Monthly Archives: February 2006

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After reading my previous post, Paul said he thought I’d been a bit excessive in extolling his virtues (and besides, he’s been getting a lot of flack at work for the Jane Austen thing.) Therefore, in the interests of complete honesty, I am obliged to inform you of the following Paul-related facts:

~He has five or six jokes that he especially likes, and tells them whenever we meet someone new. I am contractually bound to laugh each and every time.

~He snores–and it sounds like an entire kindergarten class learning to play the bagpipes.

~He uses the corner of our bedroom as a dumping ground for old software boxes, computer parts, user manuals, scratched CDs, and assorted Guy Crud. Every so often the crud migrates across the room, forcing me to employ the move-it-or-lose-it-in-a-giant-silicon-fueled-bonfire ultimatum.

~It takes him twenty minutes to make a Scrabble move.

~Like many men, he has a vision problem. He can’t see dirt. This pretty much renders him unable to mop floors, dust, or wipe down countertops. (I believe this ailment is closely tied to the auditory disability that prevents men from hearing a baby cry in the middle of the night.)

~He always forgets when I’m on a diet, and invariably brings home some gooey, chocolate-y, caramel-covered concoction that I am unable to resist with the puny power of my feeble human will.

(Oh, who am I kidding? I love him for that last one.)

Top Ten of Paul

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On the first afternoon I ever spent with Paul, we sat and talked for hours, hidden in the branches of a magnolia tree next to the sidewalk that led to the campus library. We had bumped into each other between classes and climbed the tree on a lark. The leaves shaded us, the breeze blew, and sitting in the dappled fall sunlight with a friend was entirely more enticing than facing an hour and a half of economic history in a dark lecture hall. Every now and then, someone we knew would walk by, and we’d call out to them, laughing at how long it took them to think of looking up before they would find us, wave, and walk away chuckling and shaking their heads. Classes came and went, the sun crawled across the sky, and still we sat up in that tree, discussing life (at least as much of it as we had seen in our some-teen years), the secrets of the universe, and the emotional reverberations of Sting’s latest CD, reveling in the sparks of recognition that leapt between us as fast as words could carry them.

Too silly to recognize a good thing when I saw it, it took me several more months and a mismatched boyfriend or two to realize that the sweet and funny guy who really listened when I talked might just be what I was looking for all along.

Two years of long walks, long talks, and long kisses later, we got married.

If you know Paul, you probably already know how wonderful he is. He loves God and life and people. He’s a courageous, honorable man, a loving, considerate husband, and a fun, involved dad. He’s nearly impossible not to like.

If you don’t know Paul, I want to tell you what you’re missing, and why I smile whenever I see a magnolia tree. Here, in no particular order, are ten of the many reasons I’m glad to be walking next to him.

1. He makes me laugh. The other day we were watching a romantic comedy together when I piped up, “That guy may be good-looking, but just watch–she’s going to choose the funny guy. Women always go for the funny guy over the hot guy.”

“Oh, is that what you did?” he teased.

“Of course not!” I protested, “I got both!”

If laughter helps you live longer, then I’m going to be immortal. Paul keeps me laughing–at the absurdities of life, at the silliness of people, even at my own mistakes. Tears and laughter go together at our house, and it makes the traveling easier, whatever the road may look like.

2. He can talk to anyone. Last summer, after a family picnic at the city park, we walked along the lake and stopped to let the kids play at the playground. On our way back to the car, we passed a group of guys playing hacky sack on the wide, green lawn. Before I knew it, Paul had jumped into the circle and was kicking and tossing and chatting as if he’d been there all along. Another time, at a restaurant, he walked up to a table of people and told them a joke he’d just heard, causing a riot of laughter before he sauntered back to our seats, a cheesy grin on his face. He recommends software to other shoppers at the electronics store, he starts up conversations when he’s waiting in lines, he asks questions of strangers and always gets answers. Everywhere we go, Paul seems to meet people. I think they’re as enchanted as I am by his open manner and his friendly confidence.

