Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day

Memorial Day brings back fond memories for me. This time four years ago, I was lying on an examining bed in a doctor’s office having an interuterine insemination. My husband was there, as well as Rita, the nurse who performed the procedure, thus allowing me to joke that there were three people involved when Cassandra was conceived. I had no idea four years ago what I was getting into, and some days, I still don’t know.

We did the same infertility procedure back in September for Samantha, the baby who is currently kicking the stuffings out my innards and leaving me with enough stretch marks to make my hide look like a map of Rhoade Island. There were five people present this time, including myself, Michael, Cassie, Rita and Dr. Flood, our reproductive endochronologist. Cassie was extremely excited to be involved in the creation of her future sibling, and has gone through every step of this pregnancy with me. I mentioned in an earlier post that while I’ve been pregnant with baby Sam, Cassie has declared she is carrying “Baby Boy.” Baby Boy does every thing Baby Sam does – kicks, wiggles around, eats his “mommy’s” food. If you ask Cassie very nicely, she will pull Baby Boy out of her navel and show him to you. She’s even complained of having contractions, suddenly stopping in the middle of the room, grabbing her belly and going, “Ooh! I having contractions. I have to lay down!”

Cassie doesn’t know it yet, but I went out and bought a “Baby Boy” for her. I had a hell of a time finding a baby doll that was just the right size and look. Too many of them are all cutsied up and made tinier than real babies. And I’ll be damned if you can find a doll that’s actually male. I don’t expect them to be anatomically correct, but would it kill any of these overpriced toy manufacturers to sell baby dolls with little blue outfits? Every single one of the dolls I looked at came with pink clothing, which I thought was pretty weird, considering they were all made in China, a country not known for valuing female children.

But I did some hunting and finally found a decent looking doll with a little purple and aqua colored outfit. I also got Cassie a stroller, some feeding toys and a spare set of clothes. She has a rocking chair already, and I’m pretty sure that Cassie is more than likely going to go through the whole diaper-changing/breast-feeding routine with me, just like she’s gone through the rest of this pregnancy. All of which just astounds me.

Four years ago, I wasn’t even pregnant. Today I’ve got a tall, skinny three-year-old who loves to run, play, count, sing, read and chase the cats. She can converse better than most adults I know. In fact, yesterday, while we were housecleaning, Cassie turned to me and said, “So how’s your day been so far, sweetie?” And when I asked her about her day, she shrugged and said, “Oh you know, the usual cleaning and stuff.” It’s the weirdest mix of adult and child I’ve ever seen, but she’s mine and I love her.

So for Memorial Day, I celebrate Cassie and the baby about to come. We’ll have burgers and potato salad at my best friend Cindy’s house where we can ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over her new baby, and I’ll remember what it was like to lay on that examining table four years ago and start down the road to parenthood myself.

Yeah, sappy, I know. Wait a few weeks until I’m up to my hips in poopie diapers and spit-up. Then I’ll be back to my cynical old self. I promise.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Can Mommy Make Some Money?

Cassie didn’t wake up until 7 AM yesterday. Today she’s up again at 6. Yesterday actually went pretty calmly for me. Today I’m back to wondering if I’m going to blow a gasket from handling a cranky three-year-old all day long. It amazes me how much difference that one hour to myself makes.

Anyway, today’s topic – can Mommy make money? I quit working outside the home about five years or more ago. Basically, I hated my job. It was tedious, most of the people I worked with were too stupid to live, and I worked 80 hours but only got paid for 40. Still that pay wasn’t bad – forty-two thousand a year for building briefings and running a conference room that made me want to tear my hair out. I had to quit. I had reached a point where just the thought of going into work made me want to puke. To this day, fluorescent lighting and cubicles send me rushing to the john.

Now I’m at home, where the work is still frustrating, but more enjoyable (yes, believe it or not, I am having a good time being my usual bitchy self). The problem is, I’m not making very much money. I had hoped that after five years of working on my own, I’d have figured out a way to make at least five thousand a year, but I’m not even making two grand at this point. Somehow, I’ve got to turn that around.

The question is, how? With child number two almost here, I know my work schedule is going to be damned tricky. I’ve set up a workstation at the glider so I can handle e-mail and write while I work. I should be able to do graphics as well, since I’ve got my Wacom table hooked up to the laptop. I did a lot of writing by hand when I was nursing Cassie (all of it porn!), but it all stayed in the three-ring binder I was scribbling in. None of it ever saw the light of day, and none of it ever made me money.

What that writing did do was get me into the habit of writing on a daily basis, and I’m hoping that this time around I can get into the habit of doing productive, money making work while nursing Samantha. I just have to see if I can nurse, handle a three-year-old, and write or draw at the same time. I also have to find a market for whatever work I turn out. Should be easy, right?

