Friday, May 29, 2015

Marriage 701, Lecture 621: Because he is an engineer and they stick to the facts, even when some slight misdirection might not be such a bad thing

SH has been out of town. He was in Georgia and came home with peaches.

Me: You brought me peaches?! Thank you, sweetie! These smell wonderful!

SH: And okra. I also got okra. There was a farm stand so I stopped.

Me: You brought me peaches. :)

SH: Well, I stopped because the sign said they had okra.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Marriage 701, Lecture 125: I do windows, but only because I care about having clean windows. I do not care if SH has ironed shirts.

SH: Hey! Are you ironing?

Me: Yes.

SH: Why?

Me: Because I have something that is wrinkled.

SH: You don't like ironing.

Me: Nope.

SH: Want to iron some shirts for me?

Me: Nope.

SH: But my birthday is coming up!

Me: I already bought you a present.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Marriage 701, Lecture 231: The great hoarder dilemma

Things I have thrown away while SH is gone:

1. All the twist ties in the junk drawer. About five years' worth. We never re-use twist ties. I hardly even use them to reseal the original bag. It is just more clutter in my house. Even though SH straightens each twist tie lovingly and lays them all next to each other at the bottom of the front bin of the junk drawer, there is no reason to keep them.

2. The envelopes the bills came in.

3. A vase I got in Mexico that broke for the third time about two years ago and that I could not repair because some of the critical pieces pulverized and I tried to throw it away only SH said NO!!!! He would FIX IT and it remained on the stairs since then, driving me slowly insane. It cannot be repaired. I threw it away. Someday, I will return to Dolores de Hidalgo and get another vase painted with a calla lily. Someday.

4. All the little mustards and soy sauces that come with take-out food. We get takeout maybe once every other month? And yet we have accumulated a bunch of these. Why? I keep thinking I will use them - I do hate to waste food - but then I always forget. Gone.

5. Related to the little condiments - the plastic utensils that come with takeout, even though we try to remember to tell them NO UNTENSILS! I really hate throwing those away - so, so wasteful. Maybe I should take them to work and leave them in the cafeteria instead. That's what I'll do.

Things I have wanted to throw away (or donate to charity) while SH is gone but he would figure it out and get upset:

1. The old bills. Seriously. The old bills. How long do you guys keep bills? I keep them for a year. After the new year, I have a ceremonial purging of the files in which I shred all but the most recent of any bill. (NB: Taxes and investment documents are kept forever in three-ring binders. I want proof of my money.) SH wants to keep all credit card bills forever. No I do not know why. All the bills except for the 2015 bills are stuffed in a plastic bag in the basement. They will be one of the first things to go if SH dies suddenly.

2. The extra vacuum cleaner. SH bought a fancy new vacuum cleaner that excites him. If it helps him vacuum more often, that is fine. But now we have four. Four vacuum cleaners. SH had two when we married, then he bought a shop vac the first time our basement flooded, only the shop vac has not been that useful. Then he got tired of his old vacuum cleaner - it is not too effective on cat hair - and bought a new one. We do not need more vacuum cleaners than people in this house, I do not think.

3. All small electronics that no longer work. SH bought me a labeler a few years ago, but it stopped working. I did some googling and found no way to repair. I was ready to put it in the Goodwill box but SH said he would fix it. That was three years ago. I do not care if he fixes it. He probably could, but it would be an all-day project and I have already developed an alternative labeling system for my freezer goods: Scotch tape and a felt-tip pen. Easy. If SH is going to spend all day on a project, I would rather he paint the exterior window trim.

4. The eight unopened little water bottles stacked precariously in his office. He collects them when he flies.

5. All the old magazines SH either has or has not read. Not only did SH move magazines from his apartment into the house - they are in the attic and have been untouched since we moved in, he is now bringing old (1981 Life magazine) magazines from his mom and dad's to our house. I want nothing from their house and I really do not want 35 year old magazines. Unless I can sell them. Which SH would be horrified to do.

I should clarify that SH and I were raised very differently. He almost never moved when he was a kid - I think they moved once - and my family moved every few years. There is nothing to keep you lean than frequent moves. My family does not accumulate junk. My family is not about hoarding. SH thinks that as long as you have room in your house and can still walk easily from space to space that there is nothing wrong with keeping things. He points out that he is not as bad as his parents and this is true.

I want to get rid of stuff on principle. If it's not something we need or use or will ever need or use, I don't want it.

(That includes no tchotchkes - nothing frivolous that does not serve a purpose and has to be dusted. Alas, SH's mother lives for tchotchkes and thinks there is no better gift than an expensive but tacky item that can be returned only for store credit at a store that sells nothing I would ever want. Ever. Bless her heart.)

