5,468 days.

Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 8.11.41 AMHe stands, arms outstretched, holding my towel out for me to step into.

“I am your towel rack”

But are you my heated towel rack I ask him. We had left the bathroom store

Wordlessly he brings the towel to his mouth and begins blowing on it like he did when our boys lost their mittens in the Vermont winters. He would be crouched down scratchy face to shiny one. Both of his large hands would wrap around the little dimples one and he would lower his face and warm freezing fingers.

“You are my footrest”

I tell him. Just an hour ago he joined me on the love seat picking his way through dogs and tea mugs and throw blankets. He lifts my legs and slides into the newly emptied seat. Then he re sets things. Pillows as props, dogs back on laps. With one pat for the blanket and another for the dog he has become one with our snuggle. I wiggle my toe in greeting and request and his hand wraps around my foot, fingers landing in the arch and squeezing it just so.

It is a trick to wedge yourself into a small space and make it even better after your arrival. One of my sons know it. The other doesn’t.

“I can be your bra” he offers now, hands empty of the towel but still reaching towards me. I wriggle out of his grasp. It is astounding how much he loves the physical me. I know I make him laugh and talk about his fears and am a wonderful mother to his sons. But this body? I can barely look at myself. When I get dressed I pull on a wiry torture device and drape myself in soft shapeless clothes. I am never happier than I am in elastic waisted pjs hugging a pillow to my belly, it’s softness disguising mine. This man, my husband, does not see me this way. He is always reaching out. Sometimes I worry what the boys will think if they round the corner and catch him burying his head in my chest or squeezing my butt with both hands. He is stroking my arm slipping his hand up its cuff to touch my forearm with his finger. “Your skin.” He says. “I love your skin. When I look at my skin it is to notice it’s dryness, it’s ability to grow weird bumps, or it’s wrinkly-ness. My hands are the first part of my to give up any shadow of youth. Sometimes I slide the skin taut and smooth and wonder where all of the time goes.

“No bra?, I can be your blanket” He is draped over me, gently pushing me to the bed. But he can’t be my blanket. Not right now. I am usually out time keeper and I have slept on the job, we are headed out to dinner and a concert and we will be late if we don’t leave.

“You are my Uber driver” I say as we head down the staircase. He picks me up after a night out, he drops Oliver and me at the theatre, he brought me to and from jury duty. He has logged thousands of miles driving me down new and old streets. He almost never gets lost. Even when I question try to question his neat perfect navigation skills he is patient. If I can’t see the mountains I don’t know which direction we are facing. As it turns out there are two locations of our tile store each 35 minutes away from our house. One south. One north. When I drove to the store I asked them why they had changed the location of their front desk. I’m pretty sure this was not the first time they sent someone to their second location an hour south. Steve only laughed a little.

Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 8.14.00 AMAt the restaurant I don’t guess his order. Usually I do but this time we consult. We will be trading bites and my meal has already been selected. Celery root soup (shared) pork belly(shared) over green curried garbanzo bean purée (all Steve) and chicken with frisée and cauliflower gratin.

Usually Steve is my chef. We enjoy shopping and planning meals together but he is always the one to cook them. He turns on music and spins his way through the kitchen like no one is watching. Or, more like he has just the audience he wants. The eyes of his family grateful and amused as he makes something special that 2.5 of us will enjoy.

Tonight we are out though so “he is is my co critic”. I discuss service. They seated us at a four top and left all four roll ups and share plates through three visits to the table. The soup arrived quickly. They made me a custom cocktail (sadly no simple syrup) but left me guessing as to what it was when they dropped it. Steve had things to say about the beer list. This is a fantastic restaurant. He was surprised to see “pug Ryan’s” from a Dillon on the list. “It’s not even the best choice in Dillon,” he days of the town with two breweries. From Vermont they feature Magic Hat number 9. He does not need to comment. “I guess I’ll have wine” he tells me. It has come to this.

I don’t mean to slam Rioja, the food was fantastic. The decor wonderful and apparently the wine list was great. This time though John seemed more interested with the lady with the hip haircut at the lounge table next to ours. So our service didn’t live up to the rest of it. Plus, it is fun to critique, at least if we do it quietly and we don’t ruin our own experience looking for flaws.

Then coffee, decaf for me. “Decaf” I told John. “Decaf…coffee?” He asked me, confused. Yes… I answered also confused. When he left the table I asked if ordering “decaf” is out of date. I am old now. He didn’t think so, reaching out to cover my wrinkled hand in his strong one.

We have the inevitable confusion over what to tip the valet. $2 seems to little $20 too high. Where are all the fives and tens at tipping time? We are headed to the concert. Edie Brickell and the not so new bohemians. Because bladders shrink with age, and because, decaf, we head to the men’s and women’s lounge. Afterward I am a bit braggy. “Our lounge had an ante room, then a sitting room and THEN the toilets.” “Yes,” he tells me. “But did your lounge have a 70 year old cowboy change into his tie died Edie Brickell Shirt?” Why no. No it didn’t.

