Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

Bigger Bird

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

A friend of ours was coming over for dinner, and John and I were discussing what to prepare.

John: She eats like a bird, so I don’t think we have to worry about volume.

Me: I wish I ate like a bird.

John: You do, Sweetie. You eat like a bigger bird.

Said with nothing but sweetness and appreciation, of course.

This guy.

I think I’ll keep him.

Kitchen Emergency

Saturday, August 27th, 2016

We had our first emergency ever, and I’m relieved to report that it was not a terrible one. But it was unsettling.

Background: Our kitchen has something I call a “pasta spout” but which Google thinks is a pot filler. Our house was built in 1910, so this spout is not original. A previous owner had it installed and, as with everything they did by way of renovation, bad choices were made. More on that in a moment.

A week ago Friday morning, I was heating water in a kettle on the stove. While standing there, I noticed that the pasta spout was hanging at a non-normal angle. Unaware of the potential consequences, I tried to tap the spout back into position. It fell from the wall, and hot water started shooting out.

I don’t mean pouring, or even gushing. I mean shooting, horizontally, from an open pipe in the wall. The force was so powerful that I couldn’t get the spout back on, even to hold it in place. Frantically, I began trying to stop up the flow with my hands, but I knew I was in trouble, so I yelled for help.

John came running, but by the time he made it to the kitchen, water had already reached the floor by the door. As he flew into the kitchen, his legs went out from under him, and he fell, hard. When he sprang back up from the floor, there was blood coming from his shin.

“I hurt myself,” he said, racing to the spout.

“Badly?”

“I think not great.”

“Ugh, sorry,” I said. “What do you need?”

“Get me a pot. No—a bucket.”

“We have to shut off the water, though, right?”

“Yeah. Bucket first.”

I got him a bucket, and he handed me two oven mitts.

“Hold these against the spout.”

I did, though the force was so intense that it was challenging, and plenty of water (which was getting uncomfortably hot) was spurting through my fingers. By this point, both of us were drenched, and blood was flowing from John’s leg, mixing with the water on the floor. He grabbed a garage door opener, ran out of the house and down the front steps, opened the garage, and turned off the water. Later, I would see that he had left a trail of bloody footprints behind him.

Once the water was off and John was back in the kitchen, we had some time to think. (“So,” he asked. “What happened?”) I grabbed every towel in the house, and we sopped up the water; there was a lot of it. We emptied all the cabinets on that side of the kitchen. Then it was time to a) get John to Kaiser and b) get a plumber. Complicating all of this: John had to be in Philo (4-5 hours away, given traffic) to lead a weekend InterPlay workshop at 5 PM, and he was not yet packed. And I had a jammed workday with immediate deadlines.

All things considered, we did well. John got into Kaiser shortly after 9:00. I had a plumber (Fernando! Love you!) here by 11:00, and we had worked through much of the problem by the time John got home at 11:15. John and I made decisions about what to do and learned that the mechanism connecting the spout to the wall had been poorly designed. (Previous owners! Argh!) Then John packed and went to Philo. I worked a nerve-shredding day (running towel laundry all the while) and, from 5:00 – 9:00 P.M., cleaned the kitchen.

Throughout the ordeal, John and I bickered only once. We had different opinions about which tape should be used to attach the “Do not touch” sign to the spout’s shut-off valve—a conflict I believed had been resolved in The Great Tape Debate of 2015*. At one point John said, “Sweetie, I can’t hear what you’re saying; I can only see that you’re upset,” and I burst out laughing. “Good job,” I said. “You got the gist.”

*Which I won.

What was toughest for John (in addition to being injured) was that he had to leave so quickly after everything had happened—and not just leave but launch himself into the energy it takes to lead a group for an entire weekend. I, on the other hand, had the luxury of a weekend at home alone to clean up and sink back into myself. But both of us were a little shaken. It was one of those reminders that surprising and dangerous things happen in life, at 7:49 A.M. on what you thought was a regular Friday.

Quick gratitude check:

1) John was not seriously injured. (He did need stitches.)

2) I was not alone when it happened. (I didn’t know how to shut the water off! I do now.)

3) Our house was not damaged (unless the kitchen floor starts to buckle in the next couple of weeks).

4) Our marriage is a cooperative and not a blaming one.

5) Our first emergency a) occurred nearly 15 years into our relationship and b) was a minor one.

Muebles-Agradable

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

Years ago, before John and I moved in together, I had some concerns about whether we’d be able to find a shared aesthetic. His room in his cooperative house was charmingly snowed in under towers of books, papers, plants, theater props, and bicycle parts. And while I found his mess appealing from a potential-partner point of view (he embraces life, he has a lot of interests, he likes to take care of things that grow), I worried about living with it. I’m not only obsessively neat; I’m also almost frighteningly specific about decor.

The initial months of living together required some negotiation, but because we each had a bedroom (yup—successful transitioning tactic), he had space to continue piling, and I had space to streamline and organize. We stayed in that lovely home for quite a few years. We were happy there, but because it was a rental, I settled on a good-enough approach to furnishing. And the walls, for the most part, remained white. (With one exception: Our dear friend O, the landperson, had very generously painted my bedroom bubblegum pink pre-move-in. Those pink walls were a ceaseless source of pleasure for me.)

Then we bought a house. And moved into the master bedroom together. And had significantly more space. Finally, I faced the appealing task of manifesting my personal aesthetic, but I was also conscious of not wanting to subject John to a world he wouldn’t have chosen for himself. For instance: The master bedroom. Not pink. (It’s aquamarine and cream, with accents of navy and tangerine.) He still has some space to himself (an office, albeit it a small one), where he is free to recreate the rainforest effect. But in all of the shared space, I was hoping to at long last unleash the mid-century modern/CandyLand/Gothic chic that is my joy zone. And you know what? John let me. He kindly, generously, agreeably let me.

Years later, I’m still working on it, of course. There’s only one room (dining) that is definitively Done, while everything else is a WIP. Cue a recent evening, when the steel nightstand from CB2 had arrived and been placed on John’s side of the bed. I was standing there, pondering.

J: Do you like it?

M: I don’t know. Maybe it’s *too* modern.

J: Huh.

M: Or maybe the problem is that we need two of them?

J: Really, two?

M: I don’t know. Normally I’m against matching sets. But nothing else in this room is a set, so . . . maybe?

J: Huh.

M: I don’t know. I can’t tell.

J: We can just live with it for a while and see.

M: Yeah, thanks. That’ll help.

[Some time passes as John begins to stack his magazines on the nightstand's shelf and arrange his clock radio and light on the surface. I walk over to the bed and sit down next to him.]

M: Do you like it?

J: It has a drawer!

M: Yeah.

J: And it’s bigger! Than that last one. So I have more room!

M: Nice! So you do like it?

J: Works for me!

M: [Hugging him.] Aw. Thanks, Sweetie. You’re so agreeable.

J: I am! I’m muebles-agradable!

M: You are! You’re furniture-agreeable!

Of course, John is agreeable about more than just furniture, but I’m truly grateful for this willingness in him. I’ve watched enough decor television to know that when both people in the couple have strong preferences, the process can be sticky and even painful. Speaking of which: We have a small front yard. I want a succulent garden. John wants fruit trees. What happens next? I think we hire a landscape person to somehow give us both?

Do You Know the Muffin Man?

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

Exposition: For the past seven weeks, I’ve been doing a no-grain, no-sugar, no-a-lot-of-other-things thing where I have to shop and cook and shop and cook all the time, and it’s kind of exhausting but also supposedly going to be great for me. We’ll see, my friends. We’ll see. Aaaanyway . . .

Cue a recent evening, in which John and I are both in the kitchen, cooking. I notice that he has pulled out a muffin tray.

M: You’re making MUFFINS?

J: Yeah.

M: NOW?

J: Yeah.

M: WHEN I CAN’T EAT THEM?

J: Sorry, yeah.

