Coffee heat rising

Woo HOO! Cleaning Lady Jamboree!

So Luz the Wonder Cleaning Lady, who has begged off coming ’round once a month, saying she wasn’t feeling well, her husband wasn’t well, and whatnot, called out of the blue and invited herself to come do battle with the Funny Farm.

This was good — very, very good — because even though I’ve tried to keep up with the chore-a-day strategy, truth to tell I’ve let it go somewhat and the place needed a serious deep cleaning.

And no one can deliver that better than Wonder Cleaning-Lady. The house is so clean it sings. The tiles feel like glass under one’s bare feet. And speaking of glass…you can see through the windows again. Isn’t that unique?

I think Luz does so much better with the windows than I do because she uses a commercial product. It looks like her theory that my DIY Windex knockoff doesn’t work as desired is…well…correct.

She brings a number of her own products. The window cleaner is something called “Sprayway.” I’ve never seen it…my guess is, it probably comes from a dollar store or maybe a Walmart. Here it is on Amazon…it seems to be pretty well liked by that august emporium’s buyers. Hmmm… one commenter says you can get it for a fraction of the price at Target. So…next time I’m there, I may look for it.

As for the floors? There’s no explanation other than that she can cast some sort of magical spell.

It looks like what’s happening Chez Wonder-Cleaning Lady is that she’s taken on more clients than she can handle without killing herself. She said that several of her customers have kids who graduated from high school last month and so threw big parties to celebrate. Apparently she was over at their respective houses helping to prepare for the shindigs and then back again cleaning up the mess.

In addition, she was trying to deal with a lot of other customers, her own kid who’s now out of school for the summer, and an ailing husband.

You also get the sense, in talking with her, that when she arrived in this country she probably didn’t realize how much demand there is for contract cleaning help from someone who actually can and will do the job right. Those cleaning services are terrible, to say nothing of ridiculously overpriced. So people who know how a house is supposed to be cleaned and what it’s supposed to look like after the job is done will try (often with much frustration…) to seek out single entrepreneurs who will contract to come to your house once every week or two or once a month. A woman who learned how to clean from her mother, who knew how to clean, will invariably do a better job and usually will cost less. Even though she’s worth far more than a slap-dash cleaning service… 😉

Luz’s English is much improved over what she had when she started here at the Farm. And, since she’s a very bright woman, I expect she’s wised up to what her services are worth. I’m surprised she hasn’t started a cleaning service of her own, hiring out some of these jobs to underlings. It would be tricky — many cleaning ladies are here illegally, and so it would be risky to employ them and difficult to pay them. Luz will take checks, which indicates that she’s legal enough to have a bank account. But many, like my would-be “intern,” need to be paid in cash. These days I usually pay her in cash, too, since she doesn’t come very often and since I suspect it’s easier for her not to have to dork around with depositing a check.  With those kinds of complications, she probably doesn’t want the hassle of having to hire and supervise underlings.

At any rate, I hope she stays in business for a long time. That lady is just the ticket!

What Planet Am I On?

Surely this isn’t Earth. 😀

So after the computer spent three days in the shop and it took another half-day to fix the mess that sojourn made of DropBox, I was way, way behind on the indexing project. Let the client know it’s gonna be late and then set to work frantically trying to catch up.

After a fashion. First things first, though: in the chore-a-day department, yesterday was dust-the-furniture day. In theory, the plan was also to oil the furniture, something that hasn’t been done in many a moon. Some of the pieces were looking pretty parched.

Was feeling guilty yesterday about suggesting the cleaning lady was less than perfectly bright just because she twisted the vacuum cleaner extension cord like a licorice whip. That was before I discovered the greasy rings in the middle of the living-room’s leather chair, where she put something oily down. Probably, I figure, a can or bottle of some furniture polish she dragged in. Whatever, it wrecked the chair’s seat, thankyouverymuch.

Not that the chair and the sofa were in what you might call pristine condition. The leather was dried out and tired, as was the leather on the much better quality chair in the family room, a piece that came from Crate & Barrel. That one was not just dry and tired, it had been scratched up by several dogs and scraped by somebody whapping it against something. Probably a previously unnoticed moving-man attack.

