Friday, July 17, 2015

What 24 Years of Marriage Has Taught Me

Before you being reading, know this:  If you are expecting a feel-good typical-standard advice on how to make YOUR marriage last as long as mine (and my husband's, I guess) then STOP READING.  Are you kidding me, I don't have that kind of advice.  I have my own knowledge, my own set of standards and rules (rules, that's funny).

Okay.  You're still here.  To establish my degree of yes-I-know-what-I'm-talking-about, I was married in 1991 at the age of 21 (hey, I was legal drinking age).  My guy was (and, I guess, still is) nine years older than me.  That sort of balanced out the maturity level (although I've slipped a tad).  Through those 24 years we have faced infertility, financial troubles, loss of a business, lawsuits, family crap (loads and loads of that stuff) and then the birth of one child who is now a teenager.  (Good God, and I'm still here?!).  This is MY take on what it took to make it this far and stay married.

1.  Get in the biggest fight to date on a Friday afternoon.  Seriously.  Nothings open on Saturday.  No divorce attorneys work on Saturdays, the courthouse and their divorce filings aren't open on Saturday, most apartment managers aren't answering calls on Saturdays.  It's really hard to make any permanent decisions on a weekend.  It really does give you a chance to cool down.

2.  Ask for power tools, appliances, furniture and vehicles for your birthday, Mothers Day, Valentines Day, Christmas, Cino de Mayo, whatever.  That way if you do end up toward the divorce path, you will have gotten all these "gifts" that can start your life over.  I was smart enough to ask for a cordless screwdriver, table saw, chop saw, circular saw, socket set and loaded tool box for every holiday for the first five years of our marriage.  I knew he'd never divorce me because I had all the tools.  I also brought the only good stereo into the marriage which would leave with me if he pissed me off.

Not the cheap Flip Flop - the more expensive
$6.47 Chateau St Michelle because it was
Mother's Day.
3.  Alcohol - or the Gym.  There are some days (okay, fine, most days) that the root of whatever issue I'm pissed off at him about, has nothing to do with him, but my own stress level.   Sometimes a beer or a glass of wine or a trip to the gym (before the alcohol!) is all it takes to loosen me up, get the monkey-stress off my back and make me into a human being again.  The $20 I spend a month on the gym is a hell of a lot cheaper than an attorney.  I drink cheap Flip Flop wine and expensive Corona beer, but both are cheaper than a therapist.  Just don't drink the entire bottle of Flip Flop or the case of Corona.  That leads to it's own set of problems.

4.  Make sure you each have your own ipod.  In all transparency here, sometimes I put in the earbuds to my ipod Shuffle and crank that sucker up so I can't hear anything The Guy I Let Live With Me has to say.  $50 for the Shuffle and a $50 iTunes card are cheaper than an apartment deposit.

5.  You don't have to be in each other's pocket.  I have no problem going to one of the high school girls basketball games without The Guy I Let Live With Me .  Just because he doesn't want to go, doesn't mean I need to stay at home and sulk and be ticked off.  I paid for the Season's Pass, I'm gonna use it.  He goes off and does stuff with his brother that I don't want anything to do with.  If you don't do your own thing on occasion (without the snarky fine-be-that-way attitude) you are going to end up bitter.  Both our parents have been married 45 and 55 years (that's like a hundred years, cumulative - wow).

6.  Know you are going to have to do stuff you don't like.  Just do it.  Know you aren't going to like it all the time.  I seem to be the only one in the family who notices you can't fit a string cheese wrapper in the remarkably full garbage can.  This sends me over the edge at least twice a month.  The other eight times a month, I just take it out and realize that I'm just that much smarter than everyone else in the family that I can recognize the sign of a full garbage can.  The Guy I Let Live With Me has this talent in determining when it's time to go to the dump.  Me, I just buy a new garbage can.  Know your talents.

7.  Give in.  I suck at this one so I can't go into too much detail, but I do know that we will end up with grey cabinets in the kitchen because The Guy I Let Live With Me likes them.  Me, I love the color of wood.  The problem is, I like ALL the wood; dark, light, maple, espresso, birch...  It will take me thirty years to pick one and I will change my mind every seven minutes.  I also love the shaker look.  I have yet to find a wood grain and stain that is consistent throughout.  Every time we go to the cabinet manufacturers, we find the shaker and The Guy I Let Live With Me points out that the stile on this cabinet is a different color than that one.  Uggg.  This doesn't happen with grey.  We're getting grey just so I don't have to hear about it for the rest of my life.

8.  Demand when you need too.  Two things off the top of my head; 1) He is not allowed to TOUCH my garden.  Not plant it or weed it (he can harvest it - ironically, I hate that part).  2.  He is not allowed to paint ANYTHING.  The deck needs a fresh coat of paint, I'm all over it.  He so much as lifts a paint brush, even to hand to me, and he will have his intestines ripped through his throat.  That's a wee bit of an exaggeration.   Remember that part about 'know your strength'.  He knows I can run faster.  And hold a grudge longer.  

