I had a good nap today. It’s rare for me to nap, but I needed it. Prior to laying down, I was sitting on my sofa, rocking, and my cat came and sat on my lap. My immediate reaction was to tell her, ‘Get down’. Then she meowed back at me like, ‘We’ve been over this! When you’re seated, I sit in your lap. It’s been 3 years now. What’s wrong with you?’. She’s very vocal, and I always imagine what she means, and then respond accordingly. So I apologized, and pulled her into my lap. She started purring loudly, and I called her My Little Purrminator. It was a cat intervention. I was cranky from lack of sleep, and needed a nap.
So I grabbed a quilt and my pillow, and turned on Everybody Loves Raymond with low volume. Sleeping with the TV on is less restful, but it prevents nightmares if I pick a cartoon or sitcom. I had the window cracked open because it’s been in the upper 30’s F, and I’m usually hot. The good thing is that I very rarely turn on my heat. Being on the top floor probably has a lot to do with it. I keep the inside temperature at least at 63 F, but if it rises above 65, I crack a window. My winter comfort zone. My bed is alongside the window wall, so it’s perfect to sleep with the window cracked. Well, except for the fact that I have a Temperpedic mattress. The cold turns it into a rock that gradually conforms to my body as I heat it up. So when I first lay down, I have on pajamas and socks. Then I gradually strip down to just a tshirt as I get too hot. My weighted blanket has glass beads in it, and they stay cold so I put it on top of my comforter.
My cat has her own weighted blanket, which is my old one. She’s possessive, which is something I didn’t know animals did. She also has a Hello Kitty pink fleece blanket that she drags around. When Miles tried to use it to sleep with when they were spending the night, she got loud about it. I told him to give her back her blanket, and gave him a quilt instead. We all laughed at how she reacted. Miles’ Mom has 2 cats, both male. I have a scar on my arm from the younger of her cats. He’s aggressive because she plays with him with her hands rather than using a toy. He got too excited and bit me and it bled. I wasn’t happy about it. I told her never to play with a cat unless you have a toy or they will bite and scratch, thinking it’s playfulness. Her other cat is like mine, only bigger and older. I liked both of them, but I preferred him because he never bit me.
The thing is, he’s a tuxedo cat, which means long hair that needs to be brushed often. Her’s looked like he’d never been brushed. When I asked her if I could brush him, she said she didn’t have a cat brush. It bugged me, because when I held him, he would leave behind enough fur to make another cat. Her house had a strange layout to me. A twin home where it’s broken into 3 floors. Basement, main, and upstairs. Two bedrooms and a bath upstairs, one bedroom and a bath in the basement. Miles stayed in the basement, and his mom upstairs. But their entire house and garage were completely covered in toys.
There’s levels of neatness. Neat freak, in which it’s so clean you can’t believe anyone lives there. Neat livable, in which you can tell it’s cleaned on a regular basis, but not everything is where it belongs due to recent usage. Neat enough, where there are lots of things used on a daily basis in various places of convenience, but a vacuum has been used, and the dust is only in out of the way places. Then there is sloppy but not embarrassing, in which you can tell the kids have recently been playing in the living room, and haven’t put anything away. That’s followed by just plain sloppy, in which you can tell just by looking that the family is too busy, or doesn’t care that their living space has stuff strewn everywhere.
Miles’ house was the next level, which is pre-hoarder. You could still walk around, but it required doing a coordinated dance of avoidance to prevent stepping on toys. The part that baffled me, was the fact that they had a cleaning woman who came twice a week. I have seen every room in the house, and I’m certain this woman only cleans the bathrooms. While that’s indeed important, the clutter was mind boggling to me. Miles is in Middle School. I think it’s time to get rid of the tricycle. And the stroller. And every toy he has ever received in his life, that are randomly strewn about. I offered to help her organize, and she took me up on the offer immediately. However, it never happened. She opted to do other things and kept putting it off until our friendship deteriorated.
I’ll admit I’m odd in that I love to organize stuff. I blame my Mom. Growing up being the 9th out of 10 kids didn’t hurt. We had a large house, but my Mom loved to change things up. I had 4 different rooms as my bedroom throughout my childhood. Mind you, we lived in the same house for my entire childhood. I shared with my sister, Heather, in 2 of the rooms. I remember our matching yellow floral bedspreads and matching twin beds in that room. I hated those beds because they had sharp edges and I would constantly bash my toes or clip my knee on them. I’ve broken every toe and finger at some point, mostly from being clumsy. Steve broke 3 of my fingers after I made the volleyball team in Jr. High. It was his way of protesting my decision to play, rather than hang out with him after school. He had stubby fingers, but his grip was monstrous.
