My Not So Humble Anniversary


In the history of mankind, there have been certain events that have stood out as pivotal moments:

  • The discovery of fire.
  • The fall of the Roman Empire.
  • The signing of the Declaration of Independence.
  • The cessation of hostilities at the end of WWII.

All of these pale in comparison to the day she said “I do”.

Happy anniversary, baby.

I'll never look this good again.

Happy anniversary to My Not So Humble Wife.

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The Dance of Shame


Ladies and gentlemen, despite my vigorous protests to the contrary, My Not So Humble Wife insists on informing you about our most time-honored tradition.

On our first date, I quite matter-of-factly told My Not So Humble Husband that he would fall in love with me and that we would end up getting married. This was really meant more as a warning than an aspiration. I just knew. However, I made this lofty proclamation BEFORE we actually moved in together.

Anyone who has moved in with a boyfriend or girlfriend will know that the honeymoon period soon comes to an end in the face of annoying habits, money problems, chore quarrels, and the long disputed toilet seat position. For a while, I wasn’t sure we going to make it. I thought I might end up suffocating him in his sleep with the dirty socks he habitually left on the carpet; or perhaps that I would die an agonizing death of a thousand dull cuts after shaving my legs with his razor… again.

What helped us finally reach a livable equilibrium was the Dance of Shame. After one particularly bad argument, over something I don’t remember, we had both reached that point where neither one of use wanted to apologize but we didn’t really want to be angry at each other anymore either. Sullenly, My Not So Humble Husband approached me in the kitchen and started rocking back on forth from foot to foot with his hands going up and down in the air in time with his steps. I was so surprised I had to break the after argument silence to ask what in the world he was doing. He replied that he was doing the Dance of Shame. I laughed so hard I cried and nearly peed myself. Thus a new marriage coping mechanism was born.

The thing is, it’s really hard to be angry with someone when they are doing the Dance of Shame. It’s just so ridiculous that you pretty much have to laugh. Also, having been the Dancer of Shame on more than one occasion, I can tell you that it is sometimes easier to submit yourself to the Dance than it might actually be to say the words “I’m sorry”.

Once in my classroom of 8th grade students we were talking about conflict resolution and I made the horrible mistake of telling the students about our Dance of Shame. “Do the Dance of Shame! Do the Dance of Shame!” the adolescent monsters chanted. After making the logical argument that I hadn’t done anything shameful enough to deserve the Dance of Shame, they finally quieted down. Two full weeks later, I made a math error on the board. These same students, who can’t even remember to bring a PENCIL to class on a regular basis, somehow remembered about the Dance of Shame. Eventually I had to perform it for them before we could return to polynomials in peace.

So keep the Dance of Shame in mind the next time you need to break the awkward silence of an argument gone on to long, but also BEWARE ITS POWER.


Mowing the Lawn like a Girl


As the weather changes, a young man’s fancy turns to love, and My Not So Humble Wife’s fancy turns to… well, I’ll let you decide. But be assured the opinions herein are entirely her own. Especially the ones where she makes me out to be anything less than perfect. Which I am.

This week the annual tradition of putting off mowing the lawn for the first time of the year came to a close as our grass topped out at eight inches and started to go to seed like a field of wheat.  Even though I live with My Not So Humble Husband and our two male Not So Humble Roommates, I was the first to break, and had to haul the mower from the stale smelling shed which had become home to hundreds of crickets, all of whom took umbrage to my lawn care intrusion.

As I started the mower and set into my mowing pattern, I realized again why mowing was one of my least favorite chores.  Lawn mowing is sweaty, dirty, hard work. I’d put it at a dead heat with cleaning the toilet, but probably not as bad as having to de-clog the sinks and tubs.

Chore graph

But it’s the weird looks I get from my neighbors as they drive, jog, or walk by that I had forgotten about during the cold, hay-fever free months.  For all the years I’ve lived in this home, when I mow the lawn I get a variety of looks which are usually some mixture of confusion, surprise, and suspicion.

In the fantastic movie Django (which I saw this weekend) there is a scene where a white German bounty hunter and the freed slave Django ride into a small southern town. When the German asks Django why the locals are staring slack-jawed and wide-eyed he replies, “They ain’t never seen no nigger on a horse before.”

Then it hit me. Maybe a woman mowing the lawn is a just a little bit like a “nigger on a horse”.  It makes people a little uncomfortable because it’s unusual and generally a “man-chore”.  I never noticed it before because, even though I grew up mowing the lawn on a half-acre lot, we lived in the back of a cul-de-sac away from regular neighborhood traffic.

