Marriage

Switching Gears

Full disclosure: My husband advised me against writing this post. He did this because he is embarrassed for me by what I am about to disclose. He suggested I might not want to share this particular story. Second full disclosure: Listening well has never been in my wheelhouse. So I am going to tell my story anyway. 

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6:30 on Saturday morning

Steve and I started road cycling in 2009. When we brought my new bike home, a shiny, blue-and-silver $1300 aluminum frame contraption with mid-level components, Steve had to explain to me how the dang thing worked. I could ride a bike, but this was the most high-tech cycle I had ever owned. Steve began by telling me about the brakes and reminded me squeezing the front brake too hard too quickly would cause me to somersault head-over-heels off the bike. That seemed like an important point, so I memorized that. He showed me how to take the wheels off in case of a flat. I sort of paid attention to that detail. Then he continued explaining how to make the bike work for me. About two seconds after he mentioned mechanical advantage, I checked out. Mechanical advantage sounded a lot like physics. Yawn.

I am a bottom line person. Where some people like the fine details and want to understand the minutiae of a topic, I want to know only what I need to know. Call it impatience. Call it short sighted. Call it crazy. I call it being married to a man who tosses me a 300-page camera manual and tells me to read it when all I want to know is which button on the auto-focus monster snaps the photos.

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Ready for a beautiful ride

So as he was describing how the gears up front work in conjunction with the gears in the back to help you increase your speed or climb hills or whatever (like I said, physics), I interrupted him to posit when we might get to that ever important bottom line.

“Which gear do I want to be in to make it easier?” I asked.

He started in again about mechanical advantage, yadda yadda yadda, and I went on another mental vacation. I vaguely heard something about “big gear,” “small gear,” “front,” and “back.” I would figure it out. How hard could it be? It was a bicycle. All I needed to know was how to get going and how to stop. I could do that already.

Steve and I participated in the Tour of the Moon ride into Colorado National Monument on Saturday. We first discussed this ride as we were coming off the high of completing the Bike MS ride in June. I registered us and then I forgot about it. Two months went by during which we got on our bikes only twice for short, easy rides. A couple days ago, we started considering our options for the weekend and chose to go ahead with the ride without training. We figured we might be sore afterward, but we could handle it. At the hotel the night before, I glanced for the first time at the ride’s elevation profile. Big mistake. In roughly 16 miles we would climb about 3500 feet. Did not sleep well with that knowledge.

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13 miles of flat, 16 miles of climbing, 12 miles screaming descent

The next morning as we approached the monument and the dreaded climb was looming, Steve asked me what gear I was in.

“I’m on the middle ring,” I told him, referring to my front gears.

The middle is where I most often stay when riding because, well, I don’t understand my gears because, well, I didn’t pay attention during my lesson. In the past, I have tried to switch gears on a hill, lost momentum, stalled out, and simply flopped over sideways still clipped into my bike pedals. I haven’t enjoyed that, so the middle gear has remained my crutch and faithful companion. It gets me where I am going, and I don’t fall over while switching gears. Win-win.

We pulled off into a church parking lot so Steve could investigate. He told me to switch into the easiest gear. I did.

“What gear is your chain on?”

“The big one,” I replied.

“The big one up front?” he asked.

“Yes. Granny gear.”

“Umm…that is not granny gear,” came the reply.

“Yes it is. You told me the big gear up front was granny gear.”

“You want the small gear up front and the big gear in the back,” he told me.

“This is how I have always done it,” I told him.

“Always? Not always,” he asked doubtfully.

“As long as I can remember,” I said.

“Then you have been climbing in the wrong gear,” he replied.

Well, shit. No wonder I’ve hated hills.

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About to head into the first tunnel through the rock

With my bike finally figured out (nine years later), we began our ascent. The new gear knowledge worked like a charm. The ride wasn’t exactly easy (rain, hail, and cold weather temps ensured that), but I had no problem riding. My legs weren’t tired. I pedaled up the hills slower than molasses in January, but I never felt like quitting. And you know why? Because for the past nine years I have been training for this one ride by cruising along in middle gear. And that is an oddly perfect metaphor for my life to this point. From the beginning, I’ve made things more difficult for myself than they needed to be. I checked out too soon or checked in too late or somehow managed to do both. There isn’t much to gain from an easy path, so I’ve grown through my hard (and occasionally not necessary) work.

