pink chores, blue chores

When my friend, let’s call her Reba, told me about how she and her partner divided their household chores into ‘pink’ and ‘blue’ chores, my initial reaction was, “isn’t that a bit sexist? “ (Now before you go creeping through my Facebook friends list to see who Reba is, I’ll save you some time by telling you that she is not there. At no time in my blog posts will I use anyone’s real name unless I have their permission to do so. Plus, I like the challenge of picking a name for my friends that suits their personality. I chose Reba for this particular friend because, like the characters Reba McEntire has portrayed on her television series, my Reba is a smart, kind, loving, no-nonsense, wisecracking, sarcastic, take the bull-by-the-horns-and-lets-deal-with-it-now kind of gal – my type of BFF.) Now back to Reba’s ‘pink chores/blue chores’.

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Reba went on to explain how she and her partner discussed what chores they did and did not like doing and how they negotiated who would do which specific chore. It wasn’t a matter of assuming that washing the dishes was a pink chore, per se, it was more a negotiation about who would do which chore so that no one ever felt like they were being saddled with a chore just because it was viewed male or female.

That evening, I told Sauerkraut about Reba’s pink chores, blue chores designations. I thought that this might be something he would embrace thinking, ‘that is brilliant! Let’s give it a whirl.” Instead, he looked at me and asked, “Don’t we do that already?” Already? I’m not sure what planet he’s on right now but we were galaxies apart. I wanted to discuss this. Why should Reba and her partner have pink chores, blue chores when we do not?

I’m not sure if I was expecting him to say let’s make a chart and divide the household chores by who agrees to do what. If we were to go by way of a chart, I would want stickers. I like stickers. Stickers are fun and I definitely would want to be rewarded for say, actually folding the laundry as soon as it comes out of the dryer. I quickly surmise that Sauerkraut is not the sticker type. So, down with the chart and stickers.

Perhaps I was hoping for an “okay, let’s talk about this” and from there we would engage in negotiations about who would do what. The negotiations would go something like this:

k6010620   Me: Sauerkraut, I will fold the laundry as soon as it comes out of the dryer if you agree to put your dirty clothes in the laundry hamper as soon as you take them off thereby avoiding that pile of dirty clothes accumulating beside the bed. (Clever, huh?)

Sauerkraut: Okay.

Me: And I will clean up the kitchen if you agree to cook supper.

Sauerkraut: Don’t we already to that?

Me: Yes, but I will clean up the kitchen that same evening rather than, you know, leaving it for the next day. I will do this providing you cook something that doesn’t require a lot of pots. I hate washing pots. Plus, if you wouldn’t mind lining the baking pan and cookie sheets with foil before baking, say Shake ‘n Bake chicken, that would be AWESOME. (Ladies, do you see where my negotiations are going? Again, clever, huh?)

Sauerkraut: Of course.

Me:  Now it is your turn. Is there anything specific you would like to negotiate?

Sauerkraut: No. Our lives are perfect just the way they are. I just want to do what makes you happy.

Me: You’re so sweet.

Sauerkraut: I know.

And in a perfect world, we wouldn’t need VISA.

But, Sauerkraut is right. We already do something like that. We just have never specifically said that one chore would be done by one specific person. It did, however, get me thinking about how we got this way.

It seems to me that it is Sauerkraut’s and my nature to be this way. He is easy going as am I. He is better at performing certain tasks than I am like car maintenance and peeing standing up. I am better at loading the dishwasher than he is because I approach it like it is a game of Tetris. I can’t really say that I am better at peeing sitting down than he is, well, because I think men in general have it the best of both worlds in that department.

What I can say is that in almost sixteen years of marriage, Sauerkraut and I have learned to pick our battles. Is the world going to end because he doesn’t always put his clothes in the dirty clothes hamper? No. Is the world going to end because I don’t load my Tetris inspired dishwasher every evening after dinner? No. What it means is that I will likely be cursing myself the next day because some of the food has now hardened on the plates. But that is my bad, no one else’s.

byybc

However, thinking of chores in terms of pink or blue, forced me to think outside the box rather than sitting there letting things fester to the point of boiling over. When I now look at the pile of dishes in the sink, I no longer mutter under my breath, “how can he not SEE that sink full of dishes?” Instead, I remind myself how I would much rather wash a sink full of dishes than lying on the cold ground trying to repair the brakes on the car for the umpteenth dozenth time. Instead of wondering why I am the only one to notice that the toilet paper roll needs replacing, I remind myself how I would much rather change the roll AND clean the toilet than having to drag the smelly garbage out of the shed in the blistering summer heat and doing a dump run. In my mind, cleaning the toilet is the lesser of two evils.

