The Whiteboard Litmus Test

If you are a Washington news junkie, like I am, you’ve noticed the hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch are in process.  The nominee has been peppered with questions trying to ascertain how he will interpret the Constitution, what his views are, and how he might rule on a variety of hypothetical cases.  Always there is a discussion of litmus test issues: the big ones being gun control for one side and abortion for the other.  Never do judges actually say how they would rule on such cases – Oh well, golly gee, I sure do hate guns and their propensity to kill innocent people or well shucks, I think if a girl gets herself knocked up she’s gotta face the consequences – but always the wily congressmen try to get a nominee to admit that he/she will take their guns away or eliminate a woman’s right to choice.

Recently I realized I have my own litmus test.  During my writing class the teacher uncapped a whiteboard marker and began taking notes for the class.  The marker squeaked, but no words appeared on the board.  That’s when the defining moment happened.  My instructor put the cap back on the pen and…. THREW IT AWAY.

I couldn’t help myself.  I leaned forward and said, “I love that you did that.  Thank you for throwing the marker away.”

“Right!?!?” He replied.

“It’s not like it’s magically going to regenerate ink if you keep it.” I said.

So that’s it.  My new test.  If you get up to a whiteboard, find a marker that doesn’t work, then just leave it in the marker tray for the next real grown up to deal with, well, you are dead to me.  That’s it.  I’ve drawn my own personal line in the sand.

Don’t be a dried up marker keeper.  Don’t be that guy.

Created in response to the WordPress Daily Prompt – Denial

A Sample of Historical Aftheads

The idea of afthead was one that wouldn’t let go of me.  It started goofing off at work, when someone wondered, “What’s that called, that back part of your head where men never go bald?”  An afthead of course!  We started looking and couldn’t find a reference to an afthead, other than an occasional discussion of putting toilets in the back of boats.  We searched domains and found that was available for a pittance.  The domain searcher said to me, “You’ve come up with an actual original idea!”

For a few months, heck probably years, that statement and the afthead idea drifted around in my head.  I looked up the domain.  Eventually I bought it, and did nothing with it.  It was interesting though.  I started noticing that I had a long standing penchant for aftheads.  There is something natural, unposed, and real about snapping a shot behind someone’s back.   It draws your attention to the scenery, to where the photograph-ee is looking, and it lets their personality shine through.

First there were a series of pictures from Italy featuring my husband’s aunt Bonnie.  She passed away almost five years ago, and she was my favorite traveling companion.  I love these pictures because they are are so her.  She loved to walk, and we walked everywhere together.  In the first image she’s climbing down to a city in Cinque Terra.  I love her wide-legged stance.  She was so strong and so curious about things.  She’s reading something, and she has her horribly embarrassing fanny pack on: so practical yet so ridiculous to her then 27 year old traveling partner.  If I’d captured her from the forehead side I would have seen a different Bonnie.  A posed Bonnie who didn’t really love having her picture taken; I love this image because it is really her.


This second picture is amazing too.  We were touring around Rome looking for the Forum and the Colosseum.  We were walking and walking with our maps and guidebooks.  Every ruin, every old looking building we’d say “Oh!  Here’s the Forum” but it wasn’t.  It was drizzling, and all the panhandlers who had tried to steal the fanny pack the day before were now selling umbrellas, and Bonnie bought one.  We marveled at the multi-talented homeless people of Rome and wondered if they sold umbrellas they had stolen the day before.  Finally we turned a corner and both said, “Oh!  This is the Forum”.  It was obvious.  Bonnie then became the methodical tourist.  She visited every ruin, would read about it, and study it.  I stood back and just took the whole thing in.  I didn’t need the same attention to detail; she’d tell me any of the really interesting parts.  This left me free to take sneaky pictures of her.  In this one she’s reading something, again.  I love the umbrella discarded for the reading material, and I love the emptiness of the Forum.  It was a mystery to us how anyone could be in Rome and not go out just because of a little rain.


Similarly, I found two sets of afthead images that featured my husband.  One set is from our wedding in Scotland, and the other is from our ten year anniversary trip last year.

This one is the day we were supposed to drive to Loch Ness, but we both woke up tired and not excited about spending another day driving.  Our bed and breakfast hosts suggested we visit the white sand beaches outside of Mallaig instead.  A genius idea.  Who knew Scotland had white sand beaches?  It was the perfect honeymoon location.  Rather than fight tourists and look for Nessie we took off our shoes and relaxed.  I also love this picture because we did a lot of hiking that trip, and I spent a lot of that time behind my new husband, unable to keep up with him and angry because he wouldn’t wait for me and angry at myself for wanting him to wait.  Ah the joys of new love.


