The October Rules: Midwest and Northeast US Edition

I’ve made it simple for you to enjoy October PROPERLY.

It’s been a while since I’ve issued some Rules. It was quite a habit when I first started this blog – The Middle Aged Woman Rules, The Thanksgiving Rules and even the Rules of Attraction. I have a very strong attachment to October, and I’ve noticed (ok, and even committed) some violations of rules I should have made known by now. So:

  1. Pumpkins, gourds, hay bales and cornstalks must be purchased at a FARM, with fields and tractors and at least one barn. Exceptions permitting grocery store purchases are only for those who have aged out of driving three hours each way to reach the constantly receding farmland that keeps getting swallowed up by sprawl, which is now getting drowned in climate change torrential rains that won’t quit, but they’ll quit long enough for Fall Excursion (upcoming this week) so back to the rule: Pumpkins, FARM.
  2. Lights are for Christmas. Halloween is about welcoming the DARK. Get rid of those cutesy strings of lit-up dancing skeletons or jack-o-lanterns, or those orange Christmas lights some marketer figured out how to sell you, which brings me to rule
  3. Concerning marketing, do not patronize any store that already has Christmas stuff packnig the aisles . If a store can’t muster a few turkeys and cornucopias before going all in on St. Nick, nuts to ’em. Christmas stuff goes up the DAY AFTER THANKSGIVING.
  4. Jack-o-lanterns are made out of REAL PUMPKINS that were purchased at a FARM (see rule 1). You cut out a cap for the top and scoop and scopo and carve. Bonus points for separating the seeds from the glop and roasting them.
  5. If you are an adult, and you have occasion to wear a costume (e.g., you actually got invited to a Halloween party hosted by other adults) your costume will be either scary or funny. NOT SEXY. Why does everything for adults turn into porn? Which leads me to ask, why are there no “sexy” Halloween costumes marketed to men, hmmmmmm?? Find me one. Can’t do it, canya? If you go to a costume store online and click “sexy,” does anything for men come up – oh wait I didn’t mean it that way — dammit, porn!
  6. You are permitted to eat leftover candy only after the last doorbell has tolled, but only if you were decent enough to buy the good stuff, meaning your Halloween bowl is filled with Reese’s cups, Snickers (I’m on the “fun sized acceptable” team, because that way you can eat more of them on the excuse that they’re small), Baby Ruth’s for those with eclectic tastes, and Hershey minis in all varieties. Don’t try to compete with the pro athlete or CEO down the block who passes out full-sized. They’re just showing off. But, whatever hasn’t been consumed in a guilt-ridden binge before midnight October 31 must be discarded. Vade retro.
  7. Leaves should be peeped at, then raked, not blown (I throw the flag on myself – lawn guy – but after he’s done for the season, these rules apply) or run over with a mower with mulching blades and left to nourish your yard for next year. Demonstrate virtue by using an electric mower, or better, an old-fashioned human-powered mower, which won’t mulch but will win the neighborhood nobility competition (environmental responsibility!)
  8. At least one peck of apples must be picked at an orchard. One or more HOMEMADE PIES (crust too, from scratch, no cheating) must result. If you have to buy a taffy apple, or one of those dolled-up apples coated in two inches of chocolate, at least do it at the ORCHARD’S store, not some cutesy in-town candy store. Eat the pie for dessert after the butternut squash soup you made from squash purchased at a FARM.
  9. Smore’s are to be made outdoors. Relive your scouting days.
  10. October air is “crisp,” not cold, even if you are freezing your fingers off. Suck it up. There may be a vortex or a Siberian jet stream coming your way in a few months.

There. Enjoy the harvest season, which lasts until THE DAY AFTER THANKSGIVING.

Packing for fall excursion, I remain,

Your pedantic, old-fashioned, fussbudgeting, October-loving

Ridiculouswoman

No Tanks

There’s a limit. I’ve reached it.

