Saturday, November 30, 2013

Putting my faith in Miss Serendipity


Buying a house is both exhilarating and stressful. I'm really excited about my new space, about making it my very own, although I underestimated how long it would take to paint rooms with 12-foot ceilings and highly saturated, dark paint colors. But I'm getting there. I'll post some photos next week.

I also should have suspected I'd have trouble getting people in to do the work I don't want to do myself. That's a given. The electrician I intended to hire for a few small jobs hasn't called me back after almost 2 weeks, so I need to find someone else. He's a friend of my daughter Elvira's, so I wanted to give him the business. I wish he'd told me he doesn't want it. It would have been so much simpler if he'd just said "no," and let me find somebody else 2 weeks ago.

I wrote last night about the trouble I had getting work done over Thanksgiving 10 days week. I was kind of bummed that I wasn't going to get the floors done in time. They need to be refreshed if nothing else, but that's not a job that can be done in a day.

And then Miss Serendipity dropped an answer right in my lap in the form of this blog post on the Young House Love website. Apparently I can do the floors myself with a product called Rejuvenate. It will take hours I didn't intend to spend -- just like everything else has -- but it will also save me the $2000+ the contractor was going to charge me to buff, stain and seal the floors with polyurethane. A win for me.

One thing I was going to do myself, with the help of my future daughter-in-law Montana, was learn to install laminate flooring (something like Pergo) in the upstairs hallway. Yeah, I know, putting laminate over original wood floors in an old Victorian is a sin in a lot of people's eyes, but the floors are in terrible shape up there. So terrible that, after doing some research online, I realized I wouldn't be able to put down laminate, because there's no way to level them.

Miss Serendipity to the rescue again. My excellent friend Chicken Grrrl asked me if I needed any carpet. Turns out her in-laws just bought a house too, and they tore out all the almost new, neutral-colored carpet. She asked if I could use it.

My son Drake was home last weekend, so he went with me to their new house, and we filled my van with carpet and pad. Now I just need to find somebody to lay it. It's not original hardwood, but it's a solution I'm perfectly happy with.

Finally, last week I set up an appointment for professional movers to move my large items over: washer/dryer, couch, wall units and bookcases, dining room furniture. What warms my heart is that the moving company is owned by the parents of the last tenant of my house, who is a dear friend. In fact, she loved the house and wanted to buy it before she decided to move to Austin with her man. I met both of her parents at her going away party, and now they're going to move my stuff into what was their daughter's house.

Connections all over the place!

(I'll be writing soon about the fiasco that was my last move, and why I won't ever hire Two Men and a Truck again. Ever. In fact, if they offered to move me for free, I'd tell them to drive their truck up their manager's ass. It was that bad, and I am a veteran of many professional moves. They would have to pay me to move my stuff.)

I don't expect that to happen this time.

In fact, I am working hard to trust that everything will work out just as it should: that I will finish the work I want to do myself and have done by others on the house (at least what has to be done prior to moving in), that a few of the people who have offered to help me move my stuff will have time to come and help me, and that everything will fit when I get it all into the house.

Truly, the hardest part at this point is waiting to move in. I'll still have a lot of work ahead of me unpacking and organizing once I'm in, but I can do that in my own time .... and I will be in my own house doing it.

Harmony House

Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving ..... Week?

Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday. I appreciate the simplicity of indulging in good food without any of the commercialism of giving gifts or reciting religious myths. (I gave up that Pilgrim myth decades ago.) Thanksgiving is .... or was .... one day set aside simply for giving thanks for the harvest and preparing for winter. Simple. Delicious.

Ya gotta wonder yhy the fuck people had to ruin such a pure and simple day of giving thanks.

I'm not talking about the obscenity that is Black Friday, and how it has shit all over the one holiday that wasn't riddled with commercialism. I've never participated in Black Friday shopping, and I can safely predict I never will. The issue of Black Friday has been talked and video-ed to death. I've got nothing new to say about that ugliness.

What I want to talk about is how people use Thanksgiving as an excuse to take 2 weekends and a work week off. When did it become Thanksgiving week?

An example. I intended to hire a contractor to do some work at my new house. A friend recommended a woman-owned company, so I called the owner, and she agreed to come out last Thursday evening, November 21, to take a look at the work I wanted her to do. She showed up with a guy who works for her, and I took them through the house and showed them what I wanted done.

No problem. They could do all of it, but wanted to get a second opinion on the floors. I asked if she could give me an estimate the next day or over the weekend and start work the next week.

She looked surprised and said, "Well, it is Thanksgiving week next week."

I said, "You take the entire week off for Thanksgiving?" I was thinking, I'll hire somebody who wants to work.

"No. No," she assured me, "we don't take off the entire week. We can get started ...."

"Good," I said, "because I need to have the work done by a certain date. You should have time, but not if you don't work at all next week."

"No problem," she said. "We can get the wood floor guy out here, and I'll get you an estimate for the other work."

She sent me the estimate on Monday. I said I'd be at the house Tuesday and could run over Wednesday any time to meet the floor guy. I said if I'm going to do the floors, I really have a slim window of time. Once I move my piano, I won't be doing anything to them. She said she'd get the rep out there ......

Uh huh. Still waiting. Lost an entire week. Thanksgiving week. Even if they show up Monday to look, it will be 10 days since the night we talked about doing the work. Ten fucking days.

Thanksgiving isn't a week. It's a day -- although I'll admit I cook for more than a day, and then there's the cleaning and setting up tables and ironing tablecloths ....

Nevertheless, it's a day. When did people start expecting to take off 2 weeks at Christmas, a 4-day weekend on Easter, a 4-day weekend for the 4th of July and now a 9-day week at Thanksgiving?

Do I sound frustrated? Fuck, yeah. Same thing happened with a carpet guy I called and left a message for Tuesday. He might not call me back at all. But I'll bet if he does call me back Monday, almost a week after I left him a message, he'll blame it on Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving week.