This one brings back different memories.  I was crazy into triathlon when my husband and I got married, and I remember taking this so someday I could go back to this lake and start Ironman Scotland.  I marveled at the beautiful clear water and the perfect roads for cycling.  Now I look at this and marvel at how much hair my new husband had on his afthead.


Fast forward ten years and we are in Acadia, Maine for our anniversary.  Similar look and feel to our beloved Scotland isn’t it?  But with a six year old at home starting a new school we didn’t want to go so far away.  This first picture is from one of the hikes we did that we couldn’t have done with our daughter.  It was so fun to be grownups for eight whole days.  I’m happy to report that we didn’t have one fight this trip about who was walking in front, who was carrying the backpack or which one of us should wait for the other.   Ten years of progress.


This one is another “give up the plans for a more leisurely adventure.”  The plan was to go rent bikes and ride the carriage roads all over Acadia.  Instead we showered, went for a walk on the carriage path, drove up to watch the sunset from a mountain top, splurged on a dinner in Bar Harbor, and watched the stars from a trail-head.  That part of our relationship hasn’t changed.  We pack our vacations full of plans and dreams, knowing we’ll kick some ideas to the curb and actually have more impromptu fun than our plans would have yielded.


The rest is history.  Eventually I tied a blog to my domain and started writing in public.  Since then I’ve compiled tons of other afthead pictures, but that’s enough for tonight.  Oh, except that first one of Valentina, our resident cat in Lucca, Italy.  Oh how I love that brown, warm fuzzy afthead.

Yummies and Yuckies

When my daughter was little our pediatrician encouraged us to start doing “yummies and yuckies” as part of our bedtime routine.  Each night we’d all share the best things (yummies) and worst things (yuckies) of our day.  Sadly this little tradition has gone by the wayside – I think it had something to do with my daughter’s behavior being a yucky one too many times – but I’m going to bring it back here to catch you up on the life of the Aftheads recently.

Yummy/Yucky #1

  • Yucky – my daughter got lice.  It finally happened.  I’ve been dreading this day and threatening to abandon her at the fire station if it ever happened.  (I’m convinced that “safe haven” thing extends to seven year olds, but only if there are lice involved).  I didn’t leave her though.  I’m mommed up, dumped insecticide on her head, and combed through her long hair for two hours and 45 minutes removing lice, nymphs and eggs.  Then for a week after I spent an hour going through her hair and my hair with a literal fine toothed comb – man I really get the imagery behind that phrase now- to ensure we were done with the infestation.  She had a really mild case.  It wasn’t that bad.  I won’t get PTSD, unless those crawly things end up in my hair!
  • Yummy  – The lice killing chemicals had detailed step by step instructions for dealing with head lice, and vague references to “pubic lice”.  I am thankful that I didn’t have to decipher those.

Yummy/Yucky #2

  • Yummy – we had an amazing trip to Washington D.C. to kick off our summer.  We took my daughter when she was four, and she really didn’t have any context for why our nation’s capital is a cool place.  This year she got it.  She knows the president lives in the White House.  She stood on the step where MLK gave his “I have a dream” speech and recited the first few lines.  Making it even more special was that we got to go with her best friend. I’ve got an adorable picture of the two of them, head to head, wind whipping their hair in front of the Washington Monument.
  • Yucky – the best friend had lice when we were in D.C. but no one knew it yet.  If you zoom in on the Washington Monument picture you can see those little burgers leaping off the friend’s hair into my daughter’s hair riding the currents of the wind to a new fertile land.

Yummy/Yucky #3

  • Yummy – Marriage equality happened!  I have friends and co-workers whose lives are changed because of this, and I’m so thrilled.  I didn’t find out the way I’d imagined, but I got to find out with my daughter and we had a great conversation about what the supreme court ruling meant.  It went like this,

Me – “Kiddo, this means people can marry whoever they want.  If a boy loves a girl they can get married.  If a boy loves a boy they can get married.  If a girl loves a girl they can get married.”

Kiddo – “I don’t want to get married.  Why do kids have to get married now?”

Me – “No I meant a man can marry a man and a woman can marry a woman now.”

Kiddo – “Oh.  I don’t ever want to get married.”

Me – “That’s still okay.”

Then we picked up one of her friends and headed to camp.  The two seven year olds had another great conversation about the ruling:

My kiddo – “Hey my mom said that anyone can marry who they want now.  It’s a big deal.”

Friend – “Yeah, people can kiss whoever they want.  I hate kissing.”

My kiddo – “I’m not getting married to anybody.”

Friend – “Me either.”

Thus the nation changed to be more tolerant, more accepting and more equal, but you still don’t have to kiss anyone or get married if you don’t want to.

  • Yucky – I kind of forgot that everyone wasn’t anxiously awaiting this ruling.  Its made some people I really love and care about pretty angry.  While that doesn’t change my feelings it does remind me that change is hard and this ruling doesn’t mean that every individual has become more tolerant and more accepting.

