A modern miracle, or, Inconceivable

I was going to write about public restrooms, which you know is one of my favorite topics, but then Intersectionality Happened, and something better came along

princess bride

This miracle happened last night. Mr T and I went to a show and the show ended and I, who had smuggled a water bottle into the theater (and “smuggled” is the proper term, as they search bags now for food and liquids and weapons because God forbid a thrifty Wisconsinite not submit to highway robbery prices for food and drink at a theater although I have to admit in the defense of the people who search my bags that they do not look very hard because I have smuggled water and chocolate into every single venue I have ever tried to smuggle into ever.

Also – they never search our bags when we go to the Theatre theater. Only to pop culture stuff. The kinds of shows where the program is advertising nursing homes, annuities, and funeral services? They don’t search your bags there.)

Where was I?

Oh. So I had smuggled in a bottle of water so of course by the time the show was over I needed to use the ladies and when I got there, I was so shocked at what I found that I had to step back and take a photo.

Yes. That’s what you see in the photo above.

A LADIES ROOM AT A PUBLIC VENUE AT THE END OF AN EVENT – AND NOT ONLY IS THERE NOT A LINE, IT’S EMPTY.

So I took a photo.

As proof of the miracle.

I am not really sure how the Vatican handles this sort of thing and who the prospective saint would be, but this is Miracle Number 1.

[Miracle Number One. Hahahaha.]

And felt smug at how fast I was, even though our seats were high in the bleachers and I am not really fast at all.

But as soon as I was done with what one does in the ladies, I emerged to a huge line and I asked myself, Hmmmm. Why the line now and not before?

And I realized I had been looking at it all wrong and the real question was why had the other women lingered in the theater and not rushed to the ladies?

And I realized the answer was because they were right and I was wrong.

Because Mr T and I had attended a showing of The Princess Bride with a post-show conversation with Cary Elwes and they were all still in there talking about HOW MUCH FUN IT HAD BEEN whereas all I could think about was BOLT NOW SO YOU CAN PEE BEFORE YOU HAVE TO WALK HALF A MILE IN 11 DEGREES IN SNOW AND ICE BEFORE A 20 MINUTE DRIVE HOME.

They were thinking, The bathroom? It will always be there. But us? In here? With our friends? And the music? And the beautiful Pabst Theater? And the movie that everyone loves? Let us linger! Let us enjoy! It’s going to take forever to walk down the three flights of stairs anyhow –

[NB If there is ever a fire in that theater, I need to accept that Mr T and I will die because we always get the cheap tickets and there are not enough exits to get everyone out on time. This is a sobering thought that just struck me. Maybe we need to start spending more money on tickets. Or maybe that is how our lives will end – after we have enjoyed a lovely evening of the symphony or The Princess Bride or the Gypsy Kings. Wow. I really need to think about this.]

Forget about fire. Forget about restrooms.

If you have the chance to watch The Princess Bride on the big screen and to watch Cary Elwes being interviewed after, do it. And if you submit a question, don’t ask a stupid one like, “Will you marry me?” to him.

  1. He’s already married
  2. He’s been married for 30 years
  3. That’s boring and again, it’s stupid

Ask about listening to Billy Crystal ad-lib the Almost Dead scene. Or what it was like to work with Andre the Giant. Someone needs to ask about working with Robin Wright and did anyone see House of Cards coming, or at least that type of character for her.

And learn your lines so you can say them with the movie, because it’s only proper.

The unbearable lightness of job-searching

The pain of blending your gray after your hairdresser retires, or, do I go gently into that good night?

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A little bit of flair – a purse of leopardo, even when you are selling fresh fish, makes the day better. Beauty belongs everywhere.

I heard you guys. I read what you said when I raged against The Patriarchy and whether I keep coloring my hair er no. Does coloring my hair mean I am succumbing to Them? Or can I reclaim my power?

You said I can do whatever I darn well please.

Thank you.

I decided OK then. I might keep coloring my hair.

Especially because I am looking for a new job and two-inch roots are not a good look on me.

But then my hairdresser retired.

Oh the pain of retirement.

Our doctor retired. Our vet retired. (How we loved our vet. How sad we are that a chain vet clinic bought his practice and we have not seen the same vet twice since Dr Z retired.) Our postman is about to retire.

And then our hairdresser retired. (Yes, Mr T and I shared a hairdresser. Carol was great.)

