Last Time I Checked

Supposedly Clean

February 26, 2010
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That’s the name of the design I chose from WordPress.  I think I liked the name as much as its look.  I was probably also attracted to the implied state, the fact that something is supposedly this or supposedly that.  Actually, I’m thinking of my kitchen as I write this, which is also the reason I write this.  I am not pleased at the way it looks this morning.  Food dishes left out from the night before, stacks of mail, magazines, catalogs, and paper work on my table, and too many other hot spots.  I walked out in disgust and with no enthusiasm for cleaning.  

I have a small bag of tricks for getting motivated to clean, especially the kitchen or other large room.  I write a list of the specific targeted areas that need cleaning, organizing, or de-cluttering – left counter, middle counter, counter next to sink, etc..  I define cleaning as elbow grease work, like cleaning my glass top stainless steel stove.  Organizing is for the magazine basket or the small counter that holds pending paperwork but usually ends up attracting much more than that.  De-cluttering is reserved for serious purging that includes filing, shredding, recycling, and throwing away.  De-cluttering is time consuming and exhausting.  I’m not a hoard by any means, but I do have a tendency (my family would say a neurotic tendency) to save things.  I have figured out why I have this trait and have worked on reducing what I save.  Much of what I save is for sentimental reasons.  But as I grow older I realize I don’t or won’t have the time to look at or go through all this stuff.  I also know my family won’t know what to do with all my stuff after I die, and it bothers me that they just might toss it all in the garbage.  If I at least have it organized they might realize it has some intrinsic value and may thoughtfully decide who would want what I have left behind.  I know my ticket stub from the Chicago Cubs game that my brother Mike and I went to this past July might not mean anything to them, but it would to my brother.  That game, played at Wrigley Field (I refuse to use the corporate name), ended up going to the 13th inning with the bases loaded.  Alfonso Soriano hit a grand slam for a Cubs’ win 5 to 1.  Awesome game.  Mike is a huge Cubs fan, and it follows that he would appreciate knowing I’m saving my ticket stub for him.

Second in the bag is the use of a timer set anywhere from 5 minutes to a half hour.  I find that shorter time periods make me more efficient and setting it no longer than 30 minutes means I won’t get distracted with something else, like sitting down and working on a Sudoku puzzle.  So for the kitchen I might allocate 10 minutes for loading the dishwasher and washing any dishes that need hand washing.  If darling husband hasn’t unloaded the clean dishes from the dishwasher I begrudgingly add another 5 minutes.  The time includes drying and putting away because I have a philosophy that it is pointless to have a dishwasher if you have either clean or dirty dishes sitting in the sink.  My husband and I have refined a system that usually works to our preferences; he seems to prefer putting away and I definitely prefer loading –  I guess that’s because it’s as close to cleaning without actually cleaning as one can get.  That could be why I like cleaning out the coffee maker and my husband seems to enjoy setting it up.  I say seem because I know in my heart of hearts he would rather I do it all, but since I am a proponent of shared responsibilities in the care of the home I would be violating those principles.

Third trick is to work in numbers.  It’s like the I Ching of decluttering.  It’s not as useful for cleaning or organizing.  You’re really just trying to get a bunch of stuff put away or, more to my point of this post, to make a room look supposedly clean.  It’s this implied state that is my downfall when I look around a room and see it needs some serious TLC.  If I know I don’t have enough time to do a phenomenal job, I lose about 75% of my interest before I even start.  I’m not sure if this is a philosophical problem, a psychological problem, or an understandable reaction to having to perform unpaid work.  So when I’m not feeling motivated for whatever reason, I work in nines times three.  I start picking up whatever nine things are lying where they shouldn’t.  I’m not selective about what I pick up.  I work in an area and move around quickly.  I try to pick up things that will be put away in the room I am working in.  Working in a set of nines one at a time is easier than working at putting away 27 things at one time.  This is a quick way to create some order in a room, but I don’t consider it true cleaning.  Even though some things do end up in their place, there’s too much stuff that ends up in a neat pile waiting for further action.  And right there is the reason I say this method makes a room look supposedly clean.  