I draw the line at toilet tanks. Nobody’s going to see behind it, anyway.  I am not going to pull a toilet tank off just to make a nice smooth wall behind it. I’ll just slap whatever I can get back there on it, and leave it at that. I think I got primer over all of the ripped part, and when I put joint compound back there, I don’t care how lumpy it turns out to be. That will be the next owner’s problem, along with my eccentric paint jobs. Ha!

But the wall above the vanity is a problem. I got a little too gleeful when I figured out that there was another layer of something or other under the wallpaper backing, and if I got down to that layer and found a finger hold, I could just rip the paper right up and off. What could have been a five hour job was reduced to two, and I got the rented wallpaper steamer-offer thingee back to the hardware store in plenty of time.

Except I ended up with this:

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And this:IMG_20191007_123201235.jpg

The guy at the rental desk didn’t know what to do about the drywall, even though he showed me a picture of the garage that he had been drywalling all around. So he googled it: OK, primer, joint compound. Go see paint guy.

Paint guy found the primer and the joint compound, and also a new scraper/schmeering thing to schmeer on the joint compound, and explained how to “feather” it and use a big sponge to smooth it out.

So now, apparently, I will add “drywall repair” to my repertoire of do-it-myselfing stuff. We’ll see how that goes.

I confess, however, that just looking at the front hall defeats me. I surrender. Two layers of old, fabric wallpaper on a plaster wall. So I called a highly recommended paint guy  for an estimate for getting those two layers of ancient wallpaper off the front hall walls and prepping the walls for painting, which will be the finale of all this.

Except for the deck.

What was to have been my adventure in power-washing turned into a misadventure when I couldn’t get the hose into the trigger-sprayer thingee.  But wait! Troubleshooting guide online! O-ring has slipped. Slide it back down!

Yeah, right. How? I know! I can slip a tiny screwdriver under it to pry it out enough and roll it down!

Oops. O-ring snaps off and flies away.

But online troubleshooting guide says, “if that doesn’t work, use a sharp knife to remove O-ring.” Yay me! Already removed it! Aren’t I clever?

The troubleshooting guide didn’t say anything about the washer leaking, without the O-ring that guide said to take a sharp knife to.

Kindly brother comes over to help, with his borrowed machine. Attempts fix with O-ring kit I purchased for him at local big box hardware store.

Hose explodes off trigger-sprayer thingee and scatters O-rings across the yard. No windows were broken or eyes put out during this experiment in attempting-to-avoid-ordering-parts-from-manufacturer. But no deckwashing got done, either.

Curses.

Consoled myself by blowing several hundred dollars on new sinks and faucets for the yet-to-be-drywall-repaired bathroom, and making an appointment for a new countertop to be selected and measured. One thing leads to another as the money credit drains away.  Kindly brother installs new bathroom lighting, which looks great and works.

Electrician called to handle other, trickier installations. The only thing to do about this

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hideous affront of a light fixture is to disconnect it, remove it and get kindly brother to cover it up with a piece of matching wood. There is fluorescent light in there that has gone on once in twenty years. I shudder to think what will fall out of there when I unscrew those pegs and look inside. Yikes. I wanted to install cute, small track lights, but there has never been light in that built-in, knotty pine bookcase and I can live without it. Electrician’s option was to snip the wires from the switch, stuff the others up into the hole and cover it up. Good option. Brotherly handyman services are cost of materials only. Yay. Saved credit.

Painter’s estimate for the front hall was reasonable. Electrician’s cost is hair-raising but necessary. Have just enough credit to cover them. Let’s pray that job comes through.

I’ve bored you all with my nearly year-long saga of how-not-to paint, assemble, repair, etc. I’m hoping for a big closing number. I didn’t take any “before” pictures of a lot of it, but I will take some of the “afters” so you can share the hilarious results of attempts to paint a straight line or patch plaster.

