Friday, January 22, 2010

Basement boot camp

It was supposed to be a simple 30-minute introductory routine for a new fitness program.


It turned out to be the Gateway to Hell.

“What’s wrong with you,” my husband asked when he saw me planted facedown on the carpet in front of the television, a small sliver of drool dripped onto the floor to land in a puddle by my face.

I briefly opened my right eye (because it was the only body part working right at the moment) and answered, “Jakbje fweedleber.”

He cocked his head and leaned over for a closer look, “I…uh…didn’t quite catch that.”

I growled and tried again, “Hekjl squathery.”

He straightened up and asked, “Did you drink expired NyQuil again?”

Dear God, if only I had. At least I would have fried all the nerve receptors in my body and induced a rather effective method of pain management.

Instead, every muscle I owned was locked in a burning mass of indescribable agony normally reserved for Dante’s seventh circle of hell.

I snorted (which hurt, by the way). At this point I would have welcomed Dante’s seventh circle of hell. At least I wouldn’t have been alone. There would have been others around who shared my pain. There is comfort in numbers, you know. Kinda like going to the DMV on the last day of the month and discovering you’ve left your checkbook and the renewal slip at home. Loser.

I felt my fingers twitch and realized my left hand, which had been trapped under my stomach this whole time, had decided to go to sleep in protest. Good. Maybe the rest of my body would get the hint and follow suit.

Curious about my physical state, my husband reached over, touched my shoulder and proceeded to give it a light shake. HOLY MOTHER OF GOD!

“DON’T TOUCH ME!!” I screamed with every fiber of my being.

And like the 95-year-old, 92-pound grandma that lifts a ’57 Buick off a baby on the highway after a car accident, the adrenaline surged through my body and I launched off the floor and landed like a cougar ready to pounce.

Hands up with a “Holy crap, I angered it!!” expression on his face, my husband slowly backed away and desperately attempted to avoid eye contact.

And that was it. The tiniest bit of energy left in my body was expended, and I melted to the floor. “Jumping jacks,” I managed, “will kill you.”

My husband laughed and said, “You did this just by doing a few jumping jacks?”

In my defense, it wasn’t just a “few jumping jacks.” I had to do TWO MINUTES of them. That might sound like a walk in the park to you. But try it. See what happens. Go ahead.

I dare you. Then get back to me. If you’re able.

The new fitness program began by asking the user to perform some exercises to help measure heart rate and to design a fitness routine tailored to what works best.

It started out easy enough. The program instructed that I would spend 30 minutes setting things up. I thought that seemed a bit much, after all, it couldn’t need more than height, weight and age to make this thing work, right?

Geesh, even a chimp could do that in about five minutes. I laughed in my woeful ignorance and thought, “This is a piece of cake.”

And that’s when it turned ugly.

Do jumping jacks for two minutes.

Followed by 50 squats.

And jog in place for 10 minutes.

Then top it off with 50 push-ups and 50 leg lifts.

Jesus. It was like Boot Camp in my basement without the blessing of having my head shaved first.

After I shared my tale with my husband, he only laughed and said, “Two minutes of jumping jacks? Big deal. I can do that.”

He made it to 17 seconds before collapsing on the floor beside me, lungs heaving, gasping for air, with the vein above his left eye twitching hard enough to look as if his eyeball would soon pop out and fly across the room.

I reached over and patted him lightly on his arm, “Next time, we drink NyQuil first.”

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Roller Derby

(originally published April 2007)

Standing precariously atop a patio chair, I was covered in grease and pounding on the top of our deck’s sliding screen door with a hammer while yelling several obscenities that cannot be printed here.

Let’s just say I was seriously questioning the door’s parentage and suggesting it take a vacation to a place that gets very, very hot.

And I’m not talking about Tahiti. Somewhere south of Tahiti.

Waaaaay south.

The door no longer glided smoothly along its track and had become difficult to use. It took a mighty heave of the handle to open it wide enough that if I sucked in my breath, said a short prayer and fasted for a week, I could barely squeak through sideways.

Then a strong pull to get it closed would result in losing my grip and whacking a hand into the solid door frame.

If the U.S. government was serious about building a fence along the Mexican border to curb illegal immigration, then they should use what that damn screen door is made of.

Send the Minutemen packing, call Home Depot and order a million of those things. Problem solved.

It got to the point where we didn’t use the door. We were very afraid of what it might do and what limbs we might lose.

Until the day I decided to no longer live in fear. I reached out to open the door, lost my grip on the handle and the #*& thing took the tip of my last fingernail.

And with it, my very last nerve.

“For the love of God!” I yelled and snapped my hand back, my fingers stinging. I shook my hand wildly and jumped around in circles. “I have cleaned the tracks and used an entire can of oil on that thing and it’s still not working!”

