Thursday, January 24, 2013

Dish Washing

My mind clattered with the ideas of the home renovation we are planning. Our talks now centered on modernizing the kitchen, making it into a more efficient space. I couldn't quite settle on what I actually wanted. We have almost all of the latest amenities in this kitchen, except one.

We don't have an automatic dishwasher. It's all done by hand. We live in the house my grandfather built for my grandmother when they were newly married. To put a dishwasher in when we first moved would have required a major plumbing reroute and obliterated some of the hand hewn cabinets and tall counters he carpentered himself, especially to fit her height. My great grandmother (who lived with them) and my grandmother spent much time in this kitchen, flavoring it with themselves as much as they did with their foods.

This evening, a stack of dishes sat in the sink, as uncamoflauged as cellulite in string bikini, awaiting me to bathe and rinse, to burnish  and dry. I'd already waved off my family's help, preferring to settle into the silence of the kitchen as a peaceful denouement to a frenetic day.

I shot a glance out the window as I quickly gathered pots from the stove and added them to the pile in the sink. The hot water cascaded from the faucet, roiling billowy suds while soothing my hands and easing warmth and fluidity back into them.

The window directly above the sink, four paned on each of the two panels, provided a perfect frame for the swelling sunset.

Like a mother bringing her children in for the night, the rapidly descending sun pulled swathes of warm light from every reach of the sky. Delicate violets chased a vibrant array of pinks and oranges, soon touching noses with each other and melding into an ethereal pallet.

The moon, unused to sharing dominion, escalated a growing luminosity in the eastern heavens. The sun, unwilling to cede control just yet, readied her final salvo.

An old barn with open windows used back in the day when hay bales were passed through them stood to the west, glorying in the waning sun like a faded starlet in the spotlights of a stage. The far western window of the barn captured the fancy of the sun, able to hold for only a moment an exquisite assemblage of the deepest purples, scarlets, and blues, streaking outwards with a last vigorous push. Then quickly and without further fanfare, the sun pulled her children to her bosom and departed for the night.

The stars peeked out from their velvety black blanket in sparkling support of the now glorious moon. The planets, constellations, and meteors joined in to regale a quieted earth with ancient beauty.

I looked over at my daughter's unlined teenaged hands that had poked back into the sink help me. Hers were the fifth generation of hands that had washed dishes at this sink, the fifth generation of eyes that had soaked in the loveliness of a sunset framed by that barn window.

I smiled. We don't need to install a dishwasher. Not at all.  

    

98 comments:

  1. Awesome imagery, Shelly! I can't write nearly as well as you but at least I can appreciate great writing and this is the best I ever encountered here on your blog.

    I am a great believer in doing some chores the old fashioned way. As a boy I always helped mom do the dishes. We gazed out the window and watched people and cars passing by, talked and reminisced. It is one of the many family activities that has fallen by the wayside in the name of progress.

    Once again I applaud you for this brilliantly written piece, dear Shelly, and I wish you a very happy Thursday!

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    1. Shady: Thank you for the amazing compliments. And yes, I agree, there is great value in doing things that require some physical labor, to where it costs us something. Too many kids are losing that sense of self worth that comes with those things.

      Again, thank you, my friend- and I hope the rest of your week in your sunny state is beautiful!

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  2. There are too many beautiful passages here to single out. Dishwashers are nice but for everything gained something is lost. The trick is to hold on to what is important. Your writing shows that you understand what is important.

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    1. Stephen: Ah, yes- embrace what is good in the new, but don't discard what is good with the old. A fine balance that too often gets out of kilter. And thank you~

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  3. I second Shady's sentiment...The imagery you shared here is awesome! I think you could probably win over a hardcore dishwasher salesmen to change professions with this piece of writing. It really is so special that you are raising your family in the home that your grandfather built.

