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The Time Traveler's Wife

Ship's Blog:Stardate:2010.3.27 The black cloud that had been hovering over our holiday happiness, was eradicated yesterday by an unexpected event. In an unprecedented fit of spontaneity my husband purchased a Skagan watch in the duty free shop on board this very ship. The shock of this monumental task being accomplished so easily led to several celebratory drinks in the bar long before the sun had even approached the yard arm. The watch buying is a vacation tradition that I dread in the same way as I would dread having a tooth removed without anesthesia. For the record I dislike shopping intensely; I have no patience and even less interest in helping others choose the perfect item from a collection of almost identical options. Mufasa is not at all fazed by my apathy. His usual MO is to subject me to hours of perusals in every port and a mind numbingly boring in depth analysis of the various attributes versus cost of each watch on the short list. Eventually we return (of course) to the first store, since time has now run out (pun intended) to bargain for his latest acquisition.

Unfortunately at this point we still do not have closure because in order to reassure himself that he got the BEST deal my husband must still check shops at other locations to see if anyone is selling the watch he just bought, at a cheaper price. WHY WHY WHY? You HAVE the watch you LOVE the watch, does it really matter if you could have got it for $5 less somewhere else? Apparently it does and I am convinced that for Mufasa this has nothing to do with the dollar amount and everything to do with confirming his skills as an expert negotiator. It all seems like a huge emotional gamble to me; after all if you discover the same watch at another location for double the price you feel like a hero but if it's half the price you feel like a complete moron. Not really worth the risk is it? In these situations I believe ignorance is bliss but yesterday just as I was making a rock solid argument for not looking at ANY MORE watches on this trip the nice sales lady in the ship's duty free shop told Mufasa that his purchase is price protected which means if he can find the same watch for less money in any of the five ports we have yet to visit she will refund the difference! GOOD GRIEF WOMAN ARE YOU COMPLETELY MAD? Clearly you  failed to read my body language or the glazed expression on my face. I just helped you make a sale and THIS is how you repay me?

Thankfully My husband decided that it would not be necessary to do any further watch price comparisons because obviously the ship's price must be the lowest or they wouldn't extend the offer. I am saying NOTHING. I HAVE BEEN SPARED. Now joy of joys, we can spend the rest of the vacation sipping pina coladas on the beach and shopping for me. (Did I mention I quite like shopping for ME?)


The Weight of Water

I'm not sure why I love cruising so much. If you analyze the content it doesn't seem logical as there are so many characteristics of this type of vacation that I would normally deplore. For instance I hate crowds and enforced merriment yet right now I am in the midst of 2,000 people determined to have a JOLLY GOOD time. I also have a voracious appetite coupled with a morbid fear of obesity (my own) so you'd think that unleashing me in a venue that positively encourages overeating 24/7 would be a recipe for disaster.
Even more distressing, I must be super nice to my husband for the entire holiday because according to ancient law if he decides to throw me overboard he will not be prosecuted.

However despite all of the above I am heading for the Southern Caribbean relaxed and completely content. Sleeping to the sound, smell and lull of the ocean is adequate compensation for the fact that the cabin is so small you couldn't swing an anchor. Fortunately Mufasa and I are both neat freaks so we can co-exist in the shoebox without tempers fraying because someone tripped over someone else's clothes or because one of us left the bathroom door open an inch and the other is now at the Medical Center as a result. If you and you and your traveling companion are total slobs don't consider cruising unless you can afford a suite.

Meal times are more fun for me at sea because it's the one time of year that my (reed thin) husband throws caution to the wind, stops worrying about his cholesterol and eats like a horse (well maybe just a little shetland pony, but still....) Last night he had tiramisu AND cheesecake for dessert so I felt positively virtuous with my one serving of key lime pie. He will also drag me to the gym today and I won't hate the treadmill quite as much as usual because gazing at the horizon is a lot more inspiring than watching CNN.