My other option is to do the Fly Lady thing of working in fifteen minute blocks throughout the day – fifteen minutes of writing, fifteen minutes of cleaning, fifteen minutes of playing with the kids, fifteen minutes of break, fifteen minutes of drawing, fifteen minutes of whatever, and keep rotating through the things I want to do for the first several weeks after Sam is born. I have no clue if it’ll work, but I’ll give it a try. In fact, that’s what I’m doing right now – taking fifteen minutes to write this blog entry. I’m down to my last 2 1/2 minutes, and it seems to be working at the moment. The real test will come in the next few months.

Time’s up. Gotta go. Have a bitchy, y’all.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Early Bird Gets On My Damned Nerves

I don’t know why, but just about every morning this week, I’ve been in a rage. In fact, it’s been an all-day-long rage. I’m 37 weeks pregnant and one of the angriest bitches you’ve ever met. Not that I’m acting out on that rage, but all day long I have these fantasies of getting into fights, yelling and screaming at people and do all sorts of other nasty things as well. It’s a 24-hour mad-a-thon, and I can’t seem to stop it.

Well, maybe I do know what the problem is. I’m damned tired. I’ve been waking up at all hours of the night, having to get up to pee because I have contractions. Then for some reason, I can’t seem to sleep past 5:30 AM no matter how late I go to sleep. So I climb out of bed at the butt-crack of dawn, get dressed and head downstairs to my morning chores. And just about every morning this week, Cassie’s woken up shortly after me and gone down too.

There’s the real problem. A three-year-old is no fun at 5:30 AM (on Wednesday, she came into our bedroom at 5:15, shouting, “Mommy, I’m awake!” and wasn’t that a fun way to start the day). Cassie never wakes up in a pleasant mood. Wonder where she gets it from, hmmm? She’s cranky, demanding, whiny and inconsolable if she doesn’t get what she wants. And at 5:30 AM, I’m in no mood to coddle anybody, even my own child. I’ve been taking her downstairs with me, trying to keep her quiet so she doesn’t wake Michael, and then I spend all morning trying to manage her temper tantrums. No, she may not watch a movie. Yes, she may watch the Weather Channel with me, but we’re only watching for ten minutes. Yes, she may have milk, but she has to say please first. No, she may not go wake up Daddy, because he gets to sleep until seven.

That last one really chaps my ass, because Michael and I go to bed at the same time, usually between ten and eleven PM, yet I’m the one up at 5:30 dealing with an angry baby. I warned him yesterday that was going to stop. I can’t handle Cassie all day long if the day starts before dawn. It’s just too much right now. I don’t care if he isn’t a morning person. I’m not one either, but if I can haul my pregnant ass out of bed, he can haul his non-pregnant ass out too.

I’m not entirely sure why Cassie is getting up so early. The best I can figure is a)she hears the birds singing in the morning, and they’re pretty dang loud, b)at 5:30 AM the sun is already coming up and flooding her room, and c)she’s no longer in her crib and can get out whenever she wants so she is. Whatever the reason, mornings have been ugly, and it just sets the mood for the entire day.

Yesterday, she woke up soaking wet. We finally took her out of pull-ups at night a couple weeks ago, so every now and then Cass wets the bed. She was wearing her favorite nightgown yesterday morning, and you should have heard the screaming when I told her it had to come off. She howled for about fifteen minutes, and straight out of bed I was contemplating giving her a time out just to keep from throttling her. So you know I walked around with an angry black cloud over my head the rest of the morning. And since Michael slept through it, I spent all day long fantasizing about running away and leaving him alone to deal with Cass, or taking Cass with me since I felt like he was no help to me whatsoever. Which isn’t true. Michael is a great help, shoulders 50% of the workload around the house and helps out all the time with Cassie. Just not at 5:30 AM.

You know how some people call 3 AM the witching hour? I’m thinking of calling 5:30 AM the divorce hour, because that’s how angry I feel when I’ve been getting up. Fortunately, I learned long ago not to act on those emotions. If I give the day enough time, something eventually turns around. Usually. Well, most of the times.

Okay, some nights I am going to bed still pissed. Maybe I’ll just start waking up Michael by beating him with a pillow to blow off some steam. Or I’ll let Cassie wake him up at 5:30 AM and see if he likes the early bird any better than I do. That at least is something I can laugh at, and laughter is a much better way to start the day, especially if it's the cruel, evil, mocking kind.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Helen’s Home For Geriatric Cats

I have three bags of dry cat food, twenty-four cans of wet, six cans of tuna, two packages of salmon and three cats who are damned and determined to starve themselves to death.

Well, not exactly. I do have a ton of cat food in the house, but the cats aren’t intentionally starving themselves to death. They’re just taking turns not eating for various medical reasons. Or maybe it’s for religious reasons. I don’t know. I’ve had cats all my life, but I don’t understand them.

A few months ago, BJ, my Himalayan, suddenly lost a lot of weight. We only discovered this because he also stopped grooming himself, and all that long lovely silver fur quickly became a tangled, snarled nightmare. So we took him in to have him groomed and the vet discovered that BJ was down to 5 1/2 pounds in weight. Not good on a cat that used to weigh ten.

BJ came home that day shaved and looking like a walking skeleton. I was horrified. My beautiful, proud pussy (get your minds out of the gutter!) looked so sick and weak, I was afraid he’d die at any moment. I spent the next several days nursing him. I bought every brand of wet food I could to try and induce him to eat. I spent extra time with him, brushing him (actually polishing him really, because he was pretty much bald after being shaved), petting him and talking to him. He just sort of laid there, watching me with those enormous blue eyes of his, wasting away. Then one day I got desperate and brought home some jars of baby food. Miracle of miracles, BJ got up and starting eating. I spend several more days feeding him baby food, an ounce at a time, until eventually his appetite came back. I also spent several evenings with my husband giving BJ subcutaneous fluids. That’s basically an IV set up for the cat, where you have to inject a special fluid mix beneath the skin until the cat has a big hump of fluid sitting on his shoulder. We kept sticking BJ with a needle every night and pumping him full of fluids until he eventually got strong enough to claw the crap out of my husband, at which point we both declared him fully recovered. BJ is now back to his proud, glorious self. His majesty subsists entirely on a diet of cat treats, tolerating only the occasional mouthful of wet food, but he’s at fighting weight and the vet said as long as he’s eating, don’t worry.

About the same time we discovered that our other two cats had lost a bit of weight as well, so we started feeding them more wet food. Seemed like they’d lost the taste entirely for dry. Since all three cats are over the age of fourteen, I’m inclined to cater to their persnickityness. These three felines have been my constant companions since 1992, and I’m not ready to see them go just yet. At least, I certainly don’t want to watch them waste away. Seeing what happened to BJ just horrified me to no end. I thought it was my fault and that I had managed to starve and neglect my beloved pet. The vet had to reassure me repeatedly that at the age of fourteen, these sorts of problems can happen, and in BJ’s case, it appeared to be a kidney related, not owner-related, problem. In other words, I had not starved my cat; he had gotten sick and quit eating.

Now it’s happening again, this time to Lydia. Again, this appears to be kidney related. Unlike BJ, though, Lydia isn’t just simply wasting away. She’s also been vomiting and having diarrhea all over the place. I was pretty pissed the first time I saw her pooping on the carpet, and I banished her to the garage while I cleaned up the mess. A week later, I’m kicking myself for that. I hadn’t yet figured out she was sick. I had to see her vomit a few times and leave more messes on the carpet before I got it through my thick skull that something was wrong. That’s when I recalled she wasn’t coming down in the mornings to eat anymore. For a day or two I tried bringing food to her, only to find she wasn’t interested.

So we went back to nursing and coddling a geriatric cat. This time, in order to get Lydia to eat, I’ve had to feed her by hand. This means six times a day I wrap her up in a beach blanket so she can’t claw scratch my eyes out and then take a syringe full of chicken broth, rice cereal and jarred baby food and squirting it down her throat. I’ve also had to squirt a mixture of Gatorade and Pepcid AC down her gullet too, and then some amoxycillan. And to top it off, we’re giving her subcutaneous fluids as well, meaning my husband gets to hold a struggling cat while I stick a needle under skin and pump 200 ml from an IV into her. The fun never stops.

The good news is Lydia is recovering at a faster rate than BJ did. After a few days of hand feeding, she started eating on her own again. I’m still mixing up chicken broth, rice cereal and baby food for her, but now I can feed it to her in a bowl. She’ll also occasionally eat some regular dry food, and she’s drinking plenty of water. The vomiting and diarrhea have stopped, too. And Ms. Lyds is back to her usual affectionate self. I expect she’ll make a full recovering. Once again, I have staved off the grim reaper of cats.

I won’t be able to do so forever, I know. But it’s a comfort right now to be able to enjoy my cats and not have them die a slow, debilitating death. Like I said, I’d rather not watch them waste away. When they go, let it be quickly and peacefully, in their sleep. Cats don't really have nine lives, but the one they do have should be a comfortable one.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Tech Support Hell

Man, do I feel sorry for the tech support guy who just dealt with me. I am not exactly a technophobe - I’ve been using computers since the early 1980’s, a few years before I entered high school - but I sure as hell get pissed when something about the computer doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to.

In this case, the problem was my e-mail. I could get and send e-mail from my home address, but no e-mail was coming through my business address, which is supposed to relay any messages straight to my home address. After digging around for a while with some help from my local web host (Philip, you’re the best!), we came to the conclusion that AT& was blocking his server. The problem was, we couldn’t figure out how to contact AT&T to get them to unblock it. They don’t advertise a contact e-mail for this sort of thing, and we know because we searched. So after several days of trying to figure out whom to talk to, I bit the bullet and phoned their tech support. I got just about what I expected.

First off, the guy who answered my call said his name was “Steve” but he spoke with a distinct Indian accent, which left me wondering if his name was really Steve or if that was just the name he was supposed to use to mask the fact that good ol’ AT&T out sources its tech support to Delhi. Lest I seem ethno phobic or racist, I’m not going to complain about talking to a tech support guy located on the opposite side of the world. Even when tech support used to be located inside the US, I still often found myself talking to someone who learned English as a second language. I believe math and computer science were their first languages...

Anyway, “Steve” answered my call and did his best to step me through the problem. Now, I knew what the problem was, but there was this slight language, or rather accent, barrier. You see, Steve spoke fluent English, but I could barely understand a word he said, so I had a hard time answering his questions. Plus, he started his approach to my problem by eliminating the stupidest, most obvious causes first, which I’m sure he was required to do. I am familiar with the drill, having been a tech support person back when I worked for the Air Force. I always had to make sure the person I was talking to knew how to turn the computer on before we could go any further.

So Steve made sure my computer was on, I could access the internet, my e-mail program was running properly, etc., etc. All of which I understand he has to do, but that didn’t lessen my irritation any. I had already been struggling with this problem for over a week and not getting anywhere, and now I’ve got some dweeb on the line asking me if my computer is turned on? But I grit my teeth and let Steve do his job. Slowly, patiently, I explained again and again that I was not getting any e-mail sent through my business address. In fact, I had sent several test messages myself which had not gone through. They made it as far as my web host’s server, but they couldn’t get any further. Steve asked what error message I was getting when the e-mails didn’t go through. I had to explain several times that I wasn’t getting any error messages, or even any bounced e-mails. My test messages just went to the web host server and sat there, completely blocked. Steve insisted I had to be getting error messages or bounced back mail. No, I said again, not getting anything of the sort. We went through this several times, with me getting louder at each repetition, before I somehow finally said the right combination of words to Steve that made him realize what the problem was. He sent me to a website that had the e-mail address I needed to request my web host be unblocked by AT&T and he explained that all my web host needed to do was send their ISP to that address and the problem should be solved in a day or two. I bookmarked the site, thanked him profusely, and got the hell off the phone.

Again, here is where I feel sorry for Steve. He didn’t ask to play butt-boy to an angry stay-at-home-mom/small-business-owner suffering from e-mail dysfunction. He was just trying to do his job. Unfortunately for him, tech support has always been the kind of sucky job that puts its employees in frequent contact with bad-tempered individuals like yours truly. I know, I had his job once, and I always got yelled at because some dumb-ass couldn’t figure out that the reason his computer didn’t work was because he’d kicked the power cord out of its outlet AGAIN.

About five seconds after I hung up the phone, I started to feel guilty about yelling at this poor guy stuck out in India, just trying to do his job. I was reminded of a similar incident from my “gainfully employed” days. Janice, a truly amazing co-worker of mine, and I were trying to solve a technical problem in the conference room where we worked. The whole conference room was brand new, with several thousands of dollars of audio-visual equipment installed, including new computers, back screen projectors, and video tele-conferencing capabilities. It was a top of the line set up back in 1999, and so complicated it now reminds me of the entertainment center my darling husband has set up in our living room (see my earlier post on that). The guy who sold it to us knew diddly-squat about how to run it, so he sent the technician in to talk to Janice and I. The technician was a fellow named Kim from somewhere in South Korea. Very nice guy, very smart, and of course, his first language was not English, but math and computers and electrical engineering. I also think he might have spoken Korean, but I never asked. So Janice asked him a question about how to display the video-teleconference on one screen while the computer was displayed on another (or some such non-sense; it was important at the time but I forget why), and poor Kim thought she was talking about something else, so he kept giving her the same wrong answer and she kept asking the same question over and over and over again. And each time Janice had to ask her question again, she got louder and louder, just like I did with “Steve” this evening at AT& Just before Janice started screaming loud enough to shatter the conference room windows, I interrupted and said, “Janice, he’s Korean, not deaf.”

Well, Janice calmed down and we eventually got our conference room problem solved and Kim left as quickly as he could. In fact, I don’t think I ever saw him in there again when Janice was at work. And thinking back on that incident, I feel pretty sure I’ll get my current e-mail problem fixed, too. But I’m also pretty sure that Steve out in India is praying as hard as he can that he doesn’t have to deal with anymore calls from me. If he does, I apologize in advance. Being tech support is hell.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Mommy Writes Porn

If you’ve looked at my sidebar and clicked on my “About Me” description, you’ll notice I mention that I write erotica. Strangely, I thought I would have visited this topic before now, but most of this blog has been taken up by my struggling with day to day stuff like taking care of my daughter and dealing with my husband’s techno geek lifestyle. Since I’m currently packaging up my first erotica novel for submission to a publisher, I figure it’s about time I mention the subject.

Notice I called it erotica in the above paragraph, but the title mentions ‘porn.’ What’s the difference? I don’t know, and honestly, I think that’s got to be one of the oldest, most tedious debates I’ve ever seen over the subject of sexually explicit writing. Some folks say porn is crude and goes straight getting the audience off while erotica has literary pretensions mixed in with a lot of purple prose sex scenes. I say it’s both or neither, depending on what I’m writing at the time and the mood I’m in. I certainly want to write a good story, one with a well thought-out plot and well-developed characters, but I also want to get my audience aroused to the point of climax if I can do it. I hate purple prose, but I have been known to wax poetic (sort of) in my own writing. However, I’ve almost never called a cock anything other than a cock, and a clit is a clit and I don’t mind getting down and dirty as the story requires.

Other grand debates about the subject of erotica/porn - is it a serious genre of writing? Let me just say that if I’m going to spend two or more hours a day on a project, it damn well better be serious. I take my writing seriously, and I get damned annoyed with writers who claim they’re only writing erotica until they can break into a more ‘legit’ genre. I don’t mind people writing in more than one genre. I write in more than one genre, but I treat each story I write very seriously regardless of whether I’m writing horror, sci-fi, fantasy or porn (note that all these genres have been scoffed at as less-than-legitimate endeavors; guess I’m a sucker for underdogs). Anyone who doesn’t take their writing seriously needs to quit writing. Put down the pen, step away from the word processor and go scrub toilets, because if you don’t take your writing seriously, no matter what the genre, then nobody else will either and you are going to fail as a writer. The only sales in writing I’ve ever made have been in erotica. They were all damn good stories and I busted my ass working on them. If you want to see some of them, check out the Erotica Readers and Writers Association Treasure Chest. I’ve got a couple stories posted in there. While you’re at it, take time to read some of the other folks in there as well. There’s some damn good stuff at the ERWA.

Speaking of ERWA, they’ve got a book coming out this summer called CREAM: The Best of the Erotica Readers and Writers Association. One of my best stories is in there, and I can’t wait to see it in print. This will be the fifth story I’ve sold, the ninth I’ve published, and the second time I’ve got a story appearing in a book. Erotica isn’t serious my left butt cheek...

One of the final big issues regarding erotica/porn, and this one is currently getting rehashed on the ERWA lists, is whether or not authors should use a pen name. I’d say about 98% of the erotica writers I know use a pen name because they’re afraid of what might happen if people ever found out they write about sex. I’m not one of that 98%. I don’t know why, but I’ve never had any problems telling anybody I write sexually explicit stories. In fact, when most people find out I write, the first thing they ask is what do I write, and I tell them I write erotica, stories about adults written for adults. Most people just say ‘Oh,’ and that’s it. Nobody’s ever called me names or told me I’m going to hell or that I’m a filthy pervert. My husband has never been threatened professionally because of what I write. Even my family knows - Mom, Dad, my sister, my aunts and uncles, cousins. I think my even my very Catholic mother-in-law knows. Nobody says ‘boo’ to me about it. In fact, those folks who do say anything usually just grin and say, “Well that’s Helen for you!”

I’m not saying those other authors don’t have a legitimate reason for using a pen name. There are plenty of writers who’ve been hassled and threatened and had scary encounters with the authorities or some weirdoes because they chose to write porn/erotica. But this is one of those things that I think goes hand-in-hand with taking your writing seriously. If you treat what you do seriously, and are willing to stand up for it, regardless of what people may say to you or about you, then maybe people won’t hassle you because they realize you mean business and you're not going to run and hide because they say nasty things to you.

Of course, people might just not hassle me because I scare the crap out of most folks. At least that’s what I’ve been told.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

How Many Remotes Does It Take...

Another class yesterday, this one on infant care. And yes, we sat in the same hard-ass seats again. I was going to take a refresher class on breast-feeding, but my pelvic girdle just can’t take any more torture. It already feels like someone’s taken a hammer to my groin.

My husband and I hired a babysitter for Cassie while we were at class last night. Our sitter is great - fifteen years old, smart, hard-working, responsible, and she lives right next door so I know if there’s any problem, her mom is right there to help out. Of course, before we leave, we always go over the necessary info for the evening - where we’ll be, what time we’ll be back, how to get in contact with us if there’s an emergency, and how to turn on the TV.

Now remember, I said our sitter is smart, and she is. This teen is sure to get into college on a scholarship and will probably graduate with honors. So I am in no way implying she’s a little thick because we always have to instruct her how to turn on the TV. Instead, I am implying that my husband has made it damned near impossible to operate our television without a degree in engineering and computer science.
Yep, my husband the genius has turned our TV into a regular nightmare.

It all started a few years ago when a friend of ours decided to hook up a computer to his TV so he could download movies online and watch them at his house. Of course, the movies were all pirated, and Michael didn’t care to watch pirated movies because of how strongly he feels about copyright issues (I’m with him on this one - I’m a writer and I’d be pretty pissed if I caught someone stealing my work when I busted my ass writing something). But the idea of hooking a computer up to the TV appealed to Michael, especially when he realized he could use it to record his favorite programs just like a VCR and then watch them later at his convenience (an activity which is legal and therefore meets his approval).

So Michael gathered up various computer parts from around the house and built a new system which he installed into the living room next to our entertainment center. And that’s when the nightmare began, because he couldn’t just install a computer. He also had to install a sound system, because why bother going high-tech if you’re not going to go all the way. And along with the new sound system he just had to install a device to switch between the various audio sources so they’d all come through the new speakers crystal clear, and of course the whole thing had to go onto our wireless network and cable modem so he could surf the net from the TV if he wanted, etc., etc., etc.

Boxes started arriving at the house on a daily basis, each carrying some new technical do-dad. We had to save every box of course, in case Michael needed to send something back, so pretty soon we had a mountain of cardboard in our garage, making the garage absolutely useless for anything else. But that was a small inconvenience compared to the other problems that we encountered along our way to building the ultimate high-tech multi-media system. For starters, there were no manuals out at the time to explain step by step how to do this, so Michael was building everything on the fly, and of course there were bugs to work out. Lots and lots of bugs. Some days he’d get the computer to record everything he wanted. Some days the damn thing wouldn’t even start up. The computer lost time, sometimes as much as five minutes, screwing up Michael’s recording schedule. Then it gained time. Then it locked up repeatedly during recording. Then there were all the little annoyances like being unable to use the computer for anything else while it was recording, or not having enough disk space to save all the programs it programed to recorded. And let’s not forget all the remotes we suddenly had to have to use this new system. There was one for the switcher, to pick what audio source you wanted to hear (TV, radio, DVD, CD player, etc.). That was supposed to be the master remote that would control the whole deal, but since it didn’t have all the buttons to operate the DVD and the VCR, we had to have a remote for each of these as well. Then there was a remote for the cable and another for the VCR, because the master remote didn’t have any buttons to operate those two things. It could operate the TV, but we still had to keep a separate remote for that in the end because none of the other remotes had a way to turn closed captioning off and on. With a light sleeping three-year old in the house, we pretty much had to have that, otherwise we’d never be able to hear the TV after she went to bed in the evenings. In total, we ended up with about nine remotes to operate the whole system, and you can’t use just one remote to do anything, you have to use at least two and they have to be the right remotes. Thus the reason we always have to sit down and explain to our sitter how to turn on the TV each time she comes over.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. My biggest beef with the whole deal? My husband started spending more time with that damned machine than he did with me. Entire weekends went into taking the system apart and putting it back together again. Some days I’d spend more time talking to Michael’s ass than his face because he spent so much time with his head stuck in the computer, trying to fix whatever the latest glitch was. And this went on for a year, until I finally put my foot down and told him if he didn’t start spending time with me, I was going to trash the whole set-up and send him packing.

That seemed to get Michael’s attention. He declared the computer finished and we went back to talking to each other face-to-face and spending the weekends together doing the usual husband and wife things (i.e. shopping at Sam’s Club and cleaning house). Then I made a horrible discovery. The computer had developed an artificial intelligence. That’s right. The multi-media center from hell had a mind of its own, and it decided it hated my guts.

I first came to this realization around the time the television show “Lost” came out. I was sort of interested in seeing the first episode, so I asked Michael to record it for me. He did. On the computer. After getting detailed instructions on how to retrieve the recording so I could view it, I sat down and watched the most enjoyable hour of TV I’d seen since Cassie was born. Keep in mind that I had pretty much quit watching TV after Cassie was born (except for Sesame Street and Wiggles), but “Lost” really appealed to the sci-fi/fantasy/speculative fiction nut in me, and after the first episode, I was hooked. So I asked Michael if he could set up the computer to record “Lost” every week. He assured me it would be no problem.

He was wrong.

I have never seen the third episode of season one, because the computer failed to record it, when it first ran and again when it re-ran a couple months later. I was a little annoyed about that (actually, a lot annoyed), but I figured I could live with missing one episode. Then the computer failed to record other episodes. It never screwed up any of Michael’s programs, just “Lost,” the only hour of television I watched each week that didn’t involve puppets, learning the alphabet, or grown men dancing around in brightly colored shirts singing about the amazing Captain Feathersword. After the third missed episode, I began to suspect that the computer had it in for me because I was Michael’s wife, and therefore competition for his attention. When the damned thing started breaking down again on a weekly basis and Michael had to go back to spending every weekend repairing it, I was certain it was out to get me. When it failed to record the first season finale, leaving me completely in the dark about what happened to Kate, Locke, John and all the other characters stranded on the island, I knew we had a serious problem.

How did I solve that? I’d like to say that one afternoon while Michael was at work, I took a chainsaw to my digital rival and hacked it into little pieces. Or that I finally made good on my promise and threw the whole damn thing out the door, where it landed in the street and was crushed under the neighbors’ big-ass SUV. Or even that I threatened its hard drive with Cassandra and a really sticky peanut butter and jelly sandwich. None of that is true. The truth is, I sucked it up and let Michael devote several more weekends to the problem until he finally - FINALLY - got the computer fixed. I don’t know if he ended up switching in a new motherboard, or if maybe he replaced all the computer’s memory and thus wiped out its budding artificial intelligence. I just know that when he finally declared the computer done for a second time, it really was done.

