Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Dull But Happy Girl

All work. No play.

That's me. That's been my January. 

I swear, I feel like a freshly reamed orange.

I noticed how squeezed out I've been feeling when I went onto Twitter this morning. Normally I like to play on the Twitters before I get down to work each day, but the last few weeks, I got hardly nothing to say. I mean, I used to be good for the occasional witticism or trenchant observation on today’s most pressing issues, but lately my tweet stream is, like, a double helping of duh.

I hope this is actually a good sign. Annie Dillard says in The Writing Life that writers have this tendency to come up with ideas and want to save them for later. We think we can imagine something--a character, a turn of phrase, whatever it might be--and put it in the literary larder for future use. But, no, she says we should use it up now. Today. Don’t save it. Put it down on the page. Use yourself and all your ideas up and then make some more. 

So I hope that’s what I’ve been doing. Using my ideas up and anything that could conceivably be considered a leftover. I'm well aware that Twitter has and will continue to carry on perfectly well without me.  

Can I just say that I love times like these?

And you? How’s your winter hibernation proceeding?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Artist Unknown

I’ve mentioned my crazy, ramshackle house before, specifically the abundance of awful wallpaper and the monumental, embittering efforts it took to remove all of it.

Because APPARENTLY people applied wallpaper with rubber cement back in the day, thereby sentencing future generations of homeowners to eighth-circle-of-hell type labors that take up years of weekends.  YEARS. Scraping and scraping and scraping like soulless dogs doing penance for crimes unknown.

(Obviously I've let my anger go.) 

The family who owned this place for sixty-odd years before we bought it had four children and at some point--the early 1960s would be a good guess--they installed an elaborate system of intercoms. Every room has an intercom (none of which still work). I’m sure it must have been cutting-edge at the time.

They also had a live-in maid. Or rather, as the story goes, a series of young, African-American maids trucked in from the Deep South, none of whom were probably older than twenty. 

I assume the intercoms were to call the maid? Maybe? I’ve never had a live-in maid (well, I mean, other than myself) so I’m just guessing that’s how it worked. Having lived here now for more than five years, I'm not convinced that the intercoms were even remotely necessary. It’s not like the house is so huge that calling out, “Hey, Mary, bring me a sandwich!” wouldn’t have worked perfectly well. This is why I assume the former owners must have been very formal people who mostly stayed in their rooms, operating intercoms as the need arose and otherwise not speaking.

The "bedroom" where the maid slept was in the basement, and I use quotes because calling this “bedroom” a bedroom is a stretch. It’s five-and-half feet by about six-and-a-half feet and has a very low ceiling. It’s a closet, really. It can’t have held anything more than a single bed and maybe a small dresser.  We use it to store the Christmas tree stand and decorations and all that.

I’ve joked many times that my dream office would be in a bunker, with walls so thick, Saddam Hussein would have envied them. See, my children, they find me, especially when I work.  Normally I don't write on the weekends, but I’ve been trying to get a first draft done, and so I’ve been taking my laptop and slinking off, hiding here and there throughout the house, gruffly rebuffing whoever comes to the door. But they always find me. I'm like a writing fugitive. I never know when my time will be up.

Well, duh, it finally occurred to me that if I shifted some stuff around and set up a table and chair down there in the maid’s room … voila! Instant writing bunker! The kids don’t like to go down there because the maid’s room is in the dark, spidery part of the basement. Its gloominess is probably why, at some point, one of the maids who was lodged there drew a reproduction of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel on the walls.

For serious. At one point, all four walls were filled with pencil drawings, and I guess the former owners of our house weren’t too thrilled about it so they painted over her mural with the exception of the wall pictured above.

Some days I feel like moping about the long journey to publication. Please. What about her? I don’t know her name or what became of her, but when I imagine her sitting in that basement room, alone, drawing and sketching after answering intercoms all day...yikes. 

She filled a basement room with pencil sketches of religious paintings. Talk about yearning. I got nothing on her.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Happy New Year, my lovelies!

I know one is supposed to make resolutions to improve one's self to mark the new year, but pffft to that. I’m going a different way in 2012—with a resolution of selfishness. And here it is: No one but no one will lay a finger on my new pens.

You see them over there? They are My Preciouses. Each one special and unique and not to be used by anyone but ME without permission, and I can assure you that that permission will never, ever be given.

See, a couple years ago I went to this event where they did a gift exchange thing, and I ended up getting this stack of fancy lady note paper and a fancy lady pen. At first I dismissed this fancy lady gift as fanciful, thinking, what am I going to do with this? Write notes to myself? 

“Dearest Kristen: Smashing job today revising chapter eleven for the sixty-eighth time, darling! I think you really got it this time! Brilliant!"

Well, let me tell you, I soon fell madly and hopelessly in love with the fancy lady pen I received, and I forbade any sticky-fingered, Cheerio-eating, ne’er-do-wells from using it, which turned out to be an edict frequently and wantonly broken. Despite practically foaming at the mouth about my pen and no one being allowed to touch it, my beloved pen would still, inexplicably, migrate to locations around the house without my knowledge or consent, and over time, it even acquired a few bite marks that were not my own. Let me tell you, I want other people’s bite marks on my pen about as much as I want other people’s bite marks on my arm. I almost tied my pen to my desk with a string to prevent future thievery, but then I came to my senses and recognized that adopting a practice commonly used at most DMVs was the wrong way to go. No, instead I knew I should just keep up with the constant threats of bodily harm. Also, I may have intimated to one or two of my kids that I was going to change her name to Eunice. ("I can do it, you know. Just a quick trip to the county courthouse, a little bit of paperwork, and boom, you're Eunice Hildegarde for the rest of your natural life!")
Well, can you believe that for Christmas I got three of these fancy lady pens from Santa? Yeeeessss. So shiny, so lovely, so utterly and unequivocally MINE. 


Or else, or else, or else I swear I’ll … I’ll—oh, I don’t know.  I’ll do something. I’m running out of legitimate things to threaten people in my household with, which is why I’ve graduated to more and more ridiculous fear-mongering techniques, like walking around with a pillowcase full of doorknobs at all times.

What’s your favorite thing on your desk that no one is allowed to touch? 

*Update: I'm feeling much better about all this business. Thank you all for your wonderful comments on my last post. They really cheered me up a lot. You are extremely awesome. Yes, I'm talking about you there, at your keyboard, in your leopard-print Forever Lazy.*