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Wet, cold, and looking at the road out

Perhaps you now understand why Steve was reluctant about my relaying this story. It’s embarrassing. This blonde moment lasted nine years. It’s practically a blonde decade. And, at a point in my not too distant past, I would have been too mortified to share this information. But I am older now and working to accept my flaws and appreciate my gifts. I am learning to look on the bright side. I could take this whole bike-gear lunacy and go to a dark place about what a dolt I am and how naive I was not to figure out my bike properly in the first place. Instead, I’ve chosen to be positive. For something between the 3000-5000 miles I have ridden over the years, I have worked at my cycling. Every ride I undertook, I rode with more effort than I needed to give. All the times I felt weak because the hill climbs seemed much harder for me than for others, it was because they were most likely harder. And the times I passed other riders cruising up a hill in a harder gear than necessary, it was because I was strong, stronger than I had any idea I was. That is not embarrassing. It is an awesome discovery of my power and resiliency.

I’m not saying I will eschew the easiest gear going forward. That would be silly. Sometimes the path of least resistance is a good idea. I might, however, keep riding in middle gear a bit longer and see what else I can do.

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Dried off, warming up, waiting for espresso, dreaming of wine

 

 

The Universe Is Listening

The one that got away...

The one that got away…

Most people I know can quickly point to a creature in the animal kingdom that creeps them out. Some people are freaked out by rodents, but I will happily rescue a vole or mouse that tumbles into our window wells. My mother and sisters cannot stand moths while I operate a catch and release program for them in my home. Some may bristle at bats or shrivel over scorpions or cringe at centipedes. Like most people, the members of our household are not immune to animal phobias. Channeling their inner Indiana Jones, both Steve and Luke are terrified of snakes. Joe and I come unhinged over spiders. I once asked Luke why he despised snakes and he replied with great exasperation, “Mom…they have NO legs.” He then asked me why I hate spiders. I told him it’s because they have EIGHT legs. I’ve always thought the four of us became a family for a good reason. When a wolf spider the size of my palm waltzes onto our porch, Steve saves the day. When a snake appears in our basement, I collect it in a plastic bin and toss it back outside. Luke kills the spiders Joe finds, and Joe walks ahead on hikes to make sure there are no snakes in Luke’s path. It just works out.

Tonight as I was making dinner, Steve was in the basement crawling over and rifling through various tubs in the storage room looking for the boys’ ski boots. After a while he appeared in the kitchen with the good news that he had found them. He then came a bit closer, and I could tell something was not quite right. He leaned in and spoke in a hushed voice.

“I found a snakeskin on the floor in the storage room.”

I looked at him. The news didn’t surprise or frighten me, but I know Steve well enough to know that this was not an easy discovery for him.

“Are you sure?” I asked cautiously, eyeing him for signs of an impending freak out. There were none.

“Yes.”

“Where did you find it?”

“I moved the tub, and it was on the floor.”

“Don’t tell Luke,” I warned before continuing. “Do you think it was a newer shed? Could it have been there for a while?” I scanned my brain trying to think of the last time I had been in that room. Could it have been there then?

“Maybe,” he replied.

“I will go check it out after dinner.”

I started laughing to myself. It just figured. Steve would be the one to make that discovery, just as it was completely natural that I was the one who came within inches of the the biggest wolf spider EVER in our window well a month ago. (Oh my holy hell that thing was creepy. I took a photo of it once I was safely inside and it was so big that its eyes glowed red in the camera flash. No lie. But, I digress.)

