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From the “Vicarious Traveling” Travelogue

15 Jul

blog imag swedish fish

Friends went to Sweden which means that parts of me also went to Sweden (my mind as well as my inner tall, blonde, multilingual, weirdfish-eating self).

My favorite part of the trip was returning home and attempting to incorporate the concept of “fika” into my life.  “Fika” is a daily Swedish coffee break except coffee is not required and it often lasts for over an hour.  It is time spent socializing, unwinding and having a not insubstantial nosh.  A sort of high tea but with lots more umlauts.  A respite, but with dried fish included- like surströmming or tatami I washi.  (Thank YOU Wikipedia!)

Imagine if employers in the US authorized an afternoon break with food and friends and World Cup bonding and such.  They would be just like the unauthorized breaks we take in the morning now, except those can sometimes feel edgy as people really seem to want coffee with the half and half that was right in the breakroom refrigerator as of 5PM yesterday.

Then imagine a job where folks stand around the water cooler while holding ceramic mugs talking about non work-related things like reality tv, sports or standardized testing and know that I would no longer be working there by now (assuming that I passed the background check).  I like people but I hate prolonged small talk.  Who am I kidding?  I hate chit-chat of any duration.  Even if it means avoiding work.

I do appreciate the spirit of fika though, as I believe that we all need to individually reassess and relax a little during the middle of the day or possibly earlier in the day or most of the day, even.  Some would call that being “underemployed” but I’m going to go with dreamer/fika.

When I told Spouse that we would begin fika-ing ourselves silly during the middle of the day while The Boy was at school, he may have misunderstood.

Next day, he showed up for our first fika bearing gifts of champagne, chocolate and a Lyle Lovett CD (don’t ask).

And when I busted out the knäckebröd and lärtsoppa och pannkakor, he didn’t say much either which is everything you could want in a fika.

With lingonberries on the side.

Dear Spouse: before you met me I was a philosophy major.

5 Jun

blog image rem

A lawnmower that runs for only 10 minutes (or until it catches fire) is actually the universe’s way of  encouraging you to: take small moments for yourself (and spend them with gaskets and sprockets and wrenches and such); to let go of the desire to “fix this once and for all” while knowing that there can be only one once and no other once but sometimes you might have a “one night only, manager’s special” kind of thing, and, also, to enjoy the spectacle that is life’s rich pageant.

That and I spent all the money we saved for a new lawnmower on downloads like R.E.M.’s 1986 album titled “Lifes Rich Pageant,” and some disco-era stuff by the Stones.

(Don’t be mad.)

Rubber Stamps (Volume One)

13 Jun

blog image super pinky

Marriage is work.

Sometimes you just need a break from the daily participation of being married yet still want to be present in your relationship while, simultaneously, you have grown weary of hearing yourself repeat the same things.

For those times, I present a collection of rubber stamps designed specifically to improve communication by saving both time and oxygen.  Available on Etsy (Holiday 2013) and includes the following:

“I’m sorry.”

“You’re right.”

“I was hungry when I said that.”

“It’s only _______.”  (Fill in with relevant word(s) such as: money, a new roof, a minor dent, the weather, what I’ve been yelling about for the past three weeks, etc.)

“I was thirsty when I said that.”

“NO, I don’t want to go to the ________ concert.”  (I’m thinking Esperanza Spalding at Tanglewood but feel free to insert your own.  You can ask me over and over, every day from now until Sunday, August 4, and I’m still going to say no.  Hence the rubber stamp.)

“Are you kidding me?”

“I love ________.”  (Sure, you can go for the obvious, but who doesn’t appreciate a quirky fill-in-the-blank?  Examples include: wooden roller coasters, high heels, oatmeal, knishes, a belly laugh, Pinky balls and Mark Rothko’s No.  61.)

“Quirky is overrated.”  (Case in point: Zooey Deschanel.)

and

“I was tired when I said that too.”

