The 21st Century Thanksgiving Catastrophe Equivalent

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.

Excuse the filthy stainless, but the dishtowel should explain 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?”

Him: “No.”

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 Sleeping Beauty Is Your Husband

My husband, god bless him, can sleep anywhere. Anywhere. This simultaneously surprises, amuses, and, if I’m being honest, annoys me. I’ve never been a great sleeper. Wait. I take that back. For a while in my mid-20s I was a great sleeper. I could sleep for 12 hours straight. Then I learned I had thyroid disease. As soon as I was properly medicated, I was right back to not being a great sleeper. But my husband? Damn. He could win a gold medal.

It’s 10:43 pm at this moment, and this is my husband.

We call this the Friday Night Fall Aparts

The man is asleep on his belly on the floor. And we have hardwood floors and this thin rug is covering them. How is this even possible? He’s 51, not 6. Looking at this hurts my neck. I don’t understand this behavior. I mean, I’m tired. I’m tired all the time. I just don’t sleep well. But this wonderful man has the gall to sleep like this in my presence. My favorite is when he sleeps on his back with one knee bent up and his other leg crossed over his bent knee. So many questions about how you fall asleep like that.

He used to take the light rail to work every day. One evening, he was late coming home. Turns out he fell asleep on the train and no one woke him up when they reached the last stop, which was his. The train went back into its siding to wait for its next run, and that is where he finally woke up, when the train was out of service and he had to press the button to open the doors and walk an extra distance back to the boarding platform to exit. Two things about this baffle me. First, how did he not realize the train had stopped and everyone else was getting off? How did he sleep through that? Second, what kind of trust do you have to have in humanity to fall asleep on a public train? I have never been able to sleep in public. I don’t trust people enough to be that vulnerable around them on purpose. I’m stuck in an airport overnight? I will sleep when I get home. No way am I leaving my bag unattended. People are sketchy.

Lest you think I am over exaggerating or being unkind about these sleep habits, I will share this selection of photos. This is not an isolated incident. And he’s got our kids sleeping like this. Our dogs too. Whatever strange magic this is, I am so sorry I missed out on it because everyone in my house is asleep, except for me.

I do sleep, but there are a number of things that have to be in place. It’s got to be cold in the room, so cold my nose needs a warmer. I have to be covered up with layers, preferably weighted. There must be no part of me outside of the covers, except my face, and my feet have to be warm. A sleep mask helps because I wake up at the slightest bit of light. And there must be noise. I can’t sleep in a silent room, so I need ambient noise, a fan, ocean sounds, something like that. Oh, and I need something soft. A stuffed animal works. Yet, even with all this in place, I still don’t sleep as well as the rest of my family. And if my doctor tells me one more damn time to wear my blue light glasses, I may lose it. I wear the glasses. They haven’t turned me into Sleeping Beauty yet.

Come to think of it, though, in my next life, I would like to come back as Sleeping Beauty. And if some stupid prince comes along, he’d best keep on walking and look for the girl who is missing her shoe or the one who lives with seven small men. This girl needs her rest.

Hopefully Not Sleepless In Denver Forever

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.

Exorcising The Ghosts Of The Past

What I used to record portions of the Live Aid concert in 1985

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.

The Only Math Lesson I Ever Understood. s. C sen

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In the days before we owned a decent set of sharp knives

If you’re part of a couple and you’ve been together for a while, you have formed couple habits. Some of these are beneficial. My husband, for example, has become my “coffee bitch” (we can’t remember who came up with that label), which means he makes my lattes on the weekends and brings them to me in bed. For my part, I have become his on-call detective, regularly locating items that have gone missing after he either puts them someplace “safe” or accidentally leaves them someplace rather unusual. These are perks of being in a relationship and being partners with someone. You give a little. You get a little. It’s symbiotic.

Because there is yin and yang in relationship, however, there are also scenarios that develop that become an annoyance, a skipping record that you can’t seem move to the next groove. These are the things about your partner that drive you batty. Steve, god bless him, has to deal with the fallout (sometimes literally) of my habit of not screwing the caps back onto things well, if at all. Like the time he pulled a Costco-sized bottle containing 500 Advil out of the cupboard only to have it slip from his hands, littering the floor with hundreds of tiny brown tablets that would have been safe and secure had someone replaced the cap correctly. Oops. That’s on me.

One thing that makes me mental is when my husband requires help putting his thoughts on paper. It might seem like a no-brainer that I would be a perfect person to help him with this being that I am a writer and all. And it’s true. But it drives me nuts. Here is why.

Yesterday we received some bad news about a friend’s parent being gravely ill. We wanted to send a card. So, I grabbed one from my stash, got his approval on its outer message, addressed the envelope, and asked him how he would like to proceed.

“The card is blank inside,” I called from my office. “I can fill it in for both of us and you can sign it or we each can write our own message. What do you want to do?” 

“I would like to write my own note,” he decided.

Now I will tell you that I knew after almost twenty-five years of marriage to this man we were headed into familiarly exasperating territory, much like Charlie Brown experiences with Lucy and the football. Not wanting to land with a thud again like Charlie Brown, however, I tried to convince him I could handle it.

