Friday, February 28, 2014

Wisconsin 101: We are polite even to bad singers

SH prevailed upon me to go out. Actually, it was because my friend Lenore was visiting and SH was so appalled that I had not planned something to entertain her on Friday night, even though Lenore and I have been friends for 25 years and we are cool. She knows I don't like to stay up late and she does like to stay up late so when we are together, she always has a book.

But Lenore was visiting and SH thought I should be a Good Host and that Lenore and I should join him at karaoke. Lenore had never heard SH sing and SH promised we would not stay out too late, so away we went.

There was almost nobody in the bar, which is the kind of bar I like, if there is a kind of bar I like. I don't like crowds. I don't like a lot of noise. I like peace and quiet and solitude.

SH is always torn when the crowd is small - it means he can sing more frequently, but it also means the audience is smaller.

I looked at the handful of people there and thought, Well heck, I could sing. There are only a few people to hear me sound bad.

I like to sing. Who doesn't like to sing? It's fun. One of the things about SH's sometime church that I like is that occasionally, they will have a hymn sing for 15 minutes before church starts and people just call out favorites and we all sing them. Lutherans have better music than Catholics and they sing more of it.

Anyhow. The first singer sang. He was fabulous. Then the woman running the show sang. Also fabulous. Then SH sang. Fab, as usual.

Then I sang.

Guess what?

I was not fabulous.

I was horrible.

I had not sung in a long time, not that that's the reason I wasn't fabulous. It's because I am not a very good singer. And I started with something that is hard to sing. I am not Linda Ronstadt.

What I should have done after the first 40 seconds was just draw my finger across my throat. Tell the KJ to kill it. Not inflict pain on the others.

But I didn't. Instead, I panicked. I tried to stick with it. I felt my face getting redder and redder as my humiliation deepened and my singing worsened. There was no convenient earthquake. No fire alarm. Nothing to rescue me.

The song finished.

People clapped. It was the Clap of Blessherheart. It was the Clap of Thankgoodnessthatsover. It was the Clap of Death, the Clap of Polite People Who Have Been Drinking. I smiled weakly and returned to my seat. Next time, I will stay at home and go to bed.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Marriage 601, Lecture 761: Better to light a single candle

SH: Uh oh. I left the upstairs door open.

This is bad because Laverne can spot an open door - even one that looks closed but is not latched - in about 1.2 seconds. She will get there in another second, open the door, and be up in the Interdit! spreading her cat fur and dander in the what is supposed to be the allergy- and pet-mess-free zone before SH can even turn around.

We have had the cats for five years now. Five years and yet SH consistently forgets to close the door behind him. And every time Laverne gets upstairs - because there is almost nothing a cat likes better than doing something she is not supposed to do - he gets mad at her, even though I point out that Laverne is not the one who left the door open and she should not be blamed for doing what a cat does.

Me: And you left the light on in the bathroom. Light in the bathroom leaver-on-er.

SH: I use that back light.

We have two light switches in our bathroom. One is for the four bulbs over the mirror and the other is for the bulb over the toilet. I don't need light to use the toilet but I do need it to brush my teeth, so I always use the mirror lights.

Me: Yes, I have noticed that.

SH: It's because---

Me: I don't care why.

SH: But--

Me: Really. I don't care.

SH: But I use the one in the back instead of the one over the sink unless I need the one over the sink.

Me: Don't care.

SH: But you should do the same!

Me: Don't care. I don't want to hear some big treatise on why I should use one light over the other.

SH: But the ones over the sink are 150 watts and the one in the back is only 14 watts!

Me: I still don't care.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The working life: Stuck with the Big Kahuna in the elevator, then and now

Years ago, when I was working for Big Paper Company, I accidentally wandered into the elevator that was also holding the CEO and his aide de camp, both of whom worked out of the company's New York office, an office that held about 17 employees who couldn't bear the thought of living in Memphis with the hoi polloi. No, New York is where they'd rather stay.

It was the three of us. I couldn't walk out again - that would look too weird. So I stood as far from the both of them as I could - have you noticed how people automatically, almost unconsciously, optimize the space between them in an enclosed area like an elevator? Is this culture specific? Are there cultures where people will stand close to a stranger when there is room to be far away?

