Blood Pressure Medicine

The new temporary staircase. Safer than the ladder hanging above the basement well.
Brand new, temporary staircase much better than the ladder for exploring upstairs. 

Keeping it real, I was pretty salty about my windows. That said, this is a good project–to date–because the only salt I’ve carried has been about those windows.

But no more. They were delivered. Finally.

There was more than one day when they were not delivered. Days that people said that they would be. And then, nothing. But we’re done with that. They are here. Propped up against the house. Staged for installation.

One of my new windows, in it's staging position. There's many more where that came from.

There’s a bunch of windows. I poked among the behemoths strewn along the foundation. I uncovered the big French door with the transom that will open my kitchen to the back porch. I got a little light-headed. My stomach did a mini-flip. My fingers started to tingle. Signs of excitement. Yes, Loyal Reader, it is becoming realer and realer.

But that’s not all. There’s been many a box left at the “Doc Residence.” Like those below.

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These particular boxes transported my new stainless steel satin finish kitchen sink, an industrial hanging light fixture for the dining room and one of the sconces for the back porch–they call it a barn light. There’s another box somewhere with it’s twin.

There’s also a box with the pro-style kitchen faucet that I can only describe using a whooshing sound spraying from my mouth accompanied by me waving my hand around simulating a hose clearing the coffee grounds down the drain.

There’s a couple of boxes of ceiling fans for the front porch. Did I tell you they had to remake the porch structure? It wasn’t actually attached to the house. Now it is. And the ceiling is a beautiful creamy white beadboard.

The new headboard ceiling on the porch. See also where the new fixtures--a pair of fans!--will go.

There’s a gazillion sheets of drywall and some Durock. The latter for the kitchen and bathroom walls. The Spouse says that it’s for tile and to keep dampness at bay.  The subway tile, the octagon tiles for the bathrooms and the black and white penny tiles for the entryway showed up last week, too.

There was a big truck that came by to goop up the walls with foam insulation. The Spouse is exceedingly excited by all things weatherproofing. I’m glad that someone is. My thing is the old house wasn’t drafty before–despite our old windows with an R-value of zero according to the window guy–but I will defer to the energy-saver.

This is the foam insulation surrounding the dining room windows. They protected the original woodwork. But doesn't it look like we should be hosting an Oktoberfest?

Last, but far from least, I walked onto the porch that was piled high with even MORE boxes today.

My cabinets have arrived! Here they are.

The boxes with my new cabinets. You can see the green, just beyond the bubble wrap.

There are a bunch of cabinet bases, a few very tall pantry sized boxes and a bunch of stuff wrapped in blue bubblewrap. I’ll figure out what that is another day. Okay. Not much to look at yet, but I’m not disturbing the staging.

You see, the drywall work begins tomorrow. Window and doors will be in place over the next few days, too. Purportedly, the new floor in the kitchen will get installed this week, then the heated floor over the Durock followed by tiling and grouting next week. If all goes to schedule, the cabinets will be in place at the end of that week.

If all goes to schedule. Yup, if all goes according to schedule, I’ll remain sodium-free. Stay tuned.

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Wolf Whistle

The current state kitchen from big stainless steel fridge to teeny counter to old sink to more teeny to stove. Also some raggedy cabinets. And no backsplash.

There was that day, much earlier in this adventure, when we went appliance shopping. We needed to pick stuff out so it could be designed in. Like what if we wanted warming drawers or wine chillers or a pizza oven? For the record, none of those items were on my list.

Our contracting team sent us on the adventure to the fancy appliance showroom.  This was not Kenmore-land. Not big box Best Buy. It was quite fancy and a bit intimidating. But, first, we had to get there.

We made an early Saturday morning appointment, which bordered on stupid since we don’t normally travel together in the morning.  Except for those early mornings that marked the beginning of two weeks at the beach–also known as the pre vacation screamfest that takes fifteen miles to overcome. I know this because for as long as I’ve been with The Spouse–inclusive of those pre-nuptials years–whenever we drove up the I-95 corridor, like going to see the Orioles in Baltimore, visiting his family in Manhattan or trekking the rest of the way up to the Cape for those beach days on the island, whenever we’d near Exit 35 to Laurel/Scaggsville I would always say,

“Hmmmmm. Scaggsville. That’s where you’re from.”

And The Spouse would always reply, “That’s where I met you.” It’s part of our shtick.

