Marriage Isn’t Always Fun (And That’s Okay)

Dating my husband was fun, especially when things started to get serious. We used to talk on the phone for hours, sharing our thoughts and our fears and our pasts with one another. We met early for breakfast and we gave each other loving glances over our coffee cups, soaking up each other’s good looks. We stayed up late watching movies in bed, cuddling close, even on 80 degree summer nights. We were always happy to see each other. Nothing beat those butterflies in my stomach and the excited feeling that accompanied the thought, This is the ONE.

When I hear people talk about marrying their best friend, I internally shake my head at their naivety. Do they really think it’ll stay that way? Dating and best friends are always fun. Marriage and spouses are not.

The thing about spouses, compared to best friends, is that they’re always there. My husband is not just there when I say, Yes, now’s a great time to get together! He’s there when I’m exhausted and need some peace and quiet. He’s there when I’m stressed and anxious and need an (hour/day/week) moment to myself. He’s there to witness each and every time I screw something up (and there to point it out, in case I didn’t notice). He’s there when I have unkempt hair and morning breath. He’s there, asking me to get him a glass of ice water when I just sat down on the couch. Once you get married, the butterflies in your stomach get replaced with a stomping elephant at your side.

After marriage, the constant togetherness melds with all of the crap that just needs to get done. It’s not all breakfasts out and movies in anymore. It’s figuring out how to deal with the woodchuck family that lives in your backyard, together. One of you wants to shoot it with a gun and the other wants to keep it as a pet. It’s installing cabinets in the bathroom, together. One of you loves to hammer and level and cut and the other cries tears of frustration after inserting ten screws because they’re so uncoordinated they can hardly rotate the screwdriver. It’s stocking the fridge and the pantry, together. One of you wants to buy loads of bacon and Fruit Loops and the other wants only organic lettuce and raw pumpkin seeds.

Dating is about getting what you want, but marriage is about getting what you both can deal with without either one of you completely losing your mind. Marriage means constantly teetering on the edge of madness due to the never-ending compromises that have to be made. It’s one of you not being able to sleep unless it’s dark and silent and the other not being able to sleep without the television on. ‘Til death do you part.

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For a lot of people, discovering that spouses and marriages are not always fun doesn’t go over very well. Once they realize marriage is far more work than play, they want out. They give up.

But, not us.

Over time, our hours-long conversations have whittled down to ones that last an average of three minutes, but that’s okay. It’s not that we aren’t interested in each other’s stories, it’s just that we already know them inside and out. At breakfast, we don’t always give each other lovey-eyes over our coffee cups anymore, but that’s okay. It’s not that we don’t still view each other as lovely, it’s just that we already have each other’s faces etched into our brains. Our activities together often involve boring house stuff instead of exquisite dates, but that’s okay. It’s not as exciting, but at least we don’t have to do all of that crap on our own.

I love my husband to pieces. So even though marriage isn’t always fun, even though marriage is work, and, let’s be honest, even though marriage is downright infuriating at times, it’s okay.  That’s just how marriage is. And it’s fine, it’s better than fine, it’s grand, if you just know that going into it.

Marriage is not only full of annoying bits, it’s also filled with laughter and love, giving and gratitude, truth and trust. It’s made of, ‘Thank you for shaving my back’, and, ‘Do you want to have sex?’ ‘I smell.’ ‘I don’t care.’ ‘Okay, let’s do it’, and, ‘Oh my goodness, can you believe what so-and-so’s spouse is like? I’m so glad you’re not like that’ and ‘Honey, I need a hug.’ And most of the time we don’t even need to speak those words aloud, we know each other well enough to say them without speaking.

Not too long ago, a friend of mine snapped a photo of me and my husband when we weren’t paying attention. She looked at it and told me, “I think I just captured a picture that perfectly epitomizes your marriage.”  In the photo, I’m giving my husband an annoyed look and he’s looking pissed off, his head turned away from mine. What makes the picture great is that even though our body language said, irritated spouse, it also said there was more to that story because both of us were smirking. Neither of us knew the other was smiling since we weren’t facing one another.

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I laughed when I saw the picture because it really DID epitomize our marriage. The love and adoration we have for each other is always there, even if we don’t always let the other one see it.

Sometimes Being a Cob-Rolling Gluttonous Pig is the Best Way to Say I Love You

After the holidays most of us are familiar with the post-celebratory letdown.  The saying goodbye to the  getting together, the laughing, the gaming, the feasting.  The saying hello to the unpacking, the de-tagging, the washing-drying-folding-and-putting-awaying.  The uncomfortable realization that our pants are now one size too tight (or in my case, TWO sizes too tight, since I went into December already a size overboard).

Most people are ready to buckle down, clean up the house and along with it, their diet.  Most people are ready to unfreeze the gym membership, and otherwise pull themselves together.

Not us.  Not this year.

Instead, we’re veering in the opposite direction.  We’re taking a sharp left from the territory of overindulgence to the province of gluttony.  After this trip, I’m confident I will not be able to sausage-stuff myself into my jeans at all.  My thighs may soon each possess a gravitational pull that rivals a small planet.

So, what are we doing?  We’re going to begin taste-testing the 10 best pizzas in Michigan, hitting up three of them in three days, on the first leg of our pizza tour.

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We planned this tour last year based on MLive’s 2013 Top 10 Pizzas’s in Michigan.  Unfortunately, due to health issues I was dealing with  (extreme fatigue, blood sugar issues associated with PCOS), almost exactly one year ago I ended up drastically cutting out wheat from my diet.

In the past year I’ve eaten exactly zero pretzels, cookies, breads or cakes. I’ve eaten pizza three times and have had probably literally a handful of bites of other wheat-flour laden foods.  (I have had a few beers, I will admit – but overall I’m mostly a wine gal these days).  While I haven’t lost any weight, I have noticed a significant improvement in energy and decrease in blood pressure.

