50 and Counting
Okay you’re married or in a serious committed relationship. 50 and Counting is a humorous attempt to aid and abet the marriage and the relationship and hopefully make them more fun for everyone involved.
We’ll cover topics such as:
1. Traveling with Friends or Non-discussable Vacation Topics or Do We really Like Those People.
2. Mystery Trips - This tip could save a relationship or a jail sentence if a child or children have driven you close to edge.
3. "I didn’t ask to be born" and other clever comments from kids.
a. The door
b. Who wants to play disciplinarian
c. Everyone else gets to.
4. Who Does What - A Work Book Quiz - Where we try resolve Who Does What.
5. The indispensability of superfluous - Doing it just to do it. Kisses in the glove compartment and other secrets.
"Love, when someone else's happiness is more important than your own.
6. Money - The number #1 - gremlin.
7. What hill do you want to die on?
8. Aging ugh! Feel free to take notes.
Some of these pages you may want wave in the face of a loved one and, “I told you so.” This is usually a bad idea.
THE NON-DISCUSSABLE VACATION TOPICS GUIDE
It’s too late for Bobbie and me, but the following may be useful to you. Recently, we decided to go on vacation with a quartet of long -time friends. An idyllic plan.
Four couples on their way to Puerto Vallarta. Cold beers on the beach, basking in the sun with a good book, a few nights in decadent tourist traps, exploration and discovery, margaritas on a veranda, mariachi street bands, sunshine, sunrises, sunsets, tacos, chicken covered in mole sauce, laughter, and great conversation collectively shared over fifty years of history. A dream vacation. Right! Wrong! Error.
One couple later divorced. Two couples now use sign language to communicate. And one provocateur, who will remain nameless, single-handedly brought Mexican/American relations to an all- time low. Said nameless person, who speaks no more than ten words of Spanish, insisted that any American can easily be understood in Mexico if he SHOUTS! and adds an O to any word. “Mistero, whereo iso theo toileto?”
Several weeks after this disaster, Bobbie and I clinked cocktails glasses and decided to muse over our less than idyllic vacation. Bobbie began dinner. Though relegated to sous-chef, I was savoring the dinner she was creating.
“We should have done things differently,” Bobbie explained. “If we hadn’t …” She whacked something on the chopping board with a small, cleaver. “I thought Renne and Jenny were happy.” Just as an ice cube popped in my glass, Bobbie had a sudden epiphany. “We needed a list.”
“We needed a list.” I agreed having no idea what we needed a list for or what epicurean delight we would soon be consuming.
“We needed something binding,” she said. She stopped chopping and dug her fingers into a large mound of dough.
“Something binding,” I nodded. “Gnocchi,” I smiled. I got smiled back. Bobbie kneaded the dough, added flour, butter and some Parmesan cheese. Tonight we would dine well.
“A list. Something binding,” she continued.
“A list. Something binding,” I agreed.
I got the "look." Bobbie wiped flour on the side of her apron. “You have no idea what I’m talking about.”
“I have an idea,” I lied. “It’s just not a perfectly clear idea. It still needs formation, more of a foundation, to make the idea
really. . .”
“Yeah,” she interrupted. “I’m referring to the Puerto Vallarta fiasco,” Bobbie cut the gnocchi dough into bite size pieces. “If we had a list? A guide. Something written and binding that we could abide by….something like a vacation constitution.” She handed me a fork. I knew the drill. Fold the dough into a ball, press it into a fork, roll the dough through the space between the tines and you come up with the perfect gnocchi scallop.
“A vacation constitution?” I asked.
“Exactly!” Bobbie, dropped the gnocchi into a shallow pan of boiling water. She turned hands akimbo on her apron. “A constitution to govern all Non-discussable Vacation Topics. Something written and binding that we would all respect.”
Of course our Founding Fathers took over three months to write the United States Constitution. It consisted of 4,543 words and was written in Philadelphia over a long, hot summer by the likes of Madison, Franklin, Hamilton and Pinckney.
