The Permission Pixie

(It is that time of year again.  Ho-ho-holidays!  So I’m running one of my most popular posts again as a reminder for all y’all.  Remember to take a well-deserved holiday nap or two.)

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‘Tis the season. Fa la freaking la.   I got your jingle bells right here, mister. This is the time of year when multitudes of people run around like chicken missing heads, worked into a frothy frenzy over what absolutely has to be done, oh my God, like now. NOW!

Stop it. The timeline from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day is full of food and the people you love. That’s all that’s necessary. So I’m going to give you a huge pass this year. I am secretly the Permission Pixie. Shhh, don’t tell. It’s my super power.

I, the Permission Pixie, grant you permission to ignore the urge to put up eight trillion blinking lights on your house. I don’t even put up a wreath anymore. In fact, I decorate so little these days my neighborhood thinks I’m Jewish.  Shalom, y’all.

I, the Permission Pixie, hereby give you permission to ignore all invitations that require you to make something. No cookie exchanges ever again. The pressure to show up with something other than a package of Oreos is too stressful. Cookie exchanges bring out latent Martha Stewart perfectionist tendencies and all of a sudden, it’s a world championship beat-down for who made the most elaborate cookies. Knock it off. You don’t need to graze through eighty kinds of cookies in a month. You’ve got to leave room for the really good stuff, like pie.

I, the Permission Pixie, give you permission to stop wrapping gifts like you are set decorating The Nutcracker Suite.   I have two words for you: gift bags. Easy-peasy, life is breezy gift bags. I have taken this to the extreme and use brown paper lunch bags with a bright ribbon. I am a sucker for anything industrial-chic that is also industrial-cheap, and brown kraft paper is a favorite of mine.

While we’re on the subject of gifts, I give you permission to stop giving non-consumable, (fruitcake will still damn you to Hell’s sticky spots) store-bought gifts to any person who is over the age of twelve. I say twelve because there are just different rules for little ones during the holidays, but you do get permission to cut back on gifts for them, too. There is only so much plastic crap one child needs, so don’t lose your mind, okay?

Black Friday is a day dedicated to showing the world everything that is embarrassing about America. It is commerce without care, it is greed without good, it is frenzy without friendship. Black Friday makes us all look like excitable, dim-witted sheep, bleating and trampling our way to a 20% discount on stuff made elsewhere. Stop it.

Special note to men. Do not buy your woman any gift with a plug. The exception is the Hitachi Magic Wand neck massager (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) in which case go right ahead, you scamp you. If not the Hitachi, things with plugs are appliances. Appliances mean housework. Housework sucks a big bag of sourballs. Enough said.

I don’t know anyone who wants another “dustable” around the house, no matter how adorable or commemorative it may be. I know lots of people who crave time. Time with friends, time with children, time away from children, time to sit down and drink a whole cup of coffee in peace. Time to talk and to listen. Give time. Give people what they need and want.

If a friend would stab a hobo to get five hours without her kids, give her a coupon for babysitting. If a friend complains about her lack of organization, gift her with a certificate to help sort out her closet or her office. If a loved one arrives home from work exhausted every day, give them a homemade dinner all frozen and ready-to-go, complete with reheating instructions. If your friend loves to garden but is unable to keep up with it then give an offer to pull weeds for a morning or make potted gardens together in the spring. A gift of your time is more splendid than anything you could buy. This extends to teenagers, too. Give them a gift of an afternoon at the movies, or the water park, or something they just don’t get to do. They’d much rather get that than a Christmas sweater, believe you me.

Why am I so anti-commerce during the season? Well, it’s not that I don’t like things. It’s that I despise the pressure to provide them. This season pokes an emotional blister of mine from my starter marriage. Every year, dear old Starter would wait until Christmas Eve, grab his car keys and grumble his way to the mall. He’d stop at whatever jewelry counter was closest to his parking spot and grab something. Then he’d grumble his way home, complaining that his work day had been interrupted. After dinner I’d get the gift, complete with the agonizing details of how difficult and tedious it had been to go get this thing for me, you’re welcome.