When I told my sister, who happens to be a nutritionist, about our 3-day pizza bingeing plan she told me,

“You’re going to feel like shit for, like, a month”.

“Yep,” I nodded, confirming I understood exactly what I was getting myself into.

I am prepared.  Sometimes married couples need to get away and have some fun  – energy levels, thigh circumferences and blood sugar levels be damned.

So we begin.  Let’s go have some married fun, damn it.  We can detox later.

12/28:

“What music do you want to fall asleep to?”

My husband drives, I sleep.

“The White Buffalo”. Our current favorite band. And we were off.

Zzzzzz.

Michigan is in the midst of an ice storm, which we knew was coming, so we picked a location we could get to just before the ice hit.  Our timing was true, about 5 minutes from the hotel the sleet started.  We made a quick trip to Meijer before checking in to get supplies since we knew the only time we would be leaving the hotel was when we braved the storm for the sake of pizza.

supplies

 

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The coffee pot is for my house, but it was such a good deal, I couldn’t pass it up.  Since I’m a suburban-mom-of-two, I was pretty stoked about this exciting start to our trip. Coffee! Coffee!

We checked into the hotel and hit the pool.  I ran laps through the water, while Mr. Grouch swam his.

“Are you just going to run the whole time?”

“Are you just going to swim?”

Mr. Grouch and I discussed how much it would cost to put in addition and an indoor pool in our house because we like to talk in depth about scenarios that have no chance of actually happening.

A mom and two kids, a boy probably around eight and the girl around six, walked into the pool area.  My eyes were drawn immediately to the six year old.  Her eyes were very wide-set.  Her teeth were widely spaced apart. Her ankles were hyper-mobile and her feet splayed slightly outward.

I smiled at her.

“Hi”.

She waved, took off her cover up and put on her goggles.  She stepped to the edge of the pool.

“Jump out!” her mom reminded her.

The girl looked at me and asked, “Ready?” as she gave me the thumbs up signal.

“Ready!” I yelled, giving her a thumbs up in return.

Her brother dove for coins in the deep end while I ran and she swam and we kept going through our thumbs up routine every time she decided it was time to make a leap into the warm water.

“Brianne!” her brother called out, smiling as he showed her that he had captured all of the coins.

Brianne.

I thought of how Brianne looked happy, looked proud of herself for jumping in the pool and doing twists in the water.  I thought of how she confidently asked me, “Ready?”  I hoped that we as society don’t beat those traits out of her.

Because at some point, if it hasn’t started happening already, Brianne will be segregated from the group.  She’ll be separated from her peers and instead of thumbs up and “Ready!” responses from strangers, she’ll likely experience looks of derision.  Looks of pity.  Or worse, people will just look away.

It’s not right.

Brianne deserves to be a part of the group.  She deserves to be confident, happy, proud of who she is.  And we deserve to be graced with the gifts she brings.  Not just as a six year old.  But also as a teen.  As an adult.  The only way this can happen is if people choose to include. Include. Include. Include. Include.  How many of us include people with disabilities in our lives?  Not enough.  I know, it’s hard, because how does that begin?  We need to do a better job connecting those with disabilities with the communities they live in.

Whoa.  The pool wasn’t even that deep.  Time for some wine before dinner.

————————————

Our first stop on our tour was Fricano’s Pizza Tavern in Grand Haven.

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Fricano’s claims to be the oldest pizzeria in Michigan.  Fricano’s is housed in an old home that had been converted into a restaurant and tavern.  It’s the kind of place that has only one menu item, a thin crust 12 inch pizza, that can be topped with up to 6 toppings. It’s the kind of place that only takes cash or check.  It’s the kind of place where the waitresses are women in their fifties and sixties, wearing white sweater sets and sitting at a table in front of the ovens drinking tea in between serving customers. It’s the kind of place that has many regulars, like the 5 year old who sat at the bar with his dad, and before anyone said anything, the bartender apologized to the kid for being out of apple juice.  It’s the kind of place with an unpretentious entrance that looks like this:

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and side-orders that hang from the walls in columns like this:

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The original flair is that Fricano’s cuts all of their pizzas with large scissors instead of pizza cutters. We watched the cook snip, snip, snip, before handing the pie off to our waitress.

We ordered the “Everything But” – all the toppings they offer minus anchovies.  The locals call this the E.B.A.  Even though we were in the middle of a sleet storm, the restaurant continued to fill up while we were there and many stacks of to-go orders were carried out the door.  One guy left with a tall stack that totaled 118.78.

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The pizza was delicious.  The flavor of the sauce and the cheese was phenomenal (the ingredients are a highly-guarded secret), the toppings were fresh.  We scarfed that bad boy down pretty quickly.

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Staring at the empty pan, Mr. Grouch said, “You should time-stamped those photos.  I think it’s only been about 6 minutes”.

“That was delicious”.

“Should we order another one?”

“…”

The waitress walked over, “Can I get you anything else?”

“Yes. Another pizza.  This time well-done”.

As we were waiting we both acknowledged that the half of the pizza we ate had left us pretty satisfied, without feeling overly full.  We were still very excited about the second pizza.

This is why we aren’t skinny.

Note the nice black edges.  The extra-crispy was extra-tasty.

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Fricano’s Verdict:  What they lack in apostrophe, they make up for in flavor.

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This luscious evening ended with a full belly and a book – I read 46% of a book that’s been waiting for me in my Kindle for months. Left Neglected. A friend of mine said the main character reminded her of me, but so far all I’ve gathered that means is that I’m a workaholic who doesn’t spend enough time with her kids or husband whose brain doesn’t work correctly. Hm. It’s a good read though, hoping to finish before going home.

