Cleaning my house makes me appreciate the things I like

I spent Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday cleaning my house. This is not an exaggeration. The only time I didn’t spend cleaning was the hour I spent at Target being emotionally abused by my children. My house looks amazing today, but the whole cleaning bonanza had the unfortunately side effect of me being psychotic toward my kids about messes. “DO I SEE PUMPKIN MUFFIN CRUMBS ON THE FLOOR?” “WHY ARE THERE DROPS OF WATER ON THE TABLE?” “LEAVE YOUR SHOES OUTSIDE.”

I drew the line at forcing them to pee in the yard, but after installing a new toilet seat, I’m still considering it. Somehow, magically, neither boy pees on the seat. It Wasn’t Me pees on the seat a lot though, and he is on my last nerve. Once you unscrew an ancient screw that’s full of crystallized urine, you develop a new, deeper hatred for urine streams.

Anyway, all the cleaning — which included going through closets and cabinets and drawers and shelves — gave me a newfound appreciation for some of the things I like a lot lately.  So here they are, in no particular order. Anything you can buy on Amazon is an affiliate link because I like getting $10 gift cards four times a year. I use them to buy dog food.


Davines Love Curl shampoo. It’s an Italian brand it smells so good. My hairdresser recently jumped ship from Aveda and her new salon uses Davines and I literally squeed at her about it and she was shocked I even knew about the brand. Obscure, but awesome. (Amazon, $24)


Sugarbooger lunch box. I ordered this for my older son and he said it was “for babies” so he traded it with his little brother for what I thought was actually a much more babyish lunch box, but whatever. It’s so cute and huge so it fits those plastic containers that hold a sandwich and two sides. (Amazon, $17)


These shoes. They were $24 when I got them. I bought them in black after I wore the brown ones all over Chicago. I walked for about 7 miles in them. Perfect little heel for tall girls. (6pm, $43)


Method fall soap. Why are fall soap lines out in July? I do not know. But I love this one. It smells like a hug from a freshly washed man. I got mine at Target. (Method, $4)


This nail polish. Which appears to be on sale. Essie’s Mint Candy Apple is such a cute summer shade. I think it wears well with basically everything ever. It’s bright without being neon. (Amazon, $6)

Interview with a 3-year-old

Haven’t done this in a couple of years.

What is something I always say to you?

“I don’t know. I love you?”

What makes me happy?

“Cuddling with me.”

What makes me sad?

“I don’t know. Mama. I do not know.”

How do I make you laugh?

“Tickling me.”

What do you think I was like as a child?


How old am I?

“I’ll give you a little number if you say that. Twelve.”

How tall am I?

“Really tall?”

What is my favorite thing to do?

“Cuddle with me?”

What do I do when you’re not around?

“Eat things with Auntie Meagn sometimes?”

If I become famous, what will it be for?

“For getting one million zillion dollars. I don’t know if that’s a number.”

What am I really good at?


What am I not really good at?

“Do you mean what I’m not very good at because I don’t know what you’re not really good at. I am not very good at sleeping.”

What is my job?

“To work.”

What is my favorite food?

“Can it be linguiça? That is my favorite too. Is that your favorite, Mama? What’s your favorite?”

What makes you proud of me?

“If you go to the gym. When you work. I mean when you exercise. Cause you do hard work, you know? I like when people do hard work.”

What makes me proud of you?

“When I clean my room.”

What do you and I do together?

“Again. Cuddle.”

How are we the same?

“Cause we have the same skin. The same color skin.”

How are you and I different?

“Cause you’re big and I’m little.”

How do you know that I love you?

“Cause I’m your kid.”

What is one thing you wish you could change about me?

“If we could be superheroes.”

What do you wish you could go and do with me?

“How about go to the ice cream place and have ice cream every single day.”


dance like juvenile hipsters aren’t watching

It’s taken me my entire adult life to get to the point where I can dance unselfconsciously (and soberly) at a concert. And it’s still a struggle.

Even as a kid, I felt like my feet were leaden. I don’t have natural rhythm. I can’t twerk despite having a moderate amount of junk in my trunk. Me getting low has a geriatric sort of vibe. The electric slide is an honest to God struggle. I remember the torture of every middle school and high school dance. The medium-torture of every ska show where I wanted to skank like everyone else but I felt so stupid trying to move my feet off the ground and it was so hard to keep the beat.

