Cleaning House

Housebroken: Admissions of an Untidy Life by Laurie Notaro

I’ve read Laurie Notaro’s work before and enjoyed it, so I picked this one up at the library when I saw it. I’m not even 50 pages in and I’ve decided that Laurie and I are soulmates when it comes to cleaning.

Here’s what makes me think this:

You can make an unannounced stopover at any of their [her sisters’ and mom’s] houses and it would be all right. They’d even let you in. They might feed you cake. But you’re not coming into my house if you don’t give me twenty-four hours’ notice and make a reservation first. And you sure as shit aren’t getting cake, because that isn’t enough time for me to clean my kitchen and make it.

Same here. Same here! Our reasoning is the same, too.

I know why I am not tidy. It took reading that compact, perfect little book* to find out. It’s because I HATE it.

There are probably a million other things I would much rather do than wipe down counters or vacuum. Seriously. I’m just glad I’m not the only one.

*I assume this is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, although Notaro doesn’t say it.


Pineapple Obsession Confession

Pineapple-Inspired Shoes. The toes are more like monstera leaves than a pineapple crown.

I have something to tell you. A few weeks ago, it came to my attention that I like pineapples, as in, pineapple motifs. I was browsing a store and came across this shelf:

Shelf of Pineapple Decor

I mean, these are pretty eye-catching and fabulous. It’s hard to resist. (Although, resist I did. Pineapple decor just isn’t in my budget–yet.)

Then, I was at the grocery store and bought this:

A Bona Fide Pineapple

If you must know, it was delicious.

As I was contemplating the ga-ga feeling I was getting at the site of this crowned fruit, I remembered the shoes above. I’ve had them for at least 2 years. It’s just that when I purchased them, I didn’t necessarily like them because they looked like pineapples, but because they were a visual trick.

As most things go, once you start looking for something, you’ll find it. Lots of it. Behold! All of the pineapples I’ve seen since I saw that brassy beauty!

Back-to-School Spiral-Bound Notebook
Modern meets prep, again in the back-to-school section.

My goodness! That one that is cut in half! I may have to go back for these. A writer always needs notebooks, right?

Pom-pom Pineapple Towel

I’d be tempted to buy this clearance towel, but I can tell it wouldn’t be a good towel and I don’t have the crafting time to sew it up into something more useful.

Gasp! Blue! That golden crown!

I love the texture of this one.

A different type of edible pineapple!

These are stinkin’ adorable. They probably don’t taste great, though, like, worse than Runts. I should keep a tiny glass vial of them on my desk for giggles.

Not a Pineapple

And then I saw this. Goodness, I love it! I used to have a few real cacti and succulents. But, they’re kinda hard to keep and I don’t want prickles around my young kids. A new obsession may be starting.

Pair of Quotes

Even our worst enemies don’t talk about us the way we talk to ourselves.

-Arianna Huffington, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder

Despite its bad reputation, gossip plays an important social role by reinforcing community values: it makes people feel closer to each other, it unifies people who play by the rules, it helps people get a sense of the values of their community, and it exposes the misbehavior of those who cheat on their spouses, don’t return phone calls, or take credit for other’s work.

-Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project

In my memory, these were conflicting quotes, that the first denied we are ever the topic of others’ conversations. But, it only says that what people say about us isn’t as bad as we think it is. That is, people are still talking about you.

My experience confirms that people are talking. I’ve been privy to and (regretfully) a participant in enough gossipy conversations to know that, yes, people will talk about your rude, confusing or frustrating behavior.

Early on in my working life (I was probably about 19 years old), I realized that complaining about co-workers to other co-workers was more draining than encouraging. So, I tried to make it a point not to engage in these discussions. Emphasis on “try”, because I’m a human. Gossip is delicious. I’ve been frustrated with co-workers and tried to make sense of what was happening by talking about it.

In general, though, I remind myself that everyone is human. A person might be stressed by something that isn’t visible. I encourage positive reinforcement—when a co-worker does something outstanding to help me, I try to praise them in a way that their manager will notice (great for performance review time). I try to not participate in those juicy conversations. And, I do my best and try to be kind to others even when I really don’t feel like it. My purpose is to be kind, but also so that I can keep my time as the topic of gossip to a minimum. I have no delusions that my name has come up. That blunders I’ve made, my annoying quirks and professional weaknesses have all been discussed. Maybe some eyes have rolled at the mention of my name. But, I don’t worry too much about it (except that I’m writing about it here—ha!), because we’ll all have our turn. So, when the topic comes up, why don’t we extend grace, human understanding, compassion?

3 Piles of Clothes: The Organization of My Closet

My closet can be broken down into three categories. Three metaphorical piles. Maaaaaybe literal piles. I won’t show you the inside of my closet.

The first pile is clothes I can wear now. At my current weight and shape. Which, is about 15 pounds over what I’d like to be and what I would consider to be sustainable. This is where I was at when I got pregnant with my first kid.

The second pile is sequestered into a large plastic multi-gallon tub. It holds clothes I could wear at the minus 15 pounds. A high, yet still single-digit size. Fitted shirts. The ones that come in towards the waist and then flair out slightly because, hello, hips. They don’t fit anymore because “love handles” have made themselves comfortable atop my hips.

The third pile is trophy clothes. When I first started jogging, I unexpectedly lost about 20 pounds. (I didn’t know that I had that much to lose, but I did.) These are clothes in the smallest sizes I’ve ever fit into in my entire adult life. I wore them for a blink of the eye before my body plateaued and I gained back 10 pounds. Because, I started jogging for the challenge of it, not to lose weight. My eating habits remained the same, which included homebaked cookies, brownies and other treats at both lunch and dinner. Plus, the occasional late morning and afternoon snacking on chocolate candies: Hershey’s Kisses, M&M’s, Mini Cadbury Eggs (Easter candies are my weakness).

I refuse to spend much money on clothes that will fall into the first pile. This size, this shape is simply a rest stop. It’s not my final destination, so why spend good money on clothes that in my dreams will only be worn for one more month? Two more months? Six months? Six years? I don’t know. I don’t want to be this size. I don’t like being this size. I wish that my robust second pile of clothes fit, because I like those clothes better. I like the styles and colors better.

I’m willing to spend money on clothes for the second pile—when I finally get back to fitting into these garments. Because, I like that size. I like the version of me that has the time to exercise—to exert myself enough 3-4 times a week to melt off those lunch cookies. I like the version of me who has the time to plan out lunches and dinners. This version isn’t starved. This version is satiated, yet isn’t seeing the scale creep up, pants aren’t getting tighter in the calves and thighs and waist.

I’ve come to accept that the third pile, the collection of trophy clothes will probably never be expanded. That’s okay. That size was a weird blip in my personal history. Maybe a mistake. I was never supposed to be there. My body was so shocked and outraged with my new jogging habits that it threw itself into survival mode. But, when it figured out that it was going to be okay, that it could indeed overcome the running and put back on some of the weight, it did. They’re ribbons and medals proudly displaying that I did it. I’ve been there. I don’t need to go back, because I have my souvenir.

So, I dress in limbo. In clothes I don’t like because I’m not willing to spend money on them. And, it doesn’t really cost that much to look decent. To look kempt. Like you put some thought into your appearance.

Because I never meant to lose weight in the first place, I don’t know how to lose it again. I tell myself over and over again that I don’t want to focus on a number or fitting back into glory outfits. I tell myself over and over again that it’s about going back to exercising 3-4 times a week. That’s my goal. I want to pound pavement. And sweat. And hike snowy trails. But, my day-to-day is different. I have difficulty justifying the time. It’s hard to be motivated to jog instead of just walking. So, I exercise in limbo. In years-old workout pants and shirts with elastane that is being tested by the extra volume and redefined shape.

They say to talk to yourself as if you were your own friend. You’d never be as harsh to a friend as you are to yourself. If I was my friend, I’d say: First, you’re not doing that bad. You’ve had a lot of changes in the last few years. Do what you can. Walking is better than nothing. Cut yourself some slack.

Seen & Noted: Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the United States Course

In September of 2003, I was enrolled in the Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the United States course at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. On September 10th, I wrote in my “Seen and Noted” notebook:

The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus is like the advertisement for the U.S.

A line uttered by the professor. I probably took note because by that time, I was interested in advertising.

Here’s the poem:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
-The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus-
It does advertise. In a good way. It expressions compassion, empathy and hope. But it’s not an ad. It’s a poem. Art. But, isn’t a given that art is more persuasive than any form of advertising?