Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Clutter for my Friends

I have a picture to show you that reflects my living room on a *real* day in 2003. I'd love to take a minute, polish that picture and make it all shiny with at least some resemblance to the glossy magazines telling me what is "in" this season. I can't do that. I'm awfully fond of the reality of my world where loved ones laugh so hard they spill their drinks and kids feel like they can dig into the exciting new adventure that is next on the horizon rather than worrying if that juice cup will cause an adult to twinge.

I'm writing more words trying to delay the inevitable, because even though I believe strongly in Not Cleaning for Company... I still imagine there is judgement and a little bit of pulling away from me when my spaces look like this:

After a full day of kids and adults....
I took this picture because I wanted to remember that we live life by doing, not by staging still photos where nothing seems to have happened and everyone looks at the camera perfectly. My life, my home, they are perfect mirrors of a life we live that is slightly messy, a little cluttered with projects and fun mid-action.

I have a Crop Circle, a group of girls that comes over once a week to do scrapbooking and crafting, and I used to clean before they came over. The stress of not enough time to clean "properly" before they arrived in the middle of our week (and I homeschooled then) nearly drove me crazy and then I realized I was doing it wrong. These were my friends. My friends weren't coming to see my house, they were coming to spend time together as real people in very abundant lives.

But the moment where I decided that I would quit cleaning actually came when one of the girls said that she couldn't possibly host because she needed to clean before *I* came over. The air stood still, the hair stood up on the back of my neck and I saw very clearly that she felt judged by me. She felt judged because my house always looked "great" she said.

We compare ourselves to the people around us and take to heart what they think and say. We are, however, the most cruel and critical of the person we are. I determined that someone had to break the silence, and it was most definitely going to be me.

I clean everyday just a little, I do vacuum and scrub the bathrooms. I certainly put in my fair share of time with dishes, but I do not clean *FOR* anyone. I clean for me, and then I breathe deeply past the fears I've been taught and the lies of the home products commission and I let my home be just as it is. I try to remember that I am doing my best, and that a reflection of chaos might just mean my relationships are more real, more genuine reflections of hearts doing their best.

I was nail-biting scared of what would happen after this choice. I heard that my home was comfortable, I heard that I needed a break from my work, I heard that my friends felt that they could be "real" in my home.

Some days there are no dishes in my sink, but mostly you'll find a couple. I leave them there and I walk away into the circle of friends to sit and enjoy the creativity and the joy.  Oddly enough, the dishes will wait. They are patient and persistent and always, ALWAYS there for me when I return.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Fashionista 911 !

My Goddaughter, let's call her "Z," is quite the snazzy 9 yo fashionista and I have become her unwitting fashion designer! Z shines as a Mito kid (check out for more info) who recently got a fashion accessory that most kids don't have - nifty new "twister cables" that attach to her AFOs (ankle foot orthotics). That's quite a mouthful, so let me show you the apparatus without my darling niece.

White belt is at her waist and the blue velcro wraps around the AFOs to support her ankle/foot.
Z dressed as Little Red Riding Hood for the Halloween game with her baseball team.
The braces (thanks Shriners!) will give her freedom and maybe independent walking (!), but how can she step out with confidence if she is limited in her clothing choices? Her lovely wardrobe has fallen victim to this "step forward" in Z's treatment and I wondered how do we dress a fashion plate of a girl with these new supports? Z's mom astounds us with her passion and dedication, but sewing machines live in fear of her.

So - I grabbed my handy Sewing Case and headed out into crisp winter winds to see what could be done. I measured the twister cables and AFO from hinged knee to the floor. I put the pants against the cables and marked where the hinged knee fell. Then I headed home to fiddle it out.

I searched the internet, I pleaded with all the search engine gods, but there's just not that much information out there on modifying clothing for children with twister cables / AFOs. (If you have a link - PLEASE - share with me!) Now I'm writing it all down for my records and to help anyone else who might face a similar problem.

So - I was on my own. Me vs. the jeans. My sewing skills are tenuous at best, but my Granny did her best to teach me some basic construction skills. I try to be creative, but this is going to be a challenge! The cables are on the outside of her pants for most of the leg length, so I cut along the outside seam on the leg. Blue jean doesn't ravel badly, but I ran it through a borrowed serger anyway. Okay - now what?

