The Love Language of an engineer

When all you really want is someone to Fix It

When Mr T and I first met, he tried to lavish me with gifts.

He got me flowers. He got me jewelry. He got me perfume. He tried to buy me a fabulous painting from a Memphis artist, NJ Woods, but I wouldn’t let him because it was too expensive.

It was $400. For a really big painting.

(Not that size=value in art, but it was the perfect size for over our bed, a space that remains blank and lonely to this day.)

It showed little girls holding umbrellas and swinging in the sky. It was enchanting and beautiful and Mr T could have afforded (that was back in the Working Days), but I thought it was too much money for him to spend on me.

An NJ Woods painting that I do not own. I love her work so much.

A few years ago, when we finally did buy an NJ Woods painting, it was after she had become very popular. We have a tiny painting (it’s beautiful) that cost $200.

(The lesson here is if you see art that you love and you can afford it, buy it. Otherwise, 15 years later, you will still be regretting not buying it. Fifteen years later.)


Mr T thought that Things were what women wanted.

He thought Things were what people wanted.

For the record, I do not want things.

(Except that NJ Woods painting.)

(But it’s too late.)

I already have things. I have enough things. I don’t want more things.

Things tie you down. Things take up space. Things take up money that could be used for other stuff, like travel.

For the record, I cannot remember the last time I wore the jewelry Mr T gave me.

Of course, I cannot remember the last time I wore jewelry, period, but you know.


Mr T comes by this impression honestly – this impression that people want Things.

His mom and dad bought things and kept them and had them on every surface (except the ceiling) of their house.

His mom gave Things for birthdays, Christmas, and anniversaries.

BlessHerHeart, his mom had horrible taste.

So we would get Things and not just Things but Ugly, Useless Things The Can Be Returned Only For Store Credit To The Store Of Ugly, Useless Things.


Oh. You want proof of Ugly, Useless Things?

The cheap Chinese pressed-board nesting tables painted with hibiscus and hummingbirds.

QED.


But when Mr T and I got together, I convinced him that we needed to get rid of Things, not accumulate them.

It’s been a slow sludge, but we are getting there.

We have not exchanged traditional gifts for years. (Except for the wooden toilet seat, which he got after my first winter in Wisconsin. For the ignorant, 90 year old house with poor heat retention + porcelain toilet seat = OMG That’s So Cold.)

(And except for the Engagement Trash Can he got me – I do not like rings. I do not wear rings. I did not want an engagement ring. I wanted a decent trash can and a trip to Paris.)

(I got both.)

(I am happy.)

And in the meantime, Mr T has become quite adept in my Love Language, which is “Paint the Bathroom So It Looks Nice” or “Give Away Ten Years’ Worth of Airliner Magazines” or “Repair this Thing So I Don’t Have to Buy a New One.”


He learned, I think, because of his Knight in Shining Armor moment.

Five months after we started dating, I broke up with him. He wanted to get married and I didn’t think I should make that kind of decision unemployed. I told him not to call me or email me – that I needed time to think.

My washer and dryer broke in the same week.

I blogged about it.

He read my blog.

He flew to Memphis, rented a car, showed up at my door, and fixed them for me!

Is that not the most romantic thing you have ever heard?


I always took for granted that Husbands Fixed Things.

After all, my dad, aka My Mom’s Husband, Fixed Things. He had a shop in the garage or basement, depending. He built stuff and he repaired stuff. I didn’t even know people took their car to a repair place when I was a kid because my dad did all that. I don’t think we ever had a plumber or an electrician or whatever to our house.

The time my parents wanted a patio in our back yard, my grandfather and two of my uncles visited and helped my dad plan and execute the project, including mixing and pouring the cement.

My grandfather was a farmer and part of the farm was the workshop on the west end of the barn.

My other grandfather – my dad’s dad – was an auto mechanic who owned and ran a garage that turned into an auto dealership.

My dad learned how to fix cars when he was a kid and then was an aircraft mechanic.

