Wednesday, July 30, 2014

50 Shades of Prairie Sherry's Dirty Little Secret

I have a dirty little secret.

People who know me well are fully aware of my OCD tendencies when it comes to housekeeping.  I love a tidy house.  Hate me, but I have my children trained to help me clean.  (I do hate you for this, Prairie Sherry.  I find it easier to do things myself.  Of course, no one will want to marry any of my children, but I am okay with that.)  One day out of every week, you will find us scampering about with mops and dusters. The end result sparkles.  We tidy as we go during the rest of the week. If you pop in unexpectedly, you won't find dishes in the sink.  The magazines will be fanned out attractively on the coffee table. (Yes, yes, yes.  Sadly, this is all very true. At my house you will find pots soaking in the sink and magazines scattered everywhere.)

That is not my dirty little secret, but this is:

This door leads to my cleaning nemesis...the oven.  (Really?  This is your dirty little secret?  Geez.  I thought it would be a little juicier.  Something like buying non-organic bacon.)

The outside of my range looks incredibly respectable.  The burner pans are scrubbed weekly.  Grease spots are dealt with immediately.  There is no trace of fingerprints on the glass-front door.  

Visitors are surprised that I actually cook on the thing, since it looks like it just arrived from Sears 20 minutes before.  

If if I am so anal about its outward appearance of this appliance, why do I allow the inside to become a grease-encrusted tomb? There are several reasons:  1) The oven is not self-cleaning,  2) The oven does not have a light, and 3) I love the oxymoronic quality of the phrase, "Sharon's dirty oven." 

Evidently the former owners of my house put in this new range shortly before selling, and decided upon the stripped-down model. Absolutely no bells and whistles--four functioning burners and a standard 1960's style oven.  No convection fans, no preset timers, no oven window, and no light.  The absence of that little incandescent bulb has triggered a deep-seated desire in me not to care.

I use the broiler to char some burgers.  The door is then shut, and I don't care.  The peach pie boils over.  The smoke clears, and I don't care.  A glop of mozzarella slides off the pizza and fuses to the rack, and I don't care.

Actually, it was the peach pie that moved me to action.  The boil over last Monday eventually stopped smoking by Friday, but the sugary stench clung to everything.  We gathered flies when we left the house.  The dogs were attacked by sweet ants.

As I was making coffee this morning, I noticed a seepage of black sugary goo on my pristine white tile floor right under the oven door.  This finally spurred me to action.

I went to the grocery with $20, and I came out with a variety of caustic chemicals, scrubbies, and looooooooong rubber gloves. Kinky, huh? The haze of fumes in the kitchen was horrendous. The dogs bolted for the backyard.  My daughter's friend went home early.  Noon came and went, and no one came in asking to make a sandwich.

One of my daughters slipped in long enough to snap this picture.  I think she may have been checking to see if I was attempting to do myself in, but we do have electric, not gas.

I think the fumes may have affected me a bit.  My face still looks like this.

After two and a half hours and a number of second-degree chemical burns later, this is the result.

We're eating out for the rest of the week.

Prairie Sherry (& a little bit of Prairie Eydie)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Prairie Eydie Stays Calm and Continues to Enjoy Summer

I would like to fly over to Prairie Eydie's house, but she is too cheap.
I was at Target yesterday and all the "Back to School" displays were out.  My cart came to a complete stop and I felt nauseous. I quickly pushed my cart towards the tea aisle, escaping the Crayola, backpack, locker mirror vortex. 

I don't mind  Christmas displays going up in October or Valentine's Day goodies appearing in January.  (Truth be told, I will scuttle over to those displays to scope out the "Hello Kitty" ornaments and outdoor decorations.  For years I have wanted the festive pig with wings.  I am put off by the 39.99 price tag.  The pig never makes it to the after Christmas sale.) But I most certainly DO mind seeing school supplies in July.

As a teacher, this happens every year.  Reminders that directionless days will soon become full of students, clanging bells, and demands (many of them petty).  This year I am going to try a new approach.  I am going to calmly ignore all signs of the upcoming school year and continue enjoying summer. 

Here are ways I will avoid thoughts of school until after Labor Day:

I am not going to buy my children fresh, Back-To-School clothes.  They can continue wearing their stretched Minoqua t-shirts and shorts.  It is a win/win situation.  They are comfortable and I save money.