Between the jackhammer-to-the-head advertising for Black Friday and now the practice that makes Thanksgiving a 9-day holiday that includes 2 weekends and a work week, I'm not enjoying Thanksgiving so much this year. What was once a simple day to give thanks for the harvest and celebrate a season of hard work bringing in that harvest is now a ridiculous display of greed, both of merchandise and time.

What happened to just appreciating a day of turkey and pie?

I don't want to sound ungrateful. I'm grateful for many things this week: I shared good food with great company yesterday; My future daughter-in-law came early to help me cook and set up tables (she also helped me paint last week); Drake and his friend J helped me paint today; my house is warm and my bed is soft; someone gave me flowers for my Thanksgiving table; I put 3 bags of turkey stock and meat into the freezer tonight; I did not need to shop for one single thing today ..... I could go on with blessings. My rant above does not indicate a lack of thanks-giving in my heart.

One more day and I will have posted every single day in November, without taking off even Thanksgiving week for the third year in a row. And on the 31st day, I will sleep....

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope you all had a wonderful day and found much to be grateful for. (Yes, I did end that sentence with a preposition. That rule your high school English teacher drummed into your poor gullible head? It was never a rule. Now that's something to be grateful for. Whoops! Did it again.)

Enjoy your turkey farts.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A mystery gift

When I stepped out on my porch this morning to go over to my new house and paint, I noticed a plastic bag sitting atop a few empty liquor boxes I haven't carried in yet. I did that thing everybody does when something unexpected shows up on the porch: I peered up and down the street looking for ... I dunno. A TV crew? Someone running away? The tail lights of a car as it screeched around the corner? What I saw was .... nothing. Just the bag.

I picked it up and went back inside to see what it was. It was .... ummmm ..... wall art. And obviously it meant to make a statement.

Of course I could take it literally and think that someone out there is correcting my grammar, but that would be ridiculous, wouldn't it?

No, more likely I'm the one who is theoretically correcting grammar in my head. English teacher, editor, writer and all that. And let's not forget the OCD. I confess to just a touch of the OCD.

When my daughter Elvira came to pick up Coraline from our regular Tuesday night together, I showed her the package and told her I'd found it on my porch this morning.

"Oooohh," she said. "How mysterious! Where do you think this came from?"

"I have no idea," I said. "Maybe Meier. It's in a Meier bag."

"No, I mean who put it on your porch?"

"I don't know. Probably somebody who knows me. Given what I write about, I'm just grateful it's not a dildo."

"Are you going to hang it up? I think you should hang it up." I could tell Elvira coveted the artwork. She's as bad as I am about correct MUGS (mechanics, usage, grammar, spelling). She even writes texts in perfect English.

"I dunno," I said. "I'm not in the hanging stuff up stage of moving yet. And it has that adverb on it. I hate all adverbs."

"If you don't hang it up, I want it," she said. I'm surprised she didn't sneak it out in Coraline's diaper bag, but I'd given her a lot of stuff to take home already. She's probably regretting it as she reads this.

It's true that I'm probably correcting your grammar or spelling or punctuation in my head if you make a typo. That's what editors do -- we see what other people miss. And I do it silently because unless I'm getting paid to slice and dice with my sharp red pen, or a friend specifically asks, nobody wants to be embarrassed corrected.

If I'm getting paid though, that document will bleed. Money does not buy silence from me.

When was the last time you got a mystery gift? Did you ever find out who gave it to you?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Randomness #1126

Last night I wrote that I was struggling to juggle all the balls I've got in the air right now, including that ball that represents my overdue library books, and the $13+ I'd accrued in fees. This morning I was at the hospital getting some blood drawn, a long list of errands resting heavy in my pocket, when I got a text from my librarian friend Steamy Cynthia telling me she had renewed my library books for me.

As I sat there in the crowded waiting room I had to wipe tears from the corners of my eyes. Sweet acts of kindness affect me that way.

Last week after I wrote that I was having trouble choosing paint colors in my bedroom, she reserved a bunch of books on decorating bedrooms and color choices in general, and had them sent to my local branch of the library. (She works at a different one.) I had the same reaction then. Sappy.

So now you know. The way to make me cry is to do something nice. It doesn't even have to be for me. Surprise anybody with kindness, and I'll probably cry about it.

I'm still struggling with the bedroom wall color though. I finally decided on what I thought was the perfect color, and I bought a gallon of that color .... turned out it was too light. So today I went back to Home Depot and bought another gallon 2 shades darker. It looks perfect in the can. On the wall it looks like I've been fingerpainting with poop. I have never painted in a house that changes the color of paint once it's on the walls like this one does. I will not put put up the eggshell white flag though.

I recently started watching The Blacklist for one reason and one reason only: James Spader. What is it about this man that compels me so? He's not traditionally handsome. He talks funny, like he has to chew his words into submission before he reluctantly lets them go out into the world. He plays the same basic character over and over, and yet I never get tired of him. I was devastated when Boston Legal was cancelled. He was brilliant in that show.

I want to have him over for Thanksgiving dinner, because I'm certain he would adore my pumpkin pie. And then, of course, he'd have to spend the night, because I always make extra homemade whipped cream his wife would probably be angry that he didn't spend Thanksgiving with his family, so she'd tell him to not bother coming home. I could live with that. Whipped cream makes up for a lot.

Today, as I mentioned,  I was at the base hospital, which is a conservative place, quite unlike hospitals in the city where you might witness all manner of craziness. And that's why I was so puzzled when I noticed that the woman ahead of me on the sidewalk, who appeared to be in her 40's, had something that looked suspiciously like a thin striped tail hanging down from her .... well, her tail area.

What the hell is that? I thought. It can't be a tail. Why would she be walking through the base hospital with a tail made of fabric hanging out of her shirt? It's striped so it can't be a .... what the fuck else could it be?

I hurried to catch up, because I was afraid I was gaslighting myself. The man who was with her was older -- maybe 10 years older. I thought maybe I'd misjudged her age, and she was a very large 9-year-old who was there with her father. She turned to talk to the man and .... nope. In her 40's.