“Are you sure?” I called back. “It’s really no problem for me to write a note for both of us. Save you some time.” 

“No. I’d like to say something myself,” came his reply.

Maybe this time would be different, I thought. Maybe this time he really wouldn’t need my help. I wrote out my portion of the card and left it on the table for him, letting him know he could add his thoughts at any time.

This morning he sat down to do just that while I addressed Christmas cards across the table from him. He picked up the pen, leaned over the card, read what I had written, and then had the audacity to say this.

“You wrote what I was going to say.”

“And THIS is why I said I would write it out for the both of us. I’m sure you can figure out something to add,” I said, hoping to encourage him to find his words. He’s a smart man who is well-educated. Certainly he could do this.

Nope. He stared at the card for a minute, then looked blankly at me.

“I need some suggestions,” he said.

And this was the point at which I decided he was incredibly lucky that the kitchen knives were not within arm’s reach. I wanted to stab him. Not hard enough to kill him or anything because then I would miss him and, let’s be honest, my weekend lattes in bed.

To avoid the assault charge, I rattled off a couple suggestions with what little patience I had left, the phrases escaping my mouth in a sigh like a punctured balloon losing air. He took the advice, put the card in the envelope, and sealed it. And we moved on. Well,  other than the fact that I felt the need to write about it.

Someday, when my sons ask me how they will know when a partner is the right one for the long haul, I will ask them to consider one of the vexing situations that has repeated itself over the course of their relationship. Then I will ask him to think of something wonderful he gets from the relationship and to subtract the frustration of the first instance from the joy of the second. If the joy is greater, he’ll have found a suitable partner, someone who will enhance his life while only providing minimal headaches. Marriage comes down to both loving and being able to tolerate that special someone with all their quirks for the rest of your lives.

Don’t get me wrong. Some of the perpetually repeating scenarios in our marriage make us wonder if we will make it to thirty years of marriage without an assault charge. At the end of the day, though, you just have to ask yourself one question. Who will make your lattes or find your lost keys then?

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Proof that neither of us has fatally stabbed the other….yet

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.

 

You Just Never Know

Our jar filled with things we did in 2013 that made the year memorable.
Our jar filled with paper reminders about all we did in 2013 that made the year memorable.

My friend, Rachel, posted this to Facebook earlier today, and it’s been tumbling through my mind like socks in a dryer all afternoon.

People like to use New Year’s Day as a “clean slate” or a “new beginning” but in reality every second of every day is a new lifetime, one you have never lived before, so if you are ready to make a change do it. You are the master of your fate. Use every new moment to be who and what you want to be.

Boom! There it is. What an amazing revelation. Every minute we’re given an opportunity to start fresh. The past is behind us. Our future becomes reality one minute at a time as the present begins anew. There’s no need to wait for New Year’s Day to begin a resolution. You never know what’s coming up next. We fool ourselves into believing there’s always tomorrow. But, sometimes there isn’t. The time to go, to do, to forgive, to trust, to try, to adventure, to reinvent, and to begin is now. No matter how bad things seem, you can make an improvement if you really want to.

Yesterday I spent time with a friend I haven’t seen in a couple of months. I mentioned that hubby and I are planning a trip to Peru next year. It’s a trip we’ve talked for twenty years about taking but have found somewhat legitimate excuses to put off. We recently pulled the trigger and booked the trip, rational thought be damned. As I relayed my concerns about leaving our boys for 12 days of international, out-of-touch travel and adding way too much debt to our credit card at one time, my friend implored me not to delay any longer. She understands that there’s no better time than the present. Her husband is 48 and is suffering from progressive MS with an emphasis on progressive. In six years he’s lost the ability to complete simple daily tasks most of us take for granted. His body is betraying him and his sons and his wife provide support so he can get dressed, get in and out of bed, and function as best as he can each day. As she has witnessed her husband’s decline, she’s learned a lot about life. Life is too short to wait for anything. The time will never be right. There will always be things that stand in our way. But, honestly, sometimes there is no better time. Sometimes there is not even a tomorrow. And we may not know that until it’s too late to do something about it.

Tonight at dinner we sat down and went through a jar we’ve been keeping since January 1st, 2013. We filled the jar all year long with paper reminders of all the memorable things 2013 brought us. As a family we recalled camping trips, personal accomplishments, and cool adventures. We relived our year, and it was pretty great. Universe-willing, 2014 will be amazing too. Steve and I will be hiking the Inca Trail in July. And in the meantime, we’re going to continue to hug our kids and tell them we love them every day. We’re going to wake up and be grateful for what is good rather than lament about what is not the way we had hoped. Some days we’re going to do crazy things, like splashing into 37-degree water on a brisk New Year’s Day, just because we can. I’m going to take deep breaths, revel in joyful little things, and accept last-minute invitations. I’m going to let the laundry pile grow while I go for long walks. I’m going to welcome new friends into my life and linger over the last sip of wine in my glass with old ones. I’m going to be more bold, practice being at peace, and enjoy my precious time on this planet because you just never know. And if a year from now I’m still fortunate enough to be on this crazy ride, I’m going to sit with my family again and add up the gifts I was willing to reach for, one minute at a time.

 

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.