After dinner, I led the way downstairs to find the offending object. Sure enough. There on the floor of the storage room was a shriveled snakeskin from a snake approximately eighteen inches in length (twenty four inches if you have Steve’s eyes) resting on the remnant carpet. We stood there staring at it before surveying the room, trying to imagine where the damn thing was now. I took a photo of the crinkled skin and started laughing again. The whole idea that there is a snake in my house is ludicrous. I’m not living in southeast Asia. Holy crap on a cracker. This is suburbia! I picked up the skin, gave it a once over, and as surreptitiously as possible carted it out to the garage trash can. I told Steve it was from a garter snake. He, of course, required proof. When I produced a photo of a garter snake on my iPhone, he agreed with my assertion with visible relief. As scary as it is for him to imagine there might be a snake slinking around our house, there must be some comfort in knowing it’s not venomous. I imagine right about now Steve is wishing he wasn’t allergic to cats because this would be a perfect time to unleash one in the basement.

On Halloween, we will have lived in this home on the open space for thirteen years. In that time, we’ve only encountered one snake inside our home (the rattlesnake in the garage doesn’t count) and that was the one I deftly removed. Still, this snakeskin in the storage room advances so many questions. Could the skin have arrived (as Steve hopes) pre-shed and attached to the bottom of one of our camping bins? If not, where did the snake come from? When did it shed its skin? Is it still alive and gliding silently around our basement somewhere? If so, where does it hang out and where does it get its water? How creepy is it going to be when we’re moving out and we find it or its carcass somewhere in that room? How much therapy is Luke going to need if he’s downstairs building Legos and it slithers by? Can a child sue a parent for non disclosure of a reptile?

This morning, as I was sitting in rush hour traffic on my way to the new house to begin Day Three of what will undoubtedly become a biblical, forty days and forty nights of painting, I was thinking about how dull my days have become. Tonight, there is a snake in the basement.  Apparently I have got to stop thinking so much. The universe is listening.

Help A Brother Out…Talk About Man Jeans Today

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how difficult it is to be honest and talk about things openly, especially when the thing we need to discuss might make us or someone we care about uncomfortable. At some point, however, the truth needs to be spoken, no matter how ugly it might be. To move beyond it, to improve our life and the lives of those around us, we must be brave. We must face the thing that frightens us and remove its fangs so it can gnash its teeth at us no more. I’m here today to open a dialogue about such a topic.

There is an epidemic among middle-age men in this country, an unheralded scourge that has been spreading each year, leaving more and more unfortunate souls in its wake. Each day, I encounter an ever-increasing number of victims who suffer from this disease. Sadly, most sufferers remain unaware of their sickness, unable to identify the thing that is causing women to point and giggle behind their backs. That sickness, my friends, is man jeans. Yes. Man jeans. There. I’ve said it.

Bad jeans all around…but it was 1998.

Bad jeans all around…but it was 1998. That’s my story.

Now, I know there has been a lot of blog time spent on mom jeans. Saturday Night Live lampooned them in a skit back in 2003. Mom jeans, with their nine inch zippers, pleated fronts, and roomy seat are touted to fit even the least active moms and be suitable for any occasion. Yes. It’s true. The post-child female body doesn’t always fit back into those darling, low-slung, hip hugging jeans from our pre-child-bearing days. Sometimes moms need something with a little higher rise to hold in the residual baby bump and to reduce the disfiguring effects of the dreaded muffin top. This is why mom jeans were first invented, and why women bought them. But eventually women began clamoring for something more attractive to wear for the years between Abercrombie skinny jeans and Goodwill-bought, elastic-waist, polyester, granny pants, and clothing makers rose to the challenge. Stores devoted entirely to the purveyance of the best fitting denim for most any shape and size sprouted up, and moms began finding fashion again. While it’s true that with the switch to designer denim we had to give up no-fuss, washer/dryer care, as well as abandon that little bit of pleated expansion space that left us room to sneak off and ingest an extra cupcake or three at the block party, designer jeans made motherhood and midlife a lot sexier. For each woman turned from away from mom jeans, though, the disparity in the denim choices between the sexes grew until we arrived where we are today…with a preponderance of middle-age men wearing man jeans while the women who love them stand by in their fashionable denim, shaking their heads and wondering when they married this old geezer.

