Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste


Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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Signals of a Good Marriage

July 20, 2015


Mrs. Chatterbox and I have gotten along extremely well for the past four decades, but there is one area of friction. Like many husbands, I’m not particularly observant when it comes to doing things around the house. While I readily admit I distract easily, it’s true that the flip side of the coin bearing the words Easily Distracted, is Lazy. I don’t step out of dirty clothes expecting Mrs. C. to pick up after me, or turn a blind eye to making beds or cleaning the shower, and I don’t dump dirty dishes in the sink expecting a maid to materialize to deal with them, but emptying the dishwasher has become an issue at our house.


Oddly enough, I don’t dislike emptying the dishwasher. It only takes a few minutes and I find it therapeutic. The problem that removes me from consideration for being the perfect husband (a joke!) is that I just never think about emptying the dishwasher until Mrs. C., who conscientiously runs it, says, “You were home all day. Why didn’t you empty the dishwasher?”


I could respond that I’m too busy painting downstairs in the garage, but this isn’t a good excuse since she’s the one who goes to work everyday, bringing home a paycheck and permitting me to paint in the first place, for which I’m extremely grateful. I answer honestly: “I didn’t think about it.”


“Why don’t you think about it? You must come upstairs occasionally to grab a snack or use the bathroom. During those moments, why don’t you think to empty the dishwasher?”


No good answer.


I often walk around with blinders on, not seeing things that need to be done, but because I cherish my wife and don’t want her to be victimized by my thoughtlessness, I came up with a solution, or so I thought.


“Here’s the problem,” I said.


Her glare told me she knew what—who—the problem was.


“I need a signal. I’m a visual person and need something I can see reminding me to empty the dishwasher.”


Exasperated, she asked, “So I’m supposed to draw you a picture? Why do you need visual reminders? I don’t need visual reminders scattered about to tell me when things need to be done. Why can’t you just remember to do it?”


Again, I had no answer.


I retrieved the dishwasher soap from beneath the counter and placed it above the dishwasher. “If you leave the soap out, I’ll see it and it will trigger my memory.”


“Why should I remember to do this when it’s just as easy for you to remember what needs to be done?”


“It really isn’t much to ask for you to leave out the box of soap after pouring some into the dishwasher. I mean, the box is already in your hand.”


She gave one of those soul-deep sighs only exasperated wives can give, but the next day when she was at work and I came up for a snack, I saw the box above the dishwasher and instantly emptied the machine.


My system of leaving a visual signal still frustrates her, but it’s worked perfectly* for the past year. I no longer need her constant reminders. Every time I’ve seen the soap left out in the kitchen, I’ve emptied the dishwasher.


Problem solved.





*Note: Mrs. Chatterbox would like you to know she takes issue with my usage of the word perfectly.





