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AMR’s Greatest Hits: On Rotting and Running

I'm often on top of things enough to catch the rot before it looks like this, but not always.

As the summer inches closer to the end and my kiddosΒ start school tomorrow, I got a little weepy reading this post from June of 2011.Β 

Summer officially commenced for me this morning, as I swam for the first time in at least eight months. I got to stare at the black line at the bottom of an outdoor pool, under blue skies, the sun rising higher with every breath I took to my right side. I love seeing that orb in action while I am too.

Out of the pool, and the fire drill starts. Take kids to Einstein's to get chocolate chip bagel, since there is nothing in the fridge; the whole family was out of town this weekend. Sugar gets them--and a latte from Starbucks gets me--through the grocery store happily and quickly. Come home to unpack the groceries and celebrate the best foresight I ever had: hiring Amelia's great math teacher, a woman named Jamie, to help me three full days a week this summer. Today is her first day.

As I pull the strawberries out of the bag, everything in my kitchen suddenly looks so dirty and gross. There's a liquified cucumber in decaying in the veggie drawer. There are an obscene number of crumbs in the silverware drawer. Clumps of dog hair are too numerous to count. A moldy hot dog bun sits on the bread shelf. The sponge smells. A pair of Ben's (clean) underwear is stained with brown and on display. Those cursed fusion beads--little plastic o's you put on a form, like a dog, and then iron the beads until they melt together and then hold no interest and serve no purpose--are underfoot everywhere, which make me even more frantic as I try to chip away at the popsicle drips on the freezer walls.

I feel like a total slob, and the clock is ticking: she's going to be here within minutes. I can easily cram stuff into a closet and sweep the floor when I know a babysitter is coming for the night, but I can't clean the fridge in 10 minutes. I can, however, toss the cucumber and sponge, clean the veggie drawer, replace the sponge and feel slightly better.

Zoom out, though, and I realize I'm not just worried about how the honey bear is lodged to the shelf he always sits on. I've never had regular help in my house before. Child care in the summertime, up until this year, has always been a mishmash of camps and random babysitters. But because I wanted Amelia on swim team--that's a post I've got to write soon--and they practice at the inconvenient hour of 9:30, when most camps have already started, I had go with plan B.

Plan B is great: I bet a break from making lunches; I don't have to be at a specific place and time for drop-off and pick-up; I don't have to fill out endless forms. But I've also got somebody who will see all the nooks and crannies of my life, and that doesn't feel so great, especially this morning. Will she think we eat too much junk food? That my kids need better manners or more boundaries? That I work too much? My dogs bark too much? That my honey bear is disgusting? That I don't have my priorities in order?

The introspective doubt is the same feeling I conjure when I (reluctantly) talk about running to a non-runner. Do they think I'm wasting my time? That I'm dumb for doing something I'll never win at? That I'm inane to spend two hours on a Saturday morning trudging along by myself? That I'm being selfish for taking time away from the family? That I don't have my priorities in order?

I realize these are all my self-imposed, pretend judgments that I am creating, and that likely, Jamie won't care about the sticky bear, just as a random person doesn't really care about what I do with my free time (if you can define 5:20 a.m. as "free" time.) And as I get older, I am really trying to get out of that obsess-about-others-supposed-judgments mindset totally. It's not worth the energy I put into worrying. It's not like I'd stop running or be on better broom duty. It's like Oprah running another marathon: not going to happen. This is how I picked to live my life, and I don't need to defend it--or keep it sparkling clean.

Still, I had my whole I'm-sorry-my-house-is-such-a-pit speech planned in my head when I opened up the door and let Jamie and her two-year-old, who will be hanging out with my kids for the summer, in for her first day.

I shouldn't have even bothered crafting it.

The first thing she said to me was that she was so psyched she was able to squeeze in a run this morning before she came to work.

61 responses to “AMR’s Greatest Hits: On Rotting and Running

  1. Yes, I need to hire a new cleaning lady…yesterday, I had to do the dishes to make dinner because the stove, counter and sink were covered, and the dishes I needed were dirty. Then I went to take a bath and saw mildew all around the tub (yuck, so no putting my head THERE to relax), so I had to clean the tub before i could take my relaxing bath, ugh! Let’s not even talk about the moldy veggies I had to throw away, and the disgusting smelling trash I took out too!

  2. Seriously love this…..the random thoughts that go through our head. As a newer runner who always envied runners, I don’t feel the need to defend my running at all. I’m so proud to call myself one and boast about it…..and yes , 5:20 am is not really free time anyway!!

