Category Archives: Crazy, wandering thoughts

Perfect House?? Puh-lease.

The other day I was blog hopping and stumbled upon 31 Days to Clean: Having a Martha House the Mary Way.  Curious, I clicked a few links and found out the premise: Following a detailed plan to do some REALLY detailed cleaning in your house, a little every day.

I must admit, I felt a little enthusiastic at first.  I’m picturing my house at the end of the 31 days, gleaming all over, and no trace of cobwebs under the dining room table or pawprints on the living room windows.  I’m hosting a party in late October, and the “new and improved” version of my house would be a pleasure to show off in such a state.

I looked a little closer.  At first thought, this sounded like a really great idea.  I peeked at the calendar like it was the Holy Grail.

Day 3: Dust the top of the refrigerator, cabinets and shelves.  Clean and shine outside of cabinets.  OK, I can do that.

Day 9:  Sweep, vacuum, and mop kitchen floors.  Add some fresh flowers to brighten your day.  Sounds great.

Day 15: Wash bedroom mirrors, walls, and insides of windows.  Wash window treatments.  Dust ceilings.  Huh?  Dust ceilings??

Day 24:  Clean out desk.  Clean out and update files.  Organize office supplies and drawers.  Clean out files?  Can’t I just get another file cabinet??

But it all sounded reasonable, so I started thinking about when I could kick off my house cleaning binge effort.  It was about that time that I realized this plan was a couple-hour-a-day plan.  When was I supposed to do all the stuff I already do every day?  Between buying fresh flowers and dusting ceilings, when was I supposed to do laundry, clean toilets, make beds, cook meals, feed the dog, water the plants, and all the other stuff I try to get to every day but manage to fall short??  The last thing I need is another plan to make me feel even less adequate than I already do.

These steps amounted to about 2 hours a day.  Now, if I cleaned my house for 62 hours – with or without a plan – it would be spotless.  So this idea was a total scam.

As I pondered the mission over a glass of wine for a few minutes, I came up with an alternate plan:  31 Minutes to Clean:  How a Real Woman Gets It All Done.

Anthea Turner, Perfect Housewife.

Supplies needed:  a couple of garbage bags, scented all-purpose cleaner, toilet brush, vacuum cleaner, Swiffer cloths, cleaning wipes, and a scented candle.

Step 1 (5 minutes) – Collect garbage.  Nothing screams neglect like garbage cans that are spilling over.  Empty all the trash cans, and roam through the house checking for garbage.  Pay extra attention to the space behind teenagers’ beds.  This is where they like to hide the trash from the snacks they’re not supposed to be eating in their rooms.

While you’re at it, pick up all the dirty clothes they left on the floor and toss them in a hamper.

Step 2 (5-7 minutes, depending on how many bathrooms you have and the gender of your children) – Splash some scented cleaner in the toilets.  Swish it around and flush.  If you have male children, wipe the areas around the toilet, because they can’t aim.

Step 3 (6 minutes) – Pull the covers up on all beds.  You have about 2 minutes per room for this step, so make ‘em count.  Smooth the covers and place the pillows at the top of the bed.  If you have decorative pillows, toss them on, too.

Step 4 (3 minutes) – Pick up the clutter in the living and dining room.  Keep a few decorative baskets around so you can toss things in and make it look like it’s supposed to be there.  Grab a Swiffer and give the horizontal surfaces a quick wipe.

Step 5 (5 minutes) – Run the vacuum cleaner through the traffic paths.  Make sure you go in one direction so the carpet will stand up in a pattern, and visitors will know you vacuumed.

Step 6 (3 minutes) – Throw dirty dishes in the dishwasher.  Rinse the coffee pot.

Step 7 (3 minutes) – Wipe the counters with a scented wipe.  Don’t buy the cheap ones, they leave streaks and cause more work.  I like Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Wipes.  They’re pricey, but they smell good.  And a house that smells good must be clean, right??