When I announced to my Mom one summer that I was bored, she showed me the mess in our garage. Bikes, skates, balls, bats, racquets, tools, and boxes thrown about. She told me that since I was bored, I had volunteered to organize and clean the garage. At first, it was overwhelming. All I could see was stuff that needed to be put somewhere. Then I sat down with my notebook and started drawing ideas of where things should go. I decided to group things by type, leaving the bikes in a row nearest the side door. That way we could get them in and out without scratching cars. I put all the painting, and mechanical tools in the little room at the back. They were off limits to us kids, so I felt timid handling them, even with permission.
I put the rakes and shovels against the far wall so that my brother could install the hanging system that was still in the original box it came in. I put everything on the driveway and then thoroughly swept the floor. It was a dusty, sneezy part of the job. Then I cleaned the windows on the inside and outside. This allowed more light in. I got my brother to clear away all the cobwebs in the corners. Then I used sand to get up the oil stains. Finally, I poured dishwashing soap in long lines up and down the floor. I got the hose and sprayed the floor, and then scrubbed with the pushing brush. My brother helped. I used way too much soap, so it turned into a bubbly mess for a while. We rinsed several times, but I suspect if I went to that garage right now and poured a glass of water on the floor, I could still get suds.
We got a power strip and as many fans as we could round up in the neighborhood to help dry the floor. While this was going on, I sorted the sports equipment in the driveway, giving each sibling a crate for their stuff. My brother, Kevin, mounted the crates about 2 feet off the ground on the back wall. All that was left were storage boxes, mostly full of baby clothing and the like. We stacked them up in the loft. Well, we passed them to Kevin, who stood on a ladder and placed them in the loft. By the time the floor dried, we had eaten lunch, and were recharged enough to clean both cars and the bikes. We also had a water fight. I didn’t know at that time that we had to pay for water, so I feel a little bit guilty retroactively when I remember that we had the hose on for several hours.
Finally, everything was clean and put in it’s new designated place. We were wet and filthy from our labors, and my mom hosed us down before we could come inside. I felt so good when she complimented us on a job well done. She raved about it, and even invited a few neighbors over to see what we’d accomplished. That was all it took. From then on, anytime something needed to be organized, I volunteered enthusiastically. I can’t begin to describe the feeling you get when you conquer a mess and transform it into a well organized space that functions in a manner that encourages others to keep it that way. It’s my super power.
My little sister, Heather, was a hoarder. It never became apparent when I was still living at home, because my Mom couldn’t stand clutter, so she was forced to deal with it. But when she moved to Des Moines, it came out in a big way. She saved everything. When I visited her while on leave from the Army, I stayed with her, and discovered she had saved all my belongings from before I joined. I had forgotten about them. My yearbooks, old report cards, photo albums, and even clothing! I went through a phase where I was enamored with Swatch watches. I would wear 4 at a time, and all of them with multiple colors and patterns. She had them all.
It was weird to look at my old stuff, but when I asked if I could keep one of my old shirts, she got upset and said no. These were her things now. I abandoned them when I left for the Army. It was an awkward moment. I didn’t push it. I had long ago learned not to butt heads with Heather. She was the most stubborn person who ever walked the face of the earth. And she used disproportionate retaliation tactics. That alone meant nobody messed with her more than a few times. I pushed her in the pool once. She retaliated by pushing me off the roof of our garage. I broke my arm and had a mild concussion. Me and Steve avoided her as much as possible when we were preteens. We were a naughty team of troublemakers who got in trouble on a regular basis. So when we would tell my Mom that Heather was a bully, she didn’t believe us.
Heather was the baby. She was incredibly cute, and smiled a lot. She knew how to play adults so that they thought she was sweet and perfect. Steve and I were the devils spawn in comparison. So we didn’t bother telling on her and avoided her instead. We would leave early in the morning and come back when the church bells rang at 6PM. It was a different time back then. We went wherever we wanted during summer. We used to stop by various elementary school playgrounds and play basketball, go to McKennan Park and do crafts with the recreation workers, etc. We had a range that seemed huge at the time, but in hindsight was basically a 1 mile radius of our house.
