Monday, May 24, 2010

Week 21: Au naturale

Welp, one more day of not using paper towels is ahead of me. Friday night, Peter and I had dinner with a friend at a quick service chicken place (Chicken Works and Salad, which I recommend for a good cheap bite) and, not having brought along my own serviceware with me, I was forced to use the plastic cutlery, paper napkin, and worst of all, styrofoam cup. Oof. I could have just gotten the damned hot dog at 7-Eleven after all.

And naturally today, since I am home from work this week to do some big garden changes, Hannah woke up froggy-throated from a cold that she'd had all weekend. Her colds almost always morph into ear infections, so I brought her in to the doctor to see if the ear infection had begun. It hadn't, so we were sent home with directions to call when/if the fever starts and she'll be put on antibiotics again. Anyway, I dropped her off at my mom's place to nap while I went and picked up a sod cutter. A couple of hours later, Mom brought Hannah home (she didn't nap) and joined me to work in the yard. A couple of hours after that, Hannah finally passed out on the floor but woke herself up with a coughing fit -- a coughing fit that, as they often do for Hannah, turned into a barfing fit. I haven't bought paper towels for some time, so I had to clean it up with a rag. I wiped it all up, then brought it to the sink to rinse out. I took one look at the stringy, phlegmy, chunky brown barf in my hand, said "fuck it" and threw it out.

Don't look at me like that.

Overwhelmed by guilt and a deep desire to not have to clean up barf with a rag for the rest of my natural life in order to complete this challenge, I fished the damned thing out of the trash, rinsed it off, and threw it in the laundry. I remain virtuous on this Monday.

Week -- whatever it was, 13, 14, whatever -- when I tried to be presentable and pretty every day made me think that I should try (sort of) the opposite -- no makeup for a week. And since I'm home this week and thus won't have to deal with the "are you feeling well?" questions a makeupless face would mean at the office, I'm going for it this week. It's not the complete flip side of the perfect hygiene week --I'm not letting the 'stache grow out or the brows meet or not showering -- but I'm going to go starkers face- and hair-wise until Saturday. Why only Saturday? Because for one, I haven't worn any makeup or hair stuff since Friday night we're having people over on Saturday and unless some complete transformation happens in the next several days where I don't wake up looking pallid and half-dead, I'm wearing some slap for company.

I do have several activities planned over the week where normally I would put on a little makeup -- foundation and mascara are usually my go-to minimum, and really should be for everyday errands. I shudder to think of what I run around looking like on your average day when I don't go to work -- I've worn the Mom Who No Longer Cares ensemble of holey yoga pants with a holey t-shirt, a hoodie, and flip-flops to the grocery store on many occasions. I have...more than one pair of pants that I wear in public with a hole in the buttal area, even. So the naked face is probably the last thing people notice on those occasions. Still, a bit of makeup goes a long way to making me look rested, pulled together, and perhaps a little less wild around the eyes. I feel a little better knowing I have something between my face and the world, to be perfectly honest. And now I won't have that.

Maybe I will look into ski masks.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pour it in my hand for a nickel

About an hour ago I spent the better part of ten minutes trying to talk the 7-Eleven guy into giving me a hot dog without the paper sleeve.

Me: Hi, I'd like a hot dog, but I have a question --
7-Eleven guy: They're all beef.
Me: No, that's fine, I just don't want the container or paper or whatever they come in. I just want the hot dog.
7-Eleven guy, eyeing me suspiciously: Are you looking for a discount or something?
Me: No no, I'll pay full price, I just don't want any packaging.
7-Eleven guy, slightly panicky: Are you from the board of health? Is this some kind of test?
Me: NO. I just...I'm doing...look. I know this sounds weird, so I'm sorry. I want the hot dog, I'll pay full price for it, as long as I don't get any paper or plastic packaging or serviceware with it.
7-Eleven guy: want me to pick it up with the tongs, put it in the bun, and just...hand it to you?
Me: Exactly!
7-Eleven guy: I don't know if I can do that.
Me: I'm just really trying to cut down on waste, is the thing. I'm going to pay you and everything, and there's no one here but me and you, so if you're worried about that, I won't tell.
7-Eleven guy, looking at the security camera: Um...
Me, sighing: Never mind. I'll just take three bananas.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I picked a great week to stop using paper towels.

