Friday, August 19, 2011

The Dreaded Dishes

I have a confession to make.  I hate doing the dishes.

No, that's not the confession.  The confession is that I hate doing the dishes so much that I bought more dishes so I could go longer without doing them.  My husband hates doing the dishes.  My kids hate doing the dishes.  That means we need more dishes so we don't have to fight about them as often.



As part of my efforts to live my minimalist desires, we have gotten rid of most of our dishes.  We used to have 2-3 plates per person, probably 3 bowls a piece, and I'd guess at least 5 glasses each.  We have seven people in our family.  You do the math.  That's a lot of dishes.

And when you hate doing them as much as we do, that means you don't do them until you absolutely have to -- when you run out of dishes.  So when you finally do them there are a lot of dishes to wash.

We now have only enough dishes for each of us to have one of each.  Each person has a spot in the cupboards.  This is where they keep their dishes.  They have a plate, a bowl, a mug, a small cup, a large cup, a table knife, a fork, a large spoon, and a small spoon.  There are a couple of extras.  One person got to keep her hot cocoa cup.  One person traded a large spoon for a fork.  But basically that's it.

And this is what that means.  Each person is responsible for his/her dishes.  Some of us wash them right after we eat, so that they are ready the next time we want to eat.  Others stick them in the sink, but end up washing them soon anyway because that's all they have to eat off of.  We wash them by hand because we are washing one or two at a time.  This means less running of the dishwasher (which wasn't as effective anymore anyway since the law required changes in dishwasher soap).  It means fewer dirty dishes stacked in my kitchen.  It means no one is relying on someone else to do their chores before they have clean dishes available.  It means fewer dishes left throughout the house.  It means no more tracking down strange smells because a dish that still has food on it is left somewhere in the house.  It means a lot more personal responsibility.

My kids are older (13 and up) so they can easily do their own dishes.  And they all know how to use the dishwasher so I don't feel like I am neglecting their instruction.

When I first presented the idea my family thought I was insane.  I planted the idea about a month before it was implemented (due to my energy level).  Then one day we went through the cupboards and pulled everything out.  People chose their stuff, it was placed in their spot, and everything else was boxed up and put away.  It's not gone yet.  Not because I'm not committed, just because I haven't made another run to the thrift donation area.  Soon.

Everyone's biggest concern was about guests.  What if we want to have someone over for dinner?

Okay, seriously, we rarely have anyone over for dinner.  When we do it's usually just one person.  I let my daughter keep an extra plate because if someone is going to be here when we eat it's probably her boyfriend.  If it's someone else, they can use his stuff.

We also kept a picnic set.  This is a plate, bowl, and cup for each of us along with silverware.  It's stored in a carrying case that is packed away.  These are emergency settings just in case and will be used when we go to a church function and are supposed to bring our own dishes.  They won't be used often.

I have not solved the problem with the dishes used for cooking.  Since we no longer have a lot of dishes our old assignments for dish washing don't quite fit.  I'm working on a plan for that.  We already don't own a lot of food preparation dishes.  That means that even if people don't wash as they go, things don't stay dirty long. 

We've only been living with this setup for about a week, but so far it seems to be a great success.  People are happy with it.  I haven't heard a single complaint.  (Before, yes.  Since, no.)  It's working.

And how can you argue with the system when it works?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ending a Relationship

He was sobbing.  He didn't understand how she could do this.  Had it all been a lie?

I remember standing with my friend as he faced the end of his marriage.  She said she never loved him.  She said it had always been terrible.  And his heart was breaking because he just didn't understand.

My heart was breaking for him.  She was also my friend, but I was hurting for him.  This was something she was doing to him.  She was hurting him.  She was the bad guy.  I never got her side of the story.

When a relationship ends it's easy to feel like we need to take sides.  Those of us on the outside seek to understand so we know who's side to be on.  Maybe not always, but often enough that we should be ashamed.

No matter how close we are to the situation, we are not those people.  We do not feel what they feel.  We have not experienced what they experienced.  We do not know why they made the choices they did.  And no matter what is said or who is blamed, we probably have no real way to know what happened.

I have never ended a marriage.  I have never had my spouse end a marriage.  But we did come close.  I did ask him to move out.  And he was so angry. 

I didn't understand.  I was trying to save our marriage.  I believed that separating would help us figure out what was wrong and heal without being in such close proximity that we were destroying each other.  He felt rejected and powerless.

And that's why being in relationships is so scary.  We are giving power to the other person.  By choosing to love someone, we are giving them the power to hurt us.  Sometimes relationships end because both people want them to.  Other times, one person chooses to end it and the other person is at their mercy.

