A Load of Laundry

New Year’s Eve 2013, I believe it was. At this point we had lived in our house eight years and the last conspicuous evidence of the prior owners was the plaid ivory, pink, blue, and turquoise green wallpaper in our laundry room.

I refused to head into a new year staring at this wallpaper any longer. Down it came in big giant sheets, almost as big as the ones originally hung. It was so easy, so satisfying, to do. The whole exercise took no more than twenty minutes. Keep in mind, my laundry room isn’t tiny…it’s more like a giant walk-in pantry. All I wanted to do was remove the plaid…the fuzzy paper residue that remained on the walls could stay for another time, once I had a chance to score and remove it properly.

You see, when we moved into our house, the entire decor was baby blue and pale pink. A couple lived there before us with their three or four daughters. It always struck me as odd that a house decorated entirely in baby blue and pale pink did not have bedroom closets designed to hang dresses, but to each his own! This house did have a separate two-car garage with a woodshop attached, for the lone man of the house. I suspect he spent a lot of time out there over the years. In any event, I’m not a pastels kind of chick. I tend to gravitate toward warmer, richer colors and classic neutrals.


For me, somewhere in the middle of raising three kids, I put house matters on hold. It took everything I had in me to hold down my job, shuttle the kids around to their activities, deal with schoolwork, pay bills, clean the house, do laundry, you name it. I found that my least favorite activities, and certainly the ones that require a lot of mental energy to start, got put aside. But it was time to make the laundry room beautiful since it felt like I spent all my time there.

I don’t mind doing laundry. Washing, drying, and folding every piece has become a little meditation, a prayer for me. I think of my children wearing these clothes, how much fun they had spilling juice on this shirt or ketchup on that one, how the knees are worn out from playing, which pieces are their favorites such that they show up again and again and again…and eventually there is that last cycle when you realize they’ve outgrown the item in hand, and it’s time to release it to someone else who can use it, someone outside our home.


No kidding, an entire year went by before I got around to cleaning the paper fuzz off the walls, let alone prep them for painting. But eventually I did paint them a cheery peach IMG_4607color, and once I did, I realized I didn’t like the effect. As the mom of three kids, I spend an insane amount of time in that room and it was dreary. It was still crazy dark in that room…it has a whole wall of dark brown cabinets that had been moved from the kitchen and repurposed into the laundry room. The hardware was dusty brass, circa 1980.

I knew it would be a huge effort to pull off, but I decided I had to paint the cabinets white. And if you are shooting for cheery white cabinets, then they need to be cheery white on the side too, especially since that super sticky-tacky contact paper was used to line every last shelf and drawer.

Fast forward. Once in a blue moon I’d have a day free to tackle the paint job. It was tough to pull off because this room was constantly in use, so my painting days had to be full days I could get a lot of it done. Everything had to be hauled out to tackle the painting, and then hauled back in.  Because the laundry room was often in disarray, it became a sort of catch-all room for objects that didn’t have a home. Two years went by before I finally paid someone to paint the cabinets and the walls in a way that I realized I simply didn’t have the time to do. What a relief!

And then it stayed that way for another six months until I could purge my home of all the collected do-dads, reorganize what we would store in the cabinets, paint the trim, hang a shelf and curtains, lay down a rug, and decorate as the final touch. Here are some photos of the finished product.


Over the years, as “incentive” I told myself I could start no new home projects until the laundry room was done. It didn’t really work. Some things just couldn’t wait. Others did, but now I have a massive backlog of stuff that needs repair and updating.

I even took a couple of last-minute vacation days earlier this month to finish the job, once and for all. I posted my photos on Facebook for friends to see, as they had heard about this journey I had been on all these years. Got the requisite oohs and aahs from my photos. I’m proud of my work, my vision for the room, and how it turned out. I love doing laundry in there now. And it has stayed nice and clean ever since.

But the strangest thing about this remodeling journey is this: somewhere along the way of these five years, a load has been taken off my shoulders. I suddenly look at the list of home projects and it doesn’t overwhelm me. I know exactly where all the tools are and whether I have what I need to pull it off, and if I don’t, I head to the hardware store and pickup the few things I need to work the job.

I don’t mind doing the renovation work myself. As a matter of fact, I really love restoring objects to their former beauty or making them better than before. It’s a kind of meditation all unto itself. And believe me, this mom of small kids CRAVED time to meditate.