    I have never in my life resided in a house with a properly functioning dishwasher and when we owned our home in Michigan I often wondered if we should invest in one, but after reading this I realize how much I actually enjoy the solitude I feel while completing this ordinary task. When we moved into the house we are currently leasing I had a choice to make between a house that had a dishwasher or this house, which had a fabulous yard on the edge of the forest and a huge garden tub in the master bath. It wasn't a difficult choice for me, lol! When I was in my twenties, before I got pregnant with my son, I suffered from bouts of arthritis in my wrists and knees. Although I was very active and there was no history of it in my family, I would wake up some mornings with huge lumps in my wrists. I lacked the strength in my hands to even fill the coffee pot with water. The pain was excruciating! One morning, after a lazy night where I had gone to bed early and left the dishes in the sink, I realized that immersing my hands in warm water while washing our dishes eased the pain in my wrists and hands dramatically and caused the swelling to go down much quicker than any pain reliever or anti-inflammatory medication ever could. Needless to say, after that discovery I started leaving our dishes in the sink every night and washing them first thing in the morning. It was a major relief! After I had my son, my arthritis magically disappeared. My doc said it might have been a hormonal issue that my body corrected during my pregnancy. Whatever the reason, I'm thankful it's gone! The line in your post, "The hot water cascaded from the faucet, roiling billowy suds while soothing my hands and easing warmth and fluidity back into them.," brought this memory back to the forefront of my mind. I've switched to washing our dishes at night again because I hate waking up to a cluttered sink but if mean old "Arthur" ever returns to my joints, I know how to deal with him! ;)

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    1. Jenn: Wow- what a wonderful thing that it could give relief to your hands like that! I have carpal tunnel and it gives me some relief for that, too. Isn't it amazing how something as mundane as washing dishes gave relief like a painkiller would? I'm so glad you don't have to suffer with it right now, and I hope it never comes back.

      I would have made the same choice as you on the house, hands down! Thank you for your kind words. I am SO glad you are back in blogland- we really missed you, my friend!

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  4. Some things are best done the old fashioned way.

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  5. The generational moments are a treasure..not really known until we all reach the upper generations!

    I would freak if my dishwasher died. I know we would survive but still. There are a few household duties I do not find pleasure in. Washing silverware and cleaning the tub.

    Great post.

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    1. Christine: I'm with you on cleaning the tub! Add also to mine- cleaning the toilet!

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  6. The beauty of our world swells in your craft; illuminating a gift God gives us for surviving the day... this glorious Texas sunset, and your appreciation of it is magic! Daily chores ground us, they hold us in place for a little while, so that we can see the gifts passing through. I am resistant when hand washing the dishes, but maybe it's because my view is of the side of our gray garage. I have to look inward when washing, and sometimes that is deep water to drown in.

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    1. Jenny: Your comment is pure poetry. What you said about the daily chores is true. It is through that lens that we can truly begin to appreciate what is good around us, and so consistent. I love, love your last line~

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  7. I have to admit, right now I love my dishwasher!
    Love your writing style, beautiful post!

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    1. Sinder Ella: Thank you! And I really did love my dishwasher in our other houses, but they didn't have that window nor that view~

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  8. Lovely post, Shelley! And I'd kill for a dishwasher because I don't have your lovely views!

    Nas

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    1. Nas: I have to admit that without that window, I probably wouldn't be too keen at all to handwash the dishes~

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  9. What a beautifully written post. You said the counters were the correct height for your ancestor. Does that mean they're low or high or just right for you, too?

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Janie: Just the right height. I am 5'9", and it is so nice not to have to stoop down to a shorter counter.

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    2. That's interesting. I visited Eleanor Roosevelt's "cottage" when it was first opened to the public (about 30 years ago). Everything, including sinks, had been installed a little higher than in most houses to accommodate our very tall first lady.

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    3. I did not know her house was customized that way. Good thinking and planning on her part!

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    4. I knew there was another reason I look up to you!!!! I probably am the same height as many of your students (or maybe they are even taller..I'm 5'1.5") Once I blended right in with a hallway packed with fifth graders and a teacher tried to direct me to a classroom! So, If I'm ever washing dishes at your house I might need a stool.