Conversely, our “Vacation Constitution” was written after two glasses of Merlot, a Caesar salad (with anchovies) and home-made gnocchi. It consists of only three hundred and seventy five words. Bobbie and I attempted recalling all the issues and instances which created conflict within our circle of friends and arrived at the following simple truths, which I now offer to you in 50 and Counting. I’m certain it will make any place where friends and family gather less stressful and more enjoyable.
THE VACATION CONSTITUTION
NON-DISCUSSABLE VACATION TOPICS GUIDE
DO NOT BEGIN ANY SENTENCE WITH:
I wish that______
This place isn’t as nice as _____
Wasn’t our trip to ______ cheaper/ better/cleaner/more fun?
Isn’t he /she dead?
Is he/she still alive? Never say, “You must me kidding.”
_______ drinks too much, -or- what a prig! Never has a nip
______ is still smoking
DO NOT DISCUSS SEX
The lack OF
Who needs it?
It is over rated.
Or smug comments on how well your erectile is functioning. (This seems to occur most often on warm Mexican afternoons after the 4th or 5th Margarita.)
Orgasms, the lack there of, or the wonder and joy of a multiple-orgasmic experience
Techniques. . . It was over techniques that one of our happy vacationing couples started down the ol’ divorce trail. An unhappy trail for them.
DO NOT DISCUSS ANYTHING ABOUT THE HUMAN TORSO
Breast (s) real or altered
Never compare your mates anything with anyone else’s anything.
Cleavage/thighs or shin bones (How the hell did they start arguing about shin bones?)
Height/weight/hair or lack there of
GENERAL NON DISCUSSABLE TOPICS
I wish she/he would spend more time
Why does he/she waste her time doing?
I hate his friends because they
I hate her friends because they
DO NOT DISCUSS KIDS
Kids leaving the nest
Disillusioned kids returning to the warmth of the nest
Young adults who will soon be released from
Young adults whose trial may begin next month
Kids falsely accused of
Girls or boys who are doing great/terrible at/in/with
Never compare your progeny with that of another couple.
MEAN SPIRITED THINGS NOT TO SAY ABOUT $$$
$ I could have bought that for
$ You couldn’t possibly have paid that much for that
$ If I knew then what I now know about
$ One year ago that stock sold for
DO NOT DISCUSS HEALTH ISSUES
Hemorrhoids or an especially painful or rather pleasant colonoscopy - this started over dinner
SPORTS –– DO NOT MENTION
Favorite teams – Super Bowl – The World Series – The Stanley Cup –
My best bet
My worse bet
Older players vs. Younger players.
We are still working on amendments to our Constitution because it doesn’t deal with politics or religion. But after a 3rd glass of Merlot we gave up the ghost and now solicit you for some pithy comments.
After review of our “Vacation Constitution” Bobbie and I have decided to avoid such a limited vacation and simply travel by ourselves. Then whenever we engage in heated, intelligent, controversial conversations, it will be with utter strangers, people we will never see again.
BEATING YOUR CHILDREN RARELY SOLVES ANYTHING
Someone told me that daughters at the age of 12 can be delightful. When I took a poll of twenty+ parents of 12 and 13 year olds, the result was daughters that age are rarely delightful.
Maurice Chevalier sang
Thank heaven for little girls
for little girls get bigger every day!
Thank heaven for little girls
they grow up in the most delightful way!
Those little eyes so helpless and appealing
one day will flash and send you crashin' thru the ceilin'
Thank heaven for little girls
thank heaven for them all,
no matter where, no matter who
for without them, what would little boys do?
Thank heaven... thank heaven...
Thank heaven for little girls!
Through diligent research I discovered Maurice Chevalier didn’t have children of his own, not one 12 year old girl, and never in the most delightful way. He married a widow with three boys ……. Ah, but I digress.
“Girls are soooooo much easier to raise than boys.”
“Yeah,” for the record, toss a boy a pair of Levis and a t-shirt with a strand of spaghetti embedded in the fabric and a swath of dried snot on the sleeve, and any young man considers himself appropriately attired for a game of football, a funeral, wedding or the first day of school. Try that with a girl.
Here’s another lie.
“Boys are made from snakes and snails and puppy dog tails,”
“Girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice.”
