My husband and I have been together 28 years, married for 26 of them. When you know someone as well as we know each other, keeping things fresh and fun can take some work. One way I like to keep my husband on his toes happens periodically when we are watching television. We use an Apple Siri tv remote. We have a family account with Apple, and it is linked to my Apple ID. So, when Steve starts searching for a show to watch using our remote, the Apple remote app on my phone opens up. It’s easier to enter your search via the text function on my iPhone, so sometimes I do that. And sometimes, just for fun, I mess with Steve while he is laboring to enter his search using the remote to execute the awkward right-left scroll through the alphabet.
For as many times as I have done this to him, it can still take him a surprisingly long time to realize why his remote is not doing what he is trying to make it do. There he is, busily scrolling, laboring to enter a search for a video on YouTube, and I hijack the whole operation with my fast-texting thumbs. Sometimes I simply erase what he has entered. Sometimes I enter complete gobbledygook. Sometimes I type messages like, Hi Steve, so he figures out what is going on. I should tell you he finds this whole game not nearly as amusing as I do. I smirk quietly to myself as I am doing it, waiting for him to catch on. When he finally does, I laugh out loud. I am a hoot.
It’s a harmless, small thing I play at. I know it’s not very nice, but it cracks me up. The world is a mess right now. This little thing brings me joy, and I know he wouldn’t want to deprive me of joy. And if I die first, I know someday he will be using a remote to search for something and he will remember my game and miss me. He probably won’t miss having to enter his search fourteen times, but I bet he will smile at the thought of it, anyway.
Gardening. It’s something many people enjoy. I am not one of those people. I would love a beautiful flower garden, but not if I have to be the one to plant, weed, prune, and water it. I also have zero desire to grow my own food when there is a perfectly serviceable grocery store nearby. While I am adamant about no pesticides in my yard, I am also against pests in my yard. If I’m out digging in the dirt, I’m sure to run across some worms or spiders or other creepy crawlies. No thank you. If I could manage to garden without seeing bugs, I still wouldn’t do it because dirt is, well, dirty, and if you’re outside gardening you’re also outside getting hot and sweaty. If I am going to get hot and sweaty outside, I prefer to be sitting in a lounger at a pool.
Once a year, though, because we haven’t yet won the lottery yet despite my husband buying tickets more often than he should, I use my brown thumbs to drive to Home Depot to buy mulch. Then I go to a garden center and pick up plants to replace the perennials that weren’t and put some petunias into planters so I can complain about having to water them every day until mid-September. This is a ritual that I carry out through gritted teeth, while cursing my allergies to all of the outdoors. (Seriously, I am allergic to all the trees, grasses, and weeds that grow here.) I continue to pray that someday a tall, handsome man will show up at my house and offer to take care of my yard and grow flowers for me just because he thinks I’m amazing. If this tall, handsome gardener man does materialize, Steve will have to learn to live with him. And, before you say anything, I did offer to interview Steve for the position of tall, handsome gardener man, but his application is currently under review because he isn’t willing to work for free.
Until a gardener has been acquired, I will continue to bitch about planting, watering, and weeding every stupid spring because, as Bobby Brown so eloquently put it back in 1988 and all my fellow Gen Xers know, it’s my prerogative.
My husband lost his taste to Covid-19 in late October 2020 when our family got coronavirus. Luke got all his taste back right after he felt better. Joe’s taste came back too, although he discovered that coffee was no longer enjoyable for a while. My sense of taste also mostly returned, although I lost my interest in cilantro, peppers, and soda because they tasted either weird or gross. I am still avoiding cilantro and peppers, but I can drink Coke again so that is both a blessing and a curse. But Steve, well, he figures he has about 25% of his pre-Covid smell and taste back. That is it. Still. He hasn’t had much improvement over the past year. This is incredibly frustrating for a guy who really enjoys eating and who asks me at breakfast what is for dinner. As it stands now, Steve can get the subtleties of salt, fat, acid, heat, and sweet in most food, but he cannot taste the flavor of an apple, for example. He enjoys the crunch of an apple and its sweetness, but he can’t taste a Honeycrisp or tell it from a Gala or a pear. So frustrating.
Steve has discovered that full-bodied red wines actually have some flavor for him. So tonight he was researching flavor profiles in wines. This made him think about the movie Somm, which is about people studying to become Master Sommeliers. These people spend their lives smelling everything and tasting wines to describe their flavors. Some articles have suggested that people like Steve need to retrain the brain post Covid. This led Steve to a deeper curiosity about the science behind how people are able to taste, how the brain works in concert with the nose and the tongue to assess flavors. To learn more, he actually Googled this phrase: “How do people taste?” This search did not yield the exact results he was hoping for.
Now, I have to admit that it would not have occurred to me either that there is actual information readily available about what a human being tastes like when consumed, but there is. And, just like that, my husband’s search history will now reveal that he searched the Internet for a flavor profile of a human being. I find this a bit concerning. Can you imagine him trying to explain his way out of it if I suddenly went missing? Furthermore, would he grill me or pan fry me? Would he grab the buffalo, barbecue, or sriracha sauce? I’m not actually afraid he will kill and eat me, but I am wondering what other searches are on his laptop. And, beyond that, I am now curious about how people taste. Who tasted people, typed up the flavor profile results from their experiment in cannibalism, and uploaded them to the Internet? Are we like alligators? Do we taste like chicken too. So, so many questions here.
An article in Smithsonian Magazine published in February of 2014 states, “According to the testimony of people who have actually eaten other people, the taste of human meat does not reflect its beef-like appearance. Both serial killers and Polynesian cannibals have described human as being most akin to pork. But not all cannibals agree with this description.” So, there you have it. We do not taste like chicken as I suspected. We may taste like pork, but not all cannibals agree on this. There’s a sentence I never thought I would type, twice. Still, good to know, I guess, in case you’re ever in a plane crash in the Andes and your buddy tells you it’s okay to go ahead and eat him. At least you will know that buffalo, barbecue, or sriracha are all acceptable condiments to pair with Brian. You might just discover he was a lot tastier than he looked.
As for Steve, I’m not too worried about him. He could try to eat me, but he probably wouldn’t go to the trouble since he wouldn’t be able to taste me anyway. And I’m gonna be in trouble with the Feds now too because my search history also shows an inquiry into the taste of human flesh. If anyone’s looking for a plot for their true crime novel, how about a cannibalistic serial killer eats his victims and then, to escape suspicion, tips off investigators to a couple of dummies who searched Google for “how do people taste” and then wrote a blog post about it?
If I go to jail for cannibalism, it’s Steve’s fault. Stupid Covid.
It has come to my attention that the post I wrote months ago about my husband’s sleeping habits made him feel a bit called out. Let me first state that was not my intention at all. People who are included in my blog posts often think the blog posts are about them. Ninety-five percent of the time, this is untrue. Oddly enough, my blogs are usually about me or my opinions. I may mention other people, but not because I am calling them out. They are part of my story. They are not THE story. Anyhoo, my sweet spouse felt a little seen about my post regarding the fact that he can sleep anywhere while I, in fact, cannot. So, I have resolved to make this better.
In case you think, after reading that post, that I was calling my husband out for his sleeping gift, I thought I would share this little tidbit from our house. My husband is not the only one who sleeps in odd positions on the floor. While I still struggle to sleep on many nights in my comfortable Sleep Number bed with my twin down comforter, this family member, like my husband, has zero problem sleeping:
To summarize, I did not write about my husband’s fall-apart-on-the-floor-due-to-exhaustion sleeping habits because I was calling him out. I wrote about them because, as I stated in my earlier post, I am jealous and wish I could sleep like him. Or our dog. Or both of them.
If I could sleep anywhere, including on my stomach on the living room floor with my feet out in a corgi sploot, I would. Ain’t no shame in that.
Over my years of blogging here, I have minced no words when it comes to my disdain for Valentine’s Day. I think it is ridiculous. A holiday, dreamt up in cooperation by the greeting card, candy, and flower industries, that makes people either feel bad or stress out. That said, I do buy cards and candy for my husband and sons because they like those things and I like them. I also do send simple greetings to my most treasured friends because I love them and I don’t always remember to tell them that.
As a rule, my husband and I exchange cards. I do not want or expect gifts on this day. Truth be told, receiving gifts is not part of my love language. I would much rather my husband take my car to get the oil changed or drop things off at Goodwill to show me he loves me. Actions speak louder to me than words. Acts of service make sense to me when it comes to showing someone you love them. If I cook your dinner, wash your underwear, and pick up after your messes, I love you. I won’t do those things for just anyone.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I walked into the closet this afternoon after my morning’s worth of errands and found this:
This is my happy place. In actuality, a hammock is my happy place, be it in a park, at a campground, on a beach under a palm tree, or in the country. Somewhere peaceful, where I can enjoy the surrounding views and the blue sky while swaying ever so gently in repose. A seat where my mind, busy with all its overthinking, can take a few moments of respite while I practice my skills at being a human being rather than a human doing. This is everything.
It was apropos that Steve hung this in our closet because that is where I meditate (don’t judge…it’s quiet and no one goes in there). It is also where I go when I am stressed and need to take a pause to breathe and get ready to face life again. I have been in our closet more than usual lately. In the absence of a shady, quiet spot where I can float in a hammock, I will totally use this visual reminder of my happy place in our closet. It will work just fine in between times when I can be in the mountains or a park or on a beach staring at the sky.
Every single day I am grateful for my husband who has given me every good thing in my life and always allowed me space to grow and be the introverted nutball I am. Marriage certainly has its ups and downs, but there are decidedly less of those when you are married to someone who truly gets you.
If Valentine’s Day is your special day, I hope you have a great one. If, like me, this day is just another day on the calendar to you, I hope you get to spend it with people who know how to make your happy place appear when you need it most.
In preparation for dinner tonight, I was peeling some Gala apples for homemade applesauce. As I was peeling, I remembered something my mom told me when I was growing up. She said I couldn’t get married until I could peel an apple in one, long, continuous, curly strip. Now, at the time, I saw this comment as more of a challenge than anything else. I like challenges. So, every time thereafter when I had the occasion to peel an apple, I practiced the skill of being able to peel it in one piece. And I learned to do it because, well, it’s not exactly rocket science.
Today, though, as I was peeling the apples and my mom’s comment popped into my head as it does every time I peel apples, I recognized it immediately for the load of patriarchal bullshit it is. I imagined a home economics class in the 1950s where some matronly teacher in a prim and demure dress and a pressed and starched apron shared that little nugget with her all-female class. I imagined most of the women in the class, who were raised to believe that being a housewife and mother was the greatest calling a woman could ever aspire to, adopted that mindset and got busy peeling apples on their way to wedded, domestic bliss. I also imagined, though, a couple young women who, while not daring to speak their truth out loud, also decided this was a load of patriarchal bullshit and internally rolled their eyes.
It’s more than a little depressing to realize these little tidbits were doled out throughout history to keep women in line, barefoot and pregnant on the mommy track, and out of the working world. Well, maybe not barefoot in the 50s because women had to be made up and man-ready to meet their husband at the front door with his pipe and slippers in the 50s. I remember being incensed when I read works by Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, stories where proper, young women “improved” themselves by reading poetry and playing the pianoforte and practicing etiquette and perfecting needlework so they could make themselves the most attractive potential bride in the village so they could land a duke or something to elevate their status. In college, that really riled me up. And, I know what you’re thinking. But, but you quit working to raise children and make a home. Yes. Yes I did. Perhaps I sold my career potential a little short with that decision, but at least I had a choice about it, more of a choice than the women in Victorian England or 1950s America had anyway. I mean, I chose not to improve myself by taking home economics in high school because I felt it was demeaning and I didn’t care for the box that class would put me in. It was later on when I was on my own and learned that sewing might have been a useful skill and that weekly meal planning required more work than I had hoped.
So, I guess my point here (and I do have one) is that women have come a long way but not as far as we could have if we’d been given more choices and opportunities. But we still live in a patriarchal world. I mean, here I am on a Wednesday making homemade applesauce and trying to make sure I peel the apples all in one careful motion. We should do something about that. And about the patriarchy too.
Love is blind. I know we have all heard that platitude a million times, but for some reason today it didn’t sit right with me when I heard it in a song. This, I assume, is because I am growing as a person and seeing life through a different lens. I used to think that phrase meant that when you love someone you are blind to their faults. Maybe that part is true when you are first falling for someone in a romantic way, but I don’t think it’s true once you are fully committed to a person or in relationships that are not romantic in nature, like with siblings or children or parents. I love my children more than anything and would give my life for theirs in a heartbeat, but I’m not blind to who they are, all of them, the good and the bad traits (some of which definitely came to them through me). And I think they absolutely could tell you what the positives and negatives are about me.
I am no expert on love, having come to know it only in the last half of my life thus far. As I was growing up, I understood love on an intellectual level. I had no real concept of it because I had experienced no real example of it. I assumed my parents loved me because they would get angry if I came home late. But if love was indeed blind, then my parents didn’t love me because they definitely knew my shortcomings and pointed them out regularly. So love confounded me. How did it work?