When I was in Chile, I used to go to the movies almost every Sunday afternoon, unless they were showing The Lion King, which they did one year for nine straight weeks. The theater was almost always near empty, as most Chileans spent their Sunday afternoons eating a long leisurely lunch together. But there would be a few of us at the movies and invariably, people would sit clustered together. Not people at the movies together, but random strangers would walk in, see someone sitting in spot x and think, "Look! Someone is sitting in spot x! That must be a good place to sit. I shall join that person."

I often had to move because people would come sit right by me. I later found that there was the additional factor - in addition to a desire to cluster - that a woman alone at the movies was surely looking for a man and I was almost wearing a neon sign that said, "American woman! Will sleep with anyone!"

So I was in the elevator with the CEO and the ADC, scared to death to say anything. I could derail my career - such as it was - with one stupid comment. So I pressed my lips together and looked at the floor. That, surely, impressed the CEO.

The elevator stopped at 4. I moved to disembark but the ADC almost knocked me over on his way out. My jaw dropped - this was the south. In the south, men let women get off the elevator first. Yes, yes, yes, I know we were at work and the men/women rules shouldn't apply, but the reality was that they did. Plus I was closer to the door than the ADC was, so just logic should have let me leave first.

The CEO saw my shocked expression (perhaps the same one I had yesterday when a friend said that her parents had told her she would have to get her cat declawed before the cat could go into the parents' house). I tried to recover but really, it takes more than a second or two to recover from the shock of being run over by a 6'2" man.

He said nothing, but he held the elevator door with one hand and gestured for me to precede him out with the other.

The CEO was from the south. I hope he explained courtesy to the ADC.

Now. More than ten years later. I arrive to work, just left the bus. Wearing my winter coat and my sweatpants over fleece-lined tights. No makeup yet because I put it on at work. I don't put it on before I leave home because 1. my eyes are always too puffy that early out of bed and 2. the cold always makes my eyes water and that washes everything right off.

I do not look glamorous. I don't care. I don't have a "career" any more. Right now, I just want a job so SH and I can afford a new roof and our property taxes.

The new chairman of the board is waiting for the elevator. He has arrived from out of state for a board meeting. We get on the elevator. I say, "Hey Bob! How ya doing? What floor do you need?"

Then I scan my card and hit his floor and we chat.

And I don't care.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Marriage 601, Lecture 796: A ribbon for 11th place - do they really give those?

On a Saturday, which is my usual chore day, although I will sometimes clean the tub before I go to work if I wake up early and can't fall back to sleep. I'd rather be sleeping, of course, but if I know I am not going to sleep again, I figure I might as well be productive.

This is one of the key differences between SH and me: he would never rather be productive. Sometimes maybe he is right - sometimes lying in bed doing nothing is better than cleaning the tub. But sometimes, it would be good to get rid of all those boxes in the basement or to do the taxes or to shovel. Sometimes, there is no harm in not waiting until the last minute. There is no shame in completing a project before the deadline.

So. Saturday evening. I, as usual, have done several loads of laundry. Planned the menu for the week and done the grocery shopping. I have also gone to body pump at the gym, which I suppose technically does not count as a chore but as an indulgence, although the older I get, the more I realize that exercising is not so much about achieving bodily perfection (seeing the People magazine cover shot of Christie Brinkley at 60 in her swimsuit did not give me any hope) as it is about maintaining the ability to get up if I fall, so from that perspective, it is a required activity, ie, a chore. I had also gone to the library - not a chore - and to the bakery to get SH his brownie. Not a chore but not for my pleasure. I had also shoveled. But I had not done as much housework as I usually do.

SH came into the bedroom to find me reading.

SH: You're lazy!

Me: I am not.

SH: I've been working all day.

Me: Whatever.

SH: I did so much work that I should be patted on the back repeatedly!

Now we go into the eye rolling, as women all over the world hear or intuit similar feelings from their male partners and think, "I clean the toilet and wash the sheets and cook the food and take out the trash and dust all the time and nobody ever pats me on the back! I do it because it needs to be done!"