And on those early mornings, after frantically shoving bags and boys and bikes and dog into the car. And after the inevitable disagreement at volume. And after me glaring out the window through hot tears and in cold silence, we’d approach the exit. And I’d wrestle with my righteous anger and vow not to talk. And then I would get this worry that if I didn’t say it this time, that it would break everything. And so I’d say, “Scaggsville, that’s where you’re from.” And he’d answer, as always.

But on this morning, the one I started writing about, we were driving up I-270, the other way north out of D.C.  We weren’t heading on a trip, but were still in the car in the morning, together. This time, there was no yelling. Well, maybe a little peckish huffing followed by some sighful puffing. Nevertheless, we made it to our appointment on time. Our appointment to check out major appliances.

Our architect had emailed a list of items to the sales consultant a few days before. She was well prepared for us.

We were early, the first clients in the showroom. We started with an offer of coffee. There was a fridge that had a built-in keurig coffee maker right in the door, near the water dispenser. It took a long time to brew.  It was silly and gimmicky. I asked who would buy it. In fact, they don’t sell very many of that feature. Us? We’re keeping our current bottom-freezer-without-French-door icebox. It’s fine and just a few years old.

Our guide steered us to our first event, the cooking surface. This was the only appliance that I wanted to invest in. I wanted high heat burners and low heat simmer. I was thinking five burners. It was going to be the jewel in my kitchen. It would make me a cooking star.

First, we learned the difference between cooktops (burner controls on the top) and rangetops (the top of a standard oven with controls in front). We went through the paces on a pair of GE’s to see the difference between the cooktop and range–especially in moving pots and pans across the surfaces. I was leaning rangetop. She then had us walk across the showroom to the far side. The Spouse ran ahead.

“Oh! It’s the Wolf! It’s the Wolf!” He was nearly jumping up and down.

I looked at the salesperson a little sideways. She was caught a little off guard, too.

“You know this appliance?” If I could have raised one eyebrow independent of the other, be assured I would be doing so. I think he saw the unnatural furrow above my right brow. He took his hands off of the red knobs, caught in his excitement like Dan Ackroyd gleefully sliding down that fire pole in Ghostbusters.

“I’ve used this at the condo in Telluride and at Sundance, too.” [Yes, Loyal Reader, The Spouse is way cooler than me.] He described the low and high burners. The model we were looking at had low and high on all six burners–yes six.

After we wiped the drool from our chins, we looked at the Viking. He knew that one, too. Was not as favored. Turns out he was right. They are in a quality spiral, and not in a good way. The Thermador? He knew that one, too.  But it was the Wolf that compared to all others. It was our new standard.

It was the all super hot and super low burners. It was the relighting feature. It was the clarity of the controls and the more obvious signs of being “on,” especially important for super low simmering. It was the promise of an amazing chocolate roux for shrimp étouffée, like The Spouse prepared for his colleagues in Park City.

“Do they all have red knobs?” The salesperson started to answer, but The Spouse interrupted.

“That’s their thing.” Turns out, though, that you could get stainless steel knobs if you wanted.

Today I old-school mailed a check for our new appliances. And in addition to buying the first dishwasher that I have ever owned (I know, right?!?), we bought the Wolf. That mighty fine Wolf. With the red knobs. Added to our repertoire, next to the exit.

Origin Story

The kitchen, sketched out in its inglorious glory.

Truth be told, this was not my first rodeo. I had emergency surgery twice to complete my pregnancies. Those boys always wanted to do things the hard way. And then, a dozen-plus years later, I had six pins put in my ankle to ensure it didn’t hang at a bad angle after my free fall.

Perhaps the first two didn’t count. Both of those were epidurals. I did have general anesthesia for the orthopedic surgery. I had been knocked out for oral surgery before, but it wasn’t general. The ankle doctor warned me that I would be intubated.

This translated to waking up in a a new place with the worst case of cotton mouth that I have ever experienced. And then they gave me crackers!?! I guess to get my system back in flow. I took a nibble. I had absolutely zero moisture in my mouth so the slightly salty cracker dust sat between my cheek and my gum like a very dry and very heavy sand. I tried to float it away with apple juice, but instead the sakrete expanded and solidified into an immobile brick. I had to work it out with more juice and my pinky finger. And then all I wanted was a toothbrush–except dry mouth and toothpaste was almost worse.

This time, I was going under to get a tattoo (if you want, you can catch up with this part of the story here). I was there, cheerily in the morning. I was cheery because I needed to be. It made the entire process better for the surgical team, and being a frightened mess served no purpose.

