BREATHING ROOM

Friday, October 29, 2010


Contrary to what I said in the last post, I've decided to part with some cherished items in order to make this move easier. It breaks my heart, but sometimes you have to do what's necessary.

I'm putting everything on eBay and Craigslist, but I thought I'd give my readers first dibs--if you want any of the below items, just let me know (I accept payment in cash and, of course, underwear).


1. Rubber bands. I have eight of these--seven are tan, and one is blue. The tan ones are thin and loose, the blue one is thicker and tighter. I've used the tan ones to bundle up unopened bills; the blue one came around a bunch of broccoli. All are in good condition and can be bought individually ($3) or as a set ($34).

2. Plastic bags--literally, hundreds. Many have holes/tears but can be used for stuffing (NOT turkey stuffing) or performance art. The ones that don't have holes/tears are good for holding things. These must be bought as a set. $19.

3. (Broken) coffee maker. Actually, it's just the carafe that's broken--you can still make coffee with this. Just place a cup/jar/whatever inside the carafe; before it fills up and coffee spills all over the goddamn counter, remove the carafe WITH THE FULL CUP/JAR/WHATEVER INSIDE IT. Any kind of nervous shaking will spill the coffee, so make sure you take a Valium beforehand. $132.

4. Pencil. This is your standard "wooden pencil"--it's about five inches long, and is missing the eraser. There's some silver lettering on the side. It works fine if you don't care about erasing. It's a little dull now, but we've been sharpening it periodically with a carving knife and that seems to help. $20.

5. Cat. Color: white. A little skinny, cross-eyed, and neurotic, but otherwise in good condition. A slight over-meowing problem can be corrected with lots of "outdoors time," and any drooling that results from being petted can be easily wiped up with a thick, over-sized towel. This cat guarantees years of physical activity (from opening and closing the door eighty times an hour). Payment only accepted in underwear.

6. Earplugs--three, gently used. Two have bite marks from a monkey, but they're mostly in good shape. A little discoloration here and there, which seems normal with time. All still work great--in fact, they were used until this morning. Together with the cat, these would make a great gift! Individually: $12. Set: $40.

7. USB cords--I don't know how many, because they're everywhere. Although you'll never be able to "use" them "properly," they make great stocking stuffers when Santa's overwhelmed with other shit; after the thrill of acquiring more confusing electronic stuff has passed, they can be placed in a drawer and kept there for the next twelve years. Warning: do NOT try to find the original accompanying gadgets--a "nervous breakdown" (see item #10) will result. $72-$589.

8. Dog hair--many piles. Some piles have been growing since last year and are pretty big. The bigger ones have other stuff--paper clips, table scraps, silverware--mixed in, and not all the silverware is totally clean. I recommend letting the kids use the silverware as a creative bath toy; any congealed crud should come off between three to twenty-seven months. $13-$43, depending on the quantity of paper clips/table scraps/silverware/etc.

9. Broken glass. Many, many pieces and sizes. Some pieces are rough and jagged, some are straight and pointy. Can be used as "ice" around a gingerbread house or under a Christmas tree. Can also be placed in front of/behind the tires of someone you don't like (make sure you do this at night). $185.

10. Jacket--one. White, with lots of straps and buckles. Some drool marks on the collar/torn stitching around the wrist cuffs. Would make a convincing "mental patient" Halloween costume. I'm getting rid of this because I'm supposedly "better" and leaving my current "home"; though I'll miss the security of its confines, I'm looking forward to a little breathing room. $0--free to a good home.

MISSING PARTS

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Since we're moving into the new place in a week and don't have much furniture, we've been scouring Craigslist and the thrift stores for things that are not only cheap but interesting and nice. We've had some very good luck, like with the free gigantic mirror, and some not-so-good luck, like with the plum-colored sofa we bought today for eighty dollars and which Joedy realized, after trying it out in our current living room, is missing its back cushions, and which I just realized, after lifting it up, is missing its legs.

DUH.

