The fifth suggestion

I forgot one crucial piece I was going to mention about communicating with men.

5. Round up.

Not like a cowboy, like a mathematician. He means well, it just sounds different in manspeak. Round it up to the closest equivalent.

 Hm. = I’m listening, keep talking.
 Aw. = You poor dear girl, I can only imagine how awful that must have been!
 Wow. = You’re a crazy gorgeous lady and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you. You stun me.
 Um. = I feel uncertain of what to say at the moment, but rest assured I care, and will be thinking over my answer. {For the next ten years.}
 Hiccup. = Enough said. Go make me a sandwich.

 

When talking with men

Let me be clear on this: when I am most mocking and piquant about my husband, it’s a sign we’re having fun. When I start writing serious blog posts entitled Thirty Days of Honor, you can bet we’re not doing so well. Ultimate low point of our marriage, right there. Take my word for it; you won’t get any details. Now–where was I? Ah yes. Mocking.

*****

We’ve all been in this conversation, haven’t we?

whistling

The day you bring him a concern and he sits there and looks at you. The day you realize that the thing you asked him for a year ago has been sitting in the basement all this time. The day you ask him a question and he walks out of the room. The day you complain of shooting pains in your wrist and he says calmly, “It’s probably repetitive stress injury” and goes on typing.

(You think I’m making this up? My imagination’s not that good… true stuff, ya’ll.)

It’s a great story. It’s a pressing issue. It’s an urgent question, for Pete’s sake. And yet he is unmoved.

Are all men like this?

Sometimes I say to him, “Talk to me!” This occurs when I have been immersed in juvenile conversations all day and am desperate for words longer than one syllable; or when I have been talking too long and I know I won’t shut up unless someone else starts vocalizing; or when he is making enigmatic faces and it’s stressing me out.

whistling

Early in marriage, my husband taught me a few rules of basic marital English.

  1. Be as direct as possible already! Don’t make me guess where you’re going.
  2. Use words that start with w, not c. “Would you/ Will you?” not “Could you/ Can you?” that seem to challenge my ability.
  3. Don’t give me a task list when I’m rushed with other things.
  4. Don’t pepper me with questions!

Let me be clear on this: I was raised by a marriage counselor. When I hound this boy, I do it with style.

But sometimes, just to show off, I humor him. He comes home from the fire call or the pastoral meeting or the boy expedition and I think of the fifty-nine things I want to ask him. I think of them all, individually, and then carefully I compact them into one well-worded, all-encompassing, leading, invitational question. “How was it, honey?”

“Good,” he says.*

And exits.

{Shari rushes out of doors to slay something inanimate before she starts hurling china at living organisms.}

* {And perhaps this is unfair. If he’s had a Coke or two to loosen his tongue he may say “Really good.”}

yelling

Here are my (brief) suggestions for communicating (briefly) with men. Some of them may be my father’s, who has forgotten more on this topic than anyone else ever knew.

1. Say less.

A wise friend of mine advises speaking 49% of what you really want to say.

2. Wait.

Men’s ears are like gardens: you put in the seed and then you wait for a while. A long while. He may have every intention of coming around, but he won’t be rushed. The idea has to take root.

3. Say it one more time.

Occasionally, he actually forgets. If so, he will have only hazy memories of your initial conversation, and will not realize you are repeating yourself. Just don’t do it a third time. (He’ll think it’s the second.) That’s so beyond the pale, way out into the nagging camp.

4. Let it go his way.

I’m not advocating being a doormat. Believe me. In the Wifely Olympics I won the prize for Least Like a Doormat so many years running they won’t even let me participate anymore. But—

It’s a good day to remember that eleven years ago, or however many it was, you made a promise that it was going to be all about this man until the day you die. And he’s not the only one with faults.

And some days, magically, you’ll get it just right.

listening

*****

All photos in this post were captured, not staged–and taken by my talented friend Shaunda Stoltzfus. Featuring her son and my daughter.

Coming up sometime, probably: “When Talking with Women.”

Who said sugar and spice is for girls?

