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Snow Bored

The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia may be over, but here in New Jersey, we’ve been reluctantly participating in our own version of the winter Olympics. There were no try-outs, no pre-qualifying events and no snazzy uniforms. If you live here, you’re automatically recruited for our team.

Mother Nature and Old Man Winter are having a custody battle over the Northeast. We’ve had more than double our average snowfall and the Polar Vortex has dipped into our area for extended visits bringing arctic air. The snow that has fallen can’t melt.  It’s like an unpleasant houseguest that just won’t leave.

I tried making a voodoo snowman to ward off any more snow. Ironically, the following morning, he was covered in a few inches of fresh new snow.

I tried making a voodoo snowman to ward off any more snow. Ironically, the following morning, he was covered in a few inches of fresh new snow.

In an effort to suppress the mounting snow rage and to entertain myself while trapped indoors, I’ve considered all the inconveniences the snow has brought and turned them into Olympic events.

Speed Scraping- When snow has piled up on the car, it’s important to scrape all of it off before driving.  Since we’ve had sub-freezing temperatures and wind chills that would make a polar bear put a coat on, it’s essential to scrape the car as fast as possible. Not only is the speed of scraping the car vital, but so too is the timing of the event. Waiting too long means the car will be encased in a thick coating of impenetrable ice. There is no medal for this event, but individuals with advanced skills avoid hypothermia and frostbite.

The Snow Toss – After 57 inches of snowfall this winter, finding a place to put it all has become a dilemma. The frozen mounds on the sides of our driveway and curb are almost over the top of my 59 inch body. As additional snow accumulates, we are forced to participate in this tandem event. One teammate must push the snow to the side of the driveway with the shovel then the other teammate heaves the snow onto the top of the massive piles. When that becomes too difficult, the heavy shovel full of snow must be taken for a walk down the street to find a smaller pile.To cheer each other on while working, we chant our team motto: we put the shove in shovel.The winners of this event get jumbo sized bottles of Advil and gift certificates for massages.

The Slush Jump – On those rare occasions when there was melting, the snow caused enormous puddles of slush. Being a successful jumper requires athleticism, balance and appropriate attire. Without waterproof boots, we would only be able to make it through the first round. There are no points awarded for style or technique, but to be a champion, we’ll need to fearlessly leap over mushy puddles of varying sizes and stick the landing. There is no medal, but the winner of this event gets to walk away with dry pants.

the Olympic version of skeleton – Doesn’t running on ice and belly-flopping onto a sled that will hurtle downhill at 80 mph sound fun?

Skeleton-In the real Olympics, participants in this event get a running start before flopping headfirst onto a sled that hurtles down a track of ice at 80 miles per hour. In our Olympics, we’re more rugged. We walk on patches of ice without the aid of spiked shoes, sleds or the protection of a helmet. If we fall hard enough, we’ll have the opportunity to see our skeletons on the x-rays they take in the emergency room.  The winner of this event leaves the doctor’s office without any broken bones.

The Downhill Mailbox Combined – Our driveway has a bit of a slope and when it’s covered in ice, the mundane task of retrieving the mail becomes a hazardous undertaking. In this multistep event, we carefully slide down the driveway to reach the mailbox. Once we make it to the mailbox without falling,we must carefully extract the mail without dropping any of it into the snow. With each successive storm, the pile of snow dumped in front of our mailbox by the plow has gotten wider adding to the degree of difficulty.  I am now no longer able to participate in this event without the assistance of performance enhancing barbecue tongs which I need to use to extend my reach. The winner of this event manages to collect all the mail and return to the house without winding up inadvertently participating in the Skeleton event described above.

Great care must be taken when walking under these  frozen hazards.

Great care must be taken when walking under these frozen hazards.

