Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sunny Side Down

My house search has lasted well over a year. (See what happens when you do short sales?) Yesterday I got news from the bank. I could have the house…if I was willing to tack on $20,000 to the asking price. They said other homes of its size in the area are selling for that much. I wanted to protest, “But those homes are attractive! They’re 5-year-old open floor plan homes, not 20-year-old tri-levels with brass fixtures. No one wants carpet in their bathrooms! No one dreams of vacuuming around a toilet bowl or laying down plastic because it's potty training time! And by the way, who was your decorator, Rainbow Brite? Every room is a different color!” Was the house horrible? Of course not. Seeing as I have about as much fix it know how as your average 3 year old, I wasn’t about to move into the moldy house or the house that looked fine save for the gigantic hole in the bathroom floor that led, for all I know, to Narnia. The home was move in ready...

As long as you were willing to move into a semi-ugly house.

When I went through with a clip board I thought I wouldn't have to change much---it just needed painting, new light fixtures, new faucets, different shower surrounds, to have the bathroom carpets replaced with tile, to have the kitchen counters replaced since there was a built in blender, create direct access to the deck, fix the garage door, install closet systems, seal the garage floor, stain the cabinets, seal the counters, and tame the back yard.

Or as the bank would put it, a weekend project.

The $20,000 extra the bank wanted from me already had plans. I was going to spend that money over three or four years to de-uglify the house, putting my own touch on it while also removing the punch hole left in the master bedroom door which was probably put there when the owners realized they could no longer afford the place. That, and I was going to use some to pay for my trip to Ireland.

But that’s another blog.

All the way home I was sad. I couldn’t decide whether or not to eat the contents of my fridge or do kickboxing. Since eating everything would require cooking, and, as my friends pointed out, I have a wedding to attend in a few weeks, I chose kickboxing. I got a great work out. Every time I punched or kicked I pretended I was fighting one of those bloated, bailed-out bankers. When I got into the library this morning I tried to distract myself from my sadness by actually working. It didn’t help. There's not a lot of thought involved in planning summer reading. I don't know why we bother to categorize programs by subject matter. Honestly, most of us are just looking at the price, and there should only be three price levels:

Programs that will only happen at COO

It took me a whole 5 minutes to click on each individual entry to see who cost what. Afterwards I had to ask myself, "Should I go with Art Works, or should I go with Art Works?" It's a good thing I like Art Works because they're going to live at CEN this summer.

And with that out the way, I started thinking about the house again and wondering when they would return my cashier's check.

Maybe I should change my approach to house hunting. Instead of looking for a home, perhaps I should instead be searching for a man. After all, in most every fiction book written since 1950, the cure to all of a woman’s problems is getting married. Thus I have crafted the following ad:

"SBPF seeks (legally) employed SM with no criminal record who likes to drive and owns a <15>home with 4 bed/3 bath, 2+ car garage, and tile roof in the EGUSD. No HOA, underwater mortgages, pools or facial tattoos. Must not say anything when I suddenly decide to go on big, expensive trips at the last moment, stain the cabinets black or insist on my mother visiting for long periods of time. In exchange I will pretend you're surfing the Internet for news when you lock yourself in your man cave, will keep my mouth shut when you replace our dining room table with a pool table, will be nice to your friends, even the stupid ones who will eventually get you killed trying to win a bet, and let you play sports without fussing about you getting hurt, though if you play rugby you will need to install an outdoor shower and buy an additional washing machine."

Think I'll get any answers?

I wondered if this was my fault. To a point, yes, it is. But then I started thinking back to all the homes I've loved before. There was my initial short sale home, the one I just had to have. It's still on the market, though now it's a foreclosure. There's the nearly identical yet in much better condition short sale across the street. It, too, has also been on sale over a year. There was the home I was outbid by $30,000 that I didn't get. There was the home I overbid by $36,000 that I didn't get. There were homes I don't even want to think about anymore, yet I feel bad because some members of my family (the guy members) are saying I'm just not trying hard enough. When my brother I.C. was in Japan he sent me a postcard: "I threw a coin for you into a well so you could get a house. The well threw it back."

I love my family.

So here I was thinking that everything was my fault. Then I remembered a book by Barbara Ehrenreich called "Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America."

The premise: we're told the key to success lies in being happy, cheerful and positive. (That, and a perfect toe touch while wearing a 14 inch skirt.) But instead of cheerfulness being something we choose, it's become mandatory. You must be happy at all times. If something bad happens to you, if you don't get what you want, it must be your fault. Somehow you brought it into being. Because you can bring anything into being just by focusing on it. Why, if I really tried, I could overcome my snowballs chance of winning a gold medal in men's hockey, an NBA championship, or a Heisman trophy. I just need to put it on my to do list and create a story board on my wall.

