Now, I am going to admit something to y’all, but you have to promise you won’t make fun of me about this. At least, you can’t make fun of me to my face. Okay? Promise? Good.

I have a tendency to be like my father in some ways. Those are words I never thought I’d say, but there you go. I said them. Not that being like either of my parents is a bad thing, but come on. How many of you want to admit you're like your mother or father? Well, me neither.

Of course, I get my amazing wit, my southern charm and my ability to write bad poetry from Daddy, but there’s another trait I inherited.

I do not do well when I get frustrated.

Now, for the most part, Daddy isn’t scary when he gets frustrated. In fact, he’s kind of funny. You just have to make sure he doesn’t see you laughing. He gets flustered easily, and well, patience might not be his strong suit.

Way back in the day, Mr. Everything used to work with my daddy. They worked in an office with a warehouse where they sold industrial safety supplies. It was quite fascinating, as you can well imagine. Mr. E likes to tell a story of a day when my daddy just couldn’t quite keep it together. I’m not sure if this was the first time Mr. Everything had witnessed my father in action or not, but he thought it was hilarious. He found it funny then, and he still finds it funny today.

The legend goes that Daddy was looking for a piece of paper. He had left it on his desk. In his words, “I know I left it right there!” The minutes ticked by as Daddy looked and looked for the paper he needed. He started out calm but quickly grew agitated. He went from gently searching, to roughly crumbling pages, to dumping the trash can out on the floor in a semi-violent rage. He stormed out to the warehouse and looked there. He came back in and looked again. Apparently, my daddy grew more and more hysterical as he could not find the paper he needed. He finally said a few choice words, plopped down at his desk and said, “Forget it. The <insert your own word here> thing is gone forever.”

At that precise moment, Mr. Everything walked to my father’s desk, looked in one unwrinkled spot, picked up a piece of paper and said, “Is this it?” And, of course, it was, because he was Mr. Everything. There’s a reason he has that name, remember?

Daddy did not find that very funny back then. Actually, come to think of it, I’m not sure he finds that story funny now. I guess we’re going to find out, aren’t we? Since I just put it out there for the world (or at least the 3.27 people who read my blog) to see. (Tee-hee…Sorry, Daddy! Just focus on the honor of me admitting I’m like you, okay? Okay.)

I did not just bring up this story to humiliate my father but to prove my point that I am a lot like him in the way I get frustrated. This thought came about today after a certain occurrence that I can't believe I'm about to admit in public. Oh well, humility went out the door long ago, so here goes.

I must admit, I’ve been pretty pampered when it comes to pumping gas in my own car. There were a few years there when I had to do it myself because Mr. E was always at work, but for the most part, in our 23 years of marriage, I have rarely pumped my own gas. I simply don’t do gas, because I know Mr. E will take care of it for me. And he does usually. When he doesn’t, I am not thrilled with getting to do it myself, and typically I’m grouchy about having to touch a germy gas pump. Today was no exception.

Because we could get extra points on a rewards card for filling up today, Mr. Everything asked me to fill up our truck with gas. Simple enough, right? I had to ask him how to do it, because I did not know how to use the points card. He told me I would first swipe the points card. The machine would ask me a question, and I would say, “No.” It would then ask for my payment; I would swipe the credit card. I told him I had it covered. I am woman, hear me roar.

I went to the gas station. I was already thrown off, because I got my behemoth vehicle in there crooked, and it was a big reach from the gas pump to the hole thingy in my car. I also had underestimated how far I needed to pull up, since I drive a truck, and the hole thingy is toward the back of the bed of the truck. I was already feeling a little stupid as I began the whole process since it was a stretch to get the gas nozzle to reach Big Yellow.

Take one: I swiped the card. I said, “No,” to the question. It asked for my payment, and I swiped my credit card. Then, it asked for my pin number. Uh-oh. He dinn't say nuttin’ about no pin number. I entered the most logical guess I had of a pin number. The machine thanked me for my business and spit out a receipt.

Um. Okay….

Take two: Swiped card. Check. “No” to question. Check. Payment swiped. Check. Did I want a receipt? No. Nothing. Suddenly, the machine was no longer speaking to me.

Take three: Repeat take two, except with buttons pushed with more zeal. Silence.

Take four: Takes two and three, with finger tips turning white from the force of pushing the buttons. Silence.

Then, I remembered that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and to expect different results.

Avoiding my insanity, I went inside, hoping to get assistance from the friendly clerk. First off, she wasn’t friendly. Second, she didn’t know how to help me. I showed her the receipt from the first attempt, and she said, “But you didn’t get any gas.” Um, yes. Thank you.

The clerk asked how much gas I wanted, and I said I hadn’t the foggiest idea; I haven’t filled my truck in years, so I have no clue at this point what would be a realistic amount to ask for. She rolled her eyes and said I would have to do it at the pump then. I asked if she could tell me how to make it work. She said I would first swipe the points card. It would ask me a question, and I would answer, “No.” Then, it would ask for my payment, and I would swipe my credit card.

Wow. That sounded vaguely familiar.

So, I went back out and pulled the truck forward to another pump. I figured I would straighten out my vehicle so I didn’t look like a fool, and maybe I would clear the bad mojo that lingered at that machine.

Take five: Swipe points card. Check. “No” to question. Check. Calmly swipe payment. Check. Receipt? No, thank you very much. And……..silence.

At this point, I called Mr. Everything. I did not care that he was under a mobile home replumbing the entire thing. I needed him to fix this gas emergency right this minute! Luckily, he answered. I’m not sure what I would have done if he hadn’t, but I’m pretty sure it would have ended in me apologizing to him or someone else.

The conversation went like this:

Mr. E: Hello?

Me: Hi. (Less than nice tone.)

Mr. E: What’s up? (Calmly, sensing anger in my voice….)

Me: I’m trying to pump the stupid gas in the stupid truck so you can get your stupid points. (Through gritted teeth)

Mr. E: Okay…… And?

Me: AND IT’S NOT WORKING! (Trying not to yell.)

Mr. E: You have to swipe the points card first.

Me: Yes. I know that! I’m doing it the right way! Swipe the points card, select NO, swipe the payment card….

Mr. E: But it’s not working?

Me: NO!! It keeps asking me for a stupid pin number for the stupid payment card.

Mr. E: A pin number? Do you mean a zip code? The zip code is …..

Me: NO! Not a stupid zip code! I know my own stupid zip code, but that’s not what it’s asking for anyway. PIN. P-I-N. Not zip. Z-I-P. (Big sigh.)

Mr. E: It’s never asked me for a pin number before. You’re sure you’re doing it right?

Me: Seriously? You’re asking me that right now? I’ve done it 6 times. I’ve been in to see the stupid clerk. She couldn’t help me with the stupid points. I can’t fill the stupid truck with stupid gas.

Mr. E: Okay. Tell me again what you’re doing. (Still as calm as a cucumber.)


Mr. E: What credit card are you using?

Me: WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME THAT?? You told me to use the stupid gas card! I’m using the stupid Shell card and the stupid points card. I DON’T KNOW WHY YOU ARE ASKING ME THESE STUPID QUESTIONS!

Mr. E: Um. You’re at Mobil.

Bless the man’s heart. He's been married to me for 23 years. But, in my defense, he knew it way before I was his bride.-Al

Now, I know what you’re thinking. I have barely written anything in months, and now, I’m going to make my return to blogging by talking about my husband’s dirty drawers. Odd, huh?  I know. It’s not average. I found it appropriate, though, to bust back into my blog by writing a tale for you of my husband and dirty clothes. Now, don’t worry, I’m not going to embarrass him. Much. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t actually try to embarrass my family. In fact, I filter what I write for you so they don’t get embarrassed. (Imagine what life is REALLY like at our house if this is only the filtered version!)

