Category Archives: Coffee Corner

The Slippers of My Dreams

I don’t mind falling temperatures this time of year, but my crampy toes beg to differ.

“We’re freezing down here. Lose the sandals!” they whine. “Time for fuzzy-wuzzy slippers!”

This wasn’t always the case. My warm-blooded siblings and I zipped around the house in our bare feet summer and winter, donning shoes and socks only when our shivering mother, using typical Mom logic, complained, “You’re making me cold!”

Slippers? Too spendy for a big family with a small income.

I read in a storybook that ragged Cinderella gained a prince, a kingdom and a pretty ball gown, all because her slippers fit. But my chances to share her magic looked grim, even if a fairy godmother showed up at our door bearing a free pair in my size. My mother would never allow me to run around in glass slippers. At that point, she wouldn’t even permit me to dry glass dishes.

The fuzzy slippers my friends received for Christmas from grandmas and grandpas caught my attention: brown puppies for boys and pink kitties for girls. An elite few boasted cowboy or cowgirl slippers, just like Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.

By the time I grew old enough to make my dreams come true using hard-earned babysitting cash, I craved white go-go boots instead. Fuzzy pink kitty slippers no longer appeared on my gotta-have list.

College dorm-mates, however, made poufy slippers a priority — although they favored Disney characters and yellow smiley faces. Serious-minded and penny-pinching, I found their frivolous fetish difficult to understand. During those early feminist days, we eschewed evil pink aprons, hair spray and anything else that threatened our position as free, mature women. We had declared war on any and all fluffy mindsets. So why didn’t my ideological sisters reject the corresponding footwear?

I refused to bow to such mindless leanings. Besides, I couldn’t find Minnie Mouse slippers in size 10.

A few years later, my new husband and I made many marital adjustments. However, we discovered common ground in dealing with crucial slipper issues. I grabbed 80-percent markdowns. He continued to wear the leather moccasins his grandparents gave him during high school. (I finally sneaked them out of the house and burned them.)

But slipper dreams refused to die. Spurred on by my childhood cravings, I bought colorful Strawberry Shortcake and Ninja Turtles slippers that matched our children’s PJs. They preferred plastic rain boots.

Fast-forward a few decades. When my roommate at a writers’ retreat organized a Goofy Slippers Day, my heart and toes warmed to the idea. But I owned only sensible cheapos and nice argyles my daughter knitted for me — nothing of sufficient bad taste. I perused secondhand and discount stores. Where would I find the slippers of my dreams — in my size?

I had almost had given up hope when, at the last store on my list, I encountered plastic ooh-la-la eyes and a smirky, whiskered grin. I pulled huge, fluffy pink kitty slippers from the pile. A perfect size 11 (my feet — like other parts of my anatomy — have spread).

It was a sign from God.

I named the right slipper Zsa Zsa and the left Eva. They made a hit at my writing get-together. Not so with Hubby, who rated them only slightly above an ancient, ratty housecoat that still gives him nightmares.

But my warm, grateful toes adored Zsa Zsa and Eva. So did my grandkids, until they (the slippers, not the children) fell apart.

If Cinderella had offered me her glass slippers in exchange, she would have been out of luck.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you own a favorite pair of slippers?

How Do You Like Them Apples?

“A is for apple.”

Today, little Apple lovers might expect a Macintosh laptop on an alphabet book’s first page. In 1959, however, technology never entered my mind. Instead, I eyed the luscious red fruit on my teacher’s desk. I focused on bites, not bytes.

I savored the school lunch’s apple crisp — until Joey Bump told me the topping consisted of fried ants.

Smart guy. He doubled his apple crisp intake.

Ants notwithstanding, I come from a long line of apple lovers. Every autumn Dad bought bushels of fragrant fruit at a nearby orchard. He peeled an apple with a surgeon’s precision, dangling the single long red curl, then sliced it into white circles whose dark seeds God had arranged in a flower pattern. A boy during the Depression, Dad scoured the woods for fruit — for anything — to nourish his scrawny frame. Forever, he would regard apples as a cause for celebration.

Whenever we visited my Louisiana grandparents, Dad bought Grandma bags of apples, fruit too expensive to frequent their black-eyed peas/turnip greens/corn bread diet. My four siblings and I waited for Grandma to share.

The apples vanished within seconds, never to reappear — while we were there, anyway.

Dad often surprised Grandma, driving all night from Indiana to visit. Once, he brought four-year-old Kenny, whom Grandma hadn’t seen for a year. Kenny and Dad dozed in his truck until they smelled bacon’s tantalizing fragrance. Dad’s resolve wavered. Did he dare rile his mother and risk losing a free breakfast?

Dad debated only a moment. Handing Kenny a bag of apples, he pulled my brother’s cap over his eyes and sent him to Grandma’s door. Hunkering down in the truck, Dad watched apple drama unfold.

At Kenny’s knock, Grandma appeared. “Child, what are you doing here at this hour?” She showed no sign of recognizing Kenny. “Where’s your mama? Your daddy?” She cast a wrathful eye at the truck.

When Kenny offered her the apples for a quarter, Grandma suffered pangs of conscience. How could she take advantage of this baby-child?

But the bargain apples proved too much.

Grandma retrieved a quarter from her old money sock.

As she handed it to Kenny, he tilted his head back. “Hi, Grandma!”

Dad strode to the porch, wearing a huge grin.

Grandma laughed and cried. When her voice returned, she said her 35-year-old son needed a good licking. How could such a bad apple turn out to be the only preacher in the family?

Grandma hugged Kenny, then welcomed him and his prodigal daddy, stuffing them with eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy.

But no apples. The bag already had found a new home — under her featherbed.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite apple dessert?

Popcorn and Me

Not many foods remain friends for life. Chocolate turned traitor during my teen years as I fought the Pimple Wars and later put on pounds. But popcorn has always been there for me.

My family owes its survival to popcorn. Mom faced two snack choices: a bale of hay or a dishpan-sized bowl of popcorn. While she threw handfuls of yellow seeds into a pan, we gathered close, quiet as if attending a theater performance — until the first pop pinged. Suddenly kernels exploded in a mad dance of joyful pop-pop-pops. A few sneaky ones fooled Mom and leaped out when she removed the lid — a punch line we enjoyed as if it had never happened before.

Fresh wonder filled me at seeing hundreds of fluffy white kernels, a miracle that rivaled the Feeding of the Five Thousand. If only candy bars multiplied like that!

As cornfields surrounded our house, I became convinced we were not utilizing a huge, free popcorn resource. My mother disagreed. But I filched an ear from a neighbor’s field and set it on fire anyway. Sadly, Mom was right — again.

Later we grew our own popcorn, including a “strawberry” variety. Hoeing the plants, I imagined the pink strawberry-sucker-flavored popcorn we would savor. At harvest, we shucked wine-colored kernels off little cones and waited breathlessly as Mom popped this amazing new treat. Only red hulls evidenced anything different about strawberry popcorn. After initial disappointment, though, we made a hit at school with our special red-and-white popcorn.

But the popcorn my siblings and I really craved was Jiffy Pop®. On TV commercials, smiling kids watched it rise like a silver Space Age balloon. I was sure the Jetsons ate Jiffy Pop®. Mom, however, vetoed it as too expensive.

When I, too, became a mean mother, plain old popcorn remained my friend. My children gathered as kernels tumbled in the air popper. Like my mother, I poured sizzling butter over theirs. Mine? I ate handfuls that tasted like Styrofoam packing peanuts. But they filled me up and kept me from expanding as much as Jiffy Pop®.

Now, growing older, I still cling to popcorn. Even the Jetsons would envy my microwave method. However, the time saved is used to read popcorn cautionary commandments on every bag, probably more than accompanied the original atomic bomb: HANDLE CAREFULLY: VERY HOT OIL & BAG! THIS SIDE UP! THIS SIDE DOWN! PICK UP HERE! PICK UP FROM OTHER END! OPEN CAREFULLY! HOT! CAUTION! OR YOU WILL DIE VERY, VERY SLOWLY WITH RADIOACTIVE POPCORN UP YOUR NOSE.

Is that any way to talk to a friend?

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What are your favorite popcorn memories?

A Kind-of World Series Fan

Like many Hoosiers, I am addicted to basketball. I count the days until the season’s first games, even watching Little Sisters of the Poor battle St. Insignificant. I will referee the NCAA finals forever and ever, amen.