  3. I knew I loved you from the first time I met you. However, didn’t know you could get inside my head and read my thoughts like that. Crazy. And, to see how many women identify with you (me) wow, I am not alone in this world of household drudgery. And yes, I will never, ever trade a run for cleaning the house, because no matter how many times you pick it up, or wash it up, or put the laundry away, there is ALWAYS more! My honey bear says “hi” to yours too. Have a happy! πŸ™‚

  4. *sigh*….THIS is why I love you, Dimity! Being away last weekend (for my first 1/2!), I wasn’t around to do my normal crazy weekend cleaning spree. I found myself very late trying to get to work this morning, because I was (literally) 1/2 dressed, windexing fingeprints and toothpaste spit off the mirror/vanity, which led to cleaning the windows, which led to vacuming the shades (all still half dressed–in my bra and skirt). Then, I panicked because I promised our neighbor’s daughter could come over after school and the sink was full of dishes and the counters needed a good scouring…so I started cleaning the kitchen, FOR A TEN YEAR OLD!!! I stopped.

    I do this all the time–come back from a friend’s house (a friend who is fortunate enough to be able to stay home, full time, with her kids) and look at my fridge’s disorganization or the smudge marks all over the front windows, and I feel like I am a disaster…

    Thanks for the awesome post, Dimity!!!

  5. I’m a math teacher and I have assorted things stuck in my fridge too. I’m sure she totally understood. I laughed because I do that frantic cleaning before a sitter too.

  6. Great post! And I enjoyed reading other’s comments, so many of us do the exact same thing and feel the same way! I rush around every morning like a mad woman (after a 6am run),
    wiping down bathrooms, sweeping floors, washing dishes…before the sitter comes!
    After having the same sitter for 6 years and knowing that she does not care, I still do it!
    Imagine how we’d be if we didn’t have our AM runs!!!

  7. You just summed up my whole life! Thank you for making me feel okay that I am not the only one who has rotting veggies in the fridge, dog hair tumble weeds and everything else. I sometimes feel so inadequate and wonder how other people manage spotless and I just CAN’T. I have shared my love of running with my boys and I truly believe that they will never remember what the house looked like- they WILL remember the smiles and laughter within it.

  8. You know, I feel the same way the night before my nanny gets here. And let me tell you, I stayed up entirely too late cleaning my kitchen, folding laundry, organizing stuff Monday night so she wouldn’t know how we REALLY live Tuesday morning. And then I was too tired to get up and run and crabby and resentful about that all day long yesterday. And my kitchen this morning looks like I never even made the effort. Which makes me crabby about missing my run all over again. I’d say your priorities are in order. I am pretty sure my family would prefer a messier house to a crabby momma. They’ve voiced that opinion before…..

  9. As I am reading this post, I totally am picturing you in your kitchen, only in my visualization, you are totally in MY kitchen. I know how you feel. I have a 12 year old coming to help keep my kids, but his mom works in my building and I just KNOW he is telling her about all my mess (how long has that chocolate milk drip been on the cabinet door anyway?). Arrgh. Even better was reading all the posts from others who are in the same boat. Which is why I NEVER drop by anyone’s house unannounced. I have had way to many occasions to physically block the door and keep people talking in the yard in 105 degree heat.

  10. Oh Lady, you just made my whole month- nay, my whole Summer. As I turn 34 this month I’m also trying to let go of the judgments I perceive others have of me. Even though it’s not about the same thing, it’s the reason I love to blast “What the Hell” as I run. Happy Summer to you all! πŸ™‚

  11. Love. What a great reminder: the blend/balance of kid time, cleaning and running I have chosen works for me. Why should it matter if others prefer a different mix? Why worry someone disapproves? They probably don’t have time to care, and if they do, I wouldn’t change for them anyway. Why not own it?!?!

  12. YAY for summer help! My trainer’s daughter has offered to be a “mommy assistant” to me whenever I need it! She is 9 and so super cute and helpful and my little 1.5yr old loves her! Thank goodness for help and for being able to see that a helping hand is so much more to mothers!

  13. I hear ya, girlfriend. I got a writing gig for the summer and am frantically organizing closets (or trying to) in preparation for the nanny. You know what they say: “Behind every successful woman is a pile of dirty laundry.”.

  14. This post is exactly why one of my most recent mantras has become “Life is messy, you are amazing! Don’t get the two confused!”

  15. Love this post for making me laugh and helping me see it’s not just me who can barely identify the foods decaying in the fridge drawers.