(Available Mother’s Day 2014: the “I Hate You Too” Collection and the “My Purse Is Like My Vagina: Stay Out And There’s No Money In It Anyway” Series.)

An old-timer walks into the grocery store…

29 May

photo(6)

…and, upon seeing you, wags her finger.

This can’t be good.  (Old timers in these parts are known for being forthright.  And loud.  It’s like they yell about everything– even a NICE DAY loses some of its JOY when you’re being yelled at about how lovely the LILACS smell.)

So, imagine Spouse’s surprise when, instead of hearing how the Boy is overdue for a haircut or that the country is being handed over to the Socialists, the old-timer merely shakes her finger and tells him that his gardens “look beautiful.”  (Side note: while both thoughts are somewhat true, I hardly call tweaking immigration policy so that young children can receive an education “handing over” the Constitution.  Plus the Boy looks nice when he is shaggy.  Also, the minute I tell him that he needs a haircut, he’ll decide to grow his hair in protest of the lack of expansive immigration reform.  Just watch.)

Anyway, at least she didn’t yell about the gardens.

Now back to me.  Because while I may have been away for a week or two, the world has not stopped revolving.  Even I know that.  However, if the world is still revolving, make no mistake: it’s revolving around me.  (And Bono.)

Don’t you think that in deference to all my hard work on my hands and knees with icy, numb fingers and achy, cold knees, don’t you think that Spouse was obliged to respond with something like: “Oh, yeah, my wife does all of that.   She plants tons of bulbs in the fall as I sit and watch slow-moving, plotless indie movies (“Wendy and Lucy”) while eating chips and other salty snacks right off my belly.  She’ll spend hours scouring bulb catalogs and plotting color schemes, studying the paintings of Renoir and Rothko to find a certain shade of poppy red or flax blue as I stretch out in front of the wood stove and nap (also on my belly).  She’s an awesome little thing, isn’t she?  She looks so fine and grows flowers- I truly don’t deserve her.”

Don’t you think he should have said something like that?  And LOUDLY.

No.

He said “thanks” and then brought home a bunch of items that weren’t even on the list.

Oh, I had some finger wagging of my own to do.

And, as an old-timer in training, I may have yelled.

Life’s Essential Hardware

8 May

blog image vitamix blender

Because life can be difficult to navigate, make sure you have at least one or two of the following in your survival kit:

earbuds:  they don’t even have to be connected to anything as we have become so used to people saying “what?” we rarely speak anything profound on the first round.  I usually start with a throw-away like “how’s it going?” and then transition into “your foundation doesn’t match the rest of your skin and so your face looks like it’s made of plastic.  You’re welcome.”

Earbuds are also useful while at the gym- as long as there are cords hanging from your ears you don’t have to speak to anyone and, if like me you are determined to learn a new language, you will appear smart and fit as you repeat French phrases aloud while rowing.  Or is it Rueing?  (Ah, my first French pun!  Je suis wicked awesome.)

wristwatch:  I think some people (mostly nurses) use this to tell time if they cannot find their cellphone and a resting pulse is needed.  Also a useful prop when you need to disengage from an in-person conversation because your once mellow resting pulse has been elevated by a close-talker and/or Jehova’s Witness and serenity must be restored now.

cellphone: a camera/music/internet device that also makes phone calls when absolutely necessary.  (Define necessary, then define absolutely.  Then know that I will never call.  Ever.)  Conversely, once you have a cellphone, people can find you.  Any time.  And they will.  Technology is a two-way street, my friend.

computer, laptop, tablet: another music/internet device that, in addition to above, displays bigger pictures of kittens, cute babies and cake box recipes from friends of people who I sort of know.

Vitamix blender: that resting pulse isn’t going to lower itself; a healthy diet is important.  Besides, the Vitamix is the only blender with a motor powerful enough to grind left over chocolate Easter bunnies and ice into a delicious smoothie.  A delicious, nerve-calming, endorphin releasing tonic.  (Fruit is certainly an option but why would you when Bailey’s contains both calcium and whiskey?)

electric car windows: see April 24, 2013 but know that the basic premise is closing the window to avoid conversation while deflecting blame.

hammer, scissors, duct tape and beer: because Spouse says he will fix it and he means to fix it but, next thing you know, three years have passed and living with a busted armrest is a way of life.  The hammer, scissors and duct tape will hold it together.

