Obligatory New Year Post

2016 dawned cold and rainy, but it dawned. The arbitrary designation of a new year has come. Thank gods. I can’t think of a moment in 2015 where I had things under control. In the spring, money was tight because I wasn’t teaching. Then it all went to hell with death after death. Summer was crazy as Professor Furious and I worked on the same play, which is not a thing we are repeating, even though the money was nice. This fall I taught three  classes, had it confirmed that I will never be more than an adjunct here, had a kidney stone that led to the discovery of an even larger kidney stone that required outpatient hospital visit three hours from home because Small Town doesn’t have any urologists and spent the last two months in distracting amounts of pain, and made the decision to homeschool Mini because I’m back down to one class in the spring and American medical bills are no joke. I’m clinging to a clean slate with both hands.
Here’s the big plan:
Homeschool Mini and pray I don’t fuck it up.
Figure out what I really want to be doing and put my energy there.
Teach the fuck out of that one class I do have this spring.
Drink so much water.
Work on the house in anticipation of selling it because we can’t live in small town much longer.
Write more at all.

Do these pants make my parenting look bad?

I told Mini she looked cute this morning, and that she’d done a good job of picking out her outfit. And then I paused. We’re not supposed to tell them they’re cute anymore, right? Because we don’t want our girls to grow up thinking only their looks have value? But then I thought of all the other things I’ve told her in the last day or so: That I was proud of her for getting a 100 on her spelling test. (And that maybe we should ask about harder words. Pointlessly, since she can usually spell something perfectly once she’s seen it written.) I told her she’s hilarious. Odds are good I called her a drama princess. (Not a day goes by without a pratfall from this kid. She did her first spit take last week.) We’ve talked about the kind of scientist she wants to be, and if she was ready to start guitar lessons up again. (Her teacher found a full time job and isn’t doing lessons anymore. Small Town does not have a lot of guitar teachers in it, and the ones I’ve heard of don’t take kids her age.)

I told her I liked her outfit because of an argument we had early this week, while getting ready for school. We hadn’t picked out her clothes the night before, so I had to trust her judgement while I made her lunch. Always a hit or miss prospect. That day was a miss. A really cute watercolor-y floral chiffon top all flowy and girly, and camo print basketball shorts. All the important bits were covered. The shorts came from the “boys” section, so they went down to her knees instead of barely covering her butt. The shirt wasn’t sheer, and even had a little built in shrug thing. But I couldn’t do it. I pulled out the leggings that actually came with the shirt and a regular tshirt.

“You can change the shorts or you can change the shirt,” I said.

Mini threw herself to the floor screaming, “WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY?” in a way that would put Shatner to shame.

So, you know, how most of our conversations go when I ask her to do something. Eventually, she changed into the leggings. And that’s why I think it’s important for me, as her mother, to tell her when she’s cute, when she picked out a good outfit. She has to learn about picking out clothes that are appropriate. And sure, chiffon and camo are probably perfectly fine for Montessori. But someday she won’t be there. Someday she’ll be trying to figure out what the fuck business casual means. She’ll be trying to pick something out for a dinner, or a date, or just to hang out with her friends at the mall. That should not be a painful or difficult choice. This is why I fought for her right to not wear a uniform. We don’t live in some dystopian military society, not yet. Picking out clothing is a skill, and it can be a hard one to learn. (Especially for girls, given the higher expectations for them when it comes to fashion.) So yes, I’ll tell her she looks cute, but that’s not all.

I hate not having the right words. It feels like a personal failing as a writer. Like why did I go into debt with that MFA if shit goes down and I can only stand there thinking “Oh fuck.” But that’s where the last couple of months have left me.

It started with Professor Furious working on a fairly demanding show. In addition to being in charge of the build, he was doing the set and lighting design. Nothing terribly unsual around here, really. I’m used to it at this point. I miss him when shows go into tech, but I know that it will eventually close and things reset. My parents were beginning their move to Small Town from Hawaii, anyway, and so I made plans to drive back home with Mini and my mom for spring break. Professor would be in the midst of the worst of the crunch, and I generally make it a policy to straight up get us out of his hair come tech week if I can. But then my aunt Noemi, who is essentially my second mother, took a fall and went into the hospital. So I pulled Mini out of school the week before spring break, and we rushed home as soon as we could. Here’s the thing, Noemi has always been the active one. I don’t necessarily mean like hiking and sporty stuff, but fiercely independent and lived for her work and her nieces and nephews. Maybe not the active one, the feisty one. She was 75 and demanding her laptop so she could work from her hospital bed.

