The Eighth Day of Christmas

On the eighth day of Christmas to start the New Year right

I caught up on dirty laundry and made everything clean & bright!

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Starting the New Year off on the right foot is a good thing, at least it feels that way. For weeks as the push for getting everything done for the holidays closed in, everything around the house seemed to be put on the back burner. And I do mean everything.

Nothing got cleaned, nothing got washed, nothing got put away. If people were coming over, I threw clutter in things, under things, or buried them under a stack of presents for camouflage. Dishes were only done when there wasn’t one dish left in the cupboards. Laundry got done only after Hubby threatened to start wearing my underwear if he didn’t get some clean ones of his own. Waste baskets overflowed making it easy to shoot baskets with wadded up tissues because the basket was buried under a mound of already wadded up tissues so the target was three times its original size. And the dust was so thick on the end tables and floor that I dared not put on a ceiling fan for fear of reducing visibility in the great room to zero.

Yep, the house was trashed and I couldn’t stand it, but what could I do. Running away sounded good, but if I ran away, Hubby and the kids would just want to come with me, and then what would I be accomplishing. Ignoring the situation certainly wasn’t an option, not when you’re tripping over piles of papers, wading through baskets full of dirty clothes, and constantly moving stacks of dishes from one spot to another just to find an inch of counter space to pour a glass of milk.

So, what better way to start off a new year than to spend it trying to get caught up on some long overdue house cleaning and laundry that I seriously think could have walked itself to the washing machine. Obviously not everything could get done in one day, but even finishing one load of wash, running the dishwasher one time, and clearing a couch off so we could comfortably sit and enjoy a movie as a family is success in my book.

I’ve got the rest of the year to get caught up and catch my breath, and with any luck maybe I’ll be more organized and prepared for the holidays in 2016 — or not. I don’t think I’ll hold my breath on that one.

Anyway, HAPPY NEW YEAR to all, even if it is a day late — but heck it is still the new year and when exactly will it become the old one? For now, I’m going to enjoy the smell of a freshly dried towel from the dryer, eat off a clean plate with a clean fork, and yes, put my feet up on my still cluttered coffee table while sitting on my uncluttered couch — and for this I am, Simply Grateful.

Why Is It So Hard Letting Go?

Back about seven or so years ago I boxed up all my homeschool supplies and packed them away in the basement. That’s not to say that I stopped homeschooling, but the supplies I finally put away were the Pre K – 4th or 5th grade stuff. This amounted to nearly 30 plastic bins of stuff.

This might sound like a lot of stuff, but my situation was not typical of a homeschooler. Having a son with Down Syndrome I tried anything and everything when it came to teaching him. If one workbook didn’t work, I bought another. If one manipulative didn’t hold his interest, I found others to try. My home was better equipped with teaching materials than most public school classrooms.

With the addition of our new freezer in the basement, although I made a space for it, I decided it was time to start parting with my homeschool materials. This would free up some much-needed space and get rid of lots of clutter. Even though the bins were stored out-of-the-way, having them still gave me a sense of clutter. I justified holding onto all this stuff by claiming that perhaps some day Grace might want to homeschool her children.

Grace is 19 and although she likes the idea of homeschooling her children someday when she has them, she is a very different person than I am. I wouldn’t say she is lazy, but she isn’t motivated either. I had a long conversation with her recently about this and I can see that she is pulling away from the homeschool choice already because she doesn’t want the work or responsibility that goes along with it. I can understand her point of view, as many times I was overwhelmed with the homeschooling aspect of our lives, but at the same time I wouldn’t change those years for anything. This will have to be a choice for Grace to make and if she does decide to do it, she will do it her way, not mine.

So over the long weekend I began pulling out a few bins of teaching materials and taking pictures of them to put up on Craig’s List. As I started sorting through the hundreds (and this is no exaggeration) of workbooks I have, I found myself setting aside certain ones that I remembered really liking. These were in the keep pile. The rest went in the sell pile, which was substantially bigger.

I posted five ads/five items in three categories each and then decided that perhaps a bulk ad advertising just “Homeschool, Teaching and Teacher’s Resources” would be better. It would be tedious to list each item individually.

