Sunday, June 29, 2008

I Aspire to Minimum Maintenance Mode

I know I always talk about this. It's my way of proving to you that it really is an obsession. I just read another homemaking book called The Ultimate Career by Daryl Hoole. Like every homemaking/stay-at-home-mom/organization book I ever read it starts out inspiring me and ends up making me think, "People live like that?"

For example, there is a part about how you need to practice "selective neglect" when illness or a new baby slows you down. This is your minimum maintenance mode for emergencies when you only have time and strength to do 5 things on a daily basis. Hoole suggests "preparing simple meals, doing the laundry, picking up throughout the major rooms of the house, keeping the kitchen clean, and keeping the bathrooms clean." I don't mean to sound obtuse but, uh. . . what else is there? I'm lucky to keep up on those things when I'm operating at full capacity and with maids. Seriously. Oh Daryl Hoole, you make me laugh. I picture you as a cartoon moving at double speed. "Emergency! Emergency! Alert," your high-pitched robotic voice cries, "day one postpartum. All lace-making operations on hold. I repeat: Cease tatting until further notification."

Depending on my mood, I find this kind of book either infuriating (misogynistic rhetoric that keeps women guilt-ridden) or handy (menus!). Like I said, it depends on my mood. Over the three days I spent reading The Ultimate Career I found myself thinking her advice was pathetic, "Write down things you've already done on your To Do list so you can cross them off for a real energy boost!" Then I decided she was wonderful and I was pathetic because I don't use convenience food to my advantage. It was a real roller coaster.

She writes about how therapeutic scrubbing and kneading bread dough are and at once I thought, "Could it be true? Is housework a blessing?" Then I craved Del Taco and went off to find a handful of chocolate chips.

She mentioned that they have a rule in their house that whenever the mom makes a meal or treats for someone in the ward, some of it has to stay home to show the family that they come first and are just as important as the person their mom is serving. I can't stop thinking about this rule and how, when all is said and done, it's just way more work for the mom. I can relate to this because my mom was always making good things to take to other people and it was disappointing when it wasn't for us, but it didn't ruin my life. Not eating the brownies for the Young Women was about the only kind of restraint or self-sacrifice I practiced as a kid. It was good for me. Here's a thought: Why doesn't Dad bring home a gallon of ice cream so the neglected family won't get their feelings hurt while mom is out selfishly taking a meal to someone who, let's be honest about the type of people (new mom's excluded) who need meals in the ward, probably has fibromyalgia.

As a whole, I actually enjoyed this book. If you don't like your house duties but you have to do them anyway, you may as well think of them as sacred and life-affirming (if it makes you feel better). Hoole has some good ideas and encouraging quotes. There's all this buzz about showing your family love by cooking homemade things for them and setting a nice table. Part of me thinks this is probably true but another part of me knows for a fact that I enjoyed eating Totino's pizza right off the cutting board with my mom and sisters more than any pizza she ever made us from scratch. So. . . I'm not sure what to make of it.

31 comments:

  1. I can't read those books. They just make me feel bad about myself...and who needs that?
    Reading Real Simple is about all the domestic help I can handle without taking a shot gun to my head.

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  2. Well, since your last post about this where you mentioned the 640 section in the library, I picked up a few of these books myself. Thanks a lot, Kacy. I'm pretty much with you on the roller coaster - they make me relish in domesticity on good days, make me feel like a total loser slacker on the bad days. I brought them back to the library last week after they sat menacingly on my table for awhile.

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  3. Hey Kacy, found your blog off Light Refreshments. Hope your don't mind a comment here.

    Anyway, I must say, thanks for this post. As a person whose minimum maintenance mode is actually my highest maintenance mode (read: domestically challenged) I will remember to stay away from these books.

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  4. I'm with you on this one. I'll officially never read that book. I figure if I do those five things you listed, I'm doing pretty darn good for the day.

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  5. Since I pretty much adore your mom, I'd say the Totinos worked out perfectly.

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  6. The minimum? She means the monthly minimum, right?

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  7. I secretly like Totino's too. My husband thinks their gross. HE thinks they're GROSS! I mean he doesn't have that discerning of a pallet. Anyway, nice to know someone else likes them. They remind me of my childhood (what does that say about my childhood?).

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  8. My mom used to have Daryl Hoole books on tape when we were growing up and she LIVED them. But she has since admitted they gave her a lot of guilt, too. But so many good ideas!

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  9. I have that book too. I only got to about page 12. I think I shoved it between the sofa cushions in disgust. And I'm pretty sure that's still where it is.

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  10. We are leaving for 3 weeks in Bolivia and Chile early tomorrow morning. And Saturday was my 4th daughter's wedding. I have 3 other daughters - and 2 sons - with children of their own and a lot of them were at my house all or part of the 10 days leading up to said event. We had a fine time, the wedding and reception came off beautifully, but today dawned menacingly clear - figuratively speaking - and I thought, yikes, I need to pack and get ready for this trip.

    So I made a giant to do list - and while the weekly cleaning lady was here - I can't live without "help" - I was rushing around working and putting things away and sorting through food and wedding gifts and forgotten toys.

    When I checked the to do list about 3 hours later, there were no things to cross off!!

    I guess I need to learn how to write meaningful to do lists.

    P.S. It's 8 p.m. - and I finally crossed most of the items off - they really didn't take long. Like I said, I need a refresher in writing a meaningful to do list.

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  11. Wait Wait, I know how this book ends...she has a son named Jaime and one day he comes home from school and his mom is dying from heart failure because she has over exerted herself. Then she promises him a rainbow so he knows his mom isn't really dead, she is still trying to make him happy from heaven.

