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Mister, Clean

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.

He Shook Me All Night Long

There was yelling. There was moaning. The sheets were tangled and the bed was shaking all night long. No, this is not going to be a post reviewing 50 Shades of Grey nor is it going to be a post about a wild night of sex. (Sorry if that disappoints you.) This is what an average night of sleep is like in my bed now that Oregano is training for his first 5K run.

Oregano has always been athletic. He was a competitive swimmer in college and his strength lies in his upper body. Despite knowing this about himself, he decided it was time for a fitness challenge, so he signed up to participate in a 5K run. My husband, the man who breaks a sweat scooping out the litter box and has refused to go to the pool on summer days because it was “too hot to go swimming” has decided to run his first 5K race in the heat and humidity that is mid-July in New Jersey. While I admire his enthusiasm for setting a goal, I am seriously concerned about his lack of self-awareness.

He began his training regimen a month ago and I have noticed a disturbing trend. I can’t get a good night’s sleep on the nights he works out. Taking up running has put a new stress on Oregano’s legs causing him to get calf cramps. After he falls asleep, he twists the sheets so that his feet are sticking out and scooches down to the bottom of the bed. He puts his toes against the footboard and repeatedly flexes them causing the bed to shake back and forth.

I know there is a legitimate medical condition called Restless Leg Syndrome, but I am suffering from a different disorder that I refer to as “rest-less” leg syndrome. His legs are making me rest less. If the shaking was consistent and rhythmic, I wouldn’t be complaining because it would gently lull me to sleep and keep me sleeping like a baby in a cradle. Unfortunately, these shakes occur at odd intervals and last for several minutes. They stop just long enough for me to drift off to sleep only to be startled awake by another wave of shaking. Trying to be a supportive wife, I tolerated this new behavior thinking it was only temporary while his body adjusted to the new workouts.  When a week passed without me having a solid night’s sleep, my cheerful, supportive disposition disappeared faster than a person with narcolepsy nods off.

One night he fell asleep before me and the shaking started. I couldn’t take it anymore so I gently woke him up by rubbing his back. “Honey, slide up toward the top of the bed. You’re feet are on the footboard and you’re shaking the entire bed.”

Without opening his eyes he responded, “No, I’m not. I don’t feel anything.”

“Sweetie, you’re asleep. You don’t know you’re doing it and you don’t feel it. I’m sitting here watching House Hunters International; the bed is shaking back and forth and you are the cause. Trust me. I’m the one who’s conscious right now.”

He wiggled up towards the head of the bed and the shaking stopped. When my show was over I fell asleep only to be awakened an hour later when the bed was shaking.

I woke him up again, but not so gently this time. “Move up! You are shaking the bed again!”

The voice from the bottom half of the bed said, “I’m stretching my calves. They’re sore from the cramps. This makes them feel better.”

“If you need to stretch, get out of bed. The floor is a lovely place to stretch and it won’t disturb my sleep,” I yelled and rolled back over hoping to fall asleep before the bed started rocking again.

The next morning, still groggy from my fitful night’s sleep, I told Oregano he had 2 options: speak to the trainers at his gym to see if they have any suggestions about reducing calf cramps or start sleeping in the guest room. That night he returned home limping after his workout and said, “I spoke to the trainer. She told me that there are several things that could be causing my cramps. We’ve narrowed it down to bananas and shoes.”

“Bananas and shoes?” I asked.

“She said that I may not be getting enough potassium and suggested eating a banana a day.” He stood there stretching his calf muscles against the door frame and continued, “The trainer also told me that there is a runners’ shoe store about 45 minutes away. They have a treadmill I can run on that will analyze my stride and the structure of my feet then tell me which sneakers are best for my running style. She warned me that the sneakers would be expensive.”

“With all that technology being used, how could the shoes not be expensive?” I asked. “Why not try the banana option first? A dollar’s worth of bananas could solve this problem. It’s an inexpensive and tasty solution.”

“Well, I don’t really like to eat bananas,” he said.

“You’d rather spend $200 on a pair of sneakers than eat a banana?”

“Let’s just say that when I eat a lot of bananas, there are intestinal ramifications.”

“Oh, I understand. Too many bananas means the runners can’t leave the starting blocks,” I said and winked at him.

“Exactly! So, you can see why buying new sneakers is a more appealing option.”

