Category Archives: He’s From Mars I’m From Venus

My Broken Diddly-Squat

Is there anything more horrifying than the sound of an AC repairman yelling up from the basement: “Can you come down here for a second, Mrs. Rama? I want to show you something.”

That something always turns out to be a mechanical part, about yea long and yea wide, which is fried beyond repair. The part is so damaged, in fact, that the AC repair person simply cannot get over it.

“I’ve seen a lot of people run their AC into the ground, Mrs. Rama, but whooooo-wheee (produces a low whistle) this is really something else.”

The repairman encourages me to come closer for a better look.

“See this whoozamachit-chat right here, Mrs. Rama?” he says, and I nod in acknowledgment while my eyeballs begin their slow migration backwards, into the techno lingo-free recesses of my head. “What you have here is a thingamasnippet so totally and completely damaged, that I’m surprised it didn’t snap clean in half.”

“Is that what was causing the horrible screeching sound?”

At this, the AC repairman chuckles, like I just told him a particularly gripping knock-knock joke.

But he’s not done with me yet. He wants me to understand, fully and completely, the inner workings of the air conditioning system I hosed by continuing to let it run for three consecutive days while it wailed and keened plaintively in the bowels of my house. He’s pointing at various thingamabobs and widgets with a passion that almost surpasses my own desire to get the hell out of dodge.

Which is something I am desperate to do before he whips out a cocktail napkin and starts drawing a pictorial representation of the whoozits and the whatnots.

“If you ever hear a sound like that coming from your basement again,” he tells me, “the first thing you want to do is turn the entire system off.” Then, holding the deceased part directly in front of my line of vision, he says, “Do you see how the grooves in this thingamasnippet are almost completely worn out? I have never seen a whoozimachit-chat that’s been damaged quite this much.”

And that’s not all.

The thingamasnippet that is damaged beyond recognition has also affected a diddly-squat. You see, the thingamasnippet was vibrating so violently during its final moments, that it knocked the diddly-squat clear out of its orbit and into the housing of the snickamaclot.

“I don’t know how much longer this diddly-squat is gonna last you,” says the repairman, “what with all the damage that was inflicted by the thingamasnippet before it blew clean out.”

“But you’ll be able to fix it, right?”

The repairman doesn’t respond immediately, because I’ve said another thing that is causing him to shake his head slowly from side to side and do the silent, heaving laugh.

I start heading for the stairs while the AC repairman continues to marvel at the astonishing demise of my air conditioning unit and to mumble under his breath.

“Ok, well, thanks for pointing all that out to me!” I say brightly, while slowly backing out. If I don’t leave within the next minute, I’m gonna end up looking down the barrel of a Flux Capacitor and holding a flashlight.

“And let me show you just one more thing, Mrs. Rama,” the AC repairman says.

But I am so outta there.

“You can just wrap that part up in a towel and leave it in the garage.”

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The Tao of Decorating

This January has been a time of creativity and renewal here in the Rama household. After the holidays, I was seized with a deep and immediate desire to re-arrange furniture.

First I organized some bookshelves into a rainbow:

Then I pushed various items of furniture back and forth, back and forth across the family room and re-arranged objets d’art until I was blue in the face.

The family room overhaul necessitated an emergency trip to TJ Maxx for some accent pieces, plus a new KitchenAid ice cream scooper, a bar of oatmeal soap and a special microfiber towel that is supposed to dry your hair in five minutes flat.

It’s not something I’m proud of, but I have a weak spot for fake plants. I feel strongly that fake greenery lends a certain je ne sais quoi to a room’s atmosphere and never dies, but it’s been a sore spot in our marriage from day one. Over the past eleven years, I’ve managed to sneak a fake boxwood garland, several clumps of fake ivy, some fake poinsettias, hyacinths, dogwood, and one fake ficus into the house. But while at TJ Maxx the other day, I limited myself to only one fake item: a plastic yellow pear.

The P-Dawg has thus far tolerated the faux plants because they are so tasteful and unobtrusive, but I wondered if he would draw the line at fruit? I worried, too, for myself. One day it’s a plastic pear on the bookshelf, the next it’s a cornucopia straw hat with the price tag still dangling from the brim.

“Is that a plastic pear up there?” the P-Dawg asked me as we settled in to watch TV the other night.

“Do you like it?” I asked him. “I needed something yellow to offset the new lamp and the blue bird figurines.”

“What lamp?” the P-Dawg asked with a glance around the room. “What blue accent figurines?”

Easy to miss

I didn’t let it offend me because I know that a good interior designer often makes nearly imperceptible changes which nevertheless enhance the entire feel of a space.

“Do you notice that the entire feel of this space is different?” I asked my husband.

“That pear is really yellow,” he said.

Later the P-Dawg decided to do some re-decorating of his own. He went ahead and got a bunch of his Japanese prints professionally framed and hung them up all willy-nilly around the house.

We don’t have a good marital track record when it comes to picture hanging, the P-Dawg and I. In fact, I’d say it ranks right up there with “having a baby” on the list of Top Ten Marital Stressors (see also, loading dishwasher, finding a parking space, rinsing out the bathroom sink).

I was standing on a credenza in the office, nudging one of my knickknacks over by a half a millimeter when he came in to inform me that he’d hung up some prints. He asked that instead of taking them down immediately, I should have an open mind.

“Just let them hang there for a couple of days before you make any decisions,” my husband suggested. Then he left the house.

This one is in our formal living room, right above the photos of the kids. I’m still warming up to it, but it sure beats the plastic pear from TJ Maxx.

