No matter what, I can never get caught up. I wonder how other people do it. As a teen, I was active in sports. I did whatever, came home and studied. Most weekends were spent doing reports and studying for an upcoming exam. My peers goofed off and still got good grades. I was a straight A student with a heavy schedule, but I constantly felt overwhelmed. Looking back on it, I can see where I was compulsive. I had the need to be the best. Part of that was my own doing, and part of it was parental pressure. They expected a lot from me, yet my mom hated that I was in sports. (It was so unladylike.) That meant I had to constantly prove I could do it all.
When I married, I exchanged parent approval for husband approval. Now that seems terribly silly, but I did it. I was young with an older husband. I wanted him to know that I was capable of being the perfect wife and that he hadn’t made a mistake by marrying me.
I had no idea how to cook or clean or doing anything domestic. Maids did the cleaning, and my mom enjoyed cooking so she did that. At least, I sort-of knew how to wash dishes. And I could iron because my grandmother taught me when I was little. There were ads on TV for things like dish washing soaps and those woman all wore yellow gloves and put their gloved hands into water with lots of bubbles. And I knew it was supposed to be really hot water. My mom told me to wash the crystal first, the silver second, then the dishes before I started on the pots and pans. I discovered that those yellow gloves were useless things. My water and bubbles would spill over the top and run inside. And the more I rinsed, the higher the water became in the sink. It took me a while to get the hang of it.
My in-laws gave us a vacuum cleaner because they had an old spare. I didn’t know what it was. (I’m serious. No clue.) I learned to push it slowly or it didn’t pick anything up. Gosh that was a handy invention! But it quit sucking stuff up. That’s when I learned it had a bag. (My husband showed me. Gross!)
I learned to cook, clean, and polish furniture. Maybe someday I’ll write about my first foray into scrubbing a floor. For now, I’ll leave it with I was darn lucky that I didn’t kill myself mixing chemicals and it took my husband hours to clean up my water and mess. To this day, I’ve never figured out how to make a floor totally spotless or clean enough to eat off of. But maybe it was never meant for serving food anyway, so why bother.
Even when my children were little, I never could seem to get all my ducks in a row. If I got the house actually clean, I had laundry overflowing. How did other people manage to do it? By nine in the morning, my house looked like a hurricane blew through it. I had unmade beds, a sink full of dirty dishes, a pan or two to wash, overflowing hampers, toothpaste in every bathroom sink, along with the usual dust, dirt and clutter. My heart would sink.
That’s also when I discovered the neighborhood kaffeeklatsch. Oh thank goodness! So for an hour or so I had a reprieve and learned to drink coffee. There was life beyond my house and I had friends! Then I’d face my mess. Except by that time, the egg yolk had vulcanized itself to the plates and it seemed as though I was walking into a bigger mess. That’s also when I realized I was extremely different. Other people fed their children bowls of cold cereal or handed them a granola bar, and hubbies were not getting bacon and eggs for breakfast. I also discovered that other wives took their husband’s shirts and pants to the cleaners, then picked them up nicely washed and ironed. I couldn’t afford to do that.
When summers hit, I had a huge garden. I worked the garden in the morning and often spent a large portion of that day canning and prepping food for storage. I also learned I couldn’t grow enough of some things so I bought from a local truck farm. That mean when corn was in season, I’d buy 500 ears and freeze it. (I also learned never to buy 500 ears again!) Or I’d pick strawberries or peaches or whatever I could. Pick-your-own was always cheaper. Then I’d freeze, can or make jellies and jams. I was still trying to keep the house clean and make certain I had a nice hot meal on the table when my husband came home from work.
When our girls got older and we were staring at college, I went to work. I still tried to play superwoman and do it all. At some point, I collapsed both mentally and physically. It was a tough lesson. But I learned to let things go. I also realized I was angry because no one helped. And I was very angry at my husband for never lifting a finger in the house. That still didn’t mean he helped, but he was aware of my feelings. I think he tried a little harder not to make things worse for me.
Then the girls flew the coop and we moved into a house that we renovated. Housework came to a screeching halt! I had a cloth snake I put at the bottom of the bedroom door to keep the sawdust out. Sheets were lucky if they got changed weekly. My kitchen consisted of a gas BBQ outside the back door, and a microwave setup inside wherever I could find a place to hold it. (Mostly on sawhorses with a heavy piece of OSB between them.)
Then my daughter moved in with us! Yikes. She was leaving her husband and their baby was due anytime. I knew she had tripped and fell down some steps about a week before moving in with us. What I didn’t know until later was she had help going down those steps. But as she moved in, she and her husband got back together. So I had her and him, and twenty-four hours later, she gave birth. Two families in 800 square feet with a brand new baby. Not good!
We bought the house we’re in now. Big mortgage! The intent was to renovate this one and leave it for them. With the combined income the mortgage was no big deal and we’d put money into renovations.We figured in a few years, my daughter’s husband be making enough to take over the place, and we wanted to build on some property that we owned. (Our little piece of heaven. It was going to start as our weekend get-away and then be our retirement home.)
Except we kicked her husband out. What started as a verbal argument, escalated. I promise, Daddy is not going to allow anyone to abuse his daughter or granddaughter. That’s when we discovered she’d had help going down that flight of stairs. When her husband threatened to toss the baby down the stairs, my husband went after him. I was afraid both men would be arrested. Not a pretty night. A few months later, my daughter left, too, and filed for divorce, but I was the babysitter for the next ten years of that grandchild’s life and my daughter was working 24-hours shifts and going back to college. My life had returned to crayons, toys, books, and Barbie doll shoes. (It would have been easier if my daughter hadn’t left but she was on a mission to prove that she could do it alone.)
Again, I went to work but only part time. I was trying to help my daughter and pay for whatever the grandchild needed. The company my husband worked for collapsed, and for the first time ever in his life, he didn’t have a job. Our renters on our two properties jumped ship, one after the other, and both left us with huge messes that took more money to clean up and repair damage. We sold both places including our little piece of heaven. It took him about a year to find another job. He took a severe cut in pay just to have income because any savings we had were depleted. Yet he had coworkers that still didn’t have a job two years later. He was glad he had a job.
We started on the kitchen in this house. It was never finished. Sometimes I care and sometimes I don’t. When the wiring died to the overhead light, I gave up. I avoid that room like the Black Plague! Today, I only do what I absolutely must to keep going. I have other things that are more important such as writing the next book.
But it’s not just writing the next book. We have all this other stuff to do in an attempt for readers to find our books or know that we’ve put out another one. Plus it’s a fickle market. There’s a lot of trash out there because anyone can say they are an author and put out a book. Plus readers seem to think we are capable of writing a whole novel every month. It’s impossible for me. I don’t type very fast, and I put thought into every sentence. When I’m done. I go over the story several times trying to make it the best it can get. Then starts the process of going to edits. Groan! I’m still compulsive. I still want everything perfect.
So here I am with four immediate manuscript projects going and more on my plate. Not to mention several unfinished novels on my hard disk. I’m behind. I’m always behind. Maybe I’ll have plaques made for my girls that will say, I was always behind, I never got everything done that I wanted to do. I was never perfect, no matter how hard I tried, but I always stopped to smell the roses, take in nature’s beauty, and enjoy a cup of coffee with girlfriends. Because maybe that’s all there is.
I’ll never have a picture perfect house. My sock drawer will always be a jumble of unpaired socks, my kitchen sink will always contain something unwashed, and there will always be dust. But how many of you know what the moon phase is, what’s blooming in the garden, what color the sycamore tree will turn in the fall, when the pecans will drop, or how many pecans two squirrels can bury in the garden in less than five minutes?
My dog is at my feet and the cat is sleeping nearby on his back, completely relaxed as only a cat can do. It’s a beautiful cool autumn day and the sun is shining. I’ve got a cup of coffee and I’m meeting friends for dinner. There are clean jeans in the dryer and I’ve got edits to keep me busy. Life is good.