I think sometimes I write good. ;-)

Oh, the years I spent telling my kids things are good, and done well. Anyway. It's NaNoWriMo review time, and this year's story is dovetailing with 2014, so I'm going over that.


I like this portion an awful lot, so I'm sharing it with you. It's long; will take 10-15 minutes to read. And no, it hasn't been edited, so ignore that.



Vinny's first girlfriend and "White Silver Sands"


Vinny strolled into the studio, kissed Violet on the cheek, went behind Jack’s bar, and poured himself a little bourbon, swirled it with an ice cube, then removed the cube and walked over to the mike stand holding the glass.

“It’s been a long time since I talked about this, Jack. I’m taking a bit of courage first. You’ve got a good selection back there.” Vinny said this so casually, as if he just expected to walk into a room with a fully stocked bar, a wide variety of seating, and a roulette wheel.

“Sure thing, Vinny. Let me know when you’re ready.”

Violet realized she was seeing a different side of Vinny than the old joker who hung out with Tommy, eating donuts all morning. Here, Vinny was confident, sharper, somehow, and she could see the attractive man he’d been in his younger days. “No wonder some of the auxiliary ladies seem to be hanging out for him.”

Vinny’s about the same height as Jack, maybe slightly above medium. Violet thought maybe he used to be a little taller. He has nearly the same hairline of his youth, though his hair is mostly grey and thinner than it once was. Still thick enough for him to wear long and floppy on top; he runs his fingers through it so it hangs toward one side. He has the typically hooded eyes of an  older Italian-American man, and deep laugh lines around his mouth. Violet could remember him from her childhood, always sharing a joke with whoever came by the electronics shop he’d inherited from his uncle, yet he never seemed boisterous or loud, like his friend Tommy.  

Almost as if he could hear what she was thinking, Vinny caught Violet’s eye, and winked at her. She giggled quietly. Jack noticed the look and had an odd expression on his face.

“Okay, I’m ready, Jack. Let’s do this.”

“I was born right after the war, you know, the big one, World War Two, and my parents had just bought a house here, a few blocks from here, actually, on the GI bill. Dad went to school and got a degree in chemistry. Mom worked in a dress shop, and brought me with her until I was old enough to go to school. I started school when I was four, because then she had my sister, and needed me out of her hair. They didn’t really do preschool back then, but Sea View had a kindergarten by that time, so I went to that.

“No, no, I’m not telling you my whole life story here, but I’m telling you about something I know you’ve always wondered about. I was born along with the first seedlings of rock and roll, and grew up right alongside it.

“Mom and Dad liked to boogie, knew all the dances. Jazz and bebop. We had an old piano Dad would bang away on, and Mom would sing, she knew all the songs, too, all the old ones, and everything on the radio. In the evening, we listened to radio shows, too, and had our favorite stories. I liked the adventure serials, but my parents liked things like *Our Miss Brooks* and *Father Knows Best*, real corny stuff. And Jack Benny, of course. Anyway, we spent a lot of time together in those early years. It was good.

“And then my dad got a job with a big drug company, and Mom quit her job, and we moved to a new house with two bathrooms in it, and a big backyard. I still went to the same school, of course, there was just the one then. I rode my bike instead of walking. One year, in music class, a teacher came in and tried us all out on different instruments. And then my parents got a letter saying I should be in the school band, and learn to play the drums. Well, that sounded all right to me, but I had to talk them into buying the starter drum for the house, because you couldn’t lug one around the way you could a trombone. And Mom liked the idea because she said I could play with Dad on the piano, and maybe my sister Gina would learn the clarinet or something.

“But Dad was teaching Gina the piano, and that was good, cause then he had a stroke, and could only play with his left hand. Gina learned melodies and he played the bass line, and they did a good job of it.

“I loved playing the drum, but I didn’t like playing in the school band very much. I kept at it, though, because it made my parents so proud. And then we had rock and roll! Dad wasn’t so into it, because he said it sounded kinda cheap or something, and he was listening to west coast jazz by then, learning how to improvise with his one hand, which was pretty cool, and now I think I shoulda told him so.

“We played marching band type stuff at school, but before and after practice it was Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Bill Haley. I remember learning the intro to “You Keep a Knocking” and recognizing it in a Led Zeppelin song years later. But they were all like that, taking parts from each other’s compositions and doing new things with them. Nobody said anything most of the time. Can’t get away with that now.

“And the thing was, the early songs were just like the crooners’ standards had been. Somebody’d write a song and then half a dozen different bands and singers would record it. So you’d hear a song in 1957 by a singer, and the next year, a band would do it with a different tempo, or as an instrumental, or practically the same thing, trying to score their own hit off of it. So we had our favorite versions of different songs, and also we’d do different dances to them, depending.  

“In 1960 I was in 9th grade, which was in junior high back then. And you know, we had *American Bandstand* by then. Some of the kids who didn’t have a TV yet would come over to my house to watch it and a couple other shows. Afterwards we’d play records, and when my friend Tommy started playing guitar, we practiced together, cause he did better when I kept a beat for him. Sometimes my sister played the piano for us, we didn’t mind even though she was still a little girl. We needed a piano. So that was kind of my first band, Me, Tommy, and my sister. My dad was only about 40 then, but he wasn’t too active outside of work anymore. He’d watch us play and sometimes make us play the jazz tunes he liked.

“One thing my dad taught us was that we could take the songs we heard on the radio and Bandstand and make them our own. We weren’t very good at it, but we learned a lot more about the music by taking it apart and figuring out new things to do with it, new ways to put it back together. That’s jazz, you know. The early rock and roll guys all did it, the best ones. So we’d hear a song and wonder how it would sound with a different tempo, a different time signature. My sister was the best at it. Learning piano one hand at a time the way she did turned out to be good for her. Because when she started doing the left hand, she was imitating Dad, riffing on chords right from the beginning. Gina was great at that.

“Let’s stop for a minute, I gotta catch my breath.”

Jack said, “This is really interesting, Vinny. You should write a book.”

“Me? No, I’m no good at that. I sound dumb when I write things down.” Vinny went over to refresh his drink.

Violet said, “But you wouldn’t really need to write it down. You’d just talk, like this, and then someone would type it all out. Reading a story of someone telling a story always sounds better, anyway.”

Jack said, “People would buy it, Vinny. They’d buy an audio recording of you telling your story.”

Vinny laughed as he took a drink. “It’s something to think about, I guess.”