Why even bother? Every year I’d get some sparkling item that was extravagantly expensive, but so loaded down with bitterness that I hardly ever touched it. What was the point? So if anyone asked, he could tell them that he spent $5,000 on a bracelet or ring, or earrings, because he was such a magnificent provider. Inevitably, they’d ask to see it. Nope, it’s in a drawer. I need to get a HAZMAT team to scrub all the animosity off before I can safely wear it. That’s not a gift. That’s a reminder that you married the wrong person. That’s evidence that it’s not getting better. That’s your invitation to hit the road. Ho ho hot tail it outta there.

Let me be your Jacob Marley.   Listen up, dears. Whatever you give this season, give it with an open and tender heart. Do not give a gift because you “have to.” Give a gift only if you truly want to. Give of yourself, not of the mall, as much as possible. Tell people you love them. Act like you love them. Spend some time treating yourself kindly, too.   Take a nap and eat some pie.

This Old House

A brand, spanking new column is up at the Blue Ridge Country magazine web site.  It’s entitled “This Old House.”  I am tickled pink with this one, as it gives y’all a fairly accurate peek into our life here in the Valley.  It’s less Country Living and more Psychology Today than you might guess.  As always, your comments are welcomed both here and at the magazine site, where they’re constantly evaluating my popularity and/or law suit potential.  Love y’all.

Mill Creek Stories Column: This Old House

Yes, I’m Puppy Insane

I have been quiet for a month or so and I apologize for that.  I do have a legitimate excuse.  I have adopted two young dogs within the last month and they are running me ragged, but in a good way.

Mosey is a 14-month old Great Dane who was available through an ad on Craig’s List.  It was my first Craig’s List experience and to tell the truth, I half expected it to be the kind of experience that gets made into a cautionary TV movie, or even worse, an America’s Most Wanted special.  Naturally, I took my husband Gruff with me.  It all turned out beautifully and now I have an adolescent, 100-pound Great Dane pup.

If you’ve ever raised a puppy, you know how relentless they are in exploring.  Now, imagine that same mischievous pup being tall enough to rest her chin on the kitchen counter, stand up and nose the upper cabinets open, and grab the dirty dishes out of the sink and take them off to lick them, preferably while reclining on something upholstered.  How many times a day do I ask myself, “What was I thinking?”

The second pup is a seven-month old Belgian Malinois, a super intelligent and high energy breed that is favored by the military, police departments, and border patrol.  A movie is coming out this summer, entitled Max, about a Malinois.  I really hope this movie shows how much training and work is necessary to make these dogs into happy, productive dogs because you don’t want an intelligent dog bored and frustrated in your house.  That doesn’t end well for anyone.

It would break my heart if this breed suffers from the “101 Dalmatians” syndrome.  That’s an actual thing, where everyone enjoys a movie featuring a breed of dog and rushes out to get one, not understanding its exercise or training needs.  One year later, the shelters are overrun with those dogs.  If you marry the wrong person, you divorce them.  If you get the wrong dog for your lifestyle and can’t make the effort to make it work, they end up in rescue, shelters, or worse.  Don’t go through doggie divorce.  Save yourself the guilt and pain.

Hold up, you say.  Molly, you’re not exactly an athlete.  You don’t even like to sweat.  Why would you ever take on a Malinois after what you’ve just said?  Good point.  One, I have owned a Belgian breed before, a Belgian Tervuren.  It was a great experience though he was an adult when I got him out of rescue and then spent lots of money and time training him properly.  Two, I am training this dog as a service dog for myself so I needed a working breed.  Thankfully, I work from home so I can spend several hours a day putting this pup through its paces.  Between the training, and the Great Dane chasing her through the house and yard, she is exhausted.  An exhausted dog is a well-mannered dog.

