Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Mundane Tasks of Life (That Get In The Way of Creativity)

Bucket of soap to wash the car. A man's chore?
   As I was washing my car this morning, before it got too hot, I reflected on where my days go. I mean, here I am a single man, living a simple, quiet life in a 1,000 sq. ft. condo and have only myself and my dog to worry about. That's it! But then, as I began to reflect about my day(s) and why "artistic" things weren't getting done, I realized that like cooking for yourself, there is a great deal of "maintenance" in our lives. Just because you're single it does not allow you to live like a pig in squalor. Well, for some of us anyway. Making a condo a home takes lots of work! Ah, let me count the ways. 
      I can just about hear every woman reading this chortling and I know what they mean too! When my first child was only about 6 months old, I made a snide comment coming home one night about there always being clothes on the sofa. The house was small and when you walked in, you were literally in the living room. Furious with me, my wife said that she was going out Saturday and I could take care of my son. I have never worked so hard. Saturday morning the day began with a new diaper. Then time to eat, then stripping him, a bath, doing laundry and before I knew it, it was time to eat again ... and do laundry, bathe and fold clothes. This was repeated at lunch, and dinner. She said she came home early that evening. I wouldn't know, we were both exhausted and already in bed! Whenever men would say their wives didn't work, they were housewives, I told them they couldn't do what their wives did each and every day. Working wives have it even worse!

MORNING RITUALS: Walking the Dog 
 My black Lab likes to eat early, like 4 a.m. early. Half of her gets on the bed and licks me then uses probing sharp claws to make sure I'm awake. By the time I stumble outside to feed her, wait the minute or so for her to gobble her food, its nearly impossible to go back to sleep. So ... getting myself up I put on walking shoes, clothes and we head out the door.
   I know I'm not supposed to but if we walk really early I let her walk without a leash on. I carry it as most of the time she obeys but there are days she's feeling frisky. When she won't obey the leash gets snapped back on. She doesn't seem to hold a grudge and walks alongside me stopping now and then to pee or poop.
   And the day is not done. Every 2 or 3 or 4 hours you must take her out for a short walk to, in my case, look for lizards she can catch in a heartbeat, another pee and after dinner in the evening another poop. Your dog duty is not over till bedtime. Usually when she has to go ... she has to go. Painting can wait!
   There is also the constant grooming. Dogs are simply GIANT fur balls. I could easily fill a pillow with dog hair each and every month. As I write this I swear she is molting!!!
 MORNING RITUALS: Washing up and eating
Beard or not, there is
still daily maintenance
Cleanliness is next to godliness
  My day, once back home, begins with a shave and a shower. I may be balding and older but that hair still grows on your face. Beard or not, for most men, something needs to be trimmed. There's the shower and finally at some point brushing of teeth.
   Then there's breakfast. It could be anything from cold cereal to a treat of eggs and bacon or, if I'm feeling really hungry, waffles on my handy waffle maker. Then it's putting dirty dishes into the dishwasher and cleaning up. In the desert you rinse every dirty dish as it's so dry dried food sets like rocks on dishes and silverware.

I hate to vacuum though it could
be the vacuum. A cordless next time.
Then its time to consider domestic chores. Since my dog is big and hairy, it usually is time to run the dust buster or if its been more than a day my O' Cedar robot that while not perfect does manage to find hair in places I don't care to bend over and reach. While I'm not that good, as say my German aunt, I should really swab the floor with a mop after a thorough vacuuming. I said should. Do I?
Another fun chore ... need I say more? I have two.
   I have a Shark vacuum that I hate. Yes, it cleans pretty well on my tile and fake wood floors but I think whoever designed the cord placement was a sadist. I stumble, trip and disengage the thing countless times. But, it must be done before the mop comes out. 
   Next comes the mop. I do have a Swiffer but again, who really uses that? Five swipes and the floor looks even worse. They show a smiling man using it in the ads. Come over here. Trust me, I'm not smiling. Yet I have to admit I'm amazed at just how dirty the floor does get in a day. 
   And the dust! You can dust or wash your car in the morning, by afternoon the first layer of dust appears on things. If you don't do it daily, each day it gets thicker and thicker. I guess that's the price of living in the desert.

There are a few days during the month when its time to look at and hopefully have the money to pay your bills! Never pleasant and not one of my strong suits, I pore over each one and have been known to visit the source asking (okay, demanding) why its this high! No one is surprised when their cable bill goes up ... that doesn't make it any better. I keep cutting services and the bill still inches up. There are other culprits too ... the phone company, the electric utility, bank fees. You get the picture. Everyone seems to have their hands out. Where's that nun with the ruler?