He began again. “The point of the story is that I went to the freshman dance and met a girl named Carla. There’d been a hit song by a couple of different people called ‘White Silver Sands.’ But that night, the kid who was spinning the records, a high school student, played a slow-burning version by a combo called Bill Black’s. A lot of us lined up for The Stroll. You know about the stroll, right? They made a song for it. Funny thing, you hardly touch in that dance, but it’s— Wow, it can get electric. It started out sorta goofy and fun, and then goes into this really sexy sax solo.”

Jack and Violet looked at each other, eyes wide, grinning.

“Yeah, well, so Carla really liked that song a lot. And she was a good dancer, too. Of course, everybody could dance back then. Not like it is now. The Stroll was one of the last good ones, though, until they started disco dancing, doing some of the ballroom stuff.

“Now, I was only fourteen years old, but I was hooked on Carla in an instant. She and I started going around together, and she loved that song, so I bought the record, and we’d listen to it. She watched our band practice, and kept saying it was too bad we didn’t have a sax player. I’d walk her home and we’d hold hands, but I never tried to kiss her. I started thinking maybe I could play saxophone, and then she’d want me to kiss her.

“I know this sounds goofy, but I was a goofy kid. I asked my uncle for help, because I was afraid to ask my dad somehow. Uncle Eddie got me a used saxophone and told me I could work in his store in the summer to help pay for it. He sold TVs and radios back then. The band teacher taught me a few things about the reed and the keys, and I got some records that teach you how to play. I practiced and practiced and practiced, boy was I lousy. I had to play in the garage so my parents wouldn’t kick me out.

“I turned 15, and still went to movies with Carla, she still watched us play, but she seemed interested in an older boy called Malcolm. I never liked that name, Malcolm. The thing is, I didn’t tell Carla I was learning the sax at all. Just kept playing my drums, doing all right at it, while Tommy was getting really good on the guitar.   

“After about six months, just as I was entering high school, I played for the band teacher again. He was real surprised. He thought I’d improved so fast I might be better at the sax in another year than I was at the drums. So me and Tommy found a drummer, Ricky, and started our real band, calling ourselves The Expressives, which I think is a very dumb name now. Ricky, Tommy, Vinny, and Gina. We didn’t care she was a little girl because she played better than anybody we knew. But I didn’t let the guys say bad stuff around her.

“Carla started going with Malcolm, and I didn’t like that much, but I was too busy with the band, anyway. I wanted to get good at the saxophone because I loved it, and that seemed like enough. Dad paid for me to have weekly lessons, too.

“Mr. Felder, the band director, chose us to play live music for the winter dance. We had three months to practice and learn a whole set of songs for it. Another band would do a second set. And I knew I had to be able to do ‘White Silver Sands.’ Gina was in 7th grade then, and Mom was chaperoning her, which she didn’t like much, but what could you do?

“We wore matching suits. We had brown pants and brown and red plaid jackets with white shirts and red ties. Gina wore a plaid party dress, she was so cute, you know. But some of the kids were whispering about us having a little kid in the band. We were prepared for that and started our set with ‘Theme From A Summer Place.’ Gina sounded terrific, and the couples all danced. Then we started to rock and roll, with a good Duane Eddy tune. The others all sang, Tommy did most of the lead, because he sounded a little bit like Bobby Darin, and Ricky had a falsetto, they could do kind of an Everly Brothers sound, you know.

“And so, you know, for our final song, I stepped up and said, ‘This one’s for Carla.’ Never was I so cool and so nervous at the same time. Then we played ‘White Silver Sands,’ Bill Black-style, slow and steady. Gina did the intro on the piano, then I did the sax solo. It wasn’t a tough one, and I was ready for it.”

Vinny stopped speaking and grinned.

Jack and Violet both waited a minute, and then Jack asked, “Well? What happened??”

“You want to know what happened after I spent a year learning the saxophone so I could impress a girl I once danced with?

“I got pretty good at the sax, that’s what happened. And the kids did clap and cheer, and asked for an encore, so we played ‘The Twist.’”

Violet sighed. “She didn’t deserve you, Vinny.”

They sat and talked for awhile. Vinny asked, “How long you been keeping this place a secret, Jack?”

Jack sighed. “Well, I’ve been working on it for about five years. I had the bar updated, and the floor refinished first. then I bought some furniture, and then I added the sound system. And then last year I bought the recording equipment. Violet discovered it then, by accident.”

Violet said, happily, “It’s my Narnia! I was in a closet looking for something, opened a door, and here it all was!”

“And Jack here is your Mr. Tumnus, right?”

They stared at Vinny.

“What? I’ve read books. Actually, my daughter had those books.” Vinny nodded in approval. “I really like this a lot, Jack. A person could almost live up here.”

Jack said, “I had that idea, originally. Maybe not all the time, but I imagined I could spend weekends here, like, well, you know.” He smiled, a little sheepishly. “But also, it’s insulated and basically sound-proof, which is why we can do the recordings this way.”

Violet said, “It would be easy to put a cooktop in the bar area, actually. You already have a refrigerator. Think of the parties you could have.”

Vinny added, “Maybe you should throw one. For New Year’s, or something.”

Jack mused over this. “It’s been years since I threw a real party. You know, the thing about getting older is that you really do want it a little quieter. However, not a lot quieter. Interesting people who can still laugh and be silly, but not the kind who hang from chandeliers.”

“Listen,” Vinny said. “I got about twenty years on you two. I see things are different now, but they aren’t so different that I don’t know something about this. What you want to do is make it a kind of drop in all evening kind of thing. If it works out right, the dullest and also oldest people get tired and leave first. Then you got your rabble-rousers. They see only so much excitement happening, and they leave to find more someplace else. And then you’re left with the people in the middle; the ones you wanted to hang around with most, anyway. And so there you go.”

Jack and Violet grinned at each other. Vinny has always had a way of cutting right to the heart of things.  

Violet left then, to meet Lily for dinner, and Vinny stayed for a few minutes longer, while Jack showed him how the sound system worked, and the rotating casino table that had been used in the room during its speakasy days. Both it and the mirrored shelves behind the bar were reversible at the touch of a switch.

Vinny said, “You’re still hanging out after her, aren’t you, Jack?”

Jack nodded.

“Well, it’s easy for the rest of us to see she’s settled down, like you have, so what are you waiting for? The thing is, Jack, you don’t know how much time you have, or how much time anyone else has, and the years are going to start passing faster and faster.”

“I have my mom, you know,” Jack began.

Vinny looked at him like he was crazy. “Your mom thinks you’re nuts spending all your time alone. In fact, it is a little strange, all of you unmarried, practically no kids between you, no new Sea View residents to take over after you’re gone.

“But you and Violet, you should take the leap now, while you still can.”

“That’s a lot to assume, that Violet’s just been waiting for me to crook my finger at her.”

