Yin and Yang – the glue of marriage

Yin YangAfter 28 years of marriage, I think I might just have finally started to begin to think I maybe kinda understand a tiny bit about my lovely bride.  I think she had me down on day 2.

I don’t mean to suggest that I’ve been completely assimilated to her thinking though.  My clay isn’t quiet as malleable as she’d like it to be.

It’s amazing how we ever ‘hooked up’ as the kids say (or do they say that any more?).  I was a city boy, and she was a country girl.  We met in college which, I guess by default, was the great equalizer.  Nothing drives people together faster than hunger and loneliness.

I think there’s real truth to the adage that ‘opposites attract’.  Maybe it’s a core desire to coax the other to your way of thinking, or if I was a romantic, I might say it’s the different way they gaze at the moon, but I think our differences might be more basic than that.  I think we’re just intrigued by a different lens through which they see the world.

I love surprises – the good kind at least.  No one likes the surprises you get in a hospital…”Surprise, we’re gonna have to go ahead and remove that digit after all”.  Not a balloon and cheer kind of surprise.

No, I like birthday surprises.  I really like surprising people!  Maybe it’s a morbid fascination of watching the confusion and disbelief on their unsuspecting faces, but surprising people gives me great joy.

My wife?  Not so much.  In fact, since we first started dating, she regularly reminded me how much she doesn’t like surprises.  She wants to see what’s coming, buster! There was and never will be any confusion about this.  DO NOT SURPRISE HER!

But like those two bumbling guards in Monty Python’s The Holy Grail, simple instructions are completely lost on me, since surprises are fun…..for me.  So, what did I do?

swamp castle

 

 

 

 

For my wife’s 40th birthday, I organized, with the help of a team of scheming friends, the most elaborate ruse ever concocted.  It involved multiple levels of deception, fake parties, hotel bookings, real ‘parties’ to throw her off the scent, even included pseudo-friends that may have never existed, all in the name of….’SURPRISE’!

I’ll save you the gory details – the shock, the tears.  It wasn’t a ‘happy surprise’.

But that’s the stuff of relationships.  Our differences keep it exciting.  Admittedly, sometimes horrible and regrettable differences, but exciting none the less.

We can even watch the exact same program and have totally divergent responses.  Take ‘The Biggest Loser’ for example.  We sit and watch the show.  My lovely suggests we need to take out the bikes and get into shape.  I watch the same show and think ‘Gee, I’m in awesome shape compared to these guys – I’m gonna make some popcorn to celebrate my superb health’.

I’m a glass half-full kind of guy, I guess – fun first!  If we have a busy day lined up, and the weather is nice, I’ll always say ‘fun first’! Lets get outside and enjoy the beautiful day – the work can wait.

While this sounds very ‘in the moment’ and cheery, there’s a big downside to always eating the dessert first.  It means that nothing important really gets done.  Housework; laundry, cleaning, getting groceries, etc., get pushed back, and you end up living in a crazy, chaotic world that just might end up on a TLC show.hoardersSo, me being the ‘surprise me’ guy, needs an adult around to remind me to pay the bills, change the dryer lint trap, and put my clothes away.  That’s my wife’s role, and she’s good at it.

It’s a terrible job to have – at least it seems like it to me – always being the voice of reason.  The practical one. The huge payoff of practicality is almost never fully appreciated, is it?  Our house is mostly tidy, we can find stuff like wallets, keys, and phones, and there’s usually enough food in the fridge to make a meal with.

You don’t notice if your keys are where you left them, but you sure do if they’re not!

Lists! My sweet bride makes lists.  Grocery lists, ‘honey-do’ lists, reminder lists.  For big upcoming events, I’ve even seen her make lists of lists.  Sometimes they’re disguised as sweet notes, but they’re still lists:  ‘Kids, don’t forget to walk the dog, put on your laundry, and put your dirty dishes in the sink.  Love, Mommy – xoxo’.

I’m big enough to acknowledge that those lists are helpful – they keep us on track. And I have to admit, they help me to figure out what needs to be done so I can go and play…a touch of order in my chaos.

It’s those opposing forces that create this weird and beautiful balance in our marriage.  Mix a little salt in the chocolate milk and you get an unexpectedly great taste. Those contrasting flavours bring out something more delicious than the ingredients would be on their own.

Now, don’t misunderstand me.  My darling loves having fun, too!  She can party and laugh with the best of them.  Few things please her more than relaxing by the pool with a glass of wine. It just needs to be prioritized amongst the ‘must do’s’, or it won’t be enjoyable for her.  I get that.

And that’s exactly what this goofball needs.  The Yang to my Yin.

Maybe trying to figure each other out is part of the joy and mystery of our marriage. Maybe we aren’t supposed to be able to correctly predict what the other is thinking.  We should, at least, love and respect our partner for what they bring to this dance we call marriage. We should thank God for giving us the strength to bare our souls in trust to another human being, even if that other human being doesn’t understand us.

My Yang is exactly what this Yin needs.  And that surprise party?  Well, in the end, we had an awesome time with our friends.  I also had to swear on my life never to pull a stunt like that again!  Sweet Yang!

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One head light…

From time to time, all cars have a breakdown of some sort.  Sometimes it’s that little yellow engine light that comes on, suggesting that something terrible is happening, only to find out that the gas cap wasn’t put back on properly.

Other times, it’s an amber prophecy of dire things to come…usually on the side of the road…at a time when it’s the most inconvenient thing to happen…and it’s raining…and you’re late.

It’s so much worse with cars when the problem isn’t so much with the vehicle itself, but with the people working on them.

Something like this just happened to my car. If this didn’t actually happen to me, I wouldn’t have believed it.  I am not making any of this up…I have witnesses!

About 3 weeks ago, I noticed a burned out headlight.  Simple enough to replace, and light bulbs aren’t too expensive.  I did a little web search on how to change the bulb in my vehicle, which was really no help.

I decided I’d try it anyway, and if I ran into trouble, I’d bring it in to my local dealer to get it fixed.  I picked out some fancy new ‘high intensity’ bulbs, so I could see better in these cold dark winter nights.

Replacing the bulb was pretty simple, but it was -26 degrees outside, and bare skin on cold metal isn’t fun.

I decided to swap out both bulbs, since if one went, it would just be a matter of time before the second one would go, and I wanted them to match.  Esthetics are very important to me, you know.

A couple of days later, my Son noted that my headlight was out.  What?  I just changed it!

I pulled it back into the entrance of my crowded garage, and opened the hood again.  When I touched the connection cable for the light, it came back on.  Aha!

The light would turn on and off intermittently, so I knew I needed to get it in to the shop.  There was something more going on here.

The dealership immediately suggested that it was a bad bulb.  No, I said.  I just changed the bulb, and the connection was loose.

They, being much smarter in the way of light bulbs than I, concluded that it was indeed a bad bulb, and charged me about $300 to fix it and do a couple additional ‘maintenance’ things while they had the keys.

Fine.  Sure enough, the next day, the light was out again.  Now I was getting a bit frustrated.  I called them up and explained the problem.

Must be another bad bulb, they quickly surmised.

“No, I’m pretty darn sure it isn’t the bulb.  It must be an electrical connection problem.”

Without arguing the point, I booked it back into the dealership.

After another full day of my vehicle being in the shop, they called and said that after an exhaustive investigation, it turns out that the bulb was good, and that there was indeed an electrical problem.  Halleluiah!

Unfortunately, they went on to say, they had to order in a brand new headlight assembly, but it would be here Tuesday, as if that was a good thing.

Fine!  I said I’d come and get it, so I had something to drive until Tuesday.

“We’re closing in 10 minutes”. 

I live about 25 minutes away from the dealership, so I had to wait until the next day to go back and get it.

They said they’d call me on Tuesday when the part came in.

Tuesday came and went. No call.  So did Wednesday.  No call, no headlight.

On Thursday, I called them. The part had just arrived.  I booked the car back in for Friday to get it replaced.  They told me it would only take an hour, so I could just wait for it there.

Here are the sequence of events that unfolded over the next 36 hours:

Friday Morning – Headlight Repair.  Take III:

8:29 am:  Arrive at dealership

8:35 am: Notified by service adviser of 2 minor recalls on vehicle

8:37 am: Approved of additional work – asked for ride home since it would now take a few hours with the extra work

8:37 am: Advised that shuttle driver would take me home in 15 minutes

9:26 am: Asked service adviser where shuttle driver is

9:31am: Shuttle driver loaded me into his vehicle

2:04 pm: Called dealership on status of vehicle

2:07 pm: Car was ready. Will send shuttle driver right away

3:07 pm: Called back dealership.  No shuttle driver in sight

3:16 pm: After long hold with bad music, adviser tells me that they broke a fuel line part and the car won’t be ready. Maybe Tuesday.

3:17 pm: Swear under my breath.

3:17 pm:  Adviser offers a rental car for me

3:40 pm:  Shuttle driver arrives.  Doesn’t know where rental place is

4:01 pm:  Arrive at rental place thanks to the maps app on my phone

4:18 pm:  Handed keys to smallest car on the lot.  Summer tires.

4:20 pm:  Rental has no gas in it.  Rental office is closed for the night

4:21pm: Swear under my breath. Drive shoebox with wheels to nearest gas station

Saturday Morning

10:31 am:  Urgent message on my cell phone from dealership to call them

11:04 am:  Called back dealership.  On hold for 5 minutes.  Bad music

11:09 am:  Service manager picks up and explains that an ‘incident’ occurred with my vehicle

11:10 am:  Told service manager that I knew about the broken fuel line thing.

11:12 am:  Service manager explains that something else happened.  There was open fuel and someone started my vehicle.  There was a fire.

11:17 am:  I regained consciousness and asked for explanation

11:19 am:  Service Manager said they got the fire out and it only caused about $4,000 in damage to my vehicle

11:20 am:  Service Manager asked me to attend the scene of the fire

11:35 am:  Drive over-sized skateboard rental car to dealership

11:45 am:  Service Manager took me around back where partially burned out vehicle was sitting

12:00 pm:  Service Manager informed me that they were very sorry and put a rush on the new parts

12:01 pm:  Reminded Service Manager that the only thing wrong with the vehicle was a burned out headlight.  Now I have a burned out vehicle

12:05 pm:  Service Manager assured that the parts would be in on Tuesday

Perfect.

The Junk Drawer

Every home has one – maybe even more than one.  The humble ‘junk drawer’.

You know the drawer; paper clips, old keys that you don’t know what they open but you don’t dare get rid of, broken pens, 5 cent stamps, batteries that might still be good, loose coins from another country, expired coupons.  Probably a good dose of dust bunnies and lint, too.  Maybe it’s not even a drawer – it could be a basket, or bin, a box, or a shelf.

In my last job, when people would ask what I did, I’d say, “You know that drawer in your house where you keep all the random stuff that you need, but don’t know where else to put it? That’s my job.  I’m that drawer – when people don’t know where to look for help with something, they come to me, the junk drawer “.

Maybe it wasn’t a very good analogy, and probably a worse political decision to say out loud, since they did decide that they didn’t need ‘that drawer’ any more, but that’s a blog for a later date, when I’m finished therapy.

You can learn a lot about people by looking at what they keep in their junk drawers.  Of course, snooping isn’t very socially acceptable, so it’s not too likely you’ll ever understand the anthropology of what is held in those secret compartments.

I suppose no drawer ever starts off as a ‘junk drawer’.  Maybe it had dreams of being the utensil drawer or the important paperwork drawer or something, but somewhere along the line, maybe during a frenzied ’10 second tidy’ before the in-laws showed up, things just got scooped into it, and it’s fate was sealed.

We have a few junk drawers in our house, which I would argue, shows some semblance of organization.  For example, in the kitchen, we have one that houses twist ties, elastic bands, plastic forks, and other miscellaneous kitchen-type items.  I would dig through the loose items – straws, plastic bread clips, and half-burned birthday candles looking for stuff, but recently, my wife did a full-on tidy, and now everything is organized and easy to find.  Maybe that disqualifies it from the ‘junk’ categorization now.

We have another one, that isn’t a drawer, but a box that sits in the living room.  In it, we keep address books, stamps, pens, tape, paper clips, at least 2 calculators – I guess in case we don’t believe the answer from the first one, and some other office type items.  There are a few weird coins from countries I know I’ve never visited. I don’t know how they got there.

I have one in my bedroom.  It’s mostly a loose change collector – at one point it was so heavy with small change that it was actually hard to open.  I also keep broken watches, old eye-glasses, some shopping receipts, Canadian Tire money, and of course, some paper clips.  No junk drawer is complete unless you have some paper clips in it, and maybe a couple finishing nails.  It’s kind of like a fridge – it’s not a family fridge unless there’s a half-eaten jar of Cheese-Whiz in the back of it and it’s covered in fridge magnets.

