Sunday, March 26, 2017

Liberation


You’re a good housekeeper, Anita. Complimentary words for most women; stinging for others - like me.

My dear friend smiled as she expressed her opinion of me (hopefully, not her primary opinion) after I described my new cleaning routine inspired by Marie Kondo, the organization guru. Basically, Kondo categorizes an area to tackle and complete before moving on to another. She advises her clients and readers to begin with clothes – throughout the entire house. I attempt to use use the concept to clean, doing one type of weekly chore per day. Monday is fairly easy – bathtubs and showers, including a sporadic drain cleaning when necessary.

So I’m telling my friend, with a slight bit of enthusiasm, talking myself into believing I enjoy my new discovery that makes cleaning not so bad, and that’s when she says it. Ouch! I’ve been reduced to a housekeeper.

Did I lead her on with that slight bit of enthusiasm, subconsciously seeking approval? She who has cleaning help, who doesn’t need advice on how to lessen the drudgery of cleaning shower stalls and toilets. It was not my intent.  In my mind, I’d revised my mission statement after reading Kondo’s book, outlined a strategic plan and was describing the analytical process; proving I had the bandwidth to implement the optimization of housework – a system I can apply to other life issues as well.

Well, no more! (A line stolen from an infomercial.)

It’s now Monday morning. Havoc from the weekend exists. My husband’s jackets are hung on the backs of kitchen chairs. His stack of work papers are on the table, briefcase in the chair, various newspapers and magazines strewn about. My daughter’s backpack and textbooks are in their permanent residency, the window seat adjacent to the table, which is resting place for markers, colored paper, a stapler, a laptop, and miscellaneous supplies used for an assigned class project. Other household areas exhibit similar embellishments.

In the past, I’d begin the straightening routine, a job that was ingrained in my psyche throughout my life by my adoring-adorable mother and practically every woman I’ve met. The subliminal message says: It’s your job and you are judged by the condition of your home’s interior. Conversely, Darling Husband (aka DH) is judged by the exterior.

I never contested this rule; especially when I married, left corporate America, and worked on getting pregnant. The abode was tiny, my time was flexible, and it was just us two. What’s a few dishes to put in the dishwasher and a few loads of laundry to wash? I can do that, plus pay bills, make grocery runs, cook, go see the dentist for my semiannual teeth cleaning… oh, and the gyno. Easy peasy. Well… there was that whole thing, too, of being disoriented while getting acclimated to a new city and married life.

Anyway, Girl #1 didn’t take long at all to get here, but I continued my modus operandi. And then we moved and the square footage increased. And then we had Girl #2 and then Girl #3 two years later and moved again and the square footage ballooned and so did the diapers and chores. And I was almost six years older since the wedding; however, cleaning help (gift from DH) entered the equation, so the surface dirt was removed every two weeks. Still, my modus operandi remained on track, plus some.

To speed up this story: the help lasted ten years, we got a dog, the kids became tweens and teens, the activities increased, the mom taxi became an SUV and then a van, and the husband began to travel more. The presumed cleaning help from the able-bodied, on-the-go kids did not happen in copious amounts. DH got a pass because he did, and still does, his manly job of gardening and easy job of taking out the trash. Actually, he's known to occasionally run the vacuum and pick up a sponge. AND, he takes his turn taking out the dog! Mwah!

We are now down to three residents, except when Girl #1 and Girl #2 are home from college. Things still have to be cleaned so we don’t acquire non-human residents and so the house doesn’t decay and fall apart. I will try to stick stick to my cleaning routine; however, there will be no exasperation over sheets that are due to be changed, shoes scattered everywhere, my messy desk, junk mail and newspapers on multiple surfaces, and sticky stuff on the refrigeration shelf.


There’s something about being on the cusp of entering another decade of life that calls for reassessment. Sixty is approaching. I’ve paid my stay-at-home mom and housekeeper dues. I don’t owe any more. What I give now is when and how I choose. Other things are upon the horizon.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Technology


Cells phones, tablets, laptops, e-readers. Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest. On board? I am… well not on all of the above, but enough to be dangerous.

A friend’s daughter opened a shop on Etsy to sell reproductions of her hand drawn stationery and paintings. Somewhere in the midst of reading her email and looking at her Etsy shop, I stumbled upon her website, and from there, her blog. Curious of course, I clicked my way through the site and came upon paintings of normal sized naked women that reminded me of ancient Greek art, though I had no idea of what they represented or the young woman’s creative process. With her degree in art, I assume the subject matter was part of the curriculum.

