Three Things I Do That Drive My Wife Insane (Sorry, Honey!)

My beloved wife, Ellen and I will be celebrating our 15th anniversary later this week. (According to Ellen, the traditional 15th anniversary gift is a kitchen remodel. I, on the other hand, think a more appropriate 15th anniversary gift is to pay a kid to cut the lawn.)

15 years is a long time, and I am pleased to report that our marriage remains healthy, happy, and kissy. My son reports that it is too kissy, but he can stuff it.

In fact, Ellen finds only three things about me that might drive her to murder me in my sleep.

HUMMING

When I do chores, I like to have music playing in the background. It puts a spring in my step (and, occasionally, a splint on my finger). Music makes housework fun!

When I don’t play music, I hum. Ellen hates, hates, hates my humming and I can’t blame her. Nobody ever wants to hear another person hum.

The songs I hum vary and are prompted by any earworm-y song that finds its way into my orbit. A recent Catholic Mass put me on a non-stop In Christ Alone kick. This was replaced a few weeks later by Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls. So, yeah, musically I’m all over the place. (Once I even caught myself humming the theme to Wonderpets in the men’s room.)

Sometimes the hummable song consumes me for a day; other times it’s a week or more. But, no matter how catchy, sooner or later the song will dislodge itself from my brain and vanish from my hum jukebox.

There is one exception to this rule, however.

The one song that never leaves my brain is Deck the Halls. I don’t know why, but somehow, Deck the Halls has become my fallback hum song.

All. Year. Round.

I often hum it without hearing it, so I’m frequently caught off guard when Ellen storms up, jabs her index finger in my face, and says, “NO!”

“Oh, sorry,” I reply.

But five minutes later, I’m doing it again. Come to think of it, Ellen really should’ve beaten me to death by now.

NOCTURNAL NOTICING OF THINGS

I am a night person trapped in a day schedule. I think many writers are in a similar predicament. We want to go to sleep after the Late Late Movie (remember when there were Late Late movies?) and roll out of bed at around 11-ish to start the day, but we can’t. We have jobs. And families. And other things that force us up at the ungodly predawn hours. We learn to adjust. It is the price of being a grown up.

I can function in the morning, but my productivity sweet spot kicks in at about three in the afternoon and continues for about the next eight hours.

So by the time my dear wife is ready to go to bed at around ten, I’m still relatively alert. Sometimes this means I pepper her with stupid bedtime thoughts.

But I also pepper her with thoughts that are less stupid. I talk about the chores we still need to do. The calls we still need to make. The appointments we still need to prepare for.

For me, this is called “Winding Down.” Before I rest my head on the pillow, I want to have a relatively good grasp on what needs to be done the following day.

But what winds me down revs Ellen up.

Why,” she growls into her pillow, “are you telling me all this now?”

Apparently, musing about the many, many incomplete tasks in our house makes Ellen anxious and cranky. She gets “overwhelmed,” which is a type of tired, I suppose, but not the type of tired that makes a person sleepy.

PILE POACHING

Ellen, when left to her own devices, likes to create piles of paper.

These piles are quite remarkable. Each paper in an Ellen pile is completely unrelated to any of the other papers in that same pile. Does a bank statement belong in the same pile with an ungraded essay or a takeout menu from the Tastee Wok? Apparently so.

Ellen creates lots of these incomprehensible piles. And she is always adding to the piles with new, completely unrelated pieces of paper. Phone numbers with no names. The water bill. Alex’s social studies report on the Leni Lenape Indians. Weather-beaten notebooks half-filled with handwritten algebra problems.

It is amazing just how many pieces of paper in our house are completely unrelated to any other pieces of paper.

I hate these piles.

I am an anal retentive person. I see a pile of paper as a personal affront to my existence. To me, a pile is a problem. Problems need to be solved.

Ellen does not like it when I mess with her piles and I respect that. So I ask Ellen to mess with her piles on my behalf.

“I will,” she says, but she doesn’t. Ellen is very good at ignoring her piles.

