6 Years

As I write, it’s December 21st.  The end of the Mayan calendar.  The winter solstice.  And, our 6th wedding anniversary–aka, “17 ½ years since our first date.”

Pat and I are apart today.  He is in Columbus for the unveiling of a guitar he’s been building.  I am left alone to ponder our six years together as a married couple.

The most repeated question my husband has asked me for the past 17 ½ years is, “Why do you love me.”  In honor of our sixth anniversary, here are six reasons I love my husband.

  1. We have things in common.  Having something we both love to share makes staying connected a little easier.  This was taken last year at one of the knobs in the Cherokee National Forest when we went to Snowbird Lodge for Thanksgiving weekend.

    Standing on a Knob in Cherokee National Forest just outside of Great Smokey National Park

    Standing on a Knob in Cherokee National Forest just outside of Great Smokey National Park

  2. He’s willing to try things because I like them.  Sometimes, we have divergent interests.  But Pat can rally around part of one of my interests and share some of it.  For example, he can’t get into birds in general, but he really loves raptors.  This allowed him to enjoy a Raptor Experience, which was a dream for me and of only slight interest to him.  I love when he doesn’t just “suffer through,” but genuinely enjoys something he would have never done if he didn’t love me.

    Pat holding Artie, a physically challenged Barred Owl that cannot survive in the wild.

    Pat holding Artie, a physically challenged Barred Owl that cannot survive in the wild.

  3. He loves dogs.  It’s not about the dog as much as it’s about the man.  A man who cannot empathize with creatures dependent on humans are usually men who are insecure, brutal, or psychopathic.  While there may be other reasons not to like dogs, it’s not something I can really understand.

    Pat cuddling Tisen shortly after he came to live with us.

    Pat cuddling Tisen shortly after he came to live with us.

  4. He enjoys learning new things.  My husband is a rare combination of inventor and explorer.  He loves to tinker, experiment, figure out.  Occasionally, he takes on a new adventurer.  When we moved to Chattanooga, he repeatedly mentioned hang gliding–he really wanted to learn.  In this case, I tried something new just because he wanted to.  We both had a great experience learning.  He swears he will fly again when he gets things more stable at his business.  I don’t really care.  I just enjoyed learning with him.

    Pat gets set for his first mountain launch.

    Pat gets set for his first mountain launch.

  5. He has a sense of humor.  This should probably be number one for me.  I am incapable of loving a man who has no sense of humor.  Fortunately for me, my husband is not only hilarious, but he thinks I’m funny at least half of the time I think I’m funny.  I can’t imagine spending my life with someone who never gets my jokes.

    How many husbands would understand why this shot was funny when originally posted with a bunch of photos of the moon?

    How many husbands would understand why this shot was funny when originally posted with a bunch of photos of the moon?

  6. He’s so smart, he can solve anything.  He’s brilliant with any kind of mechanical issue.  This goes back to #4.  I often call him MacGyver.  He could escape captivity with a pack of matches, a stick of gum, and a string.  His brilliance is what I most admire about him.

    I don't have a photo of Pat problem solving, but can't you just see in his face that he's coming up with some new amazing invention?

    I don’t have a photo of Pat problem solving, but can’t you just see in his face that he’s coming up with some new amazing invention?

There you have it.  Six reasons I love my husband.

I love you, honey.  Thanks for sticking it out with me.

The Green-Eyed Cyclops

I find myself obsessed with a single green light.  It’s not a traffic light, a light on a boat, or a light on a dashboard.  No, this is a light on a smoke detector.  As some of you may recall, this is not the first time I’ve had a gripe with a smoke detector.  However, this time, it’s personal.

We live on a busy street near downtown Chattanooga.  The noise and the light at night are the only things I don’t like about where we live.

To combat this (short of moving), I’ve taken to sleeping with ear plugs.  I also recently found inexpensive curtains that block light, dampen noise, and provide insulation all in one.

I was so excited to hang those curtains.  When the curtain rod arrived chipped on both finials, I was too impatient to send it back.  We colored the chips in with a sharpie and hung the rod with the chips facing the wall.  No one will ever know (well, except you).

The curtains did a beautiful job blocking the light.  The room went from dusk to could-be-in-a-cave in moments.

But then, as my eyes adjusted when I laid down the first night, there, staring down at me was the green-eyed monster.  What was just another part of the ambient light in the room before the curtains is now a giant, glaring green sun beaming straight into my eyes.  I try covering my head with a pillow.  This works until I run out of oxygen.  I try sleeping on one side.  When I roll to my back in my sleep, I am rudely awakened by the green spotlight in my eyes.

Pat, apparently suffering from more eye damage than I, barely notices.  In this case, however, I can’t get angry at him for not doing anything about it because we can’t reach the thing.  I would call maintenance, but I’m sure they will tell me they have some legal obligation to keep me awake all night.

I suggest we buy one of those suction dart guns and shoot at the light until we get one to stick, covering it up.  Pat, being more practical, suggests we use a pole to stick some opaque double-sided tape over the light.  We realize we don’t have a pole.  I wonder if we could get an opaque balloon and get it to float up to the smoke detector.  Or perhaps throw a rope over the truss and pull up an open umbrella to cast a shadow over the bed.  Maybe we should get a bed with a canopy?

At this point, I don’t care if we shoot the smoke detector with a real gun–I want that green light out!  This time, I am not alone.  Tisen, too, fears the green-eyed monster.  He can’t settle down until he finds a place to hide his head.

Tonight may be the night we figure out how to put out the eye of the cyclops!

These Boots Were Made for Walking

Today, we return to the hang gliding training hills.  I am part nervous and part excited.  I love the 7 seconds of flying when I launch properly, but I hate the race down the hill when I don’t.  I’ve been getting better at launching, but not consistently enough that I feel confident I will get airborne every time.

When we arrive at 7:30AM, it’s frosty out.  The water puddles shine with a thin layer of ice.  And there are plenty of puddles–there have been many rainy days of late.  We assemble the gliders as quickly as we can, pausing periodically to warm our hands when they get so cold they refuse to work.  I am wearing my hiking boots with warm socks, but my feet have solidified inside my boots before I’ve finished assembling my glider.  I jump up and down to get the blood flowing back into my toes before finishing up and loading the glider on the trailer.

As I stand on the trailer holding the nose of the glider, my feet slide across the wet metal platform I’m standing on.  I realize that it, too, is covered in a thin layer of ice.  I have to switch hands on the metal bar my glider is hitched to–my hand goes numb in a matter of seconds even with my gloves on.  It’s hard to believe we’re South of home–or that it will probably be over 60 degrees today.

The trailer bounces along the rough ground as we make our way to the small hill.  We break through the ice on many puddles along the way.  As we climb up the side of the hill, we leave a trail of mud in our wake.  I’m happy to see the mud only because it means a softer landing than ground that’s frozen solid.

As I get set for my first flight, I line up with a target that will take me to the right of two large puddles; the ice on their surfaces is just starting to crack in the rising sun.  I tell myself not to worry about those puddles and to just stay focused on my target.

I am relieved that I launch successfully.  I launch, I fly straight, and I land on the wheels.  It all goes quite smoothly.  I seem to have learned how to keep my eyes on the target and how to let go when I launch.  These are two key steps forward and I’m pleased that I’ve retained these skills since we last flew, which has now been three weeks.

I take my second turn.  As I launch, I get a bit of a cross-wind and I need to turn to get back towards my target.  However, I move my shoulders instead of my hips, which pushes my feet the wrong direction and prevents the glider from turning.  I actually have the wherewithal to realize I’m cross-controlling and to swing my hips over and turn the glider properly just before landing.  I am ecstatic that I managed to have sufficient brain function to accomplish this.  It’s the first time I’ve realized I was cross-controlling while still in flight.

My confidence increasing, I line up for my third flight.  The wind is blowing more from the right now.  I point the nose of the glider as much to the right as possible, aiming for trees that will take me to the right of the biggest puddle.  I get set, I launch successfully, all is well, and then, I have the realization that I am now headed straight for the giant, still melting puddle below.  I panic.  My eyes lock on the damn puddle below me.  I try to tell myself to look back at my target, but now I am trying to remember how to turn at the same time.  My brain does a complete scramble and by the time I attempt to turn the glider, I am completely cross-controlling.  Then, it’s too late.

Instead of turning, I land squarely on the near-side of the puddle and roll all the way through what must be a 20 foot wide puddle with at least 4 inches of water–perhaps a small pond would be a more accurate description.

My chest is about a foot and a half above the ground and my belly and legs are dragging on the ground when I land.  As a result, all the water plowed up by the wheels forms a wave that dumps directly up my nose, into my ears, and down the top of my waterproof jacket.  My lower body drags through the water directly, shooting up a rooster tail that would rival a professional slalom water skier.  I burst out laughing about half way through the roll, which results in muddy water dumping into my mouth as well.

When my glider comes to a stop in the mud on the far side of the pond, I am laughing so hard I’m actually cackling.  I see the entire landing in my mind as if I were one of the spectators up on the hill and I can’t stop laughing.  This is a good thing because otherwise I might have noticed how cold I was.  Cheryl, our friendly Kabota driver, pulls the trailer around and I set the glider on it, climbing on the trailer and grabbing the strap.  Cheryl looks at me and asks, “Back in?”  I give her a confused look.  She tries again, “You calling it a day?”  Surprised, I tell her I’m going back up for another run.  If there’s one thing I know about trying to learn something new, unless you’ve really broken something, don’t stop on a low note.  Stop when you’re starting to get tired, but you just had a really good run.

She looks surprised and says, “Bless your heart!” as she turns to face front and starts back up the hill.  The rest of the group at the top of the hill is serious.  They all want to make sure I’m OK and not too cold.  However, once they’ve established that I’m not hurt, not horribly cold, and still laughing, the jokes start.  My husband describes watching the water and how unbelievably much water there was shooting up as my body drug through the pond.  One of my fellow students who flies with a helmet cam apparently stood there watching and then quietly said, “Oh, damn.  My camera’s not on.”  I would love to have had a video or even a photo of that landing!  I, of course, decided not to bring my camera today (the photo above is from earlier this year).

Fortunately for me, I am wearing all hiking clothes.  Everything I have on retains most of its insulating properties when wet and dries fast.  The only exception is my waterproof boots.  Funny thing about waterproof boots–they’re not so waterproof if you turn them upside down and drag them through water like you’re trying to scoop all the water out of a pond.  And, because they’re waterproof, once you fill them with water, your feet are pretty much like goldfish in a too-small bowl.  Fortunately, the temperature is going up, so I start warming up again almost immediately.

However, I start having troubles launching on my next run.  The pond is now occupying so much of my mind that I can’t keep track of what I’m doing.  It’s like I went backwards 3 months again.  The more I try not to think about that damn pond, the more I find it in my head.

On my next turn, I’m determined to do better.  I manage to launch, but then find myself flying towards the damn pond again.  This time, I push my hips over hard, determined I will turn before I hit that water another time.  However, turns out you’re not supposed to push your hips over; you’re supposed to pull.  I think I knew this at one time, but I forgot.  In any case, pushing lifts the nose and lifting the nose while turning puts the glider into a flat spin.

Fortunately for me, I’m not far enough off the ground for it to be much of a problem.  I make a hard right turn more or less straight for the ground.  It’s not the kind of flight that makes me proud, but it sure beats another dunking.

I struggle the next flight and the next as I try to pull my attention back from the pond.  Each good flight is followed by a bad one.  Finally, I decide I need to get one last good flight in and then call it a day.  I manage to get my head back to this flight and this flight only.  I launch, I fly, I turn without putting myself into a spin, and I land.  It’s a good flight and it’s just in time–I am spent and my toes feel like reconstituted prunes inside my wet boots.  All I can think about is how I need to find some shoes made for flying as I ride back towards the parking lot.

One Small Chirp for Man; One Giant Mistake for Womankind

It starts with a small beep. A high-pitched chirp that demands my attention even though it’s coming from somewhere outside the apartment. It sounds like a smoke detector with a low battery, but our smoke detectors are wired. Every 15 seconds, “Chirp!” It’s like an alarm clock with a leak.

During the day, I manage to distract myself most of the time. I cannot hear it over my headset when I’m on the phone. For the first time, I find myself looking forward to conference calls.

But at night, I lay in bed waiting for the next chirp to come. Finally, I pull out the iPad, put in some ear buds and watch a show from my cable company’s app until I nod off. Still, the next morning I wake up feeling like I’ve been fighting with that chirp all night long. My jaw has practically seized into a clench, my TMJ flares when I bite into an apple, and I am cranky. Cranky, cranky, cranky.

I wander around trying to hear where the stupid chirp is coming from. It could be on the roof. It could be next door. It could be below us. After I’m dressed, I walk out into the hall and listen. Eventually, I determine the beep is coming from next door. It go back inside and check the time. It’s only 6:30AM. I decide that a) it’s improbable our neighbor is there, listening to the chirp and doing nothing about it, and b) it’s too early to knock on her door to find out because I will wake up many other neighbors in the process.

For the next hour and a half, all I hear is “chirp!” I try taking my coffee outside. For once, there is very little traffic. I can hear the chirp even from the balcony when there are no cars driving by. I go back inside. Pat gets up. I ask him, “Do you hear that?” He looks at me like I’m insane. I am beginning to have memories of “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

At 8:00AM, I go next door and knock. No one comes to the door. I knock again, standing there, listening to the chirp echoing inside. One of the disadvantages of a loft-style apartment, by the way, particularly one with finished concrete floors, is that sound bounces all over the place. I wait for the next “chirp!” and then knock one last time. Another neighbor comes in with his dog. I smile, but don’t ask if he hears the chirping or not.

I go inside and tell Pat I’m going to send an email to the manager to see if maintenance can come without the tenant calling them. He is upset by this notion and tells me not to. When I ask him why not, his justification is because we watch TV loudly (to hear over traffic noise) and no one complains. I give him a look. I cannot understand his logic on this–it’s like he thinks I’m telling on the girl next door for having a chirp. After much debate, I finally decide to give it a day.

I make it through the day, but the chirping doesn’t abate. I tell Pat I’m sending an email and, once again, this leads to a debate. Now, I am irritated with him. I cannot understand how he can think it’s a bad thing to tell maintenance that there is something wrong in the apartment that needs to be addressed when the resident is clearly not home to take care of it herself. Finally, the core of the argument seems to hinge around Pat’s assumption that our neighbor must have something in the apartment that belongs to her that’s beeping whereas I tend to assume it’s something that goes with the apartment. I allow Pat’s anxiety about upsetting our neighbor infect my thinking and forego the email again.

But now, my ire has turned from the chirp to Pat. The chirp is now his fault. Every time he is in he room, I wait for a chirp and then say, “Did you hear that?” What I discover is that he can’t hear it most of the time. Only if there is absolutely no background noise and he’s listening for it is he able to hear it at all, and even then, it’s so quiet to him that he’s not annoyed. Now I am doubly angry. He doesn’t want me to solve the problem because it’s not bothering him!

For reasons I do not understand, instead of just ignoring Pat and sending the email to the manager, I’m now pissy about absolutely everything. The apartment is a mess; there’s too much clutter that we still need to find places for. That is Pat’s fault. I stand up without realizing my foot is asleep and sprain my left foot. That is Pat’s fault too. I am tired and sore and it’s raining and I need to get away from that incessant chirp! All of it is Pat’s fault.

His tenacity is remarkable. Four days later, the chirp is still going and so am I. I’m amazed that he hasn’t begged me to write a letter to the manager by now. Instead, he just seems puzzled as to why I’m so irritable. Even when I explain that I’m not sleeping well because of that damn chirp, he doesn’t believe that the chirp (which by now he seems to think is just a figment of my imagination) could possibly disturb my sleep.

Finally, on Saturday, Pat walks out to get something out of the car and runs into movers coming out of the apartment. He asks them if they heard a chirp and they say no. Now I’m really pissed. Pat feels like he’s taken action to resolve the problem, but all he’s done is prove that I have better hearing that a total of 3 men. However, at least it eliminates Pat’s argument that I will upset the neighbor if I report the chirp. I sit down and send a note to the manager.

Of course, the manager won’t get the note until Monday. This is Pat’s fault, too.

A funny thing happens to me when I’m overly tired. I start dropping things a lot. Usually little things. This time, it starts with the hair clip I use when I wash my face. I drop it, pick it up, and drop it again. I pick it up a second time and it falls from my grasp before I can even stand up again. Next, it’s my glasses. Same thing. Three drops in a row. Then, it’s a bottle of beer, which I drop only once because it shatters on the concrete floor. Each time I drop something, my temper ignites. By the third drop, I can literally feel the anger shooting through my body in a trail that runs from my toes to the top of my head. If I were a rocket ship, I would be airborne. Thankfully, the weekend distractions keep me from completely losing it. When we are out of the apartment, I feel much, much better.

We both live through the weekend. Monday, I get a note from the manager that maintenance will be over the next day and they will fix it then. I decide to concentrate on ignoring the chirp. It’s like the old trick where someone tells you not to think about elephants and that’s all you can think about. Fortunately, it’s a work day and I spend most of the day with my headphones on. The weather has also warmed up again and I discover that sleeping with the ceiling fan on helps drown out the chirp.

The next day, I hear men in the apartment next door, but the chirp is still going strong. I walk over and knock on the door. When the door opens, the chirp echoes even more loudly with the apartment empty and the door open. I look at the men inside and ask if the can hear it. They look at me like I’m playing a joke and they are waiting for the punchline. After a moment, one responds that they have to get batteries for whatever it is (maybe it is a smoke detector after all). I explain that I just wanted to make sure they could hear it because my husband can’t and he thinks I’m insane. The men laugh at this and assure me it’s loud and clear to them. I am relieved to know I am not crazy (well, at least not in this particular way).

I return to work and am on the phone for several hours straight. When at last I take off my headset, I am still thinking about work as I get up to grab a bite to eat. Suddenly, I realize I feel a little happier and less annoyed than I’ve felt in days. I freeze and listen. The chirping has stopped! I sigh with relief. But when Pat comes home that evening, I am annoyed again. I don’t know why I’m annoyed with him because I let him talk me out of solving my problem a week ago, but I am.

I suffered through that incessant chirp for a week because I listened to him. I suppose I must first stop being annoyed with myself for listening. Then, I must stop being annoyed with Pat for thinking it’s more important to avoid irritating the neighbor than to stop the neighbor from irritating his wife. I wonder how long that will take?