No wonder the lady was ok with selling it for less than the asking price. I can just imagine her laughing when we pulled away from the curb...

I'm not going to focus on our obvious swindle-ableness but on more positive things, like the cold hard cash I intend to get for OUR (mildly broken, fixed with a shoelace) laundry rack, which if propped at exactly 56 degrees leeward and 88.2 degrees towards the North Star works just fine. I'm sure I'll find some trusting fool on Craigslist who wants to take it off our hands! I'll even throw the shoelace in for free.

Despite this somewhat unfortunate sofa experience, it's been really fun looking for new old stuff to replenish our old old stuff. When we left California we debated about keeping our furniture--putting it in storage and having it sent to Costa Rica down the road--but realized it would be silly to hold onto stuff we'd acquired at very low cost, from thrift stores, garage sales, and, now and then, Ikea. We decided to get rid of everything, and jumped right in, putting it on Craigslist, holding a couple of yard sales, and more or less begging people, at the end, to "take it! Just take it!"

Over the last year Joedy and I have had many regrets about all the things we basically gave away--not because we didn't get much money for them, but because they were ours, they were part of our history, and now they're gone, turned into memories of another life. When we decided to let our stuff go (I know--it sounds so dramatic) we knew it might be hard, but we thought it would be good to have the experience of being virtually possession-less, of starting over, material things-wise.

So we said goodbye to the red armoire, the little beat-up blue couch, the kitchen table and chairs, the wooden desk, Lula's bed, the baby jogger, the rugs...the dust ruffle, the green dresser, the old brass lamp, the washing machine, the book cases...it was sad, but we reminded ourselves these were just things, easily replaceable things. When the gloom settled in and we questioned just what the hell we were doing getting rid of all this stuff, all this friendly stuff that made up such a big part of our life, we breathed deeply and focused on how free and wonderful it would feel to be uncluttered, how good it would be to start over fresh, with a new palette.

We comforted ourselves with the idea that we'd look for "the wood-framed mirror's cousin," or "the night-stand's twin," and remembered that, when you get down to it, thrift store things are all related...or they could be, anyway. Who knows where this particular mirror, the one we adopted yesterday, was ten years ago? Maybe it was hanging in the same house as our old, California mirror! Maybe this plum sofa lost its back cushions and legs to a puppy, Diablo's sister...maybe these new funky old plates shared cabinet space, long ago, with the funky old plates we put in a cardboard box and stuck out on the sidewalk last summer!

In the end, I have mixed feelings about the experience of "getting possession-less": on one hand I regret doing it--I didn't feel particularly zen when all our furniture was gone--but on the other hand...isn't it good just to have had the experience? Isn't it good to do big, crazy things sometimes--to throw yourself headfirst into chance? Even if you're pretty sure, afterwards, you WOULDN'T want to go through the whole process again, isn't just knowing that, having experienced it, having lived it, valuable?

It's been sad, yes, thinking about our old furniture this past year, but I learned NEVER TO GET RID OF ANYTHING (except for broken laundry racks and shoelaces) and the fact is, life goes on. Since we've already found some cool, unique things to take the place and remind us of their predecessors, the memories of our California life seem closer; in the new house, I think, our Texas life will really begin to blossom, and if we fill it with mismatched cast-offs with nicks, dings, and, yes, missing parts, I'm pretty sure we'll be happy.

INSOMNIACS 'R' US

Monday, October 18, 2010


Do you feel like you're getting too much sleep? Do you wish you could devote a few more nighttime hours to restless tossing and turning and feverish thinking? Is your well-restedness creating problems in your personal life, such as, for example, when you check the stats of your blog and see your reader, that person in Kingsbarknmeow, hasn't visited you in TWO DAYS, but you JUST DON'T CARE? You throw your hands in the air, and do a jig around the freakishly clean living room, and your neighbor sees you, and sees you're wearing your husband's underwear, and quickly bolts to his car, and then, later, you have to explain why you weren't wearing your OWN underwear? You have to explain about using it to light the barbecue?