Dr. Evil

What I can also say is that if I did want to negotiate chores into categories, I know that Sauerkraut would be willing to talk about it. He just doesn’t understand why we would have to. “If there’s anything you want me to do, just ask,” is his philosophy. And herein lies the problem. I do not like to ask for help. I have been fiercely independent my whole life. An only cabbage, I am used to doing things by and for myself. Asking is an extremely difficult action for me to do. It makes me uncomfortable and anxious. It is not that I see it as a sign of weakness but more that I would hate to be a bother. I would never want anyone thinking I was taking advantage of them. But I am learning. Living with MS is teaching me that there are days when I simply cannot do things for myself and that it is okay to ask for help. More importantly, it is teaching me that people, especially Sauerkraut, genuinely want to help.

Labelling something a “pink” chore or a “blue” chore is just that … a label. It is also a fun way to face tasks that most of us wish that we did not have to do. You could very well call your chore list “his or her”, “my or your”, “shit I will do or shit you will do” or whatever works for you. There is nothing sexist about it; it merely is a way of negotiating what will work best for you as a couple. It means that you are working together for the common good of your relationship. Bottom line, it ensures that shit gets done around the cabbage patch.

Sometimes people need charts with stickers. Others, like us, are subconsciously negotiating who does what around the house without even knowing that we are doing it. Take our cabbage patch this week. After a particularly challenging MS week (sleep has been elusive, weakness has set in and it basically hurts to have my eyes open), the patch was looking like Miley Cyrus went through it on her wrecking ball. The dust bunnies were waving as they rolled by (cheeky little devils) and a couple of spiders went mad spinning their webs (what would Charlotte think?). Instead of cursing under his breath, Sauerkraut went along picking up the clutter here and there. Today, he showed those dust bunnies what karma actually means by hauling out the vacuum and exacting his revenge. I never had to utter a word.

Today was also dump run day. Being the trooper that he is, Sauerkraut knew that I didn’t have the strength to change the cats’ litter boxes before leaving so he cleaned them without being asked. I had previously designated the litter boxes as a pink chore because I had wanted the cats in the first place. See? I subconsciously decided that on my own but it is nice to know that if I wanted to negotiate cleaning the litter box by, say, taking turns cleaning it, Sauerkraut would.

That, my friends, is true freakin’ blue love right there.

Chores: 50/50

Stickers: 0

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The Christmas stocking purse

Some cabbage families have ‘normal’ Christmas traditions such as hanging their perfectly embroidered Christmas stockings by the chimney with care or wrapping their gifts in beautiful papers with pretty matching bows and coordinating gift tags. They bake delicious gingerbread cookies and decadent squares as well as decorate their homes with a flourish only rivalled by Liberace. Oh, the bling! Then there’s us.

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In this testosterone filled patch, tradition went by the wayside once the wee cabbages were old enough to realize that sleeping in on Christmas morning was way better than getting up at the crack of dawn to see if Santa had arrived. Their justifications for sleeping in probably went something like this:

  • No matter what time we get up, it will still be Christmas day.
  • Our presents will still be here when we get up.
  • I’m sure one of them (probably MC) reminded me that, after all, I had been lying about the whole Christmas magic thing all those years anyway. Ouch.

It was also around this time that I had been diagnosed with MS. I know that I would not have the strength to argue with them anyway. Between that and operating my store during the busy Christmas season, I had had very little energy left for decorating, baking and Christmas party shaking. So sleeping in it was.

As a family, we decided that it was more important that I use what little energy I had to actually enjoy Christmas rather than trying to create the ‘perfect’ Christmas. We decided that we would spend our time watching Christmas movies such as Elf (oh, how I love that movie), playing games (have you ever played Pigs?) and spending quality time with each other rather than baking, decorating and Christmas overachieving. While I knew that my cabbages were looking out for me, I also knew that secretly they were performing their very own happy dances when I wasn’t looking because now they would not have to drag out all those Christmas containers for me. In my mind, they were yelling, “start the car!” before I changed my mind.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Christmas and when we were all younger, I did it all: the decorating, the baking, the countdown calendars, the wrapping, the Christmas concerts, the parades. I LOVED it. But life has a way of bringing us into the present and I had to adjust my expectations and priorities to my fit my MS diagnosis, limited energy and raging testosterone cabbages’ attitudes. Really, it wasn’t much of a decision to make for spending time with my cabbages was way more important than having a perfectly decorated patch. Imagine, if you will, that what I chose and continue to choose is all the craziness and dysfuction of a Griswold family relationship over Clark’s obsession of making sure that everything is perfect, a kazillion Christmas lights not inlcuded.