The Spouse and I were called into pre-op, which was an eight or nine square feet space delineated by a bed in the center and a surrounding set of curtains that made a metal swoosh sound as they were drawn aside. I stepped into my bay, was given a not-cute outfit and a set of instructions. I placed my street clothes into the clear plastic bags with drawstring tops and snuggled my feet into the surgical socks with gripper bottoms likely required by the risk manager wishing to avoid unnecessary patient falls on the cold slick floors.

I wasn’t walking around, though. I was on my cot with my jacquard hospital blanket tucked under my elbows. I had my surgical gown on, but didn’t need to wear my green mesh hat until later.

Pretty much everyone in the hospital verbally verified my name and birthdate as they spied the data printed on the plastic bracelet around my wrist. The first year resident put in my IV. He totally blew it and got blood all over my bed and uncleverly hid it under my hand. He then had me apply direct pressure to stem the flow until the weary nurse fixed his mess. She did make him clean the floor.

There were additional residents and medical students, nurses and nurse anesthesiologists, techs and transporters, my doctor and his assistant and the anesthesiologist herself. They all name-checked and proofed me.

Everyone was very polite and, more importantly, kind. I teased the youngins and joked with the pros. The Spouse shuffled between the single guest chair and the space just outside the curtains, depending on the staff directions. I liked it when he was closer. I think the staff did, too.

We did our schtick–where we trick everyone into thinking that we had deep affection for each other via our cruel and cutting banter. There really wasn’t reason to be too worried about this procedure, but it was the start of a series of procedures with more worry. But today, we were keeping it light.

It was close to showtime. My gurney was flanked by the transporter, a pair of nurses and the anesthesiologist who stood at my right. She patted her breast pocket.

“This is the good stuff,” she smiled. I didn’t know there was any “good stuff.”

Turns out they give you some pre-juice before wheeling you into the operating room. She explained that the syringes in her pocket didn’t completely knock you out, but relaxed the patient. I would be awake but wouldn’t remember anything.

I was a bit suspicious. “Is this like some kind of truth serum?” Everyone laughed, the nurses, the transporter, the Spouse and me.

“Naw. We won’t quiz you.” She pumped the happy juice into my IV and I woke up two seconds later in the recovery room. Well, it wasn’t two seconds in a literal sense, but that was all I knew.

I had my apple juice and skipped the snack. While I avoided the dry crackers, I did have real moisture in my mouth. After a short stint, I was unhooked from the monitors. I changed back into my civilian clothes. Not long after, I was dropped off at home for an uneventful day, and the Spouse was able to squeeze in a half-day at work.

That evening, when we sat down for dinner, we went through notable moments that day–the funny socks, the charming nurse, the failed resident and the happy juice.

“Hey, did I say anything after I got that shot?”

The Spouse looked at me for a second before he answered. “Why, yes, you did.” The way he said it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up a little.

“I did? What did I say?”

He paused again. “Well, as they were wheeling you away, you pointed your finger at me and said, ‘You will not stop me from redoing the kitchen this time!’ And all the women around your bed [there were only women] looked at me in horror and said that I better get you that new kitchen.”

Whoa and WHAT? I had no idea where that came from. Really and truly, I didn’t. This hadn’t been a major point of discussion or contention. That morning, I was going to have a procedure to mark the tumor in my mouth. I had this cancer shit on my mind, and of all things, I talk about a stupid kitchen remodel?

And, Loyal Reader, three years later, that’s how we got here.

Everybody Gets A Trophy

A dresser covered with two dozen trophies from basketball, soccer, rugby, baseball and football. Some personalized, most generic.

Baby Bear was instructed to clear out his room when he was home for the Christmas holidays. It was to prepare for the rehab of the upstairs. He bristled when I mentioned his Tipman A5.

“That’s the one thing I want. Why do you start with threatening that with the dump?”

He had a point. He wasn’t angry. More hurt, I think. While I was attempting to convey my ignorance of the importance of his stuff, he wasn’t feeling the urgency I expected. I went for the jugular. It was my test case. He wanted to keep it.

Honestly, this was not the best way to build momentum for an unwelcome project. Note to self: Need to work on my technique.

My own mother used to annoy me by keeping me solidly preserved in amber as my 18-year-old self. It was as if I were stuck with my permed hair, big belled Levis and a limited palette of Jack and Ginger and french onion soup for a fancy date. Forever. I don’t think that she ever really knew me after I left.

Not that she was trying to force me into a box. Not even that she was indifferent to me. It was more like she was unable to move her point of reference to the present. To where I was now.

