Fessing Up, the Sequel

Last week’s post was a bit of a catharsis for me. After sharing a few of my failings with you, notions of other niggling habits of my nature began bubbling to the surface. It’s like a deluge from the skies. Once the reservoir is full, and the water breaks through the dam, it’s not long before the whole thing gives way. Suddenly I’ve got a big list of behaviors that I need to come clean about. Those of you who live downstream might want to move to higher ground. Many of you might already occupy higher ground, compared to me, but the non-sanctimonious among my faithful followers might want to head for the roof…NOW!

I decided to work with a list this time, because there are so many items to report. If I do a methodical cataloging of all my transgressions, I’ll be sure not to skip anything.

1) Library law-breakers

I am one of those people who puts holds on books that I’m not sure I’m ever going to read. I won’t really know, I tell myself, until I actually see the book. And then, sometimes, I request several books at one time. Now, if these are old books, with DAB (Dead And Buried – got this little tidbit directly from a librarian!) authors, which is usually what I look for, then it’s not that big of a deal, because there is not a long line of people interested in these books. Occasionally, however, I will request a recently published book, then I wait and wait for it to come. When it becomes available, I might still be busy with another book or two, so I wait until the last possible day to go pick it up from the library. It often sits unopened for a week or so before I get a chance to look at it. Then, whether I choose to read it or not, it stays with me until it is at least a couple of days overdue, and I finally get around to returning it, so that the other 65 patrons wanting to actually read this book can get the chance. If they knew it was collecting dust at my house, there would be a riot. Oh, and if that doesn’t shock you, get this – I also check out DVD’s and renew them once, and return them without ever getting around to watching them. I’m a space cadet. A space cadet with a library card and overdue fines piling up.

2) Disagreeable driving habits

I am not always nice when I am behind the wheel. I am trying to be better, but old habits die hard. First of all, I call everyone “Buddy,” and not in a complimentary way. I learned this years ago, from my dad. For example, “Hey, Buddy, you got turn signals on that thing?!” Or, “I don’t think so, Buddy. You’re not sneaking up on the inside lane and then cutting over on me!” Or perhaps, “Watch it, Buddy,” and “The speed limit is 45 mph, Buddy, not 4-point-5!” As I am saying these things, I am making evasive maneuvers in my lane (if possible). I would never use vulgar sign language, but I have been known to smile and wave enthusiastically at someone when they beep at me, just to pretend that I know them and am excited they honked at me. I have also, once or twice, made a goofy face at someone who did something really stupid, and then stuck my finger up my nose while making this face at them. (Okay….yeah, that one is bordering on the edge of vulgarity, you’re right.) How does one overcome these types of impolite piloting propensities?

I also like to drive fast. It is not something that I can control. From the time I was a wee little lass, I have been told stories of the curse of the Casey leadfoot. My children have inherited the curse from me, and I got it from the long line of Caseys who have gone before me, some of them riding their horse-drawn carriages through the streets at such breakneck speeds that women and children had to run for their lives. If I knew the magic spell for breaking this curse, I would do it. However, in conjunction with this curse, I seem to have received the blessing of never getting caught. So, I’m just living with this one, as best as I can.

3) Greeting card neglect

All of my relatives and close friends know this – I haven’t sent a greeting card or thank you note in years. The inspiration to carry out these kinds of actions evaporated from my radar years ago, and I have not tried to track it down. I do buy such cards from time to time, with good intentions, and I now have, in stock in a big drawer in my basement, a card to fit any occasion. All I would have to do is dig through them, dust one off, write in it, address it, and mail it, but no, I don’t do it. I am thoughtless and irresponsible. I am very grateful for the modern inventions of e-mail and social web sites, where I can say “Happy Birthday” and “Thank you” without leaving my armchair, but this ease of communication does not assuage my guilt.

4) Ipad recreation dependency

I have a serious addiction to card games on my Ipad. I can sit and play the same games over and over for hours. Then, in between games, I check Facebook, and the latest news, and my e-mail. I can’t remember what I did with my life before I got an Ipad…, but I bet it was fun. It probably had something to do with reading all those books I check out from the library. Or, possibly it included adventures from the great outdoors. I have fuzzy memories of such activities, recalled in washed-out colors, a vignette image of a life that once was. I can’t find my way back. That’s probably a good thing, because if I could get back, no one would be there. They’re all online.