WordPress tells me I started this two months ago. I don’t want to go into the whole hospital and then hospice thing. I don’t want to tell the whole story, but I don’t know how not to tell the whole story. But it was hard, and it was terrible. Dad finally flew in the Friday of Spring Break. I think Mini and I drove back on Sunday. A nine hour drive, just me and the six year old. We got stuck in traffic on I10 for an hour, though, so more like ten, thanks to a pretty terrible looking accident. And as we got closer to home, in the dark, in the nearly middle of nowhere, I saw flashing lights ahead, and assumed the troopers had nailed someone speeding to or from Spring Break. But no, it was a really fancy looking rv that had burned out on the side of the road. There were no more flames, just a charred frame on the back three-quarters only illuminated by the still flashing lights of the cruisers and fire trucks and road flares.

We got home and I realized our eight year old cat, Bentley, didn’t look great and smelled terrible. I thought it was his teeth bothering him. Professor Furious was only home to sleep, usually at midnight or later, thanks to the show, so he hadn’t noticed. We talked about the possibility of needing to pull some of his teeth and how much that would cost and how we’d do it anyway because we loved him.

Mom and Dad came a day or two later. We talked about Mimi and I said I didn’t think it would be a week. I think it was Wednesday that we got the call that it wouldn’t be long, about ten thirty or eleven at night. So we decided to just go. I hadn’t even unpacked yet, so I threw in clean underwear and I thought funeral clothes, but apparently I grabbed them and put them down again somewhere, because they were nowhere to be found when we got to my brother’s house. I still don’t know where they are. We drove and drove, it was so late and we were exahusted. I told the Professor what was happening via text message, because he was at work and it was midnight and we couldn’t wait for him any longer. And the call came a while later, after I had switched off driving duties with my mom. The sun finally came up, and my dad could drive, and before we were even home, in the town that will always be home, the calls and texts from my cousins began. The usual funeral planning things.

It all went moderately terribly, since my family is the worst at communication and the best at passive aggression. And we came back to Small Town before the rosary, before the funeral. And I picked up Bentley, my living stuffed animal, who usually clocked in at about 18 pounds and it was like lifting air. He’d lost two-thirds of his body weight, and the next day the vet told me he was in severe kidney failure. His numbers were all double or triple the acceptable limits. He stayed for a few days, as they pushed fluids and hoped to flush his system. Finally we brought him home, and he held on for a week, though I didn’t see him eat that entire time. And finally we called the vet and she came and we said good bye to him here at home.

A week or so later, we found out that one of our World of Warcraft guildmates, who we’d known for ten years, had passed away. A heart attack at 46. I still expect to hear his voice on Vent or see him in guild chat. It’s easy to stay in the denial phases when you can just tell yourself he works weird hours and just hasn’t been on at the same time you are.

A couple of weeks later, at the Earth Day celebration, we saw some dogs from the shelter and decided to adopt a sweet girl who’d been at the shelter for almost two years. Our dog Dyson needed a friend. He was a Catahoula-Pit Bull mix, we think. He had that big dumb love baby head and weighed close to sixty pounds but wanted to be a lapdog, and he loved other dogs. You may have noticed the use of the past tense. Galaxy got along great with Dyson, ignored the cats, and basically needed to be within a foot of me at all times. I was her person and she was going to protect me. From everyone. Finally, after a week of her nipping at Mini -catching her on the face once, though she didnt’ even break the skin- and barking at the Professor every time he came in the room, we decided we couldn’t keep her. She was sweet and loving and loyal, but only to me. That evening Dyson managed to get the back gate open. I called and called, and there was a storm rolling in and he was scared of them so I thought of course he’d come home. Galaxy came running as soon as I stepped outside, but he didn’t. And finally we gave up and left the back gate open, but I had a feeling. Sure enough, the next morning Animal Control -run by a group of the sweetest girls you will ever meet- called. He’d been hit, and they’d picked him up about twenty minutes before I noticed the gate was open. It was right behind our house. I went to bed and didn’t leave until it was time to pick up his ashes the next day. I basically traded Galaxy for Dyson’s collar and ashes. (She’s got a potential foster home, though. I talked to them about her, and they seemed like they weren’t deterred by anything I said. I hope she makes it.)

Loss loss loss… And I haven’t been able to begin to talk about it until now. Even so, I’ve cried a good bit while writing this. But I had to. There have been other things I’ve wanted to post about: the garden we slapped together on a whim because the hardware store had a huge plant sale, finding a solution for the clothes that aren’t quite dirty but it feels weird to put away and so they live sort of on the floor next to the hampers, my new job, etc.. But I felt like I couldn’t until I said all of this. Now that I’ve said it, I can try and move on. Well, now that I’ve said it, started going to therapy, and gotten a booster perscription of anti-depressants and refilled my anti-anxiety meds. (Did I mention that perscription ran out, totally out no more refills, have to find time to go in to the doctor’s office, right before all of this happened?) Oh and a couple of weeks ago, we got these two:

20150605_190019

Makenzie and Brave Sir Robin. So expect ridiculous kitten pictures and stories.

Sometimes it’s the big things

In my last post I mentioned that I used wood leftover from building Mini’s bed. Let’s talk some more about that! Up until now she’s mostly slept in a full-sized bed that originally belonged to my great grandparents. It’s a piece of boarding house furniture that’s lasted longer than it was probably meant to. It’s been refinished a couple of times, and passed back and forth in my family quite a bit. It went from my great-grandparents in Iowa to my grandmother in Texas to my parents to Professor Furious and I in our first apartments then to Mini. It went with us to Minnesota and back. And y’all, I have to admit, it’s mostly because nobody wanted to be the person who got rid of the bed. At first I held onto it because it had been mine at Grandma’s house and it made me think of her. Now I’ve gotten to the point where I think about her in other ways, and also a chunk of one of the feet just flat fell off when we made the move to Small Town. And while a full size bed has been nice for Mini with regards to bedtime stories and cuddling when she’s sick, it takes up floor space and I wanted her to have something she chose. I don’t want her to have some ridiculous guilt about being the one to get rid of the bed when she’s in her twenties. Then, through a friend of mine, I found Ana White’s website. If you don’t know, it’s chock full of woodworking plans. Most of them fairly basic, all of them completely doable when your husband builds theatre sets for a living. And by doable I mean it’s really easy to hand him the plans and say, “This, please.”

The concept of a loft bed for Mini has been kicking around in my brain since I took her on an IKEA trip a couple of years ago and she was totally fascinated by the ones set up in the store. Y’all, we live so far away from an IKEA now. Plus I knew we could totally build one. It’s a platform that you put a mattress on. Approximately 90% of building set pieces involves building platforms. So I poked around the Ana White site and found this junior camp loft bed. Finally, over Christmas break, Professor Furious had the time to poke at the plans, order the wood, and build it. Now here is where I’d have a bunch of amazing in progress shots for you if I was a better blogger. But we were building it out at the shop, which is unheated, and it was in the 30s. I was more interested in moving fast than taking pictures. The cold did slow down the build, though, since it took the wood glue longer to cure, and also the wood got a little rained on when it got delivered. (Alas, we are still without a truck of our own.)

I probably should have made her bed before I took this, but I was so excited that it was done that I couldn't wait.

I probably should have made her bed before I took this, but I was so excited that it was done that I couldn’t wait.

As you can see, clean up wasn’t even finished (drill, lower left corner) before she started hanging out and playing in the under area. We skipped the stairs in favor of a ladder style simply to save a little time and money. I think it’s also good for her to practice her climbing skills. Adding the steps if she had too much trouble climbing up and down was totally left as a possibility, but it hasn’t been a problem. Her little cousin J might have a problem, but that’s what milk crates are for.

Fort mode!

Fort mode!

Mini has a thing for forts and “camping,” so I knew that was an aspect that would definitely be explored. I’m going to hit up the thrift stores and see if I can’t find some cheap plain white sheets. I have plans for making curtains that are a little more permanent, and also a little more fun. I’m envisioning scenes and windows, and am basically all around trying to bite off more than I can chew. It’ll be fun! 20150209_154529You can see were’s using some of the space for a toy box. My mom suggested adding shelves there, but seriously, she has enough shelves. Mini camped in here over the weekend. I think she maybe wanted an air mattress, but I was so mean and made her use our Sumo Omni instead. Now that we’re back to school nights and she has to sleep up in her bed, the Omni makes a good bedtime story spot so that I don’t have to climb up. The bed completely supports my 300 pounds (I had Professor Furious way overbuild it), but that is a narrow space for getting up there. Plus, I like forts! Right now we’re lighting it with a little headlamp, but I want to pick up some mini-lanterns or some other super cute lighting. In the end, it’s not exactly the end because we still need to paint it, but it’s up and Mini is super happy. I’m okay with calling it good where it is,. It’s built, it’s anchored to the wall, and the kiddo is not climbing into our bed nearly as often as she was before. I’m looking forward to the next project, a dining table. If you have any technical questions, comment below and I will poke the professor for answers.

Can I borrow a cup of yak milk?

Y’all, I screwed up. Not like the worst screw up ever, but it’s a dumb mistake that could have been avoided with like two minutes of thought. Mini’s class is studying Asia, and so they all had to pick a country. Of course she was out the day they picked, so her first choice of Japan went to another kid. Which, fine, whatever. She loves Japan and is fine learning about it all on her own. There are only six kids in her class, so there’s still plenty of Asia to go around. Japan, China, Russia, Turkey and India were all taken. Her teacher told me to just pick something cool with her. My heart said Thailand. My stupid stupid brain said let her do her own picking. Then, for some god awful reason, same brain steered her to towards Mongolia. What was I thinking?

I was thinking Mongolia is a really cool place with ponies, and yurts, and falconers who hunt with giant eagles. I was thinking about how there’s a like 5% chance everyone is related to Genghis Khan. I was not thinking about how these cultural appreciation lessons usually work. We have to bring in a meal from her country, or at least inspired by the food they eat, on Friday. And it turns out Mongolian beef isn’t actually Mongolian. Go figure.

Do you know what they eat in Mongolia? That’s not a rhetorical question. I really need to know. We watched the Bizarre Foods episode where he goes to Mongolia. Not super helpful. It’s all forms of milk curd and intestines and sheep head. Not a lot of dried cheese curd to be had in Small Town. Shockingly low on sheep heads as well. The internet has been less than helpful, giving me the same three dumping recipes over and over. They’re potsticker-esque, but filled with ground beef and nothing else. I’d go with those, except for the part where I have made potstickers before and oh man is it tedious. The lazier bit of me is thinking of a cheese plate with some crackers and cured meat of some kind. You know, really lay on the “inspired by” wording of the assignment. Add some pickled veggies, because apparently a lot of their vegetables are pickled due to the whole largely nomadic lifestyle thing. Or I make Mongolian beef because obviously it must have been inspired by Mongolia at some point, right?

This is a difficult parenting impasse. Basically I can do something authentic, something “inspired” by, or something that I know is utter Western bullshit but is easy. How much does it matter? I’m doing the research and cooking here, not Mini. Okay, not entirely true, she watched Bizarre Foods with me, and then sat on my lap while I googled Mongolian recipes. But there isn’t exactly a grade on the line here. (Yay Montessori schools!) I don’t know what we’re going to do, but I pretty much have to decide tonight. I have learned one thing though: never listen to my brain.

Sometimes it’s the little things

It’s been a while! I had a Halloween post started, and then WordPress ate it, and then I got discouraged, and then Thanksgiving was ridiculous, and winter break was moreso, and the weather said nope to all my outside plans, and I have little things I’ve been doing, but nothing major, and here we are. I’m not teaching this semester, which means our budget is quite a bit tighter than I’d like. But I’m still trying to make changes that make things better.

One of the things I love about our house, that absolutely sold me on it, is our storage, especially the storage in our kitchen. Our last house was a rental and sort of a cookie cutter budget deal. (Literally, I knew a few people who had our exact house. And you could tell from the front that there were several more of it in our neighborhood.) The kitchen was set up weirdly and had about four square feet of counter space. So you can imagine what the storage situation was like. We unpacked the bare essentials and left everything else in boxes in the garage for the year we were there. But this house. Oh I love my house. Our kitchen isn’t the biggest ever, but we have counter space. And the cabinets! So many cabinets! We’ve unpacked everything and we have *multiple* empty cabinets. The mixing bowls aren’t even nested, each one has its own spot. But there’s always something, isn’t there?

