Them big ‘ol Door Knockers

Three years ago, we finally got the addition to our house complete, giving us an actual dining room. I know. The little luxuries in life. Sort of like having a bathroom with a toilet. Big dreams do actually come true.

After the beams were sanded, the wood lacquered and the glass doors hung, we started having what in our household is lovingly called by my six-year old, ‘an issue.’ It has to do with the handles on the doors.

What? You say. I know, I know. The doors were purposefully ordered sans handles on so we could choose later. Thirty-six months ‘later,’ we are still no closer to having an aparatus to open and close the darn things. Instead, the doors either stay open or are pulled shut. Why bother have a nice set of iron grips when guests and relatives can look at the grimy fingerprints from top to bottom, accurately reflecting the size of dad, mom, and two ever-growing daughters?

It’s like our will. We don’t have one. Well, not technically or legally in the eyes of the law. When we were last flying to Nevada in the single engine, the wind was bouncing us around like popcorn in a popper when I rapid-fire texted my sister what I wrote to be my last will and testament. It wasn’t a proud moment. Yet each and every time me and Rog start to talk about it, he gets all hung up on the word ‘the’ and it never gets to a completed sentence. Inevitably, I give up the discussion, acidly pointing out that he’d rather have all our crap go to probate for the state of Washington than actually choosing where to send our children and our money.

Same problem with the handles, seriously. Do we get cowboy handles (horses) simply patriotic (stars) or florence (decorative). Thick (like the wood beams) or thin (like the doors). Color–don’t get us started, rusted/burnt iron, black or brown. Angles? Twisted iron or straight. Funny enough, all of the options cost about the same…roughly $100 US. No big deal. I’ll skip the meal on Saturday night to pay for it.

“What about knockers?” he suggested. What the… I was speechless. Right, Those big-A round things that belong on the Dracula’s front door. Sure. That’s just my style. How about the gun handle that I found. Both are equally offensive, don’t you think?

In the meantime, I’ll be working away, using my non-door handles to close the door, thereby keeping my non-will safe and sound within. But rest assured, when we do get the will done, I’ll be sure to identify who gets the door handles.

Rejection Advice? I’ll Pass

Never liked being rejected and I never will. At least age has brought with it a thicker skin, so the inevitable stings I feel are now more like ant bites instead of a wasp; they only hurt for a hour instead of three days and aren’t accompanied by a large welt the size of an acorn.

“Aren’t author’s supposed to have thicker skins?” So asked my dearest. No more so than a president think Clinton), an actress (think Kidman) or baseball (think Aaron). I share a kindred spirit with this people as well have all admitted to wanting to be liked, and take criticism rather hard.

It brought me back to the first days of rejection…not being asked to dance at the sock-hops in 7th grade. I was too tall, lanky, buck-teeth didn’t really help, nor the freckles that looked like dirt after a really poor wash-job. Or, it might have been my bigger, older brother always lurking in the shadows like the ghost of Christmas future, should a blind boy have asked me to the floor. The horrid feeling displayed itself later, as I grew in to a different, better physical body. Even then, no one asked me to dance, but I was told it was for a different reason–the boys were afraid of rejection. Thus it was that my father wisely told me to ‘never reject a boy,’ he said. ‘He’s drummed up all the courage to ask you. The least you could do is be polite. It’s five minutes of your life.”

Wise man. I took his words to heart, and never did reject a guy that asked me to dance. Ever.

Sadly, life is not so kind. Worse, in the last 14 years (since I got myself a built-in dance partner), the mode and words of rejection has digressed to a pitiful state. It’s no longer ‘no thanks,’ but the curt ‘I’ll pass.”

I was first introduced to this lovely phrase in my early twenties at a technology start-up. It was a commonly used phrase for venture capitalists to use when turning down in an invitation to invest in a firm. As in, you send a business proposal, and instead of a ‘thanks for submitting, yadee yadee yada’ it was “I’ll pass.” No hello or goodbye. Same with the media. I’d pitch an idea for an article and the no was a “I’ll pass,” if they responded at all.