And when it fails to materialize, it will be my fault, too, LOL.

Ehrenreich doesn't believe the hype. She states, "I never think delusion is OK." She wrote this book following a diagnosis of cancer. People kept telling her that she would emerge from her experience a better person if she would be upbeat and work on her attitude. Which I really don't get. It's cancer, not a winning lottery ticket. Why would she be better for it? (And if I ever get sick with something bad, before any of you tell me I'll come out at the end of it acting like Mother Teresa or the Flying Nun, you might want to make sure there's nothing within my reach that I can easily pick up and throw at your head.) Ehrenreich got treatment, and far from being a better person, she says the experience made her nastier. It probably had something to do with being smothered in a sea of pink ribbons, bears and races. The incident got her thinking about American pop culture in general and how it promotes this idea of optimism. The flip side---forced optimism has the power to blind us from facts. How can you not buy a home if you're told you were meant to be a home owner? Why won't you invest in the stock market when it can only go up? Why is it that you're just not patient enough to wait for what is coming to you?


My realtor, she was optimistic about me going through with the house deal. Me, not so much. Maybe this has to do with math being one of my top subjects (as long as it wasn't taught at 8 a.m. or after a heavy meal). The figures told me I could afford the long as I cut out vacations, buying clothes, buying books, cable, Internet, phone service, eating out, and I traded my dream of getting a dog to owning a pet rock. Possibly I would have to forgo having two kidneys at once.

I really like having two kidneys.
On the bright side of things, but the time I buy a home I can skip the mortgage and just pay for it cash...
Or just marry a stranger like women on reality TV.

I figured if someone can post the Calle Oche video on Grand Central, I can post this video. I love Tamia's music. She was diagnosed with MS in 2003, but that has not stopped her from making great music, and I felt this was perfect since there is now a stranger in my house. (My house! Mine!)


Thursday, February 11, 2010

I Heart Valentines

It’s almost Valentine’s Day. Either you’re extremely happy because you’re getting something, extremely agitated because you’re buying something, or extremely nauseated due to the overwhelming onslaught of jewelry, lingerie, chocolate and flower commercials, pop-ups, and tie-ins. Yes, this is a delightful pseudo holiday, and if you mess it up, you could pay for a long time. For years. On the Chris Rock Show, one of his old girlfriends was still complaing how he gave her a horrible Valentine's gift. His response: "You didn't even bother to tell me you were pregnant when we met!"

For those of you who saw your shadow and snuck back in for the next few weeks, here are a few Valentine's highlights for you:

1. Valentine’s Crafts

One of my duties as a children’s librarian is to find post-storytime crap crafts. That’s easy. There are lots of useless things I can have your children create for you. But for toddler crafts I have to focus on things that are a) easy and b) pose no choking risk. With b) being of utmost importance, the attractiveness factor tends to fall by the wayside and you end up with things like the item below.

Is it just me or does this look like a crime scene photo?

This craft was likely created by a mother trying to wiggle her way out of a double murder charge. The woman had successfully managed to bury the nubile 19 year old nanny, her cheating husband and the bloody hatchet in the backyard by the swing set. But when the cops showed up because the neighbors heard the hubby yell, “Hide in the closet!” before the screaming ensued, the mother had a bit of explaining to do.

“Well, you see officers, that’s not really blood. My 18 month old just decided to make something special for me for Valentine’s Day. Isn’t that nice?”

2. Romantic Movies

This is the time of the year in which the media coverage of love gets overbearing. Sappy Hallmark commercials coming on the screen. Nicholas Sparks’ films in the theater. The Lifetime Movie Network pauses for a week to show you all the happy films of people in love…before returning to its usual blitz of movies focused on women and kids on the run from abusive ex-husbands or worse, women nursing their estranged spouses back to health. Because why leave the cheating jerk and tour Europe when you can spend the rest of your life feeding him through tubes and arranging for oxygen tank delivery? Seriously, whoever does the programming at that place needs therapy so they can learn there are more than 2 categories of men besides Prince Charming and Norman Bates.