Every time I’d see her it was always a slide backwards. Even when I married. Even when I had kids of my own. There was still a part of her that related to me as if I were my high school self. Even when I could no longer remember the references that were, to her, au courant. Over the years it became a dull annoyance, but still.

Baby Bear did a good job clearing out his stuff. He bagged stuff to donate and stuff to toss. He left some things behind with the instruction that the disposal of the remains was up to me. He knew that I would go through the kid and young adult books on the bookshelves. I already said that I couldn’t actually part with the legos.

He emptied out all of his drawers. No oversized cargo shorts, t-shirts with images that were no longer funny or school ties left. There was a pile of random phone and other small electronics chargers on the top of one dresser. On the other was an array of trophies.

There were maybe two or three thousand trophies. Well, perhaps that’s an exaggeration. But for many years there were two seasons of soccer and one of basketball, each season ending with a requisite participation trophy. He did that for a bunch of years. Then there were camp trophies. And a science fair ribbon. And the Latin medals. And the football and  baseball markers. I think there was a letter for wrestling and rugby, too.

I looked at that display of accomplishment–because participation is an accomplishment, too–and wondered why they didn’t make it into a bag. Did he think they were important to me? Did he not want to be the one to physically let them go? But he did let them go. He was done with them. He took what he wanted and moved on.

I was using childhood tricks by poking Baby Bear with the one item I knew he wanted to keep. I was stuck in that oppositional place where I con him into an action. Actually, though, he’s beyond that. I looked around at the relatively little he left behind.

He lives seventeen hundred miles away. I think about him taking care of himself. Without my daily admonitions. He’s got this. He’s moved on. Me too.

I am renaming him again in this blog. Starting now, he’s Bear. Just Bear. He’ll always have a place to stay here. We are remodeling his room, which will remain his room. If he wants it.

Both Bear and Doc are on a growth trajectory. I’ll toss the trophies. He has other things to do.

The Vapors

The fireplace and hallway. See the peaceful Buddha

Sometimes I feel like it’s not just the house that is coming under fix-it.

On Friday, the contract proposal was announced by a flicker of blue on the right side of my screen. At that moment, I was reading about category management–because that’s actually a thing–and the quick slide in and out at the corner of my laptop almost escaped me.

Except not really. It was after 5 pm. To be fair, it was just barely. Like 5:04:21 pm or so. I was expecting the email. They said I’d get it by the end of the week. This firm is all about making commitments. I really like that about them.

The email was here and wasn’t going anywhere, so I followed a link to an HBR article about new-fangled procurement models. This is a joke in that I don’t know anything about old-fangled procurement models. I was studying.

The Spouse was on his ongoing work-about, in which he works for daze on end sans respite. But he does have running water. And coffee. It’s not the Outback. It’s The Mall.

My brain was twitching just behind my right eye. It wanted to open the email. It saw that glimpse of aqua and processed the letters to see that they were in the right place–like a partially completed crossword puzzle–to expose the name of our Project Manager.

Open. Open. Open.

The reptilian part of my brain was shutting down that idea. There would be nothing good exposed via that email. My internal crocodile knew that we had blown significanltly past our original scope. The number would be huge. To survive we should slither-swim by. With half-closed eyes. Our tails waving goodbye.

Open. Open. Open.

Enough croc-brain! I have the smelling salts in hand. I opened the email. And I sucked air. But I was still breathing.

The next few days I walked around with a new hallway, a new kitchen, a new bathroom, a new deck, a new den, a new office, a new staircase swirling around in my head. I really liked it.

I also turned the finances around and around and around. It seemed fair for the work. It’s still huge. Like a big rock wall in the desert. How to get to the other side? I couldn’t sleep.

I never can’t sleep.

Big decisions are so hard. What we can do can be different than what we should do. Capacity is as much about pushing limits as being within limits. I turned to Dad.

My dad hated debt. He didn’t want to have obligations hanging over him. He was adamant about keeping things in good repair. He’d replace a roof at year 14 of a 15 year lifespan. He mowed his lawn and shoveled his walk. He was responsible and sober.

As I walked to the subway, I wondered what my father would say about this big investment.  I began the budget analysis, and I heard his words. They were coming from behind my right ear, from the back of my head. It was about those shoes. He was speaking clearly.

