Because All The Cat Photos Should Be On The Same Page

And now, as befits a blog about cultural differences and being the Other, we explore the strange world of Engineers, where they speak their own language and have their own odd little wayscats 1

Marido and I went to Spain recently, which was amazing and wonderful and we are trying to figure out how to move there permanently or to get a pied-à-terre there.

(Marido’s words – he likes to be fancy plus he took French in college but will only speak it with me because he is worried about not being perfect, whereas I, who had only a year of French in high school from a teacher from South Carolina who introduced herself saying, “J’ay may apayelle Madayam Hayzeldon,” which means my French accent, which is already corrupt from my Spanish, is even worse than it would be otherwise, am perfectly willing to mime and sound stupid by asking for, “lo chose que boi de la – moooooooo! moooooo!” And guess what? The shopkeeper gave me milk so yeah I get what I want even if I have to look like an idiot.)

Where was I?

Oh. Marido likes to sound fancy, but only to me. And that French doesn’t do him any good in Spain but he is lucky because he travels with me and I speak Spanish fluently. (I don’t have to mime anything, not even milking a cow.)

We love Spain. We love the food. Marido loves the late night life. I don’t but I’m on vacation so what do I care? I can stay up late if I don’t have to get up at 5:54 a.m. to go to work, something both Marido and I have had to start doing again because Christmas vacation is over and The Man is calling.

As Marido noted the other day, “This having to work thing is keeping us from living our Best Life.”

When your husband channels Oprah.

Who knew?


We are back from Spain and we were also there two years ago so I decided it was time to make the photo book of Spain photos already so I spent a few days putting it together and I asked Marido to look to make sure I wasn’t leaving out any photos he wanted to include.

And you know what his comment was?

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“Those cat photos should be on the same page. They’re of the same cat. They should be together.”



Yes, I am writing about bathrooms again

Seriously, Europe, we love you and all – you are the mother continent for many of us, but what is your problem with showers? Is it Not Invented Here syndrome? Because really, you are cutting off your nose to spite your face

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Alas, I do not have an answer for the Great European Shower Problem. Marido and I have encountered it in Germany, France, and Spain. I can’t remember if I have found it in Italy, Greece, or Turkey – I think I was just happy to be able to afford to stay in places with running water when I was traveling there.

But now, I am older and I don’t do the shared bathroom thing anymore or the taking my own towels and toilet (see how I did that?) paper anymore. I am done with that.

I expect a hot shower with the hot and the water both staying in the shower and not leaving for outside the shower, but we have not been able to find hotels that offer such luxury. Maybe we are not paying enough. Maybe they save the Good Showers for the people who are willing to spend some money.

Which is not frugal Marido and me. I mean, we will pay to have a roof over our head, but I guess we don’t pay enough for the Good Showers.

Anyhow, the story I actually wanted to tell was an extension of the potty parity post. Remember how I wrote that we will not have true equality until we all wait the same amount of time to pee?

I don’t care how it happens. Ideally, there would be more women’s stalls so women would not have to wait, but if by some dark magic, 67% of all the men’s facilities were wiped out and men had to wait in long lines, I am petty enough that I would rejoice.

Unfortunately, the trend seems to be going in the opposite direction.

That is, women are being forced to wait even longer so men don’t have to wait even as long as they do wait, which we all know is not long at all. Like about two seconds. Have you ever seen a line for a men’s room? I have not.

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At work, there was a leak in the 2nd floor men’s room. They had to close both the first and the second floor men’s rooms.

Which – whatever. I don’t care. We have a gym in our building and the men had a bathroom they could use in the gym. Three stalls.

There are about 250 people in my office. Seventeen of us are women.

When my intern started two summers ago, on her second day, she came to my desk, looked around, leaned over, and whispered, “There are never any other women in the ladies’ room!”

“I KNOW!” I said. “It’s one of the best things about working with all men!”

Anyhow. All the men had to use the men’s locker room restroom.

The women carried on, carefree and happy, as we should be.

