Monday, October 10, 2011

Hallway Sex

Several years ago a buddy of mine mentioned, almost in passing, how for a long while after their second child was born, he and his wife had only what he called “Hallway Sex”. This is when you pass each other by in the hall and one of you yells, “F^&k you!” and the other responds with a “F&*k you, too!”

At the time, I had thought he was joking.

It’s the dirty little secret of parenthood: The little bastards suck out all your zest for life, leaving nothing but sleep-deprived, angry zombies, skilled at changing diapers one-handed in the dark, but incapable of civil discourse.

Most nights, after a day of work followed by an evening of feeding, watering, bathing, changing, putting to bed, putting back to bed, threatening, screaming, then putting to bed again, we’re exhausted. A couple glasses of wine, an episode or two of “30 Rock” on Netflix Streaming, and we're asleep by 9:00. Then up again at midnight, at 2am, 4am, then getting up for good at 5am.

Sex? Yeah, right. That’s just not in the cards, when you don’t even have enough energy to be cordial to one another.

It makes me wonder how large families can possibly exist.  Nobody with that many kids can possibly be getting any action.

How do Mormons and Catholic parents do it?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pelvis Day

If I could have a do-over in life, I would go back and redo Sunday, February 2nd, 1997. That was the day I broke my girlfriend’s pelvis. And not in any exciting way that someone might be impressed by.

Jen and I had known each other for about a year and a half, both of us graduate students in the master’s program in psychology at Western Washington University. I’d asked her out a few times, but like so many other men like me (that is to say, neither a bad boy, nor particularly hot), she had relegated me to her “friend zone”. But after about a year of spending time together in group activities, seeing movies, cooking vegetarian meals for her, and helping her with her statistics homework, she had a change of heart. My long game worked.

We’d been dating for about six months, and things were going well. We got along, we had fun together, we had the same friends, enjoyed many of the same activities, and even the meetings of our respective families had gone pretty well. That is, until we took a ski trip together.

I’m a very poor downhill skier. Don’t have very good control or coordination. I had done cross-country skiing for years, but I suck at downhill. She wanted to go, though, so I wanted to take her. In retrospect, I think I was afraid she would consider me too geeky if I didn’t want to go. This seems strange to me now; in all the time we’ve known each other, I doubt there was ever a day that she didn’t know exactly how geeky I am. But that kind of insight takes time. For geeks like me, anyway.

We drove up to the Mt Baker ski resort, about 60 miles east of Bellingham, early on that Sunday morning. My recollection of the day is that it was gray and slick. Not great ski weather and even worse for driving windy mountain roads in the tinny Toyota Tercel I owned at the time. By the time we got there, I was already nervous and a bit worn out from the drive. Of course, I said nothing. Mustn’t be a geek.

The first hour or so went okay. We did several runs and I started to have fun. Too much fun, apparently, since I was paying attention to everything around me except for her location. I followed too closely behind her, failing to notice her sudden stop until it was too late. I plowed into her with my full weight, tackling her into the snow. She couldn’t get up afterwards. She was conscious and she could move her legs, but she couldn’t stand. And she was in a lot of pain.

For weeks afterwards I kept seeing the image of the crash in my dreams, replaying like a looped video in my head. I can even see that image now, if I think about it. But the rest is mostly a blur: getting down the hill by snowmobile...driving her down the mountain...getting her to the hospital...calling her mother to tell her about the accident...mostly all gone (thankfully!).

Fortunately, things turned out pretty well. Two months later, we ran a 10K together. She forgave me for the accident and (after several years) so did her mother. We moved to Pennsylvania together about six months later, and life went on. Now, on the anniversary of the event, I send her an E-card with a photo of Elvis Presley to commemorate Pelvis day.

But I absolutely hate to ski. And my criteria for evaluating ski trips have changed. Nobody hospitalized is a good day on the slopes.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

3 Years "Back East"

We lived in Pennsylvania from 1997 until 2000.  Our first year was the hardest, as we didn’t care for our apartment, Jen was (initially) unemployed, and we hadn’t yet made many friends. My main focus was on school, but I gave her as much time and energy as I could on evenings and weekends.  I think she resented having to rely on me for so much, because she had always been very independent, with her own large network of friends.  She filled some time with the occasional crafting class (jewelry making) and focused her energy on fitness and finding work. 

Her first job was as a counselor at a residential treatment facility for teenage boys – essentially a private juvenile detention facility.  These were boys from bad homes with few positive role models and fewer resources.  She helped those she could, but most were poor therapy candidates, well on the way to becoming little sociopaths.  Within six months, she found a job as the undergraduate academic counselor for the university’s psychology department. This was much better, as we were working in the same department, interacting with many of the same people, and her job conditions were infinitely more pleasant.
Things improved over time.  Our second year we found a much better apartment.  We brought home a kitten (a gray little imp I named Gwarsh – still here 14 years later, though slower), we made more friends, drove throughout the mid-Atlantic and New England, and gradually got used to our lives there.  But Jen was never really happy – partly because she felt displaced from her home and friends, and partly because she felt her graduate training was going to waste.  I felt guilty that her unhappiness was because of the choice to come with me, and I hated feeling that way.

In the winter of 1999, she decided to go back to school for her doctorate in clinical psychology.  Two years of counseling undergraduates on how to pursue graduate degrees was enough to convince her to go back for another one herself.  She jumped through all the hoops, wrote the applications, did the interviews, and in the summer of 2000 we were headed back to Portland, OR so that she could start her program.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Crockpot Therapy

I like to cook, and I enjoy browsing the cookbook section at Powell’s bookstore (a city block of books!). I’ve looked through every cuisine of cookbooks from Armenian to Zimbabwean but haven’t yet found any quick and easy recipes for keeping a marriage fresh where the ingredient list includes two kids, two professional careers, a never-ending list of household chores, and 14 years of accumulated baggage. Also, if possible, I’d like it to be a Crockpot recipe so I can just throw it all together in the morning before work and have it be ready by nighttime.

I remember the first day that Jen and I met – it was on a Tuesday – September 26th 1995. I was 27 and she was 23. It was the first day of graduate school for both of us, and I sat down (naturally!) next to the cutest girl at the orientation meeting. It didn’t take very long to realize she had no romantic interest in me, particularly when I would ask her out and she would say, “I have no romantic interest in you”. But eventually I won her over with my manly good looks, my tremendous charisma, my masterful guitar playing, and my overwhelming sense of modesty. Also, I helped her with her statistics homework.

We started living together two years later, when we moved from Washington State to Pennsylvania, where I’d been accepted into a PhD program at Penn State. We crammed all our junk into her 10 year old blue Volvo sedan we called Uduff (after his license plate, UTF 101) and tent-camped our way cross-country.

I’d had to sign a yearlong apartment lease sight unseen before leaving Bellingham (the rental market is tight in State College, PA; at least it was in 1997). Before signing, I’d asked my faculty advisor to check it out for me, which he graciously agreed to do, assuring me that the place was just fine. Unfortunately, gracious though he was, the guy apparently suffers from near blindness and anosmia, because that apartment was the darkest, coldest, dampest, smelling-of-mildew-and-cat-pee apartment either of us had ever lived in. We got there and Jen cried for hours. We had arrived to our dingy little apartment, 3000 miles from home in a town where we knew no one, living on my $8000 per year graduate assistantship, and she was unemployed.

Who could imagine a better way to start a relationship?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Real Men Don’t Buy Electric Spleen Agitators

The other morning I tried to borrow my wife’s GTI to go to the gym (I have the responsible Dad car, she has the fun car...still not quite sure how that worked out). When I started it up, an annoying alarm sounded, along with a dashboard indicator saying, “Shut Down Engine Now. Oil Pressure 9 PSI”. I never made it into the gym, but I definitely got my heart rate elevated.

