Feb 05, 2014 4 Share

No Way Out

Man stuck inside washing machine.

For the past few weeks, I have felt as if I might go “stir-crazy.” An Arctic blast moved through my hometown, causing near-whiteout conditions every time I looked out the windows and bringing temperatures down into the single and minus digits so that running errands or simply heading out anywhere became decidedly out of the question. I tried to cope with this sudden period of isolation as best I could, but there eventually came a point when I really just wanted to get back outside. Luckily, my mother had ways to keep me busy, keep my mind off the weather, and learn a few valuable life skills in the process.

Coincidentally, this stormy weather came about while my mother was dealing with a problem of her own. She had thrown her back and neck out, so she turned to me for help in taking care of more chores than I am used to around the house. I swept the kitchen floor, did the laundry, and cleaned the bathroom every day—tasks I have accomplished numerous times before. In addition to these, though, I helped my mother with some unfamiliar duties due to her inability to lift heavy items. I was feeling a bit glum after spending a few days cooped up in the house (and with a serious case of writer’s block to boot) and getting a handle on these unfamiliar chores added to my frustration, but as I carried on with them, I did feel quite better.

I worked throughout the days with my mother’s supervision on several tasks, but the chore which most aggravated me was cleaning the dishes and putting them away. Even though I love organizing things, the process of doing the dishes gets on my nerves because I have a hard time manipulating them due to my fine motor skills still being below average. With my mother coaching me, I had to figure out how to clean each kind of dish and utensil, something which becomes quite daunting to me when I am confronted with a tremendous variety of items of all shapes, sizes, weight, and materials. I had to get all of the dirt and grime off each dish with liberal amounts of soap and water in the kitchen sink. The dirt made me feel uncomfortable enough, but water was also splashing everywhere and was all over me as I tried to manipulate each item around in the sink so the water could hit the dirt at the right angles.

Some of the most difficult dishes for me to clean were the two gigantic slow cooker inserts in which my mother had cooked a lovely beef dinner. They were large, heavy, oval bowls which barely fit inside the sink. It felt like I was in a titanic struggle against these oversized pots; they stuck out at odd angles which made the water I applied splash all over the countertop (which I later had to clean up). My mother had placed water in them to soak the hardened areas, but some of the foodstuffs remaining in them stubbornly stuck to the sides. This meant that I had to vigorously scrub those spots until I felt like my arm was going to fall off. The whole procedure of cleaning these unwieldy dishes was undoubtedly the hardest thing I did that day, but somehow, they were cleaned and I felt proud at having survived the battle. 

When the weather cleared, my family and I went shopping for groceries. It was a welcome break from the monotony of staying inside the house, and I was able to do a little personal shopping. When we returned, I helped my mother stock the refrigerator, freezer, and cupboards with all the food. I have helped in this endeavor before, but because of my mother’s back and neck problems, I took on a more involved role this time. It was a challenge for me to figure out how everything would fit into each storage space; some of these items took up quite a bit of room and were big and bulky. Others had to be stored in certain spots, locations which filled up quickly making it hard for me to fit everything in the designated area. My mother taught me a lot about how to properly store it all, and even though I did become frustrated while doing it, I know that with time and practice I will eventually be able to do this task with ease.

To me, doing these chores was not at all fun, but I learned how to do some new tasks and helped my mother by contributing to the house’s general upkeep. I also got a really good glimpse at what it takes to run and maintain a household on a daily basis. I found that even though I do help around the house, it is a totally different situation altogether than doing it all, all the time. I realize that the road to true independence will take time. I will have to strike a delicate balance between chores, writing, and relaxation which I am still trying to figure out. I feel that once I am able to do these tasks quicker and with less frustration, it will be a big step in the right direction. I am, however, very proud of the work I have been putting in around the house. It makes me feel very good to be of help to my parents.

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Carol (not verified)

Cabin Fever

Ben - Living in Michigan, I too have had cabin fever and I too hate washing that big awkward crock pot!  Your mom was fortunate you were able to help her so much.  Once again, I enjoyed reading your well written blog!

Cabin Fever

Thanks for reading my column, Carol! Being stuck inside was not fun in the least, but I have been able to get out a few times since, and I will be super-happy when all of this snow melts! That crock pot is a nightmare for me to handle, but I am glad I have been able to get a handle on it, just like I have with a lot of other challenges in my life. I think I am fortunate to have a mom who has given me as much support as I have been able to give her. We help and complete each other. Thanks again for reading!

Sue Link (not verified)


That was a very well-written article, Ben. Nice work. It was nice that you could help your mother out and work through your frustrations at the same time. Good luck.


Thank you for reading my column, Sue! Going through experiences like these chores really helps me to get some perspective on my life and areas where I can improve. Dealing with frustration is something I have had to work on all my life. For me, it is like how some characters on TV shows learn a valuable life lesson, but are back to their old ways by the next episode, seemingly forgetting what they learned. I still tend to slip now and then, but I work hard at retaining those life lessons. Thanks again for reading!