I’m Cheating on My Husband (Honey, Don’t Read This)

Well… paybacks are hell;
And I deserve to suffer;
But it’s so worth it.
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He is traveling… My mind wanders. A sly smile crosses my face as I picture possibilities.

What to do, what to do…

And like Phineas, a voice in my head shouts: “Maureen, I know what we’re going to do today! Make pancakes for dinner so the kids will like you more than dad.”

And with that, I cheat on Frank. I use his “out of town-ness” as a means to ingratiate myself to the children. Pancakes for dinner are just the start. There’s an indoor picnic (my 21st Century name for eating on the floor in front of the TV). There’s dessert and skipping brushing teeth. There a 3D movie in my bed, lights off, just like the movies.  There’s staying up just a little extra and no book reading.

I am evil. Bwah hah hah. Any chance I get to establish myself as the cool mommy, I take it. Even if it means cheating on Frank and doing with the kids something I would normally discourage in an otherwise normal school night.  You see, I don’t volunteer in the classroom; it’s taken me the whole year to schedule a “reading” session with my son’s class; the babysitter makes a better sandwich than I do and I’m pretty sure the girl scout troop is scared of me. So I’m going to take any advantage I can.

Mind you, I’m not good at hiding my cheating ways. Thirty seconds after this posts, his email will tweedle its arrival. He will read it (at least he claims he does), so I do this with full knowledge that he is now fully aware and I’m stone cold busted.

But he’s traveling right now and can’t do a damn thing about it.   Heh heh heh…

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Do your new reading glasses make my ass look fat? The evolution of a marriage…

Small, square, the ad read:
“…A cuddly renaissance dude…”
With that, I was hooked.
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Today I celebrate 19 years of wonderful marriage to Frank. Wow. Nine-teen. That’s a lot. We’ve known each other 20 years – yikes!  that’s like two decades! It has both felt like a very short period of time and like forever, because it seems I can’t recall much before we met.

I’m not sure I’m going to add anything new to the “anatomy of a marriage” genre, but I thought a trip down memory lane would be fun to write. So I present to you my marriage, in 6 stages:

Dating, 14 months: We spent a lot of time at my apartment. I lived alone and it was snuggly.  During this time Frank killed a rat in my apartment (the rat had the strength of 10 men and the daring of a playboy centerfold; I was terrified). He took me sledding for the first time in my life (winter snow is a little thin on the ground in middle Georgia).  It was a lovely place and a lovely time. I enjoyed our courtship a great deal. (I know, I know, who the hell calls it a courtship…)

Marriage years zero to 4: Our first apartment together. I moved in first, a few weeks before the wedding. I knew when the washer and dryer arrived the day after I moved in — my first major appliance purchase ever, let alone with another person — that this was serious. Why the 100 wedding invitations and the white dress hanging in the closet didn’t also convey this, I don’t know. But the washer and dryer… that was it. It was a great apartment. All new building, third floor on the back. We could watch the fireworks at Kings Island every night from the deck (ok, so you had to stand at one end and lean over the railing a little). We lit fires in the fireplace (also a novelty to this childhood victim of gas heat).  We sat on the floor and ate on the glass-topped coffee table in front of the TV so often I made a little table-cloth. (It currently lays folded on a shelf 4 feet from me now; we’ve never been able to part with it.) When we started rehabbing my husband’s childhood home, spending all but sleeping hours elsewhere, the place felt less lived in. Imagine my surprise then when we moved out in 1997: I sobbed uncontrollably at the loss of our first marital home. Even Frank shed a tear.

