Why we’re not leading the marriage conference

Our youngest daughter and her husband received an invitation to a marriage conference, one of those weekend gatherings where someone talks about improving communication—like finding a sweet way for him to tell her that she has morning breath and how she can gently let him know that if he cracks his knuckles one more time she may go ballistic.

Naturally, I inquired about the conference leaders’ credentials. I wasn’t talking degrees and alphabet soup behind a person’s name; I was curious as to know how long the conference speakers have been married, when their last argument was, what it was about and how they resolved it.

Our daughter said she didn’t know how long they had been married. Then she said—and this is the absolute truth—“With as long as you and Dad have been married, you could probably lead a conference.”

It was a lovely compliment. It was so lovely I considered asking her to repeat it so I could record it on my cell phone but decided that would not be showcasing good communication skills. We were deeply touched—especially considering that she lived under the same roof with us for the first 18 years of her life.

The husband and I then had a misunderstanding regarding an event on the calendar. It wasn’t a terse exchange, but perhaps somewhat business-like, not particularly dripping with honey.

She then announced that maybe we might be more suited for leading a workshop.

One minute we’re conference leadership material and the next minute we’re downgraded to workshop leaders.


The husband then returned to his computer and began humming. I asked him to please stop humming. I’m not against humming, but when he hums it is never a real song or a full song, so the humming sounds like someone a few crayons shy of a full box.

She then offered that maybe we’d be best at leading a breakout session. A breakout session is usually cobbled together at the last minute for people who failed to sign up for the workshops before they filled. It was a definite downgrade.

Forty years of marriage and all we could qualify for is leading a breakout session. Maybe.

The husband asked what was for dinner and I said, “Chicken.”

“Again?” he asked.

There was an edge to his voice.

I heard it. She heard it. The chicken heard it.

She then suggested we might be suited for working the refreshment table.

“We could,” the husband said, “if they don’t mind chicken.”

He went back to humming and I started preparing the chicken.

“Know what your father and I would really be good at doing at a conference?” I asked, dousing the chicken in olive oil. “Parking cars!”

The husband jumped up from his computer and we high-fived each other. We may not be communication experts, but we know how to have fun.

We’ll be the ones wearing orange safety vests in the parking lot.


Why dance when you can floss?

The irony is not lost on me that the child teaching me how to do the dance craze known as the floss is missing four teeth.

Two on top. Two on bottom. Gone. Nothing but a black hole when she grins. The kid has nothing to floss, but here she is doing the floss, arms flying, hips swinging, smiling from ear to ear, shouting, “C’mon try it!”

“What’s the name of that dance again?”

“The floth!”

That’s right, the floth—distant cousin to a dance called the sloth—a dance where you sit motionless and watch others go through awkward gyrations.

The floss has been all the rage for more than a year and I am late to the party, or the bathroom sink. But here I am.

I am learning the floss to disprove claims that only young people can do the floss because adults lack necessary eye-hand coordination.

How absurd. Just yesterday I spotted a kid jumping on the bed and another trying to hide beneath it and nabbed one in each hand. My eye-hand coordination is excellent.

That said, the floss is harder than it looks. With feet apart, arms extended and fists clenched, you pretend to be holding dental floss. Now, swing both arms with clenched fists from side to side in front of you, back and forth. Now, this time when you swing your arms, swing one arm in front of you and the other arm behind your back.

Repeat in the other direction. Or go sit down and work on the sloth.

After you get the arms swinging, the hips join in, swinging in the opposite direction of the arms. Now try chewing gum at the same time. Or reciting the alphabet backward.

If I were holding real floss, I would have floss burns on my waist, floss circling my ears and a few strands woven through my hair. My arms tend to overcompensate for what my hips seem unable to accomplish, although my dance instructor is yelling, “Way to floth!”

Inspired, I yell, “Do the toothpaste squeeze!” Arms raised, we move our thumbs and index fingers like we are rolling the end of a toothpaste tube, squeezing out the last bead.

“Do the brush!” someone else yells.

We mimic brushing our teeth with invisible toothbrushes.

“Now the ambidextrous brush!” I yell, upping the ante.

Since they have taught me the floss, I offer to teach them the twist.

“Feet together, pretend you are holding one end of a bath towel in each hand and are drying your back after stepping out of the shower, back and forth, while moving up and down. Now move one foot forward and pretend to extinguish a cigarette with your toe.”

“But, Grandma, we don’t smoke!”

“Of course you don’t! You don’t floss every day, either! Just dance!”

We are flossing and twisting and twisting and flossing, cleaning our teeth and finishing our imaginary showers with such vigor, that tomorrow we may all skip our morning routine—which sounds a lot like doing the sloth.

New type machine strikes right keys with kids

We are the proud owners of the coolest toy ever—an old IBM Selectric typewriter.

We rock, baby.

We landed the typewriter from a sweet neighbor who was downsizing. The machine had been kept in perfect condition for some five decades.

We lugged the heavy chromium green monster into the house, heaved it up on the kitchen table, removed the dusty cover, plugged it in and listened to that kitty purr.

Music to our ears.

We inserted a piece of paper and I typed a few lines. My fingers flew and the little round ball spun wildly, flinging letters onto the paper. It worked like a charm. Except for the typos. I’d need some of that correction tape. Do they sell it anymore?

The next day, some of the grands arrived, immediately noticed the odd-looking machine and cautiously circled it.

“What is it?” one timidly asked.

“What do you think it is?”

“Well, it sort of looks like a computer. It has the same letters on it.”

“It’s an electric typewriter,” I said.

“A typerider?”

“No, a typewriter. Watch this,” I said. I sat down in front of it.

I turned it on. It started to hum and they all jumped six feet in the air.

It was like the first-time man saw fire. Frightening, but intriguing.

I typed a few lines and they all oohed and aahed.

“What?” one of them exclaimed. “You don’t need a printer?”

“No! It prints as you go! Isn’t that incredible?”

They were spellbound.

“What will they think of next, right?” I asked.

“See this silver ball in here? There are four others just like it, each one with a different type font.”

“Whoa!” they shouted.

A few feet away sat my laptop, a high-speed computer with hundreds of fonts, auto-correct, spell-checker, grammar-checker, a built-in dictionary and thesaurus, linked to a laser printer that can crank out 20 pages a minute.

Big whoop.

They all clamored for a turn in front of the new-fangled, incredibly fascinating machine called a typerider.

“Form a line,” I shouted. “Single file! Single file.”

The first one tapped a key, paused, then tapped another and another, picking up speed. She hit return, watched the little silver ball fly back to the left side of the page, squealed with delight, and started again.

Why hadn’t we shown them this marvel before? Could their mom and dad get one, too? Does Amazon sell them?

One after another, they ripped paper out of the typewriter and came running to show us what they had written.

Beautiful!” I said, looking at askdjdklfeiruodsdkmdkdfjlf djskfjdljlskdjddkkdd. “Read it to me!”

“One day there was a mermaid. She was a pretty mermaid.”

“I think you have a writing career ahead of you.”

They all howled when it was time to turn off the machine. The best-sellers hidden inside them would have to wait for another day.

We assured them the typewriter would be waiting when they returned.

In the meantime, we’re looking into whether we can hook up an old tabletop rotary dial phone salvaged from the 1950s. They’ll be ecstatic.

Two secrets to keeping a tidy house

The house needs some attention, which is why it is probably time to have a party.

The truth is, our place never looks better than when we have people over, especially strangers.

We discovered this after having our first child. For six Monday nights we sat with five other couples on the floor of a children’s clothing store after hours, hugging pillows, practicing breathing, “Hee, hee, haw, hee, hee, haw,” listening to a birthing coach tell us that labor and delivery were nothing more than discomfort.

We agreed to get together after we all had experienced “discomfort” and delivered our babies. Since nobody wanted to take infants and meet at a restaurant, we offered to host.

Although these were people we barely knew and they would all be bleary-eyed from exhaustion and sleep-deprivation, I cleaned the oven, polished glassware and washed an enormous picture window holding 24 framed panes of glass with an infant strapped to my chest. The husband trimmed shrubbery, cleaned the basement and hosed down the driveway.

As guests began arriving, the husband was still repairing a lock on the back door that had been broken for months. I neatly folded every towel, hand towel and washcloth in the linen closet.

People complimented us on how nice our place looked.

We said thanks and asked if anyone cared to see the linen closet.

The place did look good. As a matter of fact, it looked so good, we had another kid two years later.

Today, the trim on our house needs painting. Spring is threatening to arrive, which means the firewood on the front porch needs to be moved out back and that sorry excuse for a grill on the patio needs carting to the trash.

Over the years, we’ve hosted a lot of baby showers and bridal showers, which has kept the house in good shape. But most of that generation is married and on their way to second and third babies. The showers have dissipated and so has our motivation for thorough home maintenance.

Clutter needs eliminating, the hall closet needs organizing and a general purging of kid drawings, junk mail and expired coupons is overdue. One of the best ways to get clutter eliminated from your home is through hiring a skip or contacting a rubbish clearance company like LITTA, for example. By doing that, homeowners can de-clutter their homes without having to worry about getting rid of this rubbish after. When most people look to clear this rubbish, they have no idea where to dispose of it. Unfortunately, some people will begin flytipping this rubbish which does have a negative impact on the environment. To ensure you don’t have to illegally get rid of your rubbish, you can contact a waste management company that can safely dispose of this rubbish for you, allowing you to keep your home clean and tidy.

I have a theory that frequent travel is the secret to keeping an immaculate home. If you’re not home, you can’t mess it up. That’s why there are never people in the pictures of homes in decorating magazines. They have all been sent on long trips so the rooms could be cleaned and kept clean for the photo shoot.

So, buy a house, get in good shape and then leave. Voila!

My second theory is that if you don’t travel a lot, the next best way to keep your house looking good is to have people over. Hence the party.

The husband just commented that there seem to be a growing number of small projects around the house needing attention. “Maybe it’s time to have a party,” he said.

“Probably,” I said. “And then we should take a really long trip.”