As I got closer I realized the tail was part of a sweatshirt that looked like something my 2-year-old granddaughter Coraline might wear. The hood was a cat face with gray ears lined with pink, and at the end of the sleeves she had paws hanging down.

Well, hey. Who am I to judge someone else's fashion choices? I just think it I were going to wear a tail to the hospital, I wouldn't wear a flat, obviously fake, tail made of fabric. I'd wear a big, fluffy, furry, red fox tail that hung down to my knees and bounced when I walked.

But that's just me.

What kind of tail would you wear to the hospital?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

How to kill a pumpkin

My Sunday confession: I'm drained dry tonight. I've got nothing. All I've done the past couple of weeks is paint as much as possible, worry, and try to keep up with the minimum I can in the rest of my life. My library books are overdue, and since there are 11 of them, I can't renew them online; I wouldn't let a pig eat off my kitchen floor; I can hardly keep my eyes open as I write this; and to top it off, I sliced open my pinky finger on my right hand last night as I was cutting up fresh pumpkins, and I'm finding it difficult to type with a bandage on my finger.

I'm done whining though. In response to my pumpkin injury, I'm going to re-post part of a post from 2 years ago about how to process a fresh pumpkin for pumpkin pie

November 22, 2011

.... I always make my pumpkin pies from scratch, with fresh pumpkins. I remember the first year I wanted to do it. LtColEx and I had been married maybe a year or two, so I was 19 or 20. I asked my grandma to show me how to make the pumpkin puree for fresh pies. And to my surprise, she refused. "No," she said. "I will not cook a pumpkin with you."

What? This is my grandmother who taught me how to knit, crochet, garden, pluck chickens, make pie crust and cinnamon rolls, and fresh whipped cream. This is the grandmother who flew all the way to Sacramento from Iowa holding a paper bag full of fresh dill from her garden so she could teach me how to make dill pickles while she visited. She got a lot of funny looks when she got off the plane holding a paper bag with green herbs flopping out of the top. She knew how to do everything herself, and I wanted to know too.

"Why not? Don't you know how?"

"Of course I know how. I did it for years. And then they started selling it cans and I swore I'd never do it again. I don't want to mess with stringy, slimy pumpkin when I can buy it in a can."

"You're serious? You won't even tell me how to do it?"

"No, buy it in a can and be happy with it." And that was that.

Except that I went to the library and found a book that showed me how to do it. And I've done it every year since, because once you've eaten a fresh pumpkin pie, canned pumpkin is no longer palatable. And a pie from the grocery store is simply a plastic substitution.

It's really not that hard. My grandma didn't have a food processor, and she probably only had access to field pumpkins, the kind you make jack-o-lanterns with. Although I've used both, I try to buy sugar pumpkins that aren't as wet and stringy.

So if you want to make your own real pumpkin pies, here's how you do it. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Then prepare the pumpkin. First cut it in half and slip the seeds out of the pulp. You can just drag them out with your fingers into a colander. Wash and then put them aside.

Scrape out the pulp and cut the pumpkin into slices and then pieces. Put the pieces into a big pot, cover with water and boil them until they're soft through. They'll look like this.

Dump the pieces into a colander and let them drain and cool for 20 minutes or so.

In the meantime, pour some olive oil on a baking sheet. Add the pumpkin seeds and spread them around so they're mostly in one layer. Bake the seeds for 10 minutes or so. Check them. If they're getting brown, stir them around and cook another couple of minutes. If they're already too brown, take them out. Give them a stir, and then season them with whatever you like. I just use salt, but you can sprinkle on garlic salt, rosemary, cayenne, whatever flavor you want. If you're going to put them in a covered container, let them cool completely.

Now back to the pumpkin puree. When the chunks are cool enough to handle, scrape the meat off each one with a tablespoon into a bowl. If your pumpkin is soft enough, you can just mush it up and use it that way. If you used a stringier pumpkin or didn't cook it as long, run it through the food processor to puree the lumps out of it. A few lumps don't hurt though and actually give better flavor.

That's it! Store the puree in the refrigerator in a sealed bowl if you're going to use it within a week. If not, freeze it in baggies in whatever size your recipe calls for.

Try it! I'll bet you won't eat canned pumpkin again.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Snippet from a church dinner

Quote of the night from the annual Thanksgiving dinner at my church:

"Reticula, sometimes I have to stop and remind myself that there's more to you than just vaginas."

(Disclaimer: Any quotations found on this blog are simply a reasonable facsimile of the conversation.)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Carry the load... with your vagina

For some reason a lot of people send me photos of and information about vaginas. I don't get it, but it's a thing.

The latest is an article my son Drake -- otherwise known as Dick Fixit -- sent me about a Russian woman named Tatyana Kozhevnikovam, who holds the Guinness world record for the strongest vagina ...... ever. 

Apparently she can lift a 30-pound weight with her vagina, which is -- did I mention? -- the strongest vagina in the world.

To be honest, let's say she's got the strongest vagina of those who have been tested. Some of us -- and I'm speaking only for myself and most of the women in the world -- have never tried to hold 30 pounds of glass balls with our vaginal muscles while squatting on our tippy toes.

I know I haven't. For all I know, I could hold 30 pounds ..... or 50 pounds ..... or 100 pounds with my vagina. Hell, I might be able to hold a Cooper Mini with my vagina. That's not a promise, mind you, but more a hypothesis. While I'm imagining strong vaginas, may I suggest some of my women readers might be able to hold a Humvee. You can't know until you try, right?

If you do try, let me know how that works out, because frankly, I have better uses for my vagina. OK, my child-bearing days are miles behind me, so I can't think of one off the top of my head, but I'm sure there are better uses. Some women use their vaginas as either luggage or a medicine cabinet. Others as holsters for their pistols. And some use theirs as bait for catching fish. Or even a poison delivery system.

A small number of women use their vaginas simply for sexual intercourse. Outdated, I'm sure, but still an option.

I know you're all dying to find out how you too can either compete in the strongest vagina in the world contest or compete to fuck one of the strongest vaginas in the world. Fine. Ladies, there's a video that shows how you too can pump some pussy iron and ..... ummmm ..... please your man with your super-strong vagina?

Sorry, I can't think of one other reason for doing this, and I'll be honest, girls: your man doesn't give one shit if you can hold 30 pounds of balls with your vagina, although he's probably intrigued by the idea. And if he does really really need a woman who can bench press 30 pounds of balls with her vagina, and you want to pump up the pussy, here's the video. Watch it and you too can kick sand in the faces of women with skinny, weak vaginas.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Can I interest you in a little sex therapy?

I started watching the Showtime series Masters of Sex recently. The show is about the lives and work of William Masters and Virginia Johnson -- Masters and Johnson -- who pioneered the field of modern sex research. Believe it or not, a lot of sex happens during each episode. And even more talking about sex happens. It's a sexy romp through a serious subject. I like it.

This isn't a review of Masters of Sex though. This post is about what the show has brought up for me personally regarding my own dreams and career path.

I wrote recently about this being a big year of change for me, and it really has been so far. Travel adventures, new friends, buying a house. If nothing else happens, it will already have been a pivotal year.

I wrote in that post that I couldn't remember what my dreams were, and I wasn't sure I really had any. Watching Masters of Sex reminded me -- and reminded me hard -- that I really do have a dream, and I think it was a dream even when I was a kid, although I couldn't have put it into words any more than I could have told you what a vagina was.

If I could choose any career at all, I would not choose one of the prestigious, well-paying careers like doctor or lawyer or engineer or president of the United States or even best-selling novelist .... OK, that's a lie. I would choose best selling author.

But in addition, what I would really like to be when I grow up is a sex therapist. Sex therapy is my dream job.

I've wanted to do this since I was a little girl,  or maybe I should say I've been called to do it since I was little. When I was 6, I was the class expert who informed the other kids that when a man and a woman have sex, the man puts his ding ding into the woman in a place between her legs even I didn't have a name for (but could be the place she pees from), and he pees inside her. This is also how babies are made, although the man and woman have to be parents to have sex. It doesn't pay to think too hard about this now. A couple of years later I had to revise my explanation.

I also spied a lot on my parents and their friends, and I repeated all of my dad's wide repertoire of sex jokes many times, especially the one about the pink puppy noses. I was obviously called to be a sexpert even as a child.

I also have what some of my friends call my superpower. And my superpower is that people talk about sex openly and a lot around me. Almost every conversation I'm in eventually turns to sex, even though I don't always bring the topic up. In fact, even if I make a point of not bringing it up, before you know it somebody is telling a story about her recent vibrator malfunction. Whether in groups or one-on-one, people will tell me more about sex than they've ever told anybody else. And often they learn things they didn't know, because I have a treasure chest of information about sex in my head.

Disclaimer: My superpower does not, unfortunately, have any effect on my own sex life. It does not attract appropriate and talented sexual partners -- although it often attracts the wrong ones -- and it doesn't even mean I get more action than the normal un-superpowered person. I'm pretty sure I get much less than I deserve. It does mean though that sometimes people go home feeling pretty randy after a rousing conversation about sex with me ..... but I'm not the one getting laid.

It's a fucking shame, isn't it? But I digress.

The important question is: Could I really become a sex therapist?

The answer is: I don't know for sure, but I'm certain it would require another degree. I've already got a bachelor's degree in social work. Probably in this state, I could become a sex therapist if I got a master's degree in social work and became a licensed counselor.

The obstacles are few, but large. First, I can't afford it. Not that I can't afford the time, but I can't afford the tuition. I paid for my last master's degree by working my ass off teaching composition at the university. I can't imagine that kind of gig exists in the social work department. And I refuse to take out tens of thousands of dollars in student loans. I'd never be able to pay them off.

Second ..... there is no second. Money is the only obstacle, unless becoming a licensed social worker isn't enough, and I'm certain it is.

The advantages: I would be doing work I would absolutely love. I would be a good -- maybe even a great -- sex therapist. And I would get paid a decent wage for my time, which is not the case with either writing and teaching.

Oh, yeah. I just accepted a job teaching creative writing at the only magnet school for the arts in the city. I'll start in January. I've already done some substitute teaching there this fall, so I'm already familiar with the job, as well as what some of the challenges will be, and I've already formed relationships with my colleagues and some of the students. I'm excited about teaching creative writing as opposed to academic. Also it's only a few blocks from my new house -- within walking and cycling distance.

So here I go, back to teaching, the job where I love many of the kids, dislike, or even hate, the grading, and work twice as many hours as I'm paid for. It's something I can do and do well, but it's not the same as following a dream.

My two dreams: to write, which I do, and to talk and write about sex for a living.

Why am I writing about this here? I know it's neither funny nor poignant, not about the vagina or the penis, which is probably what you came here for. It's not even really interesting to anybody except me.

I just want to put it out there. A dream often won't happen unless it's put forth as a possibility ..... OK, I'm not even sure this one is a possibility. It's just a dream, and so many dreams never come true. I'm probably more likely to get struck by lightning or grow a latent vestigial penis.

But it never hurts to say a dream aloud so somebody can hear it.

So how about it? Anybody want to kickstart my career in sex therapy? I'll give you a post-dated coupon for your first 5 sessions free ... and that number can be negotiated.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

It's in the mail

Although you might think from my writing here on this blog I'm endlessly the most cheerful, easy-going gal you'd ever meet, I'm sorry to say it's not always the case. Take yesterday morning. I was feeling the Monday morning blues: overwhelmed, possibly even cynical, definitely testy. I had reasons, but none I want to write about here. My friend the Hot Italian, who really knows her way around a metaphor -- straight up or mixed -- said no wonder I felt like that: Jenga bricks were being added to my already shaky tower.

Perfect metaphor. Jenga tower.

Well, we all feel that way sometimes, don't we? I had work to do to keep that tower standing, so once I'd told the Hot Italian about it and received assurance that I wasn't just being a whiner, I headed over to my new house to paint, not so much looking forward to another solitary day climbing up and down an 8-foot ladder breathing fumes.

I arrived, and as I walked up the porch steps I noticed a small, square box had been left beside the front door. I didn't remember ordering anything with my new address, so I figured it was something somebody had sent to the previous tenant.

Nope, it was addressed to me! That's cool, I thought. My first package at my new house. The return address told me it was from the couple I bought the house from. They live all the way across the country, so I've never me them. I certainly didn't expect a package. I stuck it under my arm, carried it in and set it on the fireplace in the parlor.

I changed into my painting clothes, still feeling pretty low. I flipped on the lights in the dining room and made a mental list of everything I needed to get done. It was long.

I was going back into the parlor to turn on my CD player when I saw the box on the mantle. How did I forget my first package in my new house?

I grabbed it and headed to the kitchen where I'd left my box cutter the day before. When I walked in, I had to smile, just a little. When I'd left the night before we were under a tornado warning. The day had been gray, rainy and windy -- a keep all the lights on kind of day. I think I'd carried that turbulent weather into the next day.

So I didn't expect the dazzle of sunshine streaming in through the big windows in the kitchen, shining off the blonde cabinets. I found a warm patch to stand in while I slit the tape on the box.

Inside I found a pretty navy blue bag tucked into a nest of brown wrapping paper. I pulled it out slowly, just to make the unwrapping last.

I'm not going to bore you with my slow unwrapping of the contents. Inside I found 14 keys to the house. I was delighted. I'm always afraid I'll lose all my keys. I'd already had 6 more made in addition to the one the realtor gave me. Now I have 21 keys, even though all the locks on all the doors are keyed the same. Now I know I won't run out of keys. I think I might have one of them framed.

I also pulled out a garage door opener in a zip-lock bag. I haven't tried it, but I'm sure it operates one of the 3 garage doors. A artful rubber stamp with the address of the house on it, for stamping the return address on envelopes. A box of gourmet chocolates flavored like classic cocktails. (It was like they knew me! Booze-flavored chocolate!)

And a hand-written note that said they wanted to congratulate me on buying the house, and to assure me the house was a good old house. They gave me some helpful tips for routine maintenance and wished me luck.

I stood right there in my new kitchen and cried. The timing couldn't have been more perfect. It felt like more than a package from two people -- strangers, and yet not strangers -- that I now share a history of ownership of this house with. It felt like a sweet, kind reminder from someone out there in the ether that everything was happening just as it should. And I was standing exactly where I was supposed to be standing: in a bright patch of sunlight in a beautiful Victorian house that's been sheltering people for almost 140 years in a city I love. So close to the heart, I can walk downtown if I want to.

Isn't it funny how an unexpected kindness can jolt you out of the Monday blues? That's what happened. Suddenly I was ready to get busy ... those rooms weren't going to paint themselves.

When I finally quit at about 8:00 pm, my shoulders aching and my stomach complaining, I realized I hadn't given much thought to my shaky Jenga tower all day. One simple act of kindness, and I once again had faith that my Jenga tower was going to be just fine.

There's nothing that can't be fixed with a lifetime supply of keys and a box of chocolate.

Monday, November 18, 2013

V is for victory!

A quick update tonight, and then I'm taking my tired, ragged old body to bed. I had my arms above my head way too long today. Anyway ....

I had driven about a mile this morning on my way to paint at Harmony House when I noticed something odd on my dashboard. It looked something like this.

Not really my dashboard, but close enough.

Do you see it? .... No? .... Look closer ...... Still don't see it?

Of course you don't! That's because it's not there. The check engine light was not on, and not a single penis has been near my van. Nor did I turn the light off. It's not on because ......

Vagina for the win!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Working the pole

Maybe I'm one of those writers who writes things into reality. If so, that could be pretty cool, and I can expect to win the lottery even though I never buy a ticket. Or maybe the handypenis has simply become ubiquitous through no fault of my own. Doesn't matter, really, except that it happened again -- today, after I just wrote about it yesterday.

Last Wednesday I was painting the 10-foot kitchen ceiling in my new house using a roller and an extension pole. It's my extension pole, and I've used it many times -- in my old house in the suburbs and now in my new old house in the city. It's a simple gadget. Nothing to it -- just twist and extend or intend ... wait, that's not the opposite of extend. Shorten. I've done both a hundred times.

I was painting just like I have been, needed a little more pole to reach a corner, twisted ...... and nothing. The pole didn't twist and slide like it always had before. I twisted and twisted and twisted. I read the directions printed just under the plastic handle that helps with the twisting. Of course I was doing it right. It's too simple to not do it right. Twist one way to unlock. Twist the other way to lock. What the fuck?

I twisted and twisted and twisted both ways. It didn't budge. I banged it against the counter and twisted some more. Nothing.

I finished painting and cleaned up. I knew the next time I used it I'd have to extend it for the 12-foot ceiling in the dining room or risk permanent neck injury, or worse, paint drips in my hair. Twist .... twist .... twist ..... nothing. I finally gave up and left it propped against the ladder. Surely it would pop right apart next time I painted. It just needed a rest.

Today I went back to paint. The first thing I did was grab that pole and twist. Nothing. Twist .... twist .... twist.

Fuck me, I thought. Now it's a job for a penis. I've done everything I can to make this simplest of tools work ..... I need a handypenis.

I set to work cutting in the kitchen ceiling for the second coat, knowing my friend Rocky was coming over at some point to see the house for the first time. Every so often as I climbed down off the ladder to move it, I'd twist the damn extender. It was stuck tight.

Rocky arrived, and I took him on a tour of the house. I said nothing about the extender. Eventually we ended up back in the dining room (where he voted for the red ... but too late). As we talked about paint colors and other jobs I need to do, I picked up the fucking piece of shit pole.

