HERE’S YOUR HAT. WHAT’S YOUR HURRY? Marilyn Armstrong

I used to be the Entertainment Queen of my crowd. It was close to 40-years ago, but I was the hostess with the mostest.

I fed the hungry, housed the homeless, cheered up the downhearted. I rescued cats, dogs, and lost people. No living creature was ever turned away. It got crowded and if feeding the birds is expensive, imagine feeding 20 extra people every week. I think I was in the kitchen whenever I wasn’t at work.

Motley crowd on Coney Island boardwalk.

One day, I realized I didn’t want to do it anymore. I wanted some privacy. I didn’t want to clean up the mess or cook gigantic meals. I was tired of spending all my money on other people. The crowd that assembled nightly in my living room weren’t really friends. I had become a facility. A place to crash. Where there was always music, food, something to smoke and probably a good conversation and a sofa.

So I started locking my front door and asked people to call before showing up. About half the crowd never came back … and I never missed them. Others drifted off in the course of time. A few are still my friends today.

Where friends … and guests … are concerned, quality is not necessarily quantity. Actually, these days? Less is definitely more.


AND NOW, TIME FOR A CLASSIC JEWISH JOKE:

A very poor man goes to his Rabbi complaining his house is too small and he can’t stand it anymore. “What should I do?” he asks.

“Get a big dog,” advises the Rabbi.

Puzzled, the man buys a sheepdog and brings him home. The house is even more crowded, and the man returns to the Rabbi. “It’s worse,” he moans.

The Rabbi nods his understanding. “Get a goat. He can be friends with the dog. Oh, and get a cat too.”

Even more confused, the man does as instructed. The house is unbearable. He returns to the Rabbi. “Please, Rebbe, it’s horrible at home. The dog, the cat, the goat … and it smells really bad.”

“I think you need a lamb,” says the Rabbi. “And a calf.”

DogsSlayThe BeastieDutiful to the end, the man gets a lamb and brings it home. The noise alone is deafening. There’s hair everywhere and the place stinks. Finally, he goes back to the Rabbi, now desperate for relief.

“Rabbi, OY VAY, IT’S TERRIBLE. The animals go all over the house and they chase each other. We have no peace, no privacy.”

“Get rid of all those animals,” orders the Rabbi. The man heaves a sigh of relief and the next week returns to see the Rabbi.

“Rebbe, it’s wonderful! We have so much room. The house is clean. Life is wonderful!”


Today, as promised I began the process of crating dolls. As boxes come in, anything big enough becomes storage for dolls. Many of these are more than 50 years old. Some are older than me, but they are effectively like new. Most will end up at the Salvation Army. I hope little girls get to play with them and love them as I did.

But the process of letting go is not merely getting rid of things, but recognizing you no longer have control over what happens to those items. That may be the most painful part of the process.

MYTH, MAGIC, AND HOUSEKEEPING – Marilyn Armstrong

Last night, I explained to Garry about house-elves. He isn’t a big reader of fantasy, as I am, so some of this stuff hasn’t gnawed at the edges of his consciousness.

I told him if we were to leave milk and cookies out, the little folk would come to our house. Overnight, while we sleep, they would clean, scrub, repair, and cook. Fix the roof. Clear the snow. When we got up the next morning, the coffee would be ready along with delicious, fresh baked goods.

solarized art effect horizontal kitchen

He looked at me. I think he wasn’t sure if he had heard me. “Is this like, real anywhere? Has this actually happened somewhere?”

“No,” I said. “Only in folk tales and myth. And Harry Potter. But wouldn’t it be nice if it were true? We could leave out milk, cookies, and an old pair of socks. Just in case.”

Dobby_the_house_elf

One eyebrow went up. “And something that already lives here would surely eat it. And Bonnie would abscond with the socks. Our kids would be sure to leave us something. Probably not fresh baked goods … or a clean house.”

Just for a second or two, I had him. Myth and magic live. So much better than reality, aren’t they?

AND THE BEAT GOES ON – Marilyn Armstrong

Falls and canceled medication and rain delays notwithstanding, there’s progress in fixing up the old place. Not as much as I would like, but definitely better and more (with a little luck!) is on the way.

Owen did a first powerwash and finally, on the 4th of July, it was the third day of no rain, so he painted (waterproof with a heavy stain) the deck.

Powerwashed deck

Wet, but clean deck!

We used basically the same color which was used on it when it was built. It’s called “redwood” and it really does look like redwood. I know this because the house in which I grew up was clad in actual redwood and it was really this color.

Of course, these days, you can’t buy redwood but that was the 1950s and we weren’t aware of how much damage was being done casually by people who simply didn’t know any better.