“No, because she has already crooked her finger at *you*, Jack. Everyone else can see it, even if you can’t.” Vinny shook his head in wonder.

“Hmm, well, that might explain how things started the other night, after we saw a play rehearsal together.” Jack stopped to think it over for a few moments. “We went back to Violet’s house and were drinking hot tea, you know how outrageously cold it was last weekend, and we had a fire going, it felt really warm and comfortable.” He paused.

“So, then what happened?”

Jack sighed. “Then Robert Halladay came bursting in to whine about something to do with Lily, and then Lily showed up for the same reason.”

Vinny stopped him. “Robert and Lily are even worse than you and Violet. They’re like a sitcom couple people are starting to find annoying because they won’t just up and get to it already.”

Jack raised his eyebrows. “What you’re saying is that everyone is following along like we’re all entertainment for you.”

“Well, you are, Jack, only I gotta say, it’s starting to get a little boring. It’s time you spiced up the show a little bit.” Vinny grinned. “Invite me over to dinner. I want to visit with your mom.”

 


inside my head, outside of yours

One of the web places which tracks my every move reminded me of this long two-part essay I wrote four years ago today. I wrote it after reading an article in The Atlantic entitled: "Consider the Coat Hanger." It's a 2000 word piece on the recent history of abortion, worthy of a few minutes' time and attention.

Some of my online friends read what I wrote four years ago, but I'm reproducing it here because I have a sincere desire to see people think outside their own framework, to look at each person they encounter as a fully autonomous individual, and to summon some outwardly focused understanding and compassion.

inside my head, outside of yours, part one
Friday, August 24, 2012


1657 words. If "mild" description of domestic violence is difficult for you, proceed with caution.

I conceived my first child on my 21st birthday. People thought, as people do, "oh, the poor idiot, she didn't know about birth control." Silly people. Of course I did. I spent the next 12 years watching my body work against a variety of contraceptives. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

I had a decent job and good health, people who loved me, and I am, let's not equivocate, a very intelligent person. I thought, "I can handle this. Let's do this." It never occurred to me not to, though. There I was, and so there it was.

All around me, my mom's Vineyard Church friends and even the doctor I went to, they whispered things about me, looked at me with shelves of assumptions built into their brains. I cared about that, but mostly I cared about doing it all right, so that's what I focused on. Some of them were angry I didn't automatically give up my child for adoption; what right did I have to this baby when others couldn't have one of their own? That seemed too rude and silly to argue about.

So I had her and the doctor was surprised at how big and healthy and good-looking she was; how she responded instantly to all the little tests, and how well she instantly adapted to life, to me, to her natural food supply.

He believed, make no mistake about it, that I would have ignored all his directives and came up with some scrawny sickly creature from my womb because she had been put there accidentally, and, let's be honest, by someone of a different ethnicity than me.

Young women who conceive a child by a man of a different ethnicity are sluts who live on donuts, cheeseburgers, and, I don't know, my imagination doesn't really work this way, Bartles & James wine coolers. They don't, as I did, eat small healthful meals throughout the day, exercise regularly, abstain from unhealthy habits, or take their vitamins.

And I breastfed her. Well, what was all the milk for, anyway? But wow, was that a decision for the ages back in 1987.

You can tell, can't you? I lived in a bubble even way back then, just living my natural life, unaware of how unnatural nature really is to most people.
 
Let's skip ahead. When my daughter was two and a half, my mother died. In some weird fit of distress, I married the father of my daughter, although we hadn't spent all that much time together over the past months.

Can you guess? I was immediately pregnant again. But this time, something was different. He moved into our apartment, we both had our jobs, and he bought a Sega game system. I won't blame the Sega for our problems. (That's foreshadowing.) I wouldn't know what to blame, to be honest, and don't really care. One day, something or other went wrong, and he knocked me down. I was afraid to get up, so he helped me up, and then because I cowered, he did it again. I went to sleep later that night curled into a ball, afraid of how it would appear at work the next day.

It should add irony and hilarity to the story to tell you that I worked for an evangelist. But it is the truth, and there I was, driving up the interstate with extra makeup on, worried about what I was going to say in the morning prayer circle, and whether I'd have to make up an excuse for looking unwell. I don't know now if anyone noticed.

The evangelist, should I tell you his name? He runs a big church in Johnson County, Kansas now. Of all people, you'd think he'd understand about the failings of humanity, having experienced quite a few of his own, but it was all separate for him by that point, "us who need to save them," and when I tell you he used to joke to the other senior staff that I looked like a witch or a Satanist, well, you can take his measure for yourself if you like.

Back home, as I grew larger and more excited about a little brother or sister for my daughter, the knocking-downs slowly increased. And each time, afterwards, can you guess this one? He'd apologize, swear he'd never do it again, buy me something, cook me a meal, anything for forgiveness. Well, my indiscriminate ability to forgive people is some kind of demented aspect of my character. I can't not forgive, once I've given love. It's easy to write people off who were never in my heart, but once I put them there, I keep them there.

However, I was making plans to leave by the following spring, figuring I just needed to wait until the baby was born and I could get started.

I had the baby in June, got a call from the secretary at the office I worked in, congratulating me and telling me the staff was being cut in half, so I wouldn't be needed anymore, and developed a post-partum infection. But the signs weren't there until we were driving home from the hospital. I felt suddenly unwell, and when we reached home realized I had a high fever. The hospital would only take me back without the baby, so I had to pump milk for her. The in-laws, well, that's a whole other tale too long for this one. They took her for the week I spent in the hospital recovering from the infection.

For the first time since my mother died, I wanted to call on her and say "help me." But life doesn't always allow for that.

When I got home, nursing the baby was difficult, but I was determined to give her as much of myself as I could, so I worked at it. The husband, he played Sega games. He'd wanted a boy. He had five sisters; who could really blame him? Except, you know, that wasn't very mature. Well, none of us were, then.

One day I was sitting in my favorite chair with the baby when the phone rang. Remember when you had to get up and go to where the phone was plugged in and answer it there? I didn't. It would have disturbed the baby. So it rang and rang until my husband came out, calmly answered it, had a brief conversation, and then began to beat me across my head over and over again for interrupting his game. It was the basketball one, by the way. I was shielding the baby and trying to shield my head, and his cousin came in from the room where they were playing and so he stopped.

That husband was a very quiet person, most people thought of him as gentle and genial. He was smart, quick-witted, talented at a number of things, inventive, and often thoughtful. I don't know. I don't have the answer for you. But I had to get away from him, once I was well. I didn't know how to do it. The in-laws were not even to be considered. I had someone from my job willing to help, but the next steps were uncertain.