If you're having this kind of problem, I can relate, and I can help. With my Infallible Insomnia Trick, which I invented while restlessly tossing and turning and feverishly thinking, and which you can download at no expense to anyone but yourself, for the small sum of $798,345,293,879.49, YOU TOO can come up with unlimited brilliant ideas on how to save the world/make a fortune/peel hard-boiled eggs without half the goddamn white part coming off.

Soon you'll find yourself up all hours by night and, by day, drooling on your shirt and wandering around the house, racking your overtired brain for what the hell exactly it was you were looking for--a pen? A paper? To do what? Write something down? Write what down? Oh yeah, your brilliant idea. The one about the internet and...what was it again?*

For a limited time only, I'm offering a sample of the Infallible Insomnia Trick™; obviously, all rights belong to me, and I'll sue you if you even THINK about using it without paying me $798,345,293,879.49 in cash and/or underwear.

-INFALLIBLE INSOMNIA TRICK-
A Limited-Time-Offer Sample

1. After dinner, bath, dishes, and bedtime, settle down at the computer with a strong cup of Insomniacs 'R' Us™ Extra-Caff Green Tea Mocha Brew. While your fingers start to shake, visit an online community; become inspired by the idea of sharing your deepest, most intimate thoughts with strangers you will (hopefully) never meet.

2. Share your deepest, most intimate thoughts. Include extremely unsubtle references to certain important people in your life and detailed stories about, say, problems you have had with addictive substances. IMPORTANT: DO NOT HOLD BACK. The key is full disclosure--if you don't divulge all the gory details, you will NOT succeed in incurring insomnia. The Infallible Insomnia Trick™ will NOT work, and you will NOT be reimbursed the $798,345,293,879.49/underwear.

3. After telling a bunch of complete and total strangers things you wouldn't even tell your therapist, for God's sake, say "FUCK IT" in a loud, trembling voice, and drain the rest of the Insomniacs 'R' Us™ sludge.

4. Flail your shaking arm at the computer in an attempt to turn off the screen.

5. Give up on the screen, lurch to a standing position, and speed-walk to the bathroom.

6. Grab your toothbrush and the toothpaste, squeeze the toothpaste too hard, shoot it all over the mirror and yourself, say "FUCK IT" again, and reel upstairs to the bedroom.

7. Join significant other in bed. If he/she is sleeping soundly, try not to move, DESPITE the sensation of deer ticks crawling all over your body.

8. Give up on not moving. Toss, turn, and scratch freely, frequently turning on the light to look for the ticks. Remove and shake all the bedding. Tell significant other, who's now awake, not to worry--you're just "getting rid of the bugs."

9. Turn the lights off and lie back down. As your significant other falls back asleep and YOUR legs and arms twitch and jerk uncontrollably, start thinking about all the private things you just told a bunch of internet strangers. Obsess about it for exactly two hours, and then start thinking about the internet and all the possibilities there...all the possibilities for communication, for making it artsy-fartsier, for...

For what? Sorry, this free limited-time-offer sample DOES NOT include a sample of the Super Memory Package, so I can't tell you anything else. The fact is, I just don't remember...

But I DO know it was great.

*Sleeplessness affecting your ability to recall simple facts? Download my Super Memory Package for just $234,872,238,746,328.89!

MOVING AND SHIT

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hello!





And welcome to Bedlam.

Yes, I know, these pictures look like manifestations of mental illness, or at least sloth--slovenly, sick, slutty, smutty, snotty, spooky, squamous sloth--it looks like crazy people live here. It looks like bad, bad parents are doing a bad, bad job of keeping shit together. Of keeping things nice 'n' tidy 'n' neat, of infusing the little ones with an example of HOW LIFE SHOULD BE LIVED! OF BRAINWASHING THEM INTO TYPE A PEOPLE!

