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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Gutted

I was showing a friend pictures from our demolition. The friend’s friend had an op-ed she needed to share. One that bit.

“So, if you hate your house so much, why don’t you just buy a new one?”

Ouch! That throw away comment from a grinning stranger really did burn. It freezes, too.

I, in my shock at that unthinkable thought, objected. Too much, in retrospect, methinks. Too much because her unwelcome comment was based on her observation. Of the evidence. That I provided.

Looking at the photos of the bare and picked over bones of the edifice I had sworn to protect I thought, “What hath I wrought?”

The next day, I hesitated as I stepped onto the porch as part of my daily construction inspection. I gingerly inserted my key. I slowly opened the door. There was almost no floor to speak of–just a bunch of planks that forced me to leap from one to the next at the risk of falling through to the basement below.


And I’ve been stuck here. Right here. For two weeks I haven’t been able to move this post forward. Not able to skip past it. Because I can’t skip it. It has to be dealt with. I have to deal with it.

Usually, I have posts and pieces of posts trolling through my head–all of the time. I sit down and tap them out and hit publish. That’s how it works. Sure, there’s a bit more than that, but not the writer’s black hole I’ve had.

Usually, the hardest ones come out the fastest. Usually.

I’ve been stuck in the unusual.

I’ve reopened this page again and again. I’ve tweaked some words, moved a comma about and walked away. I’ve sat down with a brew in hand and a strict self-imposed deadline to put a bow on it. Three beers later, I successfully avoid any accomplishment. I’ll do it tomorrow. I don’t.

I’d walk into the house and take more photos. I’d look at the skeleton of the house, and see that the specimen is incomplete. Some of the bones are missing. No floor, not just exposed joists, but an entirely missing kitchen floor. No stairway to the second floor, the ladder carefully balanced over the canyon of the basement stairs.

The radiators were all piled up in the former toy room, like the mountains of blocks, legos and Hot Wheels from a recent past.

This week the siding was torn off. The chipped paint along the thin wooden boards were stacked in dumpster number six. Or are we up to seven boxcars of the house toted away? What could be left?

I didn’t know what gutting the house really meant.

GUT: to clean out. strip. decimate. ravage. ransack. disembowel. eviscerate. empty.

That was it. Empty.

I haven’t been able to come to terms with what I’m doing to the house. I started counting what was staying.

  1. The roof. (Which we replaced 8 years ago).
  2. The foundation. (Which is getting parged to shore it up.)
  3. Most of the original sheathing that was diagonally hung, keeping out the elements. (It’s being covered with some kind of new-fangled water impervious wood and then foam insulation and then new man-made siding.)
  4. Most of the original posts and joists. Many of which are being sistered with new, man-made materials.
  5. All of the woodwork and trim in the living and dining rooms. The fake fireplace mantels are STAYING!
  6. I saved the floors in the first two bedrooms, now known as the den and the office. (Over objections of some/one. I can’t let them all go.)

I’m looking at this list and the house that I swore to protect that I can’t recognize and I start hearing Obi-Wan telling Luke that Luke’s father is now more machine than man.

And then I get to thinking. And I feel better. Because in the end, Darth Vader was alright. He kept his soul.

Publish!

End of Eden

The sum total time f my counter space with tonight's dinner prep all over it. It is literally a 24 square inch patch.
Actual entirety of my work counter.

I’ve been working on a postage stamp space in my kitchen for a generation. I have used all of my wiles to maximize the chopping, measuring, mixing, cleaning and plating space. I stage in the sink. I manipulate pots and pans and cauldrons across the stove when I need to hold something. I rotate mis en place on the counter, on the storage cart behind me, in the dish drainer, in an open cabinet on top of the dishes, and, occasionally, when it’s not in use, inside the oven.

Today, I just might have hit a wall that I knew not of.

I knew not because I was managing in what is. When the kitchen designer asked me what I didn’t like in my kitchen–what didn’t work–I looked at her blankly. I actually never thought of my kitchen in that way.

Sure, I’ve broken a glass or burned my wrist or spilled a plate full of food on occasion. But these faults have been exceedingly rare.

Yes, I cook many days during the week. And, yes, I enjoy trying new foods and new techniques. And, yes, I’ve hosted many dinners. And, no, I didn’t think it was any trouble. I was simply cooking in the kitchen I had. Nothing to complain about, because I got it all to work. If it didn’t work, then there would be reason to complain.

Today, I almost lost it. I didn’t have enough room. I was working in layers. There were piles upon piles of workspaces in order to mimic more than the less than two square feet of workspace. It’s actually smaller than that, since the kettle and dish soap and olive oil and salt are permanent tenants on that patch. Why don’t I move them? Because there is no place else for them to go.

In fact, lots of things have no place to go. And when there is no home, things mill around like a grade school class without seats. Chaos.

I’ve been plotting where things would go in the updated kitchen. With it’s new cabinets, ample drawer space and new island that, by itself, is six times bigger than my current counter space. I stand at today’s sink and think about turning around to line up four or six or eight plates, plopping down the rice or potatoes on each and then the green beans, next, the chops or steaks or thighs and, finally, spooning the relish or sauce–all without tying myself up in the pretzel contortions to which I am expert and accustomed.

I stand near the door where there will be a dishwasher that I’ll remove the used utensils and bowls to–rather than figure out how to get enough space in the sink so I can get the full salad bowl just waiting for it’s vinaigrette out of the work’s way.

The imagining has been fun. I’ve been anticipating the efficiency and ease of a right-sized and right-spaced kitchen. But not today. Today I was frustrated.

Today, I was annoyed at the high level of tightrope walking and high wire balancing that I perform every time I try and get a good meal on the table.

If the architect asked me what bothered me about my kitchen today, I’d tell her that it isn’t the kitchen that I will have. I am dissatisfied with my culinary life because now I see myself in a new environment. One that is not so difficult.

I’m hungering for something better than what I’ve had that I didn’t actually feel was that bad. It’s a loss of innocence.

I feel like I’ve taken a bite from the apple. I like apples.

Connecting Rooms

I was committed to staying within the current footprint and floorplan. I was okay, and, in fact always planned, taking out the pantry wall. The pantry was a rabbit hole with a bottom that we never could actually get to. Stuff piled up. I’m sure this is a problem that could have been organized out of, but opening the kitchen and gaining those fifty-four inches would add a third more space to cook in. And a better cooking experience is a major rehab goal.

The rest of the house would keep the historical layout. Center hall. Three rooms on the right. Living-dining-kitchen on the left. The bathroom at the end of the hall needed an internal reconfiguration, but there was enough space. I always loved how the rooms interconnect and how the house flows.

Over the years, the front room went from “toy room” to TV/game room and den. We still call it the toy room, to the dismay of our adult children. Old habits.

The back bedroom had been our guest room (except when I was recovering from various surgeries). We referred to it by the name of my sister-in-law, on account of her living with us for her first semester of law school until she divined that the benefit of free rent (to be fair, she insisted on paying us) and family meal was poorly balanced against a precocious four-year-old who wandered in asking a cross-ex worth of questions during reading for torts or contracts. We understood her escape. She was honored with the room name for a decade, until the former four-year-old-now-fourteen decided that he didn’t want to share a room with his brother and slowly assumed that space as his own.

That middle room was long the office of The Spouse. Computer towers, two phone lines and the screech of a 2400 baud modem electronically defined a space full of contract negotiations and a highly complex hiring hall. The Spouse had to be very efficient–more contracts meant more jobs to fill. More jobs meant more itinerant members with their schedules and last minute trips as well as the occasional times in rehab or jail. A merger and some technical changes unchained him from the desk and landline. And the room accreted into a huge closet.

I moved boxes from my last office in there. He piled up old briefcases that were never quite emptied. There were boxes of photos that I didn’t trust to the dank basement. The board games we maybe might play, boxes of computer discs, laser discs and record albums that got moved there when we got rid of the old wall unit and turntable. A collection of serving pieces and table cloths. A bunch of unidentifiables stacked haphazardly on the long buffet server that didn’t fit in the dining room. Random pieces of furniture. A ladder that didn’t get put back downstairs. A set of crutches and the recording rig that the Big Guy used to record and produce music.

When the proposed design relocated the bathroom to take a hunk out of that room, a bit of a shudder shot across my shoulders and down my spine. But I was gaining five more kitchen feet and opening light to the back of the house. We weren’t doing anything in that room, anyway. We didn’t need it as a bedroom in any future configuration. But we were losing that room. My pulse stepped up and my tongue was too dry to lick my lips.

The architect swapped the master suite idea for a narrow office configuration. We could definitely use that–I had carved out a corner in the toy room. Then she drew in two pocket doors, reestablishing a direct connection between the three rooms. The linking of space that first drew me to into the spell of this house. And my heart slowed to a regular pace, the moisture returned to my mouth. Deep breath. Okay. Let’s do it.

Suited Up

Pee Wee football. It's cute. But even cuter that they stopped to do the nae nae. Dance or tackle?

“Wait! That’s Rodney!?”

When I was a little Doc, my dad and I watched college ball together. The Lions weren’t much to look at so, likely out of his self-preservation, we watched Big Ten football.

I didn’t pay any attention to the NFL until after college. I only started watching because I casually knew someone who kicked for the Giants. So I became a Giants fan. It was a very fruitful relationship–the era of The Big Tuna and some rings.

The Big Guy didn’t play football until high school. The program was huge–80 or 90 boys would suit up for varsity on Saturdays. Pretty much every one of those boys thought they had a chance to play in the NFL. Especially as their school was nationally ranked, again. (I never got what that meant. Like ranked by who? What criteria? Who sees them? Damn system is worse than NCAA coaches poll. /rant)

There were probably 150 boys in the football program every year across freshman, JV and varsity. A bunch, well more than a handful, were recruited for Division I schools. Some started, many did not.

Most of the boys on that big high school team didn’t were never played a down in a game. It’s like they fielded a big team just to intimidate smaller schools. Many starters played both offense and defense. The Big Guy played on the scout team. Those are the boys who imitate the other guys during practice. Except you weren’t really allowed to hit the starters. And, you kept waiting for a coach to notice you. They didn’t.

The Big Guy would talk about how the first string would hit. How some were hesitant. How some were soft. The top ranked high school player in the country played with him. He said he never rang his bell. The kid who ended up playing for Harvard? That guy could hit. Or so I was told.

Sunday we saw Rodney on TV. The Big Guy ran the 4X4 relay with him. They played ball at the same time. Nobody thought that the little guy would be in the NFL. Eyes were set on other stars. And, yet, there he is. And the hundreds of other boys who played with him in Pop Warner, high school and college? Doing something else.

Rodney was playing for the other team, but I still kind of was rooting for him. You know you have passed into another stage in life when you see a big-contract NFL safety on TV and you just want to pinch his cheek. So I pinched the Big Guy’s sweet bearded cheek.

Is That It?

Generic ketchup and roll of papertowels at the most nondescript restaurant.

It’d be hard to imagine a more generic joint. More generic than a hospital waiting room. More generic than a 70’s bus station. More generic than an underfunded rural elementary school. More generic than hundreds of cookie cutter houses along tracks of a former dairy farm.

The color palette is unremarkable. The tables are a blond shellacked wood. The red brown chairs look like they were purchased at a hotel overstock sale. The walls are a yellowy cream. The lighting does nothing to enhance the color. It is neither bright nor dull. There is a maroon border around the wall. It’s almost the same color as the chairs. Almost. Must be a standard issue. No color matching.

Even more generic are the walls. There is nothing on them. No posters. No velvet paintings. No year at a glance calendars. No neon. No Christmas lights. No tchotchkes. Not even an official occupancy sign. There was, however, a fire alarm. A generic one.

There’s a shellacked table that’s pulled up next to the counter. It has a row of tabasco bottles, a row of yellow mustard bottles and a row of ketchup bottles. There is also a pile of napkins. No napkin holder, just a pile of napkins. There is a plain sign with the menu. It’s not even hung. It sits on top of the shelacked table next to the counter and leans on the yellowy cream wall. On the other side of the counter is a soda fridge. Like at 7-11. Or at a 7-11 knock off.

Oh, and that counter? It is more like a small bar in someone’s basement. It’s maybe four feet long with a cash register. It’s all yellowy cream colored. It disappears into the walls. If there wasn’t a very big man in a black shirt behind it, you likely would not see it. You’d just think a cash register was levitating.

And another thing, this is a hamburger shoppe. They sell hamburgers and fries and shakes (and half liter sodas from the self-serve cooler). But it doesn’t smell like meat or grease or grill or onions. It really doesn’t emit any smells of food or of cooking. It smells of nothing. Do they even cook here?

Maybe I should have left, but I decided to get a burger. To see if this place was real or if it was like the fake town set up for the bad guys to raid in Blazing Saddles. I picked a soda out of the cooler, paid my money, took my number and sat down in front of the window at the generic table with a generic roll of plain white paper towels and a bottle of ketchup.

The big man in the black shirt brought out my hamburger in his hand. It was in a nondescript gray–or is that an ugly khaki?–clamshell box that was good for composting. I thought that maybe this same guy also cooked the food.

Anyway, the moment of truth came as I opened the box to see a good looking sandwich. The bottom bun was soaked and soggy from the beef juices. And the burger itself tasted fine. Not amazing, but a few steps above generic. But evaluating the entire experience, and adding the $7.99 before tax for the burger to the calculations (I am not including the soda price), I’m left without anything to draw me back.

In fact, the memory is becoming less clear, duller and fading. I hope that I remember to remember that this place isn’t memorable. But I bet that I’ll forget and stumble back into this unremarkable scene.

The Result of a Fundamental Disagreement

Nobody loves your kid like you do.

No. Bod. Dee. So

  • Don’t expect people to want to kiss their snot encased visage. You might be able to look beyond it. Others see green–literally. Don’t put your kid’s face expectantly in mine.
  • Don’t be angry when someone begs off from listening to your child play their musical instrument. Even if they are objectively good (which isn’t that likely) your guests may not want their conviviality interrupted. Even if it is Mozart that is being attempted played. Even at your house. Unless you invited us to a recital, and we had the chance to beg off in advance. No fair bundling your concert with a traditional family get-together, unless you don’t care if we aren’t paying attention and downing shots in the other room.
  • Multiply the negativity above by about one-thousand if the sharing entails a video and people are asked to stop everything, shush, and watch. Shush!
  • An exception is if you are passing around your iPhone with a < 30 second video of something that is funny or is an at-the-buzzer game winning 3-point shot. But only twenty-nine seconds or less. Get to the punchline. Don’t say, “Oh wait, you gotta see this, too.”
  • You want to bring your extraordinarily precocious and mature child you to that adults only event? Don’t ask if it’s okay to bring her or him if “No” will piss you off. That’s not really a choice. You don’t get credit for asking if all you will accept is validation of your parental desire.
  • Movies, let’s go there. Unless it’s a kids’ movie, get a damn babysitter. Their stage whispered cute comments are not what I paid for. Also, they’re only cute to you. See first line in this post.
  • At a sporting event, you bring your children. That’s cool. Other people are not as aware of your kids and their needs as you are. This is especially true in crowds. Your kids are short. They are unusual features of a crowd. They are frequently not seen. I’m not saying stay home, I’m just saying it is what it is. You have to be careful for them, not the strangers. It’s on you if they are jostled or hear curse words. These people left their kids for a reason. They’re off duty.

Let me be clear. I really like your kids. I will make goo-goo faces at them on the subway just to elicit a toothless grin. The drunken old man walk of a toddler really tickles me. I like to sit next to the parent on the plane with the screaming kid to reassure them that not everyone hates them at that moment. Been there.

I watch and like your posts with your adorbs kids on Facebook all the time. I even share some of them. And, it is a known, that I am bonkers for my kids.

But, bottom line, nobody loves your kids like you do.* You shouldn’t be disappointed, mad or rage-quit because of this true fact.

* [Except maybe grandparents. Okay, got me there. This post also applies to them.]