Icicle Dancing – This event requires all the agility and elegance of Olympic ice dancing without the music, fancy costumes and judges. With dagger-like ice stalactites dangling from gutters, it is important to have impeccable timing when entering and exiting our home. During the day, we must precisely time our moves to avoid getting a droplet of icy, cold water running down our backs. At night, when the icicles refreeze, it is important to walk without disturbing them lest they fall and impale us.  If we make it into the house without a concussion caused by falling ice, we’re winners.

Pothole Slalom –Anyone driving a car in this part of the country  is forced to participate in this event. Each day the driver must slalom through pothole pocked roadways. The goal is to make it to your destination without dropping into a pothole the size of the Grand Canyon, bending the rims of your tires or cracking your windshield. Slalom skiing in the Olympics allows only one skier to take to the course at a time. Not so with the pothole slalom, the entire field of competition participates at the same time adding to the challenge. Not only do we need to avoid potholes, but we need to avoid hitting fellow motorists when swerving to avoid those asphalt obstacles. In case you think that frequent runs on the course will breed familiarity and give a driver an advantage, there are changes to the course on a daily basis. New craters festoon the course and familiar ones grow exponentially larger. Darkness, sun glare and rain also affect the course making it virtually impossible to accurately judge the depth and width of the gaping holes. There is no prize money or luxury vehicle awarded for this event, but the winner gets to keep her own money and drive off in her own car with four fully inflated tires and unbent rims.

the Olympic version of curling

Curling –During this indoor Olympic event players shove a large granite stone down a track of ice. Teammates use modified mops to sweep in front of the stone speeding its journey to the target at the other end. Just like the real Olympics, our curling event takes place indoors. It involves us sweeping up the bits of salt we track into the house on our boots then curling up on the couch. The winner of this event gets a purring cat on their lap.

I’m hoping that spring will come soon and be the closing ceremony to these endless Winter Olympics. Until then, I’m forced to sit inside my house and be snow bored.

Why should almost 2 feet of snow pack prevent Oregano from enjoying the courtyard.

Why should almost 2 feet of snow pack prevent Oregano from enjoying the courtyard?

Cork. Screwed!

For years, Oregano and I have had a drinking problem. We’ve kept it a secret from most people because it is a bit embarrassing.

The problem is that we rarely drink wine.  It’s not that we don’t like it; we just have no idea which one to drink. Neither one of us can tell the difference between a merlot and a shiraz.  Going into a liquor store to buy wine is like visiting a foreign country without a translator. I read the wine descriptions, but they don’t help. Words like woody and full-bodied make me think of a lumberjack, not wine.

Even if we did know which wine to purchase, we’d still have a problem because we have not mastered the use of a corkscrew. We had the traditional two-pronged kind for years and I never once opened a bottle by myself. More than one of my friends has demonstrated the proper technique, but it was no use.  I blamed my inability on my lack of height, claiming I didn’t have enough leverage to properly pull the cork from the bottle. Oregano is slightly more successful with his cork removal techniques although he has resorted to using pliers on several occasions.

We never did learn how to use this…

One night, after much of our inept fumbling, our traditional corkscrew committed suicide. It could no longer tolerate living such an unfulfilled life sitting virtually unused in a kitchen drawer. It did not go in peace. Before it gave up completely, it exacted revenge by puncturing the meaty part of my thumb.

Needing a new wine bottle opener, we sought guidance from our more experienced friends, the ones who usually wind up opening the bottle for us. They suggested a different type of corkscrew and assured us it would be much easier to operate. We bought it then stashed it in the kitchen drawer where it sat unused for almost a year until the day I wanted to try a new recipe that called for wine.

Oregano volunteered to go to the liquor store, but since they don’t have a brand called “Dry White Wine,” he had to enlist the help of the sales clerk who didn’t even look old enough to drink legally. The next night, I lined up the ingredients to prepare dinner and hesitantly grabbed the bottle of wine. I didn’t have much confidence since I couldn’t remember a time when I opened a bottle of wine that didn’t end in my blood or the wine being spilled.

