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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I'll Take a Large Cheese and Pepperoni, PLEASE!!

I’m super excited to have been invited to join a blog group alongside three talented bloggers.  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.   

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:
This week’s topic comes from Moma Rock, who said:  Some airlines allow it.  Others dont. Whats your take on airlines allowing cell phone usage while in-flight?  Are you for it, or against it?  

                  My answer is simple:  Cell phone usage should not be allowed on airplanes.  Period.

                  The reasoning behind my answer rings slightly more complicated.  I am actually okay with people texting on their cell phones on a plane, or checking email or playing a game or whatever non-talking-out-loud options their phones offer.  The problem arises when people begin to use those phones as originally intended – as phones, objects into which they speak.  With that, I am so not okay.   

                  I blame it on Therapy Woman.

                  I’ve mentioned before that one of my kids has special needs, and those needs require twice-per-week therapy.  The sessions happen at a pediatric therapy center in a suburb just west of ours:  an hour on Tuesdays; 45 minutes on Thursdays.  While she works with her therapists, I sit in the narrow, crowded waiting room with an assortment of other special parents.  The room is stuffed with chairs, and those chairs are stuffed with people, most of whom are tired or stressed, all of whom would rather be somewhere else.  Many read or text or check Facebook on iPads or phones; others work on laptops or occupy their children. 

                  But not Therapy Woman.  No, Therapy Woman talks.  On her phone.  Constantly.  Incessantly.  LOUDLY.

                  Over the past months, I’ve heard a variety of Therapy Woman’s phone conversations.  I’ve heard highlights, low lights, the mundane.  I’ve heard her negotiate a house sale, order Mexican take-out, check on her mother.  I’ve heard her argue with a kitchen designer, complain about the shortage of parking in the therapy center lot, order Italian take-out.  I’ve heard her and I’ve heard her and I’ve heard her.  I’ve put in my headphones and listened to my iPod and, yet, still, I heard her.

                  One week, I bumped into Therapy Woman in the upstairs vestibule instead of in the waiting room.  She was, of course, on the phone, either brokering world peace or ordering Thai – who can remember?  Later, I passed her again on my way out.  I caught a snippet of her conversation (how could I not?).  She was complaining that someone in the waiting room had been really rude and – gasp! – had shushed her as she tried to talk on the phone.  The nerve! she cried.  What was the world coming to?  I left her roiling in her haze of righteous indignation and walked to my car, shaking my head.  The nerve, indeed. 

                  Therapy Woman was right:  someone in the waiting room had been rude.  But it hadn’t been the man who bravely (and thankfully) shushed her.  It had been her, of course.  In all the weeks I’d been near her, including that day, she gave absolutely no thought to how her loud, public conversations might be unwelcome in the small space she shared with a dozen other people.  She apparently held no clue that she spoke much, much too loudly for her surroundings or that, sometimes, she spoke of topics that were not appropriate for an audience.

                  Therapy Woman is why I want a bright-line “no phone” rule on airplanes.  Plane travel is stressful enough:  small spaces, jam-packed carry-ons, testy airline personnel.  Planes are replete with passengers clutching bags of McDonalds or bottles of nail polish or pairs of toenail clippers, which they then eat or uncap or snap open (and use!) in flight.  Throw in rows and rows of Therapy Women scolding car mechanics or yelling at husbands or ordering pizza and inevitably this mode of travel will progress from merely stressful to largely unbearable.                 

                  Although Moma Rock’s topic seems simple, it implicates a much bigger issue.  It asks us to consider terms of our shared social contract, elements like manners, respect, and common courtesy.  These basic tenets too often seem dead, or at least mortally wounded.  These days, it seems that when people are given an inch, they take a mile – and then another and another and another after that.  There’s a big “i” screaming out from the middle of “society,” and individual want now trumps the greater good.  Too many people believe social rules of propriety don’t apply to them; too many people believe they deserve special treatment.  And if it isn’t given to them, they simply take it, oblivious to the cost.

                  In law school, we discussed “bright-line” rules – the ones that say something (say, cell phone usage) is absolutely prohibited, etc.  We talked of the “slippery slope,” how the goal of the law must be clarity, because the gray area always leads to problems.  It’s that slope I consider when I say that, even though I’m okay with cell phone texting or game playing on a plane, cell phones must be completely banned.  It’s too short a leap from using your hands to text to using your mouth to talk.  I easily imagine people “hiding” cell phones in their hair or next to their shoulders, trying to make it look as if they are simply talking to their seatmate, and I imagine the fight that would follow between the rule breaker and the flight attendant.  And I just sigh.