No, I hate to disappoint you, but I’m not going to tell you about my husband’s tidy whities or whatever kind of underwear he wears. (See how evasive I was there?) Though, I will say, after almost 21 years of marriage, the man still folds his dirty clothes to put them in a hamper. There are just some bad habits that won’t die. That really does drive me crazy. I’ve told him from the beginning that if he has time to fold something, I will be happy to provide clean clothes for his folding pleasures.

I actually want to tell you about Mr. Everything and the washer and dryer. Sorry.  Not nearly as exciting as tidy whities.

Our washer and dryer came from my in-laws. They gave the machines to Mr. E before he and I got married. My in-laws bought them used. In 1981. Um. Yeah. The machines are older than some of you probably are. I was about 7 or 8 when they were made. That’s REALLY old.

When Mr. E and I first got married, I had a new house (well, at least it was new to me) and new furniture. I had new dishes and new towels. I really, really wanted a new washer and dryer. Every time those old dinosaurs would sputter or spew, I would look at them loathingly and say, “Die, die, die,” under my breath. However, over and over and over, Mr. Everything would resuscitate them. That’s the problem with being married to the man who can do anything. He can fix everything, whether you want him to or not.

I can’t tell you how many times I got my hopes up that the dinos were dead, only to have my hopes dashed by the phrase, “I fixed it.” Then, I would have to thank him and be, sigh, happy that he could fix anything. I would tell him he was a genius while in my mind thinking, “Just my luck.” Through the years, the man has replaced every part in both machines at least twice.

Fast forward a few years, a failed business and several new layers of financial despair later, and my attitude has changed. Now, when I hear my dinosaurs struggling, I pledge my undying love to them. “Oh washer, I don’t care that you’ve eaten holes in half my clothes, I love you. Stay with me.” “Oh dryer, don’t go to the light…”  Now, I dread the day when the machinery funeral will take place. How ever will I live without the dinosaurs?

I must say, just like old cars and old people, my old laundry machines have become much more high maintenance. While they used to break down yearly, they now break down monthly. More, if we let the Goose near them.

Two weeks ago, the Goose managed to knock out both machines in one day. I’ve talked to her about not loading the washer too full. If you do, it gets hungry and eats things. There’s no telling what you’ll pull out of the machine if put too much in. However, she didn’t listen, bless her pea-pickin’ heart. She loaded that bad boy down so heavy, a shiny new model couldn’t have handled it. She had a heavy bathrobe, 4 towels, 3 pair of jeans, 7 shirts and other various and sundry items in my washer. Needless to say, the washer gave up the ghost right in the middle the spin cycle. The Goose, not realizing she had committed murder, took the sopping wet clothes from the washer and put them in the dryer. The dryer sighed its last sigh and just stopped. We ended up with a huge, heavy load of spoiled, smelly wet clothes and 2 dead dinosaurs. (Well, dead if I were married to anyone else....)

Mr. E took the dryer apart and discovered it was the something-belt. (Sorry. I should pay more attention when he’s talking so I can get my facts straight.) He ordered one from EBay for $4.76, and the dryer was back in business. The washer? Not so much. It is currently still in a coma, but we are praying for the best. The doctor (Mr. E) seems to think the old dinosaur will pull out of it, but it’s still touch and go. Meanwhile, I have made the decree that if and when our beloved washer comes back to us, I am to inspect and approve all loads of laundry before they can get within 12 feet of either machine. I must protect the endangered species in my laundry room.

For now, I am just thankful Mr. E can fix, well, everything. Now, if he would get around to fixing my washer a little faster, I would appreciate it.  -Al

“You know normal families don’t do this, right?’  These are the words I have said over and over again for the past 24 hours.  Of course, no one ever accused us of being normal, but still, I like to remind my kids that other families don’t do the things we do.  I’m not sure if that’s a compliment to them or to us.

It actually started on Tuesday.  We were supposed to drive back to High Springs to finish cleaning out the house we just moved out of.  Mr. Everything and I had to run a few errands, and then we would be on our way.  I told the kids we would be right back, and I’m pretty sure the Beetle’s response was, “Uh-huh.”  Five hours later, they were calling to see where we were.  I told them things had not gone quite as planned.  Neither child was surprised by this.  Things never go as planned for us.  Frankly, at this point, I’m not even sure why we make plans. 

The kids were in a tizzy because we hadn’t left yet.  I told them to chillax. (I like that word.)  Since we were now into mid- to late- afternoon, we might as well just wait until rush hour traffic was over.  There was no point in sitting in a car in traffic when we could just wait and go later.  I assured them we would be leaving as soon as rush hour was over.  Again, the Beetle answered with, “Uh-huh.”  I was beginning to not like his attitude.

Five hours later, when it was beyond dark outside and most normal families were starting bedtime routines, we considered leaving but decided just to wait until Wednesday to go.  Mr. Everything said that would mean one less night of sleeping on an air mattress, so I was good with that.  The Beetle gave me an, “I told you so,” look.  Twit.  We assured the kids we would get up early (but not too early or we would be in rush hour) and we would get going.  This time, it was the Goose who said, “Uh-huh.”  Who raised these children?

So, on Wednesday around noon, we finally left.  We made the trek toward High Springs, but we had to stop by our odd little church in Newberry, so we could pick up potatoes.  Part of our purpose of heading up when we did was to spend Thanksgiving at the church’s community dinner.  This tiny church was planning to feed about 150 people from around town.  How could we possibly resist that?  Since we had access to the camp’s commercial kitchen, complete with industrial mixer and huge oven, we volunteered to make the mashed potatoes.  We also said we would cook the pans of dressing.  No problem.  We could do it.

The plan was to pick up the potatoes (we’ll discuss just how many potatoes later) and the dressing and head to the camp so we could clean out the house and finish packing the remaining junk.  We were down to the “I don’t know what to do with this,” and, “Why do we even have this?” kind of stuff that inevitably remains at the end of any move.  When we moved last week, we ran out of boxes, and we reached a point where we just couldn’t do any more.  The plan was to get ’er done when we went back for Thanksgiving.

We left home so late and arrived at the church so late that, by the time we talked to the preacher (you KNOW how long a preacher can talk), it was too late to head to the camp.  We had church on Wednesday night, starting with dinner at 6:00.  By the time we were ready to go, it was 4:00.  With a ½ hour drive each way, that would only leave an hour to get anything done at the house, so we decided just to wait.

After church, we took the potatoes (lots of potatoes) and headed to camp.  When we walked into the house, the entire laundry room and kitchen had about 2 inches of standing water.  I had to laugh as I realized my family did not even react to this.  We just waded through the water and put our stuff down.  This was the first time of many that I said, “You know normal families don’t do this, right?”  Mr. E and the kids just looked at me like they didn’t know what I was talking about.  I explained that, to a normal family, standing water from an obvious leak would be a big deal.  In fact, to some, it would be a downright disaster.  We all agreed that it was, after all, just a little water and we’d been through worse.

So, we got the Homer Bucket Vac (might I add this is one of man’s most ingenuous inventions), and the Goose and I took turns sucking up water.  It wasn’t nearly as much fun as I’d envisioned.  I wanted to just hold the hose down and watch the water come up like a reverse waterfall.  Nope.  It was very anticlimactic.

Meanwhile, Mr. E began packing up all the stuff that no one else knew what to do with.  Bless his heart.  The man can pack.  In a matter of a few hours, he had corralled that junk like nobody’s business.  (What does that phrase even mean, anyway?)  While the Goose was taking her turn sucking up water, the Beetle and I began peeling the potatoes.  We sat on the loveseat and put the peels in a big pot.  We figured we were abandoning the loveseat at the house anyway, so what was a little potato starch between friends?  As we peeled, I again said, “You know normal families don’t do this, right?”  Well, they don’t.  Normal families would not sit on a couch to peel potatoes.  Normal families would have used potato buds.  Okay, actually, really normal families would never have offered to make the potatoes in the first place. 

