Saturday, March 26, 2011


I have mixed feelings about pulling The Hovel off the market. On the one hand, we won’t have to worry about where to stash the dog when realtors tour strangers through our freshly cleaned, sparkling-spotless house.

On the other, we won’t return home after realtors have toured strangers through our freshly cleaned, sparkling-spotless house to find what appears to be a giant, black pube on our white couch.

On the one hand, the most entertaining people in the neighborhood have been evicted or actually died—including our Hoverround-bound penis-splitter. Can you believe that? He really died! He hadn’t walked in ages, wore an adult diaper, chain-smoked, appeared to eat only fast food, and told us last August that he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and would be dead by November—but come on. I never thought that guy would die!

On the other, we still have Probable Pedophile who buys a case of beer at the corner liquor store every day, precariously balancing it on his lap as he peddles past our house—and no doubt more colorful characters will move into Hoverround’s old house as soon as it’s ready for rent.

On the one hand, I still won’t have room to plant a Big-Ass Garden or read in the backyard in private. And even though my city just approved urban chickens, my yard is still too damn small to get even one tiny silky Bantam I could name Checkers and train to peck “What a Feeling!” on a toy piano.

But on the other, there is a pear tree one block from me that bears the most delicious fruit. How do I know? Because one night, while walking home from a bar down the street (shut up—a friend had his 40th birthday party there), I stole a few pears from their yard. I justified this because they were already on the lawn and probably would have just gone to waste.

Yes I ate them, and yes, they were delicious.

I need a moment to absorb the fact that I just publicly admitted to eating fallen fruit I stole from somebody’s yard.

Now that we are staying put, J and I are mentally preparing ourselves for some major remodeling projects on the second floor. The ultimate goal is to re-list the house in a few years and not have potential buyers shouting, “Mother of God, what is this abomination!” and sprinkling themselves with holy water when they see our second bathroom.

Also, to stop weeping in the shower because it is. That. Gross.

In happier news, the squirrels are nesting in the chimney again! I know because I can hear the rustling behind the bathroom wall while I’m curling my hair. Last spring I looked up one day to see five babies tumble out of the chimney, scamper across the roof, and leap into the nearest tree.

J is not as enamored with the squirrel babies as I am, but he is kind enough to indulge me and let them raise one more brood before he climbs up on the roof and fixes the chimney blocking-thing. He allows this because: A) he has a huge heart; B) they are not getting into the wiring, and any destruction they are wreaking behind the walls can be no worse than the bathroom’s current state; C) they are not rats; and D) he is married to someone who will cry over profiles on Petfinder or Adopt-us-kids, and he is not a fan of celibacy.

No doubt I’ll watch in horror while one of the baby squirrels is hit by a car in front of my house later this summer, but at least they had a chance, dammit. At least they had a chance.

This is not one of our baby squirrels, but one that somehow ended up wearing a plastic Easter egg bonnet near the school my brother teaches at. See? Totally cute!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

And Now for Something That Doesn't Suck. Figuratively.

Last fall I blogged about a neighborhood incident in which some jokesters placed a broken Kenmore vacuum cleaner on my front porch steps. Because I can be a terrible comment monitor, I didn't realize until months later that a sales rep from Sears had read my blog and graciously offered to send me a FREE Kenmore vacuum cleaner to erase any bad vibes the jokesters had inflicted.

It took me a few days to get over my suspicion before I emailed him to ask, "For reals, yo?"

And crazily enough, the answer was indeed, "For reals!"

Last Monday the brand-spanking new, totally FREE vacuum arrived on my front porch: a Kenmore Progressive canister with HEPA filter and pet hair attachment. Swoon! I had big plans for my darling new vacuum--I envisioned a "Spring cleaning!" blog giveaway / contest. Sort of a 'pay it forward' if you will, and I excitedly shared my idea with my mother...which she quickly squelched with:

"Well, you know your sister really needs a vacuum. I have to lug our vacuum to her place twice a month, an hour each way, up and down all those stairs..." Though I couldn't see my mother's face because we were on the phone, I knew exactly what expression she was wearing. We're talking about a woman who was once given a T-shirt for Christmas that read: "When it comes to guilt trips, I'm a frequent flier!"

D'oh. Ah, old Catholic guilt--I shake my fist at you!

Okay, my sister is awesome and her children have provided me countless hours of entertainment over the last three years, so she totally deserves it. My mother and I made the vacuum delivery this past Sunday. I had grand plans of photographing my niece and nephew posing adorably with the vacuum; unfortunately, Corbeau wouldn't cooperate. Grandma tried to show him how it's done:

At that point it occurred to us that my niece is too young to object to being photographed on a vacuum box, so my plan swung into action.

Why must they torture me so?

Of course, Corbeau's favorite thing about the new vacuum was the box. We spent (what felt like) hours packing him in the box, pretending not to know his whereabouts, and squealing with delight when he popped out. He called the game "butter," because who wouldn't associate a vacuum box with a pat of butter?

Adorable child not included.

After we assembled the vacuum and took it for a test spin, it became apparent that Corbeau was not a fan. Crying and screaming commenced because when it comes to loud noises and vacuum-related freak-outs, my dog has nothing on my nephew. Brilliant Grandma figured out how to reduce the noise setting, and Corbeau finally calmed down enough to try the vacuum himself. When he discovered that the cats hated it more than he initially had, another fabulous game was born: (Attempted) cat vacuuming!