To my utter surprise, I also have become a baseball fan.

Not that I didn’t love baseball as a child. In our tiny town, baseball comprised a weighty part of recess and sweltering-summer-evening entertainment. Teams ranged from two to nine players. We often invented convenient ghosts to run bases who were called out by nonexistent referees. I even played benchwarmer for the Taylorsville Hillbillies (and no, I am not making that up).

But that passion did not translate to professional baseball. I remember the World Series because boys smuggled transistor radios and earphones into class. Mr. Daily, my sixth grade teacher, also got in trouble for teaching while thus plugged in. I got in enough trouble for other reasons, so I skipped the Series.

Baseball reawakening took place decades later when I moved to northern Indiana. Vast numbers of Chicago Cubs fans thrived there, despite their not having won a World Series since 1908. My friend Joleen didn’t miss a Cubs opening day for 40 years. The Cubs did win a doubleheader the day she passed away. In her honor, I became their fan forever.

My out-of-print biography about Billy Sunday can still be purchased on Amazon and other online sources.

At the time, I was writing a book about Billy Sunday, an evangelist. Billy, a speed-of-light base runner, played for the Chicago White Stockings during the 1880s (which, paradoxically, later became the Cubs). Sadly, Billy suffered from Cubs Disease, a malady that survives to the present, in which batters develop a severe allergy to RBIs. Regardless, I cheered for Billy as the White Stockings/Cubs battled St. Louis in World Series contests.

When the Cubs finally won the Series in 2016, we fans anticipated blowing out the competition every year.

That has not happened.

Still, less than desirable World Series contests can prove advantageous. Due to lack of emotional investment, a kind-of fan wastes less time actually watching games. Instead, a “viewer” can sort socks, clip coupons, give herself a pedicure, address early Christmas cards and paint the family room ceiling — all during the first inning.

Who says watching TV sports accomplishes nothing?

Kind-of fans also sleep more than rabid World Series viewers. They doze throughout the game and retire early. This ensures productivity the next day — although well-rested fans discover the next morning that teams, indignant at abandonment, hit 15 runs.

A kind-of fan avoids the strain/overexcitement of winning the World Series.

At least, that’s what Cubs fans have been telling each other since 2016.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you watch the World Series?

He and She Share a Bathroom

When the plumber announced the death of my bathroom’s leaky shower and faucets, I didn’t cry, though I’d repainted the bathroom less than two years ago. Even the cost didn’t shake me — much.

No, the crisis struck when I shared my husband’s bathroom.

My dearly beloved turned white as his bathroom tile.

Anxiously, I prodded the plumber: “This is only for a few days, right?”

Well, the drywall had suffered water damage and needed repair. …

Hubby and I have survived 80-hour work weeks, colic, soccer seasons, crabgrass, teen drivers, four family members in college, menopause, and choosing movies. Though our last remodeling project broke me out in hives, and Hubby considered leaving the country, we knew we would handle this one better.

Mainly because someone else would do it.

Our optimism lasted, maybe, ten minutes.

According to him, I committed the first trespass: I moved things. The soap dispenser. The drinking cup. The wastebasket. Simple little adjustments to meet my lefty needs.

He crossed his arms. “They belong on the right.”

I crossed mine. “This is in the Bible?”

Not only did Hubby and I cross theological swords, but my hairbrush and toothbrush played unauthorized games of hide-and-seek. My wrinkle cream vanished, creating a world crisis of epic proportions.

My husband disagreed. The world crisis of epic proportions was created when I used his rare and wonderful tooth floss instead of my cheapo brand.

Sharing a bathroom with Hubby was like living in a hotel where you have to scrub the toilet and wash towels.

Speaking of towels, I must say he exhibited surprising patience when I jammed his rack with mine. I, however, struggled with sharing bathroom space with his big, brown fuzzies.

SHE: Those towels shed brown, hairy stuff everywhere. It’s like sharing a bathroom with Smokey the Bear.

HE: You bought them.

SHE: You always make a big deal out of nothing.

He does, you know. When I suggested his shower be checked by the plumber, too, he acted as if I had suggested we amend the Constitution. “Don’t touch it. I like my shower.”