The beer is for him.

He married a shrew.

A shrew who rarely needs to rest her arms anyway.  What?  I’m Serena Williams now?

And it’s not like I go around waving all friendly-like at people.  Ever.

Why would I do that?

DO NOT Judge A Book By Its Cover (go by weight instead)

4 Apr

blog image stephen king

Boy, my recent library selections have been disappointing.

Having finished Stephen King’s “11/22/63,” I found myself asking: “Why would anyone invite Mr. (or Mrs.) King over for dinner up there in Bangor (Derry), Maine or wherever the heck it is that they live?”

First of all: while there aren’t that many people in Maine to begin with, do you really want to have the Kings over?

Between the two of them, they have written more words than all the residents of Bangor, Maine combined, including the collective speeches of all nine City Councilors.  (I love Wikipedia.)  I imagine that the Kings (with all their verbiage and sentences and things) could monopolize an entire evening utilizing witty banter alone and then who, exactly, would be listening to me?

Second, “11/22/63” is simply too long.  How can one be expected to sit at a dinner party with the author and not say something like “did you even pause to read it or did you just keep typing until your tendons wore out?” (A classier version of “do you get paid by the word, or what?”  because, after all, this is still a dinner party.  (In my mind.)  Ayup.)

Maybe the book felt sluggish because I read the large print version which made it even longer (and heavier).

Hey- before you judge- the large print version was already downstairs in the new fiction section and, while I’m willing to totally abandon bedtime for a good yarn, I’m not about to strain my eyes (or climb stairs) for a book that is too long (and too heavy.)

Would Stephen King strain his eyes to read “Fresh Air and Sarcasm?”  He doesn’t even have the decency to invite me to a dinner party.  (In my mind.)

Bonus: large print books allow you to utter sentences like: “Really, I knew by page 450, that this book wasn’t working but I thought maybe it would right itself in the remaining 500 or so pages.”

(Most geeks will quickly note that you are a person of great substance and stamina because you read nearly 1000 pages.  That, or they consider you a person “with lots of spare time who should consider gainful employment.”)

But enough about Spouse.

He sure can whine, though, the Spouse.  He just goes on and on.

As does Richard Russo’s memoir, “Elsewhere.”

Reading “Elsewhere” is the literary version of watching a Sundance Channel movie.  Sure, it’s free, but hours later you find yourself agitated and ashamed because while you were somehow able to find time to watch an aimless and dreary video, you can’t ever seem to get around to alphabetizing the spices or dusting things.  (Example: “Wendy and Lucy” starring Michelle Williams).

In “Elsewhere,” Richard Russo, local hero/escapee, discusses his non-traditional maternal relationship in an actual published book and, when finished, all I can think is: “you think that’s crazy?  You should see my Russian relatives drink chilled vodka until they sing songs of the motherland while chasing skunks with two by fours.  (Now they were some crazy women.)

Yet eternal optimism allows me to believe that a plot, something to care about, will always emerge.

Of course, if you’ve read this far, you know that is not always true.

You Dirty Rat

28 Mar

blog image ratatouille

To:  Spouse

From:  Management

Subject:  Dried Fruit Policy

When you spill dried blueberries on the floor and then, say, answer a ringing phone, or gaze out the window, what happens is this: your attention gets diverted from the dried blueberries on the floor long enough so that when you resume whatever it was you were doing before you spilled the dried blueberries on the floor, the blueberries have become a distant memory of “having at one time spilled” or “a nagging, unformed thought” that remain, in reality, dried blueberries scattered all over the floor, everywhere.

Now, those of you who have seen dried blueberries spilled on a floor are probably already aware of how dried blueberries on a floor look like rat turds in a corner.

