Thursday, August 24, 2006

August 24: 7 days after knee surgery...

The title might help to explain why I've been posting so little on this site. I injured my left knee in February, and since then I have had quite a few other things on my mind. .. I wish I had kept up with this blog, as some of the house-cleaning accomplishments along the way have been dramatic.. but at the same time, a lot of my world has been reduced to whether I can get caught up with the laundry YET since doing laundry involves flights of stairs and the bad knee makes that very very difficult to sustain.

So.. the couple of dramatic changes were aided by a friend, and my husband, and my mother... and by the departure of Bethieee from our home. (she's in Virginia now, studying at pharmacy school. She has Zhenya (our dog) with her which means that for the moment I might be able to get forward momentum on the Dog Fur problem. (well, once I get myself up and mobile again..))

I haven't forgotten this journey.. and I will come back to it. :)

hugs all! keep heart. :)

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Little Things Count

Now that I've started honing my housetending habits, I'm starting to notice little unplanned benefits.

Like when I leave a room I take something that doesn't belong there out.

Like I've started to fill the sink with soapy water while I cook so that when something spills (it always does) I can have a damp cloth at hand to clean it up quickly, and a place to soak the dishes I'm done with.

Like if something has a place it's supposed to live and it isn't in that place and I don't need it right now, I've started putting it back.

It's weird, I tell you!

Not only that, but the rest of the house has been helping, too!

I asked Keithr to stop mid-swipe so that I could take this picture for you:

I hadn't realized what a thick layer of dust had built up on the screen until he started to take a cloth to it! Wow, what a difference!

It's the little things building up slowly that bring reliable results...

(I hope... ;)

Lemon Meringue Pie!

Today's Reward:

(well, not really "today's"... I made the pie on Friday... it's long gone by now.)

I have got to be the most unusual housekeeper I know. My working areas (which is to say all visible areas of the house) look like a completely disordered wreck:

Three or four projects at once on any given surface, nothing put away or completed... everything a shambles.

And yet, if you look into my drawers, more often than not what you'll find will be something like this:

Everything in its place. A place for everything. Organized by type, size, alphabet...
If all you saw were my drawers, you'd think I was an anal-retentive, OCD control freak.
But more likely you'll see my working and living areas. From which you'd think I was ADD, neurotic, undisciplined...

The truth should be found somewhere in the mid-ground.

I like order and organization, yet I haven't figured out how to keep things organized while I am working with them. I think I'll get back to them soon, so I don't put them away when I take a break, and then next thing you know it's 4 days and 10 projects later.

I've said before that it is rumored that I cannot leave even a single dish clean when I cook.
Here's another example of why:

Somehow the sauce I'm making (it's not for the pie, it's for the chicken-pot-pies I made the same evening--sadly I forgot to take pictures of them) won't stay in the sautee pan. It leaps out onto my stove when I'm not looking.

The salt jumped off the pantry shelf when I opened the pantry door, and spilled all over the floor.

The sugar spills over the measuring cup.

I spend more time cleaning up than I do cooking!

But I do love to cook, and this past couple of weeks I've actually kept the kitchen clean enough every evening to really do some cooking! My reward: chicken pot pies, sugar cookies, lemon meringue pie! :)

How long did the pie last, you ask? 15 hours. That's all. 15 hours. Bethieee and I ate half the pie between us the night it was baked. Yum! My brother and his girl came over the next day and between the four of us we polished off the remains. (Keithr does not care for lemon. silly boy!)

I got a picture of the pie in all its lovliness halfway through its decimation. In the background you can see Bethieee's fingers reaching for the other treat of the week: the fabulous cookies that Mia sent! ..gone within 48 hours of opening the box. Gone, but not forgotten. Oh no... those were GOOD cookies! (they always are... Mia sends fabulous treats!)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


I didn't take a "Before" picture today... I think it's a good thing actually, because what happened was that I was partway into the cleaning process before it occurred to me that I'd want pictures for the blog. Which means that I was doing the cleaning without having to gear myself up first. Pretty cool, no?

I got the countertop full of dishes in to soak and decided that today I would actually clean the counters and stuff as well. It bothers me to have a half-clean kitchen and never REALLY get the job Done. (Some day I am going to pull out the refrigerator and clean behind It... but not today. (I hate the phrase "not today"...gack.)) Today I cleaned the stovetop and the counters. (much better)

And I was horrified into awareness of my lack of photographic evidence when I pulled the electric grilltop out and discovered:

Something had spilled... sometime... long ago... it had soaked underneath the grilltop... and now it was colonizing.


