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Day By Day: In tough times who couldn't use a little help around the house?

With all the news so bad, what is a columnist to do? There are usually two choices - the economy and the husband.

With the economic news swirling consistently around the bathroom plumbing, smarter people than me have just about said it all. Of course that won't stop them from continuing to talk and talk and talk. And if the talking weren't bad enough, doesn't it seem like the tone of their voices is getting shriller and higher. I was listening to some so-called economic expert try to explain to Matt Lauer why what he said last month is in direct contradiction to what he said this week and I was reminded of a phrase Garrison Keeler used in one of his monologues when describing some conversations at a party. He said the guys had voices like "chainsaws." Bingo. I think I am done listening to chainsaws for awhile.

We are experiencing the job crisis firsthand in our house. Kevin was laid off several months ago but has been diligently looking for something else ever since. Now I remember the last time he was out of work. It was 20 years ago and it was very different then. He had a system back then full of things like "informational interviews" and cold calls and that was when networking was just taking off. He was dressed in a suit and out of the house three out of five days and when he was home, he was usually on the phone. He was back at work in a couple of months and I actually missed him. Of course, we had just brought our twins home, so the extra pair of hands on diaper duty was welcome when he wasn't schmoozing on the phone.

This time is different. He is working just as hard but it is all from home via the computer that sits smack dab in the busiest part of the house--the part of the house I have claimed for my own since the kids left for college--the part of the house Kevin now has time to peruse and observe for inefficiencies and maintenance opportunities.

With so much of his job hunt being conducted online, and with the prospects kind of dim of late, he is around a lot more this time. Now it might sound helpful when I say he has taken over the loading and unloading of the dishwasher and that has been nice. Except that when he unloads it, he insists on reorganizing where things go...things like the garlic press which obviously belongs opposite the stove but that he, for some unknown reason, keeps putting with the baking stuff. I don't generally put garlic in cupcakes.

OK, so that may be petty. But what about this annoying habit he has of always taking the leftovers out of the refrigerator, sniffing them and asking me if I'm sure if they're still good. Do any of us look like we've suffered from food poisoning lately? He does the same thing with the milk, which never lasts more than a few days. And can ketchup really go bad after a few weeks?

He is great with a vacuum, just maybe a little too thorough, especially when we are expecting guests in a half hour. It is on those occasions, when all I really want is a quick run through to move the dirt to less conspicuous spots, that he decides to spring clean. That means that not only the floor gets done, but the windowsills, the light fixtures, all the furniture, even the books in the bookcase. And cleaning like this cannot be rushed. "If 'we' cleaned a little more consistently throughout the year, I wouldn't have to do this."

Kevin has never liked to do laundry but he's branching out and I appreciate it. I must admit, the whites have never been whiter. It was going pretty well until he accidently washed a wool sweater of mine in hot water. After arguing with me for several minutes that it could be restored by restretching it, Kevin vowed to never make that mistake again. Sounds good but he has since turned into a laundry Nazi, taking everything that is written on the care label as gospel. Now while I admit that this is better than shrinking sweaters, come on--just because it says "dry clean only" doesn't mean it has to be dry cleaned, especially if it is something that has seen a brighter day. That's what Woolite is for, right? But Kevin kind of treats those labels like the ones on mattresses that claim legal consequences if they are ignored. And just what constitutes a dark versus a light? These are such gray areas, very frustrating for a man like him.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate his efforts. And it may well be that my angst is driven by the fact that he's probably a better housekeeper than I am. But God help us all if he decides to cook. He could try but I'm pretty sure I could take him. Some things are sacred.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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