Something to Think About

A stylized image of my new kitchen wall. Lots of windows. Lots of light.

Yeah, I know. I’ve been radio silent for a while. Sorry. Turns out I learned that I’m not a HGTV-lifestyle type blogger. I know their ilk since I’ve been reading their blogs–their posts on trends and their how-tos written with folksy familiarity. The edgier ones smattering in some cuss words. The more wholesome peppering posts with sweet kiddos and doggos. The rarefied have chickens, which lay heirloom coloured eggs. Their kids have blonde ringlets festooned with sweet bows. They also serve up recipes. And dinner parties hosted at a clearing in their personal thousand acre woods lit with strings and strings of round bulbs powered by some mysterious source of 1% energy.

Nope. Writing about construction progress and current project status with accompanying pictures isn’t my forte. Not because I dislike that genre. I’ve definitely binge-watched many a remodeling series, hungrily following each episode to the great reveal. And, also, not because I don’t have scores of photos chronicling this journey.

I just can’t write it. Nope. This Doc does musing, angst, comedy and more thinking. Show and tell? Not without a point to make. And in the fast forward pace of this remodel, there hasn’t been much brain space left to make my points.

Sure there have been some decisions. And some real walls. And moments of beauty.

Like that moment when I walked upstairs to our bedroom and looked through the new window. Our bungalow is a classic story and a half, but when they rebuilt the walls and ceiling they recovered about eight inches of head room at the dormers. The construction team raised the windows up, too, and we have a new view to the outside and a more airy inside.

Taking in the new vista, I placed my fingertips on the newly drywalled and primed walls. I looked at my hand and recognized the perfectly familiar meeting of the knee wall angling to meet with the roofline. I suddenly ran through a series of memories–of painting that wall, of moving the bed (once moving the head to meet it, and once rotating it on the side), of steadying myself on it on groggy mornings.

Relief. My house is still here. I didn’t ruin it by stripping it down to its sticks. When I exposed its very bones. The house, its soul, still remains. I felt it in through the gypsum plaster that marked the newly finished corner. It told me it was okay.

Then there was the moment I needed to select cabinet hardware. It was more than a moment, to be honest. My wonderful design lead from the design-build team emailed me links two websites. She told me to pick out a few, and we’d order one of each to see what works.

There were literally THOUSANDS of choices. Overwhelming. So, I did what any modern Doc would do. I googled, “What to look for in kitchen cabinet hardware?”

Turns out that there are some things for the practical-minded to look for. First, there is a difference between knobs and pulls. Knobs are little and pulls are bigger. Bottom line, you don’t need to be as precise with your grab if you have pulls. Also, there are categories of pulls. There are bar pulls, handle pulls, finger pulls, cup pulls and arch pulls. Bar pulls can get caught on wayward pockets. Cup pulls can get full of the goop from your dirty hands that open the drawer to grab the extra whisk.

Armed with my new data, I downselected to handle pulls that were black or bronze and added those categorized by “industrial” or “rustic” style. And, still, there were hundreds. I started scrolling the options.

The first one I liked was $20. For one cabinet pull! Some long drawers could require two. I could easily spend thousands of dollars in kitchen hardware. I immediately added a downselect with an upper dollar limit to accommodate my budget. There were still a bunch.

My search and selection process could have consumed hours. I stopped looking after I found four that I could like. I slapped myself. Really, Doc? What’s a “good” cabinet pull? For items that, to be honest, I can’t tell apart? I cut and paste links to pulls, hit send and haven’t looked back. Don’t ask me what I chose. I don’t even know if my selections come in the right size. I’m praying that the pro makes sense of my design idiocy.

Then there’s that color moment. Last time I painted was the unfinished refresh of our bedroom. I know exactly the day I stopped painting. September 11, 2001. Just never got back around to it. I lost interest in color around the time I lost interest in the project.

Now I have to choose colors for all the rooms in the house. Someone said to paint it all white or taupe or greige or some neutral. But I have pro-painters using fabulous paint at my disposal. And I’m not moving the furniture to paint again. This is my moment.

