Saturday, September 10, 2011


I got a fancy new camera for my birthday, which...well, let’s be clear about the meaning of the word “gift” for a second. Milo called me from his best friend’s bachelor party a few days before my birthday and informed me he’d just won 500 bucks at the casino, so I could have a really good gift this year if I liked. So I decided I would like to finally have a good camera, I researched models (with help from my dad), I went online and ordered it with my credit card, and I answered the door when it arrived and signed for the package. Now, I ask you, dear readers, what was my birthday gift from Milo: the camera, or the money, which I happened to spend, on my own, on a camera? We MAY have a differing opinion on this.

At the very least, it’s less clear than my birthday gift from my parents. They took my car in to have the air conditioning fixed, which was somehow simultaneously a wonderful gift and kind of depressing. Two years ago — I’m not joking — they gave me new tires. Next year I expect I’ll ask them to schedule me a dentist appointment, and I will be really exceptionally pleased with this present, and I will inch another year closer to the grave.

Anyway, I didn’t tell Milo that the only reason I wanted a good camera is so that I can finally—over a year later—take some pictures of our house to prove that I, little by little over the months, triumphed over its butt-clenching terror. Flipping through the set we took the day we bought it (“Wait, we bought THIS? THIS is what it looked like? Was I drunk at the time?”), I set out to create a shot-by-shot recreation of...well, not the whole house, okay? There’s just not that much you can do with five walls and a closet sticking out into the room when the pinnacle of your remodeling skills is “buy an end table.” But some rooms have been tamed. And I show them to you here now as proof: Do not let your house defeat you. You have the power. You have the electric screwdriver. You have the Ikea catalog and the Ashley Home Furniture credit card. And you alone have the ability to tell your realtor, “No, thank you. Please show us something that doesn’t look like the Neon Spackle Museum of the Midwest.” Consider it before you get in too deep.


(Click any pic for full size!)

Remember the fuchsia eye surgery room?

It became the all black and white except for the damn brown couch that matches nothing library.

And the...uh..."windows"?

Turns out the sponge painted "clouds" were really hard to cover with paint, so I shoved a few bookcases in front of them. Helpful tip: Ugly features in your home can be always be spruced up by covering with a large wall unit.

Guess what, though? It's not just shiny silver paint that's hard to cover with a coat of primer. Thick designs don't go away either!

Be sure to admire how, in the glare to the right side of the wall, you can STILL SEE THE LINES. I for one sometimes stare at it for so long that I can't see anything but white hot blinding hate.

The bathroom, if you'll recall, had not too much wrong with it.

What was wrong with it was the lack of an octopus trash can and whale soap dispenser. Well, that and the massaging shower head had been installed incorrectly, so the first shower I took it came shooting off, hit me in the face, and sank the entire bathroom under six inches of water before I got it turned off (not pictured).

Milo complained when we bought it that the kitchen was inconveniently large, in such a way that there is nowhere to put anything.

That's still true. I hate the brown cabinets and would love to eventually replace them with the pretty kind that have glass fronts, but then you'd see the complete array of crap we have crammed into every single cabinet, ready to come cascading out the second you open them, into the giant stupid useless open space in the middle. Why are you THERE, useless open space, instead of in my closet where you belong?

I had actually managed to block this image out of my mind.

You can't even imagine the expense of this room in paint alone.

When life gives you a giant meringue-colored garage wall in your living room...

...cover it with a large wall unit. (Special for Where's Waldo lovers: Spot the cat in the above photo.)

But while I have been busily domesticating the inside of the house, I've pretty much left the outside to its own devices. I mean, the exterior actually looked nice when we bought it, so I haven't looked at it since then, really. But I thought I'd use the new camera to take some photos outdoors too (you'd forgotten by now I got a new camera, didn't you) and I started looking at them against that first set of photos...and I started noticing a lot of plants we didn't have before. And some very menacing shrubbery. And a couple entirely new trees.