So I don’t ignore her piles. When the moment is right, I dig in. I throw things away and file things away until every dang, stupid, paper thing is away.

This makes Ellen grouchy.

“I said I’d do it!” she grumps. “Now I don’t know where anything is!”

“Everything,” I reply, with a bow of a Zen master, “is in it’s place.”

To be honest, I think my pile purging skill is the reason why Ellen doesn’t murder me for humming or creating unnecessary stress at bedtime. As much as she doesn’t want me to mess with her piles, there is a part of her that knows what would happen if I didn’t. The untended piles would continue growing, like a cancer, eventually reaching up to the ceiling, filling rooms, and spilling out into the yard.

No one wants to get crushed to death under stacks of expired coupons and back issues of The Atlantic. By keeping me alive, Ellen is keeping herself alive. And isn’t that what a healthy marriage is all about?

Here’s to the next 15 years! I love you, Sweetie!

Three Things On My Bucket List

Harumph!

Harumph! (Groundhoggy grumpiness courtesy of International Business Times.)

The term “Bucket List” has become so common these days that most people have forgotten that it was popularized by one of the worst films of Jack Nicholson’s career. Since I don’t believe in inadvertently promoting bad movies (that is why you’ll never hear me say “something’s gotta give”) I would like to replace “Bucket List” with a term of my own:

The-Things-I-Would-Like-To-Do-At-Some-Point-In-My-Life-But-Have-Nothing-To-Do-With-My-Family-Or-Career-So-If-I-Don’t-Get-To-Do-Them-It-Really-Won’t-Be-A-Big-Deal List

As you can see, I prefer accuracy to brevity.

For your convenience, I’ve turned this term into a simple acronym:

TTIWLTDASPIMLBHNTDWMFOCSIIDGTDTIRWBABD List

Here are three things that top my list:

Visit Punxsutawney Phil

Phyllis would be great, too!

Punxsutawney Phyllis would be great, too!

I love groundhogs. They are cute, cantankerous, and always wear a “Now, what the hell do you want?” expression on their faces. So it seems only logical that I would want to go to Pennsylvania, get up at the crack of dawn, and stand in the frigid cold to catch a glimpse of the most famous groundhog of all time.

My wife, Ellen, thinks I’m insane for wanting to do this — and she has told me in no uncertain terms that she would never, ever, ever in a hillion-jillion-zillion years accompany me on such an excursion. My son, Alex, is more open to the idea of such a trip, but I think that’s because Groundhog Day often falls on a school day.

When I tell other people about my dream of visiting Punxsutawney on the groundhoggiest day of the year, their reactions range from mild amusement to a horrified, “I don’t know-you-anymore!” style of bewilderment.

There is one exception: My mom. She not only endorses such a trip, but also insists on going with me. This is kind of surprising because Mom is whimsically challenged. (She would loudly and proudly agree with this assessment, by the way.) Yet going on a several-hundred-mile journey to see an animal that Mom can find in her own backyard… And then listening to this animal pretending to predict the weather… Well, that’s about as whimsical as it gets.

So I don’t understand Mom’s motives, but, someday soon, she will be welcome company.

Run For President

Let me clarify straightaway that I don’t want to win; I just want to run. My reasoning is simple: I like meeting people, Ellen says I look good in a tie, and a presidential campaign seems like a great way to promote non-presidential things. You know, like a book.

I could certainly do better than this scumbag

Even if I accidentally did win, I could never be a worse president than this guy.

Since I have no intention of winning, I can say whatever I want during the campaign. In fact, saying whatever I want will pretty much guarantee that I won’t win. (I am a student of history and can assert that no presidential candidate ever won an election by calling another candidate a “poopie head.” My first campaign promise: I will publicly and repeatedly call every xenophobic candidate a “poopie head.” You’re welcome. God bless America!)

I also want to run because I came up with a nifty campaign slogan:

Get a Leg Up With Allegra!

I look forward to your lack of support in 2020.

Cuddle a Capybara

Weighing in at about 100 pounds, a capybara is the world’s largest rodent. Capybaras are social, curious, friendly, and adorable. Considering my pro-rodent (prodent) beliefs, I should – scratch that – I must find an opportunity to hug this Godzilla guinea pig.

