How to Write a Hallmark Channel Christmas Movie

Have I ever told you how much I adore Hallmark Channel Christmas movies? Have I ever told you how much I adore Christmas? Let’s just say, I could be a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie. In fact, if I were an actor, all I would do is Hallmark Channel Christmas movies.

Therefore, I feel like kind of an expert on these movies so if you ever fancied yourself a screenwriter wanting to cut your teeth on fake snow and Candice Cameron Bure vehicles, then you should follow my advice on how to write a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie. I’ll be watching!

Take 1 from each column:

You are:

  • A single, lonely, but optimistic woman
  • A bitter, hardnosed, overworked professional desperate for a promotion
  • An naive, sweet do-gooder who knows deep inside she’s engaged to the wrong man, but doesn’t want to hurt his feelings by dumping him
  • An agent of Mr./Mrs. Claus
  • Apathetic or downright hostile towards the holidays due to a circumstance you only feel comfortable talking about to strangers when the moon is full and snow is falling
  • A young widower with chiseled good looks, doing the best he can to raise the three kids he rescued from a J. Crew catalog
  • Royalty

 Who is:

  • Wishing you didn’t have to spend the holidays alone
  • Sick of the holidays and everyone around you
  • Trying to take over a town/favorite landmark/small business
  • Trying to save a hometown/favorite landmark/small business
  • Trying to maintain a brave face in front of the kids even though you find the holidays insufferable
  • Trying to help a single, lonely, but affable woman/a hardnosed, overworked woman/naïve, sweet do-gooder engaged to the wrong guy/a widow or widower/undercover royalty/small town find the true meaning of Christmas
  • Misdirecting your grief over losing one or both of your parents/guardians when you were a child and acting out against everyone and everything. Even thought it happens at this time every year, your misery always takes you by surprise
  • Yearning for a different life

 So you:

  • Throw yourself into your work hoping the long nights at the office will give you the same comfort a pair of loving arms would provide. Or so you imagine.
  • Dedicate yourself to helping others less fortunate
  • Escape to your rustic-inspired-luxury equipped, snow-covered cabin in the middle of nowhere to eat minestrone soup in front of a fire while your Excel spreadsheets keep you company
  • Run over everyone who gets in the way of achieving your life goal, or at least this month’s sales quota
  • Fight the urge to dump your betrothed in favor of the cute, single man you met while he was browsing the cute shop you own looking for a gift for his cute niece whom he simply adores.
  • Bake
  • Befriend a determined, hopeful, freckled child of a single mom who adores Christmas almost as much as you do
  • Pick a major American city, pack your Louis Vuitton suitcase and man servant, and go undercover

When suddenly you:

  • Literally stumble into a handsome, single, man wearing a cashmere, ¾ length topcoat with a full head of hair snowflakes take a remarkably long time to melt in
  • Find yourself having inappropriate feelings for the man who is trying to takeover your town/favorite landmark/small business
  • Come across a holiday stigmata that propels a tiny bubble of hope to rise to the surface of your cold, dank corn husk of a heart, despite your best efforts to thwart it
  • Feel yourself falling for your impeccably-coiffed children’s teacher, but suppress your feelings realizing how selfish you’re being
  • Are forced to identify your true self by pulling off several miracles so the dubious townspeople will listen to your wisdom
  • Win a huge payout from national a cookie baking competition your best friend secretly entered you in
  • Fall for a waitress

 Which results in:

  • Falling unexpectedly in love
  • Falling unexpectedly in love and saving your town/favorite landmark/small business
  • Falling unexpectedly in love and recapturing the Christmas spirit that vanished after your parents/guardian were tragically taken away when you were a child
  • Falling unexpectedly in love and throwing a huge holiday party to apologize for the whole town you insulted/tried to buy before realizing the error of your ways
  • Falling unexpectedly in love with a person who sincerely loved you even before they realized you were a prince/princess
  • Falling unexpectedly in love and using your massive windfall to give orphaned children the Christmas of their dreams
  • Helping a single, lonely, but affable woman/a hardnosed, overworked woman/naïve, sweet do-gooder engaged to the wrong guy/a widow or widower/undercover royalty fall in love

Ah, Christmas!

Shelly Who?

It’s been a long time since I visited this website. So long that I thought about skipping town and pretending to forget this thing ever existed. I could start up again on a shiny, new site, maybe start blogging about something totally fresh like how to make your own household cleaners from pinecones and dust bunnies or how about the opposite of fresh like why Trader Joe’s keeps selling me rotten foods? Yesterday I purchased a delicious looking stilton and peach chardonnay cheese only to discover today that it was totally rancid. (Admittedly it’s kind of hard to tell when stilton goes bad but still.) Couple that with the bag of soggy butter lettuce and moldy heirloom tomatoes also purchased and you have a delicious E. coli salad.


How have you all been? Good? Me too. Well, mostly. Things are a tad different now. Why you ask? It’s same reason why I’ve been neglecting this poor website.

There’s a baby among us. My baby.