Me: What did you do?

SH: I vacuumed and washed dishes and took clothes out of the dryer. [Clothes I had washed. The third load of clothes I had washed. I asked him to put the wet clothes in the dryer while I was gone. I had already washed, dried, and folded two loads.]

Me: You did regular chores.

SH: But I didn't used to have to do them! You used to do everything!

Me: Yes, but then you made me get a job.

SH: Now I have to work and do chores.

Me: Oh that's awful.

He comes closer to me and sees I am writing.

SH: What are you writing? What's that? Hey! I did more than that! I also scooped the cat box and refilled the cat food! It's not like I did just one or two things! I did a whole list of things!

Me: You have a very hard life.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Marriage 601, Lecture 976: Gratitude and avoidance

SH: You're not even thanking me for doing the dishes.

Me: That's because you're not doing them as a favor to me.

SH: Yes I am!

Me: No you're not. You're doing them because you don't like how I do dishes.

SH: OK. That's part of it.

Me: I told you so.

SH: And because you do all the cooking and I feel like I should participate. You're a good cook and you cook good food for me.

Me: Thank you.

SH: And I can't relax with all this mess. ["All this mess" includes one tupperware that had roasted butternut squash in it and the 8-quart pot I used to make black-eyed peas. And the wooden spoon. Four items. "All this mess."]

Me: Yeah. And because you don't want to pack for your work trip.

SH: But you could still thank me.

Me: Fine. Thank you.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Marriage 601, Lecture 786: My friends know me better than SH does

SH: What are you and Lenore going to do tonight?

Me: I don't know.

SH: You haven't planned anything? You didn't get a movie? Nothing?

Me: No.

SH: But what will you do after we are done eating?

Me: I want to go to bed. I haven't slept well all week.

SH: You can't just abandon your friend! She's a late-night person!

Me: She's known me for 28 years. She knows to bring a book.

Later.

SH: CF never wants to go out. I don't know what you guys are going to do tonight.

Lenore: I know. I brought a book.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Wisconsin 101: Throwing a coat over a puddle


So I was waiting for the bus and it was cold - cold cold, not regular Wisconsin cold. This happened in early January at the beginning of the polar vortex, when we had a few days of 20 below and lots of people stayed home from work and the schools closed and then it got warmer and we all thought, Whew! I'm glad that's over! Now we can get on with things -

Only the cold has continued and now it is normal for it to be 20 below and we are all cranky but what can you do? It's ultra cold and you wear all of your clothes at once and you Deal With It because this is the midwest and for all our bad hair and bad fashion, our faults do not include whining.

Our faults probably include the tendency to invade, as there are a lot of Germans here, but really, we don't want Illinois blessitsheart and Michigan gets more snow than we do and although I personally love Iowa after living in Cedar Rapids for six months, I don't see much there besides cornfields. And Minnesota? I prefer the Packers to the Vikings. So it's not because we have great self control to keep ourselves from rolling over Belgium, it's just that there's nothing else we want from the other states.

Where was I?

Oh. It's so darn cold. And snowy. The rule should be you have one or the other, but not both. And technically, that is how it's been. It's either been bloody cold or it's been snowing. The weather has been kind enough to alternate to give us the worst of both worlds.


Serving Suggestion: Bloody Cold (PHOTO)





So I have to wait outside for the bus as the wind whips through the Milwaukee version of skyscrapers -

I helped a Chinese kid find his bus last summer. As we walked up Water Street, he gazed in awe at a ten-story building. "Is that a skyscraper?" he asked. (He must have been from rural China.)

I told him that for here, yes, it was.

 -- I have to wait in the cold and the wind for the bus. On this day, it was cold and it was snowing and the sidewalk was already full of snow and the curb was piled high with slushy snow.

I finally spent the money to get decent snow boots this year. Last year, I used the slip-on snow boots that I got at Goodwill for five dollars. I knew I needed better boots, if for no other reason than to have better traction on the ice - you know we have a Driveway of Death -  but also to keep my feet warm. I had seen some North Face boots I really liked, but they are made in China.

