Martha Stewart, you are not invited for Thanksgiving this year

I have absolutely nothing to say to Martha Stewart and she has irked me for the last time. Never mind the fact that I don’t know her, will probably never meet her, and have never spoken to her in the first place, you can be sure I will snub her if given the opportunity.

To be honest, I doubt this will be the last time she irks me. (I love that word–irk, irk, irk. It’s nearly as good as being miffed.)

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. My house is a mess, dusty, and in dire need of a good vacuuming, my laundry is wet (remind me when we are through here to go put that stuff in the dryer or plan to go naked tomorrow), and my favorite maroon tablecloth is–gasp!–not ironed. I’m pretty sure I know where my cookie sheets are (process of elimination; I’ve looked everywhere else and how do you lose cookie sheets in the first place???). My beloved husband and sister-in-law (who doesn’t even like to cook) have foolishly–foolishly–volunteered to prepare Thanksgiving dinner, but the chic yet cozy decor decisions belong to me.

On top of that, I have not, pitifully, completed making the hand-cut, hand-stamped thank you notes I need to get into the mail like YESTERDAY to my wonderful friends and family who have spent time and energy and thoughts and prayers on me and my well being lately.

Martha set the standard way too high. And so did Rachael, and all the rest. Not only can I not keep up with them, I don’t even know who is on the A-list for celebrity lifestyle coaches. Joanna Gaines, of course. Everybody knows the Queen of Shiplap.

I, alas, am shiplapless. And custom cardless. And cookie sheetless. And I am okay with it.

As we were coming home from another of the myriad doctor’s appointments I’ve had lately, I was lost in thought: If people don’t get thank you notes until after Thanksgiving, can I still go with a fall theme or should I do something snowy, but not necessarily Christmasy, because it’s by gosh a thank you note, not a Christmas card, or should I go with something altogether different and holy crap I’m still a newbie and do I have anything that isn’t red or green on hand to use anyhow? And did I order envelopes? Because if I didn’t, then I probably definitely need to go with something less fall-like since I will have to find my postage stamps, or buy more, after I make sure I have envelopes. Just because I had them three days ago does not mean I can find them today.

Here is what I presume another person in my position would have been thinking: Gosh, I’m glad I’m progressing so nicely after my mastectomy, and so thankful I have some energy and no pain, and it’ll be nice to be at home relaxing here in an hour or so.

What am I doing to myself? When did my obsession with All Things Adorable begin?

To be honest, I’m a late bloomer. Other than the occasional granny square and that whole run-in with homemade soaps and candles a few years back, I pretty much limit my artsy craftsy side to purchasing hundreds of dollars of supplies that will never get used. I’m good at it; I have a discerning eye. But, as I pondered actually cutting paper and inking stamps, I also pondered (co-pondered?) why there is such a craze for DIY Heaven nowadays? Who started all this in the first place?

Martha did. Martha Stewart, the First Lady of the White-on-White House (the subtle use of textures is so elegantly understated when one uses color-on-color.)

But in my quest for a more relaxing, fulfilling life now that I don’t fight traffic on a daily basis to get to work (because of telecommuting, not illness-related) , I have determined that our quirky, quaint Folk Victorian home must be the epitome of Adorable. Dammit, Martha, leave me alone; I’m doing the best that I can.

This year, though, Thanksgiving will be small but heartfelt. My in-laws are visiting the siblings in California this year, so we will be few. No need to break out the Artfully Mismatched dishes and linens. No need to set up a drink-and-dessert station, or set out hors d’oeuvres since dinner won’t be three hours late this year (I hope). This is the year for a pre-cooked turkey, the ever-popular green bean casserole, store-bought pies, and dressing that comes in a box (and I won’t look at the sodium content on the nutrition label). This is the year I will relax and let my beloved husband and his sister feed us and it will be delicious and amazing and even Adorable.

And the tablecloth will be wrinkled.

And the thank you cards may or may not be completed before tomorrow. (Who am I kidding? I’ve already put them up for the day.)

And there will be love.

And thankfulness. Lots of thankfulness.

I’m cancer-free.



Cleanliness is next to impossible

One of Chuck’s uncles was in Texas last weekend, visiting Chuck’s dad and stepmother. The really cool thing about this is that it’s his mother’s brother. I love it when a family can stay family even after a divorce.

But I digress. Chucks’ father (also named Chuck; it makes for interesting conversations with my mother-in-law sometimes) and Uncle Allen dropped by on Sunday. Thankfully I suspected that might happen, because I was way behind on housework and needed at least eight hours to get the house presentable enough so that I could say, “Pardon the mess” with an air of confidence.

Presentable, not actually clean.

I am an excellent housekeeper, which is why my house is always at least a bit unkempt. You laugh at this? Let me explain.

When I really truly clean house, I operate under the theory that, if things started out in pristine condition, they can–and should–be restored to that condition. I absolutely despise burnt-on spots on pots and pans, grunge in any cracks and crevices, coffee stains on grout (kitchen counters; I’d have completely different issues if I had coffee stains in the shower). My cleaning supplies include wooden toothpicks and cotton swabs (I’m serious) in addition to three kinds of rags (terry, microfiber, and “floursack”), two mops and a floor brush, and four dusters. I keep my toilet brushes (one for each bathroom) soaking in pine oil cleaner at all times. I have owned as many as three working vacuum cleaners at one time.

With an arsenal like this, even my carpet should be squeaky clean. But one thing–the most important thing–is missing from my arsenal.


It takes a freakin’ HUGE amount of time and energy to clean a 1900 square foot house with toothpicks and cotton swabs. The results are fabulous, of course. Run a toothpick around the seam of that metal rim thingy around your kitchen sink and you’ll see what I mean. (If you don’t have a metal thingy, try the toothpick on the edges around the hinges on your toilet seat.) But after about four hours of this self-abuse, you get to where you start asking yourself if the floors really need to be clean enough to eat off of when you have a perfectly serviceable dining room table (we actually have three, but who’s counting?) so you quit. To be honest, I rarely get in four hours of this but I can go for about two as long as there isn’t something more interesting to do. Two hours = one room. On a good day.

At this point I switch to Plan B cleaning.

Step One: Hide things. For us, this includes empty boxes from online purchases, clean clothes that are folded but still sitting on top of the dryer (usually my underwear),  full trashcans, crochet and crafting projects, receipts (don’t ask), and the potty pads we keep down for the dogs (one is a puppy with an attention span of milliseconds, the other is an old and irascible chihuahua; we need potty pads). This can be fun, since the trashcans and recycling bin both live down a four-foot flight of stairs and across two driveways. Extra steps mean extra seconds. And there is only one closet in the house (in the office) and it doesn’t have a door, so there is no hiding stuff in it. Oh, and as you are picking up unused napkins and taco sauce packets from the coffee table, use the napkins as makeshift dust rags, but only on surfaces where the light might show the fine layer of “memories” (aka dust).

Step Two: Make the floors look like they might be clean. This involves picking up the fiberfill that Brigid (the puppy) has eviscerated from her indestructible (ha!) toys, hitting the high spots of the carpet with the vacuum (hoping the bag isn’t too full), and running a broom or dust mop around the edges of the rooms that have hard surface floors where the whatever-that-stuff-is gathers. Definitely not clean enough to eat off of, but then again, I’m now in panic mode prepping for guests and I doubt I’ll have time to go get anything to offer them to eat, anyhow.

Step Three: Bathrooms. Unless I have an ironclad agreement that states nobody will ask about using the facilities, or opt to hang an Out of Order sign on every bathroom door, I just suck it up and go to town, sans toothpick. I’ve tried using those pre-soaked disinfectant wipes, and they do work, but they also pick up any stray hairs that you might not have gotten on your preliminary  wipe-down. We are a family of two people with glorious manes, two dogs, and two cats. We have stray hairs. In any case, I generally spend more time trying to get the &!@*(^)^ wipes to let go of the )(%#^@!* hair than it would have taken to break out the rags and spray bottle.

Step Four: Empty trashcans. This is actually a part of Step One, but I always forget it. I suspect my in-laws and quite a few of our friends think Chuck is a fanatic about emptying the trash because they usually knock on the door mid-empty. And I’m usually in the bedroom frantically finishing the toilets or else attempting to put on my bra without taking off my shirt (to “save time”) so he has to get the door, trash in hand.

All in all, while I love a clean house, and I am quite capable of having one, it just doesn’t happen. The flesh is willing, but the spirit is weak. Or maybe, in this case, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. So I spit-shine my way through, knowing that, if cleanliness is next to godliness, I took a wrong turn somewhere and am not quite able to get back on the right path. Even for Uncle Allen.

Blessed are they who go around in circles, for they shall be called the Big Wheels

And after this evening’s attempt at riding a bicycle after well over 30 years, a Big Wheel is just about what I need right now. Except I couldn’t even ride it!

If you don’t know me, you don’t know that there is a lot of me to love. A lot.LOT. I refer to myself as a “little dumpling” but I’m only little because I’m short. I’m doughy and I giggle and if I weren’t married I’d be best off if I swiped right on the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

In any case, I’ve been trying to lose weight; not by dieting, but by eating less. Yeah, I am playing mind games with myself. But so far, so good.

So I decided to add some activity to increase my metabolism and burn some calories (160 of those suckers in 1/2 cup of Blue Bell Dutch Chocolate).

So we bought bikes. We didn’t spend a fortune–Chuck got a Mongoose and I got a purple one. Wal-Mart had to order it for me because their online presence said they were Available Only in Stores. And after they ordered it the website said Out of Stock so I might have gotten the last reasonably priced purple bicycle on this green earth. Except the two they had in stock but had been displayed outside and were all rusty. Those don’t count.

My wonderful Chuck put them together. He know how to do that stuff. Apparently it’s an art form, which you start to realize when you look at all those brake and gear cables–kind of like a spider and a puzzle procreated.

“They” always say that you never forget how to ride a bike. I think that’s true; you start off a little shaky but some muscle memory wakes up and remembers the last time the asphalt kicked your butt (or knees, elbows, face) and your body does everything it can to keep you on that bike and propelled forward.

And then comes the moment of truth: you have to pedal.

Unencumbered pedaling isn’t too hard, but when your beer belly is the size of a keg, not a growler, your knees have nowhere to go when your pedal reaches the top of the rotation. You know how your dog looks when it’s trying to scratch a spot it can’t quite reach and it back paw just kind of flails around scratching the air? That was my right foot. And then my left foot when I tried again. And then my right foot again, because sometimes I am a slow learner.

We tried raising my seat (on the theory that it would put my belly a few inches higher) and my butt appreciated it, but my legs couldn’t have cared less. They were totally oblivious to our efforts to accommodate their needs. So after I stood there and boo-hooed like a baby whose butt had recently been kicked by the asphalt, I decided to shelve the bike-riding thing for right now. My ever-patient Chuck, who has been looking forward to riding even more than I have, is going to have to ride without me or wait for a few more pounds. It’s going to be a goal until I can get a little bit less belly. I’m pretty sure sit-ups ain’t gonna happen; toe touches might be a good start. (I can’t see my toes when I stand up, but I know they are down there because I need a pedi right now.)

Because nobody should have to wear Spanx in order to ride a bicycle.

And Big Wheels have a similar knee-to-belly situation going on. So that’s not an option, either.