But now that the load of doing the laundry (room) has been removed, I don’t quite know what to do with myself. The passage of time has hit me a little hard. My children are all five years older. The tiny little knick-knacky toys that are the hallmark of early childhood are slowly being phased out of our house, so they don’t clutter the laundry room anymore. No more bubble stuff, Fisher-Price Little People, lego pieces, Barbie shoes, tempera paint, Play-Doh…. Where did it all go? Wait!? You mean, all that will be left is just….laundry now?

Suddenly doing the laundry is a breeze. There’s tons of counter space to fold and the kids take their clean clothes back to their rooms…and two of the three even do the laundry themselves now.  I need to hang a picture frame? Boom! It’s easy to find the hammer and nail to make it happen. Need an old towel to dry off the patio chairs after a rain? Boom! Easy to spot, easy to grab. Need a dust mop? Same thing.

I can’t figure out whether this room was truly the hub of the house such that whipping it into shape was critical to a well-functioning home or whether the inability to finish the renovation was the giant obstacle getting in the way of other progress in my life. I don’t think this is coincidence.

Who knew that I was really working my way through a load of laundry of a different kind all this time?

#5: Move That Body!

Part of a series of ten segments, checking the progress of my 2017 New Year Resolutions.

You could say I’m more of an indoorsy person. Growing up, you’d find me curled up with a book – like any given volume of an encyclopedia – instead of running or climbing trees outside.

I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was 12 when a new friend taught me in a neighborhood that wasn’t my own, where no one could see me finally learning a skill many kids pick up at a fraction of that age. You see, throughout grade school, all the other kids had age-appropriate bikes with banana seats, streamers on the handlebars, and training wheels to help them learn. We had an early 1960s, turquoise green, adult-size bike with no training wheels. I couldn’t even lift the thing, let alone have the strength to pedal it and stay upright, but that didn’t matter because no one really took the time to teach me. It just wasn’t important in our family. Besides, I wouldn’t be caught dead riding something that you could have seen on an episode of Happy Days.

I didn’t learn to swim until 13, and I purposefully braved the water in a place far from home for the same reason. This was after a year of laying backwards in the bathtub, nose poking out enough to breathe, just to get used to the feel and muffled sound of water in my ears. Of course, this assumes you can call it swimming, what I do in the water. I can’t really submerge my head without water shooting up my nose no matter how much they tell me to “blow out”. Even if I take a big gulp of air and blow out as instructed, I feel like I’ve exhausted what’s in my lungs, and there’s nothing left to sustain me while I’m submerged. I panic and feel my heart beating outside of my chest. Water and swimming are so unnerving, even to this day.

Growing up, I could not name a single person in my immediate or huge extended family who pursued athletics of any kind, except my brother. It was not our thing as a family. Today I have nieces and nephews and cousins 13+ years younger than me who provide a far better example by running 5ks and half marathons, but as a child, there were virtually no role models for me to turn to. Frankly, my parents scoffed at people who used their leisure time for “play” versus working for real, working at home, or spending time with family.

You can imagine, then, that Phys Ed was not my favorite class in school. Not by a long shot. I was often the slowest kid, severely winded when I ran, a bit uncoordinated when it came to team sports, and not very strong. Now for whatever reason, I was great on a trampoline and with any activity that resembled yoga, but I never connected those to anything I could or should do as an adult. No, I couldn’t wait for public school education to end because in my mind that meant I’d never have to take a gym class again! Woo hoo.

Nobody told me then that life IS gym class. Gosh darn it!

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We humans are body, mind, and soul yet I’ve been perfectly content focusing on the latter two for most of my life.

It isn’t like I haven’t tried as an adult. I’ve had countless gym memberships. I’ve tried running, power walking, weight lifting, Jazzercise, ballet, biking, yoga, dancing, hiking, swimming, basketball, volleyball, and even rowing where I was on a team that actually won a medal. Downright amazing if you ask me!

Of all those activities, only four really stick with me: dancing, hiking, biking, and yoga. Three of those I did as a kid, and one I tried as an adult. Ok, maybe you can count power walking, but I do that just so I’m doing something. I can’t say I love it. I feel great when I’m done, but I don’t love it.

I have loved dancing since I was a little girl. We attended countless weddings while I was growing up, many held at the former St. Joseph’s Elementary School gymnasium in Wolfhurst, Ohio, and I wouldn’t leave the dance floor. I’d be a sweaty mess by night’s end but I loved every second of it. If there was a couples type of dancing, I was game: didn’t matter if it was disco, polka, jitterbug, or whatever. I invited a dancer friend of mine to a Polish wedding in Pittsburgh, and he whipped me around the dance floor in several polkas. It was such a thrill. And I can go to my grave satisfied for having danced a tango once with another semi-professional dancer who had his choice of a roomful of women to ask, but he asked me. It was pretty freaking awesome, let me tell you.

