A quiet Memorial Day, reframing Monday

I noticed I was oddly content and relaxed last night and that got me thinking.

I had a great weekend.

Did I have a great weekend because it was my birthday?

Because it was a three-day weekend?

Because I’m starting my vacation and sharing the teenager’s first week of summer vacation?

Or…

Did I have a good weekend because I didn’t waste time worrying about Monday?

I’m not even sure what I did Friday, but I think it involved visiting with neighbors, watched The Call of the Wild with the teenager and ate potato chips and cheese dip for dinner.

On Saturday, I went to Tucker and got a coffee and our burger kit. (Another Trip to Tucker) I had a great time at my Dad’s just seeing the teenager gather treasures from the woods and shooting her bow and arrow. (Vacation Day 1; Birthday day 4)

Yesterday my mom and I cleaned the downstairs, I ate too much pizza and organized my closet.

So I went to bed relaxed.

And now today I worked with my friend Nan, typing her latest essay and submitting it to Pennsylvania Council for the Blind’s newsletter.

The teenager’s father stopped by with a work friend to get some furniture from my garage. Imagine my surprise when the two of them couldn’t move the hutch. My great-grandmother’s hutch. He wants to use it for storage in his small kitchen. I’d rather see it used than sitting in my garage.

So, I asked him— how did it get there if you can’t lift it?

Apparently, the teenager did it.

The teenager was sleeping. So instead of waking her up, he and his friend went to the office and got a hand truck.

She woke up when they returned and found the whole situation amusing.

While they took the hutch to the teenager’s father’s apartment, she asked me to help her move her favorite recliner outside so they didn’t have to struggle.

We did.

She went with her dad for a while so I stared scrubbing the upstairs bathroom.

I also gave Nala a shower.

When the teenager got home, she did a load of blankets and we hung them on the line.

Then we went to the Family Dollar so she could get a new planner now that the school year has ended.

And we stopped at Dunkin Donuts for iced coffee.

Here is a clip of Nala’s tantrum before her shower: Nala having a tantrum.

Mango nectar and Diet Coke

I suppose I have to let go of my birthday and start referring to my time on vacation— but how awesome is it that my birthday bled right into a holiday weekend and then into paid time off from work!

For more on my recent birthday:

Kicking off my birthday

Pre-Birthday Magic

Feeling the love

The end of my birthday

Vacation Day 1; Birthday day 4

I’ve been with my agency for 14 months now. I think in that time I took off my daughter’s birthday, two days before my daughter went back to school (and to go the Iron Pigs baseball Game and see her marching band perform the national anthem—Warrior Band at Iron Pigs), one planned day when my daughter had surgery, and one sick day.

So this time is deserved.

And before I left I learned I got the PA Food Recovery Infrastructure Grant for our food pantry which will pay for a new commercial freezer for our food pantry.

So after my delicious burgers from Tucker Provisions (who with the generosity of their customers and via Easton Hunger Coalition donated cases of eggs from the Zimmerman farm to ProJeCt of Easton’s food pantry), I got home late last night and between the kittens getting wound up and myself feeling a second wind, I didn’t get to bed until 1 a.m.

Luckily the animals let me sleep until 8. Even Nala, my Goffin’s cockatoo, was patient.

I got up, fed the menagerie, started dishes and laundry and my mom came down to help me clean. We gave the downstairs a thorough dusting, shining, vacuuming… and I’d like to say Mom and I made a good tag team. The teenager worked on her room.

I told her I’d buy her a pizza for lunch.

We ordered Domino’s. I got a spinach feta pizza with black olives, Parmesan bread bites, and since Mom was here a bacon jalapeño cheesy bread. The teenager asked for wings. We also ordered Diet Coke, which we mixed with mango nectar.

I’ve been drinking it all afternoon. If I had peach schnapps or vanilla rum, it would be even better.

I organized my closet— since I recently got some new clothes from White House Black Market some of the old ones had to go. I have a small wardrobe. And a small bedroom.

I took a 30-minute or so nap.

And Mom might be coming back Tuesday to have coffee and bagels and help me clean and organize my kitchen cupboards.

That sums up vacation day 2.

The shifting psychology of chores

As one of the perks of the online writing community, I have had the pleasure to meet Fausta, a life coach and therapist who has a wide range of capacities and wicked sharp writing skills. She has been working on her blog, and her business, Fausta’s Place to Ponder.

People often influence and inspire each other in the most unexpected ways—often without trying—and I’ve admired and respected Fausta for a long time in just that kind of subtle way.

Like most of us, she’s a real and imperfect woman with a quiet vibrancy. She’s touched me with her honesty about life as a woman and the everyday struggles as a mother, building/continuing her career/business, dealing with her own and her family’s health and keeping her heart and emotional state strong and well.

Isn’t that what most of us are trying to do? In a recent blog post (linked below) she talks about our attitudes and how our mental framing of tasks impact how we perform them. I have continued to ponder this.

Mindful Self Compassion Can Help You Get the Dishes Done

I love routine, order and cleanliness. But with 4 cats, 4 birds, 1 teenager, a full-time job, my own physical and emotional issues and a coronavirus pandemic, I can’t always achieve/complete/do everything I want to do.

I have to employ more mindful self compassion, and with the teenager’s help I am growing in this regard. She and I have been discussing the differences in how our brains are wired. This helps me look at my setting from multiple points of view.

My goal, in what used to be Standard American Life, was to workout either at the gym or at home 3-5 times per week and never leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight.

Now, the gyms are closed. I’m eating too much fast food. And my goal is to clean the kitchen every morning— as my energy levels are higher and it reinforces the idea that every day is a clean start.

But I still need to examine my motivations. There’s a flip side to chores.

Today is Sunday. Yesterday, I got up, did a load of laundry and started the dishwasher. I cleaned all the litter boxes— no small chore with four cats, but oh so worth it.

Two kittens and 3-legged Overlord

I did some other odds and ends too but I’ll be darned if I remember them.

And then I attended a business meeting, had coffee with a neighbor, cleaned up after the birds, let the teenager give me a haircut (a rather severe one that doesn’t exactly match the crazy hair I have, but give it two weeks and it will be perfect), split a ginormous, super-sweet cinnamon bun from Cake and Corolla, enjoyed dinner from Dairy Queen, and watched Hell’s Kitchen for the rest of the day.

And I’m not beating myself up over “not doing more.”

But this morning— I got up, washed the pots and pans, unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher, did two loads of laundry and hung them on the line, fed the menagerie, scrubbed them kitchen counter, took out the compost, emptied the garbage, carried the garbage outside, and vacuumed and washed the kitchen floor.

All before 9:30.

And I feel good about the work I got done. Even if I am still worrying about cutting the grass, working out this week’s budget, and dealing with this week’s groceries and work stress. I dread both. I *don’t* want to do the grocery shopping and I never know what will happen at work on Monday.

So I have a delicate balancing act— what can I do to feel good about myself and my house and what can I do to not exhaust myself?

Because you see, I know I also do chores and scrub the bathtub to avoid facing my fears and emotions in the stillness.

Chores let me use the energy of my angst to achieve something positive, but in the end, that’s not always the best approach to my emotional health and physical self.

PS—

Early on in this pandemic I invested in good old fashioned cleaning products: Pine Sol, Ammonia, Fels Naptha, Borax, etc. I opened up the Pine Sol today. Just felt like my neglected floor needed something extra. I got this at the Grocery Outlet and as you can see it’s not traditional Pine Sol. It’s like super floral. “Fresh Scent” by patooty. Someone just exploded a fake floral bomb in my house.

DIY hair and drain projects—hopefully one will work

It’s Sunday night. I’m succumbing to the stress of facing another Monday. So rather than watch excessive amounts of my main squeeze Gordon Ramsay, I decided to scrub the tub, work on the drains and update my hair.

I thought I’d trim my hair— the teenager offered to help me but the timing hasn’t worked out. I thought before I cut it maybe I’d dye my hair. When this is all over, I can get a short haircut and remove the color if I get sick of it or it causes trouble at work.

Phase I

I don’t have any hair bleach at home, as it’s been at least two years since I ventured into Manic Panic realm. But I did find some old cream bleach so ancient that it had burned the inside of the box. It has been at least a decade since I started waxing my upper lip instead of bleaching it.

So I mixed it up and smeared it into my hair. As it percolated, I scrubbed the tub with baking soda and poured about half a large bottle of vinegar down the drain while plunging. That should help free our pipes.

This is probably a bad idea

Next I’m going to start the tea pot and pour boiling water and ammonia down there before I rinse the bleach off my head.

Phase II

Poured some ammonia and the boiling hot water down the tub drain. Now to rinse my hair of the bleach mixture.

My hair has a few paler spots — a little redness here and there. My drain didn’t fare much better. I even used the barbed snake thing and I don’t see a difference in water drainage speed.

Phase III

The teenager is smearing Manic Panic into my hair— we have an aquamarine color from one of the times we dyed her hair in her pre-marching band days and some Green Envy Intensified. We also found Argan Oil Hair color in green and magenta.

The teenager has splattered hair dye liberally.

Your head looks like a fifth grader’s art project and a unicorn threw up on your face.

The teenager, remarking on the quality of her work

Phase IV

The only time I use my hair dryer.

Now to watch TV— my main squeeze Gordon Ramsay— while my hair dries some more. I used the blow dryer but my hair is so thick I’d have to bake it for days.

My buffalo chicken spaghetti squash casserole did not hit the spot for the teen, so we ended up splitting a can of Spaghettios with meatballs. Nala, my Goffin’s cockatoo, approved.

Phase V

Shower. As soon as this episode of Hell’s Kitchen is over. There’s a contestant on the red team from Bethlehem, Pa. That’s where my husband and I met at Moravian College while earning our English degrees.

My hair is nice and crispy. This should be interesting.

The magenta hair dye went everywhere in the shower, and despite all my efforts with the drains I was standing with dark purple water up to my ankles.

Phase VI

I plunged the tub while waiting for the teenager to come up and give my hair a trim. The plunger split. Which might explain why I haven’t had much luck with the drain. The plunger has not been getting a good seal.

Phase VII

The teen — who has no experience or knowledge in hair— gives me a haircut. I wanted her to trim a few bushy errant pieces but I told her to cut what she wanted. She used my sewing scissors.

It looks good. Can only see some magenta in this evening light.

My new haircut and color

Just another Saturday

I woke up this morning worried about things I can’t control, and to a cat coughing up a hairball somewhere in the darkness of my room. It was 4 a.m. and to get myself back to sleep, I keep imagining a cleansing white light.

I imagined the white light getting brighter and brighter. It filled my house, came up my stairs and saturated my room. It brought me calm and helped me get to sleep.

I finally gave up on sleep around 7 a.m. but laid in bed until 7:30. I got up, fed the cats, started a load of laundry and cared for the birds.

Then I finished the first season of Hell’s Kitchen while folding clean laundry and hanging wet wash.

I had a piece of toast, put dishes away, washed the pots and pans, and scrubbed the kitchen counter (even the trivet and the toaster— have to periodically get those crumbs out of the toaster.)

And I found what could be very handy if COVID-19 ends up in my neighborhood: a bottle of Hibiclens the doctor told the teenager to use in the shower before her surgery in November.

My college professor neighbor and I had coffee on her porch, while I was clad in my African dress that I bought in Djibouti for my trip to Somalia.

I vacuumed the sun porch. Did some necessary paperwork. Gave Nala, my Goffin’s cockatoo, a shower. Scrubbed the tub, but not as well as I would have liked.

But I didn’t strip my bed or play with my new make up.

This evening my other neighbor took us to dinner at La Bella’s as a thank you for watching her dog.

Amazing Bread

The teenager decided to compliment our server every time she came to the table. I had chicken penne vodka. The child had seafood spaghetti vodka. The portions were ginormous and the seafood seemed good. I’m not a seafood fan.

See those bumpy calamari?

I think I’ll have enough leftovers for TWO lunches. As with the teen. And my neighbor. And then my neighbor took us to Owwowcow for ice cream. I got cinnamon bourbon.

The food was scrumptious but made me sad because I’m still having mild dental issues. My neighbor is looking at a root canal so we’re a good pair.

And now we’re home. Roomba is vacuuming my bedroom.

The teen is trying cone incense for the first time. She tried to pick natural varieties that wouldn’t burn my eyes and sinuses. She asked me what to burn, so we went for the cleansing sandalwood— vanilla sandalwood to be exact.

I used to use sandalwood soap to bathe before I practiced rituals and vanilla is a very pure, comforting flavor and scent to me.

I asked the teen, who now has her own altar with her own selected candles on it, why do you burn incense?

She answered, “because it clears my sinuses and helps me focus.”

Good girl, I thought.

Household update

The kittens still eat as if they don’t know when their next meal will be.

I gave Nala a shower today to evaluate the extent of her plucking. She spent most of the day with me. I even let her have a small piece of Cool Ranch Dorito. She liked that.

I went to Petco and used my $10 off $30 coupon. Bought Nala a perch she hopefully can’t eat and some more parrot food.

I worked myself to exhaustion doing chores today. And had a big bag of Doritos and two slices of ring bologna for dinner.

I did chores all day and the house doesn’t seem cleaner. It still looks gross.

Let’s see if I can recap.

  • I cleaned the kitchen/bathroom cat box.
  • I ran the dishwasher. Did the dishes that can’t go in the dishwasher.
  • Cleaned bird cages.
  • Fed all the animals.
  • Gave the cockatoo a shower.
  • Scrubbed the tub.
  • Tried to unclog the drain. This became a laborious process.
  • Went grocery shopping.
  • Put the groceries away.
  • Folded laundry and put clothes away.
  • Vacuumed my bedroom.
  • Cleaned the roomba.
  • Stripped my bed.
  • Remade my bed.
  • Did a load of linens.
  • Hung the linens to dry.
  • Unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher.
  • Scrubbed the kitchen sink.
  • Gathered all of the newspapers for the birds.
  • Organized my tax paperwork (my last W2 came so now I’m stressing about doing my taxes).
  • Went to the pet store.
  • Fed all four cats.

Housework Saturday

I woke up at 6 this morning, but laid in bed for a while afraid to wake the birds.

I opened the curtains for them slightly before 8. Here is a glimpse of them in the pink nightlight. Good morning, Birds

I fed the cats, the birds, made coffee, put in laundry and hung wash before making a giant hot pocket for breakfast.

Ham, spinach, scrambled egg, homemade mozzarella.

I cut some cantaloupe. The teenager had a mango.

Then I did dishes. A second load of wash. Vacuumed the kitchen, living room and half the dining room. And the furniture.

I washed the living room and kitchen floor.

Picked up the teenager’s stuff and moved furniture.

Then I stopped to visit the kitten. Which the third kitten has returned. If the neighbors catch it, we have a former neighbor interested in it. But she is going on vacation with Sobaka’s mom so then we would get to foster Misty’s sibling!

Sobaka might be here in as little as an hour. I need to shower but I also need to rest.

I watched an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s The F Word last night and an episode of 24 Hours: To Hell and Back. His original BBC show and his current one.

Perhaps one day soon I’ll do an essay on my new obsession.

Slowing down

I did something I haven’t done in a while… I went to work on time. I had been going into the office an hour early every day.

I stayed home. Spent time with Nala. Packed a lovely salad for lunch. Balanced my budget. Did three days worth of dishes. Even vacuumed and cleaned the bird cages.

The teenager came home from school and did laundry.

And on top of all that, work went super well. My new colleague and I approach everything as a team. She has a strong background in non-profit development and I have a strong background in communications so we approach everything from our respective strengths.

And I think the result is ten times better than either of us could do alone.

That makes me feel so good.

I even did a pretty intense little weight training workout before my nail appointment tonight. Short but left me feeling it.

As for my nails… they are so brittle and short right now it makes me sad. But I can’t be sad because my nail polish color is happi.

Roomba: the vacuuming toddler

I asked for and received a roomba for Christmas.

First surprise was that he’s an older roomba and he can’t recognize 5G internet. So my internet service is too good for him. We’ve hooked him up to my neighbor’s network instead.

And now I find myself child proofing my house in order to vacuum.

I thought the roomba could help keep up with the mess from the pets and the teen.

But man, I had no idea what a maze we had in our house.

I’ve spent the last couple days observing it and trying to map its habits and paths. Because it’s a machine. There has to be a pattern.

I named him Isaac after Isaac Asimov.

Isaac goes straight until he hits something then turns 45-degrees and goes straight again. That’s the pattern.

He misses a lot of bigger things and it’s like a toddler vacuuming. He’s going back and forth but he can’t really see what he’s doing. When he’s done, he’s usually bumped a few things I need to put back and I need to pick up all the wrappers and large objects he pushed out of hiding.

I moved his home base to my bedroom. He vacuumed my room yesterday and did a pretty impressive job, and that’s where the budgies are.

I let him loose in there again today. The featured photo in this entry is the amount of hair, seed and dirt he picked up after one day.

That made me stop judging his toddler style.

Surviving Life With Baby

My daughter, photo taken by me

My daughter, photo taken by me

A humorous list of survival techniques for parents welcoming their first child.

Surviving Life with Baby

  1. You may think you have no idea what you’re doing. You don’t, but neither does baby. Baby is just as new at this as you are.
  2. The “book” may say not to put baby in the swing for more than 30 minutes at a time, twice a day. Other moms say: If it saves your sanity, do it.
  3. It’s normal to consider selling the baby on eBay. (As my husband says, “SIDS is just an excuse for parents who smother their infants.”)
  4. Rock, swing, swaddle, sing, feed, diaper. Repeat.
  5. Week four is easier than week three, and so on.
  6. For the firsts few weeks, make lists of everything. A “to do” list may include your own basic hygiene.  (Hint: conveniently leave list of chores where friends or relatives, who “want to help” will see it.)
  7. There will be days when you don’t brush your teeth until two in the afternoon.
  8. Sometimes, running the dishwasher makes it a good day. Sometimes, running and emptying the dishwasher constitutes a good week.
  9. Make your own rules, then decide which ones to break. (I said no pacifiers, but rescinded for nap time when my mother-in-law babysat, but I insist on the No TV rule. I like putting the baby to bed at a set time every night, but sometimes my friend keeps her baby up if her husband works late so they can have family time.)
  10. Listen to your heart, not your neighbor’s advice. Same goes for mothers and other relatives. If it doesn’t feel right to you, don’t do it.
  11. You will understand Baby’s cries. Suddenly, around eight weeks, you just know what the baby wants. And you’re not sure when it happened.
  12. Your life will start to return to normal—in about six months.
  13. If breastfeeding, remember: It can be uncomfortable for the first four to six weeks. Then, it’s the easiest thing in the world. Even in public. As my friend and peer mom says, “it’s not a breast anymore, it’s like whipping out a bag of potato chips.”
  14. It’s not just poop. It’s a major event. After a while, it requires a Richter scale. “That’s the biggest 10 I’ve ever seen!”
  15. Call your friends. Have a friend or relative who you can call at any hour. Or make sure your spouse has a cell phone on. There will be days when you feel like you’re going crazy and you need someone who has had a baby and understands. These days get fewer as baby grows, but they still happen.
  16. Sleep when the baby is sleeping sounds good but it doesn’t always work. I recommend going to bed at night when the baby goes to bed, even if it is 6:30 or seven o’clock. You may need to do this for a couple months to prevent utter and sheer exhaustion.
  17. If you cook, double the recipe and freeze some. Label well.
  18. Prioritize. I do dishes and laundry every other day. But the toilets—I try to do them once a week. If I make every other week, that’s more realistic. Until baby moves, vacuuming is a low priority. (But a good one if visitors want to be helpful. Just leave the vacuum where friends and family will see it.)
  19. Pace yourself. Even if you feel great, don’t overdo it. Take it as easy as you can until that post-partum check-up. And if your guests/relatives/visitors annoy you—ask for some space or hide. You can take the baby with you or not. Hormones do go crazy. Blame them.
  20. If baby is inconsolable, go for a ride in the car, a walk around the block or try the swing. Motion works wonders.  Sometimes, you need fresh air, too.
  21. MOST IMPORTANTLY: On the very worst days, the baby will do something really cute to remind you why you’re doing this. Don’t forget to watch for it.