Friday, November 15, 2013

things that are NOT FUN

Okay, first off, I need to confess a gripe that I have. I am really just sick to death with just about anyone in the world (who has ever read their Bible) for judging Martha and carrying on like her sin was having a clean house.

That.was.not.her.issue. That's not what Jesus called her on the carpet for. (Though, no doubt, I bet she had nice vacuum stripes on her carpet.)

I'm really just a little fed up with everyone using it as a platform to judge people who (1) like having a clean house and (2) are kind of good at keeping a clean house.

To be fair, both sides of the Mary v. Martha tend to be a little judgey. But let's review a few reasons you might have a sloppy house, and a few reasons you might have a super-clean house, and a few reasons that your house might be in any condition at all.

Disclaimer: these are not exhaustive lists, nor do they claim to be definitive. If you feel defensive or have your feelings hurt by these lists, that's not my intent. If you plow into this choosing to take it that way anyway, just stop reading now, please.

Reasons Your House Might Be Super Clean
1. you don't have any kids.
2. you are a control freak. so it's kind of a personality flaw, really.
3. you don't have anything better to do than clean
4. you don't have any causes to support with your money other than paying a housekeeper to clean. and if that's the case, can I be one of your causes and spare you a housekeeper?  you can send your money to me.
5. your mother scarred you for life because she was super clean and it's psychologically tied to a need for acceptance and approval. do you clean your electrical outlets with Q-tips? this is probably the reason.

Reasons Your House Might Be Better Showcased on 'Hoarders'
1. you have kids.
2. you don't have a good sense about how to sort, organize, and throw away junk, even if you like the idea of being tidy. (totally legit.)
3. you look for other things to do because your house makes you feel like a failure.
4. your mother didn't teach you how to pick up your crap. either because she picked up your crap for you, or she didn't pick up her crap, either.
5. you are lazy. also a personality flaw.
6. you are one of those creative people who need clutter in order to function. not so much a personality flaw, but I sure don't understand it. OR you are a creative person who needs all of your craft stuff (like, every bit of it. even for Unknown Crafts of the Future) spread out all the time right in front of your face. have you ever said, "don't throw that away, I want to use it for a craft?" and not had either (1) a legitimate, specific craft in mind or  (2) a legitimate, specific time frame to make said craft? this is you.

Reasons Your House Might Be Somewhere In Between These Extremes:
1. you like the idea of tidy, and you have generally decent ways to go about keeping it that way.
2. personality quality: you realize nothing is perfect, but stay somewhat disciplined with a good measure of grace for where stuff just falls through the cracks. or spills through the cracks. and dries there and ends up sticky and then you find it a month later because right when you were about to clean it up right away your kid walked in the door carrying a fuzzy glob of something that smells like poop or a dead animal or both. yes. lots of grace for that.
3. sometimes your house may be pretty clean and other times it may be pretty junky, but you inevitably end up plateauing somewhere in the middle.

The reason my last list only consists of 3 reasons is that it borrows reasons from the other 2 lists based on the individual. Make sense? Good.

So this is where I need to state that I am a little picky about my kids' toys and MISSING PIECES. Oh my gosh. Missing pieces make.me.crazy. My mother whole family thinks I'm crazy. They don't know what my deal is. HERE'S MY DEAL. Missing pieces make something NOT FUN. A puzzle IS NOT FUN when there's a missing piece. Mr. Potato Head IS NOT FUN when he only has 3 parts of his face and no arms. Monopoly IS NOT FUN when half of the deeds and most of the money is gone. Captain Jack Sparrow understands this. Why doesn't my family?


The other night, I was squawking about this to my mom because I mentioned one of our Strawberry Shortcake girls had gone MIA.


Seen her? Orange Blossom, about 3 inches tall. McDonald's Happy Meal toy from September 2010. Yeah. GONE. Mom looked at me like I had three heads.

"Well, honey," she said, all patronizing like. "Let's say you have six. Just let the girls play with the other five- - "

"We have TWELVE, Mom. Twelve. Six from both rounds of happy meal toys. And yes, they play with the other eleven. But I want to find THAT ONE because it's a MISSING PIECE and MISSING PIECES AREN'T FUN."

Seriously. Why don't they get this?

"It's just a missing toy," she said.

"IT'S A MISSING PIECE, MOM." Sometimes when I get upset I have to speak in all-caps, like maybe I'll be understood that way. "MISSING PIECES AREN'T FUN."

I picked up a Barbie doll at the table.
"This, this right here?" - and I snapped off the head - "This isn't fun any more."

not a fun thing.
 Mom's eyes widened. She started to giggle. She started to wheeze. She was laughing at me. She tried hiding the Barbie under a cloth napkin so my kids wouldn't see that I'd just murdered a toy. But I wasn't done yet. I grabbed a horse with only one foot. Its three other feet had broken off long ago.

"See this? This horse? This isn't fun. It only has one foot."

She cut me off. "Nope. Your 3-year-old had fun with it," she said. "See right there?"

She pointed at about eighty little tap marks INDENTED INTO HER TABLETOP where my maniac-named-Scout had pounded it repeatedly.

"Good. Good, Mom. That's just great. My kid is destroying your table. Also, she's insane. AND, if that were a real-live horse with only one foot, they would shoot it. A dead horse IS NOT FUN."

not a fun thing. unless you're 3.
I sighed.

"I just want to find that Orange Blossom," I said. "I don't know why people feel like once you start counting pieces or keep track of your toys that you're crazy for having a tidy house. It's like that's the platform they use to make themselves feel better about being a slob, maybe." And then I said that funny thing about people judging Martha, and my mom laughed some more. Then she tried to do this thing that was just so sentimental it made me want to puke. I may have openly rolled my eyes at her. She was still laughing. But she was showing me all the marks and scars on her table that have come from people living real life and putting knicks and dings in stuff and how it's just stuff and doesn't last but she's thankful for all those memories BLAH BLAH BLAH.

I really love my mom. Also, I really want to find that missing Orange Blossom. Also, it'd be nice if we all could just cut Martha a little bit of slack and quit judging her for having a clean house.

Monday, November 4, 2013

my house of dreams

Ain't no home like a home in the country, unless it's 707 Main Street, and that's how I've always felt.  Daydream with me a little? Because that's what I've done for about 25 years now and somehow, surprisingly, I've found out that daydreams can be voracious and vicious and a little bit bitter.

There's this house I fell in love with when I was about Freckles' age, and my whole-entire-life I've really just believed two things about it:

1) This house and me, we were really kinda meant for each other and belonged to each other on a heart level
2) If you own a house like this, you never give it up, so this results in a dream that's just a daydream out of necessity because WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND would sell that house to me? A House O' Dreams doesn't really happen unless you're Anne Shirley. And I may be the Anne-Shirleyest of anyone I know, but sometimes even a house of dreams looks a lot like clouds in my coffee - everything beautiful and nothing of substance.

Our town is good at having a lot of random parades down Main Street and we always sit across the street from this house and so several times a year I pretend to be interested in a parade when really I'm just gazing across the street and cultivating memories for the future. I've pitched some significant daydreams to myself over the years, to be sure - and though there's a lot to be said for the difference between 'home' and a 'house,' and these dreams can and do manifest happily wherever I am, I just always hoped it would be here, at 707 Main Street.

 This house would have rooms that my children would grow up in and fill with laughter and happy stampedes and books and late night whispers under blanket-tents pitched with old quilts and dining room chairs.

 It would have a drafty attic to poke around in bravely, and a snug basement to hunker down in during storms, and a sun room where our dog would nap, curled up next to a potted lime tree.

There would be an old wooden staircase with an old wooden handrail that's guided countless hands gripping or brushing over it through the years.

And the doorframes! Some doorframes would be arched. Some doorframes would have French doors. And one good doorframe, the sturdiest and most favorite one in the house, would be the place to exclaim "My! How you've grown!" with a pencil mark to note those significant centimeters and 6-inch summers.

Our house would have a welcoming kitchen where you spill long stories, a comfortable fireplace where you sit and string up long strands of popcorn and cranberries for the Christmas tree, and a hallway leading like a long path to rooms of warmth and comfort and peace - and all of those long things - stories, popcorn strings, and hallways- are welcomed because there's no sense in staying just a short while.

This house would smell sometimes like an old book, sometimes like an apple pie, and always like a memory that makes you feel whole and healed and wanted just as you are.

Outside there's a wide front yard good for football on Thanksgiving day and jumping in leaf piles raked up from the maple trees that drop fragments of gold and crimson blush. The deep stone porch has steps to park a pumpkin or two or fourteen, or sit with a cup of hot mulled cider clasped between your hands, steam curling up, on a foggy November morning.


 And speaking of across the street, of course, there's no other chunk of heaven but the library itself. Lumberjack recently asked me if my house of dreams is made even more ideal by the fact the library is just across the street, and while this may be the case, I realized that the opposite is also every bit as true: the library itself is made more wonderful by knowing my house is just across the street. It's only the very best things that have an equally positive effect on each other in places improvement could not even be thought possible.


Because I'm some kind of creepy, I don't really have a problem knocking on a random stranger's door and asking if I can come inside to see their house out of sheer curiosity. I've done that before and sometimes I'm welcomed and sometimes I'm stared at and I guess my theory is that the worst they can do is say no. (Well. I guess the worst they could do is say yes, and then murder me once I'm inside. But that hasn't happened yet, so I keep on asking whenever I feel like it.)

When I had a birthday two years ago, I told Lumberjack what I really wanted was to celebrate twenty-eight by seeing the inside of 707 Main Street. So I talked to the owners and they were really nice and were very willing to let me come look around but they were out of town and then we were out of town and it all just sorta fell through.

Two weeks ago, a For Sale sign popped up in the yard, and I felt an ache in my chest because we are not in the position to buy that house, and life happens and it doesn't matter that my girls are just the right ages for moving into my house of dreams, this house of wonder and hopes. I realized just how much time I'd given freely to daydreaming about this since I was five years old and how I had no idea, until I saw that For Sale sign, how tightly I'd wed my emotions to the idea of living there. I told Lumberjack I hoped it would be ten times our price range instead of just a little bit more because I would rather miss out by a whole lot than a tortuous just-barely-a-little. It ached because I knew, deep down, there was just.no.way.
 I stopped counting how many times I cried that day after my fourth bout of tears and I hated myself a little for being so broken up over something so very, very temporal and insignificant when I have rarely - or maybe never, truth be told - cried over someone not having a house at all. I called and asked the owner about coming to see the house anyway. I knew it would probably be my only chance, ever, to hold reality up to imagination and see how they compared. And the owner, he recognized me as that girl from two years ago, and yes, of course, I could finally come see the house. And, mercifully, the house was not just a little out of our price range, but exactly ten times.

We go on Wednesday to walk in and explore. I am still a little put out with myself for feeling just so sad and hope I don't cry the whole time, because it's JUST A HOUSE and all of my memories of living there are only imagined, anyway. One of these days I plan on not getting worked up over silly stuff, but I will give myself through Wednesday to cry this one out. After all, the Christmas parade is in a month, and I can stand there and still be vaguely interested in it while glancing across the street from time to wistful time. Also, I'm going to advise Freckles to start saving for a house now, because they are very expensive.