Tuesday morning, I woke up and went to the kitchen to feed the animals, who were meow-and-bark-nagging me the second my eyelids cracked open. After I took care of that, I realized I had an extra few minutes from being awakened early, so I started fixing my breakfast and lunch to take to work. I was merrily chopping along, laughing at how easy it was to forego the use of paper towels, when I realized I had to use the bathroom. But, since I was midway through getting my food ready and packed, I didn't want to stop while I was being so productive. So, I just held it. And held it. And held it, through crushing garlic for salad dressing and peeling cucumbers and bagging oatmeal. Finally I got everything in the lunchbox, so I uncrossed my legs and dashed to the bathroom, where a few feet away, I discovered my cat had barfed. A lot. And recently. I had planted my entire left foot right in the warm puddle and damn near brained myself slipping. Gross, but no time to dwell -- I hopped into the bathroom ready to burst, with my foot dripping effluvia and half-digested Royal Canin Urinary SO cat food the whole way. I stuck my foot in the tub and rinsed it off, and all at once pulled my foot out from under the tap, yanked down my pajama shorts, and leapt to sit on the toilet just barely in time. We're talking milliseconds to spare here.

And then I had to clean up the cat puke with a rag. Here is my dilemma with cleaning gross stuff with rags -- you have to then wash the rag. I don't want to do that in the sink -- there are often chunks and stuff, and if I'm disposing of gross chunky things, it's usually in the toilet, know what I mean? But I don't want to be rinsing things off in the toilet bowl, either. So I wound up knocking the big chunks off in the toilet and then rinsing the rest off in the sink. It was more work than just wadding up a bunch of paper towels and tossing it in the trash, plus I had to physically deal more with the barf itself.

See, y'all, there's a lot of thinking here. Not my strong suit. And ultimately it's why I eschewed cloth diapers in favor of disposables. I just didn't think I could handle the work. In the grand scheme of things it's not a ton of extra work -- when you break it down it's a literal minute more. But that's a minute I could be spending not holding a rag full of cat yack.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Week 20: The Disposable Life

I realize I owe a #7. Spoiler alert: it's gardening. But it doesn't mean shit without photos, and I ain't got none. I will post some later, when the sun's out and I can take decent photos.

Given that I'm all about celebrating nature these days it seemed an appropriate time to trot out the ol' environmental guilt card and try to go disposable-free for a week. I can't do too much about the amount of paper/disposables that is foisted on me by others -- say, when someone gives me a cupcake in a paper liner or on a paper napkin, it's still a cupcake and it's still going in my mouth -- but I can at least curb my use. Some things get exception -- products that hold nasties, like toilet paper and ::cough:: tampons, I'll continue to use and toss without guilt. But everything that is easily replaced with something washable/reusable, including paper towels, tissue, plastic wrap, plastic bottles, paper napkins, aluminum foil, wax paper, plastic flatware, all of those things are out of my life for seven days. And those things that are intended to be disposable that I have already, I will reuse wherever possible. That also means no take-out. BOO. I guess that BK pork fritter sandwich is going to have wait 'til next week.

I am a particular abuser of paper towels, something my mom finds horrifying even though I've gotten much better about it. I grew up in a rag-using household. Mom had all kinds of systems -- when t-shirts became unwearable, they were cut up and made into rags. (And let me tell you, it takes a LOT of holes for a t-shirt to be unwearable by my mom's lights.) When washcloths became too worn out, they were downgraded to dishcloths. And the bottom rung for everything was toilet-rag. Yes, Mom eschewed the toilet brush entirely as ineffective, and she would just go all up in the bowl with a rag. I made an abortive attempt at going paperless for household cleaning a while back, and to get started I bought a gigantic bag of white terrycloth shop rags at Costco. Mom, as you can imagine, was aghast at the idea of buying rags. She was like, they're RAGS. You've got pre-rags all over your house! I would feel bad using these to clean things -- they're too clean themselves!

