Category Archives: The Chicken Man

If the Sock Fits, Marry It

IMG_0175I’ve been married some 27 years, 19 of which to the same wonderful man. In that span of time I’ve come to the conclusion that a successful marriage doesn’t have as much to do with an abiding love as it does with an ability to tolerate a disordered sock drawer.

That said, my husband’s socks are in a pitiful state of disarray much of the time. Again and again, I’ve tried to bring a sense of order and uniformity to the unruly heaps in his dresser by employing a variety of tactics (i.e. ditching the socks with holes, pairing those without mates and grouping them according to style or color), to no avail. Somehow the huddled masses return in a less-than-tidy fashion, yearning to breathe free. And because I’ve grown to understand the psyche of the disordered male, egregiously flawed as he might be, I’ve become a more compassionate mate.

By the same token, my husband accepts my flaws, and the fact that my sock drawer is a ridiculously organized space—complete with separate compartments for sweat socks, woolen socks and dress socks, nary a rogue in the bunch. The only thing it lacks is a coordinated cataloguing system inspired by Dewey Decimal. Needless to say, I recognize how difficult this must be for him, coming to grips with the sad reality that he lives with a closet neat freak. Of course, no one knows I’m a neat freak because there are no outward signs, unless you happened to be present on the day I purged our linen closet, hurling a disturbing number of blankets, towels and obscenities into the yard during a brief yet memorable fit of rage. Most of the time, however, I suffer in silence, allowing the tide of paraphernalia that comes with marriage and a family to consume me.

Admittedly, since the advent of children I’ve drifted from my well-ordered life and neatnik tendencies, much like growing apart from the distant relatives we stumble across at a funeral, decades later, squinting hard to try and remember who they are and how they once fit into our lives.

That said, everything in my world used to be neat and tidy. There was a place for everything, and everything was in its place. Even my food was logically aligned, tallest to smallest, labels facing out. To this day a tiny part of me dies whenever I peer inside our supersized refrigerator, the contents of which rest on shelves indiscriminately, as if they had been violently launched from a cannon across the room. But I digress.

Getting married and having kids changed everything. After years in the field, I’ve determined that about 90% of parenthood involves finding lone socks in obscure places. Plus there are even more sock drawers to deal with. Indeed, there is more stuff in general—stuff that is piled in our attic and garage, beneath beds and atop closet shelves, in cedar cabinets and the musty basement. Stuff that has no business being stuffed where it gets stuffed. Apparently appliance garages aren’t just for blenders anymore. They’re for lunchboxes and dog vitamins, too, leftover popcorn and tubs of butter that may or may not be encrusted with the remnants of a week’s worth of toast. And let us not forget the crumbs that gather there en masse. The ones that no one wants to clean.

What’s more, it’s been so long since we could park two cars in our garage I’ve forgotten what that even feels like. I suspect it would feel wonderful, much like it would to put china and only china in my china cabinet. Instead it houses prized artwork from my kids’ grade school experience and a decade’s worth of snapshots. Likewise, my refrigerator holds newspaper clippings, report cards and pictures of my favorite people and pets in the world. It holds vacation keepsakes and magnets with phrases I find particularly meaningful, too. Because that’s what families do—they fill their homes with tangible reminders of the love that lives there. And they tolerate the disorder, sock drawers included.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, with way too many socks. Visit me there at

Copyright 2015 Melinda L. Wentzel


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Filed under Captain Quirk, Family Affair, Home for Wayward Toys, In the Trenches of Parentville, Love and Other Drugs, Normal is Relative, Rantings & Ravings, The Chicken Man, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Assume Nothing When it Comes to Toy Assembly–and on Christmas Eve, Even Less

It has been said that you can tell a lot about a person simply by looking at how they handle three things in life: a rainy day, lost luggage and tangled Christmas lights. No doubt, “toy assembly” could easily be added to that list. Even more telling—toy assembly WITHOUT INSTRUCTIONS on CHRISTMAS EVE. Yep, WAY telling.

Needless to say, my husband and I learned plenty about one another last year on December 24th as we struggled to remain calm despite the plight that befell us. Let’s make that volumes we learned. Hells bells, it was an EDUCATIONAL FEAST.

At precisely 3 p.m. that day we made what could only be described as a horrifying discovery: One of the toys we had purchased—a multi-level, 56-inch, 197-piece Swiss Family Robinson style doll/tree house—had NO instructions. That’s right—NONE. Zip. Zilch. Nada. We know this to be true since we nearly destroyed the box in our frantic search for said directional material, to no avail. And no matter how many times we shoved our heads inside the box, tipped it on end and meticulously examined each little packet that poured out, we were faced with the same grim reality: THEY JUST WEREN’T IN THERE. And no amount of wishing would have made them appear; although at one point I seriously considered phoning the North Pole to make a special request. I may as well have.