M: FOR 13.5* YEARS, YOU HAVE NOT MADE A SINGLE MUFFIN. Now, when I can’t eat muffins, YOU’RE MAKING MUFFINS?

J: They’re only corn bread. They’re not really muffins.

M: They’re corn bread muffins!

J: It’s just faster than making a big tray.

M: I love corn bread! I love muffins!

J: I’m sorry, Sweetie. Really. I just want some corn bread.

M: Why did it never once occur to you, in the past 13.5 years, to make muffins, and yet now, muffins are suddenly something you make?

J: I didn’t know how much you love muffins.

M: I do love them. I love them immensely. Even more than cupcakes.

J: How is that possible?

M: Because cupcakes are almost impossible to eat, and you can never get the ratio of frosting to cake right without a fork and a plate, and if you don’t have a fork and a plate, you’re basically burying you face in frosting. They’re maddening!

J: I see your point.

M: But muffins—it’s all right there.

J: And you can pretend they’re good for you!

M: Absolutely!

J: And sometimes they are pretty good for you.

M: Not the kind I like.

J: What kind do you like?

M: Reeses Peanut Butter Cup muffins. Do you make those?

J: I don’t have a recipe at hand, no.

M: I would also take Snickers muffins and Oreo muffins.

J: Banana walnut?

M: Banana chocolate chip.

J: That does sound good. What about lemon poppyseed? I have a recipe for that.

M: Okay, yeah. You can make me those.

J: Just think how great that’ll be!

M: Yeah, thinking about it is JUST like tasting them RIGHT NOW.

J: It’s only two months!

M: Oh, God. [Watching him pour the batter into the muffin tray.] HOW CAN YOU DO THIS TO ME?

J: I just—

M: AAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH! [Runs from the room.]

A week after that? He MADE THEM AGAIN. And I sidled up to him in the kitchen and sang this song:

Do you know the muffin man, the muffin man, the muffin man? Yes, I know the muffin man, and he went for thirteen years without making muffins, until one day when his wife couldn’t eat any muffins, he decided to make muffins, and then a week later he decided to make more muffins, and now there are muffins, muffins, everywhere, nothing but muffins, 24/7 muffins, all muffins all the time, it’s a world of endless, non-stop muffins. I am married to the fucking muffin man, and my life is nothing but forbidden muffins!

*I just noticed that my last two blog entries have referenced the amount of time that John and I have been together. Yeah, I’m kind of obsessed with that. You’d think I would have stopped counting at some point, basically accepting that we’re going to keep doing this relationship thing for perpetuity. Time will accrue, we’ll still be together, etc. Nope. I keep ticking off the half-years.

Sweetness and Light

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Had an impromptu photoshoot with sweet, sweet friends yesterday at brunch. Here’s one of us I love:

Green Blue Love

Green-Blue Love

And one of them:

Bunny Secrets

Bunny Secrets

 

Questions to Ask Before Getting Engaged (or . . . The Marriage Prevention Questionnaire?)

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

Recently, a former student of John’s emailed him. “I hear you have a list of 50 questions to ask before getting engaged?” she wrote. “I want it!”

John didn’t have such a list, although it’s not surprising that a student would think that he did. (John, not unlike a certain someone else I know, is full of opinions and beliefs about what makes relationships work.) But the very idea of such a list was so tantalizing that he, and I, immediately set about writing one. And here is what we came up with. No doubt it’s incomplete and somewhat arbitrary. It’s certainly very personal—to what we feel is important—although, in our hubris, I wouldn’t put it past either of us to argue for its universality.

John would like you to know: Some questions point to conversations that a couple should be sure to have before getting engaged, while others more directly point out potential issues that could come up in the relationship.

I would like you to know: You don’t have to ace this. Yeah, you want to like your answers, and definitely pay attention if you’re feeling not-great about something important. I think it’s easier to work on issues before engagement than after, when you may feel “locked in” (you aren’t) or be wedding-obsessed. As I hope is obvious, every couple has issues, and being in a happy relationship means working on those issues in an ongoing way. So it’s unrealistic to expect an absence of conflict. In fact, if you think you have no conflict, what you probably have is a situation where somebody is not paying attention to his/her own needs.