                  I’ve had too many doors not held open, too many “thank yous” not answered with “you’re welcomes,” too many hours listening to Therapy Woman order Kung Pao chicken to believe that the allowance of cell phones on airplanes will end well.  And, frankly, there’s something a little wonderful about the idea of being disconnected for a time – an hour or two or maybe even three or four – without the possibility of a ringing phone or a binging text, be it mine or something else’s.  Maybe I’ll make conversation with the person in the seat next to me; maybe I won’t.  Maybe I’ll read or nap or look out the tiny window at the clouds.  Or maybe I’ll just sit, silently, enjoying the whoosh of the airplane engines as they carry me far away from Therapy Woman and everything she represents.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

[I Know This Much is] True

I’m super excited to have been invited to join a blog group alongside three talented bloggers.  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.   

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

This weeks topic came from me, and I asked the ladies:  Is it ever better to not know the truth?  If so, give an example.  Heres my take:

                  I chose the topic because something was nagging at me.  Something important.  Something . . . something stirred up by a weekend watching Sixteen Candles on an ABC Family John Hughes marathon.  As the lights faded on the birthday cake scene, I struggled with a heavy issue:  What ever happened to Jake Ryan?  And, more importantly, did I really, truly want to know?

                  Generally speaking, I am not a movie person.  I much prefer a good book to a solid film.  I blame it on my as-of-yet-undiagnosed-adult-onset-ADD (I so have no patience to sit still in a room for two hours), but I don’t know the real reason why movies just don’t hold my attention.  I don’t ever care which film wins the Academy Award, because, usually, I haven’t seen a single one.  Ask me to list my Top Ten favorite films and I struggle, because I feel like I haven’t seen ten really good flicks. 

                  But one film always makes the cut.  Always.  And I’ve not only seen it from start to finish, I’ve seen it many, many times.  Hell, I can even recite from it. 

                  Oh, John Hughes, you managed what so many have tried, but at which so few have succeeded:  you wove a story worth two hours of my time.  (Ok, 93 minutes, plus previews.)

                  Sixteen Candles was released on May 4, 1984.  I didn’t expect to love the movie even though, at the time of its release, I was, actually, sixteen years old.  Maybe that coincidence alone should have been enough to garner my affection, and perhaps it was.  But there was more.  Much more.  Get this:  my older sister got engaged three days before my Sweet Sixteen. 
                  Three days.  Three.  Freakin’.  Days. 

                  And wait, there’s even more!  My Grandparents called from California on my actual birthday, but when I got on the phone to say hello, my Grandmother completely forgot what day it was.  No birthday wishes were proffered and, like Samantha, I chose not to remind my Grandma of her oversight.  She called back hours later, when I wasn’t home.  Apparently she felt really awful – as did I.

                  So, yeah, about the movie?  I totally related.

                  Of course, I didn’t identify with the whole picture John Hughes painted.  I didn’t live on the tony North Shore in a three-story brick Colonial with a briefcase-carrying father and an annoying little brother.  I lived in the city, in an aluminum-sided wooden frame house with one bathroom and a Dad who carried a gun and handcuffs to his job as a police officer.  My sister, though older and getting married, was not a princess, and her fiancĂ© was not an oily bohunk.  I rode a bus to school, but it was a city bus packed with city people and a herd of uniformed teenaged girls headed to my tiny all-girls’ Catholic high school filled with crucifixes and Religion classes – and not to fancy New Trier, with its atriums and designer clothes and rowing teams.  And my high school boyfriend, though cute in his own high school-boyfriend kind of way, looked nothing like the heart-stopping, sigh-inducing Jake Ryan.

                  Ah, Jake.  The dreamy heart of my dilemma. 

                  I loved Jake.  We all loved Jake – even the guys, even if they won’t admit it.  I loved Jake enough to name my kitten Jake Ryan.  (In a related note:  The kitten has not lived up to his name.  He refuses to wear a sweater vest, he smells like his litter box and not like pine and soap as I imagined the real Jake Ryan, and he has lost all five of the plaid collars I purchased for him.)  What wasn’t to love about Jake Ryan?  He was beautiful, inside and out.  He had money, but he didn’t flaunt it.  He judged girls not only by their superficial outer layer, but also by their glowing inner beauty.  He forgave geekiness.  He sought only true love.  He made a sweater vest look hot.