A baby! Yes, a human baby! I know, right? Still hard to fathom.  On most days I feel like I’m this kid’s babysitter but then I wonder what kind of irresponsible parent would hire me to babysit their infant? Even after nearly six months it hasn’t totally sunk in that he’s my child. That’s my flesh and blood over there drooling on the hardwood floors and eating his toes? Maybe it would help if he looked liked me. Or his dad. Right now he’s a cross between Bart’s dad and my brother as a baby. Weird how genes get selected. Like he just swam past mommy’s and went straight for Uncle Mike? Well, Uncle Mike does have long lashes and exceptionally good skin.

So please don’t feel neglected. It’s been a long time since I visited any website other than or Turns out everyone on the interwebs is an expert in how to parent your baby. Sometimes that’s actually a relief. Good for you! I want to tell them. You take the reigns and parent my child! I’m just going to lay down right here on this pile of brick chips and take a little snooze. Oh god, sleep. I remember sleeeeeeeeeepppppppppppppppssgjidkliroedfklgorfgogolgfdkl;gfdlgkflgfgl;

Whoa. What happened? Sorry about that. I swear I just shut my eyes for a second. Allow me to wipe this drool from the keyboard and get back on topic. What were we talking about? Oh right, the experts. I’m not above soliciting or accepting advice. You never know what nugget you might receive that suddenly nets you four uninterrupted hours of shut eye one night or prevents you from feeding your kid honey before they’re twenty-three years old (lest you give them botulism!) or whatever the rule is these days. I promise to not just post things about babies. Jeez. Those people are sooooooooo annoying. But I do have a few good stories I might have to share. Babies are pretty good fodder as it turns out. And now that I am once again a person on the interwebs, that makes me an expert who can officially spew advice about how to raise other people’s children. Yay! Where shall we start?

If anyone out there is anticipating the arrival of their first child, please allow me to give you this piece of unsolicited advice. It was by far the best I got (and trust me, this will be your mantra those first few days.)

It gets better.

First, allow me to apologize to all those experienced parents I silently mocked when they told us how unbelievably challenging this would be. Yeah, okay, I thought. It’s just a baby! If you can’t boss a baby around who can you boss around?

But wow. Wow, wow, wow. I wouldn’t wish those first two weeks on a housewife of New Jersey. I was flat out terrified of this 7 pound, 6 ounce mass. Sometimes when I’m wide awake at night wondering when the next “MY BINKIE FELL OUT OF MY MOUTH HOLE” alarm is going to go off, I think back to the day we left the hospital. Bart went to get the car and I stayed behind in the lobby with Quinn who was sound asleep in his car seat. Holy hell, I. Was. Terrified. Like Space-Mountain-terrified. Like accidentally-seeing-how-much-I-weighed-four-days-before-giving-birth-terrified. Like accidentally-seeing-how-much-I-weighed-four-days-after-giving-birth-terrified.

Oh god, I thought, please don’t let this baby wake up! I had no idea what to do with him if he did. Then this father and little boy came through the automatic double doors and the kid was all energy and enthusiasm. Poor kid was probably on his way to visit his beloved grandma who just made a miraculous deathbed recovery. Perhaps it was the bouquet of balloons he gripped in his tiny hand, but this kid’s exurberance was literally lifting him off the ground. I looked at that child who barely four years ago was probably at the feet of his terrified mother, tucked in a car seat in this very lobby waiting to make his first pilgrimage home and all I could think was, make a sound and I will take those balloons and shove them so far up your bad-touch zone, you’ll be picking latex out of your braces for the next six years. Yes, that’s right. The fear of my own child caused me to threaten (albeit silently) bodily harm on another child. Where the heck was Child Protection Services when you needed them?

I came home on drugs so powerful they made me hallucinate (I swear Zelda was in the hospital with us) and so scared to close my eyes because I knew as soon as I did Quinn would cry and I’d have to do something. Feed him? Change him? Warm him? Hold him? How would we know what to do? Bart and I both became phobic of the night because sleep was so tenuous and we were so exhausted we were terrified we would sleep through a feeding, which would lead to another of the 683 ways your baby could just drop dead. (Remind me to tell you about those infant CPR classes we took. Scared straight, I tell you.) Horrible to ponder but what else does a new parent really think about in the middle of the night?

In those early days, I found myself clinging to a beacon of hope– my friend Suzie’s text. She sent an innocent congratulatory message after Quinn was born that said, “Good luck. You’ll do great. I thought the first two weeks were the hardest.”

I clung to those words like lyrca to a Kardashian. Two weeks, Suzie said. It was hard for Suzie and she was a prosecutor for goodness sake! It’s not just me! Surely I can get through two weeks. I don’t know if she was right or if I manifested the tiny beam of proverbial sunlight that shone down on us 14 days postpartum. (Didn’t hurt that it was around that time my parents came to visit. God bless the grandparents!) The point is, it is hard. And for anyone who doesn’t have a text from Suzie to cling to, allow me to give you hope. Those first two weeks suck. They are the hardest. Take it from someone who was there 5 and a half months ago. I shudder to think. You will not know yourself. You will seriously contemplate not doing things like brushing your teeth because you could use those two and a half minutes for sleeping. You will think you’re broken and doomed and a menace to your child because you don’t feel exactly the way the websites and books and hospital birthing classes said you would feel. You wonder if you’ll ever see your friends let alone the inside of a Target again. You can not figure out how one tiny being could be so much work, could take up so much time, could beat you down so very much. You will feel like you’re trapped on a Japanese game show where you have been tossed a wet, slippery baby and told to keep that baby warm, dry and fed for an indefinite amount of time. And the prize? You get to keep doing it! For-freakin’-ever.*

So yep, it’s hard. If it’s not, time to get off the hallucinogenic drugs. It is also terrifying. And weird. And life-altering and core-shaking and mind-blowingly exhausting. And then suddenly it’s also amazing.