12/29:  

When we planned this trip we assumed we’d be eating leftover pizza for breakfast. However we neglected to consider how truly gluttonous we are that we might not actually have leftovers.  So this morning we had to go get MORE food.  We have a favorite breakfast joint in Grand Haven called Morning Star Cafe. This place is amazing.  They’re known for their delicious cinnamon rolls (which we can vouch from previous experience ARE delish) but we opted out of that this year since we’ve got pizza on the agenda for later.  What you see below is what the not-so-skinny-but-happily-married-couple considers to be a light breakfast:

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Two of the best things this place offers is 1) a full carafe of coffee at the table when you order a cup of joe. They also ask if you’d like a to go coffee when you leave.

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And 2) the best damn hot sauce I’ve tasted.  The food was fantastic without it, but this sauce really put it over the edge. I’m already on the hunt to purchase a case or so of this stuff.  My husband buys his favorite hot sauce in half gallon jugs which I’ve made fun of, until now, since I’m going to start doing the same. We’ll need to clear out some space in order to devote an entire section of the pantry to hot sauce.

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After breakfast I read more of my book (I’m reading a book!  This is vacation indeed!) – and am glad to discover that this workaholic woman is turning into a grateful, open-minded spirit who basically says, “Screw Normal”.

Cheers to that.

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After breakfast we went back to the hotel for more vacation time.  Which pretty much looked like this:

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And consisted of conversation like this:

“Why isn’t Hellen a word?”

“Because Helen is a name?”

“It’s not a name.  It’s a group of people”.

“Oh. Isn’t Hellenic is the word you’re thinking of”.

“No. It’s like American”.

“Yeah…you’d say I’m an American.  So you’re Hellenic”.

“Except I’m not A Hellenic.  I’m A Hellen”.

“I think nowadays you just say you’re Greek”.

“That’s stupid”.

A couple minutes later, “Why isn’t Elven a word?”

“Because elves aren’t real?”

“I’m pretty sure if I put elf, it would take it.  Or unicorn.  Unicorns aren’t real, and I can still play that’.

“That’s true”.

“Thank you!”

“This game is racist”.

“Against Hellenics and Elves?”

Hellens and Elves”.

“Elven should be a word.  I’m pretty sure they use it in Lord of the Rings about a million times”.

After deep conversations like these we hit the pool for a bit before heading to our next pizza joint, Bernie O’s.  Bernie O’s kind of looks like a dump from the outside (which is usually my sort of place) and it looks kind of like a freshly painted neat-ish dump on the inside.  The atmosphere doesn’t have a whole lot of character.  You order at the counter and sit down.  It’s the kind of place that has this vibe:

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So, a touch like a hospital cafeteria vibe.  And then they were a little showy-offey about winning awards the last couple of years, unlike Fricano’s, who let the pizza speak for itself.

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However, the food was nothing at all like hospital food.  We ordered their signature pizza, The Twist, which has apparently launched them into semi-pizza fame of late.  It’s an odd combination of toppings – chicken, bacon, jalapenos, banana peppers, pineapple and ranch dressing.

We took a bite and looked at each other’s reaction.

“Huh,” I said, with a small smile.  I am usually not a fan of pineapple on pizza, but the combination of ingredients surprised me by being much tastier than I anticipated.

“Huh”.

“…huh,” he grinned back.

“Huh,” I stared at the pizza as I chewed.

“It’s good.  Weird, but good”.

“I think that’s the best way to describe this.  Oddly good”.

The couple of pieces were great, but the overall tone of the pizza was a little sweeter than I go for.  However, this place had one huge saving grace – and that is their pizza crust.  Their pizza crust was by far one of the best crusts we’ve ever eaten, it had the perfect crunch to it.

Bernie O’s verdict:  If you love pineapple, this is absolutely the pizza for you.  If not, still go to Bernie O’s for the crust, but get your favorite toppings.  And maybe take it to go.

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On the way back to the hotel, Mr. Grouch says, “Only took an hour, start to finish”.

“That’s because we eat like pigs,” I reminded him.  “We’re a good match,” I added.

“We complement each other.  My awesomeness cancels out your annoyingness,” he chuckled.

“Oh my God,” I rolled my eyes.

“I keep losing weight and you keep gaining weight,” he adds, touching on a sore spot at the moment.

“That’s true”.

“Pretty soon we’re going to be able to share jeans”.

“Oh, shut up!” I admonish him, before reconsidering, “Well, actually, my parents can share jeans,” proving my point about us being as good a match as they are.

“I think we pretty much feel the opposite about everything”.

“We do.  Except the important things.  Like pizza tours”.

 

12/30:  

For our final day of this leg of the pizza tour we woke up and hit the pool one last time before checking out of the hotel.

“Coffee,” I said, as we hopped in the car.

“I know!  We talked about this four times yesterday, about getting coffee on the way”.

I just looked at him.

This is one of those you-have-to-be-married-to-get-this type of conversation.  When something benign like the word “coffee” drives the other person nuts.  After a while, the couples that make it figure out not to take that kind of overreaction personally.

I know we probably did talk about it four times, because my mother and my grandmother do the same thing, so it’s basically in my DNA to repeat the same exact information multiple times, which I completely understand IS annoying.  So I ignore the mini-rant and then he ignores my mini-rant later about how getting road rage is so ridiculous.

“Jesus Christ.  Is he really not going to let me in?  What a dick. I’m going to let in this red truck in too, just to piss him off”.

“Seriously?  How can you get worked up about driving?”

“I don’t get worked up about driving.  I get worked up when people are assholes”.

“People will always be assholes.  It doesn’t do you any good to get all pissed off, just plan on them being assholes and be okay with it”.

“Ah, the red truck turned the other way.  He got lucky”.

This is what a successful marriage looks like folks, getting pissy about coffee and driving and just moving on and leaving the piss behind.