Bright and early yesterday morning I received a phone call from a woman who saw one of my ads. She wanted to come by and take a look at everything I had. I asked her what she specifically was interested in and she said “EVERYTHING!” My heart began to race. I was thrilled or something, I wasn’t really sure. I told the woman that I would pull out more bins for her to look through and see what she was interested in and we made arrangements for her to come by later in the morning.

A few hours later the woman and her four little girls were seated in my great room looking through binders of workbooks, boxes of puzzles, stacks of books, and bin after bin of manipulatives and teaching aids. I have everything priced to go. workbooks are from $1 to $3 depending on the size of the binder they are in. All of my workbooks have had their bindings removed and been put in either a binder or file folder for easy copying, no writing in them whatsoever. Wood puzzles were $1 for small to medium and $2 for large. Books were $.25 each for readers – but I didn’t even bring up the 1000 books I still have in the basement. Manipulatives were from $5 to $15 depending on how much I know I paid for them which is at least 3.5 times those prices (teaching materials are not cheap).

The woman filled six boxes with stuff and ended up spending $200. Zeb and I packed the stuff away in her car and she asked me to contact her again when I pulled out more stuff. In all, I probably had pulled out about 1/3 of what I have. She didn’t buy everything, but she took nearly every workbook, quite a few puzzles, several stacks of readers, four different types of sorting, lacing, manipulative type sets, a videoscope lab, and bug collection.

After she left I sat on the couch looking at the empty spaces in the great room holding my money. It was a weird moment. I was happy to see my stuff going to a home where it would be used, but at the same time, there was this funny feeling in my stomach.

Hubby came home shortly after the woman left and was very excited that we’d sold so much. His excitement encouraged me, so after he left for work again a few hours later, Zeb and I once again headed into the basement to pull out more bins. I finished clearing out one storage room (another five bins) and then we went into the pantry and pulled another seven bins from there. I brought everything upstairs and began sorting through everything.

This time, as I sorted through all the workbooks though I noticed something, the pile to “keep” was increasing three or four times faster than the “sell” pile. Very quickly I had four bins of workbooks that for some reason I just could not part with. This was not to mention the four boxes of file folders in the basement I’d already eliminated from the selling option before even bringing them upstairs.

I stopped!

Why was this suddenly so hard to do? Why was I holding onto even one of these workbooks? It’s not like I’m going to use a Pre-K Numbers Workbook or Second Grade Math text-book, and even if there were ever an occasion for me to use or need such a thing, there is no reason I couldn’t go online and pretty much find anything I needed.

Still, that funny feeling in the pit of my stomach was turning into an ache and then an anxiety-ridden struggle. I want the extra space and all the clutter gone, but after watching that woman walk out of here with so much of my “stuff” that I used for so many years with my children, I feel an emptiness that is choking me.

Probably the best thing to do would have been to just take the bins out of storage and get rid of them without opening them, but I couldn’t do that. I had to organize everything again, make sure everything had every piece, and even clean some things. Touching every piece brought back so many memories and thinking of these gone is really hard.

So, this is what my great room looks like this morning:

It looks like -- No words! Just a MESS!

It looks like — No words! Just a MESS!

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These are just some of the workbooks I have. There are two more bins of ones to sell and of course the bins I have hidden away in the office.

These are just some of the workbooks I have. There are two more bins of ones to sell and of course the bins I have hidden away in the office.

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I have five other accessory-type charts for this thing!

I have five other accessory-type charts for this thing!

I can't even find my coffee table under all this stuff.

I can’t even find my coffee table under all this stuff.

I don’t know what to do. I am so afraid of regretting getting rid of all this stuff — but at the same time, it’s only stuff! Hubby pointed out to me when I began pulling all this out that it would be nice to make some of our money back on all this stuff, but as long as I got what I wanted from it, donating was an option. If I do donate it will have to be to a school for special needs children because that is where I would really like to see this stuff utilized, although I don’t know that they would even want it. Just giving it away and not knowing that it will be put to good use is not something I’m comfortable with right now. Getting rid of it period is not something I’m comfortable with right now.

I’m not sure if I should email the woman who was here yesterday to come by or contact another person who emailed me last night about my ad. I bet I could sell every one of my workbooks, even the ones I have locked behind the office doors, but how can I do this?