In middle-school, I wanted a pair of shoes. They were white and had teardrop cutouts next to the buckles. They would be my first pair of high heels. Many girls at school were wearing these very shoes. At my behest, Dad drove me to Bakers Shoes. I tried on the desired pump. I walked up to him and asked him if he liked them. He said, “If you like them, buy them.”

If you like them, buy them.

Dang. I was feeling like Ray Kinsella from Field of Dreams hearing his daddy’s voice in the cornfield.

If you like them, buy them.

That was it. He was telling me to follow my heart. Not the money.

I wasn’t expecting that. Not at all.

I’m not saying that my dad actually gave me advice. I know that he’s been dead for nine years. I know that. That said, I think that he was telling me something.

I told you. This is not just about the house.

Drawing Meaning

A numbered bottle of Four Roses barrel strength and a

“How’s it going? What’s happening? When’s the start date? Have you moved, yet?” So, these days, goes many of my friendly exchanges.

Just so you know, there are plenty of things going on in the background. People with green eyeshades crunching numbers behind their office doors, working on the figures that will be the contract. They are looking at options, too. I hope.

I’m preparing myself for the worst of sticker shocks. I know that we have blown the original budget because the scope of the work has [righteously] expanded from a “new bath upstairs plus remodel the old kitchen and bath” to atoning for decades of neglect from, not just us, but, perhaps, from other families over the past 100 years. But, mostly, it’s our penance.

And, also, there might be like, I dunno, slowly spinning fans hanging from the front porch ceiling that frame a custom door that fills the original extra wide entryway and that might, potentially, maybe be painted a bright and inviting color that will be chronicled in a future post. Maybe, though, the custom door isn’t such a good idea. Or the new lights for the back deck. Or the slide away doors to the updated office. Or the underfloor heating and new central AC. But the new water filter at the new double deep sink….

Anyway, let it be known that I have the smelling salts on hand for the contract proposal.

There are new “new drawings” that are likely already done, but we haven’t seen. I have been pouring over collections of links for sinks and faucets and light fixtures for our selecting pleasures. There has been great joy with most recommendations, but the selections for the bathroom sink for the new upstairs bath had to be tossed back. Too modern. The updated options? Spot on! The first link I opened made me say, “wow.” Out loud. I was drinking coffee and only The Beast heard the adoration escape my lips.

Ultimately we are in planning. Nothing much is physically happening. No dumpsters have appeared. No sledgehammers have broken through a wall. There have been no boxes of belongings packed for the temp home or for storage. But, I will tell you, there is much thinking about that. And a call placed to the people who bring their lovely truck to pick up discards, or “donations,” from my porch. I think that they will know me well, soon.

So, for those of you who are asking, we are still in the preparation stage. This is good because the more upfront design decisions, the smoother and less painful the actual process. This is bad because the Doc–as a procrastinator nonpareil–is challenging nature, nurture, the gods and all that is good sense by delaying a meaningful effort to physically move.

Note: not everything is a metaphor. For example the whiskey on this page? Literal.

The Finest Selections

The backdoor, out of the kitchen topped with an odd assortment of empty beer bottles and the kitchen clock.

There are a dizzying array of decisions we have to make. Colors and finishes and materials and shapes. Good thing I’m decisive. And I can also change my mind. These are both excellent qualities in a client. Our contractors think so. They told me.

“Gosh, you guys are easy!”

Easy, hunh? That worried me a bit. Like, what do her other clients ask about? What dangers am I blindly and foolishly strolling into? What don’t I know to be difficult about?

It didn’t seem too complicated. I had goals for the project. I wrote them down. I shared them with the project manager and architect. I have been clipping ideas for years, pinning them on Pinterest and saving them on Houzz. I shared those, too. And I hired the firm to do the design and build because they are pros, and I am not. 

Here’s how it works. They show me some options. We riff on them a little, but they’re pretty much aligned with what I said I wanted. So then I point and say, “I want that one,” and we move on. A few times, after sleeping on it, I email or call (that’s the changing mind part), and we make an adjustment. 

What are these other people doing that I’m not? 

I must admit that I’m not super obsessive about all the details. I have an aesthetic, sure. I want it to be right, of course. Ultimately, though, I have been successfully working within an insane space, so it can only be better. Right?

Speaking of better, there are some really fun selections we get to make on all these fixtures. Sconces and lanterns, spigots and sinks. Even toilets. And–this is really exciting–one of the items on the choosing list was a porch fan! A porch fan! I didn’t know! And I want one so bad. 

Guess who put this on the list? That sneaky Spouse. What a clever partner. 

See, I knew I choose wisely.