Fixing my very long day.

October 18, 2017

It’s been a long, crazy week at ThePlaceThatShallNotBeNamed. The kind of long, crazy week that makes you get into someone else’s car at the end of the day, thinking it was yours – but that’s a story for another time.

Tonight, I did a little thing on a whim.

I did this:

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The picture’s kinda dark, and I was trying to be all funky (and make the mess seem, I dunno, cooler) by tilting everything, but that picture there on the wall? That is the kind of crazy thing I did to cheer myself up. I rather like it.

I got the picture for Christmas two years ago. If you can’t quite make it out, it’s a silhouette of Roland from Stephen King’s The Dark Tower standing in front of his Dark Tower, holding a rose. I paid gobs of money to have it professionally framed…and then let it sit on my floor collecting dust. It’s what I do. But when Kim was here in August, we did this thing where we rearranged my room rather dramatically, and the desk I stole back from Gracie really makes the end of my bedroom look so bookish and there was just the right amount of room for Roland to go over my chair, right there next to the door. Don’t you think?

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this works.

I’ve tried this before. Two weeks ago I slapped on some Command hangers, pulled out my handy little level, and secured the picture to the wall. Or…I thought I secured it. Two hours later, I was screaming, popping out of bed, and pretty sure someone was trying to murder me. Thank god my light was still on and I was reading. Otherwise….yeah, let’s not go there.

So! Tonight when I decided at far-too-late-o’clock that a second attempt was necessary, I attached 152 more Command strips (2 probably wasn’t enough before, even if they were huge and extra duty)(yeah, I hear the jokes; shut up), dragged out my level, and tried again.

Have I mentioned how much I like my picture? Up on the wall? It’s like that is a fancy new thing I’ve started – hanging pictures on walls. I’ll try not to go too crazy – I only have 12 more Command strips anyway. And oh, I can only think what kind of blog hits I’ll get off that search term.

Meanwhile, I have a pretty new picture and I took control of the end of my day. Good-o.

 

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No mac & cheese for you!

October 11, 2017

This is why I’m not adventurous. I have been doing so well lately though; I summoned the courage to apply for a writing gig at Book Riot – and was asked to become a contributing writer. (Something I am still squeeing over!) That helped give me the courage to apply to a few other jobs I’d previously thought about, but thought more of as “reach” opportunities. I haven’t heard back, but that’s not keeping me down. A publishing company has reached out and asked me to write reviews for them, which…I can’t even begin to describe the rush that gave me! Several exclamation points worth.

All of that is to say, I wanted macaroni and cheese for dinner, but didn’t have the smoked cheese on hand I’d need to make the homemade kind. That was no problem – or at least not that big of one – because I had the “good” kind of boxed mac&cheese: Cracker Barrel. Still, boxed is boxed. Because I’m chock full of confidence from all these crazy ego-boosters lately, I had the courage to try a food hack I’d heard was simply amazing. And that’s when the wheels came off the wagon. Because: my life, really.

I searched sites for what this mysterious ingredient was that I remembered reading in some Buzzfeed article (or somewhere like that), and happened upon some food hacks site that offered up the answer: mustard. No wonder I had been intrigued. The problem is that my trusted Buzzfeed author (I wish I could remember both who to credit and to blame for my predicament) swore by the funky-sounding change and bet that you would never go back once you tried it.

So I figured out how much prepared mustard I should use since I didn’t lack the foresight to buy dry mustard for any odd, late night kitchen cravings I might one day have, and got to work. I tell ya – I was feeling so good, so sure of my outcome, that I even used the lifehack where you put your collander inside the pan and drain the macaroni through it backwards. (Spoiler alert: that part worked!)

I added the cheese pouch and stirred away, getting a nice creamy, cheesy finish in no time. Then…readers, I wavered. I very nearly didn’t go through with it. I had taken a bite and it tasted delicious to me, so was I really going to chance ruin this tasty, tasty dinner…?

I was.

