Dirty Laundry

A neighbor came into my house this morning.

Dropping her girls off for their daily trek to the bus stop with mine, she had considerately righted my pot of mums blown over in last night’s storm. The pot had not so considerately slimed her with green goo growing on its side. Ushering her into the bathroom to wash her hands, I thought, oh God – is it clean? Is the hand towel fresh enough? Will she drown in the puddles of water the girls perpetually leave around the sink? Has too much time elapsed since I wiped the scum out of the sink? Lots to think about in the few short minutes it takes for proper hand washing technique.

Then she had to walk back through the dining room to get to the front door. She noticed our retro console radio, one that provided the soundtrack for countless cocktail parties my husband’s great aunt threw in her heyday. Instead of zeroing in the connection she had to it, having had a similar one growing up, I fretted about the piles of paper schmagma she might notice on top it. Or the tiny pebbles of Play-doh scattered about the floor that I made a mental note of last night to sweep up before they came over.

I felt like she’d judge me if I didn’t have a perfectly clean house. I worried the outward appearance of my home would reflect the inner workings of the care of my children, my family, my self. Is the put-together, in-control image a facade? Off-guard, unawares, does this tell the true story?

This feeling, concern, compulsion is not inspired just by this neighbor. It is the panic that ensues whenever someone drops by unannounced. With a constant flow of laundry, dishes, corrected school and artwork, mail and printed matter, any given surface in our house is clean for no longer than an hour. And that’s the clutter. Never mind the dust bunnies, the ring around the toilet, the smears, the crumbs . . .

And then I saw a picture on Facebook. It was of a woman I haven’t spoken to in years reading to her two children in a home I’ve never been to before. The kids nestled in close to her, all three seated on the floor, their backs up against the front part of the couch. The scene, a simple and common occurrence in the life of a family, somehow spoke of the love of a parent and child, of the connection, of the amazing gravity of this stolen moment. The picture was taken at wide range, including the bookcase behind them, the TV stand, the windows – a pile of laundry haphazardly spread across the couch. Yet, all that blends into the background, pulling this trio into sharp focus.

wisegeek.com

wisegeek.com

Truthfully, I was happy to notice that pile of laundry. Because it meant I wasn’t the only one with messy mounds of stuff we’d failed to put away. But what struck me more was that this mother only saw the story in front of her. She wasn’t looking over her shoulder at jobs left undone, chores to do. She hadn’t ‘unshared’ this photo because her house wasn’t perfectly tidy.

When my youngest was maybe eight months old, another mother of three came over to take photos of my girls. I may have worried about not having a good backdrop for her practice shots to build her portfolio, but she was only concerned with their pudgy little faces, their sparkling eyes. In fact, she told me it was refreshing to visit the home of a woman/mother who didn’t feel like she had to make everything perfect before accepting a visitor. She begged my pardon, assuring me she didn’t mean it as a critique of my homemaking skills. I knew she didn’t. But it still gave me pause. First, was my house that nasty, so obviously not cleaned up? Second, I couldn’t claim the freedom from judgment she charged me with. I’d just run out of time and/or energy to make things better before she arrived.

But none of us have the time and/or energy to have show-ready homes at all times (or anytime). So why do we still beat ourselves up for not achieving it? Why do we make excuses when others enter, apologizing for the mess, fibbing that’s it’s not always like this? Why can’t we own that big dust bunny in the corner? Why can’t we see the life around us and not the litter?

Why are we always so ashamed of what’s inside, when it’s usually what makes us the same? If we only aired our dirty laundry, it would become fresh and clean.

A Place to Land

Not so long ago, maybe a generation or two back, all things were black or white. There was no middle ground. Expectations were clear. One either fell on one side of an issue or the other. The thing was – there were people who fell in the middle. People who had no defined spot. They were neither here nor there – so they were nowhere.

No one deserves to be no where.

Nowadays, in our generation, those children desperately coming of age as parents of their own children, everywhere we look there are different shades of gray. Fifty is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many nuanced pitfalls to navigate.

Body image. Nurturing healthy sexuality without encouraging oversexualization. Self-concept. Independence with a modicum of obedience. Utilization of technology while maintaining human interaction. . . .
 

Instead of yes or no, everything is up for discussion. We don’t want our children to do a particular thing, make a particular decision, live a particular lifestyle, but we cannot condemn it – for we run the risk of offending someone. We do not want our children to condemn others or other points of view – so we skirt around topics instead of facing them head-on. We live in a constant haze of gray.

