Tag Archives: marriage

Wedded Blitz

17 Oct

She was a big woman, with tightly permed hair perched on top of her head like a nest, a ‘do that made her face look all the more round. She was driving a big pink Cadillac, with the top down, and she started whooping and waving as she turned down the street to my house. Well, I assume it was my house, since I was sitting on the top step of the big front porch like I owned the place. And since it was my dream, I figured I did own the place.

Unlike my real abode, my dream home sat on the top of a rise, oozing old-fashioned charm. I had a good view of Charlaine as she motored up to the house, calling out to me. “What the hell is Charlaine Harris doing at my house?” I thought, both in my dream and in that part of the brain that realizes that we’re dreaming.

Those of you who know me well know I love TrueBlood, the HBO series. Many of you also know that Charlaine Harris wrote the Sookie Stackhouse books that inspired the series. So, Ms. Harris is something of a pop fiction writing goddess in my orbit of the universe. What, indeed, was Ms. Harris doing riding her pink Cadillac convertible down my not-street to my not-house?

“You should be writing about your mother!” she called, leaning back in her Caddy, one arm resting on top of the steering wheel, one extended so that she could point directly at me while admonishing me. There was a Dr. Pepper in the cup holder.

“But I’m not ready!” I called back. I think I heard her mutter a “P-shaw” under her breath before she gunned the Caddy and pulled away shouting, “Yes, you are!” and waving as she pulled down the street.

She missed my reply. “Hell, no, I’m not ready to write about my mother!” I yelled at the retreating car. When I told my sister about the dream, she said something like, “Oooooooh!” which I took to mean that she thought just because I had dreamed I was ready to write about my mother that I actually was ready to do so. I figured, it being my dream, I was completely at liberty to ignore it.

Last Monday, October 10, was my mother’s birthday. You may recall, I wrote nothing. It was a holiday, for crying out loud. A lame-ass holiday to be sure, but a holiday nonetheless. I’ve gotten into the habit of giving myself a blog break whenever my children get a break from their grueling schooling and was glad to take it if it gave me an out on the Mom post.

Writing about my mother is problematic in so many ways. She died three years ago, so there’s the grief stuff to wade through. She wasn’t a particularly simple woman, either. So, my thoughts about all things Mom are pretty complicated. Add to that the fact that many of my readers knew my mother and some of my readers are my Dad and siblings and, well, blogging about Mom just doesn’t have whole lot of appeal.

I know that it doesn’t have to be Mom’s birthday for me to write about Mom. I could, for instance, write about Mom this week. But I have another excuse! Today, you see, is my wedding anniversary. I am, indeed, so averse to writing about my mother that I will gladly write about my marriage. How’s that for avoidance?

I am pretty sure I have been married for 19 years. I say “pretty sure” because I am really bad with ages and dates. I have no idea how old my father is, for instance. He’s somewhere around 75. My kids I have to keep track of for school and other official business. My dad? Nah. Actually, my kids are what I call time anchors. In the temporal muddle of my mind, I can always grab on to one of their ages and get a rough guess about the age of something else. Our house, for instance, is as old as our son. So around the time he is going off to college, we will need a new roof.

My husband is the keeper of things like anniversaries. He has a Ph.D. in history; he knows when everything happened in our lives. It probably used to bother him that I can never really remember that our anniversary is October 17 and not October 16. I say the right thing when I’m asked lately, but I still have to pause and remind myself that we got married on the 17th.

I’m sure there are people who consider 19 years a long time to be married and I suppose it is. Marriage is, in some ways, like a really long nap. You know the kind where you lay down thinking you’re just going to snooze for a little while and then get up and be really productive but you wake up two hours later and wonder how the hell that happened? You could swear you were only asleep for twenty minutes, but the clock doesn’t lie.

So I don’t really feel like I’ve been married 19 years. But I have two kids, one old enough to drive. My husband has lost a lot of the hair that he had when we wed. I’ve gained a crepe-y, looseness around my neck. We’re both heavier than we were. He’s in worse shape; I’m in better shape. And I gloat about it. We used to go to the symphony and opera. Now our big thrill is watching Modern Family a season behind on DVD.

I was pondering marriage as I folded laundry yesterday afternoon in our bedroom while my husband watched TV. He flipped around and finally settled on a historical film. I recognized the male lead, Richard Burton, but not the woman. I meant to ask, “Is that The Taming of the Shrew?” but it came out, “Is that The Tamming of the . . .” which my husband immediately picked up on and said, “Yes, it’s Tammy and the Shrew, starring Connie Stevens and Richard Burton!” We both lost it, giggling “Tammy and the Shrew” at each other for quite a while. Recovering, I grabbed another t-shirt to fold, and thought, “This is how you stay married. Find someone who giggles at the same things you do, doesn’t mind (much) when you gloat, and understands that even a fat lady with a bad perm in a pink Cadillac can’t make you write about your mom if you’re not ready.

 

 

Happy Anniversary To Me

26 Sep

“Dear husband,” I said, “it’s been a year.”

“No!” he answered. “Really?”

“Yes. A whole year at the end of this month,” I said.

“But what about that time our daughter had a sleep over and our son didn’t come out of his cave for hours?”

“Oh. My. God,” I said. “It hasn’t been a year for THAT! And don’t tell me it feels like it!”

“Well, then I’m at a loss,” he said.

Normally, I’m the one who forgets anniversaries, particularly my wedding anniversary. I got married on either the 16th or 17th of October. Never can remember which. So, whenever anyone asks me when I got married, I say, “Saturday. It was a Saturday.” My husband has the PhD in History. He remembers the date and rolls his eyes when I don’t.

It has been a year since I started writing and publishing Snide Reply. At the risk of sounding like a Holiday Letter, I thought I’d go through some of my old posts and update you on some of the more popular. For those who jumped on the Snide wagon later in its run, I’m including links to the original posts.

I started running just a couple of months before I started blogging. At that time, I could run about 3 miles. I am writing this having run 9 miles this afternoon. Of course, I can barely get out of my chair to hobble to the kitchen and refill my teacup.

I still don’t have an attractive website. I have a really cool domain name and I have a website. The two shall not meet in my lifetime. See, the website is totally lame. I built it myself when I had no idea where my life was going. That happens when you make plans and life does that mice and men thing with them.

I have a better idea where my life is going these days so maybe it’s time to re-tackle the website. To my endless stupefaction and glee, I am now a parent columnist. Me! The self-admitted queen of parental immaturity. Ok, so it’s only been a couple of weeks, but a girl has to start somewhere. Look at Jenny McCarthy! Her parenting qualifications are . . .what?  Oh, yeah, she posed naked and had a baby. Do you think T. Berry Brazelton ever posed naked?

The worst I’ve done is go commando thought the pharmacist who knows has moved on to Wal-Mart. Actually, I may be going commando again soon. And my husband had to skip the briefs at least once. Laundry used to be his responsibility and lawn mowing was mine. We tried to get our son to do the lawn-mowing thing because he hated doing the litter box thing. He wanted nothing to do with the lawn because it was, as he said, “outside.”

“Look,” I said. “you either mow the lawn or you do the laundry.” Ha! I thought, now I have him.

“Cool!” he said. “I love laundry! Laundry smells awesome!”

So, now my husband mows the lawn and my son does the laundry. We have realized, though, that having a teenage boy with ADHD responsible for keeping us in clean undies was probably not our best parenting move. Many is the time a load made it into the washer and stayed there . . .and stayed there . . .and stayed there. Our son has learned that laundry only smells awesome if it makes it from the washer to the dryer in fewer than 24 hours.

The portal to hell is still outside our front door. The dog is still insane. The cat is on a diet. So far, so good. He hasn’t broken anything out of spite. He may have taken a nibble or two out of the fish, though, which is looking rather ragged of late. The end is likely near, as evidenced by his tendency to swim sideways. I predict he’ll go to the great toilet bowl in the sky before the end of the year.

I’m still a pretty bad Buddhist, according to my kids. My son pointed out to me just a few days ago that a good Buddhist probably wouldn’t call the driver who cut her off a “freaking idiot.” I’m better about the cyclists who fly past me on the prairie trail. I no longer mumble obscenities at them. I am saving my obscenities for the people who are treating the prairie as their personal cutting garden these days. My daughter suggested I try out a nearby trail that runs through an equestrian center. I’m pretty sure even Buddha couldn’t keep his cool running behind horses, but then again, it would definitely keep me mindful and aware.

As my episodes on the prairie illustrate, I still have anger issues. I still hate liver, read crap and get jealous, too. But, I haven’t taken a serious trip to Funky Town in a while. My son is ok with “Spithead” and no one has puked around here lately. My kids are still pikers when it comes to sibling rivalry.

