Doing dishes.  Don’t the very words just make your plates spin faster?

Stack of Dirty Dishes

For years now, the deal in our house has been ‘You cook. I clean’.  We’re enjoying the new place but alas, no dishwasher.  So while the deal hasn’t changed, the process has.

Every night after dinner, I take my station in front of the two deep sinks with dish rack to the right.  I turn to the orchestra, nod and the music begins.

I’m not only OK with our division of labor, but I can honestly say I enjoy the simple task of moving the dishes from dirty stack on the left, to clean and racked on the right.

The ‘sparkle’ comes in the middle.

Dish soap (thank you Dawn).

Dish rag (thank you Elsie).

I don’t know why I call it a rag.  It’s not shredded or stained like the rags I shine my shoes with.  And what if it isn’t a rag at all?  What if it’s actually something else in disguise?

Here’s what got me hopping down this particular bunny trail.  When you’re doing things that don’t require a lot of high-level thought and you’re doing them in a particular way, have you ever really considered why you do them in that particular fashion?  It could be the way you open your mail or fold your laundry.  I don’t know what it is for you, but I’ll wager you have a particular way of doing something that’s all yours…and now you’re thinking about it.  Wild, eh?

Mine happened the other night as I was stepping up to do the dishes.  Laying my dish cloth out flat on the counter, I caught myself drizzling a design on it with my bottle of Dawn as if I were Jackson Pollock hovering over a canvas.  Uh?

I was doodling on my rag!  I never intended to.  Never once had I realized I was doing it.  I just do.  Sometimes the doodles are zig-zags; sometimes circles and the other night?  My initials.  My initials! What? Am I channeling John Hancock?  Was my dish rag the Magna Carta in a former life?   Whatever it was, there it was.  And then it wasn’t.

You see that’s the thing about using water-based product.  In the time it takes for me to plunge the prepared rag under the water, I get suds and my monogram becomes one with the water.

But gestalt passes.  Time ticks and water waits.  Left hand grabs.  Plate gets washed.  Right hand drops rag.  Rinse, rack and repeat.  And before you can say ‘Clean Gene’, I’m wiping down my station and the surrounding counters.  Next, I rinse the rag and wring it out for all it’s worth.  Hanging it over the side of the dish rack, my canvas dries, ready for tomorrow when I do it all over again.

Doing Dishes while listening to the radio

Listening to me deliver the play-by-play of doing the dishes must have you glued to your radios.

In that moment, standing in that spot, it dawned on me [sic] that dishes are not the only things that can stack up on us in this world.  Truth be told, sometimes my Life towers so high I catch myself wishing someone would swoop in and take me away.  It may be a different kind of bubble, but the Calgon people sold a lot of soap with just such a premise.  It was simple, but there was a seductive logic to it.  I mean, after all, what’s the point?  Like a lot of other things in life, no matter what I do, there will always be more dishes.  They are never done.  Who can blame me for wanting to throw in the towel?  “Just walk away…they’re dishes.  The dirty plate police are not going to write you up.  The stack will be there in the morning.”

But I know this one.  What the trickster part of me conveniently neglected to mention was if I don’t do them, they don’t get done.  Life is not a fairy tale.  There are no magic elves or water sprites that show up in the middle of the night to do the dishes for me.  I know this because I’ve waited for them.

You can’t get good magic help anymore and I grew tired of being greeted by the sight of a sink full of dishes as I rounded the clubhouse turn into the kitchen towards my first cup of morning coffee.  I resented being reminded of what I hadn’t finished.  And I resented resenting first thing in the morning.

Since that grumpy morning long ago, I have learned it’s best to enjoy my meal, get up, go to the suds and get my hands wet. Dishes and Life have a lot in common in that it’s up to me to do the work.  So when it came to dishes, I took my cue from Dustin Hoffman and became a very good driver.

Life lesson reaffirmed.  Truth wrung out. I was done. I thanked my muse for stopping by.  Bye-bye.

But as is so often the case and just when I thought it was safe to go back into the water, my Truth got cleaner.

Signing my dish rag like a canvas.  What if the latest and larger lesson wasn’t about diligently doing dishes every night for the rest of my life…or at least until the time they cart me off to rot on the porch of the Shady Rest Nursing Home?  What if tonight’s lesson was about doing ordinary things extraordinarily well – no matter how menial or mindless they may seem…me signing my initials to the work before it even begins?  Which got me to thinking…

Dish rags aren’t the only things I sign. Sure, I sign credit card slips, enter my PIN and check the online box to indicate I accept the terms of my online payment, but what about the carbon-based life forms all around us?  Do I show indifference, or love?  Do I throw in the towel on someone who doesn’t know any better, or do I find an extra measure of patience while they work on getting some dried egg off their plate?  And what if the person working on the dried egg, is me?