Over time, I got used to the two-word blow off. It was a part of the business culture, and eventually found it’s way abroad. Now even the formerly ultra-polite English and French use it (albiet both at least start and end the I’ll pass with a “Dear Sarah” and “Sincerely,…”

Just last week,  received a rejection on behalf of a family friend, who wrote a book, I submitted it to my agent in the hopes he’d get picked up. Here was her comment:

Hi Sarah,
I took a quick look and it’s a pass for me. The writing didn’t win me over.

At last she had the decency to say Hi, let me know she read it, and then provided an explanation. Now that’s courtesy, right?

Alas, I must tell you this phrase, so normal in the business world (yet still lacking a bit of diplomacy) has new leeched itself in to the average, workday life of many people whom I would otherwise consider polite. There are times not to blow off a person using the phrase, “I’ll pass.”

I’ll give you one example. A friend asked me to attend one of those in-home sales events. You know kind–where it’s one step above Tupperware, except the food is better but the goods are more expensive? It wasn’t plastic (the X rated nor the storage), but a clothing gig. I didn’t want to at all. It was far away, I was going to feel obligated to go. I went, out of respect for the friendship, spending $200 in the process. Two weeks later, I returned the favor by asking the same friend to attend an author event with me. We’d get to meet the author, I had free tickets, the food was going to be good. Instead of calling me back, or even texting, I get this email, “Sarah, I’ll pass. Thanks.”

That. Was. It. Amazing you say. It was. I must add that this woman is a fine mother of two, polite in all other respects and a relatively decent cook (not that one has anything to do with other). But you’d think that she could use an additional ten seconds to eek out a response from her well-manicured fingers and at least lie to me. I would have felt better if she made up some lame excuse than to just say, I’ll pass.

Similar circumstances come to mind when the use of an I’ll Pass is not cool. Funerals. Weddings. Christenings. Thanksgiving Dinner. Dates with your spouse. This is my manifesto on the topic, calling all people to give up the I’ll Pass thing once and for all. Instead, go back the time-tested, ever polite, No Thanks, or it’s variable, No Thank You. It’s all there. The rejection (the ‘no’ part) the Thanks (which indicates an appreciation for the invitation and/or offer) and if you really go out on a limb, the personal touch (the ‘you’ part).

Of course, if this doesn’t work for you, use the synonym for I’ll Pass, and just say ‘Hell no.’

Letting go of friendships

I-5 south is a freeway that connects the northern tip of Washington, slices through the center of Oregon and California, finally ending at the borders of Mexico under the metal arches of the barbed wire laced boarder crossing. Two and a half hours north and I’m in Canada, joy in my heart, knowing my final destination is a ski resort in Whistler. Traveling the other direction for an hour, through little town called Centralia, conjurs a different emotion. It’s not the town that does it, for Centrailia is neither a tourist destination or recreational hotspot. It’s the five minutes it takes to drive from one end to the other at the regulated fifty-five miles a hour that used to depress me. It’s the home of my former friend.

File:Centralia Downtown Historic District.jpg
City of Centralia….home of…the cute mainstreet

We were grade school buddies, she and I, our mother’s inseparable due to their occupations and five-mile daily walks. From the six grade through junior high, most weekends were spent together — overnighters allowed since we attended the same church on Sunday. My friend even came with me on multi-week vacations, the true sign of a lasting friendship. Though middle school and high school found us with different friends during the week, (she was a year older, had completely different classes and was an introverted book worm, whereas I was an athlete-cheerleader who never heard of an event I didn’t want to attend) we sought one another out week after week, year after year.

In college, she was in another stage and I drove to see her on weekends, staying in her dorm, listening to great music and laughing non-stop until we collapsed from exhaustion. I started working, she went on a service mission in a foreign country. I got married, pregnant and divorced in the time she got pregnant and then completed her degree in nursing. Strange, the old addage that different paths lead to the same destination was true. By the time we were both 23, each of us were single and with a child in tow.

We moved to different states and did our best to keep the connection. Well, at least one of us did. I sent letters, I called. I drove to see her, to and through my trips to see family in Oregon and California. As the correspondence became more one-directional, I sought for the positive. The excuses of her life, living as a single mom, the challenges of working the graveyard shift. Even when she was promoted to swing shift, I empathized with the struggle she faced, always willing to see her, since my schedule had a bit more flexibility. When we turned thirty, twelve years post high school graduation, I realized she’d come to my house once, though the highway is only ten minutes off the beaten path from our road, and as far as I can tell, it still goes both directions, north and south.

