Tag Archives: cleaning

I Give Up

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Yesterday, I made a small delivery to the Island Treasures Re-Sale Shop here on Beaver Island: one large food processor, with all of its parts and pieces, and one yogurt maker. I was a long time coming to that end, but am glad I finally arrived.

Lord knows, I have tried, over the years, to become the kind of person who processes her own food, but it never took hold. I grate my cheese with a simple box grater. When making pie crust, I use a hand-held pastry blender. I slice fruits and vegetables the old-fashioned way. The food processor seemed, always, to have too many accessories, all of which needed to be cleaned and stored when not in use.

I eat a lot of yogurt. Simple, full fat, non- Greek, plain yogurt. I buy it in the quart containers and dish out the portions, to save on plastic waste (I reuse the containers to store my homemade chicken broth in the freezer, for extra credit!). I add my own granola, and sometimes berries or a sliced banana, but it’s pretty basic. Making my own, I thought, would save me a pile of money.

Turns out, making yogurt is not difficult, but it’s kind of a hassle. First, the milk has to be heated in a saucepan to just the right temperature. It is then cooled a specific amount before being combined with the starter. It is then spooned into the individual cups of the yogurt maker which sits on the kitchen counter, plugged in to an outlet. For several hours or a couple days…it’s been so long, I can’t remember. Because, the bottom line is, my homemade yogurt does not taste as good as the stuff I buy. I don’t know why. I’ve checked the label for hidden ingredients that might be enhancing the flavor while putting my health at risk, but found nothing.

So, for many years, I stored a food processor and a yogurt maker in my kitchen cabinet, in case I should ever change my mind about either of them. Then, I started cleaning out and rearranging my living spaces. I was encouraged by my sister Brenda, who told me that the time was right – according to the alignment of the moon and stars – for clearing and reassessing. Backing her up was the Power Path site (www.powerpath.org), which labeled March the month of “Surrender,” but not in the usual sense:

SURRENDER is a word that tends to trigger a definition of failure as if we are surrendering to the enemy and as if we have failed in something we believed in and have been striving for. Our definition of SURRENDER for the month is a giving up, a release of a stance, position, or belief that we have stubbornly held onto for way beyond its useful and practical life. It is time to let go of what should have been, could have been and what ought to be in the future. It is time to SURRENDER our anger, our resistance, our judgement and our need to know.

Finally, in trying to get off the island last week, the weather didn’t cooperate. I spent one whole day waiting at the airport, and one day waiting in my home, before finally getting a flight out on Sunday morning. Saturday, I spent sorting and filing while waiting by the phone. Then, I tackled a kitchen cabinet. Everything came out. The shelves were scrubbed. Only the things that I honestly use went back in. Except for the crock pot, which I’m still trying to integrate into my lifestyle.

I’d like to think of myself as a yogurt-making, food processing whiz in the kitchen…but I’m not, and it’s time to surrender that notion. What I am is a person who has one very clean cabinet, feels good about a charitable donation, and is lighter in self-imposed expectations. Happily, I give up!

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One Day to the Next

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Some of these mornings, I am not prepared to write.

There are days when I wake up so bursting with ideas of things to talk about, I can hardly type fast enough. Other days where I turn to my writing prompts for inspiration, and work it into a post.

I started doing that this morning: day five of the thirty-day journal writing challenge. I put in the prompts; I found a photo; I even found a good, inspirational quote. Nothing came of it. I am uninspired. I’ll save it for another day.

Winter is finally upon us here on Beaver Island. It’s not one of those extreme winters we’ve grown accustomed to. Not so far, anyway. But the snow has arrived, and looks like it will stay awhile. Our ferry boat quit running before Christmas. Business has slowed.

Time, then, for all of the things I put off…until winter.

I’ve been cleaning, at work and at home: the kind of thoughtful sorting and deep cleaning that never gets done in the busy season.

At the hardware, I’ve been arranging the basement so that overstock merchandise and seasonal products are orderly and accessible. I cleaned up the screening area, hauling out glass and plexiglas pieces, rolls of old screen and metal scraps. I put all the holiday merchandise into one side of one neat aisle. I’m helping to set up a display of new faucets.

