Etiquette Schooling

Looking contrite
Looking contrite

Last week, a couple days post Christmas, hubby was working on his thank you notes. Yes. Thank you notes. We both come from families that are big on thank you notes. So, after birthdays and Christmas, you will find everyone in our family cranking out thank you notes. We get them from my 80 year old father-in-law. Our sons have been sending them since they learned to write the alphabet. (Before that, I sent notes for them, which meant for each gift Joe, Luke, and I received I wrote notes. I got hand cramps every Christmas as well as in late spring because our sons’ birthdays lie within two weeks on either side of mine.). Hubby has the infernal curse of having his birthday on December 20th, which means he gets to do double thank you note duty after Christmas to cover both occasions. Two gifts means two notes.

I’d like to say that this is all unnecessary, but the truth is that I like the tradition. That’s not to say that I enjoy writing the notes. I don’t, not really. But, I honestly think it’s great that both our families believe in this old-school nicety. I hold out hope that my boys will continue the tradition as they get older. In a world that finds us increasingly impolite and me-focused, this small, written gesture of gratitude gives me hope that we’re not all self-absorbed savages.

Although my boys write their own notes now (except for the lines that I draw on their blank cards to keep them on track), I address the envelopes for them. I still do this because writing and spelling are difficult for my guys. I’d rather they focus their neatness and attention on the notes themselves. Well, the other night as Steve was working on his birthday thank you notes, he needed some assistance addressing his envelopes.

“What’s Julie’s address?” he asked, referring to my youngest sister.

I stared at him blankly. Seriously?

“Get the address from your phone,” I told him.

“It’s not in my phone,” he replied.

“Why not?” I questioned.

“Well, she moved,” he said.

“Uh huh,” I answered. “More than six months ago.”

“What is it?” he asked, attempting to press on.

“Don’t you think you should have my family members’ addresses and phone numbers in your phone? I have your sister’s and your parents’ information in my phone. What if you needed to get in touch with them?”

I was surprised he had such an information deficit in his life. I guess he felt he didn’t need to worry about it because he has me to supply the information for him. And it’s true. In the end, I gave him my sister’s address along with an admonishment, hinting that it might be a perfect time to add her to his iPhone address book. But, tonight, as he was finishing up his Christmas thank you notes, he asked me once again for my sister’s address.

“Are you kidding me?” I said.

“Well….she’s going to be moving again soon, right?”

“Probably. But, that’s not the point. I gave you this info a week ago and now I’m doing it again. Do I have three children or two?”

With that, he finally pulled out his phone, asked for her cell number and address, and put it on record at last.

There are days when I’m feeling fairly unimportant as stay-at-home mom who makes no financial contributions to our household. But, when I think about things that are housed in my brain, things that help our family run smoothly, I know there would be a definite gap if something happened to me. For starters, it’s clear that the thank you notes wouldn’t get sent.

The Delayed Spontaneity of Adulthood

Now that's a winter wonderland!
Now that’s a winter wonderland!

So, on Friday morning we were just lounging around home, accomplishing nothing. With all the gift buying and wrapping, card writing and sending, cleaning, and cooking in preparation of the holidays completed, we were firmly rooted in a state of vegetation. Sitting on the bed, staring out the window, it occurred to me that for the first time in weeks we had no plans. Not one thing needed to be accomplished. No errands to run. The house was clean. The laundry was washed, folded, ironed, and put away. For giggles, I checked the calendar on my iPhone. For the next three days, there was nothing on the calendar but a dinner reservation we could easily cancel. A brilliant plan hatched in my brain. Our mountain house was vacant. When it’s cold and snowy and there’s nothing pressing, the best place in the world to be is on our couch in Steamboat, watching the snow fall and hanging out with our boys. We needed to get there. Stat!

Thinking this was such an incredibly genius plan, I sprung the idea on my husband.

“So, what are we doing today?” I asked.

“Nothing,” he replied. “Just hanging out.”

“Well, we could go to Steamboat,” I suggested. “We’ve got nothing going on for the next three days and it’s empty. If we’re going to hang out, we could do it there.”

“But what about our dinner reservations for Linger tonight? I was kind of looking forward to that.”

“They’re reservations. We can get in another time,” I said.

“It took us a long time to get a reservation there,” he replied.

“I know. But, we can find another reservation.”

