Wednesday, March 28, 2012

On Cleaning The Car

"FILTH. UTTER FILTH." Repeating myself with each car door I opened, rags and sprays in hand, I was prepared. It was time to clean the Dufresne limousine, our Honda Odyssey. Not that I was dreading it, mind you. I love the feeling of a clean car. In fact, I prefer to clean it myself. I know where all the cracks and creases are, and I CARE about cleaning them. I remember when it took my mother by surprise when I finally "grew up" and began keeping my surroundings clean. Of course, my surroundings aren't just mine anymore...with seven people living in the house, cleanliness is a luxury. The car, however, is considerably smaller than the house, making it an easy target for my desperate need for order.

First step: take out the contents. This is a harrowing and humbling experience for me, since I am a borderline pack rat (no giggling, please) and I feel "safe" having every item I could possibly use (and some I will realistically never use) at the ready during transit. Unfortunately for the kids, I place several "packs" of these items near their assigned seats in case I am driving and the need arises for a particular item. So I removed all of these things, placing them carefully on a pre-cleaned concrete step next to the parked car. Wow...what a bunch of stuff. Don't think about it. Keep going.

Second step: clean off the car seats. I have a 5-point harness seat still for Rose and a booster seat for Peter. Although the official rule is no eating anything but Cheerios and Puffs in the car, somehow we manage to eat our fair share of on-the-run french fries, candy, toast, milk...snacks. I do appreciate the leather on the seats more than I thought I would when we purchased the van a bit over 2 years ago. (Did I tell all y'all about my experience on HWY 2 when my van died on the way to pick up the big kids from school--and the babies were with me???) Ugh...look at all the CRUD in the cracks. Don't think about it. Keep going.

Third step: dust/wipe dash, doors and controls. Not long after we bought the van, Joe used some weird cleaner on the dash. It took off the finish from about 1/4 of the surface, leaving a dull section that continues to haunt him. "I wrecked the car," he stated flatly to me afterward, making me think that he actually DID wreck it somehow. Nope--he just ruined some of the prettiness. "Better than cat urine," I think I said after I saw it. He was not amused. Now, I just clean the dash instead of attempting to buff it to a shine. In a halfway shiny state, it's a harsh reminder to the poor dude of his failed attempt at buffing it himself. He hasn't cleaned it since. That's OK, because like I said before, I like cleaning it myself. Even if it's not perfect anymore. Don't think about it. Keep going.

Fourth step: wash windows inside, along with the "holders" below them. This is the most entertaining job, since I discover all kinds of "secret" designs and messages on the glass. During rides to school on mornings that produce lots of fog on the windows, Edward, Benen and Peter (individually) compose various statements and drawings for their eyes only, afterward watching as the fog dissipates and leaves the window seemingly untouched. Up close, however, a keen eye can see these clandestine artistic pleasures. And they are pleasurable to see. There are too many receptacles in our van, though. Despite my being a BIG fan of receptacles (ask my sisters), the job of washing all these is tedious and takes dexterity I no longer have in abundance. Plus, it's GROSS. Don't think about it. Keep going.

Fifth step: vacuum. I like this part the best of all. I think my fondness stems from a general enjoyment of cleaning floors. It's the most noticeable, appreciated--and therefore most satisfying--job in the house and pretty much anywhere else. But there are other benefits. I get to see if any particular kid is eating things I don't know about. I can easily blame any kid for his own mess. I find lost earrings, pencils, notes, etc. that have been missing since the last vacuum, making me the hero--sometimes. However, there are occasions when I have come across rotten bits of food (reference to second step) that are in several states of decay/mold. Don't think about it. Keep going.

Sixth step: once-over. This is my last chance to look at everything I just cleaned and decide if it's "good enough" or not. By this time, I'm totally wiped out from stretching and leaning in directions my body isn't used to going. All I want to do is rest. Don't think about it. Keep going.

Seventh step: reload. The last step, this one is the BEST. Restocking the car means I am in command of the items going into it. This gives me tremendous power, which I like. Sounds minor, but for me, it is calming and gives me a secure feeling. Is that bad? Don't think about it. Keep going.

It's 6:00 pm, and it took me 1 1/2 hours to clean the van. DONE. What an accomplishment! What satisfaction! What's for dinner? Uh-oh...

Don't think about it.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


I recently rediscovered a photograph of me and Joe right after his graduation from Gonzaga University. His dad took the picture as we were standing on the sidewalk outside Joe's house that he shared with 3 other great guys. We had just come from the graduation ceremony (loooooong), and Joe is wearing his orange engineering swag around his neck, above the black gown. Magna Cum Laude. Electrical Engineering. Girlfriend attending. Parents proud. Roommates ecstatic. Sun shining. The picture shows two happy young adults, smiling from ear to ear, holding each other side-by-side, fresh and full of promise. Was I really that cute and spry? Hmm. Seems to me I may have been!