One night I watched little boy L playing with dishes in the bath. He held a toy cupcake tin in one hand, level, and with the other he carefully poured the smallest possible amount of water out of a teapot into each of the six holes. Then he set the teapot aside, chose a measuring cup, and repeated the layers. Then he chose a teacup, and repeated again—dribbling only the tiniest amounts and not spilling a drop—until each cupcake hole was brimming with water. Then he stirred. Then he dumped it all out, and began again, with the utmost patience and care.

By now I was thinking two things. Wow—check out the motor skills! And—Yum!!

“Would you like to bake cupcakes for real?” I asked him.

“Yeah!” he said. “What you gotta do is you gotta put little bits on top. Coconut on top, and butter, and…”

The next day, we made these, out of our heads.

coconut cupcakes

They were just as delicious as they’d looked in the bath.

chocolate chip cupcakes

Easy Cupcakes

1 box yellow cake mix

3 Tbsp. cocoa powder, to taste

Toppings (coconut, chocolate chips, Heath bits, nuts)

{I know. Boxed cake mix. But it’s easy for a five-year-old and hey—no frosting needed!}Mix yellow cake mix as directed on package. Remove half of batter from bowl. To remaining half, add cocoa powder. Spoon a scoop of yellow and a scoop of chocolate mix into greased cupcake tins. Stir with a toothpick to swirl slightly. Top with desired toppings. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until done. Best enjoyed fresh.

Competition: story rewrite

[Exasperated sigh after story hour at the Zooks]

Are there or are there not just some really psychotic characters in the story of Rumpelstiltskin?

rumpelstiltskin

First we have the proud father, who tells a complete lie to the king and sends his daughter’s future up in smoke. Oh, good thinking, Pops.

Then we have the king. We forgive him for being so in love with gold that he sacrifices everyone else’s happiness for it; this is the stuff we are used to in fairy tales. But honestly. He believes the thing about spinning straw into gold? And then he has to prove it three nights in a row before realizing what a gold mine he is perched upon?

And then of course the marriage… Night One: I’m going to cut off your head in the morning. Night Two: I’m going to cut off your head in the morning. Night Three: I’m going to marry you in the morning. Aw, thanks, king; that’s sweet of you. HOW IS THIS NOT AS GREAT A THREAT AS NIGHTS ONE AND TWO??

Which brings us to the girl. She weeps three nights in a row. Perhaps something more creative could have come to mind, such as burrowing into the straw, conning a guard, or jumping out a window? And then promising the baby?! This chick has no scruples, as evidenced by her smiling face on the wedding photo.

And our illustrious Rumpelstiltskin. His heart softens enough to prolong the queen’s agony for three days before the kidnapping?

Not to mention the messenger, who apologetically claims he “can find no new name but one” after hitting the jackpot?

If anyone can hand me a better version that actually makes sense of the key elements in the story, be it a paragraph or a page, I will publish it here. Put on your thinking cap; ask your children for solutions; dig out your reference books. Serious, satirical, or sappy—anything would be better than the above. I’m grading for logic, not polish. Best version gets a prize, and I’m not joking. You have three weeks. Send it to sharizook@gmail.com.

The house of tomorrow

I always say that Ryan is the one who had fostering in his blood, not me. But tonight I remembered a poem I loved before I was married. I used to sing it to myself, because it got inside my heart and tugged. Maybe it was a premonition. I never thought so then.

Foster Baby Bye
Judy Ann Unruh

I did not cry when they came for him,
my goodbye was suitably gay;
as if it were not a jagged-edged piece of my heart
that was torn
that was torn
torn away.

This is my goal with every foster child I keep:

To see inside.
To get a little glimpse into the heart of the real person, and to love him forever.

I have never kept a child long, and have not seen how hard it will get, after months of loving. In the meanwhile I find it deeply fulfilling. And this helps, when I pack the carefully-chosen outfits and write a note to go along, and wave goodbye: I know I got to meet an awesome kid, and he will be a part of me as long as I live.

On Children
 Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.