This deck was not made of redwood. Pressed and treated hardwood would be my best guess and all things considered, it has stood up to the years reasonably well. It has also begun to come loose from the house and the northeast piece is a noticeable few inches sunk below the rest of the deck. This needs to be fixed and Owen is planning to fix it using 2X4 beams and a jack to hoist it up to the right level. With a beam under it, it should stay put for another 20 years, give or take. If we could afford it, a new deck would be nice. We can’t afford it and besides that, the deck is in surprisingly good condition for its years.

Owen wants to give it another coat. We have ordered it from Amazon because it simply isn’t available locally. I would have happily bought it from Koopman’s, but they don’t carry it. Neither does Home Depot, though they carry other products by the same manufacturer.

So Amazon it was and if it gets here by Wednesday, we will have a second coat and hopefully enough to spray the stairs and the fence too. I’m not sure the deck needs another coat, but I think the fence and stairs need at least one coat.

Deck with the new color on it. It was much redder and has sunk nicely into the wood.

Maybe we have found someone who can repair our back door, too. The problem is I really don’t want to replace the back door. It’s a Dutch door that opens on top. You can’t buy them anymore and this is a good oak door that isn’t rotting. It just needs some loving care. I suspect we’ll have to replace the screen door, but we’ll see.

Also, a bit of progress on finding help with the house. The problem is money. Our taxes went up by almost $80 a month and our heating went up by $75 a month. Prices keep going up and our income does not go up.

But we need help with the house. We aren’t getting younger or stronger and now my knee is really sore. AND we have company coming. At least a light cleaning is in order, like it or not.

Looking at the pictures of Garry and me from six years ago, I was struck by how much we’ve changed over these past six years. It was before my heart surgery and Garry’s hearing surgery. It’s not a matter of wrinkles. It’s wear and tear. Hard to explain what I mean, but the pictures say it all.

Meanwhile, one of my no longer available medications has been replaced by something that actually works better, but the other medication hasn’t been replaced because it was a holiday weekend. Hopefully, I’ll get in touch with the doctor tomorrow and we can make this work. In the meantime, I’ve been asleep a lot of the time.

That’s what happens when you take medication away from a narcoleptic!

LABEL US CLEANING – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Label

Label me too busy to write anything.

We’re having company. Most people have company, but we virtually never do. Why not? Because we live in an odd place. Even though we’ve just 70 miles out of Boston, many people — even people from other parts of Massachusetts — are convinced we live somewhere on the moon. I think they are surprised we have Wi-Fi and telephones and (sort of) paved roads.

We also have cars, cows, horses, a LOT of churches and a decent selection of grocery stores and hairdressers. I’m not sure why we have so many hairdressers, but we do. Barbers, too.

Today, though, we started cleaning. We hadn’t done any serious cleaning in a while. I washed the floor when we came back from the Curleys and we vacuumed — but that’s our “minimum” cleaning. We hadn’t done the stairs or downstairs in a while because we haven’t been using it.

Surprise! It came out looking amazingly nice. Needs painting and a new rug in the den — and new flooring in the bathroom as well as a new sink — but that’s doable. Eventually.

On a positive note, we got a lot done. I cleaned all the equipment (but NOT the inside of the fridge — I just couldn’t bring myself to haul everything out so it’s grubby in there). But I did the floors (bathroom and kitchen), the little oven, the big oven, the entire outside of everything including the corners and finally got the downstairs bathroom looking like a real bathroom.

In fact, other than needing a new sink (the old one is worn out), it’s not nearly as bad as I thought it was. The living room needs organization, but for now, it’s in waiting mode. If I could manage the stairs better, the underneath living room would make a fantastic office and den. That’s how we used it when we first moved here. Before the kids came and took over the lower level of the house. The fireplace in that room works too, though it makes the room awfully hot.

I haven’t gotten to this blog until now and it’s already dinner time. In fact, it’s past dinner because the dogs have already eaten. Speaking of labels, if your dog doesn’t eat, try Pedigree Choice Cuts In Gravy Steak & Vegetable Flavor Adult Canned Wet Dog Food. They like it better than OUR food and that’s something!

Label us finally getting the house clean. And this doesn’t include dusting, which is an entirely different subject. I don’t want to cook in the kitchen. It’s so … CLEAN.

OPTIONAL SUNDAY – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Optional

After getting up a dozen times this morning to try and convince Bonnie to stop barking — which only something crunchy will accomplish, it would seem — I began to wish I was deaf, too.

Normally when I get up in the morning, I take out something to defrost for dinner but I decided today is optional. I’m not doing squat. I am tired. I’m frustrated. I don’t want to cook dinner, put away laundry, or clean anything.

