Thug Office (Notes on DIY: The Nightmare That Never Ends)

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Even though it’s been almost seven years since I married Harv and stopped working two or three part-time jobs, the privilege of freedom still feels foreign to me. It blows my mind that I can do as I please during the hours that suit me.

And now that I have this freedom (from: poverty, addiction, other shady shit), I no longer list every good idea in the Someday category because I can devote time to fulfilling my dreams. Last Wednesday morning I really had a hankering for the chicken teriyaki special with a fried rice upgrade at the mall food court. Guess what I ate for lunch that day? I set a goal. I make it happen.

In January, I slipped on a spray of greeting cards as I walked into my office. As I laid on the floor, I contemplated my two choices: A.) Tear the greeting cards into tiny pieces and then ask Harv how to work the fireplace or B.) Clean/clear the junk from my office. I picked choice A first, but Harv said that choice B would set a better example for Cal. Caring about your kid creates so much extra work.

What began as a weekend project to pack away a few boxes of clutter turned into a complete workspace overhaul. Today is Day 96. My ideas and expenses notebook turned into a rage DIY journal. Some of the legible notes are below.

Day 2 {January 18, 2014}
I’ve been saving this Moleskine notebook for five years. They seem to be very popular with white people. 

Day 2b
Harv saw my last entry and he said it’s not ok to typify only white people as Moleskine users. Maybe I’m racist. But I can’t be racist because I like Eminem.

Day 4
I just packed my 24th box of craft supplies and random junk. The boxes take up the length of the hallway and it seems impossible that so much came out of one room. Harv keeps asking me why there are so many unopened packages of stickers. I just said they came from a big value pack. Can his wallet be considered a value pack? I want to brighten up the space. Maybe new curtains or some wallpaper. The beige blinds are starting to bring me down. They don’t reflect my real personality. I want my new curtains to say, “I look like a Hallmark ornament collector on the outside, but I’m ghetto as fuck on the inside.” What says that? Silk dupioni? 

Day 5
Goddamn. I forgot how expensive curtains are. Maybe I’ll do wallpaper.

Day 5b
Wallpaper is fucking expensive. From now on, if I walk into a house and it has wallpaper AND curtains, MAD RESPECT. That’s the real kind of rich. Not hood rich like all those people that got everything in their mama’s name because they got bad credit.

Day 5c
Harv said he would help me paint if I don’t call him at work for the rest of the day.

stripes1

Day 10
I think I have to make my own glitter paint. Every article I’ve read so far says I need special paint crystals formulated for house paint but I mixed in three packages and it’s not very glittery. I need Trinidad James level bling.

Day 11
I bought every bottle of Martha Stewart florentine gold glitter at Michaels. Wallpaper would have been 1/3 of the total cost for the paint and glitter.

stripesprocess

 

Day 19
Painting looks so easy on TV. Harv says if I call HGTV “fuckin liars” one more time then I have to stop this project because it makes the vein in my right temple really pop out, and I think he doesn’t want to lose me.

Day 19b
Painting has been very therapeutic for me. I’m not that good at it, but I’m extremely decent. If the room is a little bit dark then it looks perfect. I’m no Bob Ross. I’m more of a Rick Ross.

nobobross

Day 27
Harv bought me some custom pillows. Actually, I ordered them and just sent them to his office. Now that the glitter wall looks so pimp, I’m not liking the off-white on the rest of the walls. Maybe I need to paint those too.

customgold

 

Day 28
Pinterest told me that gray looks good with pink and gold. I bought 5 different Benjamin Moore grays today. Meh. 

Day 29
Testing out 6 more grays.

bmoore

Day 29b
I don’t really like gray now that I think about it. Harv asked me if I regret starting this project and I just let the sunken look in my eyes be my answer. Sometimes words aren’t necessary if the emotion is powerful enough. 

