Life timesĀ 

I had every intention of writing yesterday, but things don’t always go as planned. After today, I am done with my spring cleaning. Now we are just waiting for spring. Usually in the middle of April, spring turns on like a light switch. I plan ahead to have my spring cleaning over and done with before it is nice out. 

It has been cold this past week with more days of snow than without. Some patchy snow remains on the ground with another inch of snow and sleet expected this afternoon. Friday afternoon thick snow flakes fell to the ground. Please don’t tell anyone else in WI that I am saying this, but it was very beautiful. Saturday morning the sun glistened making the snow sparkle like diamonds. But now it is bleak and cloudy. All of the babies cried in church. They seemed to take all of our repressed feelings towards winter and let them spring forth like the wailing of the wind that cries out to us today.

Yesterday, I went to the bowels of Hades into our little crawl space to peer into all of the bins and boxes. I was hoping to find the letters my mom wrote to me the summer that she spent out of state in the hospital with Matt. I haven’t been able to find them anywhere. I’m afraid that I may have accidently thrown them out with all of the high school notes that I found. My old school texting! LOL. You know, the notes that I didn’t want my parents to find and now I wouldn’t want my kids to find. LOL. It makes me sad, but maybe they will turn up somewhere yet.  

Also, I was looking for pictures to display for my daughter’s high school graduation next month. Since more than half of my childrens childhood was before the digital camera era, I have 4 big bins and multiple boxes of unorganized pictures and memorabilia. I started to feel stressed that my display of her life would suck. I hate to be unorganized with this since organization is a strength of mine. So I decided to make a display of pictures from all of the shows my daughter performed in along with a couple baby pictures. Then next winter, instead of working puzzles, I am planning on going through all of the pictures. I am going to work with my mom to take all of the old family pictures and back them up online. After my kids are settled as adults, I am going to gift them with a bin of their most precious childhood moments. 

Yesterday we had my parents and Matt over for supper last minute. We spent several hours watching the old family videos that we had uploaded to a hard drive. It was so strange seeing my brothers, cousins, and myself as young children. Then we watched my kids as young children. It was so strange seeing the progression of time all in one day. Time sure flies. Enjoy every moment while you can.

Puzzling failure

I should’ve known when I opened the box and saw the glue that it wasn’t going to be easy.

I have one of those high strung intense type A personalities. So, yes, I find that I have a hard time taking it easy or relaxing. There is always something to clean or laundry to do. I have to actively seek out ways in which I can try to relax. Over the winter months, I try to relax by doing puzzles. It was something that I would do with my grandma years ago. 

This winter I did two puzzles. Well, that is not completely true. The first puzzle was moderately difficult just because 75% of the puzzle was green in some shade or another. I just wanted my second puzzle to be easier and more relaxing. When I opened the second puzzle, I found glue and instructions to hang the puzzle on the wall like a picture. That was puzzling to me. It looked easy. I dismissed it as tacky and started working on the outside edge. After having difficulty with the outside edge, I searched the box two more times without finding any extra pieces. It was a brand new puzzle, so there weren’t any missing. I finally had to rework the edge. 

After getting 75% done with the puzzle and wasting countless hours that I could have spent cleaning, I found out that the edge was still put together wrong. There were many pieces that matched in shape and design but weren’t right. I still was not finding a perfect fit in many edge and inside pieces throughout the puzzle. I came to the realization that I would have to take apart what I had already done and completely rework the puzzle.

In an impulsive fit of rage, I took my arm and swept the puzzle onto the floor. A jumble of obscenities and puzzle pieces flew across the room in an angry roar. Then I started throwing puzzle pieces into the box, which I threw into the garbage, which I threw into the dumpster that I took to the curb before I changed my mind. I felt like a complete and total failure.

I tried to commiserate with other puzzle friends. One friend is working on a puzzle that he separated into different containers based on puzzle piece shape. He works for a half an hour every night to find one piece. 

Oh, what a failure I am!

Then today I realized that I am not a failure. The puzzle failed me! It was supposed to bring me relaxation but failed to deliver. 

I did learn a few valuable lessons. First, never judge a puzzle by its box. Second, if you find glue inside the puzzle box it means that the puzzle is so difficult that you might want to hang it next to your diploma on the wall.

I am done doing puzzles for this winter. But I did find a few puzzle pieces while doing my spring cleaning today. 

Travel woes, the mess we returned to

The first 24 hours upon our return from Orlando was such an emotional roller coaster ride that it rivaled some of the roller coasters that we were on during our vacation. While we were gone, we had icy roads. School was delayed. On the way to work, our employee hit a patch of black ice propelling her into the ditch. It wasn’t her first accident, she was so upset that she could barely work. On our way home, we saw a car in the ditch. Disoriented people were wandering around outside of their car in the middle of the highway. We faced the prospect of having to shovel 5 inches of heavy icy snow when we got home that evening.

