Friday, October 5, 2018

Getting It Together

by Linda Rodriguez

As many of our readers know, I'm dealing with a badly shattered right shoulder right now. I'm also teaching an extremely large online class in revising the novel and losing my voice from doing so much dictating to voice recognition software. So I am running a post from the past today. (And I want to point out that the husband at whom I poke gentle fun in this post has been an absolute rock throughout this horrible injury. I don't know what I'd do without him.)

Getting It Together

My husband, the world's original disorganized, absent-minded professor, is fond of saying, “I'm going to get it together,” as if he's putting the final touches on on a perfectly organized life. Now, regular readers of this blog may remember that my youngest son, who adores him, calls him “the chaos demon.” Sometimes people who work with my husband at the university take someone new into his office just for the shock effect. Over the years—after many efforts to set up systems he can’t destroy and after giving him books designed to help him understand the simplest organizational principles (like ”throw the trash in the trashcan—don’t just walk past it and deposit it on the kitchen counter”) I’ve stopped trying. I try to keep a couple of areas clear and comfortable for me, and I don’t look when I pass the rest. I haven’t had guests to my house in years, although I had many before he fully embedded himself in my home. (It takes a year or two to completely undo good systems, I’ve found, even for a chaos demon.) He's a wonderful man, and it’s his only real fault, so I long ago decided to live with it.

Lately, I've been chafing at these circumstances, however. Probably because, unlike my husband, I work at home and thus spend most of twenty-four hours a day in these chaotic surroundings. I've grown tired of living with boxes of books and postal bins of manuscripts stacked in the living room—he runs a micro press from our home in his spare time when he's not running a university press and teaching. This morning finally sealed the deal for me, however. My weak and shaky hands (from lupus) managed to knock off the table between our chairs the big Columbia University cup in which I keep things I use regularly—fountain pens, mechanical pencils, scissors, a nail file, and knitting needles. This meant I had to scrabble around on the floor around and under his chair for the spilled contents of my cup.

He keeps a quilt made by my sister in his chair to cover up with if he's cold or just sit on if it's hot. This quilt often puddles on the floor around his chair, and I've given up chiding him about it. So this morning, I was looking for my fallen necessities, only to find that his quilt was hiding three times as many items as I had spilled. Apparently, I'm not the only one with shaky hands in this house.

My cup is back and filled with the pens, pencils, and knitting needles that I consider necessary to daily life, but my hard-won peace with the house mess is gone. I'm googling home organization websites and making lists of decluttering tasks to do over the next weeks. I'm laying in supplies of trash bags and cardboard boxes. The chaos demon's days are numbered.

He tells me he is going to get it all together. I tell him that's a meaningless phrase, that no one ever gets it all together. He reassures me that. He. Will. Get. It. All. Together. I tell him that, like too many men, he sees the house situation as a war where he can win a battle and go home forever. I tell him that life's not like that. “It's a case of constant maintenance, baby,” I say. The chaos demon is stubborn, however, and insists that he will get it together. Tomorrow. Or maybe the day after that. After all, things are crazy right now. But he will get it together. Later.

Linda Rodriguez's Dark Sister: Poems is her 10th book. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, based on her popular workshop, and The World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East, an anthology she co-edited, were published in 2017. Every Family Doubt, her fourth mystery featuring Cherokee detective, Skeet Bannion, and Revising the Character-Driven Novel will be published in 2019. Her three earlier Skeet novels—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust, Every Last Secret—and earlier books of poetry—Skin Hunger and Heart's Migration—have received critical recognition and awards, such as St. Martin's Press/Malice Domestic Best First Novel, International Latino Book Award, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, Midwest Voices & Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in Kansas City Noir, has been optioned for film.

Rodriguez is past chair of the AWP Indigenous Writer’s Caucus, past president of Border Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of International Thriller Writers, Native Writers Circle of the Americas, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community. Visit her at


  1. Friend of mine compromised by having one room she could keep as messy at she liked, one room pristine and organized to his standards, and a compromise for the rest of their home. Good luck finding a calm "eye" in the chaos. <3

  2. There is no compromise, unfortunately. If I don't nag and stay constantly on top of everything, it's all chaos--and I hate to nag. And of course, right now with this shoulder, I can't stay on top of anything. I have to avert my eyes passing through the kitchen on the way to the bathroom because there's nothing I can do about it right now.