So this will forever be known in my diary as the Summer of the Pup.  Wish me luck.  I will need it.  But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Mosey

Biscuit and her ears

P.S.  A great big shout out to my husband, Gruff, who suggested we get these two dogs.  This man loves me, not in a flashy dozens of roses way, but in a more meaningful, everyday, makes me happy way.  There is no one else for me than this man, who thinks of me, my comfort, and contentment constantly.  I will love you always.

Livestock in the Bedroom

Joe Normal Pose

(This is my mastiff Joe who passed away this week just shy of his 12th birthday.  I wrote this piece years ago when I first adopted Joe and am rerunning it in his honor.  I have never met a dog more devoted to my well-being than this boy and I will miss him forever.)

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Economically, times are tough. Those that have spending money are finally showing a bit of well-placed caution, and those that don’t have money, well, the decision to become fiscally conservative has been made for them. Economic distress is so close that everyone is feeling its hot, sour breath in our ears, whispering terms of anxiety and fear.

We Americans are strong. We will adapt. We will come through this and be content and prosperous again. Though right now that we’re in the middle of this financial fog and trying to cope, we’d love a gigantic cocktail of scotch and Xanax, hold the ice. Yes bartender, I would like to run a tab.

As people are being shoved into tight corners and having to make painful choices, it is often the most blameless that bear the first, confusing cut. The family dog, particularly if it is a large breed, often finds itself dumped in a shelter through no fault of its own. Large breed rescue groups and shelters are being overrun with owner-relinquished pets as people are being forced out of their homes into an apartment or worse.

If you and yours find yourself having to live in your car, there is no question that Meatball the mastiff doesn’t quite fit your current situation. It’s not Meatball’s fault. He’s grown into 200 pounds of fur-covered familial devotion, but your new reality is that you have a Ford Taurus as a home address and two children sharing the back seat. Meatball has to go. He is an innocent, bewildered casualty of the current economy and it is just not fair.

My heart aches for Meatball. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I am a total sucker for a large dog. I am absolutely potty about lumbering, heavy-jowled monsters. My husband’s favorite breed of dog is the Labrador retriever, which I consider to be just a medium-sized dog, practically petite. We decided to adopt another rescue dog this year to join our two, Oney the Great Dane; and Clara Jack, the Basset hound from Hell. In a fit of unusual practicality, I was leaning towards something smaller this time, even bedroom slipper size, like a Pug.

Then my husband Patrick proved to me once again that he truly does love me all the way down to my toes. He said no. Even though it would have been so much easier on him, he said no to a small dog, because he knows I really do love and prefer large. He reminded me of the joy I’d known with our late Bernese Mountain dog, Bubba, who was convinced I’d personally hung the moon. Patrick told me I had to get an enormous male dog who was as smitten with me as Bubba had been, insuring that domestic bliss would be achieved. He even went so far as to bolt a twin bed onto the side of our king-size bed giving room for all, so no one would be left out of the pack while we slept.

So with Patrick’s encouragement, I found my very own Meatball. An English mastiff the size of Jupiter, he was available through the Southern States Mastiff Rescue group. I met him at the foster home where he was staying. He sniffed me once and promptly jumped in the back of my car. It was a done deal as far as he was concerned. I probably would have acted a bit more coyly, but that would have only wasted time. He was mine, I was his, let’s get on with our lives.

He is now called Joe. He plays with his sisters, likes my husband well enough, and absolutely adores me. And when it comes bedtime, a thundering herd of 420 combined pounds of dogs clomping up the stairs and settling in for the night sounds like disgruntled cattle.

I have never slept better.

The Mailbox

mailbox

Those of you that have read me for any length of time must surely remember me talking about the “Motive Mailbox.”  If I ever kill my husband, this damn mailbox will be the motive.  If not, here’s the short version of the story.

I bought a brand new, beautiful, sturdy mailbox in 2003 and the installation thereof went onto Gruff’s To Do list.  The mailbox has resided on the floor of the living room, next to the television, taunting me ever since.  No longer.

My mailbox has been properly installed (in March 2015) and is the most gorgeous mailbox the post office has ever approved or seen.  I am absolutely giddy about it and have already been outside to clean it with Windex and soft cloths.

So take heart, those of you waiting on Honey-Do list items to be accomplished.  It can happen. Even after a dozen years, it can happen.  Well, it happened because we had a house fire and contractors were here anyway fixing stuff and they tackled the mailbox, but let’s not quibble.  My mailbox is up and I love, love, love it.  Now I have no motive.  Life is good.

 

Birthday Cake

Patrick Bday Cake

So here’s the birthday cake I made for Gruff.  When you say the words “birthday cake” to a diabetic, we automatically start thinking of how we can oomph it all up to there’s a whole lotta bang in a single serving.  From the bottom of the slice on the left to the top on the right, you have chocolate cake, dark chocolate buttercream frosting, cheesecake (genius, huh), cherries, chocolate cake, and a thick smear of dark chocolate frosting.  There was ice cream as an option, for anyone wanting to guarantee the evening would end in a diabetic coma.  Boom.

This birthday cake has been brought to you by the makers of Lantus Solostar insulin, when you absolutely have to celebrate but your pancreas isn’t up to the challenge.  Lantus, for people with the self-control of a mosquito.

 

Steak and Fries

steakfrites

This week is my sweet Gruff’s birthday. I will take him out to dinner and I already know exactly what he’ll order for his celebration meal. He’ll get steak and fries. How do I know? He is very fond of red meat in any form so steak is a definite and I have seen him order — for his two side dishes — fries and fries. I did not have to muster psychic powers to figure this one out. I can even picture his face when he sees the plate headed his way.

I have a console table in my upstairs hall where I have a collection of framed quotations. I’m kind of a type font nut and love meaningful sayings as a decorative item. I sneak them in all over the house but most of them are upstairs on this table. One of my most favorite says, “Marry the person that makes you feel like you do when you see food coming in a restaurant.”

I only hope that after all these years, I can still match a sizzling plate of steak and fries in Gruff’s heart. Happy birthday and best wishes for many, many more to you, my love.

Serendipity

orangutan

(I feel like I need a hug this week.)

 

It’s been a rough couple of weeks around here. The house is cold because the house fire left a Mack truck sized hole in the living room wall. I mean, it’s covered now with cheap plywood and blue tarp, but it is frigid outside. I guess frigid is a relative term, so I’ll elaborate. Our night temps on Monday are projected to be 6 degrees. Single digit, six, just 6 degrees. Barely higher than that for the next few nights.  I’m not a big fan of ambient temperature less than the sum of my fingers and toes and here we are in the midst of a cold wave that doesn’t even require all my fingers. As my Yankee in-laws might say, it’s wicked cold. Six degrees. Now there’s a fine night for a fire in the wood stove. Oh yeah, I forgot. That’s the reason I have a gaping maw in my wall.

So, I’m a little brittle. Peevish. Ask my husband. He’ll say “snappish.” Short-tempered. All is not right within my world. The word “bitch” is not inaccurate this week. I am in a right fine snit.  Hissy fit a coming.  Woe be to those who seek favors, donations, or “just a minute of my time.” Go ahead.  Ask.  I dare you.

In the midst of all this internal chaos and pitiful coping skills, I took a moment to listen to Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. It’s a short daily program on NPR (National Public Radio) that explores word origins, poetry, birthdays of august writers, and whatever else strikes Mr. Keillor’s fancy. I would categorize it as mildly interesting fluff, except that I’m a word origin nut so it really pushes my buttons. Love it.

Yesterday they reran an old post on the 2004 paper by a British translation service that listed the ten English words they thought were the most difficult, if not downright impossible, to translate. I can not find the complete list of ten, but some of the words included were gobbledegook, poppycock, spam, and whimsy. Kitsch was also included but that word is originally German so I don’t think that qualifies as an English word that is impossible to translate.

Then there it was, shining brightly among the rest, my favorite word in the whole world: serendipity. I love saying the word serendipity. I love the melody of it. I love the way it feels in my mouth. More than anything, I love the whole idea of serendipity. It is defined as a fortunate happenstance, or a pleasant surprise, but it is so much more than that. It is a moment of good luck when you do not expect it and are not looking for it. It’s not life-altering, just a magical flash of delight in your day. Ta da, it’s the quarter on the sidewalk, the front row seat becoming available right as you ask for a ticket, the perfect parking spot just as you turn into the lane, arriving in a foreign city and bumping into a long lost friend in the taxi line.

It is Alexander Fleming forgetting to disinfect some of his petri dishes holding bacteria cultures before vacation and coming back to discover that the penicillium mold that had taken over in his absence killed the bacteria. Ta da, penicillin. Viagra was developed to treat angina and hypertension, and it failed. Ta da, head south of the belly button and Viagra rocked the house. Serendipity loves laboratories, as X-rays, radioactivity, inkjet printers, the Slinky, all were moments of ta-freaking-da as other things were being pursued.

Julius Comroe, Jr., a medical researcher and surgeon extraordinaire specializing in the heart and lungs, was no stranger to the concept of serendipity. His most famous quote on the subject is, “Serendipity is looking in a haystack for a needle and discovering a farmer’s daughter.” I have to think that old Julius would have been fun at parties.

There’s a trick to serendipity, though. You have to be open to it. You have to be wandering through life with open eyes and an open heart to catch the many moments of serendipity dropped in your path. If you have your head down, texting away, mind whirling with a Sisyphean To Do list, grumbling, multitasking yourself into numbness, you’ll miss it all.  I am sad to admit that I have been too shut down to recognize serendipity lately.

So to pull myself out of the living-room-as-a-refrigerator blues, I reviewed the more obvious moments of fortune I did not fully appreciate this past week. Insurance adjusters were prompt and more importantly, they were sympathetic and reasonable. State Farm got us a check in just three days. Contractor has been here and has started getting materials together for the rebuild. My dear friend Mary Ann sent me a surprise box stuffed with goodies. I found a $5 bill in the laundry. All things that I simply wasn’t appropriately grateful for at the time they happened. I hope I did not miss too many more because I wasn’t paying attention. If I walked past a winning lottery ticket, please do not tell me.

I guess six degrees will be tolerable. I own multiple sets of long underwear. I have four large, lovable dogs and a cuddly husband for extra warmth. There are blankets here. I have all the ingredients to make a big pot of chili. There’s a well-stocked liquor cabinet.  Who knows?  It might turn out to be my coziest night ever. How’s that for serendipity?

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NOTE:  If you are interested in listening to the Writer’s Almanac, the link is:  http://writersalmanac.org

Codeword: Watermelon

Watermelon

 

Note to Readers:  I don’t know what is in the air recently, but long time followers of mine have been mentioning this post from my old blog and asking me to put it up again.  If it is helpful to you, I’m happy to oblige.  Good luck.

 

I am blessed. Gruff and I hardly ever argue. We are truly compatible and it makes for an easy life. Trust me, I know what I’ve got and I appreciate it. I’ve been married before and when it is wrong, it is painful on a daily basis.

Gruff and I are both ultra-mellow types and it takes a boatload of aggravation to get us riled up. There are occasions when one of us reaches our boiling point, what we call our “that’s it” moment. These volcanoes of vitriol happen maybe once every two years, always when we’re physically exhausted and emotionally stressed and are usually over in just a few minutes.

What triggers our moments of mayhem? Some magical combination of irritants will slowly mass into a top-popping gusher of profanity. Now — and I can not stress this strongly enough — it’s really important to keep our “that’s it” moments from becoming synchronized events.

If one of us is having a frustration fit, the other can calmly guide the irritated back down to earth and express heartfelt commiseration over the unjust situation that set off the outburst.

If we synchronize our fits, no sane person is left to ground us because we’re both twirling off into the toxic ether and gaining speed. With no one left to drive the bus, we are both hell-bent on ditching it into a fiery ball of destruction. If our “that’s it” moments are reached simultaneously, we just may turn on each other. That is just not good.

You see, Gruff and I are both mud fighters. We are creative combatants and aim to annihilate. If I’m pissed at you I’m not only going after you, I want to destroy your entire genealogy. I don’t box, I fight. There are no rules and there’s no referee I recognize. In arguments, my goal is to scorch the earth. Once again, Gruff and I are extremely compatible. He fights dirty, too.

Out of love for each other, and possibly a teensy bit of fear, we have devised a system if we find ourselves locking horns in a fight to the death. We have a codeword. If one of us thinks that we are about to hurl some poison arrow that will hurt the other irreparably, or if one of us has just been wounded to the core, we stop and yell our codeword instead. Watermelon.

Once the watermelon card has been played, we can not speak of our disagreement or the event that triggered it for at least three hours. Three hours is an eternity and that’s the whole point. It is physically impossible to stay white hot angry during a waiting period of three full hours.

Sometimes I have been so blind with fury that I have set the stove timer for three hours, fully intent on whipping into Gruff as soon as it went off. Inevitably, when the buzzer rings I don’t have it in me to argue anymore and we both end up apologizing for any pain we may have inflicted. We lick each other’s wounds and speak of love instead.

It doesn’t matter what word is used, but I think the word watermelon is comical. It conjures up instant images of happy times. Who associates depression with watermelon? You can’t. You remember eating watermelon on the porch when you were a child. You remember happy summers catching lightning bugs. You remember being carefree. You remember being handed a slice of watermelon larger than your head and getting sticky with juice and seeds. Watermelon is a happy, funny word from light-hearted times.

Do what you need to do, but don’t hurt the one person who loves you the most. Love is hard enough to find in this world, treat it tenderly. If you think it would help, you have my blessing to hijack our codeword. Watermelon.

It’s On the List

“I’ll put it on the list” Gruff purred into my ear.

I melted. My heart fluttered. I thought, “Oh, it is so wonderful to finally be with a guy who can do useful things, like fix busted appliances, build stuff, and replace the old mailbox.”

I was in heaven. I was elated. I was so naive. This was way back in the year 2000, when Gruff and I were all fresh and fluffy and playing footsie in our brand new relationship. Now I have learned what the phrase “I’ll put it on the list” actually means. What Gruff is really saying is, “Your request has been heard and is duly registered on the Majestic Master of Home Repair’s Magnanimous To-Do list.   Your item is number 27,383. We are now servicing number 5.”

I have lived with three men in my life. My dad, my starter husband, and now Gruff. Neither my dad nor Starter could screw in a light bulb without supervision. Thankfully, both of them had learned not to attempt home repairs. If anything broke, or even flickered, you called The Man. There was a plumbing Man, an electrical Man, an appliance Man, and so on comprising an army of Men who could fix things, awaiting your phone call to leap into action, for just a $75 minimum charge.

Then I married The Man. Gruff’s an engineer.  He can fix anything. That means that I can not call another Man because that would be a waste of money when Gruff has the skills to do it himself. This is a dilemma for me. On the one hand, it’s nice to have someone handy that is handy. On the other hand, Gruff’s schedule is so overbooked that I end up waiting until all other home, greenhouse, or office fires have been extinguished before he turns his attention to my requests.

Case in point. I bought a beautiful, grandly large, sparkling white mailbox to replace our small, plastic, spider-infested one in 2003. I had our name put on both sides in purple lettering, making us an official family. Yeah, I know. It was a little bit out of The Jerk (The new phone books are here, the new phone books are here! . . . . I’m somebody now!). Anyway, I was very pleased with my gorgeous new mailbox and just knew that it was going to be the envy of all who drove by.