I don't want to think about it. Any more. It's gone now. (Not just covered up--GONE. Cleaned, scrubbed, sanitized, GONE.)

I took another picture after I got the dishes out of the sink and into the dishwasher:

See, Clean Kitchen!!

For my reward, I thought I'd cook something. 0:)
My mum and dad had sent me some lemons, and all week (I didn't cook with them earlier because my knee hurt and my kitchen wasn't clean enough, and with Bethieee out of town I wasn't going to be able to eat it all by myself...) they'd been a fabulous aromatherapy while I dreamed of what to make...

Meyer lemons.. larger and sweeter than the kind I can usually find in the local produce section...

Lemon Meringue Pie. ... or maybe lemonade syrup... or lemon cookies.. or lemon.... lemonlemonlemon!!! mmmmm...

Over the weekend I noticed they were starting to soften, so I was really looking forward to using them soon. I didn't get a chance to cook on Friday because I didn't have enough eggs. Saturday evening the eggs arrived. I didn't get a chance to cook on Sunday because...well, that's the subject of a different post, actually... suffice to say I didn't get to cook on Sunday. But I was really looking forward to lemon meringue pie! So I set out to cook it tonight.

Notice the absence of a photograph of lemon meringue pie.

Turns out I have plenty of butter, but it was all in the freezer. I need chilled butter, not rock-hard frozen butter! .. Butter's in the fridge now. I'll get the next chance to make lemon meringue pie on Wednesday. (tomorrow's mid-day appointment, plus an evening date with the boyfriend means I don't have the time to cook a pie.)

Still, my reward was going to be cooking something, and I would not be thwarted!!

There is a rumor floating around that says I cannot cook without dirtying every single dish in the kitchen. While this is a gross exaggeration, I must concede that I understand where the misperception originates:

Cooking process barely started, and already you can lose count of the dishes.

I got the lemons juiced and the zest put into the freezer.
I got the cookies finished. (mixed up on Saturday after the eggs arrived and refrigerated for the reccommended 12+ hours until I had the time to run them through the oven)
I got the yams cooked...
and I made a rice-hamburger-cheese casserole which should keep us all in lunches for the week. :)

And the kitchen suffered.

SO... (and here's the good part...) I actually got the kitchen cleaned TWICE today!!

TWICE! (It may be cluttered, but it's Clean!)

See the fruit bowl? Lemons in the morning, no lemons at night!

Sliding Block Puzzles

The second post that resonated deeply was written by 'Zann. The post I have in mind ..., comments upon how similar de-cluttering projects are to those cute little sliding-block puzzles I used to love as a kid.

.. except that they're three-dimensional, some of the blocks don't move when you need them to, and lots of the blocks are tremendously important to keep track of.

Wouldn't it be nice if I'd had a great insight on this topic, too? Sadly, I haven't. (yet.. there's always hope..)

What I can do is say I Feel Your Pain!! I feel the same exact way. Often.

Once upon a time I had a guest room. In theory I still do. For awhile my brother and his sweetie lived in it. So... WHY--with all the stuff that is cluttering up the room now (none of which was in that room when my brother was here)--WHY do I not have a compensatory open space somewhere else in the house???

I remember how open this house was before I started my BFA classes...


I keep opening boxes, looking behind the furniture, hoping to find even a fraction of it! but so far not much luck.

True, when we moved in I didn't have the loom... or the four spinning wheels (two of them are Bethieee's, one is borrowed, the fourth is mine. :) ... Do they really take up THAT much space?!

Plus, when we moved in I didn't really knit yet.

Now THAT is a horrifying concept! When we moved in to this house I had absolutely no use for a stack of yarn. None. Today that's unthinkable.

(on the other hand, I'm not sure whether I'll ever get through the stacks of quilting fabric that I once thought I couldn't survive without...)

It seems that I've been filling the space(s)(and time) with new things, but I haven't been kicking any old things out. I'm beginning to suspect that's a problem.

"Peukalo Is Thumb"

I really appreciate the connections and insights that can be made through online friendships and blogging...

This week two posts in particular resonated strongly with me, and I'm going to take a minute or two to talk about each of them (although I will probably address each one in a separate post..)