That car gets its oil changed every 5000 miles. Even use the full synthetics, so I have no idea what could be the problem. No pool of oil on the ground below the car; no advanced warning, no nothing. I called up our service guy and he just told me to put a couple of quarts in and drive it in.

I think what really pisses me off about this whole deal is that it reminds me that I am a complete ignoramus about most things car-related. I know how to jump a dead battery. I can put in a quart of oil, and 9 times out of 10, I won’t pour it down the wiper fluid intake. But that’s about it.

The service guy told me that VWs can burn a lot of oil. Sometimes up to a quart every 1000 miles. But it’s a 2007 with only 27,000 miles. It makes no sense to me that it could be burning that much oil. But what do I know? He could tell me it needs a new electric spleen agitator, and I wouldn’t know the difference.

I’ve thought about taking a basic course in auto maintenance at PCC. Probably should. But I’m just a little bit embarrassed about being there with a bunch of 15 year olds that all know more than I do, and they’re all laughing at my ignorance. How could someone get that old and still know so little?

Maybe I don’t know enough about cars to be a real man, but at least I can drive a stick shift. When my wife lets me borrow her car.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Living with a Vegetarian

I’ve been a pseudo-vegetarian for about 14 years.  There are two primary reasons for being a pseudo-vegetarian:  1) you’re sleeping with a vegetarian; or 2) you’d like to be.  The third reason, my reason, is when you’re married to one.

A pseudo-vegetarian isn’t quite like being a real vegetarian.  Sure, we don’t eat much meat (at least not when she’s there to see), but your heart’s just not into it.  Sort of like the early Christian converts in Scandinavia who had to choose between conversion and death at the hand of their Christian king, "Saint" Olaf. With pseudo-veggies, it’s your love life that’s under threat of execution.
In fairness, the lifestyle really isn’t all that bad, unless you’re living with a hardcore orthodox vegetarian.  My wife belongs to the reformed church, and they’re a bit easier going.  I keep a bag of chicken breasts in the freezer for emergencies, and I still get the occasional burger eating out with friends or co-workers.  But the rest of the time, it’s legumes, cheese, and vegetable proteins in our house.  And ice cream.  God help me, I couldn’t do it without the ice cream.  I’d probably join a radical fundamentalist carnivore sect, and set off a Bolognese bomb at a local salad bar.

The hardest part is deciding how to raise the children.  Should they be raised as veggies or gentiles?  We haven’t had to choose yet:  Our older daughter is basically a carbivore, and the younger one only has two teeth.  Hopefully a burning bush will speak to us soon to lead us out of the desert.  The question is, will we be led to the land of milk and honey, or will it be the golden calf for them?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Man Crush

A facebook friend recently posted a link to a youtube video proving that Tom Selleck’s mustache improves everything. And I’ll be damned if it’s not true. I showed the video to Jen, and she didn’t get it.

“But it’s Tom Selleck’s mustache. It makes everything look better”

“If you say so.”

“Aw, c’mon. Don’t you think Tom Selleck’s ‘stache makes everyone look better?”

“I think someone has a thing for Tom Selleck”

“Yeah, right!”

“You do! You have a crush on Tom Selleck!”

“I don’t have a crush on Tom Selleck, okay?”

“You totally do. You want him to kiss you with that mustache”

“No...well, if I had to kiss a guy, maybe it would be Tom Selleck. But I don’t want him to kiss me. I just want him to be my poker buddy...and maybe take me for a ride in his Ferrari.”

“So, that’s what they’re calling it these days.”

Women don’t understand anything.

Here’s the link in question. Tell me that mustache doesn’t make everyone look better:


About Me

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I work for a non-profit organization doing research in education, educational assessment, and education policy. I am married with one child , one cat, and one mortgage. All things considered, life is good.