Countertops, Sewer Lines, and Spoiled Dogs (Or I’m Remodeling a Bathroom)

I’m baaaack.

Since being unceremoniously awakened by a swift kick from the dog at 5:30 this morning, I’ve sent 42 emails, made 94 phone calls, and now I’m feeling creative…

So here I am.

What I SHOULD be doing is taking down my Christmas decorations, but who wants to do that on a Friday morning?

I realize it is presently the 21st of FEBRUARY (details), but I don’t like taking down twinkly lights. It makes me sad.

At least I unpacked from my last trip to Michigan immediately instead of living out of a suitcase on my bedroom floor for a week.

I deserve a medal… or a present. If I didn’t have to write so many large checks for doggie daycare every time I board a plane, I’d have a closet full of Louis Vuitton luggage by now, but then I wouldn’t have dogs, and dogs are better than monogrammed bags.

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Handbags don’t cuddle.

They also don’t fart excessively, but whatever.

I’ve been knee-deep in details for my dad’s bathroom remodel lately. I promise I’ll give you the full before and after pics in March when it’s done.

For now, I’ll show you the countertop I selected. It was actually my THIRD choice, but you don’t want to know what happened with the first two I picked.

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This is the floor sample.

I didn’t opt for the roughly hewn edge, and I’m going with different fixtures and cabinets, but you get the idea.

I’ve also written so many checks for plumbing updates in the last six months that I almost want to cry. There is absolutely nothing fun about spending somewhere around $17,000 for THINGS YOU CANNOT SEE like new pipes and sewer lines, but toilets need to flush and whatnot.

Plumbing rant aside, the bathroom remodel has been satisfying.

I should probably get back to my script outline… or I should walk the dog who is currently howling pathetically because I’m pecking at my keyboard instead of petting him.

He’s spoiled.

 

Book Club and Babies (Or I Get Over Myself)

Yesterday I hosted book club… at my place.

That may not sound earth-shattering, but you must understand that I used to revel in hosting friends for a variety of reasons. From my first Friendsgiving of 15+ people to Easter for 24, I’ve always loved cooking for the people in my life.

In my twenties, those gatherings generally involved people sitting on folding chairs with paper plates on their laps while my deaf Cocker Spaniel wandered around the room foraging for fallen food.

Brady was my first rescue, and one of the great loves of my life. He helped me grow up, and he made me a better, more loving human.

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He also tolerated my hugs.

As time has gone by, most of my friends have moved out of small apartments into homes with yards, and eating dinner off of paper plates on their laps has become less appealing. I’ve been hesitant to host since I feel like I don’t have as much room as many of my friends.

Sure, I have proper plates and an adult dining room table now, but the real estate problem was a lingering issue for me. I got over myself, however, and invited my book club besties to my place.

We had such a lovely afternoon of snacks, heartfelt sharing, and engaging conversation!

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Plus my friends brought me flowers! #likeduh

George also helped me make my bed before my friends and their babies arrived.

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Okay, maybe “helped” is a generous description.

I had to kick him off the bed to finish the job, but he’s so cute I forgave him for being useless at domestic chores.

Of Restaurants and Writing (Or Time For a Change)

Remember when I used to post regularly?

Yeah, I miss those days.

I miss writing in general.

I’ve let life get in the way of my creativity lately.

See, I took a job waiting tables because I thought it would help me focus on my own personal projects… and because I can’t half-ass anything, I’ve ended up managing the restaurant. Over time I’ve taken on more responsibility there, and the demands have dramatically increased.

In the beginning of my restaurant tenure, I loved seeing the smiles on customers’ faces, and I enjoyed hearing their stories. I loved remembering what they liked, and I got a great deal of satisfaction from being a bright spot in their days.

I still have those moments, but the burden of hiring and firing staff, and constant texts requiring my attention at all hours of the day and night have sucked so much time from my life that my writing has suffered somewhat. I’ve managed to keep my skills honed, but a recent taste of real writing satisfaction has left me wanting more.

I had a fabulous experience writing an ad-sponsored episode of TXT Stories for Facebook at the end of 2018. I worked on the project with a former colleague from my producing days, and he gave great feedback on my script. It made me miss the days when I spent all of my time around fellow creatives — especially smart ones.

I don’t regret the time I’ve spent at the restaurant. I’ve met so many wonderful people whose paths would never have crossed mine if I had stayed in the cocoon of entertainment. The experience has made me more alive and open as a human, but the time has come for me to return to writing as a career — not just as a side hustle.