                  I realize, of course, Jake Ryan is fictional, the creative creation of my generation’s scribe.  I know the beautiful man in the plaid shirt and red sports car is actually Michael Schoeffling, a former model, an actor, a man.  Though, really, I’m not sure I can separate the two.  And that has led to a bit of a quandary. 

                  After Sixteen Candles, Michael Schoeffling’s shooting sparkling star quickly faded.  He won roles in a few less-than-successful movies, but after that, his career stalled.  So he disappeared.  Literally, he vanished.  Poof!  Gone.  For decades, we’ve wondered where and why.  But no one asks what happened to Michael Shoeffling.  No, instead we query:  Where the hell is Jake Ryan?

                  Many rumors have surfaced, the most popular being that “Jake” moved to Pennsylvania, where he crafts what is undoubtedly gorgeous hand-made furniture.  But the rumor has never been confirmed, and no photos of Jake have ever surfaced; strange, given the tenacity and reach of today’s paparazzi. 

                  For a long time, I wanted to know what happened to Michael Schoeffling a/k/a Jake Ryan.  I wanted to know where he lived, how he spent his time, and, most importantly, what he looked like.  I followed the blog The Jake Ryan Project and would occasionally do a quick Google search to see if anyone had found the elusive former star.  I wanted – no, I needed – to know the truth.

                  But, now, I’m not so sure.  And that’s because, recently, Jake-Ryan-Michael-Schoeffling turned fifty-three.  Fifty.  Three.  5-3.  Fifty-three is sixteen candles times three – plus five.  My Mom wasn’t even fifty-three when the movie was released.  Fifty-three is a big jump for someone who, at last check, played an eighteen-year-old high school senior. 

                  And so I’m left to wonder, do I want to see a fifty-three-year-old Jake Ryan?  Could I handle that truth?

                  As the years have rolled by, we’ve watched comebacks of the movie’s other two young stars, Molly Ringwald (who turns forty-six next month) and Anthony Michael Hall (who follows suit in April).  We’ve seen them try their hands at comedy and singing, at acting and writing.  We’ve watched them grow; from the skinny, twerpy dorky adolescent into the huge, actually kind-of-cool grown man, and from the thin, curly-haired red head into a middle-aged mom and nightclub singer.  But in doing so, we had to accept certain truths and face certain facts.  We had to see Samantha with wrinkles and hips.  We had to accept that The Geek was losing his hair and would no longer fit under anyone’s glass coffee table.  Along with those revelations came perhaps the most difficult truth:  we, too, are much older.  We are no longer throwing parties in our parents’ houses when they leave town.  Now, it is our house.  Our kids.  Their parties.


                  I don’t think I could face those kinds of truths as to Jake Ryan.  There is something compelling, something simply magical, about Jake being eternally eighteen.  Unless he managed to look exactly has he did in 1984, I don’t think I could handle the truth.  What if he’s got a beer belly?  What if he’s bald?  What if he’s a jerk?  By not knowing the truth, the reality, I’m able to hold on to the last truth I have, one that dates back thirty years, untainted by the ravages of time.  And in my truth, Jake Ryan is young and handsome.  And perfect.

                  Not by design (I swear), my current home is quite close to Samantha’s movie home.  Sometimes when the mood strikes, I take a walk past the house.  I play If You Were Here on my iPod, and in my mind’s eye, I can see Jake Ryan standing on the stoop, waiting for Samantha.  It’s a beautiful image, one that rewinds me back three decades to a time that seems much easier now, a time when I didn’t think about wrinkles or weight gain, about hair loss or hectic schedules.  I fear that, if I see what Jake Ryan looks like now, the reality will erase the illusion, leaving me with only what I am – a middle-aged wife and mother standing on the sidewalk in her Chicago suburb – while taking away that which I once was:  a young, dreamy teenager with an entire lifetime ahead of her. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

You Say Good-Bye, and I Say Hello

I’m super excited to have been invited to join a blog group alongside three talented bloggers.  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.   

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

This week’s topic comes from Froggie, who said:  It’s all a matter of perspective.  She asked us to take a story that, on the surface seemed “negative,” but to tell it from a positive point of view. 

                  Funny thing, I had just the story, and its beginning had taken place the very day Froggie gave us our topic.