5) Haphazard personal hygiene

Just recently, I got a new job. When I read through the instructional packet I was given as a new-hire, one of the instructions was “shower daily.” Crap. Were they going to make me sign something, or swear under oath that I would follow this rule? So far, they haven’t. Whew….because, I would hate showering every day. It’s such a huge ordeal and it takes so much time! And then, you have to get out of the shower, and dry off, and fix your hair, and put lotion on, etc., etc. Whose idea was this, that we should put ourselves through this every day?! I say, two or three times a week is plenty, as long as I lean over the side of the tub to wash my hair and armpits in between times. With all the time I save, I can get in several more Ipad games of 500 Rummy. Plus, my skin is not all dried out all the time, and I don’t have to wash so many towels. (You can see that I have rationalized my way out of feeling guilty about this issue.) Unfortunately, though, it doesn’t stop there. Sometimes, I don’t feel like washing my hands. If my hands are feeling dry and I put lotion on, then decide I have to use the toilet, I cannot talk myself into washing off all of that newly-applied lotion. If other people are in the house, I will turn the water on in the sink, and wiggle the towel rack for their peace of mind, but I am not wasting a fresh lotion application!

I think that about does it. You now know all of my deepest, darkest secrets. If you come back next week, I will know you are a dear friend, or, possibly, just as demented as I. Either way, it works for me!

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All Fessed Up and Nowhere to Go

I think it’s time to come clean about a few things. I’ve been making myself sound really good in some of my recent posts, and I don’t want anyone putting me on a pedestal. I hate being on a pedestal…there’s nowhere to sit. So, here’s a few things about me that will, hopefully, knock me down a few notches in your esteem.

First of all, I like to bend rules, sometimes as far as I possibly can, without actually breaking them. The same thing goes for explicit, step-by-step directions. I don’t really like to follow all the steps, just the ones that are absolutely essential. In particular, the rules and directions pertaining to food often drive me batty. Do companies really have to put step-by-step directions on everything? For example, “Shake well before serving.” I don’t feel like shaking it well, okay? I’ll do a little, ceremonial wiggle of the container, but I am not shaking it well. All these chemicals that companies have come up with, and they can’t think of a way to keep ingredients mixed up?! Or, how about “Refrigerate after opening.” What if I want to refrigerate BEFORE opening, eh? What are the rule police going to do about that one? My favorite package instructions were a recent find, on a product that has been around for years. Did you know that baking soda is a drug? Just look on the back of a box of Arm & Hammer. All this time, I never knew! I thought it was just one of those things you added to cookie and bread dough, but there are some serious “drug facts” and usage guidance for this product.

Recipes are what bug me the most. Those recipe authors have to tell you every little thing, and make you feel like the slightest deviation will lead to a pile of inedible-ness. “Using the fine-grate side of a box grater, carefully shred the room temperature cheese.” Give me a break – I have a life here, people. I don’t have time for my cheese to warm to room temp, and I sure as heck don’t have time for carefully executed, fine shredding. I’m lucky enough to have cheese in stock. My cheese comes out of the fridge and gets fed immediately into my food processor, end of discussion. And guess what. I didn’t let it sit for 15 minutes before serving, either, and my entrée tasted excellent, so get over it, food snobs.

One of my favorite things to do is switch up my recipes when I am having friends over for a brunch, or dinner. I guess I could try these new things out ahead of time, but then, I would have to make the recipes twice in one week, and that would stink, so I just go with the friends-for-guinea-pigs method. I often substitute or add, or change measurements of, ingredients, or cook at a lower temp/longer time, or some such feckless alteration. Or sometimes, I just try a whole new, never tested recipe (and make changes to that on the first go-round!). It usually turns out perfectly fine, but, even if it doesn’t, at least I’ve got someone to help me eat my mistakes.

My one, other weakness is….I waste things. Like tissues and Q-tips. I am filling up the local garbage dump with these precious resources, and I feel just terrible about it. Sometimes, when I am putting makeup on in the morning, I will use three or four tissues, when I could easily use the same tissue for the entire process. I could fold it over and use clean corners for blending and cleaning up smudges, but I am in the bad habit of tossing them away after one use. And the Q-tip issue, I need professional intervention to deal with that abusive behavior. I use those for ears and makeup. The package even says “Warning: Do not insert swab into ear canal.” But, I do it anyway. So, you see, the Q-tip thing is a double-whammy screw-up. I am breaking rules and being wasteful. I feel so ashamed. Are there 12-step meetings for this problem? I need some support.

It doesn’t end there. I’m guilty of wasting aluminum foil and plastic wrap, too. I don’t know where I went wrong. My mother always taught me to fold up hardly-used, mostly-clean foil and plastic wrap for a second cause. I always forget. I recklessly wad up my used foil and throw it away, then turn around and pull out a new piece for the next project. I have tried to remember, and once or twice I actually stored some slightly used foil and wrap in the drawer. I could never quite get the hang of unfolding the wrap, and the foil….it would be all punctured and ruined by the time I tried reusing it. Lest you think badly of me at this point, I want you to know that I do, sometimes, reuse zipper storage bags. I learned this from my mother-in-law, and, although I am not as fastidious as she was in this regard, I probably save a box worth of bags in two years time. This has to be worth something.