Griswold

Since that decision, the patch has seen another shift. The cabbages moved away for their post-secondary education and upon graduation and whatnot, their lives have taken them to other parts of the country. It is no longer possible for them to come home every Christmas. Only YC has been able to make it home for the past two Christmases; something he uses to his advantage in his attempts to convince me that he should indeed be the favoured cabbage in the patch at all times. There was some mention of an increased share in my will as well.

It was also during this time that I decided to thin down our Christmas decorations and keep only what was essential to sprinkle the house with a little bit of Christmas spirit: Christmas tree baubles, a couple of wreaths, candles, keepsakes and stockings. Or so I thought.

One year ago on Christmas Eve, when I was gathering YC’s stocking stuffers, I discovered that all the Christmas stockings were AWOL. They were gone, gone, gone. Sauerkraut, in an attempt to diffuse any potential over-reaction and potential meltdown by me assured me that YC wouldn’t mind, probably wouldn’t even notice, if I was to put his stuffers in any old sock. Any old sock, he says. He won’t mind, he says. Probably won’t even notice, he says. Are you freakin’ kidding me?

I’ll notice, I say. The stuffers won’t fit in just any old sock, I say. I’ve got to come up with something else, I say. It has to be brilliant, I say. Nothing like a bit of eleventh hour pressure on Christmas Eve night. Then I had one of Oprah’s “Ah ha” moments.

Oprah

I ran to my closet and chose a red purse. I chose it for a few reasons: it was Christmassy in colour, fairly big, uniquely shaped and had several pockets both inside and out. Oh, the pockets! This was going to slow YC down because he wouldn’t be able to just dump the stuffers out on couch and say, “Why, thank you, Mom”. He was going to have to work for those stuffers by going through each and every pocket. And work he did.

The look on YC’s face was priceless. What the heck, he says. This isn’t my stocking, he says. You’ve truly lost your mind, he says. I proclaimed, “YC, it’s our new tradition! It’s a Christmas stocking purse!”

And that, my dear friends, is how legends are born.

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The Christmas stocking purse filled to its zipper again in 2015

 

 

 

Christmas stocking purse: 1

Old sock: 0

 

 

Are you there, Stella? It's me, your groove.

So I fell off the Cabbage Patch blogging wagon. While I started off with a blogging bang, I quickly lost my groove. One day without blogging turned into another, then another, yet another, and before I knew it, an entire year had passed by. An entire year! What in blue blazes happened?

Life happened. Chronic health issues continued to dog me. Stress, both personal and professional, took its toll. Before I knew it, I was couch surfing, Netflix binging, Candy Crush Saga playing, and eating whatever salty and sweet treats I could find in the house. I was doing anything and everything I could to avoid my situation and my life.

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But one day I finally woke up and, even though over one year has passed since that awakening, I am still amazed by the event that caused it. It wasn’t a near death experience which sometimes causes people to affect major changes in their lives nor was it a bolt of lightening striking me from the high heavens and setting my mind ablaze. Rather, it was something that other people might shake their heads at in utter disbelief causing them to ask, “Really, that is all it took?”

Really. This is all it took. After months of dealing with dissatisfied and rude customers (my business had not recovered from its devasting 48% retail sales decline, a consequence of almost seven months of road construction taking place in front of my gift shop, and my inability to restock it with new inventory), it took one GG (grouchy grouch) customer to awaken the giant within. This particular GG got in my face simply because I didn’t have a particular pendant in stock that he was looking for.

In my 14 years of customer service, never before had I felt vulnerable in front of a customer. This GG was so angry with me, he was leaning over the jewellery counter pointing his finger in my face and yelling at me. I explained that, being a small speciality store, it was impossible to have in stock every single Celtic piece of jewellery ever made. I explained how the construction had affected the business. I offered to order the pendant for him and have it at the store within three to five business days, the norm for this type of specialty item.

Nothing I said or did appeased him. In complete exasperation, he yelled, “So you’re telling me that you do not have THIS pendant in stock, right here, right now?” (his index finger was slamming against the jewellery counter with every word yelled). I stepped back and thought to myself, this behaviour can’t possibly be over a Celtic knot pendant, can it? Something else has to be going on but that still doesn’t excuse his behaviour. I closed the catalogue that was between us, walked to the bookcase and returned the catalogue to its rightful place. I turned to Mr. GG and replied, “That is exactly what I am telling you.”