I don’t want my house to have that flipped house gray with white trim. Or that creamy builder white. No. No. No. I walk into the open houses for the new crappy condos popping up all over my neighborhood and feel nothing but coldness. I check out the newly rehabbed homes with their cookie cutter granite countertops and cheesy cabinets and their achromatic walls and feel empty.

Ours is a 1915 bungalow that traditionally had that craftsman/arts and craft palette with muted vegetable colors of squash and pumpkin and greens tinged with yellow. Colors with names like ochre and olive, walls to be framed in natural wood.

I imagined walking in the front door with the brown stained wainscoted walls topped by that yellow squash color, turning to the muted yellow green in the living room and stepping into a pumpkin dining room. I started pulling paint chips for this warm, autumnal color scheme. I found historical palettes online and assigned colors to rooms. We’d paint a few samples on the walls before making a final call.

One problem. I don’t actually like those colors. Sure, they were better than the colorless “new house” look I was railing against, but they actually brought me down and closed me in. I wanted colors that had warmth but a cool vitality. Back to the google drawing board.

I decided to back up. What colors make me happy? What colors did I want to be surrounded by?  What colors looked good together and flowed from room to room, too? I flipped through Design Seeds, focusing on how the images made me feel. I dismissed photos, not looking at palettes. I pinned the pics I liked. I saw that my aesthetic had a clear pattern. Now I have a bunch of paints to try on the walls. My starting point is authentic.

So, sure. There’s been stuff rolling around in my brain, some causing strain and some stirring emotion, but none with much of a tale.

Yesterday, I took my regular foray to the worksite that will soon, once again, be my home. And my excitement was definitely tempered. After weeks of daily transmogrifications–of sticks being formed into walls that became rooms and closets and hallways and entries, of a huge rectangular box that time-lapsed into a kitchen lined with cabinets centered with an island and framed by a light wall, of the hole between the upstairs and the basement bibbidi-bobbidi-boo’d into a grand staircase–things have slowed down.  I’ve entered

The trough of disappointment.

This is the part of the hype-cycle. The part following the peak of unrealistic expectations. Stuff is happening, but we’re waiting on the delivery of the grout, and there is some challenges with the cabinet install, the basement windows had to be reordered and there will be some painstaking craftsmanship that will go into the creation of beautiful trim (no prefabbed trim for this project).

Meanwhile, I’m studying the project calendar every day. Sometimes more than once a day. Okay. Always more than once each day. As if by looking at the schedule it will move ahead. I walk into the house daily, on my way home from work. The actual days have shortened to leave me only a few moments of light before it switches over to night. Next week there won’t be any daylight moments on my way home.

This is the time where you can see the finish line, but there is still a grueling distance ahead. This is the time when I want to be on the other side of that line.

I want to move home and figure out where to put my colanders and to hang my winter coats in the closet. I want to unpack my waffle maker that I stored in the basement. I want to line up my spices in the new kitchen and put the good dishes on the dining room table. I want this computer to be on my new wooden desk in the office. I want to place my shampoo on the bench in the upstairs bathroom and put my hair dryer in the new closet.

I’m really done with this project. These last few yards need to be ground out, but the excitement has faded. This week anyway. I’m ready to move in and move on. I know there are more finishes and more surprises that will get me back in the game. But now, today? I’m wishing that I could buy a fifth of brown patience liquor.

I hate waiting.

New Game

Cleaned out a junk drawer, shined my pressure cooker, de-grimed the microwave, got dogfood, took down & put out the tree, then ate dinner out of a bag & bottle.

Well, Loyal Reader, it wasn’t a surprise. No. Not really a surprise at all. I am none the less disappointed. In myself. 

Yes, I have let the dust settle a bit too comfortably on this journal. After my fury (or furiousness) of thinkings and writings and postings, I took a sabbatical. And didn’t come back.

I said that I’d post weekly, but I fell into my old pattern of doing the thinking, the coming up with ideas and the starts in my head without the actual writing. Much disappointment. But I said that already.

So, like the little kitten who chases the laser for fun, I need something to chase.  Another challenge. This time an easier one, but still specific and measurable. Like a game. A game I can win! 

Here’s my plan for this year. I’m going to take and mess up a picture and write something. Every week. A photo prompt and a post. I’m not going to necessarily write about the picture, not that I won’t. And sometimes you will scratch your head, puzzling over the relationship between the post and the pic. That’s part of it. (Thanks Matt, who claims to read this blog, but I think he does not.)

Anyway, it’s a little game. Just a little trick to make myself do what I want. Yes. I’m really that lazy. 

Anything to win.

Week #1, done! Purr. 

26.198 (Post #357)

A boy. On a hill. Wearing skis and a Washington Football Team jacket.

I can see the finish line. It’s just ahead. Just one day more, cue Les Miserables.

Tomorrow I’m going to post about what I’ve learned this past year (like the irrelevance in teasing you, my Loyal Reader). My retrospective, if you will. Today, though, I’m going to be prospective. What am I going to do?

You see, last year at this time, I resolved to write and publish. Every. Stinking. Day. For the entirety of 2016. This has taken up a good hunk of my life. Like 44 waking days over the course of the year.

So, what’s next? 

Well, one thing for sure is I will not publish a post every stinking day. But you likely already knew that. So let’s say I commit to publishing weekly. That is a decrease of 600%. (To be honest, I kind of made up that number. I don’t feel like doing real math. It might be a higher percentage decrease. See what I mean? Higher decrease?) 

When I started this challenge, I said that I wanted to produce as well as consume. Now, I want more balance. I want to read more quality writing. Read more books. Read more long form, more New Yorker. Oh, and read zero celebrity you-won’t-believe-where-they-are-today posts. I’m also cutting back on fake news. Just kidding there.

Third, I am going to use a bunch of my brain-space as we remake a hunk of this, our 103 year old, house. It’s going to be a big project. Even huge. It may kill me. It may have me killing The Spouse. I hope not. This will require extreme effort. But I’ve seen others succeed. We can do this. I’m going to set out a goal right now, no family bloodshed on the house thing. There, I said it.

Last, I realized that I’ve slacked off on volunteering my time and talents. We have a cool town here, and in addition to buying local, I need to do more to contribute local. It was easy when The Boys were in school. There were plenty of things that needed doing and plenty of people asking. I’m going to do some asking and then get about some doing.

Pretty much all of the above is ripe for future thinkings (that’s my code for posts). I expect that I’ll be incohate, insulted, insipid, inspired, inept, intrigued and infatuated. Not all at the same time, though. More spread out. Maybe some overlap. Maybe also some adjectives that are not as alliterative. Maybe. I’ll keep you posted.

Anyway, I’m poised and ready to start a new year. Sadly, for me, I’ll be spending a lot less time with you, my Loyal Reader. But I hope our time will still be good for you. Fingers crossed. 

Post #335

From the AMTRAK: Emergency Brake. Open this cover. Alarm will sound. Pull handle down.

I started writing something earlier today. And it was hard. Hard to think about and hard to write about. But, at least to me, worth writing about.

Frankly, it required more nuance than I had to give to it today. I have decided that I’m going to defer this post for a little bit. I still want to write it, but it deserves a bit more research and thoughtful thinkings and a better articulation.

You might be surprised that I do that, Loyal Reader. Surprised that this publication includes research and thinking and rifling through options and analysis and then writing. I realize that much of what you read here may seem like a simple stream of consciousness. And if I were to tell the truth, which is my preference since I am lazy and lying takes a lot of work, I would admit to at least my share, if not more than my share, of raw and emotive work. Even these, though, take some cognitive and creative effort. I’m not kidding.

