Saturday, May 31, 2008

Design of our Life.

Mr. Husband says this isn’t the worst stress that we’ll ever encounter. I question that sentiment—having kids cannot possibly be as hard as deciding whether or not to suffer for a year or two due to the fact that we really, really, really want a certain hardwood floor in our new house. No way. It felt like a ball of sin rolling around in our bellies; we felt like we were cheating on something—like we were diving under the gate and into Mr. McGregor’s garden. That’s how stolen the very moment was—the moment when Mr. Husband told the girl “yes, we’ll do it.”

These are the moments that are filled with dashes. No other punctuation will do—only the abrupt dash that highlights and accentuates. It’s time for sexy punctuation—the dash is sexy at its most grammar.

First of all, it’s a stress in itself that we have to kill half a good afternoon for work to visit the design center. Weekends? Has anyone heard of weekends?! We planned ferociously so that we would not waste more time than is absolutely necessary. (Yes, we planned.) We didn’t realize until the end of our appointment that we have to come back for another appointment to do faucets, wall coloring, lighting, and appliances. That’s unfortunate. We’d hoped to wrap everything up with a tiny red bow in one meeting. More stress. Kids can’t possibly throw wrenches into plans like this. No way. I don’t believe it. But then, if they do, that must be the fun kind of wrench—the monkey wrench.

We went over our budget. Of course we did. We knew we would, but we had these total pie-in-the-sky dreams that we might not. Those silly dreams that wake you in the early morning when you know they cannot possibly be reality. A dream that made us think that we could design our dream home for a price that was not only economical but also a bargain. Ha. No way. Monkey wrench.

Much to my dear boss’s horror, we designed a nice dark house. The kitchen will be dark where the lighting will give off a glow. There will be corners of glow that will invite us to read and laugh. Sure. Our cabinets are a dark cherry that is appropriately named “Merlot.” Our backsplash is dark brown tile with the standard Uba Tuba granite. We had many granite choices, but no other granite has such a fun and fantastic name. There’s a musical note and an instrument in that name—what could be better?

There were little things that Mr. Husband decided upon that reminded me of why it’s so darn fun to be with him—he likes fine things. He always says, “you get what you pay for” and he’s pointed out time and again when he’s been right. We put money into big, dramatic items like hardwood floors, cabinets, and undermount sinks. The undermount sinks in the master bathroom is an extravagance, indeed. But he did it. He’s the one who finally said, “let’s do it.” And I’m the one who jumped up and down clapping at his good decision. No more beard hair floating around the outside cranny of a sink—No more. It’s as if I just received the right to vote. It’s a big day for me. Now if only we can add a couple of robots to do the general cleaning. Perhaps we haven’t gotten to that part in the design review. Perhaps it’s still coming. Robots.

We walked away from our design review over budget and totally pleased with ourselves. While we went over Mr. Husband’s budget, we are completely inline with my budget. I told him how much it would cost to achieve the house we wanted. Now he believes me. It will all be fine. So we might have to wait another five years for kids. Do you hear that sound? It’s the sound of my mother and my mother-in-law’s hearts dropping like a sonic boom. They’ve created a wormhole with their desire and I just opened it. Monkey wrench!

The house we are planning is the house of our dreams right now. We’re very lucky to have this opportunity—and our mothers should not worry that we won’t fill this opportunity with kids. Babies. A baby for everyone. I think we’ll go ahead and have eight kids. Oh, wait … we got the level three wood floors and the level two cabinets. Ok, so how does half a baby sound to the grandparents? I think that’s all we’ll be able to afford since our house will be so smashingly-super-can’t-contain-it-awesome-spectacular. Maybe part of the kitchen or the undermount sinks will crawl up on your lap at Thanksgiving. That’s warm and fuzzy. Granite often is.

Our life got a little bit better last night as we let our stomachs unwind and uncork. We wrapped up in each other and remembered why we are doing all this—why we are planning for the future.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Harold Steals Jeff: Grand Theft Series

Harold has entered the building. He’s here. He’s playing with Jeff. He brought his own Xbox, TV, cable cords, and copy of Grand Theft. He’s hooked up to our router and now is busy trying to kill Jeff in Liberty City. Likewise, Jeff is busy trying to kill Harold. At the moment, Harold is driving a stolen police car, and Jeff is driving a green Comet. It is a battle of Grand Theft Auto IV great proportions. It has been reported to me that Harold, who is a sergeant in the U.S. Army, is incredibly skilled at video games as this is his favorite pastime while not busy defending the country. Jeff wishes he were as skilled. Harold beats Jeff often. Jeff is eager to kill Harold one day.

This is my Grand Theft life.