“There is one more option to consider. It doesn’t have any intestinal side effects and it won’t cost any money.”

“Really?! Were you doing some research, too? What’s the solution?”

“Stop running. You can still do the 5K, but jog or walk, don’t run. The cramps are your body’s not so subtle way of telling you it doesn’t enjoy running. The sleep-stretching you do every night is a subliminal message. Why not listen to your body? You’ll stop getting cramps. I’ll start sleeping through the night again. It’s a win-win situation.”

The race is less than a month away and Oregano has continued his training. He hasn’t eaten any bananas and didn’t go to the high-tech sneaker store, but he does have a new pair of more supportive running shoes. I am looking for a screwdriver and a way to remove the footboard from the bed. Compromise is a key ingredient to a successful marriage.

** post-script – 6/29/12 **

Thank you to all of the readers who took the time to leave comments with helpful information about preventing leg cramps by staying hydrated,  proper stretching techniques, timing of workouts, drinking pickle juice, slipping soap under the sheets and the health benefits of bananas. I think together we may be weakening Oregano’s resistance to bananas. Just this morning, he found this little surprise on his desk from Yerba Buena, one of his co-workers who is also a reader. 

The Dinner Party

** If you are squeamish, you might want to skip this week’s post, but remember to come back next week.**

For the past 15 years I have had a love/hate relationship with the neighborhood herds of white-tailed deer. At first, seeing these animals running through our yard was thrilling. Discovering the leftovers of their overnight feasts on our landscaping was not so thrilling. I researched and then bought deer-resistant plants. They didn’t enjoy my new offerings, but they still ate enough of them to ruin the garden. I tried every possible foul-smelling yet humane way to deter them from eating my flowers. Usually, the only creatures successfully deterred from the garden were the humans. When we installed a fence 5 years ago, the deer buffet closed and the nightly floral binges ceased. Since then, the deer stay on their side of the fence eating the sacrificial landscaping and I happily grow my flowers inside the safe zone.

It is not unusual to see deer sauntering past our fence or resting under the pine trees. We’ve even found one standing on our front porch. However, when I woke up and saw one reclining comfortably against the fence watching the world go by, I was surprised. She wasn’t bothering me or the garden so I didn’t bother her. As long as she stayed on her side of the fence we would all get along just fine. I snapped a photo to show Oregano and by the time I came back downstairs she had wandered off to greener, fenceless pastures. A few days later, I noticed her sitting under an oak tree in a pile of leaves. When Oregano and I went up to bed, she was still sitting there moving her head and flicking her little white tail.

The next morning, Oregano and I prepared to go to work. From downstairs in the kitchen I heard him say, “Uh-oh!”

Immediately, I ran to the top of the stairs and yelled down, “What’s wrong?”

“I think there is a problem with that deer we saw last night,” he answered.

“Please don’t tell me she got inside the fence and caused a bunch of damage,” I replied.

“Nope, she’s definitely not causing any trouble. You might want to look out the window up there.”

I walked to the window and looked down to see a dead deer lying on its side just a few feet from the back of the fence. A cursory forensic assessment revealed no obvious signs of trauma. She was too far from the street to have been involved in a motor vehicle encounter. There weren’t any babies so she didn’t die during childbirth. We concluded that she must have died from natural causes.

Unfortunately, she is not the first deer to die on the premises. Three years ago we experienced our first death. Being naïve about such things, we called the police, animal control and the homeowners’ association management company to find out what to do. Each of them suggested that we drag the dearly departed to the curb for the township to come and collect. The idea of schlepping the carcass of a buck through the yard to the curb was repulsive to us. Since the property on which it was lying was technically not ours, we refused to do this and told the property manager that it was his responsibility. He replied, “I’m new to this job. If this was a squirrel, I would know what to do.”

“Sir, if this was a squirrel, I’d be back there with a shovel and a hefty bag, not talking to you on the phone. This dead animal is considerably larger than a squirrel and I’m not dragging it 50 yards to the curb,” I said getting irritated by his stupidity.