We’ve got a drawer full of spices, but the bigger canisters live in cabinet. A cabinet where they fall on my head when I’m rummaging for the thing I need that is always at the very back of the shelf. So what’s a mostly broke Pinterest-loving girl to do? We just built Mini a new bed (another post! Soon!), and there were some leftover bits of wood.

20150123_155633I snagged a couple of pieces of 2×4 that are about 22 inches long. I had some contact paper kicking around from an old project, and so I decided to go ahead and use that the cover the boards. Why 22 inches? That’s how long they were and it happened to fit pretty well. Now a word about contact paper: it’s a pain in the ass. I got this one because I liked the pattern, but also because it said it’s repositionable. The repositionable part comes from the adhesive not being so sticky. The problem is, they made it too much less sticky and it comes up a lot. Super annoying and I probably won’t go that route again. I cut enough to wrap each board like a present, and then secured each seam with a piece of tape. Seriously, they sat on the counter for two minutes while I emptied the cabinet and it started coming off.

So here’s where the clever part comes in, you stand one board up so it’s tall and then set the other board so it’s not so tall for stair steppy tiers. I have no idea where I first saw this. It’s probably been on Pinterest a hundred times. Hell, I may have read it in a Helpful Hints from Heloise column when I was Mini’s age. (I spent a lot of time at my grandmother’s house where there were two volumes of fairy tales, a copy of Tom Sawyer, and lots of Reader’s Digest and Good Housekeeping. I was probably the only eight year old to read Erma Bombeck’s books. Sometimes I say things like this and then realize things about my personality make more sense.) So anyway here’s the in-progress, just so you can see the board placement:

So very exciting, I know.

So very exciting, I know.

These are all our taller bottles the little teeny ones live in the drawer along with the odd-shaped stuff, extra ramen seasoning packets, and Pizza Hut parmesan and red pepper flake packets. But the problem is some of the taller things are a lot taller.20150123_162504So even with the extra height it was hard to tell what was what for the stuff in the back. I used a fine tip silver paint pen to label the spices with black lids, and red Sharpie for the rest. Yes, you can see the labels for the chili powder and comino, but I don’t know what will eventually be shuffled where, so I went ahead and labelled them. They say open because we have multiple jars of both of those, so I can tell easily which I need to grab. Why do we have multiples? Our grocery store has cruddy selection when it comes to spices and also doesn’t carry Fiesta, so when we make the two-hour trek to HEB, we stock up. And yes, we do go through them fairly quickly.

Would all of this be better with fancy uniform spice bottles? Sure. But fancy uniform things cost money, and I already had everything here on hand. Was it worth it to go to the trouble of covering the boards with contact paper? Maybe not, since you can’t really see it. I like knowing it’s there, but definitely not something I would have bought specifically for this project. All in all, it was free(ish), and took me about ten minutes. Now when I open the door I won’t have things falling on my head, and it looks a lot nicer. It’s not the biggest thing ever, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth doing. I think that’s something I need to work on keeping in mind with regards to the house. There are big expensive things we really want to do, but that doesn’t mean we should knock out the easy little things.

Backyard Progress

When we moved in the backyard was pretty sad. So was the front yard, actually. They were both pretty dead looking. Then the rains came. And kept coming. My understanding is that we had an extended rainy season this year. Unfortunately, this means that since about the only things growing in our yard were weeds, those’re what went wild.

Also pictured, the mini fence inside the yard.

The stone building just on the other side of the fence is a church. You might think that would do something about the amount of cursing I did while pulling weeds. It didn’t, but I felt a little guilty. (Mostly because across the street from the church is our high school, and I could hear kids outside while I was working.)

The bulk of what you’re seeing here are goatheads and tumbleweeds. We don’t have a mower yet, so things got quite out of hand. I picked up a weeding hoe, thinking I could at least get rid of some of the goatheads before we got someone to come in and take care of the rest of it. Two horrible days later I had only managed to clear a 10′ by 20′ bit of the yard that really didn’t have much on it. So we called in help. Thank gods. Not only did they mow, but they also took out all the dead trees. (Four of them, three of which were unnervingly close to the house.) And they cut the trees down into firewood. All well worth it and done in a fraction of the time it would have taken us.

Mini has been wanting to play soccer in the yard. We can finally say yes without worrying about what's lurking out there.

Mini has been wanting to play soccer in the yard. We can finally say yes without worrying about what’s lurking out there.

