Down-Home Marital Advice

I’ve been married to my husband for almost 16 years. Before you start adding on your fingers in order to determine my age, I’ll also tell y’all that we initially met in junior high school and began dating at 16.

Just as the term ‘high school sweethearts’ does not involve the clean romance touch of a Hallmark movie, sixteen years of marriage does not involve …well… the clean romance touch of a Hallmark movie, either.

We’ve been having a rough patch lately. I’m a bit too honest, honestly, and have brought up our roughness and subsequent marriage counseling to other women. I have yet to encounter one who does not respond with, “Oh, yes! Marriage is tough. I think everyone ought to do counseling!”

But I’m a people watcher. I’m a people reader. Other people tell me they all have problems and marriage is a challenge, but other people do not act the way my husband and I do.

I’m not asking to be placed in other couples’ bedrooms. I am often wondering if the issues we have are really the same as others’. -Because I have also had other women talk about conflicts or personality quirks with lighthearted humor.

“You know how (my husband) gets,” a neighbor told a group of us at lunch. “He’s always cranky when we travel somewhere and he has to spend money on food.” She laughed; we laughed. She and her husband have been married long enough that they are now empty-nesters. She also said, “I explained to my son that married people like us may complain and tease, but we love each other.”

My teasing comments about my husband started a recent fight because he got self-defensive and then withdrew. Then I, quite maturely, nagged at him and complained so he (naturally) got more defensive and eventually said mean things to get me to go away or (as I told him) hurt me as much as I hurt him….

It all sounds rather childish typed out, but is quite devastating in the moment. Don’t worry; we’re working on it.

Our therapist says we’re not unique but I’m a doubter. Does everyone really have problems in marriage? Do you laugh it off and know you love each other anyway? Or, is couple-hood what Erma Bombeck used as the title for one of her books: A Marriage Made in Heaven, or, Too Tired for an Affair?

—–

What a week! This was the schedule, at least according to my sneaky back-posting:
Wednesday, December 12: What is the Beat of YOUR Creation?, a short, sweet post about music and its role in creation.
Thursday, December 13: Skinwalkers, XLV
Friday, December 14: Winner of The Fifth Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest announced. Congratulations, Ruth Scribbles.
Saturday, December 15: Beginning of The (Sixth) Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest (Check it out!).
Sunday, December 16: Fractured Fairy Tales That Lost, my entries in Carrot Ranch Literary Community‘s contest awhile ago.
Monday, December 17: Inspirational Quote by Matt Kahn.
Tuesday, December 18: Wilhelmina Winters, Seventy-Six,
Wednesday, December 19: This post.

I’ve been swamped with Christmas projects. I have only to make cookie plates for all the neighbors after uncovering my kitchen, then wrapping all the presents whilst the children are snuggled all very tightly in their beds.

Hallowe’en Serial: 2nd Night

Continued from yesterday:

“Ah, Carol!” a familiar voice said at her elbow.

She jerked; breathed a quick, short, loud intake; and clutched at her heart.

“I was just going to –what in the world d’ya do to your desk?” Ever slow on the obvious, Carl C. Carter stood next to his wife at the doorway and surveyed the disarray inside with confusion. Then he noticed Carol. “Oh, hey -did I give you a fright? Sorry. —

“I was just going to head over to that business meeting I told you about. If anyone calls you’ll be sure to tell them I’m up to my eyeballs in work, won’t you?” He touched Carol’s shoulder, smiled a quick, grandfatherly smile, straightened his striped dress shirt, and turned to whistle down the hall.

Carol hadn’t moved; her left hand still on her chest, her right on the door handle. She breathed out. She tested her feelings like a mentalist dipping a toe into physic waters but only felt annoyance. Carl and his design team held meetings according to his whim, and left her to reschedule the pieces.

“That’s what Miss Dollar Store is supposed to be for,” she mumbled, as she bent to begin cleanup. “But, she’s always ‘taking notes’ in your ‘meetings.'”

