Monday, January 28, 2008

The Task at Hand

Good 'ole curly-eyed Hooley's is a pub in Ottawa. And I've got to tell you that I felt like this Hooley-bird looks at around 9 am this morning. There are few things that drive me to want a stiff drink. And cleaning the oven is one of them. I can't stand cleaning a nasty, baked-on-food sorta oven. My eyes glaze over and I start to twitch slightly at the thought.

I have procrastinated since Christmas. Can you believe it? I baked the turkey this year, and decided to do it in a shallow lasagna pan with tin foil over the bird. Let me just say that I should invest in a bonafide roaster for next year.

By the time Christmas dinner rolled around, we were rolling in a smoke-filled cavern that used to be my kitchen. The pan drippings dripped right down and out of my oven, into the compartment beneath, creating a serious fire hazard.

I cleaned up the bulk of the compartment drippings.
But until this morning, I hadn't touched the poor oven. I've been baking muffins in my toaster oven, for goodness sake! Just to avoid the task.

So, this morning, I asked myself why I was procratinating. "Self", I said, "why the fuss? What's the big deal?" And I realized that it's not the dirty oven that galls me. It's the nasty oven cleaner I have used in the past that makes me gag and feel I have 90-year-old smoker's lungs with one inhalation. And so, me, myself and I, looked for an alternative.

I pulled out my new favorite (well, for the last two years) book on healthy household cleaning. It's called Clean House, Clean Planet. And I discovered that all I needed was baking soda, salt and hot water. In fact, it's a recipe called the "sleep it off" oven cleaning solution. It's a mixture of 1/4 cup salt and 3/4 cup baking soda, mixed into a paste with hot water.

Ideally, you slather on the paste at night, sleep, and then awake and start scrubbing. The baking soda acts as a solvent overnight and loosens the caked-on gunk. To scrape, I used a scouring pad, lots of paper towels and some steel wool.

And my oven has never looked better. And to be honest, it took no more than 15 minutes of good hardy scrubbing. All that procrastination for 15 minutes of work!

As I scrubbed, I started thinking about how easy it is to let things in life bubble over and gunk up. A negative attitude, thoughtless words, unrealistic expectations for myself or others, lack of joy or hope, can create a mess. The mess starts to rise and bubble over. And even a small amount, over time, accumulates into an overwhelming task of cleaning.

I can't tell you how good it felt to clean that oven to a sparkling newness. It became a tangible reminder to me that it is often the simplest things, that are right before me, that clean a mess.

It is the everyday baking soda and salt of right relationships, keeping short accounts, hugs and "i love yous" every morning and every night (and lotsa times in between), quiet times of recentering and prayers, apologizing for swift and hurtful words, bad attitudes.

It is the simple paper towels like beans and rice and home-baked bisquits. And a glass of red wine with my man, after the kids have nodded to sleep. These are the moments of saying "yes" to authentic and meaningful life and relationships, in the midst of stress and struggle. The moments we take to breathe in deeply, the all-encompassing love of God that surrounds us at every turn.

I am thankful for this morning, for the silent scrubbing that became a sort of spiritual redemption. I could feel God's love, cleaning what is caked in my own heart, as I settled in with the task at hand.


Dawn said...

Aww, Kelley... you're so poetic! Thanks for the story and the moral!

Mari de Andrade said...

Dear Kell, you have blessed me with your post. Thank you!

tamie said...

what a fantastic post, kell! thank you.

Krista said...

It makes my heart happy to read about your oven cleaning redemption. I think I will have to return to this post or maybe print it and tape it somewhere so I see often.

elizabeth said...

thank you for your post kelley!

wow. a clean oven. i've always rented places and well, i've never cleaned an oven! now i know what to use... hmmm...

i read in an interivew of an Orthodox Monk who grew up in Romania in the country near a monestary. and every night his whole family would ask each other for forgiveness, as the monks did this at the monestary every night...

wow. i am so glad that with God there is so much beauty. and hope...

thank you for the reminder!

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