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    5. Jenny: Ack! I really embarrassed myself just last week at school. I saw a boy I didn't recognize walking down a hall where no students are supposed to be. Since I couldn't tell who it was and didn't know what name to call, I resorted to calling him, "Darlin', Darlin," while I rushed to catch up. (That is something I use often when I speak to the kids.)

      At any rate after about 10 yards of me calling that out louder and louder to get his attention, he turned around and it was not a student at all but our new art teacher who is about the size of a 6th grader. Oh well.

      I am laughing at how silly that teacher must have felt when she saw it was you. How did you react? I usually feel like Gigantor because many people down here, especially women, are at least six inches shorter than me.

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    6. I smiled big and said that it felt so good to be back at school again. It was a sad day in my life to have to grow up and graduate and leave a place I loved so much.

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    7. Jenny: That makes me smile!

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  10. Awe - hos sweet and sentimental. I love doing dishes by hand myself.

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    1. Sandie: I never thought I'd say it, but I really so like it, too.

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  11. Dear Shelly, this is a lovely piece of writing. How I'd like to have thought of the following line, which is a gem: "as uncamoflauged as cellulite in string bikini." With words you painted the setting and established the atmosphere of peace that pervaded this short essay. And all the while, a decision was slowly being made within your mind as your eyes saw the changes beyond the window and then the hands of your daughter in the soapy water. A splendid piece of writing. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    As you know, I've been away from reading and commenting on blogs for about six weeks. If there are any of your posts you'd especially like me to read, please do let me know either by e-mail or by leaving a comment on my blog. Peace.

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    1. Dee: It's so good to have you back! Thank you for your always kind comments on my writing. It was just a small moment, but the beauty of what unfolded before my eyes was breathtaking and I wanted to attempt to share it.

      The cellulite/ bikini image is not a pretty picture, but an apt metaphor!

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  12. Oh, baloni! You will still have to wash dishes!! The dishwasher doesn't do everything!! (haha)
    Think of all those grandchildren you will have and family dinners....

    Just kidding you.
    The first thing I've always looked for in a kitchen when looking for a house is a window above the sink. Couldn't imagine not having a window. I like washing dishes...but not for 8 people every night--that's what dishwashers and kids are for! (again, we don't put EVERYTHING in the dishwasher)

    I love your descriptive writing...but I want a picture!! :) I'm visual. It sounds so wonderful...

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    1. Jamie: I know I am spoiled with just three of us in the house right now- but it will be coming in the next few years, so I'm going to enjoy it now while it lasts! Ha!

      And I am going to try and get a picture. It will probably be the weekend before I there again at the right moment for the sunset, but it is so spectacular. I will post to FB when I get it. And I can't imagine washing dishes by hand for 8 people every night, although our moms and grandmothers surely did it!

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  13. I'm a handwasher of dishes also. We had only two children and I was a stay-at-home mom while they were growing up, so I never felt the dishwashing was too demanding. Besides, it gives me time to think, if I'm doing them alone. That, and ironing, are two of my favourite jobs, for that reason :)

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    1. And ten lashes with a wet noodle for me, for neglecting to say how beautiful your imagery is in this lovely post!! Love the thought of the sun gathering her children ...

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    2. jenny_o: There really is something so contemplative about that alone time while working- I get to do some deep thinking then. Can't complain at all about it~

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  14. This post is so lovely. I am sure your grandparents are smiling down on you.

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  15. I read this post earlier today and wanted to roll your words in my head for a bit before commenting. It was perfect, as I was baking today and ended up washing three sinks worth of dishes by the time I was done. While my hands were doing their sudsy work, out my window I saw the sunset through the barn. I saw Texas.

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    1. Funny is Family: What an exquisite comment. Your words are beautiful-

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  16. I think that was neat whoever built the house to design the kitchen window to face west! What a wonderful sight to see with the sunsets. You described it so well and I'm sure that was just one of many witnessed by you during the time you've lived there Shelly. I can see why not having a dishwasher would definitely be an advantage!

    betty

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    1. Betty: Yes, my grandma specifically wanted that window to face that way- and I'm so glad she did. Those sunsets are truly worth it!