9.  Go to bed pissed.  Hell, some days I wouldn't get any sleep at all if I lived by that "don't go to bed mad" rule (and that would make me even more intolerable).  Sleep on the couch.  Make him sleep on the couch.  Whatever.  The next morning leads to a whole different day and a whole different mindset.

There are some days you won't want to stay married.  The single life is not just whispering sweet nothings in your ear, it has a bullhorn.  There is nothing your darling spouse can do to make you want to stay and you start checking out the rates of apartments near your workplace.  Having been there more than once (sometimes in the same day), it can be pushed through.  With faith, love, Jack Daniels and a walk around the block.  Alone.

No News Is Good News

I'll admit it.  I was an addict.  Not drugs or drink or the hokey pokey, but the news channels.  I would wake up in the morning, click that sucker on and flip through every channel, local and national and international, to feed the beast.  I would watch it over and over and over until I could memorize the content.

I come by this naturally.  My grandma had CNN on, at full volume, all day, every day.

I can remember being a kid and it would come on at 5:00 and last until 6:00.  Then it was over and Wheel of Fortune was on.  Now I see the evening news programs at 4:00, 5:00, 6:00, 10:00 and 11:00 on one of our local channels.

I was informed, depressed and downright pissed off most days.  Everyone, everywhere, at all times were out to get us and either make it cost more, do less, lead better, make me younger (or older), and you were effectively screwed anyway it turned.  

Until one year ago I quit.  Cold Turkey.  Spring Break of 2014 I was home for a week and the kid had gone off to a foreign country on a mission trip and I was flipping through every news channel, making sure a plane didn't crash between Washington State and Haiti.  It was just the Hubs and myself that that huge rectangle on the wall to fill the void.  The Saturday break started, I turned off Fox News.

I haven't turned it on since.

I take that sort of back.  I watched the local news in September when one of our local high schools fell victim to the school shooting trend.  Being in education, I wanted to glean any information that could prevent something like that from happening in our school.  Or at least knowing the signs.  Or the way to react to minimize the damage.

Naturally, I made it all about me.

You ever watch the local news about something that happened seven countries away, and the anchors automatically, somehow, make it relevant to the local area?  "Tulips on the Netherlands are showing more signs of red than yellow."  "Here in Washington, we are seeing tulips that have yellow stripes outpacing pink stripes."

Mkay.

I lasted about four minutes watching that story.  I didn't learn anything I needed to know.  I learned what they thought I needed to know, but the 30 second sound bite was lacking.

I should know this already.  Many, many times I have been in the mist of things that make headlines and they are nothing like what appears in the news.

Got you wondering now, don't I?

One year a small plane flipped over, landing upside down, on the river bed behind our house.  The guy walked away from the flipped over plane, and got on his phone.  Not to 911, but to his buddy, trying to quickly get a truck and trailer to the site because what he had been doing was a tad bit illegal.  The Hubs and I were already on the phone to 911.  The aid car came, the fire truck came, several state and county vehicles came.  This was big news, this plane trying, unsuccessfully, to land on a gravel bar along the river.

Next thing you knew there was a news van pulling up our fairly long driveway.  I was just closing the gate when they got there and the reporter was out before the van stopped.

"Don't you want to be interviewed?  You can be on TV!" they said.

Click, went the lock on the gate and they got to see my pretty little tush saunter away (at least that was my visual inside my head).

Ten minutes later they came from another road on our property.

"Habla ingl├ęs?"  I shouted to them, to be heard from the rotor blades of the news helicopter overhead.

"What?  Yes, I speak English,  Why?" the second eager reporter responded.

"That's funny," I retorted, "Because the four No Trespassing signs you drove past are all in English, and I just assumed you didn't speak the language."

The news later made the whole thing out as some huge international debacle complete with an affair with a Russian princess who only ate red meat unless it was a Wednesday.  Just kidding about all that.  But they did give it it's 30 seconds from the news helicopter that circled overhead (that cut out my white ass as I mooned them when they flew way below the 500 feet mark).  And they tossed in all sorts of things that weren't true.

That was in 2004.  You'd think I woulda learned.

Nope.  In 2010 I watched a small coupe car smash head on into a double tankard semi, both going 55, in my rear view mirror.  I watched the coupe veer into the oncoming lane and mentioned that "that guy's gonna get in an accid..."  Smash.  I was at least 40 yards away.  The news turned it into "he was going too fast" "he was trying to pass someone going too slow" "he was committing suicide".  None of these were true because I was the one in front of him, too far ahead for him to be passing, and he tried to correct when he saw the truck.

