Friday, March 4, 2011

Going Nuclear: Day Four. My first real domestic FAIL

A couple of days ago there was a knock on my door. I was sitting writing about being domestic and peeling through Arden Farms Co. Cookbook, circa 1952. The knock shook me out of my trance in which I attempted to fathom the flavor of cheese pudding. 
I went to the door where a young fella, younger than I, stood in the door. He was a bit scraggly, wearing a business tie and a pair of Nikes. I thought he was selling magazine subscriptions, and was already preparing my “No thank yous” when he told me that he wanted to clean my carpets. 
“You wouldn’t believe it to see them, but I just attacked them with the carpet cleaner yesterday,” I said. 
“All the better!” the fella chimed. “I can show you how to get a REAL clean carpet.” It was obvious that he was an old hat with the old lines. Nevertheless, I kept denying. 
“I really have to be going in a minute to pick my daughter up from school in a moment.”
“It will only take a moment.” 
“I’m allergic to cleaning products?” I tried, feebly. 
“This is made from oranges, though!” he insisted. 
“I’m broke.” 
“Have a nice day.”
In a pinch, honesty works. 
After an hour or so, I realized that I had just made my first big retro-active FAIL.  Would June have shooed that poor boy away? Never! She would have made him coffee and a sandwich and then bought three cans of every product available. 
This “Going Nuclear” thing is becoming harder than I thought. No matter. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Going Nuclear: Day Two. Context.

Before I get too far into this endeavor, I'll give you a rundown of the new place. After leaving our lives in Florida, we pulled into Spokane without a clue of what we were going to do. While I went to see family, Eric found us a home. It's big and beautiful, albeit a little dated, and we loved everything about it. But there is this one catch.
A father-in-law.
Yup, I'm not too proud to say that we moved into my father-in-laws home for a while. It's a 4 bedroom, 3.5 bath on 5 acres. It's a lovely place, with hidden piles of history everywhere.

My FIL inherited the house from his late wife, who had inherited the house from her parents in the 90s. That's about all that I knew when we arrived, but the deeper we tucked ourselves in to the new home, the more acquainted I became with the past occupants, as well as their history. After finding pile after pile of pictures, tintypes, letters, and newpaper clippings I have cultivated a relationship with the family.

This is a rather inconspicuous flour bag, but it's full of letters, kind regards, Merry Christmases, Happy Saint Patricks Days, Mother's Days, birthdays, and condolences. Then I realized that what I found has more value than any thing an estate buyer could have wanted.

I have been given an opportunity to witness lives through paper--the last piece of materiality that these people have. There is no memory of the stories within the letters I read, but I can see the faces in the pictures and imagine them living the experiences told. I'm getting to learn lives through a 3,000 square foot puzzle.

I'm happy to say that the pieces are coming together, and I'll share them with you.

It all started with an old War Ration book....

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

GOING NUCLEAR: Day one. Damage report.

Day one of the retro-active lifestyle is chaotic. I'm coming to the conclusion that this process will be one of growth and learning, and after my own little Beaver Cleaver doused the cat with toothpaste last night, I figured that for every three steps I make, I will be cleaning up thrity-five. C'est la vie.

So today I have done just a basic inventory of the chaos.
Let's start with the magical basement. Six years ago, a pack of hungry estate buyers ravaged the house. What was left was deemed "junk."
So it seems.

But after looking throught the piles of mouse-poop and dust (this is really a filthy labor of love) I say, "YOU WERE WRONG, ESTATE SCAVENGERS!"

There are plenty of great things in the basement. Like this lovely toilet-lid-shaped clock! What were they thinking leaving this monument to masculine culture down there? Finders kepers, my adversaries, finders keepers.

Now, we move onto the wet bar. Not much to look at. The water isn't running to the sink, but I think I can rework it. The biggest problem with the bar is that it is only full of silly things like 1950's radios and not full of the important things like booze. My picture was horrifying. You'll just have to wait.
No matter.

And finally, for the day, me. This picture was taken in my favorite, yet non-functional bathroom. There is a lot of work that needs to be both the bathroom and the dame in the mirror.

What'd I tell ya? June Cleaver would be crying into her martini if she saw what half-a-century had done to domestic culture.
I'm considering myself as the ultimate work-in-progress. That's it for today. So many wonders, yet not enough time between kids, gym, laundry, etc.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Going Nuclear: June Cleaver Revisited

So it's been a whirlwind of a year thus far: We moved from sunny Florida to snowy Washington, and now we are still on the hunt for jobs. Eric finally scored one, thanks to friends, and that leaves just me, sitting in our newly acquired retro home, sniffing out all job prospects. I had the audacity to whine about being unemployed, a comment that prompted Eric to remind me that only folks that HAVE been employed within the last few years can call themselves unemployed.

What does that make me, then?


Okay, I'm a mom. A stay at home mom. The WORST ever. My children are seldom clean, they are either over or underfed. The house is always in a state...well, let me put it this way: The apocalypse would go unnoticed. But not any more!

And it all started with dog pee.

It started when I found that our two-inch shag carpet had been soiled by our heathen of a dog. As I was looking down in the dark and scary basement, I found boxes and boxes of magazines. But not just any magazines, vintage Sally homemaker magazines, recipes, and newspapers dating as far back as 1925!

As I was sitting amongst the June Cleaver files, I thought, "What a wonderful assortment of domesticity! I should give them to someone who cares." I have never cooked anything from a recipe. I don't wear nylons, much less use them creatively when I'm done with them. This made me wonder if Rose Norton, the antithesis of June Cleaver, could fill her stilettos.

I'm gonna.

I will embrace my inner June cleaver! I WILL make it a point to depart from my sweatpants. DAILY. I WILL BLOG ABOUT IT!

Starting tomorrow, March 1st, I will attempt the near impossible. Here is the "to-do" list:

*Feed the children 3 quality meals a day.
*Maintain the home and redecorate with all of the vigor and zest of June Cleaver.
*"Reduce" by way of the diet fads of old.
*Begin implementing proper language and practice civility in the home.
*Have a cocktail party for every major American holiday.
*Go shopping once a week in high heels and pearls.
*Refurbish, stock and effectively use the poor, old wet bar in the den.
*Wear an apron.

I'm going to embrace my inner June Cleaver and shed my otherwise woefully inadequate domestic nature, or die trying (granted, death by pearls, hairnets and Karo syrup is an interesting way to go). I'll also offer up my favorite ads from my magazines, newspapers, and interwebs to show just how far we've really come. And here's the real kicker: I'm going to try this for one whole year ( *Pangs of anxiety already setting in*).

Think I can do it? Think I can be that fabulous retro mom? Me niether. Good God, this sounds like a train-wreck. Nevertheless, I'll give it a go.