The first problem I encountered was the foil.  Using an assortment of sharp implements, I worked carefully. Eventually, the foil came loose and I wasn’t bleeding. That was a promising beginning!  As I began unwinding the foil from the bottle, I hoped there would be a screw top waiting for me as a reward for my effort. I looked down and much to my dismay, there sat my nemesis – a cork. Damn!

Feeling cautiously optimistic after my triumph over the foil, I rummaged through the kitchen drawers until I located our easy –to-use cork extraction contraption.  I remembered the tutorials my friends had given me and managed to get the screw into the cork without causing a puncture wound. I thought this was a good sign until I attempted to remove the cork.  I miss the days of real cork. At least I could count on eventually breaking it and having it fall into the bottle to be strained out later. No such luck, the cork in this bottle was made of some type of rubbery material. I twisted. I yanked. I pried. I cursed. I gave up.

The "easy-to-use" corkscrew that we didn't find so easy to use.

The “easy-to-use” corkscrew that we didn’t find so easy to use.

By the time Oregano arrived home, I was frustrated and hungry.

“Can you please open this bottle of wine? I tried, but decided I should stop before I did something that would end with me requiring stitches,” I said handing him the bottle.

“I’ll give it a try, but before I do this, do we really need to use the wine in this recipe?” he asked, not sounding at all confident that he would have any more luck with the cork than I did.

“I’ve never made this dish before, but it seems like it will be fairly bland without the wine,” I said.

Using his analytical mind, he surveyed the bottle and the dreaded instrument he was supposed to use.  Then he sat down like a man with a mission. As I was chopping and sautéing, I could hear grunts coming from behind me. Oregano’s battle with the bottle was not going well.  After 10 minutes of prying and pulling, his hands were aching and sweat dripped off his nose. He had managed to get about a quarter inch of the cork above the rim of the bottle. At this rate, we were going to be having this meal for breakfast the next morning.

He wiped the sweat from his brow and offered a suggestion, “I know the wine is a key ingredient. Why don’t I go to the liquor store and just buy another bottle of wine with a screw top?”

“How are you going to know the bottle has a screw top? You can’t exactly go into the liquor store and ask for a dry, white wine with an easy open bottle. You could come home with another bottle with a cork and then we’ll be no better off than we are now.”

He agreed then sat back down to continue his odious task. After another 10 minutes of shimmying (the cork, not Oregano) I heard the telltale pop.  Victoriously, Oregano held the cork above his head and passed me the bottle.

As he massaged his aching hands he said, “Too bad that’s cooking wine. We could both use a drink after all that.”

**Oregano and I didn’t think to look for this helpful (and amusing) video from the professionals at Wine Spectator BEFORE we tried to use our corkscrew.**

Click this link to enjoy the video.

How to Shed Those Holiday Pounds in Just 1 Day

Just after Halloween, I had an inkling that a problem was emerging.  By Thanksgiving, it had become noticeable. As Christmas neared, it could no longer be ignored. I was gaining weight at an alarming rate.

How could I have gained so much weight during the holiday season? Usually I don’t make excuses, but this time I can honestly say I had no control over the situation. It wasn’t my fault.  It crept up on me a little at a time.  No, I’m not talking about excessive holiday indulgence.  By the time Christmas arrived, I had received nearly 40 pounds of catalogs in the mail.

The day after Halloween, five catalogs arrived in the mail. As I stood in our foyer weeding out the junk mail, Oregano said, “I’ve never even heard of some of these companies. For fun, why don’t we save all the catalogs we get between now and Christmas?”

“I’m not sure I’d classify that as fun, but it would be interesting to see what kinds of catalogs we get. This one is addressed to the shipping department manager. Is that me or you?” I laughed while waving a giant catalog offering packing peanuts, bubble wrap and boxes of all sizes.

And so it began. Each day I checked the mailbox. It was rare to find only one catalog.  Before long, we had made a tower on the hall table and when that started to teeter, we created a second one.  Just before Christmas, our cat stepped on the shorter tower of catalogs and sent them cascading to the floor. We decided it was time to end our experiment before someone needed medical attention.