So, now you know all about my weaknesses and shortcomings. I hope you are not too disappointed in me. The first step to recovery is admitting your faults, so there is hope for me yet. And now I can climb down off of this pedestal and relax in my LazyBoy. I don’t think recliners come with instructions and rules, so it’s a safe place for me to be.

Until we meet again, I challenge you to practice your plastic wrap folding and unfolding. Let me know how it goes…

Bringing Home the Bacon (free range, organic!)

For the first time in over 25 years, I went on a job interview, just for the heck of it. Three days later, I had my first day on the job. How did this happen? And what was I thinking?!

For the past fourteen years, I have been a homeschooling mom/teacher, and not just any homeschooling mom. Besides being an awesome, creative, resourceful (yet, humble!) educator of my three children, I have been president of a homeschool support group, co-director of a homeschool co-op, teacher of other children at said co-op, youth group coordinator, and mission trip planner for homeschooled high school students (including trips to Appalachia and Tijuana, Mexico). I have been busy, and have saved our family tons of money that we would have spent on Catholic school tuition. Let me tell you, it has been a wild ride, one of the most enduring, enriching adventures of my life. I was able to enjoy a more relaxed, slower-paced lifestyle (with much less paperwork and fundraising than most school parents), and use – to the max – my gifts of creativity, problem solving, and resourcefulness.

Just to add a little spice and variety to my life, we also fostered two young children (ages 6 months and 20 months when they moved in) for a year. A few years later, I threw full-time caregiver into the mix, when my mom moved in with us for a year and a half. In between those two gigs, I fought breast cancer and won. I guess you could say that I’ve been one productive lady, even though I never earned a dollar for any of the above-mentioned hard work.

This spring, my youngest graduated from our high school. Suddenly, I had a lot of time on my hands. I didn’t really mind too much. I’ve been used to hanging around the house a lot, so it wasn’t a shock to my system or anything, but I sure didn’t feel like I was accomplishing things like I used to. What to do, what to do……

I decided I would finally start that blog I had been talking about for years. Not that a blog is really accomplishing that much, except that I like to write, and we have an exercise ball in place at our computer desk, so perhaps this blog will be therapeutic for me, in more ways than one. And then, I got serious about a new, healthier eating plan. I researched and implemented a paleo plan for myself, and starting spending more time in the kitchen, trying new recipes. I got better at utilizing the produce I pick up at the farmers’ markets, and got back into canning. I prepared a new, little garden plot for a couple of tomato plants, and they went gangbusters. Now, we’ve got home-grown, homemade salsa and tomato sauce in storage, next to the peach butter and applesauce I canned. That whole undertaking was fun, and I saw health benefits from my efforts very quickly. However, I could see my husband mentally drumming his fingers, occasionally mentioning other working moms, and obviously wondering when I might consider finding a part-time job to help pay for all these expensive, healthier food choices I was making.

Going back to a regular job after so many years of being “self-employed”…..that seemed REALLY scary to me. First of all, who is going to want me at my age? I mean, I don’t feel like I’m all that old, but you hear things about the job market, and how companies are always looking to hire the youngsters and ditch the oldies-but-goodies. Plus, unless I want to sell fast food fries (which I would consider unethical at this point in my quest for good health) or ring up someone’s gas purchase, what am I really trained for? I am self-trained in all kinds of good stuff, but listing myself six times on a resume as “previous employer” probably won’t look too good. That’s just my opinion on that idea. And then, there’s that other concern of, suddenly my time is not my own. That’s the hardest part of all. You sign on the dotted line, pass a drug test, and instantly, your life is not your own anymore. Aye, yi, yi!

I started out very slowly, with a simple, online search of local respite care companies – the kind that provide caregivers for people who are trying to keep their aging parents at home. This need is something I can empathize with, in a big way. I have been there, caring for an elderly parent, and needing such a service. This was something I knew I could do, and do well. It also has the added benefit of some control over my schedule. I noticed there was one national company with a franchise office very close to my home, so I filled out this very short info form on the web site. And when I say short, I mean, all I did was type in my name and contact information, and add a six sentence (with just a couple of run-ons) bio in the comment box. I figured there was no way this was going to filter down to the local office, and even if it did, it wouldn’t come to anything. That’s where I went wrong.

About two months later, I got a call from the local office, and they actually wanted to interview me, even after the run-on sentences! I dressed my best, showed up for the shortest interview ever, and walked out with a work schedule for the following week. They were impressed, and they wanted little ol’ me! Am I feeling a little nervous? Yes, I am, but I am also feeling extremely blessed. After just two days on the job, I know that I am filling a substantial need in someone’s life, and providing skilled, compassionate assistance, and I’m certain that God wants me right where I am. Can’t ask for much more than that.

