Living without a dishwasher (and how to cope with dish-dirtying aversion)

What is wrong with this kitchen? Look closely. Remember I am very lazy and messy. Your first thought might be that the kitchen is actually clean. And yes, that is quite the anomaly. But the real problem is (dun, dun, dun) the lack of a dishwasher.

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I spent twenty minutes cleaning the kitchen just to take this picture … or maybe I just stuffed all the dishes in the oven … hmmmm… Perhaps one day the truth will be revealed.

 

Now I know many people don’t have dishwashers and they can be considered a luxury like fresh air and clean water. But I’ve pretty much had one my whole life and now I’m spoiled. And I’m already a messy person, so not having one just contributes to the ongoing messiness of the house.

See what I mean:

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Maybe I just need more counter space to stack the dishes?

Because of the trauma that comes with seeing so many stacks of glass, porcelain, stoneware and plastic, and the trauma of having to spend minutes upon minutes with my hands immersed in warm water, furiously scrubbing last night’s mashed potatoes from each plate, I’ve developed what is considered a dish-dirtying aversion––I’m afraid of dirtying dishes. Every mug of tea, every bowl of cereal, every slice of pizza that is set on a plate equals (gasp) more time in front of the sink.

At first I tried to think of ways to fix the problem.

1. Not eat. Ha.
2. Use paper plates. Sigh. That would be bad for the environment.
3. Tape a sponge to MoJo the cat’s paw and set him to task. While the thought of making the cats finally earn their keep was enticing, I knew in the end it wouldn’t work. Their arms are too short and their work ethic is poor.

So I’ve developed a few coping strategies to minimize the dish-dirtying, and I will share in hopes of helping others who also suffer from dish-dirtying aversion.

1. I give you the “paper towel plate”

Anything that is stiff and dry works well on a paper towel plate. Think toast, bagels, cookies, crackers. Be warned that the paper towel plate is flimsy compared to the traditional plate and if not handled carefully crumbs can easily spill from the towel to the countertop or floor, thus creating a whole new mess and a potential floor-dirtying aversion.

2. Another solution I’ve used is the “plate repeat”

You see the same plate can be used more than once, especially if the same food item is being eaten each time. For example, when I make my husband a bagel sandwich for breakfast, I just wait for him to finish and then I plop my sandwich on the same plate. Ta da. Two meals, one plate. Your ability to implement this solution will be affected by the timing of meals (do you both want to eat at the same time?), the gooeyness of the meal (sometimes reusing a plate is just icky. Sometimes.) and your tolerance for pet hair (I’m not sure how it happens, but every used plate has at least one cat hair glued to it).

3. This is one of my favorites: “the package is plate”

By definition, “the package is plate” means the packaging that said food product comes in acts as the plate. It works with a can of chili (just dip the spoon right in), an apple pie still in its tin (put the pie on your lap and go to it), and leftovers from last night (just peel back the foil and dig in).

4. And lastly you can create a “mouth burrito”

This is an advanced move and should only be attempted by those who REALLY don’t want to do dishes. First you set out all your ingredients. Then pull off a small piece of tortilla and put it in your mouth, add a pinch of cheese, a spoonful of beans, and a squirt of hot sauce and then chew. Repeat as many times as needed to equal the consumption of a full burrito.

And there you have it. Jennifer Windram’s strategies for living in a non-dishwasher house. Any questions?

Moving With Cats (or why has our whole world come crashing down around us?)

Today I’m going to use a few drawings to illustrate what it was like moving across the country with our three cats. Because my rendering of said cats will simultaneously make it appear that they all look the same, yet always a little different, I’ve gone ahead and given each cat its own identifier:

MoJo – He is the gray male cat. You will recognize him because he is wearing a top hat and his collar says, “Boy.”

Olive – She is the chubbier of the two female cats. You will be able to identify her by her round torso.

Lindie – She is the other female cat and is often considered my favorite. Shh. Don’t tell the others. She will have little hearts floating around her at all times to signify her status as the favorite.Cats

Okay, so now to the story. We began our preparation for the big move like any family would. For months we talked about all the things that needed to be done, created lists, and packing strategies. We then spent the final week essentially dumping the contents of all our drawers into boxes.

This was also the cats’ favorite part of the move. There were boxes to hide in. Human trinkets littered the floor and morphed into playthings to be batted under the couch.

Cats and boxes

Little did they know, all the trinkets would soon be in the boxes and they’d be left with a single blanket on the floor for them all to share.

empty house

They spent a lot of time fighting for the blanket and staring wide-eyed at the empty house.

At this point they thought they’d experienced the worst of it. But then their worst fears were realized: the rise of the carriers.

cats hate carriers

MoJo and Olive were placed side by side in the back seat. Lindie’s carrier was placed on top of Olive’s. Like this, but not really:

moving with cats

The one in the top hat wailed like a wounded child for about an hour and then they were silent. I assume this is because they were communicating telepathically.

traveling with cats

Once we arrived at the hotel, we let them explore their new world. See, kitties, it’s like an adventure. People travel to new and different places all the time. They actually do it for fun. Give it a try…

cats in hotel

cats in hotel

After two more days of driving, we arrived at our new abode. We set the kitties loose again, but this time the experience was much different.

cats in new home

And then a few months later…

cats in new home

was it just a dream

 

And a NaNoWriMo word count update: 21,586 words written so far! Not too bad for a lifelong procrastinator 🙂

The Non-Bucket List: Things I’m happy to never, ever do

When was the last time you did something for the first time

In the last twelve months, I’ve challenged myself by starting my own business and speaking in front of large groups of people–on purpose. I’ve finished my first manuscript and sent it off to my very dear beta readers. And I’ve tried new things like petrifying my own fruit and making yarn pom napkin rings for my cousin’s bridal shower.

It’s a great feeling to take on new challenges, but I’ve also taken the time to reflect on the things that I’ll never do, or more than 99% likely won’t ever do–my Non-Bucket List. Here is a sample of that list for your reading pleasure:

1. Fold a fitted sheet. I’ve spent countless minutes of my life trying to force these unwieldy pieces of fabric into a perfectly shaped square or rectangle. I’ve seen how-to videos and picture tutorials, and yet my attempts have resulted mini tantrums and an overwhelming feeling of exasperation. Now they are immediately placed back on the mattress (Okay that was a lie. They sit in the dryer for at least 8 hours before they make it back on the bed) or they are wadded up into a ball and jammed into the linen closet. I see no reason to change my ways.

Silky Green by EvelynGiggles

See, this person has the idea. Just crumple it up and put it away. You will never get those hours spent trying to fold it back. (Silky Green by EvelynGiggles via Flickr Lic CC By 2.0)

2. Run a marathon. I know this on a lot of bucket lists out there, but the thought of running for miles on end is exhausting. I’m getting tired just thinking about it. My argument used to be that running that long of a distance was ridiculous. No animal in the wild would run like that if they didn’t have to for survival. Why would we do it for fun? Then I saw this article: Wild Animals Have a Hankering for Exercise. I guess I was wrong. But that hasn’t changed my stance. I’ll get my endorphins from a bite of chili pepper, or even better, a bite of chocolate.

Frederick Marathon by Ken Morrill

See this woman checking her watch. That would be me. Like every five seconds, wondering when this awful activity would be over. I would have abs just like that too. I already do. They’re just hidden under a little insulation. (Frederick Marathon by Ken Morrill via Flickr Lic CC By 2.0)

3. Hike Mount (Fill in the blank): This is along the lines of number two, but with the added risk of: oxygen deprivation, lightening strikes, fall related injuries, avalanches, hypothermia. You get the picture. I’m all for accomplishing really cool things. That’s why I wrote a book. No need to get frostbite or be airlifted from the top of a mountain due to high altitude cerebral edema, also known as HACE. The voices in my head are scary enough.

Guided Nature Hike Program by USFWS Mountain Prairie

Now this is my kind of hiking. See how it’s relatively flat? And the two girls have stopped to check out something very interesting on the ground? This is the perfect ruse to get other people to stop so you can rest. “Oooh. Look at this rock. Have you ever seen a rock like this?” (Guided Nature Hike Program by USFWS Mountain Prairie via Flickr Lic CC by 2.0)

4. Play with a Ouija board: As some of you may know, I sort of believe in ghosts. I like to think they are all nice, and they’d like nothing more than to enjoy a nice BBQ on the back patio with the rest of us living folk. But I’ve seen too many Poltergeists and Amityville Horror movies for my own good. So why would I invite any old spirit into my house? And then make it answer questions for my own amusement, spelled out, letter by letter?