Homeowners, Part 1: We were virtually immobile for the first 2 years of our life in this home. The previous 18 months of near constant rehabbing had stripped us of our youthful vigor (being newly married and mostly broke, we did almost all the work ourselves. We started by removing the entire roof, trusses and all, and setting new trusses with a crane, if that gives you an indication of how much work we did…). The walls remained boring beige. The last few bits of rehab went untouched for years. But we enjoyed being homeowners. Frank bought me a go-kart disguised as a lawn mower which I joyfully drove like a maniac every summer weekend. I planted a few vegetables. I took a landscape class and redid the front yard. Frank put in a concrete driveway that could withstand the landing pressure of the space shuttle.  Five years after moving in, and nearly 10 years into our marriage, we decided to start a family and quickly (and thankfully) after that, our daughter was born. (I loved painting her nursery (thanks Teneal!) and would silently weep when years later it was undone by another family.) We had cats and house plants and relatives next door and across the street. It was a good party house and the vaulted ceiling hosted a 12 foot tall Christmas tree each year. When we sold the house in 2005 to the first people who looked at it, we were pleased someone who appreciated our hard work, craftmanship and obvious love of the place had purchased it.

The Expat Years: In 2005 we moved to England for my job; Frank became a stay at home dad. We learned to drive on the other side of the road and call it rubbish and motorway and car park and mum. I loved it… and it was hard. Redefining your roles in a marriage and as parents isn’t easy, and often I struggled balancing work (and my perceived higher expectations being an expat) with being a second-in-command parent with being a mom with being a wife with wanting some alone time. But we learned to go with the flow.  Two years into it our son was born and I watched with amazement as my husband grew into an expanded role as caregiver and home-keeper and I chilled out about being the primary breadwinner and an expat. Although we were happy to come back to the US in 2008, I will always love England. I never did fully say goodbye to our rental home there… not sure why.

Growth & Maturation: Remember 2008? Gas prices were sky high? House prices were rock bottom? We returned then, rented a home and stood ready to finally build a house on the 5 acres we had purchased in 2000 in a dream location in the country. But we had to wait. Had to get one kid in school and one in daycare. I had to get used to a new job with what seemed like a 24 hour clock. Frank had to restart his engineering business. And we had to decide on how to proceed with building the house.  Have Frank be the general contractor or use a builder? Will the bank loan us the money in this economy? The house we designed will cost HOW MUCH to build? Meet with the architect and redesign the house smaller with fewer bells and whistles. Revisit the budget, crunch some numbers. Argue with the homeowners association that we weren’t quite yet ready to build… These were the longest 18 months of our marriage I think. My son wasn’t getting along in day care; we were falling deeper in love with our daughters school 45 minutes in the opposite direction from our 5 acres. Did we really want the custom home? Was country living really the right thing for our little family? Was day care really the best option for AB at this time? Did we want a nice house but no money for vacation for the next 20 years, or some other path? When the universe presented to me, one January afternoon in 2010, a 4 bedroom house less than one mile from school on over an acre… an English Tudor no less… with one of those rock bottom prices nearly half of the dream home’s… well, the rest as they say is history. It was one of the most mature things we ever did – picking the collective future of our family over an old dream that didn’t really fit anymore. It was like finally parting with that really cool pair of designer pants that you bought on deep sale at Saks on a whim… they fit, but you never really had the right place to wear them, but you couldn’t bear throwing them out.  Selling the 5 acres felt like taking those pants to Goodwill. You know it’s the right thing, but you still wonder if you made the right decision – will you have just the right event to wear them to come up in a few days…

Homeowners, Part 2, No regrets: 2010 – to present.   I love my marriage. I love my kids and husband and the family we make. I love my house. I (mostly) love my job. We have a good dog and a short commute.  We sold 5 acres of specialty property in a down economy. We can take a vacation each year. The cars are healthy. I have to honestly say I am more content now than I have ever been. Don’t get me wrong — the first 19 years have been wonderful and I’m happy for the journey (and often dumbfounded at my good luck that started with reading that personal ad one NyQuil-drunk March evening…). And yet right now, everything seems to have come together at the same time. I have always mocked those 40-ish actresses who report that their 40s are sooo much better than their 20’s and 30’s. That they know themselves better, feel more comfortable with themselves, etc etc. I don’t feel like I have that level of self awareness – I have no clue if I “know myself better” or not. However, when viewed through the lens of the last 20 years… of the evolution of my married life, well then I must agree. It is, right now, the best. Amongst all the really amazing and wonderful great times, now is the best.

