Friday, June 27, 2014

The off white shirt: Day 6

I loved the details of this shirt but never liked the way it looked on me. Now, I can look at it's finer points without having it clog up my closet. We donated it to the thrift store when we went. 

The crockless pot: Day 5

A few months ago I made pork ribs in our slow cooker. All the juicy sweet ribs were devoured by my family within minutes, but the crock pot remained on, hot and empty. In my haste to clean up, I removed the crock from the electric base and set it in the sink. As I was turning my back there was a loud splitting sound. The crock had cracked like the Liberty Bell. "Oh well. One less dish to wash, but what to do with the remaining crockless pot?" Unwilling to throw it away, I returned it to the cupboard where it remained, useless but not quite trash.
I had been thinking about which object to jettison for Day 5, when the crockless pot came to mind. I wanted to put in the garbage but shouldn't I really order replacement stoneware instead? Most small appliances don't get recycled but end up filling those giant craters we make in the earth with an ocean of rubbish. I was feeling really guilty about this. I should be part of the answer, not the problem.
So, I checked out the manufacturers website. Searching with my item's model number came up with a blank. I fiddled around, typing in different variations of the numbers listed on the bottom of the slow cooker. Again, nada. So, after fifteen or so wasted minutes I dialed customer service. Immediately, I was placed on hold (apparently I am not the only one who forgets basic kitchen stoneware+warm water=broken crock) but then I was connected to an actual person! Yes, a human being actually spoke to me! To add to this amazingness, he wasn't even rude! After I gave him the various numbers off the bottom of the appliance he informed me that the price for the crock would be about $12.00. Then add on the $6.00 for shipping. Together that is about $14.00 more then I paid at the thrift store for the whole appliance.  I could probably get myself another used one for $4.00 or even purchase a new one at the local warehouse closeout store.  I thanked the customer service representative and I dialed the closeout store. Yes, they had crock pots, and for less then the price of the replacement crock for mine. my attempt to get rid of something I was once again adding extra work to my day. That is why I had put off dealing with it for so long. There is so much to consider when dealing with a mostly broken appliance; "Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle" for instance. By throwing away this appliance and getting a new one I was creating more garbage. Even if I bought another used one, this one was still going to end up in a landfill. Financially though, how do I justify spending more money to replace part of an old crockpot? It could stop working any day. In fact, now that I was thinking about it, it had always seemed that the low setting wasn't really low, just not as hot as high. Maybe that is why it had been at the thrift store to begin with.
Then I remembered seeing a plastic lid in the bottom of the pantry. Bingo! I didn't need to replace it at all. We had a smaller crockpot that had been in our camping trailer stored away in the attic. For some reason the lid never made it up there though. Now, I could rid myself of the crockless pot with less regret.
I wasn't ready to just throw it into the trash yet though.
A search online yielded infinite options for reusing the crock from a broken slow cooker, but few viable options for the metal electric heating part. My county's recycling center treats them as bagged garbage so into the landfill it would go. There was someone online who suggesting stripping it of the copper, breaking it apart and the taking it to a place that purchases scrap metal. I know I will never do that. The crockless pot will be sitting where it is now, right next to our door, for the next 6 months till my husband gets sick of moving it out of his way and just tosses it.
This had become a complicated ethical question, so I decided to pass the buck. I would donate it to a thrift store when I took the kids out shopping. Who knows? Maybe there is a potless crock out there waiting for a base. One can only hope.

As a post script, I wrote this entry earlier in the week but didn't get a chance to edit it until today. We did take the crockless pot to a local thrift store where they accepted it as a donation. It may of had something to do with the fact that it was handed to them by an adorable 8 year old. Had I chosen to hand it to the volunteer myself, I may not have been so lucky.
While we were at the store, I didn't even look at crock pots.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Letting go of infinite possibility: Day 4