You know that a woman is not supposed to have sexual intercouse until several weeks after she's given birth. Six or so. I got to wait nearly three before he decided, one night, to do what he thought would fix things between us and force himself on me. Good thing those antibiotics had done their job! He forced me to submit to him, and I had no choice because I knew he'd hit me if I didn't. He thought that we would both be glad and then everything would be okay again. But by this time, having been beaten while I held our newborn baby, I could hardly bear to look at him, much less have him touch me, and I didn't know, maybe few people do, that I could have had him just thrown out of our apartment, which was in my name alone.

I laid there while he tried to "make love," trying not to be sick, doing math, reciting a poem, trying to nod or look up at him when he demanded it. I don't remember much else. My brain is excellent at repression. He said something about us being together for always and everything being fine and I don't know what else. I made myself go to sleep.

The tale of how I got away a week or so later is a different tale than this one, filled with more violence, horror, deception, fear, and all the usual elements that come along with such events. I've never been able to write it, or much talk about it. I escaped with my life and my babies, and have been making friends mostly online nearly ever since. Very few of you know my real name. It's been 22 years and I'm having trouble maintaining composure as I type this.

This was long and guess what? It was just an introduction to what I really want to say. I had two beautiful daughters by that unbalanced man, and knew while I was pregnant with them something of who they'd be, because I knew him, or at least thought I did. They are like my mom in many ways. They're like their paternal grandmother in a few ways. The oldest one looks just a bit like her father, though much, much more beautiful. She has a couple of his best features, blended with my own. The younger one thinks like every eccentric person in my family, which is to say, all of us. She has some mellowing to do, but is coming along fine.

This is the end of part one. I need to breathe into a paper bag or something, then write part two, which will be shorter.

inside my head, outside of yours, part two
Friday, August 24, 2012


Whoops, this is even longer. Five pages, 1900 words. I didn't edit it; ignore tense confusion, where necessary. This is a frank discussion of sex, and, as mildly as possible, the sometimes violent nature that can accompany it.

When I knew I wasn’t going to have any more children, I felt such a sense of relief. When I saw other women pregnant, it was suddenly this alien thing to view, somehow both pleasant and awful. That was when I was in my late 30s, and I was ready for the next stage in life to reveal itself to me.


Oh, but I loved being pregnant. There was the scary time, the even more scary time, the worried-over-money time, the this-is-perfect-timing time, the no-way-how-could-this happen-again time, and the this-will-be-perfect-even-if-I-have-to-slay-the-rest-of-the-world time.


Incredible, right? I love all six of them so much that my skin feels aglow when I think about them. I remember, with each pregnancy, especially when most of the nausea and heartburn had passed, feeling a sense of burgeoning life; I’m not overstating that, feeling such utter joy and honor and an almost mystical sense of responsibility for all Creation.

I remember feeling the first flutters; by the fourth one I was feeling them very early because I knew what to look for, and scouring the books for just the perfect, perfectly meaningful name. I wrote poems to them, talked and sang to them, thought about what they’d look like, whether any of them would have Italian eyes, and how it would feel the first time I put their tiny little warm heads to my breast.

But here is something possibly shocking for you to know about me. Aware that at least one in three pregnancies miscarry by the third month because of one or more mutations within the cell formation or the womb being developed, I do not regard them as people residing within me until they are fetuses. And I do not regard it as my right to "decide" that for anyone else. Consider this; you sprinkle yeast in a cup of warm water, and in a few minutes it will start to grow. Then you can make bread out of it.

I know not everyone agrees with this, but I felt that what I’m about to write would be less honest if I didn’t admit that. Even if you don’t agree, I hope you will read the rest of what I have to say.

I had the honor and privilege of thinking about the people my little balls of cells would become because I knew their fathers intimately, and was in, at least initially with the first two, a safe and secure environment in which they would first experience life. I knew something of their skin tone, their hair color, that they would probably have a large nose and perhaps awkward teeth, that there might be male-pattern baldness in their futures, that in all likelihood they’d be quick-witted and visually or musically creative.

I also knew that from my side of the family there was a risk of a certain form of cancer later in life, and of alcoholism, and from their fathers, a propensity toward high blood pressure.

I knew where we’d all lived, where our ancestors came from, mostly, and what our childhoods had been like. I knew what kind of parents our parents had been, and the sorts of foods we’d grown up eating.

Imagine if I knew very little of that; only my own portion of it. Suppose it was my husband’s large and leering friend who forced himself on me when no one else was around? Perhaps imagine if I was much younger still, and was grabbed by a stranger as I walked home from work; he’d been watching me, perhaps, and knew when it was safe to push his way into me with no one around to stop him?

Or, imagine it had been a few weeks later when my husband forced himself on me, and the generally contraceptive nature of breastfeeding wasn’t working because my daughter hadn’t been breastfed as thoroughly as her sister? In that case, would you blame me for being pregnant again instead of having already made my unemployed escape?

Maybe you would. But you wouldn’t blame me if I became pregnant in one of those other instances, would you?

What would I feel, as 33 hormones accelerated their way through my body, causing low blood sugar nausea, an increased sensitivity to strong odor, perhaps extra hair growth, and the beginning of extra padding around my midsection in preparation for the eventual emergence of human life?

Let’s back up and talk about how I got that way, in complete detail, because this is something many men don’t fully apprehend. We all know that when a woman’s body is prepared to receive a man, fluid is released to make the act easier and more pleasant for both. Do you think about what that feels like to a woman? It’s strange how natural it feels, because when you’re very young, you simply cannot imagine it even being possible. But your temperature has increased, the surface of your skin seems to have more receptors on it, your breathing has changed, and it feels quite as though if the man does not enter you, life will stop working correctly. When he is there, radiating his own warmth and moisture, what you feel is that your body has hold of everything it could ever need in order to be complete. Your desire to take it all in overrides most anything else in your thoughts, at that moment. The hormones which are released to prepare you for this task also prepare your mind for union with another human being. What could be nicer?

I have no experience with same-sex relations. I can’t put myself in the mind of a woman who desires that experience only or also from another woman, and I think it would be insulting to try. But we are considering the usual biological path set before us, and not specifically the romantic desires which help it along.

Those hormones that make it feel so nice usually make us feel nice toward the man who stirred them up. It’s because we invited him to, subtly or overtly. When we’re young, sometimes the aftermath is confusing and worrisome; did I do the right thing? Will he care about me the way I care about him? You know the drill.

Here’s the other thing. We carry him around inside us, whether or not he ejaculated there, for the next several hours, days, or always. When we wash, we are washing a union we helped create.