                  Our suburban school doesn’t have a carpool lane.  It provides bus service for only a handful of the kids, requiring the rest of the families to supply their own transportation.  Parking is limited to a few side streets; for that reason, pick up occurs on the playground behind the school, dozens of parents (mostly moms) walking over to escort their kids home.  We stand in groups as we wait, and we talk about random stuff:  the school, television shows, the kids, what we did all day.  Whatever.

                  That day’s topic was the weather, which had been especially nasty and was at that moment throwing more snow in our faces.  As we stood on the playground, freezing, griping, one of the moms complained that she’d forgotten her hat in her hurry to get to school before the bell rang.  I commiserated.  I told her that I’d left the house in a similar state earlier that morning:  no hat, no gloves, no scarf.  I’d rushed to drop the kids at school and then rushed over to the place where I volunteer.  When I blew through the door at the facility, a chilly wind following me inside, the woman at the sign-in desk noticed my not-exactly-ready-for-winter outfitting. 

                  “Look at you with no hat or gloves,” she’d teased.

                  I’d rolled my eyes and shaken my head, acknowledging my forgetfulness.  I’d blamed it on trying to ready two kids and myself as we raced out the door.  Someone invariably misses something.  That day, it was me.  And I’d missed many things.

                  The playground mom laughed knowingly, shivering but smiling while the wind blew her uncovered hair. 

                  “Where are you volunteering?” she asked.

                  “For a hospice,” I said.  “I’m a patient volunteer.”

                  The mom’s smile faded and she got a funny look on her face.  She stuffed her hands deep into her pockets and shuffled her feet to keep warm, and she said, “Wow.  Wow.  That must be just so . . . depressing.”

                  I looked at my friend for a long moment.  I’ve known her for several years (our 7s are in the same class and have been for three years), and she’s one of my favorites.  She’s a not-currently-practicing attorney, like me, and she hates winter, like me, and I know for a fact she spent the last several years working for a major philanthropic organization, helping decide which deserving charities merit funding.  Maybe for that reason, her response surprised me.

                  I smiled and shook my head.  “No,” I said.  “No.  It’s not.”  I paused.  “Not at all.”

                  She looked me in the eye, and cocked her head to the side, surprised.  Skeptical. 
                  “Really?” she asked. 

                  “Really,” I said.   
                  I know she wanted me to say more, to explain myself.  And I would have, gladly, but my 10 ran up for help getting something out of her backpack.  By the time I finished, the 7s had come out, and we had to leave for a doctor’s appointment. 

                  Here’s where the perspective comes in.

                  I really shouldn’t have been surprised by my friend’s reaction.  I understood.  As they say, perception is reality, and the common perception of hospice is not exactly welcoming.  Hospice sounds depressing, almost by definition.  Hospice means death – period.  If hospice had a symbol, it would be Michael, the archangel of death.  Hospice suggests loss of hope.  People hear the word “hospice” and they begin mentally counting the weeks or even days until the funeral.  Hospice means the end.  The end.  The finality we all avoid and fear.

                  That was my perception once, too, and not so long ago.  But thanks to some excellent training and a little experience, my understanding has shifted.  My perception has changed because I’ve met the reality.  I now know hospice isn’t about death; it’s about end of life – and there’s a difference.  Hospice is about dying peacefully and with dignity.  It’s about support and care and comfort.  Hospice is full of hope:  for a peaceful passing, for independence, for quality over quantity of life. 

                  There were many things I wanted to tell my mom friend, had I the chance.

                  I wanted to tell her that, just the day before, I’d held the hand of a dying woman; that I’d just sat there, quietly, and watched her breathe.  I wanted to tell her that I’d never been so present, so in the moment, in my life.

                  I wanted to tell her about my patient’s room, how there are no tubes, no monitors, no beeps or drips, no fluorescent lights, no screaming codes.  There is a well-tended houseplant and a radio that softly plays classical music.  And there is blissful quiet.

                  I wanted to tell the mom that I’d sat with the patient’s former neighbor, herself 94 years old, and watched her clutch her old friend’s hand, tears rolling down her face, and tell her she was loved.

                  I wanted to tell that mom that as the friend left, she said, “See you later, alligator,” and my patient, a usually silent 92-year-old woman with end-stage Alzheimer’s, said, without hesitation, “After while, crocodile,” in a voice so strong, we couldn’t help but laugh with surprise and joy.

                  I wanted to tell that mom how I’d listened to a hospice chaplain – a big, gentle rabbi – sing Edelweiss in his deep baritone, while my patient watched him with round, quiet eyes. 

                  I wanted to tell her how the patient’s day nurse insists on personally giving the woman water, small spoonful by small spoonful, because the nurse doesn’t want her to drink too quickly and choke.  Because she cares.

                  I wanted to tell that mom that every single person I have met through the hospice, from the CEO through the medical advisor to the music therapists, have been the most caring, dedicated, enthusiastic people I have ever met in any setting. 

                  And perhaps one day I will tell her those things, if the time is right, if she wants to hear them.  But will she really hear them?  Will I change her perspective?  Maybe.  I don’t know.  Perhaps she will have to see it for herself.  But, even then, she may not be open to seeing my reality or adopting my perception.  It is, after all, uniquely mine.

                  Even though I would not describe hospice as depressing, I will concede that it carries great weight.  It feels heavy.  A few days after my playground encounter, I made the mistake of visiting my patient – now much weaker and sleepier than just two days earlier – one short hour before my husband and I were set to attend a birthday party.  I spent the first half hour or so of the celebration feeling a bit disjointed; a side effect, no doubt, of having swapped the calm, quiet hospice room for the noisy, crowded space in the back of a Mexican restaurant.  I’ll admit that, as I watched the birthday girl (that day turning 40) as she smiled and moved from guest to guest, I considered how young she seemed, her vibrant image standing in stark contrast to the one of my patient, pale and small and tired.  But I didn’t feel depressed or sad.  I felt present.  In the moment.  Thoughtful.  And grateful to have been included in my young friend’s celebration.

                  That evening, before I’d left my patient’s room, I’d kissed my hand and gently placed it on her forehead.  I’d smoothed her hair and said, “I’ll see you soon, sweetie,” even though I didn’t know if I’d again have the chance.  She opened her tired eyes wide and whispered, “Thank you.” 

                  No, friend, I wanted to say, thank you. 

Postscript:  My patient passed on January 13, 2014, at 12:37 p.m.  I had the honor of being with her when she passed, peacefully, her son holding her hand.  I am grateful to her family for allowing me to share her journey through its end.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Old Mother Hubbard Ain't Got Nothin' On Me

I’m super excited to have been invited to join a blog group alongside three talented bloggers.  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.   

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

This weeks topic came from MerrylandGirl, who asked:  Find an article in a magazine or online for something youd like to do, self-enhancement-wise and follow *at least* one of the suggestions.  Heres my take:

                  When Merryland Girl gave us this topic, I’d just finished re-reading Jen Lancaster’s book, The Tao of Martha, and had begun re-reading Gretchen Rubin’s tome, Happier at Home.  In both (excellent and much recommended) books, the authors tackle home organization projects.  Gretchen’s are major, year-long undertakings, complete with plans and mantras and themes and shrines . . . so following her was out.  (Go Team Low Commitment!)  So, instead, I turned to Jen.

                  If you’re looking for a lifestyle coach, you could do worse than Jen Lancaster.  For the uninitiated, Jen is a local New York Times bestselling author who writes some light fiction along with the most humorous memoirs ever (second only to David Sedaris).  She’s sarcastic and witty, and a superb writer – and she’s really very nice when you approach her in the Target parking lot and tell her you love her.  (True story.)  But Jen’s also lazy (her word) and disorganized (also hers) and a bit neurotic.  In The Tao of Martha, she attempts, in part, to fix the organization issue by embracing the tenets of Martha Stewart.  (The neuroses are here to stay, thankfully.) 

                  Well into the book, after tackling her “Drawer of Shame” which teems with used dental floss and old eye cream, and after cleaning her desk and her medicine cabinet, she turns her attention to her kitchen and decides to create a dedicated “Baking Cabinet.”  Because I have no drawer filled with shame (though I do have a pile of old journals full of bad choices and questionable reasoning), and because I’d just purged my unused cosmetics and hair care products in October, I decided to follow Jen into the kitchen.  I love baking (have you tasted my caramel cookies??), so I already have a Baking Cabinet, but hell if it wasn’t a mess.  I have a bad habit of just stuffing items back in and slamming the door, the ensuing chaos out of sight.  I knew it was a mess; the last time I’d opened it, a half-used brick of baking chocolate and a can of spray frosting leapt right out, freed from their disorganized jail.