I’m sure by tomorrow, I’ll manage to get past this, but right now, I am feeling as un-housewifely as I ever have. Am I the last woman of my age who cooks dinner — a hot dinner — every night unless I’m hospitalized? Do other people get a day off sometimes?

Is any woman married to a man who actually recognizes that dirt is not something to be ignored because you-know-who will take care of it, but actually cleans it? Just wondering.

So today in Optional Sunday. I will do as little as I can. I might even go TWO days and option Monday, too. I think I’ll call it “Marilyn’s Weekend.”

DON’T YOU HATE WHEN THAT HAPPENS? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Rebuke

On a day with little to be done, I got up to discover that during the night, some dog (I’m looking at YOU Bonnie!) peed all around the legs of the dining room table. I would put the gate up to keep the dogs out, but I already know that the Duke just knocks the gates down and if that doesn’t work, he jumps them. But these plastic baby gates that have worked for many dogs over many years and are useless now. The Duke has discovered they are lightweight and easily pushed down.

Any of our dogs could have pushed them over but none of them did. Just The Duke. He’s special.

A glass-fronted desk full of memories

He’s a thief but otherwise, a clean boy. Bonnie, on the other hand, doesn’t like going outside unless someone forces the issue … and even Gibbs occasionally feels a masculine need to lift a leg. Despite all that, this is the first time any dog has done anything in the dining room.

Dining table with French doors

This made me very cranky. I was looking forward to several hours of lurking over the computer, sipping coffee, and contemplating the nothingness of modern life, brooding on politics, and generally readying myself for a day of nothing in particular. Instead, I had to clean the dining room which is difficult to clean because it’s crowded with stuff. Mostly, it’s crowded with a huge table and a non-working organ. The table is used to keep my cameras ready for the shooting birds.

As a matter of fact, the reason I was in the dining room at all was that there was a nice, fat Cardinal waiting to drop by for a feed and instead, I was mopping the floor and realizing that there were cobwebs on absolutely EVERYTHING — and several of the oak chairs were splitting along seam lines and needed to be glued and clamped.

When this stuff happens, I always feel like life is simply falling apart around me. It isn’t really. The dining room rarely is used for its original purpose. Maybe twice a year we have a sit-down dinner. The room is largely pretty clean, except for dust. But it had been a while since it was cleaned and the dust had done a good deal of gathering.

Meanwhile, at least two chairs were splitting for no reason except, I assume, the glue gave out. I bought those oak chairs about 32 years ago before we were married. It really doesn’t seem that long ago. I was getting my first place and was working in a furniture store. Instead of a percentage of what I sold, I got furniture. Oak. All oak, mostly made by the Amish and until now, it has lasted. Somehow, I thought it would last forever.

Nothing lasts forever.

Vines in the dining room against the French doors

Meanwhile, the Cardinal finished eating and moved on. Just as well. My arm is telling me to “PUT THE CAMERA DOWN.” How can I be so smart and be such a slow learner?

I was snippy. Garry took this as a rebuke, a kind of blame for the mess.

I wasn’t mad at Garry. I was just mad because I didn’t want to start the day moving all the furniture and clearing the table. My back already hurt and the idea of floor washing before I had my coffee was distinctly unappealing.

Don’t you hate when that happens? Something you really don’t want to deal with comes up and there’s no one to blame, so you snipe at whoever happens to be in the room. It was really the dogs’ fault, but there’s not much use in sniping at them. They really don’t care and probably don’t remember whatever they did that they should not have done.

My memory is like that these days. Fifteen seconds and everything is just gone. Poof. But for the dogs, their whole lives are like that. That’s why they need constant repetition to learn things … although we have had some very smart dogs who learned on one or two lessons. Duke is like that. If he does something he’s not supposed to do, it isn’t because he doesn’t know better. He knows. He just doesn’t care.

Now Garry is doing his ritual morning cleansing in the bathroom. Yesterday’s cleansing resulted in today’s post. He said I should remember that he does much of his thinking in there. I don’t really see why he can’t think somewhere else, thus freeing up the bathroom for me, but it’s his … meditation (?) room.

And now, the sun has come up. It’s a very cold day outside. I know because I could hear the radiators rattling this morning. We keep the house at around 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) — cool, not warm. If it gets colder, that’s what sweaters and sweatshirts are for. I prefer a cool house to a warm one anyway. I grew up in a chilly house and it feels normal.

But I have to apologize to Garry when he gets out of the bathroom … any time now. Because I was irritable and he hadn’t done anything wrong. I just didn’t want to do all that work before I’d had my first sip of coffee.

Don’t you hate when that — ALL of that — happens?

I thought you would.