So. Imagine we didn’t help create it. We scrubbed and scrubbed, but it’s still there, wait, back up.

We weren’t ready to receive him at all. It hurt. And it kept on hurting, even though our body’s natural inclination is to try to catch up and make it work okay. The correct hormones weren’t stirred up, only the ones that accelerate fear. He rubbed us raw, in and out, for minutes, maybe, I don’t know, two or three or more? He might be angry we aren’t ready for him because we are whorish and should be ready for any man and maybe he hits us in his anger. Then our bodies attempt to reject him further, and he’s more determined than ever to push himself inside and be there, for always.

Do rapists wear condoms? What a notion! What has he given us that we might pass on to a child? Herpes, HPV, gonorrhea, AIDS? He pushed his way in, and a tiny part of him will never leave.

Now consider what it would then feel like to know a cluster of cells is forming that might accelerate into human life? Each time we bend over a toilet, we are puking our guts out because of him. Our entire life has been bent in two, and there are people saying that this is too bad; life’s just like that sometimes.

These are sometimes but not limited to, the people who praise their creator for saving their life when all around them, others are coping with the aftermath of some great destruction.

They do not care that our life has been bent in two, and possibly broken. To them, the formation of potential life supersedes the brokenness of one that already existed. More to the point, they have given themselves the right and the power to decide that for others; the measure of a life, who lives and who dies, and the trajectory on which we are sometimes suddenly sent.

When I was 37 years old and the youngest of my six children was four, my life changed again, forever. I became pregnant, and, just like with the last one, almost violently ill, instantly. I was at home with the kids and bedridden, and at first I didn’t know why. Then the nausea ended but my period didn’t come. I was sick and getting sicker. The kids were running around that ancient house all day until their dad got home each afternoon to put things in order.

It took a few weeks and another missed period to figure it out, but there was a dead pregnancy inside me that was not naturally expelled. I had to, well, have it removed. Do you know, the process for that is identical to abortion? At the same time, I had a tubal ligation through laparoscopy. Yes, it took an operation to convince my body to stop rolling its eyes at contraception, that I wasn’t meant to be the population savior of the United States.

I had a wildly violent reaction to the anesthesia, and felt like I might die. There was a 24 hour period in which I think my husband thought I might die. And then I was okay, except that weeks of lying in bed next to what turned out to be a plumbing disaster brought on an asthmatic condition I have now been coping with for ten years.

Because odd circumstances caused me to think about what it would have been like for my family to watch me go through another pregnancy, to watch me bring them yet another child to make a seat for at the table, I have had occasion to think about what it’s like for young women and not-so-young women to nervously pass through the lines that sometimes form in front of places like Planned Parenthood, seeking medical advice, contraceptive advice, pregnancy advice.

Because I have experienced sexual coercion at the hands of someone I once trusted, I have had occasion to think about what it is like for young women and not-so young women to clean themselves up, dab antiseptic cream on their scratches, walk through the day wondering if other people can see it on them, and wonder, hope, pray to Anyone at all that they don’t have a disease, even more of a lifelong sentence than the one they’ll carry with them always, and that more than anything at all, the sperm of a violent stranger has not caused their body to start preparing for new growth.

What if that did happen? What do they do next? Which path will they be allowed to safely take? If they allow a child to grow, will the stranger demand rights to parent it, as he is currently allowed to do in 31 states?

You can't solve it with an arithmetic problem; 1+1=3. And you can't continue to view it as an abstract situation that can be repaired with the distant stroke of a pen. Life is messy and complicated, and sometimes it isn't safe.

 

Four years later, I want to add only that anyone who still thinks it's all simple; just a matter of Not Doing It, or Going Through With It, Arranging Adoption, and Moving On is absolutely not paying attention to our lives here today, our long, long cultural history, our broken-minded health care system, or to how it has all gotten worse in Texas. Let go of your need to be right, and focus on the need we have to make things better for everyone.


August Reflections

In Summer, 1978, we drove to Montreal to see my brother get married, then spent a week driving back through New England. I was 13. Mainly I’ve talked in the past about going to a disco while there and being asked to dance; I was so shy, it was absurd. Also, wherever we stopped on the road trip home, in my dad’s manic fervor to cover as many states as possible, I managed to see Grease something like a half dozen times, though at least a couple were in silent distance from a drive-in theater. I was mildly obsessed with it. At one of our stops we found a sort of photo book of the movie, with a lot of the dialogue and all the song lyrics in it, so I just followed the movie by memorizing the book.

My other story is about the album I came home with, for which I paid $3.99 Canadian. It was Some Girls, by the Rolling Stones, and it had just been released a few weeks earlier. On the radio they were talking about a controversy with the cover, so I went ahead and got one as soon as I saw it. By the time I got home, I learned that cover had been pulled from record shops, replaced with one which had color blocks over some of the faces. But mine was one of  the originals.

So I was really proud of that album, which I aso enjoyed listening to, until about six years later when my mom gave it and my Introducing…the Beatles* album to the garbage collector. If she were alive, I'd probably still bring that up now and then.

*Yes, the first one that was pulled from the shelves due to a dispute with Capitol Records over two of the songs.  One of my other kids found another copy of that for me a few years ago. Beatles
Supposedly there were only 2000 produced in stereo.  So that and Some Girls were linked in my head, somethings out of the ordinary. That guy in the truck knew what he was getting, I expect.

I’ve been having a difficult summer, is the thing here, for various reasons. And today this album showed up in the mail. Somegirls
My son ordered it to cheer me up. He opened it before giving it to me, in case it didn't have the original cover. It is the original cover, first printing; actually apparently there were six versions of it before the inner sleeve was banned...my cover was brighter, but the inner sleeve was the same. I read that's actually the hardest one to find, however, it's a little confusing, and I don't honestly care if it is. The blue and green of this outer sleeve are a little faded, but it's otherwise perfect, and the vinyl is in very good condition. So tonight we’ll listen to the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, and I’ll think some more on 1978, see what other memories I can conjur from the deep recesses of my aging mind.


WHERE IS YOUR LINE IN THE SAND?

I'm speaking about and to U.S. Christians here, but the rest of you pay attention, too.

Do you remember the campaign slogan "Character Matters?" Remember George W. Bush promising to "restore honor and integrity" to the White House?

It has become apparent that many of the same people who championed that are willing to be convinced that Donald Trump is now the more sound choice for our next president, in part because he "tells it like it is," although data is compiled daily which suggests otherwise.