All my love, Frank. So very glad you picked me.

Men, Magazines and Me

A sewage eating
rodent died in Frank’s colon
gack…help…must…not…breathe….
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I have been trying for ages to find something to write about that would fit the above haiku. It is one of my all time favorites, obviously not for its artistic quality but for how I believe every person living with a grown man can identify with it and readily reflect back to their own version.

I know, it’s gross, but if you are here looking for high art, then I suggest the back button. (Note, my last posting was the anomaly, not this one…)

Anyway, my inspiration was cleaning. About once a month, usually with the waxing moon, I am possessed enough to clean and straighten the house to mother-in-law acceptability. This time, as I was working my way through one of the bathrooms (“… playdoh goes downstairs… coat hanger to the closet… legos to AB’s room… fork (fork!?! eww, who eats in here!?) to the kitchen…”) I came across our requisite stack of magazines. Well, HIS requisite stack of magazines. If there is a publication about something with wheels, he receives it at alarmingly quick intervals. And then he reads each one, cover to cover.

In 30 minute increments.

Twice a day.

In one of two bathrooms.

Yes, I have two bathrooms containing stacks of his magazines.

Now, I have no issue with his love of literature. I have no issue with the regular exercising of his internal organs. My issue is that said literature keeps expanding said exercise periods such that I’m not sure he does anything but poop between dropping off the kids in the morning and picking our son up before lunch. I also resent the number of trees killed between his magazine obsession and, well, his other paper filled endeavors.

It wouldn’t be so bad if it were just a few magazines. I mean, as a guest in someone’s house, it is always interesting to nose about in their bathroom reading material on your way to picking through the medicine cabinet, right? It gives great insight about your friends, and provides much gossip for the car ride home. But I’m a little self-conscious about what people must think when looking through ours… Here is what I imagine goes through their head.

1. Good grief, how much reading can one man do in the bathroom?

2. What’s the difference between Rod & Custom and Hot Rod Magazine? All the cars look the same.

3.  This is a book called “Building A Shed”. It has 218 pages. What in god’s name does he do in here?

4. Street Rodder? Car Craft? Really? I didn’t know that there were this many magazines about cars. See point 2… I’m confused. Wait, is that a hot chick on the cover… cool.

5. Fine Homebuilding Magazine. Never heard of it. “15 different ways to put in stair railings”. Man that sounds boring.  What’s in the medicine cabinet…

And then they emerge, a little shell-shocked, because the medicine cabinet only reaffirms their belief that we are a little weird  (6 different types of children medicines, most out of date, 3 tampons, 2 tile samples and bag of cough drops).

Oh well. I picked him nearly 20 years ago, so I guess I’m stuck with him (plus, as I’ve said before, I’m no picnic either).  I’ll just keep buying Febreeze and insisting that he purge the magazines every 2 months or so.

And to potential visitors, you have been forewarned. (Apologies in advance.)

Am I being replaced?

Sitting here jealous
of homework and puppy walks.
I don’t wanna work.

”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””

The change has been quite subtle… My daughter would run to Dad as much as me when she hurt herself and needed comfort. And then the kids would call me Dad (granted, they would call him Mom).  But a few weeks ago was the hardest blow… my stay-at-home-dad-husband did a very mom thing. He was thoughtful. As in “full of thought”. He thought ahead, planned and did something for one of the kids that officially granted him entry into mom-hood.

I was devastated.

I’m ok being called Dad. Hell, I go through a rolodex of names when I talk to my kids too. But I always saw myself as occupying unique space as “The Mom”. I thought ahead enough to buy the birthday gift before day of the party.  I realized that my girl was sad and needed comfort before the tears arrived.  I was sensitive, I was interpreting what was important and I was acting to avoid a problem. And dammit if he didn’t do just that.