The last ten plus three years (13), have been more of the same…well, a little less. Fewer return phone calls. Fewer emails. No visits. I was invited to her wedding, attending with with my husband and daughter, and though we looked at one another with the fondest, a separation existed that hadn’t been present before. It was as if the unique trait of instantaneously coming together in a moment after a long period of separation had, like a rubberband, finally lost its ability to snap back.

It was a few years later that I learned she’d had several unplanned pregnancies prior to her marriage, and given both up for adoption. The cause was ironic. She’d been smoking pot, and this, according to the nursing staff, dramatically reduces the effectively of the birth control bill. My ignorance disheartened me. The decision to not confide in me was  another step my friend had taken in the growing distance in the gap of our relationship.

Still, I held out hope. Never saying a word of doubt to spouse or mother, unwilling to admit that the people we were in high school and early twenties no longer existed, at least not in a way that connected to one another. That realization was the hardest. I continued to believe that life intrusions, ups and downs, were speed bumps and curves on the relationship instead of a toll bridge, where each pause took a little bit more from my emotional piggybank. Eventually, my wallet ran dry. I had no more money to give, even though the road was still there and always will be, just like I-5.

The last time I went through Centralia, I felt the nothingness of the great abyss (I know that’s from a movie, but can’t recall which one). As I reached the other end of town, heading back home, I realized that I’d finally let go of the hope we were going to be as we once were. I made the decision to keep her a place for her in my memory, one without association to a unhappy feeling. To ensure I’d not feel the bitterness of abandonment, I decided to remember her as a friend of my youth, the image bordered with fond memories. There she will stay, like a picture on my internal wall that is not often looked upon. When I round the corner to my everyday life, I know she’s no longer there, and that I’ve finally let my friend go.

2,000 Days to live

True love is defined as your spouse taking the children on a Saturday, braving the crowds at the supermarket so you don’t have to. Typically, the two hours of pain (one of shopping, the other of feeding the kids a noxious meal of processed pizza) is followed by grumpiness as the bags are being unloaded. Not on the 28th of December, 2011. This was when I was greeted by a husband who walked in, came right in and held me tight. The don’t-ever-let-me-go kind of tight I associate with near death experiences and giving birth. I was about to make a quip when I saw his eyes (misty) and his stance (still hugging me).

I waited.

“I had an interesting experience today,” he began. I guess so. The last time he said this, it was December 3rd, and he’d told me about his ‘visit with Rockey the driver,’ who had chauffered him home from the car dealership. During that 50 minute space, Rockey told Rog about his life. Wife left him, taking the two kids and the money. He lost it all. His job. His joy. “But then something happened,” he went on to tell Rog, who was as speechless as when Rockey began his tale. “I found I could be happy when I wasn’t a workaholic jerk.” The man had found peace with his lot in life: being the “driving ambassador for the owner of the dealership,’ and enjoying every day he lives. After this first incident, Rog was a kinder, mellower human being. For about five days.

I reminded Roger when he’d invoked these words last and he nodded. “Someone is sending me a message.” For him to make this statement is akin to Moses admitting he dropped the third set of plates instead of God retracting them outtright.

“There we were, standing in line as usual and Porsche sees the black man with the mask.” This man, a tall, thin individual that Rog and I have hypothesized is between 25-30, is a checker at a local Costco. We’ve been seeing him for about the last year. He is memorable for the fact that he wears a mask over his mouth and nose that is attached to a tank on his back, similar to a diving tank. Roger continued to tell me about our 6 yr olds undying curiousity about it (remember the incident with the amputated foot?). In any case, Rog doesn’t hold her back, and she asks the man about it. Just like Rockey, he opens up.

“I had a double lung transplant,” he told her without the least bit of discomfort.

“Did it hurt?” she asked.

He shook his no and told her about going under. He then proceeded to answer her questions about getting with this statement.

“No, I won’t get better. I’m going to die pretty soon.”

Rog was shocked but told me he maintained his composure. Porsche on the other hand was vitally interested and asked. Again, he answered.

