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Rock Out With Your Caulk Out

This was originally published on my blog Fussy some ten-odd years ago, but somehow Squarespace thought everyone might like to see it again in 2018, and I’m not going to fight it. Enjoy.

Along with light bulbs, nuclear energy, and shows on a network I don't really watch, General Electric now also makes caulk. Personally, I like to focus on just doing one or two things at a time, like beading and knitting, until I can do them well, as opposed to GE's tack which seems to be "let's manufacture an impossibly wide variety of somewhat evil products. And make an ass-load of money." So that's one clear difference between G.E. and me: I bead for free. Profit motive aside, the packaging for these decidedly non-electric "caulk singles" G.E. sent me to review is great. A+ for that, General Electric! They're hefty and squeezy and feel great and not at all evil in your hand. So I took my little packages of caulk into the bathroom because I had some cracks in the grout in my shower. Because being married to a contractor does not guarantee that you'll live a grout-crack-free existence. It guarantees a lot of other things, including food to eat, cable TV, and fancy hand-me-down cellphones, but between Jack's understandable desire to come home and stop working and my housework ADD, a lot of shit can go by the wayside. So I thought I'd try fixing up our shower grout cracks all by myself with some free G. E. caulk.

Anyway, here you see some of the cracks I had to tackle. I'm a crack tackler!

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Nice housekeeping, I know. Please.

Once I had photographed my cracks, Cookie and I examined the free caulk.

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The best choice seemed to be the one on the right: white waterproof silicone. I set the others aside and opened up the label to read the directions.

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"Remove dirt, grease, moisture, and old caulk." I supposed my shower was clean, grease-free, and dry. Enough. No old caulk, just the original grout.

Then came this mysterious piece of advice: "To finish: Smooth or "tool" bead if needed." I knew for a fact that I didn't know what "tool" beading was, it sounded like some sort of professional tile-setter lingo. But I knew that if they were marketing this stuff to people like me it couldn't be that hard to use, right? Just squirt in in the crack and let it dry! What could possibly go wrong?

God, isn't this exciting? I can't wait to see what happens next.

What happened next is that I made somewhat of a mess. The caulk has the consistency of toothpaste so it's easy to manipulate. But it squeezes out of the package kind of irregularly, and I ended up with cracks that looked like they were filled with badly applied toxic birthday cake icing. And because I still didn't know what "tool beading" was, I went and got a Q-tip, thinking I could jam the grout deeper into the cracks and then smooth it out nicely. Why I thought a cotton swab would be the best tool for the job, I have no idea, but it ended up just creating little peaks and swirls with the caulk and just generally looking like hell. So then I did what any normal cave-dweller would do, I used my finger. This had the advantage of smoothing out the caulk somewhat more evenly, but once you get this shit on your hands it's almost impossible to wash off. I went and got a damp paper towel to wipe the excess caulk off the tiles, but then I'd accidentally touch the caulk and mess it up and have to start all over again.

This is what my cracks ended up looking like:

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Jack came home for lunch and inspected my work. He immediately went to the utility closet and got a big yellow sponge that had been left by the guys who originally set all our tile. He showed me how you make it damp and then wipe the caulk off the tile. But it didn't wipe off. Then he went and got a scraper and scraped it all off the tile. Then he tried to wipe the caulk off his hands and said, "What the hell is this shit?"

"It's caulk. By G.E.," I said. I showed him the package. "See? It's for small jobs."

"Why don't you just buy a tube of Dap? It comes with a cap, you don't have to use it all at once, it's waterproof, and it wipes off a lot easier than this shit," he said, scrubbing his hands with a wire brush.

"But this is for people who are intimidated by big professional products. It comes in a cute little package."

"So you're paying for a cute package filled with shitty caulk, I get it," he said, lowering his welder's mask and firing up a blowtorch to clean his fingernails.

I love you enough to keep waiting like this

Some time ago a friend told me about a birthday or Mother's Day card her now-adult son had made her when he was a kid. Not one for Hallmarkian displays of sentiment, inside it he wrote, "I love you more than five hundred bucks." I always thought that was a pretty good approximation of how much love you can have for some people. Five hundred bucks is a lot of money whether you're a kid or not; I don't have anywhere near that in my wallet right now. I briefly had more than that in my bag a couple of weeks ago, after we'd sold a bunch of my deceased mother-in-law's jewelry to a local guy who only paid in cash, but I only had to worry about it for about fifteen minutes or so.

  • I love you more than how anxiously I drove to the bank to deposit that cash before someone realized they should rob me
  • I love you more than the relief I had afterward (and the spinach and goat cheese crepe you bought me for lunch at Le Petit Valentien)
  • I love you more than 7.5 hours of sleep per night, which I keep not getting because of you (JACKSON)
  • I love you enough to spend two years knitting a sweater even though I'm worried it won't fit you very well when it's done
  • I love you enough to watch three seasons of a show you adore even though I have to concentrate more than I'd prefer to follow the plot
  • I love you enough to wash, dry, and fold your laundry, but I will not put it away because I am not your maid

And now a word from our sponsor.