This is the day we bought the house:

This is from this afternoon:



And so I write this to explain why I can never leave my house again. That and...let's face it. I don't want to. I have a really nice couch now.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Though We Do Have a Fine Array of Crap

So I decided that my first book has finally had enough solid rejections for me to put it away for a while. I say that not because I'm discouraged (oh god yes I am) or because it sucks (I'm really afraid it might) but because everybody likes it. "This concept is really fun!" agents keep telling me. "It's hilarious! I crapped my pants! Twice! There may be lingering colonic effects! But I can't sell this! The market's saturated with memoirs! No one buys stuff like this! I have to change my underwear! That's a rejection, in case you didn't catch it!" It's like, I don't know, studying to become the world's foremost scholar on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and then discovering there's no actual career called The World's Foremost Scholar on Longfellow. You can do perfectly good work, but that doesn't automatically make you successful. Sometimes nobody WANTS good work. I mean, look at Twi - oh, fucking forget it.

Or it could legitimately suck. That's still a possibility too. One way or another, about fifty agents think they can't sell it,'s gone to take a nap for a while. Perhaps a long while.

Anyway, I'm okay with it now - writing a new book, going in a new direction, still drinking more on weekdays than is probably socially acceptable - but when I first came to this decision about two weeks ago, it was kind of a problem. I was standing there folding laundry, thought "This isn't working," and had JUST burst into tears when Milo walked in holding a cushion off our new sofa.

Oh, yeah, we just spent all our money on a new sofa too, because I work at home, so I walk around all day long getting irrationally angry at the crappy things in our house. After the miniblind episode, I set my sights on our couch. It used to belong to Milo's parents, in whose home it always looked perfectly nice and felt perfectly comfortable. Then it came to retire with us and we discovered they had a sophisticated couch hologram system to camouflage what was in fact a paisley whale carcass. I don't know if it caused the dog to become mad with rage or lust what, but Delilah would sometimes wake up in the dead of night just to drag her ass across it.

Eventually I drove Milo insane with the subtle hints that I might set the couch on fire ("I'm going to set the couch on fire today, I goddamn swear it") until he broke down and let me spend all our money on a sleek black leather couch to make you weep with joy. So it gets delivered, and we go to drag the Paisley Whale down to the basement storage room - and let me tell you, FUCK, that thing is a sectional, and half of it is a sleeper sofa and the other half is recliners, so even taken apart each side weighs like 400 pounds - and we discover that it doesn't fit down the stairs. I don't mean "maybe if we unscrew the feet, tip it on end, and shove like hell" doesn't fit. I mean "not to the nearest six feet" doesn't fit. Not even CLOSE. So I go, okay, we'll carry it out the front door, around the side of the house, down the hill, in the patio door through my office, and into the storage room. So we do...AND IT DOESN'T FIT THROUGH THE OFFICE DOOR. We can get it into my office, but no further. There's literally no physical way, short of knocking down a wall, to get this couch into the storage room. And now my office, which was arranged perfectly to my working and relaxation specifications, has had to be gutted to make space for this FUCKING SOFA THAT I HATED TO BEGIN WITH BECAUSE WE CAN'T GET IT OUT OF THE ROOM. I keep it sealed off now, like some horror novel ("No one's been in that room in fifteen years now. But sometimes when she goes near it Mama's eyes go milky and she mumbles, 'the paisley...'")

So that's what I went through, emotionally, for my new sofa. I don't sit on it. I merely gaze at it, misty-eyed. It smells like new shoes. I call her Black Betty.

Now, where was I. Oh, yeah: I was standing there, dabbing my eyes with a sock, feeling a year's worth of work being sucked down the crapper, at which point Milo thrust a sofa cushion at me and says, "Smell this. I think the cat peed on it." After a hard night of drinking beer and eating asparagus, he did not add, although it was perfectly apparent. It was perfectly apparent from across the room, as well, so SHOVING IT INTO MY FACE was completely unnecessary, MY DARLING. ("Are...are you crying? You can clean it, right?")

