Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gains, and a big loss

So . . . I cleaned out my kitchen cabinets and lost my son's puppy.

There is no direct correlation but the lack of dear sweet Sally has put a damper on the house in general and my de-cluttering efforts in particular. What would have been a prime time to finish up the big stuff on Saturday became instead a fruitless search by Domino up and and down Dan'l Boone.
On Sunday despair sat in and I mostly just stared aimlessly at all the places she used to lay, and all the stuff she chewed on. There have been no reported sightings and I have checked all the roads for carnage (so depressing) and so all we can conclude is that she was picked up. Hopefully it was by someone well meaning who mistook her for a homeless needy animal. Though I am still hopeful every time I open the door . . .

There is also the depressing reality that more sometimes looks like less. I came home this evening and went straight to it. I handed the missing puppy flyer the mailman, did 2 loads of laundry, switched put the dishwasher, cleaned up cat poop, cooked dinner, served it, and cleaned up afterward, bathed myself and Walt, finished cleaning out the plastic ware drawer, and fed the animals. Some how the house looks worse than it did yesterday.
The reason is fairly obvious to any regular visitor to my house. My son is a animated tornado who leaves a trail of stickers, drawings, and socks in his wake. My husband is the human embodiment of inertia and my dog has a thing about trash. I can't keep up, there aren't enough hours in the day.

Still, I am determined, even if notably shaken in my resolve. This must be done. No one said it would be easy, just nobody said it would be this hard.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


So my darling husband, Robert, finally noticed that I have been taking random pictures of cabinets and the bottom of cans of baking powder. Usually he is hesitant to ask but I suppose it was just too much. I tried to explain that I was "blogging out" my cluttered mind by sharing the process of de-cluttering my house. He looked at me the way the dog looks at me when I take the last bite of something without sharing. Completely. Unamused.
I don't think I explained it all that well, I went a little tangent-y (my word) on channeling the process and how this was going to become something much larger in the process and how I was going to pull in all these wonderful people in my life and probably a sentence or two of some new age growth and how I can't trust my instincts ever because that is how the house got so dirty. It seems that scrubbing out cabinets leaves plenty of time for my mind to wander.
But . . . as it moves forward there are patterns beginning to emerge. I don't like to hang up my coat. WALT never has his hung up either. My husband doesn't put anything away on a consistent basis. I suppose the argument could be the general lack of organization but he's in deep shit if I fall over dead/have a nervous breakdown/head for the hills.
I have to get him on board, but how??? This is trickier that the proper number of coffee mugs or suitcases.
In positive news . . . Yesterday afternoon, while scrubbing out the top cabinet WALT appeared and asked "Mommy, is there anything I can do to help?"
There is hope yet.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Proof of Life

See, I am trying. Cans with cans, cabinets scrubbed, just like I said. Baby steps for certain, and yet they are steps. Like I told my mother tonight. You gotta stay positive with me, it's touch and go right now.

In a quandry about how to organize spices. Also how many sets of measuring cups I need. In fact how many cook utensils period. I have four whisks. That seems to be too many. Do I keep the fat heavy one or the one that matches the other untensils. I am guessing that any spoon that bears the ident of dog teeth should go, but what if that breaks up a set??? And do I keept the snazzy stainless contaion on the stove or go back to keep them in drawers.

oh, this is hard.

Photographic evidence

Sometimes there just aren't words. So I have decided to post some pictures to prompt the whole before and after process. Perhaps unveiling my madness to the world will help speed up this whole endeavor, though it just seems to be a steeper and steeper climb. (Not sure if I will ever be one to vacuum under beds or sweep inside closets)

Most of these are before pictures, though they may more closely resemble after the apocalypse to clean freaks. In my defense, and I don't have a leg to stand on really, the counter top is a bit messier than usual. I took this after I started cleaning out the top.

I would like to note that when I scrubbed down the first of the white cabinets I secretly hoped it would not be noticeable (meaning that I hadn't been deficient and that further scrubbing would be unnecessary) I was wrong. I think even the dog noticed. And so the journey continues . . .

