Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dirty Laundry

I really hate to devote a blog posting to laundry, but I don’t think I can help it. I gotta get it out there. Then maybe I’ll be done with it and can move on. Unless of course it turns out to be like laundry itself in the way that you are never really done with it. Ever. I know because I have tried. In the most stressful of times I use laundry as a coping mechanism. It started when my father died. It was sudden and unexpected, and I had the uncontrollable urge to see an empty laundry basket (back then there was just one). I needed to pack and make funeral arrangements and decide whether to fly while eight months pregnant or drive twelve hours. I needed to figure out how to tell my grandmother with Alzheimer’s or if I even should tell my grandmother with Alzheimer’s, but first I needed to hand wash that sweater that had been in the dirty laundry for six months and lay it out flat to dry.

Let’s just start right there with the little laundry instruction that clogs up my life. Reshape and lay flat to dry. Where does one do this? We’re normal-sized people without extra long arms or torsos, but my countertops aren’t large enough. I need my kitchen table again before anything would have time to dry on it. I inherited my dining room table from my grandmother, and she is monitoring its appropriate use from up above (I can feel it!) so that’s out. I suppose if I didn’t have pets or children or a husband I could use the floor. However, I do, and they show up here every day to eat and sleep, regardless of what type of delicate fabrics I am laundering. You might think I could close a door as a signal for them all to keep out while the sweaters on the floor dry. To my family, unfortunately, a closed door signals intrigue and possibility, just like in The Chronicles of Narnia or on The Price is Right.

So I’ve been forced to bend the rules, which does not make me happy. Printed instructions have a kind of hold on me. If someone has gone to the trouble of choosing a font and ink color, has checked the spelling, and has sewn an instruction into my apparel, I don’t think it should be disregarded. However, in the interest of sanity and to appease my demanding family (I’ve spoiled them, really. If they put a sweater in the hamper at the end of February, they just assume it will be clean and ready to wear by the first frost in October), I have been forced to do more of a wring and drape than a reshape and lay flat. It does result in a type of reshaping, only most likely not the type intended by the manufacturer.

I’ve talked with women who do two loads a day like clockwork. Their family’s underwear drawers stay stocked at half-capacity year-round. That’s fine if it works for them. Myself, I like to think I’m preparing my loved ones for the real world. Sometimes life is not all that comfortable. Nothing is a better reminder of that than wearing underwear that is two sizes too small or was perhaps designed for the opposite sex. At this point the best my family can hope for is for me to become overwhelmed or to feel out of control in some way. Perhaps I have been coerced into making the costumes for the school play despite the fact that I can’t sew. Maybe I have just learned that termites have infiltrated the entire house and it will collapse in exactly seventy-two hours. It is inevitable--before dealing with these situations I will attack the mountain of laundry and not stop until it is all clean. Only after I have unearthed my son’s lucky shirt, rediscovered my daughter’s missing Girl Scout vest, and outfitted the whole family in size and gender-appropriate undergarments can I deal with whatever life has dealt me.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Nothing to Wear

So it’s fall again, and I have nothing to wear. My closet is full. It looks like the staging area for a yard sale put on by people who originally purchased all of their clothes at a yard sale. One of my problems is that I don’t discard things on a regular basis. It is rare that an item of clothing will meet my criteria for removal from my closet. If something still fits, I tend to keep it even if I haven’t worn it in the last eighteen months because well, it still fits. If it doesn’t fit, I sometimes consider whether I should get rid of it. That’s about as far as it goes.

If a top is too small, which is pretty rare because all the calories I consume have homing mechanisms that lead them directly to the lower half of my body, I will keep it for layering purposes. The risk there is that for some reason I would be required to take off my top layer. I usually steer widely clear of strip poker, but I have envisioned the heroic rescue of a child from icy waters, hypothermia looming, and me the only one in the crowd with an outer layer. Even my slightest hesitation in revealing my tight, midriff-baring t-shirt would not be acceptable. But I can promise you that every person in that crowd would soon wish that they had worn their own jackets that day, even if the weatherman had predicted record high temperatures. (That’s really the only way this scenario works out, what with the icy waters and no one wearing jackets.)