So I'm just, you know, just...YOU KNOW - and I unscrew the entire bottle of cat piss cleaner and dump about a gallon of it on there, sobbing all the way, and then notice the warning: "Safe for upholstery, carpeting, cotton, linen, mattresses, wood, glass, tile, ceramic, fine persian rugs, delicate electronic parts, human skin, hair, and eyes. Not safe for leather."

And this, my friends. This is why we can’t have nice things. Because Black Betty doesn't fit down the stairs either.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Baby-Sitters on Board

Who in the fresh hell illustrated this horror? How many Macaulay Culkin movies can I reference in one post? Can someone call CPS on the Pikes already?

Answers to these and other pressing questions in my Baby-Sitters on Board recap over at Baby-Sitter's Club Snark!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mallory and the Mystery Diary

Where would you even buy a kid-sized shirt that says "I ♥ Kids" on it?

Answers to this and other pressing questions in my recap of Mallory and the Mystery Diary over at Baby-Sitters Club Snark!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tomorrow: The Faulty Carbon Monoxide Detector

I've been caught in a bit of a Sneaky Hate Spiral lately, which, though bad for my mental health and my blog updating schedule, is not bad for my house.

I've spent the past couple of months giving my book a bit of an overhaul, hopefully remembering to include a plot this time, and gone back to the submissions drawing board, with (in my opinion) a much better finished product. And where there once was promise, now I can't even get anyone to READ it. Form rejections. Go fucking figure.

So I'm mad about that, only I can't admit I'm mad about that because that would be lunacy, so instead I got up yesterday and was like, "I AM GOING TO SET THE MINIBLINDS ON FIRE."

All the miniblinds we have came with the house, and I hate them. They're all kind of a dark beige color that always looks dirty and matches nothing, and they always ARE dirty because they attract dog hair and don't wipe clean, and they're that cheap plastic-metallic material that makes your teeth feel like they're going to fall out when you run a fingernail across it. And they're ALL broken. All of them in some unique way. We have three windows in the front, facing out, and the blinds in the leftmost one will open and close but not raise or lower, the middle one will raise and lower but not open or close, and the rightmost one...

Please don't ring our doorbell.

So I was NOT mad about the rejections, okay? I was mad about these ugly, gross window treatments burdening my life. Mad enough to just start, like, slapping them, like I was Erica Kane jilted at her ninth wedding, yelling, "WHY ARE YOU HERE? YOU ARE TURDS. GIANT WINDOW TURDS." And then I went to the store and was like "HELLO I NEED SOME NON-TURD WINDOW BLINDS OKAY THIS IS AN EMERGENCY." How big? I don't know, like, yea-big. Yes, yea-big. Non-turdy. Non-teeth-shattering shit-plastic. They were SPECTACULARLY unhelpful, this store.

The thought of leaving without blinds was really upsetting, though - no, I'm NOT upset that I'm probably coming home to another rejection in my inbox, that's just the life of a writer and I am a mature, grown-up person - so I just picked a size, white, cloth, and went home and ripped down the old blinds with a fork, cackling all the way.

You know, the new blinds look really nice.

Also, the shitty metallic-plastic doesn't burn. I tried.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Number Five Is Eating the Expired Can of Beans in the Back of the Pantry

I'm fairly certain the leading cause of death in Wisconsin in the winter months is bad temper. Second is probably ennui, followed by heart failure while shoveling the front walk, then being murdered by your spouse when you go away on a business trip to Florida and call her to complain about the air conditioning in your room. (Milo, I suggest that when your flight gets in tomorrow, you avoid the back door. It may have been booby-trapped by...uh...the dog.)

Winter in Wisconsin is a really terrific metaphor for why I've been crap about updating. It snows here just ALWAYS. Every day I shovel myself out and every day my path has disappeared and I have to start over, a little more cold and achy than the day before. Sometimes you're just chipping away at it not knowing if you'll ever get there at ALL - this, for example, was my front yard when I woke up on Wednesday, and I've been trying to reach the fence bit by bit for two days. I don't know what will happen when I get there; probably it will snow again. So, were I a more talented writer, I would point out that this is exactly how the process of writing a book has gone - I continually shovel my way out of the house (submit manuscript) only to get snowed on again (rejection, start over).