We picked up the fallen catalogs and began stacking them on the floor. It was an impressive collection of junk mail.

an impressive pile of junk mail

an impressive pile of junk mail

“Look! It comes all the way up to your knees!” Oregano marveled.

“I wonder how much all of this weighs?” I said as I went to get the scale.

Very carefully, we transferred the pile of slippery, glossy pages; 38.5 pounds! Always the statistician, Oregano decided to catalog our catalogs. In all, there were 156 catalogs from 86 different companies. Some of them were from retailers we had shopped at previously, but most were not.

Thanks to this excessive show of convenient commercialism, I could enjoy the holidays without all the fuss of ever going to a store. Using the catalogs, I could dress myself in a complete outfit starting from the Spanx on up. Continuing my mail order shopping spree, I could accessorize that outfit with shoes, jewelry and handbags. Without ever leaving my home, I could furnish and decorate it completely. As long as I’ll have a snazzy, new outfit and a cozy home, I should have a holiday party. No need to leave the house to get the supplies. With catalogs offering cheese, fruit, meat, tea and flour, I could order everything I’d need; from the food I’d be serving to the appliances I’d be using to prepare it.  After my busy schedule of entertaining, I will need to unwind using the luxury bath soaps and snuggly pajamas delivered to my doorstep. With all these catalogs at my disposal, I could lead a full life without ever leaving the comfort of my home.

This vast assortment of catalogs would make it a pleasure to shop for everyone on our list.  For the people who always return their gifts or for the person who has everything, we have a catalog that would allow us to give their gifts to someone else.  For $850, we could buy a camel in their honor and donate it to a family in a developing country. That seemed pricey, but having never done any comparative shopping for camels, I have no idea how much they go for these days. While this is an intriguing idea, it does leave me with some questions, not the least of which is just how do they ship a camel? Does it ride along in the mail truck or do they make it walk to its final destination? Hopefully the costs are not determined by weight unless they offer free shipping.

For those of us with generous spirits and smaller paychecks, there are animals at lower price points. Compared to the camel, a $500 heifer seems like a bargain. Sure, you can’t ride a heifer through the desert, but you can get milk. The always versatile pigs, goats and sheep would set us back $120 each. The most affordable animals to give are honeybees. I can just imagine the smiling faces of the recipients as they open a box filled with bees.

Look how happy a box of bees can make someone.

I didn’t order anything from these catalogs. With the exception of the catalog filled with farm animals, I didn’t even thumb through them to browse the merchandise. They were a total waste of resources from the paper they were printed on to the fuel needed to transport them. But, I will say this; it was a satisfying feeling to drop all that holiday weight – right into the recycling bin.

Linus puts the cat in catalog.

Linus puts the cat in catalog.

The Gifts That Keep On Giving – Search Terms

Some gifts are much anticipated and others are just happy surprises. They aren’t necessarily something you’d ask for, yet, nevertheless, you realize them for the joy they bring. This holiday season, I thought I’d share some of the search terms that brought me great joy this past year.  Each of these searches is quoted verbatim. As you’ll see, there was no need to embellish the searches to make them any funnier.

For those of you interested in catching up on the Good Humored archives. I’ve included a link to the post that I think inspired these searches.

“picture of person with flaming marshmallow stuck to skin”  (inspired by Size Does Matter)

I’ve gotten molten marshmallow on my skin and it hurts. If I have a flaming marshmallow stuck to my skin, I would hope my friend would douse me with water then wipe the gooey mess from my blistering skin, not take a picture for all the world to Google.

Another search related to this topic was “disterbing facts about marshmallows.”  What could someone find so objectionable about marshmallows? They’re spongy. They’re sweet. They’re the glue that holds a s’more together. What’s so disturbing about that?

“dermatologist remove underwear”  (inspired by I Wanted to Crawl Out of My Skin)

Without punctuation to help clarify the situation, I shudder to think what response this person was hoping for.  Was this a modest person who wanted to know if he/she will need to remove their underwear during a dermatological exam? Or, is this person concerned because the dermatologist removed his underwear during the exam?