But rather than add 1 Tablespoon of prepared mustard, as called, I just sprinkled some straight from the bottle over the top of the pan, then stirred it in, vigorously. I didn’t want to accidentally bite into a pocket of just mustard. Blech.

I took a bite and…well, it was interesting. I could taste the mustard, but I thought that might be because I was thinking about it. I took another few bites, thinking I could at least eat what I’d made, even if I already knew I wouldn’t be making it again. The mustard taste was a little too strong. And that’s with hardly any in it! I carried my mug of milk and my bowl into my bedroom to finish the project I was working on and…yeah, I couldn’t even make myself sit down. With every spoonful of mac-mixture I ate, the more I knew I couldn’t keep eating. This just wasn’t for me.

SadKatie was Sad that she had ruined an entire box of “good” mac&cheese that she could have eaten for dinner. But then she realized that she had been adventurous, tried something new, done something fun instead of sitting on her kiester, gotten a bloggy story out of it, and cleaned the kitchen while she waited for her dinner.

Then, Readers, I fixed it with a pan of steak fries for dinner, so ha ha on YOU, mac&cheese!

MacAndCheese

Quick, cozy check-in.

October 10, 2017

I’ve been away. But this morning the temps were in the upper 50s when we woke up and today might only hit 70, and you guys – this counts as Fall down here in hell Tejas!

So I was cozying up to my blanket this morning, snuggling down deep and seriously glaring at my alarm clock because it was a giant. liar. Then I made out with my corduroy pants because I’ve missed them this summer. I put on a long sleeve shirt and yelled at the girls to do the same – or at least grab a sweater – and off into the cool air we went. I know I say jammin’ in the car is always better when it’s warm outside, but we (er, um, I) didn’t have any problems singing along this morning!

So, yes, I’m still alive. We were sweltering under the heat we’ve been having, but I’m hoping this cold front will kick-start my writing. Er, well, I should say my blogging. I’ve been writing up a storm for other writing gigs I’ve gotten lately and that experience has been incredible. It jumpstarted my mood and really helped pull off the gauzy layers of my depression. I don’t know where I summoned the courage to reach for the opportunities, but I’m glad I did. I wish I could do that for all of my friends in similar situations.

For now, I’ll take it. Cool temps for a day, maybe two. Writing away for someone, even if it isn’t here. (Sorry, all.) Reading fanatically, like someone’s going to tell me I can’t anymore. It’s a pretty good place to be, and I’m thankful in the moment each and every hour.

Happy Tuesday, guys. I hope your day is as much of a gift for you as mine is.

30 Days of #Readathon: Best.

October 1, 2017

It’s Sunday night, and you know what’s a good way to put off going to work tomorrow? Talking about the Readathon! As you might have heard, Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon is celebrating 10 years of readathoning excellence, and to get us all worked up to read all night, Dewey’s fantastic hosts have decided to launch a “30 Days of Readathon” countdown. Each day has a theme; you get to decide how to tackle each theme. You can post blogs, snap pictures, record videos, host podcasts – you do you! The how is up to you. The what is books, obviously. Why? Because BOOKS!

There are 20 days left before our #Readathon kicks off, which means today’s theme is “Best.” Best what? I decided to re-post a picture from October 2014, one of the best Readathon hauls I ever prepped. I borrowed nearly thirty books from the library, just to be sure I had what I needed when the mood struck. (And, yes, I read or perused most of them!)

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It also counts as one of the craziest prepper moments, too! Ha!

What are some of the best moments from your Readathon-er past? Have you ever done anything totally off-the-charts insane?

30 Days of #Readathon: Places.

September 28, 2017

It’s a rainy Thursday, a small cold front is blowing through, and it feels like Piglet and Pooh and their Blustery Day are about the float past me…even though, to be honest, it’s not even all that windy outside. It’s more of a mood. And that mood is screaming at me to call in and stay home so I can cuddle up with a stack of books!

