Saturday, May 24, 2014

Microwave Mysteries! Oooooh!

Here's a question for you:

How does the inside of a microwave get dusty?

Any ideas?
I encountered this phenomenon about five minutes ago and frankly, this fascinates me a bit. Sure, I am not the best housekeeper. The memory of the last time I cleaned it, and when, is utterly nonexistent. My brain is full of the information I need to have present and under my nose: playdates, school late starts, afterschool activities, grocery store lists, the garden and what needs to be planted, pending summer plans... memories of cleaning a microwave are pretty low in their level of importance.

And, maybe, too, it has been a while...because when I'm opening the microwave, I'm usually thinking about something or talking to someone or paying attention somewhere else-- that's why I haven't usually been up close and personal with this thing.  So today, reheating a tomato "spaghetti" mac salad (think mushrooms, Italian Field Meats veg sausage in a tomato sauce with feta, yeah, yum, right?) ... anyway, the pasta spattered some sauce which was noticable and I did what you do... started cleaning and then started wondering "how did this get so messy and gross?"

The food-- I could understand food spatter. But lint? Dust? How long had it been that this much could accumulate for me to notice it? It wasn't much, a fine dusting if you will, but still... weird.

I also had that moment of 'does this really fall on me?" followed by "why yes, girl, it totally does. It's your job." And then I felt really, really grateful for all the stuff Joe takes on because he has the same attitude I do. You would not be reading this blog if it weren't for him. I wouldn't even have a computer, likely, because it's just a PITA to deal with if you are a tech idiot like I am. We all have our skills. I excel at keeping us fed, clothed, and keeping our family going in the day to day practical sense. Joe is a lot better at big picture stuff; he has a head for numbers (which I do not) and likes doing the finances, planning the bigger projects like last year's renovations... these are his skills. He works hard and I ensure that he has everything he needs to do his job and have a life he more or less is happy with. He does the same for me; this is a very good partnership.

Yesterday while we took the bus to Kiddo's Judo class, he asked me what I wanted to build with Legos. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I tried to explain to him that I use a lot of my creativity and problem-solving in the work I do at home. That it can be a puzzle sometimes, to think of one's day, all of the things which must get done, and how to manage that time, those discrete tasks, in a way which facilitates the best result. ( Okay, I didn't use those exact words with him, but I do with you because you are not seven and I CAN say them, which is nice. They get lonely all bottled up in my brain with the other big words.)

Let's be clear, I'm not saying at all that the work of running a household is onerous --okay, occasionally laundry can feel that way, but still--it's more that it can be creatively engaging if you want it to be. For example, on days when I know the afternoon will be busy, I make dinner in advance. I know that I won't have the brainspace to engage in creative thinking around dinner when I'm rushed and being pulled in three different directions and we are all hungry. Making food, if we do it well, does require us to think about what we are doing to some degree. Of course, there are nights when a dressed-up frozen pizza will suffice, heck, salad shrimp and red bell peppers can do wonders on a whole variety of foods. But most nights, I want to eat something that nourishes more than just our bodies, but our palates as well. Good dinners are important to me.

In any case, I've gotten a little off track, but, back to that microwave. Even this task of cleaning it pushes me to wonder how many tricks are there for easy cleaning. Google Search, let's see: the WikiHow offers four methods: microwave vinegar and water; microwave sliced lemon halves; microwave dish soap and water; lastly, using window cleaner. Hmmm. For some reason, after the lemony fresh option, window cleaner sounds like the most toxic thing you could possibly put in that food-cookin'-box-thingy. Just because it has a window... well,you know what I'm saying.

By now you should know that four hours have since passed and the microwave still didn't get cleaned. I got happy in the garden planting zinnias and then needed a shower and then had to pick up Kiddo and a friend from school. And then we had to have a protracted, nearly-hour long snacktime with lots of fun conversations. But now, now, I'm really going to do it. I promise. As long as there's not a shiny object to distract me between here and the white vinegar, I'm going to go for it.

Well, two shiny objects and a half-hour later (because that's how life is with a kid) I got the microwave going with the vinegar water method. First, let me say this: the whole 'steaming it off' thing seems rather hypothetical. Sure, some of the stuff wiped off easily, but the steam dissipates quickly, so unless you are super-fast, the steam is only halfway helpful. Oh, and no one tells you how fun it is to get a face full of vinegar-scent as you clean. Enter old fashioned elbow grease, of which I have a bottomless can. If I'd had a lemon handy, that would have been my first choice. But now it's devolved to a washcloth and dish soap... and I would have been done five minutes sooner, maybe, if I hadn't been microwaving stuff. Hmmm....

There is still a layer of used-to-be-grease-now-it-just-feels-slightly-sticky going on, though. No matter how hard I scrub and wipe, it's not budging (so just how is it getting on my hands and washcloth if it's not going away!?). Remember that scene in The Cat in the Hat Comes Back when he wipes the tub ring out, onto Mother's New Dress and then shakes the dress stain out onto the snow? At least that stain was removed from the original item, but I'm not having much luck here.

Joe comes home and I tell him of my saga. The vinegar, the elbow grease, the regular grease. And then he tells me how well the microwave is still working considering he's had it "since 1988 or something like that". Really?! Maybe I should have named that thing Methuselah-- I mean, it's been nearly thirty years! Why am I getting early AARP membership mail and this microwave,nothing?

But it also explains the invisible, immovable layer of stickiness too. Suddenly, I feel rather better about the whole thing. I'm off the hook, sort of, right? I mean, I didn't come on the scene with this microwave until it was already 23 or so, and much like my husband was a fully-formed human being way before I met him at 38, I take zero responsibility for past treatment or damages in their lives. Heck, this microwave has probably been greasy from a long, long time ago... right? Just in a way that I didn't notice because before, I was working full time and then I had a little one full time and oh, yeah, it's been a long time since I cleaned this microwave. But I know one thing...

...next time, I'm doing it with industrial strength degreaser and a hazmat suit.
Screw the lemons.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Breaker, Breaker: Messages from the Universe?

There are times when I think that the universe is trying to teach me something. Not me, personally, but you know, I'm one of the human creatures and tend to do what many other humans do, which is to feel that something out there bigger than themselves might think they are the teensiest bit special, at least special enough that when challenging times come to us, we ask "what does God/Yahweh/Allah/The Universe want to teach me? What is it I am supposed to be learning here?" I do it probably for the same reason that you might do it: because we want to make some sense of the crap being flung our way. If there's lesson in it, it is a consolation prize of sorts, a silver lining. You don't get this, over here- but we do have a lovely parting gift of Wisdom for you. Sometimes, we get a specially-selected-just-for-us side helping of regret, and sometimes we really can use the wisdom to greater purpose.

And sometimes, there is no rhyme or reason, nothing one is able to control about the situation. The universe or your deity of choice really doesn't have a purpose for this situation, so they shrug their shoulders, Well, you've stumped me on this one. It does seem pretty pointless. Sorry 'bout that. Actually, being a secular humanist, the universe doesn't apologize because that would imply an anthropomorphic ability of intention which the universe doesn't have. But that's beside the point. The hard truth of the matter is that no matter what you do, some things in life are beyond our control.

This morning was a prime example of every sort of opportunity for learning.Ha. Unfortunately, sometimes one crappy thing seems to coalesce to another one and the next.... and since there's that rule of threes, at least the universe was playing fair.

We have had 90 degree days this week, which wears me out quick. We won't even factor the pre-menopausal heat fluctuations which originate from within, just assume that I'm a bit wilty when it gets too warm. So, getting dressed to volunteer at the library, shorts and a light dress seemed a reasonable choice. The morning was going well until I got into  the shower, began shaving my legs, and right there, on the inside mid-thigh... the razor slipped sideways, scratching a six-inch thin surface abrasion in my leg.  Drying off, I dabbed at it with tissue several times, but my leg was auditioning for a horror movie~ "Keep bleeding! The camera's rolling! More blood!"  I contemplated the contents of the medicine cabinet, chose the gauze and adhesive medical tape, and tried to affix a rectangle of gauze to my thigh. But for some reason, thighs move, and when I stood up, the tape came off. Okayyy.... new plan. Band-Aids. We have boxes of them and I was going to now cash in on the bounty. Pulling the lid off the garbage can, because I was going to be working in bulk here--and did I mention that we are pressed for time,even though we've done everything right? -- I drew a line with neosporin over the scratch and pasted myself with five of the fattest bandages I could find. Over that went some dreaded leggings which I knew would be swelteringly hot before the morning was over, but the shorts would have rubbed too much on the bandages for them to stay on.