Finally, at midnight thirty, the potatoes were peeled, the junk was corralled and the air mattresses were full.  We were nestled in our snug and warm beds (more accurately, we had finally gotten warm after shivering for several minutes) when I realized something.  I had to go to the bathroom.  It never fails.  I got up, teeth chattering, and did my business (maybe that’s what the “nobody’s business” phrase means!).  I was back in bed and had finally calmed my shivering and was getting warm when the Goose started coughing.  I’m pretty sure it was 50% real and 50% trying to drive me crazy.  Regardless, it was real enough for her to come stand over me, asking for cough drops.  Since I didn’t happen to have any cough drops, I told her to take a sip of water and go to sleep.  (It sounded much nicer than what I was thinking in my head.)  Ten minutes later, as she gasped for air because she was coughing so hard, Mr. Everything and I realized we had to do something.  (And let me insert here, before you call child protective services on me, the child is very dramatic.  She’s 12, and she’s a she.  I rest my case.)  We got up, put on our jackets and drove down to the nurse’s cabin at camp, hoping the entire way that we would find something to make her shut up, er, I mean feel much better.  God bless the camp nurses, because they left us just what we needed….cough syrup and cough drops.  Jackpot!  We went back, threw the medicine at the Goose and passed out.  This was 1:15 in the morning. 

At 7:00 AM, our alarm went off.  It was time to rise and shine and get all those potatoes cooking.  We headed down to the kitchen and started the burners.  It was very reminiscent of the last time Mr. E and I worked in that kitchen together.  That led to a little story I called, “Mr. Everything & The Trauma Center Part 1 and Part 2.” (You can click on the purple letters if you want to read those.)   I kept ducking as he lit the burners.  It was a little unnerving, but he assured me we would be okay.

With four commercial sized pots of potatoes cooking and 5 big pans of dressing in the oven, we were off to a good start.  Mr. E said he would have to get the industrial mixer out of storage.  We weren’t sure why it was in storage, but we would soon find out.  Mr. E was smart enough to plug in the big, heavy mixer before moving it, so he made sure it worked.

He somehow managed to get this behemoth into the Suburban by himself.  It was so heavy, it cracked the threshold of the back doors of the vehicle.  Mr. Everything got the Beetle to help him move it into the kitchen, and they finally got it situated.  I heard Mr. E say, “Uh-oh,” and I turned to look.  He showed me the problem.  The lever that was supposed to raise the bowl up to meet the mixer was jammed.  The bowl would not move up, so the mixer would only mix the top half of the ingredients in the bowl. I figured this was not a problem.  After all, the man didn’t have the name, “Mr. Everything,” for nothing.  It just meant I would have to wait a little while for him to fix it, as he does everything.

Thirty minutes, two 2”x 4”s and a crowbar later, Mr. E and the Beetle had managed to force the mixing bowl into an upright position.  They used plastic cups wedged in there to hold the bowl in place.  Part of this whole process involved Mr. E standing on the counter top pressing down with the crow bar while the Beetle pushed up with the wooden piece.  It was quite a sight.  I wanted to get a picture, but my cell phone was at the house.  Mr. E’s cell phone was in his front pocket, so I couldn’t sneak up and grab it.  I was pretty sure it was not the most appropriate time to ask him for his phone.  I did say, “You know normal families don’t do this, right?”  They didn’t acknowledge me.  When they put the mixer on the floor and began pushing down on it, I could resist no longer.  I managed to grab his phone and snap a shot.  The photo does not do the whole process justice.  It was very entertaining.

Not Nearly As Entertaining as the Live Show...
Mr. E washed the bowl and the mixer and got it all set up for me.  We put the potatoes in, and he flipped the switch to turn the mixer on.  Nothing.  (You did see that coming, right?)  He turned it off and turned it on again.  Still nothing.  I said something about normal families.  I’m pretty sure you know what I said.  Then, Mr. E turned the mixer on and off.  And on.  And off.  I asked him if he knew the definition of insanity.  He didn’t answer me.  (By the way, the definition of insanity is, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  Pretty sure I’m insane.)  Mr. E assured me he had tested the mixer.  It had worked in the storage shed.  I said maybe the plug wasn’t working and they needed to move it to another spot in the kitchen.  The Beetle let out a whimper at the thought of having to move the thing again.  Mr. E reached over and turned on the microwave that was plugged into the same plug.  It worked, so there went that theory.

Then, I had a moment of genius.  These moments happen rarely for me, so I must cherish them when they do.  I said, “Doesn’t the safety cage have to be closed for the mixer to work?”  Mr. E closed the cage, and sho-nuff, it worked.  It was a modern day miracle! 

35 Pounds of Potatoes!
We mixed and mixed and mixed the potatoes.  We prepared 35 pounds of mashed potatoes.  We used four pounds of butter and half a gallon of milk.  The potatoes filled two commercial sized foil pans.  We had enough mashed potatoes to feed an army!

We had told the preacher at our odd little church that we would try to be there as close to 10:30 as possible.  At 10:45, we pulled out of the driveway.  I really hope punctuality is not one of the admission tests for heaven, or we are surely doomed.  We pulled up to the church building at 11:15.  The lunch started at 11:30, so we were just in time to have the dressing and potatoes hot for the masses.

The masses, which were supposed to be about 150, turned out to be 46, counting the preacher.  As we sat, surrounded by mainly strangers, eating our Thanksgiving meal, I said, “You know normal families don’t do this, right?”  But as I looked around, I realized I was glad we weren’t normal.  Normal is so, well, average.  This was better.  We enjoyed being with our odd little church because, frankly, we fit right in.

The number of people was a little disappointing, but the dinner was not.  Everyone seemed to have a great time, and we were glad to be there to help.  I think next year, if we go up to Newberry to help our odd little church with Thanksgiving, we’ll offer to bring the sweet tea.  Better yet, we’ll supply the plates.  

After the meal was finished and we divvied up the leftovers, we headed back to the camp.  The mission was to finish loading up the stuff and to clean the house.  Mr. E needed to repair a wall that got a hole in it from a chair rubbing against it.  He also needed to change door knobs.  Most of what needed to be moved had to be done by him because it was too heavy for me to lift.  I was okay with this, because I was wiped out from the events of the last few days.  We got back to the house, and I made the mistake of sitting down.  The next thing I knew, I woke up in the fetal position on the loveseat.  Meanwhile, Mr. E walked back and forth, carrying stuff to the car.  I felt bad, but in my defense, I never claimed to have his energy level.  The man is a work horse.  He can work harder and longer than anyone I’ve ever known.  I can’t possibly live up to his standards.  I added that to my list of things to be thankful for - he didn't even fuss at me for not helping.  He really is a good man, Charlie Brown.  

I really was pretty much useless the entire afternoon.  By 5:00, Mr. E said he could do no more.  We still had a two and a half hour drive ahead of us, and I couldn’t drive it.  We were pulling a trailer, and I don’t *do* trailers.  The Beetle could drive, but it would be difficult for him because the trailer and the Suburban were both so loaded.  This left my husband.  He said he could do it, but he had to quit working.  The hole hadn’t been fixed yet, and there were still more items to be loaded.  We decided just to go up there another day.  For posterity sake, I reminded him one last time, “You know normal families don’t do this, right?”  The idea of driving two and a half hours to fix a hole in a wall would be foreign to most.  Most people would say, “I guess the landlord will have to fix it,” but we’re not most people.  So, Mr. E and I will be driving to High Springs one day soon to fix a wall and get the rest of our junk.  Who knows what other adventure that will bring….     

Let me just say my husband is a genius.  Don’t tell him I said so, but it’s true.  He would say it was about time I realized this.  The truth is, I’ve always realized it.  I just don’t want him to get a big head.

