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Join This Imperfect Project

ParadiseThese two articles made me think. A lot.

Glennon Melton (on Huffington Post) // A Whole New — And Necessary — Way To See Your Messy House

Coffee & Crumbs // It’s Their Day Too

I thought about many things, but mostly about what I show to the world through my social media streams. I rarely share the hard moments. The messy and horrible moments. The “why am I doing this?” moments. The whoops moments. Partly because in those moments I rarely have the wherewithal to get out my camera and partly because I want to share, and look back on, positive moments.

Of course, we also know that my perfect Instagram pictures are making some person somewhere feel inadequate as she compares her backstage to my highlight reel. So I am proposing a challenge for myself and I’d love to have other people join me.

33 Imperfections

Starting on October 25th I will be posting a daily picture on my social media pages. The game is to post 33 pictures (or updates) – to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, wherever – that are are imperfect. Stains, spills, temper tantrums, bad hair, missed busses, projects gone horribly wrong… You understand what I mean.  Post it with the tag #imperfect33. Tell us why it is imperfect AND why it is also perfect (or at least not awful). Where is the good in the imperfect?

“Missed the bus and being late to work isn’t good, but now I get 30 minutes to wait and read on this fall day.”

“Spilled the birthday cake frosting… I’ll start over and make sure I follow the directions in order. The next batch will be even better.”

“Child just painted the floor. He’s making me mop!!”

“This is my messy kitchen. The fruit flies are thick. Let’s be glad I can’t post the smell from the compost bucket. But the baby is asleep on me. I’ll let it be messy and take this moment to read to my preschooler.”

“Look at this pile of laundry. It’s been almost a month since I’ve folded and put away. Family has been in town. I’m lucky that they came to visit me and we had a wonderful time!!”

Voltaire

How does something catastrophic turn out good? What blessing is hiding under the tears or the mess or the accident? How can we change how we look at things and what we are willing to show the world about our funky lives?

If we start on October 25th, it will take us right up to Thanksgiving. We will look at our imperfectly perfect lives and (borrowing a word from Glennon Melton) having those perspectacles on for the previous 33 days will really tell us how special and quirky and wonderful our worlds are, in all their imperfections.

Who wants to join me? Who can share their imperfect lives?

Mitt’s Binders

I don't write about politics often. I want this blog to be a politically neutral place. Sometimes, though, the political touches my life in a way that I do want to share. After all, you know we must be a political family, what with our debate jelly beans and all.

A couple months ago I wrote about Mitt Romney's quote regarding the “dignity of work”, which I found deeply offensive. Today the Internet is on fire with binders full of women. But if we dig beyond the hilarity of women, three-hole punchers, and binders, the content of Romney's answers regarding women were deeply disturbing.

First let's consider the simple fact that a longtime CEO and elected official didn't seem to have any idea where he might find a qualified woman so he had to “ask” special interest groups; women's special interest groups. Even though women are disproportionately under represented in the upper echelons of business and government, I find it hard to believe that Romney hadn't found one or two qualified women in or near his circle in 25 years. I'm a stay-at-home parent and I know that men are disproportionately under represented in my field and I certainly spend more time chatting with moms than dads, but after a mere six years I have run across a handful of stay-at-home dads… Thank goodness Romney had those binders full of women.

But…it seems like he didn't ask for the binders. They were offered to him.

More subtly, I found Romney's tone with Candy Crowly (the moderator), to be less respectful than his tone with President Obama or Jim Lehrer. He was more likely to interrupt her and to continue interrupting her. He was more dismissive of the things she said. Also, when I scanned the transcript, it seemed to me that he gave less direct answers to the women's questions. He was more likely to ignore what they said, slide around it, and do the classic debate pivot to what he wanted to talk about when being questioned by a woman.

Amanda Marcotte has a wonderful short piece about Mitt and women here.

But let's look at the section on pay-equity. Mitt Romney said:

My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school. She said, I can't be here until 7 or 8 o'clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o'clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said fine. Let's have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.

