved in marketing. We did these exercises about customer needs and talked about understanding the market. The instructor showed examples of how to do these kinds of analyses and the engineers wanted to know how many lines the forms should have. Engineers do not like ambiguity, which is great for product design. I want a phone and a computer that work all the time, not just some of the time.  I want precision and accuracy and predictability in my electronics.

But marketing, unfortunately, does not have that level of precision. You don't know if things work. You don't know if they will work. You just have to test and make assumptions and even when you have success, you don't always know why.

This is maddening for English majors and must be horrible for engineers.

So I was at this conference with a bunch of engineers and I made a big mistake. You would think that after working for a while in an engineering company, I would know better, but apparently, I am a slow learner.

I overpacked.

I took the train to Chicago and then walked the mile to the hotel. I pulled my very full suitcase behind me.

I had packed an outfit for each day. I had packed not one but two pairs of gym shorts. As if anyone ever really exercises while she is on a business trip. I had tennies and work shoes. Another pair of jeans. Not one but three books.

I forgot I was going to be at a conference with engineers. One of the things I like best about my new job is that it doesn't matter what I wear. I mean, I can't be a total slob, but nobody notices what I wear. NOBODY. I could wear the same thing every day and nobody would notice.

I have decided to use that fact for good and am on a mission not to buy any new clothes for a year.

During the conference, one of the presenters asked, "Is there anyone here from the fashion industry?"

I looked around and almost laughed out loud.

"Clearly not!" I said. Unfortunately, I said it out loud and that was rude.

"Speaking for myself," I added quickly. Honestly. There are times when I think it might be a good idea for me to sew my lips shut.

Why did I feel compelled to pack an outfit a day for an engineering conference?

I did not do it right.

I did not exercise every day as planned.

I did not wear every outfit.

I had extra things to take home - books, chocolate croissants - and still had to drag those behind me on the mile walk to the train station.

I did not do it right.

I will not make this mistake again.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The working life with engineers: Not every blank has to be completed

I went to this conference for work. It was about marketing stuff and there were a few breakout sessions where we talked about marketing strategies.

It was an engineering conference. An engineering conference with some marketing stuff.

Based on the questions people asked, I think I was one of two non-engineers in attendance.

We had this breakout session about how to understand the customer.  We did an exercise where we were supposed to identify the problems facing the VP of sales. The only information we had was the job title. We had a worksheet containing spaces for the VP's age, industry, boss's title, job duties, and major problems.

The bottom half of the sheet was devoted to major problems.

Most of the top half was for the job duties.

There were lines for age, industry, and boss's title.

We had half an hour to do the exercise.

Remember, the point of the exercise was to understand the customer's issues. What are the problems the customer faces? Once you understand the customer problems, you can figure out if your product solves any of those problems.

The major point of the exercise was to get people to understand that you do not succeed in sales by listing all your product features - it is by understanding what your customer needs and by addressing those needs.

The first thing we were supposed to do was appoint a spokesperson for the group. One of the other women said, "CF likes to talk. She can be our spokesperson."

Ouch. I had actually been trying to keep my mouth shut. Apparently, I had not been successful.

So I tried very hard not to talk a lot during this exercise. I did not want to dominate or be considered bossy or overbearing. I bit my lip and said nothing.

But after five minutes of listening to people discuss just what industry should the VP be in - and what stage - startup? mature? - I had to speak.

Very carefully, I said, "I suspect that the problems that a VP of sales faces are pretty common across industries. They are all concerned about whether customers and prospects can reach them. They are all concerned about the CEO asking what sales are about to close and will they make plan this quarter. They are all concerned about knowing if there is anything in the pipeline."

A few heads nodded in agreement.

I continued. "Perhaps we don't really need to be that specific about the industry. Perhaps we can put down anything and just focus on brainstorming about the problems." I wanted to add, in all caps, "BECAUSE THAT IS THE POINT OF THIS EXERCISE!"