  16. I was just getting on myself about how messy and disorganized my house is. Thank you thank you thank you Dimity for making me feel like I’m not alone and I don’t have to be perfect.

  17. I love you.
    This hits home at the moment as I’ve been feeling horribly guilty about my less than stellar housekeeping skills. Thank you for reminding me that I’m not alone, and that it’s ok!! πŸ™‚

  18. Good for her (and good choice on your part)! My twins had a nanny (actually just as affordable as daycare when you’re talking about two infants) 3 days a week for the first 2 years of their lives and I wonder to this day what she thought of my (lack of) housekeeping skills. Just not a priority for me. Still isn’t. And I’ll never win at running either…but I think I’m better at running than I am at emulating Martha Stewart (or even, on the housekeeping front, my own mom), and it makes me happier. Great post!

  19. Great post! Ironic since yesterday I had an ‘omg my house is so dirty I must clean everything’ moment. I spent two hours and didn’t even make it to the upstairs before my son woke up from nap. I almost body slammed my husband as he came home from work to take his boots off so not to mess up my newly steam mopped floors-lol. I’d much rather run/workout then clean any day of the week.

  20. I run at 5:45, sometimes 5, and yes, I clean up before the cleaning lady can come. Reading this post was a pleasant slap reminder that (with the exception of my mother who still calls to tell me what the Today show said about raising my three kids) we can get lost in the minutae of worrying what others think and forgetting that a life lived is going to be messy and frantic at times, and that a good run is what helps us get through it all, not what makes it crazy.

    1. ” a life lived is going to be messy and frantic at times, and … a good run is what helps us get through it all, not what makes it crazy.”

      This. Exactly. My new mantra.

  21. I’m so glad that it’s not just me! Your post really hits home today. I’m home for the summer since I’m a teacher, and the to-do list is just getting longer and longer! I’m sure I’ll still panic when anyone comes over, but for now, I’m going to remember to enjoy my time with the kids and make time for me too.

  22. Thanks for a wonderfully honest post. It made my day! It made me feel less gulity for leaving the kids with my sitter in my messy house this afternoon while I go run my four miles. The mess will be there, waiting for me when I get back, but I won’t care, thanks to your post. I am sharing this post with my mommy friends!

  23. I’m so happy that there are others out there like me! My house is a disaster much of the time and I just can’t get it to stay clean! I have friends who have clean houses and I always wonder how they do it – I have to say that I love going over to someone’s house and seeing it messy – makes me feel better (does that make me a bad person?)! Great post!

  24. I can relate! Thanks for the perspective, I needed it today. It seems like every friends house I go into is spotless without an item out of place. How in the world do they do it? The thing that I think is funny is that my friends always say how messy their house is. I think we all compare ourselves to others. I’ll be sad for the day when my kids are grown and all I have to do is go for a run and look at my spotless clean house! Today I am enjoying the fingerprints and clutter.

  25. You litterly took the words right out of my mouth! Glad to see someone else “obsesses” over what other’s think, especially about your house. Thanks for helping me realize that no one cares if my houses is spotless, something my husband says all the time to me. Where is that darn Mary Poppins when you need her?

  26. Totally relate! After indulging Memorial Day weekend with my own party, I had to giddy up on preparing for my twins’ 5th birthday pirate party which was Sunday June 5th. I worked my ass off all last week (taking only 2 days to nurse my indulgences from my 40th) shopping, cooking, baking the pirate ship cake along with pirate cupcakes, making decorations bc I couldn’t find any boy/girl cool enough for my kids decorations, etc. In the midst of this crazy, I SKIPPED all of my training… all of my runs, biking and swims. And what does that bring me nothing but more koo-koo crazy. Thankfully, the stars were lined up good bc I wasn’t PMSing on top of this crazy. I’ll be back to my training tomorrow bc of course it took all Monday to clean up after hosting 50+ at our home and this Tuesday I am detoxing from sugar overload. I should have ditched the over the top crazy for some running time at the very least last week. Lesson learned πŸ™‚

  27. Yup – I am SO with you! As I scrambled to clean up a bit last night for family coming over for my daughter’s birthday I was wondering if they would see the spider web hanging above the stove, the dirty microwave, and the piles of dog hair. Luckily, they were all there for my daughter, ate lots (so it couldn’t have been that bad right??!!), and made me remember that we are our own worst judges!

    Glad you found a runner to help you thought! How cool is that?

  28. Can so relate! I love when I read something that is perfectly put in to written words what I’m feeling. I can’t do it myself, so happy to have your blog to read. We’re all in the same boat, one way or another. Wonderful that you have the help this summer! Enjoy it!

  29. Its like you wrote that post with me specifically in mind! I’m a work-from-home / stay-at-home mom. That means that I work full time, but from my home office. I have a 2.5 year old and a 4 month old that stay at home with me. My house is a mess. I think if I worked out of the home I wouldn’t feel so guilty. But since I work in the home, I feel that my home should be in better shape because I’m at home (nevermind the fact that I work a full-time job). Irrational, I know. I think most moms have that feeling at one point or another. No matter what we do, how much we clean, how much time we spend with our kids – we always feel that we could do it more or better. Its a waste of energy but its so hard to break the habit!

  30. I always have to stop myself from housecleaning as I’m walking out the door to work every day. The morning light just seems to highlight every crumb, dog hair, and streak of dirt in the house. I keep beating myself up for not doing a better job. This despite the fact that I was up at 4:30, took the dog for a walk, ran 3 miles (I know, I should bring the dog with me, but he’s too old), fixed breakfast for my kids and myself, made beds, cleaned the bathroom, made sure dinner was planned, put in a load of laundry, and showered and dressed. Who am I kidding? There are only so many hours in the day. As Jerritt said – when I’m old and grey there will be plenty of time to clean. Although I hope I’m still running then!

  31. Oh, that’s my house, too! No worries, there’s plenty of time to clean when you’re old or grey or even never. It doesn’t matter. It’s not what you’ll remember. But you will remember a good summer, happy kids, and a nice run. Enjoy your summer.

  32. Congrats on meeting summer head-on! I’m still scrambling to arrange camps and childcare, but it’ll get done. And thank you for this post, because I always seem to have a liquefied cucumber in my crisper…

  33. I was talking about this last night at a women’s ministry meeting…we women have (and maybe always will :S) this high school mentality about us.

    Am I popular? Will they think I’m a dork? Do I look like a dork? Will they be nice to me?

    And most of the time, we do it to ourselves because other women don’t care what our house looks like, what we drive, what we wear, if our hair/makeup/clothes are a mess. They just want a friend, too.

  34. Loved the post! I have given up on the pit of a house; I’d rather spend my time with my family at parks, pools, and all the other wonderful places to go! After actually wasting a personal day once to clean my house, I swore I’d never do it again.

    Food in the fridge is overrated. We never eat it (I am known for quickly hiding stuff in my husband’s car before my parents come over to see we haven’t eaten their leftovers). I just threw away your cucumber and two moldy peaches, but hey two kids are happy and wearing clean clothing, and we have a day planned! My dog definitely barks too much…I don’t expect my house ever to get robbed.

    I could care less about what any non-runner thinks of how I spend my time-since I think they are missing out on the best, practically free exercise in the world!

    Enjoy your summer and have fun at all those swim meets!

  35. Too funny. Toss in a nerf bullet in the butter dish (seriously) and you have described my kitchen perfectly. Sounds like you lucked out with Jamie!
    Now please stay out of my bathroom. πŸ™‚

  36. I tend to get obsessive about this stuff too, but I have to keep thinking … how would I want people to remember me? Cleaning my house or having a good time? Duh. It IS all about priorities. πŸ˜‰

  37. I think you were channelling every mom in this tribe when you posted this! I’m constantly amazed how I can bust out the broom and vacuum on a regular basis and still have hair tumbleweeds blowing down the hallway!
    Dang, this reminded me that I probably need to clean out my produce drawer…

  38. LOVE this post! It’s funny that for so long I didn’t work~out bc I prioritized picking up the house, etc above taking care of myself. But now that I’m running and working~out and prioritizing those things, I realize that I’m a better wife and mom. And that’s what’s most important. My house can be tidy one second and a pit the next. Especially in the summer! But, getting in my run makes a lasting difference in my well being {and the well being of my kids and husband who are around me! :)}

  39. Thanks to all of you for reminding me a run is way more important than a vacuum! Love this post πŸ™‚ cheers to sanity, hairballs and moldy bread!

  40. Love, love, love this post! My honey bear sends a “I’m stuck to the shelf too” to your honey bear!

  41. You pretty much summed up exactly how I feel when ANYONE walks in my house; and exactly the same introspective doubts I have when talking to a non-runner. It becomes even more difficult when my thoughts go along the line of: my house would probably be cleaner if I didn’t run, which we all know is hooey. I am pretty confident at this moment that had I skipped my run last night my refrigerator would be no cleaner; I would just be more irritated about it. Great post.

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