Yes, there are differences between boys and girls. During summer vacation girls will play school, mommy daddy and baby, have afternoon tea parties and read books. Boys will do the latter but usually begrudgingly.
Girls want to play teacher, nurse and doctor. Boys want to play superhero, basketball, football, a soldier from any war, cowboys and Indians, space pirates. Though lot of us could be talked into a game of doctor, or I’ll show you mine if you show me yours about the age of eleven.
Our home was small, three bedrooms, one bathroom, nestled on the morning side of the hill in the woods of Fairfax. Our oldest daughter’s room is right off the living room. Adjacent to our dining room table.
One afternoon I was grading papers on the coffee table when she bolted through the front. I tried a ‘Hi Honey, how was…” but she was pass me in a flash. I tried a “Hey” but our little sugar and spice SLAMMED her door so hard my students’ papers scattered across the carpet. Both cats scattered through the kitchen and out the pet door. Two books flew out of the bookcase, and mortar flaked off several fireplace bricks.
I will not mention the thoughts that went through my mind at this juncture.
Bobbie flew in from the kitchen drying a Pyrex bowl with a dish towel.
“And…? What, the heck was that?”
I pointed to ‘everything nices’ door.
“Why that. . . She scared the…” Bobbie, gently place the Pyrex bowl on top of our piano. And immediately started humming quietly to herself. Humming quietly to herself was never a good sign for the humeee. Ever so slowly she folded the dish towel into ever smaller squares and finally set it inside the Pyrex bowl.
I knew that whatever I was thinking or planning to do about the explosion paled with what might happen in the next few moments.
I intercepted her before she opened the door to our adorable child’s room. I gave her a hug her and lied, “Honey, let me handle this one, I have the perfect solution.” I had no idea about what I was going to do.
She looked me in the eye. I returned a confident, ‘you have no idea how well I have this situation in hand’ look. There was a brief look of doubt, but then she smiled, gave me a smart salute, and picked up the bowl. “Okay, soldier, she’s all yours, ” and returned to the kitchen. I stared after her. I still don’t know what happened, but I knew I’d better come up with something quick. I laid my hand on the door. Lurking behind it was an angry, smug, not delightful little girl.
I quickly dismissed the idea of a full frontal assault crashing through door an into a verbal confrontation. I had an axe and thought about attacking the door and our little cute, dazzling, delicate child cowering inside, as the blade shattered the wood. When I pictured a flame thrower, I realized I was losing it. Over- the- top. I was the adult here . And then it came to me.
So simple. So devious. Such a calm and mature solution.
In the garage a few minutes later, I gathered a hammer, screw driver, vise -grips and returned to the scene of the slam. Subconsciously, taking a page from Barb, I started humming ‘KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCKIN’ ON HEAVEN DOOR.’
Only two hinges held sweethearts door in place. I placed the screw drive under the hinge-pin, gave it a whack with the hammer and out it came. Voila! The second pin came out just as easily.
Barb joined me with a big smile, a thumbs up and joined me in the chorus of Knockin’ on Heaven’s door. I grabbed the door handle. Gave it a little jerk and slipped it off the hinges.
Our oldest gave us an angry look that quickly turned to puzzlement as Barb and I turned her door sideways and marched it out the front door and down the stairs to the garage.
Days passed. Barb and I avoided any comments and simply passed by the gap in our living room wall with a casual wave. Marshmallow and Smokey who were felines non grata in our daughter’s bedroom immediately had a whole new part of the house to spray their respective identifying scents and deposit the occasion hairball. Though she tried to erect a cardboard barrier, the cats went up and over or dug down and under. My side of the sofa, the cat’s previous preferred perch, was abandoned for her pillow and stuffed, Scottish terrier.
Her sister was not kind. Our youngest example of sugar and spice, would peek in to our oldest door-less room cover her mouth with her knuckles, let out sharp squeal and run down the hall giggling.
I was on the patio setting up the ping-pong table for a game of who does the dishes with Bobbie about a week later, when a very subdued daughter approached.
“Hi, Honey,” I offered. I had a feeling where this was going.
