Monday, June 30, 2014


Day One: In which I unpacked an entire house and solved a minor medical crisis.

My parents moved this weekend. I swear to God, there are more boxes in my house than in theirs. College kids moving into their first apartment armed with little more than Salvation Army finds and some cast-offs from the family moved in with more boxes. Homeless people have more stuff. It was baffling. They had a big house. It was filled with crap. Liberally. And yet, here we were and there were barely enough boxes to fill one room, let alone one house.

However, since my mom seemed content to sit on the couch and do nothing, and my dad needed to keep taking frequent breaks due to age, I was pretty pleased to have fewer boxes to open. That is right up until I got out the scissors, the box cutter, the Swiss Army Knife, and Grindelwald’s wand to open the damn things. Secret organizations sending ancient artifacts to underground vaults put less tape on boxes than my dad. They also probably wash the relics before they wrap them, and possibly use materials other than gift bags, cardboard cutouts, and oven mitts to wrap breakables in, but maybe that’s why they have the big bucks. As I gingerly handled the various kitchen items, found places for them on the shelves, and tried to put order to chaos, it suddenly occurred to me that this was far too easy. One set of glasses and two mugs after a lifetime of living together? Where were the plates, bowls, and serving items? Where was the cutlery? For God’s sake, why couldn’t I find a spoon?

My mother threw them out, of course. She didn’t want to pack too much stuff.

Meanwhile, I was opening entire boxes filled with paper plates, anther filled with dozens of packets of cheese and crackers, and others filled with, no lie, empty bags. Not just the plastic ones you get at the grocery store, but actual empty dog food bags, and rice bags, etc. When I tossed them onto the garbage pile, I was told that they needed to be saved and used for picking up dog poop. I found a box of Tupperware all jumbled together and a box filled with nothing but plastic wrap and aluminum foil.

My dad literally just shoved everything not nailed down into a box and triple-taped it before my mother could get to it.

As I unpacked, I noticed a trend. My mom would wander by and try to unpack the exact box in which I was already elbow deep. She would move in alongside me, reach in, hand me an item, tell me what the item was, and then watch me put the item away. Yes, I know what a wine glass is, thank you. I would kindly point her toward another box, since many hands make light work, and she would immediately lose interest and drift out again. Over and over and over again.
At one point, I walked her into the master bedroom, told her that I refused to put away her clothes, pointed at the stack of boxes and told her to have at it. Every ten minutes for the next hour, I found her sitting in the living room again, studiously not unpacking. Her excuse – she couldn’t find the box of hangers.

Record scratch.

Wait, what? Why wouldn’t you just put the clothes, WITH hangers, into the boxes? Why would you take the time to take every single item off the hanger, pack the clothes, unpack the clothes, then put everything BACK on the hanger? Do you know how difficult it is to untangle an entire box filled with wire hangers? Jesus!

I spent quite a while unpacking books. I like to unpack books. I like to put them away by genre, in alphabetical order. That is actually fun for me. This was not fun. My mom was really helpful in that room too. She kept interrupting me to tell me that books were on the wrong shelf. I kept telling her that I was simply taking them all out first, and then organizing them after as it was far easier that way. She would nod and then tell me that something was on the wrong shelf again. I unpacked three full shelves of dog training books, one entire shelf of Harlequin romance-esque books, one shelf of books for my dad, and a shelf that had nothing on it except Good in Bed, Memoirs of a Geisha, and the Fifty Shades Trilogy. That one shelf alone might have scarred me for life. Oh, there were also multiple shelves of actual VHS and cassette tapes. If you ever need the soundtrack to Top Gun on cassette, I’m your girl.

Finally, I too, sat down on the couch. My mother turns to me and said, well, I guess your dad isn’t getting his oxygen.

Record scratch, part deux.

My dad has lung issues and needs oxygen to sleep lest he never wake up. He had been without it for a few days during the move and the new tanks had not been delivered. My mom decided to drop this little nugget of information after 5 p.m. on a Saturday, in the summer, in a house with no Internet. When I finally picked my jaw up off the floor, I immediately asked for the paperwork so I could make some calls.

My dad looked at my mom.

My mom looked at me.

“I threw that out too.”


Thankfully, (and after an emergency call to a doctor friend who is always willing to hand out free advice, much to my eternal thanks), with the help of my husband, an excellent customer service center rep, and a game technician who happily popped into her car long after hours to deliver his needed oxygen, the crisis was resolved. After feeding them the third meal of the day, and successfully managing to keep both of them alive one more day, I sent them home.

One point two miles away from mine. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts

My parents are moving in a few weeks. It is like being smothered to death, one cardboard box at a time. They believe that certain things should not be put on a moving truck and instead, should be brought to my house for safekeeping. Their biggest concern is theft. Why anyone would steal some of this stuff is anyone’s guess. They also are taking the opportunity to clean out all the junk accumulated over almost 15 years of living in their current house. Things they always meant for me to have, but somehow never gave to me. Or things they think I should have, no matter whether or not I want them. Or things they bought a million years ago and are now “worth something.” My dad is a true believer that if you paid X for an item 10 years ago, then that item will automatically increase in price instead of decrease. This is doubly true if said item is “collectible.” Let’s be frank, nothing they collect is worth collecting. My husband and I agreed that we would take whatever they bring and either store it, keep it, or dump it. What follows is a list of the completely random items that have made the way from their house to mine.

Things I am storing:
  • The past seven years of taxes
  • Christmas wrapping paper – My mother didn’t realized that the rectangular storage box in which she already keeps all the damn paper is a perfectly acceptable moving container. She honestly thought everything had to be in a square box.
  • Two complete sets of wedding silver – neither of which are from either of her weddings
  •  Random tools, tool boxes, and tool sets - that are so laced with rust, they require thick gloves and a tetanus shot
  • Family albums – filled with people I have never met, in photos that are all unlabeled
  • “Art” – and yes, while I realize that art is subjective, this stuff is just beyond ugly.
  •  A white chest freezer – which, I must say, looks mighty white trashy sitting smack dab in the middle of my goddamn living room

Things I am keeping:
  • An antique liquor cabinet – which will house first edition and/or signed books
  • A steamer trunk – which must be fully refinished to chip away the fossilized cat hair 
  •  A giant toy box – It is a standard issue craft fair item, but they insist it is worth a small fortune. It’s not, but they will throw a hissy fit if I dump it.
  • 24 rolls of paper towels 
  • 12 boxes of mac & cheese
  •  A Blair Witch angel – yes, an angel that looks like it came right out of the prop department of your basic low-budget horror movie is taking up permanent residence on my lawn because, sometimes, you need that little jolt of terror to get through your day

Things I am dumping:
  • Several pounds of meat so old and freezer-burned they may actually be from a wooly mammoth
  • Five pounds of frozen corn and two quarts of fake maple syrup
  • A set of champagne glasses – My mom insisted that I needed wine glasses. I don’t. And even if I did, the ones she brought are clearly champagne glasses. Says it right on the package.
  • A cornucopia  - because nothing says let’s give thanks for bountiful food than neon red plastic apples
  • Multiple Christmas decorations that were broken, bizarre, or just plain terrifying. Carolers should not be screaming in terror.

Things I have killed:
  • The mouse that joined the exodus of boxes met death by peanut butter, which, to be fair, isn’t the worst way to go

I can’t wait to see what their truck looks like when it opens up its bounty at the new house. After dumping endless piles of nonsense at my house, basement, and shed, they have also sold or donated at least three rooms worth of furniture. I fully expect a half empty truck to pull up and unload a dozen boxes of dog food and cat litter, a box of bedding, and a teapot. Then my mother will ask where the closest Boscov’s is so that she can go out and buy all the stuff she threw out. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Neil Says “Hi” By The Way

As always, I blame Rorey for starting this.

A few months ago, she sent me a picture of a little building filled with books in a yard. She pointed out that it would be perfect for me and I should have my husband build one. As I am in the habit of doing exactly what Rorey tells me to do, I am proud to say that my official Little Free Library is now open for business. Let’s get to the specifics.

Who runs it?
I am the official steward of my library. This means that I am completely in charge of stocking it, maintaining it, and spreading the word about it. If that sounds like too much work, then you can always get a whole group of people to rally. But I love books and cultivating my own little patch of reading is heaven on a two-by-four. However, I am always, always, always, looking for donations of books: adult, kids, fiction, non-fiction, board books, comic books, and everything in between.

What is a Little Free Library?
Well, a few years ago, a guy in Wisconsin thought it would be a great idea to build a miniature one room school house (in honor of his mother), fill it with books, put a big sign on it that said FREE, and put it on his lawn. His neighbors loved it. He loved it and started building them and giving them away as gifts. Five years later, there are roughly 15,000 teeny tiny libraries all over the United States. (They are also popular in other countries.) Check out for more information.

Where is it?
You can find it right in my own front yard. My brother-in-law would disown me if I put my actual address out into the ether for this, but locals know how to find me. I live on a jogging, dog-walking, bike-riding street, so hopefully I’ll get lots of foot traffic and through social media, lots of word of mouth.

When is it open? 
All the time!

How do you build one? 
Any way you want! I’ve seen birdhouses, lighthouses, magazine racks, newspaper stands, doll houses, miniature houses of all shapes and sizes, and dozens upon dozens of Tardis replicas. Make it sturdy, make it durable, make it water-resistant, but make it accessible. It has to be visible, easy to reach, and not require people to really trespass on your property to get to it. My husband is installing a little spotlight on ours. If you don’t want to build one, you can buy one right off the Little Free website.

Why did I do this?
Because Rorey told me to? Actually, it is because I love books. I am constantly putting books in my mailbox for people to borrow. I love nothing more than talking about books, reading books, and buying books. If you know me at all, you know that I am a bibliophile and a bookworm. I am not precious about it. I haven’t read Proust, or all of Shakespeare’s plays, or every book on the top 100 books of all time. I love comic books, hate the term “chick lit”, and think that if you love it, you should read it. Period. It makes me weep that the year E.L James raked in millions for 50 Shades, there was no Pulitzer given for fiction, but I do realize that 50 brought a lot of people back to reading whereas The Pale King didn’t.

But do your really, really, really want to know why I did it? I did it because books are cool. Last night, I tweeted three authors about my library, telling them that their books were inside. All three responded. Let me be clear – Neil Gaiman, Jennifer Weiner, and Joe Hill all personally responded to tell me that they loved the library. Neil F'ing Gaiman tweeted me. Then retweeted it. So did Joe Hill and Jennifer Weiner. I told them I was giving away their books, for free. I was not buying them as gifts and handing them out. I was not in any way putting a dime in their pocket for their work. And still they loved it. Why? Because they want books to be shared, loved, and discussed. (Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus tweeted that she thinks the library is fantastic. I may just die happy now.)

Books are a great equalizer. When the Apocalypse comes and knocks out all the power, you can still read books. When the zombies come and start eating people, there are lots of books on how to survive. You can get books in prison, on a cruise ship, and everyplace in between. Don’t want to buy a book – borrow one from the millions of free libraries (big or small) throughout the world. All you need is the ability to read or listen. Books can take you anywhere, to any place or time. You can read about anyone, doing anything, anywhere. Books are the gifts that keep on giving. And my husband built me a library so I can share my love of books with you. Don’t let all his work go to waste.

Please, stop on by and pick one up for yourself.
Take a book, leave a book.
Always a gift, never for sale.