Rest in peace Etta James, the real Tough Mary.
Your dad rocked Native American patterns before you did and he’s got the jacket to prove it. While chasing his spirit animal, the whiskey-wolf, he flashed visions of a powerful new old look. Then, he reached deep into the history books of style and came back with warrior threads. He wore the nations rebellion, honored their sacrifice and respected their heritage each time he put his jacket on.
So hipsters, next time you’re John Smithing a culture of their style by ironically wearing their ethnically significant textiles with little or no knowledge of their history or you’re wearing a headdress to a party, remember this…
Your dad wasn’t wearing them to be trendy, he genuinely embodied what they stood for. And, if you want a pattern that embodies your lifestyle, it would be a combination of polyester, disappointment and neon.
P.S. The Native American name for hipster is “Squatting asshole”
Thanks to Katiana for this photo.
To begin with, I solemnly promise that, having opened the Pandora’s box of topics that is Housecare, I will not allow myself to use this blog and your patience as a platform to validate my all too frequent assertion that I Do Tricky Stuff At Work.
So if you found my last post to be the height of self indulgence, please allow your attention to wander and meet me back here later in the week for some music.
I was surprised and flattered and a little overwhelmed at the response to my last post, and I keep thinking of more things to say on the subject of laundry and, really, my philosophy of housekeeping. So I’ll get them down really quick, and again, if you’re bored beyond the point of tears, please just smile & skip.
I want to say in front of God & tumblrbot & everyone else that, like all of the busy moms I know, I function in survival mode a great majority of the time, my lingerie drawer is a mess, and the floor under my bed is hatching a beautiful collection of dust bunnies. My house has plenty of dirty little secrets, in other words, and I am not trying to project the idea that my house is always spotless and I wear pearls and an apron and high heels while I make a ham every night for dinner (although I do think that sounds just lovely). The only thing I have to offer is the truth of my own experience, and since I am blessed with friends who are gifted, verbose, and insightful, I tend to host a running Q & A with them in my mind as I go about my day, and I’d love it if you’d join us.
Although many of you found my previous post about my BFF Ramah’s laundry system (http://jennyannemannanmusic.tumblr.com/post/15785040063/tools-of-the-trade) helpful, a few people voiced some reservations. I’ll address those now.
Q: Won’t your clothes be all wrinkly?
A: My answer to this question is twofold. First, my clothes were always wrinkly before I implemented the laundry system. The whole reason I felt compelled to adopt Ramah’s system was that folding the laundry wasn’t an option for me. I wanted to do it, I tried to do it, sometimes I actually did it, but the burden of guilt about this overwhelming task I could never complete hung over my head like the sword of Damocles. So it was important for me to realize I wasn’t choosing between folded laundry and unfolded laundry. I was choosing between unfolded, chaotic laundry that overwhelmed my laundry space, my living space, and my bedroom, and unfolded, tidy laundry that has a home on neat shelves in clearly labeled baskets. Second, this system in no way prevents me from folding the laundry. If someone in my family happens to be fastidious about their clothes, they are welcome to grab their basket and fold their laundry. I like for my jeans to be folded, so I fold them. I don’t care so much about my workout clothes being folded, so I toss those in the basket. My husband likes for most of his clothes to be line-dried, so I hang those in the laundry room as I am switching loads. The possible variations and adaptations to this system are endless, but I always have to remember to distinguish between what’s REALISTIC and what’s IDEALISTIC. I’m not choosing between folded laundry and unfolded laundry. I’m choosing between an unrealistic ideal and a reality. I’m choosing between pressure and relief. Between guilt and surrender. So for every household, this will look a little different, and every person has to determine what they will REALLY do, not what they WISH they would do, and plan accordingly.
Q. Where do you put the baskets?
A. I have a couple of chrome shelves (from Target or Costco) in my laundry room.
My laundry room hasn’t always been big enough to house the laundry center, but the laundry center has become so integral to my sanity that even when our house was so tiny that the (stackable) washer and dryer were sandwiched between the kitchen stove and the bathroom sink, I carved out a space in my bedroom for the laundry shelves. I just can’t do without them.
Q. What about the clothes that need to be ironed?
A. Ahhhh, I’m so glad you asked!
I’ve said it before: I wish I was someone who enjoys ironing. But irons are dangerous, they’re time consuming, they are HOT, they take forever…again about the sword of Damocles. The reality is, I won’t get around to ironing in a timely manner. I reached a breaking point when, just after our second baby was born, my husband went to work for two straight weeks in un-ironed clothes. He could have ironed them himself, but it turns out he hates ironing even more than I do. So one day as I was telling Ramah about my ironing dilemma, she said, “So you need to find a way to apply the laundry system to ironing.” Total stroke of brilliance. I did some research and invested in my steamer, which changed my life yet again. I found that my steamer doesn’t quite replicate the crisply starched look you hope for from a freshly dry-cleaned shirt. But again, I wasn’t choosing between starched shirts and steamed shirts. I was choosing between rumpled, wrinkled shirts and freshly steamed shirts. Realistic vs. idealistic. So upon their removal from the washer, I hang the permanent press clothes to dry, and then I spend a few seconds with the steamer and melt the wrinkles out of them. Voila!
So, if you’re somebody who has no trouble laundering and folding and storing all of your family’s laundry, congratulations! Maybe you could come fold some stuff over here? No doubt you’ve hit upon a solution that has eluded the rest of us. But, if you’re one of the rest of us, welcome to the club! Here’s to embracing what’s realistic and experiencing a little freedom to enjoy the important things in life. Like this:
Okay. Let’s talk about laundry and housework. I know, these are not my favorite topics either (actually, who am I kidding? I never met a topic I didn’t like). But running a household does represent a huge part of my life and work, and finding some tools and efficiency in these categories are the only means by which I ever have any time to devote to my ‘art’. (At some point I’ll stop putting ‘art’ in quotation marks. I’m not sure when, but stay tuned. One day you’ll see it. No apologies, no disclaimers. Just ART. It will be beautiful.)
My cousin (who, according to my husband, looks like a Disney princess) came over yesterday and started asking me about my laundry system. I tried not to get too excited or talk too fast, because this system has changed my life to such a degree that I’ve contemplated knocking on strangers’ doors to share with them the good news of freedom from laundry. But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.
First, a little background. I am a crippling perfectionist. As such, I used to believe that the only way to do housework is to do it thoroughly, painstakingly, and above all, perfectly. If maximum time and effort cannot be expended on a certain task, it isn’t worth doing at all. You might think such an approach would result in sparkling, gleaming organization as far as the eye can see, but you’d be wrong. In fact, chaos and disorder were my most predictable result. If I don’t have an hour to spend on cleaning the bathroom, I might as well leave the toothpaste that just splashed on the mirror until I can get out a spelunker’s light and a toothpick to clean all the mold from the caulking around the bathtub. It makes sense, right?
Then, a few months into my married life, Caleb and I moved into a little house down the street from my best friend Ramah. I spent many mornings having coffee with her and their little baby, Lucy. Watching her approach to housekeeping literally changed my life. One morning, we were drinking coffee and talking really fast when, headed into the kitchen for a refill, she glanced at the top of the TV armoire and said, “Wow, that’s really dusty.” Then she kept chatting about shoes or the state of the Union or whatever while she got out her duster and dusted the top of the TV armoire. Just like that. Then she put away the duster and got some more coffee. In that moment, I realized the way I was doing things was ridiculous. I just didn’t know that you could do things as they bothered you like that, one at a time, and never have to be a slave to a perfectly clean house.
So, a few years later, when Ramah had three small children and was drowning in her laundry, I watched with baited breath to see how she would solve this unsolvable housekeeping dilemma that has driven many talented and capable women to the brink of sanity. Here’s what she said: “I have to figure out how to plan for what’s REALISTIC, not what’s IDEALISTIC.” She then went on to identify the breakdown in the traditional system: You wash the laundry, you dry the laundry, you put the clean laundry in a basket, you fold it, then you put it away. Sure. But in reality, you wash the laundry, you dry the laundry, you put the clean laundry in a basket, you set it on your bed or on the couch, and you tell yourself that while the kids are napping you’ll fold it. Then while the kids are napping you decide you’d rather put on a bra or maybe take off the chipped toenail polish that’s been there since last summer, and you don’t end up folding it. Or maybe you do fold it, and then you put it back into the basket and tell yourself that you’ll put it away in the kids’ dressers when they wake up. And then the kids wake up and you’re busy making dinner and telling the kids not to swing the toy golf clubs at the baby’s head, and you forget all about the clean, folded laundry until tomorrow when the baby’s diaper leaks all over his jammies and you open the dresser drawer and it’s empty so you rifle one-handed through your basket of beautifully folded clothes looking desperately for the right sized t-shirt at least so the baby doesn’t run around naked and then when you’re done you can’t tell anymore what’s clean and what’s dirty.
So the breakdown is in the process of folding and putting away. For Ramah anyway. She says everyone has to find their own non-negotiables and then plan around them. (BTW, I keep telling her she needs to write a book and she laughs. But I’m not joking.) So instead of making promises to myself I can never keep, I instead tell myself the truth: I am probably not going to get around to folding and putting away the laundry. Here’s what I do instead:
As they come out of the dryer, I put the clean clothes in the sorting basket. And then I sort them into their own baskets: Violet’s pants, Violet’s shirts, Violet’s jammies and underthings…etc. Then, when Violet is getting dressed, I send her down to her baskets where she is free to rifle through the unfolded, clean laundry and find clean clothes to wear.
How are you fellow perfectionists doing? Have your heads exploded? (Hi, Mom ;)) Here’s the thing: if I still want to fold my laundry, I’m welcome to fold my laundry. But in the meantime, all of my clean clothes that are as yet unfolded have a home. And when it comes to baby and kids’ clothes, folding is entirely superfluous. The only reason I ever did it was because I thought I had to.
This system has an endless list of benefits. Packing for a trip? No big deal. Just bring the suitcase over to the shelves and start throwing stuff in. Unpacking? same thing. Caleb has actually said, more than once, “The laundry turnover in this house is amazing.” Let me make this clear - it’s not because I spend my life doing laundry. It’s because I followed the advice of a genius and embraced what’s realistic and not what’s idealistic.
This idea has made its way into other areas of housework as well. For instance, I have found that I am not someone who will ever get around to ironing. I wish I would, but I just won’t. I can’t. I hate it. So instead of trying to change myself into a person who enjoys ironing, I gave up and bought a Jiffy garment steamer. It’s true that it doesn’t do a knife-edge crease down the front of Caleb’s work pants, but neither does not ironing them! See? Realistic vs. Idealistic.
And then there’s the floors. I have 2 things to say about cleaning the floors.
A broom, a mop, a bucket, and (ideally) a scrub brush used to be the non-negotiable tools for cleaning the floor. But, thanks to some honest evaluation of what I will and won’t do, these two beauties have extended Ramah’s laundry method all the way to my floors. And realistically, when I’m on the way up the stairs, I can grab the Shark and steam the kitchen floor…and nothing else! Thank the Lord for insightful, talented, and honest friends.
So there. Hopefully it all means that at some point, the system will run smoothly enough that whatever is left of my ingenuity will find its way into my ‘art’.
Happy New Year, everyone!! Hoping that you & yours find joy, peace, and love in 2012! I’m off to eat and drink and watch the Twilight Zone.
I just read something that compared a Christmas tree to the Christmas Star. The star that lit the heavens, that led the Magi to Jesus.
Advent, the season of preparation, is a time to remember who I am. And where I’ve been. But most of all, it’s a time to celebrate who Jesus is and what he did for me.
The tree in my house is laden with ornaments - in fact it’s leaning forward just a little, so heavy with pretty things. All things that remind me of how I am loved. Small remembrances of people and places, of births and deaths, of failure and redemption. Each ornament on the tree tells a piece of our story, and symbolizes our anticipation of all the promise of heaven.
Merry Christmas, everyone! May love and joy and peace be yours, this season and always.
True appreciation of truly great music. And food.
Christmas music is in full swing in our house, and from time to time as we’re listening I have the distinct privilege of hearing my kids squeal, “Oooh, it’s Mommy singing on the iPod!”
I wrote this song, Little Match Girl, based on the Hans Christian Andersen story. My stepdad, John Cowan, recorded it on his Christmas album, “Comfort & Joy”, and asked me to sing it with him.
This story is one of my favorites - so very tragic, and yet hopeful. Those who face hardship know that suffering increases our capacity for empathy, and that our ultimate hope must be in something greater than ourselves, beyond what we can see and touch. Sometimes all we have is a tiny flame in the wind, and, against reason, we look into the light and believe.
As we are in the season of giving thanks, I offer my gratitude for warmth, the nearness of my family, a table full of good things to eat, and the promise of a reunion with all of my loved ones.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
I realize that I’ve been a little short on music and art related posts these past few weeks. If you’re curious, gentle reader, as to why a mom of 3 kids aged 5 and under finds herself with limited time to pursue her artistic interests, read on. But do so at your own peril.
1. Chaos, chaos, chaos. All is chaos.
2. I just picked these up. Seriously, does no one around here have HANDS?! Not helping hands, anyway. If anyone would like to hear me sing or play another note, I can promise springs in my step and songs on my lips would if SOMEONE (or someones) would pick up just 3 little toys or books.
3. Much of my creative energy just now is devoted to finding new ways to say, “Be KIND to one another.” Maybe if I sing it? “Love does not keep account of wrongs suffered.” “Mommy, what is keep account?”
4. Homeschooling. “O-R, when preceded by W, usually says, ‘er’. Er the Er of Worships.” “Look Mommy, I drew your head!”
5. My third baby is hell-bent on beating up his face by the end of the month. This week, he’s decided it’s time to walk. He has subsequently fallen on every sharp object he can find, skinned up his nose, bruised his forehead, and smashed his fingers. So instead of sitting down with my coffee and my guitar as I did in days of yore when he was happy to lay on the floor and coo, I am spending significant portions of my days chasing after him and trying to keep his little sleeves out of the toilet and his church-clothes-clad body out of the bathtub.
5. Fall food. To wit, Skillet Chicken Pot Pie. What is more satisfying (or distracting) this time of year than oven baked or roasted one-pot meals? Hopefully, come swimsuit season, I won’t regret my decision to invest some effort in cooking and eating these creamy, hearty, fall-inspired dishes. And pies. And desserts.
So you see. I’ve got my reasons, excuses none. (Did I just quote my own song? Maybe.)
But my mind is working all the time, even when I’ve nothing to show for my efforts. One tiny word at a time, songs will be written! It’s inevitable. But right now I’ve got to go make sure that Boy#1 is playing nicely with Boy#2.
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