We continued our drive and headed to Harmony Brewing Company for a late beer-and-pizza brunch.

The brewing co. was a small place, pretty cozy and cute.  Our waitress was a lovely little delight who chatted with us about the mlive pizza ranking process (apparently the guys tried pepperoni pizzas at each place they visited, to compare apples to apples, so to speak, along with whatever specialty pizza the staff recommended), and the movie Amelie (she thought I looked like her, and told me I missed out on “a gem of a movie” since I hadn’t seen it).  We talked about dyeing our hair to hide our grays (she was the same age as me) and how we were both Hop Heads, (people who love the hoppiest of beers.  She recommended their Crossroads IPA, and it was fabulous.  It was strong and hoppy, but had a much smoother finish and none of the bitter aftertaste compared to most of the hoppy beers I’ve tried.

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We got The Crispy Pig and a Margherita pizza

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Both were delicious, we both loved the sauce and the toppings.  The meat on the Crispy Pig was spectacular, particularly the prosciutto.  Mr. Grouch really liked the crust, but I didn’t think it was really anything special, it was a thin-crust, not super crunchy, and pretty floury tasting.

We listened to more White Buffalo on the way home and the vacation was over.  Immediately the girls were in our arms (Uppie!), demanding bananas and cups of water and wiping dripping noses on our shirts.  It’s a good thing they are so darn cute and their heads inexplicably smell like cinnamon.  Sniiiiiiiiiiiif. Ahhhhhh.

I managed to unpack the new coffee maker and make a fresh pot of coffee all with one hand, because my arms were full of cute (and highly needy) baby and Pegasus (or Peg-sis).

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Cheers to gluttonous vacations with fantastic husbands.

A few days away is long enough.  After that we start missing the demands for attention and the weight in our arms and the cinnamon-smelling heads.

Cheers to being home.

cheers

 

 

 

 

Marriage: It’s All About Teamwork (With a Dash of Competition)

There’s so much work involved in just pretending to look like being a functional adult, it’s common to feel over-worked and under-appreciated.   There’s a lot of aspects to adult life that really suck.  Taking care of the bills, the trash, the dirty dishes, the piles of laundry. Cleaning up messes, picking up toys, and wiping up spills.  Filling out the never-ending-Godforsaken work forms, the relentless (and often pointless) data collection sheets, the before-work and after-work and lunchtime meetings.  Dealing with the idiot co-workers and the idiot bosses and the idiot customers and doing all of these things without losing your shit.  Day. After. Day.

Being a successful grown-up person requires a crapload of work.  But, being a successful married individual requires even more.

Each person has their own way of doing things and their own viewpoints about what things are high priority and what is completely and utterly unimportant (generally there is an inverse relationship between Partner A’s List of All Things Important compared with Partner B’s).  Negotiating with each other, without compromising your values and sense of self, requires a delicate balance and a lot of alcohol patience.  It’s worth it, though, when we’ve found The One.  Having a companion who we cherish and admire, who loves and adores us right back, flaws and all, is one of the best things on the planet. Out of everyone on this Earth, the one person we most want to appreciate us, and all of our hard work, is our spouse.

Successful Marriage Formula = Love > Annoyance

Successful Marriage Formula = Love > Annoyance

 

Which often leads us to conversations like these:

 

SCENARIO 1: As I’m changing my daughter’s diaper I say to my spouse, “Oh my God, I just got poop on my hand! Quick, hand me a wipe!”

TEAMWORK: Spouse jumps up deftly and passes me a baby wipe faster than you can say, “Ew Ew Ew Ew Ew” five times fast.

COMPETITIVE EDGE:  After handing me the wipe, Spouse casually mentions, “I had WAY more poop on me yesterday morning.  She pooped on me, explosively, when I took off her diaper”.

 

SCENARIO 2: My spouse wakes up in the morning and complains, “I’m so tired”.

TEAMWORK:  I feel badly about the fact that Spouse’s day is already starting out so rough, so I go downstairs and make a protein shake for Spouse to take for breakfast.

COMPETITIVE EDGE:  …but not before I letting Spouse know how much more tired I am first, “I’m soooooo tired.  The kids got up three times and I couldn’t fall back asleep, so I’ve been up since 2:30 a.m.”.

 

SCENARIO 3:  After the birth of our second child (and nine solid months of reflux) I told my spouse, “I’m so glad I don’t have heartburn anymore!”

TEAMWORK:  “Yeah.  Heartburn really sucks,” spouse says, nodding in support.

COMPETITIVE EDGE:  Spouse then adds, “especially when it’s so bad you have to go to the E.R.” (spouse did). “By yourself” (spouse did).  “I know, I feel badly about that,” I concede.  It doesn’t stop there.  “You went out to coffee with your friends” (I did….ok maybe I really met them for a beer. But, shhh don’t tell him). (Spouse’s heart was just fine).

 

SCENARIO 4: A lot of things need to be taken care of in a household.  Yard work. Cleaning.  Finances.  Blah blah blah. Boring stuff that makes you sometimes wish you were a kid again, until you remember that as an adult you can purchase alcohol and no one can stop you from eating nothing but nacho cheese Doritos for dinner, if you really want to.  Adulthood means Freedom!  Unfortunately the road to freedom is paved with endless chores.

TEAMWORK: We each have “our” jobs we do around house.  We divide and conquer, and we do so quite well.  We each have our own things we care about – so that means that everything gets cared for.  For example, I care about the kitchen (dishes put away, counters clean, everything in its place) and the laundry (everything clean and folded and put away each week) and the family fun factor (fun, silly and engaging interactions).  My spouse cares about the finances (long term savings, how much we spend on the electric bill), safety of us and our possessions (doors locked, garage door shut) and the yard.