Okay, so it's actually just a sticker for my laptop, but just think of all the different places I could have stuck it, thereby declaring to the world my commitment to extreme physical fitness.
There is one problem with this declaration however, my commitment isn't all that evident by my appearance. I don't feel certain that BEACHBODY wants my body as an advertisement for their product's effectiveness. I did stick the tablet sticker on the back of my tablet, but since I never use my tablet in public, no one will ever see it there. The sticker for my cell phone, which people would actually see me using, got confiscated by one of the children before I even did the first workout. I was keeping this larger laptop sticker to stick to something once I had reached my "fitness goals" (which actually means "lost a lot of weight"). The problem is that I never loose weight. I may get in better shape, but that shape is cleverly hidden beneath my layers of fat. I hold on to these layers despite my (fairly) regular and (relatively) intense exercise regime. I accomplish this feat by consuming thousands of calories more then I should, sometimes all in one day. I have no really good excuse for this sort of behavior either. I know that it is bad for my health, but darn it I bake such yummy stuff and cookie dough and cake batter are too tasty to just wash down the drain and should definitely be licked out of the bowl. Then of course I need to try the final product and see if it is as delicious as the batter or dough promised it would be. (I can only imagine how fat I would be if I didn't walk regularly, do various exercise programs, chase kids around, and do a veritable workout regime of house cleaning.)
I keep thinking that maybe this time will be different. Maybe I will change my eating habits and be able to reach these elusive "fitness goals." Holding on to that sticker was testament to that hope. Maybe I will look like I do extreme fitness someday.
I threw it away. It was cluttering my desk and like a too small dress hanging in my closet, making me feel like a failure. I can still change my eating habits but if I do I certainly won't need this sticker to advertise it if I do.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Waterlogged checks: Day 3

"In the confrontation between the stream and  the rock, the stream always wins- not through strength but by perseverance." -H. Jackson Browne Jr.

I am more and more struck by the value of consistent, deliberate, daily practices. With the constant unforeseeable interruptions brought into life by sickness, weather, and the dictates of a full family life, I find it very difficult to maintain the steady regular rhythm to my days that I think would be ideal. My big idea to rid myself of one thing a day for 30 days has already fallen by the wayside, or at least been forced out of the realm of consecutive and into the realm of successive. Due to the busyness of Father's Day, I didn't throw anything away that day. Then on Monday, I decided to jettison the above pictured boxes of checks from our former bank in Colorado. Ridding myself of them proved quite tedious however. Since I do not have a shredder, I decided to cut up the account and routing numbers with a pair of kitchen scissors. After cutting up the first box of checks, my right hand started to ache. By the time I had finished the second box of checks, I was on the verge of blisterdom. So, I opted for money laundering. I soaked the remaining checks so they would tear easily by hand. This meant however, that I had a clear plastic container filled with checks and water siting on my counter for over a day. Each one of my children felt the need to point this out to me. "Uh oh, Mommy. Look what someone did to your checks." This comment gives you a pretty darn good idea of the type of mischief my children regularly get into. Each of them could easily imagine one of their siblings immersing an entire box of checks in water. In fact they had probably considered doing it themselves.
So, after cluttering up my counter for a whole day because I was too lazy to finish cutting my checks by hand, I had finally rid myself of the extra weight of useless checks.
"But why were you keeping checks for accounts that you closed months ago anyway?" I can imagine you wondering. I really don't know. Maybe I was simply too lazy to properly dispose of them. Whatever the reason, I was holding on to them, and now I no longer am. I guess that counts towards one of my 30 days.
Even though it has been almost a week since I started this endeavor, I am only on Day 3. This is simmilar to my current attempt at doing a certain 90 day extreme fitness program. I received it in the mail two months ago, but I am only on the fourth week of exercises. There have been a lot of missed days. Oh, and my daily bible readings are not as "daily" as I would like either. Yet, a continual habitual practice of reading and prayer is the meat of the christian diet, so I will persevere. Writing and singing also require daily practice and for that matter keeping a clean house is certainly not the work of one day a week. Don't even let me get started on the laundry.
It seems that working towards a daily, preferably consecutive, practice will (hopefully) strengthen my self-discipline, making me able to grow in many areas of my life. So what should I get rid of today?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Kitchen towels: Day 2