I will not open any fliers I get in the mail until after September.  I don't need to know about deals on Goldfish crackers and tennis shoes. 

Instead of using the most direct route to the freeway, which passes my school with the "Welcome Back Students" marquis, I will plot an alternate route that snakes through neighborhoods and Ace Hardware parking lots.  This way I can avoid seeing not only the marquis, but also the parked cars of industrious teachers who are already in their classrooms working. 

I will only shop in the front areas of Target. 

And that, dear Prairie Readers, is how I will keep my head in the sand.  Now.  I am off to bask in sunshine and flowers on my deck. 

Prairie Eydie



Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Art of Laziness

The latest quote on my
kitchen blackboard.
My goal this summer is to really work on my sense of urgency.

The month of June usually starts out with a sheet of lined notebook paper with the title "Must Do"--a list that is on my refrigerator door and plagues me every time I look for the butter, and being a Wisconsin gal, I look for the butter a lot. 

I am and always have been an urgent person.  Things must get done, they must get done now, and they must get done right, or else the world will stop spinning.  Life as we know it will end.  

Yes, I am also a bit of a drama queen.

Some people would label this sense of urgency as anxiety.  I was the child how never fell asleep at night.  My mother would tuck me in at a proper 8 PM, and I would still be dealing with my mental monsters long after the older household fell asleep.  As an adult, I would awaken at 2 AM, and then replay every event of the day and every possible scenario of the future--usually ending up on the dark side

It wasn't until I was in my early 50's and in a particularly desperate point in my short marriage that a kind therapist let me know that this really wasn't the way that life had to be, and that Lexapro could be my friend.

I have embraced that friendship over the past five years, and the sharp edges of my anxiety have worn a bit.  I can now sleep through the night, sit in a room with a basket of laundry without imagining deepening wrinkles and creases that need to be smoothed and folded, and actually not make my bed if the whim hits me.
"Prairie Sherry, file us away.  We are multiplying."

Still, summer has continued to be  a time when I have felt pushed into my anxious corner. I don't feel a sense of relaxation and peace that others describe.  For those brief three months I feel that I must tease every aspect of my life into order so that I can face the new school year, and the total chaos and unpredictability it brings, with a sense that I have done everything on my part to make my at-home life neat, tidy, and manageable. No amount of meds and deep breathing have been able to overcome that.

Well, there really isn't a corner this summer because of the retirement.  The kitchen cupboards that I would really like to refinish will best be done in September when the garage is cooler, and I am not mixing my sweat with the polyurethane.  The boxes that I have pulled out of the utility area of my basement don't have to be sorted today when the temps are 70 degrees and I am sitting on my deck typing this.  I can wait until the temps and humidity of August are in the 90's and the basement will be a cool haven.  Yes, the boxes are littering a portion of the family room, but I don't need to look at them if I face the opposite direction.
"Turn around, Sharon.  Take a deep breath.
This doesn't need to be done today."

My Labor Day deadline is a moot point, and I am working on appreciating its mootness.  I am really trying to be lazy.  I took the alarm clock out of my room two weeks ago.  Yesterday, I let my youngest paint purple polka dots on my professional pedicure as I chatted with her and her older sister.  I took three days off of my part time job to enjoy the company of my sister, brother-in-law, and great niece.  Those three days included a day trip to Iowa to see much neglected cousins whom I adore.  

Today, I work at 4, but until then, I am writing this, waiting for a call from my best friend, and then going out to lunch with the middle child.  The only real housework that will be accomplished is moving the sprinkler a couple of times. And for that matter, does it really need to be moved?

The relaxation of that sense of urgency also includes this blog.  I was suppose to write this post last week.  The photos were taken, and the idea had sorted itself in my mind, but I just wasn't called to the keyboard.  I am hoping that our dear Prairie Readers will bear with my new-found and very intentional laziness.  In fact, take a deep breath with me, drop what you're doing, and just sit for a moment.  I am listening to my bird neighbors, contemplating a second cup of coffee, and resting my eyes for just a bit...

Prairie Sherry   

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Prairie Eydie "Shows Up"


I  believe the most important step in living a better life and getting closer to your dreams is showing up.  Especially showing up when you don't want to.