I have a rule that I try to hold myself to: Once something is brought up from the basement to get rid of, it doesn’t go back down. This has served me well when getting rid of other things, so when it wasn’t sold it was either thrown away or donated. There is no way I can leave my great room the way it is. Something has to be done, just what?

At the moment I’m at a loss. Grace made me a fresh pot of coffee, the weather is rainy and humid, but supposed to get cooler sometime today, and Bell needs to get out for a walk before I’m brought up on charges of dog neglect because she’s been homebound for so long because of the heat and humidity. I think I’ll get dressed and take her for walk to clear my head, come home and have a fresh cup of coffee, and then maybe my perspective will clear — and for this, I am trying to be Simply Grateful.

Don’t Judge A Cook By Her Counters

I don’t know about you, but I gauge how productive I’ve been at the end of the day by what my kitchen counters look like.  This morning, this is what the counter I call my “production counter” looked like.

 

Last weeks canning results.

Last weeks canning results.

It was full of all the canning I’d done last week.  I could not put these jars away until I labeled them, thus why they were still there.  Being the beginning of a new week, plus the fact that Hubby was complaining about the counter being completely inundated with canned goods, this was my first task of the day.  Before I even put on the morning coffee, I made the list of all the labels I needed.  This is what the counter looked like after the jars were labeled and moved to the pantry in the basement.

Empty, lonely, dismal counter.

Empty, lonely, dismal counter.

Maybe it’s just me, but I look at that clean, empty counter and think to myself, “How sad.  It looks as if I haven’t been doing anything.”  Well, that didn’t last long.  By noon I’d canned the beets I picked yesterday, a batch of kiwi lemon-lime concentrate, and a fresh batch of granola.  Still, the counter was mocking me, daring me to do more.  So I made a deep dish peach crumble pie and some peach cobbler with the peaches I had left over.  Much better.

 

Today's canning and baking.  It's a start.

Today’s canning and baking. It’s a start.

Hubby might not like the counter cluttered and full, but this is one way I judge how productive I’ve been throughout the day, week, and dare I admit — month.  Sure it might look a little cluttered and limit the amount of counter space I have to work on, but with the proof right there for everyone to see, there is no way I can be accused of sitting around and eating bon-bons all day (not that on occasion that’s exactly what I want to do).  So, go ahead and judge me by my counters.  I’m proudest when they are full and cluttered.  It shows that I’m doing more than just dusting them (which I admit I really don’t do).

Today was a productive day, and I’m still not done.  I have a batch of dill pickle relish on the counter waiting for me to finish it.  With more jars to add to the growing accumulation, I can honestly say I had a good day, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Lilacs A-Blooming

The last few days have been picture-perfect here in Michigan — warm, sunny, and no rain, it doesn’t get much nicer.

With all the sun and warmth, the lilacs are pretty much in full bloom.  Just walking on the side of the house where they grow, you are consumed by their fresh, sweet scent.

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I don’t understand why lilacs last for such a short period of time.  Although they have been “blooming” for about a week, they just reached full bloom when their scent becomes inescapable and will probably begin to wither and die by the weekend.

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Knowing that they will last only for a few short days, I took the opportunity today to pick two bouquets.  The first went to a neighbor who recently got out of the hospital and the second went up in my daughter’s room.  It is a surprise for her when she gets home from work.

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Summer is right around the corner.  It is so close you can smell it, and not just in the blooming lilacs, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Quick Fix Monte Cristo

Hard work is often the piling up of the easy things you neglected to do. – Unknown

The weather did not cooperate today, so the garden will have to wait at least another day. The plum tree though is well on its way to full bloom.

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Instead of dodging raindrops outside, I decided to concentrate on finishing up a ton of little projects that have been accumulating since Christmas. Spring is the ideal time for deep “spring cleaning” so today was the day.

The first chore on my never ending to do list I wanted to get done was a trip to St. Vincent De Paul to drop off a carload of donations. It amazes me how much crap one can accumulate in a short period of time. I made a trip like this just before Christmas, and now I’ve got twice as much stuff to get rid off. Clothes, books, purses, shoes, bags, appliances, dishes, Christmas decorations, and even some exercise equipment — and that was just the first load. Next week I’ll fill the car again and maybe free up some extra space for my pantry.