“The doctors told me I had five years to live, or about 2,000 days, give or take.” Rog had done the math, (an economist will do that on the fly), and it was only 1,825 days. The man was rounding up. We’d seen him with the breathing aparatus for a year. That’s less than 1,500. Four Christmas’s and New Years left. Four birthdays. Or, as Rog pointed out to me during the retelling– “it’s like looking at your mortality hourglass every day of the year.”

Porsche treated it like he did: a normal and natural occurance, asking him what he does and how he feels. Rog described his attitude and responses as “remarkable. He was happy to be alive. That’s what he said. “I’m just happy every day to be alive.” Alive, living with a mask, working at Costco, checking bags.

Rog finished telling me the story by giving me another embrace, apologizing for being so…well, so himself. He asked if I could join him in trying to be kinder to one another in 2012. Happier. More at peace. More patient. Easier to let past issues be forgotten. All very non-Rog kind of things. I agreed, with one exception.

“If you a have a third and final visitation, I think it’s going to be a ghost,” I deadpanned. Immediately catching on that I was making a reference to A Christmas Carol, he reached for my ribs and began his torture payback. Sassiness has gotten me this far. It may be needed in the future of sun and happiness to carry me a bit further.

Getting over a breakup

It’s Thursday. If you are going to break up with someone in your life, do it today. In five minutes even. It’s the nice thing to do. You know why? It gives the break-ee a chance to emotionally or financially get it together before the weekend. If you are inhabiting the same domicile as your soon to be gone ex, that person will need the weekend to pack and get out (or for you to leave). Date nights also take planning.

Don’t forget to be as considerate to yourself as to your future ex. Get better. Improve what ails you. Figure out why the relationship broke in the first place. Or, as my dear friend told me, take some classes at The Break up Club and heal thyself.

Even people who breakup with Facebook need this kind of therapy.

“What?! Are you serious,” I retorted, completely stomping all over my friend’s feelings. She’d recently dumped a guy (and I do mean, hardcore dumping. Just stopped returning his calls. Left her things at his pad. But then again, he yelled at her dog one to many times and that was that). The guy prior to that was a hot young thing, with more working gears in his car than his head (I think that was the problem). Regardless, she told me she found the site and it works.

“I thought it was crazy myself, but I sat in on a few classes and it had some good advice.” I love the tagline. Use your ex love to get your next love. Only two girlfriends and some marketing margaritas can come up with that type of tag. I must say, it doesn’t hurt that at least one of them has been published in the subject area and is a step away from her psychotherapist status.

“They give homework assignments that are really getting to the heart of some of my issues.” I am still dying to know “the issues” but figured it wasn’t my business. I wasn’t the one she dumped.

Since this blog is all about juicy tidbits, I’ll tell you a long-kept secret that will be a secret no more once I type it down (see, this is my own personal version of a therapist. And it’s free. To me. You, the poor reader, probably needs therapy after reading the words written here. Certainly my long-suffering Swedish mother does).

My secret is this. Some weird, wacked out part of me always broke up with my significant other prior to major holidays or weekends. Just prior to Valentine’s, Christmas, my birthday. I’ve had many a girlfriend tell me to do the opposite, “must it out until right after. Take the gift!” Even as a teen, I thought this was the definition of pure evil. I’d feel as guilty as all-get-out, knowing I wasn’t in love, and then have to return whatever it was (no woman of fine moral upbringing as I would keep a gift under such circumstances). The result? I was unduly accused by said ex boyfriends as being cruel. How ironic is that? I was saving the money darn it.

But I digress, as usual. If, heaven forbid, I decide to break up with my spouse, I might spend time on this site. Well, I sort of liked what I saw, and I’m not even considering breaking up with him (aren’t you relieved to hear that?). I guess that goes to show I can use relationship improvement advice no matter what stage of love I’m in.

Woman on the Errands of Angels

I’ve been writing a bit about visiting women…something I do as a part of our work in my church. Sort of the monthly outreach that says–how are you, do you need anything, what can we help you with etc. This is not unlike the many charities that pay visits to families or individuals in need. I have another woman that accompanies me, and we take turns bringing food or a special thought.