Well, if she pulls the sides it'll rip, and that just won't do. So, I added a swatch of folded blue jean (from my secret stash of ripped jeans) and that looks like it will work to stabilize the top.

The pant leg needs to go on the inside of the brace until it attaches to the AFOs, then it needs to go on the outside, around the brace. We wanted to reconnect the pant sides so the sides didn't flap around in her strong steps. So - I decided to make little tabs from that same stashed blue jeans.

But, I didn't want just some ugly thing for my lil' fashionista, I wanted this to look like the pants were stylish because she's got the braces. White stitching on the pockets gave me a clue, so I found some sequin iron-ons and dazzled up the tabs. Buttons and snaps are frustrating for Z, so I went straight for velcro. Voila' - attachments to catch your eye.

I meant for there to be 4 tabs on each leg, but late night sewing + counting isn't my strong suit, so there are only 2 on each leg. I am pretty pleased with the outcome anyway!

I delivered the jeans back to her mom (yes, another chilly nighttime drive) and Z loved 'em! Here's a somewhat blurry shot of Z's legs with jeans and twister cables / AFOs together.

I learned that I needed more measurements, more tabs, and probably a good serger instead of a borrowed one. Also - Z has a *huge* wardrobe and I may need a bigger sewing room!

Monday, November 12, 2012

No Presents This Year

I'm going to tell you why you might not get a present from me this year.

No, I haven't lost my job.
Yes, we're making all of our bills.
No, I haven't lost my mind.
Yes, I did make the apple butter and you'll likely get that.

I believe in presents that come from my heart and reach out to share something with yours. Unlike "filler" gifts, my presents represent that bond between us, an honoring and a thoughtfulness. "Filler" gifts are those that are like crap food, they fill the void without holding substance. They "fill" the spaces under the tree but do nothing to touch our lives in a meaningful way, then they continue to fill space where we must dust, move, arrange and handle them repeatedly.

I detest dusting. I do. I refuse to give "dusty" gifts if I can avoid it. The exception is when someone truly wants / likes that piece that will sit out and bring great joy every time it is seen. (As long as I don't do the dusting, we're good.)

What do I give? I give handmade apple butter that no one makes anymore. I learned the skill just so that I could do this each year. I make custom bags from recycled blue jeans and other hippie-inspired crafts. I help my husband get the wiring harness for his MG, which is a gift to both of us and quite romantic if I get to go on long drives in the fall colors with him.

Sometimes the best gifts are time. We could all use a little more of it, right? A coupon book sounds cheesy, but the offer to spend time with someone is a reaching out of the hand that is a gift in itself. If you're going to do that, follow through and schedule it. Look out on your calendar and put "schedule time for coupon" so that it doesn't become another expired and empty coupon of lost opportunity.

I give my dad pictures of his grandson taken especially with the grandfather of all boys in mind. I find jewelry from my friend who has an Etsy shop and visit craft fairs for that special something that my sister didn't know she wanted. I ride up to the small town square and meander among the shops and ask the local bookstore owners what they like for an aunt who loves romance. This shop takes the time to ask me about my aunt, to learn about me, and to order books for me if they don't stock what I need.

Sometimes, I don't give gifts. You might have a birthday and I won't bring anything, and I do this with pride. I have chosen not to bring you something because I felt obligated or trapped by conventions, but rather I hold that space open for later possibilities. I will not fill in with fluff. I have left off the shallow minded potholders and gift cards. I leave an empty space to say that the moment wasn't right, the thought wasn't well developed enough for you and a sharing between us. And on a random Wednesday you'll find me on your doorstep with THE Present of All Time(tm) to rock your socks. Things like that happen in my world, and that it was right, and perfect for an expression of what is between us ... that is what I wait to honor.

What are you giving / gifting this year?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Uncompromisingly Lazy & Proud

My husband gave me a compliment but I thought he was poking fun at me. He said I was "uncompromisingly lazy" in the bestest way. I had started our conversation after cleaning the kitchen top to bottom in a rare show of get-it-done-all-at-once-ness when I realized that I was brilliant.

Step 1: Microwave glass bowl w/ some water for 1 min.
Step 2: Remove bowl, place knobs from oven/stovetop in hot water.
Step 3: Wipe out steamed interior of microwave to remove baked on foods EASILY.
Step 4: Wipe off loosened dirt from knobs and reapply to stovetop.
Step 5: Find something lazy to enjoy.