Ouija Board Ad 1968 by Justin Wilson

Okay, so if you’re going to summon random spirits to your house, this is what you’d ask? “Who’s Debbie’s date to the prom?” Why don’t you just ask Debbie? “Should we go steady?” I’m guessing the answer is no if you are asking a piece of cardboard. (Ouija Board Ad 1968 by Justin Wilson via Flickr Lic CC By 2.0)

5. Drink another Mudslide: In college, I thought this was the best drink ever invented. It had alcohol. And chocolate flavoring. And about a zillion calories. Now, I’m much too refined to drink Mudslides. I drink boxed wine instead.

Mudslide by Stupid Systemus

My mudslides never looked this fancy. (Mudslide by Stupid Systemus via Flickr Lic CC By 2.0)

 

Joady's Bday Dinner for Tracy (2009) by Pat & Keri

I had the college version that came in a bottle. No fancy chocolate drizzle, or glass to drink out of for that matter. (Joady’s Bday Dinner for Tracy (2009) by Pat & Keri via Flickr Lic CC By 2.0)

So, if you are planning to run a marathon up Mount (fill in the blank), where everyone folds fitted sheets at the top and then plays with a Ouija board while drinking mudslides, you can count me out. Unless you replace the Mudslides with champagne. I might reconsider if there is bubbly involved.

Grocery Shopping: Why I need a magic calculator and the patience of a saint

Groceries in transit

Groceries in Transit” by qmnonic via Flickr Lic CC By 2.0

Going to the grocery store is like going to the airport. You know it’s going to be unpleasant and it’s going to challenge you mentally, emotionally and physically.

-The mental challenge: This pack of toilet paper has a million cubic metric inches squared of paper and it’s triple ply with a really cute koala bear. Ooh, but this one is 50 gallons when unrolled and swirled into a 6-foot pyramid. But it’s only double ply. Let me take out the magical calculator I bought at Diagon Alley and do the math here. Screw it. Of course I’m buying the one with the cute koala bear.

Koala toilet paper

Because he looks so super snuggly! (“Lovely koala with Cushelle toilet paper” – SCA by SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget via Flickr Lic CC By 2.0)

-The physical challenge: The other shoppers are there to test your agility. They place their carts, bodies, children, anything they can to stop your forward motion and prevent you from obtaining that pack of gummy worms that you need so badly.

T Rex tomatoes

I guess I should just be happy they’re aren’t  dinosaurs lurking in my store’s produce department. (“T-Rex sighted in the Grocery Store” by katerha via Flickr Lic CC by 2.0)

-The emotional challenge: The checkout line is intended to wear down what remains of your patience.

Of course only one register is open. And there are three people in front of you.

1st person in line – Seriously? You’re going to pay in all pennies?

2nd person in line – Say what? You’re going to buy twenty tubes of toothpaste using twenty separate transactions?

3rd person in line – Of course you have fifteen things in your cart that all need a price check. And now you’ve waited until the clerk tells you your total to start filling out your check. Really? You can’t write the date and sign the check until you know the total??

But what annoys me the most???? The shopping carts. I’ve been working on a very scientific study about shopping carts and how they’re conspiring against me. I’ll have the results for you one day. Right now I have to go to the grocery store. I was so confused by the toilet paper pricing last week, I forgot to buy some. Wish me luck!

How I Conquered My Book Eating Pigeons (or writing conferences are awesome)

A car crashes into a writer’s bedroom. The final line of her manuscript (the only manuscript that can save the world from fictitious book eating pigeons) is left unwritten. Will anyone ever read it? Will her story ever be told?

Pigeon flying

A book eating pigeon poised to attack.  (Pigeon in Flight. Image courtesy of quinet via  Flickr CC Lic. 2.0)

A young woman leaves her “day job” to write insanely humorous urban fantasy. Follow her as she skyrockets to the top of the industry and remodels her house to include a dark, but well lit library.