Day 30
I went to the hardware store 4 times today and the young paint guy was there. He suggested white. This is all new to me but, apparently, there are a fuckload of whites. A lot a lot a lot of whites. This is reminding me of the gray swatching.

Day 31
I asked Harv if we could just move and he said no. Also, I Urban Dictionary-ed “pimp” and “thug” to see which one fit me best because that’s going to be my room’s theme, but it looks like I’m both.

Day 65
Picked the whitest white available- no pink, no yellow, no green, no blue, no gray tints at all. Still no curtains so I had to cover my windows with 7 pillowcases and 1 brown paper bag because I just realized that I hate sunlight. It sort of looks like a crack house window now. I’m glad I don’t smoke crack anymore. Crack is whack. I wish I came up with that.

crackwindow

Day 70
I want to run away from home but the main thing keeping me here is that I have no marketable skills. I can’t do anything well except talk on the phone. :(

Day 81
I cut my finger on cardboard while I was looking at frames for the dozen gold foil art prints I ordered. There was a lot of blood. It was a finger murder.

Day 82
:(

Day 86
I spent 7 hours hand sanding an Ikea console because the first coat of paint had a lot of bubbles and dried all fucked-up looking. I got the surface smooth again, This second coat seems to be drying in streaks. Fuck this shit.

Day 93
The console has been sitting in the middle of the dining room for over a week and I don’t know what to do with it. I pushed it over when no one was home. DIY is not good for people with a lot of anger in their heart. Those people need to just go to a store and buy everything already made and painted. Even if it costs full price.

I found a new spot to work. For the past three weeks, I spread out a thick comforter in the hallway outside my office. That’s my new office. I’m asking everybody to please respect my space and not step into or onto my office without my permission, but it’s a queen size comforter and it takes up the width of the hallway. Cal can’t get to her bedroom, but I think a little bit of hardship is good for kids. Harv keeps on forgetting to knock and he says he won’t do it because I don’t have a door, but why can’t he just knock on the wall? I’m going to pretend I don’t see him until he knocks. People really need to learn manners.

Day 94
Damn.

Before:

EJLofficebefore
After:

thugofficeafter
Before:

thugofficebefore2
After:

thugofficeafter2
I think I lost a lot of brain cells spray painting everything gold. NBD. I am Thug Midas.

I’m really not racist, so don’t be shy. Holler at me:
Flourish in Progress on Facebook: FB is my fave.
Instagram (@flourishinprogress): Pictures with white people. Also pictures of some poor life choices but nothing illegal because I don’t fuck with felonies.
Google+ (Elizabeth Jayne Liu): I forgot I even had a profile, but I’m going to start using it probably.

Give No Fucks and Waste No Time

closerflourishinprogress on Instagram

This is really, really important and if you never read anything else here again, please let these two thoughts linger in your head for a minute before you move on to something urgent (!!) that needs your attention right now (!!): If something is important to you, don’t give a fuck what others think as you pursue it. Also, try not to waste time on stupid shit that doesn’t matter.

For the past four days, I’ve been cleaning and rearranging my office. I walked in one day last week and slipped on a spray of greetings cards I haphazardly threw on the floor the night before (like, I literally tossed a dozen cards into my office from the doorway because I was tired and cranky and pissed about something I can’t even remember now). I didn’t immediately bend down to pick them up so I wouldn’t slip on them again because I don’t like being reasonable, and also, I was busy assessing my office with fresh eyes. Sometimes, when we look at the same thing over and over again, no matter how beloved it is to us, we just become immune to its wonder and worth.

Unlike the rest of our home, my office is bursting with knick-knacks and sparkle and pink. Every surface is covered with found treasures, and for years, these objects made me feel rich and full and whole.

There have been periods in my life when I had nothing. When I was 18 and couch-surfing, I had to remember to wash my underwear every night because they were the only pair I had. During that time, I had to eat what was available to me because I didn’t have money or a job and it was hard to come across either because I was constantly on the move from couch to couch and city to city.

I like to come into my office just to touch all of my cool shit from time to time because it’s there and I bought it and it’s miiiiiiiiiiine. I have been known to buy two of the same sticker packs at my favorite craft store. That way, I can say, “Go ahead, Cal. Use that shimmery sun sticker. I got another one just like it.” If you’ve ever purchased a duplicate item just for the sake of owning it, you’ll understand how incredible my life is today.

The more I acquired, the better I felt about myself. When I started going down self-pitying roads like “I wish my father had wanted a daughter as much as I had wanted a father,” I would buy an assortment of multicolored grommets, and all the stars aligned. My world was perfect and good again.

Then I slipped on some greeting cards. I suddenly felt suffocated and my treasures seemed more like worthless junk. When I finally convinced myself that I didn’t need to keep all of my possessions in plain view to signify that I BELONG HERE, I purchased a dozen small moving boxes and started packing. Once those first twelve boxes filled up, I bought twelve more.

I walked to the bank between my first and second dozen boxes, and as I filled out a deposit slip (I ain’t about that ATM life), I overheard a man asking a teller if he could take one of the helium balloons on display. The teller then asked another teller who asked the supervisor (The ratio of employees to patrons at my bank is, like, 7 to 1. Also, they give you a bottle of water if you come in, and that’s why I don’t use the ATM, cuz….free water.)

Not that I would ever ask for a bank balloon in the first place, but if my request had to go up the chain of command, I most certainly would run the fuck out of there because that shit is kind of embarrassing and who the fuck asks for a bank balloon? Come on, bro.

But he stayed. And he waited. And the manager went into the kitchen to get him a balloon because the ones on display were part of a larger arrangement they were not allowed to touch. I know because I eavesdropped in rapt fascination. I finally looked up as the Bank Balloon Man thanked the manager, “My son loves balloons and this is going to make his day.” It was simultaneously the coolest and most weirdest, cheapskatiest shit I have ever seen in my life. It blew me away.

This Bank Balloon Man gave no fucks about what anyone thought. When life gives you a potential free balloon, you just gotta hold on and never let go I guess.

I thought about Bank Balloon Man as I packed the second set of boxes. I imagined what his son’s face might look upon receiving his gift. That was the beautiful image I had in my head as I peeled a handmade red envelope from between two books and coaxed the index card out. The ensemble was a gift from Cal many, many years ago, and this very perfect present had somehow gotten lost in the shuffle of so much shit that really meant nothing to me.

In Cal’s newly-learned cursive: What you need is closer than you think.

This process of packing and purging has forced me to reevaluate the clutter I keep in my life. Now that I’ve let go of so much, I do not feel empty and untethered. I feel free.

ccskate
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Welp, you’ve made it this far. Congrats on your amazing attention span and sorry about the excessive length today. This is probably not the right time to ask you to subscribe via Feedly or Bloglovin for more of this shit, but I give no fucks.

I’m not as longwinded on the Flourish in Progress Facebook page and on Instagram (username: flourishinprogress). Probably.

High Class Problems Are Real Problems Too

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I learned a lot while working a series of shitty, low-paying jobs. I don’t care how often I hear the same joke, I can still muster a laugh. That skill came during my time at French Connection. At least one katrillion times a day, a customer would point to one of our F.C.U.K. shirts and say, “Has anyone ever told you that looks like FUCK!?!”

I would slowly glance over, look away, do a quick double-take, then chuckle real authentic-like. “Sharp, broseph.” Sometimes I would wink or give a thug respect nod (head bobs slightly upward instead of the standard downward motion of a regular people nod), but it really depended on my mood. My paycheck wasn’t going to reflect those little extras. A non commission-based rate of $7.75 doesn’t come with a lot of Give-A-Fucks.

I learned the art of dodging phone calls while peddling beauty products at Crabtree and Evelyn. My manager, a decent lady with an extensive collection of sexually-provocative hosiery, often ignored the shift schedule she created each week. She also didn’t have a lot of Give-A-Fucks because she would repeatedly call until that employee answered the phone, then she would badger the person to come in right now. I’m not good at saying “no” so I became good at turning my ringer off.