While we were gone, we hired my daughter’s 17 year old friend to pet sit. She has been our pet sitter for the past two years without any issues. That being said, we were not prepared for the mess that was waiting for us. When we got home, our pet sitter was stuck in our unshoveled driveway. Our garbage bin was lying in the ditch tipped over spewing out garbage that was put out too late to be picked up. We parked our car on the road, running into the house quickly getting hit with blowing snow while jumping over snow banks. When we got inside, there were piles of dog crap everywhere along with rings of piss and puke in multiple locations all over our living room carpet. The floors were filthy, there was dog shit caked on our toilet seat. 

Our pet sitter started crying saying that she got a second job and asked her mom to help her with the pets. Her mother is absolutely crazy. She is the woman that the neighbor’s called the cops on because she would speed around the school bus while its stop sign was out. She also overfed her own dog from her hand. She somehow thinks that people don’t feed their dogs enough. It seemed as if she overfed our dog without letting him out. There were 4 piles of puke which contained a total of about 2 cups of food, our dogs total daily food allowance. Our dog seemed sick when we got home and threw up again during the night. I started cleaning up the mess while our pet sitter cried hysterically. Paul was able to get her out of the driveway and start on the shoveling. After our pet sitter went home, she got into a huge fight with her mother where things were broken and thrown. 

While I was cleaning up, I noticed a couple of wet stinky towels bunched up underneath the rest of the towels. It looked like someone was cleaning up a mess but trying to hide it. Then the kids and I noticed that some of our things in our bedrooms were out of place. Someone went through all of our personal belongings. I have never felt so violated and sickened in my life. I cried thinking of how my pets were not cared for properly. The house was absolutely trashed. Paul and I were finally were able to get to bed around midnight. When I woke up the next morning, I discovered more poorly cleaned up piss rings on the carpet. We ending up spending as much money renting a carpet cleaner that we did paying our house sitter. I am kicking myself for not taking pictures of the mess we returned to.

The next day I headed back to work. I was so busy catching up from the time that I spent away that I didn’t have time to do any more cleaning. To make matters worse, my in-laws were coming over that night for supper. My mother-in-law was going to be in the area because she needed a PET scan. Back in November, the doctors found a tumor in her stomach and lungs. They did a biopsy on the tumor in her stomach because that was less invasive. They found that the tumor in her stomach was highly treatable, so we decided to go ahead with our vacation plans. In December, the doctors decided to do a biopsy on my mother-in-law’s lungs. She had a collapsed lung and pneumonia which they treated with heavy duty antibiotics. But what was troubling was the finding that the cancer in her lungs was a different kind of cancer that was in her stomach. They are afraid it may be in other organs. She had breast cancer 15 years ago, now 2 different cancers in 2 different organs. Monday we will get the test results.

When I got home from work on Thursday night, my mother-in-law was sitting in the recliner wrapped in a blanket. She did not feel good enough to go out to eat so we ordered food instead. She was so frail, weak, and sickly looking. It was hard to see her like that. When she left she spoke in a hoarse strained voice. She told us all that she loved us. She told Angel that she would like to see the college that she picked out someday. This is the point that Angel ran into the other room crying. My mother-in-law said good bye to me. She thanked me for being a great wife to her son. It seemed so final. I went in the other room to cry and comfort Angel. 

The beginning and end of our vacation was very rough. I am glad that we were able to get away for a couple of days of fun. I am afraid that the next couple months will be very difficult. I guess we will find out for sure on Monday. 

One last Christmas party

This afternoon we will be going to one last Christmas party. It is for my mom’s side of the family. Unlike my dad who was an only child and only grandchild on one side, my mom comes from a very large family. We usually get together twice a year as a group. Collectively my mom’s siblings are hard working, average (not eccentric), and slightly neurotic.

The uncle’s house that we are going to today would fit into the above category very well. I am not sure why year after year they host the family Christmas party which usually attracts between 30 and 50 family members. My uncle is an extreme clean freak. I have never seen any clutter or anything dirty or out of place. Last year during the party, I saw my uncle on his hands and knees scrubbing the bathroom floor. I have a sneaky suspicion that my autistic brother may have missed the target. Years past, he has followed around his guests with a dust buster, vacuuming crumbs or any speck of dirt that they may have dragged in.