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  12. I have always written down my "I've done" list at the end of the day rather than an overwhelming and completely unrealistic "to do" list at the beginning.

    "Minimum Maintenance." Words to live by on so many levels.

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  13. I'm partial to Taco Time personally.

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  14. LOVED this post, hilarious. I have been enjoying your posts for awhile, secretly lurking. But this post has inspired me to finally say hello, and thank you.

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  15. Daryl Hoole came and talked to our RS a few years ago and I definitely share your ambivalence but I must say that she comes across quite down-to-earth and even tempered, not wacky perfectionist. (My mom remembers her from her generation, too.) I did love when she said "I didn't get my dishwasher to save energy or anything else -- I got it to save ME," and also when she talked about how we ought to have the best tools for our work just like any other professional does. I think I learned some great things from her advice, but I also can't and don't live up to her standard.

    Another long-time published expert who visited our RS was Jil Abegg, whose expertise is nutrition and thrifty grocery buying, and again I learned LOTS of useful things . . . but it also ruined any pleasure I used to have in grocery shopping (now I'm always aware of how I could be doing so much better at being thrifty.) Yet she really does have some great ideas, and I think I've slightly improved at actually cooking for my family sometimes, since hearing her speak.

    (Oh, by the way, amongst the MANY additives in Oreos are appetite stimulants. Now you know why you can't ever eat just one. Now I won't buy Oreos for my kids -- they're lucky at least they have grandparents.)

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  16. Oh and I completely agree that the rule about making enough of something for your family, too, is just too much work. I guess if you never made yummy things for your family, only for others, that might be different, but that's not the problem at our house. And you can enlist the kids in helping sacrifice for someone else and feed their spirits.

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  17. I have mixed feelings about this subject. You know I like a clean house. . . ha ha. . .um, well, just "lower the bar and be awesome!" right? I guess that means different things to different people.

    My cleaning tip of the day? (thanks for asking) "Just throw it away."

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  18. My husband get's home from work at 5:15, I hurry and make the bed at 5:10! I'd better write a book!

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  19. I don't even know you, and I love you.

    Minimum Maintenance....best phrase I've heard in a long time.

    And a handful of chocolate chips.....hilarious! That is so my life.

    I think I ate a case of chocolate chips, one handful at a time, when pregnant with my daughter.

    They are the "emergency chocolate".

    Thanks for your great blog.

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  20. I have a personal policy not to read books that make me feel like a failure. That's what my mother in-law is for! :)

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  21. I am from Richmond, VA and Daryl Hoole grandson served his mission here. He was a wonderful missionary. In fact, my grandmother, who I never met (she died before I was born), loved her book and I think she met her long ago in CA and my mother saw Elder Hoole's name tag and asked if he was related to Darly Hoole and said, "yes, she is my grandmother", it made my mom happy and excited.

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  22. I've never heard of Daryl Hoole.

    I often read those types of books too, depending on my mood. I try to remember the things that work for me and forget the things that are way too much.

    Long ago Marcy Dibbleblotts recommended to me "To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife" by Caitlin Flanagan. I liked most of it.

    If you haven't read it, it's really interesting. Less self-help and more examination of the whole housewife thing. I picked it up after attempting (and failing) to read "The Feminine Mistake" by Leslie Bennetts. Horrible book.

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  23. Hi, I stumbled on your blog today (lined over from Sue's blog) and I must say, you are one funny lady! I really enjoy reading your blog, and your perspective on things. I'll be back.

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  24. kimbobim6:43 PM

    I have to tell you one thing about Daryl Hoole that might help you see her books in a better perspective. My mother lived and breathed her books when I was little. Really. Daily, weekly, and monthly schedules taped on the fridge, everything. My Dad was bishop, she was in the RS presidency, six kids in nine years, etc. She swears those books helped keep her sane. (But she did keep an insanely clean house. I don't ever remember her reading to us as children. Ever. But the sheets were washed every week. Guess which I would have preferred.) But anyway.

    When I was married, my Mom gave me a copy of it. I ignored it for years. Once, after child #3 arrived, I got it out and glanced through it. My dear MIL who was staying with us for a few days got a funny look on her face when she saw the book on the table. I asked her if she'd read it, told her how much my Mom loved it. She said that Yes, she'd read it... Then told me that while Daryl was writing it, SHE (my MIL) was the one doing Daryl's laundry, ironing Daryl's clothes, cleaning Daryl's house, and watching Daryl's kids. She and my FIL were in the last years of grad school at the U, so MIL was paid by Daryl to run her house while she wrote. Apparently Daryl was just too darn busy writing a book instructing other women how to run their homes to actually take care of her own perfectly run home. Funny, that was never mentioned in the credits.

    I haven't cracked the book since. I still have it, though, somewhere.

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  25. Whoa. I LOVE that story about your MIL.

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  26. I like Hoole's book, but I can relate to what you say. I have the original book she wrote in the 70s (want to borrow it?). One part said that often when she'd go around and do firesides, bishops would ask her to please tell the women to get up and get dressed in the morning.

    I thought that was pretty sad, but I think women in general take more pride in being a SAHM now -- after all, it's not the automatic choice any more. And I appreciate the tips and positive boost these books can give.

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  27. Okay, I am pretty sure that how loud and hard I laughed at "fibromyalgia" is going to guarantee a first class ticket to Hell.

    You know what? Totally worth it.

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  28. So. Hilarious. What a great blog discovery you are. Wonderful to wake up to hilarity, I needed it in this grainy gray world of a messy house and microwave dinners.

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