So that leaves the mystery of my lower half. That sounds like a title from the women’s self-help section of the book store or maybe a novel written by an Amish spinster. I’ll rephrase. It’s really more of a brain-teaser than a mystery. Here’s the set-up. None of Ann’s pants, skirts, or jeans fit her. Ann has remained the same average weight for the past six years. She could stand to lose five to fifteen pounds but lacks commitment to exercise and the ability to control her caloric intake for extended periods of time. Why don’t Ann’s clothes fit?

I want to assure you that I’m not sitting here at my computer in my underwear. I do have a few things I can wear. Right now I’m wearing black sweat pants with a white stripe down the side. The problem is that I have not exercised today nor do I plan on it. I realized toward the end of last winter that I was in trouble when I had mentally classified my sweatpants as casual or dressy. Huge red flag—huge. However, spring was on its way so I just muddled through and was the first to don my warm-weather attire. For some reason spring and summer are easier. I love dresses and skirts, with their light, flowy, forgiving fabrics.

I, however, live in a region with four seasons, and I’ve got plenty of corduroy, denim, and wool hanging in my closet. So what gives? As I pulled on my dressy-casual sweats this morning it came to me. Yes, it’s true that my average weight has not changed over the last six years, but that statistic does not tell the whole story. About four times a year I purchase a fitness magazine, make a chart, print a calendar, and set out to become the svelte woman I was meant to be. About twice a year I go even further than that and actually put the plan into action. For a week or so I am a rock. A strong, new woman—the ounces flying off. About the time I lose anywhere from five to seven pounds, I race immediately to the stores for an afternoon of “Yes, that size fits,” and “Love these jeans—why did I ever hate shopping for jeans again?”

I head home feeling ready for any occasion that might come up between October and March. Then I realize that I forgot to eat lunch during all the shopping so I grab a combo at the drive-thru. I also didn’t plan dinner, so I order a pizza. And there it is. I have outgrown my clothes before the tags come off.

I now know what to do. I know what all women should do. Go shopping now. Right now—five, ten, fifteen pounds overweight. Perfect. But before you do, eat a huge meal. Its’ the only way to insure a comfortable fall and winter. When January comes around and you have the urge to get in shape, shed the pounds, firm it all up, go right ahead. Then you can even head to the stores for a very important addition to your wardrobe—a belt.

Friday, October 1, 2010

It Just Happened

I did something last week that I’ve never done before. I haven’t told anyone. I’m trying to decide how to classify it. I have a compulsive need to analyze things. It’s my special gift. (See how I classified it as a gift instead of a neurosis?) Heck, why sell myself short? I’m also exceptional at rationalization and classification. See, if you have the gift of analysis and rationalization without classification, you’re just on a hamster wheel. That’s no way to live your life.

So back to the new thing I did. Doing something new usually represents a shift, or change, in one’s life direction. Perhaps you’ve faced your fear of heights with a trip to the top of the Empire State Building. Good for you! Or maybe you learned how to knit a blanket for that sweet new baby in your family. Ahhh, way to go. These events would be classified as Positive Changes within the sub-categories of Brave and Meaningful, respectively.

Now I’m no Pollyanna, and I realize that all change isn’t positive. Often first times are a step in the wrong direction. One episode of Dateline’s ‘To Catch a Predator’ will teach you that. Lesser offenses might include lying about your age or wearing sweat pants with text across the seat. It’s a slippery slope, as they say, and I prefer to stay on firm ground whenever possible.

Normally I don’t drag out this process over days like this. For the most part it’s automatic, requiring little conscious effort. Volunteered at the soup kitchen—feels great, I’ll sign up again next month. Tried the new Indian restaurant—feels bad, I won’t be back. For when it’s not so cut-and-dry, I have developed the Oprah litmus test. Let’s say my new adventure lands me as a guest on Oprah. Is the audience on their feet with applause and admiration (and perhaps a little misty-eyed at my touching back-story?) Or is there a specialist of some sort on hand to help me face the truth and get me back on track?