“He is my usher.” We walk down the aisle with his hand gently in the small of my back.Steve is doing his super loud concert clap and I am plugging my neighboring ear. “I want her to hear it up there” he says. It is an oddly intimate concert. The room is a third full and people are moving forward like toddlers at story time. As she sings mostly new songs she is giving us their backgrounds. Here lyrics are less tight than those first albums. She is riffing. “Sometimes I feel the darkness. But it comes and goes quickly. Like a song” Her voice is following her words. Listing up as her mood does. I have been looking at Steve who is looking at me more than the stage. His eyes are crinkled in the corner. Our hands together on his lap. He doesn’t know the words so I whisper my favorite lines to him. “I don’t lie…I exaggerate.” I have to cross his body to whisper in his good ear and he is holding onto me lightly.
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“He is my tuck in service” At 9:30 he tells me that the ratio of my yawns to songs have a correlation. This is him giving me permission to leave anytime. We sit through a few more new ones. I am trying to pick out good lines but I am tired now so we head home.

“He is my remote control” I think, as I hand it over. We are in bed after our night out. Oliver has reported on the PTSA meeting we have missed while out at the concert. Leo is so tired that when he goes to lay his head on the table he guesses the height incorrectly and it thuds to the surface and make me wonder whether we should wake him at night to ensure he is not concussed. “Anything but football” he tells me” So he lets me pick. Driving the control as well as he drives the car and we settle in to end our 5,468 days together. 15 years, one week early.

But mostly …

He is my heart, beating, somehow, outside of my body.

Naked Cowboys and f***ing Oysters

Oysters have a reputation. They get around and they get you to get around. So you might have read the title of this post as a euphemism. But it is not. It is a lament.

When my mother called to tell me that she had a horrible stomach bug from oysters I didn’t really believe her. I thought of all of the times we discussed our lives of privilege  and wondered if complaining over oysters was perhaps the pinnacle of whining on the yacht. Then, as my kids say, I searched it up on the internet and found that the vibrio virus was real. At this stage in her illness my mother was more on the yacht’s lifeboat on choppy seas, so offered sympathy.
screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-11-39-25-amOne of the most fascinating parts of my mother’s Cape Cod community is the local fishing trade. With the addition of environmentally conscious fish farms the life of the fisherperson has not changed in hundreds of years. Except that there are fisherpeople…not just fishermen. In the summer I watch their barnacle covered boats leave the old wooden piers and appreciate this continuity. The century long connection to the sea and the effortless way local eating nourished the families on this spit of land well before it was on trend.

If there is ever a time that this workforce is celebrated beyond the sunrise cruise and the sunset cocktail it is during Oysterfest which was cancelled last weekend because, as my mother told me,  the oysters are tainted. “I didn’t know oysters had taints” said Steve and I remembered why I married him.

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-8-07-48-amUnlike the usually 24 hour wretched and wretching food poisoning these “delicacies” are carrying a bacteriovirus. It isn’t this risk that keeps me from eating oysters. Even oysters pure as the saltwater they came from disgust me. How can I not like an erotic food that has names like “naked cowboy”? Easy. Eating oysters is like swallowing someone else’s skinned tongue. Which is less of an aphrodisiac than a tongue that still has its skin. The fact that you need to open your throat and shut down your gag reflex should speak to their lack of deliciousness. If they were good we wouldn’t be gulping with the speed of a Jagermeister shot. Even so I enjoy watching other people slurp them down with relish…or at least with mignonette.

Last summer Steve and I had a date night in Welfleet, home of the world famous oyster and fest. Wanting to leave the house before our dinner reservation we took a seat on an outdoor hilltop patio overlooking the small town. Steve was wearing my favorite shirt and we held hands across the pebbled glass table not saying much. He ordered some oysters and I took pictures of the moment that I thought represented vacation more than many others. Turns out those are not moments I choose to remember. After finishing our drinks we took a short walk and ended at our favorite restaurant where we finished the night having one of the worst fights we have ever had.

Years ago (almost 13) I would rant and he would listen in silence. I would spit and he would swallow. Yet for over a decade we have worked on this. I practice pausing and speaking rather than spilling out a rant. Steve has worked on responding in the moment so we can work things through together instead of holding things inside.

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-8-14-52-amBut this dinner brought us back to our early days. What started as a conversation ended as a stalemate. He in stony silence, me spewing sentence after sentence trying to incite a response.

Months later I can barely remember the content of our argument. But I do remember the oysters beforehand and I would rather have a bad association with them than with his turquoise shirt.

To sum up. They make you sick. They bring on war as much as love. They are gross.

Three strikes oysters…three strikes.

But then again maybe I should just suck it up and suck one down…there should be no whining on the yacht.



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My second to last first date

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 11.04.35 AMIt is the end of another long night at my bar. I am spitting out orders to the closing staff, and swallowing the last sip of my single drink of the night. A medium sized man approaches me. Despite the late hour he is unlike the other drinkers who linger. His calm surrounds him in a cloud and I want to step into it.

I can’t quite tell which celebrity he looks like. But one of them. It remains just on the outskirts of my brain as we talk, and I am distracted by this and his forearms while he asks as many questions as he answers. The lines in his dark skin make him seem older than his age. So do his quiet voice and still soul. I wonder if I will corrupt him or he will fix me. In either case there will be a equalization of our energy. He talks to me about green building and takes me to his modest handmade house by the stream. It is starting to seem like all of the guys at my cosmopolitan bar live in houses made of gently worn wood. I offer myself a quick “that’s what she said” and laugh a bit as I am looking through his book shelf. He wants to know which title I found funny and I search for one, but they are all as serious as he is so I let the laugh linger, unexplained.

[Tweet theme=”basic-white”] I wonder if I will corrupt him or he will fix me. via @annawritesstuff[/Tweet]

As he sets the table I remind myself that it is unlikely to be bear like the last failed date. In fact it is actual chicken, not just something that tastes like it. I imagine myself here, sharp edges warn down in a lovely way. Acid replaced by base.

I am still pulling out the dead dad story to make myself seem less like a privileged priss. I lived my childhood in his reflected glow and now I live my adulthood in his shadow. He created actual art not just renovated restaurants. My description is t is relevant not just animated. My father’s collection is being showcased at a museum in Montreal that is prestigious and less than two hours away. We make a date to drive to the opening together and to go to the celebratory dinner that follows.

He picks me up in a coat and tie, an anathema in Vermont and more so on him. A lump forms in my throat that I never swallow down. At first I think this is attraction, but realize that the way I can’t breathe feels bad. At the museum I feel even worse. I look at the pieces that I lived with growing up. They are separated by glass, lit too brightly, they are as apart from me as I am from my escort. In the gallery I can barely hear the curator’s talk through the rushing sound in my head. He reaches for my hand to offer comfort and I tell him I am drowning under waves of grief which might not actually be a lie. He drives me home in silence after we beg off of the fancy dinner which puts out our French speaking hosts. I barely talk as we cross the border.

I am thinking of my father, of the art that is timeless yet somehow no longer mine. Breathing is still hard until I bring to mind the man from the dog park who will one day become my husband. I wish it was him driving the car.

As I climb out of the car I have no idea that he will be the last. I know that it went differently, that I didn’t either let him or force him to sleep with me. That this one final time I didn’t ponder the power play. I froze. I sent him away. I stepped out of his car and into my new life, where I didn’t always spit all over people, but I would take my medicine and swallow my fury until I could reabsorb it into some semblance of self.

I did all of this with Steve. But that is another story.

You married the wrong person. Now what?

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 8.56.33 AMBy now you have all read (or ignored) Alain De Botton’s (ADB’s- if I can call him that) NYTimes opinion piece…”Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person.”

If you chose to ignore it you should read it.

This is not my first blog post. I know that very few of you clicked that link, so I will boil down De Botton’s beautifully reasoned piece with less lyricism and more lyrics.

  1. Fields of Gold. People used to marry to get more fields (or gold, or titles or whatever.) That was the marriage of reason.
  2. More than a Feeling. Now people marry because of feeling. The more reckless (you are 18 year old) or dangerous (you are going to be the one to heal someone bitter and broken) it feels the more it stands in contrast to reason. We think this is good. Reason was old school, like in olden days before there was even school to be old. So feeling is new school.
  3. Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places. We tell ourselves that the magical feeling we seek is happiness. We believe that happiness comes from love. De Botton calls bullshit on that. Our first experience of love comes from our childhood. Each of us, in our own special way, had a fucked up childhood. So for us, love is familiar, and familiarly fucked up.  We seek people who recreate old patterns of abandonment, or who need fixing, like many of our family members did. According to ADB   “We marry the wrong people because we don’t associate being loved with feeling happy.” Double bummer.
  4. Crazy for Feeling so Lonely. For those of us that don’t seek or can’t find partners with whom to lug around the heavy baggage of our youth there are other ways to choose poorly. Far less elusive than happiness is lust and excitement. Particularly on the heels of the loneliness of single life we can feel meaningfully drawn to someone who we just meet. Someone who in a moment makes us forget pain and experience pleasure. Sadly, as anyone who has been in a long term relationship knows, that feeling of pleasure is fleeting. Marriage doesn’t play itself out in a single moment of passion. It deals with shit, literal and figurative, and even worse than that it deals with the monotony of every day life. We were drawn towards a dramatic solution to a problem we never articulated. And now we drive screaming kids in mini vans.
  5. Got to take it on the Otherside.  ADB says none of this matters. He says we all have this problem…and because of this we would have this problem with any other partner as well. We should be content with our discontent. He tells us to stay married to the wrong person. Except he tells us in a more lyrical way.

    We mustn’t abandon him or her, only the founding Romantic idea upon which the Western understanding of marriage has been based the last 250 years: that a perfect being exists who can meet all our needs and satisfy our every yearning. We need to swap the Romantic view for a tragic (and at points comedic) awareness that every human will frustrate, anger, annoy, madden and disappoint us — and we will (without any malice) do the same to them. There can be no end to our sense of emptiness and incompleteness. But none of this is unusual or grounds for divorce. Choosing whom to commit ourselves to is merely a case of identifying which particular variety of suffering we would most like to sacrifice ourselves for.

Now. What.   ?
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Lets grieve together. If you are single you can grieve the loss of any sort of romantic idealism. There is no one out there to make whole, or to make you whole. There will not be musical montages of trying on funny hats and dabbing each other’s noses with ice cream.