Two more days of lice hunting and we can claim the infestation over.  Maybe then my head will quit itching and I’ll have time to write again.

E-mail divorce

I am going to share an image with you.  I predict that you will have one of two responses to this  image:

  1. Nothing
  2. Your eye will start twitching and you will run to find your own phone just to ensure that those little red numbers aren’t really there… Dear God is that 5,793 UNREAD EMAIL MESSAGES?!?!  The horror….

In case it isn’t obvious, I am in camp 1.  This is a screenshot of my phone.  I leave e-mails unread, voicemails unlistened to, I have no earthly idea what Redbox wants to tell me 77 times, and none of this bothers me.  My husband is in camp 2.  He has a sparkling clean, organized, empty inbox.  He clears up all those calendar items, whatever they are.  Mostly, our relationship is pretty symbiotic.  He deletes stuff he needs sometimes, but I can find that precious message in my heaps of electronic data.

Today we reached an impasse.  We have had a shared e-mail address since we have had e-mail.  We’ve managed our oil and water methods by keeping two outlook accounts where he can delete everything and I keep everything.  However, a year ago we bought a crappy computer, moved to gmail and our system fell apart. Two outlooks was too much for the computer to handle so he took over the e-mail management.  He moved everything into folders I couldn’t search and kept the inbox at a 50ish e-mail limit, thinking that was a compromise.  But this was no compromise.  This was him managing our joint inbox his way, and I hated it.  So today we’ve had our first divorce in our relationship.  6 years after going to shared money, 10 years after getting married, 15 years after buying our first house, and 18 years after our first date I am leaving him and our shared e-mail.  He gets custody, and I’ll have some visitation rights while I move my electronic stuff to my own place.  We’ll still have some shared responsibility, but really it’s better for everyone this way.  Me, my husband, and all those poor messages who have been stuck in the middle this past year.  I can’t wait to watch my 5,973 unread messages start growing again.

Rebranding a dreaded dinner

We have a favorite dinner at the Afthead house.  It’s called “a feast.”  How do you make such an amazing meal?  Let me tell you.  You take everything out of the refrigerator and put it on the counter.  Then you heat up the food that is still edible.  You add in some crackers, pepperoni, and cheese.  Then make quesadillas from the very last bit of cheese.  (Don’t grate your fingertips!) Here is our feast from tonight:

Then you make it really special.  You put a big beach towel down in front of the TV in the basement, or in the back yard, or some other non-traditional-dinner spot.  Tonight we watched hockey playoffs during our feast.

“Wait a second!” I hear you shouting.  “We have that same dinner.  It’s called leftovers and we serve it at the table with sides of complaining and whining.  You tricked us!”

“Cast off leftovers!  Let that dreaded word never cross your lips again!” I shout back.  Now, In a week, have your first feast.  Make it mostly loved food with a few leftovers thrown in.  Two weeks later put in a few more leftovers and a few less mini-corn dogs and potstickers.  (Randomness is crucial to a successful feast.  It should trascend rules of geography and cuisine.) Before you know it you’ll make entire meals out of food in your fridge, and let me tell you, magic will happen. Tonight I had mini-meatballs dipped in green chili which was a never before tried delicious combo.  This is no trick.  It’s a feast!

The wisdom of older age

As I get older I have moments of clarity where I suddenly see things with a different perspective or understand things that seemed mysterious.  For example, there was the day I dropped my daughter off for a “sleepover with Nanna” and in her excitement I saw the joy of my childhood nights with my own grandma.  Then the light bulb turned on: my parents ditched me with my grandparents so they could go out and have fun just like I was doing with my kid.  Those weren’t just my special nights, but theirs too!

This morning I had another realization as a tweezed away the first of three offensive grey eyebrows.  “Holy crap.  This is why Aunt Bert had eyebrows drawn on with a pencil!”  I left the other two.  Random grey eyebrows is better than bald eyebrows.

Redefining our nation’s future (a message of hope)

This week one of my co-workers is getting married to her partner.  She is so excited.  They’ve been together forever, but finally they can have a real wedding.  She’s excited and giddy and cute in a totally not-her kind of way.  I’m not one for weddings.  My husband and I eloped.  But this wedding, this one feels special to me: fragile and new and filled with hope that things are changing.

We’ll be in her performance review together when my phone will buzz.  I’ll check, because I always check.  My kid might be sick.  There might be an emergency at work.  This time the message will be from the Washington Post.  It will announce that the Supreme Court has decided that marriage between two adults who love each other is A-Okay whether you are a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, or a man and a man.  (The message will be much more professional in it’s phrasing.)  I will tear up.  I will show her the note.  She will tear up.