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  17. One of my favorite memories is of my grandmother, my mother, my aunts, and me (all of my siblings and cousins are boys) all forming an assembly line to wash, rinse, and dry dishes after a big family dinner at my Grandma and Grandpa's house. The visiting and laughing were lots of fun for a young girl to be in the middle of.

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    1. karen: What wonderful memories. I wish every child had those experiences. It's sad so many don't nowadays.

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  18. First I am amazed at your ability to turn dish washing into a glorious event. I love to read your stories. Second, oh my, how very fortunate to live where five generations have lived before you. I can only dream of such continuity!!

    I will definitely look out my window while washing dishes with a different outlook next time after reading this. I have a dishwasher but rarely use it. And, I agree about your kitchen. I would never touch any of the hand hewn cabinets to add a dishwasher!

    I was actually tense when I first came up to your page. I have several windows open on my PC and several projects going at once. Now, I am relaxed and you did that with your wonderful mastery of words. I too am watching the sun go down and I can see the wonderful old barn!

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    1. Jackie: Thank you for your very kind words! There's just something about these lovely sunsets that is truly relaxing and peaceful. I wish I could bottle it up and pull it out when some relaxation and peace is needed!

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  19. I love the fact you live in the house your grandfather built! This is so rare in our culture of moving from house to house. How wonderful to have a house full of many years of memories. I also remember days of talking with my girls while we did the dishes. It is a bonding time I think.

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    1. Belle: It is truly a blessing to us to live here. In one of the closets are the height marks from my dad and uncles as they grew. And yes, it is a great bonding time. Love it~

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  20. I would love to live in the house my grandfather built but my uncle is living there so would be a bit rude if I moved in..........lol I have been without a dishwasher since before Christmas and I can not wait to get another one...........

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    1. Jo-Anne: Ha! And I did desperately miss my dishwasher when we first moved out here, but I'm more than OK without it now.

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  21. I haven't got a dishwasher either, and Ray hardly ever washes up. So glad you have a lovely view from your window as you wash, thats a consolation. I don't use a clothes drier either, I hang the clothes on the line and them bring them in... Sometimes the old ways are the best. with a dishwasher, they still need to be loaded and unpacked. Hugs Crystal

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    1. Crystal Mary: I'm in good company then. I'll bet your clothes smell wonderful, too. You can't get that aroma with a dryer. Mmmmm- line dried sheets- nothing like going to sleep on those! xo-

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  22. What a beautiful picture of a 5 generational family! What a blessing!!! (Yes, even dishwashing!)

    Love the way you write. LOVE.

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    1. That Janie Girl: Thank you! I love thinking of the multi-generational ties, especially now that I'm more aware of the aging process.

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  23. Oh Shelly I loved this it was as if I was right there experiencing this moment I could actually here the water running, feel the towel hung on my shoulder oh nice job. I think five generations of love and pride is what is the amazing part. I do not have a dishwasher either and there is something about washing them and spending time looking out the window that calms my soul. Hug B

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    1. Buttons: I think you hit the nail on the head- soul calming. That's exactly what it is to me, peaceful as all get out. And the five generation thing is something I like to turn over in head from time to time. Life's circles and all-

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  24. That was a beautiful post. My sister and I were the chief dishwashers at our house from the time we could get up on a stool and help. We had lots of fun times there in the kitchen and I always wash dishes now before they go into the dishwasher anyway. My husband doesn't get that - he think there are little hands with scrubbers inside the dishwasher if you press the "pots and pans" button. So, even though he likes to help clean up, I still do or re-do, and I love looking out the window as I do.

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    1. Nonnie: As much as I didn't like washing dishes when I was young, I like it now. And yes, my husband used to think about the same thing in our former homes that had dishwashers!

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  25. ...not unless you want to sell the house. lol

    I hope you have a sense of humor; I think you do.