So what do you have on your Bucket List?

Write me a comment and let me know!

Three Things I’ve Learned from The Magic Kingdom

Mickey

I went to Disney World! Woo!

And I’m home now! Double woo!

Yep. Disney will do that to you. A person can absorb only so much whimsy before he feels compelled to run screaming for the airport.

I’m kidding, of course. I didn’t run screaming for the airport. I was too tired to either run or scream; I crawled and groaned.

I also had fun. Lots of fun, really.

And I return to the blogging world bearing three pieces of wisdom! Take from these nuggets what you will:

Beware The Enchanted Tiki Room

Everyone knows that the way-too-catchy song “It’s a Small World” will adhere to your brain like a barnacle to a ship’s hull. Armed with this knowledge, each Disney vacationer is able to make an educated decision: If you want a song stuck in your head, go on the ride. If you don’t, then don’t.

The unassuming Enchanted Tiki Room, on the other hand, catches you off guard. Most people who sit down to watch this robotic bird show do so because it’s one of the few attractions where the lines don’t stretch back to Newark. Crowds aren’t expecting a way-too-catchy song, but, oh, baby, do they get one. They get one that even out-catchies “It’s a Small World.”

Don’t get me wrong, the Tiki Room is a fun little attraction. But if you don’t find yourself humming “it’s the tiki-tiki-tiki-tiki-tiki room” over and over again while showering, eating, driving, sleeping, and going potty for the next several weeks, then you, my friend, have dodged one lethal bullet.

Brawk! Polly wants to haunt your dreams. Brawk!

Brawk! Polly wants to haunt your dreams. Brawk!

There is No Such Thing as a Non-Awkward Conversation with a Disney Princess

The best meal I ate at Disney was in Cinderella’s Castle. Unfortunately, they serve up your meal with a side order of social awkwardness. During the lunch, I was interrupted by four – count ’em, four – different Disney princesses.

“Don’t worry,” our server told us at one point, “all four princesses will visit every table.”

“That’s why I’m worried,” I told Ellen.

I’ve discovered that talking to a stranger wearing a princess gown is weirder than talking to a stranger wearing a giant duck head. I’m not sure why this is, but if I was to guess, I think it’s because a duck head provides you with some psychological distance. When I don’t see a person’s face, it’s easier for me to play the game and act like I am in the presence of a cartoon celebrity. When I met the princesses (all four of them), however, I just saw 20-year-old girls playing pretend. It made me cringe a little.

Alex, on the other hand, was a fan.

Alex, on the other hand, loved every minute of it.

The Hall of Presidents May Prompt Emotional Outbursts

I have always loved the Hall of Presidents. Always. I saw it when I was 7, 11, and 17 and it got me every time. Seeing Robot Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address dazzled me. Seeing all the the Robot Presidents introduced at the show’s finale dazzled me even more.

I saw it again last week, and the show is still dazzling. In fact, I would argue that The Hall of Presidents is now better than it’s ever been.

Disney has made a few changes in recent years, and the attraction’s narrative arc is now pitch perfect. Lincoln gives his address and then, after the Presidential roll call, another Robot President faces the crowd and delivers a short, inspiring speech. I won’t say who this other Robot President is, but I will say that he is a fine representation of Lincoln’s dream of equality for all Americans.

I will also say that this particular Robot President tends to prompt certain people in this very partisan political climate to sigh with rigor and mutter with displeasure.

If you think you might be one of those folks who might be compelled to sigh and mutter at the sight of a Robot President, then, well, you gotta learn to cool it a little. Or, if I may put it another way, I didn’t hoof it all the way to Florida and spend all this money to listen to your mutterings. I did it to get whimsified. And the way I fill my whimsy tank is by oohing and aahing my Robots-In-Chief.

So, Mr. Disruptive Person, why don’t you run off to see something else out of my earshot, OK? Have you considered the Enchanted Tiki Room? It’s awesome. And look! The lines for it are really short! Go! Hurry!