Which is how, while searching the pantry for a Tagalong (or three), I came to screaming my head off amidst a mountain of scat. 

Convinced that we had Pixar’s “Ratatouille” (minus the cuteness and cooking skills) running rampant throughout the house, I yelled and yelled until I became weary.  Then I had two thoughts:

a movie about a gourmet restaurant with an animated rat running the kitchen- how did that even get made?

And secondly-

“I bet The Boy is eating in his room.  All those nights when he put spoons under his pillow because the teachers at school said that that’s how you get a snow day- he was probably eating yogurt with those spoons.”

Blueberry yogurt.”

“Blueberry Greek yogurt.”  (I’m not sure why I added the Greek part but it sounds ominous.)

“What if the house is now crawling with rats and we have to move and our house is condemned and we end up in the gutter?

Where there are even more rats.  Plus squirrels and rusty cans and things!

What then?  How could this happen?”

I screamed for as long as I could and as loud as I could.  (Answer: pretty long and very loud.)

I hollered right up until Spouse said “and so I guess I just forgot.”

Then it got quiet.  Eerily quiet.

So quiet and so still.

And I was so tired and so drained.

We had no choice but to go out for dinner.

We may even have to go out for dinner again tomorrow.

Effective immediately, new dried fruit policy: you spill it, you clean it and I pick the restaurant.

cc: Boy.

Spelling Kounts

6 Dec

blog image typewriter

The Boy, like Jesus, was born in December.  (And while this Boy’s mother admits to being present for the conception, that doesn’t mean she liked it.)

As I have written many times here at FA&S, a marriage is a team.  It takes a small village- one to do stuff and another to tell the doer how he did things wrong.  And how he spent too much money doing it.

Where I am weak, Spouse is strong.  (Mostly I get the vapors when it’s time to take out the garbage but I have also had moments of being too feeble to go pick up the Chinese food.)  And where he is weak, I am mighty and not shy about letting everyone know it.  Like right now, for example.

Which brings me to the heart of this week’s FA&S: Spouse cannot spell.  He is an outstanding non-verbal communicator (sigh) and a fabulous lecturer (today’s topic: “Why would anyone use an awl to open a paint can?  Of course you’re going to get hurt.”)  Also he is very good at bandaging things.

But spelling?  I am Deputy Mayor of Spelling in our marital village.  (And Chief Clerk of Capital Letters).

Back to Jesus.  I seriously doubt that Mary, the mother of Jesus, gave birth and then spell-checked Jesus’ name because Joseph was going off to process all the paperwork.

And I bet that Joseph never asked Mary how to spell “spoon.”  He’s not that kind of guy.  He’d rather sound it out and attempt to woo his woman by inviting her on a cruise this Joon while hoping that a midnight chocolate buffet makes up for any literary deficiencies he may have.

And Mary, saint that she is, would let it slide.

But what if the village messed up?  Suppose the village idiots were in charge that day?  Who’s to say that Moses was not supposed to be called “Mesos?”  It could have happened, prove me wrong.

What I’m saying, Boy, is this: a birth certificate is a piece of paper- one of thousands of pieces of paper that you will lock in a fire-proof box and schlep from one apartment to the next as you go about your life pausing occasionally to wonder how the person in the passport picture was so skinny then and why that person never took her bad self to a foreign land to meet an exotic, swarthy man capable of spelling both “exotic” and “swarthy?”  A man who can stop a misspelled word before it becomes a bureaucratic nightmare?

A piece of paper doesn’t make who you are.  But a typo, that’s with you for life.  (Don’t look at me- I was very tired what with the giving birth and all.)

So Happy Birthday, 7lb. 4oz. BABY B-Y-O.

You’ll always be Boy to me.

The “F” Word

13 Jun

My husband said it (again).  And he said it knowing that I would overhear.

And react.

Why, why do I let him manipulate me so?