It’s 2014. That mailbox still sits in the corner of the living room beside the television, becoming encrusted with dust, looking pitiful. It mocks me. Every time I look at the thing, it says, “All your mail and packages could easily fit within my sturdy steel constructed maw, comfortably safe from harm and elements. Good luck with that broke-down Rubbermaid thing that your mailman balances Amazon boxes on top of. You have noticed that the lumber trucks rattling by send your precious goodie boxes tumbling into puddles, or worse, the middle of the road, haven’t you?”

I pushed a chair in front of the mailbox so it doesn’t glare at me while I’m watching TV. It doesn’t help. I can still hear it weeping. It’s bored and unfulfilled, prevented from doing its life’s work. Hence, I have started referring to it as the “Motive Mailbox.” If ever I snap and smother Gruff in his sleep, the homicide detectives will look at that miserable mailbox in the corner of the living room with a receipt dated July 2003 on it and declare, “Chief, I believe we’ve found a motive for the murder. Book her, Danno.”

Codeword Watermelon

 

I am blessed. Gruff and I hardly ever argue. We are truly compatible and it makes for an easy life. Trust me, I know what I’ve got and I appreciate it. I’ve been married before and when it is wrong, it is downright painful on a daily basis.

Gruff and I are both ultra-mellow types and it takes a boatload of aggravation to get us riled up. There are occasions when one of us reaches our boiling point, what we call our “that’s it” moment. These volcanoes of vitriol happen maybe once every two years, always when we’re physically exhausted and emotionally stressed and are usually over in just a few minutes.

What triggers our moments of mayhem? Some magical combination of irritants will slowly mass into a top-popping gusher of profanity. Now — and I can not stress this strongly enough — it’s really important to keep our “that’s it” moments from becoming synchronized events.

If one of us is having a frustration fit, the other can calmly guide the irritated back down to earth and express heartfelt commiseration over the unjust situation that set off the outburst.

If we synchronize our fits, no sane person is left to ground us because we’re both twirling off into the toxic ether and gaining speed. With no one left to drive the bus, we are both hell-bent on ditching it into a fiery ball of destruction. If our “that’s it” moments are reached simultaneously, we just may turn on each other. That is not good. Not good. Not good.

You see, Gruff and I are both mud fighters. We are creative combatants and aim to annihilate. If I’m pissed at you I’m not only going after you, I want to destroy your entire genealogy. I don’t box, I fight. There are no rules and there’s no referee I recognize. In arguments, my goal is to scorch the earth. Once again, Gruff and I are extremely compatible. He fights low and dirty, too.

Out of love for each other, and possibly a teensy bit of fear, we have devised a system if we find ourselves locking horns in a fight to the death. We have a codeword. If one of us thinks that we are about to hurl some poison arrow that will hurt the other irreparably, or if one of us has just been wounded to the core, we stop and yell our codeword instead. Watermelon.

Once the watermelon card has been played, we can not speak of our disagreement or the event that triggered it for at least three hours. Three hours is an eternity and that’s the whole point. It is physically impossible to stay white hot angry during a waiting period of three full hours.

Sometimes I have been so blind with fury that I have set the timer for three hours, fully intent on whipping into Gruff as soon as it buzzed. Inevitably when the timer rings, I don’t have it in me to argue anymore and we both end up apologizing for any pain we may have inflicted. We lick each other’s wounds and speak kindly instead.

It doesn’t matter what word is used, but I think the word watermelon is comical. It conjures up instant images of happy times. Who associates fury with watermelon? You just can’t. You remember eating watermelon on the porch when you were a child. You remember happy summers catching lightning bugs. You remember being carefree. You remember being handed a slice of watermelon larger than your head and getting sticky with juice and seeds. Watermelon is a happy, funny word from light-hearted times.

Do what you need to do, but don’t hurt the one person who loves you the most. Love is hard enough to find in this world, treat it tenderly. If you think it would help, you have my blessing to hijack our codeword. Watermelon.