The Un-Manly Art of Decorating.

How, in our culture, has it become accepted that the wife is the decorator of the house? Why is it such a crime for me to hang my Pink Floyd “Wish You Were Here” poster in the living room? What’s wrong with white walls? How many candles are too many in a given room? These are some of the questions that have been plaguing me since my wedding day.

Before my wife moved into my apartment and ruined everything, I had a cool living room. The Pink Floyd poster was the centerpiece on the wall, flanked by a battle-ax and a samurai sword that I had gotten awesome deals on at the flea market. On my coffee table sat a stuffed armadillo, and in the corner stood a one-armed mannequin dressed in a tan suede tuxedo and a Viking’s helmet. The refrigerator stood next to the couch, giving me easy access to the beer crisper drawer without needing to stand up and walk into the kitchen.

But it’s all gone now. There is not a shred of my original manly flair left in our current house. Every object decorating our living room falls into one of three categories: flower-plant, candle, or huge word. (The huge words are hung or painted on the wall and say things like “LOVE” or “FAMILY” or some cheesy saying that no self-respecting man would ever utter.)

The walls have been painted a baby poop yellowish-brown, except for the brilliant red “accent” wall, which makes my head hurt and my ears ring when I look at it for too long.

As for the plant category, my wife is constantly bringing home some new potted plant that will only end up being the latest victim of her sadistic need to slowly torture and eventually kill houseplants. They start out well. For at least the first month of them taking up residence in our home, the new plant will be pampered. It will receive a daily watering and even fertilizer to feast on. But then as things get busy and other plants are introduced into the decorating scheme, the once pampered potted houseplant will begin to whither, droop, and inevitably die a slow and horrible death.

There are candles placed everywhere in our home. They are on every shelf, on top of every surface; some even have a small shelf dedicated entirely to the particular candle’s own existence. There are so many candles that if you actually light them all at the same time, it raises the air temperature a full six degrees. And if the rise in temperature weren’t bad enough, each candle has its own smell. When mixed all together, they produce the effect of a horrible three-way collision between a truck hauling fruit, another hauling flowers, and a third hauling spices. It can be overwhelming.

As for the huge-word category, it is probably my least favorite element of our décor. It would be one thing if the huge words spelled out the lyrics of a Led Zeppelin song or a knock-knock joke or something. Instead, they always say something like “HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS” or “LOVE SPOKEN HERE.”

Once, in an attempt to introduce some sort of coolness into our decorations, I had my wife talked into allowing me to paint the phrase “LIVE LONG AND PROSPER” on our living room wall, which satisfied the huge-word-decorating criteria. But just as I was beginning to paint the letters that I had sketched out in pencil, my older daughter entered the room and blurted out, “Hey, isn’t that what the pointy-ear guy on Star Trek always says?”

My shoulders slumped in disappointment.

With a look of disapproval from my wife, my idea to sneak a little coolness into our lives was shot down.

I have since given up attempting to introduce coolness into hour home.

But the living room is not the only space that my wife has invaded and taken over with her brand of decorating. She has had her way with the bathroom as well. It’s been painted a light-purple color, and she has hung mirrors everywhere to make the small space look bigger. Mirrors in the bathroom are fine for the vanity, but why do I need one hanging where I can see myself sitting on the toilet? And not just one angle—I can view myself sitting from the front or side view—I never really realized what funny faces I make when I’m pooping. There is also a small mirror hanging over the back of the toilet that provides a near perfect image of my manly parts when standing in front of the toilet to relieve myself. A floral-print shower curtain now hangs where my Star Wars shower curtain once hung.

She has basically taken over the entire house. Like a virus, the candles, plant material, huge words, and mirrors have spread into every room. All I have left is my shed. It’s where my Pink Floyd poster now hangs and my armadillo resides. It’s where I go and sit to grieve over losing my man-inspired decorating themes.

It would seem that I have no say left when it comes to our choice in home fashion, but at least I still have my shed. If she ever gets the crazy idea to decorate my shed, I’ll burn it to the ground! I’d rather see it ablaze than defiled with the candles, plants, and huge words of cheesiness.

The Unspoken Language of Love

Learning to interpret the unspoken communication in a marriage is one of the most valuable tools a husband can have in the pursuit of harmony. While all wives have their own versions of this language, here are some examples of my wife’s wordless vocabulary.

Raised eyebrow  . . . . I’m not quite sure yet, but I suspect you are about to do or say something that will make me think you are an idiot.