I’m not pointing this out because I think we need gender equality in lawn mowing; I just think it’s interesting. Next time you’re driving through your neighborhood on a sunny Sunday, see how many of the people that are out mowing their lawns are women.

And for all you lawn mowers out there, be you of either gender, here’s some tips on how to mow the lawn like a girl:

  • Get someone else to do it, or at least make them clean the toilet.
  • If that fails, dress in jeans, not shorts, to avoid rocks and sticks. Also, apply water resistant bug spray.
  • Get a self-propelled mower if you don’t already have one. It’s worth it.
  • Mow the most visible part of your yard first, that way if you get tired and decide to pack it in your neighbors won’t complain for a few more days.
  • Don’t bag your grass cuttings. If you need a good excuse to justify the laziness, it’s actually more environmentally friendly because it reduces run-off and soil erosion. Take that snotty lawn neighbor!
  • If you’ve let your lawn get really long (no judgment) mow in a circular pattern with the blower facing away from the uncut side.  If the blower is on the right side of the mower, that will be counter-clockwise. This keeps your mower from getting clogged with cuttings and will save you a lot of time.
  • If you ignored my sage advice and your mower gets clogged, don’t tip it to the side with the tank full. This will just flood your air filter with gas and the mower won’t run. Tip the mower to the back at a low angle and remove the excess cuttings from between the blade and the cover.

Finally, if people keep looking at you weird, have some fun with them.  You can do something gross like spitting or scratching your butt, look at them with an expression of shock and shake your head in disgust to leave them wondering, or rev the mower engine and challenge them to a race. Be creative!

Other posts from My Not So Humble Wife:

The Meaning of Education
The Fiscal Fix
Dirty, Dirty Men


The Meaning of Education


She’s got a taste for it now. There’s no stopping her. Once again, ladies and gentlemen, My Not So Humble Wife.

No parent or educator is trying to teach kids that money will make you happy, but I think we are inadvertently doing just that. Early in elementary school children are inundated with the importance of going to college. In middle school, the grades where I teach math, kids worry about taking the right classes and getting good grades so they can take college credit advanced classes in high school and get into a good college.  It’s a huge focus of their little lives. The problem is when you ask them why college is such an important goal, their reasoning leads to an unhealthy place.

I’m nearing the end of my Master’s in Education and became interested in student motivation. I wanted to know why students felt education was important and what inspired them to succeed in school. So I conducted some simple interviews with a variety of students both officially and unofficially. I asked a simple question, “why is education important?”, and unfailingly it lead to the same basic discussion:

Me: Why is education important to you?

Student: It’s important so you can go to college.

Me: OK, Then why is going to college important?

Student: …<hesitation> So you can get a good job?

Me: And why is getting a good job important?

Student: …….<more hesitation> So you can make good money?

Me: Why is making good money important?

At this point most students became visible uncomfortable, shifting their weight, looking around, and fidgeting. While some students might eventually shrug and say they didn’t know, the majority said that making good money was important so they could have the things they want, some said that’s what it means to be successful, while others said it was important so they could be happy.

Truth be told, I was asking these kids some really hard questions. Questions that they had probably not even considered before and that many adults would struggle with. That said, I’m worried that kids are getting the point but missing the message.

Have you ever thought about why you want your kids or family to go to college? Hopefully, it’s not just about getting a job that pays enough for that McMansion in the burbs. I want my students to pursue a college education so they will have choices. Having an education means that you have the opportunity to find a vocation that you feel passionate about instead of having to take any job that presents itself. Yes, it’s important to be able to support yourself but a college education gives you a better chance at enjoying the process of earning a living.

So next time you’re talking to your kids about college make sure they know that getting a good job means getting a job they will enjoy or that is important to them. That college gives them the chance for expanding their choices for the life they want to live. That it’s not about the money, it’s about living a life they will find fulfilling.


The Fiscal Fix


Once again, a brief interlude from My Not So Humble Wife.

After weeks of foreboding speculation about the impending fiscal cliff, the New Year came and went with no evidence of the sky actually falling. This might be due to the fact that our decisive and ever diligent Congress and Senate solved the fiscal crisis on New Year’s Eve by kicking the deadline out until March. A brilliant piece of legislative procrastination.

Now we’re in for more endless argument over what combination of  1) spending cuts and 2) tax increases should be enacted to reduce our roughly $16 trillion federal deficit. But there is a third option that I’ve never heard mentioned. Do you know how the government handles budgets? If not, this will astound you.

Throughout all government agencies, the military, and governmental run programs each department is generally given an annual budget amount to play with for the year. Here’s the problem: at the end of the year if the department didn’t spend all their money, they won’t be able to get a budget increase in the next fiscal year.

Let me say that again,  if they don’t spend all the money they asked for last year they won’t get more money in their budget for the next year.

