Monday, October 26, 2009

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

This week George got a bath at our local groomer, and after we got home, my husband petted him and told him he loves him more now that he’s clean. And sometimes I think he means it. If George has gone without a bath for a while, Lance doesn’t want George on the couch as much, and he doesn’t like to pet him as much. I, on the other hand, could care less what George smells like, and I’ll hug him and give him a kiss on the top of his head no matter what.

This difference of opinion regarding cleaning has caused some conflict during our relationship, because we have different definitions of clean. For me, things are usually clean enough, and I can go for weeks without noticing the dust ball in the corner, while Lance notices right away. I clean the things that matter and leave the deep cleaning for later.

I guess I wish I were a little more like him, but on the whole, I have better things to do than obsess about cleaning. A clean house isn’t going to get me ahead in the world. I’d rather finish my novel with piles of dirty laundry around me than take years to finish it in a spotless house. It’s all about priorities.

A family member of my husband’s was once referred to as a “good wife” because she was such a good housekeeper. I’m sorry, but I’d rather be remembered for my great deeds and great works of art than for my clean towels.

This feeling of mine can be attributed to two things: my Mom, and my travels to other countries. Mom’s family taught me that if you’re having a really good discussion at the table after dinner, the dishes can wait. If it’s a beautiful day outside and the green grass is calling, the laundry can wait. Or you can kill two birds with one stone and hang the laundry outside while enjoying the fresh air. Even better.

When I was in high school, my Spanish teacher planned a trip to Spain for her classes, and she said we didn’t need to pack shampoo because we would only be gone for two weeks. Being spanking-clean, shower obsessed Americans, my classmates were shocked. And while two weeks does seem to be a stretch, my experience of living in England sure put things into perspective. They didn’t shower every day, and they were still good looking and popular. Their socks didn’t match their shirts, and the world didn’t come to an end. I came away from my time there with the impression that Americans are a little neurotic in their clean-frenzy, with their prissy sanitizers and two-shower-a-day habit and huge hosed-down backyards.

I’d rather take a cue from other countries and lighten up. Take the plastic cover off the couch, pet the dog even if he’s dirty, skip the second shower, let the dishes sit for just a little while. What are your priorities?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Four-Letter Words

Hope is a four-letter word. To those of you who reply, “duh,” let me clarify by stating that the word “hope” is one of my least favorites in the English language. I know, most people think hope is such a good thing to have. It helps us through trying times; it gives us strength to overcome obstacles; it reassures and comforts us; yadda yadda.

But I believe that hope can be blinding and can keep us from facing reality. We can hope for miracles. We can hope for success. But hope seems to imply complacency – we sit and hope for a good outcome, instead of grabbing life by the horns and doing something about the situation. A gambler hopes his next hand will win, and he loses thousands in the process. A businessman risks an investment, and he loses everything instead. A couple sinks thousands of dollars into fertility treatments, hoping the next time it will work. At the end, they’re all left worse off than they started, because of hope.

Maybe it’s better to have faith than hope, whether it’s religious faith or just plain optimism. To me, these words imply a general outlook about life, instead of giving an image of a weak person sitting at home, hoping that things will turn out well. Having faith implies certainty. People can have faith that things will work out, instead of just hoping that they will.

My other least favorite word is “should.” Can you think of any use of this word that is good? I should clean the bathroom. I should work out more. You should call your mother. This word is only used to instill guilt! You should have been nicer, better, more confident. Even in “It should be a nice day today,” we leave room for a negative outcome and disappointment. Yuck.

Well, I’m off now. I should get off the computer and be more productive. I hope you all have a nice day.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Travel Bug

My husband says I have a “jet-fuel ass.” This eloquent description is supposed to depict my love of travel. And I have to admit that lately I have been dying to get out of the country. Well, maybe not dying, but the feeling has begun to gnaw at me and could escalate to such extremes if my need is not met.

