Category Archives: Husbandry

10,000 Days

Most married folks celebrate their wedding anniversaries, and in particular they pay attention to the “big” anniversaries: 10 years, 25 years, 50 years…you get my drift. Today, Celeste and I are celebrating a day that isn’t traditionally celebrated, but is kind of a cool number: 10,000 days of marriage! It’s been an incredible journey during these 240,000 hours of marriage and I’m looking forward to walking through the next 14,400,000 minutes with her, although I suspect it will be a slower pace.

BTW, any guesses why I have that symbol at the top of this post?

Married People Are Less Miserable

Apparently staying hitched is the recipe for less misery, if not happiness. From the Washington Post:

In a new working paper, Canadian economists Shawn Grover and John Helliwell show the effect of marriage on a lifetime of happiness. They find that married people are generally happier, and that the “happiness bonus” from marriage is strongest right in middle age — when you need it the most.

“One hypothesis that could explain why the U-shape in life satisfaction over age is deeper for the unmarried than the married is that the social support provided by a spouse helps ease the stresses of middle age,” they write.

This “social support,” as it turns out, is one of the lynchpins of marital happiness. It’s not simply enough to be married — it has to be a goodmarriage. The study finds that the happiness benefits of marriage are strongest among spouses who consider each other their best friends, and that this “best friend effect” is substantial. “The well-being benefits of marriage are on average about twice as large for those (about half of the sample) whose spouse is also their best friend,” the authors conclude.

I Agree With Dilbert-Man on This Topic

Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoonist, recently wrote a blog post claiming he’d roughly doubled his IQ while on some meds because those meds killed his libido. From his post:

The first thing you need to understand is that when your sex drive disappears you don’t miss it. You can’t miss what you don’t want. Rather than feeling irritable about losing the core organizing principle of my life, I felt relieved. It was like crossing off half of my to-do list with no effort whatsoever. My mind was clear. I was focused. I could go deep.

Losing my sex drive felt like a superpower. I had some of the best ideas of my life that week…When you have the option of putting all of your energy into one function – in my case my brain – it makes a huge difference.

My IQ as a eunuch was sizzling. In fact, if a eunuch applied for a job with me I wouldn’t even ask any other questions. I would hire him on the spot. It would be like hiring Superman to move your furniture. I would know that guy was focused.

So I’m closing in on 50 and while I don’t feel like a eunuch just yet, I do feel like a eunuch on more occasions than I could have ever imagined a few years ago. Unfortunately since my eunuch-ness is related to age I don’t think I’m experiencing any kind of IQ boost, but just so you ladies understand where Adams (and I) are coming from let’s continue with his post:

I should pause here to explain a few things to the women reading this blog. The typical male brain is a computer that has to reboot every 30 seconds. Men can think about non-sexual topics for half-a-minute, tops. But we know we’ll die if we don’t sometimes think about food and shelter and whatnot, so we’re continuously bouncing between sex and non-sex thoughts. It never ends.

Sometimes we game the system by merging our sexual and non-sexual thoughts. During the workday it looks like this: If I get this new job, I’ll make a lot of money, and that will increase my odds of sex. On our own time, it looks like this: If I exercise hard enough, my body will look attractive and that will increase my odds of sex. 
And if you’re married it looks like this: The news says there will be a meteor shower tonight. I hope my wife doesn’t get hit by a meteor, but if she does it will increase my odds of sex.

I believe that last paragraph explains why most women have no problem with their mate’s eunuchness. Hell, I wouldn’t be shocked if most of us (married men) have been eating food laced with saltpeter since the day our wives figured out they were done having kids and our essential function for them had concluded.

Becoming a reasonably mature, moderately organized, marginally integrated member of polite society

Around seven years ago Gene Weingarten wrote a great column for the Washington Post titled The Peekaboo Paradox in which he profiled a DC-based performer named Eric Knaus, aka the Great Zucchini, whose niche was birthday parties for 2-6 year olds. Ends up that the big Zuke was a little on the immature side:

Eric's misadventures with traffic tickets are symptomatic of larger problems involving his inability to conduct life as a reasonably mature, moderately organized, marginally integrated member of polite society.

Take his apartment . . . please.

I did get to see it, finally. On the morning of the day I was to arrive, Eric awoke to discover he had no electricity. So he quickly had to get cash and run to the utility company. He knew exactly what to do because it had happened many times before. That's his tickler system: When the lights go out, it's time to pay the bill.

