July 6, 2012
When I retired a year ago, I looked ahead with great anticipation to hobbies, new and old, that I would cultivate.
- In college, I was a tournament-level chess player, but I had hardly touched the board since then.
- Many creative friends and relatives shared their worlds with each other through photography, so I definitely wanted to try that.
- And who doesn’t like the idea of taking on travel as a hobby, to traipse across the planet, experiencing other cultures (or at least their food) with a worldly sangfroid?
Frances has hobbies as well.
- She is a voracious reading, going through two or three books a week, a habit she shares with her siblings and, now that I think about it, with my kids and many of the people we know (except me, hmm).
- Even though we share responsibilities for the sheep and chickens, one only need watch which one of us they congregate around in the farmyard to realize that they understand how deeply invested she is in that hobby.
- And of course, Frances has her wool dyeing business, which she had quietly nursed and built up on her own the last few years. Her customers are rug hookers and other fiber artists around the world and her marketplace is eBay. I could see that she was very busy in the wool room all the time; I didn’t have much of a clue as to what she was doing.
Recently, thanks to the clarity of vision that descends with a sickening thud when one counts up all the pennies and aligns them to actuarial tables, I realized that Frances’ hobbies bring in money, while mine simply spend money. (Reading books doesn’t actually bring in money, but for years she sold second-hand books online so she’s grandfathered in on that). Thus began my career assisting her in Sun and Wind Farm’s wool dyeing division. She may be Product VP and Chief Visionary Officer, but there are roles for me too. I am John in Accounting, John in Marketing, John in Research, and John in Distribution.
This was going to be great, I thought. I could apply my college and career business credentials to our enterprise and help it grow! No longer would Frances have to perform every single chore related to the business. She had me, and I had her covered!
It’s funny, though, what you learn about a loved one when you work with them.
In a marriage, the little rough edges that might become insurmountable hurdles elsewhere are actually just cute personality traits that remind you over and over why you married this person. Unless you have to work with her. Then those same precious quirks suddenly start to morph into something darker.
I mean, how many ways can one actually fold a 56” piece of hand dyed wool? There is the correct way (and I don’t say it’s correct just because, out of sheer coincidence, it’s how I do it): Fold the wool once at 18” from the left and once at 18” inches from the right, and you have a nice package of wooly goodness that can fit three across on our shelves. What could be simpler?
Or take another example: Should one uniformly append a name tag for the wool in the same place on the same edge, or should one be “creative” in the labeling, sometimes putting it on top, sometimes on the bottom, and sometimes folding it inside the wool so that someone (for instance, me) who is trying to quickly find the right piece of wool in a stack of 10 items doesn’t have to twist and turn into a knot to read each label? Who could disagree?
It’s funny how this works both ways sometimes. From time to time, I analyze price points with Excel, expertly drag and drop a chart onto Powerpoint and then launch into an impromptu presentation for my audience of one. She listens politely and at the end responds with the wisdom of those who haven’t just talked about doing something, they have gone and done it. “Yes, that should work, you’re right. I wonder what happens when you fold in the postage price increase that hits at the 13-ounce mark?” Oh, is all I can say. I didn’t know that.
We’re singing a sweet duet right now working together on this project. May I never forget it’s her song we’re singing.