Step 8 (5 minutes) – Run a vacuum over tile and wood floors.  Spritz tile with a little scented all-purpose cleaner to make it smell clean.

Step 9 (1 minute) – Light a scented candle.  (Using the same scent will help you pull off the illusion.)  A good scented candle can make up for a lot of neglect.

For those of you inclined to check my math, that’s about 36 minutes.  But you get my point.

Real women don’t have time to do dust ceilings or update files.  We’ve got kids to raise, parents to tend to, meals to cook, and some of us even have jobs.  And helping with homework.  Don’t get me started on the homework.

So take my advice.  Forget about having a perfect house while your kids are little. If there’s no dust under your refrigerator, then you probably missed out on something.

Advertisements

Leaving the Storm Behind

With the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaching, I’ve made a decision.  This will be the last year I mark this anniversary.  I’m willing to tell the story one last time, as a final catharsis to anyone who still wants to hear it.  Then I’m going to declare it in the past.

The first responder marking says: 1 Dead in Attic. Photo credit: Eliot Kamenitz/The Times-Picayune

The first responder marking says: 1 Dead in Attic. Photo credit: Eliot Kamenitz/The Times-Picayune

Katrina is still in our daily vocabulary.  We use her as a reference in time.  We refer to her as an experience that reshaped our lives and our communities.  We blame her for our losses.  We thank her for our renewal.

Putting it in the past is going to be a hard thing to do, for every day I drive past vacant lots where families once lived, and empty houses with broken windows and spray-painted first-responder code still on the front.  But I also drive past gleaming new schools, manicured parks, and thriving communities.  Those who haven’t moved forward with rebuilding have obviously made their decision.

This memorial is across the street from the Convention Center. The inscription to the right reads: Honoring the people and remembering the events that occurred August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina. Photo credit: community.devexpress.com

I’m going to be part of the “new” New Orleans.

I’m going to reflect one last time on this event that changed my life.  I’m going to recall a few details, commit the lessons to my memory, and thank those you saved me when I most needed saving.

One last time.

Talk Nerdy to Me — Part I

They’re irritating and overused.  Like the sound of fingernails of a blackboard, I cringe when I hear them.  We’ve all got a few on our personal lists, but there are a handful that are universally accepted as obnoxious.  Annoying phrases are everywhere.

Source: universecityblog.wordpress.com

I know I’m not the only one who wishes many of these phrases and words would go away.  I know there are others like me out there who long for a return to a more genteel manner of speaking.  (Now, I don’t want to swing to the opposite extreme.  I don’t need to ask my son “with whom he will be going to the movies.”)  But I would embrace the renaissance of a few polite and well-mannered phrases to replace some of the ones I feel just have to go.

The number one offender: “(I/she/he) was like.”  Attention teenagers: this is not a verb phrase.  If you want to describe what someone says, does, or feels, there are verbs for that purpose.  Please learn how to use them.

Fusion words: combining two words, then dropping a syllable or two because you’re too lazy to say the whole thing.  “ ‘Sup?” is the number one offending word in this category, but there are many, many more. “Dja-eat?” (“Did you eat?”)  If the statement or question requires two words, please speak them both.  Having a conversation reduced to a few grunted syllables is just rude and makes you sound like a cave man.

Overuse of the word, “Whatever.”  This non-committal word usually means the responder disagrees with what you’re saying, but doesn’t have the energy or vocabulary to respond appropriately.  Parents, beware.  It does not imply agreement.  It’s a verbal tool teenagers use to stop a conversation.

Interrogative words: What happened to them?  Questions should begin with words like how, may, why, or did.  Raising the pitch at the end of a phrase and inserting a question mark does not constitute a question. (“You went to the store?”)

The dreaded “No offense, but…”  This phrase should just be stricken.  No good can come of anything said after that phrase.  This disclaimer does not give you license to say rude or ugly things, just because you’ve preceded the insult with a feigned politeness.  Using the Southern cousin, “Bless his/her heart” (as in, “My aunt is crazy, bless her heart.”) after a put-down is just as offensive.  Don’t do it.