“Huff”  . . . You are an idiot.

“Sigh”  . . . I disagree, but it’s not worth the time to argue about it.

“Huff, sigh”  . . . You are an idiot, but you already know that, so it is not worth my time to say it again.

“Chuckle”  . . . I told you that you were an idiot, but you wouldn’t listen.

“Groan”  . . . Please don’t try to fix the washing machine with spare car parts for the fourth time this week, let’s just buy a new one.

“Groan, sigh”  . . . I wish you wouldn’t try to fix the washing machine with spare car parts, but I know you are going to no matter what I say.

“Huff, groan, sigh, smile”  . . . You are an idiot for trying to fix things that are beyond your capabilities, and I can do nothing to stop you when you are on a do-it-yourself mission, but that is partly why I love you.

 

Buy a whole book full of silly stories like this one:

Single Family Asylum

 

 

Our ordinary Sunday morning requires an extraordinary wife.

Clack, clack, clack, clack . . .

The sound of my daughter’s plastic, sparkly pretty princess heels echoed throughout the sanctuary as she proudly walked down the aisle of the church to our usual seats.

“Heh-heh,” my neighbor Robert, who also attended our church, chuckled as Hannah clack-clacked past. It was almost certain that he had also heard the morning battle over wearing the clack-clack shoes and a bright green Frog Princess dress instead of the flower print dress that my wife had chosen for my obstinate child. Our houses were fairly close together and our windows were open to let in the warm summer air . . . . and our loud arguments out.

“SHUT UP ROBERT!” I sneered in a whisper-shout, “I remember your kid coming to church with a guinea pig in his coat pocket.”

Robert rolled his eyes but remained silent (probably embarrassed as he was remembering the uproar caused by the stowaway rodent escaping and nibbling on the elderly organ player’s open toed shoes).

We were late as usual. Back when God was formulating the intricate workings of the Universe, he had decreed that our family would never, ever, under any circumstance be on time for his own worship service. . . . . well, with the exception of the one Sunday a year when Daylight Savings gives us an extra hour . . . . and even then, we barely make it on time.

On most Sundays, my wife prompts us to hide with our two daughters in the back reception area and wait for the congregation to stand and sing a hymn so we can slip into our pew with less attention being drawn to our lateness. But on this particular Sunday, the fight over my daughter’s costume/fashion choice left us even later than usual. There were no hymns left to provide cover for our sneaking in. With a few condemning stares and smiles being shot at us, we found our usual seats and sat down.

My wife began digging items out of her Sunday morning purse, which was a normal purse by all purse standards, but was filled with carefully selected child silencing items. There were crayons, mints, paper to draw on, miniature animal and doll figures, and for emergency measures, a small hand-held video game unit with the speaker ripped out.

Sitting next to us this particular morning was Sister Edna, and elderly widowed church member who would often punctuate the pastor’s sermon points by interjecting “In the NAME of JESUS!”

The girls settled into their coloring and playing with their small toys as Pastor Phil began delivering his Sermon. Right on cue, Sister Edna began letting out “In the Name of JESUS” whenever Pastor Phil made a point that seemed to warrant it.

I listened to the sermon as best I could between whisper shouting at my girls for fighting over toys. Natalie had also picked up echoing Sister Edna’s “In the name of Jesus” utterings.

“I have to go poopy.” Hannah said in a voice that was audible to everyone around.

My wife gasped.

“IN the NAME of JESUS,” Natalie added to Hannah’s poop declaration.

Several heads turned in our direction; some of the heads had faces adorned with frowns.

Sister Edna looked at Natalie and smiled.

My wife quickly opened the roll of breath mints that was in her Sunday morning purse and gave each girl two of them. This seemed to keep the girls quiet.

Pastor Phil continued with his sermon on the plagues that were inflicted upon Egypt by God for refusing to let Moses and his people go. There was the plague of lice and one of sores on the people. There were frogs . . . . . I saw a frog in the ditch in front of our house yesterday while I was mowing. In fact, I almost hit the poor thing with my mower. I think it was a momma frog by the way—–

Realizing that my mind had wandered off a bit, I snapped back to listening to Pastor Phil and his sermon.