Or (and this is where the partnered up people and the single people can join in their grief together),  maybe there will be musical montages but they will be much longer and be scored by Phillip Glass rather than Wilson Phillips. The melody will be lost as you sit at the table feeling bored by both your partner and your dinner. Its like you married the goddamned chicken breast and broccoli for all of the inspiration your partner offers you. Or maybe it is Meatloaf (here let’s continue both the music and the food analogies) where this both inscrutable mix of meat and his crazy excited sing-screaming is confusing. Meatloaf is supremely unhelpful as you just try to get yourself, your kids, and your dog through another damn day.

This is how the grieving sounded in my head:

This article is not about me. I had a happy childhood and sought someone stable and loving. (Not that first guy…obviously I married the wrong person first, but THIS time…this time.) Who is ADB to say that WE ALL picked the wrong partner. That ONLY someone who is comfortable being single and waiting half a lifetime can find true love. What an arrogant ass. What is the work around if he is right… I have an idea… I could ditch Steve and be super choosy about the next one. When I picked Steve I was looking for someone who was left handed, had curly hair, could make an explosion noise, and had a job. I settled for two of those characteristics. I could hold out for all four. Or even a different four, perhaps one of them could be about generosity, or like civic mindedness. I don’t have half a lifetime left to wait…but I could give it a few years. I’m happy with Steve. I mean no one is happy, but I have a high approximation of happiness with Steve. So what if I keep him. What if I keep him but totally change our lifestyle (after the kids are grown of course) we could, like, live a life of migrant volunteerism. Steve’d be good at that…he rarely complains I could find the places that need us and he could do the water hauling. I know that wouldn’t work. I am way too lazy. And I never leave bed. It is terrible that I lead so much of my life from bed. I am writing this, the first thing I have written in four days, FROM BED. You know why? Because I always thought someone would come along and get my ass out of bed (after, of course, we enjoyed some bed together.) That person would want the best for me, and beyond wanting, would actually teach me how to want the best for myself. I feel it now. There is only one person who can get me out of bed…and that is me…and I married the wrong man. So now I have to worry about my weight, my work, and my waning romanticism.

Fine. So we have accepted the death of romanticism. We have married the wrong person. I ask again.

Now. What?

If you are single you are a step ahead. You can figure out what particular kind of crazy brings out less of your own crazy. Then pick that person. If you are prepared for less perfection, and less poetry you can probably come out OK. Simple.

For those of us married (to the wrong person) lets huddle up.  I am thinking that we try a few things.

  1. Spend a week and noticing some things about your behavior and your expectations. Take note of times that you feel you are being charming and quirky. Quirky is a codeword for crazy. Pay attention when your voice rises above normal speaking level. Anger is a big clue for the proximity of crazy. Now you might think it is your partner’s crazy that made you yell. Give it a moment. Write it down. Come back to it. Could it have been YOUR crazy? Possibly? I thought so. Do you have a scorecard? The one where you wrote thank you notes +1 (like you ALWAYS do +1,000) ,you made the doctor’s appointment +1 and frankly were the only one to WORRY about the MD at all +25, and…and…  Take a look at that card. How does it make you feel? Bitter? Self- righteous? Does it energize you or deflate you? Just go ahead and notice. Are you muttering under your breathe? What are you muttering? Say it slowly out loud. Let your laments be spoken in a full voice. Listen to yourself. Don’t change anything.
  2. Have your partner do all that stuff too. Don’t change anything.
  3. After a week come together. Look at all of the evidence you have collected “against” your partner, the stories you can tell about yourself. You are both crazy. You are both hard to live with. Neither of you is pulling your weight in the areas of expertise of the other. Don’t change anything.
  4. Don’t change anything. Don’t change yourself, your partner, your marital status. We are all fucking crazy. If you left for a do-over you will bring your crazy with you, and meet up with fresh new crazy. Doesn’t that sound tiring?

Only Steven Stills (of Nash & Young) wrote the chorus that should be the refrain of our relationships.  Yet they still got it wrong. In their song they tell us that “if you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with.” But we know the truth about “the one you love” He is most certainly a disappointment. She is most certainly out of her mind. So maybe we should propose a re-write. Something about having to settle to be able to settle down. It may not be lyrical but it could be lyrics. ADB tells us “Compatibility is an achievement of love; it must not be its precondition.”

Love the One You’re With.




Married sex

Married sexAll you need to do is look at Oliver and Leo to see that our sex life is not a new thing. In the early days we couldn’t keep our hands off of each other. Each road trip had arms crossed and fingers on thighs, each nap was a tangle of body parts. It didn’t take long for that to cool. Kids, jobs, house renovations, we found our thrills and escapes in places other than each other’s bodies. At least I did.

Then one morning it changed…

I heard him pad softly into the room mere minutes after I had shut off the light. I held still. As he climbed into bed I felt myself involuntarily stiffen then relax as his chaste cheek kiss meant I didn’t need to worry about having sex tonight.

Steve and I were a fair way past the honeymoon period with two small ubiquitous boys.

I felt a vague sense of guilt about my physical withdrawal from my husband but I soothed it by talking to friends over wine and tea. They were tired too, they were nursing and snuggling and tending to kids. They were stretched literally and figuratively. We excused each other. Our bodies were not our own, but neither were they our husband’s.


The next morning Steve was making us family brunch with both boys underfoot when I came downstairs after sleeping in. Usually, he played records and worked at the griddle, frying pan and cutting board at once. The silence registered in the back of my mind as I slipped my arms around him for a front to back hug. It was his turn to stiffen. Moving around the island I hopped up on our custom cherry stools and started picking at the raspberries that he had begun spooning out on the plates.

“What’s wrong?” I asked him. It wasn’t with tenderness, but closer to an accusation. I knew what was wrong.. He asked for so little from me. None of it through words, but a physical appeal, and I had been rebuffing him for an unreasonably long time. Instead of apologizing, or leading him upstairs to really apologize I picked a fight; going on the offensive was a lot easier than dealing with the reality of our shrinking sex life.


“I can’t believe you are pissed at me. You know how tired I have been, it is totally unfair to be angry because I wouldn’t have sex with you last night.”

“It’s not that…” Here he trailed off. I was just revving up, gaining ammunition. He never talks to me about what he is feeling, blah blah. Somehow I didn’t move forward with my next line of attack. I saw the slump of his shoulders as he flipped the pancakes that he made from scratch without his usual flair. I could do it, I could beat him down until he was left apologizing to me, but this time I didn’t.

I had expectations for him as a father and as a husband. I wanted him to work full time, do the majority of the cooking, tickle and toss our kids, take out the trash, and listen patiently as I ranted about how obsessed everyone was with strollers. I felt entitled to a Sherpa, a chef, and a cheerleader.

What did he want from me? It was a short list. To feel as though he could make me happy. Secondarily he wanted to be satisfied in bed.

That was something I could give him.


I know the catalyst to connection for my husband is sex. For me it is conversation. It doesn’t seem fair that I justified withholding sex for days or weeks at a time. I would never accept a husband who ignored my attempts at conversation for a week. That would be ridiculous. I ignored my friends’ assertion that sex on Saturdays was all we needed to offer. I silently set myself the goal of sex five times a week.

To make it easier to get started I decided I would call these more frequent sexual interludes “quickies” requiring less intense attention to timing, mood setting and foreplay. A sort of in and out if you will. I would shut the door while the kids were watching TV and lead him into the bathroom. I set my alarm 5 minutes early and woke him naked. We decided to include a vibrator in our every day sex, ensuring that we could both be satisfied in a reasonable amount of time.

Seven years later, we have sex 5 to 7 times a week. Nothing like the tangled sheets of our early days, but from what I can tell from book club far more than our peers.


He feels the kind connections that he craves. He looks at me with love, strokes my hair and asks me questions. For less than thirty minutes a day I have my chef and Sherpa. Beyond that I have a friend and supporter whose physical affection I no longer rebuke. I also have orgasms at the hand of my husband, and that makes us both happy.

– See more at: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/how-to-be-married-with-kids-and-still-have-frequent-sex-hlg/#sthash.QgQ3Fjm7.dpuf

She is a Total Pussy- trouble with my live in love

Pussy CatShe is a total pussy: intimacy issues with my live in love.

It has been almost a year since I invited her into my house, began to care for her, paying her doctors bills, buying her dinner, cleaning up after her when she got sick. I had visions for a future of mutual contentment. I thought she would be someone to share my life with, someone to cuddle up with at the end of a hard day. Instead I have learned that she has intimacy issues. She seems incapable of meeting my needs. She thinks I don’t notice her, sitting there, looking at me through slitted eyes. But I see her, spying on me as I type. She can’t stop me. I am finally ready to face the ways that she is not the partner I need.

1. She positions herself just out of my reach, literally and figuratively.

2. She doesn’t share any of my interests. She is completely unresponsive when I tell her about  my fears…things I have never spoken aloud to another sole. She sits in silent judgement.

3. She is prickly instead of soft. I see her vulnerable core, but she protects herself when I reach out to her. She never lets me close. Sometimes she actually swipes me away, leaving a mark on my hand to mirror the slice to my heart.

4. Some nights she never comes home at all. She doesn’t call or text to keep me from worrying about where or whether she will sleep. I lie awake imagining her running in fear from the predators who come out in the darkness of the night.

5. She lets me buy every single meal. Every one. Except that one time she brought home takeout and left it on the front stoop, unrefrigerated. This take out was too gross to eat and she left me to clean it up on my own.

6. Speaking of cleaning, even though she is fastidious with her own appearance she couldn’t care LESS about our shared space. She knocks things onto the floor and holds her head high as if I COULDN”T SEE WHAT SHE JUST DID. She seems to know I won’t really complain.

7. She drinks from my water glass and steals my turkey sandwich without asking. I would share anything with her, but she insists on taking advantage of my generosity.

8. Even though she ignores me during my free time, scoffing at my invites to sit on my lap and cuddle, she never leaves me alone during work time. She wines and cajoles and puts herself in front of my screen. When I finally give her the attention she wants she sits and ignores my offers to help. It’s like all of the lovers I have had in the past. Once I lose interest in them they put on a show to get me back, and once I am theirs again they turn tail and leave. I don’t seem to learn.

9. She asserts her dominance all the time. When I walk down the stairs she pushes in front of me almost tripping me. My anger passes quickly as I see her waiting, searching my face with her beautiful blue eyes. Then I reach her…and she runs away again.