Carol retired even though she was our age. Her husband is a little bit older and he had a good union job and could retire early and they thought, You know, people get sick. They get disabled. They die. We have enough. How much do we need, really? We can do it. Let’s retire now.

And they did the right thing. How much good does more money do you if you are dead? Unless you are madly in love with your profession and it brings you great joy and fulfillment, if you don’t need more money, what is the point of working?

But that meant I didn’t have a hairdresser.

And I think we all know the pain of finding a new hairdresser.

I think it’s easier to find a new doctor. If you mess up with a doctor, you just die. But if you mess up with a hairdresser? YOU LOOK AWFUL AND THE WHOLE WORLD SEES IT.

Carol retired in September. She gave me the cards of two other stylists, but the cards had only phone numbers.

I called one of the stylists. She didn’t answer and I had to leave a message. And I had to wait for her to call me  back. And of course I didn’t hear the phone ring when she called back because I keep my phone turned off because I hate talking on the phone and the only  calls that are allowed to go through on my phone are Mr T’s and my mother’s.

So I had to call her back again. And then turn off “Do not disturb” and WAIT FOR HER TO CALL ME BACK.

And then she wouldn’t give me a price over the phone – depends on the length of my hair, she said.

And figuring out an appointment. When did our calendars coincide?

Lord. Have. Mercy.

I asked if she had an email address or if I could text her.

Nope.

I can’t work like that.

I cannot conduct my 21st century life using 20th century technology.

I don’t even call my mother, for crying out loud, and I LOVE HER MORE THAN I LOVE ANYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD.

OK. I do call her. But only because she is my mother and she likes to talk to me.

But I for sure do not intend to start a phone relationship with someone new at this point in my life.

So. I did what any rational person would do.

I solicited input from all my local friends and ignored it and went to SuperCuts because you don’t have to make an appointment.

I tested the haircuts first.

Let me back up.

When I was in grad school and had no money, I went to SuperCuts. And you know what? My haircuts were fine. I went to the same person every time and she cut my hair perfectly every time.

So even though a bad haircut can ruin your day or your week? A bad haircut can be fixed.

And hair does grow.

So I read the reviews for the SuperCuts near us, including the reviews for color, and they were good and I thought, I will try one haircut and see how it goes.

So I went.

And I tested.

And it was fine.

So I went back. And had another haircut. And it was also fine.

And on Monday, I took the big plunge. I looked at my two-inch roots and I looked at my job-hunting situation (I want a new job for many reasons) and I looked in the mirror and thought, “Is this the best face I can present for a first impression?”

The answer was no.

So I took a deep breath and reminded myself that bad color can happen anywhere (except NEVER WITH CAROL WHO RETIRED) and that bad color can be fixed and I drove to SuperCuts and guess what?

IT LOOKS FABULOUS AND I HAVE FOUND MY NEW PERSON AND SHE IS JOAN AT SUPERCUTS AND I DO NOT HAVE TO CALL FOR AN APPOINTMENT I CAN DO IT ALL ONLINE.

And I will keep coloring my hair and screw you patriarchy you will not keep me down.

 

 

People tell me things

You can’t just walk away when someone says, “And then my husband slept with my best friend.” It’s RUDE

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Me, in leopardo, listening. #BerniceEscuchaBien #IHeartBernice

Mr T wishes I would be more of A Talker at home.

Actually, he wishes I would be more of A Listener at home.

The role of Talker has already been filled. 🙂

But – we have been married for 11 years and have been together for 14, so – I kind of know what he has to say.

Don’t get me wrong.

I adore the man.

And I think he’s hot.

But – I know what he thinks and I know what he’s going to say. So there’s that.

But yesterday, when we went to pick up our free rain barrel from the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewer District – this was very exciting because the coupon has been on our fridge for six months now, ever since I attended the required two-hour meeting to learn how to install said rain barrel, most of which I ignored because I outsource all technical work in this house (See: COMPETENCE IS HOT), I started to talk to the receptionist while Mr T was gathering the pieces of the rain barrel. And I found a story I wanted to hear.

Actually, it was more like Mr T started to get the barrel and the lid and the other bits and pieces and this guy ran out into the lobby all excited that someone was getting a rain barrel and asked Mr T if he knew how to put it together and if he knew that we could put the lid upside down and fill it in with dirt and flowers, which we did not and which, I will admit, is pretty cool.