Because TV movies are powered by actors best known for roles as the mother in some 80s sitcom, they’re not nearly as bad as the guy films disguised as comedies. Hello, I’m supposed to believe Katherine Heigl would go for Seth Rogen? So what if she was drunk? There is the drunk girls night out code, which goes like this: we’ll let you do something stupid you’ll regret in the morning, but we’ll at least make sure the something stupid happens with an attractive guy in nice clothes who might own a car and doesn’t live like a teenager whose mom is away for the weekend. Even if I suppose Izzy from Grey’s Anatomy decided to have a baby by a couch surfer, this is where lies come in. Tell everyone the father is a doctor or lawyer, or governor of Virginia, and things just didn’t work out. Tell them you picked the father from a book at the clinic. He’s in the Peace Corp and loves his mother. Telling everyone this will allow people to assume your pregnancy was well thought out instead of something that happened with the guy from the mail room that lives in his parents’ basement.

But the movies that take the cake are the ones in which the best friend decides they love the best friend. There are only two ways this can end:

Woman in love with her best friend: The man will let his female best friend know she means essentially nothing to him. While he’s worried about her hooking up with another guy, he’s more concerned about its effect on his life instead of his feelings stemming from authentically caring about her well-being. He’ll marry his fiancĂ©e and his best friend will end up dancing with her gay friend at the reception. But only because the test audience thought the original ending was too sad, and what gay man doesn’t want to spend all his time and frequent flyer miles propping up his straight female friend with witty comebacks?

Man in love with his best friend: He’ll do everything in his power to break the couple up. Some of these acts will be downright criminal, yet he won’t get caught, and if he does, it will be laughed off instead of taken for the serious act that it is. He’ll finally confess his love at her wedding, a 6-figure event someone mortgaged their house to pay for. She’ll gleefully dump the handsome, attentive, super rich man who would make a great husband and father in order to marry her best friend instead.

To summarize, male best friends get to marry their female best friends. Female best friends get to eat rocky road ice cream while watching Beaches or The Color Purple. Got it?

3. Dating Advice

If you’re married you’re lucky enough not to have to read dating books.

At least not until the divorce comes through.

Right now you're still married, meaning you have other horrible things to read; books on sharing your feelings, potty training your toddlers/preschoolers/pre-teens, or finding your moved cheese because the kids need college money. There were those of us who weren’t interested in marriage when we were younger, focusing more on a person’s ability to give a good massage than to be a good provider. (Hey, my neck and back get tense.) Now I’m older, and all the married people in stained clothes and toy strewn houses are telling me how miserable my life is without marriage and kids. They say spending my money and time on buying beautiful clothes, impossibly high heels, tax deductible vacations, fine meals, good books, DVDs, and doing exactly what I want is a plea for help. Not help outside with my purchases. True help. I don't do what I want because I'm fulfilled and have disposable income. I do these things because I’m lonely, which is really a surprise, especially for me. And to help me end this loneliness I’m soooo not feeling, "Wouldn’t you like to watch the kids this weekend? They love you so much and we really can’t afford a babysitter and the kids have tons of fun with you…Perhaps we can hook you up with my brother-in-law. Since he’s unemployed and living on our couch, he’s always available for a date. Please? Will you marry him? I swear we’ll hire him and kill him off in a work place accident since OSHA will only fine us $500 for that, but for the love of God I want to see my couch again!”

No thank you.

Yes, all single people are glum and depressed. Single men would starve to death if it weren't for Carls Jr., and they'll still die because they don't have women to drag them to the hospital when they get colds or have kitchen accidents. Which they shouldn't have anyway since they can't cook, hence the dependence on fast food. Single women will be found dead in their homes eaten by cats, because only single women have cats. No one else is allowed to have a cat. Not families, not single men. Cats are the mascot of single women, and if you get one it has nothing to do with you liking cats and them being independent. Which means everyone is trying to get you to marry.

This is doubly true if telling you you'll die unless you marry can sell you a book.

Some of these books are so horrible they’d be funny...if we weren’t talking about people’s lives being ruined. Don’t believe me? Browse through some in Central Express like I did. God forbid I check one out and have it forever on my record should I turn it in late. (Hey, I’d be willing to pay twice the fee amount if the titles wouldn’t be listed. Just a thought…) Flip to any page and read 5 lines, which will tell you all you need to know. One of them was Make every man want you : how to be so irresistible you'll barely keep from dating yourself. It claims to be written by a woman, but I have my doubts. Somewhere in there it said something (stupid) along the lines of, “Traditional dating books tell you things such as not to call a man constantly or not to sleep with him on the first date. There are lots of people who slept together the first date and it led to meaningful relationships.”