The first one I encountered while reading Yarn Harlot's blog. Many of you are probably familiar with the Harlot already, and may already be familiar with the post I refer to. On the other hand, if you haven't read it yet, I strongly encourage you to read it now!

I'll wait. It will give what I have to say a lot more meaning. Besides, it's a fabulous post! ;)

My first response was laughter. (Yarn Harlot's good at that...) When I finished laughing at the post, I chuckled at myself. I recognized my own hubris in what she described. I'm never quite content starting with something Easy. I do not work forward through new material.. I work backward. When I learn a new skill, I often start from the back of the book--with the most complicated project listed--and back up to something easier only if I find out that I really did need the baby steps first. It's a bad habit. It really is. (.. on the other hand, the one kumihumo braid that I have laying around is the first one that I tried, the most complicated in the book, and the one that I like most. (I did make several simpler ones later, but I gave them all away.) It's a habit I will not likely give up.)

For awhile, that's as good as it got: "Hey, I recognize myself in there somewhere... isn't that cute!"

But this morning that post came back to me, and I realized there was an even more profound message within.

It dawned on me today: the fact is, I don't know how to keep a clean house.

I know how to clean Things. I can clean Things really well, actually.

But today I realized that knowing how to clean a Thing is very similar to knowing that "peukalo" means "thumb." Reading the word "peukalo" gives me no context. Knowing what it means does not help me comprehend the rest of the sentence. Reading, speaking, and writing "peukalo," even pronouncing it flawlessly, does not prepare me to write a sonnet, a ballad, a haiku, or even a thank-you-note in Finnish. It doesn't matter how desperately it needs to be done, how badly I beat myself up for not doing it, or how thoroughly I want to accomplish it. I simply don't know enough to put "peukalo" into context. Just like Yarn Harlot, I simply can not read Finnish.

It occurs to me that I have been assuming that I should be able to clean the House because it's just a Really Big Thing, right?

That's like saying Finnish is just a really big collection of words. Like "peukalo."

It's the context that I am missing.. the connections. How do I keep one Thing clean while I work on the next one? How do I get a whole room full of Things clean all at the same time? How does cleaning one Thing impact all its neighbors? These are really important issues to address if I want to succeed.

I've been listening too long to the ghostly little voice from the past that says I must be "lazy," "unmotivated," or "incompetent" when in all probable likelihood I simply have not learned all the tools I need to get the job done.

This is a realization that buoys me, and I am going to try to recite it every time that ghostly little voice tries to tell me something different. I've been expecting, based on the awareness that I can clean Things, that I'm fully qualified not only to get the house clean, but to Run a clean house, and I've been allowing a lot of (self-)criticism to pile up when I fail to meet that goal.

Which is like beating myself up for not being able to read a book in Finnish just because it needs to be done.

Today I state publicly that I think I do not know how to clean house. I also believe that it is a skill that I am cabable and motivated to learn.

Learning is something I'm good at.

Learning to write a thank-you-note in Finnish would take awhile. I'd need to learn the vocabulary, the grammar, and the social context. I might be able to write one thank-you-note by the end of the week if I have a good tutor, but I wouldn't likely be able to write a second one without more help and study.

Likewise the housework. I'll start with what I know I'm good at, and that's that. When I find myself stumped, I'll look for a new way out. A new skill, a new piece of information, a new support structure.

And to anyone who thinks that cleaning house comes naturally and that I'm wasting my time... you can go learn Finnish, and at the end of the year we can compare skill sets. ;)


Friday, March 10, 2006

Thoughts on Repetition

One of the reasons that laundry and keeping the kitchen clean frustrate me so much and leave me feeling like I haven't accomplished anything at all despite the investment of monumentous effort is that they are tasks that require repetition.

I've never been good at repetition... well, no, that's not quite true. I knit. and I spin. .. those both require repetition. A lot of repetition. But each stitch builds on the prior body of work and at the end I have something bigger and better than I had before.

Not so with the kitchen! Not so with the laundry!! Every day I wash the same dishes just to restore the balance I had before I started. Every week I wash the same clothes I washed the week before. The kitchen and the laundry are my Rock of Sisyphus. Every day the same toil for the same lack of progress.

I've never been good at meaningless repetition.. In high school I got C's where I should have gotten A's simply because I didn't do the homework. I didn't need to. I read the books, worked a problem or two, and comprehended the information. I demonstrated proficiency, I passed the tests with ease. I'd always been told the homework was a tool for teaching the concepts, so once I understood those, I saw no value in wasting my time and attention on the monotonous rote work of the homework assignments.

Somehow, in my teenaged brilliance and vast life experience, I neglected to comprehend that learning to tolerate, even embrace monotonous repetition was a necessary and valuable life skill on its own merits. That it would come in handy for balancing a checkbook, cleaning up the kitchen every night, and making the bed every morning.

In fact, I must admit that being a brilliant, quick-study teenager has left another type of footprint in my life as well. It has left me with the unrealistic belief that Envisioning and Comprehending are as good as Doing. This means that if I've bought the yarn for the shawl then it will somehow manifest itself into said shawl by the time that I need one. If I've set my mind to go to a fiber conference, then I'm going--never mind the detail of submitting the admissions paperwork. If I've put food into the microwave, then I've had lunch. (This one really confuses me when I open the microwave later and realize that I'm actually still hungry.)

In order to succeed at my long-term goals of running a clean and efficient household, I will need to carve my Rock of Sisyphus into something more useful.. like a wagon-wheel, perhaps. Rolling the rock itself up the hill every night is not likely to bring me deep satisfaction and joy in itself, but if the cultivation of rock-rolling habits can be fashioned into a useful tool for moving my life in the direction I wish it to go, then perhaps the rock is useful after all.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Progress Report: Laundry

I had so dearly hoped that I would be able to show a bright, clean corner utterly devoid of dirty laundry! (this hope despite the fact that each of us who lives in the house wears no fewer than 5 articles of clothing each every single day! .. that means on any given day there are going to be no fewer than 15 articles of clothing waiting to be washed. argh!!)

Instead, I show you this:

You'll notice two things:
1- the laundry is still winning, though I have made a dent.
2- the pillowcases full of last week's laundry are all gone. They're not buried in the bucket beneath the newer laundry, they've actually gone through the wash.

See? Here's two buckets of CLEAN laundry waiting to be folded and put away! (my knee still interferes with my ability to bring the buckets upstairs to do the folding. .. and my downstairs folding space is not currently available. It's going to be an excavation project all its own.)

The progress throughout the week:
Tue, Feb 28, 2006: 2 loads through wash and dry.
Wed, Mar 1 : 4 loads through wash and dry, 12 loads folded (includes loads that have been sitting in tubs downstairs because my knee will not let me haul the tubs upstairs yet.)
Thu, Mar 2 : 1 load
Fri, Mar 3 : 5 loads
Sat, Mar 4 : 2 loads
Sun, Mar 5 : none
Mon, Mar 6 : none - slept all day, felt miserable.
Tue, Mar 7 : 2 loads
Wed, Mar 8 : 1 load + 1 to soak + 10 loads folded
Thu, Mar 9 : 2 loads
Fri, Mar 10 : 3 loads

so 20 loads have gone through the wash and dry so far, and I've probably got another 6 loads that have piled up on me throughout the week. Maybe next week I'll be able to show you a clean open corner devoid of dirty laundry.


Today I am feeling less completely miserable. I hope that means that I can actually accomplish something I'm proud of. My office has been bothering me. I have a pile of stuff around my compter desk that really should be dalt with. ... The weather is stormy today.. heavy rains and surges in the power lines. The dog doesn't like power surges or thunder, so he's hiding under my desk right now.

I took this picture yesterday, when it was sunny out... when I thought I might be able to do something productive. Before I realized that just thinking about being productive was too much for me to handle that day. My poor puppy hardly has any space!

Aw, look at that happy face!! :)

It turns out the Office was a good choice for today. I had a bunch of boxes that were half-sorted already, and that made it easy to make quick progress. When my knee got tired, I was able to do a bunch more work by sitting in my office chair and wheeling around the room (by then I'd cleared a decent pathway.) There are a lot more details that could be worked on, but I'm happy with the day's results. I can find my computer keyboard again. The things that didn't have a place in the office have been evicted. (Of course, this means that they've become clutter in a different room...) I tested all the ballpoint pens and threw away the ones that stuttered or didn't work.

