Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Domestic Meme

Cribbed from Mimi's blog. Actually, I ended up going to the source, someone called Rosemary, because somehow Mimi lost some of the letters of the alphabet. Apparently this is supposed to be called the "Domestic Goddess" meme, but as anyone who knows me knows, I don't Do goddesses. Call it the "Domestic Domovaya" meme, a domovaya being the female of two little Russian house spirits who keep things ticking along for the family (and mess things up if they don't think the family is taking good enough care of the home!).

Aprons- Y/N- I love aprons but I don't always wear one. My favorites are "housewifey" aprons, you know, the full apron with the bib and a gathered waist and a ruffle around the bottom. Try to find one. I'm seriously considering making a couple. I used to wear them all the time, till Functional and Utilitarian came into vogue, and I wish it would go away again.

Baking-- Favorite thing to bake: Kulich, Russian Easter cake. I used to bake a lot more when the kids were home, but the hubster doesn't like baked goodies, and I'm too fat to deal with them myself. (One thing I refuse to touch, BTW, is cookies. One afternoon, about 20 years ago, I made five dozen chocolate-chip cookies, and the kids and hubster, who were watching a movie, consumed every single one. That's it! Cookies are too much d*** work to vanish in a single afternoon.)

Clothesline- Y/N Absolutely! Good for the environment, good for the wallet, clothes have a smell and feel that no fabric softener could ever give them (yes, I use that too). In the winter I dry clothes on a rack in the kitchen, which humidifies the house.

Donuts-- Have you ever made them? No. What, this New Yorker?! Doughnuts are something you buy in a bakery!

One homemaking thing you do Every day-- Well, dishes, of course. And dinner.

Freezer-- Do you have a separate deep freeze? No. When living in Europe, I got used to shopping every day, and I still do that. If we know it's going to snow, I'll pick up a few extra meals and freeze them in the refrigerator freezer, but otherwise, no, a big freezer would be a waste of money for us.

Garbage Disposal-- Y/N? Yes. When ours broke a few years back, there was no question about replacing it. I didn't grow up with one, though -- they used to be illegal in New York City, not sure why.

Handbook-- What is your favorite homemaking resource? Currently I use FlyLady, when the CHAOS gets to be too much. But my all-time favorite is a book published in the 1970s, "The Psychiatrist's Wife's Guide to Housekeeping," written with wit and a healthy dose of reality.

Ironing--Love it or hate it? I do hate it, but since the hubster has all-cotton shirts, it's a necessity -- one I have neglected far too long at this point. I'll only iron five shirts at a time, though.

Junk drawer--Y/N? Where is it? Yes, in the kitchen. How do people manage without at least one junk drawer?!

Kitchen: Design and decorating? We did this two years ago, the whole shebang -- new cabinets, new floor, new stove (natural gas!), new color scheme -- blue and white. Oddly enough, we don't spend any more time in the kitchen now than we used to, and I think it's because the room is too blue -- it gives off a very cold feeling. But I'm not sure what to do about it. Paint the blue wainscoting red??

Love: What is your favorite part of homemaking? Hanging the laundry out on the line.

Mop Y/N Not as much as I'd like. Who has the time?!

Nylons-- Wash by hand or in the washing machine? In the machine, of course. Again, who has the time to wash things by hand?!

Oven-- Do you use the window or t open the door to check? I open the door. I used to have to open the oven, when we had an oven without a window, so now I turn on my light and use the window all the time.

Pizza-- What do you put on yours? We used to get mushroom pizzas, but again, that was a kid thing, and since they've moved out, I don't think we've had pizza at all. (The original blogger, Rosemary, wrote: "My family likes it plain so we usually get plain. I like ham, bacon, black olives-- almost anything different, but my family won't go for it." It struck me how many things Mom likes go by the board for the sake of the family. You ALL know what I'm talking about!)

Quiet-- What do you do during the day when you get a quiet moment? Blog, pray, read, needlework. There are a lot more of those since the kids grew up. The hardest time of the day is around 3:00 or 3:30, when they used to come steaming in the door, and the real work of the day would begin. Dinnertime is hard, too -- as my optometrist said, "There's a voice that should be at the dinner table, and isn't."

Recipe Card Box Y/N? I have one, that I used to use a lot more often. It has all my favorite recipes from our time in Germany, and I still like them the best. Maybe I don't use it so often because I have them all memorized, after nearly 38 years???

Style of house-- Good question. It's supposed to be a "ranch," with everything on one floor, but it doesn't fit my idea of a ranch, big and sprawling. It's 950 square feet, with two bedrooms, a living room, an eat-in kitchen, and a three-season enclosed porch. I would like to call it a bungalow or a cottage, which sounds much homier. I would also, if I won the lottery, which I don't play, like to redecorate the outside in an Arts and Crafts style.