I’'ve got the last five five episodes of Lost stored on the computer right now, and being an indolent pregnant woman, I’ve been using Cassie’s nap time to catch up. I must say the computer runs like a charm now, and even I can figure out which remote to use to switch back and forth between the television, DVD player, VCR and cable. As for our babysitter, well we still have to give her a refresher course every time she comes over. But eventually, she’ll get the hang of it. After all, she's a very smart girl and we’re only talking about nine remotes here.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Cynical Woman Meets The Fly Lady

So much for my attempts to write a daily blog. Yesterday was pretty well packed though - an eight-hour birth preparation class followed by dinner with friends. I was up from 5:30 AM until 11:30 PM, and just about died when we got in the door last night.

One of the worst forms of torture for a pregnant woman is sitting in a hard-backed, hard-bottomed chair. I spent eight hours in one yesterday for the birth prep class, and let me tell you, it was no picnic. After the first four hours of class, my ass and thighs felt like over-ripe tomatoes getting ready to burst. When I finally got to bed last night I was so sore and swollen I thought my pelvis would crack open and my legs would fall off. It doesn’t help that the baby is sitting fairly low right now, and pressing down hard on my cervix (which has not yet effaced or opened up). She’s constantly kicking and setting off contractions, which only adds to the joy. I swear this kid is trying to punch her way out of me. Either that or she’s using my cervix as a trampoline. Ain’t pregnancy fun?

But enough about that. I want to talk about something very important. I’ve found a new mission in life. I’m going to be a domestic goddess.

Stop laughing. I can hear you.

This isn’t a joke, and unlike what several very annoying people have told me, it’s not some weird form of pregnancy nesting. This is an urge born out of necessity. Michael and I agreed it just wouldn’t be right to have Cassie room with an infant, mainly because they’d probably keep each other awake all night and make our lives a living hell. So we decided to move Cassie into a bigger room. The only room available was, unfortunately, my office, which I’ve had ever since I quit working for other people six years ago. I hate working for other people. Other people are morons who make my life miserable for no good reason whatsoever. But that’s a topic for another day. Anyway, I’ve had this office for years, and it was huge. Plenty of space for me, my computer, my technical books, my art supplies, and my sewing machine. Yep, life in that office is pretty good. And suddenly I have to give it up. You can imagine how thrilled I am to do that, especially since it means I am going to have share office space again with my darling husband for the next couple of decades.

My husband’s office is in a very small room above the garage that is not properly hooked into the household ventilation system. In winter, it gets no heat. In summer, it gets no A/C. Not a great place to sit and work at any time of the year. Plus it’s overflowing with tons of boxes and computer parts that my darling dearest has been collecting ever since I moved out of that office six years earlier. Why he keeps this stuff I will never know, but I don’t dare throw anything out because it might be important. Don’t ask me why six-year-old software we don’t use anymore might be important. We’ve just got to save it, along with the cardboard box it was shipped in.

So anyway, we had a serious rearranging of rooms to do. Move Cassie from the nursery into my office. Move my office in with Michael’s. Prep the nursery for the new baby. For about a month, we’ve had furniture going in and out of rooms, boxes of books scattered everywhere, art supplies coming out the ying-yang (and no, I will not define ying-yang; you either know what it is or you don’t). It was complete chaos, and I hate chaos. And in the midst of all this, I had to notice that the floor of Michael’s shower stall was turning black and we had a pink ring inside the mouth of each toilet in the house. Eeeew!

Suffice to say, my whole house needed cleaning. I spent one Saturday working on the master bathroom. Remember how painful I said it was for me to sit through the eight-hour birth preparation class? This was worse. I scrubbed and scoured and mopped and wiped and scrubbed some more until I thought my fingers would peel back off my hands and fall dead to the floor. After several hours, the floor of Michael’s shower slowly turned medium gray, but refused to reveal the original white color I remember it being when we bought the place. The pink rings in the toilets did disappear with a little careful scrubbing, but after nine or so hours of hard work, I was faced with the fact that I had only managed to clean one small room of the house, and the rest of the place was still mired in misplaced furniture and books, and coated in dust. There was no way I could continue to clean the house the way I had been. I had to get my act together and quick, before the baby came along and everything turned into a complete disaster and the house had to be condemned.

Enter the Fly Lady. This woman has got to be the opposite of everything I’ve ever been. She’s a cheerful, perky, freaky cleaning dynamo who loves everybody and wants people to feel the peace of a clean home. She loves inspirational e-mails and testimonials, her favorite color is apparently purple, and she’s got to be the biggest goodie-two-shoes house frau I’ve ever seen.

And I’ll be damned if her house cleaning system doesn’t work like a charm.

It’s crazy, and I seriously didn’t think it was going to work, but I started out with her baby steps and over the past month have slowly built up a routine that has transformed the disaster area I call home into a nice, clean, livable space. I’ve had to put in a lot of extra work, above and beyond what the Fly Lady calls for, because I’ve got to get things cleaned up before the baby arrives in June, but not nearly as much work as I would have done if I’d just done things the way I always do, which is to scrub my fingers to the bone.