4230176150_5545f79722_z(that’s not a hipster, that’s a sixth-grader who doesn’t want to dance)

When I see my kids spaz out during school plays, I understand how they feel — as if every eyeball is scrutinizing every move. As if everyone else is more limber, more talented, prettier, better at dancing.

I danced a lot in college. I had a whole routine. Straight to the bar for a couple of shots of tequila, and then a Long Island Iced Tea to hold on the dance floor. The Long Island was a crutch in more than one way. It softened the edges of my insecurities, and it gave me one less limb to worry about. I danced a lot in college because I was always shitfaced. I didn’t love being drunk, and I really didn’t love the brutal hangovers. I loved dancing. I didn’t like dancing with boys. I just wanted to move and sweat and sing and make obnoxious sign of the cross gestures to Like a Prayer. As you do.

It was pretty great.

But in my mid to late twenties, drinking started to make me really sick most of the time, and I was back to square one. Just a gawky 12-year-old girl again. The clubs around here pretty much suck, and I tend to fall asleep way before the drag shows turn into dance parties, so my dancing opportunities are relegated to shows, where I still manage to feel insecure despite generally being smooshed up against shitty dudebros (and women who are better at dancing.)

Concerts. You know when the band inevitably asks everyone to put their hands in the air? To clap, or jump or do that odd wavey-wavey thing? I still get all weird. Maybe it’s because I’m almost 5’9″ or because I’m thoroughly neurotic but even that makes me feel awkward. What do I do with my hands? Fingers straight? Fists? Probably not fists. That’s silly. A pointy finger? No. Everyone else has such graceful hands, and they’re waving like they actually don’t care and clearly I care, because my hands are penguin-ing at my sides and the song is over.


snoopyBut lately, and maybe because the past couple of years of my life have been a little on the turbulent side, I’ve finally started growing out of giving a shit. Not completely. But a little. Enough. Enough that I danced until my feet hurt through a handful of sets at a music festival yesterday. I jumped. I put my hand in the air. I tossed my hair around and moved like Snoopy and felt joyful.


guavaDuring Grouplove’s amazing set (dude, they covered Drunk in Love), my best friend and I moved out of the stifling, pot-smoking crowd and stood out in the open at the back of the pit, with several hundred people behind us in the regular seats. I knew I wasn’t hidden, but I danced anyway — until I made the mistake of looking over and caught a young girl elbowing her friends and pointing and laughing at us.

They weren’t dancing. All three of them had their phones out. They wore carefully neutral expressions.

My feet felt heavy and my skin felt prickly. I lost the beat, lost ground, felt my fingers knot up in the hem of my shirt the same way my son’s do when he’s fidgeting. It took me a whole song to get back into it, and it was the encore anyway. The next time the girl looked over, I cast her a long, deliberately, ultra bitchy look. I think the kids call it throwing shade. It was shady as fuck.

She squirmed and looked at her phone again.

As we walked out for fresh air and water after the set, I was angry. How dare this little bitch judge me for my joyful, albeit uncoordinated bouncing? Then I thought about her age, and the fact that she wasn’t dancing at all. She was 17 or 18. Maybe her feet are still heavy and the eyes behind her were too much. Or maybe she is just a juvenile hipster a-hole. Who knows. But some day she’ll be in her 30′s at a show, and I bet she’ll be having a lot more fun.

My first furniture rehab: The blue desk

I’d been making a lot of noises about crafting and snazzing up my garage and I guess my little sister caught on because for Christmas, she got me an awesome book on rehabbing furniture (amazon affiliate link ahoy). That week, I set off to our huge local Goodwill with my cousin. When I spotted a 1960s desk I saw all the potential the book had taught me to look for. We pulled the drawers out one by one to make sure they were working (clean and dove-tailed), and found a bunch of letters from the 70s and 80s inside.  (I accidentally forgot them when we left, and I’m pretty bummed about that. They included a pen pal letter from a child, bills, and a doctor’s office sign-in sheet on notebook paper.)



I haggled gently with an employee and ended up getting the desk for $30. A total steal, if you ask me. It had some bumps and light mold on the outside, and one small peeling veneer spot on a drawer, but other than that it was in awesome shape. I loaded it into the back of my car and took it home. My mom advised me to note how much time and money I’d spend on it when I mentioned how cheap it was. I didn’t, but I’d estimate it took me four weekends, a few week days, and about $160. But that included many tools I’ll use again for future projects.