I thought, Surely this time it will work and I won't have to ask Rocky to use his penis powers.

I gave it a mighty twist ...... nothing. I sighed.

"Rocky," I said. "I'm afraid I have need of your penis."

"Really?" he said. "What do you need my penis for?"

"I need you to use your penis to extend this pole. It's really easy, but for some reason ...," I twisted that fucker so hard it should have broken, "... I can't get this to turn and extend. I've done it many times before, but ....."

You know what's coming, don't you?

He laughed and grabbed the pole .... gave it a twist and .... nothing! He twisted and twisted and twisted and nothing!

I laughed. "Yes! Yes! It's not just me! Even you can't do it. Your penis is worthless against this pole!"

He asked me how it was supposed to work, and I explained it. He twisted some more ..... it remained locked. He got that look on his face that men get when their penises don't work. (Not like that, you with your dirty mind!)

I started to gloat. "Ha! Looks like a penis can't fix everything! Looks like my pole beats your penis ...."

Just as I said it, the damn pole came apart like it was buttered. My ego deflated with a whoosh and popped out of existence.

"Here you go," he said, holding it out to me. "All fixed."

I twisted it and extended it. And then shortened it. Twist. Twist. Twist. It worked. 

"Thank you for using your penis to fix my extension pole," I said bitterly. It's not that I wasn't grateful, but what the fuck? It works by twisting! That's it! Twisting!

"No problem," he said, probably feeling gallant as a fucking knight of the Round Table. "Let me know if you need help with anything else. I'm quite handy."

"I will," I said, hanging my head in defeat. "Thanks again for the use of your penis." I showed him to the door.

Penis: 1. Vagina: 0.

For now.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Help Wanted: Handypenis

Update: Last night I wrote that I was having issues with the accelerator in my 12-year-old Honda Odyssey (go ahead; mock my mom van, but it's paid for). As I said I would, I got up early this morning, loaded my bike in my van, drove to the Goodyear, dropped off my van and rode my bike home. I was at the shop by 8:00 8:30 on a cool, almost drizzly day. To be fair (to me), I got to TEDx by 8:00 am yesterday. I can't fucking do that 2 days in a row unless I'm getting paid or laid.

Turns out my mechanic, Darrell, couldn't get to it today. He warned me he might not have time. We're cool.

So I hopped back on my bike and rode back to Goodyear -- entirely uphill, choking on exhaust fumes -- and took custody of my van.

Much to my surprise, it was no longer malfunctioning. In fact, I drove to the library to pick up some books, and then home, and it didn't rev inappropriately one single time.

What the fuck? As far as I know, nobody at Goodyear touched it.

I wanted to call back and ask if some guy simply stood next to my van with his penis, because that's the only explanation I can come up with. A penis must have been near enough to magically fix my van.

Oh, don't tell me you haven't noticed men who can fix things with their penises! It happens all the fucking time. It's a thing.

My son Drake can fix almost anything, and his fiance and I are pretty sure he does it with his penis. For example, one evening he was going to throw some steaks on my gas grill. I said, "Take that box of wooden matches. The starter hasn't worked since shortly after I bought it."

He said, "That's OK. I won't need them."

"Whatever," I said. "You'll be back. It doesn't work."

Next thing I knew he was in the kitchen to get the steaks. "I didn't see you come back for the matches," I said. "How did you light the grill?"

"With the starter," he said.

"No, really, the starter hasn't worked for 2 years. You're fucking with me, right?"

"No, Mom. Come and look."

I looked. He'd used the starter. The next time I wanted to grill, I tried the starter .... again and again and again. It never worked again. Ever.

That's just an example -- one of many. The passenger-side slider on my van has been fucked up for years. It doesn't like to close, so sometimes I have to try 5 or 6 times before it will finally latch. I try not to use it because it's such a pain in the ass, what with the beeping and the rolling back open...

Unless Drake is there. If Drake is there, I just say, "Drake, will you use your penis to close the van door, please?" And he does and it closes about 95% of the time.

I could give more examples, but you get the idea. Need a jar of pickles opened? Ask a guy to use his penis. Need a computer to run faster? Ask a guy to use his penis. Can't get the TV remote to work? Ask a guy to use his penis. Do everything you can to get the job done -- everything he would have done, including installing brand new batteries .... fail ..... then just ask a penis to either stand next to the offending object or do exactly what you've already tried. Instant fix.

Any time something breaks or frustrates me by not working right when Drake's around, I just holler, "Drake! Could you come fix this with your penis?" And like the good son he is, he brings puts his magic penis to work on the problem.

I know I should be grateful, but it's frustrating as hell!

(Stolen from the internets)
I've got a bunch of work to do at my new house. I'm thinking about posting an ad on Craigslist: Help wanted: Need a handypenis to stand by my Jenn Air range and fix the blower switch, install handrails on the stairs, and connect the basement lights to one switch. Only skilled penises need apply.

Fucking handypenises. I resent it. I really do. Why can't I stand next to a malfunctioning piece of electronics with my vagina and magically make it work? Have you ever heard of that happening? No, I didn't think so. I should fire my vagina.

So, my van was running fine the last time I drove it, but the check engine light is still on. I will take it back to Darrell Wednesday so he can stand by it with his penis and make sure it continues to idle correctly. While I'm at it, I'll have his penis change the oil. No use wasting the presence of a skilled penis, right?

Disclaimer: I've been trying to embarrass Drake for his entire life. This won't even come close.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Bye, TED

You know those TED Talks you love watching so much? Turns out those productions take a shit ton of volunteer hours and work to pull off. And helping pull one off is what I did today after a measly 3 hours of sleep.

My ass is dragging, so I'll hit a few high points, and then I plan to be in bed before 1:00 am. Prepare for flying pigs.