(And why do I sound like a 1940’s forlorn movie ingenue?  Never mind; we know that I adore sounding like a 1940’s movie ingenue.  The forlorn part is a bonus.)

He said that our house was “filthy.”

Not “messy” (check), not “cluttered” (check plus), not even “in need of a good once over.”

Had he actually said that our house was in need of a good once over, I could at least enjoy making fun of him while being angry: at what level do the “overs” stop?  Why not a twice or a thrice over?  (I love the word “thrice”- so underutilized, I almost wish he had said “once over.”)

Our house is many things including a source of never-ending food for the boy and his friends.  (How does it get there and why can’t the fairies ever remember to put the caffeine-free Cokes in the fridge?  I’d hate the boy but right now I’m too busy being mad at his dad.)

There is one thing, however, that my house is not.  Ever.  And that is filthy.  Public restrooms are sometimes filthy.  (I say sometimes because I once had a positive experience in a Penn Station restroom that, consequently, negated my right to generalize.)

My house is not a train station lavatory.  As the only female in the house, feline included, I will admit that there are moments when the bathroom is less than daisy fresh.

But “filthy?”  An entire house?  Based on what?

Ah, the heart of the matter.

For every “F” thought he has, for every “F” word he espouses, I counter with the “G” word.

“G.”  As in German.

The very genetics that make him insist on being early for being early for any event- have you any idea how mortifying it is to be, not only the first guests to arrive at a dinner party, but also the guests who ask at what time the party will terminate?

Those genes are responsible for his liberal and unwarranted use of the “F” word.

His heritage made him drop the “F” bomb.

It’s horrible.  And it works.

Because before I posted this, I finished a hands-and-knees cleaning of the laundry room floor.  I found five dollars and three guitar picks.

And I’m just mad enough to clean the kitchen too.

I.R.S. (I Rock. Sincerely.)

11 Apr

With April 15th or, “How Was I Supposed to Know That I Have to Save EVERY Piece of Paper Marked “Important- Tax Document Enclosed” Day?” upon us, now is when I recall certain traits about my spouse that I have deliberately forgotten about for the entire previous year.

Honesty and precision.  While appreciated at almost any time of year, creating a spreadsheet that references color-coded receipts, bills, and forms and stuff does not make him appear smart or organized or competent (well, maybe it does.  But it definitely does not make him look FUN.)   Since when is showing up with last year’s muscle car wall calendar, some post its and a giant brown envelope considered “woefully unprepared?” And who, besides spouse, would use “woefully unprepared” in a sentence and expect to have sex (with me) ever again?

P.S. You either get muscle cars or you don’t.  (1970 Chevelle SS 396, my friends.)

In taxes, as in life, I prefer a grey zone where black and white are blended and finances, likes notes on a Telecaster, are for bending into what I call “Creative Accounting.”  (A concept I invented while at unemployment counseling.  Well, maybe I didn’t invent it, but I did think of copyrighting the idea and combining it with a lunch truck- “Eat and Cheat.”)  For our first lesson in Creative Accounting, let’s discuss Paul Newman cookies.

Paul Newman was a great actor (and race car driver) whose line of gourmet foods sold at prices higher than similar Food King brand items with the extra cost donated to charity.  Which means that every time I drizzled Honey French dressing on my salad or scarfed a package of chocolate chip cookies (often within minutes of each other) I too, was being philanthropic and, am therefore, entitled to a deduction.

So why, then, when I show up at the tax appointment with two packages of delicious cream-filled deductions, does my husband look at me as if I have lost my mind?

Incidentally, looking at me as if I have lost my mind is another trait that my spouse has.  The reason that I haven’t forgotten about it over the past year is because he does it every day.

I suppose some of you consider April 15th an opportunity to spend time with spouse, Fran the Tax Man and a 1040 EZ form (another oxymoron brought to you by the Internal Revenue Service.)  I also see April 15th as an opportunity to spend time with spouse, Fran the Tax Man and the IRS.  I just don’t see it as positive time spent together.  And I like Fran the Tax Man.

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