We’ve recently been seeing a woman who, up until a year ago, had what she thought was a perfect life. A husband with a great job at a technology company, five wonderful children who have lived a trouble-free, good great and athletically-gifted lives. She herself was also aesthetically blessed. Tall. Thin. Naturally blond (seriously) and a very sweet disposition. Then her world came crashing down. The husband wanted something different, including a new home sans family, two new cars (one BMW wasn’t enough) and freedom. She handled it with grace, the underpinning value necessary when dealing with going back to college, getting a job and children going in to crisis.

During our conversation, she raised a new subject– him bringing “friends” on activities with their children. They’d discussed this, agreed that it was not going to happen until “it was serious.” That was a week ago and he’s changed his mind. As she struggled to deal with this new development (she admits she’s lagging behind him on the relationship front and is months away from even considering a date), she relied upon friends at her gym, her church and even the two of us who see her far less regularly.

As the conversation turned to the value of friends, those of the same sex and sometimes the opposite, she shared her experience of the value of a positive attitude. “The women at the gym tell me to push one more rep or stay for an extra class” she explained, thankful that they employed positive energy as opposed to bashing on her former husband. Others in her circle have also used optimism as they have provided suggestions to her recent situation. “One told me that it’s possible to deal with his actions but set your boundaries.” One of which was to acknowledge that part well before “it’s serious” the former spouse must actually have his children spend time with a future mate. For “how else will they get to know one another?” It was a valid point, she said, and decided to set a boundary for bringing “friends” along, one that did NOT include their former residence where she still resides.

We were wrapping up the conversation and she thanked us for coming over and all how she valued our time together. Then said something that struck me. “I truly feel that women do the errands of angels, watching over one another, helping one another and always being a presence, even when silently.”

As I drove away and sit here typing, I think many conduct their lives and serve one another as though they are truly on the errand of an angel. Her gratitude certainly made me want to find those wings and use them as often as possible.

A man’s secret pleasure

Isn’t that a dandy title? It came to me as I was driving home last night, all by my lonesome, after switching cars w/my husband, who offered to fill my car w/gas and keep the two girls. It was cold. It was dark. The radio stations weren’t coming in so good. As I’m switching stations, a man singing a quasi alternative-meets-country (not my favorite on either score) and before I can hit the button w/my thumb, the following lyrics capture my attention:

If I wanted someone to clean up after me, I’d hire a maid
If I wanted someone to spend my money, I wouldn’t get paid
If I wanted s (couldn’t make out these words–scratchy station)
All I want is a woman to make it easy

Now, doesn’t that just say it all. How many times has Rog (and previous men before he) told me that message using different terms. As I continued listening to the song. the refrain was modified slightly, and make it easy turned to made it easy. Because truly, isn’t that the promise of every relationship…that the one you are with won’t make life more difficult, but easier?

Of course, I could bore myself and you with the layers of relationship stuff that might accomplish this, but I’m a simple person with simple needs. I must have simple instructions. Thus, I reflected upon the times where I’ve made it ‘easy’ for my partner. (Perish the thought I’d ever make it difficult).

  1. Verbalize appreciation. Thinking is not enough. And no item can be too small. (as in, thanking him for things I take for granted–taking out the garbage, making the bed, changing the lights…you know, the teeny, micro items that I went gaga over when we dated)
  2. Don’t hound. Just do. This is hard for me. After picking up the umpteenth dirty item from the floor, you’d think…. But no. I just do. As in, pick up, put away, carry downstairs, return etc. Hounding don’t win no points (for my readers in Slovania, that’s bad grammar. Never repeat that outloud).
  3. Smile. Hard to do. Dog barking, cat puked on the floor. Or not even that. Just a long day. I recently read a book of fiction where the most lovable character smiles at people. It’s a reward in a sense, a visual that says “I like you” or even “I love you.” No wonder babies respond to a smile with a smile and a frown with crying. I guess we are all babies inside.
  4. Unsolicited hair/scalp and shoulder rubbing. What is is it with guys? This is a beloved act that I’ve been told (by more than one man) it’s the lone reason they go to get their haircuts. They’d pay good money (at least $25 bucks) to have their scalp massaged. But beware, it can cause death. A 41 year old man was in chair, getting his hair done–wshed + scalp massage, and the poor guy was so happy, he fell asleep. Unfortunately, neck sort-of crinked and boom. “Game over” (so said the dude in Alien’s 2). Give an unsolicated massage of love, but beware the falling asleep part.
  5. Offer…. Anything. I suppose it’s easier for me to offer to give service to a charity or make dinner for a shelter than offer to do something for my soulmate. I mean…He’s strong, in shape, moderately young (42 is young to me), capable. Why should I offer to do anything (other than…hey, I’m going to be at the store, need anything? And lest you think I’m a shrew, after 14 yrs w/something, you kind of get in a routine of who does what).