The reason I think he is a genius right now is because I’m in a resort in St. Lucia.  You see, while I’m the one who managed to get this job, he’s the one who pushed me.  Twenty years ago, I saw an ad in the newspaper that said, “Become a mystery shopper,” and I responded.  Of course, when I got the information in the mail, it said to send $25 to get the real information.  With that, I was disappointed, but I planned to throw the packet away.  My parents had taught me a long time ago that you don’t pay to work.  It just doesn’t make sense.

So, when Mr. Everything got home from work, I told him how disappointed I was about the mystery shopping info.  I told him they wanted $25 so I was ditching that idea.  He said, “Do it.”  I told him that was crazy because they were just going to take our money.  He shrugged and said, “We’ve wasted $25 on dumber things.  Take the chance.”  So I did!

I sent away for the info, and I received a list of about ten mystery shopping companies.  I had to send in a handwriting sample and a sample paragraph so they could tell that I could write complete sentences and they could read what I wrote.  We’ll just call that “back in the day.”

Now, mystery shopping companies would laugh at you if you hand wrote anything.  Everything has to be submitted online and receipts have to be uploaded.  There is no faxing or mailing in forms anymore.  Boy, things have changed in 20 years.

I often think, though, if Mr. E had not convinced me to take a chance, I would have missed out on so much!  We’ve been to amazing restaurants, great hotels and even all inclusive resorts because of that $25 chance.  He really was smart to let me take the gamble.

(Now, let me just say, with the internet, you should never, ever pay for a list of mystery shopping companies.  If you want to get started, read my blogs HERE and HERE for free, and you’ll learn what you need to know.  If you just feel the need to pay someone for the information, I accept cash, check or Paypal.  You can send me any amount you want.)

Because of Mr. E’s willingness to take a $25 chance, we got to visit a resort in St. Lucia.  I’m pretty sure this is the best resort ever, or at least, it’s the best one I’ve ever visited!  I must admit, we’ve spent a good portion of our time avoiding the sun while we’ve been here.  Since Mr. E still can’t be out in the sun because he was burned in July, we can’t be on the beach in the middle of the day.  I’m okay with that.  I’m the freckle and burn queen anyway, so the sun and I don’t get along very well anyway.  I wasn’t sure how the trip would go since we are on a tropical island where there is usually sun.  However, we’ve found plenty to do while we’ve been here.

We visited the spa the other day.  There were no massages involved, so it was great.  This resort has a complimentary area of the spa.  (As the saying goes…If it’s free, it’s for me!)  This area includes a Jacuzzi and plunge pool that are both shaded by a gazebo.  There were also saunas and steam rooms, but we discovered quickly that sitting in either one was boring and hot.  The plunge pool was way too cold for our Floridian blood, but the Jacuzzi was just right.  We sat in the hot water, with the gazebo sheltering us from the sun.  There was a nice cool breeze blowing, and the palm fronds were rattling in the wind.  As we sat there, I thought, “It just doesn’t get any better than this.”  I was wrong.  It does get better.

We also found a pier that was out over the water.  At night, it was so peaceful to sit out there on the comfortable couches.  There was a fire pit nearby if we got cool in the night air.  It was wonderful just to sit out there and look at the stars and listen to the waves.  As I sat there, I though, “It can’t get any better than this.”  I was wrong.  It did get better.

The resort had catamarans that could be taken out into the water.  They are easy to operate and fun to ride on.  Mr. E, of course, had no problem controlling the boat, because he’s Mr. E.  He knows how to do everything, remember?  So, we took the boat out and sailed away into the sunset.  Okay.  Really, it was in the middle of the day, but still - you get the point.  The sky was cloudy, and while the other resort guests were probably disappointed about that, we were thrilled!  It meant we could go outside without risking more damage to my husband’s pretty face.  So, as we sailed, I thought, “This is as good as it gets.”  I was wrong.  It got better.

We discovered a part of the resort that we referred to as “Old People Island.”  We fit right in.  See, at the main pool, the atmosphere was lively.  The music was pumping and people were sunbathing, swimming, etc.  It was fun, but you couldn’t hear the water.  At Old People Island, the beach was far enough from the action of the main pool that we could hear the water.  We could hear the birds chirping.  We found a tiki covering with two chairs underneath, and we lounged.  As I avoided the sun in the shade, I thought, “It just doesn’t get any better.”  I was wrong.  Boy, did it get better.

Near Old People Island, we found a pool for old people.  Well, it wasn’t really for old people, but that was who was there.  It was so serene, and there was no music playing.  It was wonderful.  As I floated in the pool, I thought, “I’m cold.”  I was right.  I was cold, not because it was cold outside, but because I’m a wimpy Floridian.  We got out of the pool to warm up.

We found another perfect hang out.  In the ocean were floats that were somehow anchored to the ground.  I called them spots, because they were round and, well, they looked like spots.  (I’m creative, aren’t I?)  On a cloudy day, we finally got a chance to swim out to a spot.  When we climbed in, we found an oasis in the sea!  In the spot, we were in the ocean and could feel the waves.  However, we were anchored down and didn’t have to worry about floating away.  It was wonderful, and I didn’t have to worry about anything biting my butt or toes.  I loved the spot, until I got cold.  I always get cold.

We went back to Old People Island and visited the Jacuzzi by the pool.  In the Jacuzzi, we could be in the hot water and see the beautiful pool and amazing beach.  As I warmed in the Jacuzzi, I thought, “Now, I’ve seen the best.  It can’t get any better.”  I was wrong.  It did.

We found a hammock that was shaded by a tiki covering.  We visited this hammock several times during our trip.  It was wonderful.  We just talked and swayed in the hammock.  We also were quiet and listened to the birds.  Our view was of a palm tree and the beautiful blue sky.  As we enjoyed the hammock, I thought, “I have found the perfect place.”  I was right.  St. Lucia was, indeed, the perfect place. -Al

I wanted to be sure and thank my mother and my friends who watched after the Beetle and the Goose while we were gone.  I was nervous about leaving the country without my little ducklings.  Thank you, thank you, thank you to Mama and all those who kept them happy, fed and safe!  I deeply appreciate it, and we had an awesome trip because I didn't have to worry!

Anytime someone I know is going through a hard time, I try to remind them that, in a year, this will just be a bad memory.  They may wonder why I say that, but to me, it brings comfort.

We’ve been through our share of struggles in the last several years, and many of them were hard to bear.  Don’t get me wrong.  It could have been worse.  It can always be worse.  However, when I was in the middle of a crisis and felt like I couldn’t breathe, the fact that it could have been worse did not really comfort me.  At that moment of crisis, I always needed something else to cling to.  I found that the thing that comforted me was the knowledge that, eventually, it would be over.

Maybe this perspective came from going through several bad events.  Probably, the first time I went through something, I thought my life was ruined forever.  Over time, though, I learned that it would be okay.  Eventually.  Some events were big enough that they marked my life as a “before” and “after.”  For example, I view my life in terms of “before we lost our house” and “after we lost our house.”  (And, actually, sadly, we still haven’t lost our house.  It has been 6 years, and that house is still sitting there rotting.  In my humble opinion, Bank of America is the root of all evil.)

A friend of mine says that there are no sweeter words in the Bible than, “And it came to pass…”  She’s right.  It is comforting that, “this too shall pass.”  I focus on that a lot when life is rough around me.

So, last week, when I found myself driving to the trauma center, I had several things to focus on.  First, I had to call the appropriate people and let them know Mr. E had been burned.  I’m still not sure I called everyone I needed to, and I’m afraid I hurt a few feelings by not calling some.  Also, I was praying non-stop for comfort for Mr. Everything and for safety for me.  I was praying for his mom and for my kids.  I was praying.  A lot.  But, then, there was something else I found myself focusing on during that long drive.  That was the after.