The fourth trick in getting motivated to clean is to host company, as in hosting Thanksgiving or a party.  This is motivation for massive cleaning and always gets me going.  I used to be able to clean my entire house in a day or two.  That doesn’t work anymore.  For one thing, my house is bigger, I don’t rely on nicotine and caffeine anymore, and it’s too hard on these older bones.  What I do is plan the most important rooms to clean- where the company will be – which is the entire first floor.  Darling husband pitches in a lot, which is a big help, but he typically works in areas where he knows 1) he’s out of my way, 2) he knows it’s the last place I’ll worry about cleaning (like the basement storage areas), and 3) he can work unsupervised (read: he can throw away stuff). 

More and more often, I am planning well in advance so I don’t run into a deadline I can’t meet without resorting to making a room look supposedly clean.  The goals I’d really like to accomplish this year are to finish a couple of projects that really detract from the rooms they are in – i.e., projects involving furniture-  and once done will serve as inspiration to keeping these rooms clean.  Speaking of projects, daughter Tracy and I just talked about her efforts to put her yarn room back in order.  That’s where the semi-round chair I’m uphostering will go.  She’s full of excitement over what she has accomplished and it sure is great to hear her enthusiasm.  That brings me to my fifth trick.  Having someone you are close to share in your cleaning woes and hopes can be very motivating, especially if that person enjoys finding positive solutions.  Tracy has helped me find ways to get motivated by saying things like think how great it will look when you finish. 

Time to get back to that kitchen.  I’m thinking of having a party tomorrow night.  And the basement is already clean.


Weight Lifting

February 25, 2010
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I usually do this at the gym, though not as often as I should (shouldism= necessary for my well-being).  My legs press 135 pounds, which is what I am suppose to weigh but don’t.  I refuse to press more than I want to be.  Enough said about that.  I add and ab duct my legs on two machines that neighbor each other.  The add is the inside, the ab the outside.  I can barely remember this after I’ve googled it.  I do remember that it’s harder for me to push out than squeeze in on these machines.  Machine is probably not an accurate term.  I am the machine; they are not able to do anything without a specific energy source like me.  They are equipment, how’s that?

I’ve added two routines, one for my torso and one for my arms.  Both will help me to lift more weights and be nimble as in Jack be nimble, Jack be quick.  And speaking of him, we spent an hour outside on Tuesday lifting more weights than I do in a year.  As in tons, tons of wet snow.  Small passes with the shovel, using my legs, and twisting carefully made for little soreness and no injuries.  Jack grabbed chunks of snow and threw them on the driveway and eventually at me.  I tried to get him to roll the snow into a ball to start a snowman.  He wanted to sled.  But I was snowed in and hadn’t left the house since Sunday, so I kept telling him that I needed to shovel.  Complete honesty about that.  Gagi’s gotta get out of here!  His mom had to park in the street to drop him off.  He arrived with a smile on his face, as usual.  I was barely awake after my usual night of insomnia.  But it was a good start to my day.  Jack is almost always in a good mood.  He’s a lot wiser than his older brother was at this age, but that probably has to do with being second.  I can relate to that.

Jack never stopped trying to get me to take him sledding, but he also never stopped enjoying what we were doing – me picking up limited weights of snow, some making it to one side or the other of the driveway, some being thrown toward Jack – Jack grabbing chunks of snow, talking about what he was creating, and then running at me and laughing all the way.  It was warm enough for it to be enjoyable outside and cold enough to want to get the job done.

