He’s Making a List (on an Excel Spreadsheet) and Checking It Twice

It’s Christmastime again and there is no better season to be married to an engineer.  He comes in so handy.  This will be Bob’s and my 38th Christmas together as husband and wife, so I know what I’m talking about.

Each year, Bob and I sit down together to form our gift giving list.  In the early days of our marriage we would do this on paper.  In those pre-computer days Bob wrote down everything on graph paper.  This drove me crazy and may be the root of some of my problems with confined spaces.  I don’t like writing in tiny boxes, and I’m a little claustrophobic.  But my main problem was how do you use cursive handwriting on graph paper?  The answer is – you don’t.  Engineers don’t use cursive handwriting.  They print everything, which is good because when they do have to write something in cursive, for example their signature, you can’t read it.  Give them a piece of graph paper though and order and legibility return.

In order to keep me from having a bad attitude and possibly being placed on the Naughty List, we developed a system where I wrote everything down on regular paper.  At Bob’s suggestion, we used columns – person, gift, cost, etc.  I would check things off as we bought a gift and line through items after wrapping them.

This brings me to the present day.  Bob now creates the bones of our gift giving list.  He no longer uses graph paper.  He is much more current than that.  He uses an Excel Spreadsheet.  The first time he attempted this new-fangled way of keeping track of things, I balked at it.  I pulled out my yellow pad and begged him to let me use these things called paper and pen that had been my faithful friends since I was six years old.  He relented, sort of.  He kept his spread sheet and I kept my pad of paper.  I was stubborn, as I am with most things that relate to learning/using the computer.

But, I discovered, this was not building unity in our marriage.  It was not healthy for me to continue to resist his advances (technological or otherwise).  He waited patiently until I finally caved.  Now we happily use the spread sheet exclusively.  I look at it as a way to spread (sheet) peace on earth and bless Bob.  And, please don’t tell Bob this, it is very efficient.  In case you are thinking about trying to find our list, it is disguised in his computer files under a phony name.  You’ll never find it.  Trust me, I can’t even find it.  I know it’s there, because the computer has better memory function than I do.  Again, it’s a good thing I have Bob around.

There are other ways that having an engineer around comes in handy.  He easily calculates how many strings of Christmas lights we need for the outside of the house and hangs them most efficiently.  This year when he put out our lighted Christmas moose with the head that goes back and forth, we were sad to discover that there were lights burned out around his mouth.  All it took for them to work again was Bob taking one step toward the moose.  Things fix themselves in his presence.  He’s that intimidating!

photo (107)My fiber optic winter scene had a tiny ice-skating figure broken off at the base.  Bob went into his lab/office and concocted a bonding agent (glue) to put him back on his feet.  My kids always marveled at how they would put broken toys on Bob’s desk and they would miraculously appear back in their rooms as good as new.

As a matter of fact, my granddaughters are now picking up on this.  I suppose their mom has taught them well.  We finished our last day of Grandmom School for the semester and for a treat I told the girls we were going to plan a surprise for Bumpa (Bob).  Being the simple, non-flashy guy that he is, he had mentioned to me that he really likes the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.  The girls and I headed to CVS and bought him one and surprised him with it at his office.  They wanted a tour so he took them down in the lab and showed them around.  On seeing firsthand what he does, Mia exclaimed how this was the perfect job for him, seeing how he loves to make and fix things.  It was so sweet.

The one thing I have on him when it comes to lists at Christmas is that I used to be a secretary and I know shorthand.  So I write myself notes and ideas about what to get Bob for Christmas in that form and he can’t read it.  And, even though I have a smart phone, I still pull out my trusty paper and pen to make my list for him.  I’ve looked it over recently, but with two weeks to go before Christmas, I guess it’s time for me to check that one twice, too.

Musical Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

Leave a comment


  1. I’m with your husband! I’ve been using Excel or SuperCalc to maintain my Passover shopping lists (ported from SC to Excel) for over three decades now. It’s amazing how much stuff you need to track for a simple (ok, not so simple) 8 day event. And, yes, it’s always ready to be plucked out and used on Purim for the next Passover…
    Good luck doing that with your paper lists.

    • You are right, of course. For instance today, I made a paper list to go to the grocery store. It had lots of different things on it because I’m having a dinner party tomorrow night so I couldn’t just wing it through the store. I left the list at home and had to go back for it. Oh well, only 18 minutes wasted.

  2. Aubyron

     /  December 11, 2012

    I love this! I can see Mia saying that too and it is so sweet. Merry Christmas!

  3. Meg

     /  December 15, 2012

    Love it. We have a tradition that I put up the Artificial tree. Then every year Dean dismantles it and puts it together right. He says, ” You couldn’t leave it the way it was…” sigh… I could have.


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