I kept thinking that I did not know what was about to happen but I did know it would end eventually.  I had no idea how bad Mr. Everything’s burns were, so I had thoughts of him having to stay in the burn unit for days, weeks or even months.  That scared me, but I focused on the after.  I knew that, eventually, he would get out, and that was what I had to focus on.  I had visions of a slow recovery and a scarred face.  I knew I would love Mr. E no matter what his face looked like, but I didn’t want him to be scary.  He is so gentle and kind, and I knew that would kill him if small children were scared of him.

Anytime my mind would drift to visions of babies crying and children running away, I pulled it back to the fact that a new “after” would develop.  We would find a new normal (whatever “normal” is) and it would all be okay.  As ironic as this sounds, I (Not Your Average Al) find comfort in normal.  Weird, huh?

During the days that followed Mr. Everything’s burns, I cried a lot.  Then, I would remind myself that he was okay.  He wasn’t even in the hospital.  Life was good, and God was good.  I kept focusing on the new normal.  If anyone had told me what the outcome would be a week later, I would not have believed them.  It would have sounded too good to be true.

Mr. E’s face almost looks as though nothing even happened.  His skin is baby-butt soft, and he is fine.  Small children are not afraid of him.  He is as handsome as ever!  He has had no pain.  He has had no complications.  We didn’t even get the prescriptions filled for the pain killers that the doctor was convinced we would need!  He’ll have to stay out of the sun completely for a month and then be very careful about the sun for six months to a year, but that’s a small price to pay.

You can believe what you want to about this whole situation, but I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that this is an answer to many, many prayers.  Many were said by me. (They were in almost a chant…sorry about that, God.  I know I was annoying.)  Many were said by other people on our behalf.  To all of you who said them (you know who you are!), we are thankful for you and for your concern.  We are humbled by the outpouring of love we have received.  We are truly blessed.   -Al

One thing I forgot to mention yesterday was that, while I thought to take fresh clothes for Mr. Everything, I apparently did not think it through.  I took him a T-shirt.  Genuis.  Anywho, back to the story…

Pretty soon after I got back in the room with Mr. Everything, the nurse came in to clean the burns.  They gave him another shot of morphine.  Apparently, this was number 3, yet he was still alert and making sense.  The nurse scrubbed Mr. E’s face and put ointment on it.  He told us that they would probably keep Mr. E overnight for observation but then we would be good to go.

As we waited in the sterile room, my phone rang.  It was the Goose.  I answered to hear her tattling on the Beetle.  The thought that crossed my mind was, “Well, at least they aren’t too traumatized!”  Then, the next thought was not so nice.  As she rattled on and on and on about what he was doing or not doing or saying or not saying, I felt all my blood rush to my ears.  Sometimes I understand why animals eat their young.  I finally managed to interrupt her and say, through gritted teeth, “Do you realize that I am standing in a trauma room with your father in pain?  Do you realize they cut off all his clothes and he is now lying (actually, I said “laying,” because I always get that wrong) on a metal table naked?  Do you realize that you don’t know that because you did not even ask how he was?”  Her answer was, “Oh.  Yeah.  Sorry.”  When I got home, the whole house had been cleaned and was spotless.  Bless her heart.

The irony here is how my kids handle trauma.  The Beetle gets angry.  The worse the situation, the angrier he is.  The Goose gets irritating.  Together, they are the perfect storm.  God really does have a sense of humor.

So, quickly, we were moved up to a room.  (Okay, you know that’s not true.  We were in a hospital.)  Actually, though, it only took a few hours for us to be moved.  This is really good in hospital terms.  Shands was an excellent hospital, but the way.  I did not meet a single staff member who was not kind and caring.  It was amazing!

After Mr. E got settled in and it didn’t seem like anything else would happen for the night, I headed home.  The kids were home alone, apparently killing each other, so I had to go.  It was hard to leave him, and it was one of those moments when the choice between motherhood and wifehood was excruciating.

The next morning, I got up and had to do some things for work.  Then, I started getting ready to go to the hospital.  I sent the kids to church and headed out.  Although I tried to get there earlier, it was noon by the time I arrived at the hospital.  As much as I had tried, I seemed to be moving through molasses all morning.  I got up to the room and found Mr. Everything sitting in a chair.  He was wearing a hospital gown that no one had bothered to tie in the back for him.  He had no underwear because they had cut it off.  He was a sight for sore eyes.

Mr. Everything’s face looked worse than I remembered it looking the night before, but of course I didn’t tell him that.  He joked about looking like Yoda, and I told him I would love him even if he was hideous.  It’s a good thing this man isn’t vain.

The nurse came in and said they were transferring Mr. E to the burn unit to stay for a few days.  That had been mentioned to him that morning, but until this point, we were not sure.  I asked the nurse if she was sure, and she said she was sure.  I called my sister, and she and my father left Brandon to come get my kids.  I knew I could not leave Mr. E in a burn unit by himself for two days, and it would be easier if the kids were taken care of.

Meanwhile, we waited.  In case you don’t know, you do a lot of that when you’re in a hospital.  Soon, the lady with the wheelchair came and got us.  She took us through the tunnel that goes under the street to the other side of the hospital.  Shands is a really big place.

We got settled in the room in the burn unit.  Then, the doctor came in and talked to us.  She said she was sending Mr. E home.  We had just waited and been transferred only to find out we were going home!  We said this aloud, and she said we could stay if we wanted.  We declined her gracious offer.

Basically, the doctor told Mr. E that he could do the same thing at home that they would do for him there.  He would wash his face twice a day with gentle soap.  Then, he would apply the ointment that makes him look shiny and slimy.  She told us the warning signs of infection and told us who to call if we saw any signs.  Then, she told Mr. E that she wanted him to eat a high-calorie, high-protein diet.  In fact, the words she said to him were, “I want you to eat as much as you possibly can.”  In a matter of 24 hours, Mr. Everything had faced one of my biggest fears of being stripped naked in public, and he had lived one of my dreams coming true by being told that he could eat as much as he wanted!  We were truly on a roller coaster.

The thing that amazed the doctor was that Mr. Everything’s pain was minimal.  He said it felt like a sunburn, and he did not even flinch when people touched it.  We asked her if this could have been from putting eggs on the burns.  She said that many people believed that eggs helped and many people believed eggs were a terrible idea.  There was no medical evidence either way.  She did, however, admit that the eggs seemed to work for him, because she said she was astounded that he was not in more pain.

I believe that the eggs worked.  I also believe that the prayers worked, because I know the prayers had begun before the ambulance even arrived.  (I was saying them until I could alert the CGVS – Church Grapevine System.)  Whatever worked, we know that he is tremendously blessed not to be in more pain. 

So, all in all, our adventure ended well.  It was fortunate that Mr. E thought quickly enough to close his eyes and turn his head.  If he hadn’t, the outcome would have been much, much worse.  We are also blessed that his arms were not burned, because they were on fire.  I saw it myself.

Now, we just wait for Mr. E to heal.  He isn’t in pain.  He isn’t itching.  He isn’t miserable.  He’s just watching TV and eating.  A lot.  Life could be much worse, and for that, I am tremendously grateful.  I have to admit that the slimy face is a little annoying for both of us.  I tried to talk him into going down to the dining hall to get something with me last night.  I was going to drive the ATV.  He had one word for me: “Bugs.”  To that, I said, “EWWW!  Never mind!”  Can you imagine how many mosquitoes he would have had stuck to his slimy face?  -Al

It all began because the walk-in freezer thawed out.  We had been having problems with the freezer in the kitchen at camp all week.  The repairman had come to check it and had inadvertently added too many defrost cycles to the schedule for the walk-in.  We discovered that the many, many pounds of hamburger meat and chicken had thawed out just enough that it would be unsafe to refreeze them, so the cooking began.

We cooked all afternoon on Saturday.  By the way, if you’ve never stirred 10 pounds of hamburger meat with a huge spoon, you haven’t lived.  We actually were on the last round of chicken breasts, and we decided to try deep frying some.  “Have oil and flour, will deep fry.”  That’s our motto.  So, Mr. E helped me get the deep fryer going and decided he would start cooking the hamburger patties.  We were preparing enough meat to feed a small army.  The plan was to then freeze it since it can be frozen again once it’s cooked.  We were both exhausted from five weeks of summer camp, and cooking all day just added to that exhaustion.

Mr. E went over to turn on the flat-top griddle.  It is gas-powered just like everything else in that kitchen.  He turned it on and came back to help me.  Then, he went back and realized it had not lit, so he turned it on again.  He stepped away to stir the chicken and went back.  The griddle still had not lit, so he went to light it with a lighter.  As his hand went up to the skillet, his brain told him not to light it, but his hand did not listen.  Luckily, he realized what was coming, and he closed his eyes and turned his head.  At that moment, fire blew out of the griddle and onto him.

I looked up from the deep fryer just in time to see flames shoot out onto my husband.  Somehow, he managed to quickly get the flames out.  Thank goodness he was thinking, because I was beyond responding at this point.  I vaguely remember yelling something, and I know he started reassuring me that he was fine.  I went rushing over, and about the time I got to him, the burning began.  He ran to the sink and started putting water on his head and face.  He was leaned over the industrial sink with the sprayer in his hand.

Mr. Everything told me to go get some eggs.  I ran and grabbed three.  He probably should have been more specific, since I am not known for my emergency-handling skills.  He cracked those and put them on his head and told me to go get more.  I got three more.  I’m pretty sure I saw his eyes roll. 

By this point, Mr. E said he thought we should call 911.  I said, “Are you sure?”  (Really, Al?  Was he sure?)  In my head, he was breathing and talking, so I should just drive him to the emergency room.  I suggested this, and he said he didn’t think he could ride all the way there because it was burning so badly.  Again, he told me to call 911.  I asked him where the phone was, and he said, “On the wall!”  Again, I think there was an eye roll.  (Just a note here…. You do not EVER want me to be in charge of your well being if you are in an emergency situation.  Trust me on this.) 

I walked around and finally found the phone.  I did remember how to dial 911.  I was pretty proud of that.  The operator answered, and I explained what was going on.  The operator asked if my husband was having problems breathing, and I told her he was not.  She said, “Ma’am, do you want me to send an ambulance?”  My answer was, “I don’t know.  What do you think?”  She said she couldn’t make that decision and again asked me if I wanted an ambulance.  Again, I said I didn’t know.  I couldn’t figure out why she was asking me this.  I had called 911 and not Pizza Hut, correct?  Finally, I told her to send an ambulance, and she said she would send one then.

The ambulance took about 15 minutes to get there.  It felt like an eternity, but really, this was impressive, considering the fact that we live in the sticks.  I went to warn the Beetle and the Goose that an ambulance was coming.  The Goose immediately started crying.  (She gets her emergency-coping skills from her mother.)  The Beetle shifted into action.  He drove the ATV up to the dirt driveway so he could lead the ambulance down the long dirt driveway and to the camp’s dining hall.  Good boy.

I went back to Mr. Everything and found him still putting eggs and water on his head.  He had gone to the cooler and gotten a whole tray of eggs.  It was all I could do not to freak out, and it took every ounce of my being and every bit of prayer I had in me to keep me calm.  I told him that I was going to cover the meat and put it in the refrigerator while we waited.  This was the only thing I could do to soothe my nerves until the ambulance got there.  I had already tried lying across Mr. E’s back and crying, but that didn’t seem to be helping him too much.

There was a small group of people at the camp who were there to set up for a camp session that was starting the next day.  The lady in charge came in the kitchen.  I told her what was going on, and she asked what in the world I was doing.  I said I was putting up the meat, and she said, “I can handle that!”  I told her that if I did not put up the meat, I would die, and I think she got my message.  She stepped out of the way and let me pack the meat. 

When the ambulance arrived, the EMT informed us that putting eggs on the burns was not a good idea because of all the bacteria.  Great.  This added a new worry to my list of reasons to freak out.  The EMTs said they were going to take Mr. Everything to Gainesville to Shands Hospital.  I asked if I could ride with them.  They said I could but I would not be able to be in the back with Mr. E.  I decided to drive, and I said I would follow them.  One of the EMTs said, “You do realize you can’t follow us, right?  We will be going too fast, so you’ll just have to meet us there.”  It was a really good thing she told me that, because I’m pretty sure I would have followed them.  She told me the exit number so I could get there.

While they loaded up Mr. E, I went to get my purse, phone and other items I needed from the house.  I was so proud of myself for thinking to pack fresh clothes for Mr. Everything.  (Of course, later, I realized I had left them on the kitchen counter when I left, but it was the thought that counted.)

I followed the ambulance for the 2 miles down the muddy, bumpy, slippery dirt road.  I said it was the longest ride I had ever had.  Mr. E said he was pretty sure his ride was longer.  He won that competition, because, while I was driving, he was in the back of an ambulance with a wet towel over his head, and he was in pain.  I’m sure that 2 miles lasted forever for him.

On the way to the hospital, I called Mr. E’s mom and my parents, and I called a friend from our church in Brandon.  I should have known the church grapevine would work efficiently.  By the time I got the emergency room, my phone was already dinging with text messages.

On the way, I had a brief thought about the fact that we had no one up in Gainesville.  It wasn’t a pity party.  It was more of a glimpse that, oh, we’re alone.  Boy, was I wrong about that!  By midnight that night, Mr. E had received 5 visitors.  We also had gotten many text messages and calls of concern.  We had offers of food and help with the kids.  We might not know many people up here, but we are certainly not alone!

While I was driving to the hospital, Mr. E was getting to face one of my biggest fears.  He was taken in as a trauma patient.  In case you don’t know, this means that you get the full sha-bang.  When they arrived at the hospital, he quickly found himself on a metal table with a swarm of people over him.  They cut off all his clothes (that would be the part I fear).  He said one person was sticking his arm, one person was putting monitors on, someone else was examining his head and someone was sticking a needle somewhere he really wished a needle would never go.  Then, as quickly as the swarm came on, they left, and he was alone.  Lying on a metal table.  In a room.  Alone.

Meanwhile, I arrived at the hospital and valet parked the Suburban.  (Yes, they have valet parking.)  I entered an emergency waiting room that looked just like the worst episode of “ER” I had ever seen.  There were people wrapped in blankets and people puking in buckets.  There were people who were angry and people who were crazy.  It was really, really bad.  I went to the information desk and waited my turn.  I asked how to find Mr. E, and they did not find his name in the system.  This was when the panic started to set in.  I said, “I am at Shands, right???”  The employee said I was but that maybe I had beat the ambulance there.  I assured her that I had not beat the ambulance since I had just driven 45 minutes and the ambulance was in front of me when I left my house.  She called me over to a more private booth, away from the man who was pretending to be deaf (really).  She asked what had happened, and I told her.  She said Mr. E had probably come in as a trauma.  Then, the employee told me that, if he had, he was not listed under his real name.  She said, “I don’t know exactly how to find him, so you’re going to have to sit down and wait.”  I turned and looked around the room full of crazies and looked back at the employee.  I’m pretty sure she saw the panic in my eyes, because she said, “Oh second thought, wait right here.  Let me see what I can do.”

A minute later, the employee came back and said, “He is about to come talk to you.”  Then, “he” came around the corner and said he would lead me to the family room.  With these words, the panic fully set in.  The only time I had ever been led to a family room was to receive horrible news.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I knew Mr. E was not dead.  However, I was afraid they were about to tell me that he had been taken to a burn unit and I couldn’t see him.  Then, I would die.

So, as we walked through the hall, I tried to regulate my breathing.  I just knew they were going to leave me in an empty room so they could break it to me gently.  Then, “he” turned the corner and said, “You can wait in here.”  I turned the corner and saw other people sitting in the waiting room.  I exclaimed, “Oh thank goodness!  I’m so glad you’re here!”  The people quickly scooted out of my way and made room for me.  I’m pretty sure they were moving away from me because they thought I was crazy.  I was glad they were there, though, because I knew the staff would not give me terrible news in front of other people.

In just a minute, “he” came back and said I could follow him.  “He” walked me back to where Mr. E was lying on the metal table, looking around.  I walked up to him and said, “So.  How was your weekend?”  He said, “What are you going to blog about this week?”  I smiled and knew he was okay.

I’ll tell you the rest tomorrow…

Reality Was Starting to Sink In
Let me preface this by saying that I do not mean this blog to be a judgment on anyone.  Really.  I don’t.  I have my beliefs, just like you have yours, but I am not writing this to try to change anyone’s mind or make fun of what anyone feels or believes.  Just know that, because I really don’t want to get into a political or religious debate.  What happened to us today is funny, no matter who you are or what you believe.

Part of what I like about being a mystery shopper is that I never know where I’m going to end up.  I’ve been to all kinds of hotels, good and bad, and all kinds of restaurants. I've eaten foods that I normally would not have tried.  I’ve mystery shopped retail stores that I may have never visited otherwise.  I’ve shopped for new cars and apartments even when I really wasn’t looking.  Today was no different, and boy, did I find us an adventure.

The Mr. and I have been in Atlanta for the last few days.  We’ve been attending the IMSC (Independent Mystery Shoppers Coalition) conference to learn how to be better mystery shoppers.  It was fun, and we had a good time.  For the whole trip, I had requested hotel and restaurant mystery shops.  In three days, we have paid for one lunch out of pocket so far.  The rest of the meals were covered through mystery shops.  We have not paid for a single hotel.  That’s how we roll.

We were going to have to buy lunch today, but one of the companies that I shop for had some lunch visits available.  There were a few restaurants to choose from, so we quickly glanced at the websites to see which one looked best.  We wanted something fun and casual, and I thought I had found just the place.  Mr. Everything was going to have to take the assignment and write the report because I had already exceeded my maximum number of assignments from the company for the month.  So we self-assigned the shop to him, and we were on our way.

When we arrived, the first clue for me was that the hostess had on a rainbow necklace, and the host was immaculately groomed.  Mr. E didn’t notice.  The next indicator was the picture of the rainbow flag on the menu.  Still, the Mr. was totally oblivious.  I had already summed the place up and realized that there were only a few women in the restaurant and the ones that were there were together.  I decided just to wait it out to see how long it would take Mr. Everything to notice.

While I am not a supporter of stereotypes, there are some that just seem to be true.  Think up every stereotype you have been told about gay men.  That would describe our server.  As he greeted us, I was considering whether “flamboyant” would be an appropriate descriptor on a mystery shopping report.  The server looked at us with that all knowing, “I know that you didn’t know,” kind of look.  Still, the Mr. was unsuspecting.  Come to think of it, we may need to have his gay-dar looked at.

Finally, as Mr. Everything was reading the menu and he was seeing some of the names of dishes, reality began to set in.  I must admit, as cruel as it was, I just sat back and enjoyed watching him realize it.

Again, I’m not judging, really, but seeing my very heterosexual husband realize that he was in a gay bar was just too much fun.  As he looked around and noticed all the well groomed men with fabulous hair cuts, he turned pink.  He looked at me, and I looked at him.  That was when I started laughing and could not stop.  Mr. E looked at me and in all seriousness, said, “What’s worse is I have to go to the bathroom!”  I just laughed harder.

Mr. Everything decided to be brave and go inside the packed restaurant to go to the restroom.  It wasn’t like anyone was going to attack him or anything.  I’m pretty sure the men there could take one look at him and know he was straight.  He walked quickly to the restroom, and I noticed that he did not make eye contact with anyone as he went.  He fell just short of holding his left hand up to show his wedding ring to anyone who was looking.

Mr. E was not in there long when he came back, almost running.  He was flushed and winded.  “How did it go?”  I asked.  I’m so cruel.  He looked and me and just shook his head and closed his eyes.  Finally, he worked up the energy to speak and said, “There. Was. A. Used. Blue. Condom. In. The. Urinal.”  As you can imagine, I showed him great sympathy.  My poor dear must have been traumatized.  Yeah, right.  You know I laughed.  I asked him if the rest of the restroom was clean.  He said he tried not to look around.  More laughter.

When the food arrived, Mr. Everything was trying very hard to maintain his composure.  This is the look he kept on his face while staring straight ahead to the street in front of the restaurant.  After he took a few bites of his “Big Beefy Burger,” as it was called on the menu, I asked him how it was.  He answered, “Let’s just hurry up and eat so we can get out of here.”  

Bless his heart.  It takes a lot to make Mr. E uncomfortable.  I’m usually the one who feels out of place or like I shouldn’t be somewhere.  A gay bar was enough to do it for him, though.  I’ve never seen him so awkward in all my life.

Now that we have left the location, he can laugh about it a little more.  He just told me that it really just goes to prove that we will do anything for a free meal!

What’s great is that, on the report, he was asked whether or not he would return.  Now, as a professional mystery shopper, he must answer this question based on the overall service, food and cleanliness and not on his personal preferences.  So for, “Would you return to this location?” his answer was, “Definitely.”  “Would you recommend this location to your friends?”  “Absolutely.”  Oh, yeah.  I can’t wait to hear him recommend it to his friends.  –Al

Mr. Everything and his best friend, Micah (names changed, as usual) met when they were just 11 years old.  They walked to and from the bus stop together, and an instant friendship was formed.  Micah passed away in November, 2010.  It was a sudden thing, and no one saw it coming.  Having him removed from our lives like that has left a Micah-sized hole that can never be filled.  He would have been 43 years old today.  I would have had so much fun teasing him about his age.

Micah and Mr. E were alike in some ways and very different in other ways.  Micah was an artist.  He was creative and talented, and he was often bored, which led to laziness and trouble-making. (He was a great trouble maker!)  Mr. E is creative in different ways, but he is the opposite of lazy.  He was (and is) a good boy who never got in trouble (unless Micah or I were there to lead him astray).  Together, the Mr. and Micah made quite a team.  They made many happy memories together. 

Micah and I had a love-hate relationship.  Sometimes, we loved to be mean to each other, but we both knew it was just in jest.  He had a heart of gold, and I knew he would be there in an instant if I needed him.  I hope he knew the same about me.  I have many happy memories of Micah, and many of them make me laugh.

Micah and my best friend, Willow, dated briefly.  Very briefly.  I still tease her that she was in love with him, but I’m pretty sure it was a relationship of convenience for both sides.  The four of us went to homecoming together when Willow and I were juniors in high school.  We went to the Melting Pot for dinner, and we had a great time.  Micah was always spouting facts and telling us things he knew.  We, as teenaged girls, found this very annoying and usually made fun of him for it.  This night was no different.  There was a rose in a vase on the table at dinner.  Out of nowhere, Micah told us that humans could eat all kinds of flowers and survive.  We said we didn’t care, but he kept talking.  He insisted that, not only could you eat a rose, but it was considered a delicacy.  By this point, Willow and I were laughing so hard we were crying.  Then, Willow said the fateful words, “Well, if it’s such a delicacy, eat it.”  Imagine a fifteen year old girl and a sixteen year old girl guffawing with laughter while Mr. E was pretending not to be with us and Micah was talking about eating flowers.  He began pulling petals off the rose and eating them.  This only added fuel to our giggle fest.  He ended up eating the whole thing as we snorted and chuckled.  Being the gentleman that he was, he offered each us a petal.  Micah and Willow broke up pretty soon after that evening.  For years, and probably to this day, all I had to say was, “He ate a rose,” and Willow and I were reduced to laughter.