Firstly, we tried contacting the store where we bought the blasted thing. No luck. It just so happened to be the last one on the shelf; so we couldn’t drive there to make an exchange, nor could we tear into another box to peek at its instructions. (Hey, we were desperate!) We then called the manufacturer, whose kind, caring and oh-so-compassionate answering machine wished us a politically correct “Happy Holidays!”

“Lovely—just lovely,” we thought. Perhaps it’s best that we didn’t leave a message. It would have been ugly.

We even got online in hopes that those elusive assembly guidelines would be available for downloading. Perish the thought. Too sensible. In lieu of that, we were able to view photos of the wretched thing—FULLY ASSEMBLED, I might add. All 197 pieces. Together. As one. Totally indivisible. Earnestly I studied that picture; somehow it just didn’t seem plausible that it had once been a jumbled mass of wooden thingies. Duct tape and/or Super Glue HAD to have entered the picture at some point. Although I was hoping they wouldn’t be a part of our solution that night. Stranger things have happened.

Meanwhile the clock kept ticking. We were due in church soon and after that we had tentatively planned to WRAP EVERYTHING (Procrastination Central here…)—so using that precious time to assemble what had become a monstrosity of a toy was out of the question. It was now or never. Do or die.

So the two of us (Tweedledee and Tweedledum) pooled our meager resources—common sense, manual dexterity, mechanical ability and patience—and met the challenge head on. After two full hours of heated debate, we emerged from the basement victorious. The “monstrosity” had been assembled—totally without the aid of duct tape, glue or a single marriage counselor. Unquestionably, the picture on the box had saved us. Had it not appeared there in such fine detail, I am certain that we would have been the proud owners of 197 distinct wooden thingies.

I suppose then we could have presented the silly thing (unassembled) as one of those colossal “gift projects.” You know, “the gifts that keep on frustrating….” Granted, it might not have been completed till now, but it would have certainly lived up to its claim: PROVIDES HOURS OF ENTERTAINMENT. Indeed, that would have been highly entertaining; but I wouldn’t know as much about my spouse now, would I?

But then again, I’ve seen him handle tangled Christmas lights.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2005 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Captain Quirk, Holiday Hokum, Home for Wayward Toys, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Normal is Relative, Rantings & Ravings, The Chicken Man, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

A Rose by Any Other Name…

For a long time I’ve subscribed to the theory, “If it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck, it’s a duck.” Nothing fancy or convoluted about that little nugget of wisdom. Nope. I’ve tried (largely in vain) to convince my poor husband of the same—especially as it relates to his muddled and dreadfully misguided view on a certain sensitive domestic issue: the proper function of a sofa.

Let’s just say for the sake of argument, that he and I have some philosophical differences in this particular department. Okay, major philosophical differences. One of us is clearly wrong, never mind mired in denial. To frame it less delicately, if the man walks and talks like a couch potato, it would logically follow that said man is a couch potato—contrary to his intolerably skewed perception. It’s not rocket science we’re talking about here, people.

In my humble opinion, sofas are intended to be sat upon, lounged upon and even napped upon for a period of time not to exceed the bounds of reason. They also function quite nicely (I’m told) as something purely decorative in nature, fashionably adorned with an array of immaculate-looking throw pillows and perfectly placed cushions—well suited to those perfectly coiffed socialites that ooze sophistication and an I’d-be-appalled-to-find-a-three-day-old-peanutbutter-sandwich-wedged-in-with-the-Legos kind of air. I used to be appalled. And I once owned such a sofa. But it was still marginally functional, I suppose—almost as functional as my kids currently consider their beloved “launch pads” to be.

Not surprisingly, they have spent a goodly chunk of their collective childhood (clad in makeshift superhero capes, barn boots and strange-looking helmets fashioned from Winnie the Pooh and Dora the Explorer underwear) leaping from the backs of those gloriously cushiony surfaces with wild abandon, saving the day roughly 42 times a week. It’s been rumored anyway. More practically perhaps, couches serve as the most ideal cover known to man—a vast and wonderful dumping ground for the mounds and mounds of unsightly rubbish (i.e. kid paraphernalia) we can only dream of trashing one day. Instead, we settle for shoving it underneath and behind the sofa—out of sight, out of mind. A mildly liberating experience, some would say. But liberating nonetheless.

It is also my impassioned belief that couches are not to be confused with beds and they should never ever take the place of anything mattressy—except where the aforementioned naps (and unabashed mid-day romps) are concerned. Nor are they meant to be crashed upon till all hours of the night, perpetuating and exacerbating that horrendous, vegetative-type state I have grown to loathe. The one pictured thusly: a certain someone’s eyelids are slammed shut, his mouth—shamelessly agape and sucking air like nobody’s business and his arm (usually the left one)—suspended in midair by some strange force yet to be determined, sprouting forth from the cushions like a tree branch, aimed directly at the television screen, of course. At the end of that bough-like appendage rests the prized remote control device, firmly cemented in place for all eternity. Heaven forbid that some fool (namely me) would try to pry it away, adjust the volume, change the channel or try and convince Mister Sofa Spud that it makes far more sense to get up and go to bed than to vegetate half the night on the blasted couch. I may as well save my breath. It’s like conversing with a head of cabbage—a mildly intriguing concept in theory, but entirely futile in practice.