And you guys know we do our best to avoid Made in China because we don't want Made by Political Prisoners Whose Organs Are Harvested By An Oppressive Regime That Denies People Their Human Rights.

But we do have a clause b452 that Made in China is Ok if it is secondhand, as that means the money stays in our community. Plus it is very hard to find items not made in China. And even Made in Vietnam is not much better. They are a lot of sweatshops and bad worker conditions. I know these factory jobs are a step up for many people - but we already went through an Industrial Revolution here with child labor and women getting mouth cancer from holding radioactive materials in their mouths as they painted watchfaces and we know these things are bad. Do we need to re-do them in the third world? Can't we skip to decent working conditions for everyone? I am not even a hardcore activist on any of this, but I don't see why it's necessary for Apple to wake employees up at midnight to make iPhones. Can't we wait an extra eight hours for our phones?

Political rant over. You guys know I try to avoid politics here. This is generally a politics-free zone.

Back to boots. I found the boots on eBay, barely used. So now I have warm boots. And I have my sweatpants. And my fleece-lined tights. But I was still cold. And I did not want to walk through the slush to get on the bus. Even though the whole point of snow boots is that you can walk in the snow and the slush, I don't want to get them slushy and salty and nasty unless I can't get around it.

I was waiting for the bus, looking with dismay at the pile of slush I would have to traverse to board the  bus. There was a man standing next to me, talking on the phone. As the bus approached, he looked at me, looked at the snow, then walked over to the snow and kicked me a path to the bus. He never stopped talking on the phone and when the bus arrived, he didn't even get on it.

He just kicked me a path to be nice.

Because sometimes, that's how out of fashion, bad-haired Midwesterners roll.


Photo: http://www.thedailyblender.net/2011/09/serving-suggestion-bloody-cold-photo.html

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wisconsin 101: A poet on every bus

Last night, on my ride home, I sat in the Good Seat, which I almost always get on the way home because I am at stop #2 but don't always get on the way in because I am stop #million. The Good Seat is the one where the sun does not come into my eyes and the vent is not blowing air into my face. It took me a while to find the exact right spot on the bus, kind of like it took a while to find the perfect spot at the gym. (Away from the fans, as far as possible from the guy who goes "Wooo!")

I sat in the Good Seat and read my book (The Daughters of Mars). A man got on the bus and sat on the seat perpendicular to me about five feet away. He was in his mid 30s. A bit heavy. Bagging jeans, a windbreaker, a lanyard around his neck holding an employee ID, a dark blue backpack, a baseball hat embroidered with "Duke."

In his hands, he held a sheaf of white paper. (If I were English, I would call it "A4" paper. I have never seen an American writer refer to paper in such a way.)

I noticed he kept glancing at me and my book.

I didn't mind. I always want to know what other people are reading. Maybe it's something good that I want to read. I am always looking over shoulders to check titles.

Occasionally, he caught my eye. I smiled and returned to my book.

After about 15 minutes of this, he spoke.

"Miss," he said. "Would you read this?" He removed one of the papers from the sheaf and held it to me.

I raised my eyebrows. What was this? I thought I had seen everything on the bus - although I have not seen someone urinate on himself, as Gaylin has.

I took the paper. I read it.

It was a poem. A poem about a man who wants to be his woman's knight in shining armor - to slay a dragon for her - and to make her his queen.

I handed it back to him. "I think any woman would be very happy to get this," I said. "Isn't that what most women are looking for? A man who will treat them like a queen? Who will slay a dragon? Or at least get that drain unplugged?"

He smiled and nodded.

He handed me another one. This one was dark - about loss and heartbreak and abuse and anger.

I looked at him again. Dressed slightly gangster and a poet.

A tinkling in the distance. Was something breaking?

"Are you a reader?" I asked.

No, he told me. He got his ideas from real life. "I've been writing since I was 14," he said. "I write what I feel. I have to get the feelings out."

"But are there any poets you like to read?" I asked.

"Maya Angelou is my favorite," he said.

In the distance, as we spoke about poetry and poets on the 4:14 #57, I heard another stereotype shatter.