Until then, I remain,

Your about to get schooled in schmeering and “feathering” drywall joint compound,

Ridiculouswoman

Haircut and Heartache

Say what you need to while you can.

I hadn’t had a haircut since April.  An entire summer of really bad hair days (can you say “humidity?”) and an upcoming job interview (Tuesday) put me back in the hair chair.

I showed my hairstylist a picture of Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

“That’s a lot like what we usually do.” she said.

What a difference waiting six month makes. Those scissors were inspired. And the blow-dry styling was exceptional.  So of course I bought the expensive new hair product she used,  even though I shouldn’t have spent the money and I’m sure I won’t be able to achieve the same effect.

The haircut pulled me out of a slump. Not just my little writer’s “everything I do sucks” tantrum the other day,  but a real slump caused by the shocking news that a friend I had known since kindergarten had died. He was fine Friday, and gone on Sunday, leaving a grieving husband and hundreds of stunned, saddened friends.

That hit me like a ton of bricks. Not only because I don’t want to believe that my peers and I have reached that stage in life where we look to the obituaries before we read the headlines, but because this particular friend was the kind you could take right back up with even if you hadn’t seen each other in decades. He was vital, loyal, funny, energetic and always responsive, although he was 2,000 miles away.

I messaged him when I reluctantly got back on Facebook in August, just to give him a heads’ up that my new friend request was legit. His response was:

♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️

I took his being there on the other end of Facebook for granted.  But now he’s not.

The last time I saw him in person was at our 40th high school reunion. (God, just typing  “40th reunion” makes me feel ancient). Of all the attendees, he was the last I would have thought would check out early.

We met on the first day of kindergarten. Best I recall, he was wearing dress shorts and Buster Browns. He was always well-dressed. Unwrinkled.  There was something different about him and it didn’t matter at all to the guileless, totally accepting 5-year olds that we were. Through the years we sang in school choruses together.  He had a wonderful bass voice. He performed in talent shows I directed and brought the house down with a brave, fey twist on the song “Convoy” – in high school, in the ’70s. He won everyone over and everyone loved him.  At the reunion I told him that his performance was the bravest thing I’d ever seen a friend do. I’m sure he brushed that off,  saying it was just for fun, but I hope he took in my true admiration.

The evening of the day I found out he was gone,  I had to go to chorus rehearsal, still feeling blue, stunned and pissed off (“how could this have happened? He was healthy, strong, vibrant!”) I turned west, and suddenly my windshield was filled with a breathtaking sunset.  Pink, peach, purple, and just enough cloud in front to make it possible to enjoy without being blinded by the setting sun.  It was a glorious reminder of my friend’s personality and his effect on everyone he knew.  It was a reminder to me of how far I have to grow (still, at my age) to even approach being the kind of person he was.

I found out later that he had been very ill last year, and medication for that illness had weakened his heart. He went to take a nap last weekend and didn’t wake up.  I hadn’t known he’d been ill, which, if I was any kind of good friend,  I should have. I feel rotten about that.  Another smack upside the head about how superficial my friendship can be. I don’t like that about myself and I’ve been trying to change that since my husband died. But here, I failed.

The pink in the sunset was the same color as the scarf my friend wore around his neck for his “Convoy” parody.  The rest of the colors were as vibrant as he was. Heaven got brighter when he arrived.

I think he would have liked the haircut, and my joke about how it made me look like a short, fat, senior Fleabag, and how people would think I’m an (old) pervy Englishwoman, and I didn’t know whether I should be worried or turned on. He would pick “turned on.”

At church the sermon today was about being present, in the now, and and letting go of anxiety, anger and frustration. It was about not letting routine and business interfere with living each day. This is the only this day you get.

Missing an old friend, right now, I remain,

Your composing-lists-of-people-who-should-receive-notes-of-gratitude-and-phone-calls-and-emails-and-texts-before-now-becomes-then,

Ridiculouswoman

Motion Sickness

Querying makes me queasy.

