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If the Sock Fits, Marry It

IMG_0175I’ve been married some 27 years, 19 of which to the same wonderful man. In that span of time I’ve come to the conclusion that a successful marriage doesn’t have as much to do with an abiding love as it does with an ability to tolerate a disordered sock drawer.

That said, my husband’s socks are in a pitiful state of disarray much of the time. Again and again, I’ve tried to bring a sense of order and uniformity to the unruly heaps in his dresser by employing a variety of tactics (i.e. ditching the socks with holes, pairing those without mates and grouping them according to style or color), to no avail. Somehow the huddled masses return in a less-than-tidy fashion, yearning to breathe free. And because I’ve grown to understand the psyche of the disordered male, egregiously flawed as he might be, I’ve become a more compassionate mate.

By the same token, my husband accepts my flaws, and the fact that my sock drawer is a ridiculously organized space—complete with separate compartments for sweat socks, woolen socks and dress socks, nary a rogue in the bunch. The only thing it lacks is a coordinated cataloguing system inspired by Dewey Decimal. Needless to say, I recognize how difficult this must be for him, coming to grips with the sad reality that he lives with a closet neat freak. Of course, no one knows I’m a neat freak because there are no outward signs, unless you happened to be present on the day I purged our linen closet, hurling a disturbing number of blankets, towels and obscenities into the yard during a brief yet memorable fit of rage. Most of the time, however, I suffer in silence, allowing the tide of paraphernalia that comes with marriage and a family to consume me.

Admittedly, since the advent of children I’ve drifted from my well-ordered life and neatnik tendencies, much like growing apart from the distant relatives we stumble across at a funeral, decades later, squinting hard to try and remember who they are and how they once fit into our lives.

That said, everything in my world used to be neat and tidy. There was a place for everything, and everything was in its place. Even my food was logically aligned, tallest to smallest, labels facing out. To this day a tiny part of me dies whenever I peer inside our supersized refrigerator, the contents of which rest on shelves indiscriminately, as if they had been violently launched from a cannon across the room. But I digress.

Getting married and having kids changed everything. After years in the field, I’ve determined that about 90% of parenthood involves finding lone socks in obscure places. Plus there are even more sock drawers to deal with. Indeed, there is more stuff in general—stuff that is piled in our attic and garage, beneath beds and atop closet shelves, in cedar cabinets and the musty basement. Stuff that has no business being stuffed where it gets stuffed. Apparently appliance garages aren’t just for blenders anymore. They’re for lunchboxes and dog vitamins, too, leftover popcorn and tubs of butter that may or may not be encrusted with the remnants of a week’s worth of toast. And let us not forget the crumbs that gather there en masse. The ones that no one wants to clean.

What’s more, it’s been so long since we could park two cars in our garage I’ve forgotten what that even feels like. I suspect it would feel wonderful, much like it would to put china and only china in my china cabinet. Instead it houses prized artwork from my kids’ grade school experience and a decade’s worth of snapshots. Likewise, my refrigerator holds newspaper clippings, report cards and pictures of my favorite people and pets in the world. It holds vacation keepsakes and magnets with phrases I find particularly meaningful, too. Because that’s what families do—they fill their homes with tangible reminders of the love that lives there. And they tolerate the disorder, sock drawers included.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, with way too many socks. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2015 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Captain Quirk, Family Affair, Home for Wayward Toys, In the Trenches of Parentville, Love and Other Drugs, Normal is Relative, Rantings & Ravings, The Chicken Man, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Dust Happens

0a23c19c729511e391da0ea7b73f6c45_8I have an aversion to housework—especially dusting. It’s just so completely exhausting, what with all the moving-of-stuff and then with the putting-it-all-back nonsense. What’s more, I can never remember how I had it all arranged before I started to dust and when I’m finished, I have to REASSEMBLE it in a manner that is not only functional, but also pleasing to the eye. Because who wants to look at fake plants, vacation pictures and trinkets et al. if it’s arranged improperly? I don’t.

Admittedly, I’ve been known to photograph my furniture, with its corresponding décor sitting on top of it, so that I don’t have to recall how it was positioned beforehand. Stop laughing. I probably deserve a medal because it’s a technique that is both clever and effective. So is using a vacuum cleaner when the layer of dust on tabletops is so thick it is thought to be offensive to one’s sensibilities.

Of course, my dogs sneer at me whenever that happens, judgmental beasts that they are. Or maybe they’re simply confused. “Vacuum cleaner? What on earth is that? She’s never pulled that from the depths of the closet before.”