I didn’t realize some people had to pay other people to get stuff fixed. I thought they had dads. Or husbands. Or both.

Even when my dad visited me once in Austin and I took him to my friends’ place at the lake, he spent the entire afternoon helping Lou repair the boat lift.


So when Mr T started to give me Things, I pushed back.

It wasn’t easy for him at first. He had been taught differently.

But now – now he gets it. Now he knows. And it’s great.

Here is what he has done in the past few years:

  • Replaced the stove and microwave (OK, those are things, but he did all the work. He did have to include me for part of it and I did not enjoy that but now we have a gas stove and a microwave that actually waves.)
  • Replaced the kitchen faucet. Again, it’s a thing, but it’s an upgraded experience, really. So it’s about more than just the Thing.
  • Painted the house and the garage, which saved us at least $5,000, which is coming in handy now that we are both unemployed.
  • Almost repaired the broken furnace. He was so close. But we ended up having to buy a new one – the old one, it turns out, was not repairable.
  • Repaired the car many times.
  • Painted the bathroom.
  • Repaired the lawnmower.
  • Repaired the neighbor’s lawnmower.
  • Replaced the neighbor’s kitchen faucet.

And last night, just four days after I asked him to do so, he repaired the food processor, a quest I truly thought would be in vain, as it is not so easy, I don’t think, to repair small appliances. I was resigned to the idea of having to buy a new one and throw this one away, an idea that made me sick, but – turns out I married Superman.

And reader, he fixed it.

Amen.

You need a designated sex diary, naked photos, equipment, and porn discarder

Time to start Marie Kondo’ing your house. If you won’t do it for yourself, do it so your children aren’t stuck with it

One of the many many items that had to find a new home after Mr T’s parents died. Hint: That home was not with us.

Now that we can exhale, let’s talk about another very important topic: the naked pictures you have of yourself that you don’t want your kids to see.

Or, even if you’re OK with your kids seeing them, let me assure you, your children do not want to see them. NOBODY WANTS TO SEE NAKED PHOTOS OF THEIR PARENTS.

Now, advice about naked photos may be becoming less and less relevant as this sort of thing becomes digital, but there are other categories of Things Your Kids Do Not Want To See that cannot be digitized, like your – um – equipment.

Don’t tell me what you have. I don’t want to know.

But you need to have a plan.

What am I even talking about? you ask.

Mr T and I attended a brunch for our college class reunion last Saturday.

Yeah, it was on zoom.

Because covid has been horribly mishandled in this country because of that man but he’s almost GONE so maybe next year, we’ll actually be able to go to Houston and see our friends in person. Inshallah.

Anyhow, one of our friends joked that she was going to let her kids clean out her house when she died.

She had a good point – she said, “I want to enjoy all my possessions until my last day on earth.”

That’s fair.

She also said, “Plus this is what they can do to earn their inheritance.”

Also fair. Ish.

I am a bit – what’s the proper word? – bitter? jaded? still furious with the heat of a thousand white suns? so angry I would dig up their bodies just to spit on them? – about how Mr T’s parents left things.

They died within two months of each other.

For the many years preceding their deaths, Mr T asked them to clean out their house.

Our class reunion friend has a lot of stuff in her house, but she’s not a hoarder: she’s a baker.

Mr T’s parents were one step under hoarders.

That is, when they moved from Pittsburgh to Florida, they took their winter clothes with them.

Narrator: You don’t need winter clothes in Florida.

And a bag full of newspapers. A brown paper bag, full of just regular old recycling. I know, because that bag sat on the floor of the guest room closet, under a bunch of the winter clothes that went unworn because you don’t need upper Midwest winter clothes in Florida.

And a whole lot of other stuff. Their house was full. I wasn’t even allowed in the other bedroom. Mr T said his mom was ashamed of it. When I saw it after they died, I understood her shame. I, too, would have been mortified to have a room like that, but I also would have been ashamed of the rest of the house.

