Happy birthday to you, and to many years more!
You say it’s just a day, no need for decor,
but I say let’s eat some cake (and then let’s eat some more!),
because why not celebrate the man I adore?
While we should never take for granted those we would die for,
we know those fairy tale scenarios are nothing but lore.
So when given then chance to do something more,
I say take it. Go crazy. Buy presents galore.
Today I celebrate you, a man kind in his core,
a man bearded and brawny, one I only have eyes for.
Cheers to a man who always opens my door,
who shows it’s our family that he looks out for.
Hip! Hip! to the man who works, and then works some more,
hammer, shovel, mow, plumb, wage dandelion war.
Bang, sand, lift, hold, surf the internet shore,
for another rental house you’re in the market for.
So just in case you’re not sure, I must really implore
you to notice there’s so much I give you credit for,
and when push comes to shove, it’s you I go to bat for.
It’s with you, and just you, this Earth I want to explore.
So today I celebrate. I shout, “You’re top drawer!”
Do you hear me? You listening? Hello? Ten four?
You’re stuck with me forever, until we’re at death’s door,
And each year on this day HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I’ll roar.
The amount you get on my nerves, I love you that much, times four,
You complement me, do things well, that I deplore.
You turn off lights, double-check that I locked the front door.
You calculate, and invest, to make sure we won’t end up too poor.
Even when you constantly tell me to shut the pantry drawer,
or make other such comments you know I abhor,
know that loving you still is never a chore,
and always remember, I love you more.
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.
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”.
You know I want to hear your marriage teamwork/competition scenarios. Let me hear ’em!
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.
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.
My dad is pretty awesome. Happy Father’s Day, Pa! Love ya.
1. Eat healthfully. Have an apple a day. Don’t eat just to eat. Enjoy cottage cheese as a delicious protein-punched snack. Except also love pizza. And love it with a passion.
2. Make smart financial decisions. Don’t overspend. Save, save, save. And then save some more. I didn’t follow this advice so well, however I did marry my husband, and he does this, so I count it as a win for myself.
3. Be creative. My dad once created this elaborate hoax where he and my younger sister “kidnapped” the neighbor’s Santa Claus around Christmas-time. He wrote ransom letters and thought he was really helping the family nextdoor get into the holiday spirit. Turns out, he actually traumatized those poor children, who thought Santa was in danger and that they weren’t getting any presents. It still makes me laugh out loud when I think about this.
4. Have incredibly large eyebrows. Ok, eyebroW. Black one(s). This one wasn’t so much a lesson learned, but more of a genetic characteristic. A very bountiful one.
5. Love your spouse. My dad writes my mom little love notes and draws her pictures and writes her poems to tell her how much he adores her. He’s been doing this now, for over half of his life. It’s beautiful.
6. Love your family. Even your children or your wife or your siblings, when they are assholes going through a rough patch. Maybe especially then.
7. Get pissed off about things. And act, for about 1 minute, like these things are the most important thing on the planet. Especially if they’re not. This doesn’t only come from my dad, I come from a long line of people who get pissed off over things. Countertops. Lights. Carpets. I don’t get pissed off so much over those things, but definitely over others and I think sometimes the “passion” over countertops and lights and carpets comes across much more strongly than it is really felt.
7. Be committed. Not to a mental hospital. Well, yes, if you need one. But, that’s not what I mean. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you are going to be married, be faithful. If you are working with others, be honest. Don’t do anything half-assed.
8. Have at least a little bit of fear of getting Alzheimer’s. And, maybe the gene. We won’t really know for sure for a while now, but we know it runs in the family. The good news is, we know how to love creatively, and how to save, and how to get pissed off, and how to remain committed, despite the pissing and moaning. So, we should be okay.
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.
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.
Mr. Grouch and I met in 1997, my freshman year of college, his sophomore year. It didn’t take long for me to fall head over heels. At 18 years old, I knew he’d probably be the one I married, but we were young and foolish and we used to drive each other batshit crazy. We broke up a few times and after 4 years of mostly-together-but-a-little-apart, we thought we might have broken up for good. We were separated for 3 1/2 years before getting back together for ever-ever.
Within The Hiatus, we each dated other people. I briefly kept company with a guy we’ll call Featherweight. Featherweight and I decided to go camping for a weekend, and visit my friend Nic, who was in the middle of a months long hiking adventure on the Appalachian Trail. I called Nic the day before we left so we would know his exact location on the trail.
Before hanging up, I asked him, “Have you seen any bears?” I was expecting him to say no.
Nic is a tall, lanky blonde, who was dirty and smelly and scruffy from months of hiking along the trail. He also pilfered 3 rolls of toilet paper – by unrolling them by hand – from the stalls at Applebees when we took him there at the end of the trip. The look on his mangy bearded face was priceless when we pointed out that we could have just given him several rolls we brought. But, that is completely irrelevant to the story. Back to the phone call.
Apparently only one day earlier, he had been walking briskly, arms swinging, with his 40 lb. pack on his back. He was listening to music and was so comfortable on the trail that he was paying more attention to his thoughts than the scenery, until he noticed a dark image out of the corner of his eye. He turned his head to the left, threw his arms up and let out an “Ahhhh!” when he realized there was a large brown bear standing at close proximity. He discovered that bears take loud yelling, accompanied with raised arms, to be an aggressive posture. He told me, “Everything you learn about what to do when you come across a bear goes out the window. I just started running”.
Nic started trotting down the trail and the bear started galloping after him. A couple of trail runners were jogging in the opposite direction, and when they saw this chase, they turned around and started running the other way. Three people in a row, sprinting as a brown bear followed. Eventually the bear swiped at Nic’s pack and then stopped the chase.
Remember, this was the day before we were going to meet him on the trail. My panicking-about-bears problem was born.
So Featherweight and I start hiking on the “trail”. You can’t follow the Appalachian Trail by looking down at your feet because there aren’t clear paths worn away by walkers. In order to make sure you stay on the trail, you have to look for white swipes of paint, called blazes, on the trees. You scan to the left and to the right and when you see a blaze, you know to walk in that direction. Then you scan again and search for the next blaze. This is what they look like:
After 3 miles of walking, Featherweight and I realize we had been walking in the wrong direction. Crap. We turned around and after 6 miles of hiking, we were back at the beginning. The beginning of the end. We were now going to arrive later than we thought, and later in the day meant closer to darkness and I now knew that darkness was full of bears.
I started walking faster. It started getting darker. I started walking FASTER. Featherweight started lagging behind. Featherweight started whining about his pack being too heavy. Featherweight started whining about night-blindness and was all “I can’t see any of the blazes”. Featherweight started whining about me going to fast.
I stared at him incredulously. Darkness. Blindness. Bears. This is when I knew for sure he wasn’t the one. The proverbial straw on the camel’s back, if you will. I will not be slowed down and potentially end up lost in the woods, in the dark, with bears. I. Will. Not. Be. Slowed. Down. Even though Mr. Grouch and I never went camping, I knew if I needed him to keep up, he would. He wouldn’t let me get eaten by a bear. Even if he was tired, and hungry and couldn’t see, he’d at least protect me by making sure to keep up, you see?
Needless to say the camping experience with Featherweight was tense and awkward and we were so clearly OVER. I advise all couples to put themselves in a few stressful situations before picking a mate, otherwise you might not realize you’re dating a Featherweight until it’s too late.
Mr. Grouch and I are now older and we still drive each other batshit crazy. But, he can keep up with me, which makes him a keeper.