I don't know why he chose me. I don't know what it was about me that made him trust me to read his poems. But it made my day.





Monday, February 10, 2014

The working life: The clothes wouldn't have fit

On Monday, it wasn't until I got to work and saw myself in a full-length mirror that I realized that my dress had shrunk.

I thought I had just gained weight. I knew I was three pounds heavier than last year when I rocked the dress, which is a very form-fitting pink wool dress with long sleeves. Do you know how hard it is to find a dress with long sleeves? Even in the winter? In Wisconsin? It's very hard. Part of it is designers and part of it is the cheap you know whats who don't want to put an extra two yards of fabric in the dress.

People. I will pay for sleeves. I need them. 1. I don't want to flash my armpits to everyone at work and 2. I am cold. I live in the frozen north. I need sleeves.

So I knew the dress was a little more snug than I remembered but then I tried it on for SH and he said, Well you have some tummy and I said That's not going to change so I don't care. I asked how it was across the butt and he said it was Just fine and I forgot that he is far more appreciative of an abundant behind than I am and that his standards might not be office standards.

We do not have a full-length mirror in our house. If I want to see how something looks below the waist, I have to climb on a chair in the guest room and stand in front of the desk mirror, which lets me see from the waist to the knees. I didn't bother with this dress because I didn't suspect it had gotten shorter.

When I got to work, I looked at myself in the mirror in the bathroom and realized that the dress was a lot shorter than last year. 1. It felt shorter - definitely shorter than I usually wear and 2. The lining was visible beneath the hem.

RULE OF LIFE #1:

Wool dresses must be dry cleaned. They cannot be washed in the machine, even on cold, even on delicate. NO MACHINES FOR WOOL DRESSES

(or silk dresses)

This is what false economy gets you. You think, "I don't need to pay for dry cleaning. I can wash that by hand."

But you can't. Or maybe by hand in the sink, but not in the machine. A friend pointed out that wool does not like to be agitated.

Does anything or anyone like to be agitated? I don't. I like calm and I need to remember that wool and silk like calm. They don't want to be twisted and torn.

Off to Goodwill with the too-short dress, even though two women at the Y assured me that it wasn't too short. "But don't the rules change when you turn 50?" I asked.

No, they assured me, it's not too short.

Then incident #2. The retro dress that is so fitted I cannot zip it myself and must rely on the kindness of strangers at the gym to help.

It was a very cold day. (Do I even need to say that? It's been the coldest winter in three decades here - we have gone days without getting above zero.) I have discovered fleece-lined tights. I put those on, put on the dress, zipped it almost all the way (SH was still asleep - I would have someone at work zip it all the way), then pulled on my sweatpants because even though fleece-lined tights are better than regular tights, they are still not warm enough for walking to and waiting for the bus in below-zero weather. With wind.

I walked to the bus. Waited. It arrived. I stepped over the snowbank and up onto the bus - a long stride, that, and heard something. Felt something. Thought, "That was probably nothing."

Then I got to work. Took off my coat. Took off my snow boots. Took off the sweatpants. Felt something.

The slit at the back of the dress was ripped up to Dallas.

I asked a co-worker for confirmation. Oh yes, she said. It's ripped. "It's a good thing you don't have a big butt or else that rip would be a real problem. Imagine how that would look on me!" She ran her hand over her posterior.


"Today I rip my dress. Yesterday, I wore a dress that was too short."

"That red one?" my co-worker asked.

"Yes," I said.

She nodded. "Yes, that was short."

The ladies at the Y lied to me. The dress was too short.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Call for fashion advice

Photo: Fashion equivalent of tape around the glasses.

You guys, I need your help. I read your blogs (when I know about them - if you have a blog and you don't think I have visited, please tell me about it in the comments) and many of you are style bloggers with great taste.

I want to know the really nice purse brands. Not the blingy brands, not the brands everyone might recognize, not the super logo-d brands. The nice brands with exquisite workmanship where the handle is not going to pull out of the body every time I catch the purse in the door as I am trying to get inside from the cold and I am twice as big as normal because of my down coat and I have my purse and my gym bag slung over my shoulder and I can't put either of them down because the ground is covered in snow and ice and salt.

I have already taken this purse to the leather lady once for repair. Then the next strap pulled out. I didn't feel like traipsing down to the Village on Saturday morning, trying to find parking, tiptoeing delicately on the ice-covered sidewalks, and waiting again for another repair. So I used superglue, and now, three weeks later, it is still holding.

But much to my disappointment, the rest of the purse, which is Cole Haan, is not doing well. They cheaped out and used very thin leather on the piping and now that leather has worn out on the corners. For shame, Cole Haan. I even got this purse because I really liked my orange Cole Haan purse, but now the bloom is off the rose and this brand is dead to me.

Some of you may know my purse history. SH and my sister bid against each other on eBay to get me a purse I really wanted. Jenny was mad at SH because he ran the price up $35. They were both mad at me because they were both trying to get me the purse and I had told each of them I had wanted the purse. My defense was I had no idea no any expectation that either of them would spend $200 on a Christmas present for me.

I used to buy nice purses before I met SH and I had a nice job with nice money. (I miss nice money.)(But I feel very fortunate to have a job at all.) I would spend $500 on a purse, but then I would use it for years and years. The same purse, every day. Some women change purses with each outfit, but I am way too lazy for that.

I don't mind spending money if I will get value from it. I have never seen the point of spending more than $20 on a white t-shirt. It doesn't matter who you are, that t-shirt is going to be stained and then you will throw it in the rag bag. I don't want expensive rags.

But spend the money on a nice purse or a nice trash can and it will make your everyday life much better. Good shoes, too. Spend the money for good shoes or you will rue the day.

So. I have been on eBay and looked at purses there, but I don't know the high-end brands and the ones I do know are not on eBay. I might be willing to spend the money on the Right Purse (creek don't rise and I get this job I interviewed for last week), but I need to know what that is.

Here are my specs:

1. Not made in China (which is hard to know, I know)
2. Leather
3. Something of this level of quality: Libby Lane or Lotuff or Mulberry.

What other brands do you recommend? And no, even though the Mulberry bags are gorgeous, I am not going to spend more on a purse than I paid for my first car. But I will look for a gently used one on eBay.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Marriage 601, Lecture 982: For the want of a nail

Me: I want to go to that concert at the Domes.

SH: But I don't feel like it. I'm despondent.

Me: I don't care. We've been talking about this for three weeks.

SH: But I can't.

Me: Why?

SH: I'll have to take a shower.

Me: Uh huh.

SH: And shave.

Me: Yes.

SH: And get dressed.

Me: Something that most people manage to do every single day.

SH: And then we have to pay to get in.

Me: Six dollars a person.

SH: And then there's beer.

Me: Wait. Are you citing the cost of beer as a reason not to do something?

SH: Yes.

Me: But --

SH: I can't go and not drink a beer.

Me: I wouldn't expect you to.

SH: So that's like twenty dollars!

Me: I think we can afford it.

Later, at the show, a little girl comes up to SH, tugs his pants, and asks, "Are you my daddy?"

My jaw drops. I start to snap, "Of course he isn't!" but then I think, Well, maybe he is. You never know.

Then I think, You jerk! How could you?

Then I think, But she's a cute girl.

Then I think, Wait! This has to be a joke!

SH's friend Pam, whom I have met only a few times, approaches, laughing. "Good job, sweetie!" she said as she patted her daughter's head.

"You had me worried!" I say.

Pam laughs again. Then she buys SH a beer. I tell her that he was complaining about not wanting to come and had cited the expense of beer as a reason. She slaps his shoulder and says, "You can't even use that excuse now."

The end.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

The Working Life: Someone stole my cheese

What is the situation with the refrigerator where you work? Are there rules about how long something can stay in the fridge? Does the food have to be labeled? Or is your break room fridge a stinking mess of old pizza boxes and mystery meat?

Ours is pretty decent. Every few months, someone will post a notice that on Friday, everything will be tossed. It's never an issue for me because I do not Abandon Food. I have never abandoned food in my entire life. Along with "She never let a vacation day go unused," they will probably put, "Never let food go to waste" on my tombstone. Whoever "they" is. I will undoubtedly outlive SH, which will be my only chance to move someplace warm - after he is dead - and we don't have kids, so who will put up my tombstone? I guess I don't care. I will be dead.