If I were honest with myself, I’d admit that I was hoping this would happen. It can be exhausting being the only one who thought this way and I often bemoan (in my own petty little head) that he “just doesn’t get it”. But I’d be lying if I didn’t take some martyr like satisfaction from thinking no one could do this job but me; that no matter what, I am mom and therefore better. And slowly now I’ve had to get used to sharing the spot light.

When we both worked, no matter what, I was still the chief parent.  We only had the one kid then, and she preferred me; I made a lot of the rules; I made a lot of the kid decisions (yes, some exaggeration, but not a lot…I’m not a wench, it just mostly works out that way when you’re the mom, right?).  And then, he became chief parent, he was in charge most of the time – and I tumbled in stature.  It was very hard for me to get used to.  Still, I lived off the fact that both kids would prefer to hang out with me rather than with dad if given the choice.  And I was sure I still had a unique skill set that the Y chromosome was incapable of duplicating.

Snf snf. I was wrong. I’ll get over it.  Statistically speaking he was bound to do something like that at some point, and it hasn’t happened again since then so there’s still hope. But there’s no going back.  Right now, and likely for a while, this is the right choice for our family, all things considered. My life is blessed and I’m more settled right now then I’ve been in a while, much in part to how wonderfully this set up is working.  It’s just that the view is different from this position and I’m not sure I’ll ever be totally ok with that…

Making Choices – My 5 Roles

Embrace the choices:
They map your way forward and
Soothe the looks backward.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

I learned something a few years ago from an executive at my company that has helped me with my work/life balance. He (yes, it was a he) hypothesized that each of us can reasonably have 5 roles in life that we are committed to. A role is something like wife or mother or tennis player or gardener.  If we decide to take on more than 5 roles, and want to fully commit to those roles (meaning we want to do them well), then he claimed something or someone will suffer.

I’ve been experimenting with this concept for a few years now and I think he is right.  Once I started thinking in these terms, I quit beating myself up for not “doing/having it all,” a self doubt-a-thon that I think many working moms engage in.  Instead, I decided that “having it all” was as simple as focusing on these 5 roles such that I was doing them well. Not perfectly, not full on all the time, but in a consistent way, with focus.  If I am able to do that, then I count myself successful, consider myself living the dream, and cut myself some slack on the things I’m not doing.  How powerful would it be if we could all see 5 reasonably well-executed roles as cause for celebration.

That isn’t to say that this is easy. Take a look at my current list of 5 roles.

  1. Wife (this is purposefully first, because it is too easy to make it last; I still struggle to give him as much time as I’d like)
  2. Mother (there may be a time when I won’t need to have this on the list, but not for a long time…)
  3. Employee (another “not really a choice” choice for our family, but still, have to acknowledge it is a role and it takes time)
  4. Healthy person (writing it down gives me permission to choose a work-out over coming home early)
  5. Writer/Blogger (new this year, yeah! Finally made it to the top 5)

These may seem obvious choices, to you, but to help dimensionalize how hard it is to pick the top 5, let’s list some of the things that didn’t make my list.

Daughter. Gasp! Really!?!? How can I do that? First, it doesn’t mean I don’t call my parents. It just means than I don’t focus time and attention on cultivating that role. Time and attention would probably mean more trips South to see them; a regularly scheduled phone call; more emails; home-made videos of the kids, etc. But I haven’t made this choice. So we talk about every 2 weeks while I’m driving home from work or on a random weekend when I get a moment. There may come a time in the future when their health drives “daughter” right back on the list, but I’ll clearly know it can’t be an incremental role, something will have to go.

Housekeeper.  If you ever visit me you will find dust. And likely a floor that needs to be swept assuming you can find it under the toys. If you are lucky enough to see upstairs, then you’ll see unmade beds and likely a dirty sock on the floor. Get over it. It isn’t a priority – I don’t put money or more than minimal time against this role. We don’t live in squalor (don’t worry, the kitchen and bathrooms are quite clean, the clothes are washed – even I have standards), and I do clean the house on a regular-ish basis, but I’m sure there are those out there who would frown if they visited.