Ironically, the comedian at last night's show waxed lyrical for thirty minutes on the subject of consummate cruisers trawling the buffet tables, apparently fat is the new funny. He got away with it because he himself is VAST, had he been a skinny I think the rather 'large' audience would have stoned him. As it was we almost had a riot when the MC handed over the champagne and diamonds prize to the longest married couple (58 years) and seconds later it was revealed that another couple from Ohio (62 years of wedded bliss) had been overlooked. The  real winners had been quietly waving their arms to attract attention but could not compete with the more boisterous whippersnappers who made off with the bounty. Eventually after the Ohio's were promised an equal prize if they came back to the 9.30 show "and be LOUD next time" the MC asked them the secret to their 62 year marriage; "He keeps his hearing aid on low, and I never make a fuss" the wife stated.
I'm sure that is excellent advice for a successful marriage but for winning prizes on the Norwegian Dawn? not so much.


Pets Control

Historically I have not had a lot of luck with pets. The worst mistake I ever made was getting TWO puppies. I got myself into this horrendous mess by making a promise to my kids when we left Malaysia as they wept goodbye to our darling Beagle, Lucky (who was too old and fat to survive the journey and six months quarantine.) My exact words were " I promise when we get back to England you can each have a puppy."

Fast forward several months of constant nagging about the new puppies and I found myself paying the breeders for two Smooth Fox Terriers. Genius had chosen the runt and called her Zoe and Rockstar chose the one that most resembled our previous dog and called it Lucky.

Most of my friends had told me I was stark raving bonkers to even consider getting a dog but since they all had dogs themselves I completely ignored their advice. What they had omitted to warn me about was the sheer lunacy of trying to train two puppies when a) you have no experience whatsoever and b) the puppies are far too busy playing with each other to acknowledge your commands. Not that I wanted them to do circus tricks, just simply to do their business outside and not on my kitchen floor. After ten weeks of trying everything that every dog trainer has ever suggested and failing dismally I was a complete basket case. Then the dogs started fighting. Lucky decided that he wasn't actually that fond of his sister and making her life (and mine) a total misery was a lot of fun. At this point my husband realized that a quick solution was required or he would be minus one wife and plus two big problems.

We decided to keep one dog and find a good home for the other. Genius said " It's alright Mommy you can give my dog away I just want you to be happy." Rockstar said " Mommy if you give MY dog away I will be sad for the rest of my life." This was not the time to start analyzing the varying effects of my child raising techniques so Zoe went, Lucky stayed and my sanity was re-instated. A happy ending and I had well and truly learned my lesson where pets were concerned.

So how was it that less than a year later I found myself at Petsmart with two children who had been promised a rabbit and a guinea pig respectively? Of course all my friends had told me I was stark raving bonkers to even consider caged animals but since THEY all had them I completely ignored the advice. The nice lady at the pet shop told us it was perfectly OK to put them both in the same cage so home we went with our new pets and essential accessories. Second biggest mistake of my life.

The rabbit killed the guinea pig and then killed his replacement. Lucky the Wonderdog dug up the bodies and had a delicious lunch followed by chronic diarrhea on my persian rug. The rabbit persistently escaped from the garden and had to spend most of her time in the hutch. She became totally wild and bit or scratched anyone who went near her, so I was lumbered with the cage cleaning because the kids were too scared. It wasn't long before I kindly donated the rabbit to pets corner at the school.

I REALLY had learned my lesson regarding pets and vowed it would take more than a few crocodile tears to persuade me to adopt anything even vaguely furry. So how was it that only a few nights ago I found myself in the middle of a family discussion about whether our next dog should be a Boston Terrier, a Weimaraner or a Tea Cup Pig?

The boys and Lucky # 1 in Malaysia 1995


Future Karma

One of our favorite discussion topics these days is retirement which is laughable because it is a total fantasy. The 'D' word comes up a lot (Dog not Divorce) but we can't even agree on which breed. I want small docile and hairless, my husband wants large, vicious and shaggy " A real Man's dog" (his words not mine - draw your own conclusions.) Since it is so far into the future we have managed not to fall out about the details although Mufasa periodically likes to wind me up by talking about how we will have a fabulous house in the middle of nowhere, on five acres (for the VERY large dog.) HA HA he lost all credibility after I nagged him for six months to replace the lightbulb in our porch lantern and was told I would have to wait until the following weekend because "It's a big job." I don't think this is a man who needs to be in charge of maintaining five acres and in any case I have absolutely no desire to spend HIS retirement in the ass end of nowhere since obviously I will still be working. I need to be near civilization so I can enroll him on a serious Cordon Bleu cookery course and then exact my revenge for all the years I've had to tolerate his thinly veiled displeasure as I consistently failed to please everyone (ref. Chicken Thigh Sunday and Gorgonzola Quiche Fiasco.) 

The real retirement issue however is the where and how will we live? Like many modern day parents we have spent the majority of our disposable income on our kids education and extra-curricular activities. Music lessons and horse riding seemed more important than saving for Zimmer frames and Depends. Then suddenly college fees came into play and the 'Saving Money' fantasy was permanently shelved in favor of the 'When The Boys Get Rich They Will Help Us' fantasy.

The whole problem was compounded by our foolhardy decision to rectify our lack of a pension plan by pulling all the equity out of our (insanely over valued) house during the property boom and invest it in other property which instantly became worthless. We had been so encouraged by seeing multitudes of other people do this successfully that we temporarily forgot that we have a hideous track record with investments and most of what we touch turns to dust. I have not ruled out the possibility that we are single handedly responsible for bringing the entire US property market to it's knees. Although the outlook is a little bleak right now I refuse to worry -who needs to retire anyway? Working keeps you young and mentally agile and I fear that if I am home all day I will spend far too much time snacking my boredom into 300 pound couch potato oblivion. 

I must admit I am a little confused about the whole working ideology though. It seems to me that the harder you work and the more you earn the more your lifestyle costs. Let's face it if we just stayed home we wouldn't need a car, car insurance or gas money. We wouldn't need two vacations a year to recover from the stress of our jobs. We wouldn't need working wardrobes or to pay people to fix stuff around the house that we never have the time or energy to tackle. Of course we would still have to pay the mortgage and the bills which leads me to my next and favorite fantasy where we get rid of the stupid house and live on a commune growing our own vegetables and trading our skills. I could cook and Mufasa could........... mmmmmmm what could Mufasa do? Ah yes change light bulbs and walk the large vicious dogs. When I suggested this to him recently he looked at me in absolute horror and declared "Live on a commune? I would rather pour white hot mercury in my eyes." He was a little withdrawn and preoccupied for a few days as he had no counter solution to our retirement predicament. Eventually, like a phoenix from the ashes of our investment disasters, he triumphantly ("Darling we will NEVER be homeless!") produced a photo of the bijoux residence he had just purchased for cash. 



Walking With Dinosaurs

I seem to have lost my sense of humor along with my willpower. Last week when my husband uttered the immortal words “are you aware you’re putting on weight?” I admit I couldn’t see the funny side and  exploded:

“AWARE? AWARE? Of course I’m ***%*@* AWARE! Do you actually think I enjoy resembling an extra from Walking With Dinosaurs? Do you seriously believe I haven’t noticed that half my clothes don’t fit? RIGHT THAT’S DONE IT I’m going to starve myself to death, I’m going to be anorexic you'll have to visit me in hospital and you'll feel so guilty.” “No no Darling” he replied “ you look absolutely fine, beautiful, it’s just that I want you to feel good about yourself because then you'll feel good about me.” HA! So that’s what this is about. Well tough toenails mate I do feel good about myself and I'm absolutely NOT the sort of woman who diets to keep her man.

So here I am at my first Weight Watchers meeting, what fun I am so inspired! Peggy, our slim, dynamic leader says we've collectively lost 58 pounds this week (much applause.) Amazing! If they can all do it then surely I can too? Anyway the sheer humiliation of publicly hopping on the scales  (minus shoes, sweater, watch, earrings and anything else removable without surgery) will be the ultimate deterrent against popping that extra chocolate in my mouth.

Sadly although I am not (yet) obese my wardrobe is currently size coded:

1. Clothes that fit  (smallest category.)

2. Clothes that fit  if I can tolerate the waistband lacerating my stomach.

3. Clothes that will fit next week when I’ve lost fifteen pounds.

4. Clothes that never did fit and were purchased a year ago when I was hoping to lose ten pounds.

According to the experts owning three or more sizes of clothing is one sign of an eating disorder. 

I AM NOT telling Mufasa that I’ve joined Weight Watchers, I'm going to surprise him, so for a few weeks I’ll have to undress in the dark so he doesn't spot my reducing form and guess what I'm up to. Besides I couldn't tolerate his smug “aren’t you on diet?” comments tonight as I devour a box of Godiva while watching 'Walking With Dinosaurs.'  


Food For Thought

According to this morning's local radio show, in every marriage there is at least one thing that each party does that will drive the other to near insanity and murderous thoughts. Having just celebrated our 20th Anniversary I was  still awash in the glow of having made it so far and immersed in a catatonic haze of comfort; So for all of ten seconds I couldn't think of anything at all that my husband does that annoys me!

Then I remembered Chicken Thigh Sunday. On the day that his life nearly ended Mufasa was in pole position on the sofa plugged into some dreadful sports program and oblivious to the fact that fifteen people were arriving for a BBQ at 3pm. He managed to ignore my careful planning of the perfect menu, a lot of huffing and puffing and my two frenzied trips to the supermarket to obtain essential ingredients. He slept through all the cleaning and preparations and awoke at 2.30 (just enough time to shower and make himself presentable) demanding to know what we were having to eat. Imagine my shock when on hearing the run down (marinated beef, chicken satay sticks, baby roast potatoes and green salad) he threw a toddler style tantrum and said he wanted chicken thighs! This is the man who has absolutely NO interest in food until it's going to screw up My life. Of course if I was normal I would have just told him to take a hike, but since I am a Jewish Mother any insinuation that I am not feeding my family adequately is like a stake through the heart.  

Needless to say after an ugly exchange all was resolved. We didn't have chicken thighs and after a bottle of good Malbec and several weeks of therapy I was able to live with the guilt.


The Boys Are Back In Town

It's Spring Break and my birds have returned to the nest. This event has serious implications to my wallet, my sleep pattern and my neighbors ear drums. For the last couple of months our house has been a sanctuary of calm, tranquil zen style living. Mufasa and I expunged meat from our lives and made a weekly pilgrimage to Wholefoods followed by my kitchen creations of vegetarian delights. The house stayed clean, laundry basket empty and our neighbors greeted us enthusiastically every time we crossed paths at the mailbox. This week all is chaos. The revolving door is once again operating, and cars (some with wheels bigger than any wheel has a right to be) fill the driveway and line our side of the street. The fridge is permanently empty despite my three bulk buys at Costco. The boys (for boys read carnivores) are permanently hungry despite my frenzied servings of giant burgers and monstrous steaks. The house is resonating to the 1000 decibel output of Easton's latest hit because I am the Drumma Mama and as every band mom knows rehearsals always take place at the drummer's house. 

As if that wasn't enough to make me consider Prozac I return from a stressful day at work to discover that my Pier 1 rug is now doubling as a Jiu-Jitsu mat for the twice daily wrestling matches. I am exhausted; I have to leave for the office an hour earlier than usual (in a false beard and glasses) because I cannot face encountering the neighbors and being berated for allowing my kids to lower the tone of 'The Cove'. To be fair this is probably just my paranoia because our neighbors have been incredibly tolerant for nine years and have never expressed anything but praise for the band's musical outpourings, however I live in fear of the day someone will snap and call the police. All the weight I lost while the boys were away has redeposited itself on my stomach, thighs and chin because I am constantly scoffing all the muffins, donuts and bagels that I am supposedly buying for THEM. I can't sleep properly because they are either IN (making too much noise) or worse OUT (making me restless till I know they are home safely - which is ridiculous because when they are away I don't worry about them at all.)

