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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s not just me who thinks so. No one likes it, not even the people who are paid to do it for other people. Maybe they like it the least, but I suppose getting paid makes up for something.
Last night, Garry sniffed and said: “It smells like ammonia here.”
I knew right away what it was. A few weeks ago, my grandkid brought over a darling and completely un-housebroken puppy who — of course — pissed on the rug, directly in front of where Garry sits.
I have cleaned the rug, cleaned the floor … but the dogs have great noses and they can always smell it and feel obliged to add their own personal scent at the same site. This is why I only buy cheap carpets, so even if I have to ditch them once per year, I don’t have to slash my wrists because my hand-tied woolen rug from somewhere in Asia has been ruined.
I pondered the possibility of getting the rug cleaned. It was only a 4 X 6 so it would not have been all that difficult to haul it to wherever they clean rugs (I am sure there must be a place that does it), but the price of cleaning it would be around $30. The rug only cost $40 in the first place and once the urinating has soaked it through, it never entirely comes clean.
I pointed out to Garry last night that we needed to do some cleaning, especially floors. Even though we clean up after the dogs, they can smell it. The whole urinating becomes a kind of canine party, you know?
So when the dogs started their morning barking: “GET UP GET UP GET UP,” I got up. I turned on the coffee, gave them biscuits, cleaned the water bowl. I tried to get Garry up to help with the cleaning, but he had gotten up early to put the dogs out. It was pouring again this morning, by the way, as it has been doing pretty much every morning for weeks. When Garry said he thought he might need extra sleep to compensate, I said “Whatever,” and got to work. If I waited for Garry, it would be dinnertime and we wouldn’t be done yet.
I took up the rug and its underpinnings — the thing that was supposed to keep it from sliding around on the floor. I threw it away. It stank. It was made up of some kind of sticky foam and I think it had effectively functioned like a sponge and absorbed everything. Yuck.
I rolled up the rug and pushed it off to one side of the room, got out the vacuum. Vacuumed everything. Since we’d done this a mere four or five days ago, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I vacuumed the living room, hallway, kitchen, then took the dustmop and cleaned behind the dressers in the bedroom, another one of those jobs which needed doing for a long time. Oddly enough, it did not disturb Garry who thinks I can’t tell if he is sleeping or awake.
Back to the kitchen, I dumped Murphy’s Oil in the bucket, let it seep into the mop, and washed all the hard woodlike floors. Then I did it again, moving all the furniture out of the way. By this time, my back was screaming at me.
All the pulling and bending was taking a toll. I emptied the bucket. Refilled it with the kitchen floor cleaner and started moving everything out the way for the next stage. I got halfway through the kitchen and realized I needed help. I was not going to get the rest of it done. It was almost noon. I figured since this big cleanup was his idea, maybe he could lend a hand.
About an hour later, it was done. Garry hauled the old rug to the trash. I changed the covers on the sofas. Duke is shedding and being white, he leaves a trail wherever he lays his body. Which is everywhere.
Duke made out well, all things considered. When I hauled the end table out of the way, at least half a dozen tennis balls emerged. One was tossed for excessive slobbering and toothy destruction, but all the rest were salvageable. I put a few back in the box where I store new ones and gave Duke three previously lost balls. Bonanza!
That was approximately when I realized I actually couldn’t move. For all practical purposes, my back had seized.
I ordered a new rug. Another $40 plus a new non-skid pad for underneath it. I considered skipping the pad, but falling isn’t a really great idea.
I hate housework. It’s never finished. As clean as you get it today, it will need to be redone in another few days. And another few days after that. It is the task that is never finished and never completed
My kitchen floor needs a serious scrubbing. I have put it off for a couple of weeks, vacuuming it regularly and cleaning up dribbles and dropped food when it lands, unless the dogs get there first.
I loathe labor.
I don’t mean we all hate our work because some of us loved our work. Continue to love it. I never hated writing, for example, but I hated making indexes. I got exhausted just thinking about setting up a book for publication.
And housework? It’s no wonder men don’t want to do it. No one wants to do it unless they are getting paid.
It’s hard work. It’s thankless because half the time, no one even notices that you’ve been down on hands and knees cleaning that hideous place behind the toilet in the bathroom … or scrubbing off the sticky mess on the refrigerator racks. And before you blink twice, you’ll need to do it again. It is hard and it’s repetitive.
I love when doctors calculate how much work you do, they don’t count housework because “that’s not work.”
They should try doing some of it. Personally. With their own delicate hands. After that, please tell me again how “it’s not work. ”
Today is Labor Day. The day isn’t a celebration of working, but rather a joyous celebration of how Labor Unions, who everyone trashes these days, worked so we could have a five-day week, get safer working conditions, and hopefully take home a paycheck on which we could live.
Now that so many corporations have brainwashed workers into thinking unions are merely graft, they should think back to the good old days of Tiny Tim when Bob Cratchit had no days off, no vacations, no sick days, no holidays. And a paycheck so small he could not afford to buy a goose for his family on the holidays.
