Gingham Checked

Two night ago, I went to bed near tears over a situation involving a woman I’ve been researching. I can find facts about her. I can read about the ship she traveled to the US on. I can look at her picture, know what wars raged during the years she lived… but I can not get my hands on her POETRY. I am on the cusp. The VERGE. I HAVE THE REFERENCE NUMBER TO HER BOOK OF POETRY as it sits in a library some 10 hours North of where I am now. At midnight, I finally tossed my phone aside and dug my head into my 8 year old 9-foot long body pillow that no longer retains it’s shape but adores me and appreciates me for who I am.
It understood my frustration. My big, fat pillow always understands.
“Are you okay?” my husband asked.
“I’m not. I can’t get my hands on her poetry. It’s RIGHT THERE. It’s teasing me,” I hunkered down into my brother’s old sweater, the one that reminds me of him every time I wear it.
“That must be frustrating,” he said.
“It is… I feel like it’s frustrating me more than it should… like, maybe I’m obsessing over it.” And that’s when it hit me.


A few weeks ago as I mindlessly scrolled through my newsfeed, a picture stood out to me… it was of a woman dressed head to toe in red-check gingham, sitting on a red-check gingham chair, surrounded by house clad heavily in red-check gingham. And yes -she was holding red-check gingham wares.
She proudly admitted her obsession. She can’t live without red-check gingham. She needs it, she craves it, and it brings her intense amounts of joy and fulfillment.

I wanted to think she was crazy. I did. I wanted to say, “Whoa, overkill lady. My chi is off kilter just LOOKING at this picture.”
Do you know about chi?
I know about it. I watched a segment of a clip on television a few years ago about how clutter messes with your chi. This makes me a chi master.

I tried to force myself to be turned wholly and completely off by her crazed obsession with ONE THING, but I couldn’t. In fact, if we’re telling the truth, I was kind of proud of her… do your thang, Gingham Gal, and send the rest of the fabrics packing! Rouge your knees! Roll your stockings down!
Her devil-may-care attitude toward chi is, well, interesting. SO INTERESTING that I haven’t forgotten about her and have spent more time than I’d like to admit trying to track her picture down again.

The thing is: I have the same sort of issue with chi.
My house is overrun with stories, my closet full of them! And at the risk of putting my whole self out here, I will now admit that I HUMANIZE EVERYTHING IN MY HOUSE.

Alice has been sick (and mean, GOSH, she can be mean). I stayed home from work last Monday to take care of her feverish little body. As she rested (and screamed and demanded candy and chocolate) I poked my headphones in and streamed one of my favorite classical music stations on Pandora. I cleaned marker off the walls, the doors, and the toys. I fixed my wallpaper. I washed some windows. I used ammonia and bleach and paper towels and Beethoven. I found myself in a state of gratitude toward my furniture. Loyal servants of  The Shackish Realm! I decided to show my appreciation by oiling all of my wood furniture. I started with my piano, and I imagined my piano exhaling, sighing, closing it’s harp-eyes and soaking in the oil treatment. It’s gratitude was SO FREELY GIVEN and touched me so deeply, it gave me the energy to oil the table and chairs. Their gratitude exceeded that of the piano… why? Because they deal with spills, fights, and The Deets Family Rear Ends. They needed that oil more than anything else in the house. As I applied the oil to my 4th chair, I vividly recalled a day in 6th grade when my favorite teacher handed me back something I’d written in my school journal and said, “Alicia, you have such an active imagination. Never lose that.”
I was horrified. LOSE IT?
She spoke of my imagination as if it were some kind of background tool to be picked up, tossed aside, and lost at will.  She had no real grasp of just what my imagination WAS to me!  It was as real and vital to me as my beating heart!  And YES, I’m aware of how Anne of Green Gables that all is, and I will tell you that reading that book was uncanny.

It was like someone stole away into my soul, plucked a chunk out and wrote a book.  I don’t know whether I loved it or felt violated.

I pick up toys and remember where they came from, who gave them to whom, and sentimentality washes over me. The Shackish Realm is my haven and safe place where I know I’ll wake up filling totally and completely warm and at home, surrounded -not by gingham check -but by stories from my life. I have to find a balance, you know, between which stories matter and which can go, otherwise my little home becomes overrun… QUICKLY overrun.

Right now, we have 3 kids in one room. Walking into it is dreadful. It’s Chi Hell. I get so angry because we work so hard to get it clean and two days later it looks like every cliche every Mom has ever come up with all rolled into one: Pig Sty and Barnyard and Filth and Tornado and Hurricane! I declare it a Shackish State of Emergency on a regular basis.
“Get in here,” I say, “And clean this up! You have GOT to get rid of some TOYS! There are kids out there with no toys, so figure out what you want to donate. All broken toys must go. Line the boots up on the west wall. Toddlers, come with me. There is water in the kitchen to your left should you need it, but use it sparingly because there is no time set aside for bathroom breaks.”