My husband, who smiled at my impromptu rain dance, said matter-of-factly, “I bet one of the rollers is broken.”

I stopped mid-dance and asked, “Rollers?”

“Yeah,” he said, “rollers.”

“The thing has rollers?” I asked quietly.

“Sure,” he said. “How did you think it moved along the track?”

“I just thought it slid along the little groove thingy mounted on the top and bottom of the frame,” I answered.

“‘Little groove thingy’?” my husband laughed. “No wonder the door is still busted.”

His quick reflexes saved him from the sofa pillow I launched in his direction. However, to my delight, he failed to dodge the shoe that followed right behind it.

“OK, I’m a moron,” I admitted as he rubbed the spot on his head where the shoe had grazed it. “Check the rollers. OK. I can do that. How hard could that be?”

An hour later, I was on the deck and the screen door was off the frame and lying atop the table. I struggled to hold onto the screen as the strong March winds tried desperately to rip it from my hands.

I looked closely and immediately noticed that one of the rollers was indeed broken.

I’d never hear the end of it from Mr. Smarty Pants.

Armed with a long screwdriver, I bent over the door to carefully pry out the roller, to preserve the broken piece so I could take it with me to the hardware store. I smiled, knowing Bob Vila would be proud.

And it was during that tiny lapse in concentration that the roller popped out like a champagne cork and shot 10 feet into the air.

The small plastic wheel arched to the left and the tiny metal rod that had held it to the frame blasted to the right.

And both landed off the deck, smack in the middle of a large bed of plants.

Uh, oh, I thought, that can’t be good.

I’d like to say I spent hours searching for the pieces, but I really gave up after only 10 minutes.

OK, five minutes.

Alright, God’s honest truth, I just looked over the deck railing and said, “You gotta be kidding me” and immediately headed for the hardware store and bought a replacement roller.

Which, of course, didn’t fit.

And that’s where we come back to me standing on a chair, pounding at the door’s aluminum edge with a hammer, trying to get it to fit back into the frame.

Maybe I’ll just move to Mexico.

That is, if I can get past the fence.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

When opportunity knocks, ignore it

This is one from 2006. I pulled it out today because...well...does a wife really need an excuse to make fun of her husband? God bless America.

You know there’s gonna be trouble when your husband starts out the day by locking himself in the bedroom closet.

The soft rat-a-tat-tat barely registered in my sleep-fogged mind. Snuggled tightly among the down comforter and fluffy pillows, I enjoyed having the entire bed to myself.

Bam-bam-bam. My subconscious self wondered where that noise was coming from. I was soaking up rays on a sun-drenched beach while a cabana boy lotioned me up. The only pounding I should have heard was the surf.

BAM. OK, now I was officially awake.

It took only a moment to realize the pounding wasn’t our golden retriever’s long-fringed tail hitting the side of the mattress in an early morning greeting.

Nope, this was something else. Something new. Something a person shouldn’t be hearing at…I rolled over to peek at the clock by the bed…5:32 in the freakin’ morning.

I glanced at the closet door, my eyes struggling to see through the dark. The door was shut but a thin crack of light shone around its perimeter. Then I heard bam-bam-bam again.

My heart began to pound. Was it a ghost? Aliens? That weird kid from “Saved by the Bell?”

I carefully moved one foot from under the covers and placed it on the floor. I began sliding soundlessly off the mattress, pillows trailing in my wake as I prepared to drop down on all fours and reach under the bed to grab the lethal Louisville Slugger baseball bat I keep there for occasions just like this.

My right leg, tangled up in the still-warm comforter, bent at an odd angle as gravity took over and I fell the rest of the way to the floor. So much for the element of surprise.

As I lay there, struggling to retrieve the wind that had been knocked from my lungs, I deftly plotted my counter attack. I was a Ninja warrior. A highly trained U.S. Navy Seal. Or Wonder Woman. Yeah, that would be cool. I’d have an invisible jet and a magic lasso.

Oh, wait. I’d have to wear that tiny bikini. Scratch that. I’ll find a superhero who wears baggy sweatpants and an Old Navy T-shirt.

The loud banging sounded again and interrupted my thoughts. Apparently I had yet to develop my Ninja-like concentration skills.

With my eyes trained on the door, I groped under the bed, searching for the cool, wooden handle of the Louisville Slugger. A cloud of dust flew out and landed in my face. I fought the urge to sneeze, not wanting to betray my position to the enemy.

I had, however, learned some valuable military intelligence: the dust monster wasn’t the one in the closet. Clearly, he was living under the bed.