To complete the desk, I did this over the span of about a month:

  • Removed all hardware
  • Washed the desk with a mold remover.
  • Glued the peeling veneer down and let it dry with a clamp.
  • Sanded the desk with an orbital sander.
  • Vacuumed the surface and drawers and wiped with a damp shop towel.
  • Drilled new holes for hardware.
  • Filled the old hardware holes with wood putty.
  • Painted the desk with a tinted primer.
  • Painted the desk with flat paint.
  • Sealed the desk with clear poly-acrylic.
  • Refreshed the legs with Danish oil.
  • Replaced the hardware with white enamel knobs.
  • Thoroughly enjoyed getting to say wood, hole and knob a lot.




The putty part was definitely the most fascinating since I had no idea what I was doing. It didn’t come out totally perfect but I don’t think you can see the holes unless you’re really looking and feeling for them. Drilling was very fun. The polyacrylic was a total nightmare and I’ll be much more careful next time I do it, especially if I’m planning on giving a piece away or selling it. The drips made me crazy. But the kids will be using the desk as a homework and busy-time desk in my home office so I really needed it decently sealed. (It could have used one or two more coats of the sealant but I rage quit the entire project at that point, threw the knobs on and carried it into my office like The Hulk.)

I was going to paper the drawers, but NOPE.


The final result is just wonderful. I couldn’t be happier with it. Every time I glance over it at it I’m thrilled with how cute it is and how cool it is that I did it all by myself. (With the assistance of a cool book, lots of blog posts on how to paint and use polyacrylic, and my best friend wandering over from next door to chatter at me while I swore about paint drips, so many paint drips, we hates them, precious.)

Stuff I used:

  • Ryobi 18-Volt Drill (the only thing I already owned)
  • Drill bits (Christmas present from my brother)
  • Ryobi orbital sander
  • A shop-vac with a brush attachment (borrowed it from my dad)
  • Shop towels
  • Painter’s tape
  • Tons of latex gloves and a plastic drop cloth
  • Fine and medium grit sanding blocks
  • Minwax Polyacrylic
  • Minwax Wood Filler
  • Valspar Ultra Paint + Primer in Sea Exposure
  • Kilz Latex tinted to close to my paint color
  • Watco Danish Oil
  • Wooster Pro synthetic brushes
  • Foam brushes
  • Small foam roller and 3 rolls
  • Plastic tray


 Finished product!


Some day I’ll take a nice picture of it!

home is where you make things

One of the most surreal days of my life was the day I spent packing up all of my then-husband’s belongings and divvying up our kitchen and bathroom stuff. He had just moved out and we knew he wouldn’t be coming back and it felt good to do something, to grab onto that small bit of control I still had. I worked in silence, filling giant storage bins and packing suitcases and making neat piles of clothes. It sucked.

But it also made all this room in my house. And once I was cleaning and organizing for myself, and no longer feeling like someone’s maid, it started to feel a lot nicer to keep my house tidy. I started liking it. (Not dishes or folding or floors though — I still solidly hate those chores.) The de-cluttering and organizing and redecorating, though. That felt so good. Like massaging my own brain. When my anxiety was reaching near-crippling levels during the early divorce stages, cleaning was one of the only activities I found calming.

Then something happened. Actually, nothing happened. I don’t know what tipped the scales or inspired me but I started feeling compelled to make things. And not just stress-hats knit in a frenzy while watching MTV.

I started baking again. I cleaned my garage. I bought new cans of spray paint. I decorated some shitty furniture on the dog-porch so it didn’t look so much like a dog-porch. This escalated little by little, until a friend said to me in a text that I should probably stop saying I’m not crafty. She was right! I’ve become… crafty. I might not spend a lot of time embellishing things with glitter or scrapbooking, but I’ve begun to love using my hands to make things. I made tons of Christmas ornaments. I made an awesome display for photos. I built a planter out of a pallet. I stained a pallet for wall art (but haven’t decided on the art yet.)  I hung a light fixture. I painted picture frames. I installed step stones in my side yard and helped my best friend lay a flower bed between our houses. I installed a curtain wire for photos. I rehabbed an old curio cabinet. I rehabbed a 1970′s desk.

I made things.

My garage is my happy place. My brother and dad have helped me get shelves installed. I have a shop light. I bought an old workbench on Craigslist. My tools are on pegboard. It’s pretty neat.

The other day a friend of a friend asked me why I had a workbench in my garage. I kind of sputtered because I wasn’t sure why he was asking. Was it surprising that a woman would have a workbench? Do I not look handy? I said something awkward about “furniture is fun” but what I meant is that I like making shit, man. It feels good. And not just because of the paint fumes.

wall_art photo_hanger ornament pallet garage photo_frame_art hippo_frames frames planter curio_after

New Year’s Quiz 2013

Six years doing this year-end recap thanks to Sundry’s inspiration! I’m purposefully not reading last year’s because I cringe just thinking about the enormously screwed up headspace I was in.

Let’s do this thing. With bonus gifs because I do what I want, Thor.

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?

I got divorced!


It was official in April, but I’d been on my own since the first week of November, 2012. I can’t say that the process itself was fun, but I can say that it was necessary and ultimately the best possible solution for every party involved. It took a while for me to believe that it was the best thing for the kids, because hurting your own children — even when it’s not your fault —is the worst feeling ever. But as I healed and became a better me, a more present me, I knew it was the best thing for them. And they love the time they spend with their dad. I can’t speak for him, but I think he’s also able to be more present with them when they’re with him now.

I quit drinking coffee too. Not recommended. Unless you have insomnia and anxiety, in which case, highly recommended!

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?


I think my resolution was probably to write more, in which case, nope. I haven’t blogged much and I almost finished revising my manuscript in the early fall and then dropped it yet again. This time I’m much closer to being done though, so maybe I will get the damn thing finished this year so I can do something with it other than agonize about how much I hate writing a book.



This year I just want to keep being the best me I can be. And that sounds like a nursery rhyme but I mean it. Basic health stuff, you know? Checking in with myself emotionally. Working out with a little bit of frequency. Eating better than I do right now would be nice. Continuing to go to bed at a decent time will keep helping. Dating dudes would also be a plus. I miss me some dudes.

And maybe I should recognize that while I’m not writing fiction or attending to my blog, I am researching and writing dozens of articles a month and supporting my family doing so. Which is a thing.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

One of my dear college friends had a baby this fall and I got to hold him yesterday. Man, babies. They’re cute.

4. Did anyone close to you die?


5. What countries did you visit?

I didn’t visit any countries, but I did visit NYC. Which is like visiting a lot of countries.

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?

A social life. Considering I got a nervous tummy flutter just typing that, it’s definitely time that I worked on filing down that jagged edge of social anxiety.

7. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

April was a suckfest of having my wisdom teeth out and getting the divorce finalized.
September was a suckfest of getting the flu and that ulcer thing.

December was glorious with super fun family travel and an exceptionally nice Christmas.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

My biggest achievement was moving out of surviving mode into living mode. I think anyone who has gone through a traumatic life event can relate to this. At some point I stopped measuring my success. I stopped counting how many hours I’d gone without crying. I stopped counting how many days I’d gone without having a panic attack.

I started enjoying my days and the tidal rhythm of life.

Considering where I started, this is a huge achievement and I’m really happy to be where I am right now.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Screw this question. I FAIL AT NOTHING.

I did go visit friends while accidentally wearing two different shoes yesterday though. Which wasn’t so much failing as just being me.


10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I had a pretty iffy year, health-wise, though nothing was super devastating. I had a couple of sinus infections, strep throat, my wisdom teeth out, my ovarian cysts acted up (and are currently back, sigh) and I had that whole fun times endoscopy and ER visits on top of the flu. I feel good right now though, despite the ovary pain, and I hope that being more physically fit and less ultra stressed out will help me continue to be healthier in 2014.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

In the spring, we adopted Loki, a six-month-old terrier mix. I think he’s a Jack-a-poo (Jack Russel Poodle mix.) Ollie is so happy to have a little brother and they play together so well. I love seeing them run crazy circles around the big back yard. They cuddle together on their bed and major cuteness makes up for the fact that Loki is a major barkmonster.


I also got a memory foam mattress topper in the fall. Holy shit, you guys. It improved my neck pain and sleep so much. Every single time I get into bed I’m like THIS IS THE BEST BED EVER. It’s so great.


12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

My kids have adapted so well to their new lifestyle. I’m just so proud of them both. Single parenting is challenging, but their companionship this year has enriched my life in ways I couldn’t imagine. They’re such cool dudes and they’ve really rolled with everything our lives have thrown at them.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

This is such a loaded question. I try not to let other people’s behavior depress me if I can manage that. Meh.

Almost everyone on House Hunters is appalling.

A few choice menfolks on have been appalling as well. I’m looking at you, 23-year-old dude who told me he was into “mature women.”


14. Where did most of your money go?

Rent, utilities, health insurance. (COBRA is not my best friend.)