“I don’t know,” he hedged.

I am not proud, but at this point I began pouting. I love a spontaneous trip..a change of plans…a shift in scenery at the last minute. The boys would be home with me for Christmas Break for the next two weeks. I felt I’d already seen enough of the inside of our house. I wanted out. My husband, on the other hand, doesn’t have the opportunity I have to lounge at home. For him, a few unscheduled, unstructured days at home sounds like heaven. He saw me pouting and took the bait.

“It’s just a lot of work to get out of here,” he said. “We have to pack everything up. I need to get a haircut. I don’t feel like spending three hours in the car.”

I continued pouting. It was obvious we were at an impasse.

“There’s nothing left to do,” I said. “We’re all ready for Christmas. We haven’t been to Steamboat since July. The place is open. We have three free days. We could head up there and spend some time relaxing before three full days with our families,” I tried again.

“Maybe we could find some fun things to do around town and do those instead?” he suggested.

“Like what?” I inquired in my best you-have-no-idea-what-you’re-talking-about tone.

“I don’t know. We could do some research.”

“Go get your haircut,” I said, clearly annoyed.

“We can talk about it,” he said. “I mean, I guess we could go. You’re right. There’s nothing stopping us.”

“But, you don’t want to go. And, now I know you don’t want to go. So, if we go then I will know the entire time you’d rather be doing something else and that kind of ruins it for me.” After a long pause, I said, “We don’t ever do anything spontaneous anymore.”

“Yes, we do,” he said.

“Deciding on take out Thai food instead of cooking is not the kind of spontaneity to which I am referring,” I said plainly.

“It’s harder to be more spontaneous when you have kids,” he replied. I cannot argue with this. It is a fact. A sad fact, but a fact nonetheless.

“Well, we’ll talk about it after your haircut,” I sighed. “Whatever we do today it can’t happen until after you get that taken care of, anyway, so go.”

I sent him on his merry way. While he was gone, I did a little prep work. I knew he would come around to the idea of a quick getaway once he had some time to get used to the idea. I packed up our winter gear. I gathered up holiday movies, our Christmas stockings and their stuffers, and prepped the boys on what they would need to pack. When he got home and realized how quickly we could depart, he just might give in.

When he got home, his attitude had been adjusted as I suspected it might be. We quickly tossed a change of clothes into a duffel bag, grabbed some food for the dog and a couple groceries from the kitchen, and hopped in the car. Three and a half hours later, after a stop for gas and the required latte bribe, we were in Steamboat. It’s not that we’re not spontaneous anymore. It’s just that spontaneity requires a bit of lead time when you have responsibilities. First you have to throw off your natural inclination to size up the amount of work the spontaneity requires. Then you have to let go previously visualized plans, no matter how loose and open they were. Then you have to be willing to give yourself over to the moment. If you can break through those three obstacles, adult spontaneity is entirely possible. A bit delayed, perhaps, but still possible.

The Grocery Store Wars

Hey, Steve. Visualize the pantry. ;)
Hey, Steve. Visualize the pantry. 😉

As the stay-at-home parent, I am the primary grocery shopper in our household. The record will show that I am at Super Target (and/or Safeway) no less than three times each week. The first time I go, usually on Monday morning after I drop the boys at school, I do our shopping for the week. Or, at least that is what I am planning to accomplish. What usually happens, though, is that as soon as I arrive home I realize (often with an audible dammit!) I’ve forgotten something I needed. So, my second grocery shopping trip often occurs on Tuesday, when I revisit the aforementioned store to pick up the items I missed the first time around. The third trip to the store occurs around Thursday, or sometimes as early as Wednesday, because my children have pointed out that they’re out of Goldfish crackers or yogurt or some other thing they neglected to mention we were out of but must have all the same. The clerks at Super Target see me coming with my cloth bags and can probably rattle off what I have in my cart before I even start unloading it. Yes. Sadly, I am that predictable.