An unidentified man and a cute toddler wearing man jeans. The toddler is pulling it off.

An unidentified man and a cute toddler wearing man jeans. Note: the toddler is pulling them off.

I’ve heard it said that many men hit what they feel is the best year of their life and become lodged there permanently. It’s their happy place. Based on the outfit choices of most middle-age men I know (and, unfortunately, at 46 I know a lot of middle-age men), they gave up on themselves sometime during the Clinton Presidency. For those of you in the dark about what exactly qualifies as “man jeans,” let me point you in the right direction by putting it in simple, Jeff Foxworthy-worthy language for you.

If your jeans came with a tag that said “relaxed,” “loose,” or “comfy” fit, you might be wearing man jeans.

If you’ve had your jeans since college and you were in college over 10 years ago, you might be wearing man jeans.

If your jeans came from LL Bean, Kohl’s, Land’s End, Bass Pro Shops, or any outlet store, you might be wearing man jeans.

If you require a belt to keep your jeans up or you’ll end up looking like those “hoodlum” kids you complain about, the ones who wear the waist of their jeans below their boxer shorts, you might be wearing man jeans.

If your idea of shopping involves grabbing a pair of 36″ x 34″ jeans off a wall to fit your 34″ x 34″ body without ever considering trying them on, you might be wearing man jeans.

If there is so much excess room in the butt of your jeans that you could drop a load in there and no one would be the wiser, you might be wearing man jeans.

If your favorite pair of jeans has sparkly embellishments on the pockets, well…then, I’m afraid you might be wearing your wife’s jeans.

I understand that most men don’t like to shop. You hate spending money on clothing, and if I tell you it might cost you $200 for a good-fitting pair of quality denim that will last, you are going to tell me exactly how many beers you could buy with that cash today. But at some point, men, you’ve got to face facts. You’re middle aged. Your pecs have seen better days, you’ve got clothing older than your children, your new boss is ten years younger than you, and the hair on your head is thinning while the hair in your nose is coming in nicely. And, it sucks. But are you ready to cash it in? Should we just hand out grandpa pants, the fetching ones that you can pull all the way to your burgeoning man boobs? Put on a pair of your jeans. Take a good, long, hard look at yourself in a full length mirror and acknowledge that you’re not the man you once were. You’re better. You’re smarter, wiser, and more successful than you were twenty years ago. You deserve designer denim. And if you pick up a pair of raw denim, you won’t even have to wash them for six months. 😀

The When Harry Met Sally Question

Twenty years ago before I made him grey.

Twenty years ago before I made him grey.

“If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.” ~Richard Bach

Marriage is hard. When I think back to my twenties, when most women I knew were dying to find their soul mate and embark on the magical love train of happily ever after, I laugh. We had no clue. In sickness and in health and for better or worse were concepts we weren’t capable of understanding in any legitimate sense. Sicknesses were colds and worse meant having to watch a movie we hadn’t chosen. As I’ve grown older, there have been intermittent days when the vows I took at 27 have started to come into clearer focus. I’ve had occasional oh-shit revelations about what I committed to when I stood there in front of all my friends wearing an off-white dress I hastily purchased off the bargain rack, holding flowers I settled for on a fixed budget, and hoping against hope that the photographer would get at least a couple decent shots. Marriage is serious…heart-attack-bankruptcy-miscarriage-mortgage-infidelity-and-unemployment serious. I don’t think many of us understand the gravity of the lifelong task we’re undertaking when we sign up. We learn about it along the way.

About twenty-two years ago, I went on a double date with my roommate, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s roommate. Walking home from a bowling alley after a couple poorly rolled games and a couple of pitchers of beer, I had a long, admittedly drunken, talk with this new guy. I was six months out of a semi-disastrous “relationship” and not really looking for anything. I was tired of men. I was tired of stressing about love. I was finally content being alone. I told him that I had made mistakes in past relationships when I had given up things that had mattered to me because someone had asked me to. I told him I wasn’t playing that way anymore. If he wanted to date me, he had to take me as I was because I wasn’t changing. I told him I had many male friends that I would not, under any circumstance, be jettisoning. He could deal with that reality or he could walk. It didn’t matter to me. It was his choice. I’ve never quite figured out why he stayed with me after that full disclosure, but he did. And nearly twenty years of marriage and two children later, here we are, grown up but not, still floundering our way through the insanity that is intentional, lifelong commitment to another person against all odds and life’s randomness.