COMPETITIVE EDGE:  I’m quite sure we subconsciously sabotage each other’s efforts at times,  Spouse leaves 700 (give or take) dirty dishes on the counter directly above the dishwasher each week and always leaves the hand towel on the counter, instead of hanging it back up on the towel rack.  I leave the lights on, in every room, you can retrace my path by following the lit bulbs. Spouse insists (wrongly) that watching television is an interactive event.  I spend hundreds of dollars over budget on frivolous things, then complain that I don’t make enough money. He leaves his folded laundry piled up on the folding table until it reaches the ceiling.  I may or may not sometimes leave the front door unlocked (and possibly gaping open).  This type of subversive competition is the ultimate test of marriage strength: can we, as a couple, deal with the other’s laxity without cracking?

 

SCENARIO 5:  At a certain point in a marriage, there are no secrets left.  Personal grooming that used to happen behind closed doors becomes more of a shared experience.  Over time, people just get more comfortable with one another. And, at least for people like us, we also tend to get more hairy.

TEAMWORK:  One spouse shaves the other’s neck, and back, and fields the question, “Is my back getting really hairy?” with, “Oh, it doesn’t matter”.  One spouse plucks the other’s eyebrow(s).  One spouse gets pregnant and the other needs to help shave her legs ….and stuff…that can no longer be reached. One spouse clogs every drain with the constant shedding of Chewbacca-like tresses, while the other spouse cleans the clogs out on a regular basis.

COMPETITIVE EDGE:  No solid couple can resist letting the other know, “Your moustache needs to be waxed”, or “Your eyebrows are starting to connect to your back hair”.

 

The ultimate measure of a good marriage is whether or not you love the person you are united with more than you are annoyed by them.  If you happen to have that much affection for the one you spend almost all of your personal time with, you are really a lucky duck.  I’m one of those luckies.

 
“I love you”, my spouse always says.  So naturally my usual reply is, “I love you more”.

 

 

Marriage:  It takes teamwork. And, apparently, an underlying competitive edge.

Marriage: It takes teamwork. And, apparently, an underlying competitive edge.

 

You know I want to hear your marriage teamwork/competition scenarios. Let me hear ’em!

We’re Full of Bull

My daughters come from a long line of strong-willed individuals.  Before they were born Mr. Grouch and I wondered what our kids would look like, or what they would be interested in, but one thing we knew for sure.  They’d be headstrong.  Our girls have aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents, and, lucky for them, great-grandparents too, who are full of strength, who say to themselves, “I will be brave, I will not give up, I will not be stopped”, and who say to others, “I will be heard, I will follow my dreams, I will not be knocked down”.  There is wicked strength within each individual and we, as a family, are a formidable force when our energy is corralled in the same direction. An unstoppable herd.

We are bulls.

Toddler Grouch is at the age where her bullheadedness can sometimes be frustrating.   Like when she won’t put on her shoes, or brush her teeth, even when I say to her, “C’mon girl, we’ve gotta go!  We can’t be late!”  When she digs her heels in, asserting her independence and demonstrating her strong will, sometimes I call her my Little Bull. I place my hands by my ears, point my fingers up like horns, while I huff and shuffle my feet on the floor.  She laughs and mimics the gestures, repeating the phrase, “C’mon, Little Bull!”   Even when she doesn’t listen right away or when she blatantly disobeys, and I have to pull out my discipliny-mama voice, I’m secretly proud that she’s hard-nosed. There’s a lot of positive attributes to being a bull.

Mr. Grouch and I are both bovine in nature, both of us capable of being bullish to the max.  Our individual ability to persist, to push on, to persevere has, for the most part, served us both well, and when we join forces, we are unstoppable.  But, with any strength, comes complementing weakness. Bulls can lack grace. Bulls sometimes charge into situations, with their eyes on the prize, not thinking about the damage they may be inflicting upon anything in their periphery, with their bucking and banging, incapable of slowing themselves down. They can have difficulty seeing something from someone else’s perspective, seeing only the path that leads them towards their own passions. Bulls can be ornery and selfish. When Mr. Grouch and I are heading in opposite directions, the results can be brutal. We charge and we crash and when we’re back on track again, we have to sort through the debris, putting together the pieces that we unceremoniously smashed to smithereens.

As a family unit, we can not all be bulls. At least, not all at the same time.  Four bulls in a house, all traveling down their own paths, means inevitable, even if inadvertent, trampling, wrecking emotional havoc and/or physical destruction.  At any given moment, one of us needs to balance some of that brute force with a bit of softness.

So, how do we do that?  How does a bull not act like a bull?  Neither one of us can dramatically change who we are, but sometimes we can temporarily morph.  We fill ourselves up, taking in all of the happiness and joy and light-heartedness that comes along with being happily married, and rearing young children.  We swell with parent-pride, and transform ourselves into beings that are a little more graceful, a little lighter on our feet, with a little more bounce in our steps.  Figurative bulloons, if you will. Kinder, stretched-out-smooth, versions of ourselves that make it easier to wipe off the shit-storms that emerge in marriage and parenthood, allowing us to more easily clear away unpleasantness and filth with a simple swipe, instead of allowing it to fester, stuck in our fur.  Our bulloon selves are gentle to the touch, are buoyant enough to rise above our usual space of constant clamor, and are highly unlikely to cause any damage, even if we are to ricochet around the room.  It works, for a while, until we deflate, landing on the ground with a thud, the floorboards creaking under our weight.  Back to our regular punchy selves, we charge into action in our typical fashion until we need to fill ourselves up once again.

Spouses: If They’re Really Good At One Thing, They Really Suck At Something Else

English: A male and a female holding hands.