This is true of any relationship that involves love.  When you love and value someone, and they remove themselves from your life, it hurts.  It could be a parent.  It could be a child.  It could be a friend.

For me, it was a friend.  I am the one who ended it.  And I am seen by many as the bad guy.

I guess I am, in a way.  I didn't handle it well.  I was so afraid of hurting her that I was not direct.  I slowly removed myself from her life.  Little by little we were just no longer connected.

Friendships are tricky things to end.  It's not like you file for a divorce from a friend.  Where is the line?  How do you tell when a friendship is over?

I was not angry.  I do not think she is a bad person.  In fact, I think she is an incredible person.  I admire her a great deal.  But for whatever reason the friendship was no longer good for me.  I think we grew in different directions.  I think we both changed so much that we didn't fit together any more.  Even after trying to put it back together a couple of times, it just no longer felt right.  It felt forced and fake.

The relationship was not good for me.  I'm not saying she wasn't good.  We weren't good together.  I was unhappy.  I wanted out.  The more I tried to make it work, the worse I felt about myself.  I was being untrue to myself by pretending I could make it work.

Ending our friendship hurt her.  I am sorry about that.  I hate the fact that I caused her pain.

But it is my responsibility to take care of myself.  Our relationship was causing me pain.  Maybe that is selfish, but I believe it is what was right for me.  I wish there were a way for me to make the decision that is right for me without making a decision that caused her pain.  I couldn't find one.  And I did try.

We had many good years together.  I am a better person because of her influence in my life.  I think of her often and hope she is happy.

And I know I made the right choice.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Big, Beautiful Library in My Home

I grew up wanting walls of books.  A room where each wall was floor to ceiling with them.  Maybe a small den area with a fine oak desk and a great leather executive chair and a bay window with pillows to read in.

The wonderful room I saw in so many movies growing up.  I was in love with the magic of this imaginary room.  I knew that I would one day have one in my home.

And so, as my life progressed, I accumulated books.  I believe strongly in the power of reading.  A love of reading.  And in order to facilitate this for my children I made sure to have lots of books.  Lots for them to read at every age.  Lots for me to read, since it's important for children to see their parents reading if they are to catch the reading bug.  And because I like to read.

But I learned that books are mostly a one time deal.  You read them once and move on to the next adventure.  Maybe little kid books are read over and over, but even then it's only a select few.  We own hundreds, if not thousands, of books.  I would estimate that the ones that have been read more than once are fewer than five percent.

So why do I still have them?  I've been pondering this for quite a while now.  How many books that I own do I love enough that I would save them from a burning building?  Truthfully, none.

The reasons I came up with for still having them are interesting.  I have them because I spent money on them and books are good and noble things to have.  I have them because I enjoyed them and would like to have them to loan to friends or suggest to my kids.  I have them because I always wanted that big library.

None of those reasons are good enough to me anymore.  The magic is not in the big, beautiful library.  The magic is in gaining a love of reading.  Taking my kids to the public library is an adventure.  It's magical.  The library has more than I can possibly ever offer.  They can keep up with my kids' changing tastes.  They have all the newest books.  And they store them so I don't have to.

I'm not going to lie.  It's tough.  I consider this sort my first.  I know I will sort again and get rid of more.  Right now if I struggle to decide, I keep it.  Or if one of my kids feels strongly about it, I keep it.  And I'm boxing some up for my daughter who is going to teach high school English; she'll have a good collection of classics in her classroom without having to buy them.

There are a few that I really enjoyed that I considered keeping.  But I'm imagining that there are others out there who would enjoy them too.  I am ready to pass them on, knowing I can always get them from the library if I really want to read them again.

I'm keeping several for my grandma days.  I want to be the grandma who reads with the kids.  And who encourages reading when they visit.

But the tough ones.  Oh, yes, there are tough ones.  I have many books that were given to me after my grandma died.  With inscriptions.  To her from her father.  The book is not something I will ever read.  I have many other keepsakes from her.  And yet, I can't just donate them.  I'm cheating and giving them back to my mother.  I'll probably have to face the decision again when my mom passes away.  For now, they can live at her house.

There are also some that are quite old.  I have several from the 1900s and a few from the 1800s.  Some in good shape, some not so much.  I can't seem to part with the ones that are over a hundred years old.  Whether I would ever read them or not.  Even if the binding is falling apart.  I still might donate them, but I would want to donate them to someone who would know how they should really be cared for.  Someone who could preserve their beauty.

I've made lots of progress.  I've got a few boxes ready to go.  I'll be getting rid of more as I continue to clean and sort through my house.  I'll let some friends go through them and take what they want and then I'll donate what's left to the public library.  I'm ready to let these old friends have a new adventure with a new home.

Most of them, anyway.