Tuesday, May 26, 2009

More Attention Must Be Paid

I'm not sure what's gotten into me, but it might have been a cartoon by Roz Chast in the New Yorker a few weeks ago. Her work manages to parse the fears, guilt and angst of the average semi-neuritic that I am on occasion. This cartoon began with a woman looking with disgust at her butter dish and thinking that she should probably wash it. In the succeeding panels every item, every piece of furniture, every window, every book, etc. began to complaint that they, too, were dirty, messy, dusty, awful. She looks again at the butter dish and says that she might as well buy a new one. The butter dish replies that she'll regret it.

Of course, I found this very funny, but apparently, my cupboards were shouting at me in some subtle way that took a couple of weeks to reach me. This time I tackled the gadget drawer and the hell drawer. The hell drawer is full of stuff collected from other drawers where the stuff just doesn't fit , or because I don't know what else to do with it. It is hard to open, of course, and it there is something there that I need, it takes a lot of fussing and cussing before I can find it. This time I was determined to get serious and make some choices that would thin out the clutter.

How many twist ties do I really need, for instance? Why had I saved them? How many paint can openers do I need? (I had to ask John what they were.) How many decaying rubber bands? What are all those loose screws for? Why are there so many Phillips screw drivers? Why am I saving that stupid little functionless set of screwdrivers in the cute plastic container which I bought from some school kid as a fund-raiser for a new playground? (That school kid probably has school kids of his/her own, or maybe even a few college graduates by now.) What is this thing? Why have I kept it? This ball of hemp twine looks as if it's been smoked and it's sticky, too, but with what? Why do I have three coils of wire? Dirty plastic tape of some kind? Ah, there's my little tape measure which I haven't seen for years!
I was ruthless and recycled some and tossed most of what was, basically, trash. Once again I need to share this marvelous result. Should I send this to Roz? I'd hate to make her feel guilty, though. After all, I do have two butter dishes and once in a while I switch them.

P.S. Perhaps the most important object in here is/are my red-handled scissors, frequently miss placed by persons unknown when all my children were living here. Now the children are gone, and the scissors safely dwelling where they belong. I wonder if the adult children can a still hear my frustrated cry, "Where the hell are my red-handled sciossors?"

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Attentiom Must Be Paid

There are many boring and odious tasks involved in running a household. Boring: making beds, vacuuming floors, dusting, thinking about what to have for dinner, shopping and most things involving the kitchen- except for eating (I have no dining room.) Odious: garbage stuff, floor scrubbing, toilet cleaning, and sometimes laundry. Of all these mundane activities, one that I manage to avoid most of the time is the cleaning of kitchen cupboards. A number of years ago, when Emily was home for a month before moving to Germany, she had organized all my cupboards beautifully. It pays to have an anal retentive child. Alas, that's never happened again during her subsequent visits.

I have a very small and inconvenient kitchen. My son calls it a two-butt kitchen, meaning that no more than two people can work in there at the same time. I have very little storage space, so that most large portable appliances (bread machine, food processor) have to stay down in the basement until needed. What cupboards I do have are pretty packed, to the point that things fall out occasionally when the doors are opened. The worst of this sort of thing is when something falls out into the cat's water bowl. That particular place is the only place there is room for the cat's water bowl, or I'd move it. It happens to be under the spice cabinet, which is in frequent use.

The other day, I decided that perhaps if I cleaned out a few cabinets, especially the one with the spices in it, I would probably be able to throw out some stuff, since I had been just stuffing in things for quite a while now, and that this might mean more room in there and that maybe things would not fall into the cat's water bowl so often. Also, a new Penzey's store has just opened near Trader Joe's and I had bought some and felt that my spice cupboard was entirely unworthy of it.

Being a recycler, even before global warming, I have always used newspaper to line my shelves. This has the disadvantage also of letting me know just how much of a slob I am, because of the dates on them, you know. The first cupboard, a really difficult one, since it starts on the floor level, which is a really hard thing for a person of advanced age and creaky knees to maneuver around in, had papers dated from 2005, which is, in all, not too bad - at least it was in the current century. I managed to throw a huge amount of unused stuff away, and even had room for some new big soup bowls I bought recently which had had no place to go until now, and had sat forlornly on a counter top. The cupboard now looks stunning inside.

Next came the spice cabinet. Oy weh! I had moved the cat's dishes away (Dupree had just started his 12 hour nap and wouldn't be around to fuss about it) but nothing fell out. I discovered that I had three containers of cumin, which only gets used when Emily visits, two of coriander (ditto for Emily) and a lot of unidentified dried up stuff. The newspaper in that space dated from 2003 - again, in the current century. I tossed, I scrubbed, I replaced the newspaper with a few pages of a current edition of the Akron Beacon Journal sports section. The shelf above it contains a miscellany of things - Gorilla Glue, Elmer's Glue, silver polish, furniture polish and my steam iron which I haven't used since that last century. I threw a few old things out of that one, too, and now the whole thing looks stunning inside.

The thing about cleaning cupboards is that nobody can see the splendor of what one has done. I always have to fight the urge to run out into the street and invite the neighbors in to come in and see what I have wrought, and I would be willing to go look at theirs when they have done the same. It's such a thankless job, isn't it? Then I realized that I have this blog and I can show it to whoever chances to drop by. I didn't take pictures of all the cupboards, just the spice one. In an informal survey, I have discovered that it is everyone's nightmare, except for those rare neurotic perfectionists who probably have their spices alphabetized. If I knew one of those, I would invited her over next time, say in a few years.