Here is what I have learned about love since having my own children. Love is not blind, and it shouldn’t be. Love is knowing someone intimately and wanting the best for them always, even when they are confused about their gender identity or in jail because they got a DUI or lost the thousand dollars they got from you for Christmas. If you aren’t able to recognize someone’s struggles, weaknesses, and issues, how can you be there for them, to support and encourage them, to take care of them when they are at their worst? Love isn’t about being blind to who someone is or what they do. It’s about being there for them in spite of the things about them or that they do to make you crazy, stressed, worried, angry, or frustrated.
Love is all seeing and ever present. It exists in the hard work of being present for someone else no matter what. It’s you seeing someone else in all their humanity and appreciating them both for it and in spite of it. It’s in the sacrifices you make for another person. It’s in the suffering you take on to ease their pain. Love is about showing up. It’s a lot harder to show up if you can’t see.
Thanksgiving is in a couple days. My husband just finished having a late night snack. He went to load his plate in the dishwasher and start it.
Him: “Uh oh.”
Me: “What’s wrong?”
Him: “The dishwasher isn’t working.”
In my past, at this point, I can say with all confidence I would be losing my shit. Just in time for Thanksgiving? Of course. Why not? That makes perfect sense. Even with only 7 people dining, that’s 7 dinner plates, 7 dessert plates, 7 glasses, 21 pieces of silverware, assorted serving utensils and pieces, and this would add up fast. Way too fast for this English major to figure in her head. The whole reason I unloaded the china we asked people to buy for our wedding was because I decided I would not ever want to wash all the dishes from Thanksgiving by hand.
Me: (incredulously) “It’s not working?”
He is pressing all sorts of buttons, and I can tell from his expression nothing on the display panel is lighting up.
This gives me pause, but rather than lose my mind as I would have done in the past, I simply decide that it’s fine. We can hand wash or we can use paper plates and plastic utensils (not environmentally sound, but desperate times call for lowered moral standards). Maybe we have it both ways and can use some paper and do some hand washing of other items, thereby alleviating some of my guilt for using disposable items out of sheer laziness while still managing to be somewhat lazy.
I watch him for a few more seconds as he pushes buttons. Then, I can tell from a look on his face, it is working again.
Him: “Never mind. It’s working again.”
Me: “That’s a relief.”
Him: “My hands must have been wet.”
I assumed that meant that wet hands interfered with the touch screen. I made my peace with the fact that the whole incident had been a non-starter. And just like back we were back to normal. Steve was finishing the last bite of his toast, and I was back to watching episodes of Seinfeld. Thanksgiving was saved. We could use three plates a piece instead of just two and could put saucers under the cups now if we wanted to. Oh, reckless abandon!
When my husband and I were first together, we shared a full size bed, and we were totally happy with it. Young love, am I right? When we bought our first house, though, we upgraded to a queen size mattress because we were asserting our adulthood and buying a grown-up bed. When we bought our second house, we stayed with the queen size frame we had purchased, but bought a Sleep Number bed because I was pregnant and realized that I needed a softer bed. We would no longer have to argue about a mattress that was too firm for me but not firm enough for him, or so I thought. But when that bad wore out after ten years, I let hubby talk me into a memory foam mattress that showed up at our house like a big taquito. We cut the plastic off it and let it slowly unroll into a plain tortilla in square shape. Oh, how I hated that mattress. It was way too firm for me and made my hips fall asleep when I laid on my sides, which as a side sleeper was highly problematic. To fix my pins-and-needles hips, I got an egg crate topper, which he hated because he thought it was way too hot. So we went back to another queen size Sleep Number bed, hoping that would solve both my need for a softer bed and his need for a cooler bed.
And that bed was fine until we bought a bigger house. Then we decided we should get a king size bed to fit the bigger room. We agreed it had to be a Sleep Number bed, so that was good. But, twenty-five years into marriage, we had learned some things about each other. Other than the fact that we both want the bedroom to be cold year round, we are not similar sleepers. Steve is one large exothermic reaction who emanates heat. Like, you can feel it coming off his body under the covers. It’s like he’s melting. It’s spooky. He also doesn’t stay in one spot when he sleeps. He is expansive and likes to travel. And despite his complaining he is always too warm, he tends to move a lot in his sleep and take the covers with him. I sleep cold in every season except summer. To combat his cover stealing and stay warm, I sleep with extra blankets (yes, blankets, plural). I remain in one spot all night, rotating like a chicken on a rotisserie. Despite my taking up very little space, I want to be surrounded by a lot of it. I do not want to be crowded. Cuddling is for warming up for exactly three minutes on a cold January night. After that, I want to be left alone under my cozy covers in my space. You stay where you are.
We’d solved the space issues when we bought the king size bed. But now we had cover issues. The king size bed means Steve has even more room to move around, which means he can steal even more covers. So now I am cold all the time. For winter, we bought a dual side comforter, cooler for him and warmer for me, but you guessed it. He steals the warmer side and then complains he is too hot. And he only lets me have it on the bed for six months, and I need it to be there for nine.
Tonight we decided it is time to pull the emergency lever. We’re going full on Scandinavian, which is something Steve talked about doing after we spent a week in Norway in 2009. I ordered us each our own twin size, down comforter, lightweight for him, mid-weight for me. Hopefully this solves our temperature and cover thieving problems. If it works, I promise to give him all the credit for the solution I wanted no part of for 12 years because it involved more damn bedding. If it doesn’t, I hope he likes the queen sleeper sofa he recently got for his office because that is where he is headed, where he can spread out and steal all the covers he desires from his own self.
And if anyone mentions getting twin beds for our twin comforters and putting that ensemble in our bedroom ala I Love Lucy, I will lose my mind. I am finished analyzing, talking about, and problem solving sleep. I would just like to get some damn sleep already. Please. I’m begging.
In the days before the Internet and FaceTime and Zoom and texting, people wrote letters. A stamp, a pen, and a piece of paper were all you needed to share the contents of your mind and heart with someone who was worth the effort of your time and questionable penmanship. As is the habit for many people, I saved quite a few of the letters I received over the years from friends and boyfriends. I kept them in a box that once held my cassette player (back in the days when cassettes were a thing). Over time, that box got rather stuffed with random correspondence. I didn’t open it very often to read its contents, but I dragged it with me each time I moved. It would relocate from the top of one closet shelf to another, from apartment to apartment. There was something about knowing those letters were there if I ever wanted to trot down memory lane or perhaps clarify a memory that had become distorted or foggy.
When my husband and I got engaged and decided to move in together, he was helping me move boxes into my car when he came across that one. He asked me why I was bringing it. After all, if these letters represented relationships that had long since gone defunct, why was I clinging to them? I honestly could not give him a suitable answer. If I’d said I was keeping them for sentimental reasons, that would only make the box more of an issue in our relationship at the time. I didn’t know how to respond. In the absence of a viable response, he asked me if I could add them to the dumpster along with the wooden case holding 100 cassette tapes I no longer needed since he had a CD player he was willing to share. I acquiesced because he had never asked for anything from me, we were getting married and he was my future, and it seemed like a small sacrifice I should be willing to make for someone who had never been anything but kind, loving, supportive, and patient with me. With a pang of disappointment, I lobbed them over the wall of the dumpster, turned around, and tried not to look back. I was twenty-six then, he twenty-four.
In the years since, we both have felt deep regret over that event. He has felt horrible for asking me to toss a box of papers because he felt a little jealous about its existence. I have felt anger at myself for not defending my right to keep them because they were harmless mementos from my youth. But there is no unringing that bell. They are long gone. So now we just carry around the shame regarding that missing box instead of carrying around the box itself, which we have both agreed is so much more emotionally cumbersome than that damn box ever was.
This decision, made in our youth when we were not emotionally mature and had no real experience to gift us with greater perspective, has laden us with invisible baggage that we have hauled for decades. It’s something he doesn’t like me to mention because he feels just that bad about it, but I don’t blame him because the box is gone. I blame myself for not being self-aware enough to tell him it was part of my life I wasn’t ready to jettison. But it’s time for us to unload our disappointment in ourselves and the choices we made when we were younger and not able to see so far into the future. Seriously. Who can see twenty-seven years into the future when they aren’t even twenty-seven yet? The guilt and shame we feel needs to go. That box has long since been replaced by countless wonderful memories and experiences as our life together has been filled with love and fun and two absolutely-perfect-in-nearly-every-way adult sons, not to mention dozens upon dozens of cards and notes we have written to each other and saved. Therefore, I am declaring it time to move on. I may not be able to read those missives again, but I have something much more important. I would never trade my current life, our family, our shared experiences for those pieces of paper and neither would he. It’s way past time for us to toss the shame and self-flaggelation in the dumpster and move forward.