“spelling bee flowers”  (inspired by The Obsolescence of Spelling)

Sorry to disappoint, but you won’t find spelling bees pollinating any flowers. They aren’t real bees. Maybe what you really wanted to know was which flowers would be appropriate to bring a winner of a spelling bee. That’s an easy one. You should choose flowers that have names that are difficult to spell: chrysanthemums, hyacinths or phlox.

“wiping torture” & “ass that smarts” & “what happens if you eat the elastic from a candy necklace”  (inspired by what I now realize are way too many posts about bathroom related topics)

These were 3 unique searches. I certainly hope these searches were from different people on different days. However, if that person ate the elastic from a candy necklace, I’d say it would probably lead to some wiping torture and an ass that smarts.

“I don’t like going topless”  (inspired by The Perils of Going Topless)

I don’t understand searches like this. What does this person expect Google to do? It’s a search engine, not a therapist. If you don’t like going topless, put on a shirt. It’s as simple as that.

“who here is an asshole that don’t clean up their dog shit” (inspired by Much Ado about Poo)

I’m not sure how Google will help answer this question either. This search oozes attitude. When you have that kind of tone in a search, who’d be willing to fess up? Maybe if you try asking more politely, you’ll get a better response.

 “Why is my oregano so fine?”

I don’t know why your oregano is so fine, but I know why my Oregano is and I’m not telling.

“paprika erased my wrinkles”

This search sounds like an infomercial. If it really works I’m heading to the spice aisle of the supermarket and cleaning out their paprika supply.  My wrinkles might not disappear, but I bet my skin would have a lovely reddish hue.

“stupidity at its finest” (inspired by every post I’ve ever written)

I should probably be insulted that this search led someone to Good Humored. On one hand it’s upsetting to think that my writing is stupid. However, if it is stupid, I want it to be the best kind of stupid available. My readers deserve nothing less than the best.

 “hot woman and paprika funny”

This one is an ego booster especially after I’ve been referred to as stupidity at its finest.

The bounty of wacky search terms was so extensive that it was difficult to choose just a few to share. I hope they’ve brought you as much joy as they’ve brought me. Remember to keep your eyes open to unexpected gifts from the universe. You never know when or where they’ll appear.

Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth

I have a confession to make. I’m not proud of it, but it’s time to come clean. As a child, I was a brat when it came to Hanukkah presents. In my defense, I was young and driven wild by the mystery of brightly colored packages.

To fully understand my bratty behavior I feel the need to explain the nature of Hanukkah from the perspective of an 8 year old child. I know Hanukkah seems glamorous with 8 days of presents, delicious fried foods you are religiously obligated to eat and the parentally sanctioned opportunity to play with fire. But, the way the presents are doled out is torturous.

My Christian friends would get to stay up until midnight on Christmas Eve to open a present. On Christmas morning, they woke up and ran for the bounty Santa left beneath their trees. They unwrapped everything at once – the utilitarian gifts lost in the glitz of the coveted toys, games and books. Then, they had a week’s vacation from school to stay home and play with all their new loot.

The experience was completely different for me as a Jewish child. More often than not, Hanukkah fell when school was still in session. I’d sit in school all day trying to focus on my work, but my mind would drift to selecting the perfect present from the pile of gifts with my name on them. Choosing wisely was crucial. If I made an error, and selected the package with socks, I’d have to wait 24 more hours to get the item I had been hoping for. When the school day finally ended, I raced home to do my homework while waiting for darkness to come.  The moment the sun dipped below the horizon, I began pacing past the window waiting for my dad to come home from work.  To keep me at bay for a little while, my mom let me put the candles in the menorah and choose that night’s gift. After  careful analysis of the shapes of the wrapped boxes and a comparison of the items on my wish list, I made my selection.  What seemed like hours later, my dad came home. We said our prayers, lit our candles and unveiled the gift du jour.  Sadly, I had little time to play with my new treasure before I needed to get ready for bed because it was a “school night.”

