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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?