6. The two cases of Lakefront Brewery souvenir tour glasses. "But what if we have a party someday?" he asks.

"So let's have a party."

"Not yet."

7. His employee manual from when he worked at Apple. He worked there when Apple was not profitable. He got rid of his stock because it looked like Apple would never be profitable again. You wonder what's on the other side of people who have gotten rich on tech stocks? Us. Ordinary people who had tech stocks but made no money on them.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Chats du jour

You guys, I cannot stop watching this kittie cam.

Marriage 701, Lecture 123: The blinds

SH: Hey! You're not doing it right!

Me: Now what?

SH: The blinds.

Me: What about the blinds and really this is the first thing you want to talk about after being gone for ten days?

SH: I noticed them when we drove up to the house. When you have the blinds from both windows open

Me: yeah?

SH: They should be even.

Me: What?

SH: They should be even. At the bottom.

Me: You want perfect symmetry in the blinds?

SH: That's the right way to do it.

Me: Oh good grief.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Marriage 701, Lecture 542: Who moved my cheese - its?

You guys know the junk food rules, right?

Once the box is opened, it doesn't count.

As in, you don't open an intact box of CheezIts, which is an item that was never in your house before you got married because you never even went into those aisles in the store. You just bound yourself to the mast and stuck to the perimeter.

My mom will always ask me, "Why don't you have just a little bit of that ice cream/cake/whatever and put the rest away?"

To which I reply, "I am so grateful for the many good qualities I inherited from you, but apparently, discipline in portion control did not make it into my DNA."

SH says the same thing: "You just need to put stuff on a plate and that's what you eat."

Says the man who has been known to try to hide empty Dill Pickle Flavored Pringles cans in the trash only honey, I know all those tricks, so don't be all Mr Portion Control with me.

SH might think he is wise in his food choices, but his trim physique is due almost completely to DNA. His mom is 5'9" and usually about 119 lbs, a fact she has told me more than once after asking me what I weigh.

More than she does.

On a shorter body.

She seems pleased.

I am all, Whatever. Genes, lady. Genes. There is only so much a person can do with the genetic lottery.

I know my genes and they are begging me to store up resources for the big famine that is surely around the corner, for the harsh winter to come, for sustenance after the Cossacks take all of our potatoes. Eat now, for you might never get to eat again.

I have to inform my genes that the danger of running out of food at my house is very low, as SH loves the whole buying in bulk concept and is a little bit dangerous every time he goes to Costco. As long as a person can survive on crackers and steel cut oatmeal and cheese and bacon, we are set.

Before SH, I fought my genes harder and never ate yummy things like CheezIts. Then I got married and suddenly, there were things in my house - ice cream, chips, CheezIts - that had never been in my house before.

The first rule of CheezIts is you don't talk about CheezIts. The second rule is you don't open a new box. If you open a new box, then you are admitting you are powerless over CheezIts and that you will be eating of the CheezIts.

(The same rule applies to jars of Nutella, which is why I have three unopened jars of Nutella in my basement. Stop giving me Nutella as a present - I cannot open a jar of Nutella. It's like stepping on a crack. It is Not Done.)

But SH left an opened box of CheezIts in the basement two weeks ago when he left for an emergency visit to his mom and dad's to take care of things that 1. never should have happened and 2. they should have been prepared to deal with. I am not going to discuss that stuff here because it makes me too angry. I consider myself lucky that my mom is not a black hole of disorganization and emotional neediness.

He left the CheezIts and I was working out with Shelly on Gymbox and she was taking too long to load her weights and I was a wee bit hungry and I was right there, in the basement. All I had to do was go into the laundry room and look on the pantry shelves and there it was - an opened box of CheezIts.

I worked out with Shelly four times while SH was gone.

([60 minute workout] + CheezIts) * 4 = empty box of CheezIts.

SH got home and found the empty box in the recycling.

He shook his head sadly. "CheezIt eater!" he accused.

I hung my head in shame.

"Are you going to - " he paused "open a new box?"

No. I am never the box opener. But once he opens the box, I am the box finisher. Once again, my genes win.

** Wait. I checked. I lie. I have opened the Nutella. I had forgotten. I had opened it when I took the jar to work for a potluck. Almost nobody took any. I remember every now and then that it is there, open, and stick my finger in it, although with as cold as it has been, a finger is not the optimal method of removing product. But the two-pound jar remains sealed.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Wisconsin 101: We are not late and we fight not to be early

Speaking of Germans, here's what it was like Saturday evening after my friend Danette and I finished our walk.

Danette, after I tell her the German story from work: You know there are a lot of Germans in Milwaukee.

Me: I know! I am one!

Danette: Me, too! But I fight it! I go into a festival and hear German music and it's like it is speaking to something deep in me. (She pulls her shoulders back and stands up straighter.)

Me: It makes you want to invade a small country!

Danette: Yes! That's why I have to fight it. Anyhow - they used to give a lot of tickets for jaywalking here.

Me: Jaywalking?

Danette: Because it's against the rules.

Me: Oh. Right.

Danette: You can't have people breaking the rules!

Me: No. You can't.

Danette: I have that tendency - I am a rule follower. I have to fight it. But it's hard!

Me: I know.

Danette: So I made myself wait until 6:30 to leave my house tonight.

Me: When it was 6:32 and you weren't here, I started to worry that something might be wrong.

Danette: I forced myself to sit down and read a paragraph of my book so I wouldn't be early.

Me: This is Wisconsin. People here show up early.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The working life with engineers: German engineers

So I don't want to be too negative here because 1. I do not think it is wise to complain about one's co-workers online unless you are deeply anonymous, 2. I really like everyone I work with, and 3. wait - there is no three.


There are certain truths universally acknowledged and one of them is that there are cultural differences between cultures and German culture and American culture are not the same.

Let me give you a non-work example. SH and I were in Munich, waiting to cross a road. We didn't have the light, but there was no traffic at all. So we thought independently and crossed anyhow.

As soon as we stepped off the curb, a little old German man started to scold us. I do not speak German, but I know exactly what he was saying - he was telling us WE WERE BREAKING THE RULES and YOU CANNOT BREAK THE RULES!

My conclusions?

1. Americans look at the rule, evaluate the situation, decide if applying the rule makes sense, and make a decision. Sometimes, the rule does not make sense, in which case the rule can be ignored.

2. Germans say, "But that's the rule!" If there is authority to which one should submit, one submits. One does not question.

That little analysis is based on my personal vacation experiences in Germany and DISCLAIMER HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH MY WORK SITUATION!


So I was a little frustrated with a situation with a 1. German 2. engineer.

(Read: "But this is the rule and this is the logic so this is the outcome!")

I stomped away from my desk, grabbing my wallet so I could get a diet Coke. There was nobody else in the hall - it was only about 7:30 (this is Wisconsin - we get up early here). My boss and co-workers had not arrived so I had nobody to vent to, not that I would vent too much, as this might veer into the realm of "gossip about co-workers to other co-workers, including bosses," which is not usually a good idea.

At work, I have discovered - for me - it is best to leave out super-personal conversations ("my in-laws are drunks," "does this dress make my butt look big?" - although in the ladies' room one day, with one of the few other women at work, I made some comment and she, a Serbian from Bosnia, reassured me, "Is OK! Men like big butts!") and gossip about co-workers or the company. That means no, "Can you believe those jerks in Accounts?" and no, "Man the CEO's secretary is a beeyotch!" (Neither of those is true. They are completely made-up examples.)

With men/engineers, it is probably best just to stick to the facts, ma'am.

But I had to vent.

I saw this guy - someone I have never seen before and have not met. He ended up right next to me, so I did the only thing I could do, which was turn to him and say, "GERMANS!!!!!!!!"

"What?" he said.

"Germans! Honestly! Now I understand how they could start and almost win but then lose two world wars. They are so stubborn and they will persist but they have no imagination for when conditions change!"

He laughed and put his arm around my shoulder. "Be careful! My last name is [something super German that I don't remember, not that I would write it here anyhow]."

"Oh, my last name is [also German]. But I have enough Norwegian and Slovak in me to temper it!"

He laughed again. "I know. I work with the German guys on my widget project. It is - challenging. But be careful! My brother got fired over something like that. He is a mechanical engineer and was working for a German company that made widgets. They wanted to move some production to the US and just wanted to use the same production drawings. My brother tried and tried to tell them that they couldn't use those drawings.* The Germans kept insisting. My brother finally said, 'I can see why you guys lost two world wars!' They escorted him out of the building right then."

* I do not know why. I am assuming a mechanical engineer would not protest unless there were legitimate reasons.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Chats du jour: Finding the 4

It did not occur to me to take a photo until I had already replaced half the missing keys. This is a photo of what a keyboard almost looks like after Shirley has sat on it.

I sent a photo to SH, who is out of town. We agreed that we thought this behavior had stopped years ago. I don't know why, after four years of not sitting on the keyboard, that Shirley suddenly thought, "Oh look! A keyboard! I like sitting on keyboards!"

But I should have known. I turned around one day to find her sitting on my work computer. None of the keys came off because they are solid, not snapon, but she managed to press some combination of numerals and letters that made any keystroke not register in an email or web address but instead open a new page.

I was working. I needed to work. I did not need to open more pages.

Fortunately, SH was at home and not taking care of his failing-to-plan for old age and poor health parents, so he was able to identify and resolve the problem.

My advice, in addition to marrying a rich orphan, is to marry an engineer. They can fix things. It is a good thing indeed to have a husband who can repair leaky pipes and flat tires and replace faucets and thermostats and auto parts. Paying for that sort of work can become quite expensive. Marry someone who can fix things (and of course, learn how to fix things yourself - I can replace a broken window pane and replace the set screw in an attic fan and repair a running toilet, etc.)

I should have known that Shirley was losing her keyboard sobriety and been more careful, but I was not.

SH was gone and I returned home from work to find my keyboard halfway destroyed.

I reassembled it only to discover that there was no '4' key.

Where on earthy was the '4?'

SH called me. "Did you find the '4?'" he asked.

Nope, I answered.

But I did have a solution so not a problem! A few years ago, a cup of coffee was spilled onto my keyboard. Guess what? Coffee is not good for keyboards. Even when you place the keyboard upside down over the sink before you dash out of the house to catch the bus for work, it's not enough. Eleven hours of draining into the sink is not enough.

Fortunately, we had a spare keyboard so I just switched them out and that was that. I thought about throwing the old keyboard,  but then thought, It might be good for parts.

And here I was, two years later, needing parts. I found the damaged keyboard right where I had left it in the attic, pried off the '4' key, and popped it onto the current keyboard.

There. Problem solved.

SH was not mollified. "What if Shirley ate it? What if Laverne ate it?" He was panicked.

I was sanguine.

"You need to search for it! You need to find it!"

"It will turn up," I said. "Or not. But I am pretty sure that Shirley, who chews each piece of kibble 70 times, did not eat it. I am pretty sure that Laverne, for whom I have to cut cherry tomatoes up into tiny little pieces, did not eat it. I am not concerned and I am not going to excavate under the stove and the fridge."

It has been two weeks. Neither cat is dead. I rest my case.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Marriage 701, Lecture 324: Step one assign blame

Me: I had to drink my leftover diet Dr Pepper from lunch yesterday and I had to buy a diet Coke at work today. I am weary.

SH: Why?

Me: I didn't turn the light out until 10:30, which is later than I would like but not unusual.

SH: But I wasn't even home!

Me: I know.

SH: So it'd not my fault.

Me: Wait. Where did I say anything about it being your fault?

SH: Any time something undesirable happens, the first thing to do is to assign blame. Wait! Where are you going?

Me: I have to write this down.

SH: You know it's true! Assigning blame, airing grievances. If you're not assigning blame, you're not doing it right.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Marriage 701, Lecture 236: Rearranging the deck chairs

SH: Guess what?

Me: What?

SH: I took some of the stuff out of this cupboard - I took out some of the clutter. Look!

Me: Good!

SH: See? I help.

Me: What did you do with it?

SH: What?

Me: What did you do with it?

SH: What?

Me: Where did you put the things you took out of the cupboard?

SH: I don't want to tell you.

Me: It doesn't count if you just move it somewhere else. [We are talking about dumb coffee cups he has never used since I met him.]

SH: But it's gone from the cupboard!

Friday, May 01, 2015

Marriage 701, Lecture 764: Kitchen opimization

Me: What are you doing?

SH: Putting away the beaters from the mixer.

Me: But why are you putting them there? [In the drawer in the island]

SH: Because that's where they fit best.

Me: Look at the utensils that are already there.

SH: Yes?

Me: Do you notice anything about them?

SH: Like what?

Me: Does any pattern strike you? Look at the other drawer [the one behind the island and next to the kitchen sink and hence, not so useful if you are working at the island, which is where I work].

SH: Nope.

Me: The stuff in the island drawer is stuff I use the most.

SH: So?

Me: How often do I use the hand mixer?

SH: I don't know.

Me: OK. How often do I make cakes?

SH: Not that often.*

Me: I have things organized by frequency of use.

SH: But the beaters fit better in the island drawer.

Me: But that's not the logical place to put them! I have the things I use all the time here!

SH: But I organize by what fits where.

Me: And I organize by pareto. 

* Sadly. Although for Easter, I made this ground walnut chocolate cake that used half of the ground walnuts in the freezer - I have been trying to use inventory - and then two pounds of chocolate, two cups of cream, and two sticks of butter that were not in inventory.