I’ve mentioned that our apartment is small. It’s really small. There is nowhere I can walk without being in the way. I am eternally in the way. The room is filled with gunning motors, Harold laughing, Jeff yelling, and women screaming as they dodge out of the way of this Grand Theft death match. Both boys are within physical spitting distance of each other as they dive into Liberty City and I become a shadow. And so I write. Maybe I write that Harold is picking his nose? Maybe I write that Jeff has a vicious bout of danger gas that is threatening all of us by filling our decent air with foul invisible matter? Maybe I write that. They will not know. They are gone to me now.

Harold came in the door with his guitar and poured himself a drink. Then they went to work.

As soon as my twin Hario, that’s what I call him (if I’m not calling him buttface), arrived, he and Jeff set about hooking up the game systems and TVs. Hario is on his way down to visit Mom and Dad in Florida where he will play more Xbox. He’ll golf by day and play Xbox by night. He’s eventually on his way to Signal school in Georgia. He’s going to be that guy in the movies who tells the star of the movie that something unexpected, unusual, and unknown is heading our way. He’ll be that guy with headphones who gets the one liner that acts as catalyst for the climax in the movie. Harold is totally going to be in movies. At least he will be when I write him into one—wearing those headphones that probably are not really headphones. Headgear. Head something. Something is headed our way, he’ll yell … and everyone will look concerned and the director will cut to the star of the movie who will show more concern than anyone else. The star will probably also squint his eyes in mock concentration. Anyhow, Harold will be the one who starts all that by his keen observations.

That’s my twin.

So they sit in the living room now, chasing each other and trying to do one another in. Tomorrow night, I’ll make myself scarce. I’ll go and hang out with my mother-in-law to drink wine and gossip. I’ll let them be alone in their Grand Theft dream world. I hope they kill each other good and enjoy it to its fullest.

I put together a lasagna so that Jeff can throw it into the oven tomorrow night to feed them both. They will eat like video kings while under my roof. Whether I’m here or not, Harold will have a home cooked meal. If they both end up shooting each other to death in Liberty City, it will, at least, be on a full stomach of home-cooked lasagna.

Good luck, Boys. May the best man not die such a brutal death and maybe fly a helicopter. And maybe one of them will get lucky with a video girl. Sky's the limit today in this small apartment.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Wine, Vine, and Love.

Mr. Husband knows that his wife thrives on plans. I love lists and organization for activities, but I cannot clean our abode to save my life. Fortunately, cleaning is a couples activity in our neck of the woods, but we always have a plan. I like to have a list of things like “clean the toilet, fold laundry” so I can mark it off with a pencil scratch. That pencil scratch is my own neurotic reward for progress. I have to know where I’m going at all times, and my dear husband plans for that. He is very afraid of Neurotic Wife who cannot breathe due to not knowing what’s coming next. We’ve also had many moments of confusion based on lack of planning, which has caused us to learn to love the plan. The family council has passed the Planning Game into law and sees this as the best way to proceed in most activities.

Mr. Husband likes to remind me that I cannot control everything.

Our second day in San Fran was to be romantic day for Husband and Wife. We planned to head out to Napa Valley. Mr. Moser gave us a laminated map that detailed all wineries along with tasting rooms and hours. To see how many little dots—amazing. I didn’t have adequate time to plan. Oh, no! Since we were on vacation, I thought we’d wing it. I really tried, too. I kept telling myself about how free I was. How I was going to just head down the road and see where it takes me. Mr. Husband, who is always much wiser than neurotic wife, knew better. While I was showering and dressing, he looked up various vineyards and planned our day trip. He had everything ready to go into the GPS in the rental car. He not only planned for various wineries in Napa, but he researched each website to see what other than wine the winery might offer. Since we didn’t know much about what was out there—good or bad wine and where—we were throwing stones into a pool of water (or, better, a pool of wine).

There is one thing that neurotic wife likes more than plans—a theme! Mr. Husband had carefully crafted a theme for our day’s romantic adventure. We were visiting wineries that offered spectacular scenery. There had to be something unique about the winery as a viewing point. Fantastic! He wouldn’t tell me what the special feature was until we were just upon the winery. This is about as much mystery excitement as I can handle—seriously; I’m not good with surprises. I clapped my hands and we drove and made up silly songs. It is about an hour and a half from San Fran Noe Valley to Napa. However, the scenery is so crazy spectacular, that one hardly notices the time. It’s like watching a really good movie.

