Project “Being Domesticated”

A friend of mine complimented me the other day on being quite domesticated and I had to be truthful in that yes, I do enjoy being in my own space and being domesticated but only up to a point and that I sometimes find myself a project (such as creating a new flower bed where previously there was just paving or making our own biltong) rather than clean the house. These projects are always for the benefit of the family – it’s not like I go on a read-as-many-books-as-I can-in-a-day project or something like that – but it usually takes up more time than the task I was putting off doing would have taken, which I eventually have to do anyway, I’ve just delayed the inevitable and created more work for myself so I end up running around like a road runner bird. Hygiene is paramount to me though, and the essential areas such as kitchen and bathrooms are cleaned regularly, the house gets vacuumed and so on and I do love it when the house is clean and tidy, sometimes I just struggle with some motivational issues in this area.

Take doing the laundry for instance. This is actually one department that I don’t have a problem staying on top of and with a family of five there is always washing to be done. Add some exercise clothes to that and at least one daily load is required to stay ahead. Which brings me to another point – our laundry hamper is labelled “65l Laundry Hamper” – how do you measure your laundry or washing in litres? It’s either empty, full, or somewhere in between and hopefully not overflowing but what would be the point in the kids ever saying to me that “The laundry hamper has 20l capacity left” if they need me to wash their school sport uniform for instance? I admit to over-thinking and over-analysing things sometimes but that’s just me and while I’m at it, the part that really gets me is folding and putting away the clean, dry washing. Up to that point I feel like I’ve added value to the process (got it clean, got it dry) but from there on it just feels like I’m moving it from one place to another which feels like such a waste of valuable time.

Sewing is another department that I’m seriously lacking in. One of my grandmothers used to be a seamstress, my mum is good at sewing, knitting, crotchet and all things related, my sister is good at it and so are her daughters but I’ve never had any interest whatsoever. I’ve never had the patience or perseverance required to work on something for hours on end and only have my imagination (or even a pattern) of the promised finished product to motivate me to keep going.  I’d much rather do a jigsaw puzzle where my progress is more visual and my chances of success are better. Or plant something in the garden. In year 8 I had to knit a toilet roll holder as part of the compulsory home economics course and I procrastinated until the day before it was due to be handed in because I couldn’t face doing it but then I had to stay up most of the night to finish it. And the wool was yellow. A yellow amateur looking toilet roll holder knitted with a bad attitude. It was torture and enough to put me off knitting for life. When I saw some funky, colourful crotched cushions in a magazine a few years ago I decided that I’d love to be able to do that, they looked so gorgeous. But when I tried to crotchet it felt like I had five thumbs on each hand. This was not going to work. I would still like to be able to do it but I’ll need a Mount Everest load of patience and by that time the house will need cleaning again.

Baking cakes is something else I’ve never been confident doing, but when we bought a bread machine about 10 years ago and I discovered that our local bread mix shop sells the most amazing range of pre-mixes that are fool proof and even I could do it, I branched out and started baking all sorts of interesting breads. My family loves home baked Turkish bread and fresh, warm Lebanese flat breads go so well with Lamb Souvlaki or other dishes that you eat in a wrap and the kids will come home today to freshly baked hot cross buns. I enjoy cooking as well, given that I have the time not to just put a quick rushed meal on the table.

My garden is my haven and I spend hours keeping it trimmed, watered, fed, fertilised and weeded. With my husband usually training for an endurance event of some sorts he quite often doesn’t have time to mow the lawn and I’ll happily do it rather than scrub the shower. I planted some Kalamata olive trees a few years ago and the crop has been such in the past that we had enough bottled olives to last us more than a year, and I love being able to pick fresh herbs from my garden. I’ve recently launched project “Expand And Plant More Edible Crops” and added some berry bushes and it’s great going outside, picking a fresh gooseberry and eating it right there.

Some olives from our crop a few years ago

Some olives from our crop a few years ago

Part of my herb/berry garden

Part of my herb/berry garden

I’ve taken on some other “projects” as well, such as making our own Dukkah (to eat with the Turkish bread) and biltong, both of which aren’t hard to do but take up a bit of time and as it is I’m already planning to make the next batch of biltong on my next day off work. Our house will never look like it’s from a photo in a home décor magazine, it looks too well lived in and it’s impossible to keep it perfectly tidy all the time unless I keep moving around and picking things up and putting them away when they’d been left by others as some in the family aren’t very good at putting things away. I would love it to always be tidy but time is limited and one has to make choices about where best to spend it and then I usually remember that our Dukkah is nearly finished and I need to make some more or a swim with the kids sounds like a better idea. As I sit here I know the filing needs to be done but I’ve just remembered I noticed yesterday that some of the new season’s olives looked ripe. I’d better go check on them before the birds get to them. They might need to be picked, and then the preparation process starts soaking them in water for a couple of weeks, rinsing them daily and then bottling them…

Road Runner

Let me start off by saying I’m not a road runner, I’m not even a runner in any form and I don’t look like a road runner either, and neither is this about road running in the traditional sense.

I do a lot of running around though, as mums (and some dads I’m sure) all over all do all the time.  In our house there lives a dad and husband who is fanatic about exercise, trains all the time (when he’s not working or updating his exercise spreadsheets and graphs or having the occasional bit of time out), has done close to a hundred marathons and ultra-marathons, ironman etc (let’s call him Ironman); a big boy and his two high school sisters, and of course, mum.  Most of the time I love getting up early in the morning and going for a walk, getting organised for the day ahead and just getting things done. The kids aren’t up by 5am but Ironman generally is, so the house is quiet as he minds his own business updating his general knowledge of all the relevant news sites for the day and other not-so-important information (in my opinion) before he goes out training, which leaves me free to do all the organising I have to do.

Sadly Ironman is injured at the moment though so there’s been no training for a while, which is really hard on someone who is used to that amount of exercise and I honestly don’t envy anyone who is injured (been there and done that). Suddenly he has a lot of time on his hands that he’s not used to, so not only is he injured, he also doesn’t know what to do with all this free time all of a sudden, and finally said in exasperation the other day that he was bored.

Now this was early in the morning before work and school, and I had a fair bit to do before going to work so I told him, as I was walking past him on my way to hang up the second load of washing, that I was definitely not bored! Picture this: going backwards and forwards between kitchen and laundry, front and back gardens moving a sprinkler, turning the timer on, checking that the tap is open just the right amount, back to the laundry to take one load of washing out and put another one in, outside to hang up the washing, out to the front garden to move that sprinkler and repeat the timer and tap process, back inside to the kitchen to prepare the marinade for the lamb for dinner, back outside to move the sprinkler as the timer has finished, repeat the timer and tap process, back inside to cut the lamb and put it in the marinade, make myself lunch to take to work, out to the front to move that sprinkler and repeat the timer and tap process, shower and get ready to go to work, eat breakfast, hang up the second load of washing. Now picture all of this in fast forward and you get a blurry picture of someone or something running backwards and forwards resembling a cartoon Road Runner.

This is the thing: there is always something to do. I remember as a kid sometimes being bored, but as a grown-up I haven’t experienced that luxury for a long, long time. Some days I find myself going backwards and forwards doing so many things, and while I’m busy doing one thing I’ll notice something else that needs doing or attention so I’ll stop what I’ve been doing and sort out the other thing, at which point I might interrupt myself again to organise a third thing, and so the day will go by and I’ll be completely exhausted by the end of it but sometimes I haven’t even finished the one thing I started out to do! Doesn’t really bring about a huge sense of accomplishment, but expends a lot of energy and takes up a lot of time. Other days I’ll set out with a clear sense of purpose and a list of things that need doing, whether it be phone calls, appointments to be made, cleaning, grocery shopping, laundry, gardening, filing, cooking a big pot of soup or some other project such as marinating and bottling my olive crop or making dukkah, and by the end of the day I’ll have accomplished what I’d set out to do. And yet there will always be something else to do!

How come it’s so common for men not to understand that a mum’s job is never finished though? And that there’s no point avoiding chores as they will not go away and are better done sooner rather than later? Training for an Ironman event takes up a lot of time, and in our house it basically means that with work and training Ironman is not around most of the time, which really makes it impossible for him to help with a lot of housework, and he’s honestly the only person I know who will sign up to do Ironman (resulting in hours and hours of gruelling training every week, getting up at about 4am most days to go training sometimes in the dark, cold and rain and other times in extreme heat in the middle of summer for 7 hours on a Saturday or Sunday) to avoid doing housework! The funny part is that quite often it’s an hour’s housework that’s been replaced by about 10 hours of training (and repeating this for a few months, and then eventually doing a 3.8km swim followed by a 180km bike ride, followed by a 42km run all on one torturous day). Replacing 1 hour of housework with 10 hours of torturous training? The maths just don’t add up.

Now that there’s a break in training at the moment he’s had to find other ways to kill the time, such as going into our shed a while ago looking for something useful and important, but returning instead with 25 year old marathon photos and then spending an entire fruitful Saturday afternoon scanning and sharing them online with his old running mate. Another deliberate distraction to avoid doing housework, and he hasn’t shown this much interest in the shed in the last 7 years (until he discovered that it offered a distraction)!

Funny that boredom is the alternative to training with no other options available. I’ve never thought of it that way before! Ironman and other related distractions aside, there’s always something that needs doing.

The bottom line is: I’m not bored.

Got to go.

Beep Beep.

Road Runner pic