House rehabber. This was a role last year (when writer wasn’t on the list). That’s because last year was our first full year in this amazing 86-year-old house which requires a lot of time and attention (not to mention money). Last year we focused on the house. This year, we don’t need to as much.

Sister.  Just like my daughter role, I don’t make this a priority.

Friend. There is an amazing women’s group that I get together with once a month. But I don’t have “girl friend” time the rest of the month for the most part.  Facebook keeps us connected, but I don’t foster the relationships like I see other people do.  I work with people I consider friends, and I like the moms of kids at school, so the itch gets scratched in those ways, but that’s it.  Sometimes I miss this…

Are there drawbacks to these choices? Sure there are. If it were painless, then it probably wouldn’t really be a choice.   But what keeps me committed to this concept is this:  when I think about how (even more) stretched I’d be if I also tried to put effort against more than 5, I realize none would be done well, and that is something I’m not willing to sacrifice.

Do I do some things outside of my roles? Of course, but I recognize that they will get less investment and thus lower returns. Or, I rethink my definition of it. For instance,  I’m a girl scout troop leader. Is that a new role or a “mother” role? I did it at my daughter’s request, so frankly I think of it as something special we do together – mother role, check.   I also keep a garden in the summer – is that another role? If you saw my garden you would agree it was NOT a focus area for me. Instead, I get the kids involved (harvesting carrots this year was a riot) or I treat it as exercise (healthy person role).  Again, you might see this as cheating, but I approach it holistically and it makes it easier. This doesn’t need to be any harder than it already is.

Lastly, you might ask “where are you on the list”? Healthy person – that is broadly defined to cover all the things I do to take care of my mental and physical health. Sleep in when I can, no work in the evenings when possible, Pilates class, etc.  Make sure you have you on your list too.

Are his lips still moving?

One part Engineer
Plus one part Russian major
Equals compromise.
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I must start this with a declaration: I love my husband. I really do. He has sacrificed a lot for me. I can’t imagine life without him. He is a wonderful friend, husband and father.

But…

He is an engineer. A talkative engineer.  I can also accurately label him an uber geek. He is also a stay at home dad now (meaning limited daily conversations with people over 4 feet tall). On top of all this he is one of the smartest people I know. He reads a ton, knows something about everything (there is very little overstatement in that, trust me or ask people who know him) and, on to the point of this posting… he believes that anything that interests him must also interest his wife, me.

And here is where I must remind you of my opening declaration because…

He is driving me crazy.  He just finished telling me all about a new technology that streams 4 channels simultaneously so that he can use the new “home theater PC” he is building as a DVR and get all the channels we really want, but then again do we really need cable because in a few years things like Google TV will be the way to go, but our router won’t work for that, so I need to buy a new router since ours has been flakey and then run some cables upstairs, including Ethernet, because you know I plan to automate the whole house but I’m not sure how to do that in an 86-year-old house made of plaster but the HVAC guy figured it out all you need to do is drill holes…

What I hear? Blah blah blah cable blah blah computer blah blah spend money blah blah blah another project blah blah blah… (Does anyone remember this Far Side?)  I can feel my brain fog over while he is talking.  The words make sense individually, but strung together with the lack of punctuation (and the depth of detail), they are nearly incomprehensible by me. My eyes glaze and focus on some random spot 2 feet in front of his face. I wonder how long this will continue. I secretly send “force like” messages to my daughter in hopes she’ll come find me (“I am the mom you are looking for”). I feign needing to go to the bathroom unexpectedly.

I am a horrible person. Because I know that I bore him on my own set of topics (work, my blog, what’s on our bucket list, my blog, vacation in 2015, my blog) – I have seen him glaze over and fog as well.  Early in our marriage I called him on it because it was clear he wasn’t listening and it offended me… and here I am, not that many years later, a complete hypocrite. I should be ashamed.

Instead, I’m trying to listen and understand. I have started to reply and build on the concepts so that it looks like perhaps, just maybe, I understand what he is saying… And you know what this does? Just encourages him to go on. And on. And on.