Again, more BS from the news.

Four years later, I put down the remote and haven't seen a broadcaster since.  I do read up on the news, just to get headlines, but I take it with a grain of salt.  Most times, they are printing to sell, not necessarily inform.  And the information they want to inform, is information designed to scare, worry and make me unsure of our stability, safety and general well-being as a nation.

I live in my own little bubble and I'm happy with my world.  And now I'm never pissed off.

That last parts not true.

A Day In The Life - Painting The Barn

The barn in the backyard of my inherited house is about a thousand years old.  Okay, maybe only 100.  Actually, it's 100 plus years old, but no one who knows the true age is still alive (Rabbit trail:  Write stuff down; in a scrapbook, calendar, journal, something, anything, so it can be found a hundred years from now.  That stuff's fascinating.  And helpful.  So you know how old your barn is.).

It's been painted once.  Back a hundred years ago it was painted red with a blue door.  No, I don't get the blue door either.  Regardless, by the time I got in the family in 1989, all the paint had faded into wherever paint fades too.  There was only a teeny bit of color left.

From that teeny bit of color that remained, we decided to repaint it the same color.  This we decided in 2003.

Yes, I know it's 2015.  Math is not my strong suit, but even I can figure out there's a few years in there.

In 2014 we got serious about the whole barn painting thing.  This was because it was finally at a point where it wasn't falling down.

Believe it or not, this is actually an improvement.
The whole side was taken down and put up correctly.
When we first got the barn, the west side corner was falling fast to the ground.  The whole thing was sinking.  The west side got shored up (which means a false wall was kicked in there) and then left in about 2005.  Finally we ("we" meaning a concrete knowledgeable friend) came through and cemented a majority of the support posts so they didn't fade away like the paint.  In 2006 a majority of the roof was redone (traded a van and a thousand bucks for that one).  Finally, in 2013 all the sides were systematically ripped off and put back on.

Most of the boards were original.  The guys who did it were awesome about reusing every scrap of the original lumber they could get their hands on.  But we tossed in a few extra doors.  Few.  Umm, like nine.  That's a few right?  Maybe several.  Some of the doors couldn't be original.  Like the one sized so an RV can fit through.  Seriously, those doors are, like fourteen feet tall.  We didn't have boards that were fourteen feet tall.  So we improvised.


Only now the doors don't match the rest of the barn.

Which brings us (the really long way) back to painting the barn.

In 2014 The Guy I Let Live With Me got on craigslist (this is already not going to end well) and found a guy who would mix paint.  Sherwin Williams, five gallons, thirty bucks.  Since we were going to need at least 30 gallons, plus another 30 gallons of primer, this sounded like a fantastic idea.  All we needed was a chip of the paint color, the code on said chip and email the guy two hours away.

Boom.  We'd be saving ourselves a hundred bucks a five gallon bucket.

We chose a color, emailed the code, got some cash, drove two hours, and put twelve five gallon buckets in the back of the Highlander.

I should have looked closer at the color one of the paint buckets left on the back of my leather seat.

A week ago I got out the paint brush and broke open the bucket that had been sitting for a year.  It was pale pink.  Since it had been sitting, I mixed the hell out of it.  Ten minutes later, it was still pink.  Maybe it dries darker.  I spent two hours with a brush and got five boards painted.  Pink.

"It's the primer; it's supposed to be lighter," said my husband.

The next day I broke out the Wagner paint sprayer and hit the whole side.  I can't believe the neighbors weren't calling to bitch "what in the Sam Hell are you guys doing?".  I had my excuse at the ready: It's the primer.

By this time I am itching to break into the true paint.  The Guy I Let Live With Me mixed the paint for ten minutes.  It was darker.  A darker pink.  I dipped the brush in.  I slathered it on.  It was now hot pink.  Maybe it will dry darker.

Nope.  Still pink.

In the center is the swipe of color
from "craigslist guy".  Pepto Bismo Pink!
Phone calls were made.  Short story long, Anthony at the local Sherwin Williams re-tinted it for us - FOR FREE.  Sshhhh, if you know Anthony and he wasn't supposed to do that for us.  He did the best he could with what he had and we left with high hopes (and lots of comments about our original pink paint color making a wonderful barn color - ha).

I spent three hours spraying on our new color.

With mixed results.  I'm not sure I'm married to it.  It almost looks mauve in certain light.  In other light, it looks like soft rust.  At this point we are at a standstill.  Right now I have only painted a side of the barn, maximum height at eight feet.  I'm not sure what will happen when we go up to the front with the whole face of thirty feet and I'm a little scared.  The original craigslist guy says bring it back and he will remix it.  It's a long drive and I'm ready to paint NOW.