(I blame Mr T’s dad for everything, though. He was not a kind person.)

Anyhow, Mr T tried to convince his parents to get rid of stuff, not for his sake but for theirs. It’s not pleasant to live in a crowded, messy house.

They told him that they had had to clean out their parents’ houses and he would have to do it for them.

Narrator: Parents often wish to keep their children from suffering the way they had to suffer. People who grew up hungry usually don’t intentionally starve their own children. This is how healthy parents react – they want their children to have a better life than they did.

So. They died. And, as I had noted in 2005 when I read their will, Mr T was the executor.

And he was disinherited.

Yes.

That is correct.

They made him the executor and they disinherited him.

They gave all the money to the grandkids, putting it in a trust and making Mr T the trustee.

So.

Disinherited.

Executor.

Trustee.

And they specified that he could not be paid for being trustee. (Which, I can tell you, is a thankless pain in the neck job that requires weird tax filings and a ton of work.)

Let me be clear: I don’t care that Mr T was disinherited. People get to do what they want with their money. It’s theirs. Expecting to inherit from your parents is kind of dumb, I think. I want my mom to spend every penny she has, dying with exactly one cent to her name. I don’t want her to scrimp and worry about leaving an inheritance for my siblings and me. I want her to enjoy her money.

And my nieces and nephews are lovely and I am glad they have this inheritance to help them as they get started with their adult lives. I would have loved to be able to pay my student loans with something other than my meager income ($20K salary, $13K in student loans).

What I care about is they disinherited him and still stuck him with all the work.

He had to clean out all the crap in the house. He couldn’t just throw old papers away because current financial information was mixed in with eight years’ worth of EOBs from Medicare. He couldn’t find the title for the car. (Finally found it in a manila envelope on the top shelf of the closet in the office.) He didn’t know if they had a safe deposit box or not – he found a list called “Demise Prep” that included “safe deposit box” on it, but no further information.

It was a mess.

And that wasn’t even the worst part.

The TL;DR: He found their sex toys and their naked photos of themselves with those toys and his dad’s sex diary and all their porn

I don’t care what you do in your bedroom. Or kitchen. Or garage. Or wherever.

I don’t care what consenting grown folks do.

That’s their business.

But nobody nobody nobody

Narrator: NOBODY

Nobody wants to see photos of their parents naked with – well, equipment.

Narrator: NOBODY AT ALL

And yet that’s what Mr T found.

He had to touch – the equipment.

He had to shred the sex diary, page by page.

He had to shred the photos.

At least with the sex diary, he didn’t have to read what was on the pages.

Narrator: He accidentally read one page where his father wrote about having sex on his sister’s waterbed. It’s difficult to shred stuff with your eyes closed.

He had to drive around town looking for a dumpster for the porn.

(We later learned there is a market for vintage porn, so perhaps he should have tried to sell it – but – ick.)

He did not enjoy any of this.

THE ACTION PLAN

Do not let this happen to your children. Even if you leave all the winter clothes and the old newspapers and the rusted tools and the rinsed takeout coffee cups and 12 years’ worth of magazines and the junk mail for your kids to clean, don’t leave them your naked photos.

You need to designate a trusted friend to be the porn sweeper for you after your death. Put all this stuff in a box somewhere – it can be easy for you to get when you want it – and tell your friend where it is.

The second you are dead, your friend can go to your house (yes, you have to give her a key so go to the hardware store today to have copies made) and grab the box and take it to the dumpster behind Home Depot and toss it in without opening it.

Narrator: A good friend will help you move. A great friend will help you move the body. And an incredible friend will toss your porn when you die.

Do it today. Make your porn plan today. Or else your children might never forgive you.

When they torture you on the bus

You say, “entertainment.”

I say, “Why can’t we just have silence?”

Not the beach in question. Not Mexico.

I have been cleaning out old stuff – you know – covid cleaning – and found a bunch of old Christmas letters. This is from my 2003 Christmas letter, before I met Mr T.