Because my sister is incredibly thoughtful, she'd wrapped a sort of 'thank-you' gift for me--something she introduced with, "Now don't get too excited, it's really lame." (It's too bad she missed out on a career as an event emcee--she could have done well, don't you think?)

My gift turned out to be an electric stapler she'd gotten free as a bonus with a large art supply order for her students.

And here she is, multi-tasking and cleaning the shazaam out of her dining room. My sister was incredibly excited about the vacuum, repeatedly exclaiming, "Yaaay!" and "This is so awesome!" and already making feverish plans about vacuuming the curtains in summer, so as to reduce her allergies. I didn't have the heart to tell her that curtains could also be washed in the washing machine, because there's just something so thrilling about a new vacuum.

On the drive home my mother remarked, "Remember how messy her room used to be? Piles of clothes everywhere, water glasses balanced on the edges of dressers and tables...You'd never have guessed if you knew her in high school how thrilled she'd one day be about a vacuum."

(Thank you Sears / Kenmore!! You made our month.)

Monday, March 07, 2011

Luddite Love

For some reason, I am wary of new technology. I’m not as bad as my Dad, who once memorably said to me, “What the f*ck is this … YOUTUBE … my students are talking about?” But bad nonetheless. I was among the last in my group of friends to get a cell phone. When I joined Facebook I did so warily, and continued to feel suspicious of it for a few years…at least until I recently acquired a new Android phone a few weeks ago, with instant access to updates, and all hope of productivity was lost.

Oh, and when I got that Android phone? Suspicious! I skittishly followed J around the Sprint store, dubiously testing some of the phones, convinced that there would be some big catch in the fine print that would somehow doom me to a life of indentured servitude to Steve Jobs. Or Bill Gates. Or anyone more technologically-savvy than me, really.

I kept one eyebrow up the whole time I was in the store: “Yeah, see? But what’s the catch, hmmmmm? Will this take naked pictures of me while I sleep and post them online? Will it give me cancer if I charge it too close to my head? What if I accidentally download an infected app that auto-tunes my voice every time I call my Grandma?”

Today my sister sent me an invitation to LinkedIn. Normally when I get these invites I delete them, dismissing it as just one more headache in the making—I was sure LinkedIn was somehow related to the “Acai Secret for a Flat Belly!” and “Mom discovers this one trick for white teeth!” ads you see all over Teh Internets. Years ago I accidentally put my contact information into one of those ads (for a mortgage rate quote), and I was barraged with calls that skeeved me out for months afterward.

Okay, it wasn’t accidental, it was stupid and on purpose, but still. Someone dear to me was also unwittingly ‘signed-up’ for a fee-based ringtone service after completing an IQ test on Facebook.

You just never know. Technology can be dangerous. Because while you are learning to use your new phone, you might also take an innocent but titillating picture of yourself right after photographing the hand-woven basket your sister made you for Christmas and then send the basket photo to your spouse and the titillating photo to your sister with the subject line, “Here’s your basket!”

You just. Never. Know.

Anyway, today’s request had my sister’s approval, so I signed up. Immediately, I was invited to connect with 195 people in one of my email address books. Uh-oh. Should I do it? Should I do it? What would this mean? I didn’t even recognize half the names that popped up.

The reckless side of me said ‘Screw it’ and pressed “Proceed into the Unknown!” I don’t let that side out to play often—especially during the day when there’s no Bottle of Bravery uncorked in the kitchen.

Instantly I started receiving emails from the people I just connected with, indicating that they accepted my connection. I nearly ran and hid under the bed like Daisy does during a thunderstorm.

I have no idea what it all means, and I continue to be suspicious of it. My eye is still twitching. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the Amish compound to have my abacus polished.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

I Know Some of You Can Top This Story...

How quickly can a three year-old morph from angel to devil?

We arrive to babysit. Corbeau, in a benevolent mood, grants us an encore performance of a show recently given with his Montessori classmates at school: “Kumbaya we are working, kumbaya we are peaceful, kumbaya we are reading, kumbaya we are loving…”

Sung gracefully to the tune you know, complete with hand gestures, but no pants. It was a pants-free performance.

Later, after lunch and the addition of pants: “Kumbaya we are naughty! Kumbaya we are bad! Kumbaya we are naughty!”

Shouted while jumping on the couch and pulling my hair.

I tried to hide my laughter. My sister gave Corbeau a time-out.

When you’re three, sometimes you just can’t help yourself.

Our little angel.


FREE BOOKS: My dear friend Manic Mommy is hosting the most amazing book giveaway on her blog for the entire month of March. She's featuring 31 authors of women's fiction (including moi)--a different writer each day. Leave a comment on that day's post and you're entered to win the featured daily book. You're also entered in a giveaway at the end of the month to win all 31 books! Comment every day and increase your odds of winning.

She's featuring my own novel, DRIVING SIDEWAYS, tomorrow, Friday, March 4. So if you haven't yet read it, don't forget to stop by and leave a comment to be entered to win it--signed, even! (I heard it's a pretty good read...) Here's your destination: