The Day I Won the Award for Most Patient Wife Ever

Notes from the Shallow End

It’s an immutable law of marriage: The amount of time you have left before an important event is inversely proportional to the likelihood that your husband will choose to perform a completely unrelated task.  Like choosing to vacuum the car when you’re supposed to leave for a parent-teacher conference. Or cleaning out the basement just before your entire extended family arrives for dinner.  Meanwhile you’re running around trying to do the things that actually matter, like preparing food and making sure all of your children have pants on. Hypothetically, of course.  I’m sure your children always wear pants.

One recent cold and rainy weekend,   I had the kids loaded into the car to leave for a morning soccer game. (We have hit the age where games aren’t necessarily cancelled due to rain. Good times.) In typical fashion, we had, oh, approximately five minutes to get to the field. I put up the garage door, started the engine, put the car in reverse, and started to back out of the garage… when suddenly my husband came running out of the house clutching a bag and waving at me frantically. I rolled the window down to see what the big emergency was.

“I just want to put your new windshield wipers on,” VP said, stepping to the front windshield and prying up one of the wiper bars.

In an act uncharacteristic of me, instead of shouting, “Are you kidding me? Now?!” I chose patience. I put the car in park, engine still running, and clamped my mouth shut while he went to work.

I waited patiently until he removed the old wipers.

I waited patiently while he tried to put the new ones on.

I waited patiently as he couldn’t figure out how to put the new ones on.  And I waited some more. The time for us to be at the field came and went.

Finally, he gave up in frustration, and started trying to put the old ones back on. After a while, he gave the thumbs up and I backed out of the garage. As we drove down the street, though, the sound the windshield wipers made told me something was amiss.

Screeeetch thwack.  Screeeeetch thwack. Screeeeetch thwack. The rain wasn’t terribly hard, but just enough that I had to keep the wipers going.

We screetch thwacked our way to the soccer field. I parked the car. Unloaded the kids. Started to walk toward the field, and promptly encountered a wet referee walking the other way.

“Game’s cancelled,” she said. “Field conditions just got too bad.”

We turned and walked back to the car, as it started to rain harder. Relieved that the game was cancelled, I loaded the kids back in. Started the car. Turned on the windshield wipers as the rain turned to a downpour. Screeeetch thwack. Screeetch thwack. Screee…BANG! And then I watched one of my windshield wipers skitter across the parking lot.

As I climbed out of the car in driving rain to retrieve it, I cursed under my breath. Also I may or may not have called VP a few choice names.

Knowing there was no way I could drive home without windshield wipers, I struggled reattach the errant blade. Rain dripped off of my baseball cap as I tried it one way, then another. You’d think it would be simple, intuitive maybe, but it’s not.  Imagine being throw out in the freezing rain with one of those metal tavern puzzles, and being told you couldn’t come back in until it was finished. My fingers went numb from cold. Peeved, I considered calling my husband to drive over and help me, but what kind of an example would that have set for the children? No. Rain be damned, I would prove I was capable.

It took twenty minutes, but I finally out the right angle and the blade clicked perfectly into pace. I flung my arms into the air in triumph.   The Rocky theme echoed through my head as I jogged around to the driver’s side to climb in and drive home.

When I got there VP asked what took us so long to get home. “The windshield wiper fell off, and I had to fix it,” I said cheerfully, still kind of proud that I figured it out.  I needed the reminder that I can handle things on my own, for the next time we’re expecting people for dinner any minute and he decides to reorganize the workbench. Ahem. Hypothetically of course.

And as for fixing the windshield wipers, it turns out that all of those years of wrestling my kids into pants has paid off.

 

I’m a Lot Less Stabby: 11 Reasons Why My Husband Traveling Isn’t Always a Bad Thing

I'm a Lot Less Stabby: 11 Reasons Why My Husband Traveling isn't Always a Bad Thing

If you have read this blog before, you know I have a husband that travels a lot for work, and that it’s no picnic. Well, it could be a picnic, I suppose, but the mosquito-ey kind where Cousin Rita brings her suspect potato salad again and Paul’s future third ex-wife Denise runs around asking everyone to guess “real or fake” before getting drunk on Goebel and trying to dirty dance with a Parks Service employee.

In other words, it makes life briefly interesting but then you kind of want it to be over so you can get back to normal.

We’ve been married for almost fourteen years, and he has always traveled. Sometimes once a month, sometimes a few times a month. It sucks, but you kind of get used to it. Over the years, I’ve learned to look for the silver lining. There is one, if you squint, and kind of tilt your head that way. No, the other way. There. See it?  Some perks of temporarily going it alone include:

I get the whole bed to myself.  I like my space, and it’s kind of nice once in a while to sleep without getting whacked by an errant elbow or knee. And, bonus, I get the middle.

I have full control over the air conditioning. VP didn’t grow up with air conditioning. I did. He doesn’t find it necessary. I do. The temperature of the house will be an ongoing disagreement until the day I can outrace him on my Rascal.

I order a lot more takeout without getting the stink-eye. I enjoy cooking, but somehow cooking for a family of five has taken a wee bit of that joy away. Wheedling complaints along the lines of, “Is there pepper in this? I thought I saw a flake of pepper! I hate pepperrrrr!”  tend to make me stabby. (Please note, this is the children I am quoting. Not my husband. Who incidentally loves pepper.) So when he’s away, and I’m super busy with the kids, ta-da! Look kids, we’re having Indian food!  Everybody wins.

I can have the TV in the bedroom on without VP complaining that it’s keeping him awake. Sleep is very, very important to him. He counts it to the minute. So out of courtesy to Princess Beauty Sleep my husband, I usually don’t have the TV on. When he’s away, however, I catch up on Conan, Jimmy Kimmel, or any other late night shows that I usually don’t get to see.

I can do the laundry. I know, I know, that whole sentence looks like a mistake. But when VP is home, he’s like some kind of laundry ninja. He sneaks upstairs when he knows I’m distracted and grabs the laundry, and before I can stop him he’s already thrown a load in.  “But Lisa”, you say, “Why is that a bad thing? For I would consider it a privilege, lo, a delight, to have a husband that does laundry unbidden!”   My answer is this:  Due to countless past laundry disasters wherein everything was turned pink, the man should never be allowed near a laundering machine of any kind, not even a couple of rocks and a stream.

I know where everything is. Oh yes, he’s quite helpful when it comes to putting stuff away. Just not where anyone can actually find it. (Darling, I love you however the cleats that the Boy needs for his game tomorrow do not go on the basement workbench.)

I can skip showering for a day. I try not to do this when he’s around. Illusion or no, VP seems to be under the impression that I’m some delicately scented flower blossom.  He actually said once, in an amazed sort of way (I assume attempting to be complimentary), “You know something? You never stink.” I didn’t really know what to say to that except, “Uh, thanks, I… guess?” I don’t know what kind of girlfriends he had before me, but by his statement I can only assume that they set a low bar for personal hygiene.  So now, dammit, I have to maintain the aura of non-stinkiness because obviously I am better than all of those other skanks women.

It gives us a chance to miss each other. You know that whole absence makes the heart grow fonder thing? Totally true. The rough edges of those day to day annoyances are smoothed out and blurred, and the petty little squabble that seemed so important a couple of days ago is forgotten.

It means we have new things to talk about. I work from home. VP works from home sometimes too.We know all of the details of what went on during the day, from what we ate for lunch to whether the dishwasher is still making that weird noise. So at the end of the day sometimes we have nothing to tell each other.  When he travels, we catch up with each other on the day’s happenings right before we both turn in for the night. And there are always stories to tell each other when he gets home. And he loves my stories. (Don’t you, Honey. That’s right, nod and smile.)

I can go to Target without getting the third degree.  He wants to know why I am going, what I am going to buy, how much I am planning on spending. Silly, silly man. No woman on the planet sticks to a budget when she goes into Target. That popcorn smell is actually infused with brain-addling chemicals that make you want to spend all of the monies.

Sometimes, I need a reminder that I was once a strong, independent woman.  Before I was married, if something in the house needed to be fixed, I fixed it. If the credit card company made a billing error, I fixed it.  If the car died or got a flat, I… well, I called Triple A. But you get the idea.  Now, I feel like I rely too much on my husband to do things that I can clearly take care of myself. So when he’s away, I’m reminded how capable I really am.  And that is a good thing.

Do you have a husband that travels on a regular basis? I’d love to hear about your silver linings. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to crank the AC down to the “Meat Locker” setting.  Happy weekend, everyone!

 

Do Not Disturb

 

When Mom needs a nap

“Can’t you tell I’m annoyed with all of you? My eyebrows are all pointy.”

 

I just wanted to take a nap.

After a freezing cold early morning soccer game, allergies that are kicking my butt, and not a lot of sleep the night before, didn’t I deserve it? Yes. Yes I did. The children were occupied with neighborhood friends, so I closed my bedroom door, and crawled into bed, pulling the covers up tight around my ears. Blessed silence. I sighed in contentment.

Within two minutes:

Scrtch scccrrrtch.

The dog apparently felt it was unacceptable that the door was closed and he was on the other side of it.

With resignation, I got up to let him in. I then closed the door again, while he jumped up on the bed and made himself comfortable. If he could talk, he would have said, “Hey, a nap! I love naps! And so it is a good thing you let me in because now I can protect you while you nap!”

Fine. Whatever. I snuggled back under the blankets. Ah. Peace and quiet.

Then suddenly came a knock at the bedroom door. My dog flew off the bed in a frenzy of barking, determined to fell the intruder that was certainly there to do me harm.

It was Lucy. She  inched the door open a crack and stuck part of her face through.

“Mom?” she whispered.

“What?” I said as patiently as I could.

“I was gonna go on a bike ride but Dad said I had to ask you first.”

Okay, seriously? This required my input?

I answered her.  “Fine with me. Make sure you wear your bike helmet.”

“Thanks Mom. Love you!” She backed out and closed the door, but not before the dog snuck back out through the partly open door and ran downstairs.

I lay back down and closed my eyes. Within minutes, I again heard the telltale scrttch scccrrrtttchhh letting me know the dog was back upstairs and wanted to be let in again.

I sighed, and got up to let him in. “I never disturb your naps do I?” I grumbled. He thumped his tail and settled in at the end of the bed once again.

Then? The doorbell rang.

At which time the dog lost his mind. Again. He was now barking like Cujo on speed and trying to claw his way out, so I got up to let him out the door.  And he ran downstairs to protect us from whatever it was that now threatened our well-being.

This nap thing was not working. Now, before you ask me why I just didn’t keep the door open, I’ll tell you that our house is a beehive of activity. Our kids and kids from the neighborhood are in and out constantly. If there was a sped up movie of all of the comings and goings it would  be accompanied by Yakety Sax.  What I’m saying is our house is loud, and not conducive to napping with the door open. But our dog? Is not conducive to napping with the door closed. A closed door is the bane of his existence. (There is not one door or doorframe that isn’t scratched all to hell. It looks like the woodwork in our house was installed by Edward Scissorhands.)

But I had an idea. With the dog downstairs on Super High Alert Intruder Patrol, I quickly grabbed my pillow and snuck down the hallway to Magpie’s room. Her room at the end of the hall is clean, and quiet – Yes, her comfy double bed would do just fine. And the dog wouldn’t think to look for me in there, I was positive.

Gleefully I settled into the cozy flannel sheets. Bliss. Peace. I began to relax, anticipating at least an hour of delightful slumber.

Five minutes. Ten minutes. No dog. I was beginning to think this was going to work. Victory would be mine. Then? I heard the click of a turning doorknob.

In a flash I bolted upright and yelled, “What is going on?!” just as Lucy stepped into the room and the dog pushed past her.

Lucy jumped. “OMG, you scared the crap out of me!* I didn’t know you were in here!”

*Please note I am working on getting her to speak in a more ladylike manner. We’re starting with not using  the word “crap” quite so much. Baby steps.

“What. Are. You. Doing?” I said with clenched teeth. “You said you were going for a bike ride. Why haven’t you left yet?

“I just needed my grey sweatshirt. I think it’s in here,” she said, as the dog jumped up on the bed and curled up beside me, satisfied to have found me once again. I collapsed back onto the pillow in defeat as two more children thundered up the stairs. “Hi Mom! What’re you doing in here? Trying to take a nap? Can I bake cookies? Dad said to ask you.”  When the next child chimed in with, “Mom, she hit me!” I saw the last shred of hope I had for a nap disappear.

I stomped downstairs and into the kitchen. I’m not sure, but there might have been one of those cartoon black clouds hovering somewhere over my head.

“How was your nap?” VP said in a cheery tone.

I glared at him and he wisely backed out of the room.

But I haven’t yet given up on my quest for a good nap. In related news, if you drive my my house in the near future and see a tent in the backyard, I may be inside slumbering peacefully. Just don’t tell the dog where I am.

 

Humiliation: It’s a Good Thing

VP and I often talk about how small choices in our lives might have made a difference, to the point where if a certain thing happened, or didn’t happen, maybe we would never have met. Neither one of us got terrific grades, for example. What if one of us had studied harder? Or at all? Ahem. We likely would have gone to different colleges, and ended up somewhere different after college. Therefore we wouldn’t have met, and our children would be completely different people!  One of our kids could be Honey Boo Boo! Okay, maybe not her. But anyhow, mind-boggling, isn’t it?

The point is, cliché as it seems, everything happens for a reason. So even those embarrassing, humiliating moments, the ones that make you want to crawl into a hole and never come out? Sometimes those can lead to a better place, the place you are actually supposed to be.

One of these moments for me came in my twenties. It was a cold, foggy night in Nantucket Massachusetts. It was mid-April, and I was visiting the island with my then-roommate, whose mother lived there. On that damp, chilly night a lot of younger people on the island were crowded into a few of the bars/restaurants that were open in the off- season.

So we were ensconced in a cozy, but crowded tavern, enjoying the warmth and some lovely cocktails and appetizers, when I noticed a really nice- looking guy across the way.  Handsome, preppy (just my type) with dark, wavy hair. In my memory, he looked kind of like James Marsden, except not so, you know, Marsden-ey. I looked at him. He looked at me. We continued to sneak glances at each other. Oooh, now the weekend was starting to look up. Freezing cold, rainy weekend? Thumbs down. Cute guy? Thumbs up.

After a while, I started getting a bit sniffly because of the warmth in the bar, and found myself in need of a Kleenex. I didn’t have one on me, so I headed for the one bathroom in the place. It was one of those unisex bathrooms, I should mention.

When I got to the door, it was locked. Someone was in there. So I waited. And waited. Suddenly I sensed someone standing behind me, so I glanced, and, Oh my! It was Cute James Marsden-ey Guy, behind me in line. Now, I glanced at him, maybe gave him a slight smile, but couldn’t really engage in conversation because a) we were in line for a bathroom, and isn’t there some kind of a social code against that?  And b) by now I was pretty sure my nose was running visibly. And I’m pretty sure that wiping your nose on your sleeve after introducing yourself is some sort of a romantic deal breaker.

So as we waited, the door in front of us remained closed, and we exchanged a few “Can you believe this? WTF is taking so long?” glances between us (During which time I may or may not have been inwardly chuckling over the funny story we would someday tell our children about how we met). You know how, in your twenties, you have a whole sixth sense devoted to chemistry regarding the opposite sex?  There was definitely a vibe there. That’s all I’m sayin’.

Finally, the door opened. A young woman scurried out, her head down. I walked into the single bathroom. Closed the door. Reached for a few squares of TP to perform necessary nasal maintenance. And then… horror.

The person before me had apparently backed up the toilet. Not only had she backed it up, she had left… no polite way to put this… floaters.

Suddenly it became clear to me why she was in the bathroom so long. It also became clear to me that Cute Guy, who was, may I remind you, right behind me in line, would have no reason to think this excrementory nightmare wasn’t left behind by me.

I made a feeble attempt to flush, but the flusher thing was broken. Of course.

There was no way out. There was no way to explain. By now, I had, unfortunately, been in there for a couple of minutes. Poor planning, yes. Was I going to burst out of the bathroom, pointing and screeching, “It’s not mine!”?  I came to the sinking realization that there would be no “meet cute” moment, not on this night, as I, too, scurried out of the bathroom with my head down.

And no, there were no more surreptitious glances across the bar, as nothing kills a budding romance like thinking you have just seen a toiletful of someone else’s dookie.

So, to one unfortunate young lady who happened to be having a really bad night, in the end I have to say thanks.