I’ve held steadfast to most of the things I said in that drunken tirade that night after bowling, including maintaining my friendships with men. I am not a girly girl, and I never was. I’m a thinker more than a feeler and, partially because of this, I’ve struggled more trying to keep friendships with women than with men. Many women flat-out don’t get me, and I’ve accepted that. Men seem to appreciate my emotional reticence, my quippy, sarcastic retorts, and my no-nonsense attitude. Some of my male friends have been in my life for decades. Some I’ve met only recently. Some are people my husband has met. Some of them are relative strangers to him. I have male friends I communicate with weekly via text or email and others I see in person every few months at some public location where it’s acceptable for a married woman to associate with a man who is not her husband. Last night, for example, I enjoyed dinner with a male friend at a cool little taqueria in Denver where we sat at a community table and I decided that whoever invented the gourmet shrimp taco was the foodie equivalent of Einstein.

I know that accepting me as I am with my friendships not been easy for Steve, but he has muddled through it because he committed to doing so a million years ago before he knew what he was getting into and because he’s a man of his word. Because of Steve’s understanding, I’ve had exposure to conversations many married women don’t get to have. I continue to learn about the male perspective from multiple sources, and this has given me priceless knowledge about how to be a better human being, as well as a better partner. There is nothing like listening to your male friend talk about his failed marriage to help you see where you might be going wrong in your own. I’m grateful to my male friends for being honest with me about my shortcomings and for not telling me what I want to hear but what I need to hear. I continue to learn about the nature of communication (and miscommunication) and friendship through them. At the end of the day, Steve and I have new topics of conversation that have, as an unanticipated side benefit, created a level of intimacy between us I had not imagined was possible. We talk about our marriage. We talk about what is fair, what is difficult, and what is frightening because we have opened ourselves to what is fair, what is difficult, and what is frightening. We’re constantly negotiating our marital contract and figuring out how to make it better for both of us.

Like Harry in When Harry Met Sally, Steve’s not entirely sure he trusts that men are capable of being just friends with women, but he’s willing to entertain my little experiment because he knows I am not going anywhere. I am as pragmatic as they come. I know there is no man out there who is better equipped to love me as I am than he is. I’m not going to discover a new true love over tacos or at a concert. There’s no such thing as a perfect match, but I’ve gotten as close as I could ever come with a guy who loves me enough to set me free when I need to feel like my own person. I’m far too intelligent to walk away from a deal like that and a husband like Steve.

And, in case you’re wondering, Steve doesn’t have currently have a bevy of female friends. He does, however, have a wife who trusts him implicitly if you’d like to take him out for Taco Tuesday.

I’ll Share My Life But Not My Toothbrush

Toothbrushes in the trash. Try not to judge me by the Red Vine box and the gummy bear bag in there as well.

Toothbrushes in the trash…where my potty mouth belongs.

So this past weekend we headed out for a few days in the mountains. As we were packing up, I noticed Steve hadn’t yet packed his toothbrush. Wishing to avoid a weekend with him without proper oral hygiene, I reminded him to grab it. He went into the bathroom to get it.

“It’s not here,” he said, referencing the toothbrush holder on our bathroom counter.

“Yes it is. I left a couple of toothbrushes in the holder when I grabbed mine,” I answered.

There were two toothbrushes in the holder that I hadn’t been using, so I knew he had forgotten his.

“Look. I already packed mine,” I told him. I showed him the toothbrush in my bag.

“That’s my toothbrush,” he replied.

“No. It’s mine. It’s the one I’ve been using.”

“Then you’ve been using my toothbrush.”