Okay, it isn't as bleak as all that. Rejection doesn't make me want to hula naked or anything, but that's why I have some Bailey's in the fridge. I've gotten great feedback, which has given me some good ideas for rewrites. I'm not throwing in the towel or anything. It's just long work, lonely work, and the winter is never-goddamn-ending. And you only have so much in you sometimes; it's like, okay, I can shovel off the driveway every day, because I HAVE TO, but if I'm doing that I'm not going to do the front porch too just for kicks. That's what blogging while also writing a book feels like to me. I'd like to start making this less of an either/or proposition now that the first book is technically done (other than the massive rewriting I'm trying to do) but not while I still have to shovel several hours a day. No, I mean LITERALLY. WISCONSIN, man. I loved it here spring through fall, but FUCK ME.

So I'll be back on the horse shortly, I promise, I just need a little time to dig myself out. In the meantime, I'll be selling bootleg, self-published copies of my Baby-Sitter's Club snarks.* Girl's gotta make a living somehow.

*No, I don't count snarks as blogging because you can write them in your sleep. And I'm positive some of the ghostwriters did, near the end. BSC books snark THEMSELVES.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Why is Stacey's mom obsessed with Levi's jeans? Where did can I buy a cow-shaped mailbox? What, for the love of God, is wrong with Nicky Pike's face?

Answers to these and other pressing questions in my Snowbound recap over at Baby-Sitter's Club Snark!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Delilahween

Ugh, Halloween. I am not a fan of Halloween. Which is to say, I loved it dearly as a kid, yet find that none of this joy managed to follow me into adulthood. I wonder — at the risk of stepping on the toes of 100% of my friends who think this holiday is the absolute shit, as opposed to just absolute shit — exactly how repressed you have to be to find Halloween fun past the age of 18. “But I can wear funny outfits! I can stay out late! I can eat AAAAALL THE CANDY AND DRINK AAAAALL THE SCHNAPPS I WANT HAHAHA.” Congratulations. You’re a grown up. You can do whatever the fuck you want. I myself frequently sit around in my Slytherin cape drinking boxed wine while watching A&E, and I call that “Monday night.”

Granted, many of you are also fans of the horror aspects of Halloween, which is just fine for you, but I think we’ve thoroughly covered why that is not okay in our house.

Anyway, so those feelings plus the pressure of coming up with an outfit that combines being sexy, smart, timely, mobile, and cheap enough to justify only wearing it once proved way too much for me — I mean, I already HAD a wedding this year. And I already got scared and cried in public once this year too, when I got lost at the museum. So: staying in, obviously.

Unfortunately, it didn’t really occur to me until this morning that now that we live in a real house in a nice neighborhood, if we stayed in then we would actually be getting some trick-or-treaters. And that was a problem because we are the laziest bastards on the planet. We do not have Halloween decorations, or St. Patrick’s Day decorations, or a Christmas tree, or an Independence Day flag, or even Garbage Day lights. We do not celebrate Valentine’s Day. Neither of us even knows when our anniversary is. Two years ago we kept driving around to stores one day, frustrated and unable to figure out why nothing was open, and had to go home and check the Internet just to find out it was Easter.

But the much bigger problem: Delilah and the doorbell. That was written when we didn’t HAVE a doorbell...AND NOW WE DO. She has broken windows and knocked out screens trying to lunge at people who make the mistake of ringing our doorbell. We could shut her in somewhere, but I’m certain she’s capable of breaking down a door. So I get this brilliant idea to fix my two problems in one: I tape up a sign in the front window that says “Beware of flesh-eating zombie monster dog.” There, now we have a Halloween decoration AND we’ve given everyone fair warning about Delilah. I station myself on the couch in front of the window, armed with my laptop and a bowl of Kit-Kats (and a second bowl, to give to the trick-or-treaters) and I’m ready to go.