    Like all the others, I felt that this was beautiful to read; a novella about the lack of a dishwasher. Who'd have thought that topic would work? But it did; full of history, love, and memories expressed in lovely metaphors... except that one about cellulite - my nemesis. :)

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    1. Anita: Ha! So true. For now, we're staying put, so even if I didn't like washing dishes, I'd have to get used to it! And I know what you mean about cellulite- ugh!!!

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  26. Shelly - Lovely prose. For me, I just don't like to wash dishes, but I enjoy ironing - which I am told most women hate. So we each have our soothing-duties that bring us a sense of peaceful accomplishment. :)

    Terrific post! blessings to you.

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    1. Marsha: I, too, like ironing. Something about the rhythm of it, the smoothing out of that which is wrinkled...and yes, that wonderful sense of accomplishment. Thank you, my friend~

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  27. What a writer! She who can turn dish washing into romance surely needs a dishwasher to free her time for more writing.

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  28. I agree. I don't have a dishwasher, and there is something so cathartic about hand washing. I mean, I can't make it sound as beautiful as you do, but I do enjoy it.

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    1. Missed Periods: You, my friend, would make it sound much better, I know!

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  29. Dearest Shelly,
    So sorry for my belated comment, my dear friend. Since my last post, I was so tied up and tied...(^^;)

    OMG!!! What a sweet heartwarming post♡♡♡ Yes, so many beautiful phrases and amazingly wonderful writing again. I almost cried what you wrote about your daughter remembering the day I was lining up in the small kitchen with my late mother. My mom might have thought the same way when I was washing dishes beside her when teenager.
    We just don't have the space for one; not so sweet and wonderful reason like yours, haha. But I might agree with your friend Mr. Vanilla's comment(*^_^*)

    Sending you lots of love and hugs from Japan, xoxo Miyako* 


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    1. Miyako: Oh, my dear friend Miyako, it touched my heart thinking of you and your sweet mom washing dishes side by side. I am sad for those today who miss out on that opportunity, because as you so lovingly demonstrate, it creates wonderful and loving memories. Thank you for sharing such loveliness with me today.

      I hope you are feeling better and taking care of yourself- we are all trying to avoid the flu here. Get lots of rest!

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  30. Your sentiment is good....but even with the sunset and the stars shining in on the sink through the four paned windows, I would love to have a dishwasher to go along with all the other modern amenities. My thoughts would be :Why do the invent things such as a dishwasher?: And my answer would be...:So I can sit outside in the summer after a good meal and drift along in dreams with the colors of the sky: Enjoying it all without pruned hands. Y'know? Just my opinion. But, in all honesty, I LOVED your commentary. Truly, it's most poetic.

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    1. HOOTIN ANNI: OK, the part about the pruned hands is true and made me smile! Right now that I work and spend so many hours outside my home, I think makes me long for the structures of the home even more. Once I am retired, though, and have nothing to do but home chores, it may not be as restful and peaceful! :)

      And thank you- if you check on the last post I just commented on of yours, you will see that we are neighbors! Howdy-

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  31. Since I am single, and really do not make a mess when it comes to eating, let alone cooking, my dishware is very limited and I have no need for any dishwasher at all. Hugs to you Shelly,.

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    1. Just Be Real: They use lots of water and electricity, too. Glad you are back!

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  32. We live in an 1812 Victorian. We do have a dishwasher, but if we would have had to mar the beautiful black oak cupboards, I wouldn't have allowed it. We still have the old fashioned toilet just off the kitchen with a box over it and a chain to pull to flush. It has never once had to be repaired and as my partner has remarked many times, we could flush a cat down it without problems. Um...not that we would. Do that. Flush a cat.

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    1. Maria: Your home sounds beautiful! "...flush a cat.." I almost spewed my water on the screen when I read that! Ha!

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  33. I live in a house built in the 1800's. We didn't add a dishwasher till my four girls were practically out of the house. And then, mainly, because my home
    daycare added about 8 kids. I have always served the big meal of the day at noon.So with the additional kids, the dishes became overwhelming. And now I use it about every other day. Just found your site via Empty Nest. Will be back.