It doesn’t help that today marks 23 Days Left(!) in our 30-day countdown to Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon extravaganza(!!), and Day 23 is all about places. So when I woke up this morning at 4:30 a.m. and my body was All Done with The Sleeping, I pulled up the countdown, checked today’s theme – for those wee small hours of the morning when my heart wants to sleep but my body does not, they seem to be the only minutes I can steal for plotting blog posts and thinking of such things – and I started thinking of all the fun times the girls and I have had blocking pictures and participating in readathons. Then the rain started beating down even harder, and I swear to god I got my lazybones out of bed only because I had two small humans who had school. Uh…not sure if that’s parenting for the win or a solid loss, you guys.

These are some of the places my mind wandered to while I was lying in my bed, so cozily Not Sleeping this morning…

Barnes-and-Noble-Reading

Bookstores. I always pick up a book and read the first few pages in the store, just to see if I’ll be hooked by the voice. Sometimes the plot can be a bit of a slow boil, sometimes characters won’t show up for awhile, but the voice is my favorite part of the Holy Trifecta, and that I can usually tell right away. Not every book with a catchy voice will keep my attention, but a book that doesn’t have it in those first few pages never will. I might learn to appreciate the book – but, dudes, that’s what libraries are for! (One of many, MANY things they’re for – don’t hate.) The girls and I will also wander out to our local Barnes and Noble during the afternoons of long readathons for a change of pace and to keep ourselves engaged. And maybe for some caffeine and a bakery treat if mama’s feeling pretty flush!

BookNook

The Book Nook. The girls created their own little book nook behind the chaise lounge in the living room. Gracie-girl hasn’t been back there in awhile (don’t even get me started on the hundreds of little ways TeenGracie is leaving KidGracie behind!), but Bee will still bring her graphic novels, or fashion books, or her laptop back there (with as many snacks as she can get away with, usually). It’s not fancy – just a bunch of oversize pillows, an outlet that’s unsightly for pictures but perfect for charging e-readers, and sometimes a blanket or two. Just a girl, her books, and a few comfort items. But it’s enough to make my heart happy whenever I catch sight of her back there in her reading cocoon!

Dinand

The stacks. A few trips ago, my sisters and I took the girls to Holy Cross, my alma mater. There are so many gorgeous libraries on campus, but my heart belongs to Dinand. There are secret stairs, lots of couches and comfy chairs, creaky spots in the floors, that book smell sent straight from heaven, and so. many. stacks. It is unpossible to not feel perfectly happy when reading in such a place! I only get to visit now – and not even every trip home – but it’s a place I used to spend many Sunday mornings and weekday afternoons, even if I didn’t have to study. Why waste library time studying when you could spend it reading?!

Reading-in-bed

In bed. My comfy, comfy bed. Mmm…. Because I’ve been waking so early, I’ve been drifting off most nights after I’ve only squeezed in a few pages worth of reading time, but this is still the place I love to read most! All my life I’ve been a bed reader – hiding in our rooms away from the noisy house, flopped across the bed diagonally, not even under the covers. And reading at bedtime was always, always, always the best way to get sleepy and signal that another day was done. Right now I’m daydreaming about a Jetsons-like device that could magically calculate how many pages I’ve read in bed over the course of my lifetime. I’m pretty hearts-in-eyes-swoony over the number I imagine would show up!

Those are just a few of the places I love to read. I couldn’t find the one of me reading on the couch, or out on the patio (reading in the sunshine=sweetness; falling asleep and getting sunburned=AGAIN, KATIE?!), or a bathtub filled with scalding hot water and a nice topper of bubbles or a bath bomb. Oh, or that one great picture I have of me in my car on my lunch break, with the windows down, the sunshine streaming in, my feet up on the dash and a book in my hands. That’s a great picture.

But honestly the thing that makes them great is the book in my hands. That’s all I really need to carve out a “place”!

 

30 Days of #Readathon: Drinks.

September 27, 2017

It’s been a whirlwind kind of week, and I feel like I forgot to tumble out of the floo about six stops ago, but here I am and here we go!

As you might have heard, Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon is celebrating 10 years of readathoning excellence, and to get us all worked up to read all night (ha! like we need motivation!), Dewey’s fantastic hosts have decided to launch a “30 Days of Readathon” countdown. Each day has a theme; you get to decide how to tackle each theme. You can post blogs, snap pictures, record videos, host podcasts – hey, who wants to teach me how to Instagram? The point is, the how is up to you. The what is books, obviously. Why? Because you’re wickedly, wonderful insane, just like the way we like!

Today’s topic is drinks. Had I pre-planned a little, I could have gotten a little sloshy last night. In the name of blogging, of course. Alas.

Instead, when I popped my eyes open, wide-awake at 5 a.m. this morning, I used the time to – well, first check the theme and then to plan my attack. I decided to go with my bookish mugs. Look – all patiently waiting to be filled with The Coffees so I can maybe stay awake later.

BookMugs

A few of my favorites are missing – my orange Penguin Pride and Prejudice; my Mischief Managed; my I like BIG BOOKS and I cannot lie mug… But these are still all of my favorites, too. Who can resist Bartleby? I know I would prefer not to. (Sorry. See earlier comment about waking up at 5 a.m. I can’t help myself.) And the Harvard Bookstore mug that warns I am hot and literate? Literal fire.

So! Now it’s your turn! Go forth and show me your frothy bookish drinks. Oof, I did not mean that to sound nearly as dirty as it did…

Quote of the Day.

September 26, 2017

Yesterday was my Uncle Teddy’s birthday. And four years is a crazy long time, but not so long that I didn’t have myself a good cry last night.

So of course, the girls were in rare form.

Setting the scene: Gracie walks in on me texting my cousin, and crying.
Gracie: Aw! What’s wrong??!
Me: It’s Uncle Teddy’s birthday.
Gracie: I know! I should not get in the shower [like I had been yelling at her to do], and make you cinnamon rolls and cheer you up instead!
Me: Um…no.

Setting the scene, Part II: Bee walks in on me crying, after I’ve shuttled her sister into the other room.
Bee: What’s wrong, Mum?
Me: It’s Uncle Teddy’s birthday, and I’m texting Uncle Kene.
Bee: You should tell him to go to Crazy Uncle Mike’s house and play with the cup holders that light up. Those are cool.

Like my cousin said – those two might be a leetle bit related to us!

Thowback Thursday, Sunday Night version. (Remember Sunday Night Meltdowns?)

September 25, 2017

Quite a few friends of mine have just had babies or are about to have babies, and so I’ve found myself in the middle of conversations lately where I’m the Official Extender of Hope. Don’t worry. They’ll sleep soon – and so will you. They won’t always be toddlers. You’ll get to be a person, too, very soon. Because I looked up one day and my little toddlers, my loving little energy-drainers, were teen- and tweenagers! How did that happen?! Not to say teens aren’t without their own problems. They certainly are. Just…different ones from toddlers.

With toddlers? The brand of person my friend lovingly refers to as tiny terrorists? It used to be that by the end of the weekend, the bastion of hope that our time together enforcing rules and refusing sleep, the symbol of Sunday Night we lovingly referred to as Sunday Night Meltdowns. Without fail. Either the toddlers hosted the meltdowns because mom is nothing by unfair all the time. ALL THE TIME! Or else I was the one snapping and crying because I was never going to get a break. Never, ever, EVER.

My kids had just about eased out of the phenomenon when we were graced with the Xman. And hoo boy – then I really learned the meaning because Sunday Night Meltdowns lasted all weekend long.

Then, last Fall, that problem was quite suddenly solved. And if I grieved over losing the person I thought might have been The One, it was soothed a little by also losing the constant battles.

Last night, though, we had a throwback Sunday night.

Gracie started it. She texted me to celebrate our win and as thrilled as I am to know she’s following football from home, I thought maybe she was going to ask to come home early. Alas. So I was already a little sad when she texted about an hour later to see what we were having for dinner. That’s when it really began. Chicken? She didn’t want chicken! They just had it for lunch! And for dinner last week! And she hated chicken! [Uh, that is almost verbatim. I am so not hyperbolizing for once.] I snapped back that when I made pasta – our household cheat meal – they had both complained too! No matter what I cook, everyone complains!