To my loving husband, who I met just 6 months later, yes, everything happens for a reason, and even the little moments make a difference. There’s a song I love with the line that goes God bless the broken road that led me straight to you. I would like to add to that, God bless the broken toilet.

Happy thirteen years, Honey. It was meant to be. I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

 

Sandwich Pants

Can someone please help me?

My husband, aka VP, has disappeared. Well, not exactly disappeared, but the version that I met almost 16 years ago seems to have gone by the wayside. Something sinister has him in its tentacles, and I fear I am not strong enough to save him.

It all started with something we call “Sandwich Pants”.

When we met almost 16 years ago, we were both city dwellers, frequently dining out and occasionally attending a party at an embassy or at the Capitol. His suits had labels that read  Armani or Hugo Boss, and if he needed pants he would dash to a local Saks or Nordstrom where he would find something work-appropriate yet stylish. Aside from a closetful of Cosby-esque sweaters (which I eliminated faster than you can say “your Aunt Freida’s knitting basket”)  he was usually immaculately dressed and well-groomed.

Fast forward. Years passed. Jobs changed. We were now married, with kids, and living in the Midwest.

One day we were out and about, casually exploring our new city, not a care in the world. We stumbled upon a Gap Outlet. Not just any Gap Outlet, mind you. This was a Gap Outlet Clearance Center. We’re talking ridiculously low prices. The kind of prices at which it would be rude not to buy something.   So of course, as a mom, I took the opportunity to dash in and stock up for the kiddos. Oh, how naive I was.

At some point during the shopping trip, VP approached me, triumphantly holding aloft a pair of pants. “Look what I found!” He said. “These are only $5.99! What do you think?”

Seeing as they were basic flat-front khackis, preppy, classic, perfect for his new casual work environment, I gave a thumbs-up, and blissfully continued shopping.

He bought three pairs total that day. For weeks, maybe months, he marveled that he could buy a pair of pants for the same price he paid for a good sandwich. So those pants became known as “Sandwich Pants”. It became a thing. So much so that one day I got a call from a friend wanting directions to the Gap Clearance Center. “I want to go buy Rick some Sandwich Pants”, she explained.

I wish it ended with “Sandwich Pants”, I really do. But sadly, the story took a dismal turn when we joined Costco, and VP discovered he could save time and money by purchasing peanut butter, pants, and patio furniture AT THE SAME PLACE! Now, when he skips out the door for Costco on  Saturday morning, I nervously await his return, wondering what he will come back with this time. The man who used to buy Cole Haan and Mephisto now lights up at a display of bargain priced shoes. You can practically  see the thought bubble over his head: “Style be damned, these are only $9.99! And anyhow, I heard Hush Puppies are making a comeback!”

I beg. I plead, “You work hard, Sweetie. Buy yourself something nice! You deserve it!”, and surreptiously leave catalogs open on the breakfast table.  But my entreaties fall on deaf ears. The lure of a bargain, the thrill of the hunt, is too strong.

And now, in an ugly turn of events, our local grocery store chain has now begun proudly selling clothing. Right alongside the bread, milk, and eggs. And it’s only two blocks away. I fear all hope is lost.

If you can help, let me know. I’ll be the one in the soup aisle, trying to steer her husband away from the bargain-priced Sans-A-Belt slacks.

I’ll Never Live This Down

Readers,

Some friends and I have been planning a girls night out for a while now. The following conversation with the VP, however, took place this morning:

Me: “Don’t forget, I’m going out to dinner with the girls on the 18th, so make sure you’re home. We’re going to 20 Brix.”

VP: “20 Brix? On the 18th?”

Me: “Yeah, why?”

VP: “The 18th?”

Me: (irritated) “Is there a problem?”  

VP: “The 18th is our anniversary!”

Me:  “Ooooohhh, oops. I totally forgot. Why, do you have something planned?”

VP: “I’m not even going to dignify that with a response.”

After that, he may or may not have referred to me as a “dizzy broad”. (When he is annoyed, he turns into Archie Bunker just a little bit.)  Now I know how men feel. It’s easier than you think to forget your anniversary.  So, needless to say, I won’t be joining my girlfriends for dinner next week. And also? I have extracted a promise from the VP that our anniversary won’t involve “ribs” “a movie from Red Box”, or “the Golf Channel”.

Have a great day!

Lisa