3. He “buys my chairs.” It’s one of my favorite scenes in the movie Phenomenon. Robert Duvall’s character, Doc, is talking to Banes, a man who’s having trouble with his woman:

Doc: Banes… how’s your lady love?
Banes: We… um… we broke up.
Doc: Really? That’s too bad, yeah. Now George has a love at his side and she is sticking with him. You know why? Because he bought her chairs. That’s pretty smart to me. You ever buy Lisa’s chairs?
Banes: Doc’s real drunk tonight.
Doc: Every woman has her chair, something she needs to put herself into, Banes. You ever figure out what Lisa’s chairs were and buy ’em?

Paul buys my chairs. Whatever passion lights up my heart, whatever goal I decide to pursue, he is always right there with me, encouraging me and celebrating me and valuing my dreams no less dearly than his own. He doesn’t just support my scrapbooking habit; he lingers over my pages and thanks me for preserving our family’s memories. He doesn’t just read my writing; he soaks it in and talks to me about it and encourages me to share it. He believes in me, in whatever I’m doing, and the warmth of that belief sustains me even when I fail.

4. His kung fu is strong. My cherished geek. I can’t overemphasize how valuable it is to have someone around who speaks Computer fluently. Paul is a great human/electronics translator. He explains to me, in very simple English, why the computer is not properly running my word processing program under its current configuration. He then explains to the computer, in ones and zeros, how close I am to throwing it out of the window. An agreement is reached. No one is harmed. Life goes on.

5. He is committed to us. Several years ago, our marriage ran off the road and into a big ditch. We’d had flat tires before, but this was nearly a total. When the world finally stopped spinning, we looked around to assess the damage. That day, we decided that the only way to go was forward, and so we did. It wasn’t easy in that dark time, but minute by minute, day by day, slowly at first and with God’s strength holding us up, we rediscovered the joy of being together, of pulling in the same direction. Over the months that followed, witnessing Paul’s open heart, his patience, his vulnerability, his determination, his honesty, I grew to appreciate the man I married more than ever. It’s been a lot of work, but we are back on the highway, speeding along at sixty with the windows down and the wind blowing through our hair, laughing and playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. I can’t wait to see where the road leads!

6. He does all those “guy” things. I know, I know. In the age of feminism, it’s not cool to admit this, but I really like having a guy around to take care of those day-to-day things I’d rather not handle myself: killing spiders, opening jars, moving furniture, changing tires, hanging pictures, taking out the trash, car maintenance, and the like. Fortunately, Paul completely accepts my sexist demands.

7. He does a great orangutan impression. Really. In fact, back when we were involved in youth ministry, the kids at the events could often be heard chanting “Mon-KEY, mon-KEY, mon-KEY” in an effort to coax Paul into bringing out the ape. He would run all bandy-legged around the room, loose-boned and slack jawed, clapping his hands over his head and picking imaginary bugs out of people’s hair. He usually ended by leaping wildly off of a chair or other platform to the roar of applause and whistles. He’d perform at the least provocation, at least until the night his final leap ended in him lying on the floor with a sprained back. After the embarrassment of explaining “the orangutan” to the E.R. personnel, he retired the monkey, putting him away to be brought out only on special occasions like birthday parties and trips to the zoo. I guess even simians have to make some concessions to their thirties.

8. He likes Jane Austen. Sears has a softer side, and so does my man. To the envy of all my friends, Paul doesn’t groan when I return from the video store with Elizabethtown instead of Lethal Weapon IV. On our movie nights, we effortlessly mix buddy cops with debutantes, Jet Li with Emma Thompson, and exploding warheads with explosive social commentary. He especially appreciates the lively dialogue and gentle satire of Jane Austen. Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Mansfield Park are all favorites at our house, and after I finally saw the newer cinematic version of Pride and Prejudice this week, we shared a great discussion about the differences between it and our much loved A&E adaptation.

Oh, my. I hope this revelation doesn’t damage his reputation as a grunting, scratching, mouth breathing Neanderthal. I mean, he still watches boxing.