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    1. Rose: I would love to live in a house dating back to the 1800's! What history. I can certainly see why you need a dishwasher with that many kiddoes to take care of!

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  34. I do love my dishwasher. You have such a great attitude. xx

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    1. Michelle: I didn't think I would be happy without it when we first moved, but it hasn't been too bad at all. Thankfully!

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  35. You are next week's pick Shelly for Blog Of The Week. Not that you need any help with a following but because you are such a great writer and I love your blog.

    Now shall I copy a picture of those boots...if I can...and make a badge for your site with those? Or, do you prefer to email me an image I can work with or, a badge you design ? My email is jackie_hooper@yahoo.com

    Happy Monday! :-)

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    1. Jackie: I am very honored! Thank you!!! If you can make a badge with those boots, go right ahead. I'm not very good with that kind of thing.

      Thank you so much!

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  36. Beautiful! I loved this post. LOVED IT!

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  37. Your writing is beautiful enough to tempt me to go back home and live in the house that my father built. You bring beauty to the word family and make it as rich as it is suppose to be. You have an art that is precious and I have yet to see that in novels that claim to be literary. Your students are lucky to have a teacher like you. Please keep writing and let us enjoy the art of writing which is also full of meaningful values !

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    1. Munir: Oh, my friend, I treasure your words. How very kind you are. Thank you! I hope you know that you, too, have that beauty with words. Have you written any longer pieces? It would be wonderful to read anything like that that you have written~

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  38. What a pretty and thoughtful way to end a day. :-)

    Pearl

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    1. Pearl: It was gorgeous, my friend!

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  39. Ps...I'm back,.....just wanted to wish you and your daughter luck in the run here in Corpus!!!

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    1. Hootin Anni: Thank you! I think it's going to be fun, although she's MUCH faster than I am~

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  40. only you Shelly could possible ever make washing dishes sound like a good thing.

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  41. Wow! Not only is it an amazingly moving story, it is also VERY well written. You have a great talent and I'm happy to be able to see. Thanks for sharing...

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    1. Pat: Thank you for your kind words!

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  42. Hello! I disabled the word verification. I know its painful. I never noticed word verification was enabled. My bad. Thanks for letting me know. Hope you are participating in 'What's your story?'. The deadline has been extended. :)

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    1. Manju: Thank you! I will look in just a bit to see if I am something appropriate to submit- sounds like fun!

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  43. Shelly, this post is one of my favorites! I do not like dishwashers or use a dishwasher. I have never understood all the fuss about a dishwasher. Some of my family and friends have been driven slightly insane by me not using a dishwasher. Years ago, on a rare occasion I used one and have pemanent lime-type stains on my tea glasses. We use our "good" dishes every day and I had a women who sells them advise not to put them in the dishwasher because of etching.

    The main reason I don't use a dish washer is I can have the dishes properly washed by the time I get them ready to be washed in the dishwasher.

    Such sweet memories in this, Shelly. No, you don't need a dishwasher of the electric variety.

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    1. Cindy: I am shouting a hearty Amen from all the way down here in Texas! Yes, those things are hard on dishes and hard on the soul because they rob you of that peaceful solitude you get from doing something solid and steady with your hands. We are kindred souls!

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  44. I wash my dishes by hand first then sanitize them in the dishwasher. My husband insists on it, he doesn't trust the sink alone (or my scrubbing?)

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    1. Julie: I would do the same if I had a dishwasher now. I used to do it that way before we moved out here and I had one. I still prefer hand washing, though-

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  45. Shelly,your post brought a tear to my eye...what precious nostalgic moments.

    I have never owned a dishwasher either Shelly, in 42 years of marriage. Dishwashing is therapy time for me. I also wrote a blog post about not having a dishwasher...

    http://cjtittle.blogspot.com/2011/01/dishwater-therapy.html

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    1. Cathy: I'm so glad I'm not alone in the no dishwasher category. It really is therapeutic. I'm off to read your post!

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