I've done the only thing I know.  Ask the Sully Teenager her advice.  After all, this place will probably someday be hers (unless we sell it to finance a beachfront cabana in Rarotonga) and she should have some say.  So we will ask the advise of The Teenager and the in-laws.  And the neighbors.  Because, really, at this point, I just want to paint the damn thing.

As it stands now, until there is a vote.
Mauve or not.

But right now it's on the neighbor's side and I can't see it.  Maybe when it's full force in my wine drinking deck view, I'll have a different opinion.

Or I could just drink more wine.

Stay tuned.  Together, we'll see how this ends.

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Raising and Only - The Land of Independence

When I gave birth to my daughter sixteen years ago, I knew she was not mine to keep.  My job was to raise her into a productive member of society.  I know there is more to it then that: Christ follower, happy, healthy, prosperous - all that jazz.

But she was not mine to keep forever, until I die of old age.

I came to this conclusion long before she was even a gleam in my eye.  I had been married a couple years and working retail.  The woman I worked with had eleven children (yes, you read that right - eleven) and she was lamenting how her youngest was starting kindergarten in September and she didn't have a baby in the house any more.  I thought to myself, self, you can have a hundred children and still, someday, you won't have a baby in the house anymore.

I am no genius at math, but even I can figure this out.

Hence the thought process when that little seven pounder shot out of my body.

She was going to grow up and move out of my house (please, God) and it was my job to prepare her.

I just might have pushed this whole preparing/independence thing a bit too far.

I thought, in my little plan book, that a second child would follow a couple years after her birth, so I started prepping her early.  At age two, we went to the park with a group of moms and toddlers the same age.  It started out cool, and quickly got warm.  The coats started to get peeled off.  And handed to moms.

Um, no, not this mom.  You either carry it, or put it in the stroller, but I am not a coat rack.

And that was that.  I've never carried her backpack, her coat, her music instrument(s), her library books (you can check out only as many as you can carry) or her luggage (you can only bring it if you are going to lug it through international airports).

When she was seven she ordered a cheeseburger while dining at a fancy restaurant.  No big deal, right?  Except it had mayonnaise on it even though she requested it without.  It would have been very parental of me to tap the waiter on the shoulder and say, ummm, and solve the problem for her.  Instead, I had her do it.  I prompted her what to say (and how to say it) and she did.  Because she was seven and not full of self-conscience, she had no qualm about making the request.  It maintained this independence path.  

She wanted a puppy at nine.  Fine, you do all the research.  You may check ads, make inquiries, email breeders, but you may not talk to anyone on the phone.  She found our schnauzer, and when it came time to do the meet-and-greet the breeder was impressed that it was a kid doing all the talking (again, there was a lot of prompting and conversations about what to say and not say).  She also learned how to recognize a scam, since she got caught up in a doozy.  Again, because she was only allowed to go so far with her search, no harm, no foul, but now she can spot those suckers a mile away.

Since then, she's brought home a cockatiel, six chickens and two geese.  She might have gotten a little too good at this whole thing.

At fifteen she went on a mission trip - without us.  She wanted to go to Haiti; it was not my "bent" to go (but I could come up with ways to raise the funds) and her dad couldn't get time off work.  So we talked with the coordinator, signed a waiver, and she boarded a plane.  Some of those were the longest days of my life (no phone conversations and very minimal updates for nine days).  Considering, by this time in her life, she had been on so many week-long overnight camps that it totaled at least three months of her life, this was a shock to both of us.

Recently she joined a concert band - an adult concert band.  Knowing nobody.  (Well, one gentleman who prompted her to join them, but he wasn't in the band right then due to an injury.)  But just drove herself there, grabbed her instrument, and walked through the doors.

Scares the crap out of me and I'm pushing 29 (well, pushed , shoved, ran the hell over. Anyway.)

The downfall of all this is that, now, at sixteen, she is starting to gently shove us away.  Half the time I feel like we are roommates instead of parents.  One day she even told my husband that she needed him to sign a paper for school, since he was her guardian.  Heck, she's gone vegan and buys her own food (yes, I've tried to get a list from her, but she's pretty steadfast about doing it herself).  She tries not to tell us when the school has awards ceremonies, concerts and sports games, so we're not seen with her (God forbid you try to get a picture!).  Luckily I am still smarter than her and I can find them on a website and we show up anyway.  I also have, in my back pocket, two very helpful and understanding parents that text me when they know about an event that I won't get told about.  This is a small town - nothing is much of a secret around here.  

The other day a school mate of my teenager was lamenting that parents today don't make their kids get jobs, pay for their own stuff, cook dinner once a week, do their own laundry.  Well, I'm hear to tell you that my kid has been doing her own laundry since age nine (I refused to do the sniff test and that was the compromise - it's either in the basket or I don't do it).  Independence is a great thing.

Just remember to be a kid once in a while to emotionally help an old lady out.