Notable successes: I found a box I've been looking for since October--the one with the circular labels in it. I also found the gift certificates that Keithr has been looking for. They only came in this past December, but he's planning to use them to help buy an office refrigerator so he can take lunches from home. :)

Most horrifying cleaning fact for this room: I collected a basketball sized wad of dog-fur from all the corners underneath furniture and behind bags and boxes. I think I may need to open up my computer and check for dust-buffalo!

In addition, I got the soaking dishes washed and put away, made myself a decent omelette for breakfast, and a Jiffy blueberry muffin mix for dessert. Finished off the last of the gumbo, so will need to make another major meal soon. I'm thinking that the lemons need to be made into lemonade syrup at this point.. If I'd made the lemon meringue pie on Monday, then I would have had help eating it throughout the week, but since Bethieee's away for a couple of days (and Keithr doesn't like lemon), I would be stuck eating an entire lemon meringue pie by myself.. and what scares me most is that I'd probably do it. .. so lemonade sounds like a much safer bet. I can make a large batch of the syrup and then freeze what I don't think I'll use right away.

I also got one load of laundry run through and another soaking. (there was a permanent-marker incident last week. I don't really think soaking will help, but maybe it'll keep it from spreading.)

Compared to yesterday I feel: accomplished, relieved, hopeful, amazed, decent.

Today's music: Various and random.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Today: Nothing

Or at least it sure feels like nothing..
I did get two loads of laundry done. So maybe it's not really "nothing" but a tiny little "something."

What bothers me is that it's not Much. It's not a lemon meringue pie. It's not even sugar cookies. It's not the dishes that are soaking in my sink or the pile of papers on my desk. It's not spinning the rest of my RF bag fiber, and it's not even eating a balanced meal.

What did I do today? I walked the dog. Twice. (Despite the pain in my knee today.)

I answered the phone. Three or four times. Despite the pain in my knee today! Argh. At least the calls were from people I wanted to talk to.

I thought about making lemon meringue pie, sugar cookies, and a decent lunch. Instead I had a Luna bar and some chocolate.

I thought about cleaning the kitchen, making a dent in the clutter on my desk, sorting through my paperwork. Instead, I ran two loads of laundry through the wash and watched an hour or two of Tivo.

I thought about putting together an SP box, a thank-you box of stuff for my mom, a birthday gift box for my brother. Instead, I wrote two postcards and mailed off an overdue check.

I thought about knitting my Sockapaloooza project, Keithr's Pop-Up-Paws, the driving mitts, the final pair of felted mittens for Kat... Instead, I knit (for the third time) my tea cozy.

I thought about curling up and taking another nap.

How sad is that? that I didn't even have the follow-through for a nap?!

My knee hurts a Lot today. I'm taking Advil. I'm using ice packs. I'm resting my leg. And I feel like I'm "just being lazy." (haunting words from childhood.) The pain is effecting my mood. I'm feeling grumpy and fierce and unpleasant. Last night my dreams consisted primarily of trying to find a grocery store where I could get Advil and ice packs and Ace bandages and kleenex. (I also have a cold I've been fighting for two weeks.) I woke up every half hour or so, wincing and trying to find a position for my knee that was "comfortable." (there isn't one, but sometimes I found a position that was measurably less uncomfortable.) I want to cry. I want to yell at someone. I want to chew my own leg off because it might not hurt as much that way. .. .. .. I know that it must have hurt more than this right after the injury happened, but it was so far above the tolerance point that it was more like being in shock--a numbness about something that couldn't be changed anyway. .. Now it's dropped into the range where I really FEEL it, and I end up feeling like I'm "being a cry-baby". Crying over a hangnail or a paper cut. "Lazy". Allowing myself to be distracted by a physical discomfort. .. maybe even "taking the easy way out." "losing sight of the goal." "unmotivated." "slacker."

No wonder I feel like crying and yelling at someone.

At least I got two loads of laundry finished, and maybe I'm even happy with my tea cozy this time.

Monday, March 06, 2006

On the Weekend I Rested...

Had friends over and didn't feel completely humiliated this time! yay!! ... still appologetic, but not defensive and humiliated.

Today (Monday) I slept. All day. I did wake up long enough to walk the dog and take a shower. Then I went back to sleep. It's now almost 9pm, and if the phone hadn't awakened me I might still be asleep.

Tomorrow's reward for cleaning the kitchen will be making lemon meringue pie with some fabulous fresh lemons my mom sent. I would have done it today (if I hadn't slept instead) if I hadn't been short on eggs.