Guys, this turns out to be the best idea I have EVER had. Inevitably, a group would come up to the door—to the boring House of No Funnington, with no pumpkins, no cobwebs, no scary light displays—and they would see my little sign, and you’d see the parents’ faces scrunch up and their lips moving slightly as they read the sign and looked around in confusion, seeing nothing indicating a monster decoration of any sort. And then they’d ring the doorbell and WHAM CRASH BARK BARK BARK SNAAAARL ROWF ROWF CRASH THUD THUD THUD this crazed beast would appear out of nowhere and SLAM into the window and everyone would scream bloody murder, one Cinderella would start sobbing, a Frankenstein would go sprinting out the gate, and at least two Spidermans would wet their pants. My GOD it was entertaining. This was WAY better than the guy down the street who sat motionless on his porch dressed as a scarecrow and then jumped out and grabbed people who came by. For one thing, his was a cheap scare, but ours was real danger. Delilah really would eat a trick-or-treater if we let her. Also, we got to keep all our candy. “Trick or treat!” we’d say, our eyes gleaming evilly. “Would you like to pet the flesh-eating zombie?” People seemed to forget about their Snickers and leave in a hurry for some reason.

I should probably leave the sign up year round, shouldn’t I.


(I tried to get a video of this hilarity as it appeared to the trick-or-treaters, but I, being Mommy and therefore unexciting to her, utterly failed to ignite her into a frenzy. It was less “I WILL CONSUME YOUR ETERNAL SOUL” and more “Hurrr durp, Mom, why you outside?” On the upside, I got a decent Fail Video out of it.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Milo's Eyebrows Are at Least 75 Words Each

I can't believe what a neglectful blogger I've been recently, but I have a good reason - I was last seen flailing into the night wearing a bedsheet and shrieking, "I am the Queen of France!" No, seriously, I decided to focus my energies fully on my book for a while, which is coming along just FINE, Mom. Most of you know that I quit my job when I moved to Madison and, with Milo's blessing, made it my full-time career for the short term future to actually finish writing a whole book that didn't have a 25 page interlude in the middle reading nothing but "PEAS PEAS PEAS PEAS PEAS." (It was an artistic gesture, clearly meant to convey "I have no idea what happens next in this plot.") As such, all the ideas, energy, and mental flow I'd normally have stuck up on Livejournal without so much as a cursory proofread instead gets put down in The Book, meticulously shaped, read, reshaped, tinkered over, and eventually deleted when I read it back the next week and decide it couldn't be any more crap if I were possessed by the spirit of Ed Wood.

Anyway, I've finally hit the point of complete despair that happens when you've worked and worked for months on end - promising your husband that yes, very SOON I will have a handsome cash advance in hand for my writing, and yes, I'll stop shopping online until that happens, unless I find a really fancy pair of boots - and my word count is still short. Like, really, REALLY short. I'm working off the rule of thumb that 50,000 words is the bare minimum most publishers will consider, because they cannot justify a $24.95 hardcover list price for a book the size of a grocery list. I just can't seem to reach that number, like someone keeps getting up in the middle of the night and deleting vast swaths of dreck. (Okay, that one's me. But in any case, I routinely read fanfic longer than 50,000 words. How the HELL are you guys doing that and working day jobs and writing your own novels besides?)

Anyway, I was reading Hyperbole and a Half earlier (go forth and cackle until your vocal cords tear, then continue that heaving noiseless laugher until your front is soaked with spittle and blood) and suddenly thought - yes! YES! A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS! All I have to do is include pictures! I mean, I can't draw to save my life, but that hasn't stopped xkcd or Cyanide and Happiness from becoming wildly popular, right?

So, for example, an anecdote about my rogue TomTom can suddenly be made fifty percent longer simply by adding a visual effect:

You'd pay $24.95 for that, right?

Now for a brief teaser of NEVER BEFORE SEEN material, to appear in my upcoming book, coming to your local bookstore just as soon as I finish it, convince an agent to represent me, sell it to a publisher with a reasonable marketing budget, and spend my handsome cash advance on funny hats.

That's $24.95. Tell your friends.