One of the women from my writer's bootcamp presented her inspirational talk today. And the talk she gave is one she started at a bootcamp here at my house. It was sensational. I was so proud of and for her. I believe I'll be able to post a video of it eventually. But for now I'll just say that it was a powerful experience having heard the first rough draft of ideas one afternoon in my living room, and then watching her flawlessly deliver the finished talk while her husband played muted trombone under her words. It was my favorite talk of the day.

Another woman, a young Air Force medic, made me cry, both at rehearsal yesterday and during her presentation this afternoon. She described studying in a coffee shop one day when a man with a shotgun came in to celebrate Hitler's birthday by killing black patrons in the shop. It was harrowing to listen to her recount lying there after she'd been badly wounded, pretending to be dead. Her courage and determination touched all of us so deeply .... I will try to post that one too.

During lunch the committee I was on, the audience experience committee, took cards around to all 60 lunch tables and asked the attendees to collaborate and write one word on the card. We gave no further directions, and we collected the cards as they were finished. Some of the words from my section were "sparkle," "aha," "vague" (because my directions were vague), "revolutionary," and "yum." A locally famous poet and professor took the cards and told a story poem using all the words in the order they were given to him for his talk. The audience was surprised and impressed, and when I applauded it was as much for his courage as for the performance.

We had 20 speakers, but I only saw 7 or 8 of them, because I was working the rest of the time. We had lots of "day of" volunteers to help out, but those of us who've been working on committees for the past several months needed to stay on top of the day.

Sometimes I prefer to do the work as opposed to just attending, and this was one of those times. I would have had a wonderful time if I'd paid my $50 and sat my butt in a chair -- the energy in the audience was electric -- but I got to work with some cool new friends on our committee and experience the day from behind the scenes. I'm glad I did that in spite of -- or maybe because of -- the months of work.

The day did hold one disappointment though. Several of us on our committee had been planning all these months to present stories we collected from the audience during our registration process, and as of yesterday we were on the schedule to do that right before lunch. Over the past few months we wrote the application essays, so we could get the best stories, then spent hours condensing and vetting the information. Four of us were supposed to read some of those stories from the stage today.

But after we spent almost 15 minutes trying to track down the person who was supposed to help us rehearse on stage at 8:15 am, we were told that the afternoon before, while we were there setting up the lobby for registration, she had chosen other people to do it. We were bitterly disappointed. I think it's safe to say we still are. It tinged the color of the day for us. Perhaps just because we were so excited about all of it though. Like kids on Christmas morning.

So TEDx is over, and I feel a little of that post-show letdown. It won't last though, because life speeds on .....

For example, Murphy visited me yesterday afternoon and laid down the law when I got in my van to drive to set-up and rehearsal. Something is broken -- the accelerator thingy, my mechanic suspects -- and my van is revving when it should be idling. It's a little nerve-wracking to drive it, because it's idling higher than normal when I take my foot off the brake. In other words, it goes before I put my foot on the accelerator ... kind of like that car in Knight Rider.

So I called my mechanic, who said he's swamped, but if I'll bring it in around 8:00 am, he'll try to fit it in and at least run the computer on it. If he can't fit it in, I'll have to pick it up at 3:00 and take it back Monday. I don't know if driving it is doing more damage, but it doesn't seem to be getting worse. Anyway this gives me an excuse to get in an early morning bike ride. The shop is only about 3 miles away, so I can drop off my van, ride back home, and go back to bed get some more boxes packed.

Finally, it's day 15. I'm halfway through November's NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month.) Fingers crossed I can stay the course.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Pink is the new .... pink

What time is it, kids? It's vagina time!

Obviously I've been neglecting the vagina posts this month, and for that I apologize. Several readers have sent me articles and photos (mmm hmmm) to get my juices flowing.

One reader sent me an article about labia bleaching, which I wrote about last year. The idea still gives me a slight burning sensation between my legs, and not in a good way.

What's funny though is that the reader said he "Just wanted to make sure this one didn't fly under [my] VAGAR (i.e. vagina radar ....)." Why the hell didn't I think of that? VAGAR! I love it!

(He also said he's trademarking that acronym and will charge me a quarter every time I use it. It was worth 50 cents to write it twice.)

Chicken Grrrl sent me an article about a new vaginal colorant called My New Pink Button.

(photo credit: the website)

Apparently while Indian women are bleaching their lady bits to make them whiter, other women are worried that theirs are too pale, so they're dying them pinker. In fact, ladies, we can choose from 4 different shades of pink that range from light pink to baboon-ass red. (Although rest assured, this dye has never been tested on animals. Whew. The idea that poor little white mice might be running around with pink vag ..... oh ... nevermind.)

At first I was skeptical and suspected this was a joke, but then I was reassured to learn it was created by a "certified Paramedical Esthetician." I assume she graduated from a rigorous academic program, something like becoming a doctor or a lawyer or a manicurist.

I was tempted determined to buy it, test it, and post before-and-after photos here. It looks pretty easy to use: Just mix the dye powder with water in a rocks glass and dab it on with a big cotton swab. Even though I was never allowed to wear red, purple or pink when I was growing up -- because redheads simply weren't allowed those colors -- I was still willing to try it for my art and for science and for you, dear readers.

But then I noticed they've apparently sold out of every single shade, including the one for gingers. Wow! That's some popular stuff!

Next I tried to find it on Amazon, but all I found was My Pink Wink anal bleach cream. Cute name. Nothing else about that appeals to me. The idea makes me pucker.

So I'm sorry to disappoint, but I'm not gonna drink the Flavor-Aid when it comes to changing the color of either my "button" or my "wink." They're just going to have to stay .... well, whatever the hell color they are naturally. Who the fuck looks? Whatever color I am down there, I'm sure somebody would say it's too light and somebody else would say it's too dark and most men would just say, "Huh?"

*Disclaimer: If you're a woman who suffers from vaginal fading, please don't take offense. Just rub some cherry Kool-Aid powder down there and feel good about yourself, OK?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013 .... ch ..... changes

You'd think buying a house would be no big deal for me. I've bought and sold several over the years, as is a necessity for a military wife. In fact, the last 3 years of renting has been a step way back in time for me. So buying a house is definitely the right thing for me to do. There are a couple of big differences this time though.