Three Things I Did Over My Holiday Vacation

And, in the role of Florence Nightingale, Sarah Josepha Hale.

And, in the role of Florence Nightingale, Sarah Josepha Hale.

I Broke My Big Toe

Two days before Christmas, I fell down some stairs. To be more accurate, I fell down one stair.

My life is peppered with embarrassing injuries such as this. Once, while making my bed, I tore a tendon in my middle finger. To put it another way, I had to wear a splint on my finger for six weeks just to experience the bliss of hospital corners. I regret nothing.

So I am now using a cane. This has made me instantly popular. People love to play with canes. My son pretends to be an old man, my niece tap dances with it, my coworker uses it to fondly reflect on her days as a marching band majorette. As for me, I like to wave it at punk kids playing on my lawn. Scram, you miserable urchins!

 I Ran a Successful Mouse Motel

On the morning of December 26th I discovered that we had a Christmas mouse. Adorable Christmas mice are the subjects of many holiday picture books. These books, all fail to mention, however, that Christmas mice poop.

They poop a lot.

I knew the interloper had to go, but I also knew I wanted him unharmed. I set up a few Have-A-Heart traps and waited.

The problem with Have-A-Heart traps is that, once trapped, the mouse is enclosed in a tiny little box with just a morsel of bait and no water. Because if this, I am obsessed with releasing the fellows into “the wild” (about six blocks away) the instant they are caught.

By 10 pm, however, I had caught nothing. I was soon faced with the reality that I was probably going to catch the mouse in the middle of the night while I was sleeping. I hated the very idea. The little fellow could be stuck in that tiny trap for eight hours or more. So I promised God that if He woke me up as soon as the trap was sprung, I would set up a comfortable place for the mouse to stay until I could get around to releasing him.

At 4 am I sat bolt upright in bed. I hadn’t heard a trap spring, but I knew. I hobbled up to the attic, got the Plexiglas terrarium I sometimes use to transport my pet rat to the vet, and decked it out with some comfy bedding, fresh water, and primo rat food. My rat, Lucy, always a curious sort, watched me work.

A few minutes later, Ellen, hands on hips, joined this little gathering. She was less curious and decidedly more scornful. “Getting another pet, are we?” she asked.

Remember the show The Honeymooners? Remember how Alice Kramden sometimes looked at Ralph when she caught him doing something particularly boneheaded? Ellen looked exactly like that.

But my conscience is clear. The mouse was fat, content, and happy by the time I released him the next day.

I Discovered that Bloggers Give the Best Christmas Gifts

Sarah Josepha Hale makes her guests fell at home.

Sarah Josepha Hale makes her guests feel at home.

OK, they weren’t Christmas gifts, they were prizes I won in winter blog contests – but my good fortune arrived just in time to make me feel all holly jolly.

The first contest I won was over at Madame Weebles’s place. If you don’t know Weebles, you don’t get out much. She is a Blogger’s Blogger. She is probably the best blogger there ever was or ever will be. Through Weebles, I won a pair of classic Weeble Wobbles – the good ones from the 1970s. I have named then Cornelius and Corky and they are friends with my Sarah Josepha Hale bobblehead.

The second contest was conducted by Roxie Hanna. If you write for a living you must, must, must visit her blog. She provides great leads for all kinds of writing gigs. (I personally have earned a nice chunk of change pursing a few of these leads.) Roxie gave me the gift of her editorial skills. She scrutinized one of my picture book manuscripts and provided me with a bunch of excellent comments.

The third contest was held by Sarah W. Sarah’s blog is a hodgepodge of awesomeness. Cartoons, videos, poems… Every day at her place is a delight. (Oh, and just so you know, Sarah’s daughter will someday rule the world – or at least a mid-sized island nation with a solid GDP.) I wasn’t planning to enter the contest, but Sarah made me. And then I won! So I am now the proud owner of a Cafepress mug. I slurped coffee out of it this morning; it works like a charm!

To sum up, I have an ugly toe, think mice are adorable, and am glad to be back in the blogging world.

So! How was your holiday?