10. I’m starting to believe the studies that say that her kind would actually murder me if she were just a bit bigger. (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2015/10/31/cat-lion-psychological-traits/74941388/) I  want to feel safe while sleeping, preferably with her by my side.

I love her and I want her to love me back. I meet all of her needs, and she ignores my meager requests. She clearly can’t love me the way I want her to.

I have come to realize…she is a total pussy.

Tiny transgressions that erode an excellent marriage

Maintaining a happy marriage requires communication, team work, flexibilityin the bedroom and in the world outside of it. This post is about none of that. It is about the little things. The tiny transgressions that work so slowly to undermine the foundation of your marriage that you don’t even know that they are eroding things. If you look out for these little things you might just avoid the way the upset can upset your relationship.

When you choose share your life, bed, car, and dishwasher with someone else there are four eyes, four hands and two ways to do everything. Here are the steps to take to make sure the most irritating irritants don’t derail you.

  1. couple fighting over transgressionsFigure out what is happening most frequently, let go of the outliers. The list of things that we do that irritate each other is pretty long. When things are going well we let almost all of them drift away. Here is a sampling of what we do to annoy each other. How we load the dishwasher, which screen is displayed on the car dashboard, where we put our keys on the counter, whether we yell for each other’s attention, how many tabs are open on my laptop, how long we take at the grocery store, how much crap is on our bedside table, which way to fold the shirts, which beer glasses can be on the open shelf, how we load the car for travel, which route we drive to the airport, whether we buy scented trash bags, leaving lights on, where the mail goes…and so many more. The first step we took it cease our squabbling was to ignore the things that aren’t regular problems. The route to the airport, the beer glasses, and loading the car for travel got shelved (along with the beer glasses with black font only.)  What’s left on the list? How we load the dishwasher, which screen is displayed on the car dashboard, where we put our keys on the counter, whether we yell for each other’s attention, how many tabs are open on my laptop, how long we take at the grocery store, how much crap is on our bedside table, which way to fold the shirts, which beer glasses can be on the open shelf, how we load the car for travel, which route we drive to the airport, whether we buy scented trash bags, leaving lights on, where the mail goes.
  2. Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 9.52.37 AMBack off the other person’s territory. In our case my laptop (Steve hates the tabs) and his bedside table (it really is his space) get cut from the list. In a co-joined life we really need to be able to carve out and control some things. Laptops and bedside tables are two of them. What’s left on the list? How we load the dishwasher, which screen is displayed on the car dashboard, where we put our keys on the counter, whether we yell for each other’s attention, how many tabs are open on my laptop, how long we take at the grocery store, how much crap is on our bedside table, which way to fold the shirts, whether we buy scented trash bags, leaving lights on, where the mail goes.
  3. toilet transgressionsUse the toilet seat test. At first glance it seems anti-feminist that the default toilet seat position is the one that favors the woman. Why should the ladies have all the love in the lav? A deeper dive reveals the toilet seat test…the cost to one party (sitting in cold pee) is much greater than the other (lifting the seat with a single finger). In the case of yelling for each other’s attention (or the kids’) it is Steve that suffers more. I sit on my butt and scream. If he is closer than I think I hurt his already damaged hearing. In this case a blow to his health seriously trumps the cost of me standing up and finding my family.
  4. Keys.Understand where the other person is coming from. Celebrate the way the quirks improve your life.  The fact that he wanders the aisles of the grocery store as if he is seeing each item for the first time drives me batty. I am impatient. He is fastidious. Yet, since Steve does 70% of the shopping and 90% of the cooking in our house I have decided to let him camp out in the grocery store as long as he likes. It may mean I have to bide my time, but at least I have great food to eat while I am waiting. Steve likes to drop his sunglasses and keys on the end of the kitchen counter as he walks in. It is simple. I spend a lot of time making our kitchen look good (after all I manage the beer glasses carefully). After 200 or so times I asked him if he would drop his stuff somewhere else because a clean counter is particularly important to my mental health. Because he loves me, and secretly loves a clean counter, his keys land on the shelf near the side door.
  5. Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 9.55.24 AMWhat works for the world, or the household. Sometimes a greater issue can break a stalemate. I like it light at night. Steve likes it dark. Our feelings on the issue are about equal. So the planet wins. As for the mail…I like to stash it in the office out of sight (remember the clean counters…) However, the bills sometimes went unpaid and the piles began to look like Pisa. So the mail stays out and gets dealt with… As for the dishes it is a case of fast versus fastidious again. I like to cram things in and run it. Steve likes to solve the dishwasher like a puzzle. After having to handwash plates post wash cycle I have pretty much seen the benefit of Steve’s method. Plus I like puzzles.
  6. Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 9.58.42 AMGive in to the passion. If one person cares a whole hell of a lot for no reason and the other person cares only a little bit the crazy person should win. There will be NO scented trash bags in our house. They make me sick.
  7. Listen to reason. Steve folds the shirts in half…then deals with the arms then in half again. I deal with both arms then make a square shape. After years of arguing for the aesthetics of my way…and both of us folding his shirts one way and mine the other I finally admitted that his way was faster. Don’t tell.
  8. couple beyond transgressionsMake it a win-win. Steve likes to drive with the tire pressure displayed on the dashboard. Perhaps it is because he has run over the same cub three times and had to replace six tires as a result. There is just no saying. I prefer just about any other display. So we just split it. When I drive I look at something quirky…like mileage. Steve can spend as much time on PSI as the NFL and I keep my mouth shut. Mostly.  I’m calling this a win-win. On off days it might feel like a lose lose. But isn’t it easier to push a button to switch the display than push each other’s button?