We still need to grab some burlap or carpet scraps to drag over the yard to pick up as many burrs as possible. Hopefully it will cut down on a resurgence of goatheads. What will also help will be putting in some ground cover of some sort, either grass or maybe a clover. Goatheads don’t do well with competition, so if we can get something else to take hold that’ll be great.

Now that it’s mowed, and with the benefit of the weather getting cooler, we can start working on the things that need doing. Building raised beds are fairly high on the list. We’ve got a ton of shade on the east side of the house, thanks to a well established shade tree in our neighbor’s yard. There’ll be one bed there for more delicate things that won’t handle the height of desert summer so well. Then, on the west side, we’ll do a bed or two for things that need more sun.

Also on the list is a firepit. Nothing better than a fire under the stars. Of course, that means picking up some seating for around said firepit. Mini wants us to build her a ninja fort. We’ll probably go full swingset while we’re at it. That girl loves to swing. The fence is… well, the previous owner replaced some sections of it right before we bought it, but really the whole thing needs replacing. It’s all rickety and the gates are all in fairly terrible shape. Fortunately, the worst one is on the smallest section. I’m hoping it won’t be too difficult to replace. And then we need to walk the whole fence and look for any low bits, and possibly just put hardware cloth all the way around. Small Town doesn’t have a lot in the way of traffic, but we do live on a relatively busy street, and just where people feel comfortable starting to go faster than they would more in town. I want the yard as puppy safe as possible.

There’s a lot to be done, but at least now it all feels like it can be done.

Dressers are Hard

House projects were all on hold this week, as both Professor Furious and I came down with Campus Crud. Please don’t go to school/work sick. This is not elementary school, you do not get a pizza party for your perfect attendance. You just get cursed for your germ spreading ways. Happily, my apathy towards perfect attendance means that I slept it off and bounced back pretty quick, as did the Professor. A couple of years ago I got pneumonia sort of out of the blue in the middle of summer, and my lungs still don’t feel like they’ve recovered completely. If I get sick and don’t take care of it, it very easily becomes a thing of the sort that requires antibiotic shots in my butt. Shots in my butt are my least favorite kind of shots. (Most favorite? Tequila.) So hell yes I am cancelling class and sleeping for two days because I feel a bit sniffly. Ounce of prevention > pound of cure.

(Mini Furious didn’t even sneeze once. Everyone assured me she’d always be deathly ill once she started going to school because she hadn’t been exposed to infection factory that is daycare. Child has been sick about five times in her life. Either she is a mutant, or being exposed to terrible illnesses as a very tiny child is not as good for kids as most people think it is.)

But we’re better now. Which means I can start tackling the things that need doing. Fairly top of the list is buying a dresser. Dressers are expensive, y’all. And surprisingly hard to find. The Craigslist for our area is pretty worthless, as, for some reason, it’s full of listings from Houston. Which is on the other side of the state. Sometimes there’s one from San Antonio, which is only 5 hours or so away. I’ve joined the relevant garage sale groups on Facebook, but still a lack. The thrift stores haven’t had any in. I looked at new ones online, but I feel like a bit of a failure for paying more than about ten dollars for a dresser. It seems like every home blogger I follow is always all, “Look at this fantastic midcentury modern piece I found. Nobody knew what it was, so I got it for a song.” Maybe I’m a bad thrifter. I know a lot of it is patience. And I’m bad at that. In this case, my lack of patience mostly comes from a place of being tired of not being able to put away half of my clothes. Putting things “away” in a laundry basket is getting frustrating. I’m about to drive the hour up to Walmart and buy whatever they happen to have on the shelf.

But it’s not just about feeling like a bad thrifter. It’s feeling like a bad poor person. We spent the last four years on SNAP benefits, aka food stamps. Money has been stupid tight for so long I feel like I should just live with my clothes folded in a laundry basket forever. Eighty dollars on a particleboard set of drawers from Walmart? I can pay bills with that! Or buy groceries. Or not be selfish by buying a thing for myself and buy something for Mini Furious instead. Plus there’s the gas money to even get to Walmart. I’m used to thinking in terms of any trip outside of our normal routine means a big dent in our budget because that’s extra gas money. Gas is for going to work and school, and I have to make sure my grocery trips coincide with one of those things, because making a special trip in the middle of the day is a frivolous waste of gas. Everything that isn’t food and shelter is an unnecessary waste of money. Clothes for myself are a waste, because up to this point I’ve worked from home and as long as I didn’t look too terrible when I took Mini to school, then it was fine. One pair of pants is fine. My tshirts are mostly older than my kid, but they don’t have too many holes, so it’s okay. Clothes without holes are for people who aren’t on food stamps. That’s what society tells me. That’s what people who are my friends tell me when they post things on Facebook about how entitled poor people are. (But of course they tell me I’m different. I’m not like those other poor people.)