Every once in a while, to avoid the embarrassment of showing up at my regular Super Target for a fourth time in as many days, I will ask my husband to grab something from the store on his way home. It’s one of those things I try not to do, but sometimes it’s a necessary evil. Now, you might think I don’t ask my husband to shop because I feel it’s my job or because I hate troubling him after a long day at work. That is not, however, the case. I hate asking my husband to stop at the store because it’s inevitable that when he does he will come home with not exactly what I asked for. In addition, he will have purchased several items that were not on the list at all. I will never understand how he can live in the same house with the kids and I but have no idea what our regular family items are. He will purchase more or less what I want but not exactly. I’m not sure about you, but my kids are fussy about brands so it makes me insane when hubby goes rogue in the grocery store. We’re supposed to be a team. The reason we’re still married after 17 years is that I have come to expect this. Therefore, I try to avoid sending him to the store. It’s a matter of marriage preservation.

For a long time, I thought this was a quirk of our marriage. Then, tonight, a dear friend told me about her husband’s trip to the grocery store. She had asked him to pick up jam. He was apparently confused by her use of the word jam so he sent her a text to clarify. This cracked me up. Steve would have done the same thing. He would have messaged me from the store to ask if I meant jam like in a glass jar or did I really mean jelly like in the Smucker’s squeeze bottle we get for the boys’ peanut butter sandwiches. This would have annoyed the living crap out of me because I would feel he was pestering me because I wasn’t explicit enough. In actuality, he’s be pestering me because he had no clue what I meant and he didn’t want to get in trouble by coming home with the wrong thing. Still…I’d be frustrated because, seriously, doesn’t he live in this house and know what type of jam/jelly we use? What is wrong with him? How can the clerks at Super Target know what I buy while my husband has not a clue?

I told my friend that I get perplexed when my husband consistently returns from the grocery store with some completely bizarre brand I’ve never even seen before, one I’m certain our children will not eat. (You see, I know that my kids will not eat off-brand Goldfish crackers. They’re food ninjas. They know when you try to pull a fast one on them. I don’t waste our money on anything but Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers. Buy imposter Goldfish crackers once, shame on me. Buy imposter Goldfish twice? Well…I’m just not that stupid.) Steve’s blatant disregard for my brand loyalty and specific shopping instructions has led me to only one conclusion. He buys what he wants at the store simply to assert his decision-making power within our family unit. Years of feeling henpecked about his shopping choices have led him to a subversive tactic for retribution. Bad grocery shopping has become his silent rebellion, his non-violent protest against oppression. He thinks he’s Gandhi. I simply wish he’d be Gandhi-esque about something else. Maybe he could non-violently protest the unlawful gathering of shoes on his side of the bed?

Photos, Plimsolls, and Paybacks

Image 1
My most flattering photo. Ever.

Sometimes people (especially my mother) tell me that I share too many personal things about my husband in this blog. They think he must be some kind of saint for tolerating what I write here. I don’t agree because everyone who knows a writer should be well aware that they should be careful of what they say lest they wind up as blog or book fodder. It comes with the territory. The reason I don’t feel bad writing about my husband is because he’s a photographer. He’s always walking around with his camera, snapping unwanted photos, and calling it “art.” Just tonight, after I’d crawled into bed after washing my face, hair still up and sans makeup, he thought it might be fun to snap a photo of me despite my specifically asking him to do no such thing. For this action, he received the look of death, a look which he of course captured with his fancy camera. He then had the nerve to show it to me and wax rhapsodic about how great the camera is in low light. Evil.

There's a glass slipper in there somewhere, I'm sure.
There’s a glass slipper in there somewhere. You just know there has to be.

In retribution for this unfair photo, I give you a photo and a story of my own. This is a photo of a small portion of my husband’s shoe collection, the portion that is currently in residence on the floor on his side of the bed. He also has shoes stored in our closet and in the laundry room. I understand there are splinter sects of his shoes hiding throughout our house like rebels in caves in Afghanistan. Yes. My husband owns a lot of shoes. He owns more pairs of shoes than most other men I know. He probably owns more shoes than many women I know as well. In fact, for a man who has such a difficult time selecting a pair of shoes to purchase (he once spent about 1.5 hours picking out a pair of Birkenstock sandals, which he promptly rethought and then returned the next day for a different pair), it’s borderline miraculous that he could ever have found the time to purchase so many pairs. I make no claims as to the quality of his shoe collection, but the quantity is impressive.