"One cannot have too many dish towels, can they?" That seems to be the general feeling when it comes to these little necessities. I mean, how often do you find yourself wiping your hands on one, drying off a bowl with another and needing one more to soak up a spill? They don't need to look pretty to do the job either, because the job they do is often not a pretty one. So why would I be getting rid of a significant portion of my collection?
I feel slightly uncomfortable discussing this for fear that some reader will think me wasteful and overly particular. Still, the truth is the truth. I got rid of a whole pile of kitchen towels. I had too many to fit in my wooden boxes that I store them in. When I would take out one towel, three others would pop out with it. This over-stuffing caused the dishtowels to be in perpetual disarray. I also didn't really like a lot of them. I have this irrational distaste for terry cloth dish towels with cute designs printed on them. They don't bother me in other people's kitchens, but I don't prefer them in mine. On the other hand, there are certain dishtowels that make me smile just to see them hanging neatly on the oven door handle. Especially my over-sized flour sack dish drying towels. It is pure joy to hang these crisp white cotton squares on the line while the breeze flutters between them and they glow with the brightness of clean sunlight. The plaid towels and the knobby textured red towel add texture to whatever task is at hand. The woven towels, with their green through red and their pink on pink seem so classic, so kitchen chic.  
So I went though the drawer boxes that were full of towels and rags shoved in at various stages of folding and unfolding. I separated them into three piles; keep, give away and trash.
"But," you protest "you should keep them for rags." I thought about that, half of these dishtowels are only a few washes away from becoming rags themselves. When I need a rag, I will simply choose one of those "near rags".
My ambivalence regarding this decision prompted me to take pictures only of my remaining kitchen towels instead of the discarded ones. This was because someone reading this post may have given one of them to me, or that they may have had some sentimental value to someone at some time of which I was not hitherto aware.

Who knew that there could be so much fear and guilt associated with the purging of a pile of stained and thread bare kitchen towels?

Friday, June 13, 2014

One day at a time, one object a day

"Yet slow and patient work that does not immediately produce a result is no waste of time..."
                                                                                               -Thomas Merton

I recently spoke with my sister about a book she was considering reading. The writer had decided to get  rid of one possession a day for a month. After the month long period she decided to continue the ritual because she found it so beneficial. I thought about this idea for a while, yet considered it unnecessary for myself. I am a purger. If a counter gets too cluttered or a closet is overflowing, I go through it, reorganize it, and get rid of the stuff that no longer serves me and my family.
The thing about this way of decluttering however, is that it is the result of frustration. Clutter makes me crazy! I just can't let it go on that way. This doesn't seem like the most productive way to deal with clutter. Instead of getting agitated, maybe the simple habit of letting go of something each day could prevent some of these agitated outbursts of cleaning.
After some deliberation about where to start, I thought I had the perfect thing to get rid for this first day of purging; my broken Dyson vacuum. I thought the warranty had expired so I had replaced it with a new vacuum that I found at a closeout store for half price! I didn't want to just throw the old vacuum away though so I had it standing in a corner of my kitchen cluttering it up.  I was looking online this morning for a place to resell or recycle it. Well, lo and behold, I came across this fact online: Dyson vacuums have a 5 year warranty instead of the 3 years I thought it was. So, getting rid of my $300.00 vacuum that is still under warranty would be slightly irresponsible of me. Now instead of ridding myself of a piece of useless clutter, I have one more thing to do. I have to get my vacuum repaired by Dyson and then (hopefully) sell it.
So what do I get rid of today? My broken electric toothbrush that has been sitting around in our bathroom? No, I can't find the return mailing sticker so that it can be recycled by the manufacturer.
Maybe I will just have to start small by getting rid of this shiny red insert from the box my tablet came in.

Even though this may seem like garbage that I should have already thrown away when I first unpacked my new device, I had been keeping it for...ummm, something. Maybe it would make a good container for organizing a drawer. Or maybe I should save it to protect my tablet when not in use. Maybe I could use it like scrap paper to jot down notes on (notice I had already started to use it for that). I was seeing the wonderful possibilities of this box and there is some merit to that I am sure. Still, I had to get rid of something today and I was pretty sure this would just sit on the side table in the hallway until the table because so full of random stuff that it was pushed onto the floor where someone walking by would step on it and it would then become garbage anyway. It seemed the logical step to skip that sequence of annoying events and just recycle it now. So it was with some trepidation that I broke the box down, folded it up and put it in the garbage can. 