Customer is just an asshole

And with those words I made up my mind that I had to change my life before I myself became a GG.

That evening I was quiet at home and somehow Sauerkraut knew that I needed to be that way. It was not until the next morning that he asked me, “You are very quiet. What’s wrong?” That’s when the floodgates opened, the tears starting running down my face and the words began flowing. “I cannot do the store any longer. It is sucking the life out of me. It is changing who I am. We have to close it before there is nothing left to me.”

I talked for a long time. Sauerkraut listened for a long time. I told him how the customers were changing. How there was this sense of entitlement now and that some people were beginning to think they could treat others any way they felt. I told him how there was this expectation of instant gratification regardless that we were a small speciality store and how it didn’t matter that the store was failing due to circumstances beyond my control. I told him how demanding and belligerent people were getting and I provided all the examples I could think of such as the woman who said, “You might want to consider getting some more greeting cards in. With the price of gas these days, I don’t want my next trip here to be a complete waste of my time” or the other woman who told me how “disappointed she was in me for letting the business fail” as if I was a five year old child who had done something terribly bad and on purpose.

Then I told him about Mr. GG’s Oscar winning performance. Sauerkraut’s face was displaying so many emotions, anger, sadness, empathy, concern. But it was the word’s that soothingly came from his mouth that told me that everything was going to be okay. He reassured me that this wasn’t my fault, that he knew this day was coming, that he knew what the store was doing to me, to us, but most importantly, he told me that he was going to get me out of this and help me get my life back.

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We took the next week to plan our exit strategy and made a list of what had to be done in order to prepare the building for its sale. Sauerkraut worked his cabbage off over the next six months using his weekends to help me any way I needed. The building was placed in real estate in June of 2015 and I am happy to report that it was sold six weeks later. The closing date was September 30th and it has taken me until now to truly start to feel somewhat better. It didn’t help that I had the shingles virus while trying to pack up the store and that people who had never set foot in it before suddenly felt they had the right to come in and grill me on just what I thought I was doing. Others felt compelled to tell me just how devasted they were that I was doing this to them. It was ludicrous really.

Thankfully, it is all over and now behind me. I could easily have spent my time beating myself up over it, telling myself how awful I was at running a business, at blogging, at keeping a promise. I could have told myself that I was a failure and that I should have known that this would happen. I could have listened to that that inner voice telling me that if I truly wanted to blog, I would have made the time to do so. But that is not me. Me is knowing that eventually I would find my footing, find my resolve and definitely get my groove back. I have had enough trips around the Cabbage Patch to know that “this too shall pass” and that eventually I would come full circle and find my way back to me. Praise be for life’s lessons.

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Which now brings me back to Stella and her lost groove … like Stella from the movie “How Stella Got Her Groove Back”, I too had lost my groove. Unlike Stella, my getting my groove back did not involve a trip to Jamaica nor did it involve getting into the mischief that Stella found herself in once she got got back home from her vacation (although the thought of being somewhere warm being served tropical drinks by a ripped pool boy name Juan has a certain appeal to it). No, getting my groove back involved taking control of my life by stepping away from a toxic situation and starting over. And there most certainly is nothing wrong with that.

So, thank you, Mr. GG. Without even knowing, you awakened the cabbage within. Oh, and, you may now call me Stella.

Groove: 1
GG: 0

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P.S.: On the bright side of the patch, even though I wasn’t writing, I never forgot about my promise to YC. Since I knew that I would eventually find my way back to my promise, I kept notes in a folder on my laptop as well as on my iPhone. I left a trail of sticky notes from here to Timbuctoo about the new things I not only tried but could try. I wrote down possible blog titles, scratched a word here and there to jog my memory about something I did, and I prayed bunches to St. Jude (patron saint of hopeless causes) for his help in getting my blogging groove back. I also petitioned St. Anthony (patron saint for lost and stolen articles) for his help in finding my lost mind (which I knew to be lost rather than stolen because who the heck would want to steal this hodgepodge of a mind of mine?) but that is a whole other story. Stay tuned for these titles which are just waiting to be shared:

• The Christmas Stocking Purse
• Ringing in the New Year — Get a Room Donnie Wahlberg!
• The Eyebrow Pact
• Men-oh-pause
• Walker Rage
• Move Over Martha Stewart. There’s a New Crafter in Town
• Nightmares on Foresters Falls Road (Sauerkraut Needs Protective Gear)
• Greetings from the Camp
• Urology Waiting Room Entertainment