“Really?” I balked. “Are you sure? I’m pretty sure this one is mine. I used it this morning.”

“Yes,” he said, inspecting it more closely. “That’s mine. You’ve been using my toothbrush.”

“How do you know? They all look alike.”

We buy our toothbrushes in bulk from Costco. The Oral B package of soft-bristle brushes contains eight, spanking-new brushes in four, color combinations. We’re both fairly consistent about changing our brushes out every couple of months because, well, we buy them in bulk at Costco so why not? Because of the multiple color combinations, though, it can be easy to forget which toothbrush is your current one. I mean, by the time you’ve gotten used to your brush and have memorized which one it is, you’ve chosen a new one and have to remember it. We’re getting old. It’s hard to keep track of things, you know?

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I was sure that one was mine. It’s not a big deal, though. Here you go.”

I handed him the toothbrush so he could pack it. I turned around and went into the bedroom to pack some other things. When I walked back into the bathroom, I noticed the toothbrush in question was now in the trashcan along with the other two toothbrushes that had been in the holder.

“You threw them all out?” I asked incredulously. “Really?”

“Since we don’t know whose is whose, we’ll just start over. I’ll buy a new one when we get there,” he replied, as if this were the most logical solution.

What the heck? Suddenly I was feeling downright dirty. I began wondering if the Board of Health might need to shut me down as a contamination risk.

“Am I diseased or something? Is that why you can’t keep any toothbrush that might have been in my mouth?”

“It’s just gross,” he said. “I’m pretty sure other people would agree with me.”

“The toothbrush was in my mouth…the same mouth you kiss. You know that, right? We share food off the same fork sometimes. How is this any different?”

“It just is.”

“Apparently my foul mouth really does bother you,” I retorted before heading back to my packing chore.

I’m not going to lie. I was disappointed and shocked that my own husband had such virulent concerns about my hygiene. Don’t get me wrong. I understand where he’s coming from. It’s not very sanitary to share a toothbrush. That’s a fact. And I wouldn’t normally want his mouth on my toothbrush either, but I wouldn’t freak out about it if tables were turned. As a rule, I don’t like to share, especially when it comes to germs. It was just the immediate and swift manner with which he dispensed with all the compromised toothbrushes that irked me, as if he were taking no chances. Was he concerned I could have Ebola? Honestly, I wouldn’t have been thrilled to discover Steve had been using my toothbrush, but I wouldn’t have thrown it out. I would have shrugged my shoulders, given him a hard time about it (probably forever), and then eventually switched it out for a new one when I had destroyed all the bristles on it by brushing too hard. (Yes. I know this is not a good practice for my teeth and gums. I’m working on myself one flaw at a time, and this particular flaw is reasonably far down on my list of concerns.) Whatever germs don’t kill you make you stronger. At least that has always been my theory and, forty-six years into this theory, I’m still here so it appears to be working.

The man's personal toothbrush kingdom.

The man’s personal toothbrush kingdom.

Let it not be said, however, that I am insensitive to my husband’s needs. After twenty years, I may not have understood his relative level of paranoid germaphobia until now, but I do know how to solve a marital problem. You find the issue that’s been rubbing you the wrong way and you find a way around it. It doesn’t even really require compromise. You simply apply a bit of creative thinking and find the win-win. So, today I dug into my resourceful brain and found a solution to our dilemma. I bought him a special treat…his own toothbrush holder to keep on his side of the double vanity. Henceforth, his toothbrush has its own kingdom and it need never be near mine. Ever again. Problem solved. Now he just has to hope I don’t hold this germaphobe thing against him. It could be a long next twenty years for him if I’m stubbornly refusing to put my mouth anywhere near him because of this slight. Not that I hold a grudge or anything. Well, if you’ll excuse me…there is a piece of cake in the fridge I’ve been saving for later. I need to go lick it to guarantee it’s mine. 😉

Mid-Century and the Mona Lisa

Forgot to take a photo of the house, so here's a photo of my son holding a light beer instead.

Forgot to take a photo of the house, so here’s a photo of my son holding a light beer instead. That works, right?