When we first fall in love, we notice only the admirable qualities our partner possesses. Mother Nature has watched many a fool, in the beginning stages of a relationship, believe they have found True Perfection, and she has laughed her ass off each and every time at such naiveté. True Perfection in human character is nothing more than a fond illusion; for every superior quality, an equally superb flaw exists.  Though it may take some time for these blemishes to reach the surface, there is no avoiding the inevitable pus-filled Character Defect Outbreak in the end.  There are no exceptions to this rule.  There are no exceptions to this rule.  (Did you hear that, self? I’m talking to you, too). Mother Nature is both a giving nurturer and also a cruel beast.  

A random sampling of examples exhibiting what one can be good at, and simultaneously royally sucking at, can be found below:

Can spend two hours maneuvering a chainsaw and chopping down a 30 foot tree, ensuring it falls safely away from the house, but cannot spend 4 minutes chopping an onion or green pepper to help prepare fajitas for dinner.

Can take apart and reassemble a car engine, a vacuum cleaner or a laptop computer, but can not take apart and reassemble the rice cooker in the kitchen or the toilet paper roll holder in the bathroom.

Can scrape the paint from the exterior siding of an entire house, yet can not manage to scrape the price stickers off of birthday or holiday gifts before giving them to the recipient.

Can notice a speck of dust on the mantle, or a wisp of spider web in the upper reaches of a tray ceiling, but can not notice when the soles of their socks are held together by only 7 interconnected threads, or that their eyebrow hairs are extending beyond their face and inching towards their ears.

Can figure out a way to budget and put away money into multiple savings accounts, stocks and 401k’s, can implement projects which save the company at work at millions of dollars, but can not figure out how your bi-monthly hair cut and color can possibly fit into the family budget (meanwhile 37 sports package add-ons can be added to the cable bill).

Can understand complicated instruction manuals (even the ones from IKEA) and could navigate to safety if lost in the woods with only a map and a compass, or perhaps even armed only with a mental image of the constellations and a view of the night sky, but can not figure out which type of medicine could possibly be taken to remedy a headache or a stuffy nose. Tylenol Cold and Flu?  Sinutab? Mirilax? It’s SO CONFUSING.

Can sit stealthily up in a blind for hours on end, not disturbing a squirrel, ladybug, or any other living thing, with the hopes of hunting down a deer, but can not eat a bowl of cereal in the kitchen without sounding like they are chewing on a bowl of gravel, and the grinding echoing through the house.

Can remember every relative’s birthday, every family member’s doctor and dental appointment dates for the entire year, and can remember what your second cousin George’s ex-girlfriend-from-7-years-ago’s cat’s name was, but can not remember to turn off a light switch. In any room, hallway or closet in the house. Or garage. Ever.

Can bathe, suction snot out of noses, clip fingernails and read educational books to the kids, while simultaneously cooking dinner, doing 4 loads of laundry and mopping the floors, but can not talk, speak or listen while applying mascara.

Can work out six days per week, can be capable of performing yoga hand stands and running marathons, but can not open a jar of pickles or a screw top beer without assistance.

Can excel at cooking, gardening and sewing but can not manage to find common ground with your mother, who excels at cooking, gardening and sewing.

Can use alarms and timers and careful planning to be punctual for every appointment and event on the calendar, but can not manage to remember that there is meatloaf in the oven or noodle casserole on the stove top that needs to be stirred until after it can be smelled burning.

What does your spouse do well….and not so well?

If you liked this post you may also like  10 Key Pointers For Picking A Mate and  Ten Tips For Sustaining A Long-Lasting Marriage

10 Tips For Sustaining A Long-Lasting Marriage

During the honeymoon phase, relationships are easy. They are all adventure and excitement and newness.  But as the years wear on, the excitement dies down and reality sets in.  Here are some tips to ensure that you are giving your spouse what he or she needs, so the two of you can make it for the long haul.

1. Schedule your sexy time. Instead of silly, immature, impromptu sexcapades, ask your spouse if they want to have sex at 7pm on Tuesday. On. The. Dot. Everyone appreciates it when time is carved out just for them. However if they arrive any later than 7.15, withhold sex acts of any kind. No one likes to be stood up for a date. When they try to make a move, pull out your day planner and have them reschedule.

2.  Announce every time you’re going to the bathroom. The old, “Honey, I’ve gotta take a crap” routine never gets old, and everyone appreciates a truly open an honest relationship

3.  Help each other remove excess hair. Shave your man’s back, or help wax your lady’s upper lip.  A bit of southern landscaping may or may not be needed, from time to time.  Everyone appreciates when their significant other makes them feel attractive.

4.  Sleep with the television on all night. But, only if your spouse prefers silent, inky darkness. It’s good to help them broaden their horizons.

5.  Eat the last of the Chocolate Moose Tracks.  Or whatever favorite treat your spouse enjoys. Everyone wants someone to help them stay in shape. Tip:  This is especially true during/after pregnancy.

6.  Pretend to be asleep when you hear your child wake up.  Do NOT get up, no matter how long it takes your spouse to finally get up and tend to the child, because everyone appreciates being able to spend some extra quality time with their kid.

7.  Provide a counter-argument for every stance your spouse takes. Parenting. Politics. Religion. Pantry organization. No subject is too big or too small to stand up to spousal scrutiny. Your spouse will either gain negotiating skills or become so beaten down that he or she will go to great lengths to avoid a debate with you. Either way, it’s a win.

8.  Ask for things. A glass of water. A slice of bread with peanut butter on it. Help doing any task your spouse routinely does independently, such as carrying the baby AND the diaper bag, simultaneously. It’s good to help your spouse feel needed and capable. Bonus: If you ask for that water when you’re both upstairs in bed, you’ll also be helping them tone their quads and glutes by trudging up and down the stairs.

9. Ogle attractive strangers. Stare at your waitress as she walks away, eyeball your kids soccer coach, demand to watch a movie because your favorite on screen lover plays the lead role. This is a tough love tactic. No one wants to be taken for granted, so reminders that your spouse isn’t the only fish in the sea are sometimes needed.