Posted in Let's Try This

More than a chair

February 18, 2010
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It’s 5 am and I’m just waking up.  This is great, thanks to a double dose of 5-HTP.   Or it could be that I slept like a rock because I spent half the day with Jackson yesterday.  An ongoing dialogue with a four-year-old can wear one out.  More likely it’s because I worked on deconstructing the upholstery of the chair Tracy bought at our congregation’s garage sale.  This chair is special both in its unique shape (it’s half-round) and where it came from.  As I knelt on the floor with my staple remover, I thought about the mother and grandmother of two of our congregants.  She owned the chair and I assume she gave it to her granddaughter because that’s who brought it to the garage sale.  Her daughter and granddaughter are both special people.  Warm, loving, and so enjoyable to be with.  They are both talented as well and participate in our knitting circle.  Their mother and grandmother used to knit in this chair.  As I struggled with the staple remover, images ran through my head not so much of the chair owner sitting in the chair but of all the memories this chair must have evoked in her daughter and granddaughter.  I know in my own family chair-sitting can be an event in itself.  We have swivel chairs and swivel stools in my kitchen.  Jackson’s dad has a big comfy one in his computer room.  These chairs are made for rapidly spinning in circles with a grandson on your lap. 

The little half-round chair that is sitting in my living room swivels too.  Jackson watched TV as I worked in front of him.  I talked to him about what I was doing.  I thought he would be interested in the tool I was using.  Instead he expressed his concern that I was wrecking his mom’s chair.  With a sad tone, he said that he wanted it back at his house because he needed it so he could sleep in it.  He in fact has fallen asleep in this adorable chair as it sat in front of his TV waiting to be brought upstairs to his mom’s knitting room.  Both boys actually were getting used to this chair as their own, and I’m surprised they didn’t argue over it.  At least, they didn’t while I was over.  The chair was delivered to my house at the same time I was working on my other upholstery projects.  I found the fabric at Calico Corners at a great price while I was there looking for fabric for my kitchen chairs.  Tracy loved the sample and when she saw the entire pattern, she  loved it even more.  Hopefully this pattern will work with the curve of the inside back of the chair.  The old fabric was slightly pleated and held in place with buttons, probably so the fabric wouldn’t wrinkle.  But I am hoping that by using just the buttons I can manage to maintain at least one complete view of this lovely design.  I know that I have to keep working on this chair without much of a break.  Tracy has already been motivated to get her knitting room back in order and told me yesterday that if I didn’t finish the chair Jackson’s accusation that I was wrecking his mom’s chair would be correct.

Getting to Where We Are

February 17, 2010
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First draft February 13.  I’m sitting right here in my pajamas at 3 in the morning.  But that’s not what I mean.  I mean how do we consciously get to where we are at any given moment.  This is not a question.  How do we pay attention, enough attention, to what we say, do, and think.  Again, not a question.  I’m not asking.  I’m just saying.  Mindfulness.  Being mindful of what we are feeling from the stimuli coming at us.  Being mindful of what we are perceiving from the stimuli that are coming at us.  I recently went through a conflict resolution process with an organization I am involved in.  I’m on the board of trustees.  I’d had an ongoing and escalating conflict with another trustee.  I will use she/her for the sake of simplicity and fairness for the overuse of the masculine pronoun.  I was aware of what I was feeling and thinking about the stimuli coming at me from her during numerous meetings we attended together.  It felt unpleasant and critical.  I did not like it.  At an appropriate time, I told her how I felt.  She basically said too bad, that’s just how I am.  It happened again, and once again I tried telling her again how I felt.  It was even worse the second time.   She admitted to being obnoxious and warned me the behavior would most likely continue.  It did.  Until we finally had both had enough.  We agreed to go through our organization’s conflict resolution process.  We were guinea pigs, the first ones to test the process.  The members of the conflict resolution “team” had to research, learn, and prepare for it.  It was serious.  There were repercussions facing our organization and ourselves if the conflict remained unresolved or, as we later came to realize, unmanaged.  The team met with each of us separately to hear what we perceived to be the problem(s).  In slang, we were asked  “where are you coming from?”.   And the answer in slang might start with “here’s where I’m at on this.” 