At least she had the grace to keep her mouth shut.

Bee-girl started in when she got home. She didn’t like dinner. (That one I was expecting.) She didn’t want to go grocery shopping when I was done. (I was expecting that too – usually I’ve gotten that done during the day and we just netflix and chill after dinner.) But you know what? Thems the breaks. And when mama says to stop whining? Stop. Whining. And if you don’t have the sense to do that? Then you better definitely stop if she threatens to take away privileges.

Privileges were lost. In fact, the girls were lucky to escape with their lives by the end of the evening. They sniped all night about the tiniest little things that were bothering them. They kept trying to boss each other and one-up each other while we were out. I very nearly put my 11-year-old in Time-Out in the middle of Target!

Of course, by the time we got home and bedtime was near, the girls saw the light. Gracie made the peanut butter no-bake squares she’d talked me into buying. Bee-girl waited until five minutes before bedtime to start making her lunch for today – something I had stopped reminding her to do because she’s been buying lunch.

It was a little too late. Gracie tried to recoup bedtime by offering to play cards with me – something that nearly always works. Bee even offered to have a sleepover – something she knows I’m a sucker for after a weekend filled with scary dreams [sidebar: do not see Mother – it’s horrible and irrational in a completely unfun sort of way].

In short, I was glad to see the night end. And only slightly surprised when I saw a text from Bee-girl this morning…

Bee: Mom, I grabbed your lunch by mistake.

I’m making my sacrifices to the Gods of Monday Morning right now, before the rest of this morning slides down the incinerator shoot…

30 Days of #Readathon: favorite book.

September 21, 2017

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon is celebrating 10 years of readathoning excellence this fall. To get the party off to a rip-roading start, Dewey’s fantastic hosts have decided to launch a “30 Days of Readathon” countdown. Each day has a theme; you get to decide how to tackle each theme. You can post blogs, snap pictures, record videos, host podcasts – hell, start an Instagram channel! The how is up to you. The what is books, obviously. Why? Because you’re deliciously insane, just like the rest of us!

Today’s topic is your favorite book. Can you guess mine? The artwork in my bedroom all centers around one book, and today just happens to be the author’s birthday.

DarkTower

30 more days to go…!

New kind of joy.

September 20, 2017

I have this tiny little joy that is sitting in my pocket. It’s cool to the touch and sparkly in the sunshine whenever I take it out to stare at it, to make sure it’s really there…which I have to admit is often. That’s what happens when you’ve had a time of it lately. Something good happens, and you find yourself staring it down. Baffled. Amazed. Joyful.

A lot of hard work has gone into this joyful, happy thing. Honey, don’t even let me hear you say the words “passive tense.” It’s not like kerplunk! Oh, heeeey! Happy fell from the sky and knocked me over the head! I put in a lot of time, looking for just the right spot to stand in. I worked hard on building the right type of lens. When the politics in this country got crazy, and I needed to grieve, I went down hard. I let myself feel my knees and hands prickle where I fell. I let the torpor of the next few months linger. Fighting it off too soon was only going to backfire.

And then, when it was time, I started dusting myself off.

I felt joy in reading again. I wasn’t just adding books to my To Read list; I was crossing off titles and penning reviews. I wrote thinkpieces and journaled and blogged and doodled crafts that ended badly. I sketched pieces that turned out okay, too. I wrote and I read, and I read and I wrote, and by the end of it, I felt like I was the Big Bad Wolf in reverse. Instead of tearing down the sticks and haystacks of everyone around me, I wrote and read myself back into existence.

To quote an old Latin teacher I had in high school, I was happy in my hut. I was happy in a hut of my own making, again.

My tiny little paper hut won’t stay standing without a lot of work. Joy takes a lot of time and energy. But my god it will be worth it, all of these new adventures. They’ll be the interesting parts of the memoirs. Because, hey did you hear – I’m writing again.