We will celebrate together that for the first time there isn’t a question if her relationship or my relationship is more official.  We will both know that if our spouse is sick we will be able to visit him/her in any emergency room in any state because she/he will be recognized as our spouse.  We will know that when our spouse dies or we die our assets will go to our partner automagically.  We will have the same hard choices if our marriage doesn’t work out.

I hope that the Supreme Court makes law what I know in my heart to be true.  Adults who love each other and are willing to commit their lives to each other deserve the same rights and recognition regardless of the individual’s genders.  I hope I can tell my daughter someday about this week with pride and joy.  We are at a crossroads and I hope we go the right way.

Dinner, the final frontier.

Life gets busy with two working parents.  Deadlines call and school demands.  Bedtime routine is followed by dueling laptops at the dining room table.  Regardless of how chaotic things get, one thing never changes at our house.  Mommy is in charge of dinner.

Don’t get me wrong, my husband is amazing around the house.  He does his laundry.  He does my daughter’s laundry.  He does towels and sheets.  He washes everything but my clothes, and sometimes he even takes those out of the drier and stacks them on chairs and couches in a semi-non-wrinkly way to keep the laundry train going.  He does the dishes.  He picks up.  He does not do dinner.  When 6:30 hits and I am not home he will never come up with the independent idea that food needs to be produced to nourish our bodies.

I attribute this to several things.

  1. My husband does not have the genetic tie between hunger and anger that my daughter and I have.  If he doesn’t eat there are no repercussions.  He just gets skinnier.  Oh darn.  My daughter and I turn into grouchy demons without food.  Somehow the presence of two grouchy demons doesn’t even trigger dinner ideas in my husband’s head.
  2. I like to cook.  I’m not a gourmet or even a scratch cooker, but I enjoy preparing meals.  Most days I’m happy to perform the little ritual that puts food on the table, but some days I come home after working 5 hours on a Sunday and the lack of dinner smells waiting for me when I walk in makes me crazy.
  3. We don’t pick up food.  We cook.  Somehow the idea that food can be prepared by others and brought home isn’t a viable option at the Afthead house.  Occasionally if I am leaving the office after 7:00 or if volleyball season has started and we can eat at the park I will get sandwiches, but mostly we eat at home.  This means we cook at home.  This means mommy cooks.

It’s not that I mind our gender roles, but as I was driving home at 6:45 this evening I had a fleeting thought that maybe dinner would be waiting.  It wasn’t.  Some gender barriers just can’t be overcome.  Like dinner.  Oh and trash.  I’m sure every Wednesday night when Mr. Afthead comes home from guitar lessons, or volleyball, or a night out he thinks that maybe the trash will be out by the curb.  It’s not.  The trashcans are always still sitting by the house.  I don’t do trash.

Okay, two things never change at our house.

Being a Grown-Up

Remember when all you wanted to be was a grown-up?  People would stop telling you what to do, what to wear, and how to act and you would be in charge?  Well, I hate being a grown-up.  Some weeks I’m okay with the fact that when I’m lying in bed throwing my booger filled tissues on the floor that two days later, as the grown-up, I am going to have to pick up the remainders of my cold.  Some weeks I can deal with the fact that I can’t blame anyone else when my sweater shrinks, we run out of diet Dr Pepper, or when the back door is left unlocked.  My husband and I use grown-up as the code word to tell our kid she can’t do something she wants to, like sliding down the booth to the floor of the restaurant to enjoy a fine whine.  “Be the grown-up,” the one sitting across from her will snark at the one sitting next to her.  The grown-up will have to haul her up, lecture her, and be the bad guy for the rest of the day.

This week grown-up went a little too far.  Do I go to my friend’s dad’s funeral or go visit my brother in the hospital?  Do I keep my cat on dialysis, at the cost of $1000 per day, or do I let the 7 year old feline we adore die a slow painful death?  Do I go see our family shrink so she can shed some light on familial turmoil or do I make that critical meeting at work that will build bridges and may set me up for my next promotion?  Oh, and the damn dishwasher broke, so I have plenty of time to ponder these decisions while I scrub gross cat food bowls and egg crusted pans.  This morning while I was scrubbing I really should have been working on that $700,000 proposal for work, but whatever.  The manual labor grown-up task won.

I don’t want to be 18, or 23 or 30 again, but I want one day as not a grown-up.  I want to go lay in the hammock because it’s a nice day.  I want to go meet my girlfriends for happy hour and not worry about when I need to get home.  If I decide I want to get drunk I want to get drunk.  I want someone else to pick up my snotty tissues for me if I do the not-grown-up thing and cry about all this crap going on.

Now, I have to stop playing on my blog and go do some dishes, or write a proposal, or call my brother.  Ugh!  Grown-up sucks.