But if everything goes, everything is everywhere – does that not leave all of us nowhere?

Our children will not know where to stand if we place everything in front of them with no guidance, no discussion, no sense of right and wrong. There is a difference between open, informed dialogue and an all-you-can-eat buffet of sociology.

If the pendulum trended toward the restrictive threat of ostracization before, it has now swung toward the promiscuous promise of floating in the wind. There must be somewhere in the middle.

Floating in the wind is nice – until you tire of it and realize you’ve nowhere to land. A place to land – we owe the next generation at least that.

from nuji.com

                from nuji.com

Oh, My Aching Head

We call them Old Wives’ Tales, but there must be some truth to them.  For, why would such a tale transmit through the generations, from place to place, person to person?

One particular teacher, a seasoned veteran, and I used to compare notes on our students’ behavior in relation to the phase of the moon.  In other words, a full moon meant crazy kids.

I extended that prediction to rainy days as well.  A drop in the barometric pressure caused children’s brains to ooze our their ears.

Which is about what is happening to my just-returned-from-school children right now.

Oh, my aching Old Wife’s head.

Found this image on hemiplegicmigrainehope.wordpress.com - thought the info on this site was ironically appropriate for all adults involved.

Found this image on hemiplegicmigrainehope.wordpress.com – thought the info on this site was ironically appropriate for all adults involved.

Quirking

Marking the distance yet to cover when your arrival time has elapsed. How close can I get?
Noting how many more steps yet to complete a recipe before your spouse returns. How far can I get?
Washing clothes and putting them back in drawers before it’s been a week since you first took them out. How anal retentive can I get?

Perhaps we all have such markers, paces we put ourselves through – though we might never know because not many would admit them. For fear of – sounding crazy? Mental? OCD?

I actually asked my therapist once if I was OCD. She said there are such things as OCD tendencies or even an OCD personality without an actual OCD diagnosis. One way to tell, she said, if whether such routines disrupt our way of life. If they stop us from all the other bits of living we could be getting to because they take up too much time – or if we cannot even begin living if we don’t first complete them.

So I may not have full blown OCD, but I have my quirks.

Not being fully free of a dinner party until the platters, teacups, tablecloths are all clean and back in their original homes.
Reading library books in the order they were taken out of the library.
Impelled to leave pieces of projects out, where they will taunt me, until I’ve completed them.

My mind works in weird ways. Segmented. Compartmentalized. Whatever part of it that is responsible for my control freak tendencies has trained me to believe that physical limits lead to overarching control. What a quirky rule of thumb. And I fall for it mind, heart, and fingers.

Quick and Hard Hitting

Something to which I aspire . . . This page offers some amazing examples of what one can do with but a few hundred words.

 

Boston Literary Magazine.

Fly on a Sticky Wicket

A second grader, hands still so small they remind you of the baby they grew out of not so long ago, eager to please, eyes full of wonder and mirth, proud to show her parent some of her schoolwork, excited because the parent is here, in her classroom. It is a special day, out of the ordinary. As she moves to retrieve her journal from its crate, a classmate in the front row sneers under his breath, “What do you think this is? A second open house?”

The parent in this scenario is me. The second grader is my daughter. The classmate in the front row is – rude? A bully? Jealous? The teacher in me found it hard not to reprimand this rude comment. The mother in me found it hard not to put this punk in his place. But because my daughter thankfully didn’t seem to hear it, because it wasn’t my place, and because it wasn’t my charge of children (ie my classroom) – I stepped back to assess the situation.

All teachers know that nearly all off-base comments are based on some insecurity hidden deep within the offending student. In the heat of a disruptive moment in one’s own classroom, it’s hard to remember or appreciate this, but as a parent privy to only this one comment and able to scoot back out the door I’d only just peeked into, it was easy to presuppose why this student may have made such a snarky comment.

As jazzed as my daughter was at my visit, there was a vacuum of other parents who couldn’t be in the room right then. Perhaps this young man was upset that his parent(s) couldn’t be there. Perhaps his parents have jobs that prevent a midday visit. Perhaps he’s angry or sad that his parents would never think to come into his classroom. Perhaps the obvious joy and pride in my daughter’s eyes reflecting in mine is something he can’t bear to see because this is the only time he will.