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

  • Bulleted lists.
  • Obamacare.
  • Yardwork.
  • Organizing my garage and tools.
  • Sex.
  • Spray paint.
  • Crafting.
  • Going to NYC with my oldest son and my best friend.
  • Seeing Pink with my mom.
  • My best friend moving next door. Like, directly next door.
  • Twitter pals.
  • Riding SheiKra at Busch Gardens.
  • My mattress topper.
  • Nail polish. (I stopped biting my nails! Mostly!)
  • Makeup.
  • Hockey hockey hockey.

16. What song will always remind you of 2012?

Roar, by Katy Perry. Shhh.


17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

  • happier or sadder? Happier
  • thinner or fatter? The same? I guess, but my pants are saggy cause Barre3 actually did reshape my “seat” apparently.
  • richer or poorer? Poorer

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

[Edited to add: Reading.]

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Worrying. But I think I’m getting better at this, in baby steps.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

I spent Christmas with my parents and siblings and kids and cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents. I’m not religious and I don’t drop the B word often but I am truly so blessed to have the family that I have and the opportunity to raise my kids with so much help.

21. Did you fall in love in 2012?


22. What was your favorite TV program?

I got rid of cable this fall, so I’ve been watching way less TV. But I enjoy American Horror Story: Coven, Game of Thrones, Top Chef and Teen Wolf. I also watched approximately 340 episodes of House Hunters. I find it so soothing and hilarious.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Nope. I teach my children that hate is a bad word and I really try not to cultivate anything that even feels close to hate, because dude.


24. What was the best book you read?

I am really embarrassed at how little I’ve read this year. I can’t even think of something I’d list as the best book I’ve read this year. Maybe I should hastily add a New Year’s Resolution or two.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I don’t think I really had any big musical discoveries in 2013, but I really enjoyed seeing Fitz and the Tantrums and Two Door Cinema Club at the Coastline Music Festival.

26. What did you want and get?

Some grownup fun times. As brief as that stint was, it was, uh, restorative.


27. What did you want and not get?

Financial stability — which isn’t really something you get when you’re a full time freelancer. That being said, being enrolled under the Affordable Care Act will really help me keep my family’s finances and health costs more predictable. I’m insanely grateful for the opportunity to get affordable, comprehensive health care.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

I hardly ever go to the movies. I feel like there must have been some things I liked but nothing is coming to mind. I recently liked The Hobbit and Frozen.

I’m a little concerned that I can’t think of any other movies I saw this year.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 33 and I can’t remember what I did, so I assume it was nothing.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

This is another goofy question. You could answer it with anything. An endless supply of pear Jelly Bellies! A portal to travel through space and time! Nine billion dollars! Nothing reasonable would make life immeasurably more satisfying.

And the things you think you want aren’t without complications of their own.

I’m satisfied with my life right now.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?

Same old jeans and tank tops for the most part. But I’ve been wearing makeup more often and I do my hair once in a while. I’m so happy it’s finally long. Please no one ever let me cut it all off again.

32. What kept you sane?

  • My mom.
  • My friends.
  • Snacks.
  • My therapist.
  • Getting things in the mail.
  • Texting and instant messaging with my lady friends.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Jeez probably still Dylan O’Brien. Tom Hiddleston is a close second though.


34. What political issue stirred you the most?

Gay marriage, women’s reproductive rights.

35. Who did you miss?

I don’t miss the individual I was married to, but there are many times that I miss the life I thought I’d be leading.


When my kids come home from school with cute drawings or behavior notes, I want to turn to my co-parent and share the ups and downs of the children we made. That kind of stuff.

I miss the casual intimacy of love and the comfort of companionship. But I’ve missed those things for so long that it’s not a stabbing ache as much as a reminder that love is not impossible and the future is very unknown.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

They aren’t new people but I’m incredibly grateful for the team of women I work with. My editors are brilliant and compassionate and I wish I could teleport to meet them and work alongside them. I love the freedom of my freelance schedule but I miss a good old-fashioned in-person brainstorm or a long lunch on a Friday.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.

Having jumper cables is not the same as knowing how jumper cables work.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

It’s a little heavy-handed on paper, but I love the Lumineer’s lyric, “It’s better to feel pain than nothing it at all.”

My year hasn’t been summed up by pain, not by any means. But I’m an emotional woman. I overreact, I fly off the handle. I could list a lot of negative things about the way I feel my feelings, but I won’t. Because I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t experience things at eleven and a half. And I’m glad I’m me.

us boys moose chipmunk