The True Test of a Relationship

Have you ever remodeled the only bathroom in your house?

Have you ever remodeled the only bathroom in your house? I’ve done it twice with mixed results. The most valuable thing that you get out of the experience, aside from a hopefully much-improved bathroom, is learning who your partner really is.

Fortunately in both cases, we were able to agree on colors and designs and such. But I learned a great deal from the first remodel that I never want to repeat. It was a freakin’ nightmare. This time around has been stressful, but ultimately a lot more pleasant.

For starters, We ripped the first bathroom all the way down to the studs, including removing the floor. This meant a makeshift bathroom in the back yard for what seemed like an eternity. If at all possible, avoid this. If you can do parts of the remodel with long extended breaks in between, your relationship will remain on a much sturdier foundation.

For example, we focused on the walls this time. We removed some horrendous wallpaper, did some wall repair, and primed and painted. We replaced the light. And we recessed the medicine cabinet. We did not deal with the floor or the tub or the surround, or the paneling on the lower half of the wall. These are future projects. The counter will be replaced eventually, too. The toilet is staying put, so there was no need to do our business in the out of doors, which, believe me, gets old quickly.

In the first remodel, I would work the graveyard shift, then come home and work on the bathroom for another 8 hours for weeks on end. My boyfriend would come home to find me fast asleep. He would never see me working, and therefore insisted he was doing all he work. Granted, he would work super hard on it on the weekends, on the plumbing and flooring. But jeez, this became a gigantic bone of contention.

Sledge hammering the tiled shower stall was actually cleansing amongst all this tension. But the insulation, dry wall, paint, glass block window, and the custom made and stained cabinets didn’t appear as if by magic. It still stuns me that anyone would think that they did.

Doing this type of thing also teaches you, rather quickly, that no two people have the same skill sets. If you can identify those skill sets, it’s a lot easier to divide up the labor. You also have different energy and patience levels. There’s nothing wrong with that if you are aware of those differences and are willing to accommodate them.

But it never occurred to me, the first time around, that a plumber wouldn’t realize that a toilet shouldn’t be right up against a wall so you’d get to rub your shoulder against someone’s urine splatter for the rest of your life. Another common sense thing, in my opinion, is to realize that if you break something, you should own up to it and repair it, not leave it for someone else to do. That’s called integrity. These are challenges I did not have to face this time.

Remodeling a bathroom teaches you about commitment levels, respect, patience, skill, critical thinking, taste, and integrity. Who’d have thought? Not me.

But in both projects, no one committed murder and the bathrooms were much nicer when all was said and done. It’s really wonderful to be able to sit on the toilet with a smile upon one’s face. It’s very satisfying.

If your relationship survives a single bathroom remodel unscathed, you can pretty much count on happily ever after, as far as I’m concerned. I think the key to this is spacing the project out, for the sake of everyone’s sanity, but ultimately it’s more about choosing the right partner.

Our freshly painted walls with our brand new light, before the cabinets went back up.

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Any Excuse to Be Angry

What is the point of all your impotent rage?

There have been a lot of Facebook fights of late. People are scared, and they’re only brave enough to lash out if they can do it from a distance with very few consequences. I try really hard not to feed the trolls, but, as with everyone else, my patience is paper thin.

As I write this, I’m watching a live video feed with my governor and multiple nurses, in celebration of National Nurses Day. Even as these heroes talk about what it’s like to work on COVID-19 wards, trolls are commenting that it’s all lies, and that no one is really sick, and that this is just some twisted conspiracy to keep people from working. Attacking nurses on National Nurses Day seems like a new low to me.

I was also attacked online the other day for saying that as a bridgetender, I blow my horn at 8 pm to thank the frontline workers. This guy immediately jumped on there, infuriated by the number of times we bridgetenders have made him late to work. He said a bridge opening for a sailboat would often cause him a 20 minute delay.

First of all, the average bridge opening only lasts 4 ½ minutes from the time the traffic light turns red to the time the traffic gates rise back up, and I’ve never, EVER seen it take an additional 15 ½ minutes to clear traffic afterward. I’ve never seen that in 19 years as an operator. It may feel like you’re sitting there for 20 minutes, but trust me, you’re not.