What to Ask When You Want to Get Engaged

  1. Why do you want to get married?
  2. What is your vision of marriage?
  3. Do you think marriage will change your relationship, and how?
  4. Do you want to have children?
  5. Why do you want to have children?
  6. What is your vision of raising children?
  7. Can you do your emotional work with your partner?
  8. Do you respect your partner? Do you feel respected by him/her?
  9. Do you feel safe with your partner?
  10. Do you feel seen and heard by your partner?
  11. Do you feel met by your partner?
  12. Can you be (compassionately) honest with each other?
  13. Can you play with your partner?
  14. Can you collaborate on and finish projects together?
  15. What are your values?
  16. What aren’t you talking about?
  17. Do you have a path through conflict?
  18. Are you allowing small resentments to accumulate?
  19. How do you maintain connection and emotional intimacy?
  20. What makes you feel loved? Have you asked your partner for it?
  21. Is it easy to give and receive love in your relationship, including saying “I love you”?
  22. How do you feel about couple’s therapy?
  23. What would it feel like to postpone engagement for a year?
  24. How do you grow as an individual?
  25. Are you able to identify your feelings and share them with your partner?
  26. Is there room in the relationship to do your own thing and be your own person?
  27. Is there room in the relationship for you to take care of your own needs?
  28. What do you think the purpose of life is?
  29. What does your spiritual life look like? What do you want it to look like?
  30. What are your beliefs about money?
  31. What are your beliefs about extended family?
  32. What are your beliefs about how you want to spend your time?
  33. What are your beliefs about sex?
  34. Can you talk openly about the four topics above with your partner?
  35. What is your partner’s relationship to his/her family, and how do you feel about it?
  36. How do you feel about your partner’s friends?
  37. What do you and your partner argue about?
  38. Do you and your partner accept influence from each other?
  39. Do you accept your partner’s limitations, or are you waiting for him/her to change?
  40. Are you or your partner addicted to something, and how is that being handled?
  41. Are you repeating, or reacting to, a pattern in your parents’ marriage?
  42. How do you handle stress, separately and together?
  43. How do you divide labor and chores?
  44. Can you ask for what you want?
  45. Can you say no?
  46. What does your support network outside the relationship look like?
  47. Is there anything about your relationship you’re afraid to tell other people about? And/or have people you trust expressed reservations about your relationship?
  48. What will you do if you’re attracted to someone else?
  49. Do you like who you are in this relationship?
  50. What does a happy marriage look like to you?

 

Premature/Overdue: A Marriage

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Remember this? Prophecy, as per usual. Because here we are.

And this year perhaps even moreso than most, as my two close buddies are going through Major Life Events—a baby for one, a wedding for the other—which has occupied much of my extracurricular time in increasingly intense and joyous ways. OHMYGODbaby! OHMYGODwedding! has essentially been my state of mind for the past couple of months.

Of course, in the interstices, there’s trying to get even a few household chores accomplished, one of which is to get John a dresser. He has a dresser, technically—or he did, until my tolerance for its presence in our bedroom reached its limit. It was a beautiful piece of furniture, at least on the surface—a sleek, white modern tallboy purchased from the Crate & Barrel seconds outlet—but I became worried that, come the earthquake, it would fall on him and break both of his legs*. And then where would we be? With the hospitals filled with other victims, ambulances nowhere to be found, and me unable to lift him even an inch?

*Inelegantly constructed (i.e., from layers of thick particle board), it weighs about 200 lbs. Not kidding.

True, we could have simply attached the dresser to the wall, but a) we knew we weren’t keeping it, and b) don’t wanna make holes in the wall until I have to. (I have learned the hard way that holes in the wall tend to remain holes in the wall.) So, the dresser is out of the bedroom. In the interim, John has arranged his clothes on a bookshelf next to his closet.

Cue the following conversation, which we had Saturday morning:

Me: I’m thinking bank and farmer’s market today, but I don’t know if I can get to the Bowl.