When I was 8 years old, my big Hanukkah wish was for the eight-track cartridge of the soundtrack from the movie Grease. This was the gift I wanted to open on the first night, thus ensuring 7 extra days of enjoying the music. By chance that year, my brother stumbled upon the pile of wrapped gifts in the back of a closet. He wasn’t looking for them, but a find such as this could not go unexplored.

I had a brilliant idea! When my parents were busy doing whatever it is that keeps parents busy, my brother and I snuck into the closet with a notepad and a roll of scotch tape. Very gently, I unwrapped the corner of each of my packages. Obviously, the contents of the clothing boxes were unidentifiable, but most of the other boxes were. I took precise notes, re-taped the corner of each box and snuck out of the closet. Later that night, I reviewed my list then sequenced the gifts in order of priority for opening. The Grease eight-track cartridge was number one.

an eight-track tape – for those of you too young to remember

The first night of Hanukkah arrived. Before I went to the pile to select that night’s gift, I consulted my list. I chose the box that I was certain contained the Grease soundtrack and ripped the wrapping paper off with glee. To my great surprise and horror, I was wrong! It wasn’t the cartridge. It was underwear. Underwear! On the first night of Hanukkah!

The beauty of Hanukkah is that there is always tomorrow. The next night, I spent more time studying my list and was more careful when selecting my package. Again I was wrong. That night it was a set of Little House on the Prairie books. A great gift for sure, but where was that Grease cartridge? How could I be making such foolish mistakes after such careful and thoughtful planning? Night after night, I was sure I had plucked the Grease soundtrack from the pile and night after night I was stunned when I unwrapped something that wasn’t the Grease soundtrack. I got wonderful presents, but I was stymied.

Finally, the 8th night of Hanukkah arrived. This was it; the last night. Tonight’s gift had to be the Grease soundtrack. I had waited an extra week, but at least I knew I would finally get to hear the sweet sounds of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. I could barely contain myself as the day wore on. We said our prayers and lit our candles, all the while the tune to “Summer Nights’” playing in my head.  My parents handed me my last package. I tore off the wrapping paper with a huge smile on my face. I had already started yelling an excited thank you, before I looked down and saw that I was holding a box of Nilla Wafer cookies.

What happened after that is not my proudest moment as a child. Even now, 35 years later, I’m embarrassed to write about it; I pitched the brattiest of bratty fits.

“Cookies?!” I sputtered almost too upset to speak. “Who gets cookies for Hanukkah?!”

“I’m sure lots of children would love to receive a whole box of cookies,” my mom said.

“But these aren’t even the kind of cookies I like to eat. These are Daddy’s favorite cookies!” I yelled. “Here, you can have them,” I said putting the box of cookies down in front of my father before I stormed off to my bedroom and slammed the door.

I sat in the middle of my room trying to figure out how I could have been so wrong about getting the Grease soundtrack. A few minutes later dad knocked and entered my room holding the box of Nilla Wafers.

“Don’t you want any of your cookies?” he asked holding out the box.

“No! I don’t like those cookies. You can have them all,” I said dejectedly.

Dad held the box out to me. “Why don’t you open the box for me?”

“You’re already holding the box.  You can open it for yourself,” I said.

“Yes, but it’s your Hanukkah present so you should really offer the cookies to me,” he said shaking the box in front of me.

I could see he wasn’t going to leave me alone to sulk in peace until I gave him a cookie. Reluctantly, I took the box and opened it. As I was passing the box back to him, I saw that it didn’t contain cookies; it contained the Grease soundtrack! A huge smile spread across my bratty little face.  I jumped up and hugged my dad.

“Next time, do a better job of rewrapping your presents,” he said laughing as he walked away.

I learned two things that year: never ruin my surprises and always fold the corners neatly when wrapping a present.