As I entered the apartment, to the left, was a spare bedroom. It was empty, except for a single, broken chair. Down the hall was the living room, with that couch and that air hockey table, which was covered with junk, clothes, cigarette butts and coins. ("You want to play? I can clean it off.") Coins and junk also littered the floor, along with two or three industrial-size Hefty bags filled with Eric's soiled clothing he'd brought back from a summer camp that he'd helped staff, three months earlier. The closets were completely empty. There were no clean clothes.

The kitchen was almost tidy, due to lack of use. There was a fancy knife set and a top-of-the-line microwave, neither of which, Eric said, has ever been deployed. There was also a gleaming, never-used chrome blender and a high-end Cuisinart coffee maker that was put into play exactly once, when a woman who slept over wanted a cuppa in the morning. Most of these appliances were purchased in a frenzy of optimism when Eric moved in almost a year ago. ("You know how when you get a new place, it's all exciting, and you say, Mmm, I'm gonna get me a blender and make smoothies!")

The cupboards were bare. The only edible thing I saw was a 76-ounce box of raisin bran, the size of a small suitcase.

I read that passage and immediately thought, "There but for the Grace of God and getting hitched to the right woman go I." When my wife met me I was the Great Zucchini sans any talent and now, almost twenty years later, I've been molded into a reasonably mature, moderately organized and marginally integrated member of polite society. – and thanks to my wife's continuing efforts and the rapid departure of almost all testosterone from my body I am now a marshmallow of a man who irons his own shirts, washes his own clothes and has the social life of a Trappist Monk. 

Weingarten benefits from marriage too - I've known other men who approach Eric's level of dysfunction, including myself. I'm saved by the fact that I've been able to hang on to a competent wife.


Young men take note: if you want to avoid a living out of Hefty bags get thee a competent wife. Also note that if you read the whole column you'll wish that at times you could be the Great Zucchini. That would be more than okay,  it would be terrific, because if you do allow yourself those moments of zucchini-ness you'll be a wonderful dad.

Marry Well

This quote from David Brooks was found on Rex Hammock's blog.

“The first thing to worry about: Will I marry well? This is the most important decision you’re going to make in your life. If you have a great marriage and a crappy career, you will be happy. If you have a great career and a crappy marriage, you will be unhappy. I tell university presidents that since the marriage decision is so central, they should have academic departments on how to marry. They should teach the neuroscience of marriage, the sociology of marriage, the psychology of marriage. Everybody should get a degree in how to marry. Nobody listens to me. So give yourself a degree. Read Jane Austen novels or George Eliot novels. Learn how to think about this problem from the masters. And take your time.”

Absolutely right. Here's some more advice: one component of a happy marriage is the willingness to be wrong even when you're right. If we're being politically correct we'll say that this applies to everyone, but if we're being realistic we'll say that this applies almost exclusively to dudes.

Real Men Ignore the Twerps

At Letters of Note we find this letter from Ronald Reagan to his son Michael in the days before Michael's wedding. Basically, it's about the true value of remaining faithful and in it he provides the best definition of being a "man" that I've seen:

Sure, there will be moments when you will see someone or think back to an earlier time and you will be challenged to see if you can still make the grade, but let me tell you how really great is the challenge of proving your masculinity and charm with one woman for the rest of your life. Any man can find a twerp here and there who will go along with cheating, and it doesn't take all that much manhood. It does take quite a man to remain attractive and to be loved by a woman who has heard him snore, seen him unshaven, tended him while he was sick and washed his dirty underwear. Do that and keep her still feeling a warm glow and you will know some very beautiful music.

When You Want to Leave Your Wife a Message but Not Actually Talk to Her

Admit it, there are times you want to call someone and be guaranteed you don't actually talk to them but are still able to leave them a message.  You know the scenario: your wife calls and leaves you a message but you're getting ready for a meeting and don't have time to talk so you don't call her back and while you're in your meeting you get another message, left in that "I'm pissed that you're ignoring me" voice, asking where the blankety-blank you are and why you're being such a wank.  You can't very well say to her, "Honey I wanted to let you know I got your message but I didn't want to talk to you, because if I had you'd have kept me on the phone for 10 minutes about something totally trivial and out of my control and I really had to go into my meeting."**  Well, you could say that but then you'd be on the couch for a week.

**Please note that I've never, ever thought these things myself.  I swear.

My friends, technology has once again come to the rescue.  My friend Dan emailed me a link to a great service called SlyDial that allows you to dial a number and it automatically bypasses the ring and takes you directly to voice mail.  I downloaded the version for Blackberry and it works like a charm.  To be honest I have no idea how it works behind the scenes, but it's cool and it's free so I recommend it for any of you who love voice mail but don't like actually talking to anyone.