Tablecloths and napkins? When we use the kitchen table, yes. Cloth napkins, too. But again, we rarely use the kitchen table anymore -- we eat in the living room off the coffee table, listen to the radio, catch up on each other's day, and watch TV if there's anything worthwhile (our current definition of "worthwhile" is NCIS on Tuesdays and some PBS train program on Mondays -- they run a couple).

Under the kitchen sink-- organized or toxic wasteland? Pretty organized, actually, but that's because the garbage disposal takes up so much room that there isn't room for very much else. I would love to store my dishrack down there (no dishwasher), but there just isn't room for it -- so it stays in the second sink (we have a double sink, part of the kitchen upgrade).

Vacuum-- how many times per week? I blogged about this awhile back. I hate vacuuming. I hate the noise, mostly, but I also hate lugging that monster around after me. I vacuum only when I really have to, and the rest of the time, dust-mop and carpet-sweep (I need a new carpet sweeper, too). We don't have carpets, BTW, just rugs and hardwood floors.

Wash-- How many loads of laundry do you do in a week? One a day, if I keep up with it. This one's a little funny, though. As anyone with kids knows, the best description of laundry is FlyLady's "Mount Washmore," and from Kathleen Norris ("The Cloister Walk") I cribbed the story of the lady who says she's going to have engraved on her tombstone, "At last her laundry's done." I'd do it, too, if I thought my Orthodox cemetery would let me get away with it. Anyway, the week after my daughter got married, I went down to the basement laundry room to tackle the wash -- and there was nothing. One little pile of underwear, from the hubster and me. Our son had decided to start washing his own laundry, and I looked around and thought, "My life is over." It's scary how much laundry can take over your life!

(My own personal "Washer B" question: Front load or top load? We have a front load, and I love it!)

X's-- Do you keep a daily list of things to do and cross them off? When life doesn't get away from me, which, come to think of it, is the whole purpose of keeping such a list. But it's invaluable to me, in terms of keeping track of things like appointments, phone calls, and errands -- It is called a Franklin Planner.

Yard-- Who does what? My husband. Mimi and I share a lot in common, including a black thumb. Every year I buy annuals at the gardening center, and if I get around to it, I plant them -- otherwise, he does that, too, as well as tend his vegetable garden. And in the fall, if he still has productive plants, he brings them indoors and keeps them alive on the bay windowsill. One year my daughter asked us if we were growing the Little Shop of Horrors. My husband's very good with plants.

Zzz's--What is your last homemaking task for the day before going to bed? Diehes. Once the dishes are washed, the day is done, though if my husband would let me, I'd make his lunch, too. Poor soul has to get up at 3:00 a.m. and leave the house at 4:15 to catch the bus to Boston, where he works, and I just don't see that after a day like that, a man should have to make his own lunch. But he does.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A Revelation, I Think

I posted this as a "meditation" (how stuffy, but I don't know what else to call it) to the OrthWomen's list yesterday. It went over well there, so I thought I'd copy it here.

Just thinking over the weekend about ourChris, and the incredible turns his life has taken: We would never have dreamed, back about 10 or 15 years ago, that his life could ever have turned out so successfully. Back in 1992, there wasn't a lot of sympathy for kids with Asperger's Syndrome, mostly because it hadn't yet been officiallyclassified as a condition, so Chris, who was then in middle school, put up with a lot of guff out of various teachers, and the indignity of being put into special-ed classes along with kids with a fraction of his intelligence - but ADD or ADHD was the only possible "code" available at the time, so we had to agree to special ed or have his teachers pick on him relentlessly. Back then, we just hoped he'd get out of high school without some kind of lasting stigma.

Back then, I actually, seriously, asked God why He had created Chris, if his only lot in life was to suffer: Hard to explain to a 10- or 15-year-old that being a "Christ-bearer," which is what "Christopher" means, is a great honor, if it means following Christ even to the carrying of an exceptionally heavy cross. True, it was right around this time that his voice developed into one of the finest basses I have ever heard, what the Russians call an"octavist," meaning he can sing somewhere in the 9th sub-basement of the musical scale. And I realized that at least one purpose of his existence was to glorify God with that voice, so that was its own kind of answer. Ijust wished that the rest of his life could be as successful, so he would at least get some sense that his life is worth living - it sure didn't seem like it, at the time.