Guess what I am getting him for his stocking this Christmas?

What are your triggers? Which ones can you ditch?

A subtraction to celebrate- the math of divorce.

celebrating divorce
A subtraction to celebrate

In a world of mindfulness and gratitude we are mistaken to ignore the strength that it takes to take away. Sometimes things can’t be fixed by meditation and a green juice. The simple problem of parents plus kids equals a happy family might not last past first grade math.  A life of addition can easily change to one of subtraction. For some it leads to divorce for better and for worse.

I went out this weekend to celebrate a friend who has come out the other side of a divorce. At 24 years old my divorce was a simple exercise. It was more like a breakup with lawyer fees. We didn’t battle over time with kids , we didn’t dismantle a life of memories, or watch our vision of a future come tumbling down. Despite that I wasn’t strong enough to do it on my own. I had a Iover the whole time I left my husband. Because of all of this I don’t really know what it feels like to let go and stand up for myself, by myself.

Most of what I know comes from observation and empathy.

I have watched several close friends go through financial fear and endless paperwork. I have heard their stories of how the person that was supposed to walk beside them in life instead tried to push them off the road to have it for themselves. From the outside it was easy to see that the divorce was the best outcome for everyone. From inside it was a different story. Through eyes blurred with tears, minds spinning with what-ifs, and ears assaulted by insults they had navigate a new path. A path that for some period of time would feel worse than the relationship they had been holding together. Extended family goes from support to threat, becoming reporters who gather evidence against you and spending time with your children doing and saying things you might never know. Houses you have built are cut into two, with each piece somehow less than half. Children need to be scheduled and soothed in when you have few literal or figurative resources. Like your house and your family, and your bank account  you feel less than half. This is all in an attempt to become whole.

It all starts with self-love. With one final and full realization that your relationship is making giving you too little…making you less of you. So it starts and ends with love and bravery…but in the middle it is a sucky muck.

As our group of forty somethings toasted our friend’s bravery and strength I could see in her eyes how that was only a fraction of the story. A long time after she started to end her marriage the painful process still held her in its grip. She was proud and excited, but more than that too. She had to give up on dreams, she had to move and move again, she had to muddle through paperwork and give less attention to a career that was even more important than before. She had been through a war of sorts, and a death too. When soldiers return they do not instantly feel at home. When someone dies mourners are not at peace the day after the funeral. When the paperwork of  a divorce is filed the exes are not instantly free. When the plusses and minuses of net worth and days of the week are all tallied up the problem is not yet solved.

After all of this effort they are at the beginning of something better, but they are alone. They might be a fraction of themselves and still the word alone finishes with the word one.

Soon they will be whole.


The single question to ask to keep your marriage strong

The post on marriage was originally published on the Good Men Project.

I was a kiss ass in school. Anything less than an A left me lingering at the elbow of the teacher wondering what I could do better. I wasn’t a sporty sort, so my version of a trophy came in the form of triplicate tri-fold carried with pride to present to my parents. Whether you loved your reports cards or loathed them, whether being coached catalyzed you or made you cringe I bet most of that regular feedback ended with your diploma.

Couple with sunglassesMaybe it shouldn’t have.

Some of us use scientific principles of recording and reporting to effect change in our daily life. We keep budgets and count calories, we track our runs and share them on social media. Karl Pearson tells us that ”that which is measured improves. That which is measured and reported improves exponentially.”

[Tweet theme=”basic-white”]When did we feel like a team this week?[/Tweet]

Yet, few people apply these methods to our marriages.

Quantifying something as organic as a relationship is not in our regular repertoire. Recent research suggests that it should be. No less of a relationship resource than the Wall Street Journal confirms the benefit  marriages performance reviews.

Because I am almost as much of a data geek as a Wall Street Journal writer, I wanted to try to track the ups and downs of our marriage. Because my husband accepts my inner nerd he threw his number 2 pencil into the ring with mine. I started by printing the progress report attached to the WSJ article. The multi part sheet didn’t seem broad enough to measure all areas of our relationship so I flipped over my page to add on open ended questions. I love an essay. I wanted to create a space for individual ratings so we could benefit from Pearson’s law. I created an emoticon rating system tied to numerical values. I love a graph.


As I reached for a second sheet of paper with a cramped hand, I glanced across the table at my husband. He had the tip of his tongue between his teeth, showing me the care and concentration he was taking with his task. He had written a single line. It read:

When did we feel like a team this week?

Suddenly my graphs and essays seemed superfluous. I pushed my paper aside and leaned towards him. His single sentence reminded me that making the individual grade was not our goal. I was finally part of a team sport. We had found a way to measure our relationship that was more natural than a strict quantification, but just as useful for us.

Whether you follow a strict format of measuring and reporting like Pearson, or develop a single touchpoint, any time you spend working at your partnership will bring positive change.

His simple question led us into a complicated conversation. We talked about our parenting, our physical relationship and the times we felt lonely. He reminded me of the power of my touch and I thanked him for the act of bringing me iced water each night in bed.

We realized that since Steve moved his office home we had stopped kissing each other goodbye as we headed to opposite ends of the house for work. That was something we could easily change. Finally we finished our assessment. Except we hadn’t. As we moved from the table to the couch he draped his arm around my shoulder and pulled me in for a kiss. “Now.” He said. “Right now is when we most felt like a team this week.”

– See more at: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/the-one-question-you-need-to-ask-to-keep-your-marriage-on-track-hlg/#sthash.oXur2pHk.dpuf

Parents, Patience and roaming Rome

When this post goes live I will be in Rome with Steve, the boys, and my mom.

I don’t know much about my time and internet access so I have have scheduled a few posts to keep my blog from staying stuck on a Monday

We are all getting excited. Oliver has packed his carry on…I have made multiple lists reminding me to gather my meds…Leo is talking plane snacks…Steve has printed maps and created spreadsheets of train time tables…my mom? She alternately texts me saying that we should “take it easy, no more than one activity a day” and emails me with requests to set up tours, vatican visits, museum admission, and more. I understand both her excitement and her reticence. It is tough to travel with kids, and with parents. We have different needs, schedules and desires. Plus, easter in Rome. Still we will somehow balance “one activity a day” with seeing the highlights and hopefully the pope. Who I hear will not be offering Mass in English. Isn’t there an app for that?

That said…my mother is not always the easiest person to vacation with, although my boys bring out the best in her. Read on.

The post about parents and patience was originally published on Parent.co under the title “No Short Cuts.”

My mom looking patient in Florida.
My mom looking patient in Florida.

My mother has joined us at the beach on Anna Maria Island. This is her first time in Florida. It’s also the first time it’s been too foggy to see the Gulf of Mexico, which normally glistens outside our window.

I’m acting as if the weather has a personal vendetta against me. My logical child is trying to remind me that weather systems are separate from any individual human. He’s talking about heat flow, and I’m thinking “how we will cram into this small space without driving each other mad.”

Past family gatherings have involved birthday cakes for Jesus, full readings of the declaration of independence, and climbing onto rooftops to feed crackers to cats. I don’t imagine we will make our odd version of magic this week.

Stuck inside for the second day, my mother watches my son’s science video.

She’s known for pulling away from the curb when I still have a foot on the ground. “I thought you were in already.” She steps over relaxing bodies in yoga class. “Shavasana is a waste of time.” She clears half full wine glasses from the hands of guests. “I thought you were done.”

She is not a patient woman.

In forty years, I have never seen her sit still without a manuscript on her lap. If she’s not working, she’s jabbing the counter furiously with a sponge, making endless lists for her daily grocery store run, or unloading a third full dishwasher.

“Who can wait for a full load of dishes?” She lives between 5 minutes and twelve months in the future. At Thanksgiving dinner, she is planning the plating for the following year. At lunch we talk about dinner. On Monday we discuss Friday – because who has any use for Tuesday to Thursday.

Those are superfluous days.

Back at the beach, she watches the video. It isn’t until after she’s started that we tell her it’s 30 minutes long. Thirty minutes of a ten-year-old explaining the hierarchy of matter. As she nears part four of eleven, I look over at her perched on her stool. I expect her body to be twitching.

Instead she is rapt.

When my boys were born we discovered the friction to her perpetual motion machine. She would lie for an hour in the hammock pretending to to be a lost boat at sea rescued by the dedicated coast guard workers. She read children’s books on repeat.

She slowed her walk to the pace of toddlers.

“I hope your teacher watches the whole thing,” she says, my mother, the Harvard professor. “Of course she will, pronounces my excited scientist.” Hmmm, deflects my mother.

At minute 24 she looks up from the laptop. 80% through – I figure she’s given it her best. But it’s not impatience that interrupted her. It’s the activities of her other grandson, who stands across from her, offering color commentary on the video as he snips bits from a soccer sock he’s wearing on his left arm.

The sock stretches all the way to his elbow and the puff of the heel does not please him. So he will customize.

“What is that?” she asks. “A sock arm.” He answers. She simply looks back at the screen.

“I really hope your teacher watches the whole thing.”

Of course she will,” answers the budding scieintist. “It’s her job,” adds the sock arm wearing long haired boy. “Yeah, right…” she mutters skeptically.

In the twilight of a long and lauded career I imagine she has taken some short cuts.

She’s not taking a short cut today. Even as the video continues to freeze she sits through the buffering without a buffer. Waiting for her grandson to continue to express his amazement over the universe.

Finally, the video is over. The sock arm walks into the big sliding door facing the blank beach. He bounces off with a reverberation and the boy laughs with glee. My mother is on the other side of the door on the phone with her partner.

She doesn’t see him so he bounces again turning his accident into a bit of physical comedy.

On the phone with her partner I hear her sign off. “Dittto.” I interpret this as a response to a lyrical declaration of love. So efficient. Then come her blond grandsons.

“I love these boys,” she tells me. “I love these boys so much” she says kissing their heads in sequence.

And she does. Present in this moment.