Coming home

A long travel day, a long conference day, a long travel day. Moments of embarrassingly loud laughter, long stretches of insect-splatting boredom, sparks of intellectual fireworks, flawless time with friends, and a breathtaking moment of euphoria.

art institute of chicago Chagall exhibit

Back home, half of the plates are gone. The wedding china, which we’ve always used as everyday dishes. Their absence makes space for the boys’ two favorite dishes to rest together on the same shelf. Finally. I don’t like these little upsides. They feel like laughing at a funeral.

Half of the drinking cups are gone. Makes the collection a little coffee-focused. Kid glasses and coffee mugs and a set of happy-making mathematical highballs. With a lot of what I expect just…gone. Maybe I’ve expected too much. And by “maybe,” I mean “of course.”

The dresser he’s had for decades is sitting by the front door. It’s ready. I don’t know if he’s ready. I’m not ready. That’s too bad. We have to be ready. We don’t, of course, but he’s moving and “ready” isn’t the point.

We’re in for a lot of change. There is no “my side” of the bed anymore. Or the fun we had every year on New Year’s Eve of switching sides of the bed. Just for a year. Just to see if it settles anything. Or unsettles anything. Or everything.

What will I do now to shake things up? Have a conversation with myself?

I emptied the mission-style letter-writing desk I picked out, so he can take it to his new apartment that I hate and is too far and is all wrong and is none of my business. And I had him move my work desk from the dining room to the bedroom. My bedroom. Two closets just for me and more space than I’ll ever need. Maybe I’ll move the kids into the master with me, and we’ll move all the furniture in that too-big room and we’ll be happy forever without any problems or fights or unmet needs. The end.

The expectant hope of a new home, where unpacking the books and kitchen tools is so important because they set the stage for everything…I’m doing that in my own house. Not my own, really. A rental I can’t afford by myself. I’ll figure that out later. After I reorganize everything in the manic hope that rearranging until 3am will make the next day okay.

I want to move because there’s too much house for three. I don’t want to move because the last thing the kids need right now is more change. I pause for a deep breath of gratitude that we have that choice. I’m glad for that choice.

I offered some of the framed photos and he accepted. Will it upset the kids to see blank spots on the walls where their photos hung for three years? Will they be happy to know he wants their photos decorating his life or will they notice only the absence? Of photos, of couch, of father visiting four days a week but clearly just a guest.

Did I make him feel like just a guest in the marriage? An employee, an afterthought? Probably. A few plates and cups and a couch isn’t making as large a dent as I thought it would. Did he not have enough of him here, or do I just not notice how much is really leaving?

The little one, my sweet, irrational, King-Kongesque little butterbean wants to know why Daddy has to move his furniture. Why is he bringing things to his new place? They haven’t really understood yet, because it’s been just talk. I think he believed the new apartment he saw was somehow just a daytime space, like for work. Dad sleeping somewhere else because he doesn’t live here? He has literally no friends with divorced parents. Nobody else in our family is separated. I’m sure there will be a trophy or a plaque issued for that particular honor soon enough, but Butter has no frame of reference. Until now. So I’ve taught him about rainbows and mammals and glitter glue and divorce. Gee, that feels exactly the opposite of terrific. “We’re still a family, and we’re living in different houses. We still love you and we both want to be with you all the time. We just don’t do a good job of being with each other.” But that’s not true anymore. We do a very good job of being with each other. So then…why?

There will be questions. I know this will come. “But you are nice together now. Why can’t you be in the same house now that you know how to be kind together?”

I don’t know.