The sermon continued. Moses was apparently persistent, and Pastor Phil talked about the continuance of plagues. Fiery hailstones, water turning to blood, locusts . . . . billions of locust . . . .swarming everywhere. . . . . like the billions of hornets that came out of a hole in the ground near my shed. The hornets were like a plague. . . . a buzzing, stinging plague. In fact, one of them even stung my first born, Hannah. . . . . kind of like a double plague. But Robert and I had filled a squirt bottle with gas and constructed a makeshift flame thrower of sorts. We covered ourselves in snowmobile suites and motorcycle helmets to act as beekeepers outfits. Then with a shovel, we scooped out a crater where the hole once was and began administering the flames of Hell up on the locust. . . . I mean hornets. Suddenly I felt the intense burning pain of a hornet stinging my back. One of the little devils had apparently breeched my snowmobile suit.

“AHHH, He’s Got Me!” I screamed,”WHACK THE BASTARD WITH THE SHOVEL, ROBERT!!!!!!”

. . . . . I suddenly became aware of my surroundings.

I was standing in the aisle of our church sanctuary, swatting at imaginary hornets. I had just finished screaming, “whack the bastard with a shovel, Robert”. All eyes in the now silent church were on me. Apparently my mind had wandered off again. . . . I might have even been dreaming a bit.

My wife was horrified.

Natalie let out a “In the NAME of JESUS!”

This is where a normal family would have been shamed into quitting the church and never showing their faces there again for the rest of eternity. But my wife was seasoned at covering for our family’s, well, eccentricities. I knew that she would have an explanation for my ridiculous behavior, something like lack of sleep or perhaps the improper dosage of cold medicine. And I also knew that she would expertly plant her slightly exaggerated explanation in several conversation circles that were formed by the wives and mothers of the congregation when the service had concluded.

She had become so good at it, that I would probably end up getting words of sympathy and encouragement from church members instead of condemnations for my unruly outburst.

We are fortunate. My wife knows that despite the outcome, the girls and I have good intentions, and she has our backs no matter how absurd our behavior becomes.

 

Somewhere.

Somewhere in this house is the place where I put things so that I don’t lose them. I don’t know where that place is. Wherever this place is, it must be full of things.

 Somewhere in another dimension, next to a pile of unmatched socks that I have lost, there is a huge pile of delicious food that I never got to eat because I left it sitting on a restaurant table in a styrofoam leftover container.

 Next to the pile of food is a single socket. It’s the one that is missing from my socket set.

 Somewhere in my brain is a box where I put important things that I want to remember. The lid to that box is locked to keep the memories safe.

 Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten what I put in the box of important things that I want to remember. And the chances of me getting to open the box to remember what I put in there are slim because the key to the lock is in a place where I put things so I don’t lose them . . . . and I don’t know where that place is.

 

 

It’s cold in Michigan . . .Too Cold to be Manly.

It’s a windy twenty degrees in Michigan right now. Our heat registers look like iPod docking stations, only the iPods are actually humans, and they aren’t recharging, they are soaking up heat. There are fights and arguments over the dining room register because it blows the most heat.

Even the dog is reluctant to go a outside to pee.

I used to watch all those shows about living in Alaska and think I wanted to move to there. . . . where only real men survive . . . . I would live like a wild mountain man and all that nonsense. I’m starting to look at things more realistically now.

I will miss garbage day just to avoid being outside for the three minutes it takes to put the garbage out. Real men in Alaska would take out the garbage in their underwear on a windy twenty degree day.

Real men in Alaska hunt and fish for food on a twenty degree day. I get chilly in the frozen food section of the grocery store and try to hurry down the aisle.

Real men drive a team of Husky dogs pulling a rickety sled through the snow to go the hundred miles to town for supplies. I won’t drive anywhere without starting my truck and letting it warm up for an hour before driving to the store to get more hot chocolate.

I now know that I would rather live in a jail cell with a group of delinquent kids repeatedly shooting me through the bars with BB guns than to live in Alaska.

I’m not giving up my dream to go and live like a real man. I’m just altering the location where I do it. There must be some place in the Caribbean where real men endure hardships to survive. Hardships like slow service at the beachside Tiki bar.

Showering Genius.

Being the intellectual type, I can’t help but try to streamline daily tasks and duties.  Just because something has been done a certain way for long periods of time, doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved upon.

One morning I was standing in the shower when our cat suddenly came flying into the bathroom and through the shower curtain in a panic. Hot on the cat’s tail was our dog Pippi, who also came flying into the bathroom and then through the shower curtain. Once both animals were inside the shower, they proceeded to engage in an extremely vicious claw and fang fight.