Until someone decided that this having to wait for the bathroom was simply too much to bear.

And decided that the solution was to close the women’s locker room to women and open it as a men’s restroom.

Which meant that the women who wanted to exercise in the gym could not.

Because there was nowhere for them to change from their work clothes into their exercise clothes.

Or to take a shower.

Or to just wash up at the sink.

Because heaven forbid that men have to wait. Because – men should never have to wait to pee. Ever.

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The Party of Sleeves, Pockets, and Potty Parity

Vote for me and I will end this madness


See that? See that photo?

That is a photo of a stall in the women’s room at the airport in Amsterdam. Yes, I know I am talking about toilets. I am posting a photo of a toilet.

(Today, at work on a skype call, a non-native English speaker said of his non-native English speaker co-worker, who just – disappeared – from the call, “I think she is in the toilet.”

Which sounded odd to my American ears, but Lord knows what I’ve said in Spanish so maybe I should just take this back.

Or not.

Point is, yeah, toilets are around and so what?)


Do you see how many hooks there are?


The Dutch get it.

Women in the airport have Stuff.

And we need a place to put it that’s not on the floor.

Although I swear I could have eaten off that floor, it was so clean. Indeed, I even had a conversation with the lady in charge of cleaning the bathrooms. She saw me taking a photo – as one does in a ladies’ room in the airport – and started talking to me.

“People come from all over to look at our new bathrooms!” she told me. “Even Japan!”

“It’s very nice,” I said.

She bent down to pick up a stray piece of paper towel. “I have been cleaning bathrooms here for 19 years,” she said proudly. “I start here when I come from Surinam.”

NB – Dutch is the official language in Suriname, but there is a creole language spoken there as well. So this lady probably speaks at least three languages: Sranan, Dutch, and English.

I have only two, plus enough French to find the bathroom and to get through immigration at Charles de Gaulle, although I never want to fly to or through that airport again.

Anyhow. She beamed as she showed me around (I had a four-hour layover, so I had time). She agreed with me that five hooks is finally getting to enough hooks for Stuff – purse, coat, hat, scarf at the least – and that the stalls had enough room to bring in a roller bag.

US airport authorities. I am looking at you. Have you ever user-tested the ladies’ rooms?  A college friend builds the terminals for Delta. I need to ask him about this.

But I bet the answer is no.

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Or maybe the answer is, “We do and we tell corporate we need more money to add more space but they tell us no,” which is probably closer to the truth.

Although if you are going to user test a bathroom, you need to be a woman. Because only a woman knows that the beautiful sinks in the photo above are too – what is the word? – deep? Whatever it is when I try to wash my hands and discover I have to lean way way over just to reach the tap.

And I am 5’5″, which is taller than the average American woman.

If I, who am taller (not much) than average, have a hard time reaching the tap without discomfort, then what about all the women who are shorter than I am?

So here’s my pitch:

I am going to run for office on a platform of potty parity, which will include potty comfort and space.

We will not have true equality until everyone pees in the same amount of time.

That is, men – either they build twice as many women’s stalls as they do men’s or else you guys have to wait in a long line to use a public facility.

We. Are. Done.

Also. We want sleeves on our work clothes. All that stuff on TV with women in sleeveless dresses in professional offices? Maybe in California, but in Wisconsin, we have this thing called winter and we don’t like to be cold.

And pockets. We also want pockets. The only place I have pockets is in my pajamas.

I will leave you with that thought.

No. With this one.

How much do designers hate women that they will not give us sleeves and that the only time they give us pockets is in our pajamas?

Dill pickle soup is awesome, y’all

I have said it before and I will say it again – we are not fat in Wisconsin because our food is bad. We are comfortable and padded for cold weather because the food here is delicious.


Here is the headline:

This Dill Pickle Soup Recipe Is Taking the World by Storm

And here is the reality.

This is not news. This is not new.

The world knows about dill pickle soup.

Wisconsin knows about it.