“Honey, why don’t you just shut off the T.V. and come to bed already. It’s late. Reeeeeeeally late,” I suggest for the 37th time in as many minutes. “It can’t be all that comfortable there and besides, your snoring is disturbing the neighbors. More importantly, it’s disturbing me.” (Yes, I can hear those irksome rumblings all the way upstairs—plain as anything).

He then mutters something completely unintelligible in response and I have to ask him to repeat it 16 times so I know precisely how to counter his denial of the obvious and his predictably lame attempt to justify why he’s STILL on the stupid sofa at 1:37 in the morning. Ugh.

Like I said—if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck….

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (with a man who possesses a wealth of couch potato tendencies).

Copyright 2007 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Captain Quirk, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Rantings & Ravings, The Chicken Man, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

That’s Corny

It has been said that you can tell a lot about a person by how they eat an ear of corn. Who needs fancy-schmancy personality inventories or the opinion of some accredited guru to learn the depth and breadth of someone’s quirkiness? Just watch them eat. The proof’s in the puddin’—or in the corn, so to speak. All sorts of dining-related peculiarities surface once those steamy plates of golden-y yellow are set before a hungry crowd. And I’d daresay the oddities are stunningly similar to the ones exhibited when they’re NOT chowing down on anything—least of all, those sweet and succulent kernels of perfection.

Just for fun, I decided to test my theory by conducting a little research of my own—at the kitchen table, of course, where most of life’s important discoveries are made over Spaghetti-O’s, Kool-Aid and tuna casserole. So is it any wonder that such vital data would be best gathered there? Perhaps the only location or event better suited for said clinical study would be at a backyard barbecue or at a mid-summer’s family reunion; but then again, my clipboard and frenzied note-taking might frighten the subjects and skew the results. At our modest dinner table, the variables were controlled as much as humanly possible and the gathering of information was discreet in order to maintain the integrity of the analysis. Needless to say, names were changed to protect the eccentric.

There was the child with buttery elbows who nibbled and gnawed at the cob, slowly and methodically inspecting each and every row upon completion, ensuring that no kernel was left behind. Pun intended. She would then return, typewriter-style, to the left-hand extreme and repeat. She had a system, sound reasoning and a need for logic and order. Naturally, fastidiousness is nothing new to this particular individual. For a long time she got her jollies by stringing a 30-foot procession of plastic cups and saucers, pots and pans across the floor through the kitchen and into the dining room (arranged first by size, then by color). She did the same with Beanie Babies. And Matchbox cars. And books. And pillows. Finally, with animal crackers. So truthfully, it was no surprise to discover how she might tackle an ear of corn. No doubt, a future candidate for OCD.

My other smallish nibbler employed a completely different strategy for the task at hand. She picked and pecked at those plump little nuggets of corn like some deranged bird, striking randomly and fiercely with every pint-sized bite. No identifiable pattern ever emerged. At least none that I could see—except for the flecks of yellow sprinkled on the floor, perfectly outlining her chair. There appeared to be no method to her madness. No logic to her lunacy. Once again, the personality characteristics in question matched uncannily—she’s a veritable live wire, bouncing from one thing to the next, blessed with the attention span of a gnat. Of course her corn would be consumed with haphazard flair. The typewriter thing just wouldn’t fly. Not for this free spirit.

Captain Quirk (not disappointingly) earned his stripes yet again, proving to me (and soon, to many) that his weirdness is without limit. A nonconformist to the core, the man devours corn-on-the-cob in perhaps the most unorthodox manner in existence. He begins by gnawing kernels from left to right, pausing in the center of the cob only to return to the left end again. He rolls it precisely one-quarter turn and follows with the very same action, over and over until exactly one-half of the ear is consumed. He then does the unthinkable. He sets it down on his plate to eat (Gasp!) something else, returning to it later. A heinous crime in most states, I am certain.

I, personally, don’t surface for air until the job is finished, classic type-writer style. And I’d never dream of touching a hamburger or hotdog in the midst of a session with hot, buttery corn-on-the-cob. It’s absurd even to entertain such foolishness. Pass the potato salad? Make idle chit-chat? Fat chance. I’m in a zone.

Quirky? Nah, just passionate about my corn.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (where napkins are entirely optional).

Copyright 2006 Melinda L. Wentzel


Filed under Captain Quirk, Daily Chaos, Meat & Potatoes, The Chicken Man, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction