Shiny Sinks, Garage Sales and Mouse Traps

When I read the Fly Lady’s definition of CHAOS as the “Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome,” I smiled, nodding my head, “Yes.”

“Aha” I thought to myself. “This is it.” The Fly Lady understands me and my home. She knows how depressing it is to come home to a messy, disorganized home. She knows how overwhelming the piles of “stuff” can be and how hopeless perfectionist types can become when faced with the messiness of it all and just give up. While my home is far from being featured on “Hoarders, Buried Alive,” it also not going to be featured in “Better Homes & Gardens” any time soon either. As an INFJ on the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, my J’ness wants organization. I like my DVD’s alphabetized. I can’t stand that my iTunes library has duplicates that I can’t get rid of! I want everything in its own place.

So when I came upon the Fly Lady website a few years ago, I readily jumped on the Fly Lady bandwagon. The first step in gaining control of the CHAOS is to clean your kitchen sink and then shine it every night before you go to bed. The shiny sink then smiles up at you every morning when you wake up encouraging you to tackle the next “hot spot” using baby steps. So I did. My sink sparkled for less than 8 hours. When I got up the next morning, sitting in the middle of my shiny sink sat an empty glass. Sigh. I tried to teach my family the rules, but they never seemed to stick. Every now and then, I will try the system again, but inevitable give up. Discouraged. You see it felt as if as soon as I got one room neat and organized and moved to the next one, somebody or somebodies came along and trashed it again. The other day I saw a quote posted on Facebook that read, “Cleaning with children is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.” I laughed out loud at that one. How totally true!!!

So they other day when the girls heard a mouse in their room, my first instinct was to purge. The idea of renting a huge dumpster and having a huge toss it fest really appealed. Instead I told them to clean up their room so their dad could set some mouse traps and catch the varmint that was interrupting my sleep. Interrupting my sleep not because I was worried about the mouse so much (living in an old farm house I’ve learned to put my rodent fears aside, although I’d still scream if one actually crawled over me), but rather because the girls couldn’t sleep with the idea that a mouse cohabited their room.

My youngest recognized they had too much stuff in their room and lots of toys
they no longer played with. Good girl! I thought. Let’s get the dumpster or at least some trash bags. But no, they decided we should have a garage sale. I told them if they wanted to have one they could, but I didn’t have time to help them. In the middle of dusting and vacuuming the living room, I was in no mood to help them in what turned out to be a ploy for getting out of actually cleaning their room. So, they excitedly brought down old Barbie dolls, books and stuffed animals and spread them out over a card table. They made signs and sat in the hot sun and waited and waited and waited. I actually felt a bit sorry for them. Like I said we live in the country. We don’t get much traffic on our road and we didn’t advertise the “sale.” After an hour or two they dumped their stuff in the living room and complained about their lack of sales.

“Why don’t we just take the stuff to Good Will,” I suggested to blank stares and frowny faces. You see, I’m not a big fan of garage sales. I don’t mind going to garage sales, it’s just the having them I don’t care for. Dumpsters and donation bins are really more my thing. But, the girls really want to do the garage sale. I told them, I’d think about having one later this summer. “When?” they asked. “Later,” I replied, hoping they’d forget about the whole thing. “OK,” they finally agreed and turned on a re-run of “Good Luck, Charlie.” A reprieve for me…

By the way…we did catch the mouse so at least now my sleep cycle is back on track.

So, how do you keep chaos under control?

Goodbye Grandma

Defining moments in our lives don’t happen every day. In fact over my forty-two years, I can count them on one hand – the usual graduation, marriage, birth of a child… Sometimes though, they come out of nowhere, seemingly unexpected and slap you in the face, forcing you to take notice.  I had one of those “what now?” moments earlier this week when I had the honor and privilege of being the last one with my grandmother on her very last night on earth.

Between the moment when my mother first called to tell me my 94-year-old grandmother had taken a turn for the worse and the time I arrived at her nurse home, I wondered how I’d handle being the only one there as my grandmother passed from this world to the next. As it happened my mother after great deliberation went on a much deserved vacation and was a good 18 hours away. Her other two siblings and the other grandchildren also lived many, many hours from my grandmother. I was the closet and only relative in the area. I didn’t hesitate and assured my mother that my grandmother would NOT die alone.  I resolved myself not to fall apart and to be strong for everyone – a role I’m not used to playing. I worried how I’d stay awake all night, but in the end the night passed quickly and I never tired.

My grandmother lay in her bed, her respirations fast and labored. She looked so tiny, so fragile, nothing like the grandmother I remembered from my childhood. I held her hand and talked to her letting her know I was there. She never squeezed my hand or looked in my eyes or spoke a word to me, but I know in my heart she knew I was with her. Through the night I sat at her bedside, listening to the oxygen machine and my grandma’s breathing. I prayed for her, I read a book, I fielded phone calls and emails from concerned relatives, and I waited. The nurses were wonderful and cared for her with respect and tenderness. Around  9 PM or so the hospice nurse came in to assess her. I thought just maybe my grandmother might be doing a little better and the call would be a false alarm, but no. The nurse told me that my grandmother was “actively dying” and most likely would not make it until morning. My mother wouldn’t make it back in time. At this realization my tears began to fall.

My grandmother and I weren’t especially close, but I loved her and have good memories. Memories of eating buttered toast cut into triangle in her warm kitchen, of sneaking into bed with her early in the morning and putting my cold feet between her legs to warm them, of the green and white polka dot hat she wore to Geauga Lake so we could always pick her out of the crowd.  She made it through the night into the early morning. Around nine the next morning she quietly took her last breath. At peace now, she suffered no more. She had a good life, a long life. I was glad I’d been there for her. Someday down the line, I hope my future granddaughter would do the same for me. Over the days after her death as I wait for the arrangements and our final goodbye, my own mortality stares me in the face.  It forces me to look back on my life and ahead to my future and settle back in the present. Life goes on. It’s up to me to take mine in the right direction.

My daughters are saddened by great-grandma’s death, but don’t seem to comprehend death yet. Does anyone really comprehend it? In fact, aren’t we all from the moment we’re born, actively dying?  My youngest wonders how grandma got to heaven, what she’s doing there and what she’s eating. She told her preschool teacher she got to go to a funeral and have a party with the enthusiasm of a five-year old going to the zoo. Both girls are excited about traveling to the city were my grandmother lived most of her life and where she’ll be put to rest. They’ve already packed their bags. The oldest wants to be sure the hotel has a pool. They’re excited to be alive. Yes, life does go on. And as a friend of mine pointed out to me earlier in the week, they have the right idea. And I think they do. Someday when it’s my turn to go, I hope my family says a quiet goodbye as I leave them behind and then goes on to party.

What about you? What are your thoughts?

Introspective Blah, Blah

An undeniable restlessness lies within me, keeping me from complete contentment. I struggle to break free from everything and everyone that threatens to steal a piece of me.  The chasm between the woman I hope to be and the woman I am grows larger every day. Longing to run and run and run without looking back, searching for what’s missing, I falter. What am I searching for? What is it I am missing? Who am I kidding? I couldn’t run around the block without getting a major side cramp!  A little too deep even for me, sometimes my introspection gets a little out of control.

Although on the morning of my forty-second birthday, I can’t help reviewing the past, while hoping for what the future might bring. My past experiences, my past decisions all played a part into bringing me to this moment. They shaped me into who I am now – good or bad. If I had a do-over, would I make the same choices again? If I could go back in time as the person I am now instead of the person I was then, probably, but then I wouldn’t be who I am now. So…where does that leave? It leaves me in the present moment of right now. It leaves me struggling to be satisfied with who I am at this precise moment in time. It leaves me impatient. It leaves me wanting to be that better me right now, yet nostalgic for the past that has swept by remarkably fast. The minutes sometimes drag on forever, yet the years fly by so quickly I can hardly keep up. I only have to look at my children to realize that. A morning of clothes flying, insults hurling, and little girls screaming seems to go on forever. Yet it seems like only a minute ago I was cradling them in my arms as newborns.

So while I have set my goals for the next year in my life that I will strive to fulfill, my biggest challenge is to live in the present.  To embrace the woman I am right now, knowing that the “me” I am today is “enough” and through God’s strength nothing is impossible.  

The Morning’s Musings About Heaven

My youngest daughter is four – actually four and a half. The way she thinks and makes connections amazes me. This morning as we were driving along on our way to pre-school, she starts naming the various people in her life and asking me if they will still be alive when she is grown up.

“Will Daddy still be alive when I’m grown up?” “Will my sister?”

I confirm, “yes,” hopefully these people will all still be a live when she is grown up.

“Will you still be alive?” she asks.

Again, I tell her that “yes” that I hope to be still alive when she is grown up. I don’t want to mislead her as of course, you never know. I remember hearing stories that once I asked my Grandma when I was about her age if she were going to die. My Grandma reassured me that she wasn’t. Yet, that was a promise she couldn’t keep forever as 23 years later she said goodbye to me and went to meet our Father in Heaven.

My daughter is quiet a few minutes and then she asked, “You mean you’ll still be alive unless God calls you to heaven.”

“That’s true,” I reply.

She continues on, her mind always coming up with new questions. “How will he call you to heaven?” she asks.

I wish I knew I think.  I tell her “Nobody knows how or when sweetie.”

“Will He tell you?” she asks.

“Maybe. I’m not sure,” I reply. “You don’t need to worry about being called to heaven right now though,” I say.

“OK” she responds.

She seems too young to be contemplating such heavy topics. It makes me uneasy. I’m not sure why this topic makes me uncomfortable, but it does. Mortality. We all know we are going to die someday, but no one, or at least I don’t, likes to talk about it too much. How do I answer her questions without making her worry? I continue to mull it over in my mind as we continue our drive.

“Bingo! Slug bug, yellow, no tap-backs,” she calls out to me from the backseat. I smile. Sure enough a yellow VW Beetle is parked along the side of the road.

She has already moved on to other things. I guess I will too.