But I didn't. That would have been really rude.

Another person on the team said, "OK. How about manufacturing as the industry?"

Everyone agreed.

Then one person asked, "But manufacturing what?"

Lord have mercy.

Another person sighed. "Widgets. They are manufacturing widgets."

The Italian guy with the jaunty scarf and the graceful hand movements that accompanied every word that came out of his mouth asked, "What is wiz-EET?"

Friday, November 21, 2014

The working life with engineers: Having my cake and eating it too

Have I told you guys I have a new job? Well I do and oh man it is like night and day from the old job. Until you have worked with either a really bad boss or with a horrible CEO, you have no idea. I expect it's like people who have horrible in-laws but nobody believes the stories because their own in-laws are so nice. "Nobody has in-laws that get drunk every single day and call their own son a 'Bad Son!'" they chuckle. "That's not how people act."

But then your best friend, whom you have known for years and whose judgment you trust completely, tells you that her in-laws are crazy drunks and you have to re-think things.

Same thing with the job. If you have never had a bad boss or a bad CEO - and I don't mean just incompetent, I mean vindictive, mean, sarcastic, vicious - then you have no idea. None.

I didn't. Not until my most recent job. I have had moderately incompetent bosses before but they were always nice. They were always people whom I would be happy to have as next-door neighbors. They just were not good bosses. I would probably be a crummy boss. I hate dealing with people issues. I would be a good boss of good people, but I would be a crummy boss of bad people because I hate dealing with other people's incompetence.

So I had never had a truly bad boss until my most recent job and then I learned how awful work can be. I learned that you can dread going to work and that you spend every minute of free time looking for a new job and that you apply for over 100 jobs in a few months just to get three phone interviews, two in-person interviews, and, finally, one job offer.

It is hard work indeed to look for a job and I don't wish that task on anyone. Almost anyone. There are a few nasty people I have known who deserve that kind of stress, but only two or three. I won't name names because - well, because it doesn't seem like a good idea.

So I got a new job and I have been there a little while and can I tell you it is sooooo great. I mean, I don't take the bus to work any more and I hate that part. I hate driving and I especially hate driving after dark because glare gives me a headache.  I wonder what has happened with Goth Girl and Goth Boy. Did they find happy ever after? We will never know because I will probably never see them again.

And I don't like my new workspace. I used to have a window office overlooking the river downtown, but that was going to go away because the awful CEO had decided that people work better on open plan and he remodeled the offices so that nobody has a private office any more except him because of course a CEO cannot possibly work better in open plan. So even if I had stayed, I would now be in an awful workspace.

What I like the most about my new job is that I have a good boss whom I respect because he is not incompetent and I work with smart people. I work with almost all engineers who are, kind of by definition, smart.

They are smart and they are logical and there are no games and there is no drama.

They are smart and logical and when there is a potluck, they do it right.

There was a potluck last week. I took Julie's marzipan polenta cake, which is one of the few non-chocolate desserts SH doesn't heave deep, disappointed sighs about. It is delicious. He wanted to cut a slice of it before I took it to work.

I was appalled. "I can't take a partial cake to a work potluck!" I said.

"But why not?" he asked. "You'll bring some home to me if there are leftovers, right?"

"Yes," I admitted.

"This is just making sure there are leftovers."

I shook my head. "It's tacky."

He disagreed, so I put the question to facebook and of course everyone agreed with me.

Well. I went back and checked. Two of my friends agreed; a third said, "Aren't the coworkers engineers? They'd appreciate the efficiency of polenta cake separation."

I took the whole cake to the potluck, as was proper. But I was curious to get an engineer's perspective on the question - a disinterested engineer. So I asked. I asked several engineers. What would they have thought about an incomplete cake at a potluck?

They all shrugged. They all wanted to know why it would have been a big deal. An incomplete cake would not have bothered them, they said.

And then one of the few female engineers said, "I would rather keep my husband happy than keep my co-workers happy."