Wednesday, 11 June 2008

What Are You Good For?

Me, I'm good for a lot of things.

For instance, I know when and how to put a roll of toilet paper on the toilet paper dispenser. For me, this is a cinch. When is simple: when it runs out, you need more. How is a little trickier, but I'm still on top of it: I just pluck off the cardboard core from the old roll, discard it (an important step that no one in my family has managed more than about one time each), and slide the new roll onto the metal rod. I concede that some toilet paper dispensers are fiddlier than others, but after a little practice almost anyone can do it -- even the gender challenged.

I'm excellent at telling which weeds are compostable and which should be thrown out. Which are which? Dandelions are non-compostable. Their roots have an admirable quality to remain vigorous and life-sustaining for ages. Occasionally, I've dropped dandelion roots in dry, shady places only to find new leaves sprouting from them weeks later. Dandelions are as vigorous and tenacious as montbretia corms, and in my family, only I can spot them.

When it comes to mouse guts, half-eaten birds, cat puke and other cat-generated mess, I have an uncanny ability to identify and remove. Others can step right over (and occasionally into) these messes and not spot them. Once again, my vision, though nowhere near as acute as others', wins out. In a matter of speaking.

I'm a prime weather watcher. I know the best weather for drying clothes, and I can get the laundry washed and hung out in less than an hour. Other family members, when called upon to do the laundry, are all too prone to let a golden day of clear skies and warm breezes pass by, putting on the laundry as soon as the first storm clouds have sailed into the sky. The central heating system must then be used (at great expense) to dry the clothes which are draped over every radiator in the house.

I can perform small miracles. I can cook a very tasty meal from virtual scraps, in a kitchen where almost nothing has been put away where I can find it. Then, after said meal has been consumed by somewhat ungrateful children, I can hold (sort of) my tongue. Okay, I can't really, but let's just say that my whining is as nothing compared to what I'd really do if I didn't hold back. They have no idea what I've spared them.

Now I'm honor-bound to tell you what my husband can do besides going out to do a job he hates every single day just to feed his family. He can drive to the supermarket and shop. I can't do this. I don't know why I can't, but there it is. Maybe I'm too busy piddling with montbretia corms and dandelion roots or fiddling with the laundry. Maybe I've exhausted myself doing a loaves-and-fishes in the kitchen or gotten stressed out cleaning up cat messes and holding back from all the belly-aching I'd like to do. Whatever the reason, almost invariably my exhausted husband will ask, "What do we need from the store?" and I will tell him. And then he will amaze and delight me by going out to buy it.

Ah well. Either you've got it or you don't. What are you good for?


debra said...

Well, Mary, it seems we share some of the same gifts. I can also see the wee gifties the cats have left on the from porch and the tootsie rolls the dogs have left in the grass. I can see that there is only 1/2 inch of juice in the carton and that, even though I don't eat the stuff, there are no boxes of cereal left on the shelf. I can see that the laundry hamper is right next to the pile of dirty underwear on the bathroom floor. I can also see that there is almost no gas left in the car BEFORE I am racing out of the house to be somewhere on time.
I can also hear the question, "I'm going to the grocery store. Does anybody need anything?"
I can hear the dog whining to go out and feel her jumping on me because she can't cross her legs any more.
I am a wife and a mom.

Kelly said...

Hah, Mary!

In my family I'm the only one who can get kids where they need to go when they need to be there.

Linda D. (sbk) said...

We're kindred spirits, you and I. Ditto to everything you wrote, except for the compost parts - we don't have a composter. But, we do have several recycling bins and I'm the only one who knows how to break down a box or tell the difference between paper and plastic.

Eryl Shields said...

It's taken a long time but I'm now very good at unfocussing my eyes so that when I walk into the sitting room I no longer see piles of papers, my husband's laptop, various gadgets with trailing wires, and empty cups, glasses and plates on the floor. I've also learned that I can go without food for much longer than anyone else in the house, so I don't have to notice when there isn't any.

Charles Gramlich said...

I can scare off squirrels who are stealing our bird seed. I can eat at a near professional level, not fast but for a long time. I can type fairly well. But I suppose only the first of these is really worth something.

Kim Ayres said...

I can help anyone create a strategy for global domination in any chosen profession, although I can't make them implement my suggestions.

However, I make wicked scrambled egg sandwiches.

Kim Ayres said...

Oh, and while I remember, this hat of yours is gathering dust. I can bring it up at the same time you want your photo taken :)

Brave Astronaut said...

