Life as it Comes; Episode 004

Smoked Soup and Hesitant Hospitality

Podcast cover - 8b 3000x3000Sometimes cooking dinner does not go according to plans. And sometimes a burnt dinner is not as ruined as one thinks.

Do you have a dinner story that did not go according to plan? Share below in the comments.

 

 

 

Play this episode below in your choice of players.

 

Breathing Dust Bunnies

WP_20160617_20_05_22_ProSpring arrives and I think about giving the house a seriously good cleaning. Summer arrives and I think about it a little more.

I am vacuuming my kitchen floor, noticing that the edges of the wood floor peeking from the refrigerator shadow are getting a bit grimy. If I step back the length of a tall man, I can peek an inch under the fridge. Here the grime thickens and coagulates, catching and holding insects, small toys that have rolled under and had their momentum stopped instantaneously, as well as all manner of dirt, debris, and food particles.

I silently debate. Stop now and properly clean under the fridge, which has most definitely tiptoed past its annual underneath cleaning, maybe even two or three cleanings, or pretend that none of that gross stuff resides under my fridge and hope that no one will ever notice.

I chose the former and dream about the reward I will earn by completing this not so pleasant task that hovers significantly below scrubbing toilets on my scale of cleaning tasks. Maybe this year sainthood will be offered, or at the least, a pay raise added to my already tidy sum of zero I am currently pulling in as the one and only house-cleaner for the clan.

Now here is a tip I am sharing for absolutely free. If the floor under the refrigerator looks like it is decked out for Halloween because of all the debris littered cobwebs contained under its bowels, then the coils are also guaranteed to be just as dirty (hopefully minus the small toys). And in case you didn’t read the fine print on the refrigerator manual, (or if you actually did because your husband would have a pop quiz when he came home, like mine does) the coils of a fridge need to be cleaned annually. Or in plain English—clean your fridge coils once a year for maximum performance (the refrigerator’s performance, not yours.)

So how do the coils get dirty? Air is drawn across the condenser coils during the cooling process. This movement of air collects dust and household debris.

Why clean the coils?  Dirty coils reduce the refrigerator’s ability to maintain optimal temperatures or operate at maximum energy efficiency.

Hopefully you passed the pop quiz, but if not, don’t worry. Just remember that refrigerator coils are guaranteed to get dirty, gross, and grimy. No exceptions. Which pretty much is a downer, and leads to the unpleasant task of wrestling with the refrigerator and cleaning things you hoped never to clean again.

So what are your options? Clean the coils yourself, hire someone, bribe someone, ignore the coils, buy a new refrigerator when it gasps it’s last, or give up cold food.

I decided on option one.

The coils on most refrigerators are in the back of the unit or on the bottom, accessible behind the bottom grille. Some refrigerators have coils inside the compressor and therefore should never need cleaning. Believe me, this is an important tidbit I am tucking into my brain and remembering when I need to buy a new fridge.

First task is to unplug the refrigerator. Unfortunately, this involves pulling it away from the wall. Good luck on wrestling that monster forward, but if you get angry enough and mutter enough choice words, it eventually starts inching forward.

If you don’t want nightmares, don’t glance anywhere near floor height when you unplug the unit. Since this takes intense willpower, you will probably succumb and notice what has been hiding under your monster’s bottom. Small toys, pens, large scraps of food, small bits of food, dried and gelatinous liquid that was spilled months ago, a layer of dirt and grime that could win a prize in a science fair, ticket stubs, money, dice, rubber bands, pieces of paper and plastic, Styrofoam peanuts, dried bug carcasses, and enough dust bunnies to knit grandma a sweater.

After wearing my fingers an inch shorter by scrapping and scrubbing my extra dirty floor to a semblance of clean, I attacked the coils. I wrenched the front grill off below the doors, attached the smallest and thinnest vacuum attachment I had, and began sucking up the handfuls of dust and dirt from the first four inches of coils that I could reach.

Due to some sort of curse by the refrigerator fairy, the coils for my unit are approximately 2 inches off the floor. This seems like a fine enough location for them, until one needs to clean them. I have to lie on the floor, the side of my face pressed against the kitchen floor, so I can even see the first three inches of the coils.

While in this position, concentrating on ridding the coils of all grime and dust, I just hope and pray that my husband doesn’t sneak in behind me and scare me. This has happened in the past. Let’s just say, finding oneself standing on the kitchen counter or impaling oneself on a vacuum handle is not pleasant. It takes days for my husband to quit breaking out in spontaneous laughter. Or to quit muttering, “I seriously didn’t think you could jump so high.”

As my vacuum attachment can only reach the first 4 inches, I take a yardstick, cover it with an old black dress sock of my husband, and use it to dust the top and bottom of the coils that run north and south into the bowels of my unit. With each jab underneath, I have to vacuum the now white and dusty sock. Dust bunnies are clinging to that sock like a sweater on Velcro. I have also collected enough dust bunnies to knit grandpa a matching sweater.

Exhausted from pressing my face and body atop the floor, peering into the underneath of the refrigerator, and fishing out dust and dirt that is multiplying faster than flies on watermelon, I call it quits.

In the end, my floor and refrigerator coils are clean for another year.

I am sweaty, dirty, and need a good vacuum myself.

WP_20160401_15_37_07_Pro with textWoman wrestles monster refrigerator, woman barely wins.

And yet, I also have a sense of accomplishment. The kind that comes from tackling and completing something hard. It is a good feeling. A feeling I need to remember next week, in a month, or in three years when I am faced with another sticky, unpleasant task I in no way want to complete. It may be a struggle to start and finish an unpleasant task, but the end emotion and product feels like a celebration.

No, I wasn’t awarded sainthood, but I did get a pay raise. A whole sticky 32 cents pried from the sticky no-man’s land beneath the refrigerator.

 

Remember that sense of accomplishment that comes from completing hard things, especially when life presents you with unpleasant tasks you need to accomplish. What unpleasant things are you currently facing? Please share in the comment section.

Bed Sheets, Deer, and the Clampetts

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Our front walk is ringed in daylilies that we planted for color several years ago. The first year or two proceeded without incident, probably because the plants were spindly, small, and were getting established. Then last year arrived and we had lots of blooms puffing up and about to burst forth.

Then the mystery developed. Just before they would open, the blooms would be picked clean off. Only long thin reedy stems left for evidence.

“Something is picking the blooms right before they open,” my husband informed me.

I attached my detective hat and four seconds later arrived with the solution. The boys. I knew they sometimes absently picked leaves off plants; maybe they were picking the blooms.

I interrupted their soccer game in the cul-de-sac to interrogate them, but they all denied being an accomplice to such a flower picking deed.

I was stymied. Who was picking my daylilies before any color could perk up our front yard?

“It’s the deer,” my husband said. “Notice the stems have been chomped off.”

I studied the evidence. He was right. The deer were filling up on our nightly front yard dessert buffet. And obviously they were not prone to indigestion, because they returned for leftovers, time and again. Sometimes we had blooms, other times none.

Another year rolled around and the blooms began to set, then puff up. We got a few blooms, and then the deer returned for their edible flower salad buffet.

Early on I decided that I was not going to let the deer win. I began covering my daylily bed with an old sheet. A later variety began to bloom, so out came another sheet.

At first my husband, who wants our front yard to look like the cover of Better Homes and Garden, teased and called us the Clampetts of the neighborhood with my hillbilly sheets. He wanted me settling the sheets around the plants under the cover of darkness, with only the garage lights as my assistant. He didn’t want attention drawn to our tacky and unmatched landscaping cover.

He may have been laughing over my mismatched sheets and teasing me about my tactics, but success was mine.

Soon we had blooms and our neighbors didn’t. I was smiling and he was changing his tune to a rosier one.

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“I guess those hillbilly sheets are working,” he confessed.

And then one night I forgot. Fifty blooms eaten. Fifty blooms digesting in some deer’s stomach.

My husband, who is always the first one up in our house, came into the bedroom to wake me and inform me that we had no daylily blooms. “You forgot the sheets,” he accused.

Needless to say, I had some cloudy notion of getting to busy on the phone and failing to cover and tuck in the flowerbed. I frowned. Those pesky deer had bested me.

Then I realized my opportunity that loomed like a wide-mouthed cavern. “So you agree that my idea is working?” I asked my husband.

“Yes, Theresa,” he admitted. “You are very clever.”

I smiled and felt like a preening cat.

“So can I start setting the sheets out before midnight?”

“Yes, Mrs. Clampett.”

“An hour before dark?”

“Yes Mrs. Clampett.”

“Two hours?”

“You’re pushing your luck. What if the Goggle Car comes by some evening to photograph our neighborhood?”

I stare at him, realize he is serious.

“I guess we would be known as the neighbors with un-matching bed sheets scattered across their yard?”

“Yes Mrs. Clampett.”

“Can I go back to sleep.”

“No, Mrs. Clampett.”

I lay in bed smiling. Then cursing the deer. Then smiling. The sheets were working. They were fooling the deer. A thin cotton fabric was enough to disguise the blooms and cause the deer to pass over our blooms in favor of another neighbor’s flowering snack.

But why was this a surprise? Anything can be covered and disguised. How often do we as humans try to cover and disguise our true selves through clothing, frantic activities, fake smiles and false hope when what we need is the only true change—God’s grace and forgiveness.

Just like the bed sheets cover the developing blooms from the deer, so God’s grace covers our sins, hiding them under his blanket of forgiveness. And underneath this blanket, his love, peace, joy, and righteousness takes root and begins to bloom, shooting up and through his forgiveness, beautifying us, and causing others to notice us in a different and more beautiful mode. Our old self is covered, forgotten, and the new us shines forth with dazzling joy and beauty.

I wade among the slender daylily leaves early that evening. An hour and 20 minutes before dark. Sheets in hand.

I pause and thank God for covering up my old self, for covering me with His grace and forgiveness when I shake my sheets in the air that night, watching them flutter down and atop the blooms. Protecting them. Saving them for another day.

During their rest they will regather strength and bloom again. They will sparkle with color in the early morning light.

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So far the deer haven’t bested me again. But if this idea catches on with the neighbors, I may have to find some nicer sheets. Right now I have a twin vanilla colored sheet and a full-sized very pale blue and red-stripped sheet that has faded to pale pastels. No coordination or points for beauty between them. But they do work. And in the morning, the blooms dazzle the beholders.