I often wonder why people who get so irritated at drawbridges don’t simply take a different route. But I think it feels safe to be outraged at an inanimate object. Those iron girders can take it.

I think a lot of people are angry about any number of things, and don’t have the skills to deal with their anger, and therefore express anger at ridiculous things instead. That guy that jumped on my case told me that Seattle drawbridges are a pet peeve of his, and that any time a bridge opens, it infuriates him.

Um…  Get over it? It’s a situation that isn’t going to change. Why would you allow fury into your life several times a week? Either take a different route, or reframe it as an opportunity to step out of your car and get some fresh air, or maybe try and figure out why you have so much anger inside of you, and get some help to learn how to deal with it effectively.

Becoming infuriated by something you know you’ll be exposed to multiple times in the course of your life seems rather self-destructive, and frankly, insane, to me. Getting upset at a drawbridge is about as silly as getting upset every time it rains. Rain happens. Bridge openings happen. What on earth is the point of all your impotent rage?

I suppose, in light of all the anger that’s floating around out there, the rest of us just need to breathe deeply and not let their anger enter into us. Don’t feed the trolls. Don’t become one yourself.

But man, that’s easier said than done these days.


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No, Your Computer Isn’t Slow

E-mails sure beat saddle sores.

It’s really frustrating when you are sitting at your computer, staring at that stupid hourglass, waiting for… whatever. Everybody hates when a computer is slow to download. It’s really inconvenient.

But when I hear someone complain about this, I have to laugh inside. I can’t help but think, as I’m trying to send that e-mail, that 100 short years ago, if I had wanted to get that message delivered, a whole different process would have to occur.

You’d write the message. You’d give it to a delivery person, or deliver it yourself. You’d go outside. You’d saddle your horse. You’d hop on. You’d ride across town. You’d deliver the message. You’d probably be obligated to socialize. You’d then return home, where you’d groom and feed the horse and clean his stall. It’s amazing that anyone got anything done.

Suddenly a slow e-mail doesn’t seem so bad. Even at its worst, it sure beats saddle sores. Try not to forget that.

I feel the same way about microwaves. How can we possibly get impatient with a microwave when a century ago you’d have been sweating in a hot kitchen, after having spent months raising your crops and/or your livestock, then going through the monumental hassle of preparing, cooking and serving the meal? And lest we forget, no refrigeration. We should kiss our microwaves.

We are able to do everything so much faster these days that somewhere along the way, we’ve forgotten about patience and appreciation. I’m not sure that sacrificing those qualities for the sake of convenience was a fair trade.


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Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Do snails ever get impatient?

As a bridgetender, I get to spend a great deal of time contemplating patience or the lack thereof. It continually astounds me how irritated people become when they’re held up by an opening bridge. The average opening is 4 ½ minutes long, and most commuters are well aware that a drawbridge is on their route, and therefore the possibility of a delay exists, and yet I still have the pleasure of watching their heads explode from sheer frustration several times a day. They curse. They shout. They throw things. They pound their steering wheels and beep their horns. And my drawbridge carries on.

Do snails ever get impatient? Are they resigned to their fate, or do they think they’re moving along at breakneck speed? I wish they could talk. I’d love to learn more about their attitudes about life.

Recently I came home to find a gorgeously striped one sitting on my doorstep. I’m a live and let live kind of person, so I bid him good day and gently stepped past him to get inside. I figured he’d move along eventually, and he did. I know some gardeners take a dim view of snails, but I think they have just as much right to eat as I do.

I’ve always been attracted to the unorthodox, or maybe it’s that I’m easily entertained, but when I found out that there’s a World Snail Racing Championship every July in Congham, England, I thought, “Okay, that goes on my bucket list, for sure.” It sounds like great fun.

As this race, the participating snails are arrayed along the inner circle of a wet cloth, and the first snail to touch the outer circle, about 13 inches away, is declared the winner. My goodness, that must be exciting to watch. The delayed gratification would have me biting my nails down to the quick.

One assumes that no snails are harmed during the course of this event, and that doping is not tolerated by the judges. But you never know. Scandals have been known to crop up in the most unusual places.

Another plus side to this event is it makes an excellent fundraiser. I’m kind of surprised that other communities haven’t adopted this sport. Snails come with their own safety equipment, so start up costs would be minimal.

