Tag Archives: communication

Fartbuster and the Dustbuster Dustup


This sucks.

A few weeks before our wedding, Fartbuster and I met with the minister for some perfunctory premarital counseling.  In other words, we met her for dinner at Cracker Barrel so that she could put names with faces–it was not a highly formal religious service.  Over our chicken and dumplings and mason jars of tea, we swapped small talk.  Then I pulled out a copy of the ceremony that he and I had written so that we could run it by her.  

She held up an elegant hand and said, “Let’s do a little bit of talking about marriage before we talk about the wedding per se.”  OK.  She asked us about trust and partnership and fidelity and communication styles.  We had been together for five years at that point, and sharing an apartment for two, so this wasn’t new territory.  He and I were MATURE–26 and 27.  Well, at least we seemed to be in our own minds.  

The minister buttered her corn muffin delicately and asked, “Do you feel comfortable when you fight with each other?  Tell me about a time when you disagreed on something.”  

Fartbuster and I swiveled our heads around to look at one another face to face, and in unison said, “The DUSTBUSTER.”  

A few months earlier, Fartbuster had come home from the store with a Dustbuster.  I was delighted at his determination to wage war against the cat hair tumbleweeds in our apartment.  He unpacked the Dustbuster, showed me how it worked, and I rewarded him with a kiss for his efforts.  Then it came time to charge it up.  While I was putting the Dustbuster in the living room window sill, right next to an empty outlet, I heard him bumping around in the galley kitchen.  

I poked my head into the narrow kitchen (there wasn’t room for both of us) and asked, “What are you doing?”  He had a couple of screwdrivers and a mounting bracket laid out on the counter….right next to the stove top.  

“I’m putting up the thing so we can hang the Dustbuster in here.”  

“In the kitchen?  Right next to where we cook?  It will be dripping dust and cat hair all over the place!”

That’s when he presented his rationale:  “It’s a small appliance, and small appliances go in the kitchen.”

I spluttered, “It’s a vacuum cleaner and vacuum cleaners go in the laundry closet!  Or the pantry!  We can even leave it in the window behind the curtains.  But NOT next to the STOVE.”  

And that was the moment that things took a turn for the…mature.  He slammed the tools down on the counter and shouted, “IT ALWAYS HAS TO BE YOUR WAY!!!  WHY DO WE ALWAYS HAVE TO DO IT YOUR WAY?  I’M HANGING THIS DUSTBUSTER RIGHT HERE.  PERIOD.”  

Oh.  Hell. Naw.  

“My way?” I screeched.  “I’ve given you three different options and you’ve given me ONE.  One that’s STUPID.  So who’s really insisting on having it their way?”  

argumentWe glared at each other like it was high noon in a spaghetti Western.  

That fight went on for DAYS.  Sniping, carping, bitching and moaning.  That was the way we did things.  After a while, we forgot to stay mad about it but the issue never got resolved.  The Dustbuster and its charger stayed right there in the window sill until we moved six months after the wedding.  

Now that I’m older and wiser, I know what I should have done.   When a man gets into that “You’re not the boss of me” zone, there’s not much way to argue him out of it.  Even with three well-reasoned alternatives, an installation diagram from the manufacturer, and a copy of Better Homes and Gardens “10 Clever Places to Hang a Dustbuster BESIDES the Kitchen!”  you’re not going to win.

I should have kept my mouth shut, let him hang the Dustbuster over the stove, then served him plate after plate of spaghetti and hairballs until it was HIS IDEA to move the damn Dustbuster.  

My wise friend, Susan, shared a great piece of advice about getting husbands to do stuff around the house:  “You can either tell the TO do it or HOW to do it, but you can’t tell them both.”  Of course this might be why there is a stack of lumber in her dining room.  

So…I’m dying to know.  Do any of you have a Dustbuster hanging over your stove?  


What Is This Word?