Now I can buy groceries without worrying that someone will notice I’m using an EBT card (food stamps work off of a debit card style system now. If you see someone using paper check things, they are on WIC, which has ridiculously precise restrictions on what can and can’t be bought. Extremely stressful to use, and so even though we qualified, I usually didn’t bother with them.), and judge what I’ve got in my cart. The defenses are always at the top of my mind. I know I got too many fresh veggies; I should have grabbed frozen, but I hate the texture and won’t eat them, except for frozen corn. It’s my kid’s birthday, that’s why I’ve got cake mix and frosting and ice cream. We ate a lot of ramen and lentils last week so we could afford steak as a special anniversary dinner this week. I haven’t eaten yet  today and so I grabbed a candy bar to eat before I pick up my kid so I don’t yell at her because I’m hungry and it’s making me angry. Let me explain. I’m a good poor person. But I’m not a poor person anymore. I get to be a person. But that mindset is really hard to shake. That lack of self-esteem is hard to shake. I have money now, but what if I don’t later? What if I buy something nice now, and then later we lose our jobs, and then we’ll have spent that money AND people will see we have something nice and will be angry at us for buying it. “How can they have a phone like that AND be on food stamps?” “You dress too well to be on food stamps.”

So I’ll keep using a laundry basket instead of a dresser until I feel like I deserve drawers, even though it’s something that frustrates me every time I walk into my bedroom. Because in my mind I’m not quite a person yet. And I will never let go of those defenses for the checkout aisle. I may not need them, but somebody else will. I will forever be there to stand up for the person with the EBT card. Because they are a person, no matter what society has to say. I should know, I’m a person now, too.

Master Bath Mini-Update

Ultimately, there will be a major update coming, but this is my attempt at making the shower in our room usable. Our house was built in ’79, so there are a few quirks. (To be honest, every house we looked at here in Small Town ranged from quirky to “was there an actual architect involved? Or did you base this off of a really cool LEGO house you built when you were five?”) One of those quirks is the so-called master bathroom. There’s a large double vanity offset from the main bedroom, and then there is a pocket door leading into a … well, you know how bathrooms used to be water closets? I think I’m getting a clearer picture of why. Actually, our closet is bigger than this. We’ve got a shower stall and a toilet. If you’re tall, you can comfortably prop your feet on the lip of the shower while you’re on the toilet. I think. I’m not tall, so I can’t say if this is true or just conjecture on my part. I have a lot of ideas about the amazing things tall people can do. At any rate, have a before picture.

Claustrophobia? Claustrotastic!

Claustrophobia? Claustrotastic!

I tried my best. The room isn’t actually big enough to take a picture of the shower. Where to start… You may notice the handheld showerhead drapped elegantly on the floor, drawing the eye to the ground-in dirt, rust stains, and mildew. The showerhead isn’t on the floor solely to serve some eyedrawing purpose, though. It’s there because it dripped and I was slowly being driven mad. This didn’t cause any inconvenience when using it, though, because we didn’t. Or rather, I did once, and that’s when I discovered it sprayed water from every crevice in it except the ones it was supposed to. That aside, note that this drippy, ineffective mess is nicely framed by a shower door frame, but lacking the actual door. Clearly something had to be done. If only because I was tired of The Professor and Mini arguing over her bathroom in the morning.

Step one was to remove the showerhead. Not because it needed to come out first, but it was the easiest part. I like an easy win. Makes me feel productive. Then I tackled the door frame. I had an inkling that all I needed to do was run a utility knife around it, and then pop it out. Professor Furious was doubtful, but I took to the internet and this tutorial from Apartment Therapy backed up my theory. And then I was off to the hardware store for supplies.

Weapons of minor destruction.

Weapons of minor destruction.