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My dark, but well lit future library complete with magical potions, because writing is magical. (Study. Image courtesy of CodyR via Flickr CC 2.0)

These aren’t the plots of Hollywood movies. These are the types of thoughts that run through my mind at night. And by night I mean while in bed desperately trying to fall asleep.

These thoughts can usually be divided into two very distinct categories: Fortune and Fame or Doom and Gloom. Examples:

Fortune and Fame – I can’t wait to sell the first million copies of my book!

Doom and Gloom – What if I never finish the book? What if something happens to me, and my manuscript remains the gooey, messy, but delightful draft that only I’ve read?

Fortune and Fame  – This trip will be amazing! Our Mardi Gras costumes will be the best anyone has ever seen and we’ll be on the front page of every newspaper and meet Angelina and Brad.

Doom and Gloom – Unless our plane crashes into an alligator infested swamp.

Yeah, I might have a little anxiety … countered by delusions of grandeur.

I don’t know why my brain does this. Someone please explain to me the evolutionary advantage of keeping myself up all night worrying about book eating pigeons or fantasizing about my Oscar speech for a book that doesn’t even have a title yet.

But I digress.

This weekend I attended the Pikes Peak Writers Conference (PPWC) in Colorado Springs, CO and guess what? I learned things. I learned new ways to think about things. I learned that “things” isn’t a very strong word. Well, I already knew that, but I liked the use of anaphora.

Crows reading

Me looking up the word anaphora. What? You didn’t know I was a crow, with other crow friends? (Reader. Image courtesy of h.koppdelaney via Flickr CC 2.0)

When I sunk into my couch yesterday afternoon, I was filled with a range of emotions, the best being exhilaration. Although, you couldn’t tell from my slack jaw and glazed over eyes.

The conference was three days of workshops, pitch sessions, critique sessions and writerly fun. At times it was overwhelming, and the realities of the writing life can be daunting.

While I was splayed on the couch, my husband asked if I felt discouraged. I didn’t even have to think about my answer. No, I wasn’t discouraged. In fact, I have never felt more encouraged, supported and empowered. I’ve never loved being a writer more.

When 8:00 p.m. rolled around, I was semi-conscious and drooling on a throw pillow. So, I decided to go to bed. And then it happened – I couldn’t sleep. I was up for hours. I reworked my first two chapters in my mind, pondered marketing strategies and, of course, pictured myself walking down the red carpet. There was no worrying, no negative thoughts. Only the positive flowed through my mind.

So, goodbye Doom and Gloom. From here on out, I’m focusing on Fortune and Fame.

Thank you PPWC!

Public Speaking: Practice Makes Perfect (or at least slightly less scary)

It’s feared more than spiders, heights, and Jello molds. Some would actually rather be dead than do it.

Amazingly, public speaking is more frightening to people than going an entire night without cable TV.

And that’s what I was doing last week. I rarely talk about my “other” job, but after eight months of being self-employed, I think it’s time.

I used to work for the state government as a nurse surveyor. This meant that I got to visit home health agencies, hospices and even a few hospitals to evaluate their compliance with state and federal regulations. We’ll just say nobody was happy when I walked through the front door.

Now, I help the same companies that I used to scrutinize. I provide training and education on how to interpret and comply with all those federal and state requirements. This means that on a monthly basis I give presentations. In front of people. For like hours.

This is how I felt about public speaking in college:

Public Speaking Socially Awkward penguin

Um, I may have done this once. Or twice.

Socially awkward penguin public speaking

Yes, socially awkward penguin, I understand. I contemplated doing this.

public speaking anxiety cat

Luckily, I never had to resort to this. I found a loophole 🙂

And that feeling stayed with me into adulthood, although it lessened over time. Soon, I was able to verbalize my thoughts in front of a group of five or ten people without this happening:

Public speaking brain

But a four hour presentation in front of twenty or so strangers? Hmmm…. Maybe that coffin doesn’t look so bad.

My first presentation brought on some nerves. To help, my body decided to recruit my sympathetic nervous system, which resulted in:

Nausea – I knew those three bites of toast would come back to haunt me

Tachycardia – The fancy word for a fast heart rate

Cotton mouth – I had no idea my tongue could be this dry

Trembling hands – We’ll just forget about using the laser pointer

The need to pee every five minutes – Now I know what it’s like to be my mom

And pretty much the overall sensation that I was going to die.