Whatever the outcome, I’ve got to face it and move on. So here it is. Last week I put three Snausages in my underwear. For clarity, Snausages are dog treats. They look like pigs in a blanket except smaller, and the outer, wrap-around part is more orange than bread-colored. These particular Snausages were the beef and cheese flavor. We have a new dog. Not a puppy, but not exactly an adult dog either. The shelter estimated that she is about a year old. She was a stray, and we assume that she was an urban stray because she prefers to do her business on concrete, asphalt, or, in a pinch, wooden decking. We live on over an acre of land, mostly grass, and this dog feels most at home doing her pees and poos on our front porch, back patio, and along the driveway.

So the whole family agreed that a behavior modification plan was necessary, and then the whole family left for school and work, dodging dog bombs until they cleared the mailbox. Except for me. Me and the Snausages. Dogs love Snausages. I know this because we have two other dogs who were molded into socially acceptable canines with the help of these little hors d’oeuvre imposters.

So every time the dogs went out, I trailed them, Snausages in hand. When new dog began circling on the asphalt, I clapped loudly, interrupting her task. I then led her into the grass and told her that she was to use this area as her bathroom facility. The two senior dogs contributed by setting an example, each earning a Snausage. New dog finally pottied in the grass. I then showered her with love and praise, along with the prized Snausage.

And so it went through the day and into the evening. All three dogs earning Snausages and, at the same time, developing a deep respect for me and my commitment to them. Inside there were calls to make, deadlines looming, dirty laundry, but this was where it was at. I was making a real difference. That evening I reported my success to my husband and two children over dinner.

“I think our little problem is solved already. I could really be a dog trainer if I wanted,” I announced.

My daughter started giggling and pointed out the back window. New dog was leaving her mark right next to our grill on the back deck.

I shook it off. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Day two was somewhat successful, but there was a shift occurring. The dogs now greeted me with a kind of desperation. Were they becoming too dependent on my love, my praise? Constant sniffing, nudging my hands. Wait, the Snausages. They were hooked. Each bathroom break I closed my hands tightly around the treats and urged the dogs to tend to their business. Then they would get their reward. It worked through Day 3, and new dog had only one mishap that day. A new record. I knew that if I could stay on my game through Day 4, we were home-free.

That’s when it happened. I rose and dressed quickly in an A-line skirt and crew-neck T-shirt. My local weatherman predicted another hot day. I had just enough time to take the dogs out before the whole house woke up and the chaotic morning began. I grabbed three Snausages and led the dogs out the front door. The dogs stayed close to me, sniffing at my hands and begging with their eyes.

“Go potty. Go on,” I urged to no avail. Obsessed with the Snausages, they were unable to think of anything else. I couldn’t put the Snausages down, they would devour them. I couldn’t leave the dogs unattended, not now. We had come so far. There were no pockets in my skirt, so I did it. I put the Snausages in my underwear. Not the front or the back like that kid with the frogs on ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos.’ I simply slipped them under the elastic on my left hip, kind of like bullets in a holster. Beef and cheese bullets.

So you can see my dilemma. I can’t picture anyone giving me a standing ovation for my beef and cheese bullets. However, I don’t know that there is a specialist out there for me, either. Is it a change for the better? Doesn’t feel like it. I don’t really want to do it again. Is it a gateway to riskier behavior? Rawhide in the bra? Let’s hope not.Maybe all first times aren’t positive or negative. Maybe I just need a new mental file folder. With my mental Sharpie (black, medium-point) I’ll write, “It Just Happened.” Yeah, that feels right. Well maybe not exactly “right,” but it feels . . . well . . . mmmm how can I describe just how I feel? Where’s my thesaurus . . .