What really freaks me out is that ever since I started doing this house cleaning routine, I’ve been waking up at 5:30 AM, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I’m actually putting on an apron and running down the stairs to start cleaning at the butt-crack of dawn. It’s ridiculous! And Cassie has started getting up with me. She seems to think the cleaning is a new game, and she is constantly pestering me for a rag or feather duster so she can go play ‘clean da house.’ It’s freaky to watch, especially when she decides to dust the cats.

I don’t really know what’s going on here, but like I said, the house is clean, which it hasn’t been since we first moved in eleven years ago. As for the moving around of rooms that started this gig, Cassie’s room is all set up. The nursery is clean, just needs some baby things put in it, which will happen next week, and my half of the teeny-tiny office above the garage looks clean, at least. Michael and his boxes of computer parts can live in the other half. I don’t care. Speaking of Michael, his shower stall floor did eventually revert to its original white color, a fact that leaves me flummoxed every time I walk into that bath room. The house isn’t quite cleaning itself yet, but I’ll be damned if it ain’t getting there.

So Fly Lady is the antithesis of Cynical Woman, but Fly Lady knows how to clean house and Cynical Woman ain’t gonna sneer at that. ‘Cause I know that once I’ve got this place running on automatic, I’ll have more time to get back to doing what I enjoy best - writing porn, drawing dirty pictures, and bitching about the world in general. And that’s really all that matters in the end.

Tomorrow’s topic - how many remotes does it take to turn on the TV in our house? Too damn many!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Day By Day

A long time ago, I used to keep a daily diary. At one time, it was a hardbound journal. At another it was simply an MS Word document that I kept on my computer. I still have both handwritten and electronic copies. I have no idea if I’ll ever read through them again, or if anyone will ever read through them, but I’ve stored both kinds for future posterity (or posterior, depending on whether or not you think I’m an ass).

I can’t quite remember why I quit writing in either diary, but a few years ago I did. It just got to be too much to record what was going on in my life, I guess. Not that there’s all that much excitement in the life of a stay-at-home mom, but there is a lot going on. Whatever the reason I quit keeping a diary, I’ve come to realize I miss it, so I’m going to try and use this blog to make up for what I haven’t been doing the past few years or so.

My main reason for wanting to start recording my humble day-to-day existence is my daughter, soon to be daughters. My first-born, Cassie, just astonishes me with the things she does, and I’m afraid if I don’t somehow record the little miracles she performs every day, I’ll forget years from now some of the best memories of my life. I also want to record what child number two is going to do. I’m 34 weeks along in my pregnancy, and I can already tell this kid is going to have as much personality as her big sister. There’s bound to be some outright hilarious moments waiting for me in the near future, between these two kids.

Another reason for wanting to keep a diary again - I’m a writer. The best ideas come from real life. In fact, I could not make up some of the stuff that happens to me on a day-to-day basis. For instance, Cassie has been sharing in the whole pregnancy experience with me the last several months. When she realized there was a baby in my belly, she had to have a baby in her belly too. I have Baby Sam, short for Samantha, whom we also sometimes call Sam-I-Am. Cassie has Baby Boy. For a while, if you asked her very nicely, Cass would reach into her navel and pull out Baby Boy to show you. She doesn’t do that these days. She says her belly is too big.

So Cassie and I are both expecting and everything I’ve gone through, she’s gone through with me. The latest has been the recent rash of contractions I’ve been experiencing. Last Thursday, I had twenty contractions in ninety minutes, and they were pretty strong too. However, they didn’t follow a labor pattern, meaning they didn’t continue to get more intense over the course of a couple of hours. In fact, they tapered off eventually, which was good because every time I had a contraction, I had to pee, and there’s nothing like peeing twenty times in an hour and a half to make you sick of seeing your own toilet. But I digress. As a result of all the contractions I’ve had, the doctor gave me orders to take it easy. Any time I have four or more contractions in an hour, I’m supposed to lie down for a while and rest. While my contractions have died down since last week, I still get a few really strong ones, and I end up lying down at least once a day, much to the dismay of Cassie, who wants me up and on my feet so I can chase her around the house or the yard and play games with her. Well, I guess poor Cass decided if she couldn’t beat ‘em, she’d join them. Two days ago, Cassie started having contractions. That’s right. She jumped up from the table at lunch time and said, “Oh, I have to lay down, Mommy. I having contractions!” I nearly spit milk out my nose when she said that. Keep in mind folks, the kid is only three years old. Hearing her complain about contractions, having a big belly and being kicked in the bladder by Baby Boy has been a source of unending amusement in our household.

So anyway, I’m not going through this pregnancy alone. Cassie is going through it with me, step by step, and it’s not something I ever want to forget. So I’ve decided to take 10-15 minutes each evening and record the little events of my day that make my life so enjoyable. Yeah, I know. The title of the blog is Cynical Woman, and this all sounds so sappy, but don’t worry. Cassie isn’t just sharing my pregnancy with me. She’s got plenty of sass in her too, and I’m sure her own inner cynic will pop its head out to give us all a healthy kick in the pants.