And now the word "rag" is starting to sound really weird to me.

Anyway. I blew it yesterday because I made chicken nuggets at AJ's request, and out of force of habit, used paper towels to line the (reused) pie tin that I drained them in. And I almost blew it today when I went to the bathroom at work and went to grab a paper towel to try my hands. There are no hot air dryers here, so I had to use my pants like a toddler (or a dude.) And now my butt is cold. Oh wait -- I did blow it today -- I used a paper napkin for lunch. Shit! I guess I better bring in a cloth napkin for tomorrow.

I'm also beginning to think that I should re-set my week challenges to start on Monday, since that seems to be the way it's going. I dunno.

Friday, May 14, 2010

OKAY OKAY. What about you? Tell me something good. About you.

Lord how this week has flown. I am tired, y'all, T-A-R-D TIRED.  On with the show.

3. I think I'm a good writer. This is something that I have tremendous difficulty saying or writing, because my head is full of "buts" (I'm not as good as...I need to work on...and I have a tendency to...all those things.) Then again, whose head isn't full of buts? Come on Simone...let's talk about your big but.

4. I like to make people laugh, and I laugh easily, loudly, snortfully, and at just about anything. My favorite people to be around are the ones who laugh easily, so if nothing else I hope I make my friends think they're funny because I laugh at everything. Especially Peter. I think they're funny. I also think Peter's funny. Funny is important to me, in case you couldn't tell. Ever been around people who, instead of laughing, sort of smile and say, "that's funny"? NO. I do not do that. I haaate that. To me it's like they're acknowledging that the natural human reaction would be to laugh, and that they understand that, you know, they "get" "jokes", but they are actually creepy robots who stole someone's skin.

5. Check out my ass. Seriously, check it out. It's pretty nice. It's a nice ass. I better celebrate it while I can, before I have to roll it up and tape it into my underwear.

6. I'm a good cook/baker. And I like doing it. Come over to my house and I'll feed you good. I'll feed the shit out of you. I mean, I think I run about 80% on new-to-me dish success and that's pretty fine, and I'm nigh 100% on stuff I make regularly. Plus, I just like food a whole lot. I do. I enjoy growing it, cooking it, eating it. So if we're eating dinner together and you are just tearing up a big trough of mac and cheese or something, baby, I am right there with you and I do not judge. I will roll a scoop of mac and cheese into a chicken skin and eat that motherfucker like a cannoli. You and me, if we eat together and you like food like I like food, it'll be a good time. Unless you say "that's funny" instead of laughing. Then I'll just get drunk.

So, I have one more to go. BAAAAAHHHH this is hard. Tell me something you're awesome at.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Week 19: Sheepish

It is always hard for me to come back and write here after a weekend. And I find that the more time goes by without writing, I procrastinate even more and put off just getting in here and doing it. It's not that I don't want to, it's that I feel bad.

But this week isn't about feeling bad, which is probably part of why I feel sheepish. I figured a week starting with Mother's Day would be a good time to reflect on the things that I actually do well. I've had 18 weeks of reflecting on the things I do less than well, after all, and I am in a bit of vapor lock with a million things to do that I'm just not doing for one reason or another. I could use a boost, in other words.

And for the record: meditation sure as shit wasn't doing it. I might want to revisit that at some point when life is a little more settled but with a couple of things coming up I feel a bit pulled around and I am just not succeeding in quieting my head. My last shot at it was Sunday and while I had a decent grocery list formed in my head by the end of the ten minutes, it wasn't what I wanted to have. I wanted a few moments of tranquility. For me, for now, though, I think, I have a better shot at that with yoga.

Anyway -- this week is about feeling good, and happy, and giving myself a little pat on the back. Thus, my task is to write a few words each day (well...each day after this one, for the rest of the week) about one thing I am good at, and -- this is the hard part for me -- not equivocating or qualifying in any way. No "I could be better" or "not the greatest, obviously, but..." kind of shenanigans. If I am giving myself credit, I am giving myself credit, period. So. Here goes, briefly.

Sunday being Mother's Day, that's where my head was. I've been a mom for sixteen years, and I think I'm pretty good at it. I love my kids, they know I love them. We have fun with each other, and I take good care of them. In general, they're nice, happy, smart, funny kids that other people are happy to know. I might bitch about it a lot here, but I like them a lot -- like, I would like them even if they weren't my kids. They're awesome, and I am proud of them and proud to say that I had a hand in their being awesome. More than that, because I'm such a swell mom, I didn't even complain about making my own Mother's Day dinner.

Although that might have had to do with knowing I wouldn't be cooking on Monday night. Monday was a delayed Mother's Day celebration with my mom, who works all day on Sundays until 9 at night. Family tradition (and husbands/children who cannot or will not cook) has been that Mother's Day dinner consists of a bucket of KFC chicken and an easy-to-make or store-bought dessert. So Monday night, I loaded up the kids and hit the KFC drive-thru for our customary bucket of fried chicken and sides and brought it to Mom, where we chatted about this and that. I know my mom is having a hard time adjusting to life since Dad died, and I've been trying to help in every way I can, trying to keep her company, listen to her, but give her space to figure out what and where she wants to be. Honestly -- it's hard. It's hard because I hate to see my mom sad and I hate being reminded that my dad is, in fact, gone. But I think I'm doing a pretty good job of letting her know I'm there for her, and it makes me feel like I'm doing a good job at being a daughter.

Blugh. I'm tired and this is weird. More later.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Guess what? I'm an asshole!

Not fifteen minutes after I wrote last night's entry, I went to the family room to find that Peter had picked up and vacuumed the whole thing. And he did the dishes.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

shut up shut up SHUT UP

Did I meditate today? Oh, I meditated. I meditated on the following.
1. My kid's crapping the bed gradewise in English. ENGLISH. What the fuck. This grade shit is an ongoing battle with my kid, who by the way has been tested as pretty bright. The child is not stupid by any stretch. If only he was, we wouldn't give a good goddamn that he doesn't seem to care about school or trying hard.
2. The neighbor two doors down is always doing something noisy. Mowing. Weed whacking. Polishing something with something loud. loud loud LOUD LOUD FUCKING LOUD. Who cuts bricks every Saturday for five mother fucking years?! WHO?
3. I'm PMSing hard. Sorry for the TMI. But it seems to be getting worse the older I get. And that sucks. I hate getting old.
4. The plastic-covering job I did on my veg beds looks like it was done by a one-armed blind moron, and I didn't get enough of it anyway. I am certain death is imminent for all of my seedlings come this weekend's cold weather.
5. Nothing is ever cleaned or put away in this house unless I do it or specifically ask someone to do it. NOTHING. And if it is cleaned or put away it doesn't stay that way for longer than fifteen minutes.
6. Back to #1. I can't help but feel this is my fault. I never asked/demanded much from the kid, but until he hit the teenage years he delivered on my minimal requirements: don't be an asshole, get good grades. They don't have to be perfect, just good. And then around 12 it kind of fell apart and now that he's 16, we have to bring the hammer down and start taking things away -- XBOX, Facebook, social time. I hate this so much, but I'm so tired of this same goddamned argument I could scream. And, AND, now that we're putting fairly serious restrictions on him, since Peter works much later than I do typically, it's pretty much on me to see that AJ's doing what he needs to do. I realize it's not Peter's fault, and I'm pretty certain that he doesn't want to come home and work more any more than I want to come home and work more (although I already do, what with dinner and laundry and cleaning and shit.) And I hate being the heavy. So I need to suck it up. Really, I was born to be a non-custodial parent. I would be the best fun weekend dad, y'all don't even know.

All this is to say that I tried to quiet my head. Really, I did. I was outside because the house smells funny to me right now and that is making me angry. The other neighbors are having a loud, ignorant, obscene (even to me) conversation in their garage, where they hang out pretty much every night in temperate weather. I would rather that they were dealing, as we previously suspected. So, by the end of today's attempt I was actually angrier than when I started.

If it weren't a Wednesday, I'd just say fuck this, I'm getting krunk. Now THAT's meditation.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Serenity now!