I really don’t know. I’ve asked that, too. For now, or for good, “he doesn’t want to” is the truth the boys won’t hear. We carefully unify in our answers in a way we never did when we were together. And I can’t tell them their dad said that he only has enough kindness for temporary, transitional interactions. I’m in the bargaining phase, though. “If we can keep being this way and we can both work hard on maintaining this civility and mutual respect and…can’t we just please…” It’s been so much work for years just to stay together, so much constant stress to keep from either sinking into depression or running screaming for a distant land that there’s an ease between us now. And I want to keep that ease. Can’t we be like this and stay a whole family? In one place? Can’t we please? I want someone to answer that for me. Because everything would be different, right? We’d be different people with different interests and different approaches and different priorities? We would heal all our issues and be to each other what we should be. To stay together we could do that, right? Maybe. Let’s just try…I know, but maybe try for four more years? It’s only been 15 years total. Why would we assume we know anything yet?

He’s happy and acts like the man I met, animated and clever and fun. The man I married. I try not to focus on the fact that he’s happy because he’s leaving. Because he doesn’t have to anymore. I was a have to.

The wine and the cookbooks are staying. We split the mixing bowls and he got new cutting boards. I want new cutting boards. The beer’s all gone. I rearranged the fridge at midnight, so the veggies are finally in the crisper and the shelves organized by meal. He doesn’t pack school lunches, so why does he get to put the peanut butter in the door? I don’t want it in the door. I don’t want tortillas in the cheese drawer. I don’t want soda crowding the shelves. One for when he visits, and one for my mom. One. They only get a tiny piece of my space because I need to control the space, hold up the house’s walls as they start pressing in. I want all the lunch options together, dammit. Can’t I have that?

Yes, now I can. Oh, and how’s that feel? Everything better now that you can control the peanut butter?

Didn’t think so.

His books are gone. My Modernism shelf has a lot of detritus cluttering it; bits and pieces he found as he packed are sitting by Gertrude Stein and Djuna Barnes and F. Scott Fitzgerald. I don’t want old CDs and cat toys and a battery recharger blocking James Joyce. I reject that arrangement. I want to just sell all the books because there’s not much about language experimentation from the 1920s I want in my face right now. Thank goodness I don’t own any Hemingway or I would have burned it last night. He’s just exactly the guy on whom I’d like to take out my anger. My Faulkner shelf is too high to put things on it, thank goodness. Alphabetical, same publisher and cover system, not too carefully lined up, but solid and supportive in its panic-inducing insanity. Am I going to have to change these shelves? I grouped the books as intentionally as I could: by literary movement when possible, geography when appropriate, and read vs. unread vs. half-read status as necessary. But there are other methods that could make sense, could inspire more reading, could excite my boys into a world of incredible literature. I’ll do that tonight. Because at 4 and 8 it’s crucial that they see a wall of books arranged flawlessly? I worry myself at times, except that I’m consistent, so I know nothing’s too wrong.

What is going to become of my books? What if we move? What if I can’t bring them all? Should I sell them now and just say goodbye? What if, what if, what if? A good reason to get even less sleep. What if? Thinking myself in worried circles like a child rubbing a lovey against her almost sleeping cheek. Or a woman tracing the yellow wallpaper of her room.

My feminist theory shelf is still half-empty—listing and slumped with the freedom of not being packed like literary sardines—from my two-month effort to write the paper that begged me to write it for four years. It was well received. I need to edit it and get it to a journal soon. It’s just too awesome and I want it available to anyone who might care.

I don’t feel awesome, though. There is guilt for swelling with freedom and pride. Now that I’m supporting the kids on my income, there is a constant fear in my freelancing way of life, working this week on too many projects, that the projects will dry up next month. I’ll look for something permanent once these clients slow down.

There is frustration with the same conversations, the same petty bickering, the same nasty under-breath comments said in retreat from a dialogue. Get back here. Talk to me.

You’re not coming back, are you.

I want the ease, the kindness, the joy. I want a relationship, not a roommate. I want surety but not at the cost of how I believe a family should treat each other, at a minimum. I want to know what it will be if we fight for us, though he said he’s not going to try anymore. I want to know what it will be if we give up, so I can decide based on what it’ll be like in a year, two years, ten years. I want to know what is best for everyone, I want to know in advance, and I want to know precisely. With numbers and measurements and guarantees.