That said, there are many posts that I wrestle with deeply. Posts that I start with gusto but then lose steam. Sometimes the energy is gone after a paragraph or two. Other times it is writing that simply doesn’t coalesce. It might have concepts or sentences that are brilliant, but it either doesn’t hang together with the rest of the words or just doesn’t have enough form to be cogent. While that may also surprise you, Loyal Reader, that is that I hold back when something sucks, it’s just a confession about how bad my writing can be.

In this case, though, I have something that I want to say and I want to say it to you, Loyal Reader. But first, I need to make sure that it will stand up on it’s own and that, second, if you object to my thesis, you will at least have enough to object to. I don’t want to leave you unsatisfied, or worse, dismissive. Truly your indifference is the most painful.

So, for today, I will only share with you a little about my process and a hint of something yet to come.

Nothing

Street sign on a deserted highway that says,

I surveyed my family for ideas for today’s post.

The Supermoon. I have nothing to say about it. It’s a hot topic, but not one to scratch out one hundred and fifty words to.

Curses. Another weak idea for a post.  Is this supposed to cover magic-style curses or to focus on the oppositional views that become corrupt? I have nothing more.

Bill Belichick. Although he looked like an oversized garden gnome at tonight’s game, that is about all I could muster about him.

Writing every. stinking. day. Sometimes just stinks. Sorry, Loyal Reader. It’s me, not  you.

Ma-ma-ma-ma-ma My Verona!

Dirty sneakers, an eviscerated pig photo bombs.

Oh, most arrogant wretch.

Fie. Fie. Fie. Why do I deign to write? What conceit have I, that to put my counterfeit words next to royal scribes before and near me? Whose language I share, but in comparative use, I despair?

To spend evening past perched near the world’s stage, soul undone by the Bard’s poetry in the two hours’ traffic rage. I set my trespass on our shared language as I prate on.

Soft, soft. Anon I will publish this hopeless screed, awaiting the black emptiness, the complete loneliness of whispering into a void. And yet, still, I type. Perchance to dream.

Mark. I type for thee, Loyal Reader. Or if I would fain prove true, I, indeed, write for me.

Muse

Feet and Beast at beach.

Sitting on the couch, next to The Spouse. Tragically, he either refuses or is incapable of giving me a decent idea for a post. I only say refuses because the concepts he has provided displayed a lack of operability.

Seriously, his offers were more like an SAT essay prompt. Or a sickly question for Miss America. (Do they still do Miss America? Do they still ask her about world peace?)

I wondered if The Spouse has ever read the Doctor Of Thinkology. A regular reader would know that it is rare that the Doc is difficultly thoughtful. I mean, I POST EVERY STINKING DAY. Most posts are going to be short or glib. Sometimes I hit a home run. But if I’m asking for inspiration, rest assured this will not be a high scoring game.

I do appreciate the support. I really do. Throwing out ideas shows that we both take this seriously. And there is no reason on God’s green earth that The Spouse should. Yet he does.

While I am grateful that my quixotic quest to write and publish every stinking day is encouraged and endorsed, sans idea there is no post.

The Spouse asks me to stretch out so he can rub my feet.

Seriously, why is it when someone puts their hand on your foot and squeezes, or presses their fingers along the spine of your foot, or works through each of your toes, you’re just done? Done in a way that is perfect. Done in a way that the sensors in the balls of your feet which are directly and immediately wired to a spot in your brain, at the back of your head and above your right ear, deliver a breathless, “ahhhhh.” And a melting of the foot into the magic hand, begging for more. Because that is what happens. Foot massages are crack.

The Beast crawls up on the couch and drapes himself over the right side of my body. As he works to find his most comfortable–and comforting–spot, I take the laptop and move it around his huge shoulders, his huge head and his hugest snout. He settles in with his heavy head on my shoulder and his skinny legs folded underneath him. His sigh disperses a forceful wind of hot air, delivered with just a huff. At the end.

The hand on my foot absent-mindedly continues to sometimes apply pressure to bones and sometimes to just run along the distance between heel and toe. Whatever the technique, it lights up the dopamine receptors and all is right in the world.

So, what will I write about? What is my inspiration? Thank you, Spouse. You done did good.