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Personal Manifesto

At long last I have decided to take the task of cleaning up, and as a direct consequence cleaning out, my life. This results from mounting pressures from multiple sources, namely how insanely clean my mother’s house always is (and she never fails to say excuse the mess???) but I am taking the credit and declaring that I had an epiphany. On one of those clean up shows that I like to watch (because my house doesn’t look so bad in comparison) it was suggested that a cluttered house was the result of a cluttered mind. Last year was rough, and left a LOT of clutter in its wake. But it’s a New Year people. Hopefully an organized house will lead to an organized mind.
In that spirit I have decide to change up my blog a bit. It was named General Randomness because I fully intended to post whenever inspiration hit and just write about whatever had inspired me. Whether it be my darling son or unrequited high school love. But having had my epiphany I think that this blog shall instead stand as a marking stick and testament to the progress (or lack thereof) that I am in reorganizing my house/life. The title of the blog will of course still read “general randomness” because I lack the technical knowledge to change it. However henceforth I shall be referring to it as “The Confessions of a Dirty Housewife.” (A working title, please check back for updates, and know that I am open to suggestions.)
Tammy Armes, long time friend and steadfast supporter in all my previous failed efforts at life in general, has been kind enough to offer her support, advice, and some helpful internet sites. All of which are appreciated and being utilized. So in a way, this blog is just for her, or at least written to her for all the rest of the world to just laugh at.
With all that said, a note on my progress:
One of the websites suggested a dedicated ½ hour an evening for cleaning. I do more than that already to no avail, so I have kicked it up a bit and am dedicating a minimum of an hour a day. The website also said 10 minutes for general stuff and 20 minutes for particulars, but I am splitting it 30/30. So far this has been rather easy since there hasn’t been school/work and WALT and I are mostly at home. Hopefully the habit will stick once life gets a bit more back to normal.
I have started in the kitchen, which seems to be the main trouble area. The pantry is cleaned out. All the out of date food is gone (though note to those who may be inspired to try this at home: If you feed your expired cereal to your dogs be prepared for righteously awful flatulence.) Basic organization has been achieved, cans are with cans, pasta with pasta, and so on and so forth.
There are already things I have come to realize I have too many of
1.) Candy
2.) Cellophane treat bags

These are an easy fix, WALT will have a Valentine party next month and I will simply ignore my reputation as the mother who does not send candy, and instead send TONS of candy.

There are other things that I have too many of that the solutions are less clear:
1.) Dogs (which one stays, who goes? It really depends on the hour)
2.) Cats ( would gladly traded them both for a cat that actually ate mice)
3.) Winter Coats (what is the correct number and how many weights of coats do you have out at once??)
4.) Pie pans (this will not be solved for the two fold reason that I am the baker in my family and they are all utilized at major holidays, and that I inherited or received all the pans from my grandmother)
5.) Cookbooks and Cooking Magazines (do I just rip out the pages from the magazines of the recipes I might cook, or what???)

I have thus far taken Tammy advice and restrained for the rash purchase of storage tubs. I am making a list of those items I do need (shelf within my pantry so Cookbooks can go above the baking supplies) and will try to make a series of thoughtful purchases.

So the bottoms of the cabinets are done! The tops loom large. I have only just scratched the surface but it appears to mostly be stuff my husband doesn’t want me to mess with and things we didn’t want WALT to put in his mouth.

I welcome any and all support/suggestions/critique . . . . So until next time, Happy cleaning!!

Friday, January 8, 2010

A plea for help

An open letter to all my organizationally gifted friends:

Why do you taunt me with you insanely organized lives? What did I do to deserve been left in the chaotic clutter of my own making? Won’t one (or better yet all) of you come and set me straight?

I have hit bottom. This is indeed my plea for an intervention. I have the will and the strength but not the knowledge necessary to successfully organize my house. I have 3 whisks. I think that is two many, but is it just one too many, or two? And which one do I keep, the one that goes with the set, or the pretty one? I honestly don’t know and that is why I am asking for help.