Now that's an awful lot of work for someone who's lazy, but consider the "uncompromising" part first. I'm not willing to settle for not doing or partway doing anything I set my mind to accomplish. So - the kitchen was going to get cleaned, I just do a little quick figuring of what tasks naturally go together to help one another (and me) get done in a jiffy.

Other two-step pairs that I love:

Use garbage can as mop bucket - floors / garbage can cleaned.
Use dirty dishrag to scrub those floor stains (with your toe, no bending over here!) - cleans the floor before mopping / uses dirty rag rather than clean one.

Any other ideas?

My time is valuable, and today I acted like it. I respected myself and my space by using every ounce of what I've got (mind and matter) to make the world go in the direction I want. Maybe its a small victory, after all the inside of microwaves and stove knobs just aren't that big of a deal in most people's world.

Today, they're clean in my world and I realized that I put more thought into my job as a Domestic Goddess than many people put into their work or lives. I combine trips and pick the best route to reach that pharmacy with sideways parking and the grocery store that is always situated on my way home. I do these things by choice, decision and with intentional and uncompromising laziness. I work very hard to accomplish things quickly so that every moment of life can be joyous and something I choose to engage.

Don't get me wrong here, I don't rush through my life wishing it all away. I simply make work as elegantly organized as play so that I get more done for less work. I'm entirely "disinclined to work" as the dictionary puts it. I'd rather be reading a fabulous book while curled up on the comfy chair.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I did not do dishes. So there!

No, I did not do dishes today. I know, I'm a bad housekeeper with a pile of plates to prove it. If you care so much, you do them!

Instead, I worked harvesting the compost we've developed for two years to enrich the soil in a 5 x 10 patch of impossible red clay for a small garden. 7 plants - that's it. Go ahead - laugh. My garden is late, small and oddly shaped.

The truth is, I'm beginning to learn that there's a time to just say "forget the Joneses, this is about me!" The Joneses have upside-down tomatoes and raised beds with heirloom this and organic that. Of course, based on the weary looks of some parents I've seen, I wonder what they'd think if I hid a mirror in the marigolds for them to see.

I see 7 plants surrounded by deep rich dirt and a kid who puffs up proudly when he talks about what we did today -- together. He never feels that way about clean sinks, but I hold out hope for one day. (Yes, I'm insanely optimistic sometimes).

Why am I planting a garden? What is my purpose? (oh, yes - existential is *so* in this year) If it is to impress others or get accolades then perhaps I need a swift kick in my dirty pockets. It isn't to show my kid how to do everything perfectly, but to do and to ENJOY the time. I'm awful at being there, "in the moment".... but boy can I make a lifelong career out of worrying over those plates. I was raised Southern, second only in guilt to stereotypical Jewish grandmothers.

I want to change that guilt thing. I really do. Thus the defensive obstinate way I handle dishes. I want more pictures taken where I'm laughing and disheveled from silly tickles or great conversation. Besides, everyone looks less fat when smiling, right? I want to live without regrets, earn my laugh lines and divide the pieces of value from the worrywart ancestors I hear echoing every time I throw out a crumb. (Have they seen my waist? Seriously- can't have it both ways.)

I want a lot of things..... but how to keep that wish list straight between laundry, dishes and the idyllic Rockwell family? It's easy to get lost in the doing and forget the reason for pulling myself outta comfy sheets and out into the sweaty, dirty sun. And believe me, after yesterday's garage cleaning it was seriously tug-o-bed. But memories are good and uncovering my version of idyllic is better (mostly) than sleeping in. If I were watching a sit-com I'd wonder at my writers.

Do I think he'll be president because I made this choice? Nah - maybe not. But then again, a garden at the White House has gotten quite a lot of attention - so who am I to say?

I didn't wash my dishes because I was too busy living my life. So sue me.

I'm trying not to shred my sanity with "should's" and "could's," but I'm losing a little. The ghost of my mother is seriously having a fit about those dishes with wailed haunting threats of deathly diseases and perilous sloth. And yes, I'm writing an entry about them so obviously I do care. Certainly we need clean dishes and good food. And I need sanity, but what I've got is a mini garden instead. *shrug* It is a start.

But do those dishes *have* to be cleaned right now? No... not really. A few hours won't matter much and no one I know remembers how many dishes were in the sink at home.