I have friends who are married to men who might be casually referred to as a guy’s guy. These men spend their weekends watching sports. They know how to fix things around their home. They wouldn’t be caught dead sipping white wine. They don’t buy copies of Real Simple. They don’t know the difference between a Mary Jane and a peep toe. These friends often bemoan living with their more caveman-like husbands. They tell me they wish their husbands were more like Steve. By that, I assume they mean more interested in shoes. I tell them to be careful what they wish for. A husband like Steve may be able to tell you which pump looks best with your pencil skirt, but this knowledge comes with a price. A man who is knowledgeable about shoes will require a lot more closet space, and you’ll still have to live with a mound of man shoes next to your bed.

The Three Meanest Words In The English Language

One crazy family is enough.

For a few years now, there’s been a television show on NBC called Parenthood. I rarely watch network television, mostly because our evenings are filled with homework and getting the boys ready for school the next day and family time. What little time is left at the end of the night is primarily devoted to my trying to scheme up an idea to write about in this blog. My sisters have been talking to me about the show for years and telling me I should watch it. Frankly, though, it looked a wee bit too sappy for me so I have taken a pass on it without a second thought. A couple weeks ago when I finally told my mom we were having Luke evaluated for possible learning disabilities, she suggested Parenthood to me too. I started wondering if there was some sort of reward from NBC for people who bring new viewers to the show. But, Mom told me that the show might validate some of what I go through with my boys because a couple on the show has a child with differences. She thought I might be able to relate to it. So, I caved and started watching it via Netflix.

Well, it turns out that my mom and sisters were right. It’s a really good show. And, yes, watching Kristina and Adam negotiate the waters of Asperger’s Syndrome with their son Max does seem a wee bit familiar. It’s nice to be able to identify with a parenting experience similar to mine rather than watching a parenting experience I wish I had. The episode I watched today, though, hit a little too close to home. The teenage daughter buys a sexy black lace bra from Victoria’s Secret. The parents are not too happy about it because they realize what it means about the escapades of their fifteen year old daughter and the boy she has been seeing. As the mother leaves the daughter behind to go on a business trip, she whispers the three meanest words in the English language to her. She says, “I trust you.”

Oh, how I hate that phrase. That phrase is a lie. If you trust someone, you don’t tell them that you trust them. You simply do. If you tell someone you trust them, what you’re really saying is something like “I want to trust you so if you go behind my back you won’t be able to withstand the crippling guilt of having disappointed me after I put my faith in you in this very obvious way.” The implication is that whatever it is you were thinking you were going to do in some way goes against some underlying compact and will destroy the very fabric of our relationship. Those three words completely remove the fun from whatever it is you wanted to do. I hate that.

My husband has said these words to me on more than one occasion. Oddly enough it’s always been under the same circumstance. I’ve wanted something expensive and threatened to buy it against his wishes and better judgment. Then, he utters those three words and renders me powerless.

“I think I’m going to go ahead and book us that trip to Costa Rica,” I say. “The one I told you about.”

“I told you we really can’t afford to do that right now,” he replies.

“I know. But, we’ve only got one life, and it’s such a fabulous deal on a trip I really want to take. We can find a way to make it work,” I plead.

At this point, he’s running through for me the long, boring, laundry list of items we honestly *need* to spend our money on, stuff like carpet cleaning, a new water heater, and a stack of bills. Meanwhile, I’m rolling my eyes at him and singing “lalalalalala” with my fingers in my ears (in my head, anyway).

“You can’t stop me, you know. If I buy the trip, you’ll go and have a great time,” I say.

“But, you won’t buy the trip,” he replies. “You know how I feel about it. And, I trust you.” And, with that, the trip slips through my fingers. We won’t be going to Costa Rica, at least not this time.

I began watching Parenthood because I was looking to make a connection that would make me feel better about my life. As it turns out, though, the similarities between that show and my real life have become a bit too surreal for me. It’s as if the writers and Ron Howard have been stalking my life for material. And, let’s face it, there really is no escape from reality in television if the television you’re watching is mirroring your life. Perhaps it’s time to switch to The Walking Dead. I bet there’s nothing in that show that will reek of the too familiar. At least, not until the predicted Zombie Apocalypse occurs.








The King Of Doubt Marries The Queen Of Curiosity

The bottle that did not kill me and would not, apparently, make a good mixer for my vodka.