So, this is me declaring that I’m back in the creative business.

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My dog is so excited for me that he can’t contain himself.

No, really… he is excited.

That’s just his face.

 

Dog Yoga and Grocery Delivery (Or Things I Do on Sunday)

It’s a rainy Sunday in LA. It’s the perfect day for staying home and making a big mess of bacon-wrapped food.

The sky is a deep gray, both of my Boxers are asleep, and I’m listening to country music while waiting for my grocery delivery.

I realize the confluence of country music and an urban indulgence like grocery delivery is a bit of a contradiction, but I see it as a perfect microcosm for my identity. While I have somewhat of a redneck sensibility, I am also a spoiled urbanite, and I can’t bear entering a grocery store on a Sunday. The parking lot situation alone is reason enough to stay home — never mind the LA drivers who are blinded by a bit of rain on their windshields.

That leaves me over-spending on Sauvignon Blanc and prosciutto so I don’t have brave the “elements” (read: a light mist) to make dinner.

I recently declared 2019 as the year of productive creativity, so I’m going to get back to my novel outline while I wait for my groceries to arrive.

But first?

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Dog yoga

It’s not nearly as cool as goat yoga, and it involves a pose George invented called, “Barking Dog.”

It’s so relaxing living with Boxers… but I wouldn’t change it for anything.

My boys are everything.

 

George Joseph (Or it’s Not 1999)

It’s 2019 now. I realize this isn’t news to anyone — I’m merely pointing out that 1999 was 20 years ago.

Also?

Prince’s single (and album) by the same name will turn 37 this year.

Now that we’re all thoroughly depressed and feeling terribly old… want to hear what I did this NYE?

I rang in the New Year on my couch watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with both of my Boxers snoring on my legs.

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OK, maybe only Georgie was using my person as a pillow, but you get the idea.

I had planned to make myself a lovely filet mignon, but I was so tired by the time I got home from work that I settled for broccoli, champagne, and Trader Joe’s gouda mac and cheese. (I saved the steak for another night.)

We snuggled as the dogs watched their namesakes do battle with evil.

On the topic of namesakes, this is now going to be a terrible segue to the origin of Georgie’s name. (I did promise that story here after all….)

OBVIOUSLY, Albus was named for the greatest Headmaster of Hogwarts of all time, and I have frequently thought he should have a little Harry Potter as a buddy.

When I met the new nugget, I knew pretty quickly he wasn’t a Harry, however.

We spent 12 hours together before I dubbed him “George.”

After careful observation, his spunk and spirit reminded me of George Weasley. (George is one half of the Weasley Twin Duo who wreaked havoc at Hogwarts and went on to create their own joke shop.)

His middle name, Joseph, is a sadder story I’m afraid.

Shortly after rescuing George, I learned that my dad’s youngest brother James Joseph had passed away fairly unexpectedly.

His neighbor visited his home in hopes of borrowing a tool. The neighbor knocked on the door repeatedly and received no response. It had been snowing in their Northern Michigan town, and he observed there weren’t any footprints outside my Uncle Jim’s home.

When his persistent knocking proved fruitless, he contacted the local authorities. Officers arrived on the scene to find my dad’s youngest brother dead in his bead. He had died peacefully of natural causes.

While a peaceful death is always preferable to a painful or contracted one, death is still difficult for those left behind. I wanted to honor my Uncle Jim and felt that George should share the same middle name.

I don’t have human kids, after all so it seemed like the right thing to do. Plus my Uncle Jim was an animal lover.

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George Joseph means business.

I think my Uncle Jim would be proud to share a name with him.

 

New Baby Nugget (Or I RESCUED!)

So… I have news… belated news, but news nonetheless.

Albus and I have a new baby.

Hes’s super skinny…

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and he likes to sleep on Uggs.

See, three weeks ago Malibu and Ventura County were on fire. I was sitting on my couch watching college football while looking at images of the devastation of the Woolsey fire, and I wanted to do something. The air outside my place was hazy and full of smoke. My social media sources were filled with photos of horses dangerously close to the lapping flames, evacuated goats on the beach, and the Malibu Wines giraffe was left in harm’s way.

I knew there were so many animals I couldn’t save, but I wanted to do SOMETHING.

On an impulse, I googled “Ventura County Shelter.”

On the first page of their site, I saw the image of an emaciated Boxer. He had been surrendered that day. I said a prayer asking God to open the door if it was in his will for him to be mine and to close it if it wasn’t right.

