Thursday, August 8, 2013

Five and half rules for a happy marriage...

These rules came to me in a dream. They are in no way based upon my real life experiences. 

  • Rule #1 - Wives should always remember to say thank you.  Some wives have lived with their spouse for 31 years, and begin to take him for granted.  Remembering to appreciate him for changing a light bulb or carrying a laundry basket up the stairs is the right thing to do.  It also boosts the probability that husbands will, in the future, go to the grocery store at 10:30 pm because there is no more Breyer's Cookie Dough ice cream and some wives have had the crappiest day ever.  
What a happily married  man!
  • Rule#2 -  When wives, who probably have a touch of ADD and some spatial  issues, accidentally smash cars into things like garage doors, those big yellow concrete posts at the bank drive up window and even, on occasion, other cars, their fondest hope is that husbands will react with grace and dignity.  And forgiveness.  Plus, some wives would hope husbands realize that a 12 year old Honda mini-van with extensive body work (Surely they'll total it this time, the wife often thinks) is not, in fact, a cherry red Mini Cooper.  With leather seats.  And a manual transmission.
  • Rule#3 -Wives should stop losing their debit card.   Husbands really don't think it is cute that some wives are on a first name basis with the customer service reps at the banking center.
  • Rule#4 - Husbands should never decide to trim all of the bushes in the yard (and there are thousands of bushes in the yard), put down the trimmer and go inside the house to watch the Golf Channel.  There is a very high likelihood that wives will react to filling 23 yard waste bags during a record-setting heat wave with just a smidgen of hostility.  I have no way to be sure about this, since these are hypothetical scenarios, but I have a hunch...
  • Rule#5 - Wives should never interrupt husbands who are on an important conference call with "Honey, what is your biggest pet peeve about me?"  This does not contribute to marital harmony, and he won't answer anyway.
  • Rule#5 and 1/2 - Wives should always ask their husbands for permission before blog posts such as this one.  And then publish anyway.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Dear Mr. Candy Crush...

Since we got our first computer back in the 90's, and the only thing I could figure out to do with it was play endless rounds of Solitaire, I have liked to play computer games.  They're a great way to pass time or avoid folding laundry.  I tell myself that I am participating in vital brain training while I am playing, although I have yet to find a direct connection between my professional life and my skills with Free Cell.

Recently, I decided to see what this Candy Crush Saga is all about.

In case you never log onto Facebook, this seems to be the game of the moment.  In fact, have a look at what a Google search for this blog uncovers:

The irony of this placement does not escape me.

Anyway, my obsession with Candy Crush has begun to creep up on me.  I think that my next paycheck may just cover the cost of adding extra lives and candy bombs.  I'm stuck at level 32, and if you have any insider information about how to beat this level, send me an email.

Until my Candy Crush binge began, I had, for the sake of my own mental health, sworn off computer games.  All because of Hay Day.

A few months ago someone told me about this game, a farming experience described as fun and requiring critical thinking.

To me, these words are as alluring as buy one pair, get the second half off!

Hay Day is fun.  You get a farm, chop down trees, buy animals, plant crops, milk cows, collect eggs and shear sheep.  You either sell your products or use your crops to make baked goods or knit tiny blue hats.

I loved Hay Day.  I loved it so much that I began planning social engagements around harvest time.  I started to excuse myself from my classroom (sorry kids, Miss Laura needs to use the bathroom) to milk cows. I scoured the internet  for cheats, fully aware that most of the information I was using was posted by lonely adolescent boys.

Then, there were the diamonds.  Diamonds give you the ability to harvest immediately and buy more farm machinery.  And I could never get enough.  Of course, to increase your diamond stash, you only have to spend a little money.  Like 99 cents.  Or $1.99.  You buy them through your iTunes account, so it's not real money.

On the day my finger hovered above the buy button that would have netted me 2500 diamonds for only $49.99, I realized that I needed to walk away.  My level 38 farm still exists in the ether, neglected and full of starving livestock.  I have chosen to be OK with that.

I was strong against my addiction until I discovered Candy Crush Saga.  It's fun, and mindless, and fills dead hours when I could be working on my novel.

It even provided conversation fodder with my daughter.
Communication with grown children is easy!

Only I have discovered one major flaw with Candy Crush Saga.  It's Mr. Candy Crush.

Mr. Candy Crush is the voice who comes on when you make a particularly lucky skillful move and crush huge amounts of candy.  In a deep baritone, he says things like "sweet" and "tasty."

But Mr. Candy Crush is creepy.  Hearing his encouraging words makes me feel like I am hanging out in a 90's single bar, permed and acid-wash clad.  His voice makes him sound like he should be on some sort of registry and has a court order to remain 500 feet away from local playgrounds.

So I have taken to turning the sound off when I indulge in candy crushing.  But I have come up with a great idea for Mr. Candy Crush, one particularly relevant to women my age.