Next on my list was a clothes basket full of ironing. I swear I let it pile up until there isn’t a clean shirt for my hubby to wear. Does anyone iron anymore?  None of my neighbors do.  How do they manage that?  Even hanging clothes outside on the line I need to run an iron across nearly every shirt and pant that I bring in.  At least it’s not as bad as when my grandmother used to iron — she ironed underwear and sheets.  I don’t take it that far.  It took most of the afternoon, but now it’s done until I clean the winter clothes out of the closets for the summer — yes that was on the to do list too, but I needed to enjoy the moment, albeit temporary, of an empty ironing basket.

All afternoon I checked little things off my list and really thought I was making headway, until I looked at the clock and realized I had only 30 minutes before dinner was supposed to rear it’s ugly head.

What to make? Although I don’t like to make a habit of serving sandwiches for dinner, the Monte Cristo sandwich is definitely filling enough to squeak by as a meal.

The traditional Monte Cristo is ham, turkey, and cheese dipped in egg, of course, as usual I did not have all the ingredients. Not being one tied to a recipe, I took all the lunch meat and cheese out of the fridge and viola! dinner.

Monte Cristo Sandwiches on the griddle.

Monte Cristo Sandwiches on the griddle.

Monte Cristo Sandwiches

  • Bread or Rolls
  • Lunch meat – I used ham, salami, bologna, and pastrami
  • Cheese – traditionally it calls for cheddar and swiss. I used spicy Fiesta Jack and Provolone
  • 3 Eggs
  • Milk
  1. Assemble sandwiches making sure to place the lunch meat in between two slices of cheese.
  2. Dip completed sandwich in egg mixed with milk.
  3. Cook on griddle until cheese melts and bread browns.
  4. Serve with maple syrup.

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I was the only one who ate the sandwich with syrup. Hubby likes his plain, Zeb eats his with ranch dressing, and Grace uses thousand island dressing. Served with a side of homemade French fries and a salad it was dinner.

Some days it’s nice not to spend hours in the kitchen making dinner and yet serving something that is hearty and fulfilling, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

My “Pantry”

“The preparation of good food is merely another expression of art, one of the joys of civilized living…”
― Dione Lucas

Yesterday I spent nearly all afternoon in the basement where I keep all the things I’ve canned. I’m not sure you’d call it a pantry, because it is just a corner in one of the sectioned off rooms, but it is “my pantry.”

For weeks I have been trying to get down there to add another shelving unit so I could get all the canned goods I’ve made in the past two months out of the boxes that were stacking up on the floor. It was nearly impossible to find anything down there.

What I thought would just be a quick project of throwing together the shelving unit and putting it in place, turned out to be a complete re-hauling of that area. Of course, nothing ever goes easy, but this was exceptional. All of the old shelving units had to be moved which meant every can on them had to be moved as well. This was very time-consuming. Thankfully my kids gave me several hours of their time and that part of the job went smoothly.

All the boxes on the floor hold home-canned goods.

All the boxes on the floor hold home-canned goods.

These are where the kids helped me move all the canned goods that were on the shelving units -- this in only half of it.

These are where the kids helped me move all the canned goods that were on the shelving units — this in only half of it.

After the shelves were cleared and removed from the “pantry” I had to empty the chest freezer so I could move it. Knowing I was going to be working on this project, you’d think I would have planned ahead and started reducing the stock of meat and vegetables in there — not me. I went to SAM’s just last week. Not much on thinking ahead.

Once that was done the shelving could be put back in the room and the organization process began. It took me nearly two hours to somewhat alphabetize the canned goods and organize the shelves by Jams/Jellies/Preserves, Whole Fruits & Pie Filling, Concentrates & Juices, and Vegetables. With all the boxes emptied and all the cans that had been removed put back on shelves I have less than a shelf to spare.

The chest freezer was moved so three of the shelving units could run along one wall.

The chest freezer was moved so three of the shelving units could run along one wall.

Going completely across, the top two rows are jams/jellies/preserves; next two rows are fruit; next row is juice and concentrates; and last two rows are vegetables.