**No matter what kind of packages your holiday surprises come in this year, I hope they are filled with laughter and love. **

Happy Black Friday Eve

**I originally published this post for Thanksgiving 2011.Given the recent hoopla about stores now opening on Thanksgiving instead of waiting until Black Friday, clearly the situation has not changed for the better.**

Thanksgiving is not a sexy holiday. Any holiday when you stuff your face, waddle away from the table and loosen your pants before flopping onto the couch can’t be. Thanksgiving doesn’t have twinkling lights and over-the-top decorations, although I have noticed an increased number of inflatable turkeys on the lawns in our neighborhood. Thanksgiving has become a blip on the calendar. Christmas décor begins gracing store shelves in early October. Christmas themed commercials begin airing before we’ve even finished off the last of the leftover Halloween candy. The annual auditory assault of incessant Christmas music now begins before Thanksgiving.It’s no surprise that with the Christmas marketing blitz that begins earlier every year, the meaning of Thanksgiving is getting lost in the glitzy, tinsel covered shuffle. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It doesn’t require gifts or cards. You don’t need anything special to celebrate this holiday. Anyone can do it. All you have to do is spend some time, either before the turkey or after, reflecting on the good things in your life. It’s a day to come together with people you love (and maybe some people you can tolerate for a few hours once a year) to share a meal of traditional comfort foods. Unfortunately, because advertisers can’t sell gratitude, the meaning of Thanksgiving is being overlooked.

I work with adolescents and reminded them that we would not be meeting on Thursday or Friday. To my great surprise they asked me why we wouldn’t be meeting on those days. This sparked a conversation that made my toes curl.

“We have off because Thursday is a holiday. What holiday is it?” I asked trying to jog their memories.

“I know,” said an eager young man, “it’s Black Friday.”

Unable to believe what I had heard, I repeated his statement, “Black Friday is this Thursday,” adding emphasis to the word Thursday hoping that would be enough to make him realize his mistake.

The young man’s eyes flashed with the recognition of his error and he said, “Oh, that’s right. Black Friday is this Friday, not Thursday. Duh!”

The other young man in the group then asked, “Why do we have off on Thursday then?”

Before I could intervene, the first young man answered, “We have off Thursday to get ready so we can go to the stores at midnight.” He then looked at me and very sweetly asked, “Do you celebrate Black Friday, Miss?”

I was processing the idea that these young men think that Black Friday is a holiday and before I could collect my thoughts to answer his question, the other young man in the group spoke up, “She doesn’t celebrate Black Friday! Remember? She’s Jewish.”

I felt like I had entered the Twilight Zone or maybe I was being Punk’d. Not one of the kids had said a word about Thanksgiving. They actually believed that Black Friday is the holiday. We have two days off to conserve our energy, prepare our lists and map out our shopping strategies. Apparently all the stuffing and mashed potatoes we eat on Thanksgiving Thursday are just carbo-loading for the upcoming shopping marathon on the real holiday, Black Friday. To them, Thanksgiving is just Black Friday Eve. I was about to explain their misunderstanding when someone else in the group spoke up. “Miss, what happens when Black Friday isn’t on a Friday? Do they call it something else?”

Save a turkey! Celebrate Black Friday instead. (image via freeclipartstore)

I looked around for a video camera. Were they kidding me? They had to be. How can a holiday as important as Thanksgiving be completely lost on the younger generation? Pilgrims? Native Americans? A harvest feast? Doesn’t that ring any bells?

I felt it was my patriotic duty to explain the history and meaning of Thanksgiving to these young Americans. With the hype and constant commercials emphasizing Black Friday sales, it is no wonder they think that is the holiday we are celebrating.