“Don’t you want a flexible nozzle like mine? It helps in cleaning out the shower.”

That didn’t appear an issue to him.

Days passed.

Drywall had to dry. Several times.

Days passed.

I had to repaint. (What happened to “someone else would do this”?)

The paint had to dry.

I repainted again.

And so on.

Somehow, our marriage survivor skills saw us through.

When his cherished showerhead breaks someday, I’ll graciously share my lovely, left-handed bathroom with him.

But with Smokey the Bear and his towels? No way.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What First-World adjustments have you and your spouse made lately?

Pumpkins: Supersized, Scary, and Scrumptious

Years before “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” I recall visiting a farm market as a preschooler. Accustomed to our family’s economizing, my brother and I were ecstatic when Daddy hoisted a pumpkin almost as tall as I to his shoulder. We danced around him (endangering Daddy, the pumpkin and us) as he carried it to the farmer to pay.

Fast-forward a couple of decades. Our children repeated the scene as if they’d read the script. Fast-forward a couple more decades, and the grandchildren do the same pumpkin dance.

Some things don’t change, namely, everyone wants a BIG one.

Fortunately for parents, kids don’t know how big they can grow.

When Hubby and I moved last, we inherited a garden with a huge pumpkin we couldn’t budge. Little did we know that compared to the biggest pumpkin ever recorded, ours resembled wussy ones piled in a basket on the dining room table.

All together, now: “How big did it grow?”

According to Guinness World Records, Mathias Willemijns of Belgium grew the biggest pumpkin ever in 2016: 2,624.6 pounds — about as much as a 2019 Honda Fit.

Imagine turning a monster like that into a jack-o’-lantern. Imagine encountering it in your neighborhood at midnight.

Size isn’t the only scary factor in pumpkin carving. Some pumpkin-loving adults also sculpt artistic renditions of famous people like George Washington and Ben Franklin. Don’t you think these bodyless visages would appear creepy, too? Especially when lit by candles on a dark night?

Just sayin’.

Some carvers, unafraid of freaky faces, express what scares them most in pumpkin graffiti: “The WiFi is down.” “Windows 7.” And “Student Loans.”

Thankfully, more pumpkin aficionados demonstrate their creativity through cooking. Sorry, pumpkin-spice opponents, I love those recipes. Once, I even declared that I loved all things pumpkin.

Though still a devotee, I now make exceptions.

Unappreciative of their popularity, pumpkins are fighting back. They have conceived a brilliant solution: expanding to products that cause former fans to gag. These include pumpkin-spice pizza, hummus, garbanzo beans, and kale chips. Not content with turning human stomachs, they have pushed an additional innovation: pumpkin-spice fish bait.

Some pumpkins have grown openly aggressive in their revenge. According to the Pumpkin Nook website (http://www.pumpkinnook.com/commune/stories.htm), one Florida grower, Barbara Kincaid — and former friends who helped carry her 200-pounder — suffered a pumpkin explosion. Rotten inside, it swelled from built-up gases. Its detonation coated all with what Ms. Kincaid described as stinky “pumpkin puke.”

Ewww!

Given that danger, will I swear off jack-o’-lanterns? It’s doubful.

Spicy pumpkin bread and muffins? Lattes? Pie?

Sorry, pumpkins. That thought is too scary to contemplate.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you like all things pumpkin?

Loser, Weeper — Why Can’t I Be a Keeper?

The list of things I lose keeps growing, as if I am trying to fulfill a quota.

Are you a loser, too?

Unfortunately, I admit to a long history of misplacement. The only time I recall a blowup with my sweet, elderly first grade teacher occurred when I lost my first reader. No problem, I told her. Mom would look for it. After all, what were mothers for? Dick, Jane, and Baby Sally would find their way back to school eventually.

Mrs. Carr did not buy it. “You are responsible for that book. Not your mother.” She even implied that I should look for it!

Oh, well. Everyone has bad days. Even teachers.

If you are of a certain age, you probably recall skate keys — at least, in theory. My neighbor-hood buddies and I probably would not have recognized one if we saw it, we lost them so quickly. Ditto for the skates’ leather straps. We tied skates on with rags and never noticed any difference.