A persistent state of conflict can have debilitating effects on a person.  You might begin to experience the Pavlov effect and react in a certain way every time you are subjected to a particular stimuli.  You may develop an avoidance reaction.  You may perceive that the person you are blaming the conflict on is not paying attention to what you say, do, or think or being mindful of where you are.   This was definitely part of my conflict with the other person.  It turns out that my perception was correct.  She was looking for me to say different things and even to say them differently than I was.  Last time I checked I wasn’t a mind reader, so it was impossible for me to know this was one of the major reasons for the conflict.  It was startling to realize how far apart in our communication styles and comprehension we were.  It was startling and even a bit scary to get inside this person’s head for a minute.  My nagging intuition had tried to tell me all along that there were certain things that just weren’t right.   Now mind you, I’m a volunteer and so is she.  I do the job I was elected to do and do it well.  She admitted to not trusting me and accused me of going over her head and confirmed that she expected me to listen to her because she is the president.  Hmmm . . . a confirmation of my intuition that she was micromanaging me and had a bit of an authoritarian approach to her work.  If I had known this earlier, we could have resolved the problem pretty quickly.  A simple phrase like “no you are not” and “quit telling me what to do” would probably have sufficed.  But then again, maybe not.  She was pretty persistent at the meeting that she would continue to treat me the same way.  When she indicated she would confront me if she had questions, I told her in no uncertain terms that this was not acceptable.  I was surprised the conflict management team wasn’t stepping in at that point, but perhaps they were waiting to see how we handled the conversation.  It was exasperating to hear her say this and see that she just didn’t get it.  That little glimpse inside her head showed me something foreign, something I’ve never seen so close up before – a lack of empathy.  It explained a lot about her and a lot about why I feel the way I do towards her whenever we are together.   That was scary.

I guess when you lack empathy it gives you license to say rude things to people, criticize their work, and try to make them believe that the way you feel is their fault.  Unfortunately I’m not the only person who has been harangued by her.  The good thing about this is that I know it’s not personal.  But what if this was the workplace and she really was my boss?  What if I were much younger and not able to handle complaining about her treatment of me?  In fact, if we were to call her behavior bullying, it is unlikely that it would even be recognized as such and the behavior would be sanctioned in the majority of companies, especially in the nonprofit sector.   We didn’t label her behavior or talk her into getting treatment for her lack of empathy.  The meeting was about managing our conflict, not resolving it.

There can be no getting to where you are unless you try to understand that the other person is also at a certain place.  If you can pay attention to what the other person is saying, doing, and thinking, you may be able to develop an understanding of where that person is coming from that helps you get to an even better place, which is to move past the conflict.  In my case, for a few moments anyway, I knew that she truly could not understand “where I was coming from.”  Even with the intervention of the conflict resolution process, we realized the conflict would only be managed.  As unpleasant as the conflict has been, at any given moment I’d rather be where I am than where she is.

Still Awake

February 17, 2010
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For some reason I think I feel like staying up.  It’s 5:35 am as of this writing and the coffee is brewing (set up by darling husband).  Hell no, I don’t really call him that.  If I had a name for him, when I’m in a good mood, it would probably would be the Marlboro man – just like the Pioneer Woman calls her man.  Even though he doesn’t smoke or ride a horse, he can act like one of those throw-backs, you know, those Neanderthal types.  He revels in this s#it.  It’s hilarious and we both know it.  A man’s gotta be . . . If you have read Robert Bly, you’ll get this.

Many of the antics he does would probably embarrass all of us if he did them in public.  For example, he was once known to shoot the moon on a dare (my dare).  That was a long time ago.  These days, he likes to break into song.  He would be good if he didn’t try so hard to throw his voice.  I hate to say it, but his Elvis imitation is the best.  Our grandsons think he is pretty funny when he sings.  He can remember a lot of lyrics, many of which are funny.  When we have the boys over, we like to play music or music videos that have fun lyrics, sounds, or scenes.  Jackson likes Who Let the Dogs Out.  Yesterday while I was visiting he got out a couple of his birthday cards and brought them over to me.  He had asked me to tell him some knock knock jokes and I reminded him I only know one knock knock joke (and with enough practice have finally gotten it right).   One of the cards was a knock knock joke birthday card.  Corny but cute.  From his other grandma.  The other one was a Who Let the Dogs Out singing birthday card from this grandma.  One day when both boys were over and Papa was at the gym, we googled this song and found a couple of hilarious videos to the music.  We learned there is a chorus and Jack hasn’t forgotten it.  One fun music video we’ve watched over and over together is Feist’s 1234.  Not only is the music upbeat but the dancing in circles with all the colored garments swirling around and then the disappearing of the dancers is really entertaining. 