Because so much of life is measurable and knowable. Ha. If you want guarantees, get married. I’m pretty sure a promise to someone you love is good enough to carry you through 80 years or so.

I want to know what to want. And while I’m figuring that out, I’ll move the dining room table and change where we keep the art supplies just in case that helps. Anyone have a feng shui book for where to put glitter glue and markers to ensure good decision-making and emotional well-being?

Home, disgusting home

A well reasoned argument for housecleaning performed by hired angels resides over at Let Me Start by Saying.

I have another approach.

Though our house is a hovel, with every horizontal surface cluttered, dishes and counters with today’s meals, bathrooms teeming with cast-off bath toys and wet towels; I will not use limited funds to pay someone else to clean.

Instead, I associate only with people whose houses are in worse shape. If we’re friends and your house is clean, mazel tov. Doesn’t matter how it gets that way…I’m not coming over and you’re not invited here. No offense. Mine just needs to be the cleanest house I see all day.

Because tidy by comparison is free.

Blog Avoidance Syndrome

I’ve recently diagnosed myself with a mild case of Blog Avoidance Syndrome. The causes are many, the symptoms are simple, and the prognosis is unclear. Let me ‘splain. No there is too much. Let me sum up.

We just moved. We just had several birthday parties. For small people. Involving cupcakes with candy eyeballs. The unpacking is getting really old. I have pressing things to do, like finish an article to submit it to a journal before someone else writes it and publishes it and rides its genius all the way to fame and glory and a tenured position at a major University. And I have to rework the novel that is 98% there and has been submitted to decent responses from agents but that needs just a a couple of days of work. And I need to exercise for the first time since January. And I need to get a babysitter so I can go more than 10 minutes without losing my cool. And I really need to update my playlist. And make baby food. And get a parking permit. And overthink the kindergarten decision we’ve kind of sort of maybe made.And hang pictures and knit something and sew something else and find a cure for cancer and start baking my own bread.

So while ideas for blog posts flutter in and out of the corners of my mind, I can’t hold a thought ’til the end of the day, which is when I carve out time to blog. Nor can I seem to find the time to write and edit. Nor prioritize the lame-ass musings I offer herein for the 200+ awesome readers who visit semi-regularly. Because I have other things to do. And the longer I go without posting, the more I think that those other projects are better uses of my time.

So forgive me my blahs. I need to get my act in gear and put my energy where my priorities are. But I can’t until I find the box that has the stuff I need. You’d think it’d be labeled as such, but I’m down to “office stuff,” “hats and shoes,” and “wine glasses”. And we all know which of those gets priority.

What I don’t understand is how other people do this. A mom of five children who unschools with respect and creativity for all. A mom who is promoting her new book and managing a business and reading up a storm. Families move all the time and manage to hang on. Other moms have small children and projects put on hold for longer than they’d like. Other academics get swamped with work and don’t keep up in one field. They all catch up eventually. So why am I counting on not getting back to things, not fixing the imbalance, not ever finishing any of the dozens of things on my list?

How are you all working and exercising and parenting and reading and connecting and moisturizing and cooking and thinking and enjoying? How the hell do you do it? Because I’m not doing any of it, really. Please, do, tell me your secret.

what about your weekend, punk?

You’re all talk, Naptime, about how much work you have and the things you need to accomplish on the weekend when Spouse, the only child care option you have, is available to weather the 4-year-old storm for a bit. So what’d you accomplish, punk?

Finish your articles?
Not really. One is 98% there and if I’d only proofread and double check my sources I’d be done. But then there’s the submission process and that seems daunting enough to put the thing off another year. The other, half-done article, is such a mess on paper and so freaking genius in my head that I just don’t know if I can reconcile the two before baby brain takes over. Again, I just need a solid weekend. But my sitting and thinking skills ain’t what they used to be.

Did you revise your book?
Yup. Last weekend. Total overhaul. Need a new title, though, so the new and improved version can go out to agents who might notice it’s just rearranged. Any suggestions are welcome, even though you haven’t read the danged thing. Seems that’s the way they name most novels, anyway.