What works for kid transportation, however, does not necessarily apply to adult transportation. Rags exert little kinetic effect on automobiles. As for replacing keys, no one can truck to the hardware store anymore and do it for a few bucks in a few minutes. Instead, the culprit is forced to purchase a pricey mini-computer disguised as a key. Or she must break into her own car. Or hot-wire the engine.

Losing one’s keys — and the above “solutions” — tend to annoy parking lot security personnel.

Their crankiness ups several notches when the car itself vanishes.

“It’s gray,” I told the parking attendants after a 1988 Amy Grant concert.

Tsk, tsk. Maybe they experience even more bad days than first grade teachers.

I have lost more items than I have ever owned. Four umbrellas during my freshman year in college. A leather belt I bought in England. The only hat my husband ever liked, bought in Hawaii, lost in Israel.

I try to think positively. After all, someone is enjoying the use of the umbrellas, the belt, and the hat. I try to impress my husband with my global generosity.

Well, husbands have bad days, too. Especially when I lose my passwords.

Please do not suggest I make a list. I lose lists.

Put reminders on my cell phone? My cell phone?

We won’t even go there.

Unfortunately, every loss morphs into a double loss, as I lose my temper.

But if I have lost it, why doesn’t my temper go away, too?

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s the worst thing you’ve ever lost?

The Camping Commandments

I, like other clueless new spouses, signed my marriage license without reading the fine print. Later, I discovered I had promised to camp with my husband — for better, for worse — until lightning melted our tent poles or ravenous raccoons starved us out.

After decades of marriage, I now welcome campout vacations.

Or perhaps I’ve numbed to the point I think I like them.

Either way, I’ve learned the Camping Commandments:

  • If thou ownest an RV resembling a Trump hotel, wave pleasantly to those abiding in a bathroom-cabinet-sized tent. Similarly, tent dwellers should show friendliness to those in luxurious quarters. After all, we share the same pioneering blood — a fact well known to mosquitoes.   
  • Thou shalt not concoct gourmet meals whose tantalizing fragrances make thy neighboring cook’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches appear inferior.
  • Designer clothes on a campout shall be considered illegal.
  • In the community restroom, thou shalt not hog the one working sink for three hours, perfecting thy mascara.
  • Always swat a bug that lands on a fellow camper — after introducing yourself first.
  • If thou art a Boy Scout who attained the Pyro Overachiever Badge, bless others with thy superior craft. However, if an ignorant fellow camper adds an uninvited log onto thy perfect blaze, do not toss him in after it.
  • If sharing a group meal around the campfire, thou shalt not bring up scary research facts about hot dogs.
  • Neither shalt thou yank blazing marshmallows out of the fire, lighting fellow roasters like birthday candles.
  • Thou shalt not spin in 60-mph circles on a tire swing after eating four triple-marshmallow s’mores. (My grandson can attest to this one.)
  • If rain ensues, and thou ownest the sole camper in thy group, thou shalt welcome all 47 muddy, smelly tent-dwellers — for a price.
  • When changing at night in a tent, stuff thy flashlight into thy shoe for lower illumination. Otherwise, thy silhouette will gather unwanted fans or frighten thy neighbors into hysterics.
  • Even a grandma cannot be expected to welcome a wildflower bouquet featuring poison ivy.
  • Finally, departing campers should always share excess firewood with neighbors. If their loud music kept thy family awake at 3 a.m., thou mayest bore holes in the logs and insert firecrackers first.

“Wait,” you say. “You’ve cited more than ten commandments. Do campers really need that many?”

“Absolutely. We campers are wild by nature. Actually, there are many more commandments than these.”

“More?”

“Go back and read the fine print.”

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What Camping Commandments would you include?

Commercials Then and Now

My husband and I view a television program for a grand total of 63 seconds before a carrot chorus line high-kicks across the screen. Then an older couple, whose idea of a good time has deteriorated to shivering in separate bathtubs, teeter on a cliff’s edge.

One ad (guess which one) strikes me as mildly funny. I chuckle.

“You’ve seen that a hundred times.” Hubby rolls his eyes.

“I have?” I prod my memory. Zero recall.

“You never pay attention to commercials.” He makes this sound downright un-American.