Now, I realize that language is an evolving entity.  Today’s vernacular is significantly different from that of just a few decades ago.  Therefore — as with all things – this, too, shall pass.  I just hope I live long enough to hear it happen.

For now, if you see me around and want to chat, avoid these phrases. Speak in complete sentences and leave out some of the slang.  Let your language bear some resemblance to the mother tongue we learned in school.  Please talk nerdy to me.

Which phrases make your head spin?  Please share if I’ve left out the one that makes your head spin!

Coming soon: Part 2 – Nerdy words, and how to use them.

Random Acts

I remember the first time I saw the slogan.  I was living in Texas at the time, and was in New Orleans for a friend’s wedding.  We were at the local hangout, and it was plastered on the wall behind the bar:

PRACTICE RANDOM KINDNESS AND SENSELESS ACTS OF BEAUTY.

I was amazed by its simplicity.  I was inspired by its power.  I committed it to memory.

{ Source: OptimisticMinds }

Now, this was the 1980s.  There was no internet to fuel such a concept.  It was a grassroots movement, forced to travel by bumper sticker and magazine article.  By word of mouth.  By deed.  It was slow going.  If it was going to catch on, I was going to have to do my part.

I went back to work the next week and remember being excited by the concept, and sharing it with co-workers.  A few thought it as silly.  A few thought it weird.  A few thought it was as wonderful as I did.

And so began my journey.

Over the years I’ve paid people’s tolls, bought the coffee of the driver behind me in the Starbucks window, bought groceries of the young couple with the baby in the stroller.  I’ve given blankets to a homeless man, and picked up hitchhikers (I don’t do that anymore).  I remember sitting on the side of the road on Christmas Eve with an old lady who had car trouble. (Before cell phones.  You had to get someone to drive to the next exit to make a phone call for you.)  I sprinkled flower seeds in the empty field and watched them bloom.  I cleaned the statue outside my church.  I carried candy around at Christmas and left it in the tube at the bank drive-up with a note.

But mostly I just tried to Be Nice.  To as many people as possible.  A genuine smile, a cheerful hello, a simple “How are you today?”— while making eye contact and waiting for a reply.  Learning to be friendly, learning to listen, learning to care.

Talking about it seems a little strange to me.  One of the points of a Random Act of Kindness has always been that it should be anonymous.  (Touting them here is only for the purpose of explaining the concept.)  When the recipient of one of my Acts tried to thank me, I always asked for the same thing: for them to pay it forward.  To be kind, or generous, or helpful to another.  I had this pyramid scheme in my head that one day, people would go about their business, constantly being nice to one another.  My version of Utopia.

Twenty five years later, I’m trying to keep up the momentum.

Which brings me to 2011.  A few days ago I came across a website called JustBeeGenerous.com.  The concept was familiar: being anonymously generous.  But this added the ability to push the movement forward using a card, explaining the act of generosity, and urging the recipient to pass it on.  I was so excited!

As things now travel at the speed of Google, it took only a short time for the web site to pop up o a friend’s Facebook page and for me to learn that its creator is someone I know, the niece of a dear childhood friend of mine!  I ordered my FREE cards and exchanged emails with her, and am watching the mailbox for my JustBeeGenerous gear.

Her version of the concept added the missing piece – the message of the act, and the request to keep it going.  I’m so proud of this little girl I used to know, for making such a substantial difference to our world.

So, according to one calendar, Monday is Random Acts of Kindness Day.  (According to another calendar it was yesterday.)  Whichever day you choose to recognize, I challenge each of you to join the movement.  Practice Kindness.  Make the world a more beautiful place.

You never know whose life you may change.  Might even be your own.

This day has been brought to you by the Number 1

One:

  • The number of doctor’s appointments I had today, but forgot about.
  • The number of children I forgot to pick up from school.
  • The number of self-indulgent things I did, which did not get anything checked off my     To-Do List.
  • The number of things I actually checked off my To-Do List.
  • The number of times I dropped my phone in water.
  • The number of tomatoes in my garden.
  • The number of wine glasses I’m about to go fetch from the cabinet.

Tomorrow’s another day!

It is Meat and Drink to Me*

As I’ve already professed to the world that I consider myself a Nerd, it will come as no big shock to hear that I love to read.  As a nerdy kid, my social skills were a little lax, so being with 3-dimensional people was sometimes awkward.  Thus began my friendship with the local librarian.  The Wagner Library was about 6 blocks from my house, and (back in the day when you could let a little girl roam about unsupervised) I went there almost every day.

Check out that first edition Bobbsey Twins novel! It's OK to be jealous!

5 was the number of books you were allowed to check out in one day, and 5 was the number of books I went home with most of the time.  Several times a week I’d trot back for more.  After exploring the library and reading different things, I determined that I liked non-fiction best, and after exhausting all the books that “interested” me, I set out to read the entire library.  That proved to be a little ambitious (even for me), so I narrowed my scope down to Sections 920 through 998:  Biographies and History.  And I started reading them in order.

My love affair with reading continued through high school, and when it came time to declare a major, I stumbled on something in the curriculum guide that seemed too good to be true:  A Liberal Arts degree, with concentrations in Literature and History.  I studied Shakespeare, Moliere, and my favorite author– Emerson.  My husband fell in love with me over Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown(He’ll probably deny that, but I know the truth.)  I delved into Russian and European history with zeal, and actually worked as a research assistant on a book called The Artist as Politician, relating the role of art in the politics of 19th century France.

A few of the "Little Kid Favorites" we keep on the shelf. The rest are in boxes (many, many boxes) in storage.

Then something happened.  I had kids.  And the pursuits I loved so much before took a back burner to their pursuits, and I stopped reading.  Well, I didn’t stop altogether.  I just stopped reading books with big words and no illustrations.  I read what they read.  We started with Dr. Seuss, and worked our way up through J.K. Rowling and Lemony Snicket.  One summer I read the entire Lloyd Alexander series, The Chronicles of Prydain (which I highly recommend!) with The Middle Child.  Reading and sharing it with him gave me great joy, and I vowed I’d start reading again, but it was a promise I didn’t keep.

Then a funny thing happened.  The kids grew up.  And I rediscovered my favorite pastime!  Now I have 20 years of catching up to do, so I’m taking it kind of slow, but I’m proud to say that in the last few months I’ve finished TWO BOOKS!  Actual hardbacks, with no pictures!  The kids had to fend for themselves a couple of times, and I left clothes in the dryer overnight.  But I finished!  (Sounds like a small feat to those without kids and a house and a dog and a mother-in-law, but it’s a huge accomplishment for me!)  So What I Read will become a part of The Lucky Mom’s new world, and I’ll be accountable to my followers to keep it interesting!

(In case you’re interested, the two books, Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford by Julia Fox and Tina Fey’s new memoir Bossypants, will be reviewed under the tab at the right, What I Read.

*  *  *  *  *

*“It is meat and drink to me…” — William Shakespeare, As You Like It (1616)

The perils of growing up…

After construction on the tree house began, I had the following conversation with my oldest son (College Boy):

Me:  Hi, honey, how are you?

Him:  Fine, what’s going on at home?

Me:  Dad’s been working on the tree house.

Him:  (Silence)  The WHAT?

Me:  The tree house.  You haven’t heard about that?

Him:  Nooooo. 

Me:  We moved the fort over to the tree, and dad’s adding on to it to make it a real tree house.

Him:  (In a strong, sarcastic voice)  MY WHOLE LIFE I WANTED A TREE HOUSE.  I MOVE AWAY AND Y’ALL ARE BUILDING A TREEHOUSE….  They (his younger brothers) get everything!  I suppose it will have power and a full functioning kitchen…  What else am I missing?????

Me:  (Laughter.)  Well, maybe if you’re nice, they’ll let you in it.