1. This is the first time I've bought a house by myself. Even though I usually found the house, chose the house, made the house a home -- albeit always a temporary home -- LtColEx did the jobs I wasn't as comfortable with: finding the loan, negotiating with all the various money and real estate people, even paying for it. We each did what we were good at.

This time, I'm on my own. I know I made an excellent choice, but there's nobody to share both the joy and the trepidation of making such a big purchase. I've spent some sleepless nights worrying about the (possibly illegal) hoops the mortgage company put me through, how I would get the work done I want to do to the house, how I would get everything moved, where I will put everything, what if I fucked up? ...... Nobody to roll over to, shake awake, and talk it out with.

I'm just going to say it: It's lonelier buying a house by myself. For decades I had someone to make these decisions with .....

And yet, it turns out, I'm doing fine. My realtor has been a fucking rock through the whole difficult process. I trusted him completely, and he never disappointed me in the 3 years I dragged him around looking at houses. Poor guy. He must have been so relieved when I finally said, "This is the house. This is the one I've been looking for."

My friends and my kids are excited for me, and I know they will help me fill my house with many happy memories.

So, yeah, I'm doing this alone for the first time, and for the first time it's all mine. which leads to the second big difference.

2. This is the first time I've bought a house that isn't pre-sold. Military people don't have the luxury of painting the dining room red or the teenage daughter's bedroom black. We had to be ready to move when we were told to move, and often we had only a few short weeks to both sell the old and then buy a new house.

The houses I chose were always houses that could be re-sold, and sold fast. I'm an expert at finding just the right floor plan and making the house look comfortable and welcoming, but not too quirky. Oh, they've all had my stamp on them, but I always had to consider the sale. In a sense, none of them were ever really mine.

The last house we/I owned for 17 years. Nobody would have predicted we would stay there more than three, but we loved this area so we made it happen. The last few years, during my divorce, I rebelled and did 2 things that weren't in the military wife's rule book for moving in a hurry. I painted the front door purple, against the advice of everybody except the realtor who helped me find the house I just bought. He said he didn't give a shit, and if I liked the door purple, go ahead and paint the fucker purple. I did it.

I also let Elvira turn the pretty purple and pink fairies on her wallpaper border into dark Goth fairies using Sharpie markers. She got about halfway around the room, working in spurts over a couple of years. I'm not sure the new owners noticed her handiwork before they bought the house; it may have been a surprise.

Everything else I did in the house was with the knowledge that I would have to sell it one day. That's why in one of the worst real estate markets in decades, I still had a contract on the house within 2 weeks of putting it on the market. My realtor had predicted the house would sit for at least a year.

This time I bought the house I wanted with no thought of reselling it. I plan to die in this house. It will be up to my kids to either sell it or live in it when I'm gone.

So I can paint the rooms any color I want. I can use the rooms any way I want -- if I want to sleep in the dining room, I can sleep in the dining room. It's in an historic district, so I don't have total freedom on the outside, but it looks fabulous on the outside. It's just the way I would have wanted it anyway.

Now I'm going to admit that this level of freedom is damn intimidating. I'm having trouble deciding what colors I do want to paint .... or if I want to paint. Over half the people who gave an opinion on the corpuscle room thought I should keep the red. That one was easy though, so that's the one I tackled first. I'm not a red-room person. That I know. So I'm painting it.
Part of the master suite

Same with the master bedroom, bath, and closet, which are a mustard color. Just not my color, so I'll be painting there too and taking down some industrial chic door hardware. But I'll admit, I'm stuck on what color I want to paint it. I've spent so many years painting rooms in neutral colors, I'm not sure what I like.

Chicken Grrrl keeps reminding me that paint isn't permanent. And she's right, but it's a hell of a lot of hard work, painting is. My perfectionism is in full swing, telling me I have to get it right the first time.
Piano here

Another voice tells me I've got plenty of time to live there and make decisions about how I want to live there. If I don't like where I set up my office, I can move it. As long as there's a room for my grand piano -- which there is -- everything else will work out.

3. This one kind of goes along with #1, but this is the first time I've had to do it all myself. LtColEx and I had a great arrangement when it came to things like home repairs and facelifts: I chose the projects and materials and colors; he did the work. I didn't bother him while he worked, except to throw raw meat into the room several times a day. It all balanced out.

With this house, I'm doing the painting he would have done, and, although my shoulders are feeling it and I'm slower than a sloth, I'll get it done, and it will look fine. Or if it doesn't, I'll work at it until it does.

Laying a floor in the upstairs hall -- which has to be done -- will be a new challenge. I'm sure there are Youtube videos though, and a friend has offered his chop saw for the laminate flooring I'll probably have to install. I'll choose the "wood," and I'll get the job done. Later I may tackle some downstairs rooms too. (I was disappointed to find out the floors have been refinished too many times to do them again. Not even close to a dealbreaker though. Just an adjustment to make.)

Some things I'll have to hire done, and that worries me. Women get ripped off so much more often than men, and I've been there. I'm almost tempted to hire a male actor to hire a contractor. I have a plumber and an electrician I can trust though. And I'll find somebody for the other work, or I'll figure out how to do it myself. I also have lots of handy friends who will give me advice and guide me.

I'm writing this to persuade myself, and it's working ... for a few minutes anyway. I hope this doesn't sound too whiny. I really am terribly excited to make this house my home. I felt it the second I walked in the door. The very second. This house was meant to be my house. Maybe that's why all this feels so important. I want to get it right.

Since I made the commitment to write every day this month, and I'm totally overwhelmed already with the house and TEDx and Thanksgiving, I'll probably be writing  a lot about the process of doing the work and moving. I hope it's not too boring. I'll sprinkle a few vaginas into the mix though, and maybe even a couple of penises. Like salt and pepper.