So if my dogs are acutely aware of my shortcomings as a housekeeper, it’s no secret to others that my home is far from impeccably clean. Sometimes, however, I live in the Land of Denial—ignoring written messages on the TV screen like DUST ME or the fact that I unearthed a pine needle from last year’s Christmas tree the other day along with enough dog fur to make a rug. Not a toupee. An actual RUG.

There’s nothing quite like an impending visit from guests, however, that stirs within me a very real sense of panic—one that propels me from the couch and inspires me to scrub, and to dust, and to exhume from the aforementioned closet the vacuum cleaner. It’s as if the walls themselves shout at me, YOU LIVE IN A HOVEL AND PEOPLE ARE COMING! CLEAN ALREADY!

I know it’s really bad when my husband picks up a toilet wand and starts scrubbing, usually first thing in the morning—plagued, perhaps, by the thought of our filthy toilets throughout the night. I am rarely plagued by such thoughts unless I know that guests will soon make landfall (see above). Or we’re on the cusp of yet another holiday (see below).

That said, I positively detest the thought of setting festive décor ON TOP OF DUST, although it’s been known to occur on occasion. Halloween was a perfect example. October 31st sort of snuck up on me this year, finding me totally unprepared for the event. At the last minute, it seemed, I was pulling rubbery bats and warty witches from our tub in the attic to display around the house. Dusting was out of the realm of possibility. Reference paragraph #1.

Let us not forget another reason that dusting is such a royal pain, aside from the sneezing frenzy it often rouses. It is the idiocy of dusting the stuff that sits on top of the stuff you’re dusting—a hazard of the trade. Also there’s the awfulizing we do as parents when we ask our children to help out with the housework, dusting in particular, completely convinced they’ll break something in the process—another hazard of the trade. Plus there’s absolutely NO CHANCE they’ll return stuff to its rightful place in the universe—which is patently intolerable. Hence, my hatred of dusting and all that it embodies.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (probably not dusting). Join me there, at the corner of Irreverence and Over-Sharing www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2015 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "S" is for Shame, Rantings & Ravings, Welcome to My Disordered World

Pottery Barn Lust

Stop it, Pottery Barn. Stop making my kids drool over that which I cannot afford and would never buy anyway. Have you no shame?! My children now hate me. Yes, HATE me—not for demanding that they close your four-color rag at eleven-fricking-fifteen in the evening and get ready for bed already, or for failing to “ooh” and “aah” appropriately as they flip through its pages delirious with wanton desire, but for not dropping everything to order this and that foolish bit of tripe splashed across the landscape of your wondrously opulent magazine. Grok!

Just so you know, I’m on to you. I am. I really am. I’m not even remotely beguiled by your clever little ruse: that of seducing domestically challenged moms everywhere with your pristine layouts, color-coordinated ensembles, outrageously organized living spaces and exquisitely charming patterns that make me weak with desire. Sheez, the uncluttered environment alone makes me shudder with unadulterated pleasure.

Further, you’ve seized upon every mom’s woeful lament: Oh how I long for everything to be in its place, which is utterly disgraceful, you despicable opportunists. And I find your agenda (hidden or otherwise) to be rather disturbing—one that smacks of trickery and the dastardly element of mind control. Your abundant use of muted hues, tasteful explosions of color and the artsy flair you brazenly display is likewise, contemptible, luring us deeper and deeper into your lair of deception. Indeed, your deliberate (yet smartly subtle) arrangement of children (i.e. the self-indulgent little twerps you commission to frolic hither and yon, dripping with good cheer, an obscene degree of decorum and perfectly coifed hair) is absolutely sinful. Sinful, I say!

Yea, page after page of gloriously bedecked bedrooms and bathrooms and play rooms, awash with extravagance to die for, makes me ill. Yes, physically ill—because I can’t quell the beast within that shouts, “You’re a horrible mother! If you really loved your kids, you’d buy that monstrosity of a bunk bed with its adorable little study carrel tucked beneath it, and those delicious-looking Adirondack chairs for the lawn and deck! OMG! Don’t deprive your dear children a minute more, you miserly hag! Order this instant, lest the world should stop revolving!”

That said, the ruinous voices inside my head are slowly but surely making me crazy—one insanely heinous syllable at a time. “Where, oh where will the madness end?” I beg of you. “Begone now, exorbitantly priced beach towels, backpacks and bedding! And take your foolish monograms with you! Don’t forget those pricey jungle-inspired, flower-power-ish, skateboard-esque, pretty-in-pink, ocean-and-surfboard-riddled bedroom themes either. I’ve seen enough already! My kids HATE me, remember?! They loathe the Wal-Mart-ish budget to which I am a slave and will soon be talking trash about me to their nose-mining cronies. Oh, the horror!”