This means there is no incentive whatsoever for any government funded agency to save money. In fact, starting around October, government agencies that have a budget surplus rush out to ditch any remaining cash. Under our current budgeting system, they pretty much have to or they risk being underfunded in the next fiscal year.  Excess spending of this nature may be relatively small potatoes for any one agency or department but all together it’s a significant amount.

What to Do With Extra Budget Money at the End of the Fiscal Year?

Deficit spending

Photo Credit: USBacklash.org at http://usbacklash.org

I’ll admit with no hesitation that I’m not an expert on finance or government spending. However, I think that a different budget process that incentivized saving over spending might reasonably be developed. One idea would be to place more emphasis on accurate estimations. Suppose there are two possible budget proposal review processes, one for those groups whose spent close to what they were budgeted for the prior year and one for those groups whose budget wasn’t accurate for actual spending.

For example, the newly proposed budget for groups whose spending was within say, 5%  of their budget from the prior year could be on a fast-tracked approval process. Those groups whose spending differed (either over or under) by more than 5% would face a review that required additional justification. To avoid having departments just spend money until they were within the 5% range, you could allow money to be designated as savings without any penalty and which would then just be applied to the next year’s budget. This would provide incentive for departments not to overspend and would remove the current undesirable incentive of spending additional funds wastefully.

This one example could make the difference between funding or not funding a critical program and there are probably other systemic issues that could be addressed as well. So I hope that as we continue to debate how to balance the national checkbook we look for savings within the systems as well as at cut and tax remedies.


Dirty, Dirty Men


By special request (and to maintain tranquility in my home), I bring you this rebuttal post from My Not So Humble Wife.

After extensive observation I have finally answered a question that has plagued women world-wide for centuries. Why in God’s name do men never clean?!

Let me establish my man observing credentials. For over five years I have lived with my Not So Humble Husband and two dirty male roommates who, for the sake of anonymity, I will refer to as Monkey Boy and Grouchy Gus.

I have tried every method imaginable to get them to clean. Chore schedules, bribery, begging, threats, and the silent treatment had minimal success. Eventually I resorted to “fine then, if you won’t clean then neither will I, and you jerks can just wallow in your own disgusting filth” tactic. If I didn’t do any cleaning, eventually they would HAVE to break down and pick up a damn broom. Right? Right?!

I waited for two weeks twitching when the garbage can overfilled, furious as the carpet developed a layer of filth, and at last surrendered when my Not So Humble Husband proudly completed a three foot high tower of empty Coke cans in the basement. But my defeat was not totally in vain.

I had inadvertently discovered that the vast majority of men have a significantly higher “filth tolerance” than women do. Filth tolerance can be best defined as the messiest point at which you look around your home and decide it’s too gross for human habitation and must be cleaned.

On a filth tolerance scale from 1 to 10, a 1 is equal to “slight dishevelment”, 5 is “day after a wild party”, and 10 is “crack house”. As you can see illustrated in the graph below, I feel that I MUST clean around 3.5 when the floor is dirty, stuff strewn about, something smells, and everything is dusty. Whereas the disgusting men I live with range from 6.5 to 9.5 and will barely register old food containers growing mold, dust thick enough to plant shrubbery, and unknown substances dripping down the wall into a pool on the floor.

Graph1

But, you may be wondering, WHY is the male filth tolerance SO much higher? I’m glad you asked. It’s my hypothesis that men have developed “filth filtering vision”. It’s well established than men are more single-minded than woman. When they enter a room their filth filter vision kicks in and unable to distinguish any detail that is not relevant to their current objective.

For example, a woman might go into the kitchen for a snack and see a very dirty kitchen (Fig. 1). Meanwhile men with low filth filtering will just see a kitchen (Fig. 2) and men with high filth filters may only be able to perceive those items significant to achieving their goal of finding food (Fig. 3).

Fig 1. Women Vision

Clean kitchen

Picture image credit: Cleaning Angels (http://www.cleaning-angels.co.uk/)

Fig 2. Man Vision (Low Filth Filter)

dirty-kitchen

Picture Credit: Crafty Culinarian (http://craftyculinarian.wordpress.com)

Fig 3. Man Vision (High Filth Filter)

Meat58

Picture Credit: How to Survive Alien Invasion Novels (http://howtosurvivealieninvasionnovels.blogspot.com/)

I can only hope that by sharing my discovery, humanity can unite to find a cure to the epidemic of male filth filtering (MFF) which takes a heavy toll on women worldwide and contributes to over seventy five percent of the annual incidents of heavy sighs, evil glares, nagging in shrill tones, and restricted bedroom privileges.

Pray for a cure.