But does the toilet paper come over the top or from underneath? Think before you answer. There really is only one right answer.

I too, do more of the shopping than Mrs. BA. I love the order of the grocery store. Up and down each aisle, looking for this and that (and usually winding up with more than was on the list). Rule number 1, Never shop when hungry.

Mrs. BA is the laundress in the house. It is a thankless job. And its never finished. I'll do it, but only when confronted with empty closets and dressers.

Travis Erwin said...

What am I good for? Getting rid of any unwanted steak or beer you might have.

Mary Witzl said...

Debra -- Yes: we have the same talents! I too can see that the carton only has 1/2 inch of juice left, and I am punctilious about discarding empty cereal boxes. On the rare occasions I do shop, I now know to lift the boxes to check if they are empty first. My kids only put the boxes back if they're empty. Our families have the same laundry strategies too -- why put it IN the basket when you can have the fun of aiming for the basket and hitting the floor? That gas thing though -- my husband is the one with that particular skill. I can't lie about that: he sometimes reads my blog.

Kelly -- Eek, this is another skill I don't have! The kids' school isn't that far away; I could almost count on one hand the times I've driven them to school (I'm a real hard ass about them walking). On the other hand, I have ferried carloads of ungrateful kids to parties and back. Does that count?

Linda -- I'm a prime box breaker downer myself and regularly compost cardboard. The kids pop cardboard right into the trash and fill the recycling bin with bits of plastic, foil and unburnable rubbish. The recycling bin is kept on the counter; I suspect it's more convenient for them to use that than it is to bend down to put it in the trash.

Eryl -- You've got to show me how to do that! I'm pretty good about ignoring all the junk on the floor (until I step on it) and I refuse to do anything about the other messes I find lying around, but the dishes on the floor drive me wild. Various gadgets with trailing wire? We could open our own shop! I take them off the kitchen table every day, then sigh when I am inevitably asked where they've gone.

Charles -- Good for you! I'm good at foiling my cats' attempts to catch birds and suspect I'd be a good squirrel scarer too.

As for eating steadily, I too am a champ. I am a slow, but thorough eater, and in my teens could outdo my father who was 6'4". I weighed all of 117 pounds and rather hate myself just remembering it.

Kim -- I just need a strategy to get this family better organized. But then, I'm the one who forgot my own hat. Can I blame them?

BA -- From the top, of course, unless someone else has changed the roll. You can guess how often that happens.

I am the house laundress. I do most of the everyday cleaning, cooking, and whining. My husband is actually an accomplished cook and an excellent cleaner -- when he gets around to it.

Travis -- You'd have come in handy in Japan! I come from a strictly non-drinking, largely vegetarian family. In Tokyo, I got offered steak on an almost monthly basis and taken out to drink. I could have used someone to quietly take the steak off my plate and down all my superfluous alcohol.

Gorilla Bananas said...

If you have any clowns who need to be lifted upside down by their ankles, I am your ape.

Phil said...

Hi Mary. Been a bit busy of late - sorry. Good to dip into your stuff again.

I loved 'gender challenged' and assume in that department you consider me to have special needs. That being the case, whatever I can do, I probably do wrong - and am informed of this on regular occasions.

Take care.


Brenda said...

Love the blog post!

I'm good at spoiling my furbaby and make my husband say, "You didn't just say that?"

Angela said...

Great post. I know that sometimes it doesn't seem like it, but your kids are grateful (albeit non verbal about it) and would be lost without you, Mary!

You rock. All moms rock!

laura said...

I think you opened a can of worms with this one!! But at least your other half will shop! I was also 'good at everything' and then when I was traded in on an older, skinnier, model I was told it was because I didn't appreciate a certain somebody. In retrospect I wish that I'd kicked a certain somebody in his nether regions and then told him that when the pain finally disappeared, he could appreciate that!! BTW my (now 25 yr old) son would have stepped over my still warm, but dead, body to get to a bag of Doritos!

Mary Witzl said...

GB -- There are a few in this town who would be all the better for a good shaking, but I suspect you could say the same about many towns. I do envy you this skill and would give a lot to be able to do it myself.

Phil -- I have missed you. How are you and what are you writing? I will get over to our group and see.

Of course the handful of men who'd never dream of not replenishing the toilet paper roll have a right to catch my nasty, sexist little dig and point it out. (Blush) My husband hovers when I hammer a nail into the wall and it took him ages not to wince when he saw me using our sander and hot air gun, so please believe me when I say I've been there too...

