Monthly Archives: January 2015

Dirty Rags…

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So, laundry is a thing that takes up more of my mental energy since moving to the city.

The washer downstairs is ridiculously old and holds half of a normal load. And the dryer can’t dry a load completely. But it’s the most convenient.

Then, last week, it broke again. For the whole week, the washer sat filled with greasy grey water. The sight of that water every day for a week made me vow off the convenience of the washer downstairs.

So, today I bundled all of the laundry I could fit into my two laundry body bags and had my husband drop me off at the laundromat.

Now, I probably don’t do as much as I could for the environment, but one thing I do is to use cloths for everything. We have cloth napkins, kitchen cloths, and lots and lots of rags. I don’t buy paper towels or paper napkins.

All this to say, my laundry can be pretty gross. The dirty cleaning rags sit in a bucket under the sink. And my kids know where the clean ones are in the bathroom so they often trundle through after, say, they miss the potty, or spill some milk, and toss them in the bucket.

By the time the bucket gets filled it usually smells and has a few weeks worth of bathroom rags in there.

My kitchen rags can be worse because they’re usually wetter. They sit in a separate receptacle with the dirty napkins and can be demoted to cleaning rags at any time. I run a very strict caste system. My kitchen rags live in fear.

The kids laundry, also, is nothing to sniff too closely. I witnessed enough poop smears on the underwear today to initiate a little family meeting to discuss wiping strategies. And I know I have mentioned before that if I manage to get to the bottom of the kids’ hamper I usually discover a gross something at the bottom. Today it was an entire outfit that had hot chocolate spilled all over it.

So, I felt rather disgusting and rather disgusted after loading all of it into the washers. And I sat and waited to put it all in the dryers.

The front loading washers at the laundromat are a joy to watch. They do such a better job than the washer in our building. It’s so comforting to watch the sudsing and the rigorous tumbling.

To be sure, getting clothes clean has always been a rather violent task, the pounding on the rocks, the crushing them through the wringer. And this is a violence I approve of.

Shouldn’t I approve, therefore, of such violent methods in my own life, the tumble and toss of getting clean. And all our sins are as dirty rags, certainly an analogy that the women would have understood. Lord knows I need to be slapped against the rock to remember who I am.

Lord save me from the apathy of the ancient top-loader in my garage!

There is joy in coming clean.

I take the clothes out of the dryer and they smell so fresh and feel so light. And with pleasant surprise I realize they don’t fit as well in my bags. They take up more space. They are more.

As it sometimes happens, you don’t see how dirty things were, how weighed down. It’s like after confession when you are light and clean again and realize, “Oh, I was heavy with it!”

On the Horse…

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I am happy to follow-up and tell you that the elementary school rehearsal yesterday went very well.

I am back, as they say, on the horse. After careful review of what is going to be rehearsed on Monday I have asked for another go at blocking and choreographing the scenes. The director kindly assented.

All of this may not seem like much, but it is indicative of much growth.

Let me tell you a story.

When I was in second grade I inadvertently won the privilege of standing in front of the entire school and reciting a poem. I hadn’t known it was a contest.

So, after the kindergartener and the first grader went, I got up on stage in front of all the K-8 graders in my school and recited my poem. I then sat down to watch the rest.

I will never forget what happened then. A fifth grader got up to recite her poem. She trembled and stuttered and burst into tears and ran off the stage. The girl may or may not have vomited. It certainly looked like she was going to.

I was mortified for her. How embarrassing! I didn’t even know that sort of reaction was possible. It was horrifying.

A couple more lucky speakers recited and then, a few moments later, everyone applauded as the teacher announced that the girl from fifth grade was going to try again.

The teacher said, “How brave of her!”

I clapped for the girl, but I didn’t buy it. The girl had run off the stage. “Brave” was something they said to trick her back up there. And I remember thinking, with my advanced second grade wisdom, that if that sort of thing ever happened to me there is no way you’d get me back up on that stage.

My heart found nothing brave or admirable in that moment.

Now, I am significantly older and, as with most things, when you practice not being perfect every day you just get better at it.

My inability to fail prevented me from doing a lot of things. It’s taken a long period of indoctrination to reverse it. In fact, I now find a special pride in my ability to fail miserably, experience rejection, and try again, even if it’s an elementary school production, even if it’s a novel.

So, here we go, keeping on, practice, practice.

So, that’s a Panic Attack…

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Oh my goodness, people.

I was in charge of blocking a scene today. One whole scene and musical number, one hour of rehearsal, all mine.

I was bold. I was confident. I went over it. I went over it again. The director called. I told her I had it.

And I totally and utterly bombed, failed, miserably, absolutely miserably.

I’m not sure what happened. For one thing, the stage was much smaller than the one in my mind. Everyone was terribly squished. And then after I blocked their song I realized – they’re just standing there.

It was the most uninteresting thing I’ve ever seen.

And my chest starts to tighten and they’re looking at me as they say their lines and their parents are all lined up against the back wall watching me.

And a voice in my head says, “Barbara, I think you’re supposed to be telling them something right now.”

But I can’t open my mouth.

And then the voice says, “Oh my gosh, you have no idea what you’re doing.”