Can you think of scenarios where this could come in really handy?  Feel free to share.


Yesterday my wife had wakened in the pre-dawn hours, packed up the youngest and headed to Virginia for our niece’s baptism.  I stayed home with the oldest two kids because they had various things scheduled for the weekend, including my daughter’s soccer game.  Well we had torrential rains so the game ended up being cancelled which left me with something I’m not accustomed to: a Saturday afternoon with nothing scheduled. I decided to take the opportunity to get some things off of my to-do list.

First up was assembling the dresser we’d purchased for the youngest’s room.  We bought it from God-forsaken Wal-Mart almost a month ago, but I hadn’t had the chance to put it together and it was weighing on me.  I opened up the box and was pleasantly surprised to find instructions that informed me that I’d need exactly one tool for the job, a hammer.  “Whoa,” I thought, “this is a job even I can handle!”

I continued unpacking the box and neatly aligning all the pieces, found my hammer, and set to work.  I had the first three pieces together in no time and was trying to get the fourth piece on when I messed up.  I misaligned the male metal bracket of one piece with the female metal bracket of the other and they got stuck.  So I pulled and tugged and finally got them to separate with a real hard yank.  Unfortunately my index finger got in the way and one of the brackets opened it up right nicely with an inch long gash that was deep enough that you could see things you ought not to be able to see.

I went into the kitchen to rinse it out and realized that I might need to get it looked at, especially when I couldn’t get my hand to stop shaking.  Honestly it didn’t hurt, but it looked nasty and I figured the shaking was my body’s way of telling me I’d royally screwed up.  So I recruited the oldest to help me bandage everything in place and then headed to see the folks at Davie Hospital.

We use Davie regularly because even though it’s twice the distance than either Forsyth or Baptist it is never crowded and you can usually be in and out in under an hour.  Since it was a Saturday they were busier than usual, but I was out of there in about 90 minutes.  They had a med student look at me and she wasn’t sure if I needed stitches or if we could get away with glueing it so she recruited a full-fledged doctor to look at it.  His judgment was I just needed cleaning, steri-strips and a tetanus shot.  So a student nurse gave me the shot and cleaned out the gash, and then the doctor returned to show the student how to steri-strip it, all the while engaging me in a cynical discussion of the impending economic doom being foreshadowed in Washington.  It was a lot of fun.

The doctor also put a splint on the finger to prevent bending, and thus reopening the wound.  They sent me on my way with instructions to keep my finger clean and dry which seemed contradictory to me.  I’m still trying to figure it out, but I figure if I get “stinky finger” I’ll know I need to do something about it.

Once I got home I recruited the oldest to help me finish the dresser.  It took about an hour, which wasn’t bad considering I was greatly hampered by the mangled finger.  Pictures of the dresser and finger below.




Commode Wrangling

Longtime readers of this blog will know at least two things about me.  First, I have a tendency to get stuck dealing with all things turd-related in my house.  Floaters, pluggers and just strange s*** included.  Second, I’m the least handy person ever born.  I can take a thirty minute project and turn it into a two day docudrama.  And of course there’s the fact that everything about my house is all kinds of effed up.  Okay, that’s three things.

Last week we discovered that the toilet in our basement bathroom was leaking.  The leak seemed to be emanating from one of the bolts that secures the tank to the seat so I thought I had an easy fix.  On Sunday I made my way over to Lowe’s and purchased a neat little $4 kit that includes the two 5/16" bolts and all the nuts, seals and washers needed to secure any standard tank to any standard bowl.  Ah, but what was I thinking?  Nothing in my house is freakin’ standard so when I get home and start to put the bolts in I find that the holes in the tank are probably a millimeter too small, which explains why the previous owner had used 1/4" bolts and then put a bunch of green putty around the holes to seal them.  Dumbass.

So I headed back to Lowe’s to see if I could put together my own little DIY kit that ended up costing me about $9.  When I got back home I quickly discovered that my DIY kit would have been just as crappy as the previous owner’s so I took my preferred tack on any such endeavor and just muscled the 5/16" bolts through the holes using the biggest screw driver I could find.  Once I got them through I proudly re-mounted the tank, hooked everything back up, flushed the toilet and watched a fountain of water spew from the main hole that connects the tank to the seat.  Apparently I’d upset some sort of delicate balance between the seat and the tank because no matter what I did to re-seat the tank it continued to spew forth water.