My best friend growing up took all the dance lessons, every kind that was offered. I wanted to badly to do the same but never had the chance. Now I’m a little too self-conscious to hit the dance floor. It’s not like I don’t. I do…there just aren’t many opportunities anymore and I’m well aware of how I look, and I look like crazy middle-aged white lady ought to sit her butt down. Lol

Hiking was another love that I didn’t even realize I had. Again, my best friend growing up lived almost at the top of a big hill, and when the winter weather broke, we’d go for a hike up into the woods and this would go on in the spring, summer, and fall. I had no idea how far we traveled, or whose property we were on. The mere thought of two 10 year old girls hiking alone in the woods today is insanity but it seems you could pull those things off in the 1970s…. Anyway, I never realized how much I enjoyed the sun shining through the trees; the fresh, wet smell of spring; navigating over logs and streams; and just enjoying nature as-is. I enjoy hiking in the woods today even though I don’t have quite the stamina to pull it off.

Biking at 12 was my first real taste of freedom. Once I learned to ride a bike, I could roam all around our neighborhood and I did as often as I could. It seems that every February the weather would break just warm enough where we could whip out our bikes and ride. My friend Stephanie and I would race home after school, and spend what felt like two hours cleaning off the grime of storage and the prior year, inspecting and pumping some air in the tires, and off we went until sunset or dinner time. It was glorious. And I continued to love bike riding until I dated a fearless mountain biker who wanted me to race up and downhill in the woods, even though I didn’t have the strength, confidence, or desire he had. He just made me feel ashamed for being unable to keep up, as if my athletic ability was my most important trait as a human. That guy never appreciated all that I am, which is why he isn’t my husband today.

Which leaves me to yoga. Little did I realize that the hours I spent as a child on my living room floor in various positions was actually yoga but I did it and I loved it. I was getting to where I could do a headstand, and I probably did but I didn’t keep it up the practice much longer after this achievement. This may not sound like much to you, but this is coming from a kid with zero athletic ability. This is a big deal.

Somehow I got reintroduced to yoga as an adult, and loved the slow, quiet, calm, meditative environment that came along with it. There was a time I lived in Omaha, Nebraska, and attended Bikram Yoga classes for a few months until I became too pregnant to continue comfortably.  I could tell I was getting better – stronger and more flexible – with each successive session. Yoga gave me a sense of balance, figuratively and literally, and I surprise people today with the poses I can do.

Now you’d think after all of this self-searching I would have zoomed in on the few activities I actually enjoy and get to where I am strong, and fit, and excel in any of them, but no!  I have never been physically strong. Couple that with my relatively sedentary lifestyle, pseudo-chef husband, and nutrition ignorance, it unsurprisingly gets harder with each passing year.

I mentally know the importance of moving my body. Just move. We’ve heard how sitting is the new smoking, so I even asked for one of those standing desks at work and I’m building up the stamina to stand for a few hours each day. I even got rid of my wastebasket so I’d have to walk to the coffee station to throw away trash…every little bit to get more steps in. I have a hand-me-down Apple watch, and it tracks my steps and nudges me to move and breathe.

All of these little things help – they are me moving in the right direction but not enough and not fast enough. I can’t say that I’m biking, hiking, walking, or dancing more than I have before, and that disappoints me. I don’t want to look back wistfully on my life at all of the things this body was given the health and ability to do AND NOT DO IT.  From a spiritual perspective, that’s not using one of the gifts we’ve been given: a healthy body so our spirit knows what it feels like to USE it.

Now I did attend a couple of yoga sessions this year for the first time in more than a decade and it was amazing to get back into it but something always gets in the way. When I look back on 2017, I’ve got more work to do on this “move more” goal, and make it a priority.

One of my dear friends is a doctor and author who writes books and produces webcasts on being a master’s (over 40) athlete and how important and possible it is to stay active, healthy, and vital well into our senior years. She writes these books and I swear it’s like she’s writing them for ME. She doesn’t of course, but it feels that way. I am often ashamed and embarrassed at how little I follow her advice, and I feel like she knows it, so I’ve kinda sorta avoided her because I’m insecure that way! lol I want her to be proud of me for turning my physical health around, but more than that, I want to be proud of me. I want my husband and kids to be proud. I want to be around for them in 20-30-40 years and do stuff with them. All the stuff. I want to be strong, flexible, and more lean, with energy levels to the sky.

Look for more on this in 2018.