Well…technically speaking, sleeping with men on the first date is one way to make any man temporarily want you and may lead you to a meaningful relationship with the doctor who supplies you with Valtrex. However, I’m sure if you follow this advice, instead of finding your dream person you’re twenty times more likely to look stupid when you run into your neighbors as they’re heading to church and you’re coming home in the slinky black dress they saw you in the night before. And you’ll feel even worse when the guy in question files a restraining order for your obsessive calling. Because unlike movies in which the cops don’t show up until the killer has slaughtered 3 of your friends while you were babysitting some rich people’s kids, the cops take phone stalking seriously.

Then there is Steve Harvey’s book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like A Man. Even if you don’t follow a thing he says, he’s pretty funny. This one I actually checked out, but only because he was on Oprah. I was rolling, and I actually checked this one out and read it all the way through. Yes, what a crack up. What I find even funnier is him telling women on a radio show to marry down. And by down, he doesn’t mean short, or a man who makes less money because he does something meaningful like teaching in inner cities or searching for the to cure cellulite. He means marry the man with the part time minimum wage job, if that. Currently 43% of black women have never been married, and 70% are currently single, mostly because we refuse to use the dumpster diving theory when picking a mate. You know, find him on the street, fix him up, he’ll be as good as new. Works great on end tables, not so much on humans. Harvey is not stupid enough to tell us outright that he feels we should write to convicts and troll halfway houses in search for person of interest number one, but it’s what he means. He just couches it in other terms to make women feel greedy and petty for asking to be equally yoked. He asks, “Does a man really need to make more than you?”

Do I hear crickets?

Seeing as men statistically still make more, we have no national maternity leave policy, you’d have to sell your kidney on eBay to afford child care, and a cleaning service can add up, yeah, his making more money would be helpful. I have friends who married the type of man Harvey is discussing. These women bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, pour up the grease, clean the pan, clean the plates and forks the bacon was eaten with, mop the floor they stood on while making the bacon, wash the cups that held the drinks they also bought, wipe down the microwave which heated up the pancakes, launder the kitchen towels and disinfect the counter. Meanwhile their husbands take out the trash and tell them how lucky they are to have a husband considerate enough to scrape the plate he ate off of before dumping it into the sink for someone else to scrub. Then one day you come over to her house and say, “I haven’t seen your husband in a while,” and she responds with, “Neither have I. Want a margarita?”

The dating book that takes the cake is one I haven’t read, nor will I read because I already read the article the book stemmed from and frankly, it’s stupid. The title: I'm Pathetic. The author, who I won't bother to name, is a miserable and desperate 40+ single mother with rescue fantasies who wonders why the best men just aren’t that into her.

Maybe it’s the whole miserable and desperate thing that scared them off.

The fact that she just told every literate person that the guy she marries will be beneath her and not what she really hoped for doesn't help her much, either. I'm sure he'll get tired of people coming up and saying, "So you're the loser she settled for." She tries to warn younger women to take any man they can because that’s what she would do. This woman would marry a coma patient. Honestly, she should read Harvey’s book, where he tells women than men like standards and you should get some---

Just as long as those standards don’t extend to having a job, an education, or the ability to support you while you recover from your C-section.

The best dating book in Express was by the Millionaire Matchmaker. I like her. Enough to read her Be Your Own Matchmaker from cover to cover? No. That’s not the point. The point is she tells women if we want to meet men we should wear low cut tops to steak houses and eat at the bar in order to be picked up on by lonely out of town men.

At least that’s what it seemed like to me.

So, to recap our Valentine’s Day lessons:
1. Send your child to daycare instead of having a nanny.
2. Doing stupid, risky things is the key not just to having your picture featured on Nancy Grace, but it’s the key to finding true love.
3. Have standards, just not ones that mean anything.
4. Remember that as a female best friend, you won’t get the man you want unless you stop wanting him.
5. Keep reminding yourself that, according to miserable, single, bitter people, misery comes from being single and not from other bad lifestyle choices.

I'm just going to sleep through Valentine's Day.

***About the video in my last post…
I was sick a few weeks ago. Heck, I’m sick all the time, and because I’m taking a day off, I’ll be sick again then just because I have plans, even if those plans include a pillow and eye mask. I was on allergy pills for a few days. Unfortunately they weren’t the really good kind that make me clean. (Remember that time I cleaned all of Kids’ Place and there wasn’t a single book left to shelve or anything to dust because I did it all?) Instead I got fixated on 80s rock, and when I decided to practice my piano, imagine my delight when I discovered I had a lot of the sheet music. I know my family was simply thrilled to hear my rendition of Sweet Child of Mine and every song by Journey I could get my hands on. This time I’ll leave you with something different.