Last year we were at his house for the Packer game. When the game was over, he asked his guests if he could get their coats for them. The game is over, now get the hell out! His wife kindly suggested that he take the dog for a walk. After he got back, he seemed to calm down a little. I have another aunt that is also a clean freak. We went camping with her one year near her house when a huge storm came up out of nowhere. We were wet and cold. We ended up huddling in her garage. She didn’t want us to come in her house because we were too dirty. I guess that explains why I am slightly neurotic. It’s a family thing.

When we all get together, everyone is best friends. There is some animosity over some people getting more family heirlooms than others when their parents passed away. I imagine that this would be very hard to do fairly. One other thing about my family, they are very competitive when it comes to playing cards. I wouldn’t recommend a potential spouse of the cousins to join in a card game. Winning trumps being kind to each other in this one area. My mom just found out that her brother refused to go to my brother Mark’s wedding this past year because a couple of years ago he passed in a card game when he should have picked. God forbid!

I’m sure that we will have a good time today. Just stay out of the card games and don’t make a mess. Other than that, they are the nicest people that you would ever meet. There is a lot of laughter and fun.

Hoarding, clutter, and cleaning freaks

I am knee deep in fall cleaning right now. I thoroughly clean my house twice a year, once for spring and once for fall. Spring cleaning is the big event of the year where I scrub the whole house with a toothbrush. Fall cleaning is more of a hairbrush clean. I used to thoroughly clean my house after every season, but I really hate dusting. Talk about a useless task! I dust everything and within a half an hour new dust takes over. Then I sneeze for 3 days.

I threw out and donated many items to the point of guilt. I come from a very long line of hoarders. When we sold Aunt Grace’s house, we moved everything into my grandma’s house. When we sold grandma’s house, we moved stuff into my parent’s shed. Now their very large shed is full. Time to build another shed! We did get a large dumpster for my grandma’s house which was emptied 3 times. We made multiple trips to Goodwill to the point where they didn’t want any of our crap anymore. Did you ever hear of anyone getting turned away from Goodwill for over donating? Yeah, me neither.

Yesterday I went to my parents house and watched them struggle to maintain their property. There was a pipe that was leaking into the basement. Mom took me downstairs to look at the damage. There was some water that pooled around food items that expired in the 1990’s. I feel overwhelmed at the thought of cleaning it all out someday. My mom has always been a food hoarder which she attributes to growing up poor.  She has 4 freezers and 2 refrigerators. The cupboards are full of mostly expired food. There are grocery bags sitting on the floor with new food. Downstairs the situation is worse. Multiple peanut butter containers that expired in the 90’s, homemade canned food items from the 80’s, glass containers full of stale grains, corroded cans, juice separating in bottles.

My parents also hoard other things like cars, magazines, paper, newspapers, clothing, blankets, wood, books, movies, old toys, candles, soap, empty jars, tools, and parts. My dad collects electronics, broken parts to fix other broken parts. The floor and chairs are stacked with papers. The dining room table is never clutter free and neither is the kitchen counter. Nothing is thrown out even if it is expired, broken, or useless. Paul’s mom and step-dad are hoarders too. They have 2 refrigerators in their small kitchen. One doesn’t work and is used for storage. Both of our parents have given us some of their junk which we throw out for them. Thankfully Paul and I share the same motto of when in doubt throw it out. Looking at my kids rooms, I think we may have a few future hoarders on our hands. 

As a clean freak, the clutter overwhelms me. I can’t breathe. I feel a lonely emptiness in a room stacked full of clutter. It rises within me a feeling of absolute despair which I cannot explain. It feels hopeless. I want to throw everything away. I want my house to be clean, but no matter what I do it still feels dirty and messy.

A few years back, my brother Luke and his wife brought her sister to my parents house with them for the weekend. Luke’s sister-in-law told my brother that my parents house was so messy that she would never stay there again. Luke told my mom. This started a big fight with a lot of tears and stress from my mom. Luke was hoping that my mom would throw things out like he does, but instead they built another shed. My mom gets very attached to items and needed a lot of moral support to throw out my brother’s baby blanket a few years ago when he was well into his 30’s. We also did not want our old baby clothes for our children. Why do items attach so much hurt for the people who don’t want to part with them and the people that don’t want to keep them?

I have helped my parents countless times in the past. It is so overwhelming to me. It is like emptying a lake with a cup. I feel guilty for not helping them more. I’ll be totally honest, I can’t handle it. It elicits such a strong negative response within me that is unbearable. So I scour every corner of my house. After cleaning I still see all of the streaks in the windows, all the stains on the carpeting, the little yellow rings that don’t come out of my sink and bath tubs, the grease that lingers around the oven, the little spots on the walls, and the cracks in the linoleum. Will we ever be free from cleaning or hoarding? Will we be forever haunted by earthly treasure or trash?