Over two years ago I joined a gym .  Mainly because they were offering a free month to teachers and other adults who worked with children and because I had seen more horrifying photos of myself on vacation.  I never found success in a gym offering machines and aerobic classes with perky instructors toting boom boxes (the reference to boom boxes should tell you how long it has been since I was a gym member). 

My new gym offered boot camp style classes and nothing else.  The workouts were so hard. Initially, I toppled over doing side planks.  I couldn't complete 45 seconds of mountain climbers.  I struggled with "girl" push ups.  (Actually "girl" push ups are now called "modified" push ups.  I have seen lots of "boys" doing "girl" push ups.)  I  looked exactly like a woman who had forgotten to take care of herself in about twenty years.  But I kept showing up at boot camp, three to four times a week whether I wanted to or not.  It was hard work, but I am reaping the rewards of showing up.  More energy.  A trimmer waist.  New friends. 

Prairie friends,  you may remember my dental woes.  (If not check out February's blog, "Prairie Grl Says Goodbye to Wisdom Teeth.")  Last week I showed up at the dentist, exactly 6 months after my last cleaning.  I almost cancelled because I hadn't finished the prescribed course of treatments and didn't want to be chastised.  But.  I showed up with a  strong spirit and refused to be bullied by the hygienist.  The dental hygienist blathered on about my tartar build up and my aging gums.  It didn't matter because I was feeling too proud of myself for showing up.  Before leaving I scheduled the necessary treatments and will show up for them.  I am visualizing the day when the hygienist won't kvetch at me. 

Recently I joined a writing group of women.  The catch?  We are all writers who don't consistently write.  This is not an uncommon problem as I have been I nonwriting writer for years.  I showed up at the first meeting with no writing to share.  I showed up at the second meeting with nothing to share.  But,  something happened at that meeting.  I realized that I needed to start showing up in front of a blank sheet of paper whether I wanted to or not.  I hated all the excuses that were rummaging around in my head. 

You can't write because you have three children who constantly need snacks. 
You can't write because your cat is needy.
You can't write because the new Oprah magazine came in the mail today.
You can't write because you don't have the perfect journal.
. . . and on and on and on.

If I can show up at the gym and the dentist - I can start showing up to write my books and become a writer who writes. 

Prairie Eydie 

Showing up is not all of life, but it counts for a lot.

- Hillary Clinton

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Prairie Sherry Loses It and Finds It--Comestically Speaking

I lost it on Wednesday.  My mind, that is.  I was standing in my bathroom at 8:45AM wearing my ratty blue robe.  This robe needs to hit the garbage can.  You can't pawn something like this off on Good Will with a clear conscience.  The dog loves the robe, that is how sorry it is.  Every time I drop it on the floor, he stands on top of it, shnuffles it around with his nose, does the requisite three turns, and makes a nest.  All of this nesting behavior is lending to the robe's continual and rapid deterioration. 

Back to the loss of my mind.  I was getting ready to trowel on the foundation, trying to cover those once-freckles-now-called-age-spots.  I was attempting to squeeze the last drop out of one foundation tube to mix it with a dab from another, since I never buy the right color in the first place, and then try to self-correct using the odds and ends I have on hand in crusty bottles and tubes, some dating back to when they were used for cave art.  I stared down at the stash of nasty bits and pieces that I call my make-up hoard, and I lost my mind. 

I went downstairs and got the kitchen "waste basket" (which is the euphemism my mom always used for garbage-cans-found-indoors). I took the whole lot, including the recently purchased tube of B&B cream that promises "the return of elasticity and dewy moisture" to my age-parched hide, and dumped it all right on top of the butcher wrapper from the previous night's salmon and a greasy butter wrapper.  By the way, I didn't really understand what B&B stood for when I bought the tube.  It just sounded like salvation, but I later looked it up online on Web MD:

"This versatile skin care/makeup hybrid promises to do the job of five or six other jars and tubes: moisturizer, primer, sunscreen, skin treatment, concealer, and foundation."

The key word here is "promises".  My 17 year-old "promises" to fold the laundry.  My 30 year-old "promises" to return a set of car keys she borrowed two years ago.  My 20 year-old "promises" to take care of me in my old age. Yadda, yadda, yadda...into the "waste basket" it went.