Well, okay. Did you finish Peanut’s art project that you started a year ago?

Edit any of the 34 hours of Peanut footage you keep swearing to send grandparents?

Did you do anything of use, now that you mention it?
Well, snarky-pants, it just so happens I did. You read about the nightmare with the cat worms that included a day of steam cleaning the house in scratch-the-skin-off-my-body-and-buy-all-new-furniture horror. Well this weekend was two hours at the incompetent vet (yes, again) for a condescending variety of friendly ramblings, concluded by her asking whether, if we have a boy, we will circumscribe him. I guess she meant drawing the circle around him in the co-sleeper, so I said no. I might write circles around him in the crib when he or she moves to Peanut’s room, but I left it at “no; there’s no reason to.” Didn’t see the need to draw out a discussion about circumscription, since it’s so fraught with emotion.

Spouse and I also made huge headway on our organic garden by building a raised bed—6×6 extravaganza of…well, for now just wood and protective mesh screening. Soon it will have dirt and our awesome compost. Then it will have spinach and basil and carrots and strawberries and squash and cukes and such things. But for now it’s prepped. The best part was building in the rain, while Peanut played in the huge teepee we just built him. (Building semi-permanent forts sounds really good but takes way more time and energy that I believe my child is worth, but really tall bamboo teepees are freaking easy enough to finish in about 20 minutes. 8′ diameter, 6′ tall. $20. 20 minutes. My kind of building.)

I also read 2666 (next post) for the group read and got frighteningly far ahead. Must go write my assessment of The Part about Fate, which I freaking loathed. Suffice it to say that even brilliant writers need to know their limits, and Chilean/Mexican/Spaniard novelists need not try to capture the creakily-aged Black Panther movement in Detroit. Even if they succeed in making some of it funny, relevant, and thoughtful. It was like reading from inside a cubist painting. A very well done cubist painting. But still.

I wiped the hard drive of the computer that crashed AGAIN (shakes fist and grouses incoherently at Microsoft, the voodoo doll for which is coming soon) and have almost got all the backup docs and software restored. Once my software finishes updating I will have all the preschool fundraiser stuff for this week done.

Got a haircut. Completed several towers and puzzles with Peanut. Cleaned out the freezer. Wrote another novel. (Kidding. I rearranged the freezer. Big difference.)

So. I made inroads on changing the world by growing food at home, and am done preparing the house for babe. I just didn’t make any progress on the stuff that will win me fortune and fame. And that reminds me, I need to submit my game show application soon so I can win and actually afford to live here. Unless people figure out there’s as much profit in killing game show winners as there is in killing lottery winners.


Only 21 more days ’til January.

Tomorrow is my day to prepare, bring, and serve a healthful snack at preschool. 25 kids, 12 adults, and a requirement for whole grains and protein, all organic. WTF, people…I already have enough trouble getting three people fed around here.

Tonight my sewer is overflowing into my garage. No big deal. Landlord has a standing account with a 24-hour plumber. How’s that for a silver lining in a shitstorm?

Computers are still busted. Found a loophole that lets me write one sentence each hour and eventually post. I think my computers want me on Twitter and off everything else.

Packing for an awesome trip that will be way too short and that is sure to be fabulous until the moment USAir (why they are still in business escapes me) strands us in Phoenix on the way home. As they always do. Without fail. It’s like the Phoenix chamber of commerce paid the whole airline to make sure people read those lame ass signs for just a few extra hours. People, if I wanted to be in Arizona, I would be in Tucson. Not Phoenix, and not the Phoenix airport. Save your money and let us pass. I can answer your three questions AND I brought you a shrubbery.

Now it’s only 20 days until January.

Gee, I wonder where to live

Our dilemma:
Median Home Cost Seattle $422,190 Berkeley$660,500

Precipitation Days Seattle 155 Berkeley 64
Sunny Days Seattle 152 Berkeley 256
Graduate Degrees Seattle 17.19% Berkeley 34.02%


Source: Sperling’s Best Places, which is good clean time wasting fun for the geographically ambivalent.

Mortgage/real estate fiasco

Seriously, people, can we stop putting off foreclosures? I don’t mean banks renegotiating. Keep people in their homes if you can, but don’t just leave them languishing for nine months and then foreclose. Governments mandating that banks wait to foreclose are just dragging this thing out. Most of the inventory out there is troubled, and if you just keep feeding it in trickles, this fiasco is going to last for a decade. Come on. Let the crash happen and then let’s move on.
Another interesting sh*tstorm a-brewing…


I’m not kidding. This is what I want to do.

Not the journalism part. The goatherding and cheesemaking part.

Seriously, seriously, seriously.

Maybe not Vermont. It’s cold there. Pretty. Cold. So’s New Hampster. But again, pretty. Collegiate. Cosmopolitan in fits and starts. Hmmmmmm.

As I posted last month, Peanut has already put in a request to be a cheesemaker. Our tour at the Pt. Reyes creamery is set for later this month.  After devouring their website and a wheel of Cowgirl Creamery’s  Mt. Tam brie, he is concerned that his brown shoes won’t fit when he’s big, and since he’s already picked them as his cheesemaking shoes, he’s in a quandry. Or was, for, like five minutes. Then he decided that if I would buy him red boots and a pink scooter when he’s big, that all his problems are solved.

Sure. And 75 acres of forested farmland, buddy.


We don’t get it, Naptime Writing.  Why do you claim to like moving, when we know you have a three year old child who is, shall we say, a bit needy, patience about three hours’ shy of his 15-16 hour days, and a laziness par excellence? why iis this your third cheerful move in nine months?

In a word, dear readers, accessories. We can’t justify frivolous expenses. Usually. But in a new place there are neighbors who need blocking via curtains and walls that seem shabby without a bit of color via low VOC paint and floors that seem naked without throw rugs and a doorstep that feels bare without a mat and a garden that can’t be left with its original flora.

So IKEA and Target and local retailers get a visit during naptime, while Spouse is sleeping off his superhuman feats of  moving a whole household over a weekend (our system is that I pack, for a week, while Peanut sleeps his paltry, oft interrupted 9 hours and spouse lifts and heaves and relocates like mad for a day or two until we’re done).

I’m off for a new lock for the garage, a dish rack for our new dishwasher-free life, and bigger pots for our fruit trees. ‘Cuz we aren’t dropping actual roots at this place. We’ll be here a year or two, tops. Not enough to hand over our four mass-producing pear, plum, apple, and peach trees forever.

Easy weekend

Two adults, one child, one 16-ft. truck, three days, and a house and garage full of stuff to move less than one mile.

I bet we’re done in  two and a half days.

Another rental, this time away from the noises and neighborhood we’re not crazy about for different noises and neighborhood until Mr. Mortgage (over at his new blog which is finally up at Field Check Group) suggests that, some time in 2011, that the bottom has finally arrived and it’s time to buy.

Maybe it was the boogeyman

Spouse is out of town, and I get very nervous when I’m here alone. It’s better with Peanut here, but I still hear noises, triple lock the door, get weirded out by windows. That kind of nervous.

When the wee one and I got home from the grocery store this evening, I couldn’t find the compost. I could swear Spouse took it out last night and left it clean and empty, just waiting for eggshells this morning. I swear. Where is it? Nowhere.

So I start to get a little paranoid. What if some freaky creepball has figured out how to get in. Doesn’t rob us, doesn’t harm us. Yet. Just plants the seed in my brain by taking the compost. A little teaser. A I Know What You Put inthe Compost Last Summer kind of thing. I start to get freaked out. I look in the garage, I look in the rooms, I check closts. Because serial killers who get their jollies knowing how scared their victims are often hide in closets. Or garages.

Then I look at Peanut. He’s holding, metaphorically, Occam’s Razor in his hand, and trying to stuff it into his new fire engine. To wit: one should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything. Or, in laypeople’s terms, don’t make up serial killers when you have a garbage-fascinated three-year old right next to you.

Me: Did you move the compost?
Pea: No.
M: I can’t find it. Have you seen the compost?
P: No. I no touch compost. Trash dirty. No way touch it.
M: I know, sweetie. I’m sure you wouldn’t touch it. But did you move it?
P: No. Maybe cats do it.
(Oh, crap.)

I search until I find it behind the couch, crawling with about three trilion ants. I explain again why we don’t put food in the living room. I explain again why telling Mommy what really happened is important, even if we want the answer to be different.I explain surprisingly calmly, considering it took me three weeks to get these same ants, or the little bastards who look just like ’em, to leave the house last month.

P: [thinking] Maybe the cats move it.
M: Well, Peanut, the cats don’t have hands, and the compost weighs more than they do. So I don’t think that’s what happened. Why did you move it to the living room?
P: Uuuuuuummm, I take it for walk, walk, walk, walk, put it in living room, there no room my train, I put it next couch.
M: I see. Well, thanks for moving it out of the way, so nobody trips on it, but compost stays in the kitchen. I know it’s fun to go walking with a big bag. Next time you can ask Mommy and we’ll find a good bag, one that’s empty and that you can fill up, okay?

That is, unless the serial killer hiding in the closet moves the bags before we can get to those, too.

Okay, that’s it.

Attention ants: Stop it. I know it’s warm in here, I know it’s dry in here. I don’t want you in here. Stop it before I run out of Biokleen spray, because its replacement is decidedly less pleasant for all of us.

Attention interest rates: Stop it. Fucking settle around the low 5s and stop. For fuck’s sake. We’re trying to fix an economy here, and you’re not helping. Greedy fucking bank jerks who stole our 401ks. Stop, stop, stop. Just lend everyone nice some money and quit trying to turn 2005 profits. Stop it stop it stop it.

Attention toddler: Keep up what you’re doing, boy. We’re having a great month. You’re doing very well. Nice effort on the friendliness, the compromising, and the listening. You’re a fine and decent human. Keep up the good work.

Attention early morning freight trains: Stop it. You don’t need the horn. Nobody on the planet could miss the blinking lights and dinging bells and dropped crossing arm. Stop honking your horn at 4am already.

Attention everyone on the planet: Step off! Just get out of my way for a few days. I have a novel to send to KGT, about which I’m terrified, even though she’s the sweetest and most gentle creative soul I’ve met, including MPG, who is the sweetest and most gentle creative soul anyone has ever met. While dealing with that fear (and unfinished novel that has two days to be finished), I also have to stop interest rates, decide whether to buy a house, decide how to finish this conference paper, decide whether to think about another kid, decide whether I can pull off above the knee striped socks with a skirt and an aircast. It’s an artificial-crisis-filled stressful month, and I’d like to ask that you all stay home, stop calling, and take a step away from the car keys. Just have some eggnog, chill, and resume your duties after the new year. (NDM, you may resume whenever, since the whole international date line gives you an extra day, anyway, and you wouldn’t get in my way, anyway, since you’re busy not drowning on the other side of the world, fighting to keep the world a better place than the rabid monkey blogs ever could without you.)

Attention babysitters: please select the best amongst yourselves and call me. I have no idea how to find one of you, but I need to see Spouse once before Peanut turns three. It would make three dates in three years, and I’m begging you…please call your own references, because I don’t have time. That’s why I haven’t found you yet. I haven’t looked. It’s a daunting task, one that should be important enough to stop parenting for the three months or so I assume it takes to find a good sitter, but that would sort of make the whole thing a bigger deal than I’m willing for it to be, seeing as I just want one stinking date with my husband in 2009. At least, I mean, but still. Ah, fuck it. I’ll just have Netflix send something not subtitled, and we’ll have our stinking Hot Tamales and popcorn on the cat-litter dusted couch. Sigh.

Attention world governments: please, please hear me now. I’ve figured out the secret to world peace. It came to me in the car (you know, that thing that very few people in the world have, and I’m way too spoiled to even have that, considering what most of the people in the world go through daily). The world would stop its fighting if every man woman and child had working indoor plumbing. Clean water, yes. That’s just necessary, though millions don’t have it. But beyond that, a flush toilet in some sort of structure where you can go all by yourself and close your eyes and have one minute of peace and quiet. And I’m going to go out on a limb here, and GUARANTEE world peace if somehow Bill and Melinda can get everyone a heated toilet seat. I know. We need to fix malaria and AIDS and birth traumas and birth defects and maternal health and cancer and everything else that afflicts the world populations. But once we’re all healthy, we might still be angry. Not with a heated toilet seat. There would be no wars if everyone had a heated toilet seat (which, if you were paying attention above, requires clean water and indoor plumbing, and about three thousand steps of poverty and disease eradication before the heated seats, but still).

Just consider it. Because once I go against my personal beliefs and kill all the ants in the house and strangle bank interest rate people and put a huge boulder on the railroad tracks and kiss my toddler and get a sitter and finish my novel and cure all those diseases, I would really like, for once in the winter, to not freeze my ass just trying to keep the house cleaner than our cat is willing to. And I can’t enjoy a heated toilet seat unless the rest of the world is also fed and healthy and happy and not abused and not endangered and also evacuating on a lovely, clean, heated toilet seat.

So there.

Moving recipes

So we’re leaving next week and I have to get rid of a lot of food. Not the bulk, dried, Lassen‘s stuff. That travels well. I’m talking half-eaten stuff in the fridge that I didn’t consider a liability when I bought it, but now fully intend to avoid in the future.

I’m mostly writing this post to mess with the foodies out there who tag surf recipes. Not that I don’t appreciate a good meal; I do. I’ll post a top ten later, but suffice it to say it’s 30% Boston and 70% SF/Berkeley.

Back to the overstock of sandwich fixin’s in my fridge and the realization that I’ve got to empty it and clean it asap. All canned goods go in the earthquake box and get stuffed in the POD, until we actually have a place to live. Yes, I included a can opener. (What is this—my first year in earthquake country?) So, planet and plates and seismic faults, please don’t shift too much before we can unpack the POD.

Here’s what’s on the menu for the rest of the week:

That’s right. You will have a pickle with that meal. Having cereal? Fine. Have a pickle, too. Pesto for lunch (it’s much better these days, Lenni, because I went to a finer grate of parmesan. sorry for the schlock you had to eat). That looks like it needs a pickle, too.

Ravioli and hummus
Who needs sauce–there are a variety of goops in the fridge that need eating. So anything smearable goes on hot pasta. Funny thing is, Peanut LOVES this particular garbage disposal combination. I haven’t served up the week’s finale, pasta and jam, yet. I’ll bet he likes it. Hasn’t had jam more than once, but it’s sugar and fruit. How can that be wrong?

Overloaded pizza
Frozen organic pizza, with all the veggies from this week’s farmer’s market crammed on top. And a layer of braised tofu that nobody ate. And a sprinkling of sprouted flax seeds that were supposed to change our lives but never come out of the cupboard. Sure the heat of baking will kill them and make them pointless. Doesn’t stop all those people who buy flaxseed bread.

Veggie burgers a la sodium
Today’s special is double condiments. All veggie burgers will be served with extra mustard, organic ketchup, a full dose of Frank’s hot sauce, enough pickle relish to choke a horse, and some organic barbeque sauce. (I know we didn’t like it the first time, but we’re not throwing it away. There are starving children in the world, and Uncle John can’t mail them his leftovers anymore. Now eat.)

Party mix
Not a cracker and nut deal–this is leftover sodas from various parties with whatever liquor is left in the cabinet (which is a lot because I don’t usually drink). But I’m willing to take one for the team ‘cuz there’s no freaking way I’m throwing out even mediocre booze. So I’ve tried a few recipes…Whole Foods all-natural cola with rum is okay, even though that sorry can has been in the fridge for years because I can’t bear to try an alternative to my huge-brand cr*ck c*caine soda. Jones creme soda with Amaretto is not that good, but I managed to choke it down (I was finishing the caramel sauce, because who wants to pack that, with pretzels, and the Jonesaretto was just too sweet). Rice milk and Kahlua is worse than I expected. Maybe with protein powder next time? Margarita mix and club soda is just bad, probably because mixer-on-mixer actions wants for a certain je ne c’est quoi–of, wait, I do know. It is missing alcohol. Tonic water and vodka is quite yummy…hey, wait, that’s a real drink. I thought I was a genius mixologist for a while there.

All grains muffins
Just because a recipe calls for wheat flour doesn’t mean you can’t use the last of the quinoa flakes. Or that brown sugar can’t be almond simple syrup because that’s what you have. It’s not like baking is a science, or that toddlers are picky. I mean, come on.

We are gonna be HUNGRY when we get to the temporary digs…

Misleading rent vs. buy calculators

Oh, man, some of the online calculators that promise to help you decide whether to rent or buy a home are wicked misleading!

I just plugged in our numbers, and one calculator made so many assumptive and factual errors it was scary. I now feel the need to blog a public service announcement. Stand back. This may be messy.

First of all, though my rent would be less than my mortgage, the calculator assumed I would spend the difference rather than save it. Don’t they know I watch Suze Orman? Big problem for the bottom line, that assumption. And there was no way to change it.

Second, the calculator assumed that every penny paid to the mortgage would come off the principle. I asked for a calculation on four years of renting versus buying. The calculator said that I would shave at least a third of the balance of the loan in that time. With what loan? Is someone now offering principle-only loans? ‘Cuz I’ get one of them, no question. In the first four years of a mortgage, we’ll be lucky if 15% of our payment goes to principle. Using the faulty numbers, the calculator had my savings account ten times bigger than it really would be after four years of owning a new mortgage. That’s 1000% off. Slight problem, no?

Third, the calculator neglected to take closing costs for the purchase and sale, or realtor costs out of the alleged profit I’d make after four years of ownership (which is really bank ownership and my borrowship).

Did I just find a bad rent vs. buy calculator? Maybe. This one seems pretty good because it asks a lot more questions and involves a lot more financial nuances. I think the mortgage and realtor web sites that have these calculators have more than a little at stake in convincing us that home ownership is an “always””, rather than a “sometimes” wise decision.

Deciding whether to buy a really small, 8 trillion dollar Berkeley house that we won’t keep for more than 4 years, I found this site about homeownership myths useful. (Yes, it’s flawed, especially in not articulating why its title exists, but the financial blogosphere seems very threatened by its overall points. I won’t link to their nonsense. Geez. If someone arguing that renting is sometimes okay threatens your whole raison d’etre, get a therapist.) Even today, my SoCal realtor told me the interest write-off is a good reason to buy. Um, you don’t get the interest as a refund. It comes off our pre-tax income and therefore gets us about 15% of our interest payment back. Call me jaded, after selling in a down market, but I don’t always think buying is the best answer. Do the math yourself. Don’t use an online calculator. (And if you do, find a good one.)

(And don’t buy from liars who don’t disclose material facts that will keep you from selling at a fair price later. Seriously. But that’s a whole ‘nother entry.)


I’ve stopped cleaning now that we don’t have the wild beast known as the realtor-led-buyer wandering through our house every day.

It felt lovely for a day or so, but now the place looks like a hovel.

Thank you, lengthy sales process, for teaching that I actually like a tidy house.

Thanks, universe, for ensuring that we can’t afford someone to clean for us. Makes us feel all bootstrappy and pioneer-y. (Okay, not really, but I’m trying to look on the bright side this week.)