At home, I’m incorporating some”Zen habits for de-cluttering” that I recently read about. I never get up from the desk without filing or otherwise taking care of five items that are on it. I never leave a room without fluffing a pillow, wiping off a surface or tidying an area. Last week I thoroughly cleaned my underwear drawer. I threw out every pair of socks with holes in heel or toe. I got rid of anything with worn out elastic. I pitched every single uncomfortable undergarment. Then I folded everything that was left, and lined it up nicely, in rows. One small step, I know…but in the right direction!

In the studio…well, I’m working on it. All of it. The organizing and cleaning. The matting and framing. The actual art making. I just plug away, with the time I have for it, but it is definitely a discouragement.

The list is long, of things to do, wherever I am, and whatever I’m doing. Usually just a bit longer than the winter allows for. All I can do is continue working on it all, day to day.

Crunch Time

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I guess it was maybe ten years or more ago that my grandsons and I placed a brick in the crotch of this tree.

I don’t remember the reason why.

I noticed it the other day, on my way down the driveway. The tree has grown around the brick, securing it in place.

It seems like the perfect illustration today.

Today is the day I’ve put everything off until. There is no more time for delay.

I leave first thing tomorrow morning for a two-day seminar down-state.To round out the trip, I’ve arranged a birthday dinner with my daughter, and a breakfast meeting with the son of an old friend.

As I’ll be giving a presentation at the seminar, I have notes to review and materials to gather.

I have to pack. That involves pulling presentable “mainland” clothing out of the depths of my closet, plotting four days of wardrobe choices, making sure everything fits, and eliminating any accumulated dust, lint or wrinkles.

This is my last chance to get the house in order. Whatever is left today, will be what I come home to. Because I taught a paper-making class yesterday, I have six bus tubs full of paper-making supplies, unloaded last evening from my car and now taking up space in the kitchen and hallway. Some need only to be brought back upstairs and stored in the studio. Others need to be emptied of their (wet)contents: papers need to be pressed for drying; felts, clothes and towels need to be put through the dryer cycle, then folded. My dining room table is spread with research materials for my presentation. My bed is covered with possible clothing options. This, on top of my normal disorganization and clutter.

This is my last day to spend quality time with the dogs, before they go to the boarder tomorrow. At least one good walk is in order.

I have a meeting at four, of the Natural Resources Eco-Tourism Steering Committee.

I have to stop at my aunt’s house, to pick up the key to her mainland vehicle.

I have a dinner obligation.

Then there is my new endeavor: I am taking over the reins of the Beaver Beacon, our island news-magazine. The position involves writing, editing, and design work, gathering information, covering events…and probably a world of other things I can’t even think of. Today, before I leave the island for several days, was my personal deadline to get everything written, edited and sent off to the dear young man who is putting it all together…since I don’t yet have the computer or software needed to do it.

Then there’s my blog, which I hate to abandon every time life gets crazy.

So, I’ve been busy since I got up this morning…which was late, because I was up into the night working on the things that were worrying my sleep.

This is it…crunch time!

One Lesson Learned

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I went to clean at my aunt’s house today.

She hired me a couple years ago to come to do a weekly or bi-weekly clean, mainly vacuum, dust, and sweep and mop the floors. She had come to the realization that she couldn’t do it herself anymore. She didn’t like the idea of someone else going through the house, plus they wanted to charge her too much, so she asked me, even though I’m not a very good house-keeper. I knew it was a hard concession for her to make, and difficult for her to ask, so I agreed, even though I don’t usually take on cleaning jobs. I would have done it for free, and told her so, but she insisted that she would pay me.

She would, however, pay me less than the going rate.

I reciprocated by doing the job in a haphazard way. Some weeks I do the whole job in one trip; other times I divide it over two or three days. I miss some weeks entirely. I rarely know ahead of time, as things tend to come up, so she doesn’t either. She’s very patient with me.