Or--might I posit?--it looks like we don't have no freaking space. No space for toys 'n' shit, no space for cords 'n' shit, no space for toilet paper 'n' shit. And sometimes, when the toilets don't flush properly, which is often, because they're dinky, we don't have no space for shit 'n' shit! And then someone has to go find the plunger, because Malko likes to play with it, and when we find it in the linen closet/pantry it just kind of ruins our day.

So it's a good thing we're moving. Yes, we're moving! A friend knew a friend who had a house whose prospective tenants fell through, and we checked it out, and it's, like, too good to be freaking true. It's close to our current place, which means Lula will be able to continue going to her school, it has four FOUR FOUR bedrooms, a fireplace, two "living spaces," a big garage, a laundry room, two bathrooms, one of which has two TWO TWO sinks (which, frankly, means more cleaning, but still), a deck DECK DECK, and the best part, the very best part, a yard YARD YARD.

By which I mean a real yard. One that two kids, two dogs, a cat, a rabbit, four chickens, and a goat can play in happily. What's that, you say? Chickens? Goat? Yes. I did say "chickens" and "goat." Yes...yes...why yes--we will be turning this house into a barn! Yes...yes, of course I also checked Craigslist for a horse! Actually, I found two of them! They're just $375 apiece. They come as a pair! What? "Space"? What do you mean--we have FOUR BEDROOMS!!! HELLLLOOO! Did you not hear anything I said??? Well, what did you think we were going to do with all that space--fill it with toys? Pots and pans? Cords? No, all that shit's going under the deck, where it belongs. Also: we won't be using the dryer (makes a great storage unit).

By the way: have I told you about my surefire preparing-for-guests technique? The one that involves a horrendously messy kitchen and freakishly early guests? Just throw all the dirty dishes in the oven. Cupboards work too--just don't let the guests open them when they're, like, looking for a glass. Quickly shoo them away, tell them to play with the livestock in the back yard. While they're there, they can pick up shit. With all those critters, there's sure to be a lot lying around.

On a not-so-jokey note, we've been really lucky to be able to live in the present house. When we got to Austin last January, we were essentially homeless, and having A Sort of Small But Otherwise Perfectly Acceptable Place was hugely helpful. We got to live next door to friends (even "God"--sorry, inside joke with "Anonymous/Grand Prout"), we've been close to downtown and Lula's school, and though our other neighbors were visited by a SWAT team and probably have been cooking meth/storing dead bodies all along, they never murdered us in the middle of the night! Yay, neighbors! We love you! And hope to never see you again.

So that's it, folks! Moving on, once again. Weird to be picking up the same boxes we filled with all our stuff last year in California, pre-Costa Rica, the same boxes that made their way here, all rumpled and...friendly-looking, this summer. Something tells me I'll have a hard time throwing these boxes away, once we're settled in the new place: they've been through a lot, and--it's silly--they mean a lot to me. Saying goodbye to them might be strange.

But, on a lighter note, it WON'T be strange or hard to say goodbye to this fan in our current stairway:

-THE DECAPITATING FAN-

video

INMATES OF BEDLAM

Friday, October 8, 2010

Since I started this blog I've gone back and forth on the issue of posting pictures of the family: on one hand, I really want to show the kids mashing toast into squishy balls (Malko) and laughing uncontrollably about diarrhea (Lula) (ok, me too), and since the posts often focus on the kids it would be logical to include pictures of them, but I can't help thinking the internet has enough look-at-the-pictures-of-my-cute-kid blogs. Does it really need another mommyblog featuring snaps of charming peanut butter-coated Chucky? I don't think so.

I decided a while back to try to post illustrations instead of photos as much as possible, because it would be more challenging and make the focus a little more "artsy," and while I didn't post THAT many pictures of the kids I always felt a little uncomfortable about the idea of strangers seeing them. I'm sure my reader in Kingsgritsnmash is a dear, a kindly old soul with a twinkle in her eye and nary a spot on her crisp, pressed straitjacket, but nonetheless I always struggled with a feeling of I Just Don't Know and Maybe This Is Not A Good Idea.