Mr. Candy Crush needs a soft Scottish accent.  And I have compiled a list of the things that he should be saying:

  • Good job! Hot flashes are attractive!
  • Sweet! Remember that your children value the parenting you provided!
  • Tasty!  Your inner beauty is not diminished by stray chin hairs!
  • Delicious! Flabby upper arms are a sign of wisdom!
So, in case you run into the twenty-something guys that are writing the code for Candy Crush Saga in their parent's basement, please pass this on.


Monday, December 17, 2012

We are them...they are us

Along with our entire nation, I have lived the past few days in a haze of shock and grief.  This time, the news is unbearable.  This time, the news has hit too close to home.  This time, I am shaken to the core.

I too am in charge of  young children.  This is a responsibility I carry with joy, always mindful of the privilege I am granted as, each day, parents drop off their children at our front door.  My unspoken promise is to deliver each child back to his/her family at the end of the day.

I have come to the realization that providence plays a huge role in my ability to carry out this task.  I am lucky, we are lucky, that we have never had to face evil at our door.

My grief is deep and profound for the teachers who, when faced with horror on Friday morning, did everything possible to shield their children from harm.  At the same time, I am proud to be a teacher whenever I think of them.

I know in my deepest heart that the teachers at our school would not hesitate to do the same thing.

I have wept at the story of Kaitlin Roig, who barricaded her kids in the bathroom and told them, simply and powerfully, that she loved them.  I wish her peace and healing in the days, months and years ahead.  

If we are fortunate, we find a calling in our lives that lifts us above pettiness and selfishness, an occupation that fills our souls and spirits.  I count myself lucky to have realized that living life with children provides this for me. I am certain that the Sandy Hook teachers also found this magical place in their lives.

Over the years I have also come to realize the strength of my protectiveness about the children in our care.  There was a day last summer when, noticing a strange car in our parking lot, I confronted the owner, a man just angry enough to verbally abuse me for asking him to park somewhere else.

I immediately realized my folly in this action, but in the moment, all I could think of was taking care of the kids. 

There are legions of teachers and caregivers who wouldn't think of their own safety when confronted with the unimaginable.  Sadly for all of us, six of those women gave their lives on Friday.  A small part of each teacher's soul goes with them.  We are them.  They are us.  Rest in peace.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

We need a hobby...

It hit me a few days ago with the cold certainty of a heart attack. Before we know it, Steve and I are going to find ourselves retired and, without the jobs to which we rush each morning, we'll be spending huge chunks of time together.  By ourselves.  Alone.  Without children to distract us or referee.  And I'm quite afraid that one of us isn't going to make it out alive.

We're going to need a hobby.

Without some sort of shared activity, I am worried that our retirement years may be nothing more than a drawn out period where we co-exist and wait for our impending deaths.  Neither of us does very well with long stretches of unstructured time, and I'm afraid we'll forget about our best selves and spend our golden years bickering and accusing, ruminating and retreating. Without a deadline or the prospect of doing something useful, we'll soon be staging our own nightly version of Who's Afraid of Viginia Woolf?  With less alcohol.

So, to head this off, I am casting around for hobbies in which we can participate together.  We both have plenty of pursuits that we enjoy on our own.  I like to read, but the last book Steve finished was the Toyota owner's manual.  Steve likes to savor a good bottle of wine, but more than one glass gives me a headache.  We both like to ride bikes, but Steve considers each bike adventure a pretend training session for the Tour de France and frankly, I just don't like to sweat that much.

What else could there be?  Ballroom dancing?  Bridge? Decoupage?  Fly fishing?

Maybe we could buy a 100 year old house and gut it, room by room.  We could strip woodwork, patch plaster, peel off layers of wallpaper, install new flooring and appliances and, for a final act, decide to redo the kitchen.  This will force one spouse (and I really don't need to name names, do I?) to do dishes in the basement slop sink for six weeks.  It will be an adventure, each of us honing our renovation skills and gaining new levels of patience and acceptance.

Oh wait.  We did that already.

There's always golf.  Steve plays at least once per week, and I did play a round three summers ago on vacation.  

I took up golf in college because, well, Steve and a few of our beer drinking buddies were all golf enthusiasts.  I wanted to impress Steve and be a "good sport."  By "good sport," I mean "people-pleasing person who thought she had to take on all of her new boyfriend's interests or he wouldn't like her anymore."  Take heed, young women.  You don't need to do this.

Anyway, my first round of golf, a game where drinking while playing is not only accepted but encouraged, consisted of me, used club in hand, surrounded by Steve and a couple of other guys muttering things like "keep your head down," "swing through the ball," and "keep your head down."  I truly had no earthly idea what "keep your head down" meant, but I tried nonetheless.  By the 10th hole, I began to throw the ball out from the trees when no one was looking.  These people are mad, I thought, but it was a sunny day and so I persisted in trying to learn the game.  I was allowed to tag along on the infrequent drinking binges golf outings of our college years.

One day, however, I managed to "keep my head down" and actually produce a fairly good golf swing,  sending the ball a long way off the tee and resulting in the perfect thwak of a solid hit.  There are few things more satisfying.  After a while, I could do this three, maybe four times in 18 holes, and I was happy.  

I played in a league one summer, and I got a little better.  Steve kept coaching me, which most of the time consisted of unsolicited advice like "keep your head down," "you lifted your head up," and, my personal favorite "you have that ball lined up to go directly into the water."  

Let me digress for a moment and say that I don't do well with unsolicited advice, no matter how good it may be. "I KNOW I DIDN'T KEEP MY HEAD DOWN" I would shout at Steve, "THAT'S WHY THE BALL WENT ONLY FIFTEEN FEET."  In my younger and dumber days, when I felt my ability to play golf reflected my success as a human being, many golf games resulted in prolonged icy silences.  I'm better now. 

 (I must credit my mother-in-law for taking the time to tell me things that would improve my game and never once saying "keep your head down.")

Golf is fun, but it takes 5-6 hours to play a round.  Since I hit the ball twice as many times as Steve, I get tired much faster than he does.  And can I just say that golf is filled with lingo that I have a hard time remembering?  Given that there are few women I know who play golf, I usually end up the token female in the foursome.  The talk inevitably turns to "skins" and "I'm pressing you," and I just tune out and think about important things, like I wonder what's for lunch and I hope there's a bathroom on the next tee.  I have an easier time remembering the fundamentals of particle physics than if a slice means that the ball goes to the left or the right.

Still, golf has possibilities as a leisure time activity for us.  If nothing else, we'll have some shame while in public and forget to bicker while we play.  Unless, of course, I hear "keep your head down."  Then all bets are off.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The wild blue yonder...

So.  A few weeks ago, I overheard my children and my husband arguing.  I know it's hard to believe, but this actually happens fairly often in the Pierson household.

Little did I realize that when I was encouraging my kids to express themselves verbally that I would end up with people who have actual opinions inhabiting my home.  Opinions that they are not afraid to use.

We discuss everything around here from books to music, politics to comedy, and most topics in between.  We have lively debates that usually end peacefully and without tears.

Thus, recently overhearing heated discourse was not all that surprising.  What struck me as bothersome, however, was the fact that they were trying to decide who had to sit next to me on the flight that we will take to Florida for the holidays.  Not, I hasten to point out, who would have the privilege of sitting beside me, but who would have to sacrifice one for the sake of family unity and be within arms' reach of me while on a jetliner.

I am not ashamed to admit that I have long held a deeply rooted fear of flying.  I am not talking about a few jitters.  I am talking about bona fide panic attacks, blind groping in the dark for someone's hand to grasp as the plane careens down the runway and takes flight.  I am talking about a phobia that rears its head when I simply drive past an airport.

I am not generally a fearful person.  I'm not afraid of spiders, snakes or any other creepy crawlies.  Dark rooms and horror movies evoke no fear.  I can comfortably speak to a large group, and the sight of blood only causes me to review all of my first aid training.  I value bravery, and try to live it whenever possible.

Flying, though.  Ah, flying.  I hate flying with all my heart and soul.  I hate flying to the tune of "sure, that European vacation sounds great, but can't we drive?"

Listening to my family have this conversation, though, caused me to finally take some action.  I decided to consult a professional to get over my fears.

So I recently had a session with a zen-like therapist, who has a voice like liquid valium, and who is herself not afraid of flying.  She actually falls asleep as soon as the plane takes off.

"Imagine," she said at the beginning of our session, "you are walking down the ramp onto the plane.  You are taking your seat.  The plane begins to taxi down the runway.  How do you feel?"

"You mean apart from the fact that my throat is closing up and my heart rate is exceeding 250 beats per minute?"  I asked.

"Let's reframe this," she said quietly.  "Think about being in the air and enjoying how safe you are.  There are people whose job it is to watch JUST YOUR PLANE.  Think of how safe that is."

"You mean apart from the fact that only six inches of steel separate my flesh from plummeting to the earth below?"

"Let's try something different," she said, refusing to give up.  "Let's try some cleansing breaths.  Think of getting on the plane and how excited you'll be about your upcoming vacation.  Imagine looking out the window."

"Look out the window?  Are you crazy?"

My poor therapist.  I could see that her unflappable, zen-like style was becoming dangerously close be being flapped.

What finally got me over the hump, though, was my admission that I often dreamed about flying.  In my dreams,  I got on a plane and actually enjoyed it.