And yes, I can see why the MMSD guy was excited that someone was getting a rain barrel because this is a big initiative here because we have this flooding problem that leads either to flooding basements or sewage in Lake Michigan, neither of which are good outcomes – and we have had the flooded basement ourselves three times and IT IS NOT FUN – and MMSD is doing everything they can to solve the problem without having to dig up the entire county and build new infrastructure.

Where was I?

So while Mr T and this guy are talking technical stuff, the receptionist asked me to fill out the coupon completely.

Receptionist: Did you attend the session?

Me: Yes, but I didn’t really pay attention. I married an engineer just so I wouldn’t have to do this kind of work.

Receptionist: Yeah, I’m looking for a mechanic myself.

Me: I highly recommend marrying technical competence. Sure, it’s not as sexy as some other things, but when you’re older, I promise you won’t regret it.

Receptionist: My first husband…

Me: Your what? How old are you?

Receptionist: 49.

Me: What? You look like you’re about 29! Holy smoke you have stayed out of the sun!

And then ensued a discussion of how she had married her high-school sweetheart and she had gone to work at a factory —

Receptionist: But the factory closed. And we all lost our jobs. So I re-trained as a health-care worker. And I got a new job. And I was making way more money than I ever made in the factory. But then, without any warning, they had this big re-structuring and I got a phone call and my job disappeared.

Me: Oh honey I am so sorry I know how that goes.

Mr T: Hey let’s go.

Me: Not yet.

Receptionist: And then I had to start again looking for work. So I found this job through a temp agency. But then I got divorc–

Mr T: I’m ready. Let’s go.

Me: Not yet. Why did you get divorced?

Receptionist: Because my husband was sleeping with my best friend.

Me: WHAT?

Receptionist: I. Know.

Mr T [who, in his defense, has not been listening to this conversation because HOW CAN A NORMAL HUMAN BEING WALK AWAY FROM A CONVERSATION LIKE THIS?]: Are you ready yet?

Me: NO! Not yet! YOUR BEST FRIEND SLEPT WITH YOUR HUSBAND? I HATE THEM BOTH!

Receptionist: Yep. My ex and I get along OK now because of the kids. I mean, we talk. But my best friend? No. We don’t talk.

Me: No. We hate her.

Receptionist: And this job – they hired me on as a regular employee. It’s the best benefits I’ve ever had. I learn new things every day. So it’s OK.

Me: Good.

Receptionist: And I’m looking for a mechanic.

Me: Good idea.

We sound like women ¿y qué?

We will not be silenced

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I love these fierce Spanish women in San Sebastian. Heels! On cobblestones!

One of the things I regret and one of my big mistakes was trying to change how a female co-worker sounded on a podcast.

I started making podcasts at work. These were for internal use only, but were very effective at getting the message out about new products and services. My co-workers loved them – they asked how to download them to their phones so they could listen to them while they walked their dogs.

And they were fun to make! It’s fun to be a journalist – to interview people and see where the conversation goes. I love the rabbit holes. I love going in with a few leading questions and then just following the conversation. You learn a lot of interesting new things.

And I think that’s why my co-workers liked the podcasts as well – they just didn’t know what they were going to hear but they knew it would be something interesting and that they would learn something useful.

I worked at an engineering company that was almost all men. I wanted to record a podcast with a product manager who was a woman.

And I was doing it all wrong.

I was concerned that her slight upspeak detracted from her credibility.

I wanted to re-record the podcast and have her change how she talked.

Lord have mercy what was I thinking?

Let me back up here.

This woman?

Has a PhD in engineering from a top 10 research university.

She is actually more qualified to talk about the topic she was discussing than any other person in the company.

Any. Other. Person. In. The. Company.

And the company has lots of technical PhDs. But she was the person with the PhD and the research on this topic.

And I was asking her to change?

To sound less like who she was?

Because she didn’t sound like a man?

I was so wrong.

And you know what? Even as I type these words, I realize that even if she didn’t have a PhD, even if she were a regular product manager, it would still be wrong for me to ask her to change her speech patterns to sound less like who she is and more like a man.

The way she sounds?

That is what an expert in her field sounds like.

Even with slight upspeak. Even with the occasional “like.”

I went back to her. I apologized. I told her I was wrong. I said told her the podcast was fine as it was and maybe it was time people – including women like me – learned that this is what expertise and authority sound like.

Oh man. Even when you think you know, you learn that you don’t. What else am I doing wrong?

 

Schrödinger’s cancer

It’s not a tumor

It’s not. It was negative. So don’t worry.