The "Character Matters" campaign wasn't new. In the 1970 and 80s rose the Moral Majority, staking a claim about what mattered in government, and then came the "Family Values" campaign in 1992, which left a lot of families out, but seemed to appeal to the same people who are now willing to throw their vote to a man who stands for everything they previously wrung their hands over. The same people treated President Obama as evil, but one thing they can't deny about him is that he has had just the kind of family most of them think is the Best Kind all along, opposite of the Trump family web, which makes most of what President Clinton is purported to have done look like mere child's play.

This has been bothering me for awhile. Where is the integrity of people who claim a moral core as a keystone of their faith? Back when I attended churches, there was a song I liked; I liked the logical sort of certainty to it, and didn't realize til later, because I was incredibly naive about how people portray their beliefs, that some or many might use it to be dogmatic...I've added it below.

I still like the song, though I think she and I part sharply in understanding the value of context. But that message was for people who believed they were building their houses on rock, not on sand. Walking in their faith, not just talking of it.

No building on the sands of compromise

I won't be borrowed and I can't be bought

There is a line, I will not cross.

And now they are increasingly showing support for a man who seems entirely made of sand. He's doing all kinds of borrowing and buying, and there is no integrity in this. It is pure compromise.

Personally, I don't view all of life according to the line(s) some other people won't cross. But I'll have honest respect for them if they stick to it, and to a firm foundation on which we can "love our neighbors as ourselves."

 

What now? Are you one of the people who is allowing Donald J. Trump to prey on your fears? For those of you with Biblical faith, do you feel led to subsume that under violent, ugly, divisive words toward your neighbors and fellow citizens? Is your savior Jesus evident in that? Matthew wrote, "His face shone like the sun." (But for our context, let's all read the chapter before that, Matthew 16, and reflect on the matter as it currently applies.) Think about the people in your daily life who exemplify that for you. You have an unattractive choice to make right now between our two presidential candidates. So look beneath the rhetoric, the talking points, the media attacks, and look as far as you can into the hearts and minds of them both before you pull that trigger in November. Look at the big picture, bigger than any individual issue that concerns you right now. Look at how the U.S. is portrayed around the world, and what that might mean for us over the next few years.

I'm just asking you to make a deep-down honest decision, even if you aren't able to speak it aloud. If you believe God is inside you, make sure it's real discernment you're listening for, and not just a panacea for temporal fear. This is tough, and it's not hardly what anybody wanted, and yes, character really does matter. It's our characters that matter, actually; our characters and our consciences. Let's use them as wisely as we can.


Regarding Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches

You can get proper breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches in Indiana, Missouri, and Iowa. You might think they're okay elsewhere, but they are not. An exception might be if someone from one of those places brought their cook and pigs to some other place, but not really.

We never got a breaded pork tenderloin during our recent road trip to Kansas City, because we ran out of eating room. So soon we're going to drive to Indiana for one.

There are two real kinds of pork tenderloin sandwich, and one of them is sort of a fancier version, of which I do not wholly approve. It is acceptable, but I'm not driving two hours for that kind.

It's properly served in a plastic basket lined with paper, and accompanied by french fries, onion rings or potato chips, and/or sometimes a little disposable cup of cole slaw, and also sometimes a pickle spear. But it's okay if it's on a plate these days, instead. People don't seem to go in for plastic basket lunches like they used to.

The pork tenderloin circumference should be several times the size of the bun, and it should be hand-breaded or at least coated in bread crumbs.800px-Pork_tenderloin_sandwich
This also looks okay.Paul & Jack's
Sometimes people make them thicker so that they are not as big around, and use a batter, instead. I don't think that's right, but it can still be a good sandwich that way. Thumb_600
If it's Sunday, you can eat it with gravy and mashed potatoes and green beans, instead of on a bun. I guess. You're really just eating pork schnitzel at that point, aren't you? D3ab6489455e21f322b2beeda5e7ff84
But if you go to a place where they have breaded pork tenderloin which is formed into a neat round patty, don't order that.


The Prime of Life

I kept thinking of things to post and then not posting them. And I thought that once I'd reached 50, there was no need or use for a birthday countdown, but I've had a lot of fun doing them, so who knows? Maybe I will again next year. You can see many of them here and I think I sort of forgot to tag them last year, because last year was dumb, but whatever. There are also a few other June 4 ones. It's my eccentric amusement that might not amuse anyone else, but if it does, yay for that.

So, 51, not exactly an interesting number, but I kept thinking about 17, and 3, and so of course 9, and I had some math planned, only then I remembered quite a lot of my friends online don't actually do math...

And I have been having "compilation shuffle" weekend on the iPod, and thought to share a lot of what that turned up, only I'm sort of tired now, because the weirdest thing has happened: I keep waking between 6 and 6:30 instead of 8, and so I get sleepy really early. I am typing this while sitting in bed, already in a nightgown after my evening shower. I have turned into Grandma Kelly, only with less TV and no poodle.

Thus, I am just going to regale you with photos of my day. Tomorrow I leave to spend several days in Kansas City, and I expect I'll have some stuff to say about that when I return.

DanishThis is a cheese danish I got for free because of how it's my birthday.

CheeseHere is some cheese at Jungle Jim's, with a funny sign in front of it.

SephoraswagThis is my free birthday gift from Sephora. I go to Sephora every year on my birthday and buy myself something and also they give me a thing.

CoffeeThese guys sold me super good iced cold brew coffee, at the Anderson Farm Market. I also got a few plants for the back garden where it's shady most of the day, but not all of it.

GiftsThese are the gifts I got me: three plants from the farm market, two new bird feeders, a lipstick and half-sized mascara from Sephora, foundation primer and CC cream from Mary Kay, and Bert and Ernie.

BertandernieHere are Bert and Ernie.

SnowconeI had a snow cone at Theron's baseball game.

RainIt rained a whole lot.

DinnerThis is what I ate for dinner. And there is Black Forest cake for maybe later on.

And here is a song, because of course there must always be a song. Please listen to it in honor of my presence in the universe. Thank you.

 


It was a really long day

I did a lot of stuff. Got to do a lot more stuff tomorrow. Kwai
You know how you'll look up a recipe online and a reviewer will say I LOVED THIS! I MADE IT EXACTLY LIKE THE RECIPE ONLY I CHANGED EVERYTHING AND IT WAS SO GOOD!! Or, I HATED THIS! I MADE IT EXACTLY LIKE THE RECIPE ONLY I CHANGED EVERYTHING AND IT WAS SO BAD!!