Then my crazed-self realized that she was looking into the mirror at one hot mess.  This was not a good time to decide to go au naturel.  I have these aspirations of going into my retirement with people saying, "Wow, she looks years younger now that the stress is gone!"  This was not that face.

It was nearing 10 AM. I needed a serious beauty intervention.  I needed the Clinique counter.  I got into the mall just as a disaster drill began.  A real disaster drill, which was probably very appropriate seeing that I had created my own mini-disaster.  The gates to all of the stores closed as I walked in, and shoppers were either trapped in (Yeah!!!) or out (me) of various establishments. Honestly, and I am not exaggerating, I pressed my face against the metal bars and asked the manager of The Boston Store how long he thought it would be "...because I really, really, really need to talk to the woman at the Clinque counter."  

I saw pity in his eyes.

Once the gates finally lifted, I grabbed my new best friend, Megan L. (West Towne Mall, Madison, Wisconsin, The Boston Store), and she began soothing the ravages of my face.  As she brushed on foundations, and concealers, and blushes, and shadows she murmured words like "pretty" and "just right" and "so becoming", and I breathed in...and out...and my shoulders began to drop...and my billfold opened...and I handed over a whole lot of cash.

But, I walked out feeling great.  

I looked into several mirrors, and I didn't look like a painted clown.  The "Chubby Sticks" that Prairie Eydie has been crowing about for the past year made the blue stand out in my eyes.  I still had my wrinkles, but my skin had a healthy glow.  My fading eyebrows were back into focus.  My sparse lashes were somewhat defined.

I looked into the mirror and thought, "Well, she looks very relaxed and happy."  I resisted the impulse to run back and hug Megan L, although I do think I will send her a card. A "Thank You For Giving Me My Sanity Back" card--I am sure Hallmark has those. Better yet, I will channel Prairie Eydie and make her one.  

Once home, I needed to find a home for my new pretties.  Those of you who know Clinique know that they do know how to package. Here is what I came up with, with the help of a few canning jars and an old plastic organizer.  I contemplated a natural raffia bow, but I thought that might be a bit much.

There was a time that I might have saved all those dainty Clinque boxes, but I let them join my rejects in my "waste basket."

And when you sell off the family farm to make your vanity purchase, the dear Clinique Technicians always throw in a little free gift, which just makes you fall in love with a few more of their products and guarantees you shall return.  Just like offering meth to a person walking out of rehab.

I will be back!

Prairie Sherry

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Art of Trying to Stay Strong

My view right before
heading to the courthouse.
Divorce is a bitch.  

There just isn't a kinder and gentler way to say it because divorce just isn't kind or gentle.  

I had to go to court today--a little trip to downtown Madison which probably cost me the equivalent of a round trip ticket to and a couple nights stay in London. 

Divorce makes sane people petty and vindictive.  It makes insane people homicidal.  Generally speaking, I think I am closer to the first category, and I just hate the meanness I feel seeping out of my pores as I steel myself to sit at a table with my ex and two highly paid lawyers.

When things sort of went my way today, I felt like doing a fist pump right there in front of the court commissioner.  "In your face!" I wanted to yell to my ex.  I know too well that if this ends up going before a judge in a couple of weeks, I may be crying copious tears of sorrow and crumpling into a fetal ball in front of the clerk of courts' office.  Any proceedings that deal with the dissolution of a marriage and the subsequent support of children are like buying Powerball tickets.  For ever moment of fairness there is one of gross injustice.  Sometimes the guy who just lost his job and home picks the winning numbers and sometimes the millionaire takes home greenbacks to use as bookmarks and coasters.

Divorce is an ongoing bitch.  It isn't a single moment in time when you end a relationship with someone you thought you would spend your life with. It goes on throughout your life.  Even when you don't have to negotiate vacations with the kids and divide up insurance co-pays, you still carry those questions.  What went wrong?  Do I carry more than half the blame?  Why was I so unlovable?  Will I ever dare to try again?  Will my life ever be the same?

I know that I will never be the same.  While I hate those feelings of meanness, I do relish the sense of accomplishment that I have made it through the worst.  I didn't stay in a situation that was never going to improve.  I am not a gutless wonder.  And no, that is not my ex's head under my foot.  That is divorce baggage.