Two years ago I was very sick for Thanksgiving. Suffering from both bronchitis and a sinus infection, I had multiple prescriptions for antibiotics, decongestants, and cough syrups, and a doctor’s order for bed rest. As I was coughing the other night on Day Three of what is now a five (soon to be six) day cold, I heard a little click. Light bulb! I jumped out of bed and ran to the closet in my bathroom. After digging around for a few minutes, I found a half full bottle of codeine cough syrup, a remnant from my 2010 sickness. I ran downstairs to get a dosing spoon. Perhaps I would finally get some respite from this wretched cough and sleep! When I got back upstairs, hubby asked me what I was doing.

“I found this cough syrup. I’m going to take some and finally get some sleep,” I told him.

“How old is that stuff?” he asked.

“A couple years?” I shrugged. There was no expiration date on the bottle.

“Are you sure it’s okay to take that?”

“It’s not a dairy product. It’s not like it turned or anything. It’s gotta be chock full of preservatives. I’m not about to ingest two-year-old raw chicken I had sitting in the back of the closet. Don’t ruin this for me,” I said, trying to convince myself that he was not going to introduce any doubt into my resolved mind.

I was going to get some sleep, dammit. He would not deprive me of this with his overactive imagination and his wild visions of my dying prematurely and leaving him as a single father of two sons. Nope. I was going to live on the edge and take the stupid codeine. I deserved the sleep. He was not going to take this from me. I was going to take it. Yep. I definitely was. I shook the bottle lightly to mix the syrup and poured myself the recommended dose. Oh, okay. If you must know, I sniffed it too. Silly husband had me a bit curious. That’s all. It smelled fine. Just as I was about to drink it, he spoke up again.

“You sure you don’t want to verify that it’s okay to take that?” he asked.

“I’m sure it is fine. It smells fine. I saw a show once that said the worst that happens with most medications is that they lose their effectiveness with time. Most of them don’t become more dangerous. They become less dangerous,” I reassured him.

Most of them don’t become more dangerous? How do you know this isn’t one of the ones that does become more dangerous?”

Seriously? He was egging me on. I knew it. I stalled for a few minutes. When he went in to sit with the boys as they were falling asleep, I decided that I might as well go ahead and conduct a Google search. Once I knew for sure that I was right I could show him the proof and then he’d have to leave me alone, right? I grabbed my laptop and did about fifteen minutes worth of reading, all of which supported my theory that it would be fine to take it. If anything, it had probably only lost some effectiveness, so the worst that could happen would be that I would take it and get none of the cough-free sleep I so desperately needed and deserved. While he was still out of the room, I hopped out of bed, drank the cough syrup, quickly recalled how icky it tastes, chased it with some water and a brushing of my teeth, and jumped back in bed just before he returned.

“So, did you take it?” he said.

“Yes. Yes I did,” I said confidently.

“How much did you take?” he inquired.

“Why do you want to know?” I asked.

“Well…if something goes horribly awry and I end up having to call 911 because you seem to be turning into a zombie, I just want to know what to tell to the physicians whose brains you’ll be trying to eat what you took.”

“Funny,” I said, rolling my eyes at him. “You’re a laugh riot. Just you wait. I’m going to sleep tonight, wake up fine tomorrow, and you’re going to owe me an apology for giving me such a load of grief,” I told him.

“Uh huh. Sure,” he said as he turned out the light on his side of the bed and went to sleep.

I’ll have you know that I slept like a baby that night. 9 hours straight. I did the same thing last night. And, I’m going to do it again tonight. No regrets about my decision. I am still, however, slightly disappointed in myself for letting him get into my head like that and making me think for a fraction of a second that I could be wrong. When am I ever wrong? The good news is that I have my browser set so that it doesn’t save any of my web site activity because I’m stealthy like that. He will never know that I did actually check up on the safety of the medication upon his recommendation. (Well…unless he reads this blog, I guess.) Men. You can’t let them know they can get to you. If they know that, it’s all over. You’ll never again have a moment’s peace.



Want Something Cleaned? Pee On It

It’s clean and I didn’t have to do it!

Last night, our son Luke had a friend spend the night. His friend slept in the top bunk of the bed where Joe usually sleeps. Joe was displaced, so he slept on an air mattress in our room. This morning before sunrise, Joe woke up to use the bathroom. As soon as he was finished, Steve went to use the bathroom. The toilet flushed, the light turned on, and all hell broke loose.

“JOE!” Steve yelled with disgust.

“What, Dad?”