Today, with Christmas right around the corner, I knew I had to get there. I called in the morning so she could plan on it, and went on my lunch hour. She wasn’t feeling well, and was on her way to “medical.” The car was warming up, and my cousin was there to drive her, just as soon as she gave me instructions.

“There are potatoes in your mop bucket,” she said, “you can just move them into that basket.”

“The papers are for burning…just move them out of the way.”

This,” she said, indicating the little stand that held a small television, the satellite receiver and a couple dozen books, “do you think you can move this and clean under it???”

“Of course, I’ll do that,” I replied, and she was on her way.

It’s a pretty small, wobbly stand with a lot of fairly heavy things on it. I guess I hadn’t really thought about moving it. I usually swept around it, and kind of under it, and swiped that area with the mop…

Sure enough, when I pulled it away from the wall today, there was a clump of dust and dog’s hair among the tangle of cords that resided there. I should have been moving it out every time.

There was more to it, though.

There was something about the set of her jaw, and the forced way that she spoke, trying to keep her voice normal…kind, even…when clearly she was exasperated with my neglect…I saw my future!

I will be infirm one day, I can see it. I will be dependent on others for basic things.

I imagine my daughters, blithely folding all of my towels wrong – and every one differently – just like they did when they were teenagers.

I can see my mugs stacked in some nonsensical way, books re-shelved with no rhyme or reason, and my arrangements re-arranged in a ridiculous manner.

And I will have deserved it.

I cleaned up the dust and dog hair. I cleaned and untangled the cords. I dusted and neatened the books without rearranging them. I dusted the television and cleaned the screen. Though the clock was ticking through my lunch break and I had to get back to my other job, I gave every chore more careful attention.

By the time I left, I felt like Ebenezer Scrooge, reformed by the visions of Christmas yet to come, and trying to make retribution.

Bless her heart, my aunt shouldn’t have had to make mention of my neglect; since she did, and it opened my eyes, I’ll try not to give her reason again.

The Continuing Kitchen Shelf Saga

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I was going to title this “The Never Ending Kitchen Shelf Saga,” but I’m feeling optimistic today.

I have to say, I like the way the shelves look.

It’s nice to have all of my cookbooks and garden books together, easily accessible and sorted by category. I’ve gotten my jars of beans and grains off the counter and onto the shelves, too. Some baskets hold small books and pamphlets; others keep medicines, vitamins, sunscreen and insect repellants close at hand. A few plants and a couple candles soften the edges.

If I have a superpower, it is the knack for arranging shelves.

If I have a “green Kryptonite”-like weakness, it is the absolute inability to sort. Every aspect of it stymies me…from deciding on categories for dozens of disparate objects to not being able to discount anything as “useless”…which is one reason this project, at times, seems like it will never end.

Fifty years ago, when my sister Brenda and I were – every couple weeks or so – forced to clean our room, this short-coming became evident.

Brenda’s tactic was to sweep everything into one (huge) mound in the middle of the floor. The next step was to yank all of the dirty clothes out of that pile and put them in the baskets downstairs. Next, pick out all the Barbie dolls, their clothing and accessories…put them away. Next, game pieces, puzzle pieces and cards. Continue, until all that was left got swept into the dustpan  and thrown away. She had a plan, and it worked!

I don’t know why it was so disagreeable to me…or why I was so disagreeable about the method.

I remember feeling absolutely appalled at the idea of sweeping everything together, where all of our belongings would mix and mingle. It seemed like we were making an even greater mess. I couldn’t stand it…no matter how many times she proved to me that it worked.

My method, contrarily, was to pick up one random object, look at it, think about it, adjust it if necessary (perhaps the doll should be wearing the blue dress instead of the green?) and finally put it in its place. Which, if the “place”  was not in order, would then lead to another distraction, and another…forever.

I still use the same tactics!

I have four kitchen drawers to clean out and put into use. They have spent the last two or three years lazily picking up bits of flotsam and jetsam that didn’t have a specific place. Now, since I have taken the large 32-drawer cabinet out of the kitchen, I really need that drawer space. Those four drawers have to go back to work!

So, I’ve been emptying and sorting.

I have a pile of dog collars: two that no longer fit Rosa Parks, one that fits her but that she only wears when I walk her on a leash and one that belonged to my old dog, Maggie, who left this world more than three years ago.

I have two mounds of art-related objects. One contains a roll of mounting tape, a package of glazier’s points, a couple screw eyes, a few oil pastels, a handful of paintbrushes and other miscellaneous objects that actually have places in the studio. The other contains bits of foil and papers that I found or saved, to use in collage someday.

Christmas related items: one hand-made ornament that needs to be glued back together, ornament hooks, ribbon and four little packages of tiny replacement bulbs for Christmas lights (though I haven’t decorated for Christmas in years!).

I have quite an accumulation of hooks, from large decorative ones – for coats or robes – to the tiniest cup hooks.

I have an extensive collection of batteries, it seems, plus two flashlights, an alarm clock and a disposable camera.

I have an inordinate amount of pest-related products: simple mouse traps and plug in devises to discourage rodents, several battery-powered devises to keep mosquitoes away and three small bottles of ant killer.

Now, I have four empty drawers, cleaned and paper-lined, ready to be put back into use.

I have all of my collections laid out on the counter, waiting for decisions to be made. What gets moved to a new location? What can be given away? What gets tossed?

I just needed a break, before I got into all of that!

Zoom!

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Today is an overcast, drizzly day here on Beaver Island.

This is exactly what I need!

I’ve been putting  many hours into getting my garden ready for Spring. My hands are dry and wrinkled from spending so much time in the soil. My joints are achy and my back is complaining, too, from shoveling dirt, forking compost and moving rocks.

There is progress. I have given away raspberry plants and strawberry plants that were taking over pathways. I thinned poppy beds and iris beds, and sent the extras home with happy visitors. Day-lilies left with everyone who would take them.

I have staked out my central flower bed, and am working my way down the row.

I first dig out the soil, to a depth of about twelve inches. I sift the weeds out as I’m digging, and have a bucket standing by for them. The next step is to rake the surface smooth, then roll out the weed shield and cover that with a thin layer of soil mixed with compost. Now I’m ready to move some plants. I dig up a clump of day-lilies, pull all grasses and weeds away, separate the plants, then settle arrange them randomly in the new bed. I want them to have distance between them so that they have room to grow, and enough nourishment to make the move without trauma. I do not want them to look  like I’ve placed them in regular rows. I want the tallest specimens mainly down the center of the bed, and the shorter  varieties nearer the stone border. I  cover them over with the rest of the dirt that I dug out, and border that section with rocks.Image

It’s coming along, but is still  only about one-third of the way done. This new bed runs right through space that last year had a 4’x5′ strawberry bed and – at the very front – a peony bed. Before I called it a day yesterday, I finished digging up the rest of the strawberry plants that were in my way. They seem fine, this morning, in their temporary home: a tub lined with soil and stored under the picnic table, out of the sun.Image

Today! Today, with the dampness outside, I will concentrate inside.

There is the usual, of course: rugs to vacuum, floors to sweep and sinks to clean. Every single horizontal surface in the house needs to be cleared of what doesn’t belong on it. Laundry to be done, houseplants to water.

In my studio, should I find time to spend there, I have twenty metal frames to assemble and fill with twenty sheets of plexiglass and twenty finished collages. I have four small paintings to frame and three others to order frames for. I have two large paintings underway and a dozen collages in various stages of completion. The studio could use a good cleaning, too!

I have committed to teaching an after-school art class to high-school students through five weeks in May. Today I need to complete that class plan to turn in to the program director here, and a materials list to send  to the Arts Council for dispensation.

Tomorrow I’ll be back at my regular job, so today I want to make a pot of soup so that I’ll have it to pack for my lunches, or to warm up for dinner if I don’t feel like cooking. As long as it’s drizzly, as long as I’m going to have soup bubbling on the stove, I’d might as well make bread, too! That sounds like it will warm the house up,  doesn’t it?