Now, the dog chasing the cat was nothing new around our house, but the dog and the cat ending up in the shower with me was a new development.  The brain of an ordinary man would have been preoccupied with the multiple lacerations sustained on his legs and buttocks during the dog and cat scuffle which he had just been in the middle of, but I barely even noticed the pain and blood. Instead, my mental gears began to turn as I stood in the warm flow of water, looking down at Pippi.

I was in the shower . . . . . and Pippi was in the shower . . . . . . We were both already wet, so why not give the dumb dog a bath . . . or shower as it were. I had just taken two separate tasks, showering and dog washing, and combined them into one highly efficient event.

In the days that followed, I couldn’t help but be proud of my combining showering with dog bathing, and I began to think of other things that I could incorporate to make the time wasted in the shower even more productive. With the whole water/washing theme of a being in a shower, the natural progression seemed to be washing clothes.

I figured I could just wear whatever clothes I wanted to wear for the day while I was in the shower. I was sure that the scrubbing of the clothes will also seep through to my body and clean it as well. The only dilemma was whether I should use laundry detergent or body wash, so just to be safe, I settled on using a dash of both.

The combination did indeed seem to result in the cleaning of both myself and my clothes, but the drying of the clothes needed some adjustment. At first, I liked the idea of just showering with the clothes on that I would wear for the day, and then just walking out of the bathroom ready to head off to work. However, I discovered that it takes anywhere from three to six hours for the clothes that you had showered in to dry, which seems to also lead to chafing in “uncomfortable places”, (chafing that my wife delighted in calling “diaper rash”). So now, I shower with the clothes on that I will wear for tomorrow, and then hang them over the shower curtain rod, and put on the clothes that I showered in yesterday to wear for today.

I found that by showering twice a day, I could even help out with some of the rest of the family’s laundry (with the exception of my daughters jeans because I can’t fit into them). But my helpful efforts were not appreciated. In fact, I actually became the subject of anger and ridicule from my wife who happened to walk into the bathroom just as I was stepping out of the shower wearing the dress that she would most likely wear to church that Sunday . . . freshly laundered, might I add.

As time went on, I continued to develop more time saving activities that could be incorporated into my showering and have even come up with a daily showering schedule that looks like this:

Monday:

Morning shower . . . laundry (I’ve now gone to a two to three outfit shower by making one or more wardrobe changes).

Mid-day shower . . . dishes from the previous day.

Tuesday:

Morning shower . . . laundry or wash dog every other week.

Mid-day shower . . . dishes and watering of half the house plants (I can’t fit all the house into the shower at once, but I’m working on a rack system that would accommodate all of them).

Wednesday:

Morning shower . . . laundry and second half of house plants

Mid-day shower . . . dishes.

Evening shower . . . drapes and linen, alternate.

Thursday:

Morning shower . . . laundry and attempt to wash one of the cats . . . if, I’m feeling ambitious.

Mid-day shower . . . dishes.

Evening shower . . . bathroom throw rugs and scour the shower walls.

Friday:

Morning shower . . . catch up on any laundry or dishes.

The system seems to be working well in spite of spending most of my days with pruned fingers. I continue to look for new ways to improve on my showering activities. One idea of mine is to build a shower that you can drive your car into, so you can shower and wash your car at the same time. I would call it the “car wash” . . . well, ok, I know that someone already used that name, so maybe I’d call it the “car shower.”

I hate my lawn.

I hate my lawn. 

I’ve heard other guys say that, but they were referring to the fact that their lawn wasn’t perfect. I hate my lawn because it exists.

My wife doesn’t realize it, but I don’t plant pine trees all around our property because I love pine trees. I plant pine trees all around our property because pine needles kill grass. Dead grass doesn’t need to be mowed. 

I hate mowing. Mowing is such a waste of time. Time I will never get back.

My mowing lines aren’t straight. That’s partly due to the fact that mowing is so boring. To make it funner, I pretend that my lawnmower is a getaway car and I’m being chased around the yard by the cops. 

When I get tired of running from the police, I mow all the areas left where the police didn’t chase me.

I hate weed whacking too. I hate weed whacking even more than mowing ever since the “barefoot weed whacking toe massacre” incident. Now I make sure to wear shoes.

Maybe I’ll like my lawn more when I retire. Maybe then I will actually like time spent mowing. But until then . . . . I hate my lawn.

That’s not funny.

It seems to me, that when entering the world of having children, we are expected to leave our sense of humor by the door. Joking is permitted in nearly all aspects of our lives, with the exception of infants and children.