I am overjoyed to report that the shed never went up. The cosmos aligned in a gigantic “I told you so,” when my neighbor hired someone to survey the property line. I left the hot pink flagging tape which proved the line did, indeed, fall exactly where I said it did as long as possible. We found, in fact, that we have a lot more property than we thought we did. My neighbor and I have entered a sort of cold war, though. He no longer speaks to me and his children run like rabbits whenever I come out of the house. I’m thinking it just needs a little more time and a lot more of me being the nicest, most cheerful person I know how to be. Stop laughing; I can be very cheerful.

I’ve made lots of people laugh in the past year. I think I’ve made some cry. I know I’ve hurt feelings, unintentionally of course. Still, I’m more careful about what I write and how I phrase things. There are certain things I’ll never write, at least not here and not as non-fiction. But I’ll keep writing and I hope you’ll keep reading.

Thanks, from the bottom of my heart, for a truly wonderful year.

My Kids Always Love Dad Best

19 Sep

I keep coming home from work to find my family in a great mood. The kids are getting along wonderfully. Maybe everyone is playing Monopoly. Maybe they are all in the kitchen doing homework together. Regardless, everyone is smiling and interacting beautifully.

It’s really starting to tick me off.

Not too long ago, we had dinner together every night. Studies showed that kids who ate nightly family dinners were less likely to drink, do drugs, smoke, get depressed, have eating disorders and begin reading sooner. If studies showed it, I was all for it.

So, I made sure we had dinner together every night. When we first started family dinners, I had visions of me in the kitchen, rattling the pots and pans, with the kids around the table, peacefully completing their homework. As dad entered our charming abode, the kids would put their homework away and promptly start setting the table.

I was delusional. What I get on the nights I’m home for dinner is my son popping down from his cave around 5 to ask what’s for dinner. News of the night’s meal is met with “Awesome!” or “You’re freaking kidding me!” Fried chicken? “Awesome!” Grilled salmon with a butter dill sauce? “You’re freaking kidding me!” He has learned to replace “You’re freaking kidding me!” with “I’ll make myself a pot pie.”

My daughter is usually either playing at her friend’s house, or, on a day when she needs a break, watching TV and scattering five million Littlest Pet Shop figurines around the family room.

Sometime between 6 and 6:30, I start dinner. I call my daughter to do her homework. I bang on the ceiling for my son to come unload the dishwasher.

Silence. I remain alone in the kitchen.

I call to my daughter again. I bang on the ceiling again.

Eventually, my son bounds down the stairs, growling, “What!?” if it’s a “you’re freaking kidding me” dinner or “Is dinner ready?” if it’s an awesome! dinner night.

“Have you done your homework?” I say.

“I’ll do it later,” he says.

“Then you can unload the dishwasher,” I say.

“Later. I have to do my homework.” And he’s off to the cave.

“It’s time to do your homework,” I say to my daughter.

“I don’t have any,” she says, plopping on the couch.

“I need you to clean up your Littlest Pet Shop things so we don’t have to look at the messy family room during dinner,” I say. Ok, I probably actually say something like, “I need you to pick up all of your things in the family room. I’m sick of living in a pig mess.” I give myself Good Mom points for saying “I need” instead of just going straight for “Pick those toys up before I throw them all away.”

At this point, we have a meltdown. My daughter begins crying that I am mean. I don’t particularly care if she calls me mean. With me, it’s all about tone of voice and my daughter has a tone somewhere between a car alarm and a banshee’s wail.

“Fine!” I yell. “Don’t clean up the toys, but I’m going to throw away these things you’ve left on the kitchen table if you don’t come get them right now.”

She doesn’t move; she doesn’t flinch. Eyes glued to the TV she says, “Ok.”

By the time my husband gets home, I have generally had two fights with my daughter over toys and homework. My son, being 16, is far less predictable. We may be laughing and joking when dad comes home, or I may have left the house, mumbling something like, “I bet Mexico’s nice this time of year.” I pretend I am so eager to see my husband that I had to come meet him at his bus stop. I’m sure he has an inkling that I’m eager to see him, but maybe not for the reason he’d prefer.

So, when I come home from work and find that dinner has been made and eaten with no fuss and the entire brood is happily doing homework, playing cards or just hanging together, I want to strangle someone.

I am convinced that my kids love Dad best and it’s not just the difference in dinnertime that provides my evidence.