For the sake of family unity, I’m not going to confirm or deny the existence of any possible junk drawers that my wife or kids have, other than to say that you could classify my kids bedrooms as very large junk drawers.

Junk drawers are often looked at as dirty little secrets in an otherwise orderly environment.  Maybe people view them as a precursor to a mild hording obsession, or that they shine a light on a disorganization problem.

Oh, sure, I bet Martha Stewart doesn’t have one, but she has a team of anal-retentive employees who ensure her home is magazine-shoot ready at all times.  I bet if we all had that kind of resource at our disposal, there would be no ‘junk drawers’ in our houses either.

I’m not so sure that’s a healthy sign, though.  A space in your home for all the little things that show us that we live there has a comforting feel about it.  It may be disorganized and is mixed with things that aren’t related in any way, but it represents the living parts of our existence, and we hang on to them like ancient relics.

Having a junk drawer is as normal as having your kids’ artwork scattered all over the fridge.  I was chatting with my neighbour who’s daughter just started pre-school.  We joked that they would need another fridge just for all the artwork that came home. Its about living in the moment, and embracing the joy of life without feeling like everything has to be hidden away, or compartmentalized in water-tight, sterile containers somewhere out of sight.

I’ve always found something very comfortable about those disorganized, overstuffed drawers.  Looking for something in it is a bit like a mini treasure hunt, where you went in looking for a glue stick or some push-pins, and while searching for them, you came across an old swimming lesson badge for one of the kids,  or a school picture that was sent to you by a relative that sparks a warm memory.

In all of the cluttered chaos, there’s a sense of life and belonging that exists inside that small, humble compartment.

In the end, I think that in its own way, the junk drawer is more important than any other drawer in the house, not just in what it holds, but in what it represents as a memory capsule for the family.

Of course, maybe it could be that we just really do have minor hording and disorganization tendencies, but I ask you this;  Would you rather be friends with someone with a junk drawer, or someone who has everything sorted, itemized, and stored in alphabetical order?

I rest my case.

Obsessing over my OCD

Here’s a quick test:  Can you tell why the person who lined up the M & M’s in the above picture does not have OCD?  Answer is at the bottom of this blog.

I think I’m pretty normal.  Now, don’t roll your eyes – I bet you think you’re normal too.  Sometimes, though, I wonder if I’m a bit off-center with some rituals and habits.  Of course, keeping things in order brings, well, order to what would otherwise be chaos.

So, why is it considered a ‘disorder’ if someone tries to keep things in order?  To me, that’s backwards.  The experts say it becomes a disorder when something becomes obsessive, unhealthy, or consumes an unreasonable amount of time or effort.  Come on people!  How can we keep order without diligence? Sounds like a conspiracy by the anarchists.

I started to notice a while ago, that I like some things kept, sorted, organized, or conducted in a specific way.  If not, I rationalized, some unknown chaos would ensue.  I like paperwork piled neatly with no stray corners. and in line or perpendicular to the desk. I think that’s called ‘right-angling’ or something…and the boards on my back deck aren’t completely perpendicular to the house.  I try not to look at it.  Other than that, any type of obsession I may have is just practical.

Case in point:  The dishwasher.

Lets get this argument out of the way right off the bat.  Tines DOWN!  It’s the only way that makes sense.  If the tines are up, you have to grab the eating part of the fork with your dirty fingers to unload the dishwasher, thus making the whole washing part irrelevant.  I don’t want to hear about the utensils getting a better cleaning if the tines are up – if your dishwasher can’t clean them the other way around, get rid of it.  Besides, if the tines are up, no matter how clean your dishwasher gets them, they are dirty the second you touch them.

We have a new dishwasher, and the utensil tray forces you to ‘hang’ the cutlery with the tines up…stupid, stupid, stupid!  If you come to our house to eat, you should probably bring your own utensils.

Its also very important to ensure efficiency with your loads by putting dishes, glasses, and whatever else in the dishwasher correctly.  There is an order to things, people!  I’ve been known to sneak into the kitchen after everyone has left and reorganize the entire thing.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love it when the kids actually put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher.  I just wish they could do it right.  I’ll open it up to see mayhem – various sizes and shapes just lumped together with no thought about efficiency or logic.   Filling the glass rack from the front?  Come on!  How are you supposed to fill the dishwasher if you put all your dirty glasses at the front of the rack? Start at the back and move forward…basic in and out principles.  I can’t believe I’m the only one who feels this way, right?