Going completely across, the top two rows are jams/jellies/preserves; next two rows are fruit; next row is juice and concentrates; and last two rows are vegetables.

I couldn't get a picture of all three units, but this is pretty close.

I couldn’t get a picture of all three units, but this is pretty close.

Now comes the difficult part: Where am I going to put the beans, apple chips, and guava jams that are sitting on the kitchen counter? I thought that one shelving unit would be enough, but I was wrong. Trouble is, there is no space for another unit and no other spot in the basement I can use. Typically we go through a minimum of five or six jars of something or other every week, but at that rate, there still won’t be enough space once canning season is at it’s heighth.

The good news, I now have an excellent handle on what is in my pantry and know that I definitely do not need to make sweet cherry jam, prune plum jam, apple syrup or sauce, or szeghetti peppers for at least another year, possibly two. Instead I can experiment with rhubarb, work on pie filling (which I just started making this year after discovering Clear Jel), green chilies, jalapeno peppers, pickles, and various types of beans.

My pantry project is behind me (for now) and I am getting organized, almost ready for summer canning; and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

How Clean Is Your Floor?

My theory on housework is, if the item doesn’t multiply, smell, catch on fire or block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one cares. Why should you?
-Erma Bombeck

How long is that balled up Kleenex going to sit in the middle of our great room floor? Until I pick it up and throw it away. The kids have walked over it now for the past two days and haven’t batted an eye. My husband has asked me several times whose Kleenex it is, but do you think he’s bothered to bend over and pick it up? That would be NO!

Why is it I am the only person in this house that has the ability, strength, or maybe it’s skill to pick up all the crap that falls on our floor? Candy wrappers, stray pieces of lint, twist ties, dry leaves — you name it, it is probably on our floor right this minute. I have given up trying to keep the floors clean. Why bother? They are just going to get dirty again and seeing as I am obviously the only person who cares, I have decided I can live with it.

I truly don’t get when someone brags, “My floor is so clean you can eat off it!” Who in their right mind would want to eat off a floor? Have you seen some of the things that end up down there? The dirt, the dust, the spiders, the grime, and what about the fact that day in and day out we walk on them with our feet. Heck, my floors are barely clean enough to walk on barefoot, let alone eat off. I’m not a horrible house keeper. I don’t have dirt collecting in every corner. Mold isn’t flourishing behind my cabinet doors, although you might find something from last week’s menu in the back of the fridge resembling a chia pet. I just don’t think keeping things pristine is as important as enjoying the time I have with my family and that doesn’t include stressing out because no one cares to pick up ANYTHING that ends up down there.

God forbid anyone make a comment about the accumulating mess on the floor because the minute they do, I’m handing them a broom, a mop, a vacuum, or whatever I can get my hands on at that moment and telling them, “If you don’t like it, clean it.”

So today, rather than pick up that balled up Kleenex, I decided to take a picture of it and write about it. Far more productive and it will definitely last longer, because the minute I pick up that Kleenex, another one will find its way down there. That must be one of those unwritten housekeeping laws. Job security? Sure, but who wants that job?

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If nothing else, at least Bell enjoys tearing it apart into shreds so I can vacuum it up.  Anything to keep from bending over just one more time today.  And for this, I am Simply Grateful.

Going to Work

The sun is coming up in the east, brightening the morning nicely. It is still wet outside from all the rain we got last night, but I am hopeful that the sun will bring warmth which will dry the patio enough for me to sit outside sometime later today.

The winter here in Michigan was brutal this year. Record snowfall, record low temperatures, and winter hanging on well into spring made it hard to believe there was ever going to be an end in sight. Even now there are patches of snow hidden beneath bushes and piles from snow plows still hanging on giving me reason to believe that winter is still not truly over.

Being stuck in the house for so many months, has taken it’s toll on my mood and most definitely my perspective.

“You can’t get anywhere unless you start.”

I did not want to get out of bed this morning. It wasn’t for lack of sleep, it’s just that I didn’t want to go to work today especially because “going to work” only meant rolling out of bed. The minute my feet hit the ground, I’m working. Every other person in this house can get up and enjoy a period of leisure, up until they have to leave the house to “go to work” or “go to school” or “go to anywhere but here.” Me? Well I’m here and here and here. Oh yeah, I do go to the grocery store, the produce market, and the big box stores when required, but that is just an extension of my job here at home.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I wouldn’t trade it for one of those highfalutin corporate office jobs with a grumpy boss and gossiping co-workers. The only perk I can see with that type of job is that when you leave the office, work is done. For me, the work is from sun-up to sun-down.