The first winery was a chateau that has a castle and a Chinese Garden behind it. Wow. The garden was a dream. It was just down behind the castle that was covered with crawling ivy. We were the only ones there. In a dream. Well, it would have been a dream except for the gardeners and their mowing mowers and weed whackers whacking that offered continuous remembrance of the Here and Now instead of transporting us to Other World. But we ran and we laughed and we played on the pond with the baby ducks, the graceful swan, and the turtles that seem to be everywhere these days.

We’ve labeled this winery Chateau Forgettable. I can never remember the proper name because the wine simply wasn’t to our liking. But the winery—spectacular! They had a reasonable Riesling that made me think of our dear Mrs. Patel who thrives on Riesling. Their best wine was a Cabernet for $125, but it was really only fun and not truly exciting. On this day, we were looking for exciting. With house budget, we needed to be wowed In order to buy something that wasn’t on budget. Oh, and like nothing was on budget.

The next winery was St. Clement that offers a Victorian house up on a hill overlooking the winery and valley. Lovely. It is the perfect place for a small spring wedding reception. Gardens carved out of stone with big trees that invite you to their limbs. The tasting room was small and packed. It was uncomfortably small. But it was here that we tasted liberty. Here we tasted a wine with mixed grapes that ran down our throats, past our tongues, like a great wave of velvet. Oroppas. Say it—the word “Or-O-pPas”! It reminds me of Joyce’s Portrait of an Artist where we get stuck sounding out “Omphalus” –words taste good. This wine tasted better than words. I’m going to English Literature hell for that statement—it’s the dreaded ring of hell of which Dante never speaks or writes for great fear.

We bought two bottles of velvety 2005 and two half bottles of 2002. We shared one with Moser and Petar and one of the 2005 is still on its way to us. (The guys are shipping our wine.)

We fell in love all over again with that bit of Oroppas. That’s good wine.

The next winery was Mumm Napa. This is a sparkling wine winery with a photo gallery as a bonus. Of course, we thought “museum,” which it really was not, but walking among the black and white photographs were big windows where we could look in upon the casks of wine making their time. Casks of love. I got the giggles from the sparkling wine and we bought a bottle to share with Jeff’s parents. The Blanc de Blanc made us think of my Mother-in-Law (MIL). Jeff tasted the fine water at this establishment. Since he was driving, he spit out most the wine at any place. Here, he got an actual glass of water. Funny. He rated it for tap water versus bottled quality. A discerning tongue knows all liquids and can rate in accordance.

Our final vineyard was Gloria Ferrer. We were late getting there, though. The tasting room was closed. We only got to see the view and know that this is a place we wanted to revisit. Spectacular drive with a patio overlooking the magnificent rows of grapes. Serenity was here. She saw us and she gave us the rest of our lives to think back on the moment and the view. We would come back to this view. We would. And we had each other for the day, together in wine, vine, and love.

We drove home, guided by the strange woman on our GPS. We found our two friends and filled them with the wine of our travels. We all vowed that another trip was necessary. Napa stays with us forever in memory and on our palette ever. Good planning. Good Husband.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Price of Friendship.

So we are home from our whirlwind trip to San Francisco. Definitely not enough time. Not at all. We were real troopers on what we called the Midnight Wine Express Extravaganza. With our frequent flyer tickets, we flew in at midnight and out at midnight five days later. Traveling at midnight is what turns people into zombies, not the T Virus as Resident Evil video games will have us all believe. Fortunately, we thrive off each other … and off good wine. My Super Husband held me together and got me to all places in one piece. I repaid him by forcing him to walk uphill in San Francisco for many miles. Death eluded us much to our surprise, and Mr. Husband swears he’ll never walk uphill in Noe Valley again. I have good money riding on that bet. He secretly likes to walk until he's dizzy. He does.

Here we are after walking halfway up and down and up again one of San Francisco’s city streets that move like music—the Grateful Dead were underfoot at all times. Unfortunately, I think Mr. Husband thinks most of our time was spent in drums>space. I tell him it truly was the rollicking end of the second set. Regardless of where exactly our many miles of street-hill-hiking took us within a Dead set, we were smiling the whole time. That’s kind of unavoidable. We made each other laugh to avoid the tears of pain. We are stronger people as a result. We can move mountains. Well, at least, we can move ourselves.

We had two awesome hosts while vacationing in San Francisco’s Noe Valley. We took up space at Petar’s place. Years ago, I’d nicknamed Petar the “Man Mountain from Yugoslavia.” Petar sat next to me in the next cube at work when he first moved to Birmingham. He’s Tall. However, my Mr. Husband gracefully eclipses the Man Mountain by 2-3 inches. (Yeah, that’s all mine.) This photo of us on our way to the Giants game on Friday night shows how crushed Petar is by the obvious height superiority of Mr. Husband. Here he jumps to try and seem not so small and Napolean-like next to Mr. Husband the Man-Who-Laughs-at Man-Mountain-for-Being-Short at a measly 6’4”. Good thing we understand that Petar can’t help being short. We love him all the same. He took damn good care of us regardless of height.