So we have a decent fridge at work. If I ever put anything in it, I label it. I write my name on my diet Dr Pepper. One time, a bottle of it disappeared, so the next time, I left a post-it on the bottle that said, "I have ebola." The diet Dr Pepper theft stopped.

The only other item I put in the fridge is coffee. Not the really crummy coffee you get from the break room machine - this is the only place I have ever worked that did not have free coffee and all the years I worked at the free coffee places, I did not drink coffee, so it was all wasted - but the Good Coffee that I buy at the Good Coffee place where coffee is a ritual and the clerks know the names of everyone who shops there and you wait for your Good Coffee surrounded by other people who have taken a quick break from work to buy coffee and you are content in your coffee solidarity because even though you wait for milk to go on sale for two dollars a gallon, you will pay three dollars for coffee and feel like you are special.

Well, maybe not special. Maybe a little dumb. But there is an arbitrage opportunity for milk and there is not for coffee so one does what one must.

I buy the Good Coffee and I get the medium sized cup, which costs $3.50. It has the right coffee-milk ratio - for all three sizes of lattes, they use two shots and I have finally figured out that the large coffee has the wrong proportions. So the best value for the flavor I want is the medium size, of which I drink half and save half for the next day.

I am thrifty that way.

Even though day-old coffee is not as good as fresh coffee.

But if I spent three dollars a day on coffee, that would be $60 a month which is $720 a year and now you are talking serious cash.

So I get coffee maybe once a week - usually with my buds from Brazil and Puerto Rico - and I drink it over two days.

So. Coffee. In fridge. With my name on it.

Day 2 after Good Coffee purchase. I make my weary way to the breakroom, open the fridge, and discover the coffee is gone. Gone, gone, gone.

I close the door and open it again because sometimes, denying reality can change it.

Still no coffee.

I close the fridge again, consider opening it again, realize that won't change anything.

So I stomp back to my office area, seeking someone to share my pain.

"My coffee is gone!" I tell M, the admin. "It was there yesterday!"

She tells me that she has seen Tammy, who works across the hall, throw coffee away before. "I was in the break room. Tammy opened the fridge, looked in, looked at someone's coffee, and said, 'That's been in here a while,' and threw it away."

I gasp. "In front of you?" I ask. "She didn't even try to hide it?"

M shakes her head.

"Cindy said someone threw away her coffee once. She thought someone might have stolen it, which is crazy, but throwing away someone else's coffee is just as crazy."

M says, "I don't know that she threw yours away. I just know I have seen her do it."

How do you confront someone you think might have thrown away your coffee? How do you do that when all you have is one tiny piece of circumstantial evidence - although it might reveal a pattern of behavior? What do you do when this person is a really nice person otherwise?

I took the passive aggressive route, which is my favorite. I wrote a stern note and put it on the fridge. "Please do not discard items that do not belong to you!" it said. "Signed, Someone whose coffee was thrown away even though it was only one day old."

The sign disappeared the next day, but I have not had any more coffee incidents.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

By Invitation Only

I have been invited to join this group by Splenderosa and by my blog (and someday, I hope, in person) friend Tish Jett at A Femme. Below is the little explanation she wrote on her January post. She explains it beautifully, so the only thing I will add is that the February topic is "What is challenging to you?"

 It's the first Tuesday of the month which is the day the international members of By Invitation Only come together to discuss the same subject. Each of us takes our "assignment" -- this month it's "Changes, Moving Forward" -- and expresses her thoughts and feelings on the topic. So, welcome to our world and thank you for reading us.

I feel so flattered to be invited because I am never sure a group wants me. When I was a kid, I was horrible at sports.

Me, being Not Cool.
 Wait. I still am. It's just that now, I don't let me lack of coordination stop me from playing tennis. I just want to have fun and because my main idea of fun is eating, my second main idea of fun has to be exercising. Even with that, tennis is fun, even if you are a crummy player like me who can't play when the sun is too bright or else I get a headache, but I can't play when it's dark and we're under lights because the glare of the lights gives me a headache. A slightly overcast day - that's the perfect time for me to play tennis.

