Monthly Archives: June 2014

My Grandmother, Big Winkie

Ever since I stopped working a real job and became a full-time domestic engineer, I’ve thought often of my maternal grandmother. She was an expert home-keeper, and I aspire to have a living space as serene, clean, and organized as hers. She tried to teach me a million things – sewing, cooking, finances – but I resisted each lesson. And what happened? I ended up having to teach myself, from scratch, many years later. I wish (OH HOW I WISH) I had listened more. She died in June of 2008, at a time when my life looked messy and bleak, and I hope she knows somehow that things got better.

This is my grandmother, Winifred (original flavor), or if you prefer, “Big Winkie”:


And this is what I said at her funeral:

June 10, 2008

My grandmother believed in rules. Not just little rules, like no white shoes before Easter or after Labor Day, and the relative superiority of English antiques to French antiques, but big rules, important rules. Ideas. She believed in Travel, and Education, and Self-Discipline. She held everyone to a high and exacting standard, but held herself to that standard first. Her home was always immaculate – her sink clean, her carpet vacuumed, her counters uncluttered, the beds made, her Ferragamos lined up in the closet.

As a child, these rules seemed oppressive and old-fashioned. This impression was strengthened by the fact that she never let me win at cards.

This is not to say she was no fun at all. When I was in elementary school, she had surgery and spent some time at our house recovering. I came home from school one day to find her wearing pants, of all things, and riding my bicycle. I was sure it signaled the end of the world. Of course, the pants were fully-lined trousers with a smart little belt and a silk blouse, but I’d never seen her wear pants before.

She loved a dirty joke, especially the ones my father told. He always joked that this year, she’d put sparklers in her hair for the Fourth of July.

When my father died, people came to the house. My grandmother, who was 93 at the time, stayed every day until the last visitor had departed, sometimes at 11:00 at night. She was just as gracious to the last guest as she was to the first, and I never heard her complain. I never even saw her yawn.

After she died, my mother and I went to her apartment. It was, as always, perfect – her sink clean, her carpet vacuumed, her counters uncluttered, her bed made, her Ferragamos lined up in the closet. And I realized, standing in her living room, that she didn’t follow these rules because they made her life easy. She followed these rules to make other people’s lives easy. She followed these rules so that anyone could walk into her life and feel comfortable, so that she wouldn’t have to fuss with preparations, she could focus her attention on you.

The order she imposed on her own life was her way of trying to bring peace to those around her. She radiated calm control. Maybe that’s why her favorite prayer was that of St. Francis, which reads:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.



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Father’s Day

Father’s Day! One of the few days I get to brag about Jason with impunity!


Here’s to Jason….

….who insists on getting up to change Hazel’s diaper at 3:00 a.m., even though he works full-time.

….who takes his kids to school every day because he wants them to know that they are important to him.

….who has made countless PB&J or turkey-and-provolone sandwiches for school lunches over the years.

….who, two days after Hazel was born, left the hospital at 3:30 a.m. so he could wake Hollyn up and take her to school for her Six Flags field trip at o’dark thirty.

….who loves all our children with his whole heart.

….who has accepted Tyler as one of his own, DNA be damned.

….who (not so) secretly wants five more kids, just so we could get a 15-passenger kidnapper van.

….who prays with and for his kids every single night.

….who is always up for a game of Marco Polo.

….who may, in fact, be the silliest of all the children.

….who works incredibly hard to provide for our family, both at the office and at home.

….who fights with Tyler over whose turn it is to hold the baby.

….who loves me more than I deserve.

….whom I love more than he will ever know.

Happy Father’s Day, my friend.


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I’m not crunchy, I’m cheap. There’s a difference.

After Hazel’s umbilical stump fell off, we made the switch to cloth diapers. Because I am a total nerd, I had researched the topic pretty ruthlessly before deciding to pursue it.

I’m not here to write a Cloth Diapers 101 post – many other bloggers have done that better than I could. But I will share how our experience has gone so far.

Fluffy Buns

Miss Fluffy Buns 2014

We chose cloth diapers for several reasons:

1. The cost, or lack thereof. I spent $100 to buy a set of 20 (gently) used cloth diapers, and we received about 10 more as gifts. We are currently using disposable wipes, but are seriously considering making some cloth wipes, simply because throwing everything in the wash seems easier then separating diapers from wipes. We bought a pair of wet bags and a diaper pail with gift cards from various showers. We also bought a clothesline and a set of 50 clothespins, again with gift cards. This should last us until Hazel is potty trained.  By contrast, a bulk box of approximately 200 Target-brand diapers is $35. A baby goes through roughly 10 diapers a day (more as a newborn, fewer as a toddler). So that box of 200 will last you about 20 days. If your child potty-trains at 3, that’s 1,095 days, or 55 boxes of diapers. Total cost? Almost $2,000.

2. The time. Since I’m not working, it’s not a terrible burden to wash the cloth diapers every other day. If I was working, it would be much harder to find the time.

3. The climate. No, no, I’ve not turned into some eco-warrior. I live in Florida. We have abundant sunshine for drying and naturally bleaching the diaper liners and shells. Why not make use of it?


So, here’s my method:

We collect our diapers in a diaper pail lined with a wet bag and wash them every other day. I rinse them on cold, wash them on hot, then rinse them on cold again, and out to the clothesline they go. If I start the rinse-wash-rinse as soon as I get up in the morning, they can be on the clothesline by 10:00 a.m., and off the clothesline before the set-your-watch-by-it Florida afternoon thunderstorms roll in. That’s it.

We opted not to put our clothesline in the ground, and instead filled a large flower pot with cement and rocks and put it next to the deck:


Not only does this make the line easier to reach, the line can be folded and put away when we have company, and the pot can do double duty as a side table, like this (from Dukes & Duchesses):

Overall, I am pleasantly surprised by the cloth diaper process. It’s easier than I thought it would be, and works well for our situation. I certainly don’t think it’s for everyone, but if you can handle the time commitment it’s a great way to save money.

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Blog Hop!

Kat of the Walking Deadpan tagged me in this-here blog hop thing, so let’s play:

The Rules:

Answer the following questions, then tag someone else (or someones elses; up to 5).

What am I currently working on?

Nursing a 13-day-old infant while writing a blog post and drinking coffee. I like to live on the edge.

How do I write?

With all ten fingers, just like Mavis Beacon taught me.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My work has 40% more octopi than other bloggers.

Why do I write what I write?

Because raging alcoholism and homicidal ideations are considered lowbrow.

I’ve written all my life. When I was a kid on road trips, I would write travel logs. When I grew up, I was always on the staff of some school newspaper or magazine (or both). After college, I was a newspaper reporter. So this question is kind of like asking why I brush my teeth, or why I breathe.

How does my writing process work?

I seat myself in an ergonomic chair in my tastefully-decorated-yet-totally-organized writing sanctuary, light exactly two scented candles, and gaze out the window at the cheerful woodland creatures in the back yard, who are weaving flower crowns in my honor. Then I meditate on my writing for exactly 27 minutes, at which point my coffee minion brings me a Nespresso. At that point, I am mentally and spiritually prepared to give the world the gift of my words.

Wait. No. I just sit down and do it. There is no magic. My fingers don’t spark when I have a really good idea. (Although that would be awesome.)

So on to tagging! Who wants to take the Blog Hop baton and run with it?

1. The Word

2. White House Dinners

3. Oysters & Pearls



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