Thanks, body. That really helped create the illusion that I was confident and composed.

Now, eight months later, I am more confident and composed.

sponge bob public speaking

Just like Sponge Bob

I still get a little jittery before each presentation, but instead of feeling like my heart might explode for the full four hours, I go through the following:

-It’s almost time to start the presentation. Everyone is looking at me. Wow, my heart really can beat 200 times per minute. Maybe I should go throw up really quick. Or just pee. I think I have to pee again.

-Wow, I’m already 30 minutes in. And I’m rockin’ it. Look they’re laughing at my jokes. They’re asking questions. They’re nodding like they understand. I’m awesome!

-Ugh. We’re only two hours into this thing. Is that person sleeping? Yes, I think they’re sleeping. I’m boring them. Better say something funny.

-Says something funny. Everyone laughs. They all go back to sleep. And I don’t take it personally.

-We only have a half hour left. I can do this. Maybe I need some caffeine? Where’s that racing heart beat? I think I need that again. A little shot of adrenaline just might spruce up the last bit of this presentation. Ugh. Body, come on. You were so generous with it earlier.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is this public speaking thing does get better. The more I do it, the easier it becomes. I almost even like it sometimes. Crazy, huh?

As a side note: My cousin and I are attending our first writing conference this weekend and we’re planning to read the first page of our novels. Out loud. To an agent. And an audience. I have a feeling that pesky sympathetic nervous system will be kicking in again.

As another side note: My cat was sitting on my mouse the whole time I was writing this and she bit my hand every time I tried to use it. But don’t worry – she hardly has any teeth left.

The Evolution of a Blog Post

Today we are going to discuss how three seemingly unrelated items influence the progression of a blog post from a simple discussion about keys, to another exploration of my bad habits: procrastination, laziness, messiness.

The three items:

1. A set of keys

2. A collection of lovely purses

3. Food that is, um, well past its prime

The progression:

I often write blog posts about random, everyday things and I use my experiences and surroundings as inspiration. Example: The Would You Like Your Receipt? post.

My keys were the initial inspiration for this post. See how many there are:

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Now, it’s not an exorbitant amount of keys; however, the ratio of used keys to unused keys is a problem. There are a total of eleven keys. Five of them I use all the time. Two belong to doors I should no longer be opening, and four are mystery keys.

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This one belongs to my husband’s old condo.

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This one belongs to my mom’s old Subaru.

I was thinking I should get rid of the keys I don’t need, so that I don’t have to try to squish so many keys into my smallish purse. My blog post was going to be about why I hold on to all these unnecessary keys.

Here is where we have our first divergence: now I began to think about my purse.

Perhaps my purse was the problem and I should blog about that? I have a lovely collection of purses that I never use. When I was younger, I used to change my purse all the time, usually to match my outfit. Now it’s always the black one. Have I gotten so lazy that I can’t move my wallet from one purse to another?

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The only purse I seem to carry now.

I gathered my purses to take the picture below and pondered the red one in the back. Now, that’s a much bigger purse. I could keep all my extraneous keys and have room more. Why get rid of keys, when I can make room for more?

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Now, to the next divergence: I started looking through the purse for clues as to when it was last used and found something startling – food that was well past its prime. And so now my blog post is about what happens to food when left in a purse too long.

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Very stale pumpkin bread, a bag of almonds and walnuts, and two unidentifiable pieces of fruit.

I really can’t say how long it has been since I used this purse, but judging from the fruit it’s been more than a couple of days. The pumpkin bread is homemade, dating back to fall 2012.

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After close inspection, this was identified as an apple. The sticker tells me it was a honey crisp apple. If you look closely, you can see the tip of the stem in the top right corner.

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I wanted to call this a strawberry, based on its size. However, strawberries usually don’t come with a sticker on them. And I would never just carry a loose strawberry in my purse. That would be gross. So, I’m pretty sure this is another petrified, rotten, moldy apple.

So, similar to many of my other posts, this post has dissolved into another example of my lack of organization, cleanliness and motivation.  Anyone want some almonds?