Scarlet Letters

The not-so-private thoughts and rants of Elizabeth Donald, journalist/author and founder of the Literary Underworld.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Tower Desk

A few weeks ago, before the fit hit the shan with the car, we found a giant L-shaped wooden desk on Craigslist and bought it for the Tower.* It's a freaking behemoth of a desk - seriously, even in parts, we had to take two doors off their hinges just to get it up the high, narrow stairs into the Tower. Did I mention it was made of solid wood?

The owners helpfully took it apart for us and gave us the six or seven large pieces, umpteen drawers... and a bag full of hardware. No instructions.

Therefore we have been procrastinating for weeks. I helpfully delegated the task to Jimmy and the Spawn when I had to work a Sunday shift this weekend. I ain't no dummy.

ME: Thanks for the work you did on the desk. I imagine it took a while for you two to put it together.
JIMMY: Heh. Heh heh heh. Yeah.
ME:It's shiiiiiny. And now that you know how it goes together, you'll know how to take it apart when it comes time to move again!
JIMMY: ... No.
ME: What, we're never moving again? We're going to die in this house?
JIMMY: I don't know about that, but that desk is never moving again. If we leave, we leave it where it is.
ME: Um... but I love that desk.
JIMMY: I will buy you a new desk. I am not moving that desk ever again.
ME: I have the utmost faith in your ability to carry that desk back down those stairs....
JIMMY: *The Look*

Funny, we had a similar discussion when I suggested our old loveseat (that we still haven't sold) would make a great addition to the Tower if we (read: him) can hoist it up the stairs....


* The Tower = my new attic office.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Revenge of Isabel the Ghost: The Transmission

At least, we're pretty sure we can blame it on our ghost.

Sure, it was kind of cute when she was hiding my shoes. Almost funny the way an earring missing since before we moved magically appeared on the kitchen floor in time for me to step on it. Jimmy's busted tire was no big deal. Less cute was the massive sewer backup which required our poor landlords to excavate and replace the sewer line.

But now my Toyota has a bad transmission. The initial quote is $1600. Yes, we're hunting around for a better deal and alternatives that might lower the price, but regardless, we have some serious cash to raise.

We're liquidating our vacation savings, my 401(k) and selling off whatever furniture and electronics we can. We're holding a tag sale in a few weeks. Jimmy is talking about getting a second job, which I hope won't be necessary.

What can I do? I have exactly one marketable skill. So I'm offering a free short story as-yet unseen by the public to anyone who donates to the car repair fund. It will be creepy, it will be original, and you'll be among the first to see it.

Also, you writer types: I am offering my editing services at a discount to raise more cash. I usually charge $4-5 a double-spaced page for a full edit; I'm doing it for $3 a page for the duration of this crisis, if you're willing to pay up front. Email me for specifics and references. I don't usually advertise my editing services because I was utterly swamped, but now I NEED to be swamped.

We need this car to last until Jimmy's car is paid off, and we need to keep the lights on while we do. I know you've all been there, and I know what hard times we all face. Any help you can give would be appreciated. Thank you for your kindness and your friendship.

And if you just can't spare any cash, send us some good thoughts, prayers, maybe a bundle of sage. That ghost needs to settle down - now it's personal!


Friday, April 06, 2012

A very good Friday

I am sitting on the couch in my half-unpacked living room, finally finished with work for the day. The cool March sunlight falls through the windows and makes warm patterns on the wood floor beside me. Schubert plays in the air and a light breeze wafts from the kitchen, where a window is open to dispel the smell of this morning's bacon.

The boys are outside, as they should be. Jimmy has the day off work, and the boy has been off all week for Spring Break. They went out earlier to buy supplies and get their Easter haircuts - they both look so handsome. They brought me back Reese's peanut butter cups and a Diet Coke, because they love me. Now they've gone to the park about a block away with fishing poles, where they will attempt to catch the poor hapless fish that survive in that pond and they will speak as men do. Or something.