"What! You didn't recycle it?" I can hear you chastising me mentally. No, I didn't. I guess I am an eco-terrorist after all.

(The guilt is too much for me. I will take it outside and put it in the recycling in as soon as I finish writing this. I promise.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Rise and whine!

Over the past month or so, I have made the occasional effort to rise before my husband leaves for work so that I can be up and writing before the kids awake. Imagine early morning sunlight glowing in the eastern sky, a springtime symphony of fervent bird songs, a nice sturdy mug of creamy hot coffee steaming on the side table, and the quiet peacefulness of a house full of sleeping children.
The coffee and the birds have never let me down, and for that matter neither has the sun, but my kiddos don't cooperate. I get up, they get up. It is as simple as that. I can be 5 o'clock in the morning or a very tardy 7:15 am but they get up right along with me. Unfortunately, my children do not share my peaceful, idyllic vision of morning. As soon as their little eyes open they start acting like kids. I mean what the heck? Couldn't they get up and behave like adults for at least a little while? My bare feet haven't even made contact with the floor when I hear, "Momma! Momma!" That would be little Allen tuning in his mom radar to sense any movement from the target, Mom. "She's awake "(well, sort of) and moving so it must be time to ATTACK! Got get to her. I will hang here on the side of the crib and whine until she comes in and gets me. If she tries to set me down with the ridiculous expectation that I should use my own leg instead of limply resting on her hip and pointing at things I want, I will cling to her leg and scream until she gets so frazzled that she will pick me back up again."
All my children learn to pick up on my intolerance of loud noises. They seem to be as loud as possible, as early in the morning as possible in the hopes that I will crumple into a shriveled ball of raw nerves and just put on a movie for them.  It may have worked once or twice...
Yesterday, miracle of miracles, I got out of bed a little after 6am and EVERYONE STAYED ASLEEP! Yes, I know it is nearly impossible to imagine, but it did happen. It went just as planned. I unplugged my laptop, ambled into the living room, placed my favorite chenille covered sofa pillow on my lap and started typing blissfully away. I lied about that part. I am so used to being interrupted and whined at that I had no idea what to write. I started typing but it was pretty useless content. Still, I figured it would be better to have a lot of poorly written sentences about nothing (that I hopefully could rework later) then to just sit staring at a blank blog entry. It was everything I hoped a morning would be, minus the inspired writing. The weather was exactly to my liking as well; a little chilly, overcast skies reminiscent of the rains of the night before and every bird within ten miles was singing it's springtime song to the morning. My husband even brought me a cup of coffee and a kiss before he left for work. Perfect. To make it even more perfect, my kiddos slept until 7:15!
Encouraged by this miraculous event, I decided to get up before the children again today. When my husband came in to kiss me goodbye at 6:30 I attempted to peel myself off the mattress without waking Allen, who was cuddling up next to me. He had awakened in the night. In my sleepy predawn zombie like state I had shuffled into his room and brought him back to our bed, where I had promptly fallen back to sleep. When Allen sleeps with us however, he snuggles into me like a baby bird cuddling for warmth into his mother's brood patch. The removal of my warm body caused him to roll over. This of course woke him up and he wasn't too happy about it either. He wouldn't stop crying unless I was holding him. I still haven't perfected the art of typing with a wiggling baby in my arms (with child number five, you would think I'd have mastered that by now). His ferverent complaining about everything brought all the other children crawling out of their beds and they brought all of their demands with them.
"What's for breakfast? Are you going to make it now? I want hot cereal. I don't want granola. Can I make an egg? I want to sit next to you. I was sitting there first..." and on and on. The whining always seems sooooo much worse when I am trying to do something of my own. Before I snapped and started yelling and whining like an overgrown child myself, I decided to abandon my plans for the morning and take care of the children instead.
That is why I am writing this now at 10am instead of 6:45am. How am I managing to do this you ask? Aren't three of my children still at home? Well, I am using technology to sedate them for me. I hate to do this. Maybe I should try getting up really early, like 4:30, but what if they all wake up then too? I could have hours of early morning whining to content with. There isn't enough coffee in this house to get me though a morning like that. Uhhhh...