9. He is the best company. I’d rather spend the day with Paul than with anyone else I know. Time with him is sure to be filled with laughter, intelligent conversation, good food, and sweet, quiet moments of perfect understanding. I love taking road trips together, the longer the better, feeling the hours stretch while the landscape passes by and the talk spins out long and leisurely in comfortable companionship. And if we stop for ice cream, well.

10. “Just because.” Paul knows the power of “just because.” It’s the reason he calls me from work to tell me that he loves me (oh, and that Apple Computer is adopting the use of Intel processors, just in case I wanted to know.) It’s the reason he stops at Chevron on the way home to fill up my 52-ounce Big Gulp cup with Diet Coke. It’s the reason he offers me a backrub at the end of a hard day and sends me to the coffee shop to relax with a good book while he spends time with the kids. It’s the reason he leaves me notes jotted on napkins, priceless ephemera of the connection between two hearts. Yes, grand gestures are nice–a trip to Europe, a diamond pendant, a dozen roses–but in the end, it’s really all the little things, the “just because” moments, that tell me I am always with him in his thoughts, and paint the picture of a life that’s so much richer than it would be without him in it.

***

100 Things I Like

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sleeping in
Superbowl parties
science fiction
kissing
movie previews
tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches
girls night out
hearing from an old friend
making lists
scrapbooking all night
Willie Ford
slumber parties
leftovers
a Southern accent
pumpkin-scented candles (especially Yankee candles)
Diet Coke—and lots of it
my big, soft, grey V-neck sweater
Christmas music in November
thong undies
trying new foods
cheap home decorating ideas
the first snowfall
Bath & Body Works Warm Vanilla Sugar body spray
a professional massage
a crisper full of fresh produce (and the word “crisper”!)
fantasy football
sweater weather
love notes
camp outs
Breyers Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
bubble baths
my library card
home Bible studies
road trips
children’s books
movie marathons
hot dates with my honey
rain on the roof
X-Files
hiking
writing
living in the beautiful Northwest—clear lakes and green mountains
cargo pants
Starbucks Caramel Frappucino
the ocean
Katie’s Living Room Dance Party
“Big Red”—my 52 oz. Extreme Gulp cup
email
clean, soft sheets
playing with my kids
the smell of Paul’s neck
dressing up
boats
photos all over the walls
Nerts
dandelion bouquets from tiny hands—the sweetest gift
motorcycles
Third Day
urban hiking
pogey bait
Cyber Green VW Bug
organizing stuff
shopping on the day after Thanksgiving
Caleb’s out-of-control laugh
my cell phone
white gold & diamonds
rollercoasters
street markets
“just because”
live theater
the cool side of the pillow
bike rides
Jane Austen
snow skiing
huggers
fresh fruits & veggies
hand-me-downs
daisies
swinging really high
Katie’s compassionate heart
prayer—anytime, anywhere
singing out loud in the car
handmade gifts
windy days
my live-in computer expert
thunderstorms
long walks, long talks
bendy straws
getting a great bargain
family gathered around the table
horseback riding
the silver lining
finding exactly the right words
Sunday afternoon naps
a clean home
craft stores
Random Acts of Kindness
feeling beautiful
laughter through tears

* and, oh yeah, bacon–crispy strips of sizzling hot bacon with the slightest hint of sweet maple syrup flavor, laid out next to a fluffy buttered biscuit and two eggs, scrambled

100 Things That Bug Me

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VPL: visible panty line
Teletubbies
flat soda
misplacing things
looking forward to the last brownie only to find that someone else ate it first
inconsiderate drivers
those 5 pounds that sneak up behind me and attach themselves to my butt when I’m not looking
holes in my socks
body odor
pop-up ads
being misunderstood
dropping food on my shirt
icy roads
cold floor on bare feet in the morning
brussel sprouts
running out of cell phone minutes
mean people
the crack in my windshield
granny panties
telemarketers
losing at Scrabble
spam email
waiting in line
graffiti
interruptions on the phone
hair in the drain
constant sniffing
dry skin
fast food wrappers in the car
overflowing trash can
too tight jeans
the chores that never end: dishes and laundry
ants in the house, making a little trail across the floor
guilt trips
clipping nails in public
smog
dog drool (I can’t watch Turner & Hooch, Beethoven, or Cujo–in fact, I can’t think of a single dog movie that I do like…)
dirty windows
junk mail
not saying thank you
balancing the checkbook
MTV
taking a knee
disorganization
disappearing pens
vinyl car seats in the hot summer
dishonesty
turbulence
The Teeny-Tiny Teacher (Have you ever had to read this book out loud? Teeny-tiny torture.)
do-nothing hair
dial-up internet service
saying “nucular” instead of “nuclear”
zits
buying something and finding it for less somewhere else
spoiled milk
credit card interest
broken promises
jogging
rap music
carpet stains
gossip
spiders
hoochy dolls
political smear campaigns
mold in the refrigerator
one-uppers
finding out there’s no toilet paper after I’ve already peed
bad customer service
cynical people
feminine product commercials
parents yelling at their kids in public
borrowers who don’t return things
dusting
skimpy clothes on little girls
seeing litter when I’m out hiking
one bathroom for 4 people
stepping in gum
morning breath
bias in the media
cursing
running late
throwing up
infomercials
nights where you wake up fifteen times for no reason
clutter
forgetting things, especially people’s names (the Diet Coke is eating my brain!)
bad tippers
cigarette smoke
razor stubble
whining (this list doesn’t count!)
thinking of a good retort—a day too late
dirty fingernails
dead car battery
teenage “soap opera” shows
counting calories
getting my order wrong at the drive-thru
false advertising
popcorn kernels in my teeth
wearing pantyhose
lame lists masquerading as blog posts (just kidding!)

Twenties, Where Did You Go?

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Official evidence that I am Getting Old:

I caught the last twenty minutes of the movie Reality Bites on T.V. yesterday. As Ethan Hawke wound up his existential angst-ridden performance as the quintessential soul-searching street philosopher (a role with which I was enraptured, as I recall, in the early nineties), all I could think was, “What a slacker.”

Please pass me my AARP membership card.

Saving the World, One Piece of Cake at a Time

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Apparently, superheroes don’t learn complete control over their powers until well into adulthood. I should know, because we had half a dozen superheroes of the four-feet-and-under variety running around our apartment this weekend, and they almost brought the Hall of Justice crashing down with all of their indiscriminate laser beam shooting, reckless flying, and accidental misuse of super strength.

Yes, we survived Birthday Party Time again, and, the super-exuberance of gamma-irradiated and mutant party attendees notwithstanding, a great time was had by all.

The downside of having two children with birthdays less than two weeks apart is the effort and expense of planning two separate parties so close together. The perk is that, once in a while, you can get away with planning one party for both of them, as we did this year. Thanks to The Incredibles and a beloved computer game called Freedom Force, Katie and Caleb are both into superheroes at the moment, so choosing a party theme was a no-brainer. After all, what kid doesn’t dream about having super powers and a secret identity*?

To start off, each guest was given a superhero design sheet to aid them in choosing their super powers, designing their cape logo, and deciding on a cool superhero name (very important if you don’t want the other heroes to make fun of you and sprinkle powdered Kryptonite in your gym shorts.) The list of possible powers included flying, invisibility, super hearing, and deadly garlic breath, among others**. Then they were given capes, masks, and fabric markers and left to the pivotal task of every superhero: creating their costumes. Fifteen minutes later, our two-bedroom apartment was filled to the brim with C-Strike, Super Girl, and their justice-seeking friends! (According to local building codes, our apartment has an MSC*** rating of 6, so we kept it small.)

The first test of the new supers was–what else?–to apprehend and subdue an evil villain. We just happened to have two villains on hand: The Mom-inator and Teacher Creature. Their list of crimes against humanity is long, including such offenses as serving green things for dinner and callously demanding that homework be turned in on time. Fortunately, our heroes prevailed and, in no time at all, had them tied to their chairs with Charmin Invincible Binding Strips (motto: Holds forever, or until it gets wet!)