And then the voice begins calculating, “You have volunteered to be the assistant director and you know they have no director next year. You have as good as doomed yourself to this sensation for the next ten years until baby graduates from fifth grade …”

The voice was very unhelpful. My mouth had gone dry and I wanted to cry. I’m pretty sure what I had was a panic attack.

The director was there. She stepped in. She was having trouble reading my expression. She kept saying, “I don’t mean to step on your toes here.”

I shook my head. It was all I could do. Holy hell!? Was that a panic attack.

The director was very kind. She appreciated my “framework” and filled in the details. She fixed it. And she gave me a pep talk.

It is now 7:30 and I am curled up in bed in my pajamas. I will be watching a French movie and falling asleep soon after. Nothing else is getting accomplished today, nothing.

And tomorrow I’m preparing the crap out of my script for Wednesday.

And here comes the unhelpful voice, “But you thought you were prepared today.”

My Birthday Present…

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Yesterday was my birthday.

The day before I had to run to the local pharmacy. So, the kids giggled and whispered and ransacked their piggy banks to come with me and buy me a present.

I found myself wanting to tell them “no”. No, save your money. Don’t spend your Christmas money on me. Just draw me a picture or make me a card or something.

But then I thought, okay, I do things for them all the time. I can let them do something for me.  I can let them see how they are useful, thoughtful and needed. I can let them feel their power to affect good for those around them.

And, really, this is actually the sort of behavior I want to encourage. I do want my adult children to remember my birthday and do something thoughtful for me. And since I’m not the sort of fool who thinks this sort of behavior automatically springs out of an eighteen year old heart, well, then now is the best time, when naturally outpouring from their generous little hearts, to build the habit. So, I let them bring their monies in plastic baggies.

At the store I found what I needed while my daughter followed my son from aisle to aisle looking at all their options. Four little eyes kept peaking around end caps and warning me to stay away. At one point my son discovered the gift cards and was super excited.

He brought up a $25 gift card to Starbucks valiantly trying to cover the logo.

“How much is this, Mom?” he asked.

“Too much to spend on me for my birthday,” I said.

“Mom, what does 5 P-C-S mean?”

“Five pieces,” I said, trying not to see the five-pack of alligator clips in his hand.

“Mom, do you like skittles?”

“Yes, I do like skittles.”

I walked over to the cashier after purchasing what I had come for.

“They’re looking for a birthday present for me,” I said, “So, can you help them a little bit with the money?”

The cashier nodded and I walked a distance away.

I finally hear my kids decide and stealthily maneuver the present up to the register. I am able to see just the tops of their heads and the back of the cashier as they buy it.

“It’s a surprise, so can you not let her see it?” my son asks the cashier.

“Yeah,” she said, “I’ll put it in this bag.”

They all look over at me conspiratorially to make sure I can’t see.

Please, let them not spend too much on me! Please, don’t let it be the alligator clips! I would definitely have to wear them and I hate wearing alligator clips!

There was an exchange of monies. Some coins were counted out.

“One more of those,” the cashier said.

And then they were done. My son was slightly blanched as we walked to the car.

“She made him give her six of his paper monies, Mom,” said my daughter in an awed sort of tone.

“It was $5.99,” my son says a little gravely.

“Well, I feel really special for you to spend your money on me,” I said.

“I’m so excited to give it to you,” he said.

“I can’t wait!” I say. Whatever it is I will love it.

Yesterday, on awaking, I was instructed to stay in bed while they worked on their surprise.

After a while I was escorted into their room. All of their animals sat in a color-coded rainbow around their room. They had set up their legos in birthday panoramas on the dresser. And on top of a blanket artfully looking like a tablecloth across the toy chest was a paper birthday cake with candles and a “35” on it, and next to it, was my present.

Chewbaca singing a birthday song

Chewbaca singing a birthday song

“Do you want to open it now?” My son asked.

“Yes,” I said, “Can I open it now?”

I opened my son’s stellar wrapping job (really, he does a very good job) and what do I see? A 60 pack of hair bands, the same kind I always use, in a rainbow of options.

“I got you 60-P-C-S, Mom,” he said.

“I love it!” I said, “This is exactly the kind I always get! How thoughtful of you!”

“We got you all the colors because we know you like all the colors,” my daughter said.

“Now, you can pick whatever color you want. And if you lose one, there are two or three more of the same color,” my son says, “Look, there’s even skin color.”

I am so proud of these thoughtful human beings. I am proud of my son when he feels that wince and buys the present anyway. I am so glad I let him spend $5.99 on me.

I can’t help but think about how similar I must seem to my heavenly father. How he lets me give to him. How he takes pleasure in my meager gifts. How much I wince sometimes before I give him service, but feel the pleasure all the same. God doesn’t need me to give to him, but he wants me to give to him.

I will now be making a big to-do every day as I pick out what color to wear. For sure, I won’t have to buy anymore for a few years. And thank goodness it wasn’t the alligator clips!

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Girding my Loins for Rejection…

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Well, I just sent off a query e-mail with picture book manuscript attached.

There you go, little bird. I have chopped you, trimmed you, cut off your wings and reattached them in different places.

I have sat on you, exposed you to critique, and shamed you publicly in front of my writing group.

Honestly, we’ve kept such company these past few months that I’m not sure I can look at you for a while.

So, go fly little picture book bird and find an agent.

If you don’t come back, well, I’ll patch you up again and try someone else.

… so much hope for 872 tiny little words to carry.