The other host is My Moser. I’ve known Moser for over eight years. I knew of Moser before I knew Moser. Prior grad school, I worked at my present employer for five months before leaving for two years to study English. I worked on the bottom floor of the company, and all the girls would talk about “the hot guy” on the next floor. They were referring to Moser. Moser was like this being of mythic hotness proportions. When I came back to work after grad school, he was the guy everyone talked about … but he was on vacation in Jamaica. I never really knew that “the hot guy” had a name. When he came back from vacation and I was introduced to him, I blurted out, “Oh! You’re the hot guy.” For some reason, that made us fast friends. I’ve been Moser’s “wing man” for over five years. No one can sell Moser like I can sell Moser. Here he is in typical Moser fashion: wishing he was a bear with a blackberry in his hand. He never stops working.

One reason Mr. Husband and I are drawn to both of these great hosts is that we all have a penchant for working hard and totally loving our jobs. And when we stop working to relax, life is about laughter and friendship. We share our lives with a familiar and humorous openness. I was surprised that Moser wouldn’t lend us his car. What?! Like, I’m totally not responsible at the wheel, but my Robot Husband is the picture of responsibility and way better than Rainman at driving up and down a driveway. I was offended. Moser seemed to me to hem and haw about how Mr. Husband wouldn’t fit into his new compact Scion vehicle. I, of course, didn’t believe him. I silently accused him of stinginess (which is, like, the opposite of Moser). Finally, on Saturday, Moser took us to his vehicle to show me what he was afraid of: Mr. Husband’s knees were up around his chin and turning the steering wheel was going to be either embarrassingly pleasant or incredibly painful. Here we are realizing that Moser is smart and not truly stingy.

We both of us want to thank our awesome hosts. We walked. We laughed. We drank wine. We didn’t drive Moser’s tiny clown car. Petar and Moser made sure we saw the important points, like Twin Peaks and the Giants. They made sure we were comfortable in unseasonably warm 100 degree weather in San Francisco. They helped us to have something of a second honeymoon at a time when saving for a house might have kept us from a proper vacation. Sure, we’re lucky in that whenever Mr. Husband and I have a moment alone it’s totally like a honeymoon swirling in the air we breath together, but going somewhere special makes it about many orders of magnitude romantically better.

Good friends are priceless.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Family First.

From the very first kiss, my Mr. Husband said, “Oh! You have to meet my mom!” For some ladies with enough dating experience at age thirty-three, this immediate exclamation is a death sentence. This is the sign of a man who is single because his mother makes him single. My fears quickly rid my head once I met Mr. Husband’s parents--approximately two weeks after the first kiss. He was not creepy and uninvolved and she was not overbearing and severe. They were all warmth and sunshine. They break the mold. You can hear the Beatles singing in their every step.

The next weekend, week three of dating, I met the grandparents in Nashville. I was on a whirlwind relative tour. I’d already met one brother at this point and the youngest brother followed soon within the first month. It was a bombardment of epic proportions. Mr. Husband met my parents and two brothers within the next three months. Family. And they are all so happy to be with each other. Ah, this is family at its finest.

This weekend, my Mr. Husband surprised me with the surprise of all surprises. He brought my parents here as a super gift for my birthday. Apparently, for two months he and the parents have been in cahoots! Mr. Husband would listen to me cry in the mornings on the way to work as I complained about their not coming to visit to see our new house-in-progress. He’d simply shake his head, knowing all the time that they were indeed coming and would give me the face time and house time that I desperately needed. (I call my parents on the way to work at least three mornings during the week.) There are no two people in the world more dear to me than my parents. They are retired and live in The Villages in Florida, so they play tennis, play golf, and drink wine for a living. They have the good life. They planned well.

And, now, wherever they go, my parents leave a trail of laughter and happiness. They drop good cheer and funny moments like Hansel and Gretel drop breadcrumbs. Fortunately, no dire end is waiting in a witch’s oven—only pure happiness … and shopping for this family.

Mr. Husband said we were ordering a pizza for Friday night. He was so excited about the pizza. Not unusual. He started vacuuming when we got home from work on Friday. Totally out of character, but he did buy a Dyson recently (he tends to go crazy with his space-machine-vacuum). When the pizza came, I opened the door to find my laughing parents in a radiating beam of happiness and holding a pizza. Amazing. I was speechless. That doesn’t often happen. Might have been the first time in my life. Ever.

