The Sounds of Silence (Habit: Can’t Pack a Dishwasher)

From the section on House Rules

When we moved into our house in Georgia about 15 years ago, one of the first things to get on my wife’s nerves, other than me, was the dishwasher. It worked fine. The dishes were clean. The problem was the noise. It was LOUD.

“Turn the TV down!” my wife would call from upstairs. “I need to get some sleep. I have to get up early tomorrow.”

“If I turn it down, I can’t hear the dialogue over the dishwasher.”

This was such a problem that my wife re-did our remodeling budget, figuring out a way to add in a new dishwasher. She chose an energy-efficient one that could practically do more dishes than we had. Best of all, it was nearly silent.

Unfortunately, the “silence” created a new issue. The new dishwasher was barely audible, even to someone in the kitchen. If I was cleaning up after dinner, I could load it, turn it on, and my wife wouldn’t know it was running. This was a problem as she and I have different impressions of what constitutes a “full” dishwasher. Some mornings, she got up, saw dishes in the sink, and assumed the dishwasher was full. Then, she would open the dishwasher, seeing both clean dishes and excess space . . . enough room for the unwashed dishes in the sink.

“Honey, there’s plenty of space in this thing,” my wife would say. “It can handle more dishes than our old one. You need to pack it correctly.”

“Yes, honey.”

I would watch as she explained, nodding to show that I understood or at least feign that I did. She would then continue. “Make all the dishes face the same way and you can pack more in.”

“Uh huh.”

“Pack these items on top and these on the bottom.”

“Uh huh.”

“Stack the smaller utensils here and the larger utensils here.”

“Yes.”

“And always wash the pans by hand.”

“Okay.”

No matter how much I tried, the dishwasher wasn’t packed correctly by her standards.

Sometimes, I compensated by overpacking. I thought I did great job. I soon found out I was wrong.

“Honey, there’s too much stuff in here,” she would say. “Not everything’s getting clean.”

“Sorry.”

Frustrated herself, she began stopping the dishwasher if she realized I’d started it, inspecting it to assure herself it was loaded correctly. She even asked me to stop running it, saying that she wanted to check the dishes first. Still, when it got late, I loaded the dishwasher, assumed it was fine, and turned it on.

My impression has always been that most wives would be happy when their husbands clean up, but the way I did it never seemed right. I briefly tried leaving the dishes in the sink, a habit I used to have when we got married, but this didn’t go over very well.

So what happens now?

After many years of marriage, my wife has learned to live with it. I load as best as I can, and she spaces out her complaints to make them occasional. It is irritating to me that I just can’t get what she wants. It is irritating to her that I still play dumb on the issue. However, I do have a measuring stick to judge all of this by. Early in our marriage, I did all of the ironing as she claimed she didn’t know how to iron. She has kept this charade up just as long.

Let me know. Is not knowing how to pack a dishwasher a common problem?

Coping With Irritating Man-erisms: Intro

As I mentioned previously, my first attempt at publishing was not historical fiction. My first attempt at getting published was a series of vignettes poking fun at my own marriage. I called it Honey, You’re Annoying Me: Coping with Irritating Man-erisms. I thought I’d found a niche with this book. I could make it cross-cultural, since my wife is Japanese and I’m American. So I studied the market and found the following types of marriage books: professional (spiritual), professional (non-spiritual), women preaching to the choir, men getting in touch with their feminine side, and famous people. Given that my effort wasn’t getting in touch with my feminine side, I was none of the above.

Then, one morning, in the midst of my daily, hour-long commute, I came to the realization that marriage was like Michelangelo’s statue of David. Michelangelo sculpted David from a fractured block of stone that no other sculptor wanted. In my epiphany, I visualized that when couples walk the aisle, men see themselves as a finished work of art. Women see their men as a block of stone where imperfections can be chipped away. I was proud of myself, proud of my epiphany, at least until a discovered about a year later that some psychiatrist from Holland had already developed this theory and called it The Michelangelo Effect. Oh well, at least the theory states that this is indicative of a happy marriage.

Still, my vignettes remained, and over the years, I learned that people agreed with many of them. Now it’s time to release them. I will be publishing them on this site. I’ll try to get them up weekly. The habits fall into several categories:

1) First comes “I Do.” Then Comes “You Don’t.”

2) House Rules

3) That was cute before we were married

4) DNA Conspiracy Theories

5) Free Throws from the Line of Scrimmage

6) Why Can’t Daddy Be In Charge

7) Cooking is a Contact Sport

8) If a Tree Falls in the Office…

9) The Practical Species

I hope people enjoy them. As my marriage has lasted over 25 years, I’d like to think of it as a happy marriage.

One last thing. Special thanks to my good friend, NY Times bestselling author Haywood Smith, for coining the term “man-erisms.”

One More Year to Believe

Many years ago, my wife and I were facing what we thought would be the last Christmas we would have with our younger son believing in Santa Claus. (Our older son had known for about three years by that time. However, under penalty of lack of presents, he had kept his mouth shut.

We had an established pattern of activities for the big day. My younger son and I would begin Christmas Eve by following Santa on the Norad Santa website (www.noradsanta.org), tracking Santa through Asia. We played games on the site, went to early church services, went out for dinner (Chinese, since they’re open), and then I would read The Night Before Christmas to him. Then we would check the Norad Santa tracker one last time as proof of why he should go to bed. We’d give it about an hour and then my wife and I would set out the presents.

The trickiest part was that we’d always set one present next to his bed. In his excitement, my younger son was a light sleeper on Christmas Eve. Getting in and out of his room was a challenge.

Then came that fateful Christmas Eve we feared would be his last. We kept up pretenses as best, dodging questions as they arose. My wife and I got him off to bed and then waited an hour. I brought the gift upstairs.

Then he woke up and caught me.

He immediately headed back to his bedroom, tears streaming from his eyes. I followed him in and asked him what was wrong. He said he’d seen me and knew that Santa Claus didn’t exist. Like any parent, I couldn’t give up yet and tried to lie my way out of it. “I was just moving the gift,” I told him. “Santa was in a hurry and left it at the bottom of the stairs and I was helping Santa out,” I added.

He didn’t believe me. I told him I’d prove it to him. I knew my computer was still up, though I hadn’t looked at the Norad Tracker since my son had gone to bed an hour prior. I flipped to the website.

Per the Norad website, Santa was in “Atlanta, Georgia.”

I couldn’t believe it. The website updates around every five minutes or so with a new city, and I’d opened it up when it said Santa was in Atlanta. My son cheered up, convinced that Santa had just been there. He went back to bed, content as could be. After the next Christmas, his questions arose again and he eventually figured it out. But that was one more year of believing. One more year of dreaming.

One more year of childhood.

Clip art from the Norad Santa website

Coping With Irritating Man-erisms

My first attempt at publishing was not historical fiction. My first book (still unpublished) was a series of vignettes poking fun at my own marriage. I called it Honey, You’re Annoying Me: Coping with Irritating Man-erisms. I thought I’d found a niche with this book. Beginning in January, I’ll put up for review here what I never could get published.

I hope you enjoy it.

The Last High School Game

I’m writing this on April 2., 2020. I don’t know when I’ll post it, but I wanted to record what I’m feeling now.

Yesterday, on April 1, Governor Kemp announced that classes in Georgia public schools would be online for the remainder of the year. Given the day, I was hoping it was a poor April Fool’s joke when the news started spreading but turning on the TV convinced me it was real. My high school senior was losing the remainder of high school. It was over.

Technically, he had checked out already. Senioritis. The only thing he cared about, by his own admission, was baseball. As a junior, he had been cut by the varsity coach. He could have given up, but he chose to keep at it. He worked hard and made the team his senior year. He was the only junior cut to try again. He tried because he wanted to play with this team. He always did.

My son’s high school is the largest in Georgia. With nearly 1000 kids per grade, tryouts are competitive. However, there was a concentration of baseball talent in my son’s academic year, almost like a statistical anomaly. Varsity hopefuls in my son’s class transferred to five other districts. Before high school, I offered my son the same option. He said no. This was his district and his friends. He wanted to play 9th grade and JV baseball here. He wanted to finish here and take his chances.

He made the team as a pitcher. Despite being cut his junior year, he still received an offer from a D-II school in West Virginia and interest from D-II and D-III schools in NY, NJ, and PA, but the trip to West Virginia made him realize he wanted to be closer to home. He eventually decided on Auburn. An Auburn fan from birth, it was the only thing he loved as much, if not more, than baseball. With baseball, he could be happy in many places. Without baseball, the only place he could be happy is Auburn.

With Auburn, though, he knows the likelihood of baseball is slim, so he knew that his senior season might be his last. It began well. The team reached a #1 ranking in the state and a #4 ranking nationwide on MaxPreps in March. Then, the virus sidelined everything. There was hope that a shortened season might be resurrected. The governor’s announcement nullified that.

So, on the day the season was done, a chat message went out among the team. Fifteen kids showed up at the school, climbed the fence, and played one last game until it got dark.

In the movie Moneyball, the narration talks about Billy Beane always trying to win his last game. My son was hoping, if baseball ended for him this year, his last game might be a championship. But his last game may just be with fourteen of his buddies, the kids he had wanted to take a risk to play with. Together they had lost a season. But for a night in April, they could win their last game together.

My son is still working on baseball. He lifts weights 5-6 days per week at the gym and throws with me at the park around three days a week. One of his friends has been telling him that he needs to try to walk on Auburn. My son says he wants to play club ball for a year and then try. I don’t know what will happen. I’ll be proud of him for whatever he does.

And though I wasn’t there to watch, I’ll always remember his last high school game.

The Clarinet

A clarinet sits in my home office.

The room hasn’t always been my office. For many years, it was my older son’s bedroom. But my son went away to college in the fall of 2016 and I, after some trepidation about changing the place where he sleeps when he’s home, took it over. A bed remains there for when he’s visiting.

And now his clarinet is there, too.

My son began playing clarinet in sixth grade. The instrument seemed to fit him, melodic but not overly loud. Struggling with a learning disability, he spent most of his time studying, but he managed to fit the clarinet in with his other activities of Boy Scouts and rec baseball. He sometimes went to school early so he could do what his teacher called “pass-offs.” He performed in competitions in Tennessee and North Carolina, as well as a huge performance at the University of Georgia.

Then came high school. My son participated in both marching and concert band. Marching band was his favorite of the two. He gave up fall baseball to participate in the band. (He eventually gave up spring ball to make Eagle Scout.) In high school, his band participated in many competitions and won numerous honors. He marched in a post-Christmas parade in Italy, a New Year’s Day parade in London, and finished his high school with a Holiday Bowl appearance in California his senior year.

Then came college. He chose Mississippi State because they accepted him to study chemical engineering. He wanted to play in the band their as well. In spring of his senior year in high school, we drove to Starkville so he could try out. As ecstatic as he was about going to college, playing in the marching band was almost as important.

Now that my son is in the spring of is final semester at college, I see that it was.

My son gave up concert band in college, owing to the study requirements of his major, but marching band remained the outlet he loved. He performed at football games at Ole Miss, Kentucky, Arkansas, and LSU. He also did a non-conference game at the Superdome in New Orleans, three bowl games in Florida, and a final one in Nashville.

The game I’ll remember most was his last one in Starkville. It was the Egg Bowl vs. Ole Miss. He got his name announced with the seniors and his face on the jumbotron. For a brief moment, his smile lit up the stadium. He still had his trip to Nashville. When he brought his clarinet home after that weekend, it was done.

I hope he’ll pick it up again. Once he has a job and is settled in somewhere. I’m hoping he’ll join a community band and get back to playing. For now, he has wonderful memories.

As his dad, so do I.

O Sequel, Where Are Thou

My mom called me this week. She asked how everything and everyone is. Typical conversation for a mom and a grandmother.

Then, we got to the reason for her call. She wanted to know the current status of my sequel to my first book, The Samurai’s Heart.

I’ve had people ask me before about the status of my book. I’ve told them I am working on it. However, I must admit it reaches a new level of urgency for an author when the request is coming from his mom.

To my mom and to everyone else, I’m here to say that I have completed the rough draft of my sequel. The book is titled The Samurai’s Soul. I am now editing it. It is a little disjointed, but I am connecting the disparate points to make sure the story flows. From there, I will have it read, do my own edits again, and then have a professional editor review it. In the interim, I will also be getting a cover.

It should be fun. It should be soon.

For those of you waiting, thank you for your patience.

Sometimes You Have To Hit “Publish”

The daruma above represents the culmination of a long-held dream. The dream of being a published author.

One of the odd things I learned in trying to become an author is that every time I look at my novel, my short story, or whatever I’m working on, I end up wanting to make a change. I’ll phrase things in my head and then say them out loud. I’ll try what I’ve written in several different ways until I figure out what sounds best. The new result is always fine.

Until I go over it again.

At some point, I can’t go over it any more. I just have hit the “send’ button. Else, I would never get published.

I’m beginning to think having a website may be the same thing.

This website went live earlier this month. After a nerve-wracking time, I hit the button for “Publish” and put it live on the web. I then sought a few opinions, made changes, based on those opinions, and then I hit the “Publish” button again.

And then again.

And again.

And then someone pointed out that my website, which looks good on a desktop, comes out messed up on a phone. I went back and changed the font to something that’s supposed to look good on a mobile device. I then tried rearranging the presentations. I finally figured out that I could modify the mobile device without messing up the website. I thought I was done. I hit “Publish.”

I then realized I had to rewrite certain sections to make it fit both the desktop and the website. I hit “Publish.”

And then hit “Publish” again.

Hopefully, by now, I’ve gotten the initial kinks out of this site. I’ll always try to make it better.

If you see something askew, please let me know. 😊