My sister and her husband have been house hunting. They sold their house last month and need a new one. In a week. They’ve done a lot of looking, put in some offers that didn’t go through, and they’re about to be homeless. (Not that they’ll be living in a van down by the river or anything. Instead, they’ll be moving back in with parents. I think I’d take the van down by the river.) I’ve gone to look at some houses with them and even proffered my sage wisdom about the homes they are looking at, and they are still undecided. Tonight, my family and I went with them to look at a house I accidentally found for them yesterday while driving to pick up lunch for the boys. It is a small, but beautifully restored mid-century modern home. It’s affordably priced, has a two-car garage, and it is like getting a perfectly wrapped package with your favorite gift ever inside. Not that I have any opinion on mid-century modern homes or whether they should buy this one. (They should.)

My sister was a bit iffy about the whole thing. She’s concerned about the lack of decent storage and not thrilled that it’s only two bedrooms. (She wants a guest room. Seriously, though, everyone in their families lives in the same city. Why do they need a guest room?) I think my brother-in-law, who was not present because he’s a coach and was working a high school track meet, would love it. It might not be their forever home, but I totally think they could make it work for a while. And, it’s a perfect situation because it was a house flip and they seller needs the money and they could move in fairly quickly because no one is living in it.

While my sister was unconvinced, my husband loved it and was trying to figure out if we could push a wall out and put an addition on. He was ready to move in. We’ve been talking for a while about downsizing. We’ve got too much stuff, and our stuff is vexing us. I feel the unused “company” dishes throwing shade at me every time I open the cupboard. We want to lighten our load, save money, and travel a lot more. This house would be too much of a downsize for us. We’d lose 2/3rds of our current space. That would be one heck of a downsize. If we’re going to go that small, we should just sell our house, buy the Airstream he’s already wanted, and travel the country while homeschooling our boys at picnic tables like gypsies.

“I think it’s too small,” I said, trying to reason with him.

“We could make it work. It would be an adjustment.”

“The boys cannot share a room. Sure they’re small and cute now, but they’re on the precipice of becoming real teenagers. They’re not going to fit on that bunk bed forever.”

“That’s why we’d push that wall out and make another bedroom.”

“Steve, we are not getting this house,” I said very slowly and clearly, in case he wasn’t hearing very well.

“Okay,” he replied, sullenly. Then I saw him perk up. He’d had a brilliant idea. “We could build our own mid-century modern house.”

This is the point where I looked at him like he was crazy.

“You can’t build a mid-century modern house now. By definition, that’s impossible. Mid-century moderns were built in the 1950s. That’s what made them mid-century.” You never, ever miss with a writer. Words matter.

“You know what I mean,” he replied. “We could build a house like a mid-century modern.”

This is the point where I looked at him like perhaps he’d gone past crazy and straight over the cuckoo’s nest.

“Dude…that would be like repainting the Mona Lisa. It can’t be done.”

He just looked at me and got in the car. I guess I told him.

This is our marriage in a nutshell…my husband, the eternal optimist, and me, the perpetual pragmatist. Someone’s got to keep him grounded, and someone has to remind me to lighten up and dream a little. Nineteen years and we’re still dancing the same waltz. We are planning to move in the next couple years. We’d like to reduce our carbon footprint and go from living large to living less. It’s time to jettison things, like panini machines that collect dust, and lighten our burdens. I don’t know if we’ll build the straw bale house he’s talked about forever or end up in a classic mid-century modern, but we’ll get it figured out. We’ve made the biggest decisions of our lives in minutes. Just don’t ask us what we want for dinner. That’s when things get really ugly.

 

Hindsight Is Basically Unsweetened Chocolate

My view for three hours this morning.

My view for three hours this morning.

