Friday, August 21, 2009

A Couple of Domestic Goddesses



With the year two thirds over, it looks like I have finally described every book that I read in 2007 and am ready, at last, to move on to 2008 (saving the 2009 books for 2010).

I started off in January of 2008 with four books by two earnest comediennes, who half-seriously, half-jokingly call themselves "The Slob Sisters."


All by Pam Young and Peggy Jones

Slob Sisters or Domestic Goddesses? You decide. These gals really are sisters and they really are the greatest! I love their books and their humor and their advice on life & happiness. Their message covers so much much more than keeping the house running smoothly, though it must be said, they are good at that too!

In Catch-Up on the Kitchen, Pam and Peggy reveal their grandmother's "simple yet profound way of looking at life." Whenever she had a problem or listened to someone else's problems, she'd always say one of two things: "It don't matter" or "He don't mean nothin' by that." Excellent advice for not taking everything so personally that you end up feeling hurt by every stray remark and frustrated by every little snag in your schedule (83-84). According to Granny, one of these two answers would always apply, no matter how bad the situation was, and no matter who was involved (unless it happened to be Hitler or similar; a third remark was reserved for such as these).

Sidetracked Home Executives includes the Slob Sisters' highly entertaining rendition of "The Night Before Christmas." I'll save the complete poem for December, but here's a sample:

"I . . . turned the oven on to bake;
I had nut breads and cookies and puddings to make.
I opened the freezer and filled up with fear,
For what to my wondering eyes should appear?
But the turkey, still frozen -- how could I forget?
My excuse was a good one: I must be St. Nick!"

I had to laugh, for indeed who doesn't feel like an over - extended St. Nick when contemplating the holiday "to do" list? It turns out that I already do one of the Christmas things the Sisters suggest for eliminating clutter -- turn all your vacation souvenirs into tree decorations; that way you enjoy them once a year and they retain their reminiscent nostalgia rather than just becoming dusty background items.

Their signature concept for organization is a file card system, which I must confess I have not adopted, even though I enjoyed reading about it. I can say, however, that for years and years I have implemented another of their suggestions, using a file box for addresses so that I can update the cards as needed -- never an address book! Somehow, I guess I intuited that one on my own!

Something else we've done around our house that reminds me of their approach is have a big chore day on the first Saturday of each month. My kids complete their list of chores (very modest if you ask me) then receive their allowance (very modest if you ask them). We have a built - in reminder because every first Saturday at 11 am, there is a community - wide test of our city's VERY LOUD tornado siren. So just in case we have overlooked Chore Day, we are suddenly reminded and jolted into action.

After reading Get Your Act Together, I decided that I should make that first Saturday a regular chore day for myself as well, an appropriate time for attacking all the big scary things. That way, we're all in it together. As for my husband, he is always so busy on the weekends -- painting, plowing, putting up drywall, pouring concrete -- that we never have to worry about him! He is always modeling exemplary upkeep behavior!

I found interesting Peggy's lament in Sidetracked Home Executives that "I tried to make up for all my shortcomings [in organization & tidiness] by being affectionate and lighthearted" (117). Funny, my problem is almost exactly the opposite. I try to make up for all my shortcomings [in lightheartedness & optimism] by being excruciatingly organized and on top of every little detail. If only, if only, if only I can do enough things correctly! This is the fretful role I have carved out for myself in the family, not to mention my hopeful (hopeless?) strategy for gaining admittance into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Yes, Pam and Peggy are Domestic Goddesses; yet they make clear that an organized household is not an end in itself but a way to free yourself up for your REAL work, your TRUE mission, the THING YOU WERE BORN TO DO ON THIS EARTH. My existential dilemma is that I'm still not entirely sure just WHAT this could be. Every day I wait for the Epiphany. While waiting, it's far too easy to turn running a homestead into a higher calling, which it surely is not, but what is? In the meantime, I'm trying to live in the present and not get sidetracked.

I feel pretty sure that the Sidetracked / Slob Sisters would appreciate a couple of my favorite "Maxine" cartoons:

"I find it helps to organize chores into three categories: Things I won't do now; Things I won't do later; Things I'll never do."

AND -- "Age doesn't make you forgetful -- having way too many stupid things to remember makes you forgetful."

Pam and Peggy's books help you work your way around and through and out of any number of stupid, fretful, forgetful-making things, freeing up your mind and your time for worthier pursuits. And they know how do it not only with file cards, charts and recipes, but also with references to Shakespeare, Emerson, and William James. Well worth reading.