This morning I woke up at my usual slovenly 7:20, kissed my husband goodbye, and then flopped back over to half-listen to NPR for a few minutes while I gradually enter consciousness.  At about 7:30, I remembered that I had a limited amount of time so I sat up and assumed a meditative position. Eyes closed, I concentrated and focused on breaths in...and out...and in...and out...and shoulders slumped...I folded over at the waist...rested my forehead on the bed...and fell asleep for another ten minutes. I woke myself up snoring. I suppose this is a sort of meditation, no?

My plan to finish up the charity week has not yet come to fruition, but I half-assedly (and inadvertently) wound up performing a seventh act of charity when I gave a dude all the quarters in my purse at an intersection today because once again, I had no cash. It was probably like $5 worth of quarters, though -- I've been throwing the quarter leftover from my daily Coke purchase at the vending machine in it for a few weeks now. He looked up, said, "thank'm fuckin' starving." And immediately crossed the street toward Jewel. I don't know if he was starving for whiskey or a grilled cheese, but whatever it was I hope he got it.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Week 18: the ten-minute workout

Wow, this past weekend sure got away from me in a hurry.

Let's see where I left off. Friday. Yes. Friday, I volunteered to cover reception. Yes, this is sort of lame from a charitability standpoint, but you have to understand: plainly, I do not like covering reception. It is boring and a time suck and people ask stupid questions and are rude to receptionists but you can't be rude back. And I like being rude. But there was a dental appointment and the way the thing works is, the person who manages the reception desk sends out an email to a few people asking for volunteers and we all sort of wait each other out, I believe. "Oh no, I didn't see that email yet," you know, that game. Not only do I dislike it but it was a 9 am cover, so I had to be bang on time. Not my strong suit, punctuality. But I was there with several seconds to spare. SEVERAL. Anyway, I covered reception and it was uneventful and boring and a time suck, but in volunteering I made someone else's job easier. Maybe not charity in the classic sense but I felt pretty good about it.

And then there was Saturday. I had completely forgotten about it by the afternoon, but Peter and I were driving up Cicero and there was a presumably homeless guy panhandling. I didn't have any cash on me so I tried to finagle some cash out of Peter but he totally charity-cockblocked me. His excuse was that he only had a $10 and a $5 -- I was willing to give the dude a fiver, but Peter wasn't. And then, it wound up being an unexpectedly late evening, and then I had forgotten again. So, I'm a day short on that challenge, but I have an idea for it that should wrap that up shortly.

This exercise, I liked. I enjoyed it. It's false charity from a certain perspective, I admit, but it kind of does the psyche some good to look for ways you can help, ways you can make people happy, ways you can ease a burden even a little. Shifting my focus from my problems (real or imagined), my complaints, just for a few minutes a day was a break from myself. And I get pretty sick of myself most days.

Unfortunately for both of us, I am stuck with me. So this week, I'm looking to get to know myself better. Not THAT way, perv. Well...maybe that way. But also in ten-minute increments. None other than the Queen of Chicago and Giving Away Cars and Then Moving to the West Coast herself, Oprah, has recommended trying daily meditation in ten-minute spurts to help settle and clear your mind. If there's anything my mind actually does, it's chatter. Constantly. Where's this? What's that smell? When is this thing? Where's your purse? How soon is now? Part of the reason I enjoy yoga, when I actually do it, is because my mind is so focused on not falling down, not snapping a tendon, not farting, not staring at that guy's ball slipping out of his tiny shorts, that everything else fades away. But guys' wayward testes don't present themselves for psychic relief often enough to count on them for a daily meditation.

I gave it a shot this morning and it I was antsy. I kept peeking at the clock and was extremely cognizant of the dwindling amount of time to apply war paint available to me. But by about minute eight, realizing I only had a couple of minutes to go, I yelled at my brain to shut the fuck up for a second and just focused. I respond well to anger, it seems, because the last minute and a half were not so bad. I actually felt a little calmer -- a teeny bit, but it was there -- by the end of it. I wish everyone else would respond to my anger the same way. "I see you are angry, Erica. I understand now. I will just do what you ask." Damn, just imagining that made me feel calmer right now.