“There is pee everywhere in here. You have GOT to look where you’re peeing,” he said.

“It was dark,” Joe replied calmly.

“Well, then, TURN ON A LIGHT! Seriously! The floor is wet. There’s a puddle here. You are going to clean this mess up,” Steve barked.

“I didn’t mean to,” Joe complained.

“Yeah, hon. He didn’t mean to,” I said, hoping to diffuse Steve’s annoyance. It didn’t work.

“You should see the mess he made. Joe…did you get any pee in the toilet? Any at all?”

“I’ll clean it up, Dad,” Joe said as he grabbed some paper towels.

“We need more than paper towels, Joe. We need rags.”

Joe came in and did a little mopping up with paper towels while Steve railed on about the sheer amount of urine covering our bathroom floor. Joe apologized and sneaked out when he felt the coast was clear. I couldn’t blame him. This pee mess had really gotten to Steve. I waited for things to calm down, then I went to inspect. Steve was on his hands and knees with disinfectant and he was mopping the floor and wiping the walls. Our bathroom floor was spotless. (Not that I would eat off it or anything.)

“It was dark. How did you know he’d peed everywhere?” I asked.

“Because when I stood up I realized my butt was wet,” he replied, “and I knew that was not right so I flipped the light on.”

I muffled a giggle. At least now I could understand the vehemence of his response. As the only female in our house, maybe I’m just used to it. I don’t sit on a toilet seat here, or anywhere else for that matter, without expecting it first. Sit on someone else’s pee once, shame on you. Sit on someone else’s pee twice? Well, I’m just not that clueless. I’m used to messes. I own several pairs of yellow rubber gloves because of them. I also make my sons clean their own toilet. I won’t even touch that thing. And, you could not pay me to use the toilet in their bathroom. Donald Trump couldn’t even give me $5 million for my favorite charity to do it. Still, the mess was hearty enough to encourage Steve to clean our toilet and mop up the bathroom floor.

In the 10 years we’ve lived in this home, Steve has cleaned our bathroom floor once, maybe twice. (He says more, but I find that highly unlikely because I’ve never actually witnessed such an act and I’m home a lot.) As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, Steve is wonderful about cleaning our stove, which I refuse to do because it’s one of those gas contraptions that take forever to clean. He’s also amazing at deep cleaning totally random, out-of-the-way spots in our home right before we have guests over. He has been verbally abused by me via blog twice for cleaning the laundry room and the cabinet under the kitchen sink just before company arrived…because we all know the first place house guests snoop is under the kitchen sink. It turns out that I am actually grateful to Joe for peeing all over our bathroom in his still-half-asleep, 11-year-old boy way. His pee mishap has left me with a shiny clean bathroom floor that I didn’t have to touch. Heck…if I had known that Steve would become so impassioned about cleaning after a little yellow accident, I never would have potty trained our boys. Imagine how clean my house could be!


Five States in Three Days – Chapter One

My shadow self-portrait

When we found out we would be attending our friend Jeff’s wedding to Megan in Massachusetts, my brain went into furious planning mode. Neither Steve nor I had ever been to been to New England. We had a lot to see. I planned a full on assault. I wanted to attack the northeast the way greedy Americans tour Europe, voraciously soaking up a micro dose of culture before moving on to the next target. Here, then, begins my travel journal…five states in three days.

We left our hotel in Peabody, Massachusetts and headed north on I-95 bound for New Hampshire. First stop was Starbucks for our morning caffeine. We blew through the state in 46 minutes and landed in Maine in search of the Nubble Lighthouse in York. As soon as we arrived in York, a quaint seaside vacation spot, we stopped for a brief walk on the beach, where we watched a tiny Yorkshire Terrier fetch what might as well have been a moon-sized tennis ball. I took off my shoes, let the Atlantic wash over my feet, and took a self-portrait to mark the event.

Next stop was the Nubble Lighthouse. The lighthouse sits on an island just offshore. It was a perfect 65 degrees and sunny. A wedding party arrived for someone else’s big day. I took a photo of Steve taking a photo. I have a lot of those.

We jumped back in the car and headed down towards New Hampshire, bound for Portsmouth. I had a goal of visiting at least one historic place during our east coast trip. Colorado is a young state, comparatively, so we are short on awesome historical sights. I found one that was a must-see in Portsmouth. Strawberry Banke is a historical museum comprised of an entire neighborhood of clapboard homes dating from the late 17th century. Many of the homes have been completely restored and furnished with period furnishings. There are period costumes, toys, and stories to offer a complete experience of what this area was like for the centuries proceeding this one.
Strawberry Banke

Our final stop was in downtown Portsmouth. Steve, on a friend’s recommendation, was set on a lobster roll for lunch. Walking on the brick sidewalks through Portsmouth’s quaint shopping district, we happened upon The Dolphin Striker, which just happened to serve lobster (lobstah) rolls. While Steve devoured what had to be a pound of lobster, I dined on a delicately balanced dish of butternut squash ravioli with fresh spinach, dried cherries, and apple slices in a light cream sauce. The window view was of the river and sailboats floating by.

After our perfect lunch, we hopped back in the car headed to Peabody…two states under our belt. We stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts for Steve’s requisite afternoon coffee. (Note: I think this state needs a few more photos of New England Patriot tight end Rob Gronkowski. Get working on that.) We’ve got a beautiful wedding to attend in Beverly tonight. Tomorrow, we’re hitting Rhode Island and Connecticut…still on our mission.

Window Seat Wars

On the rare occasion that my husband and I are able to jet off somewhere alone, we’re are generally quite amicable and cooperative travel companions. We share suitcases equitably, although he usually gets a bit more bag space because his “clothes are bigger.” We jockey phone chargers and reading material like seasoned pros. He drives. I navigate. We get an Almond Joy to snack on so we each get a fair and measurable half. He tries to tolerate it as I coach him to the best parking spot or security line (because I am highly insightful). I try to tolerate it when he tells me he needs to stop for a second or third latte (because he is highly caffeine dependent). As a rule, things are smooth and seamless.

It’s all quite pleasant…except for one issue. The window seat. There is only one. We both want it. Love? Honor? Cherish? Absolutely. Window seat? I think not.

Savvy girl I am, I am chief travel agent in our family. I book all our travel. I print itineraries. I check us in online. I keep the scannable boarding passes on my phone. He’s at my mercy.

“What are our seat assignments?” Steve asked as we boarded the plane to Boston today.

“22E and 22F,” I informed him.

“Window and center,” he said, appraising the situation.

“Yep,”I replied.

“I’ll be taking the window,” he reported.

“Oh no you won’t,” I enlightened him. “I am 22F. Window seat is mine.”

“We’ll see about that,” he retorted as he sped up to jump ahead of me boarding the aircraft.

I tried to elbow him out but he slipped by me and was the first one in the narrow aisle. I stayed doggedly on his heels, bantering with him on the way.

“You’d better not even think about it,” I warned.

“It’s done,” he said. “You’re too late. Accept it.”

“Never,” I replied, still plotting a hip check that would get him out of my way.

But, alas, it was not to be. The rows in front of ours were occupied so I couldn’t check him. It wouldn’t be right to hurt a fellow passenger in our private war. He slipped into row 22 and plopped himself into my window seat.

“Get out of my seat,” I said under my breath through my smiling, clenched teeth.

“No,” he said defiantly.

I’d had enough. I hit the flight attendant call button.

“What are you doing?” he snapped.

“Get out of my seat and there doesn’t have to be a scene,” I told him.

“Possession is 9/10ths,” he said trying to call my bluff.

The flight attendant approached. I flashed her my sweetest smile.

“I think this gentleman is in my seat,” I said, showing her my boarding pass with 22F clearly displayed.

“Oh…is this your seat?” Steve said innocently. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and looked at it. “Oh…you’re right. I’m 22E on this flight and 22F on the next one,” he lied. He them stood up, shifted his things, and moved out into the aisle. The flight attendant, happy to have avoided conflict, gave us a curt smile and left. I walked past hubby to claim my rightful seat. He followed me in and took the center seat.

“Ha,” I gloated. Triumph!

I lifted the shade on the window and prepared for a peaceful flight. You don’t mess with my window seat. You just don’t. I’m a generous woman. I’ll negotiate on most things. I’ll give you the last bite of my candy bar or my very last fry. I’ll tolerate the three snoozes it takes you on a weekend to decide you’ll just exercise later. I’ll even interrupt my day to let you back into the still-idling car you accidentally locked yourself out of. But, the window seat is sacred. Even if it was overcast all the way to Boston and I didn’t get to see a flipping thing, it’s a matter of principle. The window seat is one of life’s little pleasures. It’s worth doing battle for it. Marriage is full of compromises, and this one is his.