But this was the second-worst Christmas of my life. This was the Christmas where I learned what fear feels like.

The first-worst was Christmas of 1996, when we found out my dad had cancer and was being medically evacuated from Sigonella naval base in Italy , where he and my mom had just moved so he could teach science at the junior high school on base, to Frankfurt.

I had returned from the Peace Corps the year before and was still looking for a job. Shockingly, employers were not jumping to hire someone who had just spent two years increasing profits in a foreign language in another culture. I guess they thought – I don’t know what they thought. I guess the words “Peace Corps” put them off?

I was back in Austin, living with friends (thanks again, Laura and Dave xoxox). They were out of town for Christmas and I was alone on Christmas Eve and my brother called me to tell me that a family friend – a nurse – in DC had called him. I think my mom was relaying information to Mrs S to relay to us.

We didn’t have a diagnosis yet. My mom and dad were in Germany and there was an ice storm and all the non-essential personnel were told to stay home so nobody was coming into the lab.

What that meant was my dad was sick enough that the navy had flown my dad from Sicily to Germany to try to figure out what was going on and still didn’t know.

We were in cancer limbo.

We didn’t even get an answer until after New Year’s, when my dad was sent to DC and then to Lackland in San Antonio.

That was the worst Christmas.

The second worst was this one.

I had my regular annual mammogram on Thursday December 19. I went in, had my boobs squeezed, left, and thought no more of it.

As one does.

As one does when one has been lucky and has never had to think of it again.

And then I learned what it feels like to feel fear.

Yes, I felt fear when we learned my dad had cancer but that was fear mixed with certainty mixed with dread. When I saw my dad that New Year’s Eve, with the extra water weight and his pale face and the pain, I knew he was going to die. When the surgeons explained there was no way they could operate – that it would like like trying to cut out a soggy paper towel, I knew the cancer was going to kill him. I felt fear but it was fear mixed with pain and sorrow and loss and despair.

When I got the phone call four days after my mammogram telling me I needed a follow up to check on a few things, I felt the fear of surprise.

This was fear mixed with the vast unknown.

This was fear with nothing to touch.

This was fear with vast emptiness with nowhere to look.

I didn’t know anyone who had had a follow-up mammogram.

This is not something I have heard talked about.

I had no idea if this was common or not.

And I didn’t want to google.

My sister is a nurse practitioner, but I didn’t want to ask her – not so close to Christmas.

I sent the test results to my friend Ilene, who is a pediatrician.

Technique: Full-field digital images of the breasts were obtained in the CC, MLO and XCCL projections. Computer-aided detection was utilized for this exam. Findings: Breast Density: Heterogeneously dense, which may obscure small masses The pattern and distribution of the glandular tissue are unchanged from the prior exams. Early vascular calcifications are present. An asymmetry with associated architectural distortion is questioned within the medial right breast middle depth on the XCCL view only. No significant mass, calcification, or other finding is seen in the left breast.

She shared them with a physician friend who treats adults and wrote back that yes, I did need to have this looked at.

When your doctor friend says something needs to be checked out, you listen.

The earliest appointment I could get was Friday, January 3.

This was Monday, December 23.

All I knew was I had never heard of anyone being called back for a follow-up mammogram.

And I didn’t feel like I could talk about it over Christmas.

Mr T and I celebrated Christmas with a huge cloud over us. Did I have cancer? Did I not have cancer?

It wasn’t until an open thread on Ask A Manager that I learned that there are so many callbacks. So many. Callbacks that have led to biopsies that are still negative.

But I still didn’t know if they were callbacks for asymmetric thingies. And I didn’t want to ask that specific question. Because what if that was The Bad Kind? What if that was the Really Bad Thing that is Usually Cancer?

I wasn’t eating.

I wasn’t sleeping.

All I could think of was Cancer.

Mr T, the engineer, was trying to logic me out of my fear, which is how engineers approach these things.

He had talked to a friend of his whose wife has had multiple callbacks and everything has been fine.

He pointed out that the odds of my having cancer were very low.

I told him that although my head might understand that, my stomach did not and my stomach was ruling at the moment.

Fear.

Fear.

Fear.

Thursday night, I couldn’t sleep.

Friday morning, I couldn’t eat.

I forced myself to eat some toast for lunch. I didn’t need to pass out in the waiting room. That would be too expensive.

(I might be terrified but I am still practical.)

I texted my friend L that I needed a follow-up mammogram and asked for her good wishes.

She wrote back that she had been told the same thing on December 23 via voicemail but wasn’t able to talk to anyone until December 30.

She’s one of my best friends and I hadn’t told her because I didn’t want to worry her.

She hadn’t told me because she didn’t want to worry me.

We could at least have been terrified together.

Then I messaged my sister that I had to have a follow-up mammogram and that I was scared.

She called me immediately and asked why I hadn’t told her.

“I didn’t want to ruin your Christmas,” I said.

“BUT I’M YOUR SISTER!” she yelled. “And I’m A NURSE! AND I KNOW THESE THINGS! AND I’VE HAD CALLBACKS! AND THEY HAVE BEEN FINE!”

She told me that a mammogram is a screening tool. And a follow-up mammogram and a follow-up ultrasound are screening tools. And even a biopsy is a screening tool. She told me many are screened but not everyone has cancer.

Mr T and I went to the hospital. He complained about the bad signage to the breast care center, which he is correct about, and about the prevalence of sick people, which – hello.

Mr T externalizes his stress.

I internalize mine.

I am not sure if that is a good combination but there we are.

I left Mr T in the waiting room and went into the inner waiting room and changed into my gown. The radiology tech called me into the room with the machine and introduced herself again. She was the same tech I saw in December.

She asked me to spell my name and give her my birthdate.

I couldn’t speak.

She asked again.

I still couldn’t speak.

She reached into a shelf above her computer and pulled down a box of kleenex and handed it to me.

I finally choked out the spelling of my name and my birthdate.

She squeezed and x-rayed me, then took me back into the waiting area.

“The radiologist has to read these. It will take at least 20 minutes. Depending on what he sees, you might need the ultrasound test as well.”

I tried to read a magazine – good Lord Prince Andrew you were defending Jeffrey Epstein what were you thinking? – but honestly it’s hard to concentrate when you are about to find out whether or not you might have cancer.

It was the last few minutes of not-knowing.

It’s better to be in limbo than to know you have cancer.

It’s better to not know than to know you do have cancer.

I would rather be in suspense, I think, than to know for sure I have cancer.

Because in that state of not-knowing, there is a sliver of hope that there is not cancer.

The not-knowing includes both states: Yes cancer and No cancer. They exist simultaneously. The hope and the fear. And they take turns. There are slivers of calm in the days of waiting for the appointment – slivers of OF COURSE I DON’T HAVE CANCER WHAT ARE THE ODDS? – slivers of being able to breathe and eat and sleep for a bit – but there is also the fear. The fear of yes cancer. The fear of pain and chemo and shots and losing my hair and maybe death.

Not knowing is better than knowing if knowing means cancer.

It took only a few minutes before the tech came back for me.

She took me back into the room and the radiologist came in.

“You’re fine,” he said. “You’re fine.”

“I don’t have cancer?” I asked.

“No,” he said. He then explained all the technical stuff but my head was spinning and all I could hear was roaring in my ears and I was trying not to cry and trying not to fall to the ground in relief.

The tech smiled. “See you next year.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On why we need A Restroom Revolution

If this isn’t a cause worthy of armed insurrection, I don’t know what is

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Mr T and I went to Chicago this week, just for two days. We spent an afternoon at the Field Museum, which was named for and funded by the Marshall Field store guy, which I did not know but thought was pretty cool. Remember the days when really rich people felt guilty enough about their wealth that they funded philanthropic activities that benefited humanity?

Anyhow.

I had to use the ladies several times because that is how I roll.

Mr T had to use the gents only once.

We compared notes.

As always, there was a line for the ladies.

As always.

And, as almost always, there was no line for the men’s.

Despite having been married to me for 11 years and having heard me complain about this for even longer than 11 years, Mr T does not understand why this is so.

I explained.

“In just one of my trips,” I told him, “there were five women in line waiting for five stalls. There was one woman who took her little girl into the stall with her. There was not enough room in the stall for her little boy, so he had to stand outside the stall and wait for her. So there’s a little boy standing out there while his mom is inside the stall and so she has to worry about that while she is also dealing with another child inside a tiny stall. And the rest of the women in the bathroom want to make sure we are not scaring the little boy and we want to be reassuring to him because he can’t see his mom and it’s probably a little scary to him.”

“There was a woman changing a toddler’s diaper on the changing table. She has a squirmy, very unhappy kid to deal with and no hooks anywhere to hang a diaper bag from or her purse or her coat. Because you know NOBODY IN CHICAGO EVER HAS STUFF IN THE WINTER.”