It’s October, and I’m back on the query train, and I’m queasy as hell. Someone get me a dramamine. Sent two off today and I feel like crawling under the covers and moaning ’til dark,  succumbing to the writer’s interior monologue that goes, “who the hell am I kidding? What was I thinking, to write that book, much less send out queries about it? Why do I think anyone would want to read my crap? ARRGGH! Oh this is horrendous! I should be so embarrassed! These New York agents are going to laugh my queries out of their inboxes faster than you can say “memoir,” while they’re venting to their colleagues, “DAMMIT ANOTHER F***ING MEMOIR!”

Why can’t I write YA fiction like everyone else on the planet? You know, stuff that appeals to a market that actually seems to exist? Why can’t I write fiction at all? How does anyone do it, come up with characters and plots and settings and stories that break your heart? Why are all my heartbreaking stories true?

I had a great phone interview yesterday for a job I want. I have to write something and send it in before I show up to an in-person interview next Tuesday. Which means I have less than a week to go full overthink on a 300-500 word piece that should be as easy as falling off a log and then have a full-blown wardrobe crisis. Already scheduled a haircut. Can’t afford new clothes or the haircut but what else can I do?

I have four CNF pieces pending with lit mags, one of which is for an October issue and Submittable still says, “In Progress.” But October itself is “in progress.” WTF? Or am I just such a rookie that I don’t know how this is supposed to work?

I feel another round of displacement-activity-wallpaper-stripping-and-painting coming on. After the downstairs bathroom, the big finale is going to be the front hall, which has two layers of wallpaper:  some kind of heavy striped 1970’s looking fabric, over an adorable 1940s-1950s red-kerchiefy-Betty-Crocker-cookbook-cover looking kind of pattern, as far as I can tell, from the snippet of it that shows in a spot where the stripes have eroded. I’ll have to try and remove or go around an old doorbell chime thing that’s almost a foot square and the paddle on the steamer thing I rented last time is way too big to go above doors and into corners so what do I do about that? Shouldn’t there be some kind of attachment for that? Why am I asking you? I should be asking the guys-who-know-how-to-do-things-who-should-be-enjoying-retirement-now-but-have-to-keep-working-at-the-big-box-hardware-store-for-the-health-insurance. These nice guys give good advice. They all appear to have suffered back or hip or limb injuries in their past professions. One of them even showed me what’s left of one of his fingers.  Note to self: don’t use power sawing equipment. Good thing I don’t need a power saw to steam off wallpaper. Not that I might not want to use one by the time I’m halfway through the job.

I am now in possession of my brother’s power washer and if it ever stops raining I have to use it to clean my deck, which I have never done before. Apparently the force of the thing is capable of “puncturing” skin, and probably breaking toes, so I’ll wear my reinforced toe boots from my warehouse days. Then if I succeed in cleaning the deck I’ll have to go back to the big box store and get the guy-who-knows-about-paint-and-stuff to limp over with his bad back and show me what kind of stuff I have to spread all over the deck once I clean it and which variety of said stuff is the least toxic variety, and how to apply it and whether I have to wear a gas mask or something while I do it. Oh, God! This do-it-your-self-ing will be the death of me if waiting for an answer on my writing doesn’t kill me first.

The kitchen floor needs washing and the second load of laundry is dry and Angelic Daughter needs me to make a vat of her late father’s “magic” chicken soup which does have a way of miraculously curing what ails you, if he helps me from beyond with the proportions of things, because he was an on-the-fly chef who didn’t write down his recipes, which makes me an on-the-fly-cook who prays, when I’m not cowering under the covers with writer’s meltdown.

There’s only one way to handle this.

Nap.

A good two hours of oblivion will at least be a good two hours less of anxiety.  The floor and the laundry can wait, and I’ll still have time to make the soup.

Off to the land of Nod, I remain,

Your overthinking, obsessive, oddball

Ridiculouswoman