Anyway, there were all these little social media buttons at the bottom of the blog post and, you guessed it, I clicked. I chose Pinterest, expecting to be connected to her Pinterest page, account, or whatever. I should have known that you just can’t hop into someone’s private online space without being friends or followers, but I found out. When nothing happened after my click, I had an Aha! moment, along with heat rising through my body. I dashed to my daughter’s room – Girl #2 – to inquire into what just happened, though I was 99.99% certain. I’d posted the naked woman onto my Pinterest page… or would that be, pinned to my board?

During my two second sprint, awkwardness changed to a fit of laughter that lasted at least a minute as I tried to explain what I’d done. Between my tears, snorting, and doubling over, I managed to get the story out. Girl #2 said, “Come on Mommy, let’s see what you’ve done and fix it."

Fortunately, I was able to locate my Pinterest username and password (one of 500 +/- usernames and passwords… an exaggeration, but you get the point), and signed in; whereupon my daughter and I found the naked woman. Because the account is seriously inactive with only three followers, two being my daughters (Girl #2 and Girl #3), I didn’t feel I would have to do any widespread social media damage control. Girl #2 showed me how to delete the image and that was it.

By the way, my young friend’s painting is Art, and definitely not confused with pornography… or there would be no laughing; especially because my third follower is a minor.

I was reminded of this episode while dressing in my bathroom. Our huge mirror over the double sink vanity is a daily poke of life’s imperfections. Today, feeling confident, I was assessing the results of the Christmas cookies. Not too bad, I thought. “Butttt…,” I continued to think, “What you see in a mirror and on a photo is often different,” as I looked at my phone charging near the sink. And then another thought – “Snap a picture to see if your ‘not too bad’ assessment is justified.”

Next thought: “Are you STUPID!!!” Press a wrong button, end up in the cloud, and you’re fried!

How do you feel about technology and social media? Any stories you care to share?

image found here

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Adult Coloring


It used to be a jigsaw puzzle. And I still like jigsaw puzzles. But now it’s a coloring book.

It’s not the coloring book from my past that featured Barbie or TV cartoon characters, but a newly branded adult coloring book with pictures of varied and abstract animals, nature, geometric shapes, and more. With intricate delineations, it begs to be respected by coloring, as we used to say, in the lines.

Back then, the instrument of choice for applying color to the page was a Crayola crayon; preferably from the 64 pack featuring colors like periwinkle, goldenrod, apricot, mulberry, cadet blue, raw umber, and cornflower. Most of these have continued to avoid forced retirement; however, raw umber and mulberry have bitten the dust. The unlikely burnt sienna was saved and is still with us.

My crayons have now stepped aside for the colored pencils - 50 of them - which make me stare and contemplate more than if I only have 8 or 16 to choose from. And when I do choose a pencil, I also use another contrasting or complimentary color because I like the look when coloring small adjacent spaces. Watching the page slowly transform from black and white to vivid hues is like watching the sun rise as life become visible.

So what’s the big deal? I don’t know, but it feels good. Everyone who writes about it calls it a stress reliever; something that makes them relax. For me, it feels more like a creative process - fun, slightly challenging, and a quest for patience. It allows me to join the real artists of the world. As for the relaxation, yes, I’m pretty relaxed, though sometimes when I want a bright picture, as opposed to one that’s more pastel, I bear down with the pencil and that sometimes puts a tightness in my aging arm and shoulder. But when that happens, I just ease up.

During the Thanksgiving weekend I visited my parents and took colored pencils and new dollar store coloring books. (After all, I didn’t know if Mom would want to color or not, so no need to spend ten bucks on one book when I could present her with 3 for $3.00… right?) After we were all stuffed with dinner and dessert, the coloring commenced. I was glad to see my teen-aged nephew grab one of the books because some see this as a girl thing, and it’s not. (Google it.) Pages were torn from another book and shared by my daughters. Mom watched. It was our last day there. We were going home in an hour. Before we left, she said, “Are you leaving my coloring books?"

Yes, I did leave her coloring books. And she’s been coloring - a lot! Whenever she’s plagued with her health issues or trying to help with my stepfather’s health issues and it gets to be time for a time out, she gets the book and pencils. Or instead of giving in to the sofa while watching TV, she sits at the table coloring while glimpsing at the TV. This is turning out to be a nice discovery for both of us. My daughter gave me a nice quality coloring book for Christmas and I can see its addiction potential; like my jigsaw puzzles. “I’ll do one more piece before I go to bed.” And then it’s 20 more pieces. With the coloring, it’s one more leaf, or the shoes, or the eyes...

I sound like an expert, right? Ha! I’m only on my third page.

But… the coloring book is a keeper. I might need it as we board the next bus that begins our travels through 2017 and beyond. Hoping the ride will be smooth so that I will stay inside the lines.


What do you do to unwind? Have you tried coloring?

My daughter, Girl #3, prefers coloring with markers. I'll try markers soon.

Art by Girl #3