Selling Out

Let’s not talk about Donald Trump today. Because unlike the federal government, things at home are clicking together rather nicely.

I’m now juggling three writing gigs that together add up to adequate compensation and interesting work that is super flexible. I’ve got the green light to do some necessary repairs on the house. Hello, white subway tile in the kitchen! I’ve got the kids mostly set for schools for next year. Well, we have an excellent Plan B for Jonah in case his Plan A doesn’t work out. Ian’s new school is great and will take care of him until he’s 21. I do have to figure out the summer special ed camp situation, but that’s a small potatoes worry.

What’s a neurotic girl to do when things are working out nicely? Not a damn thing. Find a corner to read a book and sip a glass of wine, maybe. And cook big vats of food for people. Last night, there were twelve for meatballs and pasta. We’ve done pizza and beer. Spontaneous stew night was good, too.

I’m in between work projects right now. It probably won’t last more than a day or two, but right now, I’m enjoying the fact that I know that there will be work coming soon, but it’s not here yet.

I never planned on becoming a freelance writer. It sort of landed on my lap when my Plan A fell apart. And it’s not entirely one thing. There’s the serious writing work that isn’t too far off from academic writing. That’s not a shocker. But then there have been other job offers that have absolutely nothing to do with my training. Last summer, I got a call from a huge advertising company that needed help with their toilet paper client. That one didn’t work out. Drat. I enjoyed feeling like Peggy Olsen for a week or two.

Now, it’s a hugely privileged thing to take on these jobs. Steve’s got the health insurance and the proper salary. My job will buy the white subway tile and the wine for the spontaneous stew parties. My friends who depend on their freelance gigs to pay the rent are stressed by the instability of work. For me, it’s fine.

A few months ago, a teacher in town told me that her brother was one of James Patterson’s ghost writers. I guess there’s a small cottage industry of ghostwriting best sellers. The teacher said that her brother had a great lifestyle. He has a good contract that brings him a huge chunk of the royalties. So, he lives in a big house in Connecticut, writes for five hours a day, and then play golf and rides his ponies for the rest of the day.

The guy must be pretty talented to do this job. I can’t imagine that anybody could walk off the street and pump out a best seller. I’m sure that he started off with dreams of having his own name on a serious novel, rather than writing formulaic flippery that is sold in airport gift shops. But ghostwriting is working out for him. If he wanted to, he could still work on his own projects in the afternoon.

I’m not there yet, but with the kids settled for the time being, I’m piecing together a new career.

15 thoughts on “Selling Out

  1. Very nice!

    I look forward to seeing the kitchen. You’ve probably got your heart set on white subway tile, but I’ve recently seen an interesting white hexagon pattern (large format) and of course the white quatrefoil is fun, too.

    Interestingly, there are some very nice laminate marble countertops now:

    I’m actually planning to go that way when we finally remodel, as I don’t think our family is compatible with pretty marble.

    I also like a nice white sparkly quartz countertop.

    We currently have a hard tile floor that breaks EVERYTHING (including plastic baby dishes and mugs), and when we finally do it, I would like a kitchen floor with a bit more bounce.

    Have fun!


  2. Congratulations on piecing together a pretty engaging work situation to complement the complexities of raising kids and being part of a couple with your partner’s work obligations and compensations. It’s a load, however you look at it.

    And, boy, I envy the thought of a kitchen remodel. When we bought this house ten years ago, that was our dream. Now we’re thinking once Eldest is established in grad school this fall that we can start to set aside the savings for that goal and not the many other more mundane priorities (new windows, new furnace/AC) that took our renovation budget over the last decade.


  3. J Liedl said:

    “And, boy, I envy the thought of a kitchen remodel. When we bought this house ten years ago, that was our dream. Now we’re thinking once Eldest is established in grad school this fall that we can start to set aside the savings for that goal and not the many other more mundane priorities (new windows, new furnace/AC) that took our renovation budget over the last decade.”

    That sounds very familiar.

    When we were househunting, all our peers were renovating their houses right away before moving in.

    I thought we were going to do ours in 3-5 years. First off, it turned out that the house needed a new roof and that got rolled into the house price, which was the first hint that homeownership is not all Pier 1 sofa cushions and Pottery Barn leather sofas. We haven’t had huge amounts of repairs since then, but the mundane has to be kept up with. And college is coming on soon for the 9th grader…

    I was initially pretty bummed out by realizing that it’s going to be another 4-8+ years before we do any substantial cosmetic work on the house, but it hasn’t killed me yet. For the moment, the big looming project is a room swap between the 6th grader and the 4-year-old, as the 4-year-old needs better night time bathroom access than she has now (it’s FAR FAR away). Fortunately, 4-year-old has no furniture. And I mean “no furniture”–it’s literally one ratty crib mattress on the floor and toys in laundry baskets. So that stuff is going to be pretty easy to move.

    This was darkly funny:


  4. We have been spared having Baby T wreck our nice stuff.

    Every time I regret our 16-year-old sofa, I think about how I’d feel if I had a beautiful new leather sofa…that smelled vaguely of pee.


  5. When we redid our kitchen, we went with linoleum floor and butcher block countertops, partly because we are middle-class in spirit, but also because of the bounce factor. I remember going to a party a few years ago in a very fancy Park Avenue apartment, with an open plan kitchen in which everything was incredibly hard–granite countertops, tile floors etc. Combine that with the expensive, and therefore fragile and narrow-stemmed, goblets the hosts were using. They lost several glasses over the evening just from people setting them down too hard on the counter.


    1. “They lost several glasses over the evening just from people setting them down too hard on the counter.”



  6. We’ve been through a few renos in various homes and have lived to tell the tale. A Victorian row house, a 1940’s centre hall home (Canadian spelling!) and a 1930’s bungalow.

    Our current home’s kitchen required only a few cosmetic changes when we moved in. The previous owners had done a full renovation plus added a second story (originally a 1930’s bungalow) and for the most part had made good choices. Their divorce—->our new home.

    The kitchen though had some odd choices. Cheap counters and a gaudy backsplash but a full height sub zero wine fridge. The cupboards are fine – shaker style white. And the floors are hardwood. We put in new counters (corian), a new backsplash (Italian rustic style subway tile), and new appliances (Miele fridge & wolf gas range). Took out the wine fridge and had more cabinets/drawers built for storage. Also took out a weird bank of cupboards that were only 10″ deep that also created wall space for art (we can always use more space to hang art). Finally, replaced the big box store pendant with a vintage mid-century sputnik.

    We also installed built in bookshelves at the top of the stairs in what we turned into a reading nook. Along with never enough wall space, we have never enough bookshelves.

    The only “undone” space was the main floor powder room which we just finished. It was a hideous 1980’s floor to ceiling mauve big box tile mess that had no redeeming features. My fave part of it is a custom full height walnut cabinet built in a midcentury modern style. We designed it all so that it didn’t look “new” and fit the rest of the house. Also some quirky dramatic concrete floor tile.

    My advice re kitchens is to spend on what you touch. Cabinets? IKEA is fine and you can put on custom doors from elsewhere. Taps, doorknobs and drawer pulls, counters – these are things that you touch often and it’ll drive you bananas if you get something poorly made. Counter materials – don’t like granite (shiny is too gaudy and the matte is too much maintenance). Marble is lovely but you have to be fine with wear & tear showing immediately. There are some lovely laminates out there now. Nothing is perfect.

    And yes to a floor that gives – wood, linoleum, bamboo, etc. Tile and concrete are really hard to stand on for any length of time.

    Can you tell I’m a nester?


  7. Our kitchen choices are going to be driven by the fact that A. I cook a lot, B. I share a kitchen with two going on three 6-feet tall dudes who often have dirty sneakers. I need elbow room and durability. Our kitchen dates back to the 80s and everything is falling apart. But the outside of the house is also falling apart. I just pulled a rotting shutter off the house last week. So, we need new siding and a new kitchen I don’t think we can do both projects in one year, but I’m not sure. Calling contractors is on my to -do list for the day.


    1. Well, opposite to cups and glasses, with a house, the outside is more important than the inside, because if the elements get in, the inside goes too.


    2. That kind of sounds like an extreme version of the stuff that was going on with our house before we bought it–the squirrels were trying to gnaw through the siding, a number of boards had rot, etc. They didn’t have to totally re-side it, but there were a lot of areas to repair and then it needed to be repainted. As I recall, the new roof cost $14k (which we agreed to roll into the purchase price) but we were able to get our sellers to pay for the other exterior repairs and painting (another $14k if I recall).

      But that was in TX and 5 years ago.

      After that, my husband found an area of rot under the eaves that had gotten missed or developed afterward, and he actually had very good luck using some sort of homebrew epoxy stuff, filling the cavity, and then managing to repaint it with matching paint. I was stunned that it worked out as well as it did. (This was at the back of the house, though, so low risk.)


  8. One thing I can say in favor of the tile was that it stood up very well when half of our downstairs got flooded by a broken water filter.

    Consumer reports has a kitchen issue that is very helpful on the subject of materials and appliances.


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