I set out to meet the sweet dog called “Snoopy.”

The freeway to Ventura County was closed because of the fires but I found backroads to lead me to the shelter.

The voice of Jim Dale reading “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” on audiobook soothed me as I drove past plumes of stifling smoke as well as green fields yet untouched by the fire’s destructive appetite.

I arrived at the shelter only to be told they were closed for adoptions because of the fire. The woman behind the counter said I should come back the following day at 1 pm. She also cautioned me that Snoopy had stomach issues and they were a factor in his surrender.

Never one to give up, I showed up the next day, right on time. I had traversed the same backroads again, as the fires were still raging and conventional routes were unavailable.

When I arrived, I was again told they closed for adoptions. I offered another silent prayer. I reminded the volunteers they had told me to come today — at this time. I also said I couldn’t come again tomorrow because I had to work.

They consulted with one another and agreed to let me meet him. Again, they reminded me of his stomach issues. (Stomach, whatever. I didn’t care.)

I had boiled chicken in my purse in anticipation of meeting the little man.

They set him loose in the enclosure and I asked him to sit. He obliged immediately. I offered him a bit of chicken. Ravenous, he took the chicken so aggressively it seemed like he might take the tips of my fingers off.

I told them I wanted him — stomach problems and all.

They agreed to let me take him home for a mere $65.

$65 to save a life.

I would have paid so much more than that.

There’s so much more I want to say about him and his integration into my home, but I’ll save that for another post.

For now I’ll just say, I love the little guy.

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You’re HOME, George Joseph!

Your brother and I LOVE you!

More on the origin of his new name later….

 

Bobby’s Birthday (Or I make another gift basket)

My friend Rob’s birthday was yesterday, so I set out to make it special. I conspired with his girlfriend, Mary, to make sure I picked up all of his favorite movie theater candy, and the boys chipped in as well — including Albus.

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He picked out the golf balls at Dick’s.

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There were a lot of options. 

I wanted to package the goodies in a practical way, so I picked up a collapsable organizer from Marshall’s.

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Here’s the pre-assembly situation.

I put a bow on the bag because everything is better with bows — even gifts for boys. (I think I’ve said that before, but you can never say it too many times.)

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Every item in here has a story, naturally.

For example, Rob loves sloths, so I bought one for him. I used my glue gun to put the AMC gift card in his hot little sloth hand. The weird man ballerina box contains Australian sour gummies. I made the Twinkle Toes sign because Tim calls everyone Twinkle Toes, and he was one of the boys who chipped in for the gift. (Matt was the other.)

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It seemed like the right thing to do.

Tim, Rob, Matt, and I are all dog people, so a card mocking a cat seemed like the right choice.

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Larry, Daryl, and Anita are our aliases.

Basically, we think they’re terrible names, so we call each other by them as a form of demented endearment.

Okay, that’s all for now. I’m blasting some Danzig and breaking out my book outline.

Bye!

Bubbas and Baby Nuggets (Or New Baby Gift Baskets)

I’m writing again — and not just on my blog. I’m back to figuring out the story points of my novel. Outlining is the tedious, necessary part I don’t always love, but you can’t build a house without a floorpan any more than you can write a decent story without figuring out its structure first.

So there’s that….

There’s also this:

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The Bubba made a gift basket for his Auntie Nicole.

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Okay, I did most of the work.

He doesn’t have opposable thumbs after all.

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But he took most of the credit.

(Like boys do.)

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In his defense, he did help with the clean up… of chicken scraps on the floor.

He excels at eating meat off of all surfaces (even linoleum).

Wanna see why he we made the basket?

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Because Albus has a new nugget of a cousin.

She is divine.

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And I got to hold her.

Because new moms have their hands full with breastfeeding, diaper changes, and watching nuggets sleep, I figured I should feed Nicole.

I made two kinds of tuna salad, a chicken salad, pasta bolognese, and buckeyes. (I don’t approve of anything that could be construed as pro-Ohio — particularly when I’m making a gift basket for a fellow Michigan alum, but peanut butter is just meant for chocolate — so I rationalized that Wolverines devouring Buckeyes is metaphorical… or something.)

Recipe links are here:

Green Goddess Tuna Salad (I omitted the tarragon because we don’t get along terribly well.)

Tuna and Artichoke Cooler Pressed Sandwiches (Meaghan and I used this recipe for Katy’s baby shower years ago. It’s divine.)

Pasta Bolognese (Full disclosure: I skipped the veal and used 3/4 lb of ground pork and 3/4 lb of ground beef because veal makes me cry — and because bolognese needs extra meat.)

Buckeyes (There are millions of variations of this recipe. The key is using some Crisco in the chocolate to help it melt evenly.)

I’ll do a proper post on the curry chicken salad another time, as it is my mummy’s recipe and can’t be found online.

Tim and I ate the rest of it for lunch on Monday. (It was a hit. #likeduh)

Now, it’s time to get back to my outlining. (Barf)

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The Women’s March (Or Humankind Needs a Hug)

Today was the Women’s March. I didn’t march… again.

I didn’t spend the day speaking for all women alive.

I spent the day taking care of this woman — the one who needed to deposit money into her account so her checks wouldn’t bounce, the one who needed to call her cable company and fix her DVR so it would function properly and actually record programs while she was at work, and the one who needed to turn off the music, silence the world, and just listen to her baby breathe.

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So what if her baby is a 73 pound beast with bad breath?

He is still her baby.

I am that woman. I am the one who needs to take time to write, to cook, and to handle her business.

I am also the one who needs to embrace love and sadness.

Reading the story today about Tyler Hilinski’s suicide (the Washington State Quarterback) brought a flood of emotions about Phil that needed to be felt in the few hours available before I go to work tonight.

What good would I be to womenkind if I didn’t embrace my own needs as a woman today?

Sure, these all sound like excuses and they probably are, but whatever. I accept that.

We are all doing the best we can most of the time — men and women alike.

I’m ALL for the #metoo movement. I’m ALL for women speaking up and telling their stories — as raw and painful as they are. But I’m all for men telling their stories too — I’m all for men embracing their pain and their emotions… before they pull the trigger.

The human experience: male AND female is painful. Being alive exposes us ALL to unimaginable pain, and I want to give the WORLD a hug today.

I’ll probably settle for hugging my dog, but that’s a good start.

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He gives the best hugs… when he’s not sleeping.

XOXO,

I love you ALL.

Sad Sushi and Book Recs (Or Random Procrastination)

I have a confession: SugarFish has basically ruined all other raw fish for me. Today I thought I’d make a feeble attempt at frugality, so I walked to the Sushi Stop up the street for lunch instead. I saved myself a sad $18 and ended up with salmon I wanted to feed to the dog because it just wasn’t on a bed of warm, sticky rice.

Albus will now have albacore for dinner because I just couldn’t choke that down…

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And because I love the goofy bastard more than I love people.

He really is, like, literally a bastard. He doesn’t actually have a daddy — a truth that troubles my grandmother during the rare, lucid moments when she remembers who I am.

She recently asked me no less than four times in the span of a 15 minute conversation if I had a boyfriend. Each time I simply answered, “no,” while my aunt sniped at her in the background a) for repeating herself, and b) for caring more about my relationship status than my career. My grandma finally said, “Hedy said I asked you that question five times.”

“It was four. Tell her she can’t count.”

We are not nice people.

I don’t mean to mock dementia because it’s awful watching the woman who used to send you care packages full of homemade cookies forget how to turn on her stove, but if I’m being honest I must admit we ALL feel like we’re losing our minds with the situation. It’s hard on everyone — including her.

The whole thing has given me an idea for a novel, though, so I’m starting to outline the story beats.

I have procrastinated by reading other people’s books long enough. It’s time to try to write my own.

But before I do that, here’s one last ditch effort at procrastination:

A short list of the best books I’ve read recently while not writing my own stuff.

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter – This book is super disturbing and you may not want to be my friend any more after you read it, but I promise you won’t be able to put it down. I finished it in 24 hours.

The Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall – This is one of most delightful books I’ve read in absolutely forever. I devoured it in four days and was devastated when it ended. It’s impossible not to fall in love with Polly. The woman shoots blanks at squirrels, doesn’t understand why her daughter’s Jesus doesn’t let her drink margaritas, and brings a falcon to a parent-teacher conference. I want to be Polly when I grow up.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty – This is not to be confused with Still Alice, which I can’t bring myself to read because of the whole-my-Grandma-doesn’t-know-who-I-am-thing. Coincidentally, it also deals with memory loss, but in a charming, Moriarty kind of way that leads to love and stuff.

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty – Yes, Liane again. This woman can write. Trust.

And now I really will work on my outline because I’m not trying to wait tables for the rest of my life.

Also?

I need to make more money so I don’t have to make any more sacrifices that involve cold sushi rice.