I have no impact on sunrise arriving.  It just happens.  How I use the Dawn?  That’s on me.  I’ve got a lot of dishes to do this week.  I’ll be paying closer attention to how I greet a fellow commuter in the morning; the focus I bring to my work and the surety with which the people I love, know that I do.

If I have to convince someone my dishes are clean, they probably aren’t.  But the way I sign my rag before I do them?  That tells the people around me all they need to know about my riches.

Cue the orchestra.





Brandon Lepow

President Obama and his top aides Tuesday mourned the death of 32-year-old former campaign and White House staffer Brandon Lepow, who died Monday night (October 12, 2015) after a two-year struggle with leukemia.

…Lepow, who is survived by his wife Theresa as well as his parents, Cindy Schmerin and Kenny Lepow, went into remission in 2014 but relapsed earlier this year.

Former White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer, who served as Lepow’s boss and played on a men’s basketball team with him in D.C., said in a phone interview he was “the most beloved person I’ve ever been around.”…

“Even the people on the other basketball team loved Brandon,” said Pfeiffer, who joined dozens of others in Houston in late August to spend time with Lepow and his family. “It says so much about Brandon that more than 50 of the busiest people in the world were in Houston within 24 hours of the news his condition had taken a turn.”


Check out the fuller story by Juliet Eilperin October 13 in the Washington Post at

Brandon Lepow Dead: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know: Published 3:09 pm EDT, October 13, 2015 Updated 3:55 pm EDT, October 13, 2015 By Paul Farrell:
Single Fern


Stack of Dirty Dishes: Tragedy of the Kitchen, posted on July 2012 by ANDREW FRANGOS: from original source: The problem piles up (image from thenegotiationblog); Doing Dishes while listening to the radio: Welcome to 8tracks radio: free music streaming for any time, place, or mood. Click play to start listening for free to 21 dishes playlists tagged with cleaning, Mumford & Sons, and indie. You can also download one of our free apps to enjoy internet radio on your favorite device.  SOURCE:; Dawn: Dawn is a brand of dishwashing liquid owned by Procter & Gamble.



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About dan4kent

Born and raised in the Midwest, Dan lives in the Chicagoland area. With a grown son from a previous marriage, he has since built a committed relationship of 33 years with his partner Rick, the Love of his Life. Having written his whole life, he blogged for years because he has to write…he can’t help it. Know the feeling? There’s ‘good‘ to be found in all of it. “If all I do is leave someone (or something) better than I found them, then I’ve done my part. Thanks for letting me grace your screen, if only for a little while.”
This entry was posted in Life Lessons, Love and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to DISH RAGS TO RICHES

  1. Kathy Carey says:

    When I was a little girl…after a meal at my grandparents….we were expected to bring our dishes to the kitchen. It was called “playing Marianne”. I never knew who Marianne was….I simply played along…and brought my dishes into the kitchen. Then, I got old enough to either wash or dry. I was taught how to hold onto a plate with a tiny bit of dishrag, while you dried it with the rest. No crashing of plates to the floor. Thankfully, my Grandpa would rescue us grandkids asking us if anyone wanted to check and see if Lake Michigan was still there. We’d race to the car. Phew. Off duty. Now. I like playing Marianne. I even like doing my dishes rather than use the dishwasher. In fact, I’ve never used my dishwasher. Lake MichigN is still there. Travel well, Dan. – Kathy

  2. purplemary54 says:

    I use Seventh Generation for the hand washed dishes; I like to be as eco friendly as possible, and it works well. I never liked household chores (I was born lazy), but I enjoy the zen-like feeling of doing a small task that doesn’t require me to think very hard. I can wander through the interior maze a little, hopefully avoiding all the anxious land mines I’ve planted for myself. Or I listen to music/podcasts on my little bluetooth speaker. That always makes work easier.

    • dan4kent says:

      My dear PM. So cool to hear this resonated with you. I don’t know Seventh Generation but I’ll keep my eyes open for it around here. On the zen front, check out the SOURCES in the last post. There is actually a site I found that’s dedicated to play lists to do dishes by. Who knows, maybe you’ll enjoy it. Roger that on the landmines. I’m right there with you. Between now and then, travel well.
      Until then,

      • purplemary54 says:

        How did we live without bluetooth speakers? 🙂 I’ll have to check out the play list site, although I’m mostly just loading and unloading the dishwasher. I’m sure there are other good play lists for things like folding laundry or dusting.

  3. paralaxvu says:

    Didn’t need to read this while the dishes sit in cold soapy water upstairs. I’m getting better at the dish washing routine…god knows, Ray is one of the best cooks I’ve ever known, and if we had to exchange places we’d be eating a lot of soup and sandwiches. So upstairs I go, dammit Dan! (kidding…thanks for the little push. And the life-affirming story of Brandon Lepow.)

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