I was about to turn 21, and I had no idea where my life was going. I had Joe, but he was leaving in a couple of days to begin working full time at Boeing in Renton (near Seattle) while I kept my job at Nordstrom (in Spokane). My mother had left the house for her first teaching job in central WA the previous January, so I shared the house--and the house payment--with my brother, Michael. Otherwise, I was ALONE.

Strange thing about  being alone and an extrovert: it is lonely. I enjoyed having my own "stuff" around me, but I really missed my family and wanted more regular companionship. This was scary, since I resorted to staying out with coworkers into the night to allay my loneliness. I had a great time unwinding with the people I got to know at my job, and I cherish those days and nights. But something nagged at me constantly: who am I? I knew the Catholic girl, the daughter, the sister, the friend, the girlfriend, the employee, the idealist, the sensitive. Who else? Where will she go? What does she want? This was tough. It would get tougher as I searched for the answer.

I was sure as ever that I didn't want to get married "too young", but even surer that I wanted to marry that Joe guy. Although we parted that May with tears and uncertainty of the future, OUR future, I knew the choice was clear: I will marry him. We were bonded. It was a matter of time. I needed that time to figure out what I wanted for myself. Yeah, That was a no-brainer. But WHAT ELSE? Anything else? I looked around at the people I knew and sought inspiration from their lives. People who married young and yet found the time, amidst baby bottles and dirty diapers, to finish college and get a respectable job. People who waited until college was finished before marrying and having families. People who didn't even have prospects of marriage and carried on with life, making good things happen for themselves. People who may have done any of these things, but were unhappy, because it wasn't the right choice. I had to make the right choice. I did what I knew I could do: keep working and let time unfold its secrets. Sounds like a cop-out, but it actually worked! I really enjoyed my job, Joe and I visited each other at least once a month, I moved into an old apartment near work, and continued building my feeling of independence. By the time Joe and I got the nerve up to GET MARRIED, I felt like a real, live, grown-up woman. My mother used to say, "You're just a late bloomer, honey...and that's ok!" I totally believe it.

All's well that ends well, as Shakespeare's Helena said. She was pretty much right...although perhaps I shouldn't compare my life with hers! But the tenor got the girl, they made 5 great kids, have a big, God-filled house with lots of love and noise, and everybody gets what he needs. The future is wide open.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

My Ten Goals

Here's my official update on the ten goals I set last summer:

1) I did have a vegetable garden. I grew bush and pole beans, three different kinds of peas, and cherry tomatoes. It was small but lovely. The weather didn't really get very hot for any length of time, so the tomatoes disappointed me a little bit. This year, I will plant different things!

2) I did NOT learn Yoga. I did bring my MS Yoga book to CO, but time just didn't lend itself to it. I still want to take on that challenge, especially now that summer is approaching once again.

3) I did, indeed, crank up the air conditioning any time I darned well felt like it. There weren't very many super hot days, but anytime I felt uncomfortable I just turned it on. No explanation to anyone. Just turned it on. So there.

4) I did not learn to make Lucy food. Still wanna. I am hoping she will be visiting in about 2 months for a couple of days or so, and I intend to strap her in the kitchen with me for a tutorial. I'll be taking notes--and maybe some video!

5) We all DID pack in the car, the 7 of us, and visit the Spokanites for Benen's birthday in July! We spent a few days with Angela's family (what's left of it!) at Black Lake, which was heavenly. Peter got over his fear of water, Rose verified that she is a daredevil and is NOT afraid of the water, and the other kids had a good time with their cousins. Catherine wants to live there! I can see her living in and amongst the wilderness someday.

6) I did not attend Mass regularly on days other than Sunday. I just......didn't. Yet another thing I'm planning on doing this summer. The big kids are so much more accountable and capable as babysitters, so I have few good excuses.

7) Although I failed at teaching the kids some Latin during the summer, when the chance came for the big kids to take it at school for 11 weeks, I jumped! They didn't learn much, but even the exposure was educational.

8) I DID make weekly dinner menus. Most of the time, we actually used them, too. I made sure to have the kids' lists of dinner they like on the refrigerator, so when there was an awkward day we could shift plans easily. I am still doing it--for the most part!

9) I did not read a novel last summer. I think this disappoints me more than any other unfulfilled goal.

10) I DID train the kids to do more housework. With the start of school, I realized that there is NO WAY we can continue the same level of kid participation in housework. Too much school work. There are no assigned, regular jobs...which is a bad idea. Even the "your job is to take out the garbage EVERY DAY" commands/follow-through is better than nothing. I'll work on that. Hard.

Not TOO bad, right? All ten things I originally chose are things that can be ongoing, and I plan on trying again! How did YOUR summer goals go?