“There was a woman desperately feeding quarters into the tampon machine – which was squeezed in between the changing table and a toilet stall so there was no room for any of them – trying to get it to give her a tampon in return. Which, by the way, never happened. So that poor woman probably ended up rolling up toilet paper to stick in her underwear. I couldn’t even give her something – I checked my purse and I didn’t have anything with me or I would have.”

“Oh and remember how I had you hold my coat? It’s a good thing you did because there was no hook in my stall which meant there was no place to hang my coat.”

“Where did you put your purse?” he asked. “NOT ON THE FLOOR!”

“No. I had to balance my purse on the toilet paper dispenser thing,” I answered. “And then the stupid tap wouldn’t give me water and I had to go to a different tap and only one of the sinks had a booster step so the little kids could reach the water to wash their hands and then the taps had those stupid dryer things attached so you get your hands wet and dry in the same place but I couldn’t figure out how to make the air come out and then once it did, it was freezing cold so I looked for paper towels instead but they didn’t have any but they did have wall-mounted air dryers but they were being used so I had to wait.”

“And one of the other times I was in there, I had my coat with me and even though I had gotten a stall with a hook that time and could hang my coat while I peed, there was nowhere to put it while I washed my hands so I had to hold it between my knees while I washed my hands and try to make sure it didn’t touch the ground.”

“The only thing I have ever seen in the men’s room is men peeing at the urinals or going into the stalls,” he said.

“I. Know,” I answered. “That’s why women need more space. That’s why it’s BS that the building codes require the same floor space for the bathrooms. They should give three times as much space for the women as for the men.”

I read this paragraph in the book Toilet: Public Restrooms and the Politics of Sharing, in a wonderful piece (“Creating a Nonsexist Restroom”) by Dr Clara Greed.

From my frankly feminist perspective, patience, trust, and obedience to the powers that be will never result in urinary equality. At the micro level, I like to indulge in a little toilet evangelism when I am standing in the queue for the ladies’ with a captive audience, in spite of the looks I get. To paraphrase Marx, many women are suffering from false toilet consciousness. Why isn’t it a major political issue? And conversely, why doesn’t the government take toilets seriously?

Solidarity, Dr Greed. Let’s start The Revolution.

And the rest of us – let’s get loud. Start complaining when we are in public places and we have to wait. Write to the owners of the venues. Go to the planning meetings for new buildings. We can get building codes changed. This is something where we can actually do something. We might not be able to solve world hunger or climate change, but we have a voice – and money – locally.

Smoking Hot Competence

A coworker said Mr T is “Smoking Hot” and she is correct

Mr T fixing things
Mr T can fix almost anything.

I just started watching the movie Hector and the Search for Happiness and I know I am going to like it because I like Simon Pegg and I also like very much Stellan Skarsgard, who was also amazing in Chernobyl.

And I started thinking about how I now find men in their 60s to be total hotties and what is it that makes a man that age – or Mr T’s age – hot and it’s not just the looks, although that’s part of it. Mr T is very nice looking.

It’s competence. It’s the willingness to get things done.

And Mr T is more than competent. He can fix almost anything in our house. We had to pay someone to install a gas line to the kitchen, but he replaced the electric stove with a gas stove. He replaced the old microwave oven with a new one. I did have to be involved with that project as a helper and I did not enjoy that at all, as it consumed our 4th of July weekend and left us both bruised and on the verge of divorce, but, as Mr T pointed out, it saved us about $2,000.

I don’t know what divorce would have cost.

He put in a new garbage disposal and a new tap in the kitchen sink.

He does almost all our auto repairs unless they are under warranty. Then why would he bother?

He painted the house and the garage. We are hiring someone to repair the mortar, but that is specialized work that requires expertise neither of us have.

He is my in-home tech repair. People ask me about my phone and my computer and I just shrug. I don’t know and I don’t care. Mr T takes care of all of that.

I have not planned a vacation in years. Mr T does all the planning. I just figure out which clothes and books I want to take and show up. It’s a pretty sweet deal.

I have not cleaned the house or done the grocery shopping or done the laundry or cut the grass since Mr T stopped working. That was our agreement: I go to work, he takes care of the house. Although I don’t feel like this one is such a big deal. This is how it should be. The person who is not leaving the house every day to go to work is the person who should be in charge of housework. Not having to deal with performance evaluations and office politics more than compensates for scrubbing the shower.