** I’m grateful to each of you for taking time out of your busy days to read my posts throughout the year. Happy Thanksgiving to you all! **

Mister, Clean

an example of a ketubah – not only do you have to be able to read the fine print, but you have to read fine print in Hebrew

In order for a marriage to work there has to be an equitable division of labor that capitalizes on each person’s strengths. It’s helpful if those skills are complementary. Two people who like to cook, but none who like to do dishes is a recipe for a messy kitchen and frequent arguments. When Oregano and I got married we signed a ketubah, a Jewish marriage license. It is written in English and in Hebrew. I have no idea what the Hebrew says, but my Dad read it and assured me I wasn’t agreeing to a lifetime of servitude. Whenever we encounter an unpleasant household task, I inform Oregano that it falls squarely into the list of his responsibilities as outlined by the Hebrew portion of the ketubah.

For the most part, Oregano and I have settled into a division of labor that helps our home run harmoniously. I cook dinner. He washes the dishes. I do the laundry. He folds it. I plan our vacations. He carries the luggage. There are some chores that have evolved into solo endeavors. Oregano is responsible for all vermin and rodent removal. This includes, but is not limited to, things that fly, crawl and scamper. When we were newlyweds our kitten caught and killed 3 mice that had made the unfortunate decision to visit our apartment and raid his food bowl. Proud of his accomplishment, Scooter brought a trophy to us while we were sleeping in bed. Oregano chivalrously leapt to his feet, collected the recently deceased prey and then had the kindness to lie to me, so that I could fall back to sleep.

On occasion, when I am home alone and have come under attack by some creepy crawly, I’ve had to take care of business myself. It is unpleasant and there is usually some squealing on my part, but I get the job done. The act of killing a giant spider, caterpillar or stink bug is far better than the alternative which would be to leave the intruder to wander freely through my home until Oregano arrives to do his duty.

While I have stepped up to the plate when necessary, Oregano has not reciprocated. In 18 years of marriage, he has never once cleaned the shower.
“Why don’t you ever clean the shower?” I asked after a few years.

“How dirty can it be? We use soap and shampoo when we’re in there. That should be enough to keep it clean,” was his reply.

I continued to be the only one who scrubbed the shower and brought up the issue again a year later.

“How am I supposed to see how dirty it is? I don’t wear my glasses in there, so I can’t see soap scum,” was his next excuse.

I couldn’t argue with his logic, flawed as it was, so I changed tactics and decided to play a game of chicken with the soap scum in the shower. I purposely held off cleaning the shower to see which one of us would flinch first. I lasted 5 days. Oregano hadn’t even noticed we were playing.

Maybe a less labor intensive method would entice him. I tried employing the use of one of those self-cleaning shower systems. It hangs on the wall and as you exit the shower you push the button which sprays cleaner on the walls to do the work for you. Oregano never remembered to push the button.

All of this changed on November 8, 2013. I had the day off from work and was in the kitchen having a leisurely breakfast while Oregano was upstairs getting ready for work. When he came downstairs to pack his lunch he casually announced that he had cleaned the shower. I almost choked on my toast.

There was no fanfare. The sun did not explode, yet the world I had always known was forever changed.

“Did you just say you cleaned the shower?” I asked once the shock wore off and I regained the ability to speak. “Who are you and what have you done with my husband? The man I married would never clean the shower. You’re an impostor!”

“Yep, I cleaned the shower. I noticed the soap scum, so I cleaned it,” he said matter-of-factly as if this wasn’t a once a decade occurrence.

“When you say you cleaned the shower, did you use cleaner or just splash some soapy water around during your shower?” I still didn’t believe him.

“No. I used the cleaner with the bleach, but I think I might have missed a few spots,” he said.  “Why do you look so surprised?”

“I’m surprised because as long as we’ve been married you’ve never even thought about cleaning the shower, let alone actually pick up a sponge and take action. This is a momentous day in our marriage. I just want to give it proper deference and acknowledgement. The next time this happens again, we’ll be in our sixties. I want to be sure we mark the occasion.”

Oregano left for work. I finished my breakfast and went upstairs to celebrate. I pulled back the shower curtain to reveal a gleaming tub. Then I stepped in to bathe in a clean shower that, for the first time, had not been scrubbed by me.

Oregano had the same smirk on his face after he cleaned our shower for the first time in 18 years.

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