“Hi,” she placed her hand behind her back and did that foot thing that girls do. “Dad… When do I get my door back?”
I handed her one end of the ping pong table net. “Will you help me with this.”
She took the end a walked to the other side of the table. “Dad, when do I get my door back?”
I checked for tension on the net. “It’s broken.”
She looked up. “The net?”
“No, your door. It keeps slamming. Haven’t you noticed?
I just haven’t had time to fix it.”
Then she did it. “I don’t think my door will slam anymore.”
Those little eyes so helpless and appealing
one day will flash and send you crashin' thru the ceilin'
Thank heaven for little girls
I put the paddles and ball on the ping pong table and said, “great, how about giving me a hand?” Together, we hauled her door up from the garage and four minutes later it was back on its hinges never to slam again.
An “If” for Girls
(With apologies to Mr. Rudyard Kipling)*
If you can dress to make yourself attractive,
Yet not make puffs and curls your chief delight;
If you can swim and row, be strong and active,
But of the gentler graces lose not sight;
If you can dance without a craze for dancing,
Play without giving, play too strong a hold,
Enjoy the love of friends without romancing,
Care for the weak, the friendless and the old;
If you can master French and Greek and Latin,
And not acquire, as well, a priggish mien,
If you can feel the touch of silk and satin
Without despising calico and jean;
If you can ply a saw and use a hammer,
Can do a man’s work when the need occurs,
Can sing when asked, without excuse or stammer,
Can rise above unfriendly snubs and slurs;
If you can make good bread as well as fudges,
Can sew with skill and have an eye for dust,
If you can be a friend and hold no grudges,
A girl whom all will love because they must;
If sometime you should meet and love another
And make a home with faith and peace enshrined,
And you its soul—a loyal wife and mother—
You’ll work out pretty nearly to my mind
The plan that’s been developed through the ages,
And win the best that life can have in store,
You’ll be, my girl, the model for the sages—
A woman whom the world will bow before.
Rudyard Kipling, wrote the remarkable poem “IF” that mostly relates to boys becoming men.
Your kids may never hate you again.
The greatest thing about having children is they are children. Through them you can revisit a world you didn’t pay much attention to when you were growing up. To a child all things are bright and new.
Every taste, with the possible exception of lima beans, is an adventure. With a shovel and a pail, mud, clay, dirt and sand they created complicated civilizations. Our kids spent most of one summer engineering two discarded cardboard refrigerator boxes into castles, rocket ships, a store, a cave, a maze, a schoolhouse and a little house on the prairie.
The real joy of children is the time you get to share with them swimming, hiking, camping, fire works on the Fourth of July, birthdays, holidays and amusement parks. And it was an aborted trip to an amusement park that instigated mystery trips.
For weeks Bobbie, I and our girls planned a two day get away to Great America. On the side of our refrigerator, hung a Barney the dinosaur calendar. Bobbie drew a dark red circle around July 12th with a Sharpie.
From the middle of June on, daily our children would X out a day. As the 12th arrived the Spolter abode vibrated with excitement. The kids were dressed and all systems go. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with apple slices were in lunch bags by the front door. I’d already packed the car when the phone rang. My mom was sick and needed me.
I called the kids into a huddle to explain. They already knew something was up. I’m convinced kids are born with a primitive sense of E.S.P.
“We’re not going to Great America, are we?” the eldest went into a pre-sob, sob.
The youngest looked to her sister then to me for confirmation. “Girls, my mom is very sick. I have to take ‘Cool Granny’ to the doctor.” Both girls loved their grandmother, but it’s hard for kids to balance a trip to Great America with that love.
I postponed the trip over wails of utter despair “but, but, but you prom… promised, daddy.”
“You promised,” chorused the youngest. “You did, you really promised.”
I felt like a creep. This had happened more than once. Extenuating circumstances arose, emergencies occurred, plans changed and promises were broken.
Sometime during the three days with my mom a simple solution occurred to me; all I had to do was STOP being specific. Oh, Bobbie and I continued to plan all sorts of kid events; the zoo, planetarium, Golden Gate Park, a ferry boat ride, canoeing on lakes and rivers, visit to the beach etc., but we never told them where we were going until we were in seat belts and on our way.