Maybe you’ll see me at the races someday. My snail will have lightning bolts painted on his shell with orange nail polish, and he’ll answer to the name Scamper. That seems like a recipe for success to me.

Slow Down

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Doing the Boring Parts First

True confessions: I’m addicted to Magic Jigsaw Puzzles on my computer. (Don’t get too excited. I’ve confessed this on my blog before.)

I tend to do them while watching Youtube or Hulu or DVDs. Gone are the days when I can be completely engrossed by moving pictures. I need to be doing something with my hands at the same time. With age, I seem to be losing focus. Or patience. Or maybe I’m just losing it. (Whatever “it” is.) I’d take up knitting, but I’m trying to reduce the amount of “stuff” in my life.

But I’ve noticed a pattern of late. I always seem to do the “boring part” of the puzzle first. If the puzzle includes a huge swath of plain blue sky, for example, I get that out of the way before doing the colorful city skyline. I’d never given it much thought. It just has always been thus. Come to think of it, that’s how I break down work tasks and home chores as well.

Now that I’m examining this behavior, I’ve figured out that this is a combination of delayed gratification and rewards. If I “suffer” through the blue sky part, then I’ll feel like I “deserve” the skyline part. I’ve earned it through sacrifice. (How utterly White Anglo-Saxon Protestant of me.)

And, too, if I were to do the skyline first, I might lose interest and not finish the sky, and that would feel bad to me on some level. I like to finish things. Case in point, a book has to be really, really awful for me to stop reading it midway through. It’s the same with a movie. I always hold out hope that it will get better. Because of this, I’ve been subjected to a lot of really sub-par media in my lifetime.

Maybe, just once, I should allow myself to eat the frosting and not the cake. Maybe I should see what it feels like to color outside the lines. Maybe I should let someone else worry about the boring bits for a change. At the age of 52, perhaps it’s high time I start being a little more selfish. After all, I’m all I’ve got. For that I deserve a cookie, don’t I?

Magic Puzzles. March 20

There’s nothing boring about my book. I promise!

Age Hath Its Privileges

Many years ago, I was standing with my niece and nephew in their Missouri kitchen. As we talked, I got the orange juice out of the refrigerator to pour myself a glass. Just then my brother-in-law walked in and snapped, “Who left the refrigerator door open???”

The tension level in that room was palpable. My niece and nephew fell nervously silent. I looked him straight in the eye and said, “I did.” Then I finished pouring my juice and calmly put it back in the refrigerator and closed the door. He turned and left the room.

I thought, “What’s the matter, Buddy-roo, can’t you pick on someone your own size?”

I found this doubly amusing because this was a man who thought nothing of leaving the lights blazing continually throughout the house, and he was worked up about the energy consumption of an open refrigerator for the 5 seconds it took me to do my thing. But it was kind of sad that he “had to” let it drop because the perpetrator was full-grown me. If it had been one of the kids, he’d have probably caused a massive stink.

It seems you have the least amount of patience for the ones you love. Perhaps because deep down you know you can get away with bad behavior with them. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the opposite of the way it should be.

When you find yourself being harsh with someone, you might want to ask yourself if you would react the same way if that person were an 80 year old total stranger. If not, perhaps you should re-think your tone. If you are capable of reacting with more respect, you should do so.

Similarly, I’ve worked with people who are absolute bullies to their subordinates, but are obsequious to their superiors. That makes it even more shameful, in my opinion, because they clearly know how to be polite; they just choose not to be when they can get away with it. Given the choice, I prefer people who are equal opportunity offenders.

Bullies are a pet peeve of mine. If I see you taking advantage of someone who happens to be more vulnerable, I will take you down every time. This often puts me in awkward situations, but the buck has to stop somewhere. Why not here?


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Maslow’s Hierarchy Writ Large

I was talking to a friend about my utter lack of success to date on a dating website on which I’ve registered.

“I have to say I’ve never felt worse about myself.”

My wise and wonderful friend responded, “This is going to sound really bizarre, but your current depression is actually a positive development. For the first time in a long time, you have enough confidence in your job stability and other elements of basic survival that you’ve allowed yourself the luxury of thinking about your next-level needs. That hasn’t happened in ages. And yes, when you assess your progress against those next level needs, it sucks. That is hardly surprising given that they have been neglected for so long while you were in basic survival mode. But now you have time to start paying attention to them. Things will improve.”

Isn’t it fantastic when someone says the exact right thing at the exact right time? There’s a reason this guy is so successful at life. In one paragraph, he managed to get me to stop contemplating my navel and consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and its application in my life. And that allowed me to reframe everything. Once again, I have hope. I have perspective. I can be a little more patient.

What a profound conversation. What an amazing friend. Too bad he’s married! Even so, I think I’ll keep him.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Spanish Proverbs

One of the things I love most about the Spanish language, and one of the reasons I chose to learn it, is that it is full of wise sayings. There is no exact translation for some of them, and that’s a pity, because a lot of them are gems. We can learn a great deal from Spaniards who bristle with platitudes. Here are a few of my favorites, which I’ve translated as best I could.

  • Mejor perder un minuto de la vida que la vida en un minuto. – It’s better to lose a minute of your life than your life in a minute. (In other words, patience is a virtue.)
  • Cada martes tiene su domingo. – Literally, every Tuesday has its Sunday. (In other words, every dog has its day.)
  • Lo comido es lo seguro. – The thing you’ve eaten is the sure thing. (In other words, you can only count on the food that’s already in your stomach.)
  • En tiempos de guerra, calquier hoyo es trinchera. – In times of war, any hole is a trench. (In other words, any port in a storm.)
  • Mucho ruido y pocas nueces. – A lot of noise, and few nuts. (In other words, much ado about nothing.)
  • Entre bueyes no hay cornadas. – Between oxen there are no horns. (Hard to say this one. Basically, you can trust those you have something in common with.)
  • Un paso a la vez. – One step at a time. (Exactly as in English, but it just sounds so much cooler in Spanish!)

That cultural tendency to want to share wisdom is one of the things I love most about Spain! There are tons of Spanish Proverb sites on the web. Check ’em out. You might learn something.


[Image credit:]


I’ve always wanted to learn to play chess, but I’ve never found anyone with the time or patience to teach me, and I’m far too lazy to become self-taught. But I’ve come to realize that it’s not the game itself that I crave.

What I really want is the leisure time to spend hours in pleasant communion with a friend, talking, testing my cognitive abilities. I picture us sitting on a wide veranda on a summer evening, the warm glow of the lights from the kitchen illuminating the chessboard, with crickets and fire flies bearing witness as the bug zapper crackles in the background and iced tea leaves sweaty rings on the table. That sounds like a heavenly way to pass the time.

I also need the discipline I could learn from chess because one of my fatal flaws is that I’m virtually incapable of thinking more than one step ahead. This has caused disaster in my life on more than one occasion. Long range consequences, contingency plans, they seem to elude me. Chess teaches you to plan, to anticipate.

I hope there is chess in my future, but that’s far too many steps ahead for me to figure out.


(Image Credit

Patience, dammit!

It’s 7:20 a.m. on a Monday morning and I’m opening the drawbridge for a sailboat. Traffic is backed up for a half mile in either direction. Joggers are jogging in place at the gates, and a few are giving me dirty looks. Horns are honking. Then the sailboat radios in to ask why the bridge is taking so long to open. I reply that the bridge is old, and even the best of us take a while to get moving on these cold mornings. Oddly enough, that really is true. Whether he believes it or not, it seems to mollify him, at least for now.

Once the bridge is opened, the sailboat seems to take his sweet time going through. Once he does, though, I close the bridge as quickly as possible and reopen to traffic. Several cars make a point of honking their horns when they pass, and I know that for a brief moment, I’m the most cursed person in town.

Come on, people. The average bridge opening takes LESS THAN FIVE MINUTES! And if you KNOW you’re crossing a drawbridge or a train track or anything that will potentially cause you a delay, you need to ALLOW for that! Joggers? Same response to you, only I’d probably add, “get over your skinny little self” at the end of it. And the sailboat? Nothing reminds me more of Marvin Martian than an impatient person on a sailboat. Such impotent, self imposed rage. Sheesh. I can’t imagine having a life that’s so important that a simple 5 minute delay causes such a disproportionate amount of irritation.

Then I notice I’m tapping my foot.

I guess we’re all works in progress.