I pushed aside three tennis balls the dog had rolled under there, a pair of dirty balled up socks and a half-eaten peanut butter sandwich one can only assume Baby Baldwin had stashed there for later.

Finally I hit pay dirt and wrapped my fingers around the handle of the bat. Game on, I thought as I pulled it out. Let’s roll.

I quietly crept over to the closet. With my weapon of choice clutched securely in my left hand, I reached out with my right and grasped the door handle. Slowly, so slowly, I turned it. Cracked the door open. Peeked inside.

And was greeted with the sight of one very annoyed husband.

My shoulders slumped as I lowered the bat to my side. Guess I wasn’t gonna kick any butt today.

“What are you doing in there?” I asked him, not quite sure I wanted to know the answer.

Without saying a word, he reached down and grabbed the inside of the door handle and turned. I noticed that the door latch failed to retract. He’d gone into the walk-in closet to dress and shut the door behind him, not wanting the light to spill out into the room and wake me.

It wasn’t until he tried to open the door that he realized the knob was busted and he was stuck inside. How embarrassing. But very, very funny.

He looked at me and finally uttered his first words of the day, “I assume this will be in a future column, right?”

Gosh, I so love a smart man.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Running on empty

One of the greatest debates of civilization: which way should the toilet paper hang?

This came up - again - in conversation yesterday. So I thought I'd revisit a column I wrote in 2006....

It was at that pivotal moment, the very instant that I needed it the most, that I realized the awful truth.
The injustice of it all. The inhumanity of the moment. The horror of the fate that had befallen me.

It crashed in around me and caused my heart to beat a little faster, breathe a little harder, the blood pound through my veins a little quicker.

Hoping against hope that I had made a mistake, I closed my eyes and fought the panic swelling in my chest. I said a short prayer, gritted my teeth and opened my eyes.

And staring back at me was the same terrible truth I had bravely tried to deny before. But there it was. Set in its small alcove in the wall. Laid bare to a cruel, cold world.

An empty.

Cardboard.

Tube.

The bathroom was out of toilet paper. Again.

A small sliver of white flittered in the breeze, a tiny remnant of the proud roll it had once been. I took a brief moment to reflect on its passing.

And then I started yelling.

“You have GOT to be KIDDING me!”

I heard footsteps running in my direction. That’s right. You’d better be moving fast, Mister.

I looked up, prepared to face the one person responsible for this situation. Him. That man. The one who pees standing up.

My husband.

There are many challenges to a successful marriage in today’s stressful world. However, I consider none of them as detrimental, as poisonous, as outrageously sinister as the all-important matter of changing the empty toilet paper roll.

I even made my husband attend a class on the subject shortly after we were married.

Years of bachelorhood had warped his tender mind. Answering to no one but himself. The very idea of ensuring maximum toilet paper coverage for future bathroom users was beyond his scope of understanding.

While he breezed through my seminar, No Butts About It: The Secrets to Maintaining a Strong Marriage By Replacing a Used Toilet Paper Roll, he had some difficulty with the technical aspects of the lab assignment – learning the proper way to insert the roll onto the toilet paper holder.

I even made up a little rhyme for him. “Flap to the back means a wife won’t smack.”

It seemed simple enough. You always place the roll so the loose side hangs in the back and not in the front. I think Oprah did a show on it once.

“But I don’t understand the difference,” my husband whined as he fiddled with the squeezably soft roll laced with aloe and Vitamin E. His choice, not mine. “Why should it matter how I put it on?”

I sighed. Loudly. Then proceeded to demonstrate my very fine point.

“See, if you put the roll on with the flap in the front then the loose side won’t hang down free and clear after you tear off a hunk because physics necessitates that you rip it from the top and the end gets stuck up there. You with me so far?”

My husband looked like he’d just tried to eat a raccoon. I had my work cut out for me.

“So the poor schmuck who takes a seat after you has to spin the roll over and over, desperately looking for the loose end. He eventually forgoes all appearances of proper society, starts ripping at the paper like a maniac, leaving shreds of tiny white fluff all over the floor and effectively destroying the roll for any person who comes after.”

I won’t say that he understood my reasoning, but he decided it was in his best interest to follow it.

So where did I go wrong? For him to understand a complex direction like Flap to the Back but not buy into the simple act of the refill part of the equation totally baffled me.

And it was then that my husband reached the door, a new toilet paper roll in hand.

“Sorry,” he said sheepishly. “I forgot Gabe was in here earlier.”

And that’s when I noticed our 18-month-old toddler running past the open door with a 10-foot-long piece of toilet paper trailing in his wake. One end of it clutched in his tiny fist.

The TP Bandit had struck again. He goes through more toilet paper than, well, his dad.

Like father, like son.