Until next time, don’t be afraid to jump into something new. Anyway, if you hesitate too long, God just might push you!

Smell Something?!

Please excuse the stench around here, but I have been away from home for WAY too long. It’s not that I haven’t showered, or brushed my teeth – I promise you that I have kept up my normal hygiene habits. It’s just one of those unavoidable peculiarities of folks in the spare room. Ben Franklin is the one who coined the cliche for this conundrum, “Houseguests, like fish, begin to stink after three days.” Usually, it’s only my son-in-law’s olfactory nerve that has to deal with the discomfort, but this time, even I can tell that I’m over-ripe. There’s no way for me to quell the odor, except to get the heck out of here!

If you read my last post, you know where I am and how I got here. I like to max out my visit time, since I only get to see my daughter and granddaughter every few months. After traveling for days on the stagecoach over the open prairie to get here, I need time to recover before jumping back onboard for the return trip. However, I may have overdone it just a wee bit this time. It’s been two weeks today, and I’ve still got two more days before the bus comes. Besides the smell, there are several other signs that I really need to go home.

First of all, I miss my amazing clothing storage options at home. I used to have access to similar modern conveniences in the spare room here, but now, the entire dresser and closet are filled with baby clothes. I don’t know how one tiny kid can use this many clothes, but I guess it might have something to do with the Minnesota winters – her clothes are bulkier, maybe. Whatever the cause, I only managed to squeeze four hangers of my stuff into the closet. The rest is in my suitcase or laying over the back of the chair in my room. My toiletries and other personal care supplies are still in ziploc bags, overflowing out of the top of my little travel case, which is sitting on the dresser…next to the printer. Which brings me to another point. It is way too bright in this room! My dream would be to sleep in a cave, without the neighbor’s outdoor lights streaming in my windows and the printer power-indicator light glowing all night. When my husband is traveling with me, and I make this complaint, he always tells me to just shut my eyes. Maybe my eyelids are defective or something. Even with my eyes closed tight and blankets over my head, I can still tell that it is too bright for perfect sleeping conditions. I didn’t make this up, you know. There’s a reason why God made the night and day, and the night is SUPPOSED to be dark, for sleeping purposes. Turn the security lights off, folks, and get a good night’s sleep, and then maybe you won’t be so crabby!

I miss my bathroom, too. I can only take so much of toilet paper coming off the roll the wrong way, and no slot for my toothbrush. Plus, the hand-drying towel is totally in the wrong place. I’m quite certain that my favorite “sil” has had enough of me drying my hands on his robe. (Just for the record, I have TWO favorite sils.) And can someone tell me what is up with all the natural remedies in this medicine cabinet?! All I can find in here are essential oils and herbal creams. With this cold that my granddaughter shared with me, what I’m really craving right now is some Mucinex and Vick’s Vaporub!

Moving on to the living room, I’ve had enough of the couch-hog dogs. Yeah, they’re cute and sweet, but between the two of them, all stretched out and snoozing away, they manage to take up the entire couch. I have to wiggle my butt in between the two of them, or, if I want to lie down, I scrunch myself up on the loveseat, with my legs hanging over the edge, because the dogs like to be close to the windows. Who knows what would happen if they didn’t threaten the mailman everyday. In addition to the couch hogging, Joon snores, so even if I manage to get comfy, there’s this irritating train whistle noise to put up with for hours (except for that short interval of crazy barking when the mailman walks by, which sends me flying off the couch like the cannon ball man in the circus). I would complain about the cats, too, but the mean one went missing while I was gone, and I don’t want any finger-pointing…I mean, I do love cats, but these cats are meowers with a capital M! And, now, for these past few days, Mica has decided I am her new best friend, and she has taken to meowing outside my door at 6:00 a.m., until I let her in, and then, after kneading and purring on top of me, she curls round and round, finally lays down (still on top of me), and goes back to sleep, right about the time I decide that I have to go to the bathroom.

I guess I’d better not end this story without mentioning my youngest daughter and my husband. I really do miss them terribly, too. I think they’ll be all grown up and surviving just fine without me by the time I get home, but they’ll fall back into their old habits pretty quickly. (Which is a good thing, since I am an incurable caregiver.)

So, here I am missing my familiar surroundings, and wishing I was back there with my own pets (who sleep either in a kennel or in the basement at night), and I’ve still got two more days to waste, and then that long trek on the megabus. I’ll settle in to my home-sweet-home late Wednesday evening, and by Thursday evening, I’ll be missing this sweet little, runny-nosed face that’s smiling up at me right now. (Heavy sigh.) So goes the life of a long-distance love affair (mom and grandma style).

Until we meet again, say a little prayer for me, for smooth travel without any complications, and I’ll say a little prayer for you, too, for peace and blessings!