One day when you go to get your baby who has woken up from a nap, you realize this one-sided relationship has changed. This creature does know who you are. And they prove it by smiling. That’s when  you begin to figure out how babies have managed to survive all this time.

I know I’m not the babysitter, but I still don’t know myself. I have become someone who just wants to talk about her child. I want to look at the 983 pictures of him on my phone and listen to the voice memos of him laughing. I text my mom a picture and then immediately call her so we can analyze his every detail like cytologists studying stem cells. I forgo Facebook or back episodes of The Bachelor in favor of watching his tiny ribcage move up and down on the baby monitor. I can’t wait to get home from work so we can lay on the circus-themed blanket I got at a garage sale for $1.50 and shake maracas while we play with our feet and tell each other about our days. Charlie ate carrots? Ingrid lost a sock? Mr. Eric read you a story? I enjoy spending time with a baby. Who am I? I do not know this person but it looks like she’s sticking around so we may have to get used to her.

And yes, she welcomes your advice. You are also people of the interwebs.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a baby to oogle on the monitor. Back in eighteen years.

*Please note, if you do not feel any of these things, don’t worry! That’s totally normal too! Feel what you feel and go with it! It gets soooooooo much better!

Way to Go, Brandon.

Meet Brandon! Then Run Away!

We all know about “daddy issues.” We wouldn’t have shows like The Bachelor or Bad Girls Club without them. But “mommy issues” are equally prevalent as evidenced on last night’s episode of The Bachelorette. Don’t judge. It’s required viewing for soon-to-be parents so you can witness what happens to your kids when you don’t read to them or make them write thank you notes.

This dude, Brandon– oh my. In only 3 episodes he’s mentioned his mommy issues more times than the word “rose” was uttered by the entire cast. Apparently after Brandon’s daddy “ran away” when he was five, his mommy paraded a long string of potential daddies throughout his childhood. And just when he “fell in love with these guys” they left. Chicks love hearing these stories upon first meeting potential paramours. By all means, let loose on the abandonment issues before the less trivial stuff like where you’re from or what you do.

Not to spoil things for you but, well, Brandon didn’t get a rose last night and was totally confused by this. You see, he thought when he confided for the eighteenth time to Desiree, The Bachelorette, about his mom’s inability to keep a man and his constant quest for a male role model, they were bonding. Umm…no. Desiree (who clearly hasn’t made many good decisions lately because she’s– well, The Bachelorette) rightfully kicked him to the curb, gently explaining their lack of chemistry.

“You’re a great guy– just not for me.”

He still didn’t get it.

“I don’t understand,” he answered.

Well tough noogies, Brandon. Google it or something.

In his exit interview, he was visibly dejected. Even looking a little quite a bit maniacal with is beady little raven eyes darting up and down, and backwards inside his skull.

“Another person left me,” he sighed. “Way to go, Brandon.”

Yes, he congratulated himself on driving another person away.

And just when you really wanted to punch him in the neck he shook his head and added, “There just aren’t any more tears left.”

Oh, me-wow, Brandon.

You might not see the educational value in watching shows like this, but I do. In about a month or so, I will have a son. A son who might grow up to attend college and get a job and afford his own car insurance. Or he might grow up and look for love on a national television show, using things like his mommy’s love of reality television or play-acting scenes from Mommie Dearest before bed as tactics to get a woman he just met on TV to marry him. While he might not get a rose, he will likely get “Clip of the Week” on The Soup and for that I can’t help but be proud.


Mother Nature v. Mother Nurture

Ok, who would win in a fight:

My mother’s innate influence over me or all the “how to parent” crap I’m getting inundated with from well-meaning friends, eblasts, and the twenty-seven inch pile of paperbacks on my nightstand?

Here’s the deal: in my daily phone call today with my mom, I mentioned my friend’s two-year old son was having a hard time being away from Mommy.

“He’s going to the spa with you?” she asked. “That’s crazy!”

“Well, it’s just pedicures,” I reasoned. “It’s not like we have to be quiet or anything.”

“But still…” Judy was not convinced. “Can’t he stay with his dad for one hour? Don’t tell me the dad won’t watch him. Ooooh…”

If it’s one thing Judy hates almost as much as a whiny kid, it’s a dad who won’t babysit his own kid.

“Of course he could. But I think Mason just gets so upset when she leaves it’s easier just to bring him.”

“That’s WRONG!” Judy was really fired up now. “She’s doing that kid a great disservice by giving into him! He needs to learn that sometimes Mommies have to go out, but they usually come back.”

“So I’m supposed to just leave my sobbing little baby who is very clearly upset just so I can enjoy overpriced cocktails and half-price hummus with my girls?”


I ask you, could you leave this beautiful, little crybaby behind?

“But I can do that at home!” Truthfully nothing sounded better than an overpriced cocktail and half price hummus right about now and I’d probably leave all my worldly possessions on the side of I5 to get my hands on a French 75, but it’s sometimes hard to resist getting Judy worked up.