I have tried and there are attempts visible everywhere in the house. The poorly designed recycling center, the laundry room filled with unused baskets, and WALT’s ever expanding art area. Can you mix crayons and markers? Do you divide stickers by their shape, their color, or their backing? Won’t somebody help me please?

Every holiday has it’s assigned boxes, and then somewhere there is another box (or 4) containing the decorations that got left out after the holiday. And then of course my art area is filled with stuff I know I don’t want, but I don’t know what to do with it. Do I sell it? If so where, at a yard sale or ebay? And how much should I charge. These are skills I simply don’t possess.

It is fair to ask why now, after a lifetime of seemingly blissful chaos, I am reaching out for help. Just this morning after searching in vain for my other snow shoe, during which I found 2 complete pairs of shoes I forgot I owned, I had to immediately begin the search for a second glove. Is it even legal to mention I have a box with over 100 unmated socks???

I don’t know where to begin. Please, please help.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Fond Memories of Unfavorable Conditions

It’s January and it’s cold. In certain parts of the world this past week would be considered “blue ass cold.” As a general rule I have grown past the enjoyment of extreme swings of temperature in either direction. An hour out building a snowman is all fine and well, as long as I have hot chocolate as a reward later. I have matured to the point that I not only enjoy but require a core body temperature and do my best to maintain one.
So when my hands seem frozen to my car handle, or my nose drips for hours after coming back indoors, my mind wanders back to that lovely winter in which my fate was not my own and I was truly cold. The winter of Basic Training or as I sometimes called it, where hell had truly frozen over.
Any worthwhile has a hook, and for mine it was the actual trip to basic training. So sit back, relax, and laugh, knowing that things could be worse – you could have been me.

I left home on the 3rd of January. A brand new duffle bag packed with brand new pajamas and beautiful stationary. My mom drove me as far as Big Stone Gap, at which point I was handed off to my recruiter, with whom I completed the trip to Knoxville in a soft top jeep. I was cold. I sat huddled in my lined gloves and heavy wool coat just wanting to be at the hotel and away from the cold.
The next morning started at 4 am with an unpleasant banging on the hotel door. At 4:30 we were shuffled through the lobby like cattle, or like soldiers (it’s relatively the same) and onto an unheated, and probably for insurance purposes totaled, school bus. Then we were shuffled through an unheated Waffle House across the street to eat unseasoned potatoes served by a waitress that is the very reason there are negative stereotypes about Waffle House waitresses. The cook was so obese and greasy that it made the food nearly impossible to eat, but only nearly. The place was completely filled with people in my exact situation, or maybe worse because they had spent the night drinking their fill of four months of liquor, except one booth. It was a group of directionless youth, who had obviously not yet retired for the night. They were a bit loud, a bit restless and openly disrespectful. They looked like home. In my head I made a quick list of all the fates that could befall me in their hands, rape, murder, a week living on beer and cereal. It didn’t seem so bad. But before I could slide into their booth and ask for help the barking started again and I fell into line, pulled by some invisible chain.