See?  No OCD here – just ensuring the proper order of things.

Okay,  grocery shopping.  My wife and I get the groceries together.  If I go alone, I make the mistake of getting what’s on the list, then leaving.  Apparently I’m doing it wrong, so we go together – I push the cart, load the belt, and pay.  My wife is in charge of filling the cart, and bagging the groceries.  Here’s where it gets a little complicated.

Unless you’re at Costco, the shopping carts aren’t all that big, so it’s critically important to load them properly.  The carts where we shop have a main basket level and a smaller upper basket level to them.  We start with vegetables and fruit – simple enough.  It all goes in the upper basket where the grapes won’t get squished.  Then we move on to bread – same deal.  Top rack.

As long as we move through the store in a logical order, and I place things where they belong, such as putting all the frozen food together (so they have a better chance of staying frozen longer), dairy together, and dry goods in their own sections, I’m good.  If, however, I’m asked to walk back to another aisle and pick up something we forgot (that wasn’t on the list to begin with), I come back to chaos!  It’s like the dishwasher.  OMG!  There’s frozen dinners mixed in with the dairy products!  And who put the dog treats in the top rack with the fruit and bread?  Now I’m breaking out in a cold sweat!

And what about those people who don’t pull over when they stop to read the label on a box of cookies?  What is wrong with them?  Move your cart fully to the right side!  On an angle?  Are you nuts?  The entire flow of the store is off balance now.  I only hope they didn’t park near me! Then, when they finally notice that they’ve blocked an entire aisle, they move the cart and offer a weak ‘sorry’.  And what do I do?  Like the stupid, polite Canadian that I am, I say ‘no problem’.  No problem?  The veins in my head are about to explode……gotta breathe.

I dare you to tell me this doesn’t make you even a little crazy!

You might think this is all a little OCD, but you’d be wrong.  Its all about order.  The aisles need to allow for fluid movement.  I deliberately put items in the cart a specific way for a specific reason – the loading of the belt at the cash register.  Again, start with dry goods – they go on first, so that they get packed first in the bags – makes sense, right?  Heavy cans at the bottom, lighter, perishable stuff at the top.  The last things that are loaded are the breakables (or squishables) – bread, eggs, and potato chips.  Somehow, though, despite my ritualistic effort, I’ll sometimes find an item that my lovely wife slipped in that I hadn’t noticed, like a large can of tomatoes that she grabbed on the way to the cashier.  Major stresser!  Now what? The dry goods are all loaded! Where the heck is the can of tomatoes supposed to go?  With the bread?  It’ll be a slaughter!  The bread doesn’t stand a chance with the canned tomatoes.  Crazy?  I think not.

Here’s an acid test to prove that I don’t have OCD, so before you send me replies with recommendations to 1-800-GET-SHRUNK, hear me out.

My garage – total disaster!  I have half-finished projects, tools laying around, broken household items not fixed, and dirt on the floor.  That makes me normal, right?  Especially if you knew how mad my father would be if he saw it.  Now that was an OCD tool guy if I ever saw one.  His tools were hung individually on pegboard hooks.  Each spot was outlined with the tool that belonged there, then the tool was colour-coded  with spray paint so that the tools in the garage didn’t co-mingle with the tools from the workshop, or the cottage, or his car (yes, he kept tools in the car, too).

Clearly, this obsession missed a generation.

Not convinced? Okay, how about my sock drawer?  Again – nothing in order.  Mismatched socks, missing socks, socks with holes in them that I should have thrown out, even things that don’t belong there – suspenders!  Who wears suspenders any more?  Larry King totally rocked them, but that’s about it.  They should go, but nope.  Still there.  Shoe laces!  What the heck are shoe laces doing in my sock drawer?   And I have no intention on tidying it up.  Obviously, no OCD here, so no need to worry.

Now, if I could only get my neighbour to straighten his fence boards, everything would be just right.   Maybe I’ll wander over one night…

ANSWERThe person who lined up the M & M’s does NOT have OCD, because although they are organized by color, the letters on the candy are not consistently straight on each one.  In the picture, they are randomly set.  Some sideways, some upside down.  Did you get it without peeking?  Maybe we need to chat…