Airing My Dirty Laundry …

7 Mar

Airing My Dirty Laundry ….

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Airing My Dirty Laundry …

7 Mar
A dirty job ....

A dirty job ….

I recently had a conversation with friends about if we won the lottery what kind of paid help we would have. One friend wanted a personal chef and another wanted someone to straighten her hair every day. I want someone to do the laundry – and do it well. Let me be perfectly clear: I.Hate.Laundry. While all of you reading this may not share my total aversion to the task, no one really loves to do laundry. It’s dirty, it’s thankless, and no sooner are you finished than something else is dirty.

I believe there are two categories of household tasks: those that can evolve into hobbies because there is something creative or pleasurable about them; and those that will not become hobbies because no one in their right mind would spend their free time doing them. Laundry is in the latter category. No one decides to separate lights from darks and spot treat stains for fun.

Household duties that can be considered hobbies have whole industries devoted to them. Think about decorating and cooking – there are magazines, websites, TV channels, stores all to support these hobbies.

There’s no Houzz for laundry. No one posts laundry pics on Pinterest. There’s certainly no laundry channel (although I remember hearing extreme ironing events a few years ago.) Laundry isn’t even shown on television (other than in detergent commercials.) I have watched every episode of Downton Abbey for five seasons, and I have never seen one of the servants do laundry. Cook, clean fireplaces, style hair, get charged with murder – yes, all of that has happened on Downton. Laundry, if it’s been done on Downton, I missed it.

A quick Google search for “laundry” pulls up a list of local dry cleaners and Laundromats, the website for the clothing company Laundry by Shelli Segal, one blog posts on how to organize one’s laundry room, and a 2010 article from Wall Street Journal on Americans using too much laundry detergent. From this list it’s clear that laundry is not a hot topic.

People enjoy receiving cooking-related gifts such as herb infused olive oil, juicers or Williams-Sonoma gift cards, but can you imagine giving someone a bottle of Clorox? Similarly,  your friends appreciate it if you invite them over for dinner – but inviting folks over so you can wash and fold their towels while they sip margaritas, well, that’s not going to happen.

My husband happens to be a good cook, and someone who enjoys cooking. He also is good at doing laundry, but enjoys that less. His recipe for sautéed mushrooms or his technique for rack of lamb may earn him praise from our friends, but no one exclaims “And look how clean his golf shirt is too!!!!” No one asks him for his advice on the best unscented fabric softener. Laundry is a thankless task.

As much as I dislike doing laundry, NOT being able to do laundry is much worse.  I learned this the hard way when our washer died over Thanksgiving two years ago, and it took me more than a week to replace it.  I decided I would take a week’s worth of sheets and towels to our dry cleaner for wash and fold service. I was very excited about picking up two loads of neatly folded sheets and towels until I was told the bill was $60.

So, my next step was to take our clothes to the Laundromat at Cameron Village Shopping Center do the laundry there. I was so clueless at the Laundromat that I stuffed a huge load of dirty clothes into what I thought was a front loading washer that was actually a huge dryer. I figured out my mistake when I could not find a place to pour in the detergent. The guy beside me literally said “You don’t come here often, do you?”

I said at the beginning of this essay that if I could afford it I would hire someone to do the laundry. Well, I had that once – sort of. When my children were younger, I hired a sitter to watch them while I worked, and she told me in the interview that she would do the children’s laundry. Hallelujah!  The answer to prayers!

I soon discovered that although our sitter was very willing to do laundry, she was not very good at it. She did not sort by color, and she washed and dried everything on the hottest setting. My two-year-old’s clothes were now the perfect size for my newborn. Being a nice Southern girl, I didn’t want to hurt her feelings – or be disrespectful since she was 30 years my senior — so I began to hide all the boys’ clothes in the hamper in my room. When it started to overflow, I stuffed dirty clothes under my bed so she couldn’t find them. In my postpartum haze this all seemed like a perfectly good solution.

I imagine there are people who can hire competent people to wash their clothes – for example, Kate Middleton probably has good help. But there are lots of important and influential people who can’t escape the drudgery of laundry. One such person who comes to mind is Carol Greider, a molecular biologist at John Hopkins. A few years ago she received a call at 5 a.m. from Sweden that she had won the Noble Prize for Medicine – when she got the call she was NOT in the lab, NOT sleeping, and NOT out on a run – instead, she was hard at work – you guessed it – folding laundry. With that said, I need to go get a load out of the dryer.

Picture this: A holiday card without kids

31 Dec
Linder Christmas Photo 2013

Linder Christmas Photo 2013

Today as I was taking down the holiday cards I had displayed in our kitchen, I started thinking about how much the card sending tradition had changed in my adult life. It’s very rare to receive a card without a photo these days, and like most American households, 99 percent of the cards we receive feature children. Children at Disney World, on their first day of school, at the beach and wailing in Santa’s lap.

While most of us love photo cards, they have created an issue for adults who don’t have children. What kind of Christmas card do you send when you don’t have small offspring to feature in matching outfits? I still like to receive old fashioned greetings cards, but most folks seem compelled to create a photo card. One friend of mine said that now that her step sons are grown she no longer send cards, because “who wants a generic Hallmark card or to see a bunch of adults in a photo.” It seems there’s a general consensus that children are as essential to holiday cards as stamps.

I have thought it might be entertaining to see the reaction from friends and family if my husband and I sent out a Christmas card with just a picture of the two of us smiling at the camera – and not a picture of our sons. My guess is that people would automatically think it was a mistake. They would turn the card over a few times looking for the kids, only to be shocked and disappointed it was only me and Jeff.

It would be a shame not to include our children on the annual card since people who don’t have kids will go to great lengths to feature pictures of children.

A few years ago a single friend of mine took a photo with what seemed like a dozen nieces and nephews. It was great picture, but a little confusing. Why is our single friend surrounded by all of these little people: Has she become a camp counselor? Practicing to be a model for the Hanna Anderssen catalog? Is she the little old lady who lived in a shoe? When I asked her to explain, she said: “Well I got my sisters’ and brothers’ kids together, because you can’t send out a card without kids.”

Well there you have it. You can’t send out a card without a picture of kids.

Another friend took the quest for kids a step further. On a Mission trip to Peru, she took a picture with a group of Peruvian youngsters in traditional costume from the orphanage where she worked. That picture graced the front of her Valentine card and looked like a good shot for UNICEF. This particular friend is very kind hearted and religious, but not exactly your Peace Corps or mission trip type – she is more the Four Seasons type. Also, none of our mutual friends is the “spend-your-vacation-at-a-Peruvian-orphanage” type either – I dare say she’s the only one in our group who has even been on a mission trip. So you can imagine the confusion when her holiday card turns up and she’s surrounded by a group of kids from South America. Friends texted me to see if she had photoshopped herself into the picture.

I find it strange that some businesses use pictures of children on their cards. The owners of our mosquito extermination company sent us a holiday card, and when I opened it – not realizing it was a business Christmas card – I wondered aloud whose kids were featured in the picture. Then I saw it was from the Mosquito Authority and the girls were the owners’ children. Undoubtedly, the children are a better choice than dead mosquitoes.

If you don’t have kids, dogs are always a good substitute. We have several friends who send pictures of themselves with their dogs – or professional studio shots of only their dogs. Cats do not work as well, in my opinion. I like cats, but they are not as universally accepted as companions as dogs are. I was recently at the hair salon and noticed a Christmas card on the bulletin board of a woman surrounded by her cats. It was hard not to think “crazy cat lady.” I hope she only sent the card to her hair dresser, her mother and the Humane Society.

The problem of how to include children on a card can be particularly vexing for senior citizens. An older couple we are friends with used to send a card with all four of their grown children, sons- and daughters-in-law and grandchildren. They have now downsized to sending a photo of only themselves with their four grandchildren. So if you didn’t know better, it would look like our Septuagenarian friends had adopted four girls.

Eliminating the actual parents from the pictures is common. In my experience, aunts and grandparents are much more likely to appear in the pictures with the children than the children’s actual mom and dad.
There are two primary reasons why kids are on cards and parents are not:

First, it’s virtually impossible to get a whole family to look decent (sometimes event to look in the same direction) in a photo.

Second, kids are cuter than parents.

That’s the moment of truth for all of you who are seeking creative ways to include kids on your Christmas cards. Parents put kids on cards because our kids look better than we do. Sadly, pets often look better than we do too. (For those of you who do not have kids, you look better than those of us who are parents. You still care about how you look – and if you are single you really care. So go on, put yourself on the card.)

So back to if Jeff and I should send out a card with just the two of us smiling happily in front of the tree without a child in sight. I am sure our mothers would call for an explanation – perhaps they would demand a follow up card.

Our child-free friends might see it as an opportunity to rent our children to be on their Christmas card. After all, if we aren’t using our boys as models, someone should. (I have no Peruvian costumes, sorry.)

Of course, for Jeff and I to have a picture on next year’s card, that means we actually have to take a decent picture. Even though we have 12 months to accomplish that, I think we will stick with just the kids.

Sponsor Me in the Sleep-a-thon

27 Sep

nap timeIf sleeping was an Olympic sport, then I would be on a Wheaties box.

I have always loved to sleep – and in my 20s, I developed quite a reputation for it. I was the person on girls’ trips who always got her own bed – and sometimes my own room – because I slept later than anyone else. Eleven in the morning was entirely too early for brunch, and I really wished I was Catholic so I could go to church at night.

The problem was that as good as I was at sleeping  until the late morning or early afternoon,  I had a hard time falling asleep at a normal time – like before midnight. I was best at sleeping from 2 a.m. until 10 a.m., but since I wasn’t working as bar tender, that schedule didn’t work out so well for me.

Fast forward to age 39. With two small children, I have been suffering from sleep deprivation for the past 52 months, 2 weeks and 2 days. Because exhaustion is a permanent state of being, I have become like a house cat. I can sleep anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances. If you wake me I will hiss, swat my tail and skulk off. My children have cured my proclivity to lie awake fretting about work deadlines, about what I said after three glasses of wine, or the likelihood that I will get cancer from my mobile phone. I hit the pillow, and I am out.

Because I love to sleep so much – and I am now get to sleep so little – I wish I could escalate sleeping to a hobby rather than simply a basic need. I am a woman who doesn’t have a hobby per se – and while generally I think hobbies are overrated and sometimes downright strange (extreme couponing, rock collecting and macramé come to mind) – I have always felt that I needed a hobby because most people have one. Turning sleep into a hobby – in my opinion – is not a stretch. After all, other basic needs like eating are quite fashionable hobbies. People discuss with great enthusiasm recent restaurants they’ve tried, they plan vacations around dining and Thanksgiving basically revolves around food. That’s not to mention the passion that some people put into cooking – taking cooking classes, investing in cookware that costs more than my freshman year’s tuition – and of course there’s the Food Channel, need I say more. 

I have also thought that sleep should be considered a sport. It’s a physical activity, it’s good for your health, and it makes you look and feel better – just like exercise. As with hobbies, I’ve never really had a sport that was my passion. I have dabbled in everything from ice skating to synchronized swimming, but nothing has really stuck. So I think creating an “a-thon” related to sleeping really makes sense for me. I always try to support friends who are competing in a triathlon for disease X or walk-a-thon for good cause Y … so why not a sleep-a-thon? Of course I would need a cause to raise awareness of and money for. Perhaps under-privileged sleep apnea suffers? Adolescent insomniacs? Those injured while sleep walking?

I would like to have a little spirit and “rah-rah” around my sleep-a-thon efforts. So here are my ideas for building team spirit:

Team Mascot: Sheep; Uniform: Midnight blue pajamas; Fight song: Braham’s lullaby.

I am still trying to come up with a team name, so I would love your suggestions on that.

I hope other people will join me in training for my sleep-a-thon (of course we will all be training individually in our own beds – this is a NONCONTACT sport). I recommend that we start with two events – a sprint and a long distance event. The goal of the sprint will be to fall asleep the fastest; and the gold medal for the long distance event will go to the person who sleeps the longest overnight.

Of course, doping will be absolutely prohibited – no alcohol within 24 hours of game time and no Tylenol PM, Ambien, Melatonin or other sleep aids six months prior of the sleep-a-thon. We need to keep the game clean – this isn’t track and field after all.

I plan to tell my husband that I am going to train for the long distance event every Friday night, and he shouldn’t disturb me until 11 a.m. on Saturday. My sprint training will be Sunday afternoon from 2 until 4 p.m.

If you are interested in participating in the sleep-a-thon or would like to sponsor me, please comment below. Now, since my children are asleep, I think I will squeeze in a quick work out myself. Sweet dreams.

Fall Fashion 2011: InStyle v. MyStyle

7 Sep September Fashion Mag Covers

Labor Day has come and gone. Time to pack away the eyelet and espadrilles and get ready for fall clothes. But as an almost-40-mom, InStyle isn’t always MyStyle. So here’s the fall fashion issue of Instyle v. MyStyle.

InStyle: Faux-Fur Vest … It’s cozy, it’s glamorous, you’ll wear it this fall

MyStyle: Fleece Vest … It’s cozy, it’s androgynous, you and your husband can match!

InStyle: Layering Style … Dress or skirt over pants

MyStyle: I can barely get one outfit on in the mornings – now you want me to wear two!

InStyle: The Tunic. What’s more forgiving or easier to pack?

MyStyle: The Tunic. What’s more likely to make you look pregnant?

InStyle: The Cape. They were always guaranteed to make drama.

MyStyle: The Cape. Great for Halloween. Does it have an “S” on the back?

InStyle: Boot season is here … which style will you shop for? Flat riding, tall stacked heels, slouchy suede

MyStyle: Boot season is here … which style will you shop for? Rubber rain boots, snow boots, hiking boots

InStyle: What’s your favorite French food?

MyStyle: Do French fries count?

InStyle: We’re loving … Rihanna’s white suit

MyStyle: I’m hoping … she has a Clorox pen

InStyle: Are sheer black or nude pantyhose an option again?

MyStyle: Are support hose an option (ever)? How about Spanx?

InStyle: What to wear for casual Friday

MyStyle: What about casual Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday?

InStyle: Time Traveler …’80s … Take the best of it and don’t look back

MyStyle: Time Traveler … ‘80s … Take the Hammer pants and don’t look back

InStyle: Emerald. This gorgeous jewel tone will definitely add richness to your wardrobe

MyStyle: Great. I’ve always wanted to look like Kermit the Frog

InStyle: Does it really work? Neutorgena Rapid Wrinkle Repair night moisturizer

MyStyle: One word: No

InStyle: Missoni ZigZags into Target.

MyStyle: Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about.

Happy retail therapy everyone!

Summer Lovin’ Happened at Last

3 Sep
A view of Badin Lake on Labor Day weekend

A view of Badin Lake on Labor Day weekend

Usually by Labor Day weekend, summer has worn out its welcome with me. I am tired of the oppressive heat and humidity, the mosquitoes, spending hours in a wet bathing suit, painting my toenails, and air-conditioned buildings that are too cold. My hair and yard are both fried from the sun, and I am ready for fall.

My love affair with summer began to fade at the same time summer vacation ended. I started my first job out of college at a small town newspaper in June of 1994. After about six weeks on the job, one of my colleagues – also a recent grad – commented that without summer break, summer just felt like one long, hot semester. How true.

Summer has continued to feel like a long, hot semester for me. The joy of summer as a child was the change of pace and freedom. Freedom from school, freedom from schedules, freedom to waste time. Long days at the pool, adventures in the woods, staying up late, and sleeping in. The luxury of getting bored, rereading favorite books, and day dreaming.  It was truly a vacation from the routine of the other nine months.

Summer as a working adult does not provide much of a break, and the pace of life sometimes even picks up. The hot months get busier as we try to cram in vacations, swim team and family reunions while keeping up with responsibilities at home and at work. So with Labor Day upon us, and preschool beginning next week, you would think I would be ready to say “so long” to summer. Most of my friends are. Public schools started August 25th, and now it’s just the little kids at home watching too much Nick Jr. and leaving moms fantasizing about the free time preschool will provide.

But I feel differently this year. I only work part-time now – very part-time actually – and I have children who are old enough to really enjoy the simple pleasures of summer. Drippy popsicles, afternoons at the pool, picking blue berries, and running through the sprinkler.Running through the sprinkler

In June I had lots of plans for the summer. Backyard cookouts, twilight play dates, working hard with my four-year-old on writing and reading – most of this never happened, and that’s okay. Our summer has been slow. I’ve had time to stop and smell the sun screen. This summer we’ve done less and enjoyed it more and in the process rediscovered the allure of the warm months. So I’ve developed a bit of a crush on summer again. Maybe next year it will be a full-blown romance.

 

Saying Sayonara to Swimsuit Season

31 Aug

Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer. To mark the last big beach weekend of the season, here’s a rerun of June’s “Swimsuit Issues” essay. Enjoy!

It’s easy to feel good about my figure in the winter because I stay covered from head to toe. I go along happily during the cold months zipping my skinny jeans with no problem. There are body shapers for cocktail dresses, stockings for white legs, push up bras for less-than-perky bust lines. Sure I know I need to exercise and tone up, but I can do that in March – plenty of time to get ready for summer. March comes and goes, and still no exercise.  Sometime near the end of May I have to face the white, flabby truth because swimsuit season has arrived.

Most women my age have swimsuit issues. Not the Sports Illustrated kind either. These are the kind of issues that come after having kids, dropping your gym membership and convincing yourself that housework is really enough exercise. There is nothing I dread more about the return of warm weather than standing in the unforgiving glare of dressing room lights and getting a good view of my backside thanks to a three-way mirror. (Really, do retailers want me to buy a swimsuit or antidepressants?)

Women with older kids are the lucky ones. They can sit under an umbrella, and sip a fruity drink. If they have to leave their lounge chair, they can step into their stylish cover up, concealing all bulges and ripples from the midday sun.  Not me.  I have two boys under four. I don’t even bother to get a lounge chair at the pool because I never sit down. I must walk, bend, chase, splash and be fully exposed to all the other pool goers for my entire visit.

Bathing suit makers are aware of the body issues of women like me, but they have yet to find a good solution. Not that they haven’t tried. There are swim skirts, boy shorts, tankinis — all intended to help disguise and conceal our problem areas. Truly, I think all of these options just make my problems worse. Skirts hide cheeks, but not thighs, and all of that flouncey material makes hips look wider. Boy shorts should not be worn by anyone over the age of 12. And tankinis can make you look like you are in the early stages of pregnancy.

Women are not alone. Men have swim suit issues too. Tufts of hair sprout like weeds on shoulders, lower backs and big toes.  And for the unlucky gentlemen who lose hair on their heads, it seems to all relocate to their backs and chests. They begin to look like bald grizzly bears.  Guts expand and sag.  Men develop weird sock tans and shirt tans from golf and yard work. And of course there is always the unlucky guy at the beach who has a Phil Mickelson-esque chest and is in need of what Kramer and Frank Costanza referred to as the “the bro.”

For all these woes of the aging flesh – for men and women — I think I have found a solution. I was inspired by a four-year-old boy who was a very enthusiastic member of my son’s swimming class at the local YMCA. Instead of Hawaiian and pirate motif swim trunks like the other boys wore, this child wore a spring wet suit each week. It’s a brilliant solution for middle-aged folks. It only exposes your calves and forearms, so unless you have terrible varicose veins, how bad can you look? Maybe a company like Spanx could make wet suits with padding in the tush and bust, compression in the thighs and tummy. Lose inches and tone up instantly without any exercise or surgery, and protect yourself from the sun at the same time.  However, when I mentioned my inventive idea to a friend she pointed out that it would be like going back to bathing suits in the 1920s. Not a new idea at all.

Well it may not be new, but it’s sure a better solution than a swim dress. I have at least four more summers to go before I join the ranks of moms who actually sit on lounge chairs in cover ups, so I need a fix. Of course, maybe I will start exercising next March, just in time for the 2012 swim season and my 40th birthday.

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