———-

Hours and phone calls and legal contracts later, Carol walked back out to the lobby. All was dark and silent; she was the last to leave. Her shadow from the outside lights ran over the hideous ceramics perched on the secretary’s desk as she walked past. From her peripheral vision, she thought she saw movement and turned. Were they always staring right at her -no, that was silly- right at the door? Carol could have sworn Miss Bad Taste had arranged them facing each other.

If she hadn’t been the only person in the office, she’d have examined them more closely. She swallowed, and backed toward the outside door. The little, scowling cats and their neighboring scarecrow and crows remained stationary.

Carol exited and locked the door, glanced at the blinds to be certain they were closed, and walked to her car. *Clack* *Clat* *Clunk* echoed from her cheap shoes as they trod across the vacant lot. Her mind wholly on the ride home and the work that awaited her there, she did not think to look back.

She started the car, and shifted into reverse. The radio was playing garbage again; she set it to scan. Her headlights swept a glare across the windowed office front as she pulled out of the narrow parking space.

The swirling numbers of the radio dial settled on the station she’d found that morning, just as the blinds closed back together in the dark office window, and just as Carol pulled out onto the street.

Continued at #3.

Best Friends Forever

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Miriam was fed up with men that morning; particularly with her husband, Stan.

“You can’t talk to any guys,” he’d told her over breakfast.

It was the day she was to start her new job. “I have to, for work!”

“Well, only about business matters,” he’d warned.

Miriam wasn’t born yesterday, of course, but she was born in the era of technology. She had a brain. She had a job using her brain, to write software code for computers. What’s more, she worked primarily with males, since females didn’t seem to enjoy the same things she did.

“I have to actually be nice to them,” she explained.

“It’s only an invitation,” Stan said. “Also, don’t wear those jeans. Or, your-”

“I know, I know,” she cut him off. “Don’t wear my heels.”

Her mother didn’t understand, when Miriam tried to text-complain what was wrong. I think Stan’s right, dear, to be worried. Miriam could almost picture her mother wagging a finger. Women these days wear things I don’t even swim in, then skip off to a job and never think of having children. You know I would make an excellent grandmother, don’t you, dear?

Her friend, Jill, understood. At least, she understood Miriam. Stan’s just old-fashioned, Jill wrote back. He thinks women ought to stay home and feel satisfied ironing their husband’s work shirts while they have guy AND girl friends.

It wasn’t like the men in Miriam’s line of work were smarmy. Most of them were lucky to pick clothes with patterns that didn’t clash; some were lucky to remember personal hygiene. It also wasn’t like Miriam hadn’t experienced computer science lab flirting. How did Stan think she’d met and married him, after all?

He’s just jealous that I got the job at Sanutech and he didn’t, a small, inner voice suggested.

“Have a good day,” Stan said as he left for his own job; flimsy encouragement atop a towering pile of admonitions, criticisms, worries, and warnings.

“You, too,” she grumbled. He left. She watched him from their basement window as he mounted the stairs to the carport and his feet entered his reliable sedan. She waved to his tires before he drove away down their suburban street.

Upstairs, above her head, she heard the scuffle of shoes on bare wood floor. Stan’s mother was up, then, and getting ready for work. She’d had to ever since Stan’s father had filed for divorce ten years previously. Stan’s father had run off with the only female on his engineering team; a scandalous woman who joked with the guys and wore jeans and high heels.

Sighing, Miriam looked into their only mirror. She pulled a frumpy sweater over her nondescript dress shirt and slacks, touched up her plain hair style, and gave her reflection a half-smile.

“Time for work,” she told the empty apartment, and then headed out to her own reliable sedan.

She’d call Stan at lunch. It’d be nice to have a conversation with the one guy she ought to be friends with, after all.

 

What NOT to Say When a Woman Gets Her Special Monthly Visitor

“Don’t worry. In a few years you’ll have dried up and it won’t be a problem anymore.”

“You have one every month. Shouldn’t you be used to the pain by now?”

“It’s better than the alternative, right?”

“Well, that explains things.”

 

On the flip side, the following comments are perfectly acceptable:

“Hi, honey. I happened to be at the store during lunchtime and they had your favorite chocolate on sale. Here’s a case of it.”

