You don’t want to know what our clothes smell like


To say that my family celebrated my wife’s birthday this week is overstating what actually happened.

Between her work schedule, my work schedule, doctor appointments, dentist appointments, our daughter’s dance classes, Girl Scout meetings, rehearsals for her middle school show choir and the latest Apollo theater musical and our son’s trumpet playing schedule, driving lessons, piano lessons and various evening meetings, it’s little wonder we haven’t had time to take a breath and blow out any candles.

I even had to briefly put off booting up Netflix for my daily “Star Trek” fix so I could pop online to order birthday flowers.

The horror!

Needless to say, the demands on our time are extensive and I haven’t even mentioned our animals.

Take our dog Rodney’s manic insistence that he be taken for hours-long walks all over our neighborhood and beyond.

My wife has to take him immediately upon returning home from work in the evening. If she doesn’t there’s a distinct possibility he could do significant damage to our house. He spins around so fast and barks so loud, it’s a wonder he hasn’t whipped up a mini-tornado and reduced our house to splinters.

And then there’s the extra laundry we’ve lately had to do courtesy of our ornery cat Skitty. She’s taken to relieving herself ON TOP OF OUR DRYER!

There’s nothing that adds to that warm “fresh out of the dryer” feeling like cat urine seeping through the lint trap.

You might think the change in Skitty’s bathroom habits is an unusual thing for a normally fastidious cat, but she has a lot to contend with, too. Namely, the long-standing “live and let live” truce between her and Rodney has been broken.

I feel bad because it’s my fault. I’m the one who made the decision to take in another stray a few months ago.

We call her “Little Cat.” We tried calling her a couple of different names, but “Little Cat” seems to have stuck and she has become Rodney’s “Best Friend Forever.” Between the two of them, they’ve been making Skitty’s life miserable.

Skitty has always made herself at home on top of our dryer. We took to feeding her there to keep Rodney from hoovering up her food. Now, however, she seems trapped by a younger cat and a giant dog who don’t understand that she doesn’t want to play when she jumps down from her perch. She just wants to visit the litter box we keep in the basement.

I generally know when Skitty has attempted to go to the bathroom when I’m startled by a flurry of activity and a lot of hissing. The poor cat can’t even pee in peace.

I can’t blame her for not relishing the thought of running what amounts to a gauntlet. But we are going to have to find a remedy for her and soon.

That’s because I’m planning a belated birthday dinner for my wife Sunday evening. It’s the only time of the week when we are usually obligation free.

The last thing I want is for it to be ruined because our clothes smell like a litter box that hasn’t been changed in a very long time.

Why “Star Trek” is going to have to take a back seat


At the risk of sounding like a tedious old bore who can’t stop talking about his aches and pains, I feel like I should revisit them, anyway – mostly because I’ve been making such a big deal about all the medical tests I’ve had to endure.

In any case, I have to find a new audience for my complaints. My colleagues at work are starting to give each other that “there he goes again” look every time I get wound up.

I started confiding in them to give my family a break. My wife has been giving me that same look when I seek sympathy, and I think our kids have started finding excuses to leave the room when I broach the subject.

I’ve been so desperate to find somebody to listen to me whine that I tried confiding in our cats.

They ignored me.

I probably should have expected that. Cats are nothing if not haughty.

Our dog Rodney has been a good sport. But he IS a dog. And dogs are easily bribed.

When he looks at me as if to say “please stop whining”  when we are out for a walk, I throw him a bacon-flavored treat and go on complaining about the pain I’ve been having on the right side of my rib cage.

Tasty dog treats only go so far, though. When we arrive back at the house, he stops begging for the next morsel entirely and starts straining on the leash, presumably to get away.

I tell myself he just wants to get back to annoying our cats. But the truth is, he’s probably had enough of me.

Basically, it comes down to this –  it seems that I can no longer rely on youth to maintain the good health I’ve always taken for granted. The tests that were performed this month indicate that I have a slightly overweight liver.

In hindsight, I guess that shouldn’t be surprising. It seems my liver  is just taking cues from the rest of the overweight me.

I’ve yet to get specifics from my doctor on what to do about it. That comes next week. But if the internet is to be believed, I’m not going to be streaming old “Star Trek” shows on Netflix quite as often.

A Google search suggests that I get off my rump rather than spend leisurely afternoons exploring strange, new worlds while the kids are in school and my wife is at work.

In fact, I’ve already started. The walks I take with Rodney are more frequent and brisker. I’ve also joined the stair-walking club at work.

I’m also trying to watch what I eat more carefully, which should please my wife. She’s been after me for years to take better care of myself.

But if she thinks I’m going to stop whining, she’s got another thing coming – especially if my doctor bans “Star Trek” from my daily routine.

Why I’ve been remiss


I’ve been more distracted than usual lately. That may not seem particularly remarkable. According to my wife, my focus on day-to-day tasks has never been stellar. But even I have noticed a turn for the worse. I’ve let deadlines slip and my “honey-do” list seems to be getting longer and longer and longer.