10.  Answer questions with mirror questions. “What do you want for dinner?”  “What do you want?” , “What is the name of that show with the chainsaw murderer who works at the daycare?” “What is that show called?” The only communication tip better than this one is giving an answer to a completely different question than the one asked. “What do you want for dinner?”  “I heard about this high protein shake mix that you drink right after a workout that’s supposed to help build muscles 82 times faster than normal”.  By utilizing one of these communication modes you’re sure to engage your partner and avoid any awkward silent moments.

What other tips would you recommend?

If you liked this post you may also enjoy 10 Key Pointers For Picking A Mate and A Special Fart. One I View Lovingly.

A couple of 14-carat gold wedding rings. Pictu...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Angry is Easier

In 8th or 9th grade, I remember a light switch going off.  Click.  I was no longer the goofy, somewhat naively happy teen who thought making silly faces was hilarious and who loved sports more than anything.  Suddenly I was angry.   I was angry with society and I was angry with my parents and I was angry with my friends.

I remember getting mad at a friend of mine over something stupid, and I hit her in the head with my notebook at school.  As hard as a spiral notebook full of lined paper could ever be hit at someone.  And I hurt her, probably more emotionally than physically, but either way, we didn’t talk much after that day.  I walked around like a husk of myself, hollow inside, feeling cold and empty and not knowing who the hell this person was who was such an asshole.  I’d like to say this was the only asshole move I’ve ever made, but that would be a lie.  I still feel badly about that day.

Usually my friends were left relatively unscathed, but my dad got the brunt of it. He was an easy target.  My pent-up emotions needed an outlet.  Teenagers tend not to choose healthy outlets and I was no exception.  Why actually deal with my emotions when it was SO EASY to just release them by starting a fight?  YELLING SCREAMING PUNCHING.  As a teacher now I see students do this to their parents and their other teachers.  I’ve even heard some of them tell me they do this on purpose, and I marvel at their self-awareness.  I didn’t realize what I was doing at the time, because I was too busy screaming and yelling and punching.

But, every time I got angry with any of the people I loved, and lashed out at them, I got angry with myself.

Because I wasn’t even really angry to begin with.

I was sad.

Looking back, it is clear that I was clinically depressed, not at my all time lowest low, but my first lowest low and not too far off from the all time record.  But, who admits being sad?  Especially if there wasn’t a reason?  Sad is weak.  Angry is strong.  A strong voice.  A strong punch.

Many, many, years later, my husband’s best friend, who he had known practically since birth, died in a horrific motorcycle accident.  He was wearing his helmet, but wearing a helmet doesn’t save you when your wheels skid on some gravel and you end up sliding into oncoming traffic and get dragged to pieces by a semi-truck. Other than high school this was the most angry I’ve ever been at someone.

Yes, I was angry at my husband’s dead best friend. I was angry at him for dying.

“DIDN’T YOU KNOW WHAT THIS WOULD DO TO HIM?! YOU DID!  SO WHY THE FUCK WEREN’T YOU MORE CAREFUL?”  Why the fuck weren’t you more careful!  LOOK WHAT YOU DID TO HIM!   A broken record of yelling inside my head.  For a year.

At this point I was old enough to realize this wasn’t rational, but that didn’t change how I felt.  I was selfishly angry at this happy, carefree, kind, now-dead boy because I knew my husband would forever have a hole in his heart in the shape of his friend.

But bloody hell, I’m 34 years old.  I think I heard somewhere that I’m supposed to be an adult by now.  And adults don’t do that.  Well, okay, some do.  But not the adults I would like to be like someday, when I grow up.

And angry isn’t strong.  Angry is weak.  Angry is selfish.  Angry isn’t even ACCURATE.  It’s just there because it’s easier.  It’s lazy.  I know from experience that if I act angry enough, then I am sure to be left alone and can continue to avoid the real problem for as long as possible. It’s easier to be angry and mean and lash out and push away than it is to deal with my problems, my fears, my out of whack hormones.

So today, 7 years after the motorcycle accident, I’ll admit it.  I’m sad. And instead of yelling and punching, I’ll make silly faces and go to yoga and give those around me a hug.  7th grade me knew what life was all about.

20130512_220026 (2b

 

If you enjoyed this post you might also like The Accidental Marathoner and   Depression is Analogous to Treading Water

10 Key Pointers For Picking A Mate

How to pick a mate – from the fairer sex perspective.

1)  Pick someone bigger than you.  It doesn’t matter what size you are, it matters how big you are compared to the person next to you. If  you are 4′ 8″  and 79 lbs, you pick someone who’s at least 5′ 2″ and you’re good.  If you’re 6′ 3″ and 330 lbs, go for the 6’5″, 440 pounder.  If you aren’t sure if your choice meets the criteria for being enough bigger than you, refer to the spousal proportionality index (I’m sure it can be found on Google).

2)  Pick someone who looks like they could be related to you.  Just because it seems to work out well, usually.  Bonus:  This same rule applies to picking out pets!  Ignore this rule if you hate your family.  Then pick someone with exactly opposite features.  You have big, round eyes?  Pick someone squinty.  You have darker skin?  Pick someone who burns after 4.3 seconds of Sun exposure.  Hate communicating with your mother?  Pick an English language learner.  You get the idea.

3)  The hairier the better.  Even if you are a hairy brute, if you pick someone with 342 hairs per square inch more than you have, you’ll look delicate in comparison.  You will, however, have to invest in laser hair removal for your children, in lieu of a college fund.

Notice how my ooly warms appear relatively  dainty?  This is how you do it.

Notice how my wooly arms appear relatively dainty? This is how you do it.

