Scents Memory

Fragrance, femininity, faith and fairy godmothers….

The other day,  I unconsciously picked up a bottle of perfume and did my “spray, stay, walk away” routine (learned from Carson Kressley, original Queer Eye episode).  I hadn’t used that perfume for a long time. It was the same kind as the last bottle of scent Mike bought me for Christmas.

He’d buy perfume, often with matching bath stuff and lotion, at Christmas.  I’m not sure I ever made it clear to Mike that I got the message in his choices – “Joy,” or “Mon Tresor.”  That last Christmas, he didn’t have the energy to find something on his own, so he just asked me what I wanted: “Modern Muse, please. Estee Lauder counter, I think.”  I found that scent in one of those samples that fall out of catalogs, that you peel open and sniff. I loved the scent, and I especially loved its name. I hope Mike took it as a message that I still wanted him to have a muse, that I still loved his poetic soul, and that I hoped he’d write poetry again, before he died.

His last journal was lyrical prose, about having cancer, and about rediscovering our love for one another, when cancer made everything else irrelevant. He also wrote about his embrace of suffering through his unconventional faith and his trust in the path he was on.

The perfume I used the other day is the same kind but not the same bottle. I used that up in the first year of widowhood, when I oscillated from screaming, sobbing grief one day to timid hope about a new kind of life the next.

I worked in warehouses during and after Mike’s illness. I’ve been wearing jeans almost daily ever since. Jeans express my physical strength and my determination to take on projects that involve some combination of power tools, dirt, ladders, chainsaws, paint and work boots.  The perfume is for when I wear empire waisted, v-necked, pajama-soft, print knit dresses that, I admit, show too much cleavage.  I own three of them and wear them any day it is warm enough, when I’m done getting sweaty with my workout or my redecorating or dirty with my gardening and yard work. As fall and winter progress, the dresses yield to deep-v-necked, soft wool sweaters.

The dresses and the sweaters say I’m not ready to let go of  womanliness. I’m not ready to become a crone. I’m not ready to dry up and grey out. I need to feel gorgeous and touchable. More than touchable.  I’m unwilling to accept that I’ll never be regarded that way again.

My Dad told me about a weird house in his home town. Legend was that it had been owned by an old lady who kept adding on to it, believing that as long as she did, she would never die. He may have said that kids in town believed the house was haunted. It made a good ghost story; the house was near a school.

Between the euphoria of being nearly done with redecorating and the panic that I’m still unemployed and running out of money, I wonder if I’m turning into that lady – the crazy old lady with the never-ending projects, trying to ward off aging and death.

Angelic Daughter’s Halloween costume arrived yesterday, and she looks adorable in it.  I can’t tell you what it is because she wants to keep it a surprise. But she keeps asking me what I want to be for Halloween. It’s never been worth dressing up to answer the door here. We get very few trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood, unless Halloween falls on a sunny Saturday. I usually just throw on a drugstore witch hat and light the jack-o-lanterns. It’s typically all over before 7:30.

Looking online for this year’s costume, among the princesses and movie characters, we saw a Fairy Godmother costume. I hadn’t seen one before.  I thought, “I could use a Fairy Godmother.  Bibbiddy-bobbidy-boo, a book deal, a job and a handsome prince for you!”

Maybe my semi-insane determination to finish decorating this house, even it bankrupts me, is about belief in magic, as a metaphor for faith. As a reason to hope.

Wednesday was a perfect bright-blue fall day. Feeling down about job prospects and writing, I impulsively took Angelic Daughter on a surprise outing to a local pumpkin farm that, until last year, I hadn’t known existed, even though it is less than 10 miles away.

Sitting in the haywagon waiting for the ride to start, I checked my phone, and found an email saying “impressed…would like to schedule you for a phone interview.”  For a writing job. With health insurance.

Do you believe in magic?

Waiting to hear back about an interview time, I remain,

Your faithful, fragrant,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by czarownica from Pixabay

How Not to Strip Wallpaper: Part Two

Neither plaster walls nor lost screws nor bad instructions shall stay this do-it-herself-er from her intended plan

Collect new wall-mounted cabinet from immaculate Big Box home store, where you have applied for a job and they haven’t called. Surprise.

Measure, drill, screw anchors, screws. This is the drywall part of the wall. Drills easily. Hang mirror. Wait, little triangular mirror-hanger thingees on back of mirror don’t quite reach? BUT I MEASURED, DAMMIT! Try starting the other side first. Hang over protruding screw. See if you can bend little triangular hanger thingee a smidge. Success! Off to a good start.

Unbox new cabinet on bedroom floor. Follow instructions.  Attach sides to shelf. Install rod. No, wait, rod won’t fit when sides already attached. Unscrew one side, install rod in holes provided, reattach side. Attach top to sides. Flip over.  Attach back flimsy cardboard backing grooved to look like beadboard to sides and top with tiny little nails.  Oops, beadboard-looking side is supposed to be on the inside. Remove. Ha! Hammer pries out tiny little nails easily. Turn over, reattach. Why are there so many tiny little nails left over? Oh, they assumed destruction of tiny little nails through amateur hammering. HA!  Didn’t bend a single one.

Attach doors by putting plastic posts into plastic “hinge anchors,

Attach wedge-shaped screw-bracket thingees to inside top of cabinet. Hmm, screwdriver doesn’t fit at angle that allows screwing in brackets. No pre-drilled holes?  Turn cabinet upside down to stand on its top. Leverage? Useless. Screwdriver still won’t fit.  WHAT IDIOT WROTE THESE INSTRUCTIONS? THE WEDGE-SHAPED BRACKET THINGEES SHOULD HAVE BEEN ATTACHED TO THE TOP BEFORE THE CABINET WAS ASSEMBLED BY SCREWING INTO PRE-DRILLED HOLES THAT AREN’T THERE! AUGHGHGHGHHGHG!!!

Disassemble cabinet. Mark and drill holes into inside top. Attach first wedge-shaped screw bracket thingee. DAMMIT WHERE’S THAT OTHER SCREW? Retrieve reasonable facsimile of supplied screw from impressive collection of screws leftover from previous projects, at bottom of drill case bag. Reassemble cabinet.

Follow instructions to drill “small hole” through wedge-shaped screw bracket thingee and flimsy backing. Carry cabinet to bathroom to mark where to drill holes for mounting. Select a spot directly above spackle mark from previously mounted towel rack. Should be a drillable spot, right? Up on stepstool, hold cabinet against wall while bending sideways over sink. Silently thank 8-lb dumbbell workouts.

Step down. Discover pencil tip too short to go through “small holes.”  No marks made. Dispel frustration by drilling larger hole through bracket and flimsy backing. Back on step ladder, hoist cabinet, mark.

Lower cabinet, retrieve drill. Commence drilling.

Plaster dust falls. Note to self: don’t breathe, just in case. Clean with wet tissue when finished. Wait, wha? Drill not progressing into wall. Press harder. Hot smell. Drill motor frying. Cease drilling. Note progress of about  1/32nd inch, accompanied by a pile of plaster dust. Step off ladder. WTF! how am I going to get this thing on the wall?

Plan B.

Retrieve hammer and reasonable facsimile of supplied screws from impressive collection.  HAMMER THAT SUCKER THROUGH TINY 32ND OF AN INCH DEPRESSION. Hear chunks of concrete lath fall down inside wall. Shrug. What happens inside the wall stays inside the wall.

Holy shit, that worked. Screw goes through wall, doesn’t crack plaster, and comes out easy. HA! UNSTOPPABLE! Hammer in screw anchors. Pick up cabinet again, careful not to drop supplied screws. Screw through holes and into screw anchors, pressing hard and sweating. There.

Step off ladder.

Note 45 degree angle slant of cabinet.

Laugh. Really, the only thing left to do here is laugh. It’s 10:30 p.m. and you’re sweating profusely and you’ve been at this all day. Sigh.

Unscrew cabinet from wall. Remind self not to lose supplied screws. Deploy too-short level (yes, you have a level, but this is the first time in more than forty years of hanging things on walls that you have used it) to draw a straight line from one screw anchor across to above other too-low screw anchor. Drill 1/32nd inch deep hole.  Repeat screw and hammer maneuver. BAM! Something more falls inside wall. Shrug. Spare screw anchor from impressive collection goes in easy and tight.

Pick up cabinet, check for supplied screws you reminded yourself not to lose. DAMMIT WHERE’S THAT OTHER SCREW? Retrieve reasonable facsimile. Step up on ladder. Relieved to discover supplied screw still halfway in wedge-shaped bracket thingee inside cabinet. Place level on top of cabinet. Holes match up! GENIUS! Screw in screws, pressing hard, sweating profusely. Step down, wipe up plaster dust with wet tissue. Step back. Straight. HA! WINNER AND STILL CHAMPEEN!

Measure, hammer, anchor, screw, hang picture. Done. It’s 11:30 p.m. You haven’t eaten since lunchtime. HA! Intermittent fasting! Lose three pounds overnight!