Take, for example, how our son treats each of us. My husband is affectionately known as “Daddy Poo-pookins.” He gets head rubs. He gets hugs.

I am known as “Big Dumb Mom” and it is said in a voice something like the Hulk’s. I get woken at 6:15 a.m. every morning and told, “I’m leaving.” This is code for “Come downstairs and say ‘goodbye to me’ .” I do, giving my son a hug that he accepts standing completely still. When I kiss him, he turns his head so that the kiss lands not on his cheek, but somewhere between his neck and his chin. I tried not giving the hug, and just saying “goodbye” once. My son glowered at me, refusing to budge until I gave him the unreturned hug.

My husband wakes at 5 every morning and doesn’t get home until 7:15 at night. On the weekends, we let him sleep. This means that he stays in bed until 10 a.m. The children tiptoe past the bedroom door. When I tell them to “get your father out of bed,” they balk.

Recently, while I was taking a nap after getting about four hours of sleep the night prior, my daughter came skipping in the room, jumped on me and said, “Mom, you only have ten more minutes to nap.” Then she left.

Another recent incident gave me a window of opportunity into why Daddy Poo-pookins gets away with parenting murder while Big Dumb Mom gets the shaft. At the grocery store, my son snarls when I suggest a store-brand alternative to his favorite cereal. “It will taste like (insert disgusting noun modified by equally disgusting adjective).” Son and husband came home from the grocery store last night with store-brand frosted wheats. I snarled at my son.

When my son explained that Daddy Poo-pookins would get mad, I said, Big Dumb Mom gets mad. “But he really means it,” my son said, “you’ll change your mind.” And he’s right. I will change my mind, given a good enough argument. Throwing away generic frosted cereal has taught me that some things are worth a little flexibility. By the way, I’m looking forward to saying, “I told you so” about the cereal.

Oy, Tannenbaum

6 Dec

I am old enough to be my daughter’s best friend’s grandmother. This does not humble me, but it proves that certain arguments are ageless. You see, the mother of said best friend, separated from me by a generation, has the same memory of why we had artificial Christmas trees growing up: our parents had one of the worst fights we can recall while shopping for the tree. The next year and every year after, our families each had a fake tree.

I remember something about a very cold night and a JayCees tree sale in a parking lot. I can picture my mother vividly: pursed lips, dagger-flinging eyes, her arms crossed tightly over her body, purse clutched to her stomach as she stomped to the car. I remember being very cold and the trees being very imperfect. My mother was from Georgia and liked everything just so. You do the math.

I had real Christmas trees once I was on my own. Granted, most of them were pretty “Charley-Browny,” scraggly things that I somehow managed to convince myself looked pretty good covered with pink and aqua glass balls and tiny white lights. Hey, it was the 80s.

Once I was married, the combined incomes meant bigger, nicer Christmas trees. Our first Christmas, we lived in the heart of the city and shopped like big city Christmas tree shoppers. We went to a local garden center and bought a beautiful balsam fir after just a few minutes of blissfully agreeable tree inspection. The garden center then delivered the tree and set it up exactly where we wanted it. Where was the fighting?

The next year, we no longer lived near the magic garden center with the incredible Christmas-tree-setting-up elves, but we found a nice lot and bought a nice tree. We took it home. It was then that I realized something I should have known all along. My husband had no idea what to do with a Christmas tree. Of course not, he’s Jewish. Why would he know? The year before, his lack of Christmas knowledge wasn’t an issue. Without the magic tree elves, though, it was pushed to the fore. I was on my own in Christmas tree setting up.

While I felt sorry for myself, married to the Christmas clueless, my friends and relatives had the opposite problem. Their husbands thought they knew everything.

Consider the woman who reports that every year, for many years, her husband would insist that their giant tree would fit into the discount marketer Christmas tree stand. Most people who have Christmas trees have this stand. I believe it is made in China at a wok factory. Every October, the wok factories in China retrofit thousands of woks, painting them bright red, adding green legs and three eyebolts and selling them to unsuspecting Americans for $12.95. My friend’s husband would insist that the tree would fit in the stand, that the tree would not fall over. My friend would say “It will fall over.” My friend would take bets. Her husband would put up the tree, balance it, and then the two of them would watch it come down, at first slowly, then with increasing velocity. My friend would laugh uproariously. Her husband would curse.