Judy sighed. “You listen to me, missy. If you baby him, if you coddle, if you give in to his every whim and demand, you will turn him into Ricky Mendoza. Is that what you want?”

Ahh, Ricky Mendoza. I’ll save that story for another time.

“Oh dear lord, no.”

“Good. Because I will kick your ass,” she concluded. “The same way you kicked Ricky’s.”

“The same way everyone kicked poor Ricky’s,” I said. “I think our class hamster gave him thirteen stitches.”

“My point exactly. Remember when I used to go to happy hour with the girls every Thursday,” she asked.

“And Monday through Wednesday,” I added. “Yes, I remember.”

“You didn’t want me to go but I did.”

“Mom, I was like 15. I probably just wanted to go with you.”

“Well the point is, I went anyway. And you didn’t cry. You got over it.”

“Have I?”

Ignoring me, Judy went on to explain that while the teen me didn’t care if she left me alone to go drinking with her friends (what the heck did she think I was doing when she left?) the wee me apparently had mommy separation anxiety.

“I thought my anxiety was from the Phenobarbital withdraw,” I said.

“That was prescribed by the doctor,” she said calmly. “I told you. We didn’t know any better back then.”

I’ll save the Phenobarbital story for another time as well.

Notice I say “apparently” I had separation anxiety because I clearly don’t remember this.

“And now look how strong and independent you are. You ran off right after college to go live in Seattle. Who the hell does that? Up until you the time you booked your flight we weren’t even entirely sure where Washington was!”

“I thought it was south of Oregon.”

“I thought it was in Canada.”

(Don’t judge! Can you West Coasters name every state along the East Coast? Probably Maybe not.)

Geography aside, she’s got a point. I feel like my parents did a fine job raising me, despite what the journals from my early 20’s might imply. My life was and is relatively angst free. I’m pretty well adjusted. And if that’s due in part to my mom rushing off to happy hour while toddler me left snot stained smudges on the screen door begging her not to go, well so be it. I’m none the wiser. Or actually maybe I am.

But I have to wonder. Could I walk away from my sobbing two-year old begging mommy to stay? I remember one time when I left my beloved old dog, Charlie, at a dog groomer she had been to a dozen times before. Charlie was notorious independent and often aloof. She needed me to do things like unlock the balcony door or open a bag of Moo-Q’s but otherwise she was fine on her own. But this one day she started whimpering in the waiting area and when they came to take her back she rolled over, wrapped two big paws around my ankle, and looked up at me with these pleading, brown eyes. I swear she said, Please don’t leave me! I love you! I’ll be better, I promise! Ugh. Brought tears to my eyes! And to think I did leave her there! I had to go to work. Eight years later I still regret it.

“That’s because you like dogs better than kids,” Bart said.

“I like dogs better than other people’s kids,” I reasoned. “They might be equal with my own child.”

We already know that I’m not going to be the one who takes the baby in for his shots after my meltdown at the vet’s office when we tried to get Zelda’s nails clipped. It would break my heart. But then again, it would also break my heart if I inadvertently raised a kid who was constantly hiding behind mommy’s skirt. Not to mention the real travesty—never getting to enjoy a kid-free pedicure ever again.

“Oh, he’ll cry,” Bart said. “But it’s not like I’m going to hold our crying child up to the window so you can see how upset he is when you leave.”

That’s a terrible visual and now I can’t look at the gigantic picture window in the front of our house without tearing up a little. Must be the hormones.

“We’re both going to need to get out once in a while,” Bart continued. “It will be good for him.”

I have to admit it was good for me. Which is why I’m putting all those books on my nightstand away and catching up on all the unread books in my Kindle library. When people talk about “mother’s instinct” I’m staring to think they mean “your mother’s instinct.” Fine by me. I’d rather have my mother’s instincts kicking in than her kicking my ass.


Let’s Panic, Shall We?

The other day Bart and I were at a store in our neighborhood looking at picture frames for the Star Wars prints he bought for the baby’s room. (I was under the impression we were going with a classic Pooh theme but as it turns out, Pooh and Darth Vadar actually look pretty good together.) Anyway, this store has a fun selection of books like Knitting With Cat Hair and 1,001 Famous Landscapes Recreated with Broccoli. I get all my friend’s birthday presents here.

So, we’re walking past the book section and this one in particular catches our eye:

Never look a baby in the eye.

“Oh ha, ha,” I said, pointing. “Look at that funny, totally useless book that’s clearly meant for people not as collected and composed as we are!”

“Ha,” Bart said. “Clearly. How silly.”

And he picked it up just to prove show silly and irrelevant to us it was.

He pointed to a blurb on the front cover. “Diablo Cody says we messed up royally by getting pregnant in the first place. Ha! Funny!”

“Oh look,” I said, opening the book at random. “All the really gross ways my body is changing! Meatier smelling body odor! Boob sweat! Incontinence! Yay!”

“Funny, funny book,” Bart said, taking it from my hands and replacing it next to the copy of Stuff on My Cat. “Just meant to make people laugh. Nothing useful in here!”

“Totally,” I agreed. “What’s funnier than hemorrhoids? And there’s like 19 pages on them in here.”