"That's exciting!" zen-like therapist exclaimed.  "Your subconscious is so ready to get over this fear."

This, more than anything else, suddenly made me feel more confident about my ability to conquer my terror.  So I have been practicing deep cleansing breaths, and re-framing my thoughts, and being the change I want to see.

I've also secretly gotten a prescription for Xanax.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I'm still here...

So.  I popped in to look at ye olde blogge and noticed that I have been very, very lazy.  Life has indeed been getting lived, and, in the process, I took off my writer's hat and donned several others.

I have not been abducted by aliens, unless you count spending 10 hours per day with 3, 4 and 5 year olds, which IS sometimes akin to an alien abduction. Without, of course, the internal prodding.

I hate reading blogs where people apologize for not writing more frequently, so I won't be doing that.

I do have several posts stewing around the sleep-deprived brain, begging to be written.   So, I'll be back soon.

In the meantime, consume large quantities of turkey, and don't skimp on the gravy.

Oh, and enjoy this picture of Toby in his Halloween costume.  Doesn't he look absolutely ashamed?  I would too if I had to wear a "Babe-raham Lincoln" hat, complete with a feather.  Poor dog.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The shower standoff...

I loathe cleaning the shower.  The grout is getting old and the glass shower doors are etched with water stains that refuse to come out.  I have tried all kinds of tricks - from vinegar and baking soda to highly lethal cleaning agents that cause dizziness when inhaled.  I've purchased every scrubbing tool known to man, each time thinking that I have finally hit upon the magic solution.  Nothing so far has worked.

This frustration is furthered by the fact that to clean the shower, I have to get in the shower and take a shower.  Taking showers is not necessarily a bad thing, but I hate sweating while I am doing so.  There is something inherently wrong with this.

In our previous house, a 100 year old Victorian that I still miss with a passion, we had only one bathroom with an old fashioned bathtub/shower combination.  It took all of 10 minutes to get that shower clean, and I could easily accomplish a sparkling bathroom at least once a week.

But then, seduced by modern conveniences like more than one electrical outlet per room, we gave up on our Victorian doll and acquired this house.  This house has 3 1/2 baths.  I only clean 1 1/2 of them.  The other two are the domain of my children, and they are responsible for their cleanliness.  In fact, I don't clean their rooms either, which explains why I never enter them, and make sure that the doors are closed at all times.

Anyway, in my frustration with my dirty shower, I have been looking around for someone or something to blame, and have stumbled upon the greatest idea of all time.

It's Steve's fault.

Now, before you find the holes in this thinking, please be aware of the fact that in almost 29 years of marriage, Steve has never cleaned a bathroom.  Sure, he cooks and does laundry.  He never shied away from giving the kids a bath or changing diapers.  He does all of the car maintenance, outdoor work and will fix just about any broken appliance, computer or sticky drawer in our domicile.  He is a wizard with the vacuum, and does the weekly grocery shopping despite the constant complaint of our offspring that "there's no FOOD in this house."

In short, Steve is a pretty damn good wife.  I am lucky to have him.  But, in casting around to assess blame for the moldy shower doors, he was an easy target.

So I made a decision.  I would stop cleaning the shower.  In the spirit of oppressed workers everywhere, I would stage a strike.  My goal?  To ensure that he would eventually get tired of the mold and water stains, and do it himself.  He would, hopefully, do a better job than me.  Thus, the problem would be solved.

I made this mature decision based upon the wisdom 51 years of life have given me.  I took into account my Catholic school upbringing, my Montessori training, years of therapy and my belief that conflicts are best solved through communication and collaboration.  I also took into account the fact that not cleaning the shower would give me an extra hour or so for napping on Saturday afternoons.  I felt I could not lose.

Three weeks in, it occurred to me that my strategy was flawed.  The shower was no closer to being clean, and Steve had not evidenced one iota of awareness that I was on strike.  Or perhaps he had, and had chosen to ignore it.

So yesterday, I decided to confront the elephant in the room head-on.

"You know, I have stopped cleaning the shower," I said to him as we were brushing our teeth.

"I've noticed," he replied.

"It's just that it's so hard to get it clean.  I have to scrub the stains and I get all sweaty when I'm doing it.  I hate cleaning the shower.  I was thinking that, after all this time, you have NEVER cleaned a bathroom."

I felt a rant coming on having to do with the unfairness of being the only partner who gives a shit about the cleanliness of the shower.  I could actually feel my blood pressure starting to rise and I was aching for a fight.

I looked at his face.  When I am in such a mood, Steve has a habit of remaining calm and dispassionate.  He wisely waits for the storm to pass.  This may be why we are such a good pair.

"Do you want me to clean the shower?"

As I was considering my reply, I suddenly thought of our years together - years of indulging me, listening to me, supporting me, cheering for me.  And, with that, I came to a decision.

"No, I'll take care of it."