 

That looks good right? Nice and supportive. Except… Between the lines. Of course she should go home early and cook for her husband and kids because that is what women do. It's where they truly belong and everything should be done to help them be there. I believe in flexible schedules and I certainly think that the American workplace puts too much stress on getting the job done and ever increasing hours and not enough focus on balanced work and family time. I just wonder how Romney would have responded to a male chief of staff with the same request…

So that's not so great, in my eyes. It looks okay, but if you contemplate both his binders of women and his slippery non-answer on pay equity you can see easily extrapolate that Romney doesn't see women as qualified as men in the work place. Better to get them home so they can cook dinner…and if they have those flexible benefits they don't deserve to make as much as a male counterpart, right?

There's one more here that I think deserves attention:

…in the economy I'm going to bring to play, that are going to be so anxious to get good workers they're going to be anxious to hire women.

 

Why women specifically? Because the magical Mitt economy will be just so darn good that all the men will be employed and employers will be so desperate for more employees that they will be willing to settle on women? Even though we are, apparently, only 72% as qualified as men? I missed this statement on my first run through the debate. It was last night, re-watching it with the kids, that this part of the answer leapt out at me. Watching I noticed that even the way Romney's body language seems to show how little he regards women as truly valid members of his society.

What about his answer on gun violence and banning assault weapons? Romney said:

We need moms and dads, helping to raise kids. Wherever possible the — the benefit of having two parents in the home, and that's not always possible. A lot of great single moms, single dads. But gosh to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone, that's a great idea.

And again, this looks good at the initial overview. I do think we need better supports in place to get parents good, quality time with their kids, and we know that kids with involved parents tend to do better in the long run. But to lay the burden of gun violence at the feet of single parents is insane – especially since several notable shooters (Aurora for a recent example) are from homes with married parents. Where are all these disgruntled children of single parents slinging their assault weapons through the mall?

You can read a great piece about Romney and gun violence here.

We know that single parents tend to be (again) disproportionally moms. I'm not negating the single dads out there, but I bet Romney was actually trying to evoke the image of single, teenage, “welfare” moms. Let's get those girls married! Let's slip around this issue of banning assault rifles and focus on getting those pesky, drive-by causing, single moms under control. Never mind that he wants to evisscerate Planned Parenthood and our rights to abortion – programs that prevent single parenthood – as well as the social programs that keep single moms able to give loving care to their families.

Romney's position on birth control and abortion is scary.

And every woman should make sure she knows what is really going on, not what he says.

Mitt Romney has binders full of women, or so he claims. And I think that if we tweak that silly comment just a little bit, we arrive at the real truth. Mitt Romney has binders for women. He wants to limit my access to health care for my reproductive system. He wants me to find a magical balance between being a productive member of employed society (provided I can find someone anxious to hire me) and keeping that husband fed and children appropriately cared for.

Romeny's positions on issues that directly affect women are hard to pin down. Should we have the dignity of work? Or aren't we qualified? Should we be staying home with our kids so they don't go shooting up the public or should we get our butts to the office (as long as we are home to cook dinner, of course)? I'm confused.

What I'm not confused about is who will be the better President for the women who live, work, and love in this great country of ours. It's not Mitt Romney.

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Fact checking fun at Forbes Facts

I used this transcript to make sure I was hearing Romney and quoting him correctly.

A Question of Dignity

This is ridiculous. I generally try to keep the political off this blog, but since this is a blog about my life-choice to stay at home with my kids…

I don’t want the “dignity of work”, Mr. Romney. I do work – 12, 16, 18 hours a day. A lot if my job is undignified – scrubbing the toilet, begging and bribing a five-year old to clean up, or chasing a toddler around playing growling bear are not “dignified” activities.

I have made a choice for me and my family. This choice means I earn no Social Security, no 401k, I am reliant on my husband’s sick leave and health insurance. I have chosen to live at a lower income level, by a full-time adult salary, because I love my work and I believe that what I am doing is important.