Also, Evelyn is pronounced with a long “e” sound (eee-vuh-lin), not “eh” (eh-vuh-lin). When my spirit of volunteerism hits, I still go to my nearest Crabtree and Evelyn and just mill around, waiting for someone to mispronounce the store name. I’ll correct them, and then I let people know it’s okay to make mistakes because each mistake just adds to our unique patina as Earth beings. I know I’ve made a difference in people’s lives, but it’s the classic conundrum of any Giver: How far-reaching is my kindness? How many people will be affected by this one small act?

You’ve heard of the Butterfly Effect, yes?

The most important thing I learned while blackening my soul as a cog in the retail machine was this: Do not make assumptions about people based solely on their exterior. (I also blackened my soul working at non-retail establishments like a dry cleaner and a tutoring center, but I can’t go into all of that right now because I don’t keep alcohol in my home.) I’ve assisted customers who looked “young and broke” or “two steps away from homeless” who ended up spending way more and treating me with a lot more courtesy than customers who were “of a certain age” and “dressed impeccably.” That’s not always the case, but it happened enough for me to understand the value of giving each person a baseline level of respect. Well, until they got sassy with me. Then I would fuck ‘em up and no, I’m still not sorry about it.

I’m now the customer, and I wish more sales associates would adopt this way of thinking.

I am often ignored when I walk into stores. Maybe I’m not dressed well enough. Maybe I look broke. Maybe I look subversive with the streaks of color in my hair. Maybe I look like a drain on society because I seem young and a teenager keeps calling me “Mommy” so I most likely receive public assistance and why the fuck am I looking at hand-stitched handbags with a two-year wait list? I might be getting ready to steal it so make sure the security guard follows me around.

Harv didn’t believe me at first when I told him that this is A Real Thing that happens to me. About four years into our marriage, he witnessed it. He has never been marginalized because of the way he looks or carries himself, and although he didn’t actually say these words, I’m pretty sure he thought I was being sensitive or high maintenance.

I walked into a store about 20 steps ahead of Harv because he was finishing a phone call. He had an unobstructed view as I crossed the threshold, becoming the sole patron. No one greeted me. No one asked if I’d like assistance as I was rifling through a pile of sweaters. When Harv walked in, the two sales associates who had previously glanced in my direction but remained silent warmly welcomed him. As he came to a stop by my side, one SA said out loud, “Oh you two are together.” She looked at my Air Jordans and my JESUS IS MY HOMEBOY t-shirt, and then at Harv’s buttery loafers and lavender bespoke shirt. I recognized the look (Judgment) because I sport it on my face about 40% of my waking hours. I’d like to think it’s one of my more finely-honed skills.

Y’all seem like the type of people who can handle this kind of information without getting all up in my face about what a pampered housewife I’ve become or threatening to revoke my hood pass: High class problems are real problems too. Sure, being ignored in a store that sells key chains which cost the equivalent of 7 welfare checks I used to receive is no big deal when I think about the really dark and life-altering moments I’ve encountered. But in the world of things that don’t matter, this shit is legit.

One Ivy League dollar is worth 100 pennies. One Thug dollar is also worth 100 pennies. Please don’t ignore me because you think I’m not valuable according to your standards. Fuck bitches. Get money.
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If Fuck Bitches, Get Money is a philosophy that resonates with you, you might want to subscribe to blog posts via Feedly or Bloglovin. You’ll be the first to know about my high class problems.

If wasting time during the day is one of your more finely-honed skills, “like” the Flourish in Progress Facebook page and follow along on Instagram (username: flourishinprogress) which has a picture of my ratchet hoe thigh-high hosiery at a Hollywood club. I don’t know how long it’s going to stay up. Probably until the next time Harv checks my Insta.