I could blame the arrival of 2015. The year isn’t even a month old and I’m pretty sure I’ve already reached my medical deductible, not to mention the limit of my dental insurance.

I showed up at the dentist’s office at the beginning of January, got comfortable in his chair and then had the uncomfortable experience of watching bits of a bad tooth come flying out of my mouth. My dentist had to grind that tooth down to a nub in preparation for a crown. It was like watching sparks shooting from a metal grinder. If you ask me, my dentist seemed a little too enthusiastic.

But that experience was just the beginning.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been compelled to undergo a series of medical tests that seem designed to shred my dignity.

I’ve been obliged to drink foul substances and required to recline in various positions at the hospital, where I’ve been irradiated and poked and prodded with various instruments. And that was when I was awake. I don’t want to know what happened while I was happily unconscious.

I should know in the next couple of weeks whether my condition warrants more poking and prodding and general anesthetics.

If all that weren’t enough, my eye doctor has been calling. Apparently, I’m overdue for my annual exam.

It’s as if 2015 is saying, “Welcome to your 50s, Mr. Snyder,” as it giggles behind its hand.

I know I should just be thankful I’ve made it this far, that I have the privilege of sitting around at work commiserating about various aches and pains with the other guys my age and boring the pants off considerably younger colleagues.

But the truth is, the complaints associated with getting older aren’t the real reason why I haven’t given my obligations the attention they deserve.

That honor belongs to Netflix. The streaming video service is giving me the opportunity to revisit some of my favorite old TV shows.

Specifically, Netflix is indulging my obsession with “Star Trek”. I’ve been re-watching all of the old shows from “The Next Generation” to “Enterprise”, leaving my wife dumbfounded. I’m sure she thought she was out of the woods when the final series went off the air ten years ago this spring. But she didn’t count on Netflix.

She will soon have reason to celebrate, though. I only have one more season of “Deep Space Nine” to watch and then my “Star Trek” binge will be over and I will have run out of excuses for not attending to my rapidly expanding “honey do” list.

Unless, of course, I find something else to binge watch.

Come to think of it, the new season of “Game of Thrones” begins this spring. Now is probably a good time to refresh my memory.

I could use a little more distraction between all those trips to the doctor.

Barbers, Beards and Christmas Gifts


My barber had just finished buzzing the top of my head when he stepped back and asked if I wanted the hair on my chin trimmed, too.

He had the same look in his eye that my wife has been giving me lately. It’s a look that asks “you’re not seriously considering going out in public like THAT are you?

My wife would like nothing better than for me to trim my beard. And for a second, I even thought she might have promised my barber double his usual fee if he could persuade me to let him take a little off the chin.

But my suspicions were eased when, after I politely declined, he shrugged and acknowledged that “a man’s got have a little wild hair somewhere.”

He still seemed disappointed, though, so I tipped him a little more than usual and chalked up his gloom to professionalism. Leaving my unruly whiskers untouched must have seemed too much like leaving part of the job undone.

Despite his apparent discomfort with letting me slip out of his shop still sprouting hair that could benefit from his scissors, I took his “wild hair” comment in a positive light. In fact, I took it as tacit, albeit grudging, acknowledgement that there is a place for facial hair enthusiasts outside of long-bearded hipsters, reality TV stars like the Duck Commander guys and well, shopping mall Santa Clauses.

While my barber’s support seemed hesitant at best (and my wife’s non-existent), I am getting more solid encouragement from other quarters. For instance, my brother and I have lately been comparing our experiences with various beard waxes, conditioners, tamers and oils. He even texted me the other day asking if I knew how long he could expect his beard to grow.

He came to me with that unusual question because I am the unofficial keeper of the family archives. The thing is, though, I had no idea how to answer him. I started exploring family history because I wanted to be able to tell our kids where they come from, not because I wanted to know more about ancestral facial hair.

I ended up telling him that none of the pictures of grandfathers, great-grandfathers and great-great grandfathers in my possession shows anyone with a big, bushy beard – that in the end, he’ll just have to discover how long his beard will get the same way I am – by growing it.

It’s been years since my brother and I have bonded over anything. We haven’t lived together since we were kids. And aside from our mutual affinity for Star Wars, we haven’t been very good at keeping in touch outside of holidays like Christmas.

That’s why I hate to tell him that I might have to get my chin hair under control, after all.

Unfortunately, I’m having trouble figuring out the perfect Christmas gift for my wife. Nothing has struck me as particularly inspired.

Since I’m clearly running out of time, I might have to give her something more personal.

I just might have to trim my beard.

At least the science fair is out of the way


One school project down, one to go.

Our high school son’s entry in this year’s science fair went out the door this week. There’s nothing else to do. In fact, he’s already presented it.

Our middle-school daughter is participating in this year’s social studies fair. Her project is not due until after Christmas.

