what the fuck am I doing

Okay, but when you say it like THAT

I call it self care.

I call it self care.

I have been going back and forth on whether to attend the one holiday party I get invited to. The family who hosts it is tight-knit and emotionally healthy and fun. The first year I was invited I went with my friend P. and we stayed elbow-to-elbow the whole time because we didn’t know anyone but the hosts, but we drank champagne and had a good time.

The second year, P. brought two of her college-age daughters along and they were a goddamn delight. Because I’d switched jobs the previous summer, I suddenly knew almost everyone at the party because the hosts are members of the organization I now worked for. The problem was that I felt I had to put on my work face for everyone, and as an introvert muddled by alcohol and with no graceful exit strategies, I felt trapped in my own cheer.

The third year, P. brought her husband and all three of her daughters, so she was well insulated. I could have spent five minutes figuring out how to avoid getting overwhelmed again. Instead, I smiled a little too intensely at everyone, creating the effect of a raccoon rearing up to scare you away from a pile of spaghetti (in this metaphor I’m both the raccoon and the spaghetti), and then lumbered off to sit with P.’s family. P.’s family turned out to be funny, intelligent, and functional (spoiler: I am none of these things) and my few attempts to join their conversation fell flat. Also, I was six months sober, and I had to leave before I started crying. I probably should have gone and found a therapist the next day, but I didn’t! Bootstraps!

The fourth year, the party was cancelled because Southern California was on fire and the air was so smoky that everyone had to stay indoors. I had no other choice but to stay home and get a shitload of writing done. I had the best time. I badly needed the break; my wheels were starting to come off. The Universe gave me what I wanted most that Christmas: to have my family happily engaged in other rooms while I sat alone and wrote. The news was terrible and I came through it all refreshed and ready for the new year.

And now: Year Five! A beautiful evite sits in my inbox. Will I talk myself into having a wonderful time? Will I wear a bandit mask, climb the Christmas tree, and then stuff all the leftovers into a trash bag and drag them home?


  • Goddamnit I want to see this — the roller rink was such a big deal in my life as a kid, and it thrills me to know this community has risen up: United Skates

  • A coworker gave me half of a reindeer cookie the other day and it filled me with such a buoyant longing for what Christmas could be, if only my piping skills were better: How to Decorate a Sugar Cookie Like a Pro

  • If you love being both organized and adorable, everything at Mochi Things is 30% off right now

  • US and UK covers for the same books: Who Wore it Best?

  • This bothers me a little, I’ll be honest (I never trademarked the phrase, so I have nothing to complain about), but I wish I at least liked their design: Writing Well is the Best Revenge

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!


Nice housekeeping, I know. Please.

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


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.


"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:


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.

What's the Story

When something hard goes down that's outside my scope of personal experience, yet within my scope of human understanding, this is my first step: I empathize. There's an easy trick to putting yourself in someone else's shoes. It's a little thought experiment I like to call putting yourself in someone else's shoes.

There was a great Reddit thread where a bunch of (mostly white) people (men) posted their racist realizations, the experiences that woke them up to what shitheads they'd been. (The whole thread is here.)

This is the one that I still think about:


God help me, it's summer and I've vowed to post something every day for the whole season. I do not invite you to do this with me because it's a terrible plan. It's just that I thought it would be fun to use my web site again, that's all.

Plus, I like the name NaBloSuMo: it makes it sound like you have to fight your way through it.

It's hot as hell today (get ready for ninety-two days of weather reports, possibly) but I walked to and from work anyway, two miles each way, wearing an office-ready twenty-year-old Gap black linen skirt and a this-year-old Uniqlo white linen shirt. Nice in the morning, sticky on the way back home, and slow. I didn't wear sunscreen, just Merrell hiking shoes and a determined expression.

Here's a link to something someone asked me to write about reading Infinite Jest like we all did a few summers back. If you missed it and you need a book to read with a bunch of people starting today, you're in luck!

Me, I'm not reading fiction right now, I just can't, not while I'm writing it (still--this book is taking forever). But nonfiction is perfect and I've been reading some wonderful books about Zen (currently this one).

I have more to tell you but I only just decided to do this so I need to roll things out a little slowly. Tomorrow I'll tell you more.

Here's a photo of some rose petals that fell into a cup of ranch dressing. What's even better is that I later found this on my desk, put there as a romantic gesture. Twenty years of marriage, ladies.