But very recently, with the positive changes that have occurred in his life - and with the miscarriage our daughter suffered a little over a year ago - praying for that small life that was snuffed out so soon, and for its uncle, who has known pretty much nothing but sorrow and grief - recently it occurred to me: God creates a person for Himself. It isn't that He doesn't expect us to lead useful and productive lives, and He certainly gives us the means to do so - in Chris's case, parents who loved him and believed in him when no one else did - but little Sophia, who never had a chance to live this life - hey, her life is just as valuable to Him. Just because we never had a chance to know her, doesn't mean He doesn't know her and cherish her most intimately, rejoicing in her presence in His life. Just means we have to wait a bit longer to meet her.

What a mind-boggler. God creates each life for Himself, for the sheer joyof getting to know each one of us, for the sheer delight of listening to an octavist with the grimy hands of a railroad worker, or the lightning intellect and golden tongue of a great orator of the Church, or the profound reverence and love for Him of a heart that can't carry a tune in a bucket. He doesn't care about our deficiencies - those are the deficiencies of the world. We are what we are, and when we remember that He holds an icon of us in His hands - the image of what He intended when He created us - when we just make the most of how He created us, then we become what He intended,and fulfill His purpose for our lives. Does it get any better than that?

A couple of the responses on the list frankly horrified me - the things these people live with every day, that made me feel phenomenally presumptuous, posting all of this. But then I thought: Things like cerebral palsy and abuse, Parkinson's, children's cancers, all seem so outrageously cruel, and we wonder why God allows them - but they're part and parcel of being in a fallen world, just like that tsunami a couple of years ago. Our priest gave a sermon about that in which he opined that God has not finished creating the world yet, and that's why tsunamis and earthquakes happen.

Hmmm. Stands to reason, then, that He isn't finished perfecting*us,* either, and as I was just reading, when St. Paul asked for his affliction to be taken away from him - three times, yet - God's answer was,"My strength is made perfect in weakness." Oh-kay. But it's beginning to dawn on me (emphasis on "beginning") that the suffering, in whatever way, shape, or form, is part of conforming us to His image, and the scars are all part of our "icon" - maybe the physical or emotional scars wipe out or cover over the spiritual scars of our transgressions(as it says in the funeral service of the Orthodox Church). It's not my place, or anyone's, really, to try to figure it out. But it sure helps me to realize that there's a purpose for my existence beyond this time and space, and that He made me because He wanted me.


Monday, February 05, 2007

I Am Still Here

It's been so long since I posted that I had to verify my username and password. That'll teach me.

You can probably assess the activity in my life by the activity on my blog, which is to say, when the blog is quiet, the life is zooming off into the far reaches of the galaxy. Well -- not really. It just feels that way.

After the phone call mentioned in my last post, nine days later, my husband hopped a train down to Philadelphia and helped Chris pack up his household -- what they were able to. He ended up leaving a lot of furniture behind, the worst of which was a futon sofa that we all really liked, and which he had used for a bed while living in Lansdale (suburb of Philly). They could have packed it into the truck with no trouble, but to get it into the elevator, they would have had to dismantle it, and lacked the necessary hex keys. Since they only discovered this on Saturday morning, and Chris was due in Vermont the following Monday, they ended up leaving the futon sofa behind, along with his computer desk, an entertainment center, and a large sectional sofa that he had intended to leave behind anyway. The new tenant of the apartment paid him $300 for all of this, items which cost him $1300 originally. Ouch.

He spent the following two weeks in classes to bring him up to speed on how things are run on a big-time freight line, graduated second in his class, came home last Friday for a semi-relaxing weekend -- we spent a good part of the time trying to track down an apartment near his base of operations -- and this morning, at 4:45 (shudder), he left home for the two-hour drive to the new job in Vermont. I told him to call if he got into trouble, so since he hasn't yet called, I guess he got there all right.

The rest of the time has been divided between trying to get my father-in-law's financial affairs regularized -- dealing with privacy laws has been enlightening, to put the best face on it -- and working on a replacement for an Aran sweater I knitted my husband, oh, about 15 or so years ago. That sweater has been gradually disintegrating over the past few years, and it finally dawned on me that I was going to have to knit a replacement. Two problems: (a) I really dislike working on Arans, and (b) it takes away from cross-stitching time. I finally finished the sweater (which was supposed to be his Christmas present) last night, only to find that the sleeves are about an inch too short. If you knit, you know what that means: Snip one thread where the cuff joins the body of the sleeve, unravel it, and knit a whole new cuff. If you notice any particularly blue air, it will be from all the cussing that has swirled forth into the world from this corner of it. If there's one knitting job more tedious than Arans, it's ribbing. Knit 2, purl whatever -- I prefer one -- for however many inches you can stand, or, as knitting guru Elizabeth Zimmermann put it, "To make a turtleneck sweater, cast on the required number of stitches and knit 2, purl 2, until you are sick of it." In my case, that would make a mighty short turtleneck. I hope to heaven this dratted sweater is done tonight.