Brenda -- Thank you for visiting my blog! I'm good for repeating myself just about all day long. I've had to resort to saying things like "I've probably told you this one before, but..." I don't do this for my family though. I KNOW they've heard it before.

Angela -- You are right, and they are sometimes even verbally grateful. In fact, I considered writing that they were occasionally good for giving me impromptu hugs and impetuous compliments, filling my eyes with surprised tears, but it sounded a little schmaltzy so I left that part out. But it's still true, and thank God!

Laura -- I say we send Gorilla Bananas over to your ex to give him a richly deserved shake by the ankles; if he were in America, I'm betting he'd do it.

My husband is actually very good in the house and can do plenty. It's just that the spirit only moves him when things have gotten into quite a state. Fortunately, the shopping needs to be done on a regular basis, but you are right -- at least he does it.

Carole said...

I can laugh at children's jokes. Like I can laugh at the same knock knock joke 30 times in a row.

I can listen to endless political rantings without killing any candidates.

I can throw a frisbee without breaking my wrist.

I can go an entire lifetime without a sip of coffee, a taste of tofu, or a drink of beer.

The Quoibler said...

Hmmm... let's see...

I can give away the last piece of yummy food even though I desperately want to eat it myself.

I can also ignore dust and dirt like nobody's business.

Oh, and I can look the other way if my son decides to sneak a piece of candy he's not supposed to have because it's almost dinnertime. :)


Tabitha said...

It seems you and I were cut from the same cloth, Mary. The Mom cloth. :) Though coming from a farming/carpentry family, I can also take apart a lawnmower engine and put it back together (and yes, it will still work), refinish pretty much any piece of wooden furniture, and fix nearly anything that's broken around the house.

The things I just cannot do is anything related to wiring or electricity. And I just don't have the head for investing money for my retirement fund. Fortunately, my husband is fantastic at the latter. :)

Carolie said...

Great post, Mary! Thank you for the giggles.

Hmmm...let's see. I'm really good at finding the silver lining in almost every situation (I'm the kid thigh-deep in manure, grinning like an idiot and wielding a shovel like there's no tomorrow, convinced there's gotta be a pony in there somewhere!)

I'm really good at rationalizing, especially when it comes to food(Broken cookie? Calorie leakage! Anything from someone else's plate is calorie-free, because the calories belong to the plate owner.)

I have an uncanny ability to notice that the lights are on in a room I'm vacating, and the deftness to actually turn off said lights as I leave the room. Someday, Fearless Husband might be motivated to learn this skill himself, but I'm not holding my breath.

However, FH has the keen insight to realize how much I despise vacuuming, AND has even mastered the fine motor skills involved in hauling out the damn beast and using it, even when he doesn't think the floor is dirty, just because he knows *I* think the floor is dirty. (He only thinks it's dirty if it CRUNCHES when he walks...)

Mary Witzl said...

Carole -- Wow: 30 times is pretty impressive! I'm good for about 5 to 20, depending on the person. Kids get extra allowances, of course, depending on personality and age. Check with your next one; I get plenty pissed off, but all political figures are safe around me (and even if they weren't, they would be as I'm a lousy shot). I can just about throw a frisbee and I don't really need beer, but coffee and tofu? Double wow: what would I drink? What would I eat?

Angelique -- Again, I'm impressed! I can sometimes manage that first one, though it depends on who wants that last tasty portion. (And are we talking homemade lasagne here, or store-bought chocolate cake?) The dust and dirt thing, though -- we'd have to have a competition. I have a neighbor who is no longer invited into the house; she can't bring herself NOT to comment and I can't bring myself to tidy up just for her.

Tabitha -- Impressive skills! I love finishing furniture and have my old sander and various oils and rags, but I could no more take apart a lawnmower and put it back together again (and have it still work) than I could eat nails. Wish I had such a practical side. I don't have a head for finances either; that's where my husband gets his chance to do loaves and fishes trick. I don't like to spend money, but I'm not very good at making it increase.

Carolie -- Your pony story made me laugh out loud. I'm good at looking for that silver lining too, and if there isn't one in sight, I'll make one. I too have that special light turning-off skill that NO ONE else in the family has even the tiniest bit of talent for. (They're tired of hearing about it too.) Although I don't really mind vacuuming so much, our vacuum cleaner has been out of order for ages and I can't be asked to coddle it, so the floor goes 'natural.' We're almost at the point where it's going to be extra insulation. Wonder when everyone will notice?

I'll have to try that calorie leakage thing. I'm off to break up some cookies...

A Paperback Writer said...

Eryl-- nice talents! Way to go on developing your skills!
As for me, in the last 8 years since the ex took off, leaving me a single woman, I have overcome the gender challenges. Yeah, I can recycle, shop, cook, clean, sew, do laundry, and all that stuff that good little Mormon girls are taught to do almost from birth. But I have learned to fix a vacuum, paint a room, install new computers, mow a lawn (I hate that one, though, so now I pay to have it done), put air in my car tires, lay carpet, oil a furnace, spray for spiders, and install new toilet seats and sink faucets (uh, that would be taps in the basins, for all you UK folks). Dad taught me how to do a lot of it (bless him), but some I just figured it wasn't going to get done unless I did it.
Things I still don't do: windows (oh my, they look awful. I think I'll hire someone to do them) taxes (I hire an accountant), canning food (I've never even tried -- and it's one of those pioneer things expected of us here in Utah), knitting (I learned once and forgot how).
Things I can do at school: hear obscenities when whispered on the other side of the room, give several oral exams at the same time, keep 37 13-year-olds focused with their attention on whatever I'm teaching.
Things I can't do at school: remember to empty the *&^$ pencil sharpener (some kid always points out when it's overflowing), keep my desk clean, find dry erase markers that last longer than 2 days before drying out.
There's my list.
(C'mon over to my blog and see what's been keeping me busy this week.)

The Anti-Wife said...

Hi! I'm good at napping.

problemchildbride said...

I am a reliable rememberer of pulling out plugs and locking doors at night.

Danette Haworth said...

I am good at finding things people think they lost, and I find these things in places said people have already looked.

Barbara Martin said...

It has been said to me many times that I make a wicked good pot of tea or cup of coffee.

I can coax a young lovebird back to its cage on a perch when all its bird buddies screech, "Stay away from human! Danger! Danger!" while other half stands in the doorway watching. This reminds me of the robot from Lost In Space.

I can hear from the living room to the bird room when one of the lovebirds or senegals makes a particular noise, and I can identify them by name from that sound.

Noticing the milk or juice carton in the fridge only has enough on the bottom for a swallow or two.

Finding plastic containers tucked at the back of the fridge shelves that have new life forms in them after coming back from a book conference.

Mary Witzl said...

APW -- I tell myself that I could learn to oil a furnace and fix a tap (I'm okay for most of the other stuff and quite like spiders), and mowing the lawn is one of my favorite chores -- I even mow our neighbors' side for free because they can't be asked to do it. But the fact that you can keep 37 13-year-olds focused fills me with awe and envy. That is INCREDIBLE!

I could help you out on the windows. Ours are awful now, but I'm actually good at cleaning them. And I've also sanded and painted some of ours, though my husband does the actual glazing and hanging. Knitting was recommended to me as a useful, relaxing skill. In fact, nothing makes me more irritated and stressed out, so I gave it up. And I can make my own jelly, jam, mustard, etc., but only if I feel like it -- which I seldom do. Whenever anyone praises me for being capable of womanly things like making my own jam and bread -- that's when I grit my teeth and rather wish I didn't conform as much as I do to gender stereotypes.

Anti-wife -- Good for you: this is helping you to get better. It's also something I cannot do; even in kindergarten, I found napping impossible. The only time I've been able to nap was when I had mononucleosis and just after my kids were born. So take a couple of naps for me, too -- please!

Sam -- In America, you have to pull out the plugs, don't you? Here in the U.K., you can just turn them off. I'm good at this most of the time, and as a former resident of New York City, I am brilliant at remembering to lock the door. And I even lock the windows.

Danette -- Oh, me too! Just the other day I found the mayonnaise and catsup, which everybody swore were not in the refrigerator. And I have a special skill with socks as well.

Barbara -- I'm impressed by your bird skills. My bird-helping skills are restricted to saving the poor little things from my cat. I take great pleasure in hanging their fat balls in places she cannot possibly reach.

As for the plastic containers and only-one-inch left cartons of juice and milk, they are visible only to me in this household. Ditto with any potentially unpleasant foodstuff left lying about. They can't see it; I can't NOT see it.

Carolie said...

BWAHAHAHAHA! I must be really, really took me a good three minutes to figure out a line in your last comment, Mary!

"I take great pleasure in hanging their fat balls in places she can't possibly reach."