BTW, I have changed my opinion on KC and the Sunshine Band. People can grow.

Trouble in Paradise

“I still can’t talk about it without shaking,” says Texan as she sits in the swing on her front porch, overlooking a calm summer morning scene of butterflies and hummingbirds flitting through her award-winning garden. By now, the whole world knows how she and her boyfriend, Harpo, were tortured during their vacation to Cancún. Wrapped in a thick terrycloth robe, with her damp hair combed back and no makeup, she looks dewy and fresh, despite the trauma.

“The abuse was all psychological,” she explains. “The scars are here” –  and she points to her heart and to her head.

 During their bus ride from Cancún to Tulúm, she and Harpo were subject to the most excruciating torture: they were forced to watch three Adam Sandler movies.

“We still don’t know why they did it,” she says. “We don’t know what they wanted or why they chose us. All we wanted was a relaxing vacation. Cancún seemed like a good idea. Harpo was able to get us a great deal with a charter company he works with. We even got to stay in one of those swanky hotels right on the beach with our own bathroom and everything. We were having fun sitting on the beach, eating migas and batidos de guayaba, and exploring the Cancún Wal*Mart. Then we decided to take the bus to Tulúm.”

The Torture Starts

She pauses and takes a deep breath.

“And that’s when things started to go bad.”

Texan and Harpo got on the bus, thinking they would watch the scenery or nap on the three-hour ride to Tulúm. But as soon as the bus pulled out of the station, the bus driver started a video.

“It was ‘Mr. Deeds,’” she says flatly, clearly struggling to control her emotions. “Neither of us had ever seen an Adam Sandler movie, so at first, we didn’t know what was happening. But by the middle of the movie, we realized we were being tortured. We thought we could endure it, but as soon as ‘Mr. Deeds’ was over, the driver started ‘Little Nicky.’ Harpo kept telling me to be strong, to hang on, but it was horrible, just horrible. All we wanted to do was to escape, but there was nowhere to go.”

Temporary Relief

They finally arrived in Tulúm and were able to get off the bus. For the return trip, Texan tried to bribe the driver.

“I thought that if I bought him some ice cream, he might spare us on the return trip. I’ve done a lot of research on torture survivors and have learned that that sort of bargaining is a very common occurrence in these situations. I believe they call it the ‘Stockholm Syndrome.’”

She takes a sip of diet Coke to calm herself, then continues.

“But it didn’t work. As soon as we were underway, he started ‘Punch Drunk Love.’ That was the worst one. My friend Leigh actually liked that movie, but I have come to realize that she and I have – how do I say this? – different tastes. I mean, I love her and all, but if she recommends a movie to me now, I don’t go.”

Finally Safe

“We finally got back to Cancún. We were both exhausted and frightened when the bus pulled into the station. But we mustered our strength and ran off the bus as soon as it stopped. We were afraid they would try to keep us there and do even worse things to us, like make us watch Demi Moore movies.”

“I have since learned that Mexico is a signatory to the Geneva Convention, which prohibits forcing people to watch anything with Demi Moore in it. I guess the Mexicans didn’t want to be tried for war crimes.”

Investigation Continues

Authorities are still investigating what the US Embassy calls the “heinous” treatment of Texan and Harpo. The Mexican government has apologized for the incident, but notes that the movies were made in the US.

Such treatment of tourists is not unusual in Latin America. In Chile, KC and the Sunshine Band is on the heavy rotation list of every radio station. In Argentina, they show Steven Segal movies on the inter-city buses. Investigators are not sure of the extent of the problem because it so often goes unreported because of shame and horror on the part of the victims.

“I’m just glad to be home, where I can walk out of a movie theater any time I want,” Texan says. “I’m never leaving this country again.”

If you’re white, you’re complicit. Period. And you have a moral obligation to fix it.