He told me he would do some research and promised to call me back later that same day. He did not. In the ensuing days it took me to actually speak to him again, we woke up to find a herd of live deer gathered in a circle around the recently deceased in a type of deer memorial service. The day after the funeral, nature’s undertakers, the turkey vultures, appeared and we were treated to a gruesome display worthy of an Animal Planet documentary. While it was fascinating to witness the life cycle, I didn’t want my couch to be a front row seat to the process. Closing the curtains to this spectacle didn’t offer much comfort since we have skylights and could see the vultures circling.

The disgust prompted by the sight of internal organs strewn through our yard prompted me to begin my “shock and ewwww” campaign. I made it my business to thoroughly gross out every person I spoke to on the phone at the management company until this poor creature was removed. I wasn’t angry and I didn’t yell. I maintained a polite, concerned tone to my voice and simply used my extensive vocabulary to vividly describe the situation. It was my version of a daily status update. After 6 days, the property manager said he’d be out that afternoon to remove the remains. I told him that the buck would me much easier to lift now that it was no longer intact.

Seeing our most recent deceased deer brought back memories of squawking birds and flying fur. This time the situation was a bit more dire. With temperatures forecasted to rise into the mid 80s over the weekend, decomposition would begin quickly and we were having a dinner party in our dining room which had a close-up, unobstructed view of the dearly departed. As I drove to work, my mind was racing. How could I possibly seat my parents at the dining room table so they wouldn’t see the carcass through the large picture window? I realized that I could face them away from the body, but then I would have to look at it. That wasn’t going to work. What would Martha Stewart do? When I arrived at work I called Oregano with a solution to our problem, “Plan B. We’re taking my parents out to dinner tomorrow night.”

“We don’t need to do that. She’s not there anymore,” he said.

“She moved? She wasn’t dead? She really didn’t look like she was just sleeping,” I said incredulously.

“I didn’t say she moved. I said she’s not there anymore. I dragged her to the curb,” he said triumphantly.

“You what?!” I shouted into the phone.

“I was repulsed by the idea of moving her, but after what happened the last time, I realized that moving her was the least disgusting option available.  At first I was afraid to touch her in case she was only mostly dead, but then I realized she was all the way dead.” he said calmly.

With plastic bags on his hands and bile in his mouth, Oregano had repositioned the deer and lovingly dragged her carcass 50 yards to the curb then swept away the trail of fur left behind.

“You have never been more masculine to me than you are at this moment,” I said as relief washed over me. “Some women have husbands who take out the garbage or kill spiders. I have a husband who will drag the carcass of a large mammal out to the curb. You’re my hero”

Oregano's reward for his act of bravery; the big cookie he has always fantasized about customized just for him.

That night I called my parents, Falafel and Hummus, to tell them of our unexpected dinner guest and of their son-in-law’s heroics. They said they admired his bravery and strong stomach then e-mailed us recipes for venison.

We had a delicious and uneventful dinner with my parents until it was time for dessert. Falafel looked out the window and said, “Wow! What was that bird?”

“That would be a vulture.” I replied matter-of-factly without even looking up from my pound cake.

The vultures arrived for their dinner party.

“Where did it go? I want to see,” said Hummus as she jumped out of her chair and leaned closer to the picture window. Falafel pointed out the turkey vulture sitting in a tree branch that was obviously straining under its weight.

“Will there be more than one vulture eating the deer?” Hummus asked excitedly.

“They don’t usually dine alone. I guess we’re not the only ones having a dinner party this evening,” I said to the backs of their heads.

“Look! There’s another one,” said Falafel pointing to the trees near the carcass.

“Let’s see if there is a better view from the family room,” said Hummus already en route to the sliding glass doors.

“Oh yeah, Falafel, the view is better in here. Come see! There are even more vultures now.” Falafel high-tailed it into the family room and peered out the doors.

“You know, the doors open and you are welcome to go out into the garden for a better look,” I said sarcastically. “If we had known you would be so enthralled by this experience, we would have left the deer where she died. You would have had a much better view and could have watched from the comfort of the dining room table.”

Before I could say another word, Hummus was out in the garden with Falafel not far behind. Oregano stayed inside and Googled turkey vultures so he could answer some of their questions. They were absolutely mesmerized by the scene unfolding at the curb. When the wind shifted and we got a whiff of the deceased, we went back inside.

Hummus looked at the clock, “Wow! It’s getting late. We should hit the road.”

“If we drive around the back, we can get a closer look,” said Falafel.

The "deerly" departed relaxing against our fence just days before her untimely passing.

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