I’m thinking of investing in an orange reflective vest for these moments.

I walk in to check on the their progress, and that’s always a mistake.
“Where’s the donation bag?” I ask.
“Right here,” Guys hold it up.
I crack it open and THAT’S WHEN IT HAPPENS. The stories leak from the bag and float up to my ears.
“Trent, are you SURE you want to get rid of Buzz Lightyear? You worked so hard to earn the money to buy him,” I hold him up, and somewhere in the distance, a solo violinist accompanies me.
“Mom, he’s broken,” Trent points to Buzz’s limp wing.
“I know,” I pause at this point to let the violinist really have his moment…
“You said broken toys need to be thrown away,” he said without emotion and I began to wonder if I was the only one hearing the violin.

And that’s when Guys tilt their little heads and are hit with the realization that THEIR OWN MOTHER IS CRAZY, and they can’t donate her because she won’t fit in their bag.

I have to hand the bag back. I have to close my eyes. I use my imagination and pretend I’m one of those birds who puts their head in the sand when things get scary.

I have gotten better. I have gotten MUCH better. I don’t think any amount of cleaning clothes and toys will make the kids’ room easier because it’s a small room and three kids is a lot. They don’t own crazy amounts of toys, and if they each had their own small room would definitely have room to spare because their toy collections have been substantially whittled down. I’ve gotten better at deciding which stories are important and which are not. I remember that I blog a lot and lots of stories are recorded forever here… so it’s all right if the one eyed stuffed puppy gets The Sack.

My chi is of the utmost in these cluttered times.

I’ve been spring cleaning since last Monday, and I truly hate my life. Cleaning is not only difficult for me but it’s downright robbing. I pulled everything out of my kitchen cupboards, wiped them down, threw three black trash bags full of crap out, and that was awesome. But THEN? I had to put everything away in an organized fashion.
Do you realize what this DOES to me? I was so frustrated. I KNOW there’s a better way than my way when it comes to organization, and I can’t seem to TAP INTO IT. My right brain sends all of it’s energy to my left, and I try, try, try. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can… and the ending result is? I CAN’T! I spent 7 hours in my kitchen, trying to make, “Name the Fridge Spill” into a game but IT ISN’T A GAME WHEN YOU’RE PRETTY SURE THE ANSWER IS COW’S BLOOD MIXED WITH SUPER GLUE. As I scrubbed that spill, I decided when I was done, I was going to kick my feet up and write a series of children’s books in order to make JUST ENOUGH to hire a housekeeper.
Because gosh.

I tried sitting down to write when I was done. I tried to lay back and let all of the wasted energy I’d sent to my left brain BACK to my right and the blinking cursor on my screen mocked me.

It’s a trade off I hate. I hate so much.

I wonder if the Gingham Check lady ever tried trading in her Gingham for Chi and ended up feeling like she’d rather die than have Chi and so brought back her Gingham, nevermore to part.

I don’t know. I don’t know.
All I know is that Spring Cleaning is well underway, and my kids are afraid of me because, as Alice has learned to say, “She Cwanky.”
Cwankiest Ma in the West.

I have, at least, the hope of knowing that Spring Cleaning only comes about once every four years (don’t. don’t correct my right-brained math) and so I’m off the hook until Lacy is 12 and Trent is 11 and at the point, they will be doing it all.
Why? Because, I’ll tell them, four years ago you came to Mom on a Monday and told her you needed costumes on a Tuesday and MOM DELIVERED because SHE HOARDS.
“Oh, you want to be Buffalo Bill and Calamity Jane? No problem! I happen to have coururoy and red denim and fringe and a sherriff’s bagde RIGHT HERE. Grab my glue gun, babies.”
I didn’t add, “and someday you’ll return the favor, my pretties.”

We’ve been watching a lot of “Once Upon a Time” (heaven help me, I just about took down the house when I watched Season 3 Finale… it was so smug. So SO smug. I don’t even want to see season 4. But I will. You know I will) and I’ve perfected a range of accents, my favorite being Mr. Gold.
“All magic comes with a price, dearie.”

(Three cheers for finger guns!)
And seriously what I pulled off with those vests? THAT was MOM MAGIC… something we have in spades around here.

“How did you know I didn’t clean behind the door?”
“Mom magic.”

Well, that and my Chi was off…

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