Well, just today, after hearing this song, when he offered to take the kids to breakfast so I could write (and I’m writing this blog vs my novel, bad me!), I offered make a fire (it’s freezing outside). Of course he said no, and said he’d do it when he returned. Of course, since I know better, I’m not going to take him up on that, no hound him. I’m just going to do🙂

The importance of family traditions

One of the topics that temporarily snuffed out the fire of romance early in my marriage was the subject of family traditions.This wasn’t the easy to relight snuff, of let’s say, a candle. It was the enduring, smoldering snuff of Mt. St Helens, that continued to ooze and produce toxic flames that made the area glow for a decade afterward. We are talking that kind of snuff.

It shouldn’t have to be that way, nor did it need to be in my case. My theory is the very notio of tradition+ family is as sensitive as a missile launcher button, not because of religion or culture. Nay. It’s something far more important, far more precious. It’s because family traditions are learned at an age so young, bestowed upon innocent little selves so subtly that the tradition becomes a part of our very fiber. Therein lies the inexplicable to a boy/girlfriend, spouse etc. We don’t know a time or place without the said tradition, thus it is when the tradition itself is suggested as dull, boring, wrong or plain silly, our feelings aren’t just hurt. Our soul, our family…generations of Swedes in my case…are all rising up in arms to defend what is our own thread.

Might I suggest a new course of action. Dating folks should really listen up, for no one takes traditions like ‘our family always gets together on Thanksgiving’ seriously. It’s only after the rock is on the finger and the thank you notes are sent that the words sink in. Thanksgiving. Every year. For. The. Rest. Of. Your. Life.

Traditions should be talked about before wedding bliss, serious dating or otherwise contemplation of more children. Furthermore, the flexibility and compromise or, stop the world now, introducing new traditions, should be bantered about during the best of times. (that would post-coital, beach-lounging best of times. A crowd will be involved and a definite lack of clothing. Definitely a good time to have this discussion).

Personally, I’ve found the best route is to create new traditions the bind the two of you, and/or children if you are a little late to the game. Here goes a list in no particular order:

1. at dinner, (before the main meal or before dessert) go around the table and have everyone say what they are most grateful for that year. I love this one. I knew the end of one particular relationship was nigh when the man I brought waxed on about how horrible his life was (and we were planning on getting married. EEEEE!!!)
2. Cutting the tree. The day after Thanksgiving, my dad would don his rubber boots, and we would do the same. We’d slog out to the back 40 (American slang for the woods out past our tree), spend an hour or three listening to him wax long and philosophic about the thickness and length of the branches on this tree or that one, the color, the height, the distance between branches etc. The entire ordeal, usually done in the rain, but sometimes the snow, was torturous and wonderful, all at the same time. Dad was ours, for that brief, special period of time. No phone calls. No planes. No distractions. I’d give anything to hear him wax on about trees now.

Because we live in a largely wood frame home, my memories are all I have, as we made the hard decision to go fake (as in, fake trees). It pains me not to have the smell of the pine trees and I grumped about it for 7 years until I had my daughter. My attitude got out of my backside and near my heart, when I initiated the “day after Thanksgiving” tradition of having leftovers, but putting out all things Christmas just like mom. The entire day is filled with wonderful music, baking and being with the kids. The tree still gets up. It’s just less damp.
3. Potato sausage. I’m Swedish. We make homemade sausage throughout the year, but 2 times are a must. I’d rather be single forever than not have my potato sausage. Fortunately, I’ve not had to make that decision. Every man I’ve ever brought home has liked it as well (with the lone exception of dork referenced above. Should have known then…). (1.5 lbs beef steak, 1.5 lbs pork, 7 lbs potatoes, 3 large onions). Grind the meat, finely shop the potatoes and onions. Push all of it through a sausage grinder, and load into casings (pig intestines). Divine.