                  I had to bite the Baking Cabinet bullet.  So, I opened the doors, sat on the floor, and pulled out every last container and bag and shaker of sprinkles.  While my husband looked on, amused, I dusted the shelves and planned out how to replace everything in an orderly way.  I stacked the cookbooks on their sides, and filled a wide plastic bin with miscellaneous sprinkles, cupcake liners, and icing tubes.  Very nice.  Very neat.  Off to a good start.

                  As I pawed through my stash, I discovered that I own a ridiculous amount of corn starch.  Like two full boxes of corn starch.  And a full canister.  And no recollection of ever cooking anything that contained corn starch.  Huh.  I chucked the box that expired in 2011 and placed the other two containers on a shelf, promising to either give them away or else find an edible use. 

                  Behind the wall of corn starch, I found a container of nutmeg that, although an ingredient in my annual apple pie, belonged not in the Baking Cabinet but in the Spice Basket, which I keep in the Pantry.  I put it aside, finished up the Baking Cabinet, and stood up.

                  And then I opened the Pantry door. 

                  Ah, the Pantry.  Sadly, we don’t have an actual Pantry, so a few years ago, I improvised and bought a free-standing antique wooden cabinet at a house sale.  We use it for cabinet spillover and bulk items (finding Barilla pasta on sale?  Priceless.), as well as lunch boxes and water bottles.  And plastic cutlery.  And snack foods.  And my Grandma’s old but incredibly powerful Dust Buster.  And the giant plastic Target bowls that are perfect for popcorn but too unwieldy to fit in a traditional cabinet.  Oh, and the Spice Basket.

                  Now, even though I love to bake, I’m not much of a cook.  Yet, somehow, I’ve managed to amass an array of spices, most of which I never use (because I’ve no idea how).  I pulled down the basket, ready to toss in the rogue bottle of nutmeg, but then I thought:  Well, if I’m tackling the Baking Cabinet, I might as well clean up its cousin, the Pantry.  I dumped the Spice Basket on the floor and sat down to sort. 

Did you know I had two jars of bay leaves? Nope, neither did I.

Do you know how to use bay leaves? Nope, neither do I.

Did you know that, when expired, bay leaves stop smelling like “bay” and start smelling just like dead leaves you’d find outside? Nope, neither did I.

Did you know that if you keep garlic salt long enough, it turns into garlic salt clumps, large enough to use on snow? Nope, neither did I.

Did you know I had two containers of basil, both of which were only slightly younger than my youngest child (who turns 8 in March)? Yeah, me neither.

                  Following Jen’s advice (she, too, tackled her spices), I smelled the contents each bottle (blegh) and tossed those that seemed “off.”  (I avoided her mistake of smelling the cinnamon . . .  which I keep next to the stove . . . my system works, dammit!)  I slid the neatly arranged basket back onto the shelf – where it immediately jammed up against two boxes of vanilla pudding.


                  Vanilla pudding does not go in the Pantry; it belongs in the Big Cabinet to the left of the oven, the one which houses baking mixes and boxed goods and which requires me to either climb on the counter or use a chair for accessibility.  So I dragged a chair over to the Big Cabinet.  Of course, it was a mess, and I found no space for the two boxes of pudding (which is probably how they ended up in the Pantry).  I sighed.  And I tackled the Big Cabinet.

I found cake mix older than our “kitten,” Jake Ryan, who’s now three.

I found cookie mix that I remember moving from our house in Chicago – in 2008.

I found the saltines that no one could find two weeks ago, probably because they belong in the Pantry, and not in the Big Cabinet.

                  I tossed the ancient products and re-organized the remaining items, now with plenty of room to spare. 

                  As I cleaned and rearranged, I wondered why I’d let things get so cluttered and outdated.  I’m not a particularly neat person, but I’m not a total slob.  I’m the only person in the house who checks and tosses leftovers, and I’m generally responsible for grocery shopping.  But how we ended up with multiples of items and boxes of food older than family members is beyond me.  It makes sense, I guess; if the cabinet is so disorganized that I can’t actually see all of the contents, it’s just a matter of time before I think we are out of something and buy another, when, really, the item is just hidden behind the Sam’s Club-sized box of Bisquick in the Big Cabinet.
                  I’m pretty happy with the way the cabinets and Pantry look now; in fact, I even opened the Baking Cabinet today just to take a peek at its neat rows.  I certainly enjoy the spoils of a good cleaning and solid organization; I just don’t know that I’m wired to do the maintenance required to keep such a system running smoothly.  But, hey, if Jen can do it, then, maybe, so can I.

                  Now, to just get on that New York Times Bestseller’s list . . .