Since I’d already been told by my boss/wife that we’d soon be replacing the toilet when we put a new floor in that bathroom I decided that Easter Sunday was as good a day as any to replace it.  We had friends coming over for dinner so I thought I’d head over to the store afterwards.  Celeste and I headed out after our guests went home and of course Lowe’s and Home Depot were already closed.  Perfect. This morning I arose early and headed off again to the store and purchased our new single-piece toilet. (I wasn’t going to risk another bad hookup experience between tank and seat).  When I got home I removed the old toilet from it’s seat above the poop-pipe…always a pleasant experience… and started to unpack our new toilet.  That’s when I discovered its base was broken.  Much cussing ensued as I re-packed the toilet, loaded it back in the van and headed back to the store.

The folks at Lowe’s were very nice and predictably unsurprised at my tale of woe with the broken poop pot and they efficiently processed my return.  I grabbed the one remaining toilet of the model that I desired and prayed that it was intact.  You see it was the only single piece toilet that didn’t cost as much as a semester of college so if it was broken I was faced with another two-piece assembly that I just wasn’t up to.

Thankfully the unit was indeed intact so I headed home, unpacked the toilet, put the wax seal on the base and then tried to put it on the poop-hole while getting the floor bolts to go through the bolt holes.  That’s when one of the bolts fell through some sort of gap in the floor and disappeared.  Much cussing ensued.  I grabbed one of the old bolts and re-used it and, voila, I had a new toilet installed.  Time elapsed from first effort at repair to final solution, not including breaks: Roughly eight hours.  Trips to home improvement stores to complete task: Four.

If my life was a home-improvement show and it had one of those little "This will take you x hours to complete" graphics it would show two numbers; X would represent the number of hours it would take an average person and X to the 10th power would represent how long it would take me.

Just Show Up

Most of us have heard the saying that 90% of success is just showing up sober (I’m paraphrasing here).  Personally I always equated that saying with success at work, and it never occured to me that the saying also applied to my personal life until Celeste and I attended a small event at the youngest’s school last week.

All the kids in Justin’s class had written some short stories and parents were invited to sit in and listen to the kids read the stories out loud on Friday afternoon.  When we arrived we found the kids divided into small groups of about five and the parents were asked to sit in with the group that included their child.  Celeste and I were the only parents in our group so we heard Justin read his story and then the four other children read theirs.  We were encouraged to ask each of the kids questions about their stories so we learned that the one girl in the group enjoys fantasy stories (i.e. pre-teen, chick-lit), one of the boys will only willingly read books about skateboarders (thus his report about Bam Margera) and the other boy was from Mississippi and had moved here after Katrina (his was an autobiographical account of his family’s experience after the hurricane). With our own son we learned that he has an unbelievably strong grasp of fantasy weaponry ala Halo, and a kind of Sgt. Rock bravado in his imagery.  I for one was stunned by his ability to paint such a vivid picture of his own fantasy world, and to be honest I was shocked by his fatalistic acceptance of casualties among his troops; he fully expected people to die.

Given the trouble we’ve had with getting Justin to write anything even semi-expressive in his reading response journal this year it really was a surprise to hear him read a story he had written that contained so much oomph.  He’s a quiet kid and not often open to sharing his thoughts and it was obvious he was embarassed reading his story out loud, so it was great to find his work to be so expressive.

The biggest surprise of the day came right before we left.  The kids wanted to show off their prowess at a multiplication game that features two teams of equal size, a teacher shouting out a multiplication question to a representative of each team and the two kids racing to see who can shout the answer first.  The kid who answers first stays in place for the next question and the other kid sits down.  The team that has someone still standing at the end wins. Justin’s class is undefeated in the competition, but the shock to me was that Justin was considered one of the fastest in his class.  For two years Justin struggled to finish written multiplication tests in the alloted time and only towards the end of last year was he able to do it consistently, so for him to be one of the fastest in his school is quite an achievement.

Of course Justin told us nothing about all this.  We’re lucky he gave us two days’ notice about the reading and if we hadn’t attended the reading we never would have known that he’d gone from struggling with multiplication to excelling at it.  In other words, by just showing up we learned something new and great about our youngest child.

Hopefully this lesson won’t be forgotten, by me in particular.  I have an infamously short attention span and I’m known to spend a lot of time "in my head", but if I can remember to just show up and pay attention I might not totally screw up my kids’ teenage years.  If nothing else I’m sure I’ll learn exactly how much they dislike me and how big a dork they think I am.