Now I am getting depressed thinking about tennis because the courts are covered with snow and it's grim and cold and icy out there and tennis is so far away I can't even imagine it.

Where was I?

So I was horrible at sports, which meant I was always the last one picked for any team. The one time I actually hit a baseball, I hit it late and smashed it into my mouth. I didn't even have my friends picking me because they felt sorry for me - I was always the new kid in school, which meant I didn't have a lot of friends.

Which brings me back to never being sure that a group wants me. When you move ten times before you finish high school and you are a bookish, slightly chubby kid with glasses who straps her violin to the handlebars of her bike to ride to school, you are not one of the Cool Girls.

You are Out. You are Not Cool.

Which is why I am so flattered to be invited to join this group. The Cool Girls! They want me in the club!

And they want me to talk about what is challenging to me.

That's simple. I have never been cool and I have never been able to figure out how to be cool. I never know the right thing to say to impress people. In seventh grade, I gave Brenda S an unnecessary review of her haircut - "I liked your hair better the other way," I offered. Wrong thing to say. I thought I was complimenting her, but after someone has had hair removed from her head with scissors, an opinion that the old way was better is not welcome.

I don't know the right thing to do. Again in seventh grade, we had to choreograph a dance routine to a song of our choice. The only thing that saved me from being the biggest goofball in the class with my awkward jumping around to Neil Diamond was that blessherheart Nancy H. had done her routine to Lawrence Welk.

NB to anyone who might think that Neil might hold some hipster street cred today. In 1975, Neil Diamond was Not Cool.

I have never known the right thing to wear. Back to seventh grade as my touchstone.

Let me interrupt here to say that as seventh grade goes, so goes the nation. Yes, seventh grade was a while ago, but is there not inside all of us a seventh grader in dorky glasses? Or maybe you were a cool seventh grader with windowpane jeans, a Farrah Fawcett cut, and a wraparound sweater. If you were, you were not seen with the likes of me. I was the kid in the bright orange doubleknit polyester pants with the elastic waist that my mom had made for me. Don't laugh - she got a great deal on that fabric, along with several other colors, and I Would Not Shop. She couldn't let me go to school naked, so she made pants for me.

Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us was the fact that the orange polyester, despite being a thick fabric, was see-through. So my waist-high flowered cotton undies, which were nothing like the silky matched bra and panties that Elaine M wore --

I had loved the name Elaine until I met Bra Elaine. She was very snooty, just like Jennifer B in fifth grade who had her aviator glasses and her yellow and white checked polyester outfit. I had wanted Elaine to be my confirmation name. But she ruined it for me. And I just looked up Saint Elaine and guess what! There isn't one! So I couldn't have even had that name anyhow!

-- my waist-high flowered cotton undies were perfectly visible through my orange pants.

I was not cool.

I am still not cool. I wear fleece-lined tights to work. Over the tights, I wear sweatpants. Sometimes I think my outfit rocks (without the sweats) and then I see myself in the full-length mirror at work and I wince.

My husband and I went to an Englebert Humperdink concert. Not a cool thing to do. (But the man can sing! You should go!)

I am better about saying the Right Thing. Wait. No, I am not. I do not know the Right Thing to say so much, but I know the Wrong Thing and I am usually able to keep it in my head and out of my mouth, although sometimes those words escape and hang around my head as I try desperately to call them back but by then it is too late. Now that I am under pressure, I cannot think of a single example. I will think of one tonight just as my feet are finally warm and I am about to fall asleep and there is no way I am getting out of bed under those conditions, so you will just have to use your imagination.

So it's a challenge for me to be cool - and it will continue to be a challenge. Should I just accept my not-coolness?






Monday, February 03, 2014

Marriage 601, Lecture 87: Easier to get a new cat than a new husband

SH: But if you didn't have me around, you wouldn't have a whiner.

Me: Yes I would. I have Laverne.

SH: But she's not going to live forever.

Me: Neither are you.