With their arch-nemeses out of the way, the gang then turned to their next pressing task: ridding the apartment of those twin Diet-Busters, Cake and Ice Cream. Let’s just say that they really threw themselves into the job.

Did you know that sugar gives you Super Speed?

*I know that when I was in first grade, my friends and I waged an ongoing playground battle between the forces of evil and our valiant band of heroes, the Amazing Girls. The Amazing Girls, bringers of justice and truth to the universe of Sweet Bee Elementary School (I’m not making this up), were led by yours truly, the beautiful and powerful Snowball. In retrospect, I realize that Snowball was a name more fit for a kitten than for the commander of an elite force of supernatural do-gooders, but give me a break–I was only six.)

** As the moms stood around and watched, we came up with several super powers that we wanted to see on our list:
-ability to stop time
-“who did it” detection
-bathroom privacy forcefield
-road trip utility belt
(Maybe we should renegotiate our contracts…)

*** Maximum Superhero Capacity

Kinky

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You know, not too long ago in American history, women actually used to leave the house in curlers. You could see them at the grocery store, heads encased in hermetically sealed plastic caps, nodding to their neighbors while they did their shopping, as if enslaving your hair on tightly wound rods of pink and green and then carrying it around town running errands was entirely normal. And I guess it was, then. The last time I saw a set of curlers was at a garage sale. It was sitting forlornly on a card table with a price that had been marked down several times and come to rest at ten cents, with no takers in sight. Maybe if it had still had its plastic cap…

Fortunately, the time of hair-related opression has passed. The sixties galvanized Americans and raised their consciousness, waking them up to the quandary of public curler wearing and motivating them to put their best scientists to work in the name of improved grooming technology. Long live the curling iron!

I’ve had a lifelong love affair with curly hair. Even a terrible encounter in college with a home perm gone awry* did little to dampen my affection for sproingy locks. For a year and a half, while I waited for it to grow out, I was the human equivalent of a poodle. My friends gave my hair its own nickname** and teased me about losing things in it (just because of that one time I couldn’t find my keys!)

Most photo evidence of the crime has been eliminated, but I did manage to dig up these two shots:


Not too pretty, is it? You’d think it would be an effective deterrent against future hair-altering procedures. And yet, just this week, I went under the curling rods again. It took two and a half hours of combing and rolling and reading People magazine while perming solution dripped coldly down my neck, but in the end, my flat-as-a-pancake hair was once more sporting spirals.

I’m happy to report that this time, thanks to those hardworking hair care scientists and my stylist friend, Pat, I don’t look the slightest bit like a poodle.

And I know where my keys are.

*Rule #1: Any lasting cosmetic procedure performed in a dorm room by eighteen year olds should be viewed with extreme skepticism–particularly if the participants are being distracted from the process by a rebroadcast of Top Gun on TBS.

** Simba, the Untamed

VIP Parking

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I just got back from the grocery store. A man in a giant SUV waited nearly ten minutes for my parking space. Granted, it was a good spot, the first one in the row as you exit the store, but ten minutes? He pulled up just behind me as I walked to my car with two grocery carts heaped full of bags and then sat there with his turn signal on, defying anyone to honk at him or try to usurp the little piece of land he’d claimed for his own. He waited while I found my keys, unbuckled Caleb, zipped up his coat, maneuvered him into his car seat, buckled him back in, found him a toy to play with, unloaded bag after bag after bag into my trunk from both shopping carts (carefully avoiding smushing the smushables or breaking the breakables), rearranged a few bags so the last one would fit, and walked first one and then the other cart back into the store.

The crazy thing is that a space just five cars down from me sat visibly open for the entire time Primo Parking Guy was waiting. 40 feet. He could have walked five feet a minute and made it to the entrance faster than he did by waiting on me. I didn’t even look up at him, for fear of meeting his eyes and coming face to face with whatever madness obviously lay within.

I was sorely tempted, after I finally got into the car, to sit there and balance my checkbook, file my nails, and maybe start next month’s shopping list, but I didn’t. Frankly, my car insurance isn’t that great.