Consume demure snack of grapes and cheese. Regain three pounds.

Shower, off to bed.

Step on lost screw for wedge-shaped screw anchor.

HA! FOUND IT!

Enjoying our redecorated bathroom, I remain, your UNDEFEATED

Ridiculouswoman

How Not to Strip Wallpaper: Part One

A picture is worth 800 words, but I’ll do the words anyway.

Trepidation. Never used a wallpaper-steamer-offer machine. Trek to truly valuable hardware store to rent one. What emerges from the back is incomprehensible and unclean. Sorry. Head to Big Box Chain home store. Rent cleaner machine. Nice guy at paint department finds little tool to “score” wallpaper first. Warns against pushing too hard, resulting in little pinpricks all over wall. Ha, these walls are plaster, no worries.

Haul machine upstairs. You should have filled machine with hose outside on porch first, but that would make machine too heavy to haul. Review instructions. Main point: don’t burn yourself.  Got it.

Attempt to fill machine using round plastic container retained from grocery store soup purchase, to fill machine. Filled floor instead. Move machine from puddle. Wipe up.

Deploy long-nosed watering can to fill machine. After six or eight fills and pours, screw top back on. Tight enough? Do not over tighten? Plug in. Wait. Fill time by “scoring” walls with pinprick thingee.

Twenty minutes. Shouldn’t steam be coming out of the rod in the middle of the plastic rectangle paddle thingee you’re supposed to put against the wallpaper? Examine plastic hose. Identify severe kink. Attempt to unkink. Ow! Hot! DON’T BURN YOURSELF. Obtain small towel from hall closet to use as hot pad. Hose reluctant to unkink and uncurl. Drape portion of hose over door handle to maintain unkink-ness. Observe that to keep reluctant hose over door handle requires hose to wrap around step ladder. Addendum to “don’t burn yourself:” “don’t trip over hose and fall off step ladder.” Got it.

Steam now schvitzing vigorously. Steam one section while scraping another.  Instructions say ten seconds.  First try, not long enough to make paper scrape off easily.  Repeat.  Hold, steam, scrape. Discover optimum time to hold paddle against wall about three-quarters of the way around the room, after realizing that holding it too long causes vinyl patterned part of paper to scrape off easily, while leaving behind a brown mush of paper backing that smears, doesn’t scrape, all over three-quarters of the room.

Hey, suddenly easier? Drywall, covering an inset for a long-removed medicine cabinet. What are those little pinpricks? Oh. Oh, right. Don’t press too hard with pinprick-roller-scoring tool thingee. Got it. Next bathroom, all drywall. Remember to be gentle. Scrape, scrape, scrape.

Hey, stop biting my ankle, bug! Wait, not an insect – hot plastic hose between your feet that you are not to trip on is burning your ankle that you were to remember not to burn. Readjust hose. Steam, scrape. Steam, scrape. Made it all around.

Observe mess.  Scoop up paper and mush. Place in garbage bag you remembered to bring upstairs for that purpose. Clever you! Step back and observe. Hmm.

Decide that remaining bits of mush on the wall will lend the textured, antique ambiance of a Tuscan villa when painted over with ivory color.  Walls need to dry before paint. Lunch break.

Paint. Hard to reach corner. Ivory paint smear, white ceiling. Charm. Mushy paper bits come off when painted.  Leave some anyway. Texture.

Paint must dry. Use time to assemble clever over-toilet standing cabinet, purchased for the express purpose of not having to drill into plaster wall.

Damn, this thing is rickety, how is it ever going to stand on its own over toilet?  Consult instructions. Discover cabinet must be anchored to wall with supplied brackets. GRRRR.  Set assembled cabinet with brackets attached over toilet. Realize that wainscotting and baseboard make it impossible to get cabinet flush to the wall to anchor. Cabinet is also so low to toilet that if repair inside tank is necessary, unit that can’t be screwed to the wall anyway would have to be UNSCREWED FROM THE WALL. WHAT IDIOT DESIGNED THIS THING? DO YOU MEAN TO TELL ME I JUST SPENT FOUR HOURS OF A GORGEOUS AFTERNOON ASSEMBLING THIS RICKETY PIECE OF SHIT AND NOW I WON’T HAVE TIME TO STEAM THE DOWNSTAIRS BATHROOM AND I’LL HAVE TO BUY A DIFFERENT CABINET TO DRILL INTO THE WALL ANYWAY AND PAY TO RENT THE MACHINE A SECOND TIME??? SHIIIIIIIIIT!

“Mom, are you ok?”

“I’m fine, sweetheart. Want to go shopping?”

Retrieve packaging, including box and mass quantities of styrofoam from recycling bins. Pile these and rickety piece of shit debris into Subaru. Proceed to bedroom-bathroom store. Pile all into cart from cart corral and march to returns desk, prepared for battle.

No battle necessary. Nice lady at bedroom bathroom store sees the problem. Refund.

Proceed to other Big Box Home store, to pick up replacement cabinet that will have to be drilled into wall. Note that store is immaculate, even in aisles with bales of hay. Resolve to apply for job here, ASAP.

Composing Part Two of bathroom cabinet saga and heading off to job apply, I remain,

Your getting-sick-of-do-it-yourself-jobs-but-pleased-enough-with-results-to-carry-on,

Ridiculouswoman

Floor Games

I can lose three pounds in ten seconds playing floor games.

I can gain or lose three pounds within ten seconds. All I have to do is move the scale to a different spot on the bathroom floor. Then, of course, instead of taking the average of the various results, I elect to believe the lowest of whatever numbers come up. Because that must be the correct result.

I had the unprecedented experience recently of having the doctor’s office scale match the lowest of my floor-game results. Doctor’s office scales are evil, sentient beings that know exactly how many pounds to add to your morning result to knock the wind out of your sails and send you directly to the ice cream aisle. But this time, its battery was dying and it just didn’t have the energy to lie. So that locks in my theory that no matter how often I have to move that scale around, and wait ten seconds before I get back on it, the lowest number it comes up with will be the correct one. Because it just is, OK? Is what I choose to believe.

Which is ridiculous anyway, because even though I’ve been working my ass off with eight pound dumbbells and have gone from “are you f..ing kidding me?” to “yes, Amy, I can do that plank, row, twist and raise that (5 lb, in this case) dumbbell up toward the ceiling, and repeat six or eight time on each side,” I HAVE BEEN LOSING AND REGAINING THE SAME THREE POUNDS FOR TWELVE WEEKS.

At this stage the only reason to get on the scale at all is to make sure I’m not gaining weight (any more than that damn three pounds, which is the top end of the 24 I gained back stuffing my face with chocolate in a fit of depression over Easter). But hey, I got all jolly when I turned sixty and decided that I wasn’t going to worry about this anymore, right?

I take it back. I care. I have clothes I love that fit but don’t look as good as they used to. I have jeans I adore and I still think that for a woman my age my ass looks pretty fine (if you are an appreciator of the larger, rounder variety) in them, but they’re wearing out and predictably I can’t find my size in the same brand anywhere (what’s so hard about making jeans short enough for a five-foot-tall woman, I ask you?)

And I miss male companionship, which is apparently awarded only to the slender and the young. Or “the lucky and the strong” (from the song, “The Rose“), I guess.  I’m strong, but not lucky in the sense of “getting.” You know what I mean. Bah!

I’m on a roll with my writing, at least insofar as I have now actually submitted two pieces to lit mags and I’m saving new opportunities daily on Submittable. But that means planting my butt on a chair in front of my laptop for several hours at a time and it seems there is no amount of deprivation or water guzzling or sweating-with-dumbbells or primal-meat-gorging that can counteract the effect of the sedentary arts. ARGH!

My hair is growing out because I can’t afford a haircut. It’s all I can do to get one job application submitted a day while also trying to write something to submit on Submittable while also trying to give at least some attention to Angelic Daughter. I have three minutes left to write before the moment I promised her we’d go out to get her some tacos before I have to go to my three-hour chorus rehearsal.

I guess I can try tweaking the hours of my “window,” which is the eight hours out of twenty-four the intermittent fasting folks say you can eat. My brother has taken this to ridiculous extremes, fasting for 36 hours at a time, TWICE A WEEK. He is disappearing.

There will be treats at rehearsal. It is very likely I will consume some, unless I can find some primal meat to gorge on before I leave. Nothing like a meat-breather next to you in a tightly packed chorus of over 100 singers. Note to self: brush teeth and gargle before rehearsal. I think there’s some shrimp in the freezer I could boil. Doesn’t seem quite primal enough but it will have to do.

Tomorrow more Kondo-ing in the house to find crap forgotten treasures I can sell on eBay or Facebook or at Half Price Books. Workout, shower, write something and then sally forth to face down the evil doctor’s office scale again (the scale is evil, the doctor is really nice). Routine, cautionary look-see, no worries.

After that, plan Fall Excursion, subsidized by Kondo-ing sales, I hope. Until then, I remain,

Your running out of shrimp boiling time,

Ridiculouswoman