My sister’s family regularly put a tree at least 12 feet wide into the wok every year. Why? Because a proper Christmas tree stand, one that will safely hold up a tree more than 6 feet tall, costs at least $100 and has things like Army-grade straps and ratcheting gears. My sister now owns one. So does my bet-taking friend. I have another friend whose husband nails their wok stand to a large piece of plywood, hoping to stave off the military Christmas tree stand. It’s only a matter of time, though. Their trees are often 15 feet tall.

Over the years, it became clear to me that, if we had a tree or we didn’t, my husband would be fine. There would be no gaping hole in his December if a large evergreen were not sacrificed in the interest of holiday décor. With my typical maturity, I decided to pout. Well, I thought, if it isn’t important to him, then I’ll just do it without him.

One year, my son and I accompanied my sister’s family on their annual “Cut your own” foray. It was fun. I have a terrific picture of my brother-in-law helping my son cut down a tree. Another year, Mr. Christmas Clueless came with us. Naturally, that was the coldest year since we’d begun cutting our own tree. On the way to the lot, our son came down with a fever. But, he didn’t want to leave without a tree. So, we got him to the car, laid him down on the back seat and brought pre-cut trees to the car for him to select.

Though I had gotten my husband back into the selection process, I still didn’t have a Christmas-savvy set up assistant. I was still on my own in struggling with the wok, testing the strands of lights, replacing burnt out bulbs, etc., etc., etc. The pity party continued.

Then the pre-lit tree was invented. I swallowed my real-tree insistence and bought one. I was in Christmas purgatory. Not quite heaven, because my husband still thought the tree was just “nice,” but no longer in the hell of setting it up all by myself.

Last year, the lights failed. No biggie, I thought, I’ll take the old ones off and put new ones on. That’ll be cheaper than buying a whole new tree. And, it was. Though I lost an entire day and a few ounces of skin as I clipped away the wires, scratching my arms on every branch. The tree looked pretty good with its colorful new lights.

This year, I realized, I had been released from the tyranny of the pre-lit tree. Though they are convenient, pre-lits are also expensive. If you’ve got one, you’re going to use it. And you’re going to have the same tree every year. The exact same branches in the exact same places at exactly the same height.  Every year. This year, I can buy a real tree if I want to. And maybe I will. I know my husband won’t argue. In fact, he’ll probably say it’s “nice.”

Copywrite © 2010 by Janice Lindegard. All rights reserved.

Hapless Husbands

22 Nov

I have been married for more than 18 years. Before you congratulate me, consider that a great deal of staying married is simply being too unmotivated to get unmarried. When the going gets tough, and the going can get pretty tough sometimes in nearly two decades, I have defaulted to a “well, let’s just wait and see what happens here” attitude. So far, the going has gotten much better. Of course, it hasn’t been easy but a little patience and a lot of forgiveness have kept this institution intact.

In addition to patience and forgiveness, there has been a lot of humor in my marriage. Most of it has been intentional. But, I’m fortunate to be married to a man who also does some really stupid stuff.

I understand that it takes a special kind of woman to air her husband’s stupid laundry. I am that kind of woman, but I’m not alone. I’ve found that many other women live with husbands who do really stupid things. I do not mean to exclude gay couples. I am sure that there is a lot of stupidity in every relationship, gay or straight. I can only report on what I know, so if you live with a person who does stupid things but isn’t your husband, just insert that person’s name where appropriate here.

Laundry seems to be the source of a lot of stupid things that husbands have done. My own husband has shrunk cashmere sweaters. He has turned white loads pink. He has failed to remove paper tissues that wound up in tiny pieces all over black pants and shirts. In fairness, these aren’t truly stupid things; they are just the actions of an uneducated launderer.

I have a friend whose husband believes that he knows how to use bleach. He adds bleach to the laundry and to the wash water for the dishes. He has bleached silver-plated cutlery. The cutlery didn’t like it. Once, their dog retched on an antique wool rug. He used bleach and the garden hose to clean it. The rug didn’t like it. My friend didn’t like it.

I think a lot of the things that my husband does he does out of ignorance, but some things he just doesn’t think through. Instead of emptying the wastebaskets then taking the trash to the curb, he took the wastebaskets to the curb. I didn’t notice the problem until, on trash morning, I went to throw out a tissue in the powder room. I turned, tossed the tissue and watched it land on the floor. Putting two and two together, and knowing the garbage truck was due any minute, I ran to the curb. I was too late. The garbage man, who is probably someone else’s hapless husband, took the wastebaskets. I no longer own decorative wastebaskets.