Besides important things getting done, I made these chocolate cookies from a recipe online, and I was going to make two needed changes; leave out the cayenne pepper, and use a different sugar because of that being sugar I don't have. Anyway. I started by putting in 8 oz of butter accidentally instead of 6, and so I compensated by adding an extra 1/4 cup of flour and 2 tbs sugar, and slightly increased the cinnamon, pepper, and baking soda. I left out the recommended 2 tbs milk, and then chilled it for only 30 minutes instead of an hour. And you know what? I kind of love these cookies. So when I get to not thinking about all the other stuff I've got to do, I'll find the recipe for you, and then share what I made instead.


The Purple Rain cocktail, and its attending effects

I made The Drink again. The drink formerly known as “Moist Panties” because of this whole thing about people and their cognitively dissonant vocabularies is now known as “Purple Rain.”

And my photos turned out lousy because it has rained a lot and that rain is certainly not purple, just messy and ugh. Well, one is a good photo with lousy composition, the other is better composition, but not by much, and not even Photoshop could do much with it compared to the first one from the other day, which is in the post before this one.

Purplerain

Purplerain2
ANYWAY. Here is what’s in it:

3 oz Tanqueray Ten (I will be trying it with Hendrick’s pretty soon)
1 oz Lillet Blanc
1/2 oz Rothman & Winter Creme de Violette
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice

I imagine it generally garnished with flowers, but they are all soggy right now in the middle of spring, so it got a lemon slice today. And I truly believe you should shake it rather than stir it, before straining. Anyway. It’s purple, and you can taste the violet, yet that’s not cloying, and I am super proud of this creation, so I hope you like it as well. I made it so it can be easily decreased to 2 oz or 1.5 oz gin. Let me know if you need help with the fractions.

Also, you might wish to know I made one today because I was having some lasagna cooling-off time (pictorial of that tomorrow, I expect, at the other blog site,) and reading some truly salacious gossip about my boyfriend Bill. Iwaslikewow.

He’s been dead since I was 16, so I don’t care much what he did when he was kicking around Hollywood and various continents except for too bad about all that booze, because I like my dead stars with some spice to them. It’s much more attractive, for some reason, though I tend to prefer my live fictional boyfriends (who number rather fewer) to not go around creating havoc or making a lot of really bad life decisions.

But Bill isn’t even my type anyway, you know. My living type, if I have one, is tall, skinny, dark-haired or formerly dark-haired, intellectually eccentric, and not prone to getting into much trouble. (My living type is male me, only without perimenopausal additional pounds. I would apologize for this, but it would be dishonest.) Bill is, truth be told, my own bad life decision at the back of a dark bar or on a vacation far from home, etc. And I prefer him that way. I feel that while I made some enormously bad life decisions in my actual non-fictional youth, I did not have nearly enough fun making them, or even make enough of them to do much with novel-writing now in middle age. I don’t have much of an interesting past, is what I am saying. Bill is part of the interesting past I would enjoy having. Frankly, he could still get it as Max Schumacher, though, if I had a cocktail or two, and so I made this one.

I don’t know how seriously people take me…and I just remembered my oldest daughter told me today that my blog is inspiring…so whoops, plus also I will not repeat the thing about Jackie Kennedy although I’m pretty sure she’d be okay with it because she is a cool chick.


20 years, fickle April, birthday countdown thoughts, and Earth Day

This isn't going to be the post I had in mind when I began thinking it over yesterday. My heart is a bit overfull just now.

Two things to think over which spawn many other channels of thought. First, I will turn 51 in six weeks. I like being a prime number. But it is a scary age for me to be. Second, this is my twentieth year having some sort of garden, though it's 23 if you count the zinnias under the tree in Olathe. I'm counting from the glorious garden I built in Saginaw in 1997, though. 
 Saginaw
I had little energy last year to give the garden a proper start, and so I have been happily and eagerly making up for it this year, only as we had no April to speak of, some of the vegetables which like April best are probably not going to produce really well before it turns hot. There is this thin window of time in which the ground is workable but not too cold, and the air is warming but is not yet hot. And this year, the window is even thinner than usual, because we reverted back to February at the end of March, then shot straight into May a few days ago. But such is gardening life along the 39th degree. 


My first garden, in Michigan, was kind of a thing of wonder. It became self-sustaining in two years' time, and was actually left alone to grow for at least a couple years more after I moved away. I didn't have all the internet advice I have now, and didn't even get much from the library. But I had towering tomato plants mixed in with all kinds of flowers and herbs, and just whatever I felt like growing. At first, gardening in New Jersey was something of a trial in comparison; the earth is very sandy there, especially where we lived, just three miles from the sea, and then five... Tintonfalls...and then more. Oh, I miss the sea. So I focused on the herbs, slowing adding in whatever I could when conditions allowed, and then for my last two years there, on the west side of the state, I had a 20x20 plot in a community garden. _DSC7794 - 2011-07-10 at 08-57-16 - Version 2 - 2011-07-10 at 08-57-16

That's where I really learned to garden, and where I learned to love gardeners. I will always treasure my brief time there, though I had a more difficult time finding some of the truly interesting plants there which were so easily available in Michigan. In NJ, anything which wasn't commonplace came at quite a premium. Well, everything just costs 30% more there. It makes people creative, though.
 _DSC7773 - 2011-07-10 at 08-50-07 - Version 2 - 2011-07-10 at 08-50-07
_DSC7782 - 2011-07-10 at 08-52-58 - Version 2 - 2011-07-10 at 08-52-58
I forgot I could be creative for awhile after moving here to Ohio into a neighborhood where a putting green lawn is valued far above the offerings of nature or my own "oldcountry" aesthetic desires. That is, I didn't forget, but I've been torn between worrying over lawn edgings and dandelions and needing to "express myself through the medium of growing interesting stuff in interesting configurations.” Doing it to satisfy both the neighbors and me would really just require throwing a lot of money around. You get more for your money here, but I can't justify it. 


So my back gardens in my rented space are semi-conservative little oases, and I treasure them as much as I can, while the front areas are more for public view, and no one knew what to think last year when I got the notion of growing middle eastern cucumbers on a trellis in front of the porch…if I told them that on the east coast, many people do not waste their front lawns on the cultivation of grass, they’d think it’s all just as awful as they believe they’re told by the news.

I never planned to have a garden, you know. This is because my mother had an enormous one for a couple of years, completely organic back when that was rather tougher to do in the post-mid-century living better through chemistry era, and I hated having to weed it. Well, I hardly weed my gardens at all. I just grow stuff between the stuff so I don’t have to. The carrots always need it, though.

I have repeated many aspects of my mother’s life, after being so certain I never would. I love gardening, I love old stuff. I have experienced some of the same pains and losses. And now I’m turning 51, the age my mother found a lump in her breast.