That feeling of ultimate freedom was nice as a child. I honestly believed I could do whatever I wanted, and so did Steve. Fortunately, the worst thing we thought of to do was smoke cigarettes. We didn’t know about drugs or other dangers. We didn’t even know how to inhale. We thought we were total badasses. Heather was certainly impressed. But she hated that we didn’t include her, and didn’t understand that it was because we thought she was evil. She was Damien to us. Interacting with her led to broken bones for me. She pushed Steve out of our fort that my Dad built us, and he landed with a rusty nail in his knee. It slid in below his kneecap, and my Dad yanked it out and took him to the ER.
The way we told it, though, was that Heather deliberately pushed him onto a rusty nail. In hindsight, I doubt the nail was even rusty, as my Dad had just built the fort there. We went over the grass in the area to see if there were any more before my Dad mowed the lawn for obvious reasons. We found 2 more. And you can bet that in the minds of me and Steve, they were put there deliberately by Heather. The only other incident that stands out in regard to this attitude was when we ditched her at the mall. She must have been about 8, which made me 9, and Steve 11 at the time. We did this on purpose. We invited her to go with us to the mall, and then ran away from her and went home without her.
When we got home, we got the beating of our lives for it. My Dad was furious that we left poor, sweet, helpless little Heather at the mall. She got a ride home from a teacher while we were getting spanked. Steve and I totally blamed her for the spankings. Cause and effect is kind of an hilarious concept when filtered through the minds of children. It’s funny to me now. I had the conversation with Heather as an adult. She asked me to hug her, and when I refused, she asked me why. I told her for about an hour, during which time we both cried, laughed, apologized, and agreed that what happened as children didn’t matter now. I hugged her after that. I’m glad I did. I never hated her, and always felt tremendously protective of her, even though I didn’t want to hang out with her as a kid.
She was the first instance in my life where I loved someone I didn’t like. She was protective of me too, in many ways. Like when my Mom would announce that I was moving to a different bedroom, and Heather would loudly object, and tell my Mom she was breaking me. I’m glad my Mom did that, though. It was painful at the time, but it also taught me how to make a new space my own. It’s a powerful redirect of a meltdown. Skip the meltdown and go into decorating mode. Solve the problem of how to turn this new space into one that feels safe and comforting. That skill was super important when I was in the Army. The only two times I had a rough time moving was when I moved to Saudi Arabia, and when I moved to Germany. Those were hard because my first thought was always, “I don’t know anyone on that continent”. Self sabotage.
Fortunately, I always found a few people who got me, and the Army is built on tradition and sameness. You can’t really tell one barracks from another unless you look for differences. Also, being in a foreign country while on a military base is very insular. You have to put forth effort to experience the new culture and sights. In Germany, I started competing in knowledge bowls and winning every time. It probably wasn’t fair, because I memorized the manuals, and the only challenge for me was knocking loudly before entering, and answering loudly enough for the board to hear me. I won trips all over Europe where I only had to pay for my lunch. I went skiing in the Alps. I played hide and seek in the Louvre. I ate authentic Italian food in Italy. That sort.
I know my experiences growing up have always helped me find success as an adult. I earned awards in the Army, while attending university, and even at the gym where I worked out while going to school. I got aerobics member of the month. It was a pleasant surprise. I think they were impressed by how much I improved from my first class, where I accidentally kicked the step across the room during step class. I was always going the wrong way, and a few seconds behind everyone else until I finally caught on. When I put in ear plugs, it became a lot easier. I just copied the instructor, and before long, I could tell what step was coming next by memorizing the routines. I loved it.
Then spinning became popular. I just run now. I need to find something to supplement it though. My back is weaker than I’d like. My arms are so weak it’s embarrassing. I think maybe some Wii tennis and baseball will help. It has to be something I do daily or I lose the muscle tone super fast. I hate the lay on the floor on my stomach and lift my leg and arm and hold exercise, but it’s the only one I know for my lower back. When I do a long run, it’s so frustrating when my lower back and feet get tired too soon. I know intellectually that running alone is not enough. It’s just the only exercise I like. Probably because it’s a stim. Sigh. I’ll pretend I’m playing Wii tennis with the Williams sisters. That should motivate me. I know if I imitate the grunts Serena makes it’ll crack me up. We’ll see. I hate using the weights at the gym in the main building. People don’t wipe their sweat off. It’s just so gross.