We walked away, then stopped and looked at each other. My big, frowny, panicky face was mirrored in Bart’s big, frowny, panicky face.

“We need to get that book,” he said.

“It’s totally meant for us,” I said.

So while we’re painting the bedroom with the best closet in the house and washing clothes the size of tissues with Dreft detergent from 1959, we’re panicking. A little. I mean, no one told us babies shoot laser beams out of their eye holes. I guess that could explain the burning sensation coursing through my esophagus right now.

I can only hope the baby will be comforted by the swaddle blanket I’m knitting him out of Zelda’s fur.


I Saw the Light

I walked into my office/Sadie’s bedroom this morning and saw something weird on the floor. It was light yellow-ish in color. Oh no!

Did I leave my computer on?

Did Sadie have another accident?

Did a UFO land in our backyard?*

And then I realized it was the sun. So weird. It’s gone now but I thought I’d tell you about it anyway.

And speaking of “sun”, looks like Bart and I are going to have one. A son, I mean. In July. (How’s that for a lead in?) Talk about weird. They let anyone have babies these days! Even people who have a combined 12 minutes of experience with babies. And 7 of those minutes were spent glaring at crying babies sitting next to us on airplanes. That counts, right? I mean, discipline is discipline.

Anyways, time to pick out paint colors. And read some books. And stop glaring at babies. Don’t be shy with your advice, Parents! Or even babysitters! National Lampoon’s Baby is counting on the village to help raise it!

* Maybe a UFO did land in my backyard one day in September. And maybe I got on board. And maybe they took me to their planet for a long, long time and that’s why I haven’t been here for a while. But then that makes this whole baby thing even weirder, huh? Okay, never mind.

That’s Why They Call It a Mancave

So we haven’t moved in yet (next Friday!) but we’ve I’ve already done quite a bit of shopping for the new house. Bart is very excited for two things:

1. He gets to see his stuff that’s been in storage for almost 2 years.

2. He gets a mancave.

The mancave is important to me too. Why? Because it will have surround sound and when Bart isn’t there I can hear the Housewives screeching at one another from every direction. AND it’s a nice place for his.. stuff. I’m sure Walter Peyton on a Wheaties box will be happier hobnobbing with G.I. Joe and friends than with my collection of ceramic owls (which grew by one today!) and cashmere throw pillows. I mean, if I had to work Orcus or the Brian Urlacher autographed football into our decor I could. But the mancave is a much better place for that stuff.

That’s all fine and good and really I’m not one to squash Bart’s decorating dreams. He wanted a chalkboard wall in his office (also part of the mancave), then fine. I’ll buy the chalk. He wants to paint the walls orange and blue in  honor of the Chicago Bears, great. Let me know if you need help picking out the exact blue. But today Bart emailed me a picture and asked if he could get this…thing for his mancave.  I think I finally have to put my foot down.

For Mancave or Caveman?

I don’t understand this at all. I mean, who did this? Why did they do this?

“I think it’s sheer awesomeness speaks for itself,” was Bart’s answer.

But I have to understand this. Where did the artist/previous owner keep it in their house? Why are they selling it? Do they have others? Will someone really pay $550 for this? Did the artist come up with this vision all on his/her own or did his/her cat have a fondness for slam-dunking birds into basketball hoops? Just…why? Why any of it.

Oddly enough Zelda is getting shaved tomorrow. I’m almost afraid to pick her up from the groomers now. Not just because she might look like a mummified, skinless chicken, but because she might safer there if daddy gets really into this design trend.

A Little Updating, Please?

Jeez. Is this thing on?

What a jerk, right? Oh I have things to update you on. I have stories. But rather than try to write it all down in one long post, how about just the (mostly) inane highlights of the last two months?

  1. Saw about 4,927 crapstastic houses for sale and about 12 decent ones. I fell in love with one of them– a totally inappropriate, overpriced, 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom bungalow with immaculate staging. I know better than to fall in love with staging! I watch HGTV! I know how expensive couches and strategically placed throw blankets mess with a person’s psyche! I laugh at those jerks on TV. Come on, suckers! You think those busted up floors and mismatched moulding will look “vintage” and “eclectic” with your dog-eaten sofa and Ikea bookshelf in there? Anyhoo, I totally threw my list of demands out the single-pane windows and convinced Bart we must get an inspector in immediately so we could write up an offer we would surely regret 7 minutes after signing the papers. Know why people have inspectors? Because they find things like crumbly, brick foundation that’s one delivery truck backfiring away from turning your dream home into dust. Okay, we probably didn’t need an inspector to see that if we I weren’t blinded by Dwell bedding and Design Within Reach dining room sets. I mean, if you stuck your finger in the grout (which we paid a man $400 to do) the grout turned to sand. “I wouldn’t buy this house,” the inspector said. He never even saw the inside.  My heart was broken. I swore off Zillow for 4 whole days.
  2. I went to NY to visit the family. I ate, swam, took naps, read books, and watched a lot of reality TV with my mommy. Repeat that for 10 days. Pure. Sweet. Heaven.
  3. Zelda developed an obsession with outside. We let her out into the nice fenced yard here at our rental and she promptly jumped the fence (6ft!) and wandered around the ally collar and common sense-less. I told Bart this would happen, but he poo poo’d it. “Zelda hopping a fence is like Nell Carter scaling a two story building,” he said. Okay, she might be slightly overweight. Slightly. I wanted to believe that but I had seen the look in her eyes when she got into the yard. I saw the way her butt waggled and whiskers twitched when she got up close and personal with the gate. Despite what I say about her, I’d like her to not die so I’m trying to keep her inside, which apparently is the meanest thing you can do to a cat who has experienced all that the great outdoors has to offer. And now she howls at the door all day and night long. Good times for everyone. Seriously cat people, a little help here?  What am I supposed to do?
  4. Went to Gen Con. Busy but fun. Always good to see people playing D&D, wearing their D&D t-shirts, coming by the booth to get their pictures with Lolth. And I used the 8 minutes I had away from the booth to buy new, fancy dice. They’re pink!

    Dice, dice baby!

  5. Took July off from my Dragon column. Did you notice? You did, right? Did you know I’ve been writing that column for almost 5 years? Weird, right? Anyway, I might have accidentally took August and September off too by maybe turning in my column a tiny bit late. But it’s really early for October so there’s that.
  6. After being married almost a year, we finally merged our car insurance plans. This is big news, people! If not for the fact we both eat with the same fancy Crate and Barrel flatware and drink out of the same CB2 wine glasses, I’d almost forget we were married. (Should probably look at merging the Netflix and Amazon Prime accounts too someday.) When I called Statefarm to cancel my policy (of 18 years!) know what they said? “Thanks! Take care!” I mean, really Statefarm? After 18 years all you have to say is “take care?” Do you have any idea how hard it was to break up with Tivo? That was like an 8 month process! And I only had Tivo for 13 months! Whatevs, Statefarm. That’s so not like a good neighbor.
  7. Seattle had a heatwave. Usually when it’s over 75 it’s considered a heatwave but we actually had days well into the high 80’s! Maybe even 90’s! Know how hot it was? So hot I had to rub ice cubes on Sadie and Zelda’s fur– and they let me.
  8. Big Brother started. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s garbage, I know, but I love that show so much it’s almost my most favorite thing about summer. This year’s started when I was in NY on vacation so I got to watch Big Brother with my big brother, who is equally obsessed. It’s on 3 days a week. That’s a commitment. And I don’t have a DVR in our rental house so this is a very challenging season. (First world problem?) I do however have an app that lets me watch episodes on my iPhone and because of that I’ve logged more miles on a treadmill these past couple of months than I have all winter. Who says TV makes you fat?
  9. Submitted an application to be on HGTV’s House Hunters! In case I haven’t mentioned this before, House Hunters is my most FAVORITE show! I’m a huge voyeur when it comes to peeking inside houses– it’s why I love walking Sadie at night– so this show is right up my ally. Believe it or not, I don’t have strong desires to be on TV (with the exception of Oprah or All My Children and well, both of those ships have sailed.) but I will make an exception for House Hunters. The crazy thing is, they actually called us! We talked to a wonderful producer, sent in an audition tape and got poor Eva (our real estate agent) on board. We’re doing this, People! All signs point to yes! Just waiting on the final verdict after the producer pitches us to her producer friends. There will definitely be more on that.
  10. Do you know House Hunters has a dirty little secret? If not, I don’t want to be the one to break it to you. Skip reading these next few sentences if you don’t want to know. So in order to be on the show you have to at least be under contract to buy a house. That’s right– those people you see on the show are not seeing at least one of those houses for the very first time. They’ve probably already picked out the paint and arranged the living room furniture (like we have) for it. I guess it makes sense. I mean, who only looks at 3 houses? And who has a camera crew following them for the entire length of their house hunting journey? I knew the dirty little secret already and it didn’t taint my love for the show. Do you get what that means? I couldn’t apply until we were under contract to buy a house. That’s right– we found a house! Yay! Not only did we find it but we’re head over heels in love with it. It’s perfect. Every time I see it I just want to throw my arms around it! The hard part is now waiting to find out if we’re on the show. We have the keys, just can’t move in or paint, or get those new floors installed, or fill that nice, big beautiful stainless steel fridge with our delicious hoppy bounty from the Beer of the Month club. I want in! But I shall be patient… If you’re curious this house does have a name. It’s Bob Newhouse. Look for him, and us, bad mouthing paint colors and countertops on a TV near you.


We Sold Betty!

Here’s a fact: There are no 2 bathroom homes in Seattle for under a million dollars.

For real. That’s a fact.

And just to clarify, when I say “bathroom” I don’t even mean a “full bathroom.” A stand up shower would be divine. A powder room would be lovely. A little built-in hut for the guest Honeybucket I plan to stash in the backyard would be… well, more realistic.

This is the sad state of real estate affairs in Seattle. Sad if you’re a buyer, that is. And here I thought selling my condo would be tough. A one bedroom, one bath, just a touch north of the really good part of Greenwood. In this market?

“Are you crazy?” they questioned.

“Condos aren’t selling,” they warned.

“There’s an overabundance of inventory,” they said.

“What about the assessment?” they asked.

Oh yeah, there was that.

“No worries,” I told Eva, our real estate agent. “I’ll just pay the assessment in full when we close.”

But Eva was worried that even if we found a buyer willing to overlook the two-three months of construction their lender wouldn’t be so forgiving. And because she’s German and can’t help but be pragmatic and worried.

“Details!” I pashawed. “It’s a good condo! Even a stingy, old bank will see that!”

The assessment, I should mention was to repair the building envelope. Turns out stucco and water hate each other so it’s not the ideal choice for building material in the northwest and yet so many buildings are made with it. (If Eva were in charge, she never would have choosen stucco.)

So, sure, there might be some obstacles with selling my condo, but I’m about as pragmatic as I am German which is to say 0%. I believe what I believe and insist on being so stupidly optimistic about it that the Universe has no choice but to give it to me. I had this condo for fourteen years. Fourteen years! While I wouldn’t be wallpapering the walls of my new abode with hundred dollar bills, I should be able to sell it for such an enticingly good deal, pay that assessment and still have money to buy Bart a nice dinner at Whole Foods, right?

Eva analyzed the best timing for putting Betty (that’s my condo. Probably more on her later.) on the market insisting we needed to know exactly what the repairs would be, who would be doing it and how much I was to cough up at closing. See? Eva and those pesky details! What I originally credited to my ass-dragging homeowners association’s inability to make a decision was really the Universe lining up the perfect buyer. You see, the buyer (who is awesome, even if she hates my beloved chandelier) had to be ready too. And when we finally put the condo on the market I’m sure Eva was sustaining herself on Pepto Bismo and Jagermeister the whole time. We’ve become good friends in the past fourteen years. It’s hard to tell your stupidly optimistic friend that she’s bat-shit crazy.

“Seventeen days,” I told her. “That’s all it will take to sell Betty.”

And then I got to work. I wrote affirmations of WE SOLD BETTY! everywhere—on my desk, on my computer screen, on the refrigerator. I stuck WE SOLD BETTY! notes in Bart’s gym bag. I texted WE SOLD BETTY! to myself. I told my co-workers WE SOLD BETTY! and called Judy several (more) times a day to tell her as well. I said it to myself. Anywhere. Everywhere. Alone. I didn’t care who heard me. And I didn’t care how many times I had to explain that we didn’t really sell Betty. I was just giving the Universe the fuel it needed to get the job done.

But alas, little naïve, optimistic me was wrong.

It didn’t take seventeen days. It took seven days.


For real this time.

But there was no time to celebrate. There was that whole matter of where we would live now that we sold Betty and hadn’t bought a house yet. (Again! Details!)We had about 26 days to figure it out.

“Were going to be on the street with an arthritic dog and a mean cat and a shopping cart full of electronics we can’t plug in anywhere,” I wailed. “Good thing the Kindle has a long battery life.”

“I’m sure we can charge our Kindles and iPhones and iPods and iPads at work,” Bart said. Clearly he had been spending too much time with Eva. “We could even shower there if we really had to.”

But thanks to my unyielding optimism, (and okay, Facebook) my good friend Vera saw our plea for help and took that opportunity to announce she was moving to Canada to join her husband who has been working there for the past five years.

“You can rent our townhouse,” she said.

Hallelujah! A month-to-month, pet-friendly, two-bedroom TWO BATHROOM townhouse in Seattle? We’ll take it! See? It all works out.

What my stupid, unyielding optimism wasn’t prepared for was the fact that in those 26 days of packing up Betty, the Seattle housing market would get itself all into a frenzy. It’s like a bunch of twelve-year-old girls stumbling across an unconscious, red-lipped-from-macking-on-Justin-Bieber-all-day Selena Gomez* frenzy. The savages! That whole “It’s a buyer’s market!” hooey was a thing of the past. It’s a seller’s market in these here parts. Sellers are dangling their 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom, unfinished, flood-prone basements in the faces of desperate buyers who are snatching them up at upwards of $25,000 over asking price. For every one mediocre house there were six pre-qualified, 20% down-yielding, outstanding buyers willing to forgo inspections and pay their own closing costs.

“When did this happen?” I asked Bart.

“About sixteen seconds after we closed on Betty.”

The market never crashed as hard in Seattle as it did in other places and it’s certainly rebounding in ways no one I know outside of here is seeing. When I recant the difficulties of house hunting in Seattle to my East Coast friends they think I’m talking about something unfathomable like a talented Kardashian or a friendly cat.  You see, back where the rest of the world comes from, houses sit on the market for months. Even years in some cases! People, you do not pay nearly half a million dollars for a one-bathroom, two closet house with busted up foundation. You deserve more than that! We’re prone to earthquakes here!

So for the time being, Bart and I are enjoying our two-bathroom rental (knowing our toothbrushes will be hobnobbing sink-side again soon), sleeping on a taco shell shaped mattress on the floor (that’s the first to go when we get a new house) and eating dinner off a Lowes moving box (with remarkably strong packing tape). We can be patient. Sort of. We just hope our fantasy house shows up soon because all our fall clothes are in a storage vault.


*I just watched an interview with a 12-year-old girl outside of a Justin Bieber concert who claimed that she has plotted the grisly death of Selena Gomez many times, so my analogy is pretty much spot on. Kids these days and their death plots.


My Strange TV Watching Habits

I admit, every now and again I might not make the best choices when watching TV. My DVR is riddled with things like Say Yes to the Dress, The Real Housewives, Operation Repo (thanks, Dad!) and my recent discovery, Big, Rich Texas (thanks, Mom!)

Every now and again I might find myself channel surfing and perhaps stumbling across a real goldmine. A true broadcasting gem. A show so out-of-its-tree crazy you actually sit up in your bed and go, WTF?

I have found that show.

Sure, reality television is chockfull of chuckleheads that make you question, “Doesn’t this girl have a father?” or “Under what cinderblock-propped Yugo did they find this pimple on humanity?” But this show… OMG. I couldn’t help wondering if these people actually knew they were being filmed. And that it would air on national television. And that people like me, with admittedly low television-viewing standards, would stumble across it and be diced with emotional scars so deep they’d require a Housewife-size order of Restylane to fill.

I’m talking about My Strange Addiction.

Now, let’s be clear. These are not people with normal addictions like to Afrin or The Weather Channel or posting pictures of their cat on websites.


These are some straaaaaaaaaaaaaaaange, disturbing addictions. Like not for the faint of heart, which as it turns out—I am. Please tell me I’m not the only one who has seen this. Truthfully I have only watched it once. That’s how bad it was. I mean, Big, Rich Texas is terrible but I record it every week. It’s not Big, Rich bad. It’s just bad. Like take-a-shower-after-you-watch-it bad. Like did I really just see that bad. Like turn the channel before your strange addiction becomes My Strange Addiction bad!

It started off innocently enough with some dude named Nathaniel. He was probably in his late 20’s. Kind of weird looking but nothing that outwardly would make you shudder and feel the need to wash your eyes out with Bactine. But I could tell this was no ordinary show. It’s as easy for me to sniff out a reality show doozie as it is to tell when my mom’s freakinshly delicious brownies are about baked. I knew some weird shit was about to go down.

So this Nathaniel– let’s assume he actually knows people. He probably has a job. A few friends. A prom date who is busy burning her high school year book right now. He must have neighbors. A dry cleaner? A mailman? I mean—he HAS TO KNOW PEOPLE! So why, why, why did he agree to go on this show????? DID HE ASK TO BE ON THE SHOW????

But I digress…

Nathaniel’s addiction is…oh dear lord, I need a minute…

His strange addiction is…his car. Now, he’s not just some meathead who enjoys the smell of Armor All on a sunny Saturday morning. Oh no. It’s much more…strange than that. You see, Nathaniel is dating his car. That’s right. I said, DATING HIS CAR. His car named Chase. It’s red. And shiny and was clearly someone very, very bad in a past life to have to been reincarnated as a red, shiny car named Chase who must suffer the cruel, mortifying, sexual attention-abuse Nathanial lavishes upon him in this life. Oh that’s right. Chase is a him. The narrator made sure we all knew Chase was straight. I guess he was worried people might think he was gay??? Umm, I’m pretty sure there’s worse things people might think of you, Nathaniel, you car-bumping freak!

Next thing, there’s Nathaniel all gooey-eyed and stroking Chase’s steering wheel and purring, “Oh yeah, Chase, you like that? Does that feel good?” And then he was kissing…no making out with the hood of the car.

Oh no, I'm not kidding. Real kissing.

And then—OMG—I’m going to throw up. He was…under the car. And…doing things.

Doing things like THIS!

Seriously, people! Nathanial KNOWS PEOPLE!!! In fact, he was about to tell his dad all Jerry Springer style about Chase. That’s when I turned the channel. I couldn’t see a dad be told his son is in a sexual relationship with a CAR! What did they tell his dad to get him to appear on camera?

“Hello, Mr. Sad. I’m a producer from a television show your sick bastard of a son is going to be featured on. Can you come sit a spell on this here bench while he shares with you some exciting news? Oh and feel free to wear this oxygen mask and hold the hand of this nice EMT while he tells you. Thanks!”

Am I one to talk? Because clearly I too am not without my own sickness. About 14 seconds after turning the channel I turned it back. It’s true. I couldn’t look away. Thankfully I missed Nathanial and Chase’s coming out. I mean, I think I’m thankful. What I ended up seeing can’t really be that much better.


Is seeing this better than seeing a dad be told his son is getting jiggy with a car?

Meet 28 year-old Jaye. She’s addicted to snorting baby powder. Umm…Jaye? That’s just flat out nasty. And shoving powder, baby or otherwise, up your sniffer with a soup spoon can not be good for you. She likes the way it smells, she claims. But sadly she can’t keep a roommate because the apartment gets so darn dusty.

Up yours, Jaye.

I don’t know who, if anyone, Jaye was coming out to because I stopped watching. For real. I don’t even know if that’s the premise of the show. I don’t know if these people want to seek help. Sure doesn’t seem like it. In fact, they seemed downright proud of their addictions. But can someone please tell me what it’s like when they go to the office the day after their show airs? I mean, if I saw the quiet dude who sits across the aisle from me on a TV show where he was humping his car or shoving baby powder up his nose, or drinking nail polish remover, or eating cat food ,or smelling a doll head, I would probably puke. And then ask him if he knew he was being filmed. And then find out where the F he parks his love machine so I can make sure to steer clear.

I leave you with this awesome image.

At least she wears protective eyewear.

You’ve been warned. Stay away from this show. In fact, stay away from everyone. You never know what strange addiction they’re harboring.