I didn’t make it past 6 am.  I guess I liked the idea of staying awake but I needed more sleep.  I probably need to step up the dose of 5-HTP to two a day.   Today’s my day with Jackson and I need to be alert and rested.  I will be moving fast, twisting in my car seat to buckle him up, and perhaps dancing to some music.  It always proves to be a fun day, usually starting with lunch for me and ice cream for Jack.

Posted in Let's Try This

Good Brother

February 15, 2010
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Wow, last time I checked I had a great brother and still do.  We talked for about an hour today as he drove back from oh I forget the name of the town in Wisconsin where he had visited a new squeeze, ha ha, just my fun term for the very neat sounding woman he has met and dated and talked with and talked to me about for OVER an hour today on his way back home.  It was good to hear his sweet descriptions of this encounter.  How I admire his brave willingness to go out “there” to eventually find a life partner.  So, should he decide to share my blog with her or any other “new squeeze”, here’s my 500 words to share with this lucky woman should this be my last day on earth. 

First, Mike is reasonable.  I have to tell him sometimes that he really said something (this usually pertains to something in his newsletter that he sends to his guy-friends but that I am privy to because he lets me edit sometimes) inappropriate or offensive.  We discuss this and he usually ends up agreeing with me.  In other words, he is willing to admit he can be a jerk sometimes, he is not afraid to admit he’s wrong sometimes, and when he doesn’t think he is a jerk or he is wrong, then he doesn’t try to make you feel like YOU are the jerk or YOU are the one who is wrong.   Mike and I share a trait where we both want to negotiate whatever it is that needs to be discussed or debated.  He does not get a manhood kind of attitude about anything.  He is willing to admit he is wrong, can be wrong, likes to be wrong, wants to be wrong, loves to be wrong, and that is because he realizes he can learn something from that.  Although he is a bit sensitive about the soup he makes for Thanksgiving, which is a tradition we have enjoyed for many years, he has let me wean him from the  Campbell Soup stock and pre-cut carrots and, this last year, he even let me talk him into brining the birds.

Next, Mike is lovable.  As in WHO DO YOU LOVE.   As in if you want someone to love you, you would want it to be my brother.  He wants a long-term relationship.  He wants what we all want; someone to love.  He wants to be respected and treated well.  He wants not to be hurt or disrespected.  Mike deserves this.  He is a good guy. 

Mike is a good dad and good uncle and a great uncle.  He is a good BIL. 

Is this 500 words?   I’ll have to attend to this later.  Darling husband just got home.  And he’s making stir-fry.

All Choked Up

February 11, 2010
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Darling husband who cooks for me, buys me lovely bling and clothes that get complemented all the time, fierce protector of his family, vacuums, does his own laundry (would do mine too but I’m a bit picky), and, did I say earns a good living?  Darling husband has a few night time habits that I think contribute to my insomnia.  Here I was thinking that I had found a cure (thanks to darling husband’s considerate review of Men’s Health magazine) by taking 5-HTP.  Last night darling husband had a cough.  Now he’s had the cough for a few weeks, but it has been subsiding along with the cold that caused it.  I, too, had a similar cough due to a similar but lesser cold.  Mine is mostly gone.  Last night, his cough suddenly erupted violently.  In an attempt to not wake me up, he threw open the covers, leapt out of bed, bounded to the bedroom door, closed it, and got all choked up.  Now this choking up, which is a kind of coughing fit (he gets crazy sneezing fits too), sounds like a high-strung poodle combination cough/bark.  It’s kind of weird to hear your husband sound like a poodle.  And he really doesn’t like that I describe his cough that way.  But it’s true, and it kind of bugs me, that he sounds like a dog that I don’t like.  The poodle, I mean my darling husband, came back to bed and again soon erupted into barking, I mean coughing.  By then, he knew I was concerned and awake, so he no longer jumped out of bed to hide his poodle nature from me.  Eventually his cough subsided and I got back to sleep.