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Hey, whatever works! My wife is notorious at running the dishwasher and then leaving it for me to find when I go to place a dirty dish inside.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on July 20, 2015
Neat; I too need reminders - often confused with 'a blow on the head'. I want to know if you somehow also relate this to being fed. Y'know - soap box = empty machine = food. Pavlovian?
By: Mike@A Bit About Britain on July 20, 2015
At this point in my life, I've been watching one kid or another since 1965 (the year my brother was born). My youngest son is in his Senior year of high school. Women hate to empty the dishwasher, period. That is why we assign that chore to others. Emptying the dishwasher was on the chore list of every one of my sons - not loading, mind you; just emptying. With that data pool, I can tell you all men need a reminder to do this chore but it you're a creative guy she's lucky if you EVER think about it. BTW: All my kids are creative guys.
By: Cherdo on July 20, 2015
If you rid yourself of the dishwasher and do them manually, your visual acuity should improve... and perhaps Mrs. C would be less annoyed with you... Naturally with this outcome you would gain additional favour. :)
By: Daniel LaFrance on July 20, 2015
I have the perfect way to let all in the house know that dishes are clean- I put a little tent card out that says "dishes are clean" That reminds ME to empty it! I don't mind doing it, cuz R does soooo many other things for me.....every couple has to figure out their routine! Have a super day!
By: Kathe W. on July 20, 2015
Around our house, the secret to reminders, no matter which of us needs to be reminded, is a Post-It note placed where it's sure to be seen. Works like a charm.
By: Susan Swiderski on July 20, 2015
I feel your pain! I clearly understand your dilemma. Looks as though you may have developed a "perfect" work around. Here's a word of encouragement-experts say a HABIT can be started for ended in 21 days. Good luck!
By: Tom Cochrun on July 20, 2015
My husband's easily disfracted too. What visual signal might he need for the raised toilet seat that lives in our bathroom?
By: Jo Barney on July 20, 2015
For Jo Barney: Would falling in be considered a visual signal?
By: fishducky on July 20, 2015
Actually that seems like a brilliant solution. For once, I am going with the "guy" logic.
By: Akansas Patti on July 20, 2015
This is too funny. We don't have a dishwasher but my hubby sounds like your wife and I sound like you. My hubby just tells me to remember but when the roles are reversed he tells me to leave a reminder
By: Birgit on July 20, 2015
Trust me...you aren't the only household where this is a problem!! I hate unloading it but it would never get done if I didn't!
By: Bouncin Barb on July 20, 2015
Excellent! I leave myself sticky (Post It) notes to remind me to do something or other all the time...on the door to remind me to get some XYZ while I'm out for example. Hey, it works! :)
By: Scott Park on July 20, 2015
If I had to rely on just my memory, I would get nothing done. It's reminder notes for me all the way. I love post-its, like several other of your readers. "Perfectly" is officially defined as 85% success rate or higher. (Don't tell your wife I just made that up.)
By: jenny_o on July 20, 2015
Hey, how in the heck did you marry Mrs. Penwasser??
By: Al Penwasser on July 20, 2015
When we do lots around the house, and it sounds like you do, there should be very little in the line of complaints!
By: red on July 20, 2015
Some people need reminders, some don't. Just like she feels artistically challenged, while you can paint and write and draw, you are not good at remembering chores that need to be done. We are all different, and you've come up with a great solution.
By: mimi on July 20, 2015
Ha - I love your idea. Especially since I leave the dishwasher detergent on the counter in the morning if I need to start the dishwasher as soon as I walk in the door after work (I don't like running the dishwasher while I'm not home).
By: Pixel Peeper on July 20, 2015
Why doesn't Mrs. C just hang a big ol' metal pie-pan around your neck on a piece of chain from one of those cruise ship anchors before she leaves for work? That should do it. And the kitchen won't be cluttered with the detergent bag.
By: Val on July 20, 2015
If you think I'm going to get into this mess, then you haven't even noticed that big bag of Cascade!
By: Catalyst on July 20, 2015
Haha. When a husband boasts perfection with anything, the wife knows the truth: he does it okay some of the time.
By: Robyn Engel on July 20, 2015
A great post which sums up marriage and my shortcomings perfectly!
By: John on July 21, 2015
Sometimes I think that something simple is all it takes. I am awful about a few small things like that. Not important things, naturally. Of course.
By: Jenny Woolf on July 21, 2015
Arlynda uses a ball-peen hammer to leave me signals. It usually only takes once.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on July 21, 2015
When will women realize we won't know on our own? Why is it so important? Just tell us what to do and we will do it! Unless we forget. Great solution CC...I might have to try this.
By: cranky on July 21, 2015
A fine story. We all tend to have our patterns around the castle! :)
By: Michael Manning on July 21, 2015
Good Morning Stephen, We have a different problem to do with dishes. We do have a dishwasher, but often as not, as there is only the two of us at home, we wash up, using a washing bowl.... yes a washing bowl and the other dries. Both of us would rather wash than dry. So how do we sort this out, well it's simple really, whoever gets to the bowl and turns the hot water tap on first is the lucky person who washes instead of drying. I thoroughly enjoyed this post and I am glad you have resolved your dishwasher issue... such a simple but workable solution. Best Wishes Daphne
By: Daphne on July 22, 2015
i'm grateful ours has a tiny green light to signal it has completed a wash and is ready to unload. we reset it after we empty it. :)
By: TexWisGirl on July 22, 2015
We don't currently have a dishwasher, but when we did, Mike was in charge of loading (he has MUCH better spatial skills than I do!) & I was in charge of unloading. I usually remembered, but he had to do it himself sometimes. Now I do the dishes & put them away. Maybe I should put a dishcloth on top to signal to Mike to put them away for me. Ha!
By: The Bug on July 22, 2015

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