Tonight we had planned to go to the Science Center for the Star Trek exhibit, since "Tribbles" author David Gerrold will be there. Money is tight and we can't go; our SLSC membership expired last week, so we'd have to pay full price, and we can't afford the membership yet either. Boy was decidedly upset about that, and I am determined to get him there at some point before it goes away.

But we have finally uncovered the kitchen table and had a meal there like civilized humans. We plan to do the same to the dining room tomorrow, in preparation for the Easter feast. Slowly but surely, we are making this house o' boxes a home. Hey look, we made a clean spot.

I was feeling quite melancholy the last couple of days, mostly because of money. It has cost so much more than I anticipated to upgrade from apartment to house, and I've made a new career out of trips to Wal-mart. I'm warring with Ameren, which has decided our move across town means they can tack an extra $200 onto what we actually owe for our first electric bill; and I haven't yet figured out how we're going to trade in our living room set for the new one that actually fits.

But I now have my desk - thank you donors! - and the bookcases will follow. The Tower will open for business soon, and the Kitchen is reopened, much to the menfolk's delight. They declare that they miss my cooking and we're all heartily sick of McDonald's and Little Caesar's Pizza.

I am reminded of something my mother used to say when I was a girl. She'd say, as much to herself as to me, that when your only problems are financial, you're doing pretty well. She was speaking in a different time and place, of course; many of us have financial problems that keep us up well into the night, trying to keep home and hearth together in unstable economic times and often clinging to our jobs with trembling fingers.

But then I read my own paper, my own stories, and I remember that we have it pretty good. I may not know how I'm going to pacify Ameren's mad grab for cash or how I'm going to replace the living room furniture, but I do know that my man loves me, my boy is healthy, and we're all going to be together tonight, tomorrow and the next day. There is no violence or drugs or awfulness in our lives, no bitter anguish or cold walls of silence. We are blessed.

There are a few moments in life when you rest, reflect and realize you are exactly where you are supposed to be, a moment of peace and contentment. I've had a few moments like that. I think today is one of them. I will not worry about money today. I will instead go bake some cookies for the menfolk, and see if I can knock out a box or two before they get back with wormy-smelling hands and big grins about the giant catfish that got away in a lake much too small for credulity.

A blessed holiday to those celebrating Easter or Passover this weekend, and a happy weekend off work for the others. May you find yourself in the place you are supposed to be.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Help furnish the LitUnd Tower!

Hello fiends!

As anyone who reads my Facebook knows, I moved recently. In fact, I've bored you all to tears with the details of my move, which allowed me and my partner to combine households in a lovely house with enough space for us and our kids. Best of all, at least as far as I was concerned: the attic was big enough for me to have my own office and library, for the first time since my son was born.

That means when I work from home several times a week, I have a place to work besides the kitchen table. It means a dedicated space for writing my brilliant novels. It means room enough for all my books, half of which live in boxes or are double-stacked on groaning Wal-mart shelves.

And it means space for a streamlined mail-order operation for the Literary Underworld, which has had to operate out of the corner of my dining nook until now. We'll be faster, more efficient and able to expand our operation with its own space.

A catch: no furniture. No desk, no bookshelves, nothing but an office chair and a printer table. Unfortunately, the money we had set aside for office furniture will go to unexpected expenses like replacing the microwave cart, living room furniture (since our set doesn't fit), a half-dozen other things that have eaten up the money we had saved. We tried to sell off unwanted furniture, but haven't had much luck.

So I'm still working at the kitchen table. And I've got an offer for anyone who donates to my office fund: you're going to get a creepy short story.

This house has a history, you see: a murder took place here over 100 years ago. So when my shoes go missing or a door drifts open or we hear strange thumps at midnight, we have someone to blame. Isabel, I want my keyring back!

In real life, her murderer only served a few years before he was pardoned and lived a long and happy life. If I were Isabel, I'd want some justice. I think she deserves a short story, don't you?

I hate to pass the hat, but it'll be months or even a year before we can afford the office on our own - and I've got three books to write this year. We've got a line on some used furniture, but we need the cash to get it done. So I hope you'll consider donating, and in return you'll get a free short story. I hope you'll consider it worth the cost... and that Isabel returns my keys.

Thanks for being here!