1. A present on Christmas Even or all the presents on Christmas eve (leaving the remainder for ‘santa’). This is akin to “to be, or not to be,’ without the flair an vitality of a man in stockings on a stage. After years of stupid bickering, we’ve reached a compromise, and it truly shows what kind of nutty mind rules this household. We count the total presents, and take a percentage (10%). That’s how many we open the night before. Can you believe it?? (I was in the 1 the night before camp, and thought it appalling to open every last gift. I mean, what if Santa forgot about me?!)
2. Movies after Christmas morning. This was also a tradition. What else was there to do? Now, we’ve switched it up, and usually go skiing. Much healthier. Limited popcorn on the slopes.
3. Santa ornaments. This would be a Sarah original. When Rog and I first married, we went on vacation to Whistler and stopped by a store in the Village. I saw a Santa on skis and had to have it. The next year, we were in Mexico, and a Santa was on a surfboard. From that time forward, I was always on the lookout. Wherereverhandblown. Rog got in the spirit, and we are equally in to this. (Mark my words, if we ever split up, we won’t give a rats *** about the cars. It will all be about the Santa collection).
4. Advent calendars. What is this you ask? It’s the 24 days of Christmas done in chocolate. Another Sarah special. I loved the 12 days of Christmas (the song), and popping a bit of handmade chocolate is a nice add. Anyone I truly love, I have either told them about the calendars, but better yet, I go in and buy 30, shipping and giving at Thanksgiving. This year, I’m hauling 6 down to my parents to distribute to siblings. Forget the family love. It’s all about the calendars. (these make great professional gifts as well. Who cares if someone is Jewish or whatever? Everyone will each chocolate, and besides, it is, in fact, a calendar. What’s to be offended over?

Last but not least…New Years
1. Shrimp ….I’m not sure who got us started on shrimp, but I think it was my older sister. All I remember was one year she revolted from our standard of Ham and scalloped potatoes on New Year’s Day. As non-drinkers, we are alive, clear-headed, and hungry. In hindsight, I imagine mom allowed this to spare the family an argument, but that didn’t mean she caved. Oh no. We still get our ham and scallop potatoes, but have the shrimp the evening before. To this day, that’s what I serve at my house.

OOO-I will admit to one other new holiday tradition in the Gerdes household. Chinese food. Yep, you heard me. During our extensive remodel, we were living out of a microwave for 3 years, seriously. We didn’t think about Christmas meal until we went searching to find an open restaurant. Guess what? The only joints open were Chinese. And not just any, but the best Chinese in Seattle. For the next 3 yrs, we ate at that place and now, when we are on a holiday and find ourselves in a culinary predicament, we just say “let’s go Chinese!” and we are sure to be taken care of. (no, I’m not going to tell you. Call me evil if you will, but its my little secret, until I decide to out it in a later blog).

PS. Christmas music before the strike of midnight on Thanksgiving night is pure evil.. May the force be with you all this week (those folks in Europe, Latin America and all my Russian and eastern reading folks….get crazy. Look up a traditional American dinner and give it a whirl).

Motivating your spouse

This topic spoke to me as the itty-bitty muscles on the outter side of my hips were screaming curse words at me today, the day after. Day after what? You ask. The day after I realized that in the time it takes me to have a bath (a daily ritual), I could actually get my fat-A on the treadmill and pump out two miles. 20 min is also the time I can do a full cycle on the elyptical.

Why, you might also wonder, would I do such a thing, tearing myself from a good book whilst weed-wacking the overgrown fur on my legs? Well, it all came down to a compliment.

round one- walking by the bay
round two-jogging through flatlands
round three-running on the hills
Oh, what one does when motivated by love

“You are sooo hot looking,” my husband says, a wonder in his voice akin to when Lucy goes through the wardrobe for the first time. Hmm. He could be lying, I think to myself, but it’s pretty hard to fabricate that….voice. Of course, I still think he’s smoking crack, but his comment was followed up by some flowers later that night, for no reason. It gets even better. He came home from attending a premier of the latest Warren Miller ski movie, complete with a signed poster from Andy Mahre (who wrote Roger, Powder for President!) in red pen, and gave me a gift worth more than that Patek Phillip watch in rose gold I’ve been lusting over. A $50 dollar gift certificate to Sturdevans Ski shop.