So why I am I so unbearably sad to see them leave? Probably because they are kind and loving and funny and when they are here the house is full of fun and laughter and interesting, creative young people who compel me to look at life in a less jaded fashion. Probably because they remind me that I am still a Mom and although it's the toughest job in the world it's also the most rewarding. My greying hair, expanding girth and saggy eye bags are a small price to pay for the realization that I am beyond proud of the young men they are becoming. As they head back to college (Genius) and fly out to perform (Rockstar) I will not dwell on how empty the house feels without them, I will throw out the Cheetos and head to Wholefoods to buy ingredients for my scallop risotto. When my husband gets home tonight he will walk into a peaceful paradise and greet a wife who has time to sit down and share a nice glass of Shiraz with him; Perhaps he will not feel quite as bereft as he did when he hugged his sons goodbye this morning.

Up In Despair

Traveling is such a joy these days. Every time I think I've cracked the system I am thwarted by some unexpected new security feature designed to make all our lives safer but somehow more miserable. I have honed my hand baggage down to the barest minimum. I've tried every possible combination and wasted ridiculous amounts of cash in sheer desperation at airport luggage shops, but now, finally I am the proud owner of a super dooper Samsonite 1910 Rollalong. You know the type - Where your laptop slides into a special compartment through a zipper at the top. There is ample room for my wallet, mobile phone, book and other essentials so I am now one of the only people in the security line who actually has just ONE piece of hand luggage. Of course that only makes me more irritated with the people in front of me who have not bothered to streamline their traveling paraphernalia. I mean HOW SELFISH!!! It's incredible how many people still can't count to three. One piece of hand baggage and one personal item = two items. Not three not five, TWO. Yes Madam your backpack does count and so does that huge plastic bag of duty free chocolates. 

Two weeks ago I was traveling to Europe and I had the misfortune to be in line behind a woman wearing those combat style pants with at least thirteen different pockets. She had objects that needed to be removed from EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. I am not a patient person at the best of times but luckily for her I avoid confrontation at all costs (the good old British stiff upper lip) but the anger levels of the passengers behind me were alarming to say the least. I began to wonder if the woman was an airport security plant designed to flush out people prone to air rage and carrying weapons. 

Next I had to suffer the humiliation of 'The Pat Down'  and the realization that as the TSA woman's hands froze at my midriff she was trying to work out if that bulge was ten pounds of explosives or ten pounds of fat. Then as we made eye contact her sympathetic nod as she acknowledged it was the latter. Fortunately she was a bit porky herself so I did not feel judged.

As my trip was for work I was traveling business class which (once you have cleared security) makes the whole thing somewhat bearable until a higher power decides to screw things up with the weather conditions. FYI Atlanta is not a good hub when its snowing. First sign of a flurry and the whole place disintegrates into chaos. Canceled flights, full hotels, lines of disgruntled people (struggling with far too much hand baggage) and crabby airline personnel trying to deal with it all. I couldn't face 24 hours of this and I had a mother waiting to spend a reunion weekend with me in Madrid (that's what happens when you try to mix business with pleasure) so I fought my way onto the first flight out - KLM to Amsterdam. 

An hour later, reclined in my lovely spacious seat smugly sipping KLM's excellent champagne I was forced to reconsider the wisdom of my choice when the Captain announced we were in a four hour holding pattern for wing de-icing. 

WING DE-ICING!!! OMG should we even be taking off in these adverse conditions? Are the Dutch the only ones brave (stupid) enough to try? Despite my abject terror I must have drifted off because I awoke some hours later from terrible nightmares about crashing planes (a regular feature of my air travel experiences) to discover us airborne and safe. 

Fast forward another sixteen hours of cubicle toilets, missed connections, airport food and overpriced internet and I arrived at destination Freezing Cold Madrid to discover my luggage was still in Atlanta. It was at this point I realized that the Samsonite 1910 Rollalong did not contain a change of clothing. 

And that my friends is why, in a sea of depressing black, brown and grey with my mental faculties somewhat impaired, I became the proud owner of this stunning yellow coat!