And the work thing – well, let’s just say Mr T has been my rock with the work drama that has been going on this year. I used to love my job but there was a re-org and I don’t have the boss I used to have and there have been huge huge changes. More on that later.

So yeah – in my teens, I thought hot was all about looks.

Now I know hot is still all about looks but looks backed up by commitment and competence and caring and cleaning the hair – my hair – out of the shower drain – and cleaning the slime out of the dehumidifier and cleaning the cat box and changing the oil and putting gas in the car and shoveling the driveway and doing the laundry and changing the sheets and paying the bills and looking at the phone contracts and getting the best deal on butter and vacuuming the refrigerator coils and scraping the old lead paint off the garage properly before re-painting and rinsing the jars for recycling and buying tulips for me when they are on sale and sometimes even when they aren’t and helping our neighbor who lives on disability with his computer and going to city council meetings to speak even if it means missing a fun event and all the stuff that helps make life better for me, for us, and for our community.

That’s hot. And Mr T is hot.

 

 

 

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Where would we even find chocolate this far north?

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Although Wisconsin is the place to be after the apocalypse: we have fresh water.

Mr T and I had dinner with our friends P and D the other night. And we were talking about The Future. And Retirement. And Do We Have Enough?

And Is It Enough If There Is Disaster?

To which the answer is of course No.

No, it is not enough if there is Disaster.

But if there is Disaster, does it even matter?

To quo – to paraphrase D, If there’s a bomb, I’m running toward it.

I thought about it and realized she’s right.

I’m 56. I’ve lived a really good life. I’m not done. There’s more I would like to do. But I wouldn’t feel extraordinarily cheated if my life were to end tomorrow.

I would be angry if something were to happen to my bonus daughters and sons in law and grandchildren. They are too young. They would be cheated. They would be wronged.

But me? OK. Fair enough.

As D says, I have no interest in surviving a nuclear attack.

Which of course led us to a discussion of the book, On the Beach, which is one of my favorites. Have you read it? Read it. There’s been a nuclear war or whatever. Everyone is dead except the Australians, but the fallout is drifting toward Australia and should be there in about three months.

What do you do if you know you have only a few months to live? If you know the world will come to an end in a few months?

One of the women in the story plants tomatoes.

Mr T, the engineer, says, “But it takes tomatoes more than three months to grow.”

Which – yeah.

That’s the whole point.

What do you do when you know the world will come to an end in three months?

How do you live your life?

How do you focus?

What really matters?

So now I am thinking. Hmmmm. Would I wash the kitchen windows? (Yes, because I like having clean windows) Would I plant tomatoes? (Yes, because what if the fallout doesn’t arrive as fast as they think it will and I can have tomatoes) Would I go to work? (NO)

What would you do?

 

Wedding Shower Blues

When you try to do something nice for someone and it turns into a big ol’ mess

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I know this photo has nothing to do with wedding showers. But it’s a cat. Who wanted some of my potato chips. And who sat in my lap even though she didn’t know me because she was sure I would share. Which – I did.

At my job, it’s mostly men. Only about 7% women. 6.8% to be exact. I just did the math.

The first time there was a baby shower and I was invited, I was a bit cranky, as I did not know the woman for whom the shower was being held. It was a potluck and I had to buy a present and I was loudly cranky.

Not one of my better traits, I admit.

I mean, I wasn’t loudly cranky at work. That would have been rude.

But I was loudly cranky at home, to Mr T, about how women have to do all these stupid things at work that men don’t have to do and nobody judges a man who skips a baby shower but woe to the woman who does not go.

So I bought a stupid present – well, a copy of The Cat in the Hat, which is actually quite subversive and not stupid at all, and made David Lebovitz’s brownies, which are awesome, and went to the shower, prepared to sulk (quietly and politely and discreetly).

Only to meet one of the organizers as I walked in, who introduced herself happily and said, “We have so few women in this office that we always look for any excuse to get us all together.”

And I realized I had been ridiculously dumb about this issue and had over-reacted.

And I met my sister co-workers and after we had eaten and spoken some, the male co-workers of the expectant woman showed up with more food and presents of their own because they, too, wanted to celebrate with their co-worker and I thought, Wow they do it right here.

So when my co-worker Laura got engaged, I thought, Cool! We will have a bridal shower! It’s been eight months since the last baby shower. We need to have a party!

I asked Laura if her team was already organizing a shower and they were not.

Which bothered me a bit. Shouldn’t her team be organizing this event?

But I thought, How hard can it be? I ask the woman in charge of the mailing list for the women’s group to send out the email, I reserve the room, and voila, we have a shower.

Woman in charge said sure and looped in Traditional Organizer of Baby Showers (TOBS).

And this ensued (condensed version):

TOBS: We don’t do bridal showers. We only do baby showers.

Me: Well we need to start.

TOBS: But we don’t do bridal showers.

Me: And – maybe that’s because nobody’s gotten married in a while? But – a party!

TOBS: Grumble.

Me: So – anyway. Shower.

TOBS: If we have a bridal shower for Laura, then we need to also have one for Cindy. Cindy is also getting married the same month.

Me: Fine. Whatever. Go ahead with your bad shower-planning self. I think I’ve met Cindy?

TOBS: But – Cindy’s boss and the rest of her group is in another city.

[The boss usually buys the cake]

Me: And this is my problem why?

TOBS: Who’s going to plan Cindy’s shower?

Me: I dunno. Anyhoo. Back to Laura’s shower. You have the tablecloths? I can get them from you. I’ll set up.

TOBS: We should combine the showers.

Me: Wait. What? No. No. No.

TOBS: We should combine the showers. It would be easier.

Me: Nononono. Separate showers. Each bride gets her own shower.

TOBS: But then that would be two showers in one month!

Me: AND THAT WOULD BE TWICE AS MUCH CAKE!

TOBS: It’s too much work!

Me: I – don’t think so.

Me: Every bride should have her own shower.

Me: Cindy and Laura don’t even know each other.

Me [Laura is marrying another woman. Cindy goes to a church where women never cut their hair. This is not going to happen.]

Me: This is not happening.

So. I went to Laura’s boss (LB). Told her what was going on. LB said, “No way is Laura sharing a shower. We’ll have just our group, men and women. I’ll buy lunch and dessert. We’ll have just our group.”

And we did. And it was fun.

I dug more into Cindy’s situation. Turns out TOBS and Cindy are in the same group. The boss is in another city, but Cindy and TOBS and a few other people are here, so TOBS could very well have organized something local either for their team or for all the women.

Which she never did. Cindy was unshowered. Not my fault.

 

 

 

 

AND THIS IS WHY IT’S GOOD TO KNOW PEOPLE

When you think it’s all over but then your husband’s friend Knows Things like How To Find Stuff Online and he finds your old blog posts THANK YOU GARY

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And here is one of them (old blog post). Yes, they are piecemeal, but it’s better than nothing and now I have a project to get me through the next few months.

What’s so interesting about this post is that I wrote it in January of 2009 and yet NOTHING HAS CHANGED. We still have a lot of crap in our house.

However. Mr T is starting to throw things away.

And Holly B is still my friend. She now blogs here.

Marriage 101, Lecture 9: It is better to throw away than to keep

HollyB nd I are both Third Culture Kids. We both grew up abroad without fixed, permanent homes and hence have some of the same attitude when it comes to stuff: get rid of it because it is too much trouble to move it. I went to ten different schools before I was graduated from high school and have moved about 15 times since college. Only five of those moves were performed by moving companies; the rest — yours truly, which is one of the reasons I do not accumulate books. Have you ever moved books? (The other reason I don’t accumulate books is because they are expensive and if I am already paying taxes to support the library, why not just get them there free?)

Anyhow. My Serious Honey, on the other hand, has moved about five times in his life. He is very attached to his stuff. Our basement is full of his stuff, including office supplies from when he worked at Apple 13 years ago, his college textbooks and notes (OK, so he got rid of those in May and we did discover that when SH was the head grader for physics in college, my college boyfriend, Bobby, worked for him, which actually isn’t so bizarre because we all went to the same college and Bobby was a physics major, but I digress), love notes (I suspect — he asked me not to look) to the object of his college affection, 14 years (at least) of BMW magazine, bunches of other magazines, 27 gimme hats, t-shirts he no longer wears but that have sentimental value, etc, etc, etc.

However. There might be gold in those hills. My new mantra with him is, “Can we sell it?” Did you know that people will pay a lot for an old beer can? Apparently, old zippo lighters are now considered collectors’ items. (“Smoking art is hot!” the clerk at the trash store told me yesterday when I bought an old humidor to use as a nightstand in the guest room.) We have a bunch of old zippos. We have all kinds of old crap. We are going to get rich from my husband’s hoarding. Ha.