MONTHLY RITUALS:  Washing & Ironing
There is the white load, the medium
load and finally the dark load.
One of the best things I did when I moved into my own condo was get a stacking washer and dryer. After buying a new rolling laundry hamper with two baskets on Amazon, all I have to do now is roll it to the hallway, open the doors and load the washer. When finished, move up to the dryer. Easy, peezy. What I really hate doing though is the ironing. 
Look familiar? They must
have come to my place.
   OK, I'm anal. I can't imagine going out in even a polo and shorts that weren't ironed. A habit since I was in high school, it served me well in college and many years of my marriage. But doing it, doesn't make it like fun. So meanwhile, the closet fills with items that need to be ironed and finally, shamed, I get out the ironing board, iron, water and starch and grimly shoulder on watching "The Jerry Springer Show." There are people with worse lives.

AFTERNOON  RITUALS: Grocery Shopping
Making a list and
checking it twice
I was never much of a shopper. My idea of shopping (before Amazon of course) was looking at the weekly ads, making a list and then scurrying through the store in and out as quickly as possible. Studies have shown I am not alone. I think it was when I was in Hong Kong I realized that shopping was their national sport. Prices ARE high and you are always on the hunt for a deal! Ever been to a Walmart where all 40 registers are going and you can't see the ends of the line? Visit China sometime.  Chinese are not afraid about asking if there is an additional discount. Word to you wise Americans, you would be surprised at how many "more discounts" there are here!!!
   Grocery shopping has to be the worst though. The chains are expensive, the choices are always the same. Yuck. Then about a year ago a German company named Aldi opened stores here in the desert. Fresh 'N Easy had just failed (English) and we had little hope for the Germans. After shopping there after a recent visit to Walmart and finding my bill was about half for the same items, they had a new convert. Right now avocados sell for 29¢ each at Aldi ... they are 88¢ each at Ralph's just up the street. When I went to Hong Kong last they were 25¢ here, so as a gift to my friend who treats them like gold, I brought him six! They were equivalent to $2.00 each US there. He was a very happy man!
   In the name of conservation grocery bags now cost from 5-10¢ each.  So you keep your stash in the car, wheeling the cart to your car, packaging them, then once home lug them in, put away. Is it time for that martini yet?

No matter how good for a single
person it is still a meal for one
There is nothing sadder than cooking a meal for one. Really. I can see why so many of my single friends, even couples go out to eat ... far too often for me. Yet what do you cook?
   For awhile whenever I would cook meat; pork, chicken even a steak now and then, I would cook two. Eat one and then have another for another night. When a friend from Hong Kong was here after a day of moving, he looked in the kitchen cupboard and found some Top Ramen. He showed me a quick and easy way to make a better meal by adding an egg, tomato, then scallions before adding the noodles. It was wonderful! Later I discovered you could cut up that extra chicken breast or pork chop, some scallions and add to the Top Ramen and it made a hearty soup. But what was the best is the Good Housekeeping Cookbook and recipes to make in your crockpot. OH MY! Let it cook for more than a day and you have wonderful, hearty meals. The only downside is that by day 3 or 4, you're pretty sick of that recipe. So, eat a meal and freeze the rest. The microwave is a bachelors best friend!

EVENING RITUALS: Doing the Dishes
I admire the gloves. I guess my hands
are tough enough. They still have skin.
After dinner that is prepared late afternoon or evening, there is the cleaning ritual. Leftovers saved and put in the fridge, foods used in prep put away and then loading of the dishwasher for some items and scrubbing of others that won't get clean enough. I would really like to see the dishwasher that you can simply load, crud and all on it and when the cycle was done, is sparkling clean. It has never been my or anyone I know's experience.
   Then when they are washed hours later, they still must be put away only to get dirty again. I'm beginning to consider paper everything from Smart & Final. They just might be cheaper than running a dishwasher! When the meal is done, into the trash!

EVENING  RITUALS: TV, A Good Book and finally bedtime
If you have made it this far, you can see that each day is pretty busy. I of course missed the requisite nap, but at 71 I deserve that. By around 8 pm my mind has about shut down and about all its good for is to merely watch something. If its exciting or funny like FLORENCE FOSTER JERKINS you will stay awake. To watch "Survivor" or "Dancing With The Stars" made up skullduggery, then its snooze time. I try to avoid that embarrassment by going to bed with a good book ... trusty dog following from the living room to snooze in the bedroom ... after that last walk yawning like the dead.

   With the car now washed and dry, I finally realized where the day goes ... that doesn't include all the little tasks that are part of doing the big tasks. I will just have to carve the time to get my artistic side fulfilled not just the side that feels guilt at every fluff of hair on the floor!

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ...

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