In the freshly cleaned-out and organized garage cupboard, I found a bottle of orange oil, and in the hall closet, a container of mink oil. I’d heard, shortly after I’d bought it, that mink oil is not all that great for reviving tired leather. But not having anything else…

It seems to have worked well: moistened up the parched, dried-out areas and darkened the leather enough to sorta hide the grease rings. Didn’t get rid of them, but made them less noticeable. It really helped on the family-room chair, though: completely hid all the Charley scratches, all the Ruby scratches, and all the Cassie scratches, as well as any number of other nicks, dings, and gouges. That chair looks practically new. The living-room sofa and chair just look…a lot better.

This was quite a job. Then I had on the list to oil the casework. What a difference it makes to massage a decent oil into a Thos. Moser or a Stickley piece! Wow!

My mother’s furniture — two bureau drawers, a dressing table, and a small desk from the late 1950s in what was then the Danish modern style — have a sort of golden finish on them with some kind of shellac over it. Oiling it makes it look prettier but does little, as far as I can tell, for the wood. But the Thos. Moser chairs certainly seemed to like it.

Contemplating those old 1950s pieces, I recalled that the finish is rubbed off the front edge of my mother’s dressing table, where she sat to apply her make-up every day. Literally every day: she wouldn’t go out of the house without being fully made up. I figured if we came back to the States in 1957, when she bought that furniture, and she lived to 1976, then she used that table for 19 years. That means she sat in front of it to paint her face 6,764 times!

Give or take. Some days she probably applied fresh makeup before going out for dinner or some such thing. And the last three months or so of her life, she was too sick to do much else than lay in the bed and die.

Oh well. Don’t smoke, folks!

One of the cleaning lady’s most endearing traits is a passionate sense of orderliness. This woman loves for things to stand in straight lines, just…so. When she puts your tschotskes back on a table or a mantelpiece, she puts them in a tidy, straight row, exactly the same distance apart — as though she measured their positions with a tape measure.

I, on the other hand, prefer to organize things aysmmetrically. So whenever I dust the mantel, I reorganize her meticulous layout to fit my disorderly taste:

{chortle!} Does that or does that not look better?

These chores added up to a bit of a project. So I didn’t get much paying work done.

Come the dawn, I had to sit down with the half-forgotten index and start up the process again. So I worked and I worked and I worked and I worked and I worked and I worked, hoping to get through about 50 pages of the page proofs. Got almost up to my goal, very tired, when BLINK!

The goddamn computer shut down AGAIN!

Jezus Aitch Keerist! I couldn’t believe it.

It came back up, surprisingly. But of course, the file it brought up was not complete: it had lost upwards of an hour’s worth of work.

So I call AppleCare and get, for the first time in recorded history, a truly unhelpful Apple Support tech. He wanted to get me into iCloud to fool around, but I couldn’t find a password that worked, so he wanted me to change my password. And his instructions did not work. He finally hung up in frustration, about 30 seconds before I was about to do so.

So now I’m in despair, figuring I’m going to have to do all that brain-banging BORING work over again.

Start fiddling around, and lo! Somehow the more recent version of the file pops up!

It’s a miracle. The thing has actually lost nothing.

Nor should it have: Word on the MacBook is set to save every five minutes (in anticipation of just this sort of contingency…), and so there was no reason (in theory) that it should have lost an hour’s worth of data.

Another burst of labor indexed 150 pages, about halfway through the book. At that rate, I should finish the draft of this index in about three days, and then be able to send it off to the client the middle of next week. Not on time, but not so very late.

Then I can start on the next book.



So, in the chore-a-day continuum, today is the first day of the Great Closet Clean-up. Every closet and cabinet in the house is jammed with 15 years’ worth of collected junk, about 14 years’ worth of which could go. So I decided to add shoveling out one closet, cabinet, or piece of furniture with drawers to the job of the day. A four-bedroom shack has rather more closets and cabinets than one would like, especially after the proprietor has hired some dude to line the garage walls with storage. Videlicet:

  • Hall linen closet
  • Vacuum (coat) closet
  • Master bedroom closet
  • Guest bedroom closet
  • Storage room closet
  • Office closet
  • Desk drawers
  • Armoire
  • Bathroom 1 cabinets
  • Bathroom 2 cabinets
  • Garage cabinets east
  • Garage cabinets west
  • Garage open shelves

This sounds fairly dreadful, because it is fairly dreadful. Some of the junk residing in those sites has been there since I moved into this shack, yea verily back in 2004. But…it appears that the challenge is not as Brobdingnagian as it appears.