Up here in the 414, we have been eating dill pickle soup for – well, I have since the first time I went to Polish Fest in 2009, which was when Marido took polka lessons with me and the little old man who was teaching told us, “Youse are generally doing pretty good today!”

We loved him. He’s the best dance teacher we have ever had.

Marido has not enjoyed other dance classes we have taken, where the instructors are not so tactful with adult learners or they do what the couple teaching at the West Allis K of C hall did, which was to refer to the dance partners as, “the leader” and “the follower,” even though every student couple was male-female and each time they told the leader to do something or the follower to do something, you could see everyone take an extra beat as they ran the instructions through their heads as they translated and tried to figure out if they were leaders or followers.

And then Marido got all flustered because the teachers made us change partners, which is comme il faut, but Marido did not like that.


Marido and I go to Polish Fest every year and it’s so much fun. It’s full of little old ladies and little old men and little kids dressed in their Polish costumes and lots and lots of really good food, including Dill Pickle Soup.

Neither Marido nor I had ever heard of such a thing and we were suspicious, as you would be if confronted with such an oddity, but we decided, nonetheless, to try it and we were not sorry.

Dill pickle soup is delicious. It’s sour and creamy and hot and substantial and I promise if you try it, you will not regret it. If you consider yourself a sophisticated eater – a gourmand who appreciates world cuisine, then you need to try this soup.

You may thank me later.

Baby It’s Cold Inside

I literally have cold feet and I mean “literally” literally


Marido and I went to a party the other night. It was a lovely party with lovely people and excellent food (which included the major food groups of cheese, bacon, and chocolate, even combining two of those foods – the cheese and the bacon – into one appetizer – cheese-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates, which were excellent).

But before the party was the dilemma I always face before I go to an event:

  1. Will there be food? What kind of food? Should I eat now just in case?
  2. Will it be cold?

A sub-category of #2 is, Will this be a shoes-off place. If it is, then I have to plan my inner footwear carefully. The Good Socks only. Not the Old Socks From Target That Do The Trick But Are About To Develop Holes In The Heels.

Anyhow. I had to worry.

I prepared for #1 by eating some cheese and crackers at home, which I should not have done because as I noted, the food was delicious, but on the other hand, we didn’t get there until 7:00 and I usually eat supper about 5:00 which is not too early, haters, when you get up before 6:00 a.m.

(Note to self: Re-load purse snacks.)(And not just with chocolate.)(Some protein, too.)

I prepared for #2 – well, I didn’t.

It was a holiday party. I decided that just jeans and a t-shirt would not be enough, although honestly, people wear jeans and t-shirts to the theatre here.

Wisconsin is not formal.

But I thought at least a skirt and a sweater and some jewelry and a festive scarf. The scarf not so much for decor, though, as for a portable dynamic warming device that can be used to cover whichever part of my body needs more warmth.

We arrived. The host extended his hand for my coat. I took it off, waited, thought, “It’s warm in here!”, and gave it to him optimistically.

Then I ate as one does.

Then I looked for someone I might know so I could pretend to be happy conversing on a Friday night instead of being at home with a book.

And I did find lovely people to talk to – I just need to be able to clone myself so I can be at a party and at home at the same time.

And then I noticed I was getting cold.

How could that be?

It was warm when I arrived. I had marveled that I was able to be wearing only one layer indoors and yet be warm enough. I had marveled at the women who had exposed shoulders, a daring choice even in the summer here.

(At work, I am known as The Woman Who Always Is Wearing Her Winter Coat Indoors.)

(Right not, at home, I am wearing my pajamas, my fluffy robe, my fluffy socks, and my fluffy slippers, and I am still cold.)

But now? Now I was cold. How could that be?

Like, I was cold and felt a draft.

Because the porch door was open.

People. It was 22 degrees.

And the door was open.

Who does that?

I said something and got the answer, “The beer’s on the porch!”

I answered, “If only there were a way to allow people to go from indoors to outdoors without letting all the warm out!”