Last week I met the passport-carrying dog Cowboy, but he is not what got me into travel mode. It’s just a desire I get every so often when I haven’t taken a trip in a while. I know my husband will read this and say, “But we just went to Laguna two months ago!” but that is not what I’m talking about. And yes, we will be going to Indiana/Kentucky/Tennessee for Thanksgiving, and to Disneyland in December, but that’s not what I’m talking about either. (A trip to visit family isn’t an actual journey, and Disneyland is, well, Disneyland.)

What I’m talking about is the need to connect with a world that is bigger than myself. To challenge myself by speaking other languages and getting out of my comfort zone. To step out of daily life and see that our way is not the norm, globally. To be anonymous and mysterious, away from myself.

I have a Bucket List, although I hate that term. I call mine a Life List, and it has nearly 100 entries, half of which are places I want to go. By the way, since listing my wishes on paper, many of them have actually happened, instead of remaining in my head as a “someday I’d like to…”

The top travel item on my Life List is to walk the length of the Thames Path. It’s the trail that starts in England at the source of the Thames and ends somewhere past London, meandering along the river as it gets wider and wider, ending at the Thames Barrier. How cool would it be to walk the leisurely path every day, stopping to explore castles or cathedrals or to have lunch in a riverside pub?

Other travel items on my list are to go to Thailand (to the beaches and inland), to visit my family’s origins in Ireland, to un-touristy Latvia and Estonia, on a safari in Africa, and to New Zealand. My domestic wish list includes Alaska, Key West, and a bike trip through Wine Country. Believe me, my list is endless. I constantly hear of new destinations and add and add.

In fact, I just thought of another item to put on my list. Someday I want to go to the airport, passport in hand, and pick a destination right then. Then I’ll frantically research the destination country during the flight and then step onto unplanned, spontaneous soil. How fun! Watch out husband, my travel bug is growing as I write!

So, I invite all of you out there to change your wish lists to To-Do lists. Make them things you plan to do rather than things you wish could happen. It will change your mindset about your dreams by changing them into something attainable.

And whenever I book that trip to walk the length of the Thames, I will extend an invitation to you all to meet me for a pint in that riverside pub. See you there!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Going to the dog park, and sitting at Starbucks as often as we do, presents George and me with many opportunities to happen upon interesting people. And this week we had three interesting encounters.

At the table next to us at Starbucks early in the week, a girl and her grandfather sat waiting for a meeting. The girl, in her early twenties, was dressed in business attire, her hair smartly styled, and the grandpa wore a t-shirt and baseball cap. I typed at my computer and tried to act like I wasn’t paying any attention, but I noticed that there was an important vibe to their Starbucks visit that day. And sure enough, soon a young man came in the door, dressed in a tan military uniform, and they introduced themselves and sat together at the table. I listened while she told the recruiter all about her background, including a story about wanting to be a dentist since she was five years old. Every now and then the grandpa interjected with an anecdote from his military days, sometimes which related to the conversation but most often did not. The interview ended, they all shook hands, and after they left I sat and wondered what would become of this girl whose important moment I had witnessed, but who I would never see again. Her enthusiasm for her future put me in a good mood.

Later in the week I happened to speak to a man at the dog park whose dog was named Cowboy. Cowboy may look like a normal Yorkie, but in fact he is a seasoned traveler with his own passport. He and his owner will be going to Italy for a few months, and I couldn’t help but be envious of Cowboy, who has been to the Caribbean twice already. Now that I think about it, he did strut around the dog park with an air of self-importance.

The third encounter happened at home instead of at the park or Starbucks. One morning George followed me to the front door when I planned to walk outside and get the mail. I opened the door, and about two feet in front of me, hovering motionless in the air at chest-height, was a hummingbird, staring straight at us. He stayed in that spot for about 20 seconds, just looking at us, as if he had been waiting there for us to come out and play. I love encounters with nature.

I think a week that includes a caring Grandpa, a motivated young woman, a Globe-trotting Yorkie, and a feisty hummingbird is pretty good, don’t you?