Conversely —

“Eighty percent of success is just showing up.”

That being said, I’m already a success this morning. Everyone else in this house has to work a whole lot harder to get to the point of success I’ve reached just by getting out of bed.

See how perspective can turn things around. Is the glass half-empty or half-full? Depending on my mood, I can go either way, but when I can rub the sleep from my eyes and take the blinders off, I remember that I have the best job in the world.

No job is perfect. Scrubbing toilets, washing windows (or streaking them in my case), pulling weeds, and scouring pans might not be all that glamorous, but making the lives of the people I work for (my family) richer, is where my heart is. Some mornings, I just need to remind myself of this so I can be — Simply Grateful.

Perfection Epiphany

Because there is a word for perfection, people will always imagine that they know it.
~Idries Shah, Reflections

I am not the perfect housewife!

There! I’ve said it. My conscience is clear. No longer is the weight of the world on my shoulders because of an expectation that I have always known deep within me I could never live up to. Taking this a bit farther — I do not like every aspect of my job. In fact, there are some things that I have to do that I dread, put off, or completely ignore because I just do not want to do them.

Whew! I feel so much better. Just admitting this has renewed me. The denial I’ve lived with all these years has been faced and “I am healed!”

This revelation however, did not manifest from yet another failing moment as a wife and mother. No, the irony of this is that what made me finally realize this was the paradox of waking this morning to a clean kitchen! Yes, completely clean, pans and all. No dishes in the sink, no pans to be scrubbed, no crumbs on the counter. The kitchen was spotless and ready for a days worth of cooking and mess. This is not typical for our house. This is not the norm.

Most days, by the time dinner is done and everyone is heading off to the family room for rest and relaxation, leaving me with a counter full of dirty dishes, a sink full of soaking pans, and a floor scattered with crumbs, I close my eyes to the mess and join the family. Who wants to be left out of the possibility of a great family moment? Granted, most nights my husband just lays down for his afternoon nap and the kids turn on the television and lose themselves in some pointless show, but they are together. Me cleaning the kitchen while they are all in the same room, albeit in their separate worlds, is something I relate to torture. I do not want to be left out. I want to be a part of the family, not just be there in spirit.

Typically, the kitchen does not get cleaned until the next morning and sometimes not until after breakfast or even lunch depending on who is home and who I’m feeding. In our house, the kitchen is usually its cleanest right before I make dinner. That is when I’ve finally finished scouring all the pans, washing all the dishes, and wiping up all the counters, just so I can start messing everything up all over again while making dinner. A vicious circle of continual mess and unending work. Cleaning the kitchen is one of those perpetual jobs that is never done. No sooner do I clean the kitchen, than someone is in there making a snack, dropping off those dishes from their room or the office that they inadvertently forgot to bring in earlier (actually I think it’s a conspiracy though and they really just want to keep me tied to the kitchen), or it’s time for me to begin preparation for our next meal. Why clean the kitchen, when it is just going to get messy all over again the instant I finish?

Well, for whatever reason, what came over me I’ll never know, but yesterday I cleaned the kitchen before I went to bed, pans and all, and to my delight and utter surprise I woke to the pristine, home magazine photo shoot picture perfect kitchen that I never dreamed possible. It was great! It was amazing! It will probably never happen again.

This anomaly, this one moment, this rift in time when all the planets aligned and the stars shown down on me so I could finally experience what those little Miss Perfect housewives probably experience every day of their picture perfect lives — waking to a clean kitchen, was enough for me. I’m not greedy. Now I can go back to just keeping my head above the ever growing mound of dishes, knowing that it is possible, it can be done, I could be a perfect housewife — but no. I might not be perfect all the time — come on let’s face it, I’m not perfect most of the time — but I’m okay with that choice and am Simply Grateful to finally be able to come out of the proverbial broom closet and proclaim “I am not perfect!”

Perfectionism means that you try not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived.
~Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life