At one point when I was still in high school, Micah managed to get himself kicked out of his parents’ house (He was at least 19 by this time).  He decided he could live just fine in his Fiat X19.  Now, for those of you who don’t know what kind of car this is, picture the smallest two-seater you can think of.  Shrink it to smaller than you thought possible, and you have a Fiat X19.  Micah was about 6’2”, and he was a big guy!  He wasn’t fat, but he was solid, and he decided to live in a Fiat.  At the time, I was surprised that Mr. E’s parents said Micah could live in his car behind their house.  However, thinking back, I’m pretty sure they just wanted to see the show.  Micah had a tiny black and white TV that would run on the car battery.  We would look out, and he would be sitting in the passenger’s seat with his feet hanging out of the driver’s side window.  He would sit like that and watch TV.  I’m not sure what he ate, and I never wanted to know where he went to the bathroom.  I think he lasted about a week before he started to look for other living arrangements.

Micah and his son, Dillon, were into Star Wars.  I don’t mean that Micah had a slight fascination.  I mean he ate, slept and breathed Star Wars.  He was in a Star Wars club that I used to tease him about unmercifully.  (Except, I called it the Star Trek club just to get his goat.)  Mr. E and I never fully understood what the club was until after Micah passed away.  This club was an organization of people who spent their time volunteering for children’s charities.  They would dress up in very authentic Star Wars costumes and help with fundraisers to help kids.  This club came together and showed us what they were all about after Micah died.  They were there to support the family, and they were an awesome group of people.

Micah had built an R2D2 replica.  This was not just any replica.  This was a life-sized, working robot.  I had heard about it, but I never saw it until after he passed away.  It was astounding.  At that point, I realized what talent Micah had.  I always knew that he was artistic, but I had no idea.  He used old trinkets and built them into amazing things.  He was a creative genius.

The ultimate memory of Micah for me was his funeral.  This may sound weird, but Micah had the coolest funeral I have ever attended.  The Star Wars people were there, and they weren’t just there; they were there in costume.  I’m here to tell you, you haven’t lived until you attended a funeral with a storm trooper.  I sat beside Princess Leia.  I’ve never had such a hard time being serious at a funeral in all my life, and I’m pretty sure that’s just how Micah would have wanted it.  His family even chose his final resting place based on Star Wars.  He is in a wall at the cemetery, and his spot is two to the right and two down.  R2D2.  What an awesome way to memorialize an awesome person.

It has been over two years since Micah died.  Mr. Everything still mourns him, and so do I.  I don’t know that I will ever be able to talk about him without tearing up.  He was a talented artist, a loyal friend, an amazing dad and a good son and brother.  He left a hole in us that can’t be filled, but he also left many happy memories.  When I start to feel sad about him, I just remember him cramming that rose into his mouth, and I am happy.  -Al

I’m not sure when we became inseparable, but somewhere along the way, we did.  Mr. E and I spend virtually 24 hours a day, 7 days a week together.  We didn’t plan it that way.  It just happened, and we like it that way.

Even when we were dating, we were rarely apart.  When I was in school, the Mr. would show up sometimes at lunch time, just because he needed to see me.  He never got caught.  I wonder if he could still get away with that in today’s security-crazed schools.  I doubt it.

When he was at work at Wal-mart, I would go visit him.  (You KNOW that’s love if I’m willing to go to Wal-mart.)  My best friend, Willow, would go with me.  She would stand there and wait as Mr. E and I held hands, rubbed noses and did other equally annoying things.  She was a good friend.  She still teases me about waiting for us to finish making out by the bike racks. 

On date nights (which were just about every night), Mr. E would call me as soon as he got home.  Then, we would talk on the phone for hours.  Our calls would typically end with something like this:

Mr. E: “Well, I guess I need to go.”
Me: “Okay.  Love you!  Bye!”
Mr. E: “Love you too.  Bye.”
Mr. E: “Are you still there?”
Me: “Yep.  You hang up first.”
Mr. E: “No.  You hang up first.”
Me: “No, you.”
Mr. E: “No, you.”
Me: “No, really.  You hang up first.”
Mr. E: “Okay.  I’m hanging up.  I love you.  Bye.”  <Click>
Me: (After dialing his number again)  “You hung up on me!”
Mr. E: “Sigh.  Okay.  You hang up first.”
(And repeat…)

The best thing that ever happened to us was when Mr. E had his foot crushed at work.  Okay.  I’m pretty sure he might not agree with that last statement, and it’s not exactly how I meant it.  He went through a lot of pain.  That part wasn’t good.  What was good was the fact that we could be together all the time.  It was the summer after I had graduated high school.  He was out on workman’s comp.  We had so much fun going to the mall and hanging out, and we had nothing to separate us other than my pesky curfew.  That actually lasted for over a year, except I did have to start college in the fall.  Other than the crutches, pins in his foot and pain meds, it was like vacation! (Again, not sure he would agree…)

Since we’ve been married, there hasn’t been much time that we were separated.  When we first got married, Mr. E worked with my father, so I went by his office all the time.  I became such a regular fixture that I occasionally got paid to answer the phones when the staff members were in meetings.  (Come to think of it, I got paid really well to answer the phones.  There was a benefit to being the manager’s daughter and the assistant manager’s wife…)

Then, for about a year, Mr. E worked as a handyman.  We had lunch together every day.  When he went to work in the corporate world, it was great at first.  For the first several years, he worked the evening shift, so we had all day together.  Then, when he got promoted to a “regular” schedule, it was so hard.  I called him constantly at work, and I talked him into taking a mental health day quite often.  He always used all of his personal days before the end of the year.  He was always reluctant to call in sick, but my theory was, “Use ‘em or lose ‘em.”  I was such a bad influence.

When we opened our business, several people talked to us and asked if we knew what we were doing.  They warned us that we would not be able to work together.  They said they had seen many divorces caused by couples opening businesses together.  We just laughed at them.  Maybe that was true for the average married couple, but we've never claimed to be average.  We absolutely loved working together all the time.  In fact, on days when I was gone all day on field trips with the kids or teaching pottery classes and Mr. E was at the store by himself, we always talked at night about how much we missed each other all day.  We laughed about that.  How could we miss each other when we were rarely apart?  But, we did, and we still do. 

Sometimes, I wish for a “normal” life.  I do miss the predictability of having him go to an office every day while I stay home with the kids.  What’s funny about that last statement is the fact that this same predictability just about drove me crazy back in the day!  I hated the schedule and the rut.  I guess you always want what you don’t have. 

Homeschooling was easier when Mr. E went to work.  Of course, the kids were smaller and nicer back then, too.  It could just be the age that has made it more difficult, and at least now, when I get frustrated, I can hand him the book and say, “You the man.”  My kids hate it when Mr. E takes over their school day, because it usually results in lectures and long talks.  They are usually comatose by the time he is finished.  I’m pretty sure he does it on purpose, and that’s just another reason I think he’s great.

Today, Mr. E has been gone since 7:00 this morning.  It’s now past 3:00, and I’m losing it.  I have only talked to him twice.  How am I supposed to function without talking to him?  It's like I'm missing half my brain!  Based on today, I’m pretty sure having him get a regular job and go away all day would not be a great idea.  I would be so lonely without him. (Or he would get fired because I called him all the time.)

So maybe it’s annoying to some people that we always want to be together, or maybe it’s just plain weird.  It may be less than average, but we like it that way!  I just hope we’ll be able to continue to live and work in a way that lets us be inseparable.       -Al