“Welcome to the knowledge,” said my friend John, after I learned that the man who endowed my university was a slaver – that is, when I learned that I personally and directly benefitted from slavery

From The Legacy Museum and “The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opened to the public on April 26, 2018, is the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved Black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence.”

What I used to think

  • My family is from northern Wisconsin, where they didn’t have slaves, so I had not benefitted from slavery so therefore it had nothing to do with me. (I was wrong.)
  • White privilege didn’t apply to me because I have never gotten a job or gotten into a school because of connections. (I was wrong.)
  • Our country is a country of opportunity for everyone. All you have to do is study and work hard. (I was wrong.)
  • Just don’t sass the police and you’ll be fine. (I was wrong.)
  • There is no such thing as systemic racism. Our country is just. (I was wrong.)

A Little League baseball team in Youngstown, Ohio, won the city championship. The coaches, unthinkingly, decided to celebrate with a team picnic at a municipal pool. When the team arrived at the gate, a lifeguard stopped one of the Little League players from entering. It was Al Bright, the only black player on the team. His parents had not been able to attend the picnic, and the coaches and some of the other parents tried to persuade the pool officials to let the little boy in, to no avail. The only thing the lifeguards were willing to do was to let them set a blanket for him outside the fence and let people bring him food. He was given little choice and had to watch his teammates splash in the water and chase each other on the pool deck while he sat alone on the outside.

“From time to time, one or another of the players or adults came out and sat with him….”

It took an hour or so for a team official to finally convince the lifeguards “that they should at least allow the child into the pool for a few minutes.” The supervisor agreed to let the Little Leaguer in, but only if everyone else got out of the water, and only if Al followed the rules they set for him.

First, everyone–meaning his teammates, the parents, all the white people–had to get out of the water. Once everyone cleared out, “Al was led to the pool and placed in a small rubber raft,” Watkins wrote. A lifeguard got into the water and pushed the raft with Al in it for a single turn around the pool, as a hundred or so teammates, coaches, parents and onlookers watched from the sidelines.

After the “agonizing few minutes” that it took to complete the circle, Al was then “escorted to his assigned spot” on the other side of the fence. During his short time in the raft, as it glided on the surface, the lifeguard warned him over and over again of one important thing. “Just don’t touch the water,” the lifeguard said as he pushed the rubber float. “Whatever you do, don’t touch the water.”

Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson

What I have learned

  • George Floyd. Jay Anderson. Elijah McClain. Alvin Cole. Philando Castile. Ahmaud Arbery. Dontre Hamilton. Tamir Rice. Rayshard Brooks. Sandra Bland. Freddie Gray. Eric Garner. And the list goes on and on and on.
  • Redlining
  • Sundown towns
  • Black vets couldn’t get the GI Bill
  • Unions would not admit Black people
  • My own city – my own house – had restrictive covenants. That is, it used to be illegal for me to sell my house to a Black person. (Or a Jewish one.)
  • The FHA would not lend to Black people: “He notes that the Federal Housing Administration, which was established in 1934, furthered the segregation efforts by refusing to insure mortgages in and near African-American neighborhoods — a policy known as “redlining.” At the same time, the FHA was subsidizing builders who were mass-producing entire subdivisions for whites — with the requirement that none of the homes be sold to African-Americans.”
  • Black women have a higher rate of maternal mortality than white women, even when you hold all other factors, like education, income, and general health, constant.
  • “Black suspects are more than twice as likely to be killed by police than are persons of other racial or ethnic groups; even when there are no other obvious circumstances during the encounter that would make the use of deadly force reasonable.” (Columbia Law School)
  • “Police in the United States kill far more people than do police in other advanced industrial democracies….Black women and men and American Indian and Alaska Native women and men are significantly more likely than white women and men to be killed by police. Latino men are also more likely to be killed by police than are white men.” (National Academy of Science)
  • Mass murder and destruction of Black properties and neighborhoods.
  • Lynching was not just an isolated event in our history that happened to handful of people. (Even that would be bad.) Thousands – THOUSANDS – of Black people were tortured and murdered by crowds of people who took picnics to watch.

