April 10th, 2002

Chalkboard

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Mary Englebreit's Home Companion Magazine Comes By To Look At Our House AGAIN!!!

I am so exhausted. I haven't been able to check in with you because Monday, while I was lying around in bed recuperating from the latest flu/cold, (this one has a lovely sore throat cough component, but lots of people have it so I'm not being as hard on myself, or at least I'm trying not to, normally I secretly berate myself for being sick so often, I'm trying to be kinder to myself than my parents, who were rarely sympathetic, were when I was ill, and always had something critical to say like, "Well, if you ate better, got more sleep, played a little tennis, or golf, like we ask you to, and had more regular bowel movements, this sort of thing wouldn't happen to you so often, but I guess you don't care to listen to us, we've only been around about fifty years longer than you have, but if you want to be sick and lazy well, then I guess that's your choice, we're just saying you'd be a whole lot happier if you got on a regular schedule..." ) my friend who is an editor for Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion, Victoria, House Beautiful, and a bunch of other magazines, just stopped in and said, "Oh Jacqui I hope you don't mind but my boss, the editor in chief of Home Companion, is going to be in town tomorrow for one day, and really wants to come by for just a minute and see if she likes your living room and dining room. Argh.

For any of you who haven't been following the long drawn out story, about two years ago, a woman I've known for a while, a magazine editor, asked if she could come by and take some scouting shots for this magazine that I love. I was naturally pretty excited because I saw this as a chance to snub my snobby aunt, who has made looking down on me, (you're so lucky to have that beautiful house, what a pity you won't be able to do more with it), and being an amateur interior designer, a lifelong hobby. She loves this magazine and I could just imagine the joy of casually sending her a copy, with a friendly little note pinned to a feature all about how fabulous my home and taste are. The problem is that we have a billion pets and never really finished decorating the house so I panicked and we cleaned like crazy for days and days. Then finally Sunday came and took lots and lots of pictures of every little nook and cranny of our house. She never got back to us and I was disappointed. A whole year later she calls and says that Mary finally got around to looking at the test shots, really liked the house, especially all of the cats in the bathtub and would like to do a little mini feature on the parts of the house they like best. So Sunday and a photographer and an assistant or two need to come by to shoot my kitchen, bathrooms, porch, and garden, immediately. Hurry up and wait and then hurry up again, that kind of thing.

We worked like slave doggies, spent a lot of money on flowers and little things to make the place look great, and they came by for a few days and took some pretty pictures. They didn't take any pictures of the cats, and they rearranged everything I had worked so hard to put together in what I thought was a style similar to that of the magazine, (romantic country cottage), which was disappointing. It amazed me how much they faked things up for the photos, flowers I would never choose, foods we don't eat, etc., etc. At one point I snuck a look at a little note from the head editor, regarding the shoot, she wanted lots of detail shots, one or two cover shots of each area and then close ups of the details, but Sunday and the crew were tired and didn't want to take the time to set up extra shots. They missed lots of things that would have been perfect for the magazine. When I pointed this out to her she said, "Oh that's okay, it's better if we leave things out, because then I can shoot them later for another magazine, we'll get more mileage out of your house this way." I wondered if this was a standard line she gives people when they want her to shoot something she doesn't like, or if she really was thinking ahead all the time, to the next possible assignment, the next paycheck. In either case I had this urge to send my shots of the things she left out to her editor but would never do anything so underhanded and unkind, I was disappointed though, and wanted to scream, I don't have it in me to go through this all over again, let's just do the best we can now!!!!!! But even though I think I have better taste, she's the editor/stylist, and it's her magazine, so I put a gag in my ego, and tried to stay out of their way.

After they left we heaved a huge collective sigh of relief and let the house settle back in to it's usually cluttered, chaotic, and catty state. Then suddenly I get a panicked call from Sunday, "Jacqui, I've made a huge mistake, I forgot to dress the cabinets in the shots we took in the kitchen and my editor is furious, if I don't come by tomorrow morning and redo the whole thing, I'll lose my job" Argh, argh, and argh again. So we worked all the rest of the day cleaning and making the house people-friendly again, then Sunday comes by with her crew, they redress and reshoot the kitchen, and she goes away again.

Months later she loans me her copies of the pictures and they're really nice, sterile and perfect, not totally me, but nice. She tells me that different magazines have different policies on styling, In Style, for example won't let her touch a thing. She has to leave every little ashtray in it's place and simply shoot things as they are. Bravo for In Style, but alas this was Sunday's gig so what could I do. I went back through some of my older copies of the magazine and began looking over her features as compared with some of the other editor's and I began to spot a trend. Her houses were more sterile, less cluttered, and less charming that the other editor's stories were. Conroy's flowers as opposed to The Woods, Damn. And every one of them featured the home owner's pets. How could you do a feature on me and my house and not catch a glimpse of one of our sixty-billion cats, dogs, rats, ferrets, bunnies, lizards or fish? Anyway it was done, finally, and all that was left was for me to wait with bated breath for the phone call interview that may or may not come, and the article that would come out a year from then, sometime in the spring.

Anyone who knows me knows I'm nuts about Halloween. I go crazy for Halloween. We buy dozens of pumpkins, bales of hay, and get out our boxes and boxes of decorations. We spook up the yard with lights, strobe and black, fog machines, and ghoulish dummies, black crows, spiders, ghosts, floating eyeballs, devil children, flesh, grave stones, animatronic things, sound affects, flying bats, and more candy than we can get rid of in a night, by giving big handfuls to every child who comes by. I'd been mentioning this to Sunday for a while so she came by and shot the whole thing. I haven't heard a word back from her but I know that next year, she'll come by again and take more pictures so they can all sit around and think about it some more.

In the meantime I'd buy each copy of the magazine wondering if this would be the one that would have our house in it. Nope nope and nope. Then Monday and a call from Sunday, saying she needs to bring the important senior editor by the NEXT DAY!!! So I put my get-it-done hat on, and even with my flu-cold going full force, whipped the whole place, well, at least the bottom half of the whole place, into shape in one day. We cleaned and decorated, got out things that had been tucked away from dangerous feline antics, put paintings and mirrors back on walls, cleaned cat pee off of everything, bought more flowers, candles, orchids, sewed rips in cushions, dug out the pillows I had bought for the sofas, but put away, and moved the naughtiest of kitties to the back cat house, rushed upstairs minutes before they were due, jumped in the shower, did my hair and makeup, and made it back downstairs just as they were leaving. This gal makes decisions fast and she had a plane to catch. They were in and out in about ten minutes. I got them to stop and chat for a few minutes, but it was all over with so quickly. At least she liked it, they'll all be back in June to shoot the living room and the dining room, some pictures of the cats, finally, and Beau and me. It'll be a full feature instead of just a few pages. Yeay, and Sunday was thrilled because she gets more money. I really liked this woman, she seemed like a softy at heart, someone who runs out pregnant onto freeways to save kittens, literally, but with a magazine empire to run, exterior.

I have more stories for you but I'm tired out just from writing this one, I'll be back to fill you in on more later.