The actual Army facility, which is called MEPS but I forget why, was warm. The chairs however were designed to make you uncomfortable and you were dared to be caught with you head against the wall. Some of those in particular pain had their day end early, seems if you are legally drunk the military doesn’t like to put you on an airplane. I am not sure if this is actually an effective deterrent to stop pre-deployment drinking. One guy was hysterical because he was underweight. I however seemed to meet all the necessary height/weight/sobriety standards. Shortly after lunch, which was a sandwich that was tossed to me and the others by a disgruntled woman in civilian clothes, a group of us were assembled in a small classroom. A sergeant explained that we were lucky enough to be going to Fort Leonard Wood and handed out our tickets. He then unceremoniously disappeared, lest we have questions he would be able to answer. Soon we were dumped out on the curb just long enough to get cold and hungry and a new level of tired. One of the guys in the group was from Knoxville and his family had been waiting outside to take pictures. Among the group was his 5 year old son. When the bus from the airport finally arrived everyone was thrilled, except that poor guy. All 20 of the family members burst into tears, and the little boy became hysterical. When the last of the bags were backed the grandfather had to actually physically remove the child and then push his son into the van. Before the door was even closed we were off.
Perhaps because I was so mesmerized/terrorized by the family tragedy I had just witnessed I had not paid proper attention to our driver. He had side burns that were Sasquatch thick, in a failed attempt to cover his acne. The acne could very well have been caused by the liter of cheap cologne that he was wearing, another failed attempt on his behalf in the hygiene department. The only smell able to conquer the High Karate was that of pungent body odor. The two combined together in the confined space of the van and the heat on full blast made me three shots of rum followed by a bottle of wine and Gumby’s pizza nauseous.
Meanwhile the poor dad picked his head up from his lap long enough to tell me that it was his birthday before collapsing back into tears. I thought to myself, choking vomit back down my throat, this can’t get any worse, but of course . . .
That was when we hit the interstate. As we descended off the exit ramp and merged into to traffic the driver reached over and turned on the Oldies station up to a deafening level. He then placed his foot on the gas and applied pressure until the pedal touched the floor. We were careening along the edge of Knoxville, death bound for sure, with The Lion Sleeps Tonight blasting loud enough for the entire city to hear. I looked back over at the grieving dad next to me. With his head in his hands, slouched over to rest between his knees. Under different circumstances it would have been the saddest pose in the world, but at that moment it looked like the only way to survive. I dropped my head and braced for impact.
Somehow we made it to the airport alive, dropped off at the door with but another golden opportunity to fly in some other direction than Fort Leonard Wood. I was tempted, it was becoming more and more obvious that the Army was not going to be a natural fit, still I was here so why the hell not. Besides it couldn’t really get any worse. . . and of course I was wrong. Though, then again, I wasn’t. Sure I would spend the next 3 months freezing followed by a week of thunderstorms to spend the next month roasting. I would learn lots of new vocabulary, most which described how worthless I was as both a person and a soldier. I would find a host of things in which I did not only struggle with, but some of which I will never be able to wrap my head around. Still I was no longer in the van and no matter how those big angry drill sergeants screamed and threatened me, none scared me half as much as the pox faced Eastern European that drove me to the airport.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2010, so it begins, as other things end . . . (a loving tribute)

It’s 2010. Hard to believe, I know. A new decade, a new realm of possibilities, but this is also the end of an era. As eager as I am for certain aspects of the last few years to be over and done, there are certain memories and promises I carry forth.

I realized just this morning that I am no longer a grandchild. My husband has not been a grandchild since he was 8 years old and seems perplexed by my sense of loss. Though, even he, being the last in the family, senses the loss of no longer being under my grandmother’s protective wing.

I was, in many ways, much more of a granddaughter than a daughter. Not to say I don’t love and respect my mother, I very much do. It is just that there were such clear expectations, rituals, and rites at 401 Fairfax that did not exist in other facets of my life. Though I often snubbed my nose up in my difficult years at the audacity, there was always a comfort in black and white, right and wrong, good and bad. There was a script and a movement not unlike a play, and we knew our parts. We were bound in that way.

Of course we are no longer bound, and seem to have no intention to carry forth those bonds so carefully sewn together by my grandmother. The tenacity of her spirit is probably best seen in how she did keep such different and difficult people coming back year after year; to say their parts, dance her dance.

So now I am free, like the rest of my family, to shuff off those meaningless ties that bound and move forward with the family I have created, rather than then the one that created me. And it is only now I see her in myself --- In all aspects, in both my most charming and frustrating traits.

There is that tear jerking scene in the Family Stone, where Rachel McAdam’s character is decorating the Christmas tree wearing her dead mother’s ring and we she how she is now her mother. I don’t have a ring but there are moments I feel those lessons learned and examples set from so long ago wash over me the same way.

I am no longer a grandchild. I am a daughter, a wife, and mostly a mother. I run a house full of dogs and food and love and football. I balance my checkbook, buy groceries, plan birthday parties and take my child to and from school everyday. I owe all of this to her of course. I am no longer a grandchild, but I shall always be Louise Mullins’ granddaughter.