The social studies and science fairs may be two different competitions based on two different academic disciplines, but as far I’m concerned, their differences are non-existent. Both fairs have the same effect on our house. They each have the potential to spin our lives out-of-control faster than our dog Rodney spins when it’s time for a walk.

I’m just thankful my wife is able to take on her customary role as “Chief Fair Pesterer” and “Display Board Brain-Stormer.” Otherwise, I would be in charge and our kids would be in far more trouble than usual.

Take last year, for instance. We had a science fair meltdown. I had to take over supervision at the last-minute after my wife broke her right wrist the weekend before our son’s project was due.

On second thought, “broke” isn’t really the right word to describe what she did to her wrist. “Shattered” would be more accurate. She fell on it awkwardly – twice – while attempting to walk Rodney in the middle of an ice storm.

It was a long weekend that featured an ambulance ride to the emergency room, pain medication that didn’t work, a two night hospital stay and surgery. She ended up with a contraption bolted to her forearm that would make Dr. Frankenstein proud. In fact, we took to calling it her Franken-wrist.

That’s why I got nervous when weather forecasters started predicting ice earlier this week. I feared a repeat of last year when (a) my wife, from her hospital bed and in excruciating pain, encouraged me to check the ink in our printer; (b) I cavalierly  dismissed her concerns; (c) our printer predictably ran out of ink the night before our son’s project was due; (d) I had to go to considerable trouble to find a store open late that had the right cartridges, and finally; (e) I had to endure the “I told you so” conversation.

This year (and I’m incredibly thankful for this) my wife was tanned, rested and ready. And so was our printer. I just wish our son had been.

Just when I thought I could skip out the door on my way to the midnight shift at work without having to lift a science fair finger, our son stuck out his leg and tripped me. The night before his project was due, he decided he needed more data to support his conclusion.

While my wife rounded up the neighbors, I ended up spending far too much time trying to persuade my co-workers to participate in his project and texting my son the results.

Still, when I arrived back home in the morning, my wife clearly had everything under control. In other words, it was a usual frantic morning spent at first encouraging our kids and finally threatening them to get in the car to make it to school on time.

The only other part I played in this year’s sprint to the science fair finish line was simple. I carefully placed our son’s display board in the back of the car and waved goodbye.

I’m still not clear of the wringer, though. There’s the upcoming social studies fair to contend with and I’ve got to keep my wife healthy and intact for it. So if there’s any ice in the forecast between now and then, it will be worth taking over the potentially wrist-breaking dog walking duties to keep her that way.

Why Thanksgiving is stressing me out


My in-laws have yet to show up at the front door for Thanksgiving dinner, but I’m already stressed.

And when I say stressed, I’m not referring to the usual things that put my nerves on edge.

Take our dog Rodney’s incessant barking when my wife even thinks about stepping outside without him. His chaotic antics are not bothering me nearly as much as the impending arrival of my wife’s parents. Even the deer that seem to stalk me on my way to work aren’t as intimidating.

Don’t get me wrong (and just in case they read this before they get here), I’m looking forward to their visit.

Really. I am.

Adult conversation will be a welcome change from the grunts that seem to be the lingua franca among teenage boys like our 16-year-old son and the attitude we get from our middle-school daughter.

Plus, it will be nice to have a competent fix-it guy around, if only to undo my incompetent attempts at home repair. For example, I’m hoping my father-in-law will help rewire the floor lamp I took apart when all it needed was a new switch to turn it on and off. That way, we’ll actually be able to plug it in without causing a breaker to trip, leaving our family room in the dark.

So no, it’s not the actual visit that has me tied up in knots. It’s getting through the days leading up to my in-laws arrival.

My wife has been sending strong signals of what’s to come. You might even call them warnings.

At least once a day for the past couple of weeks, she’s walked down the hall on the way to the kitchen and muttered to herself, “we’ve got to clean before my parents get here.”

And I’m not getting out of helping – not even if I go on a hunger strike like our cat, Skitty, did.

My wife was the first to notice that Skitty wasn’t eating, which is highly unusual. She generally spends her days alternating between demanding food and hanging out on a perch evincing her customary sense of superiority. Instead, she’d taken to hiding in our daughter’s closet, completely uninterested in food.

After an expensive trip to the emergency veterinarian, a visit to our regular vet, blood tests, a round of antibiotics, x-rays and vitamin injections, we still could not find a cause for her hunger strike.

Then on the third trip to the vet, my wife casually mentioned that we had recently taken in a stray kitten.

Our vet had an epiphany. For lack of a better diagnosis, he concluded that Skitty was merely throwing a hissy fit over the new arrival. He said cats are “weird that way” and recommended putting her on anti-anxiety medication if her hunger strike continued.

It took a few more days but Skitty has now come to terms with our new kitten. She’s back to eating normally. The bad news is, my wife is still walking down the hall muttering about cleaning the house.

It’s enough to make me want to make like a weirdo cat and hide in the bottom of a closet until my in-laws get here.