On Cooking and Cleaning and Generally Having a Ball

Original Photo by  taliesin on Morguefile.com
Original Photo by taliesin on Morguefile.com

The past few days have been spent in a frenzy of baking and cleaning. I have made two batches of chocolates, chicken and dumplings, assorted other meals, and a breakfast casserole that’s currently waiting for the oven. Additionally, there have been mucho cleaning and dog bathing. Why? There’s really no reason—no friends or family visiting from afar. No reason to put myself out, and yet, I enjoy it.

Yes, that has been quite a revelation over the past few days. I have thought about all of those years that I spent reading history and literature, thinking that I was doing important work. I certainly enjoyed the intellectual challenge, but I don’t know that I ever really had fun while I was in college. Perhaps this view is only in hindsight, when I have received so little return on my degrees. Maybe it is “sour grapes,” and I am latching on to the one thing that remains, cooking and cleaning. I am still partially employed, but it is not fulfilling work. And finding additional work has been difficult, if not impossible.

I am sore and worn out from my work lately. Still, tired as I am, I get a kick out of baking and cooking and generally being a housewife. I find myself collecting recipes on Pinterest and looking longingly at various home projects. Puttering around the house with my animals, I have been happy. The life that I once thought degrading seems a bit sunnier now.

On my way to the store yesterday, I thought about my grandparents who had very little education. They didn’t travel worldwide, take expensive vacations, or have fancy stuff. However, they knew how to manage money, garden, cook from scratch, and take care of their family. And they certainly weren’t afraid of a little work. Some today would consider that to be a “small” life, one that hadn’t truly been lived. Still, I think they had a richer life, one that focused on those things that truly matter, and they had work that was fulfilling and meaningful.

Somehow chickens and a garden sound mighty fine to me. And one final thought came to me on my shopping trip: finding meaning in any work that you do. Can any work be meaningful and fulfilling? Possibly. I guess it depends on where our heart is.

Where Are Your Batteries?

Krista-RonnieWhen my brother and I were young, we would often spend much of the summer with my grandparents. During those hot, boring days back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, we would make the long trek to the local 7-Eleven to play Pac-Man and eat candy. It was on one of these sweaty trips that my brother, looking for batteries for our small radio, asked the clerk, “Where are your batteries?” One of our friends that had accompanied us certainly laughed about that statement, teasing my brother that it sounded as though he were asking the clerk if she were a robot with batteries in her back.

Silly, I know. For some reason, that day came back to me this morning and brought a smile to my face. The fact that the fun of that day doesn’t quite translate to others definitely proves a certain point that I encountered in an article so long ago—when you lose a sibling, your history is gone. There is no one to share those jokes and hysterical moments from your childhood, no one who can share that smile with you. While the loss of a parent makes you an adult, the death of a sibling robs you of someone who truly understands all of your stories.

My brother died in 1995, quite a long time ago. I still think of all those fun times that we had as kids, trying to beat a world’s record by swinging on a swingset or creating a movie with our Star Wars figures. Now, I hold those memories for both of us.

For those of you who still enjoy the company of your own siblings, please learn from this story. Love them while you can and build lots and lots of good memories with them. Share those laughs and knowing smiles with the understanding that one day, that pleasure may be gone.

Gym Class

Original Photo by verbaska on Morguefile.com
Original Photo by verbaska on Morguefile.com

When I was in school, gym class was never my strong suit. Gym at that time was filled with competitive activities such as dodgeball, archery, bowling, baseball, and gymnastics. I was certainly the skinny, nerdy kid with no coordination, and thus, always the last to be picked for any activity. Making it through just one class was always a struggle, one I would have gladly given up for an extra literature class.

In the small towns where I attended school, intellectual achievement was not valued. Prowess on the football field or basketball court was something to be lauded; parents, teachers, and students openly bragged about high scores in these areas. Too, teachers gladly gave athletes who were failing a “What color is an orange?” test, allowing them to easily gain a D and therefore be eligible to play in the upcoming game. For a kid like me who lacked any abilities in sports, I didn’t have a chance in such an environment. Too, I resented the emphasis on sports and the lack of recognition of my own academic achievements.

I groaned in frustration each time we entered the dressing room for gym. Donning our standard t-shirts and shorts in school colors, we walked into the gym, some reluctantly, some enthusiastically. I, for one, was the former.

To be perfectly fair, I didn’t mind games such as archery or bowling. These were calmer games that didn’t require an excess of exertion, competition, or athletic ability. It was activities such as soccer or dodgeball that led to my lifelong distaste for gym class. Inevitably, I would wind up on the sidelines with the one obese girl in class, both of us chatting amiably until the game was over. While I enjoyed the chats, I felt awful, unable to compete effectively and certainly not one of the “popular” girls who were picked first.

I suppose this sounds a bit like a nerd’s lament. Partly that’s true. However, I would have to say that that early frustration led to a strengthening of my own personality and a realization that there will always be areas where we do not excel. And what of those kids today who are given a trophy for simply showing up? I don’t know the long-term effects of such rewards, but somehow I think they would be much better off learning lessons similar to mine.