Oh, fine. He can have it on the way home.


You Can’t Have It All…Enjoli Lied

Hard to believe, but this is not how I spend my days as a stay-at-home mom with nothing but free time. 😉

The other day a friend and fellow “stay-at-home mom” had a moment of frustration and ranted a bit on her Facebook status. Her post listed all the things she does on a daily basis and then noted that someone close to her remarked that she doesn’t really do anything. I read her post and felt complete empathy. Many of my blogs have been tyrades about how frustrating and thankless the job of Mom can be.

Then, today, I came across a Facebook post from a working mom friend of mine. She’s currently in-between jobs for a short period of time, so she was at the park listening to the birds, sipping a latte while her house was being cleaned, and thinking that she would like to be a “house frau,” presumably so she could enjoy more moments like that one. Now, I know my friend meant no disrespect to stay-at-home moms. As long as I’ve known her (over sixteen years), she has worked outside the home full-time while raising two children. I know how long and difficult her days are, and I know how devoted she is and always has been to her children. I can understand how she would be enjoying a brief reprieve between career positions today and thinking that it would be nice not to have to work at all.

Still, I had to reply to her post to remind her that, as a certified “house frau,” I can attest that I can’t afford someone to clean my house because that’s what I agreed to do when I gave up my income to stay home with my boys. I told her that I have to clean my own house, which (let’s face it) sucks and cuts into my time to sit, worry-free, in the park in the morning sipping my latte. There have been many times when I’ve looked at Barb’s career, her housecleaning service, her professional wardrobe, and her European vacations, and felt something akin to a twinge (or perhaps a seizure-full) of jealousy. I know, though, that her life, while seemingly more glamorous than mine, is a lot of frigging work too.

I’m in something of a transitional period in my life right now. While still technically an unemployed, stay-at-home mom, I’ve made the decision to work on my writing. Between this blog and my book, I’ve been spending between 4-6 hours a day writing, researching, and trying to grow my platform. While this has been a boon for my sense of self and my creative mind, I’ve found myself becoming overwhelmed, cranky, and increasingly depressed. Why? Because I’ve discovered that I can’t do it all. I can’t keep a clean house, cook for my family, run the errands, be homework coach and chauffeur, wash and iron clothes, and develop my writing into something that might perhaps segue into a paying career.

Remember that commercial for Enjoli perfume? That stupid commercial vexes me. Ever since I was 12, I was sold the idea that a woman should be able to do it all without struggle. I should absolutely be able to have a career, cook for my family, keep a clean house, care for my children, and have the energy to seduce my husband nightly, right? I’d like to bitch slap the men who came up with that ad. Oh, come on. It had to be men who envisioned the Enjoli woman. That ad is a fantasy. There isn’t a woman in her right mind who would tell you that at the end of a long day, during which she had spent at least eight hours in an office, then cooked dinner, cared for her children and put them to bed, what she really thought about was making her husband feel like a man. More than likely, what she actually thought about was a glass of wine, a locked door, a long and solitary soak in a tub, followed by a collapse into a bed where her husband would let her get some sleep.

The other night I had a Come-To-Jesus meeting with my husband and our sons. I told them that as much as I would love to be able to continue writing, I cannot do it if I do not get some assistance from them. Because our financial situation has not changed, I can’t afford a housecleaning service. I need them to pitch in if I want to be able to devote myself to writing. This was not an easy conversation for me because, the entire time I was asking for help, I was feeling I had failed my inner-Enjoli woman. What I was really doing, however, was not admitting defeat but instead recognizing that I had been trying to do the impossible and be the unattainable.

No one can do it all or have it all. We all sacrifice. The grass isn’t greener anywhere else. It’s not easier one way or the other. We make choices and then we live with them. On a good day, I get to yoga, manage to knock a couple things off my to-do list, and find time for a shower. On a good day, my working friends knock something off their to-do-lists, maybe get a kudo from their boss, and perhaps get to enjoy an uninterrupted lunch for an hour. But, most of the time, we all just settle for the best we can get, which is most certainly nowhere near having it all.