A couple months ago, talking with my parents, I decided to pull the plug on all family photos (except for the pets), and I'm really glad I did: feeling a little safer, I sleep a little better, and I'm glad the blog has made the transition to "more artsy"--more illustrations, less smile-click-upload photos. Since I wanted to include an "Inmates of Bedlam" section, where readers could see pictures of the family (I think it's nice to be able to see who you're reading about), I did some drawings of us; yes, they're based on photographs, but not so obviously that it makes me uncomfortable.

Here they are:
LULALIE


MALKO


LAPIS


JOEDY


ME


DIABLO


ASTRID

You can probably tell I started with the humans and ended with the pets (Malko was first, Lapis was last), and I'm kind of annoyed that the kids, especially, look kind of cartoony while Astrid and Lapis look realistic, and I'll probably have to go back and perfectionalize, but for now I'm pretty happy with these and El Blog in general.

THE HAPPY FOOL

Sunday, October 3, 2010


UM.

I recently went through every entry in this damn blog to correct the order of the illustrations in my Picasa album, and while doing so a few things became clear:

1. I can no longer start entries like this: "It's very late, and I was just about to fall asleep, but then I came downstairs and ate a crapload of sugar, and now I'm writing!!!" The number of times I've written a version of that sentence is very high. It is redundant. Therefore, although right now it is late, and I did just eat some sugar, and I am now writing instead of sleeping, I'm not going to say so.

2. I'm not as funny as I think I am. That realization was painful and depressing. While I write I often make myself laugh--I think I'm a gas*!--but in truth my wit is not always that sharp; sometimes it's actually pretty dull. After wincing my way through 150 entries, I just wanted to tell myself to shut up. Stop trying to be funny, Isabel!! Just shut up. Maybe it was the sound-of-your-own-voice thing, but I had a really hard time reading the entries and an even harder time finding what was meant to be funny, funny.

3. No more promises. This goes for promises about being a more giving person, about being a person who uses compostable diapers, and about being a person who is completing a children's book. Well, maybe the last promise is ok--I mean, I HAVE to do it, or I will KILL myself--but any other promises are a very bad idea. This applies to invitation-type promises too. No more of those. Those will only end in great sadness and regret.

4. Diarrhea makes excellent subject matter. Inherently hilarious, it always trumps the blogger-is-not-very-funny card and makes for an acceptable entry--especially if cake is mentioned. Cake and diarrhea, in fact, pretty much guarantee a laugh. At least from the writer.

5. Cut down on the damn words. We get it: you're an English major. You're very wooooordy. Very "SMART." Very "humble" while simultaneously a big showoff. Too many words are annoying. No one wants to read an epic account of your trip to the dentist with your kid. Well, maybe your parents do--maybe they do--but that's about it. So: cut words. Write like this: "Went to store. At store bought: bread, eggs, cake mix, chicken feet. Drove home. Unwrapped chicken feet. Saw maggots. Put maggots in cake mix. Cooked cake. Ate chicken feet and then cake. Had diarrhea."

6. Mid-entry, surreptitiously switch from first person to second person and even to third person plural. They can do this if they want: it's fun. If they call attention to it, they can continue, at length, at pains and at great labors, great, heaving labor pains, to underscore--nay, to emphasize!--their English majorness. He can already feel the glow of adoration from his reader in Kingsbaconbits, the gold hue that emanates from the love and admiration, the gilded bird which inside the cage sings at once with the bleating pig: "Heave, ho! You can do it, you know! Just get in that boat and row! To Jerusalem! To Squaw Valley! To squabs and such!"

"Nay, shush," says Nanny. "You mustn't: you are a nut. 'Twould be better to shut. Thy mouth. To linger prone upon a prawn."

"Ok," I say, "Nanny, you are right. With much ado and adon't I shall retire--pop a Benadryl to knock my brain out and sleep, at last, at long, yearning, keening last, the sleep
of the
Happy
Fool."

*a stinky one