While all of this was going on, Kiddo had been doing a great job of getting himself ready to go. As I flew around upstairs for the pants, downstairs to brush my teeth and powder my face, he'd put on his shoes and walked back to his room for a few more minutes of Lego play. Going out to the living room, I hollered for him to come on and join me, then noticed the small piles and chunks of dirt on the hardwoods. My stomach sank, because I knew what I would find when I went to turn off the light in Kiddo's bedroom... filthy dirt on the carpet in several places... the only places of carpet that weren't covered with Legos. Now this?! Really?  I told Kiddo that after school, he'd need to clean everything off his floor so we could vacuum. The exchange that followed... well, for the sake of both parties involved, I won't go into details, but neither of us were at our most lovely. I grabbed my purse, phone and keys and hurried out the door, creating a new edict: thou shalt leave thy shoes on the back porch before coming in, forever and ever, amen. We would learn from this.

Hitting the sidewalk, the trifecta was made complete: The Breaker had, once again, broken a branch of my witch hazel plant. To explain: The Breaker is an unknown mental defective who walks around at night, breaking plants along their path. They only did this occasionally, maybe once or twice a year our garden would be struck, but over the past month we've had about four or five visits, one the night before Mother's Day and one just last night. Some of the plants weren't as precious to me and they  could accommodate a hard pruning every now and then. But the witch hazel is one of the plants I have a relationship with. I've had it for 8 years now and only just this year have I been able to get some nice blooms on it. This plant had been in the wrong spot, then moved, then over-watered and only just this January did its pretty yellow flowers with those magenta centers come back. I was elated. At this point, though, the last year or so of growth and new buds are broken off some of the main branches.

And this last one, this utter lack of control of the situation with The Breaker-- it's caused me anxiety in the past few days. Seeing the poor hanging broken end of the witch hazel just lit a fire of fury in my belly. So, when Kiddo defiantly told me that "it's my room and I can do what I want", I rather tersely informed him that he was not an owner, he was under the rules and auspices of those who were gracious enough to give him a bedroom in the first place and if he didn't think he needed to follow them, he might try not having a room and just having the living room instead.

And then, because tenacity is usually a good thing, he tried to come up with a 'deal', if I would pick up his Legos for him, then... and I don't remember what the offer was because the blood apparently decided to move away from my leg and into my ears. The response was a stern "Be Quiet" and I found I was willing myself to do the same, literally biting my tongue to keep from talking and making us both feel any worse. We got to the school and I headed over to the library, sweating up a storm in my leggings. After nearly an hour there, I headed to Kiddo's classroom to help for a while. It's my usual gig, every other week, and I like being there, seeing what the children are learning, getting to know the different kids. Kiddo was unusually clingy when I left, and I realized that it was likely the fallout from the morning's stresses.We'll do better next time.

It's 1:42 in the afternoon now and I have the luxury of better objectivity. So many things happened today, some of which I could control in some way, one which I most certainly cannot. The Breaker makes me feel vulnerable in a way that causes adrenaline and fear. It's that helplessness, that you can't stop something you know is so adamant and destructive. Perhaps there is a lesson of compassion and a small start of empathy for all of the people in the world who live, daily, with situations which are dramatically out of control. I won't depress you or myself by making a laundry list of bad political and social situations around the globe, but all that to say that I have only experienced one iota, one tiny sliver, of what other may deal with on a daily basis. I am grateful that the biggest problem in my world right now, personally, is that some troll is breaking my plants. We are all in good health, (mostly) sound mind, and we have a place to live, rooms to dirty up, and I live in a culture which doesn't find it scandalous for a woman to wear shorts on a hot day. Life is pretty damn good. Yep, maybe that's what the universe was trying to whap me upside the head with. Life is good.