I have another friend whose husband isn’t so much stupid as he is a little lazy. While mowing the lawn, rather than move his baby daughter’s new purple ball, he nudged it with the mower. The baby cried for hours after watching shreds of purple plastic rain down on the lawn. My husband once kept our infant son in his wind-up swing for five hours. It was his first experience caring for our son on his own while I went out. He was confident everything would be fine. I left, had fun and came back home five hours later. When I left, the baby was in the swing. When I came home, the baby was in the swing. Every time the swing wound down, my husband would wind it back up again. He claims our son suffered no ill effects. I say tell it to the therapists we’ve been paying for since he was five.

I’ve heard of lots of husbands who pretend to be asleep. My own husband does this when the children come into our room in the morning. He has the kids fooled, but not me. Even when I tell them they can get Dad to make their breakfast because Dad has arms and legs and is just pretending to be asleep, they leave him lie. They claim he is grumpy in the morning. Maybe I’ll start telling them to shut up, go away and make their own darn breakfasts.

I know of a husband who pretended to be asleep through an entire burglar alarm malfunction. The alarm malfunctioned. The husband slept through. The wife reset the alarm. The alarm malfunctioned again. The wife reset it. The alarm malfunctioned again. And again. And again. The husband slept. The wife looked up the problem on the Internet. She attempted the fix suggested. It didn’t work. The husband slept. The wife tried shutting off the appropriate circuit breaker. In the process, she caused every clock alarm in the house to go off, except the one by her sleeping husband. The burglar alarm still wouldn’t shut up. The husband still slept.

Eventually, the wife, accompanied by their daughter, dug through the cobwebs in the basement, moved the refrigerator in front of the burglar alarm control panel, then discovered she needed a flat-head screwdriver. The husband slept. The wife could not find a flat-head screwdriver, so used the end of a saw blade to open the box, find the battery and end the beeping siege. The beeping husband slept on.

My favorite stupid husband trick involves the slightly lazy purple-ball mowing husband. He lives in a beautiful old house that has a wood-burning fireplace. On occasion, the odd bird will fly down the chimney and need assistance in leaving the home. My husband, when asked how he would handle the situation, said he might open all of the windows in the family room and swat at the bird with a broom until it got the hint and flew away. Not too stupid, I thought, and the kids would love the show.

My friend’s husband, though, is not just lazy, but inventive. Faced with the bird, he did indeed get a broom. Then, he held the broomstick out to the bird and spoke encouragingly to it, hoping to entice it to hop on the handle. He has become, of course, the butt of many a family joke. I can picture his wife and children taunting him with, “Here, Birdie, Birdie, Birdie. Hop on the nice stick, Birdie.”

Having dumped on my husband and the husbands of others, I suppose its only fair to reveal my own stupidities. I have slept through picking up my daughter at preschool. I continue to expect my son will spontaneously hug me and say, “I really love you, Mom. Thanks for all you’ve done for me.” I let my children convince me we needed a cat.

The dumbest thing I’ve done though is arguing with my mother-in-law. For years, she pushed every button I had and I let her. Dumb, dumb, dumb. I eventually smartened up and got along with her for the last year of her life. For years, my husband forgave my stupidity. Pretty smart guy, huh?

Copyright 2010 Janice M. Lindegard. All rights reserved.

Put Up Your Dukes

15 Nov

My mother and father were married for a very long time. They didn’t fight much, but when they did, it was memorable. Not for its violence; they were never violent. No, when my mother and father fought, they were eloquent. I can’t remember a particular fight, but I know that it would go something like this. My mother would accuse my father of some transgression. If she called him a name, it wasn’t just any random epithet. Once, for instance, she called him “an arrogant a—hole.” The alliteration just came naturally, flowed right off her tongue and was delivered with panache. My father, a wise man, would respond, but in Latin. “Mea culpa,” he’d say. “Mea maxima culpa.”

Fights are usually about something stupid.

Every couple I know has had a fight about Tupperware, for instance. We have tried every system of plastic container management in our house. Every one has lead to a fight of epic proportions. Early in our marriage, I recall yelling, “If you loved me, you’d put the Tupperware away right,” then running up to our bedroom, slamming the door and crying until I felt like an idiot for crying about Tupperware.