In what can only be labeled an attempt to undermine my sanity, hubby arranged for me to take his FJ Cruiser in today for new tires and an alignment. I am a fairly independent woman, but I loathe, despise, and deeply hate being forced to deal with anything even remotely car-related. I can do the minimum things (pump gas, wash and wax the car, change out a headlight, check tire pressure, and even change a tire) but I hate taking vehicles in for service. Most times when I take the car in, I am treated like what I am…a blonde female. Now, it’s true. I know next to nothing about the inner workings of an automobile, but I know many men who are floating in that same boat along with me…including my spouse. Oddly enough, though, when Steve takes the car in no one talks to him as if he’s low number on intelligence totem pole. After years of being talked  down to as if I’m barely equipped with an IQ of 70, I decided that one of the benefits of marriage for a woman is having a husband around to deal with things like cars, sprinkler systems, and spiders the size of my palm. So, I don’t do car visits. Until today, apparently.

Still, I determined to make the most of my opportunity. I packed some amusements for myself and purchased a grande vanilla non-fat latte from Starbucks to help me wile away the time. While I was sitting in the waiting room for a seemingly interminable three hours, I got to enjoy the vapid dialogue of daytime television hosts and the woman seated next to me who thought her personal phone conversation was important enough to share. I tried to block her out by putting my new Kindle Paperwhite to use. I pulled up the book on dyslexia that was recommended to me back in November when we learned about Luke’s learning difference. The dang book is 400 pages long and filled with all kinds of discussion about brain scans and reading remediation tactics. Up until now, I’d only been able to whittle my way through 17% of it because it’s hardly what you’d consider “light reading.” Today, I rationalized, was my chance to sit, focus, and plow through a couple chapters about how our son’s very interesting brain works.

The deeper I delved into the book, the more I saw our son in the pages. If I had ever held any doubt about Luke’s diagnosis, reading this book would have immediately eradicated them. No need for expensive and time consuming psychoeducational testing or brain scans. The list of potential clues to watch for read like a movie of my experience parenting Luke as he began to read: difficulty with rhyming, inability to say the entire alphabet, trouble recognizing letters, inability to read sight words, poor spelling, abysmal handwriting, and occasional word/letter reversals, all combined with an above average verbal ability and excellent listening comprehension. Despite all these clues, we were repeatedly assured that his skills were increasing, his reading level was improving. So, we pushed everything to the back of our minds. What I understand now is that too few people, including elementary school professionals, understand the signs to look for. Inundated with requests from over-protective, over-involved parents, teachers often assume that the parents are over-reacting and that the child is advancing within “normal” parameters. I get this. Still, I couldn’t help but think as I read today that if I had been armed with this book three years ago when Luke began reading instruction, I would have been more insistent with my concerns.

Experts in the field say that early intervention is key with children with dyslexia. The sooner the learning difference is identified, the more quickly the student can begin learning in a way that best suits their right-brained approach. The longer it takes to determine the problem, the further along a child is when she begins the catch up process. Unfortunately, too few people understand dyslexia, its components, its remediation. Too few people believe it’s a legitimate, real, and prevalent concern. (An estimated 20% of students would benefit from a different method of learning to read. Chew on that for a minute.) I had my suspicions about Luke. I made a conscious choice to let others’ reassurances placate me. I chose not to worry. I ignored my intuition. I now feel confident that we’re doing the right things for Luke. I now completely believe that he will become a competent reader. He may never be good at telling his left from his right, but he will read.

Timing is such a crucial thing in life, which is why the hindsight phrase is so resoundingly true. In hindsight, if I’d had Overcoming Dyslexia in my hands three years ago, we’d be three years ahead of where we are now with Luke and his struggles. But that, as they say, is water under the bridge. I need simply to be grateful that we uncovered Luke’s dyslexia when he was in 3rd grade and not 7th. If you look at it that way, I’m 4 years ahead of the curve, which is quite helpful. I guess hindsight is all in how you look at it. I mean, I never wanted to spend three hours in the service department at the dealership today to obtain my husband’s discounted tires, but if I hadn’t been stuck there with nothing but my Kindle to amuse me I would still be only 17% of the way through the book I started in late November. Hindsight is a bit like unsweetened chocolate. It’s not as awesome as milk or semisweet, but it’s still chocolate and that has to count for something.