Child with a Dove, Pablo Picasso, 1901

Child with a Dove, Pablo Picasso, 1901

I try to do at least one New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle per week.  After Richard died, his mother left a half-complete collection of NYT puzzles at our house.  I asked her if she wanted me to mail it to her and she said, “No.  I did so many in the hospital these last few months that I don’t think I ever want to do one again.”  So I picked up her book and finished it.  Then I bought another one and another one.  There are 200 in each collection–now that I have kids, one book can last me over three years!  But anywho…one of the clues this week for a three-letter verb reminded me of a sweet story from when Vivi was little and G and I were still in the throes of parenting an infant.

I make fun of G’s Brasilian accent now and again, but the man has an exceptional command of the English language.  Shoot, he even helps me with those crossword puzzles–usually for things like isotopes, names of stars, or atomic numbers.  Still, every so often, he bumps into a word he’s just never needed to know until that moment.

Like the time we took Vivi to the pediatrician when she was about six months old.  Vivi had a lot of ear infections, so we were talking to the doctor about whether they might impair her hearing and speech development.  The doctor said, “Does she make normal baby sounds?  Is she cooing?”  I assured him that she was and the doctor told me it was nothing to worry about.  He told us that we could get Vivi dressed again and left the room.  G put his hand on my arm and leaned in close.  “What is this word ‘coo?'”

It’s a delicate whisper of a word–coo.  Not something he would have run across in a chemistry lab, or a research paper, or a citizenship exam, or a patent application.  Not a word you hear at the grocery store, the gas station, the tax office, the cafeteria, the television.  It’s such a precise word.  You might know it if you have been close to birds or babies, but not otherwise.

I explained, “Oh, you know the sound doves make.  No?  It’s those little happy sounds she makes, like she’s trying to talk to us, like a cat purring.”  He smiled and cupped her tiny head in his calloused hand.  He leaned close to her and said, “Do you coo, gatinho do papai?”  I watched him as he tucked that word into his mind, on the English side, across from “arrulho.”  A sweet word that only came his way because he’s a Daddy.  

Is there a special word you associate with a moment in your life?  What’s a word you remember learning?

Do You Have Issues?

confusionHere’s another scene from the improvisational play that G and I have been working on for seven years.  It’s called “Lost In Translation.”  What?  Someone already used that?  Oh.  Well, then let’s call it “New Adventures in PorkaCheese.”  Victoria never could manage “Portuguese” so it turned into “PorkaCheese” and we decided to keep it.   Vivi calls it “Brasil Talk.”

So yesterday afternoon, I pull into the garage with a carload of kids and G comes out to help with the offloading.  Carlos is in the “HeyCoolICanTakeOffMyShoes!” phase, so he was barefoot. G unstraps Vivi and asks her how her day was.  He unbuckles Carlos and chats with him.  While this is unfolding, I’m preoccupied with getting my phone off the charger up in the front seat.  Then he asks me, “Mom, do you have issues?”

It’s a big question for right when you get home from work, but I was really touched that he wanted to take some time to get to know what was going on inside my head.  I answered, “Well, I guess so.  I had a pretty good day, but everyone has issues.”  Blank stare.  He repeats, “Do you have ISSUES?”  Of course I do.  That’s why I go to therapy.  Then it dawns on me that there’s some meta-linguistic gesticulation going on in the back seat and I check the rear view mirror.  G is pointing to Carlos’ bare feet.  Ohhhhh….”Do you have his shoes?”‘

Yes, they are in my purse.  Thanks for asking.

One Friday morning, the alarm went off and I slammed it into snooze.  We were both lying there staring up at the ceiling when he said, “White or Wheat?”  I wasn’t quite sure what he was getting at but I was glad that he was volunteering to make breakfast.  I said, “I’m not sure we have the stuff for toast, but we’ve got waffles.”  I turn my head to see him looking at me like I’m having a stroke.  He had said, “WHAT A WEEK!”  Ohhhhh.

I mean, I have a Southern accent, but he has a Southern hemisphere accent.

My favorite recent one was when my mom had come over to babysit, so G said, “Why don’t we take her to that restaurant she likes….what is it….Barrel of Butter?”  You mean Cracker Barrel, honey?  Sure.