Perhaps it is unfair for me to make such presuppositions.

After many years of seeing students in action, however, I know that those students who you would least like to embrace are exactly the ones who need it most.

Not an easy task when they make hurtful comments, strike out at those around them, and have no other framework of operating to follow. There is no easy answer. Remember, I didn’t say anything . . .

But while there may be a reason for it, such behavior cannot be condoned. Had my child heard this hurtful comment, her joy would’ve been squashed as well. Her fragile nature, which I’d come into the classroom to build up, would’ve been diminished.

How do we support such children without discouraging others around them?

Jury Duty

Oh, bastion of jurisprudence
pain in my posterior

I should be honored at the chance
to view the inner working of our judicial system,
to enact fair and honest adherence to our laws

But your summons strikes annoyance in my heart,
dread at undoing my schedule
and fitting into yours.

At your beck and call,
subject to your every whim –
I don’t see the justice in that.

lady-liberty-scales-of-justice-h-1000-630x432

What Say You?

Duotrope or Writer’s Market?

When searching for markets for your writing pieces, which of these listings do you prefer?  Is one more user-friendly or  has offered you resources where you’ve found more success?

I have more experience with Writer’s Market, but Duotrope has come highly recommended as well.

Currently, I am searching for markets for literary short fiction/flash fiction.

 

Please share your thoughts/ideas!

Happy Weekend Write-off!

The Changing of the Clothes

In just ten easy steps, you, too, can get your children’s drawers ready for fall and winter!

1.  Save every possible stitch of hand-me-down clothing you can get your hands on, even items your previous child may have loathed or ones they loved so much they near extinction.

2.  Wait until the switch is absolutely essential.  That month or so of sweatshirt mornings/shorts afternoons – way too early.  You must relish those last-minute mornings of fishing the one clean pair of long pants out of a random laundry basket.  Searching out hooded sweatshirts shoved into the sandy bottom of your forlorn beach bag – priceless.

3.  Reassess the situation when your children have shivered onto the bus for six consecutive school days.  Ensure that the sixth day follows a weekend.  See if it wasn’t just an acclimation period.  Grudgingly drag one bin up from the basement and pull from that during this waiting period.  If needed, you may also pull one stretched out kitchen garbage bag into your child’s room.  The clothes in this bag, however, may not be of any use to you as they were the ones that might not fit next season, but were so stinking cute you couldn’t bear to part with them.  Now is the time.

4.  After three days and nights of your children plying you to change out their drawers and your frantic scrambling to find clothes that fit them, but still sending them off looking like three of Fagin’s minions, start pulling your youngest’s summer shirts out of the baskets in her closet.  Make a pile of outgrown clothes to donate, a pile of ones that might not fit next season, but are so stinking cute you can’t bear to part with them, and a pile of those that certainly won’t fit next season but could work under a sweater right now.

5.  Leave these three piles on the floor of her bedroom for a day and a half.  Be sure to yell at your other children for knocking over and mixing up the piles.

6.  Open the one bin you’ve dragged up from the basement and put the shirts from it into the baskets in the closet you just cleared out.

7.  Repeat step 4 1/2, 5, and 6 for pants, sweatshirts, pjs, and bathing suits (the spot of which will now be filled by sweaters).

8.  Shove the rest of the clothes which you do not have room for – but are in perfectly good shape and kids are so messy you could always use an extra pair – into any nook, cranny, or hole you can find in their closet.

9.  Take the one bin you’ve managed to empty and bring it into your oldest’s daughter’s room.  Put her outsized clothes into it, where they will stay for the 2.5 years it will take for your next child to grow into them.

10.  Put all the newly filled bins back into the basement where they would sit collecting cobwebs for three months – except that in two weeks you’ll have to move them all about to get the one on the bottom into which you must place three more items you found lingering at the bottom of the hamper two weeks too late.

from operationwife.com

from operationwife.com

And that’s all there is to a smooth wardrobe transition from one season to another!  Easy Peasy!

Where do hummingbirds go in winter?

A day of nothing,

that’s what I need to jazz me.

To recharge and kick start the engine.

But there’s always the danger of a day of do-nothing

leading to lethargy,

sad, morose thoughts.

Of not enough energy to do anything productive,

but enough guilt to keep away any enjoyment.

 

Where do hummingbirds go in winter?

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