We tried the “as seen on TV” container system with just one lid for every type of container. It brought peace to our house for some time. Then my daughter decided the various sizes made good homes for various sizes of bugs. Grasshoppers fit nicely in the tall ones. The medium ones made good homes for worms and the small ones were ideally suited to Japanese beetles. We had many conversations about how my daughter would feel if I put her in a plastic container with a few twigs and some leaves. Apparently, she would feel just fine because all of my plastic containers disappeared. I hope I never find them.

I stopped buying expensive plastic containers after the bug incidents. I tried the kind with the stacking lids. The lids never got stacked. I realized that part of our problem was that a 14-year-old boy was responsible for unloading the dishwasher. In his mind, that meant that if the dishwasher was empty, he had done his job. Returning the dishes to their assigned location did not enter his mind. So, the measuring spoons were in with the steak knives, the pot lids were with the casserole dishes, the coffee mugs were on the counter and the container lids were nowhere to be found.

One night, my husband snippily asked where he might find a lid for a plastic container. He probably doesn’t think he was snippy, but I heard snip. I sighed, left what I was doing and went to get the poor helpless thing a lid. I knew I could find one, as I had numerous times before.

I couldn’t find one. Nothing matched. We had just two kinds of plastic container, those with red lids and those with blue lids. There were lots of blue lids and lots of red containers. There were even some old Chinese food containers, but no lids that matched bottoms. My head blew up. I began tossing containers around the room, determined that somewhere at the bottom of the container pile there had to be a secret store of container lids. I snapped, “Fine! You organize the darn things.” I’m pretty sure I didn’t say darn, but you get the picture.

So, my husband organized the plastic nightmare. Now, every container has its lid firmly placed atop it and the containers are then stacked neatly in the pantry. It’s working for now.  If my son continues his slovenly habit of just putting the containers and tops on the counter for me to put away, we could avoid a Tupperware fight for years.

Recently, I’ve been fighting with my neighbor. He’s a fine man. He has a beautiful family. His children play with my daughter. His wife is lovely. He is building a storage shed right next to my dining room window.

I tried to get him to stop. I was reasonable. I looked up the ordinances. I checked my plat of survey. I went outside and pointed out where I believed my property line was. His shed was going to be too close. Ah, too bad! No shed on the side of my house.

But he looked up ordinances, too. He found an ordinance that allowed him to put his shed where he wanted it. Bad. Shed on the side of my house.

Again, I tried to be reasonable. I calmly discussed the inappropriateness of placing a storage shed right outside your neighbor’s window. I pointed out that I would be forced to look at his shed every time I looked out my dining room window. He said he has to look at my gazebo every time he looks out his living room window. This made no sense to me but instead of saying “Huh?” I shouted, “Your shed will be ugly!” The conversation devolved. It became a fight.

I appear to have lost the fight. The shed is going up. We have made what is probably a vain attempt at involving the city. But, I’m still mad. As I write, it’s cold and dark. The shed is still going up. The nails are being hammered. My inside-my-head voice is saying, “I hope his hands are cold,” and “I hope he hammers his thumb.”

I don’t really want him to hammer his thumb. That would bring me bad Karma and I don’t need any more bad Karma. I’ve got a shed for a view, for crying out loud.

I try to follow the teachings of Buddha but my son says I am the worst Buddhist who ever lived, because I get mad and let people know it. I remember being in a Buddhist bookstore with a friend. She was telling me about a problem she had with a mutual acquaintance who had done something to really make my friend angry. She said, “What would Buddha do?” I said, “Buddha would key her car.” The little bald nun sitting at the cash register laughed out loud.

Probably, Buddha wouldn’t key the car, but he might well have thought about it. We get angry. We lash out. We push back. But, if we learn, we let go. I let go of the Tupperware and pretty soon, I’ll let go of the shed. Maybe then we’ll have a big windstorm and the tree near it will be blown over and fall on top of it.  A girl can dream.

Mendacity

8 Nov

When my son was eight, he and I were cuddled up in bed reading or watching TV or something. I don’t remember exactly what we were doing, but I’ll never forget the conversation.

“Mom,” he said. “Will you tell me the truth about something?”

“Well, yes,” I said, hoping he didn’t ask a question I would have to lie to answer.

“Even if you think it will hurt my feelings?”

“Yes, of course,” I said, crossing my fingers.

“Mom,” he said, “is there a Santa Claus or do you and Dad buy the presents?”

Whew, I thought. Nothing about sex.

“Are you sure you want to know?” I asked.

“Yes, just tell me.”

I swallowed hard.

“Dad and I do the presents.” He stayed still in my arms, head tucked against the soft spot just under my shoulder. He sighed.

“That’s what I thought.” We cuddled for a little while longer.

That September, we went to China. We came home with a little girl. Not too long afterward, I started preparing for Christmas.

“Pretty soon,” I said to my daughter, “it will be Christmas. Santa Claus is going to come to our house to bring you toys. Won’t that be fun?”

My son happened to be passing through the room. He stopped, looked at me and said, “So, you’re going to lie to her, too?” We lied to her for seven years.

This year, my daughter turned eight. She wanted the truth.

“Mom, is there a Santa Claus?”

“Why do you want to know,” I said, expecting her to tell me she’d had it with the years of lying and deceit. “Did someone tell you there isn’t?” Like your brother, I thought.

“Oh, some of the boys in school said that there’s no such thing as Santa Claus and that their moms and dads buy the presents. Do you buy the presents?”

“Yes, we do.”

She didn’t need any cuddling, just went back to whatever she’d been doing.

My husband used to lie to me all the time. Here’s how it would go:

“Will you give our daughter a bath?” I’d ask.

“Yes, right away,” he would say.

Ten minutes later, I would find that our daughter was still dirty and he was still playing card games on his computer.

“I thought you were going to give our daughter a bath,” I would say.

“Yes, I’ll do it right away. As soon as I finish this game,” he would respond. My brain would then explode trying to figure out if our daughter would get her bath immediately or when he finished his game.

Turns out, “right away” does not mean immediately. Silly me, I thought it did. In my world, right away meant that my husband was that very minute standing up, pushing his chair away from his desk, looking for our daughter and marshalling her upstairs for her bath. In my husband’s world, right away means, “in about five or ten minutes.” So, my husband was not lying when he told me that he would give her a bath right away. And I was not lying when I told him he was full of crap. He no longer tells me he will do something “right away.”

I don’t lie very much. It’s not that I’m not good at it. I’m a fairly convincing liar, but I was raised Catholic. When I lie, I do it well because I was told to always put forth my best effort. But then, the lie eats away at me. Even though I haven’t called myself a Catholic since I was 14 years old, I squirm and sweat, convinced I will be discovered and I will burn in a hell I don’t believe in for all eternity.

The range of lies I tell and squirm over is wide. I have lied about the beauty of everything from babies to bridesmaids’ dresses. “Yes, of course, I would love to wear a teal lace riding hat for your wedding. I’m sure I’ll wear it again and again.” I have lied about interior decorating, hair color, any number of peoples’ cooking and macaroni necklaces.

I will lie to the March of Dimes next year when they ask me to be their Mothers’ March volunteer. I accepted the task this year after copious amounts of pressure on their part. The volunteer kit came. It sat on my counter. I vowed to do it. I never did. I felt terrible. Next year, I will lie and tell them that I just don’t have the time. Someone else will volunteer, I know they will.

I have a friend who, like me, was raised by a Southern woman. We were taught never to say anything impolite or unkind. My friend is adept at finding something truthful to say in even the most horrendous circumstances. At a friend’s (terrible) movie premiere, she said, “What an exciting night this must be for you?” This is a woman to be admired and feared.

The lies I tell most convincingly are those I tell myself. Recently, I’ve been trying to write fiction. It goes slowly. Still, I enjoy it. I allow my husband to read it. He reads it. He responds favorably. I feel good about his responses. Then, my lying brain gets to work. I convince myself that he can’t possibly be telling me the truth, that every thing I write is terrible drivel and I am, in general, a talentless hunk of female flesh. When I tell my husband this, he rolls his eyes. He can’t win. He goes back to his card game. I go back to beating myself for thinking that I am a talentless hunk of flesh.

I told my kids that I was sad that Santa wouldn’t be coming to our house any more. They looked at me and said, together, “Why?”

After recovering from the shock of them doing anything together, I said, “Neither of you believe in him. I’ll wrap your presents and I won’t have to stay up ‘til midnight waiting for you to go to sleep so I can put the presents under the tree.”

“But I still want the presents under the tree,” my daughter said, pouting and looking extremely sincere. My son did his equivalent of pouting, which comes out something like, “Meh.”

So, we’ll pretend that we believe in Santa. I’ll stay up until midnight waiting for my kids to fall asleep so I can put their presents under the tree. I’ll enjoy it and that’s the truth.

Copywrite 2010 by Janice M. Lindegard. All rights reserved.

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