This link is sponsored by The Prowl.

(The content of this post is not sponsored by The Prowl.)

Thank you, The Prowl.

I finished the first draft of my novel on Monday, 49,000 words, all of them mine, every stupid last one of them. The manuscript is a mess and the ending is awkward and the number one thing that feels great about it, apart from the sense of achievement (I wrote a novel! No, you can't read it yet!), is the fact that I went to bed on Monday night going, Hmm, well, now what? and I woke up Tuesday morning finally understanding the whole purpose of the thing and knowing everything I had to do next to get it into shape. I was just lying there and it came to me. Because I am magical.

And then I forced myself to take the day off and not think about it. (I have a lot of blogging, drawing, and knitting to catch up on.)(Oh, god, so much drawing!)

My blind hope when I started working on this book last September was that if I just trusted and typed out words that made English sentences, maybe something deeper would activate while I worked. I recommend this process if you're interested in becoming more comfortable with uncertainty and don't mind running around in circles for a year. It's totally demoralizing, but in the end it kind of works. I also recommend Alan Watt's The 90-Day Novel, which totally spoke to me on the woo-woo level where I spend half my time anyway (though in my hands it became The 385-Day Novel).

When I started I didn't have a plot, all I had was an interesting situation for two people to be in, a husband and a wife, with some sort of offspring (male? female? toddler? high school sophomore?) to be determined later. Almost as soon as I began writing I realized that the husband needed to be the wife's character and the wife needed to be the husband. When that finally felt right, then the age (fifteen) of their child (daughter) suddenly became clear. Next, other characters began popping up and doing what they needed to do, situations began suggesting themselves and were duly explored, paragraphs were written and either kept or shelved, and third-person omniscient changed into first person halfway through and then back to third and I'm really not looking forward to sorting that out.

Some days I'd write 90 words, some days I'd write 2,000. Sometimes it felt like I was trying to build an air-conditioned birdhouse with no blueprints, or put together a jigsaw puzzle of the sky, or flex a muscle in my head that I wasn't sure even existed. One day about six months ago I felt the barest glimmer of something new inside coming to life, and (I don't know how to describe it without sounding like I've lost my mind) what I was doing suddenly felt so precious, felt so sacred, that I didn't want to move or think or breathe for fear of scaring it away. I sat so carefully and gently, building my birdhouse so respectfully -- because suddenly a bird that was supposed to be extinct was on my windowsill looking at me.

Along with that bird came a feeling that I thought was extinct. It felt like being in a kind of love. And I apologize for all of this if the book ends up being total horse shit, but it felt like finding the thing or the one who (perhaps? maybe? if I don't push or get clingy and ruin it?) was going to fall for me, too, all the way. The feeling was completely mutual. It's something that I haven't felt for a very long time, not since I used to write poetry. It seems particular to writing, for me? It didn't last for very long, maybe a day or two, but it was the luckiest, scariest feeling in the world while it was in bloom.

It faded a bit after that, but everything fell into a nice routine. I began to really trust myself now. It felt like I/we were building something with a lot of potential. Of course, there were times when I felt like picking a fight, or ignored it for days on end, but that all felt like part of the process. On bad days I was bored and just went through the motions. But I didn't want to throw in the towel so I talked it through with a third party until I reached a new understanding. I apologized for being so distant, I resolved to try a different approach, to be attentive and adjust my pace, to take breaks when I needed them, but to keep showing up. And that's how we made it work.

The Rules of Writing an Interesting Story say that you're supposed to be throwing bombs at your characters all the way through so they can battle their way past every obstacle in search of their goal, their grail, their Rosebud, their Revolution, their Happily Ever After, and through this journey they refine their fondest wishes and grow and change and become worth following for 300 pages or so. Maybe that's old fashioned, to tell a story like that, and that's fine. I'm interested in seeing what happens when you follow those rules, and then maybe to see how far they'll bend. As we all know, you need to learn the rules before you can throw them away, if you're going to say anything new.

Now onto draft two! This post is too long! Here's a photo from my dog's Instagram account. Peewee always has something new to say.

the wee

I'm tricky like that

This post is sponsored by Chronicle Books. I like books, and people who read are the kind of people I want to know. I've taken somewhat of a break from posting because I was tired of having opinions on the Internet. There are millions of other people telling you what they think on an hourly basis, and I suddenly felt pretty stupid trying to pretend that my opinions had any more value than anyone else's. I certainly wasn't enjoying trying to be heard above the din; I all but abandoned my gig at Babble and last Friday I finally worked up the nerve to quit The Stir. I just wanted to work, go to yoga, sit in the sun, and check my e-mail once a day. So for three weeks, that's what I did. It was heaven.

The rest of my recovery program was given over to trying to organize our new house (read: wandering around Bed Bath & Beyond with an armful of skirt hangers) and reading books. I read The Hunger Games (not much character development but quite a page-turner); Just My Type (a brisk, anecdotal history of typography); I finished the Mindy Kaling book (which read like a chatty, friendly, and sometimes point-free series of blog posts); I started and then abandoned the first Nancy Drew book (but I mean to check it out again later because it was AWESOME); I read and then became very afraid of The Secret (which may be another post down the road, if I can assure myself that it won't give me nightmares); and I've just started listening to The Glass Castle in my car, which is so absorbing that makes me miss freeway exits.

The other part of my reading-recovery was spent cuddled up with Jackson every night at bedtime. Jackson reads plenty for school, but I've always hoped he'd do a little more recreational reading without us turning off the TV and forcing him to. Here's one of the ways I've tricked him into it.

The Worst-Case Scenario Ultimate Adventure Novels are Chronicle's new series for kids. It's like playing a video game in story mode: you get to choose how you get to the end. Chronicle Books is not the first to come up with this idea (I think Italo Calvino took a shot at it, and those Dictionary of the Khazars books that came in Male and Female editions), but it's still a good idea in a nicely-designed package. Jackson immediately snagged the Amazon one and told me he thought I'd like to read Mars. (Here's a trailer for the Mars book.) If you'd like to win all three books for yourself, leave a comment below telling me what your favorite book was when you were a kid and I'll use Random.org to choose a winner.

UPDATE: The winner is Steph (who loves Roald Dahl). Thanks, Steph, and everyone who shared their favorite books.

Here, look at this

UPDATE: I put the wrong video up. The right one is now below the wrong one. Watch both of them if you want! Remember back in October when I told you how I went to New York to buy a cheesecake, and accidentally made a video with Alice and Bethenny Frankel? Well, it may have been the other way around. The point is, that video is now live and I am both contractually and morally obligated to show it to you.

The story I told is actually true. The only reason I thought of dipping the baby in the toilet was the fact that Jack likes to tell us how his dad used to rinse his hair in the toilet. Jack's dad was an incredibly dapper man who grew up on a farm in Indiana and went on to work for Esquire, be a TV cowboy, and write a Gene Hackman movie, so you'll have to piece it all together from there.

The other thing I was thinking during the video was, "Do I even have any Clorox products in my house right now?" And I remembered that I did because I specifically bought a big bottle of bleach the last time my survivalist instincts bubbled up and I thought I ought to have a way to make clean drinking water in case of [insert post-apocalyptic scenario here].

Day Twenty-five

I'm still a little bloated and hung over from Thanksgiving, and a little ashamed of all the things Yoda knows about me now, but I still managed to suck it up and be productive today. Alice and I did a test-run of the podcast we're going to start doing next year and I was totally encouraged by how well we made almost all of our technology mesh. (I was especially impressed when Alice figured out how to Skype through her iPad. It's quick thinking like that that wins wars, people.) We may be the only ones who find us funny, of course, but then that's what podcasting is about half the time anyway. When I was done patting myself on the back about the podcast, I finished writing a Popcorn Whisperer post that's supposed to be about shopping in the movies. I may not have been all that clear about my topic because the thing most people seem to take away from it is that someone needs to start a service that will deliver Johnny Depp to their door. I'm not sure that's what Dell had in mind when they offered to sponsor the post, but when you hire Mrs. Kennedy, you get a lot of things that don't necessarily make sense right away. Give it time, though, and it'll all soak in.

The last thing you might want to see is my post for The Stir, entitled "Pepper Spray: It's Not Just for Dinner Anymore." Because I am topical as hell. Also, I wanted to give you something that will make sense right away, in case you're busy and don't have time to let your knowledge steep.

Just trying to earn some gas money

Hey, I'll be at the BlogHer conference in a couple of weeks, will you be there, too? It's going to be a busy one. Friday noon I'll be up on the dais during a lunch sponsored by Bill My Parents, I'll be chatting in a sort of comical but useful way with Alice, Kristen, and Liz about children and all the clever ways we can think of to keep them from spending your money. I'll give you a hint: surveillance. I'll give you another hint: monkeys. "Oh, sure," you say, "I've already got surveillance monkeys, tell me something I don't know."

SURVEILLANCE MONKEYS WITH NIGHT-VISION GOGGLES AND PRE-PAID DEBIT CARDS.

KA-POW!

Friday night I'll be MCing the Community Keynote, where twelve lovely people will read the good stuff or show us the good stuff they've been posting online lately. Saturday I'm part of a panel that will discuss what it's like to manage an online community, which I used to do with NaBloPoMo before I sold it to . . . BlogHer. Full circle!

So, if you're going to be in San Diego and you see me strolling around, please say hello. It seems they aren't going to have a have a room set up where people can sell stuff this year, but if you want a copy of Let's Panic! or one of my t-shirts, let me know, I'll be selling them out of the trunk of my car. Because the monkeys spent all my money.

Bill My Parents will be sponsoring me to talk about just about anything other than monkeys at BlogHer. Click here if you'd like to come to the lunch! Tickets will be given out on a first come, first served basis.