Bless him. I wouldn’t have anyone else as a husband, and I’m pretty sure he is going to keep me around too (well, maybe not after this posting).  But what in the hell am I going to do for the next 30 years?  I’m afraid I’m going to have to buck up and start really listening, participating in his techno-geek-engineer-computer-star wars-android-linux-hacker-car stuff-motorcycle in-depth discussions and actually paying attention. God help me.

The Pleasures of Date Night (not Balls, part 3)

Date night’s reminder:
“Oh, so that’s why I like you”
She says with a smile
.
At a long week’s end
Four words bring joy when uttered:
“Tonight is date night.”
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I find date night so important that it deserves 2 haikus. You see, we were married for 9 years before we decided to have children. We were “dual income, no kids” and loved every minute of it. Then one night in bed, I looked at Frank and said “Honey, I want a baby”, and neither of us laughed, so… we began our journey into parenthood.

I have zero regrets about having children. It suits us. We love them. They tolerate us. The dog hasn’t run away. Everyone gets along as much as 4 people who are forced to eat and travel together can. All good signs that we’ll make it through.

The key to our success as parents (and by success I mean that we haven’t harmed each other yet) I think lies fully in our decision when our first was 5 months old to have date nights about twice a month. It is a glorious opportunity for me to remind myself why this man – who makes mind-bending noises and emits smells that cause my eye lashes to molt – would be worth picking again.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m no picnic either. I believe I’m being coy when I ask “So, what did you do today?” when I really mean “What?! You haven’t started dinner yet?” But all memories of that which drives us crazy about each other melts away when the back door clicks shut, and we scurry to the car to make our escape.

So, here are my words of wisdom gleaned from 9 years of date nights:

  • Keep it simple. A cheap meal and walk around the mall holding hands is sometimes the best.
  • Don’t always do a movie… you can sit in the dark and not talk anytime.
  • Have it start early enough that you still get home in time to get a decent night sleep, or whatever you might want to do.
  • Don’t over plan them. 80% of our date nights are decided in the driveway before turning onto our street. We have a few options, decide at the last-minute and don’t sweat it. I tried for a while to plan elaborate date nights (anything that requires a ticket in advance is elaborate for me), but my life is already full of responsibility and decision-making… date night shouldn’t be.
  • Don’t stop. We took a break from date nights after our second child was born – boy did we miss it.
  • Pay for a good sitter. You won’t worry and that’s worth a ton (nothing dulls a date night more than fretting about the kids). There have been times when the budget was such that all we could afford to do that night was pay the sitter – we didn’t care. Our sitter is the best ever: one of our kids’ prior day care teachers who has children of her own, knows CPR and I trust with my kids unquestioningly. As Visa says: Priceless.
  • Related, make the expense a line item in your budget. If you asked me “date night or housekeeper” or “date night or no new purse for 2 years” I would pick date night without hesitation (and then get my mom to buy me a new purse). I plan to be with Frank for the long haul, and I don’t want to be one of those couples who, when married 30 years, does nothing but bitch about each other to anyone who will listen (jokes about body functions don’t count). Date night will prevent this.

Alas, if you were looking for something about how date nights have kept our love life wonderfully alive and hot-hot-hot, well, you missed the part about us being married for nearly 19 years and having 2 kids. That isn’t the point. The point is: I love what we were before we were parents enough to keep tending it.

And so the balls trilogy comes to a close.

The Purger vs. The Accumulator – Cage Match

 “Hic sunt dracones”
The man-cave sign states boldly.
I smile and walk on…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The day of giving stuff to other people has come and gone. We now have more stuff. An amazing amount of stuff.  Before Christmas I purged the kids’ toys to make room, but somehow it never seems to be enough. (Plus, thanks to the Toy Story series, the kids have a very emotional attachment to their toys now and fear pain and suffering will ensue should I get rid of any toy, so they are quite watchful… so far, so good, they haven’t missed anything.)

So I’m left with a question that I ask a lot these days: Why do we have so much stuff? What good is it?  I love reading Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits – I’ve learned a lot from him about how to not have so much stuff.  I don’t aspire to his level of minimalism, but the idea of culling the crap if only 20% would be a treat for me.  I’ve done a ton already… we’ve packed or unpacked our possessions 6 times in the past 7 years (from the US to England, from England back to the US into a rental home and then from that rental home to our current home… all since 2005).  As such, I am now a true blue “purger”.  I buy a lot less than I used to – I can go to Target and leave having bought only what was on my list – hah!   For the stuff we already have, well, if we don’t have a use for it, I give it away, sell it or throw it away. I have very little patience for keeping things “for when we might need it someday” because I am keenly aware I can’t remember if we have milk in the fridge right now, let alone whether we have an extra set of curtains in a box in the basement for just the right need.  (To be fair, despite the purging, we still have a lot of stuff… including enough Christmas decorations to delight several households, so I’m not perfect.) Most importantly (and with a head nod to Zen Habits), I have tried to become less attached to things and more attached to memories and experiences, which has been a nice substitute.

Here’s the rub: I am married to an “un-purger”.  Actually, I would most accurately call him (say this next part in your best Arnold Schwarzenegger voice):  The Accumulator. Not in a creepy hoarder-keeps-his-used-toilet-paper kind of way.   More like this:  he has never met an obscure motorcycle part, car part, airplane part, spare part or hand tool that he didn’t buy/try to buy/almost buy.  Unlike me, he has the memory of a computer – aware that back in 1994 (“you remember, we were looking for that Greek restaurant in Warren County?”) we stopped at a garage sale on some back road and he found a doo-hickey that did something special at 10% of what it cost new and we had to have it because he had always dreamed of owning a doo-hickle and this would be crucial to its maintenance. (The fact that nearly 20 years later we still don’t own a doo-hickle is irrelevant.)  So he has a lot of man-stuff from his 48 years on earth.

Interestingly, our moving over the last few years has never involved moving his man stuff, thanks to a large barn we owned on some property, so he hasn’t had to face up to his stash of stuff… That is until this past Fall, when we sold that property and my dearest had to vacate his 3000 square foot man-cave barn.  “Ah! This will require him to purge” I gleefully said to myself.  “This will mean less stuff since it all has to go into storage!”   Well, not exactly…

To be fair, he did do some purging. One day I visited him during pack-up and he showed me his (amateur) garbage pile:   “look, a spare leaf blower motor I was saving to motorize a skateboard some day; two old faucets I was saving for parts – all in the garbage!”) but all I saw was bin after bin of things I couldn’t identify.  I couldn’t believe how one person could stand to have “that much stuff” and chided him about it.  I talked about how it “took up emotional energy” and “cluttered his metaphorical space” leaving less room for the here and now.  Pause for a moment and imagine the look he gave me; it was quite funny.

And then I realized something really important.  For me, my stuff does take up emotional energy. I don’t like seeing it unused, don’t like the look of all the storage boxes, get frustrated when I realize I have something I just bought another of because I forgot I had one already.  I feel overwhelmed and get pissed I need to dust around it all or remember where it’s stashed. I like having well-loved and well used things that I enjoy regularly.  My beloved?  Well, he is a man. He derives tremendous glee from “the hunt”… the hours spent on eBay searching for the unique; the months spent watching Craig’s list search engines for this or that… this accounts for 85% of his satisfaction with the item. The owning of it is about 10%.  And the last 5%? Well, for him, he either uses it or he doesn’t, but he isn’t bothered either way.  He’s doesn’t care about how much space it takes up – energetically or otherwise – and certainly doesn’t consider remembering what he owns to be a bother (recall he has the mind of a computer).

Bottom line is we will continue to work it out in marital bliss: I will continue to happily purge and streamline my possessions (and never, ever talk to him about the “metaphorical energy of stuff”).  Him? The fact that he doesn’t own a doo-hickle and thus his doo-hickey collection goes unused? He would say, with a wicked grin, he doesn’t own a doo-hickle YET… there’s still more time.

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