“But it’s too warm in here!” was the answer.

I asked a few other people if they were cold.


Only me.

The porch door was open and, it turns out, the kitchen window was open as well.

This is not my place.

I mean, Wisconsin is not my place and that house was not my place.

So I went into the bedroom, got my coat, and counted the minutes until we left. It took my feet an hour to get warm once we were home.

No. More. Parties.

I am done.

I am losing my Texan-ess!

If I can’t say the words right, will they let me back in?


You guys, this is really disturbing.

I have forgotten how to speak properly.

I listened to this Texas Monthly podcast. The official topic is an interview with the historian H.W. Brands and how we appreciate presidents more after they leave office.

But the important part was when he said this:

What Makes a Texan a Texan

I’ve lived in Texas since 1981. I got here when I was 27. And I’ll be quite honest and say I don’t consider myself a Texan. I’ve observed this in my children. I’ve observed in other people. And my conclusion is that to think like a Texan, to feel like a Texan, you have to get here by seventh grade. You have to take that seventh grade Texas history class, because you have to know what you have to know to be a Texan and you have to learn the culture—the transmitted mythology of Texas. I think it’s not at all a coincidence that that seventh grade Texas history class comes at the time in young peoples’ lives when they’re getting confirmed in the Catholic church or Bar Mitzvah’d in Jewish faith. It’s a your coming-of-age as a Texan.

I lived in Texas when I was in 7th grade. I had 7th-grade Texas history.

I am a Texan.

But – I am losing my Texan-ess!


College friend who is a lifelong Texan: Here’s one test: pronounce ‘Bowie’

Me: “BOW (bow and arrow) – ee.”

Me: At least, that’s how we pronounced it for Bowie Elementary, which I attended for the second half of fifth grade and where I learned the entire Carpenters’ songbook because every week for music, my teacher would hand out mimeos of the lyrics, put on the record, and lead us singing with Karen.

CF: Hmmm. Acceptable but not preferred. When used with knife, Texans say ‘boo-ee’ rather than Boh-ee from its namesake James

CF: An excellent reason! Also David Bowie 😁

Me: Remember I was forced to leave Texas in 1993 when I couldn’t find a job. So I am not up to date. (Another Texas Monthly podcast about how to pronounce “Bowie”)

CF: Laughing at the Carpenters’ songbook. And mimeos

Me: That smell.

CF: Right?

Me: And maybe we did call it “BOO-ee!” It’s been a while! [Junior High friend who went to same elementary school], do you remember?

JHF: Boo Eee

Me: Oh no! I HAVE LOST MY TEXAN-ESS! I need to get back IMMEDIATELY.


In the Zombie Apocalypse, I will be fine, don’t y’all worry

Have you made your plans for the Zombie Apocalypse? I have and this is maybe the only reason I would be willing to endure Wisconsin winter

This, my friends, is Lake Michigan. A huge body of fresh water.

If it comes, I am ready. I have The Skills.

Co-worker Clara: When the Zombie Apocalypse comes, [husband] and I are ready.

Me: How so?

Clara: His family has property in the UP. We’ll have what we need: shelter, fuel, fresh water, venison and other game.

Me: Yeah, but what happens when you run out of matches?

Clara: Um. I’m an archaeologist and worked in the field for seven years. I can make fire with a stick.

Me: What happens when you run out of bullets?

Clara: I can make arrowheads.

[NB Yes, Clara is truly awesome.]

Other co-worker Hal: I want to come!

Clara: What can you do?

Hal: My dad and my brother are union carpenters and they have taught me. I can build anything. And I can do wiring, too.

Clara: OK.

Hal: And my wife is a veterinary technician, so she could probably do surgery on people if she had to.

Clara: Definitely, then. Bring her along.

Me: Can I come?

Clara: What can you do?

Me: I can knit? And sew? And crochet?

Clara: Hmmm.

Me: And, as a Peace Corps volunteer, I discovered I can make brownies under any circumstances.

Clara: OK. You’re in.