“I’m so happy to see you! I was just thinking, ‘I haven’t made dinner in a while.’ How about you go take a nice, hot shower for a few hours and I’ll take care of dinner and cleanup.”

“Hi, sweetie. I have great news for you: I just read about this surgery they can do to remove a woman’s uterus and place it inside her husband -but only during that time of the month. I signed us up for today; let’s go!”

Happy Mother’s Day

The sun isn’t very bright yet when she wakes to the sound of loud whispering, to the sight of a homemade paper card a few millimeters from her face. The smell is that of unsorted laundry, bedsheets a tad late for their cleaning, with an infusion of overdue diaper. She doesn’t seem able to lift her legs, or one arm. Even her lower extremities are pinned; the sleepy man to her side wakes enough to stretch and embrace what he can affectionately reach.

Using her free hand, she grasps at the card and pulls it to the range at which she can make out its contents. It’s too early, her brain complains, to decipher Cyrillic. She blinks and refocuses. Ah, she realizes, those were flowers -and probably people. Maybe letters.

Taking a guess, she attempts speech. “How nice, Sweetheart!” The artist frowns at the unusually croaky sounds. She clears her throat some, and tries again. “I see you drew me and you and flowers…” She relaxes as his scowl turns to smiles. Satisfied, he turns and falls off the bed, relieving one pinned leg.

The next boy thrusts his offering at equal facial distance to the first, then turns and frowns disinterestedly at the wall. This one is definitely English; it’s even partially typed. She sees he is clearly the most talkative child on paper, too, with so many one-word responses to this standard form his class was given. Age: 33, Hair: brown, Favorite food: food. She smiles, then looks more strained at the next two answers he’d supplied: She likes to … do dishes, She’s really good at … doing dishes. She tries to look grateful as he’s pretending not to watch but really is.

“Thanks, Honey,” she smiles and is not surprised as he shrugs and dodges her attempts to hug him. He, too, leaves the bed and another leg free.

She looks to her last child, on her other arm, and to her other half. Both smile up at her with similar expressions. Genetics will do that. “I love you, Mommy,” the wet diaper owner says sweetly. He cringes adorably as she awkwardly kisses his plump cheek.

Dad sighs and sits up. “Let’s go make Mommy breakfast,” he tells his youngest. He scoops her remaining impediment into the air playfully. He looks down at the bedheaded beauty who birthed them all.

“Happy Mother’s Day,” he says, kisses her around their squirming child, and leaves.

Finally alone, she looks over her offspring’s offerings, and cries.

Following Dreams

I wake after little sleep. Only hours ago, I walked the lonely aisles populated by night dwellers. “You look how I feel,” the cashier had said, voicing my thoughts before I’d worked out how to speak.

Today’s my child’s birthday. Mentally, I list what needs completion: cleaning, baking, decorating, dinner, church, children.

Husband stretches and wraps an arm around me. “I’ve got to go,” he coos. “Choir rehearsal this morning.” Surprised, I check my calendar.

Someone has posted a quote about making life what you will. Follow your dreams.

I rise groggily from the bed. A busy day awaits.

 

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction

Not By Half

I find eating decisions simple when I first sit down.

“Yes, that’s my order,” I say to the server, then eagerly take the first bite. Besides an odd habit of eating my hamburger upside-down and setting it with the bite away from me, I have no concerns of direction or hesitation.

Somewhere just past the middle is when the problem sets in.

“Do you want any?” I ask my husband. His meal is also half-finished; he was going to ask me the same.

We’ve reached the awkward point of portions: too little to box, and too much to finish.

Half is exactly the problem we encounter with brownies at home.

Easily enough, the pan is reduced to a row, two servings, then one. Once there, at a reasonable final square, we play the mind-game of a psychological mathematician.

Every time I want to eat a bite, I cut what is left in half. When my selfless husband walks by the pan, he removes exactly half of what he encounters.

If Zeno had his way, neither of us could claim selfishness. But we’re talking brownies.

And this is the real reason, I tell the doctor, that I cannot stick to my diet.