4)  You need one nag.  There has to be one person who cares passionately about the lights being turned off, the counter tops being cleared, and the organization of the shoe rack.  Passionately!  If we do not all pair up to ensure this 1-1 nag ratio, the Earth would implode while simultaneously being taken over by an evil cat dictator.  At least, that’s the general idea I’m getting, based on Mr. Grouch’s feelings towards lights, counter tops and shoe racks.

5)  Pick a boozer who isn’t too much of a boozer.  You don’t want someone who doesn’t like to drink.  That’s boring.  But, you also don’t want someone who’s going to ruin the office Christmas party by signing photocopies of their ass and stuffing them in the decorative stockings on the walls, either.  Helpful Hint:  If you can find someone who truly drinks socially, as in 1-2 drinks max, then you’ll always have a designated driver.

6)  Pick someone who will let you complain.  You need someone to vent to about your stupid job, to side with you when you get pissed off at your stupid cousin, and someone to lean on when your stupid dog dies.

7) Pick someone who will tell you to shut up.  You don’t want to become some bitter, self-righteous harpy.  Even when your cousin is an asshole, or your cat chokes on a hairball (his, yours, or your mate’s) and bites the dust.  You need a kick in the pants every once in a while to regain some grace and put things in perspective.

8)  Make sure you can put up with their most annoying habits.  Because they aren’t going to go away.  The snoring and the loud chewing and the good morning farts will actually increase in intensity 20-fold. At least.  Learn to deal, or get out now, before your ear drums burst from the sound of Honey Nut Cheerios being munched, or you’re suffocated by cockcrow fumes.

9)  Pick someone whose family members you don’t want to punch in the mouth.  I mean, sometimes you will want to give a quick little sucker punch.  Pow. But, to be fair, you also want to give a little tap to members of your own family from time to time.  In some ways your in-laws will never really understand you, but in other ways you will be closer to them than your own blood.  Even though they are not yours by ancestry, they are now yours by proximity.  Don’t foolishly think they will go away – relatives love to stick nearby one another and drive each other batshit crazy, until the day they die.

10) Pick someone who gives you your space.  In the honeymoon stage all you want to do is cuddle and kiss and pet each other.  Once you’re over that sweet little hump you’re still going to enjoy spending quality time together, but you’ll no longer be willing to give up your weekly coffee dates with your friends, book club meetings (aka wine drinking and laugh-fests) and you are absolutely not going to want his foot to touch yours when you’re sleeping.  Trust me.  I have never understood how a King sized bed is the largest bed they make. There is so not enough space for two people who have been together for more than one year.

Any other tips for long-term couplings?

Couples at square dance, McIntosh County, Okla...

Couples at square dance, McIntosh County, Oklahoma (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

Parenting: Reasons to Panic #2: The Sleeping Newborn

I have vivid memories of Mr. Grouch, in his college apartment, during muggy summer months.  I can picture him, stripped down to his whitie tighties, sprawled across his twin bed, with the oscillating fan one centimeter from his toes, the soggy air leaving him too lethargic to move. A sexy, sweaty, beast.  The two of us are different in so many ways but in this way we are oh so much the same.  Wait, not in the sweaty beast way.  Well, actually, yes, in the sweaty beast kind of way.  What I mean is, neither one of our bodies can adequately handle the oppressive heat of July, August, September.  Our air conditioning runs on high all summer long and we keep our home chilled enough to be able to walk around the house in jeans and hoodies.  We do not like to be sweaty beasts.

So, when Baby Grouch was born, in the fierceness that is August, as ridiculous as it seems, we felt the need to put a little heater in her bedroom.  You turn on the heater, and then set it to the appropriate temperature, which, in our case, was around 71 degrees, and it has it’s own internal thermostat.  At the time of this episode, Baby Grouch was a couple of months old and was sleeping 3-4 hours at a stretch.

The first night she slept for 6 hours, I woke up, in a panic.  I got that surge of adrenaline that I had become so accustomed to, every time she woke me with her squeaks and squawks, but this time it was because she was quiet.

IS SHE OKAY?

Shrouded with the fear of sudden infant death syndrome, I hurried to her room, and opened the door and a wave of heat hit me in the face.

Then the REAL panic started.

OMG OMG OMG IT’S TOO HOT OMG OMG OMG I COOKED MY BABY OMG OMG GREATER RISK FOR SIDS WHEN IT’S TOO HOT OMG OMG I COOKED MY BABY “HUN! GET UP! THE BABY’S TOO HOT. TOOO HOOOOTTT!”

I was screaming and yelling and flipped on all the lights; I opened the windows and took Baby Grouch from her crib and removed her from the sweltering room and laid her in the hallway all the while still yelling panicked nonsense at my husband.  I unswaddled her and took her teeny tiny body out of the sack.  My heart was pounding out of my ears.  Just because she feels warm right now, doesn’t mean she’s okay.

She opened her eyes.

OMG OMG OMG “SHE’S OKAY!  SHE’S OKAY!”  I’m still screaming. Out loud, not just in my head.

This all happened within a matter of seconds and Mr. Grouch wasn’t even out of bed yet.  Er…he may or may not have been laying in bed, watching me silently while giving me the, you’re-such-a-freaking-crazy-hormonal-wife-I-don’t-even-know-what-to-do-with-you-right-now look.  He said calmly, “I think you forgot to set the thermostat on the heater”.  Indeed, I did.  It was over 80 degrees in that bedroom (probably 20 degrees warmer than the rest of the house) and for weeks I was sick about it.

Looking back, I think about that college apartment in the summer and how we didn’t have central air.  I realize that many people, in summer months, allow their houses to reach heinously high temperatures (and some even enjoy it.  What??).  Some of them probably even have babies that sleep there with them, that are okay.

What panicky sleep stories do you have of your newborn?

Still Sleeping