Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Heidi and the Terrible Horrible No Good Rotten Day

I'm a freelancer, but I'm also a single mom, which means that we love the "new bedtime story classics," like "Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Rotten Day." This little book has been one of our favorites for bed-time reading.

Today, I'm substituting Alexander's name for mine, because quite frankly, I think I've earned it.

Ever wonder what a freelance writer's life is like on the home front? No, we don't spend the entire day in fuzzy pink slippers and Mickey Mouse T-shirts from Disney World, although I wish today I'd just stayed clad in that getup with my head under a pillow.

It all started with a little plastic toy named Chop Chop the Monkey. Before I could swig down a gulp of Moroccan green mint tea, my kiddo had demolished my room.

"WHAT are you doing?"

"I've lost Chop Chop, and I figured it must be in your bed," he said in a pile of disheveled down.

"Why ever would Chop Chop be in MY bed?"

"Oh, here he is!" and the little monster grabbed his monkey and went tearing off.

Now that wouldn't be so bad, but then I went into what I call "prep time" for one of my magazine interviews. If you're a writer, you'll understand this crucial time before you chat someone up for the pertinent details of their life and times. I researched the interviewee and assembled interview questions, all to the background sound of the kiddo singing a loud and off-key rendition of, "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" while he was doing God-knows-what in the bathroom .... and I had three minutes to go before I made my phone call ... when all of a sudden ....

"UH OH!"

The bathroom door SLAMS, and I hear the linen closet door open with many mumblings of, "I gotta take care of this before she sees it!" .... and of course, you have guessed that it was a case of too much paper in the porcelain throne with a nice flood of lovely items strewn across the floor ....

But NOW it was time for my interview .... so I commanded the little stinker to wash his hands and pull up Phineas and Ferb on the Internet while I called the poor soul two minutes late.

After the interview (yes, I pulled it off), I scoured the bathroom with rubber-gloved hands and Clorox, unclogged the offending toilet, threw towels in the laundry .... when I heard ...


.... only to peek into the room of the child who obviously was raised by wolves and had been dropped off at my doorstep ....

And if you're a parent, you know Legos, right? Well do you know about ultra tiny Legos, the ones that are so tiny that they're about the size of the top of your pinky finger?


Those were strewn in the nooks and crannies of the carpet divots, along the sides of the walls ....  and mingled with ... you guessed it ... popcorn kernels.

Apparently, this child popped himself a bag of buttery movie-style Orville Redenbacher while I was on the magazine interview and somehow the thing imploded along with the tiny Lego pieces delivered on Christmas Day from a sadistic relative.

We spent 45 minutes cleaning the room. Yes. It took 45 minutes.

I returned to my laptop to see that a response had come in for an interview request with another magazine.

What met my eyes pretty much was the cherry on the sundae, the pinnacle of Everest, the spindle of the Eiffel and the speed of the Concorde to this lovely day ...

"We want to participate in the interview, but just send us the interview questions and we'll write the story ourselves."

We'll write the story ourselves?

For one red-hot second, I forgot my laptop wasn't a pillow and almost threw it against the wall, because never in my 22 years of writing for a living has anyone said anything remotely like that to me.

As a freelancer, you have a choice at that point. You can get huffy and insult the intelligence quotient of the PR person who obviously just completed 3rd grade and moved right into the job "representing" their client ... or do what I did: Let the editor handle it.

In my newsroom days, we would've laughed in the person's face and used EXTREMELY COLORFUL language to tell them exactly what we thought of that little idea. But as a freelancer and single mom who has to keep a roof over my child's head and food on the table, these battles are not mine to fight.

I politely gave the person the editor's phone number and took out my frustration (which by now had reached Vesuvius-exploding levels) .... on my house. I walked around with Clorox for the next 30 minutes and scoured every surface .... took a deep breath, prepared my child's lunch and decided that after we'd eaten, I'd dive back into part 2 of my day, which involves more magazine interviews and story research for a second and third magazine, respectively.

Just as I was stepping out of the kitchen with a prepared plate of food, the little urchin comes tearing around the corner.

"I have to dig into the trash outside!"

Dead silence.


"I threw Chop Chop away when we were picking up the Legos and the popcorn."


And on that note, I hope your day is going splendidly.


  1. I'm so sorry! I have SO been there! But this kind of day (or half-day) is EXACTLY what a blog is for. I love reading this kind of stuff. If you've never read my post "Learnin' 'Bout Boys" (from a few years ago), you might like it. More revealing about ME and my idiocy as a young parent, but also the "joys" of raising these creatures. (Mine are raised by wolves, too.) Hugs! Elaine

  2. Oh -- and I've never EVER heard of somebody saying to any writer "We'll write the story ourselves." Um...HELLO?!!!

  3. LOL! Thanks, Laney!

    You want to know the ironic part is that although my child sounds like Dennis the Menace, I actually did not feel the emotion of "anger" until I received the email from the PR firm. I was coping with it fine until that came along. Really, it's unbelievable.

  4. Maybe this will offer you a little comfort.

    One day the wolf-child will begin the standard courtship rituals which most of humankind engage in. At which time, you can read this out to his prospective girlfriend (or frame it on a wall if you want to be subtle), and cackle gleefully as he turns a rather unusual shade of puce.

  5. LOL!

    Revenge indeed will be sweet, Cat, thanks for that glimpse of the future.

  6. Oh my! I have those days too sans the writing part.