My great-great grandfather Anthony P. Crawford was born in January, 1865 and owned by Ben and Rebecca Crawford in Abbeville, South Carolina.

My great-great grandfather Anthony P. Crawford was born in January, 1865 and owned by Ben and Rebecca Crawford in Abbeville, South Carolina.

He walked 14 miles roundtrip to and from school each day and proved to be quite a scholar. When Anthony finished school he was a laborer for Ben Crawford until Thomas Crawford, Anthony’s father, died in 1893 and deeded some land to Anthony, who was the only one of nine siblings able to sign his own name.

Anthony Crawford was lynched in 1916 in Abbeville, SC by a crowd estimated to be between 200 and 400 blood-thirsty white people. His crime you might ask? Cursing a white man for offering him a low price for the cotton seed he was trying to sell and being too rich for a Negro.

His ordeal lasted all day. His body was beaten and dragged through town to show other Negroes what would happen to them if they got “insolent.” Finally, he was taken to the county fair grounds and strung up to a tree and riddled with bullets. Although we have heard his body was thrown on someone’s lawn, we have yet to locate his grave.

The family was ordered to vacate their land, wind up business and get out of town. They did just that.

My great-great grandfather stated early in life, “The day a white man hits me is the day I die.” And he did. But he left an example of hard work and determination.

He still lives in all of us. Many of us still attend AME Churches and we have been told that we have “that arrogant Crawford way.” But we know that those murderers were NOT successful in breaking up the Crawfords. We still stand today proud and close and live our lives as he would’ve wanted us to. We will not stop looking for each other until the last Crawford is accounted for, and we can stand on his land and look toward heaven and pray that he knows we are together again.

American Black Holocaust Museum

What I want

I want our country to live up to its promise.

I want justice and fairness for everyone.

What I will do

Even though it scares me, I will march in protests.

It scares me because WE BLOCK TRAFFIC.

AND WE SHOUT.

But – what do I, a middle-class white woman, really have to fear? That the police tell me to get out of the street? That I might be tear gassed? That I might be arrested?

I’m white.

They’re not going to kill me.

I need to use my power to help others.

Even though it scares me, I will speak up when I see injustice.

What’s the worst that can happen to me? That a white guy I don’t even know gets mad at me? What’s he going to do? Hit me?

Not going to happen.

And this doesn’t scare me at all – I will vote vote vote for candidates who support racial justice and equity and are against the death penalty and want to end police brutality and who want to invest in schools and who believe in voting rights.

What will you do?

I am not brave

I just happen to think the truth is obvious

This is what campaigning looks like when your country is so poor that most people can’t read.

I am writing this on Monday, Nov 2, the day before the election.

I hope that when you read this, we are all happy.

I hope that when you read this, we are celebrating.

I hope that when you read this, we are on the road to managing covid, addressing police brutality, and, in general, having decent leadership and being a decent, compassionate nation that is a beacon to the rest of the world again.

I hope we are truly making America great again.

Friends on facebook have told me they think I am brave for supporting Biden and being open about my absolute disgust of Donald Trump. Because they own small businesses, they are not in a position to speak out, they say. But they admire my courage.

I am not brave.

I am not courageous.

I am a white woman born in the US, which means I am in the class of the luckiest women on earth.

Brave is marching in a BLM protest when you know there will be tear gas and you might be arrested.

Brave is protesting the Belarusian election, where you risk being shot.

Brave is standing in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square, knowing you will probably be killed by your own government.

Brave is even saying you think Trump is awful on a blog where you reveal your identity instead of writing anonymously, as I do here.

There is nothing brave about saying on facebook, with your settings at “friends only” that you think the I hope soon to be former president of the US is a horrible human being and the worst president ever, especially if most of your friends and relatives agree with you.

But if that horrible man wins, I will have to be brave. I hope I have what it takes.