This has nothing to do with access to day care. There are many wonderful and qualified and affordable day care options in my area. This has nothing to do with my ability to find work. I have a college degree, I am credentialed in a couple of fields, and would be willing to put my shoulder to the wheel.

I’m an educated, liberal, feminist. I’m not making this choice out of a religious or similar bias, though many women do and should be able to. I know many women like myself who believe deeply in having a parent at home. I know many employed women who envy my ability to stay home and who wish they could afford to “not work”. I know many working women who love their jobs and for whom staying home would cause frustration and boredom. I know many women who struggle daily to do what they believe is best for their families, regardless of their state of employment.

I don’t need “a job” and I don’t need the “dignity of work”. I love what I do and I have plenty of work, thank you Mr. Romney.

Mothers (parents) – those who stay home or those who work – need their lives and the choices they make in those lives to be supported. We do not need anyone, least of all some rich and smarmy politician, to treat our lives like they are not worth anything unless we are gainfully employed by the economic machine. That is an indignity, Mr. Romney. We do not need anyone pushing some “work requirement” upon us, making lives already difficult even more so. I do believe that I am living my life, celebrating my freedom, and pursuing that which makes me happy…and don’t you dare try to take that away from me. I’m not putting my two-year old in day care, even of you foot the bill. How dare you treat my life choice as something undignified?

I – and parents making hard choices every day, all over this country of ours – need the awesome work we do, raising and caring for the future voters of America, to be treated with dignity.

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Update: I do realize that this quote is a snippet and lacks broader context. I also realize that Romney is not actually talking about me. He’s talking about poor women who utilize the welfare system. For the record, I don’t think that I am any different, better, or more deserving than any other woman who is also making tough decisions for her family. I believe that everyone deserves the dignity of choice – and that means not being forced to work OR forced to stay home. I believe that people should be treated equally and that an attack on a family on welfare is an attack on my family.

A Labeled Pantry

Clearly labeled. All the same size and shape.   

We do most of our dry good shopping in bulk. This ends up in an assorted mish-mash of jars and bags that crowd the pantry shelves. It’s so hard to find what I need with out dismantling an entire shelf!It gets even more exciting when I unpack and put away a bunch of grains and beans from my Lonesome Whistle CSA.

On my last deep-clean-the-kitchen-day, I started with tackling the pantry. I was in there for hours. I came up with a system for storing and sorting my bulk dry goods that I am just tickled about.

Problem: Inconsistent jars and bags make storing and finding difficult.

Solution: I have lots of canning jars, and all thing considered, canning jars are pretty darn cheap. And things look so much better when they are all standardized.

New Rule: everything in the pantry should live in a canning jar.

I think this is the best use of sheet space…

Problem: I just am not that good at remembering to label things… Now which was the rye flour? Was it this? Or is that buckwheat…

Solution: Laminated card stock inserts for my canning jar done lids. So easy.

I laminated 8 pages of white card stock and cut out lots of narrow mouth and wide mouth sized circles. One goes in the top of each jar. They get labeled with a wet-erase marker. When I wash the jar or fill it with something else, I can wipe off the label and re-use it.

New Rule: All jars must be labeled. Taking the moment to create a label when I put groceries away will save me a world of searching later.

As always, I was amazed at how much space my pantry actually has when I use standard containers and organize the heck out of the space. Already I am excited to put away my next batch of beans and grains from my CSA – they look so pretty and tidy in their labeled jars!

Housekeeping Week – Friday

After the craziness that is any week input home, I’m ready to slow down and have a not-so-essential chore on Friday. One that I can comfortably miss if we are out of town or there has been too much going on and we need a down day.

Friday is Clean the Bedroom Day.

We use the bedroom for sleeping, movies, and getting dressed, so it doesn’t get very messy over the course of a week, but of I don’t put it on the schedule it gets pretty darn messy before I prioritize it. And I feel that we all sleep better if we are sleeping in clean space.


To get this room good enough I
*clear the surfaces.
*put the clean laundry away, and the dirty laundry in the laundry room.
*pick up the random stuff.

Ultimately I try to
*dust.
*vacuum.
*wash the sheets.

Because its such a light set of tasks, Friday is also the day I clean the hall.

Like the bedroom, it doesn’t need much. I feel it’s good enough if I
*do a quick tidy up on our family desk.
*sweep.

Ultimately I try to
*dust the desk and photos hanging in the hall.
*organize the random piles that grow on the desk.
*wash the floor.

Mostly I can get through both these tasks with ease, leaving the rest of the day free for a quick living room pick up.

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Housekeeping schedule benefit! I don’t have to worry about messes (smallish, non-sticky messes anyway) when I see them. I know that it will be less than a week – and usually less than four days – until I clean it up. I don’t have to do it now, or think about those dust bunnies because I know when I will be thinking about them. My mind is free to pursue more interesting things.

 

Housekeeping Week – Thursday

Paradoxically, Thursday is also my favorite, and for the opposite reason of Wednesday.

Thursday is Bathroom Day.

Unlike the day-long cleaning evolution that is Wednesday, the bathroom is an easy chore that I get done first thing in the morning. I scrub the tub, pop the kids in their bath, and keep an eye on them while they play and I clean the rest of the bathroom.

I start the day with my chore already done, which is good since Thursday is also when I run errands.

If I am doing a ‘good enough’ clean I
*scrub the tub.
*clean the toilet.
*wipe down the sink.
*sweep.
*take dirty laundry out.

If the kids are both happily splashing, I ultimately try to
*wash the floor.
*clean the mirror.
*wipe out any storage bins that need it.
*deep clean behind the sink, toilet, etc.

This is really only a twenty minute chore, so that leaves me plenty of time to prep dinner, make the shopping list, and otherwise prepare for errands.

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Housekeeping schedule benefit! Because each room gets cleaned on such a regular schedule, it means that the ultimate things aren’t always so pressing. Odds are all of them get done within a couple of weeks, and the basics are always covered.

Housekeeping Week – Wednesday

Wednesday has become a favorite. It is the Kitchen Day.

My habit has become to start first thing in the morning and slowly work through it over the course of the day. This chore has, by far, the longest ‘good enough’ and ‘ultimate’ lists.

For a good enough kitchen I need to
*clear and wipe all the counters (including under the counter appliances).
*empty the dish drainer.
*clear out old food & leftovers from the fridge.
*pick up the laundry room (which is small and attached to the kitchen).
*sweep and wash the floors.

Looks like a lot, but ultimately I also try to
*scrub the sink.
*clean the toaster & microwave.
*wipe out the fridge.
*clean the stove and/or oven.
*sort the odd socks in the laundry room.
*wipe down the cupboards.

This happens on Wednesday for a couple of strategical reasons. First, Papa-Bug has the car most Wednesdays, so I can assume I will be at home to work on the kitchen all day. Second, since I get home late on Tuesday, we don’t usually get our after dinner kitchen clean up done and the dishes are just piled up after dinner. Lastly, I run errands on Thursday, so cleaning the kitchen the day before means I have a clear fridge to put the new food in, as well as a good idea of what we need at the grocery store. Additionally, having the kitchen sparkling as we head into the last part of the week feels good – up and over the hump.

I find, as I work through the day that other kitchen tasks make their way into my chore – like sorting bones and starting a batch of broth, making fruit leather out of some fruit that must be used, and so on. It’s relaxing to be tied to this essential room for the day.

Today I opted not to wash the floor – we are carving pumpkins tomorrow evening and I know it will need a wash after that mess. I ended up with time today to start re-claiming the windowsill, taking off some old hardware that was making it look unkempt. I hope to make a little kitchen altar there in the near future – something to look at while I do the never ending dishes.

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Housekeeping schedule benefit! Because I know I will have this extended time in the kitchen, I don’t stress too much throughout the rest of the week – I just try to keep the mess to a minimal pile. The big things I will tackle today. This has opened up a lot of time the rest of the week for Brother-Bug’s school time, my time, folding laundry, and whatnot.