So, I am not planning a celebratory dinner this evening.  I will wait patiently to see if this ruling sticks.  If it does, I will be happy.  If it doesn't, I will try to be happy that it didn't turn out worse.

Stay strong, those of you who are walking or will walk this path. This Prairie Grl is there for you.

Prairie Sherry    

Friday, July 4, 2014

Musing over the 4th of July

Last evening I was walking through the grocery to get to the time clock when I saw the sign, "Show that you love America!"  Hanging next to it was a small collection of red, white, and blue star-and-stripe emblazoned infinity scarves--$7.99 each.  I thought about that display all the way home and into this morning.

Does sporting red, white, and blue one day a year show that you love your country?  Is loving your country sort of like loving your teen-agers?  You'll always care deeply about them, but you may not always like or be proud of what they do?  I know come members of Congress who need to be sent to their rooms for a time-out, immediately! And no dessert!

What is patriotism?  Is it the belief that your country is always right?  Is it the belief that for some reason your country has special status with the Almighty, whoever or whatever that higher power might be?  If there is spiritual being who created our earth, would she/he/it love some of her creation more than others? Seriously?  Although my middle child often tells me that all parents have favorites, I think a universal being would be above that pettiness.

I've lived in Denmark for almost a year, and I truly believe that the Higher Power loves the Danes as much as she loves Americans. How could you not adore a Dane?  As a whole they are friendly, generous, neat and tidy, and they rank very high on any happiness scale I have ever read about.  The Danes are pretty darn proud of their country, and with good reason.   By the way, they are pretty darn pumped about their flag, too.  They even use it to decorate their Christmas trees.  It is also easy for young children to draw--red background two intersection white bars.  Have a four-year-old try to reproduce the flag of the United States and you have a real mess.

When I was younger, my sister and my brother-in-law had this cool flag showing the world as seen from space.  That is what they put outside their home on the 4th.  "Citizens of the world," I think they put it.  I have always liked that idea.  It is more inclusive.
Notice that I chose a picture that doesn't have North America
 as the center of the universe.  I bet the Higher
Power really loves the Aussies as well!

When my 17-year-old goes out with friends, I always tell her, "No sex, drugs, or rock and roll."  She knows I mean business about the first two but am pretty lax on the last.  I think we need to adopt a similar admonition for all of the countries in our world.  "No mean talk, backstabbing, or fighting.  The Higher Power loves us all."

Enjoy your long 4th of July holiday.  Remember that Laura Ingalls got to go to town to see a 4th of July parade in Little House on the Prairie. I think I may just dig out my copy for some afternoon reading.

Prairie Sherry

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Art of Inspiration Part 2

My previous post, The Art of Inspiration Part 1, left me in a bitter space.  No ideas for my Nonfiction writing class.  Violent Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) flashbacks.  Two pages scrawled with whining.  (My former roommate used to remind me that whining is anger through a teeny tiny hole.)  Sad, sad, sad Prairie Eydie.

I decided to look through the journals I was keeping when I worked at MPS.  I thought memories would be jostled and I could start writing a best selling memoir with confidence.  Surprise!  There were no "Ah-Ha" moments in my journal - only page after page of self-righteous nonsense.  Here is an example:

I felt empowered when I stood up to leave the crazy librarian's office.  She was boring me and my time needs to be spent doing worthwhile, important things.  (July 1992)

Need more?  Here is another excerpt:

I want to be a Princess of Power and go around and energize people who are just too tired.  Like a mother of five.  Where does she get her empowerment from?  From people like me. (August 1992)

Gulp. Who was this monstrous twenty something who had gained control of my journals?  This cretonne who thought she was more important than others?  This whippersnapper who thought she had super powers to offer a mother of five?  (I doubt the 24 year old me ever thought of becoming a 46 year old mother of three.)


But, Prairie Friends, I did find inspiration in revisiting my journals.

Here is my idea.  What if I pulled out some of the more outrageous, self-centered journal entries from my twenties (Which would pretty much be all of them) and responded to them as a 46 year old?  I am going to give it a try no matter how painful it is to be inside my twenty something psyche.  I'll keep you posted. 

If you are like me and have piles of journals in the closet, consider reading them.  What would you say to your younger self? 

Prairie Eydie