Shortly after the birth of my first daughter, Hannah, my mother-in-law arrived at our house and asked where the new baby was. I simply answered, “I put her in the clothes dryer to take a nap.”

She did not find it to be the least bit funny, and in fact, you would have thought that I had just committed a murder right in front of her. At this point, I probably should have simply explained that I was just only joking, but then my razor sharp wit took over and I added, “I tried putting her in the dishwasher but I could still hear her crying.”

This sent her into a rage, “YOU DON’T EVEN JOKE ABOUT SUCH THINGS!”

It would seem to me, that when it comes to joking about sticking infants into appliances, the general consensus is that if I joke about it, then I have to actually do it.

I have an entire list of things that Mom’s and Mother-in-laws don’t find humorous when it comes to children:

Painting their faces to look like Alice Cooper (but if you decide to do this anyway, MAKE SURE it is not a permanent marker you are using for face paint).

Fake snakes in the diaper.

Setting them on the porch with “For Sale” signs pinned to their clothing.

And it’s not just my wife that doesn’t find any humor in my antics. One time when I was left alone with my two daughters and four of their cousins while all the mothers went shopping, a young niece started singing, “The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round.”

Before long, all of the other kids had joined in, and after ten minutes of the same phrase being repeatedly sung by six loud children, my sanity began to wear thin. To make the concert more bearable, I decided to compose a second verse to the song, and have them perform it when all the mothers arrived home from shopping.

The second verse went like this, “The cheeks on my butt make lots of sound, lots of sound.”

The six of them performing this new verse in front of their mothers did not go over any better than the daughter in the dryer joke. You would have thought I had taught them all to swear like sailors. In fact, one of my sister-in-laws still won’t let me watch her children alone to this day.

Perhaps my brand of humor is a bit much when talking about something as precious as our little children. But I think everybody could lighten up a little bit too . . . because if you don’t, I will come to your house, and glue your children’s feet to the ceiling and wrap them in Christmas tree lights . . .

That is a joke, I would never glue their feet to the ceiling because the blood rushing to their heads would make them pass out. I would only glue children’s feet to the floor.

It’s Mother’s Day again already?

I had just woken up, made my coffee, and turned on the TV. I was only half paying attention to the lady on the morning news when I thought she said, “Happy Mother’s Day.”

Why on Earth would she say “Happy Mother’s Day”?

I turned the channel, and again, the person on the other news channel said, “Happy Mother’s Day”.

It’s Mother’s Day? How can it be Mother’s Day? Wasn’t it Mother’s day a few months ago? Or maybe that was Valentine’s Day or Christmas or something.

Nevertheless, it’s We-do-love-and-appreciate-you-but-as-usual-We-forgot-to-buy-you-something-that-proves-it day.

I quietly wake up the girls and we all go into full scramble alert. They know the routine well, as it comes several times a year on Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, my wife’s birthday, and occasionally even on Christmas.

Natalie will rummage through the refrigerator and cupboards to find whatever she can to make up one of her notorious breakfasts in bed for the wife/mom. She had become a master at pulling together a four-star feast from grocery and leftover remnants that happen to be in the refrigerator and cupboards. Past breakfasts in bed have included a bowl of chocolate chips, Flamin’ Hot Doritos, leftover pizza and even old Halloween candy.

With the excuse of needing to run to the store for toilet paper, Hannah and I take the opportunity to make a flying trip to the drug store during said breakfast, to grab some flowers, a card and maybe an item from the crappy cheap gift aisle . . . . . maybe a mug that says “You’re Awesome!” or a shark stuffed animal toy (I will claim to say that I thought sharks were her favorite animal after my wife opens the gift and gives me a strange look).

Quickly we return home to wrap the presents with newspaper or place into a re-gifted gift bag that is adorned with a Hello Kitty design. The added touch of “Mom” and a heart are magic-markered onto the bag or wrapping paper.

Then when all is as ready as we can possibly make it, the three of us will file into our bedroom and present our well planned, spare no expense Mother’s day celebration.

My wife is awesome. Each time the morning panic of a forgotten holiday ravages our house and the banging of cupboards signals that she is about to enjoy one of the most horrible breakfast in bed’s she has ever had, she gracefully pretends to not know what is happening. She will cheerfully eat her Mother’s Day breakfast and act over-whelmed with joy over our gifts . . . . . every time . . . and that is why I love her.