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Book Club: Better Than Therapy

I always wanted to be in a book club. I was complaining about it to my friend Lauren one day and she said, “Why don’t you start one.”

So we rounded up a handful of ladies and began meeting once a month. And I’m pleased to report that our book club is still going strong in its third season.

Here is how our meetings go:

We go around in a circle and everyone says how they felt about the book. The ladies are very diplomatic, so even when we read Billy Budd, Sailor, no one flat-out said, “I thought this book sucked. Who is Herman Melville? ” Instead we say things like, “There are things about this book that I really liked.”

Usually whoever is hosting has prepared some questions for discussion. At least, this is always my hope. I myself have an actual numbered list at hand, and after each question is addressed in the order it appears, I like to cross it off. Sometimes I’ll draw a little box next to each item and when I feel that it has been beaten to a pulp, I’ll go ahead and put a check in the box.

Not everyone does this.

We have a nice mix of personalities in our book club, which makes for lively discussion. We have a Philosopher, an Empathizer, a Quiet Introspectionist, a Pragmatist, a Wild Card and at least one Republican, as far as I know.

And we have good snacks. Usually wine, some nice bread and fine cheeses, fruit, a pastry, and crudités. My friend Lauren sometimes makes crêpes, which she serves with fruit, Nutella, and crème fraîche.

After we discuss the book for about an hour, we veer into extra-curricular discussion topics, like mortality, fitness, our children, Greg Mortenson (we are still very disappointed in Greg Mortensen and his Three Cups of Bull$hit), and last but not least, our husbands.

Boy, do we love talking about our husbands.  From my book club discussions I have learned the following universal truths about them:

A husband cannot read a wife’s mind. You would think that after ten plus years of marriage, this would be the case. But it is not.

A husband is blind to counter crumbs and toothpaste scum.

You have to remind a husband to get his haircut.

A husband will walk into the house and hang his coat on a chair in the kitchen, even though there is a hook with his name on it right there next to the garage door.

Some husbands, when they come home, like to lay their work clothes on the bed to “air them out.” What’s up with that?

A husband needs very specific directions. For example, if you ask a husband to get some sheets out of the dryer, the husband will not intrinsically know that he is supposed to turn around and put those sheets on the bed.

You don’t really want the husband to make the bed, because he’ll screw it up. No, what you want is for the husband to offer, so that you in turn could say with the faintest hint of martyrdom in your voice, “No, I’ll do it.”

It’s a good thing that during book club, our husbands are in the basement, watching the kids.

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Tales from the Trailer Park

One thing I learned on my recent road trip is that a person’s vacation is only as good as her ability to roll with the punches. I was presented with an opportunity to put this philosophy into practice when I first stepped foot inside our rented RV and got the distinct impression that people had lived in it before. But instead of relishing the feeling of a gritty floor beneath my feet, I railed against it.

“This RV is a piece of crap,” I announced to the P-Dawg after the rental guy had gone back inside his office. “It’s nothing like the one he showed me when I booked it!”

I had to turn away then, so the P-Dawg wouldn’t see the tears welling up in my eyes.

But my husband is a glass half full kind of guy, and whether he was truly blind to the dirty floor and the stained upholstery and the brown schmear on the wall of the kids’ sleeping loft, I will never know.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said as he re-attached a piece of wood paneling. “This is going to be awesome.”

It took us longer than expected to load the entire contents of our two-story colonial inside the thirty foot long RV, but soon enough we were bouncing along the Ohio turnpike, headed east. Once we were on the road, everyone’s spirits rose. The children for their part loved the freedom that the spacious table and couch seating afforded them, each choosing spots diametrically opposed one to the other. And the P-Dawg and I loved the fact that the motor rumbled so loudly, we couldn’t hear a thing either one of them was saying to us.

When we entered Pennsylvania, we realized it was mountainous and there were many white knuckled moments of barreling down steep, narrow inclines, which I must admit my husband navigated with the utmost finesse. As we approached the campsite where we were to spend our first night, the road continued to narrow until it was nothing more than primitive sort of towpath with a shoulder-less river embankment on one side (mine) and a cement wall on the other.

It was like trying to thread a motor home through the eye of a needle and we got through it by the skin of our teeth, thanks to the P-Dawg’s nerves of steel and my back seat driving credentials, which enabled me to hang my head out the side window like a golden retriever and periodically yell, “Oh, my God! You are WAY TOO CLOSE!!!”

But no sooner did we breathe a sigh of relief, than we were presented with our next recreational challenge: to back the ten foot wide camper into an eleven foot wide spot between two trees at dusk. I got out of the vehicle, and employing an elaborate system of made up hand gestures, guided the P-Dawg deftly into the spot. There was one touch and go moment when I disappeared momentarily from his view and he almost ran me over, but it’s the sort of thing you learn to expect after almost eleven years of marriage.

After we (and when I say “we,” I of course mean, “the P-Dawg”) hooked up all the various attachments which would provide us with basic necessities like water, electricity, and air conditioning for the night, I took the children on a walk around the campgrounds and my husband went down to the river behind our scenic camping spot to gather kindling. When the kids and I returned, he had a nice fire going and was making steaks on the charcoal grill. We ate our steaks at ten o’ clock in the evening with some baked beans and garden fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, and I daresay it was one of the best meals I ever had.

After that, it was time to settle in for our first night under the stars. So we went inside the camper and brushed our teeth with running water from the tap, watched an episode of the Wiggles on DVD, and crawled into our simple pallets made up with down comforters and Egyptian cotton sheets.

As I dozed off reading my Kindle and sipping on some chamomile tea I’d nuked in the microwave, I knew exactly how Lewis and Clark must have felt.



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