Umm...what? My eyes snapped back, as they'd gone ahead a sentence or two. Mary can't possibly mean...what DOES she mean? Seriously, what in the world COULD she mean?

Mental image solidifies. I get the giggles, those insane, junior high school giggles over something extremely silly and not worth giggling over, even though I KNOW I'm just not understanding properly, and Mary couldn't really mean sparrows (or cats) with obese, pendulous...

Oh. Wait. Maybe Mary means that she hangs balls of SUET. For the birds to EAT. Fat as noun, not adjective.

Well, of course.

I am juvenile, disgusting, and in need of sleep.

Mary Witzl said...

Oh no, Carolie! I should have remembered they were called suet balls in the States! Thanks for pointing out that possible ambiguity.

I hope no one else thinks I meant the other kind of balls...

Carolie said...

Honestly, Mary -- I'm sure only a few idiot teenage boys would have sniggered as I did. I'll get some sleep, finish unpacking from my trip, and try to behave like a sensible adult, I promise!

(hee hee hee hee hee hee *snort*)

A Paperback Writer said...

37 teens at the same time -- years and years of being on stage before I ever became a teacher- that's my trick. I learned how to keep the audience's attention by the time I was 4. And I am not ashamed to own up to using showmanship to keep kids' attention in class. After all, if they don't pay attention, they won't learn, so a few jokes, a little song (I kid you not), and above all unpredictability so they don't dare let their minds drift...
Mustard. I could do mustard.
Actually, I cook quite well. I've just never wanted to sterilize and seal jars with wax like my mom did. (Let me assure you that I have pitted plums, apricots, and squished chokecherries by the hours for this sort of thing in past years.)

Kim, I LOVE this photo you've put up. You look absolutely adorable!

Kappa no He said...

I can spend the exact amount of money in my wallet. Even if I haven't checked my wallet beforehand to see how much is there. Usually down to my last few yen. It's surreal.

Loved your list!

Carole said...

After going to lunch with John yesterday I realized another skill I have. Out of a parking lot of open spaces I can find one immediately, without driving around for three hours trying to find the perfect one.

Middle Ditch said...

Yep! I recognized it all. I'm the only one who actually has the very sharp eyes to see the dust, cat sick, dirty laundry etc and like you I have a husband who does all the shopping as like you I'm lousy at it.

A very funny post

Mary Witzl said...

Carolie -- I'm one of those idiots who unintentionally says awful things, then wonders why people titter. Chatting with a group of frieds on a packed ferry going from Kyushu to Shikoku I once said loudly, "kintama!" thinking I was expressing the Japanese equivalent of "Golden Mountain," the old Chinese expression for San Francisco. My gaffe occurred during a sudden lull in the conversation and I was very much the cynosure of all eyes. I'll let you ask your Japanese friends what 'kintama' means. I didn't know at the time, but soon found out. Sigh. Why be dignified when you can be fun, I guess...

APW -- You're right: so much of teaching is putting on a show. Back when I taught, I got to be able to do this pretty well and so did my husband, but we are actually somewhat shy people. I used to find it exhausting when I ran into students on the train going home; I was back in my non-teaching personality and felt I needed to switch back yet again -- to maintain my image even out of the classroom. Yep -- I could do songs in class, even stone cold sober, and frequently did silly things to get a point across. But keeping the attention of 37 13-year-olds is an entirely different matter. Whoo boy.

And check out Kim's pirate photo -- it's great!

Kappa -- That list is a greatly modified one, of course. I was shy about listing all of my accomplishments, like being able to make grass whistles, get lost even after having been to a place over a dozen times, and play the harmonica badly. Your spending trick is great! That would make my husband so nervous it's not even funny. He has a horror of buying something with the EXACT amount of money. He always needs to have a substantial amount left over.

Carolie -- I can do this too, as long as the parking lot is absolutely empty! Once I even parked between two cars! But shame on me: I've bragged about that before.

Middle Ditch -- Yay, another woman who hates shopping! We ought to form a club of non-shopping women. There are so many of the other kind about that we'd be sure to have a very select, exclusive group.

kathie said...

Mary, you are one talented woman...not that I'm surprised. Let's see, what am I good at? Well I could write about a woman who could do all that stuff. But, be her? Never, not me. Send me a little of that skill...

Mary Witzl said...

Kathie, how did I miss this comment?

I'm betting that you've got plenty of good skills, and even if you don't, just think: you survived childhood with parents like mine! And I know you're good at replacing toilet paper rolls -- you've got to be if you're a wife and mother.