I think I should mention that I finished radiation treatments yesterday. I shall miss the candy dish in the waiting room.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Sun and the WInd

One of the glories of Spring is being able to hang out the laundry. There is nothing to equal the effect on one's washing of having towels, sheets and outer clothing dry in the sun and a fresh breeze. The first warm daythis year, my laundry was dry within an hour. Besides that, everything smelled like clean, fresh air.

I started doing this again during the early days of rising energy costs. I have indoor lines to use in bad weather, and a small wooden drying rack for the things I don't want to have seen by passersby, such as my giant underpants. (I live on a corner and my backyard is open to scrutiny by all.)

Actually there are even days in the middle of winter when I can hang my laundry out, days when the sun is bright and the sky is that brilliant blue. I love to just stand and watch the wind whip the sheets about and think about being on a ship and watching sails flap. The cold even makes things smell better for some reason.

I feel sorry for people who live in the kinds of developments that forbid clotheslines. I remember when that rigged energy crisis hit in California, and some people who were trying to be "green" were fined by their homeowners' association for hanging out their clothes to dry instead of using their dryers. They were accused of lowering the property value of the development. I guess it's better to hide that fact that we get our clothes dirty and have to wash them than to conserve energy. I haven't had any complaints from the neighbors here, but then we don't have a "homeowners' association" here, thank God.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

At Home in Utopia

That is the title of a PBS Independent Lens program that was on Saturday night. I fell asleep and missed it, but I heard an interview with the producer on Bob Edwards Sunday morning. (You can learn more about it here.)I had wanted to see it because I knew someone who grew up there.

Clara and Sid came to the university the same year that we did. It was Sid's first job in years, because he had been caught up in the McCarthy witch hunt mess. The then president of the university, D.r. George Bowman was a brave and compassionate man. He had hired the first African American professor in an Ohio state university. He hired on the basis of competence and was not swayed by the prevailing prejudices. So Sid and Clara, who had grown up in a communist/socialist commune in the Bronx, were hired for the library science program because they were experts in their fields.

We met them at the reception for new faculty in the fall of 1959. The first thing I knew about them was their struggle with employment during the Red scare. They were hardly the types to overthrow the government. Sid had been in the service during WWII, for one thing and they were two very gentle people, but passionate about free speech and the fight for civil rights . Of course, these things were highly suspect during McCarthy's power over sanity. We did not become fast friends, but they were part of the milieu we traveled in.

When my husband died, after the funeral Clara came by with a gift certificate for the children at the local book store. Her field was children's literature. She started the Virginia Hamilton Lecture series, an annual program on multicultural children's literature. She built up the collection of children's lit at the university library. (Once when I was in D.C., I went to the Library of Congress to check out some old children's books. I mentioned her name to the librarians and they knew and admired her greatly.)

She had told me about her growing up in what was called "The Coop", an apartment complex built by Jewish immigrants int he Bronx, members of the garment unions, as a place where they could be free from anti-semitism and slum housing. The prevailing political orientation was anti-capitalism, as they saw the downside of capitaliism in poor working conditions (sweatshops), poor housing (slums) and poor health conditions for their children. Clara told me that she marched in May Day parades as a child. She also said that there were different factions within the complex, and that the Trotskeyites resented the Leninists and how the children should be indoctrinated. I told her she should write a memoir about her upbringing, but I think that what she and Sid had been through during the 50s made her reluctant to do so.

During the civil rights movement in the 60s, she and Sid were activists, and when the Viet Nam War became the center of protest, they were there, too. I remember at one war protest march here in Kent, along with speeches about the war, Sid made sure to mention the plight of the garment workers in the South and their needing our support, too. They were there to support the students after the killing and wounding of university students in 1970. They put up bail for students arrested during succeeding protests in the early 70s. There was a rumor that they had mortgaged their home to hire lawyers, too.

After Sid retired, Clara continued to do her work at the library. When he died suddenly, Clara went into a deep depression. I again suggested that she write her memoirs, but she was just not able to get the energy to do this. They had known each other since childhood, and I think she was just not able to face life without him. Sadly, she took her own life a few years after his death.

I am glad that I knew these people. As a lover of children's literature, I appreciate the work that she did. Of course, in the McCarthy era, I would be guilty by association and labled a pinko commie.

Monday, May 4, 2009

I'm a Bag Lady!

I first saw this beautiful creation on the blog of the Quilting Addict and I thought, "How nice it would be to have one of those!" (I love William Morris designs and that same person had made me a gorgeous quilt of Morris design fabrics.) To my great pleasure and surprise, this bag arrived the other day, and I now have in my possession this one of a kind treaasure to show off at Trader Joe's, Aldi's and SaveaLot. Or I could use it to carry a small child in, if I had a mind to do so, and a small child handy.

I picked up the habit of shopping bags after being in Germany, where one used to take one's own bags to the market. I watched Emily and Chris grab a handful of cotton bags from home every time they went shopping. It only makes sense. I think now that their town has a couple of super markets, plastic bags are provided, but many people still bring their own. When the Germans come to Akron for the ChrisKindl Markt, they usually bring cloth bags to hand out.

I do have a couple of fancy bags, one from Emily with a picture of the Frauen Kirche in Munich, and one embroidered with a two headed dragon created by great-niece Maddie Walker. And now I have a classy quilt-y one from the Quilting Addict, (I call it my NancyFancy Bag) so that I am probably the best bagged old party in Kent - or maybe even in Ohio.