More than once, a banana split at Swenson’s, or a hike in the woods became a substitute for a water-skiing trip to Clear Lake. .
Our kids loved the Mystery Trips and we never heard the sobbing, or the dreaded, “You…. Prom…. Promised.” Again. And for the most part we never had to see the abject disappointment in their faces again.
Barb and I still plan Mystery Trips for each other. Recently I had to ask Barb if I should pack snow shoes or a bathing suit. It was a bathing suit. I love Hawaii.
Recently our oldest daughter blessed us with two incredible grandchildren and Mystery Trips have become tradition.
Mystery trips are another reason we’re at 50 and still counting. Try them.
WHO'S JOB IS IT ANY WAY
COMING UP IN AUGUST
IT’S GOOD TO BE A BE A MAN
Men Are Just Happier People! What do you expect from such simple creatures? Your last name stays put. The garage is all yours. Wedding plans take care of themselves. Chocolate is just another snack. You can never be pregnant. You can wear a white T-shirt to a water park. You can wear NO shirt to a water park.
Usually mechanics tell you the truth. The world is your urinal. You never have to drive to another gas station restroom because this one is too icky. You don't have to stop and think of which way to turn a nut on a bolt. Wrinkles add character. Wedding dress - $5,000. Tux rental - $100.
People never stare at your chest when you're talking to them. New shoes don't cut, blister, or mangle your feet. One mood all the time. Phone conversations are over in 30 seconds flat. You know stuff about sports, tools and tanks. A five-day vacation requires only one suitcase. You can open your own jars.
You get extra credit for the slightest act of thoughtfulness. If someone forgets to invite you, he or she can still be your friend. Your underwear is $8.95 for a three-pack. Two pairs of shoes are more than enough. You almost never have strap problems in public. You are unable to see small stains or wrinkles in your clothes.
Everything on your face stays its original color. The same hairstyle lasts for years, maybe decades. You only have to shave your face and neck. You can play with toys all your life. One wallet and one pair of shoes - one color for all seasons. You can wear shorts no matter how your legs look.
You can 'do' your nails with a pocket knife. You have freedom of choice concerning growing a mustache... You can do Christmas shopping for 25 relatives on December 24 in 25 minutes.
NICKNAMES: If Laura, Kate, and Sarah go out for lunch, they will call each other Laura, Kate and Sarah. If Ralph, Ken, and Frank go out, they will affectionately refer to each other as Fat Boy, Bubba, and Wild man.
EATING OUT: When the bill arrives, Kev, Dave and Ernie will each throw in $20, even though it's only for $32.50. None of them will have anything smaller and none will ask for change. When the ladies get their bill, out-come pocket calculators.
MONEY: A man will pay $2 for a $1 item he needs. A woman will pay $1 for a $2 item that she doesn't need but it's on sale.
BATHROOMS: A man has six items in his bathroom: toothbrush and toothpaste, shaving cream, razor, a bar of soap, and a towel. The average number of items in the typical woman's bathroom is 337. A man would not be able to identify more than 20 of these items.
ARGUMENTS: A woman has the last word in any argument. Anything a man says after that is the beginning of a new argument.
FUTURE: A woman worries about the future until she gets a husband. A man never worries about the future until he gets a wife.
MARRIAGE: A woman marries a man expecting he will change, but he doesn't. A man marries a woman expecting that she won't change, but she does.
DRESSING UP: A woman will dress up to go shopping, water the plants, empty the trash, answer the phone, read a book, and get the mail. A man dresses up for weddings and funerals.
NATURAL: Men wake up as good-looking as they went to bed. Women somehow deteriorate during the night.
OFFSPRING: Ah, children. A woman knows all about her children. She knows about dentist appointments and romances, best friends, favorite foods, secret fears, and hopes and dreams. A man is vaguely aware of some short people living in the house.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY. A married man should forget his mistakes. There's no use in two people remembering the same thing!
And remember to steal ideas from someone is plagirarism. To steal from many is research.
In July, I would rather be a woman!