Posted in The Last Word

Bad coffee, good brother, snowed in

February 10, 2010
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A solid night’s sleep thanks again to 5-HTP.  This tme I took it at bed time and did not take it at all during the day.  No headache this morning.  If my insomnia is cured I will be a new woman.  I am drinking somewhat bad coffee made from one of those coffee bags.  They keep me in dark drink when my husband travels overnight.  I am very strict on coffee making gender roles.  I clean the bloody Cuisinart Grind and Brew but won’t make the coffee.  Same thing with the dishwasher.  I will load it.  In fact, I like to load it but hate putting the dishes away.  So when my husband is away overnight, I have no coffee waiting for me in the morning but will always have a clean mug.  I’ts really kind of pathethic.  I have to choose between driving to a nearby cafe for a cup of coffee or heating up a cup of water in the microwave.  Sometimes I luck out and there is enough leftover coffee in the carafe for me to reheat.  In fact this is preferable to the other choices.   

My very good brother Mike who lives out of state has broken off a two-year relationship with a woman who lives an hour away from me.  We, we being Mike’s family, had mixed feelings about this partnership.   We loved that we saw him much more often as he visited Michigan frequently to find out if this was going to be a life-long commitment.  We wanted that for him.  But none of us could say we really liked her.  Some of us could say we liked her.   But none of us could say we REALLY liked her.  Mike is a great guy; fun, even-tempered, loving, very active physically, healthy, self-employed, and besides being a good brother is a much loved brother-in-law and uncle.  He deserves an equally good mate.  Hopefully someone from Michigan.

I am looking out my office window at about 6 inces of snow on the yew.  The echinacea plants we left for the birds are standing upright with little snowcaps.  The smoke bush holds webs of snow in its v-shaped brances.  The solar lights are supporting snow towers.  It’s a winter wonderland and I think I am snowed in. Good thing I’m not out of coffee.

On my to do list . . .

February 9, 2010
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Upholster loveseat with green velvet fabric purchased x or xx years ago.  The cushion is being done at Snip/Tuck, LLC in Brighton, Michigan because I lack the patience and talent required to sew a T-shaped cushion cover, with a zipper and cording (welting) to boot.  The owner showed me photos of her work, including a couch in which she had perfectly matched a very busy and large repeat pattern.  Wow!  And the price she quoted me sounded reasonable, too.  I will upholster the body of the loveseat myself.  Snip/Tuck owner Cheryl Becker will also complete a project I started and never had the desire to finish.  I often like the thought of doing something, like exercising, but find that actually doing it is another thing altogether.  Cheryl will upholster my kitchen chairs, which are super comfortable with a back cushion, arms, and casters and fit well in our kitchen and and look great in our contemporary home.   Both the loveseat and chairs are unique and sturdy enough to make the retro a good investment.

Posted in Retro This

It’s hard . . .

February 8, 2010
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to go from one extreme to another.  Haiti and then a blog that talks about my ordinary existence (scheduled for tomorrow).  I did a bit of research on the Save the Children website and found, unlike I had hoped, if you adopt a child it just goes into pooled funds – the $28 per monthly fee per child does this:

Sponsor a Child
Save the Children
Sponsorship provides more than the satisfaction that comes with helping improve the health and wellbeing of children, it delivers a rare opportunity to witness young lives lifted over time. Your sponsorship contributions are not given directly to a child. Instead, your contributions are pooled with those of other sponsors to provide community-based programming for all eligible children in the area.



Posted in The Last Word
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About author

These days, I am mostly happy. Not wildly happy. Happy as in feeling very content with my life. Happy with my darling husband and wonderful family. Happy I have a pooch to keep me company. Happy that I pretty much get to choose and do whatever I want. That kind of happy.