Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Thoughts on (not) Cleaning, Potential Writing Topics, and Weird Places to Grow Pumpkins

So my readers often ask me why it is that I write so much about cleaning my house (or rather NOT cleaning my house).
Okay. That is a total lie.

No one has ever asked me that. But it's entirely possible that some of you have thought about it. Perhaps you are wondering how messy we are talking if this woman (me) is continually bringing up the subject: here. Here. and Here. It does seem to be a persistent problem, how to balance out writing with other obligations.

Perhaps you are wondering if cleaning (or rather, NOT cleaning) is an appropriate topic for a blog post about writing and reading and all things related to writing and reading. Well, yes. I think it is. Stick with me here. It has to do with school lunches.

There's a great book by Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird, which is pretty much THE manual when it comes to writing inspiration and craft, where she recommends writing about school lunches whenever you are suffering from writer's block. Her point is that writing something--anything--even about the contents of your seventh grade self's lunch bag can miraculously break down your walls and get the creative juices flowing.

I am not suffering from writer's block at the moment. But I am in this floundery phase between projects. My publisher accepted my revision (woot! woot!) and the manuscript is now in copyediting. As I'm writing this, I'm thinking about how cool that sounds while at the same time I am thinking that I don't know exactly what the copyediting phase entails. But I am certainly excited about the prospect of figuring it out! If you've been following this blog with any regularity, you know that after many many years of toiling, I've snagged a book deal. My YA novel is due out next year around this time (Sept. 10, 2013, if you'd like to mark your calendar).

So I'm wondering what to work on while I'm waiting and I'm also feeling kind of floundery because of stuff going on at the home front. Specifically, last weekend my husband and I dropped our first born child off at a college 648 miles away and now we're back home and son's bedroom is sadly empty but somehow I am still finding his clothes in the laundry. Also he didn't quite clean out all of his toiletries and whenever I walk by his bathroom I note the half-used deodorant and the squeezed up toothpaste container on the sink, and I wonder if I should clean that up (or not).

Which brings me to the actual point of this blog about cleaning (or rather, NOT cleaning). Because, this, dear readers, is what is preoccupying my mind and I must get it out of my head by writing about it: my realization over the weekend that I have likely failed big time in one very important parenting area. I never taught my brilliant boy how to clean a bathroom.

It is a stunning oversight on my part and someday his future wife can berate me, but today there is a more urgent cause for worry. My son lives in a suite with seven other boys and they share one bathroom and somehow the college neglected to tell the boys that they would be responsible for cleaning and stocking that bathroom. Well, as you can probably imagine, all of the parents had hearty laugh about that. What is 55,000 dollars a year paying for, etc. Then we ran out and bought toilet brushes and cleaning supplies and toilet paper and piled that up in the boys' bathroom and then wondered if any of that stuff would ever be, uh, actually utilized. I suppose we will find out at Parent's Weekend in October!

One of the moms told me that she overheard the boys talking.

Boy #1: "Do any of you know how to clean a bathroom?"
Boys # 2-7: "No."
Boy #8 (who is not my son): "I, uh, do, sort of."

I'm sure that kid is probably kicking himself now. Oh, we mothers (and I say mothers, because geez, isn't it the mothers who clean the bathrooms? and isn't this THE problem in the first place?) are kicking ourselves too and feeling pity for boy # 8 who should not be saddled with this job himself.

So, doing the only thing I know how to do, I told my son a story. This goes back to my own freshmen year a gabillion years ago, but I remember it vividly because it was so disgusting. It was Halloween and I went to a party hosted by a bunch of boys who lived in a very cool apartment-like dorm room, complete with a lovely kitchenette. I remember walking by that kitchenette and noting the splattered remains of a large pumpkin the boys had carved in the sink. Seeds, guts, and pumpkin entrails spilled out onto the counter, and there was the awesome carved pumpkin grinning over the mess.

Cut to: the end of the year. The same boys had a party and I walked through the same kitchenette, with the remains of that same mess spattered on the counter. But this time there was a plant growing up from the sink drain like Jack's Beanstalk, the vines climbing across the counter around the corroding mess, and sprouting darling little pumpkins. Yes. These boys had never cleaned up the carved pumpkin from back in the fall. Had never, I guess, used that sink again. And now they had a bizarre garden to show for it in their kitchenette.

My son seemed appropriately awestruck by my story.

But now that I think about it, he may have been contemplating potential chemistry/biological experiments brewing in his bathroom.


  1. Or rather the one who isn't Burnsy.

    1. You're funny, Mikey. Or should I call you, Steve?

  2. Love the post and the new blog look. One of my friends who took her son to college can't even go in his room yet. But, I went into Nate's room and cleaned out an entire trash bag full of junk. Now you have me psychoanalyzing why I did that! I think I felt like I was still taking care of him, but I also felt much better knowing that room was clean. BTW, I did teach him to clean a bathroom, but there's little chance he will do it without my prompting.

  3. Thanks Sara! I am still resisting the urge to straighten up in Ben's room. Mostly I walk by it and sigh. We got a puppy over the weekend (NOT as a replacement. Really) And then found out that other people we know with kids newly off to college just got dogs too. I think it may be a trend...