“But before you go, dear Pottery Barn folk, please answer me this: what’s with the legions of baskets, buckets and boxes with which you festoon seemingly every page? Do you actually KNOW children who would willingly place their beloved schlock in a receptacle so intended simply because it is labeled as such?! Are you completely delusional—or do you just revel in your ability to make parents feel pitifully inadequate, as if they couldn’t train a dog to bark let alone instruct a child to put something away?!”

“Never mind,” said the pitifully inadequate mother. “I already know.”

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (amidst an abundance of clutter, chaos and cheapass décor). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Home for Wayward Toys, In the Trenches of Parentville, Welcome to My Disordered World

Hang ’em High

Anyone who has frequented my home knows a thing or two about me. Firstly, I expect guests to stand in front of my refrigerator and ogle the multitude of photos that grace its shiny surface—because, of course, that is the very best way to become acquainted with the odd ducks who live here. That’s code for: I will be offended if said mammoth-sized shrine-to-the-family-snapshot is dismissed as a clever ruse for disguising a hideous-looking refrigerator. Never mind that that is completely true.

Secondly, the shameful coating of dust with which my furniture is often festooned doesn’t particularly bother me; although the abomination of clutter contained within my household makes me want to launch things into the yard while shrieking wholly cathartic strings of vileness regarding the aforementioned items. Not surprisingly, I’ve done just that on occasion—to the horror of many.

Thirdly, it is plain to see that I have a debilitating obsession with projects—the remnants of which lay like carnage throughout my humble abode. Heaps of I’m-planning-to-do-this and stacks of I-aspire-to-do-that patiently await me, punctuated, of course, by a deluge of I’m-in-the-middle-of-these-eleventy-seven-things that promise to exasperate me in some form or fashion before I am through. Never mind the swell of boxes that routinely topples to the floor in my dining room, mocking my inability to fulfill a promise I made to my progenies centuries ago—one that would involve actually opening the stupid boxes and conducting the certain-to-be-dazzling science experiments contained within. To be a good parent if only for the time it takes to mix and stir tiny pools of repulsiveness in a plastic cup or the ever-practical, authentic-looking petri dish provided for my convenience.

As one might expect, I re-stack the boxes when they fall and carefully place the nuggets of newly acquired science project-y whateverness atop the growing mound, vowing to follow through one day soon. If nothing else, I am well-intended.

Only recently have I come to the realization that my dear projects (even the ones within which I am completely immersed) are decidedly part of the problem (i.e. projects = clutter = the bane of my existence). Indeed, it seems I am surrounded by that which seeks to suck the joy from my world, one clump of hobby-related nonsense at a time.

Fortunately for me, however, my desire to act upon several of my New Year’s resolutions has resulted in a nesting-like flurry of activity. Translation: In the past 19 days I have finished more projects, organized more hopelessly disordered spaces and disposed of more schlock than I previously considered humanly possible. That said, one bay of my garage currently houses a dilapidated monstrosity-of-a-couch, a three-ton cabinet, a nonfunctional television set, boxes upon boxes of obsolescence I don’t even remember purchasing and a wheelbarrow teeming with artwork that my charges (gasp!) no longer deem worthy of praise. It’s like a colossal staging area for an operation to rid my world of dead weight. Naturally, I will see to it that the more purposeful items find suitable homes—which will undoubtedly gladden my heart, not only because providing for others gives me a healthy dose of the warm fuzzies, but because it is likely I will then be able to wedge at least one vehicle in our garage. Life is good.

Moreover, since the gods are clearly smiling upon me of late, I somehow convinced my better half to join me in my maddening quest for order. More specifically, I commissioned him to move large and unwieldy objects, to lug heavy boxes hither and yon and to offer suggestions as to what to do with the vast array of mystery items I harvested from forgotten corners and whatnot. Of course, his duties also included hanging massive quantities of pictures—as the man possesses an uncanny knack for doing so coupled with the fact that I possess a comparative dearth of picture-hanging abilities.