It was a fairly straightforward process. We popped the top rail off. (Professor Furious kept stepping in to help, even though he was supposed to be working on something else. My only complaint was I had our little sledgehammer on hand, just in case, and I didn’t get to use it.) I ran the knife through the silicon caulk holding the frame to the wall. I’d like to note here that unlike the frame in the Apartment Therapy link, mine didn’t have visible screws. The side supports were totally enclosed in aluminum. Despite finger crossing, this did not mean mine wasn’t held to the wall by screws. In a technical sense that there were screws and they went into the tile, I mean. They weren’t anchored, and I was able to get most of them to pop right out, just by pulling on them. The Professor finally managed to pop off the aluminum bit covering them on the second support, but again with the screws sliding right out. The sides were also screwed into the bottom rail, but I’m not sure that we needed to unscrew them. The bottom rail was the one that gave us trouble. I think it was put on with construction adhesive, and it’s was *under* the rail, so I couldn’t get at it effectively with my knife. I was going to use the mini-sledge to try knocking it out, but before I could, The Professor slotted the side rails back on, and pulled them towards him, levering the rail off. Physics, a sledgehammer… go with what works for you.

I wanted to get a picture of the gunk left behind, but my camera (and by camera, I mean phone) rebelled, and I wound up with a picture of my knee. Seriously, I do not know what happened. But go ahead and imagine just years and years of gunk and terribleness. Most of it came up with the razorblade. I’m going to use the caulk remover on the rest. This hasn’t happened yet, because I’m feeling a bit demoralized about the cleaning aspect, and because the razorblade too off the remnants on the sides so well that I haven’t opened it yet. We got the new showerhead and our old shower curtain up, and huzzah! Usable shower.

2014-09-12 14.23.51

Functional! I’m calling it a win.

Note that I didn’t go for another handheld showerhead. The stall is small enough without the hose for one hanging into my personal space. Also, I didn’t put up my pretty curtain, just the clear liner. I want as much light coming into this little cave as possible. Plus, I can see homicidal killers coming. I mentioned being demoralized about the cleaning. Y’all, this shower is not going to come clean. I tried this stuff my mom loves called Krud Kutter. Nothing happened. I tried a paste of borax, washing soda, OxyClean, and Dawn, that I globbed on and let set. Then I scrubbed and scrubbed it. A slight lightening on some of the less tenacious dirt happened. My next step is CLR, but that stuff is extremely chemically considering I’m more of the “Let me tell you how to clean your whole house with vinegar and baking soda!” type. I think I’m calling it a draw. We’re getting estimates to renovate the bathroom. Basically, I want to pull out the shower, bump the wall out a bit and put in a proper soaking tub and shower. I’d also like to make it so the sink is actually in the bathroom. It’s all quite a ways off, but it’s my plan and I’m clinging to it.

Tiny Flowers

I had a post planned about the little updates we’ve been making on our “master bathroom,” but it’s not done yet. I’m down to the pain in the ass cleaning bits, and I think I’m going to have to pick up some CLR. I’m giving borax and washing soda paste a shot first, though. So that’s coming. And you’ll see why I used the sarcasm quotes up there. Here’s a hint: claustrophobia.

We’re planning on working on the yard this weekend. Ideally, we want to have it dog friendly by Christmas. Child friendly would also be good. Mini Furious is making friends, and I feel like there will be children running around here before I know it. Right now, our backyard is overrun with goat head burrs. Also known as puncture vine. Also known as Satan is real and invented half the things in West Texas. These things can potentially flatten a car tire. They definitely flatten bike tires. They go right through shoe soles. The burrs, which are also the seeds, can lie dormant for twenty years. The recommended method for dealing with them is a flamethrower. However, there is a burn ban in effect, and I don’t want to be the one to accidentally set West Texas on fire. This is a serious thing. Wild fires out here can be nasty and spread ridiculously quickly. It would probably be okay, but I don’t want to take that chance. So this weekend is gloves and pulling weeds and probably profuse cursing. At least we’re supposed to be getting a cool front, so it shouldn’t be too hot. And the tumbleweeds, which are the other thing growing in our yard, haven’t dried out yet, so their thorns aren’t too poky.

Until then, have a picture of the one decent growing thing we have: some little desert roses in a planter box by our back door. I’m actually sort of proud that not only are they blooming, but they seem to be filling out. Plants and I don’t usually mix well, so this is a big step!

Arty enough?

I got a new phone, which pretty much means I got a new camera. Be prepared for lots of artistic vision.

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