It is not 1987. I did not smoke as a teenager. I have not consumed huge quantities of Coke and Pepsi throughout my lifetime. I have eaten less processed food, though probably not much less. I cook with olive oil, I drink milk, I eat more fish, I breastfed my kids, and I’ve done a somewhat better job of keeping middle age weight at a reasonable place.

Still, and all. One can’t help but think about it and wonder. I have assigned all my belongings to various offspring, and I keep thinking they should not have too many drawers or boxes to sort through someday, because there’s only so much charm to be found in browsing through what other people won’t throw out.

I’m actually more likely to be felled by a heart condition because of my horrible teeth, but the fact is, from this point forward, the markers are not just, “Now I am older than Pushkin, Darin, Judy Holliday...*” but “I have been a mother longer than I had one,” “this is the age she got sick,” and two years, ten months older than I am now, “now I am older than my mother lived to be.”

So besides having my vitamins and checkups and thinking about doing a better job of making sugar calories matter, I’m working to be pleasant and giving and at peace with life, the universe and every little thing. Growing beautiful things and sewing gifts and making purple cocktails, helping tense cashiers calm down a bit, loving the dog and my kids and trying not to poison either the earth or other peoples’ hearts and minds keeps me pretty busy at that.

Here’s to Earth, to Mom, to Purple Rain, to all the Aprils you and I will live to see. Gardentools

Screenshot_2016-04-21-22-15-53-1

_DSC7772 - 2011-07-10 at 08-49-36 - Version 2 - 2011-07-10 at 08-49-36


It's that time of year...

This is the time of year when, no longer coughing all the time, with sunshine streaming in through the windows, I commence to heavier cleaning. I'm not a constant or furious cleaner, but I do like things to be as nice as I can make them. Yesterday as I was putting in a load of laundry, I suddenly remembered the Flylady. Have you heard of her? Years ago I looked into her housekeeping system and was stymied by the top thing; each morning you get dressed, putting on makeup and lace-up shoes.

This is so you will feel Prepared For Work. It's lockstep in the notion that No One would feel like cleaning otherwise.

And I agree that when you rise in the morning, putting away bedtime is essential if you are at home all day. If you want to be productive, you need your productive daytime gear. But that just isn't the same for everyone. In my house, shoes are not allowed, except for visitors who don't know any better, and we rarely have those. Further, they were required to be lace-up shoes. If I put on shoes with laces to clean the house, I'd not feel more productive; I'd feel like I was now being punished severely and would be distracted and upset all day by foot prisons. BackdoorshoesSandals the boys use to run out back for something, and my garden clogs and boots.

I wrote her a letter eight or nine years ago, and she was adamant this rule must be followed. It was a bit touchy, her reply. So we agreed her system was not for me. Also,  I think some of what she advises is wasteful of resources, but that’s a deeper topic for another time.

Later, she told people they could wear "indoor shoes," still lace-ups. Ugh. THEN I read yesterday there is now a sort of “Asian clause;" if you’re Asian, you get a pass on shoes. No one else could possibly also have the notion that wearing shoes in the house—tracking the street in through the carpet—is Not Done. Ugh. FrontdoorshoesI wear these sandals to get the mail, do something in the front yard, or run up to the store. In the winter, they are traded for slip-on closed shoes. I keep all my "nice" shoes upstairs in my closet, but this is where shoes are taken off when entering the house.

I don't put on makeup, either, unless I'm spending the day outside; I have a light foundation which provides just enough sunscreen for my face and a pleasant even countenance for passers-by. Otherwise, Makeup is for Going Places. But I do get dressed every morning, put away my nightgown, splash my face, brush my hair. I am still modeling a simple morning routine for Young People, after all. I pull the covers back on the bed, and go make it up a couple hours later.

I like a clean sink, but as my middle son is in charge of dishes, if there are a few left in the morning, I don't try not to stress. I just stack them neatly to one side, and scrub the sink (but not by filling it with bleach water; this isn’t best practice for the old asthmatic lungs.) It gets me moving in the morning, then I carry on.

Here are tips from her or me or whoever that I think you might wish to consider, particularly if you are home a lot or most days:


    •    Do dress in the morning. I don’t mean dress up, I mean put on a loose comfortable dress or shorts or pants and a top, and if you’re into it, I guess you can add shoes... The key is to differentiate between bed hours and not-bed hours. Do rinse your face with warm water if you don’t take a morning shower (I like mine in the afternoon after I’ve Done Stuff) and lovingly pat it dry, brush or comb your hair, and nod hello at the mirror. You go ahead brush your teeth before or after you eat something; I’m not in charge of what you prefer even though I think before is weird. (I will say, if at all possible, please don't get right online with emails and news and status updates. Give yourself some greeting-the-day time first. Science agrees with me.)

    •    If you have your own clothes washer, but you tend to get behind, put in a load while you’re managing other morning tasks. Put that one load away the moment it’s done. Do another one each day, and after awhile, you'll be caught up, plus have a good idea how long it actually takes to stay that way. Wash sheets one weekend, other non-clothing items the next. Teach everyone over the age of eight to wash their own everyday clothes. It takes a lot of oversight for the first couple years, but they do thank you later when they realize their young adult friends are all dumb about how to do laundry.

    •    I buy one tree-free paper towel roll a year for occasional kitchen use, and you must do as you like, only think about this maybe: I also keep dozens of cheap washcloths and shop towels around, and they are washed in hot water when I’ve collected a load’s worth in either the washer or a container next to it. You can add them to a container with some bleachy water in it if you like, then pour it all into the washer, the way people do with cloth diapers. I just add a little Borax to the washer myself. These things last a couple years or more unless you’re bleaching them like mad, and you aren’t using many pieces of paper once just to then throw them out. Kitchencloths
   •    Before you go to bed at night, make sure the sinks are empty, counters are clean, and things are not lying about on the floor. Everyone in the house should help with this.

    •    Keep a large bag or basket in a handy but not in-the-way spot and add things to it that no one wants or needs, and when it’s full, take it to Goodwill or another charity of your choice. Each spring and autumn, go through everyone’s clothes and give away everything that no longer fits or can be used. If it’s not wearable (you wouldn't consider it worthy of cousins or friends) there are places that take textiles for recycling, or you can cut it up and use it for car or garage rags.

I’m not the person to offer heavier cleaning tips, though I might advise you to teach everyone to wipe the bathroom counter and rinse the sink after face and teeth time, but if you do these few basic things regularly, then you will feel more like advancing to regular dusting, cleaning the refrigerator regularly, and staying more organized in general. CabinetorderYou might adapt this idea for your own use: take a photo of full cabinets and tape it to the inside door so things are always put back in the same place.

Morningsink