J: I can do the Bowl.

Me: You did the Bowl last week.

J: Yeah, but you did it for like 10 weeks before that.

Me: I don’t mind doing the Bowl.

J: Okay, but you have to do calligraphy for C’s wedding today, so I can do it.

Me: In that case, I think I might have time to do a little Craigslist dresser-shopping for you.

J: Oh, no. That’s premature. There’s no need for that.

Me: [Chuckling.] That’s . . . premature?

J: [Also chuckling.] Yeah, I mean, we have plenty of time for that.

Me: [Laughing.] You know, some might say that it is in fact not premature at all. Some might say, after talking about this for several years, that it is in fact overdue.

J: [Laughing harder.] Oh, no. It is definitely not overdue. It’s most certainly premature.

Me: [Hysterically laughing.] Yes, I can see how we certainly could not say that it was overdue, not when you’re living out of a bookcase and when there is a giant space on that side of the bedroom.

J: [Hysterically laughing.]  Absolutely. Because we are nowhere near the point where the dresser is actually necessary.

M: [Doubled over laughing.] Not at all! We could go for years like this! With an open bookcase serving perfectly well!

[We laugh so hard at the naming of this elemental difference in perspective that we cannot speak for 30 seconds or so. Then, when we recover . . .]

J: You should blog about this. Premature slash overdue: a marriage.

Yes, my friends, that is in fact a diagnostic/organizing principle about our marriage—that what John would call premature, I would call overdue.

In other news:

The first essay in Meghan Daum’s new book is very much worth the price of admission. It is gloriously honest and scathing and smart, about her relationship with her mother and her mother’s relationship with her mother. I tore through it and can’t wait to get back to it for a second read. I understand that it’s the very point of the book (hence the title, The Unspeakable) that Daum is daring to say what so many people won’t, but I was awed nevertheless by the thrill of bearing witness to such a frank account, by how enlivening that immensely fresh breath of air turned out to be.

We finally got around to Pride, a movie John has long wanted to see and which delivered in all the ways we knew it would—i.e., it’s basically engineered so that you’ll cry every, oh, seven minutes or so. Still and all, in this case I didn’t much mind that level of manipulation. There’s so much to love and to celebrate. An entirely feel-good way to end Thanksgiving and launch ourselves into the slide toward the winter holidays.

 

 

(Even More) Scenes from a Marriage

Friday, September 12th, 2014

We have a refrigerator. That refrigerator has a problem. Or a sometime problem, anyway, which is that occasionally it decides to start freezing food. Cleverly (as is his way), John discovered that the mechanism of the freeze involves a little interior door between the (side-by-side) freezer and fridge. This dollhouse-sized door sometimes cakes with ice and then freezes open, letting in freezing air. We can melt the ice with hot water and close the door manually, but if the problem keeps occurring, which it had begun to do lately, we’re left nursing the fridge on a daily basis, turning it off for spells to unfreeze the food and losing some good vegetables in the process. And that ain’t good.

Here’s the thing: We know the immediate cause of the freezing, but what’s the underlying cause?

I had a (friendly, honest) repair guy out to see what he could determine. He wasn’t sure. It could be the seal on the doors (nope, good seal), or . . . how’s that seal on the door? He then suggested calling Amana directly to see what they had to say and whether we should replace the part. Hence began my campaign to get John to call Amana*, my opening salvo of which was to write a reminder on a sticky note and put it on the kitchen counter. From there, he stuck it to the top of his computer.

Day #1: I ask John to call the following day. John moves the sticky note from the top of his computer (a laptop) to the interior. And doesn’t call.

Day #2: I ask John to call the next day. John tells me that he will call the next day. And doesn’t call.

Day #3, in bed in the evening:

M: Did you call Amana today?

J: No, sorry.

M: How many times am I going to have to remind you to call Amana?

J: That depends on how long you wait between reminders.

M: [Hysterical laughter.] Wow, Sweetie. That’s really genius. I couldn’t myself have imagined a way for you to deny responsibility and put it on me, but you really succeeded there.

J: [Joining in the laughter.] It’s true, though!

M: [Still laughing uncontrollably.]

J: It’s not that I forget. It’s that I’m too busy. I can call only in the morning, because they’re on the East Coast.

M: [Silent, pondering.]

J: Well, it’s a combination of being too busy and forgetting.

M: [Laughing.] Well, thank you for your honesty.

J: I’ll call tomorrow.

M: Really? How are you going to remember to call tomorrow?

J: I have the sticky note!

M: The same sticky note that you moved from the top of your computer to the inside, because you literally could not see it?

J: [Chuckling.] Yeah. That sticky note.

M: [Also chuckling.] Okay, so that should work.

J: Yeah, I think that’ll work.

M: I can’t think of how that wouldn’t work.

J: I’m on top of it!

Day #4, in bed in the evening:

J: I forgot to call Amana.

M: You were right!

J: What do you mean?

M: I waited to remind you, and you told me instead! So, one less time for me to remind you!

J: It worked!

M: Success!

[Hugs.]

[Fin.]

NB: By this point, our refrigerator actually seems to be back on track, perhaps because John did indeed clean out the grille. So Amana may never get that call . . . and everything seems to have worked out anyway.

*I would be more than happy to call Amana myself, particularly as I would do it immediately, but I’ve been down that road before. There’s always some kind of technical question I can’t answer and have to call John about, so now we just start at the horse’s mouth. Unfortunately, the horse is not great at remembering to call.

When Worlds Collide

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

Cue scene:

I’m lying on the bedroom floor, stretching post-exercise. John joins me as we discuss plans for the day.

J: Hey, can you pick something up for me on your walk to the bank?

M: I decided not to walk. But maybe I can pick it up anyway.

J: No, don’t worry about it. It can wait another week. It’s already waited a year.

M: Really? What is it?

J: Iron-on patches.

M: Iron-on patches for what?

J: I have holes in my jeans.

M: And you’re planning to cover them with iron-on patches?

J: Not on the outside. On the inside.

M: Yeah, that can’t happen.

J: What? It’s very functional.

M: What do you think this is, 1978? You think those are Toughskins? Jeans look good with holes. They’re supposed to have holes.

J: I’m worried that they’re going to fall apart.

M: They won’t fall apart.

J: But I want them to last a long time.

M: Okay, but you can’t use iron-on patches.

J: Why not?

M: You’re hurting me. Your idea is painful to me.

J: I don’t understand the problem.

M: The problem is NOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

J: Then what am I supposed to do?

M: Cut up a bandana.

J: And sew it on top?

M: No, behind.

J: I don’t have time to sew.

M: Give it to me.

J: You have other things to do.

M: Just give it to me.

J: But you have a whole list—

M: What is a wife for, IF NOT TO MEND HER HUSBAND’S GARMENTS?

J: Seriously? You’ll do it?

M: Find me the sewing kit, get me a bandana, and hand over the jeans.

J: Wow, thanks, Sweetie.

M: We should have put that in our marriage vows. I VOW TO NEVER TO USE AN IRON-ON PATCH. ON ANYTHING. EVER.

These Summer Nights

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

This time of year is so deliciously lazy-long. These days that don’t end! I wish they would never end.

Last night, John and I were hanging out in our newly painted (by me) (with a brush) (2.5 times) living room, which was glowing in its tealness with the early evening light. Cool breezes were blowing through the house, which clocked in at 72°F. Flowery fragrances were wafting in from outside.

He was doing the initial assembly on the legs of my new treadmill desk, which we plan to get up and running this weekend, and I was working on a crafting project. Together, we were listening to Terry Gross interview Adam Liptak about the recent Supreme Court decisions, and we were companionably silent, parallel-playing*.

*True, it’s not really fair to call a furniture-assembly project “play,” but John did seem to be enjoying himself, as he is wont to do when he is a) fixing something, and b) helping someone.

I had the feeling of being perfectly, perfectly happy. Just full of everything good and grateful for all that I have.

Doesn’t happen often, does it?

Still glowing with the joy.