The Love Shack

This post is long overdue. You see, friends, I have been working on a Secret Project of Joy (in addition to conspiring to send my daughter away to military camp, aka Preschool). My Secret Project of Joy is transforming our garage guest room, the “Love Shack” as we like to call it, into a place I can actually work.

The first step was covering up the orange paint.

I am anything but a designer. Like most people, I enjoy being surrounded by beauty. When I get tired of standing in front of the mirror, I am left to find beauty in my environment. Husband and I picked out this great tile to go in the Love Shack, a terra cotta with blue designs on it (click here to see it up close). (By the way, I don’t recommend this tile unless you enjoy scraping bar codes off the floor. Some genius decided to put the bar codes on the TOP of each tile. As we are a lazy/busy family, there are still tiles with bar codes on them. In fact, the only ones without bar codes are a gift of my mother’s hard work. Thanks, Mom.)

As I was saying…I tried to match the terra cotta tile. And do an accent wall. Thankfully, I can’t find any photos of the old Love Shack, because although people were nice enough about it, it was Ugly. A few months ago I went out there to write, and as I sat on the bed, looking around (not writing), I couldn’t help but notice the pleasing sandy color I’d chosen was orange. Orange!

So on Mother’s Day, I painted the heck out of those walls, to a nice soft Informal Ivory. Now it’s Very Boring, which is better than orange, and I can always kick up the color a bit with the trim. And paint some poems on the walls, maybe some birds and stars. It’s MY ROOM. Yeah, guests sometimes sleep in it, so I don’t want to put anything disturbing on the walls, like these prints we got to enjoy when staying in a hotel room in Nasca, Peru:

Sweet dreams!

Don't let the bed bugs (er, horses) bite!

We weren’t sure which one we liked more, but we think the execution scene really sets the mood for peaceful slumber.

It’s clean and cozy, there’s a full bathroom, and even better: I can get work done in there. I’ve got lots of plans for the room, and the only challenge to my writing will be that I need to sit still and write, not putter about fixing up the place. In the meantime, it’s  a workable writer’s studio. I like to call it my “sink paceuary” (taken from “peace sanctuary” when I was doing the Hypnobirthing CD – don’t laugh).

Finally moved my story board from the bedroom wall to the Love Shack.

“All I could do was to offer you an opinion upon one minor point — a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” Virginia Woolf so famously said. Actually, I’d forgotten about the money part until I looked it up, and I now wish I had left the quote to memory. Anyway. I at least have the room of my own. It’s enough.

ETA: I was inspired to write about the Love Shack after doing Erin Bow’s interview. Her fantastic digs (located in a pole dancing studio!) make the Love Shack look tame by comparison.

Marooned!

When you move into a house that has been previously lived in, there might be a few…how can I put this delicately…inherited items. (Indelicate translation: You’re gonna have to deal with crap left there by the previous owners.) These things can range from household cleaners (Scrubbing Bubbles), bath mats (one of which is still in the house. Kinda gross, but that’s how we roll, I guess), an RV cover (don’t even let me get started on that), faded, historic-archival-paper-colored vertical blinds, and maroon curtains. And really, I think we had it easy.

It would be easier if we were quicker on tackling those kinds of things that are Ugly and Soul-Demeaning and Kill You A Little Bit Every Time You Look At Them. Looking at them happens often, especially if they’re located in the front room, copied in triplicate, and use roughly the same amount of fabric as a debutante gown would need if it were created for a blue whale. And her two BFF blue whales.

Window 1

Window 2

Window 3

Thankfully, it didn’t take long for the tassled valances to come down. Actually, I have my mother to thank for this one. (Don’t worry, I’ll remember you on Mother’s Day!) I so wish I could share a photo of the tassled valances because they were awful. Well-meaning friends described them as macabre, theatrical, and funereal. I thought that was giving the valances too much credit.

Two years, three months, and twenty-six days have passed since we moved into this house and became the chagrined owners of these Maroon Curtains (something this terrible needs to be capitalized, like Ebola, Hurricane Katrina, and Voldemort).

I’m writing this blog post as a sort of experiment. Last time I complained bitterly about a Horrifying Aspect of Interior Design (again, came with the house), it changed, and it changed quickly. Will this blog post do the trick, now that my laziness and suffering have been shared with the public? Or will I continue to suffer, staring past my maroon-framed windows to the neighbors’ houses across the street and wondering, with a wistful sigh, what color curtains they get to stare past?

Grrrranite!

I am supposed to be working on my novel right now, so today’s Momming Around entry is a couple photos of our new counters and sink:

Eyes, look your last. The uncluttered-scheme will probably only last as long as my energy. Oh, I may as well be honest. I had to move a whole bunch of clutter around just to take these photos. Behind you on the other counter are all the things that used to be on this counter. And as soon as I took the photo I moved most of them right back.

This week, my mother-in-law is visiting, and while some people don’t get along with their mother-in-laws, I am not one of those people. She’s the best. And she’s giving me writing time in the mornings, which is also the best.

I don’t think kids are meant to be raised with just one adult in the house. Few people in our society, or even world, can afford to have one parent stay at home, and fewer could have both parents stay at home. And lots of us don’t live in the same places as our parents or other family members.

One mom, alone with her kid or kids, all day? It’s tough. I’m not complaining (okay, maybe a little bit). There are so many moms out there who would love to stay at home full-time. I’m one of them. But it is hard. What I am really doing right now: rejoicing in having another adult around while Husband is at work, so it’s not constant Z time. Yesterday, the time I played with her I could be totally focused on her, because I’d had some nourishing time to myself. I appreciated her so much more.

Next week, my mother-in-law won’t be visiting. Sad. But she’ll come back again, and I’ll enjoy the time that she’s here. And meanwhile…

I can use my super-duper handy-spandy built-in soap dispenser!

Life's Little Pleasures

The Land of Dull Knives and Duller Wits

A year and five months ago I proudly showed off my new home to a couple of friends. “Wow, this place is great!” they said. When we reached the family room, the tone changed. “OMG you have to get rid of these vertical blinds.”

The family room is a fabulous room. Funky wood floors, an old wood stove, big windows, and three doors to the backyard. Doors covered in…vertical blinds! The blinds were supposed to be white once upon a time, or at the very least cream colored, but now they have a sort of sallow, yellow look. If a paint company needed a name for this precise shade, they might choose “malarial yellow*.” And because the family room has two sliding doors and a french door, there are three sets of vertical blinds. It’s practically all you see when you walk in.

Yeah, I know. Ew.

But we move a little slowly in this house, not only when I’m on the elliptical machine, but also when it comes to getting things done, and while we have finally actually looked at various options for the blinds, we haven’t found anything we like…at least that we can agree on. This slow relaxed pace doesn’t only apply to large-ish jobs like window treatments. We usually start off with, “It would be so much easier to find things in our closet if we had some kind of storage system.” (Piles of shoeboxes and stacks of folded shirts continue to topple out every time we open the door.) Or, “Hmm, maybe we should you know, clean the scum out of the bathtub so our toddler can graduate from her infant tub.” (She’s still in the infant tub.)

Frustrated when trying to carve the turkey last Thanksgiving, Husband’s parents gave us a knife sharpener for Christmas. Five months later, we have sharpened two (2) knives. Even really simple chores, like replacing the sprinkler heads so our lawn doesn’t turn brown, get shuffled to the end of the to-do list in favor of a) reading, b) writing, c) sleeping, or d) just about anything else.

How I wish I could blame it on Z. She was the perfect screaming scapegoat when she was four months old and permanently attached to my chest. I could barely take a shower, much less manage to vacuum or unload the dishwasher. Now that she’s older and can play on her own for up to an hour, I’m fresh out of scapegoats. The truth is, we’re just not the type of people who enjoy productive pursuits.

Sometimes I fantasize about going back to Jane Austen time, when people could dabble in painting, learn languages, and embroider because they had nannies and gardeners and cooks and maids.

Then I remember: not every person had those perks, because somebody had to actually be the nannies, gardeners, cooks, and maids. So while I’m nostalgic for a time I’ve never known, I end up wondering: would I have been Elizabeth Bennet, touring the countryside and popping up at Pemberley, or would I have been Hill, catering to every freaking complaint of Mrs. Bennet?

It’s not a risk I’m willing to take. I’ll manage my own child, garden, sandwiches, and laundry, thanks.

– – – –

*Yes, I realize malaria is not the same as yellow fever. Creative license, dears.

The Unholy Terror of Screaming Proportions

Just when you think you’ve got a good rhythm going, when the routines are working okay, and there’s an occasional night when she sleeps in her crib until five or six in the morning. Just when you can do some dishes without her affixed to your shins like a Mighty Leech, and you can run outside to water the plants while she watches contentedly from the window. Just when you let your guard down…

The Unholy Terror of Screaming Proportions attacks.

With a vengeance.

It’s teething. Right? I mean, it’s the perfect excuse. Now we’re onto the molars, and yeah, extra painful probably. They’re the perfect scapegoat, as no one is brave enough to stick a finger back there and actually check (the UTSP bites). Teething mysteriously comes and goes, and it gives you a chance to pity the UTSP instead of resenting her (sometimes. Maybe not at 2:55 in the morning).

We’ve always done “the co-sleeping thing.” Not because it’s trendy or cool, or so down-to-earth. But because we’re lazy. L-A-Z-Y. Why rouse ourselves in the middle of the night, spend fifteen to thirty minutes soothing a child to sleep, and then try to get back to sleep? Why not just zombie-walk to the kid’s room, pluck her out of her bed, and snuggle up next to her in our own?

I’ll tell you why not. The two reasons come with five toes apiece. The UTSP has been armed with a Mighty Kick and instructed to fire at will. By employing strategies of random, rapid fire movements she has almost shattered my cheekbone and nearly ensured, via a lucky strike to a certain sensitive area on Husband, that she will be an only child.

So now: not only am I rethinking every single aspect of the beginning of my novel, but I’m currently reevaluating Child Number 2. As well as making decisions on cellular blinds, granite countertops, and paint colors. Because, of course, we couldn’t be content with only 30 pounds of upheaval in our lives. We had to go ahead and add some remodeling to the mix just to see how much we can take.

On the very bright side, our new soon-to-be-installed kitchen faucet comes with a built-in soap dispenser. I am Over The Moon about this soap dispenser. It will solve All Life’s Problems and Bring Me Happiness. As my mother-in-law said, “It’s the little things.”

And Z, our UTSP, is a little thing. She is charming, intelligent, and has a great sense of humor. And when she isn’t demonstrating her finer qualities?

Well, I can just run into the kitchen, squirt some soap from our built-in soap dispenser, and life will seem fine just fine.

Max the Noble

Naming inanimate objects has always been a hobby of mine. My favorite egg baby in middle school was Hester. I had a dust mop named Jorge in college, and my dwarf mandarin orange tree is named Frida. Most, if not all, of my stuffed animals had names, and now I name Z’s animals. She has a giraffe named Gerald, a penguin named Mr. Penguin (yeah, really stretching the bounds of creativity on that one), and her Duplo person is Guy. Husband named her stuffed cat Talula, and I’m jealous that I didn’t come up with the name.

I also have a clothes hamper named Max. He was  in the garage, on top of the Yard Sale pile, and I’d forgotten about him until yesterday when my friend Kristin visited. “You have an elephant clothes hamper,” she pointed out in wonder. Or horror. One can’t be sure.

Max previously belonged to my Grandma Marion, and I don’t know where she got him, or why. But grandmothers have a way of foisting their strange belongings onto their granddaughters. I still have a garbage sack filled with throw pillows Grandma Myrt started to sew but didn’t want to finish. When I look at the fabric patterns of gigantic, blazing orange peonies and kittens wearing Christmas-patterned ribbons, I have to wonder why she abandoned that particular project.

But back to Max.

I grew so attached to him throughout middle and high school that he came to college with me, and then my first apartment, and to subsequent apartments, until Husband and I got married. Now we (gasp!) shared a clothes hamper, and Max simply wasn’t big enough to contain our filth–especially since said filth collected for between two to four weeks at a time until we made a trip to one of our parents’ houses to do laundry (yes, even when we were married. We have a deep-seated and irrational fear of laundromats). Max was sent back to live with my parents, and we adopted an accordion-style, silvery clothes hamper from IKEA that I have christened Ugly.

When we finally bought our house and our parents brought all of our junk from their garages to our own, Max resurfaced, took a quick breath of fresh air, and then the garage door closed on him for months. (Anybody thinking of The Velveteen Rabbit? ‘Cause I am.) During a purge of old things, Mom finally convinced me to put Max in the Yard Sale Pile: an epic mound of…garbage, basically. But garbage I hope someone will buy, so that I can, in turn, use their money to buy more garbage.

Then Kristin mentioned Max, and I remembered our fond times together. Personified as a faithful friend, he held my dirty clothes for so many years, and now I sell him like the other garbage? I asked Kristin if she needed a clothes hamper, concealing the fact that Max was missing an ear. No, she didn’t need a clothes hamper.

But you know who does?

My daughter.

Max the Noble

Welcome back to the fold, Max.

Poo To Do

I really don’t see how this would be of interest to anyone except myself, but my to-do list (all forms of it updated, categorized, fretted over, and so on, since high school) is on my mind right now, so I think I’ll work with it.

Also, I’m sorry yesterday’s entry didn’t show up until late; I hit the “Save Draft” button instead of the “Schedule [to publish]” button. It’s better than today’s entry, so you could just read that instead. Really.

Poo To Do:

1) read and comment on Ana’s manuscript

2) read and comment on writing for the Sacramento Writers Group (it isn’t posted yet, but since I’m the person who posts them, I can get the head start I desperately need in order to procrastinate until the last minute)

3) rough character sketches for The Black City. Can I please, tonight, NOT get bogged down browsing through 100,001 Baby Names while selecting monikers for my invented people?

4) pick up library books on hold. They haven’t arrived yet, but they should soon. One book I’m especially excited about it Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games. No, I’m not obsessively checking and re-checking my library account. Nope, I haven’t memorized my 14-digit library account number because I’ve been typing it in so often. No, I didn’t actually pack Z up and take her to the library to investigate my holds status in person.

5) stop lying

6) turn Z’s car seat around so she isn’t scrunched up like a jack-in-the-box during our many trips to the library

7) pick some lettuce to make a salad for dinner tonight. LOVING my mini-garden. I’ll post a picture on Friday.

8 ) replace batteries in sound monitor for Z’s room

9) figure out what to write for blog post tomorrow–I need to compose these in my mind early (you think all this witticism shows up on the fly? Oh, no: “…and though I sometimes amuse myself with suggesting and arranging such little elegant compliments…I always wish to give them as unstudied an air as possible.” -Mr. Collins, Pride and Prejudice)

10) talk to Husband about painting bedroom walls

11) clip back the blackened, frost-killed bush in front of the bathroom window–there’s green in there somewhere–it’ll make it!

12) check, re-check, and check again the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards site to see if my novel made the first cut. For the first cut they just read the pitches. You can click here to read mine.

There’s more, of course. But I’ve gotta go, need to check that ABNA site again.