Today I got through the hall linen closet, the vacuum closet, and the storage room closet, killing off three proposed days’ worth of projects in a single day. At this rate, I should be able to get through the entire consolidated frolic in about four or five days.

The problem with projects like this: one thing leads to another. You find some object…and wonder what is it? And why do you have it? In the back of the hall closet I found a gadget that contained butane or propane or God only knows what. A gift, no doubt. Not having used it and not knowing what it could possibly be for, I tossed it in the trash bag.

This caused the thing to spring a leak.

In the house. In the confined hall, Yes: s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s

Grab whatever-it-is and hurry out to the alley garbage with it (hoping no one is around to see). Toss it. Run away. Back inside the shack, continue the task at hand, and find some other component of…whatever-it-is. March that out to the garbage, too. So far no explosion has taken place. Thank Heaven for small favors.

There’s the stuff that you haven’t seen in years and don’t know why you kept it; the debris from past cleaning-lady attacks; the junk stash attack…

Here’s a hippy-dippy ash tray from the 1970s, a globe of polished granite annoyingly dyed teal (it was one of my generation’s colors: we called it “turquoise,” but it was the same color that appears in the presently stylish annoying palette of battleship gray + eye-searing white + teal). It has two stupid little half-tube-shaped slots drilled out of its lip, presumably to accommodate cigarettes: i.e., it was designed by some clown who didn’t smoke.

Off-hand I cannot recall whether this thing was my mother’s (the mother who smoked herself into the grave, the mother who on her deathbed was consuming six packs a day, yes, that mother), or whether my mother made me buy it to accommodate her chain-smoking habit while she was at my house. Why did I keep the damn thing, if it wasn’t actually hers? Possibly to accommodate some other nicotine addict who insisted on smoking (outside, damnit!) at my house?

No one that I know smokes anymore.

Throw it away? What? It was my mother’s. Maybe.

A brass lamp finial. What? Examine all the antique lamps in the house (that would be all the lamps, just about). Not a single one of them is missing a finial. WTF? Stash for some future closet clean-out.

Up on the top shelf, where it can’t be broken, resides the sentimental stuff. Like Dot-Dot’s exquisitely beautiful hand-painted porcelain plate, a gift to me and my son. She lived around the corner from us in the historic Encanto district, and she was one of two women of her generation who babysat children in the neighborhood. She watched M’hijito two or three days a week — the other woman filled in the remaining days — while I drove out to a part-time job at the Great Desert University and filled my remaining hours trying to finish my dissertation. Dot-Dot was a gifted porcelain painter: she taught classes filled with women craving to emulate her. For her to give us one of her (amazingly expensive) pieces was a great generosity.

An empty plastic squeeze bottle: move it to empty jar collection in the garage, thereby deferring  disposal to some other day.

An unknown blue fluid stashed in an old glass Straus Family Creamery heavy cream bottle. Dump. Bottle to dishwasher, thence to empty jar collection (see above)

A plethora of prescription meds, including three bottles of a dangerous addictive drug dispensed during the Year of the Surgeries, nary a single pill of which I ever swallowed. Here’s something from a vet called “banamine“: it’s an injectable drug used for muscle spasm. Label says to “apply on affected area.” Probably for Cassie’s hot spots. Dare we ask, WTF????

Something there is that’s kind of scary about the sheer quantity of the prescription drugs that have been dispensed for me and for the dogs. Some of these bottles, I’ve never even opened.

No freaking wonder we have a plague of drug addicts in this country.

Here’s a jacket in the hall closet that must have belonged to someone else: it doesn’t even fit me!

In the guest bedroom closet: a little suit made by a local tailor, supposedly to fit me. When D-XH and I were in England, where I spent three months in archival research for the dissertation, we visited Scotland and bought my mother the richest, most wonderful, beautiful wool tweed fabric. She sewed handsomely, and I thought she would make herself something with it.

But no. Being a mother, she regarded it as a keepsake and squirreled it away for safekeeping. After she died, my father gave it to me.

I took it to a woman who billed herself as a tailor and asked her to make me a suit — a skirt and jacket. She did…but “tailor” was not exactly le mot juste. She apparently made it from some Simplicity pattern — she couldn’t even be bothered to spring for a Vogue pattern, I guess. The result was amateurish and ill-fitting and it has just hung in the closet. Forever.

It did not fit then. And now that I am old and have spawned a child, it does not fit hilariously. What a shame. I’ve hung onto it all these years imagining (occasionally) that maybe someday I could find a real tailor (right! In lovely uptown Phoenix, Arizona!) who could somehow rebuild it or just take it apart and make something with whatever fabric could be salvaged.

Not so much.

But the moths haven’t eaten it. That’s something. I guess. So…this afternoon I tossed the jacket in the car with the rest of the unwearable stuff to be donated. Decided to deconstruct the skirt, salvage what I can of the fabric, and make a pillow of it.

Yes. That’s something. Eh?

Two indexing assignments came in yesterday and now today in comes an inquiry from a self-publishing author: will I copyedit his 85.000-word sci-fi thriller?

Why shore, for a fee. But it’ll have to wait till I can get out from under the academic opuses. While the author’s on the phone and the hamburger’s on the grill, my son, fresh off the road from Colorado, shows up at the door to collect his dog.

Is there some reason why every damnfool thing happens at once?

So now I am fed. Four of the proposed 13 shoveling-out chores are done (hall linen closet, vacuum bedroom closet, guest bedroom closet, armoire) are done. Email is unanswered. I am tired. And the dog remains to be taken for a decent walk.

And so…away.


Women and Their Ways

So in the setting of the Great Job-a-Day Scheme, today was clean-the-bathrooms day. This worked exceptionally well and also led to cleaning a few other realms that aren’t on the list. The interesting thing about this little effort, though, is the insight it offers into how much women differ in their ways of doing the most routine things.

Luz, best known as The Cleaning Lady from Heaven, brought her own cleaning products and devices, which she stashed in my garage cleaning-gear cabinet. In her emergency, she has left them behind. Most of these — no, all of them — work just fine. They’re just not products and gadgets that I personally would use.

At first I thought I would just use up the stuff that she left behind and throw out the doodads that get worn out rather than consumed. But then this morning, as I thought about what I was gonna clean the bathtub and wash the mirrors with, decided…nope. Noooo way! I’m usin’ my own stuff, by golly!

If she comes back within the next month or two, they’ll be here for her. If she’s gone like Poor Ole Charley on the MTA, then after two or three months I’ll donate them.

Luz and I differ very distinctly in our opinions about what works to clean a shack. She absolutely positively will not use my perfectly fine, highly effective (…imho…) home-made glass and tile cleaner — which contains the same ingredients as Windex except for the perfume and the blue dye. No. Glass cannot be cleaned effectively by any solution that is not blue, and that is all there is to it! By golly!

Furthermore…floors cannot be cleaned without the appropriate cleaning device: no mere sponge mop will do. Nor may they be dusted with stupid microfiber rags. Lamps and door frames and light fixtures cannot be dusted without the correct gadgetry. Toilets cannot be scrubbed without the right scrubber and the right ferocious chlorine-laced cleaner. And so it goes…

Then there are the habits that we follow. I tend to ignore the mirrors if they’re not dirty. Luz polishes them to a high shine whether they need it or not. I wash the windows when forced to it. Luz cleans them every time she’s here. But Luz seems not to notice the dog-fur smears along the pooches’ well-worn tracks. This morning while cleaning the back bathroom I noticed Ruby’s nest was stained dark and dingy where she has cuddled against the wall under the toilet, and that the wall opposite, where Cassie liked to nest during the day, was also darkened with dog-fur rubbings. A-a-a-a-n-d come to think of it, those hallway walls that I just repainted a few months ago also bear dog tracks where the pooches like to rub against them as they traverse the distance between the kitchen and the back rooms. Hm.

Scrubbing that off took some doing. I suspect that may be a cultural difference: rural people tend to keep the dogs outdoors. I doubt if my father would have allowed a dog in the house if my mother hadn’t insisted…and the minute he got a chance to get rid of her chihuahua while her back was turned, he gave it away. That, I suspect, is an attitudinal artifact of growing up in cattle country. Well…if you’re not used to having dogs residing inside with you, how would you know they deposit wall trails along their habitual pathways?


So…there’ll be some changes made around this place. Not necessarily for the better: just for the différance.