Front room transformation

Shall we play Spot the #Spacecats

While Stephanie was working hard packing up Feast, I took a break to have a conference call with Margaret Treanor Frey about our ongoing comic project (we are tired, so we are taking a few weeks off for the holidays, hoping to come back reinvigorated!). We also talked about Serendib logo design (she’s going to advise Kavi on further steps to take the design process further, and then help clean it up into a final result, which I am very excited about).

I also assembled a much-needed IKEA end table. It’s nice that the tray lifts off, so you can use it on, say, the ottoman there, and still have an end table. That’ll be useful, I think. In theory, it’s also nice that the tray table is foldable for storage, though I think for us, we’ll probably mostly just leave it right there for the next decade, at least.

I’ve been thinking of this front room as the garden room, filling it with plenty of plants, with animals and flowers on the curtains, etc. (I hope that big new IKEA palm gets enough light there; fingers crossed.) There’s something about the tray table that has a certain outdoor / conservatory aesthetic, I think, but I can’t really say why!

We need a little more light in that room (it’s fine now, but dark at night), and then we might actually be able to call its transformation from playroom to sitting room complete. The (older) kids (and of course, the cats) are making much more use of it in this form. If we start up writing days again, or do a SLF writing retreat here, this will also be a functional space for multiple people to work in. Good.

One decade in this house, down. Eep.


Shed report

Walked to the writing shed in the snow for the first time (having remotely turned on the heater first, thanks, Alexa). It’s a very light snow, just flurries, didn’t even bother putting my coat on to cross the backyard, but still, nice to know that I’m actually willing to come out here in snow. 🙂 I was a little worried that this would only be a three-season writing shed, but I think not.

I wouldn’t say it’s toasty in here, but it’s warm enough that my fingers don’t feel cold, which is key for safe typing. I do think I need to plastic-seal the windows for the winter, and maybe hang drapes over the French doors. It feels a little drafty.

But still, I’m here, I’m writing, is good. I had promised that when I got to a certain level on my personal Patreon that I’d write another scene in my silly little poly space catering company story, and I’ve been so hectic that I haven’t done it yet, though it’s been at least a month — I actually forgot for a while, must work on project management and calendaring everything! But I’m here now, and hopefully the muse will cooperate, as I have an hour to spare before it’s time to go pick up Kavi from her ADD assessment.

At 1 p.m., I’m meeting with someone who has kindly volunteered to help me build an actual budget for the makerspace. After that, I may take it easy for the rest of the day? Well, I have e-mail to deal with, so probably not. But there’s nothing else absolutely required on the schedule, which is kind of bliss after a very scheduled week. Jed arrives this evening for a weekend visit, which will be lovely. Maybe I will make him help me hang drapes.

I’m still fighting a cold, but if it’s not seeming too bad, I will try to go out this evening to support the community event happening around racist graffiti and other incidents at our local high school. Very upsetting. This kind of thing is on the rise around the country. This presidency, gah. I have nothing more coherent to offer on that.

Steamy Shed

It’s unclear how useful the writing shed will be in summer. We turned on the AC in the house yesterday — the forecast now says high of 94, feels like 100. I am normally an avid proponent of keeping the windows and doors open (hooray for screens) and the fans going to provide a cross-breeze, but there comes a point where the whole family wilts and we concede defeat and turn on the AC. None of us can sleep when it’s too hot, so that’s the real breaking point.

Temperature regulation is a little complicated for me, as I’m hypothyroid, so my body doesn’t adapt all that well to temperature extremes. But I keep thinking of when we went to Sri Lanka in 1995, and I was miserable in the heat, and demanding to know how my mother survived it. And she just looked sort of bewildered and said, “It’s not so bad. Your body gets used to it. Drink some tea.” She and the aunties drank lots of hot tea; there was some sort of theory that it heated you up and then you sweat more and that cooled you down? Like your own personal swamp cooler.

There’s no AC in the shed — so far, we’ve only put in electricity. I could get a tiny swamp cooler for around $40, which was effective in my Salt Lake City apartment, where it was dry, but I’m not sure those work as well in the humidity of Chicago.

For right now, I have a fan, and I came out this morning (currently 85, feels like 95), leaving the cool of the house, a little shocked by the transition. But I’m sitting in the shed typing right now, and the fan may actually be enough. I’ve turned my chair to get out of the sun, and the fan is blasting right on me. (I actually stole this fan from another room in the house, and it will go back, but I have ordered a pretty fan for the shed, will be here soon.) And I’m drinking my tea (yes, Amma), though I’m not sweating yet. So far, so good.

Time to turn off Facebook and write a little.


Shed & space

I came home from the event last night and spent an hour or so in the shed, writing a poem, reading a story. (Charlie Jane Anders, “As Good As New,” loved it…) These photos are a bit dark, sorry, but you can get some context for the shed at night, with our seating area by the garage. It’s hard to get a sense of scale, but I was really worried that the shed would dominate the backyard, and thankfully, I think we’ve managed to avoid that. It’ll recede even more when the flower bed is fully developed, I think. Give me a few years.

The monk’s cell concept has been ameliorated a bit by the desire for comfort while working. I was never going to be a monk anyway. You knew that. Love the wingback chair and ottoman (IKEA, surprisingly affordable), and the rug (Overstock, ditto).

I have a particular fondness for that end table, which I bought in Sri Lanka in 2005, on the trip I took with money from the sale of Bodies in Motion. The lattice base folds up, and I brought the whole thing back in my big suitcase; it’s wandered around my homes since then, but was languishing a bit in the basement recently. It’s much happier out here, I think.

There’s still a surprising amount of unclaimed space. I don’t think I’ll be using a desk here, though I could possibly fit a little one up against the back wall, with a narrow (or kneeling) chair. We’ll see if I feel the need.

The immediate plan is to bring a Levenger lap desk out here to use with the arms of the comfy chair, and then see what, if anything, I want in the extra space. Maybe a low bookshelf. Maybe a table for stacking drafts covered in critique scribbles. Maybe nothing.

Shed: Exterior Paint

Shed: completed exterior paint job. We went with essentially the same colors as the house and garage, to give a unified effect, but taken a shade darker, because I was thinking of doing that the next time we paint the house, and I thought the shed could serve as a tester. I definitely think we’ll use this blue (Benjamin Moore’s Old Navy) for the body of the house, next time we paint. The purple trim is Deep Mulberry.

The most waffly decision was what to paint of the doors and windows. Normally, I would do the same thing on all of them, but the windows had beautiful wood that I didn’t want to paint over. The doors were white painted wood, and I could have stripped them for a unified look, which I think I would have liked a lot — but I couldn’t justify the additional cost. So I painted them in another of the house trim colors (Violet Stone), and I think I’m fine with the slight wonkiness of the mix-and-match. It’s a whimsical creation to begin with, after all, a garden folly.

I’ve trenched out what will be a bed of flowers eventually, though it’s going to take a while, given budget-all-spent-and-then-some. Next step, turning over that grass and covering it with mulch, and then I think I’m mostly going to slowly divide perennials from the front and bring them to the back. Check back in 3-4 years for a fully developed flower bed there. Imagine it with irises and peonies in the sunny bits, and woodland flowers in the shade.

Shed Interior Paint

The shed was originally going to be 4’x8′, but when the contractors came out and started building, the guys asked if they could make it a little bigger, because they thought I’d feel too crowded in there. I said yes, so I don’t know what the final dimensions ended up as! But I think not much bigger, probably around 4.5’x8.5′. Given that, I didn’t want to drywall it, since that would make it feel smaller. I also liked the idea of it being a little rustic, unfinished, functional.


I asked our contractor if she could just paint the interior white, that I was aiming for something like a monk’s cell — a minimal space from which to contemplate the world. (I have loved Loreena McKennitt’s “Skellig” for a long time.) I think she delivered nicely. Paint color: Benjamin Moore’s Linen White.

The Shed

The Shed

The shed is finished enough
to work in but has not yet
entirely revealed its purposes.

The shed is instead of entering the house
late at night, after an event,
is leaving the sleeping children in the care
of their sleeping father a little longer.

The shed is surrounded by apartment buildings,
is shielded somewhat by the grace of trees,
is both hidden and exposed.

The shed is an excellent place for reading
late at night, with wind rustling
through the leaves, music
turned low on a phone, not disturbing
neighbors passing in the alley.

The shed is for open doors and windows
and as much cross-breeze as possible
and probably also a fan, because let’s
be practical here. Eventually, we’ll
have to think about heat in winter.

The shed is not for playing solitary
video games. One was played
on the phone, and the shed was
resentful. It wants to fulfill
its purpose.

The shed doesn’t know if it
will be better for writing novels than
the front porch, or office, or
living room, or basement. The shed
doesn’t know why I wander
from one to the other, restlessly,
endlessly. No one does.

The shed is a still point
in a turning, talking, asking,
needing, hurting world.

The shed is an impossible luxury,
but far cheaper than abandoning
my family and running away
to the ocean, or the woods.

The shed probably wouldn’t be here
if it weren’t for cancer, both ways.
Cancer flays you down
to the exhausted bone; cancer
whispers, don’t wait any longer.

The shed exists because the men
in my life didn’t understand
why I wanted so badly to build a shed
but helped build it anyway.

The shed does not want to be called
a she-shed, because that sounds
ridiculous, but acknowledges
that there may be a reason
for the moniker. There may be
a reason why women in this world
might build a shed.

The shed is a poem
that is trying not to need
to justify its place in the world.

Shed Writing!

Writing in the shed a little today, even though it’s not painted yet, outside or in. The plan is to do the interior in white, with no drywall or insulation, at least for now. If I find myself actually using it as much as I hope, and if it seems like I’ll want to use it even in winter, I can add insulation at that point, and even add baseboard heat. I’m so glad I took the time to read a few articles on open cell vs closed cell spray foam, I feel much more confident now. (We laid conduit and did the electrical in such a way as to accommodate that possibility down the road.)

For right now, it’s honestly a little chilly in here; my fingers are cold, which isn’t good for typing, because it can make injury more likely, I’ve heard (something about tighter tendons?). But I couldn’t resist the urge to work in here a little, at least, esp. because we’ve turned over the house to an indie film crew for the weekend (a local African American woman doing a film about domestic violence; she asked on a local board if anyone had a house she could film in), so it is full of people bustling, doing make-up, shouting “Quiet on the set!” etc. Not conducive to writing.

It should warm up soon, but for now, I’ve closed off the doors that give me this view of the garden from the comfy chair. If I were going to stay out here for long, I’d be dragging out a space heater, but I’m planning to just write one more scene for my current Wild Cards story, and then go inside and see who’s up for watching Doctor Strange with me…