I resent the slam on my patriotism. Plus, he’s dead wrong. I remember lots of commercials — except they belong to a different era.

Decades ago, Captain Kangaroo lauded Wonder Bread, which built strong bodies 12 ways. Captain K. always celebrated my birthday with a big cake. He reminded me to say my prayers. So, when the Captain told me to ask Mom to buy Wonder Bread, I did. But Mom said it was expensive. Gasp! How could she flout the wisdom of Captain Kangaroo?

She gave in, however, to lovable hucksters who taught thousands of children — including my husband and me — to spell “Nestlé” before they could spell their own names. Danny, a ventriloquist dummy, sang, “N-E-S-T-L-E-S, Nestlé’s makes the very best—” and Farfel the dog chimed in, “Choc’-late!” with a loud snap of his jaws. Good stuff.

Even black-and-white TV couldn’t diminish the Ali Baba richness of Kenner’s Sparkle Paints. Not only would Sparkle Paints pictures glitterize and glamorize my room, they would magically protect me from arithmetic, besides bringing about world peace.

I received Kenner’s Sparkle Paints as a gift! But my attempts — plops, glops, and slops of paint — resembled nothing on TV. Since Russian Premier Nikita Krushchev still banged his shoe on podiums and yelled during other commercials, Sparkle Paints didn’t accomplish world peace, either.

Although now a child cynic, I still enjoyed commercial jingles, including Speedy the Alka-Seltzer® mascot’s “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh, what a relief it is.” And I, along with a gazillion other schoolchildren, wished we were Oscar Mayer wieners.

Medical commercials, however, caused me concern. I didn’t know what Preparation H® treated, but it had to be life-threatening because when I asked Dad, he didn’t want to talk about it.

Some commercials embarrassed me. I wished Mr. Whipple and his friends, who squeezed Charmin toilet paper in public, would disappear.

Nowadays, though, with Victoria’s Secret models joining the TV carrot chorus line and Vagisil/Viagra enthusiasts telling me much, much more than I want to know, I tend to veg, remembering only commercials of yesteryear.

Never thought I’d say this, but Mr. Whipple, I really miss you.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite commercial? Your un-favorite?

There’s a Strange Man in the House

What’s that?

I listen, heart pounding.

Bumps in the house tell me I’m not alone.

It’s midafternoon. I shouldn’t hear these until 5:30.

But the noises morph into big footsteps. He’s walking my direction.

I grab the nearest weapon. A sofa pillow?

Not much help.

But that’s all right.

The “intruder” is my husband.

For the umpteenth time, I forgot that after 40-plus years of family medicine, Dr. Hubby has hung up his stethoscope.

We celebrated this new life chapter the way I expected. A fun retirement party. Kayaking. A steak dinner out. A camping trip he’d dreamed of for a year.

But now, official celebrations are finished. Though Hubby is teaching college part-time, my retiree is basically a homebody.

Friends tease about my handing him a honey-do list, covering the past four decades. But he has compiled his own list, one he tackles each day with the joy of a 10-year-old let out of school.

He is retired.

I am not.

Having worked full-time at home for 20-plus years, I have developed my own schedule — which includes a sacred, after-lunch siesta.

Though he respects my personal space and timetable, just the presence of all this relentless energy disrupts my nap aura.

Meanwhile, Hubby has even washed his truck. Downright unnatural.

Even more unnatural, he suggested a shopping trip.

Shopping?

I would have insisted on a psychiatric evaluation, except that he would have demanded I undergo one, too.

So, my new daytime life floats as if in a world of levitation. The garage door goes up and down, lights flick on and off, and food vanishes into thin air. Broken appliances fix themselves, laundry folds itself, and dishes fly from the dishwasher into the cabinets (Love this!).

However, the calendar misplaces half its dates. “Is this Tuesday or Wednesday?” becomes a subject of serious breakfast debate. With new freedom, actions we thought built into our DNA — such as brushing teeth and putting out the trash — disappear as if the Social Security Administration waved a very odd magic wand over us.

After a week of getting his bearings, Hubby commented, “I really like retirement, but this flexibility thing is hard.”

Strange, but true.

But with a strange man in the house, what would you expect?

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you think you’ll like retirement for you and/or your spouse? Why or why not?