What, then you finally ask, does this have to do with motivation? (Well, beyond the lusting, the flowers and the gift certificate?) The answer is that encouragement and love is the best motivation one can give to a spouse who is dealing with physical, emotional and yes, even spiritual or financial issues.  (a’course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit this entire flattery/motivation/results positively impacted our bedroom activities. Maybe that was the whole point. I don’t know or care. It just worked).

To wit, when I was a San Francisco fatty, (one who indulged just a wee-tad to much on the 3,000 plus great restaurants), Rog got me all fired up to show him the city. When he suggested we walk around, as opposed to driving, I thought it was romantic. A few weeks and many shoreline miles later, when he proposed we don running shoes “in order to see more faster,” I readily agreed, not considering that half the city is dotted with bloody hills. In no time at all, I was twenty pounds lighter, but my emotional bucket was brimming over like Little Porridge Pot.

Motivating through encouragement and doesn’t apply just to exercise. When I stopped purchasing the Economist due to the monthly sticker price, Rog noticed that I ceased giving him facts of the world. “Get it!” he told me. He doesn’t have the time to read (and hockey is not conducive to this task like me on the treadmill). “I like it when you know more about what’s going on in the world than X.”

So clearly, I, the female in the coupledom, am motivated by gratuitous flattery and some thinly veiled deceit. What about my man? What motivates him?

Beyond the obvious of being lured with high heels and nylons, he is inspired, oddly enough, by acceptance and when I tell him how proud I am of him. That’s it. That’s the secret sauce to getting my hard-as-nails-zero-on-the-Myers-Briggs-test spouse. Why?

“I feel validated,” he told me. It doesn’t hurt that my expression of appreciation actually makes him feel–appreciated. When I take the time to tell him (and not just once a month, but regularly, like very week) it seeps in. The circle of love is completed then, as he is more appreciative of my efforts (or maybe, he’s just more expressive of said appreciation).

PS. I noticed that 28 people from Romania hit my post on Anger Management tips. Do Romanian’s have spousal-anger issues? I laugh. You are my people!)

A Swede’s tip to controlling anger

Last wk, when I thought a short prison term might be warranted should I resort to slappage during a heated conversation with my spouse, I figured it was just best to channel Obama and know when to shut up. Silence has its merits. However, silence is not in the Swedish language. It goes along with the whole don’t cry thing. We Swedish girls resort to those little forms of communication that are non oral in nature.

To wit. “I’m taking a bath so please don’t disturb me.” That was all I could get out after a row about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, where, ironically, me and my life partner are not feeling all that thankful for one another. Knowing all I need to do is have a personal timeout, encased in water, bubbles and a Kindle on my bathtub tray, I’ll be able to be a better me. Still, I’m so angry I could “eat rocks” as my dear cousin in Nevada says. (I’ve spent too much energy on my teeth to eat rocks. I’ll just be like Gollum and suck them (name the scene from the Hobbit).

Now, dear readers, enter my life (or bathroom) and know that a) I always take a bath when I’m so angry I need a straight jacket and b) Rog always waits until I’m buck naked, completely vulnerable and have no where to run, THEN he opens the door to “have a chat.” uh-huh. Sorry. No exciting stuff here. This is seriously when he wants to get it all out in the open. Guess what? I don’t want anything in the open. I want in the dark, dank whole of my personal relationship Calcutta, there to stay in its stinking, vile, putrid mass for at least the time it takes my boiling hot water to turn luke warm.

I go the extra mile. In my fury, I scratch out my signal to stay away, as best as I can. I lock the door, go in the tub, start reading, and count the minutes before intended recipient of said sign is going to show me his criminal potential by picking the lock. 7 minutes.

The first I hear is the laughing. Then the picking. Then the door opening. Then the apology.

Dear friends. If it worked for him, Mr obstinate, prickly and not all things so subtle, it may work for you. And just in case you are worried I’m breaking some unspoken law of marital secrecy, Rog just laughed when I told him I was going to share my little sign with the world. (Although Mr Wisdom thought it should be pointed out the pitchfork is a pitchfork, not the devil (that would be me) giving you the bird.

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