We drank wine and watched The Odd Couple on TCM—my parents cackled over Walther Matheau and Jack Lemmon. We visited the new development and saw our plot of dirt and planned our kitchen design. I made my dad act like he was holding a turkey in front of one house while mom had to act like she was holding a grandchild as I documented the moment in a photo. We witnessed my parents steal the neighbor's newspaper to read early in the morning and, then, wrap it back up to toss on the neighbor’s front porch as if unread. We walked through a botanical garden, drank more wine, and did some shopping. We capped the Saturday off with a visit to the in-laws. Mr. Husband’s parents were all laughter and hospitality as they cooked steaks and poured wine for all of us. It’s important for these two parental groups to know each other and get along. They’ll have grandkids one day to communicate about—and we want everyone to be close as the family grows.

And so there we were—the four of us—and sometimes the six of us. My Mr. Husband was the one who pulled it all together (without me planning it!). He was totally wearing a mask and cape and I’m sure he could fly that day. He was the hero of the moment. He is often my hero and the person I strive to emulate, but this weekend he topped the birthday cake. The appearance of my parents as a surprise was better than anything I could have imagined. Even better than 50% off with an additinal 20% off--no kidding. This was good. We laughed until they left. This is my world and my Mr. Husband makes it go round.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

How I Stole a Lifetime of Grand Theft.

My Mr. Husband has a great aptitude for learning new things. His mother says that he was born old, but this old dog is one of the quickest learners of new tricks I’ve ever met. He is able quickly to change in mid-stream and begin swimming anew in a different direction. He is agile and swift like a fox. Though his primary sport be video games, his big brain makes him a mind athlete of the thinking kind. This keen athleticism that Mr. Husband wears behind his eyes comes in handy for me quite often.

For instance, let’s take his new hobby of staring, unblinking, for hours at the TV while he chases cars in Liberty City (Grand Theft Auto IV). This is a situation that does not exactly play in my favor. I am not really there on the screen, so I’m not really … there. I’m here, but not there with him. In fact, we’re still breathing the very same air due to close apartment living proximity, but we’re not living the same life. After four solid days of his being hunched over, controller in hand, space-age signal set on head, eyes never blinking with my bringing him liquids and foods from time to time to replenish my gaming soldier, I’d become quite bored. Yes. I missed my Mr. Husband.

I’ve found that the easiest way for a woman to get her husband to pay more attention is to threaten him with her watching hour after hour after hour of Lifetime TV for Women made-for-TV-movies. In most cases, the “threat” will very quickly cross over into reality because, let’s face it—Lifetime is addictive. There’s a reason that there’s more than one channel for women to watch women being abused by men, other women, employers, and their families.

If women are hurting, Lifetime is putting it on display. I remember the one night shortly after we’d moved in together that the two of us casually happened upon a Lifetime movie. We were both hooked. He even had to know how it all turned out (even though we all tacitly know how it will turn out). The clever and ever-so-crafty high school writing had us in her grasp. We knew then that there is danger in Lifetime. Mr. Husband surmised that we definitely lost some brain cells while being hooked into the movie that was undoubtedly about a woman who married a man who was sweet and then turned evil and probably raped her and all her friends before being victoriously caught by the dumb cop who finally listened after telling the woman she was imaging things for the first half of the movie. Oh, poor woman and her fight to be accepted as not feeble and crazy at every turn! Will we ever win?!

Anyhow, to assist me in what Mr. Husband first imagined was a healthy way of keeping me out of the way of his gaming—he moved my reading chair into the kitchen to watch TV. I cannot read while he is playing his game as there is lots of screaming, music, and gunning motors. (In a house with many rooms, that will not be a problem, but for now we are here in one large room.) He moved my favorite chair—the chair that I bought for $15 from a thrift store during my undergrad stint at college after Jerry died—into the kitchen so I could be more intimate with my TV.

Perfect for Lifetime. Perfect for me to do research on what is clearly the truth about all men. This lasted for one night. Only one night. The next day, I filled Mr. Husband in on my research. I gave him a full report on my surprising findings. I explained to him about how all men are evil and that I was sure he has a dead first wife somewhere that he killed for her inheritance. I just knew it. I told him of all the lies I was now clued in on about how men cheat women out of every possible happiness.

One night. That’s all it took.

He’s moved my chair out of the kitchen and back into the sunroom corner. He’s put down Grand Theft for a few days to let his body straighten back to proper straightness and to allow his eyes to regain their natural moisture from regular blinking. His fingers have become uncurled and he’s more careful of his wife who’s brain appeared to be shrinking. I think we both learned a valuable lesson.