I’m pretty sure that’s the way we are going — and I’m equally sure that no one is going to like it one little bit.
As I get older, I’m having a harder time accepting repetition as a big part of my life. I don’t mean cosmically or philosophically. I mean plain old boring repetition of everyday tasks like doing the laundry, washing the dishes, making the beds and cleaning the bathroom.
It always feels like ‘I just did that’ when it’s time to do it again! How many dirty dishes and how much dirty laundry can two people create? Apparently, quite a lot.
I never liked routine chores but I surrendered to their inevitability. Now they seem like an affront to my sensibilities.
What do you mean I have to unload the dishwasher AGAIN??!! I JUST did that!! I used to find sorting and folding clothes soothing and zen. Not anymore. Instead of sighing and resigning myself to another round of laundry, I rebel. I procrastinate; seriously procrastinate. I just had to do three loads in the washer and dryer just to find the TOP of my hamper!
Maybe the political upheaval in the country will help me appreciate anew the reliable, familiar tasks that make up my days. If not, what is going to happen as I get even older? Am I going to be one of those people who is discovered in a pile of filth and garbage in a house that has to be condemned? I’m not there yet. But I worry.
I wrote a blog a while back about how I’ve grown to hate repetitive, routine household chores, like doing the laundry and washing the dishes. But things have changed. The Trump presidency has altered my perspective on a lot of things.
Trump and his team have caused political whiplash and existential chaos, which, in turn, has increased my appreciation for the small things in life. Things like the belief in facts, the existence of truth and the joys of a shared reality, at least with my husband. Also, a renewed love of predictability, consistency and reliability – in people and in the world.
So my boring daily slog is suddenly comforting. It makes me feel secure. My husband’s predictable routines now seem appealing and safe, almost sexy. Chores are no longer frustrating necessities. Sorting socks is now a calming Zen exercise. Fitting dishes into the slots in the dishwasher gives me a sense of success and accomplishment. These are the things in life I can count on. I am not helpless in my own home.
My chores also take me away, for a short time, from the onslaught of breaking news from Washington, DC. They give me moments of quiet before the next storm. I deeply appreciate them for the very repetitiveness that had turned me against them before. Boredom is now my friend. I see it as calmness and peace without the negative connotations I used to attribute to it. It’s the antidote to my PTSD – Perpetual Trump Shitstorm Distress!
I look forward to training my dogs. Sit! Stay! Come! Good girl! Repeat. No lump in my stomach, no sense of dread. No alternative facts or alternate reality. Just me and my dogs agreeing that ‘sit’ means ‘put your butt on the floor’ and ‘stay’ means ‘don’t move until I tell you to.’ Boring, but very reassuring and gratifying.
I appreciate my friends more, at least the ones who share my version of facts and reality. They help me stay grounded. And if I continue to focus on the small things in life that give me pleasure and comfort, I just might make it through the Trump years.
I’m looking forward to watching the Winter Olympics this year. I don’t do sports myself, but I love watching Olympic sports on TV. I learn the names of different kinds of athletic maneuvers and I cheer on the favorite athletes of the day.
Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if everyday activities were scrutinized and graded the way figure skating is, or gymnastics. There would be names for the different techniques for folding sheets – and folding the fitted sheet would rate a higher level of difficulty.
Dishwashing would be my favorite event. There is so much technique involved and so many options for equipment and strategy. You can use a dishrag or a sponge. Don’t get me started on the varieties of sponge technologies out there! You can even use one of those things on a stick, though some of those have a built-in soap dispenser. I think devices like that should be banned as cheating.
The choice of dish soap is a whole other category for grading. Also, if you use the Consumer Reports favorites, your difficulty level should be reduced.
Now for the actual washing of the dishes.
Do you pre-rinse? Do you use hot or just warm water? Different wrist movements should have fancy names (like moves in gymnastics) as well as the circular arm movements — clockwise or counter-clockwise?
How do you scrub or scrape off baked on or age-hardened food? That is the test of a true champion.
Do you resort to additional equipment or rely solely on elbow grease?
Then, there’s rinsing. Do you rinse using the sprayer?It’s faster but it causes splashing – a serious reduction in points. You’ll never get a “ten” using the sprayer.
Sticking the landing would be to quickly and accurately secure a dish in one of those annoying plastic dish drying racks. That might be my personal Waterloo.
Putting dishes in the dishwasher is more an art form than a sporting event. You have to be creative, have an excellent sense of spatial relations, as well as patience and perseverance. It’s also an exercise in logic.
Stacking dishes in the machine could be a timed event. The most plates, bowls and cups you can fit in the dishwasher in the shortest time span wins. You could challenge your spouse or roommate and make it a family affair.
OUTDOOR HOUSEHOLD SPORTS: PARKING AND BACKING UP
And then there’s parking the car, or as I call it — backing into the garage. This is one more fun event in the Olympics of life. Just try backing your car into my garage. If you don’t hit anything, you’re already a champion. Maybe making it a sporting event would make it a less frustrating and more enjoyable.
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