At any rate, he willingly and expertly contributed to the aforementioned picture-hanging event/circus, impressing me even further with his strange and wonderful capacity for manipulating fractions in his head and wielding the big and scary tape measure thingie like only a real fix-it guy could. What’s more, he feigned patience and understanding whenever I demanded that a certain wall hanging be repositioned an inch to the left or a smidgen to the right. Or when I argued vehemently that this piece or that piece would truly sing if only it could be nudged a bit higher, a tad lower, or perhaps “…moved over there by the lamp, instead.”

Spackling compound became his fast friend.

Indeed, I am making considerable progress on my New Year’s resolutions—thanks to my able-bodied assistant and his beloved can of Spackle.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (issuing orders to hang ‘em high…or low, maybe).

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Captain Quirk, Refrigerator Art

It Came with the House

Lots of little extras came with the home my husband and I fell in love with a dozen or so years ago. Things you simply can’t put a price on—like the infinitely practical slab of concrete in the back yard that begs to be festooned with chalk and filled with a bevy of bikes and scooters. Never mind its intended purpose as a basketball court. Additional nuggets of goodness for which I cannot readily assign a price: its breathtaking view of the city—especially at night, its perfectly situated vantage point for savoring both sun and moonrises, the massive shade trees that pepper the property and welcome cool breezes come summertime, its sprawling sea of grass and little islands of blooming things that continue to thrive despite my anything-but-green thumb, its great canopy of pines—hollowed out to perfection for the ultimate secret hideout, the way it’s nestled into a hillside as if nature had intended it all along.

Of course, its interior boasts extras as well—like the wealth of space we never dreamed we’d need (for the voluminous and ever expanding cache of kid paraphernalia we now own). Like the creaky floors—which I’m told add character, the cavernous closets which time and again have been transformed into drool-worthy clubhouses, the generous bank of windows through which sunlight abundantly pours (even more so when I’m inspired to scrub them) and the utterly priceless feature that enables anyone at any time the freedom to flush without fear of scalding some poor schmuck in the shower. For all these inordinately precious things I have been grateful since Move-in Day 1997.

And yet, there was more.

In the garage, a riding lawn mower awaited us. It came with the house—which puzzled me greatly. “Had the sellers forgotten to take their mower? Who forgets a mower?” I had to wonder. Silent and still the 16 horsepower entity in question sat on the cool concrete as my husband and I circled to inspect it. Its less-than-pristine condition soon became apparent. It was a worn and weary, pitifully dilapidated, off-brand bastard-of-a-thing that was apparently left behind ON PURPOSE. Forsaken by its owners. Perhaps left-for-dead—or at least left to die in peace rather than to be put through the trauma of a big move. Who knew?

At any rate, we would soon adopt said woebegone tractor—for better or for worse. Of course, we didn’t expect much from this has-been, fickle-minded, backfiring beast on wheels. Surely, its days were numbered. Indeed, as any good skeptic would assert, each and every start of its engine was deemed a gift from God.

Years passed, however, and we came to learn that beneath that flimsy and oh-so-drab-looking shell beat the heart of a gladiator. A lord of the lawn. A survivor in the truest sense of the word. Granted, it was (and still is) a hideous site to behold with its obliterated grill, missing headlights, dangling bundles of wire and exposed innards (i.e. a jumbled mass of machinery that was once neatly housed under a hood the likes of which has since fallen off completely—cleverly held in place with bungee cords and whatnot). An embarrassment, for certain. It’s a wonder we haven’t been banished from the neighborhood. But the silly thing still runs. Not like a deer, mind you; but it runs nonetheless, defying all odds, baffling our poor mechanic to no end and causing passersby to turn their heads in shame.

Stranger still, the stupid thing doesn’t seem to care that virtually no one had faith in its ability to endure a lifetime of untold hardships—to include bouncing and jouncing up and down our teeth jarring terraces and maneuvering again and again the twists and turns that define our property. Further, it pays no mind to our harsh words regarding slippage on slopes, to our reprehensible commentary suggesting that a goat could perhaps do a better job or to our incessant mockery of its inferior lineage. A thick-skinned creature, to be sure.

I wonder now what sort of mileage our seasoned warrior of weeds has logged and how many exceedingly dull (yet completely joyous!) laps around our yard it has journeyed with my kids in tow and their dad at the helm, dutifully pointing out tiger lilies and tulips, birds’ nests and burrows—gradually relinquishing command of the wheel as they became more adept with each passing summer.

Needless to say, we’ve grown quite fond of our dear hunk of junk. Undeniably, it’s family now and we can’t possibly imagine life without it. That said, we’re exceptionally grateful to have found it lurking in the garage—as opposed to anything remotely suggestive of a goat.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (where the green grass grows and grows).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction