A renovation saga, part I

So, let’s get caught up, shall we?

Last week I mentioned our little renovation project, in which our entire master bedroom and bathroom will be redone over the course of the next two months. Maybe three. Demolition started last Monday, but was preceded by a week — the last two and a half days of which were particularly frantic — of moving every single thing out of our bedroom, bathroom and closets and into, well, elsewhere.

This induced in me no small amount of panic. It has been over 13 years since I moved from one house to another, and my memories of moving are not altogether pleasant. First you come to terms with just how much stuff* you have. Which can be, frankly, horrifying. Then you decide which of the stuff* you are taking with you, and which you are getting rid of. Smart people get rid of most of the stuff* — it makes sense; less to have to move — but either way, you still have to deal with all of that … stuff*.

So this project is like moving, albeit on a much smaller scale. But still stressful in its own way. Not as bad as re-doing a kitchen, maybe, so that’s one positive thing. I don’t think I’d have the testicular fortitude to re-do a kitchen at my age, but we’ll see how this goes.

Where was I? Right; moving.

The first (and biggest) thing we decided to move was our bed, which is this sizable sleigh-style thing we had a designer friend acquire for us some years ago. From France. Ooh la la. Luckily our girl is away at school so we get to live in her bedroom — The Coach calls it “camping” — while ours is stripped clean to the bones, er, studs, and then put back together. So we moved her bed out to the garage, took apart the big French number, toted the pieces down the hall, and reassembled it.

Which is kind of a funny, full-circle thing, because years ago when my husband was a boy, this was his room. Yes, for the last 13 years we have lived in the house my parents-in-law built 50 years ago. My in-laws are still living, which might explain why we’ve never done much in the way of changing things to the house since we’ve lived here. Because, you know, sometimes it sort of seems like it’s still “their” house.

Anyway, we got the French behemoth situated in its new/temporary space, then started emptying out all the closets, cabinets and drawers. This is when the whole too-much-stuff* thing started to get a little overwhelming. And sort of jigsaw puzzle-ish. Because since we’re going to be living our girl’s room for the next two (maybe three) months, we planned to put a fair amount of our stuff* in there. But she has no small amount of stuff* of her own, and where is all that supposed to go?

At that point I realized I’d better be careful not to lose track of where I was moving the ibuprofen, because I could already feel a three-month headache coming on. Being brought on not just by all the stuff* issues, but also by the incessant sawing, hammering and nail-gunning noises emanating from down the hall. Have mercy.

But I must say we’ve adjusted rather well to this new normal. For instance, when we were getting ready to go out to dinner on Saturday night, I went right downstairs into the living room and picked out a pair of shoes from the stack that’s piled behind the sofa. What? Doesn’t everyone keep their shoes in the living room? The Coach has most of his wardrobe on a garment rack downstairs in the TV room; no big deal. We’re nothing if not adaptable.

Next week I’ll tell you how a slow drain led to a construction project in the high five-figures that basically amounts to completely rebuilding one-sixth of a house.

* I’m sure you realize which noun I’m substituting, in my head, when I type the word “stuff.” But this is a family blog, so I’m going to keep it as is.

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Back in the saddle again

This horse feels impossible to get back on, but it must be done sometime, I suppose.

The problem is, I seem to have forgotten how to ride. And a horse is not exactly a bicycle, so there’s that.

Some of it feels familiar. The laptop, the coffee, the desk, the dark room. The space in my head that’s empty except for the voice that whispers: “You’ve got nothing to say.”

I sort of don’t, actually. I suppose I could just fill the space with a riff on The Bachelor or Downton Abbey or something. But a lot of bloggers are doing that, so it’s probably better that I pass.

It’s not completely true, either, that I’ve got nothing to say. There are all kinds of things I could go on about. For one, the fact that our master bedroom is utterly demolished at the moment because we’re going to be getting a “new” one. I even have pictures I could post of the holes in the floors, and the one in the back wall where the builders have put up a bridge-like thing to go in and out of what used to be The Coach’s closet.

Or, I could start to talk about the big, albeit temporary, move to the mainland we’re planning to undertake in the fall. There’s an issue that’s been taking up space in my brain lately. I haven’t lived on the mainland for any length of time for the past 32 years, so this will be kind of major. For one thing, I’m going to need real shoes. I don’t even know what kind of shoes people wear on the mainland. I’m sure shoe styles have changed a bit in the past 32 years; that will have to be included in my research.

Do you know I have a contract to sit here and do this? I do. Not that you can tell by my output, which in the past 24 days is nil (I know; I counted) so I’m not exactly doing a very good job at it, but I’m trying. Sort of. Plus my contract is sort of expired; my “mentor” and I need to sign a new one.

Here’s an ironic thing: recently I’ve read two books that have the word “happiness” or “contentment” in their titles, and yet lately I feel farther away from, not closer to, happiness and contentment. But at least my coffee is hot — thanks to the little cup warmer I keep on the right corner of the desk — and rather delicious. It’s local coffee; 10% Kona, is what the label says. Did you know that Kona is the only place in the United States where coffee is grown? Back in 2008 when Obama was elected the Kona coffee growers all got a little, shall we say, assertive, and made it clear what a travesty it would be if Kona coffee — ahem, American coffee — were not exclusively served, all the time, in the White House. Good for them.

Another idea I’ve been struggling to put into actual words is the story of how exactly one year ago, I underwent an emergency appendectomy. Talk about a wild and unexpected ride. It turns out my experience of one’s appendix rupturing in one’s mid-50’s is fairly uncommon. Who knew? Yes, well, that whole episode did have an uncommon feel to it, I must say.

But I’ll have to fill you in on that later. It’s 7:30 a.m. and I can hear that the builders just got here and let themselves into the house through the big hole in the back wall where the closet used to be, so I’m just going to leave us all hanging here, with me more or less on the horse, sort of walking, maybe?

I’ll try to work up to a trot tomorrow. Or next week. Whatever.

Map this memory

You know how the olfactory sense is said to be the most powerful of the senses when it comes to evoking memory? I think most of us wouldn’t argue with that, but you know what I’ve discovered is also good at evoking memory? Google Maps.

Huh, you’re thinking; that is the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard. But try this little experiment: go on  Google Maps, or Google Earth, and type in the address of the home you lived in when you were 11. Or that of your grandparents. When you get there, click on Street View, and look at the house (assuming there is one). Now, notice the memories that start flooding back?

I use Google Maps all the time for memory jogging. I use other things too; this is because I live in constant fear of forgetting. What was that cop drama on TV recently about a woman who wasn’t able to forget anything that had happened to her, ever? Oh, yeah: Unforgettable. (Funny how I forgot that — ha ha.) Anyway, I don’t have that particular gift or superpower — curse is probably more like it — but I often wish I did. Losing one’s memories just seems more tragic to me than losing one’s sight or hearing or arms or legs.

Just after Christmas I received a long let-me-get-you-all-caught-up letter from a friend who had recently moved from the Midwest to St. Augustine, Florida. It so happens I have been to St. Augustine, exactly once, 19 years ago. So I took my friend’s address and plugged it into Google Maps, and boom: there came all the memories. Memories of streets and buildings and weather; even certain people’s names and faces, which I hadn’t heard or seen in all those years since then.

This morning I got Google Maps to show me the address of a house I once lived in, in California. When I looked at the front door of that house, the memories were so strong I almost couldn’t bear it; I had to get up from the computer and go do something else. So, most of the time I like using Google Maps to jog my memory; sometimes it’s not such a positive experience.

Mostly I need all the help I can get remembering and keeping my fear of forgetting at bay. So I’ve got these tools. One of my resolutions for 2013 is to really get started writing the memoir that’s been floating around in my head as a mere idea for several years. Like many such projects, the hardest part of it is just … starting. But now I know I can open Google Maps, give my memory a little nudge, and off we’ll go.

The (mixed) message of the season

I just did something really, really hard.

It was hard because I knew I would be hurting someone’s feelings, and I so didn’t want to do that. But it had to be done, and it couldn’t be done by anyone else but me, and so I took a deep breath, screwed up my courage, and made the call.

This is the sort of thing where you think to yourself, once it’s over, you’ll feel better for having done it. Only I don’t. If anything, I feel worse.

Sometimes Christmas is so not the most wonderful time of the year. I mean, obviously there’s a lot to love about it, but at the same time there’s so much about it that’s very, very difficult.

The thing is, this whole month, and the whole Christmas season is, as best as I can see, just one big fat mixed message.

And that message is: Be generous, but also be selfish. Or, put another way: this is the time to be good and kind and giving to others, especially your loved ones. But be sure to be good and kind and giving to yourself.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: When the stresses of the season get to be too much for you, cut back, let go, don’t feel you have to do it all. Adjust your expectations. Something you get used to hearing every year about this time, isn’t it?

Right. But you know what? I don’t exist in some kind of vacuum; the fact is, I’m not the only one with expectations. And to the extent that my expectations involve other people in my little world, or theirs involve me, the butterfly effect of that adjustment can be massive.

So, here we are. In the interest of being good and kind and giving to myself, I just made a big mess out of my relationship with someone close to me. Which is sort of the opposite of what one hopes to be achieving this time of year.

Now I need to spend a little time sitting and thinking about how I can put things right with her again. At the moment I don’t know what that will look like, but it’s one Christmas gift I know I need to give.

How about you? Ever found yourself balancing on the fence between what you know you need to do for someone else and what you need to do for yourself?

The invisible (wo)man

Honolulu is a big city, nearly a million people live on my little island, but really it’s just a largish small town.

Put in terms of degrees of separation: if you’ve lived here for any amount of time, especially if you were born and raised here, we’re talking more like one or two, certainly not six.

A month ago The Coach achieved a bit of a milestone with respect to his coaching career. Let’s just say it was a very, very good night for The Coach and his team.

That night he received over 20 congratulatory text messages, and nearly as many emails.

The following night, a Saturday, we had been invited to go out to dinner with our best friends, and upon entering the restaurant — which is a pretty small restaurant, by the way; maybe two dozen tables — we saw three couples we knew, who all made a point of coming over to our table to shake The Coach’s hand and congratulate him on his achievement of the night before.

Sunday morning, The Coach and I went out for breakfast at our favorite little (yes, also tiny; what is it with us and small eateries?) neighborhood coffee shop, and two more people recognized him and offered congratulations.

So I’m married to something of a local celebrity. Which is kind of a challenge for me, on a couple levels. For one, I don’t possess even close to the same kind of face or name recognition that my husband does. In fact, apparently I have an ordinary, sort of forgettable face, because it’s rare for people to remember me, even after being introduced to me multiple times. This happens all the time.

On the other hand, no one ever forgets The Coach. So therefore, in these sorts of public situations, we’re kind of having the opposite experience.

I’ve gotten used to it. I admit it’s still irksome to have to re-introduce myself to people I already know, but because I no longer expect people to remember me, I’m mostly done being overly bothered by it. I’ve accepted my invisibility.

And being invisible is not so bad. In a way it’s a good fit for my personality type, which is introverted. (INFJ, for you Myers-Briggs folks.) Being invisible allows me to do a certain amount of observation, while I’m going mostly unobserved. Meaning that, while you’re engaged in conversation with The Coach and ignoring and/or forgetting me, I, on the other hand, am mentally salting away all sorts of information about you.

I’m not saying I missed my calling or anything, but I might have made a good spy. Hmm, I wonder if the CIA has any openings for middle-aged, nondescript matrons. Because I think I can do invisible like a pro.

29 years

Every year on December 5th, The Coach and I celebrate our anniversary.

And by “anniversary,” I don’t mean our wedding anniversary. It’s the anniversary of our first date.

And by “celebrate,” I don’t mean we actually have a celebration of some kind. More like we remember the day, or recognize it, or briefly acknowledge it.

And by “every year,” I don’t mean every year, exactly. Often, in the past two or fifteen years or so, only one of us may have remembered December 5th and gotten a card or something (this year: yours truly). I have to admit that some years both of us have forgotten the day. More than once, several days will have gone by when one of us will say, “Hey, wasn’t December 5th a few days ago?”

Anyway, 29 years ago, The Coach and I went on our first date. It was not your conventional dinner-and-a-movie type of thing, which may have been part of why it was so much fun. And why we still celebrate it. Only, not exactly, er, celebrate [see above].

This is where I could probably throw in a whole bunch of cliches about how 29 years ago I never could have imagined what my/our life would be like at this point, blah blah blah. It pretty much goes without saying, right?

I mean, today I’ve washed a whole bunch of dishes, done a load of laundry, scrubbed two bathrooms, washed some windows, and gotten the spare bedroom ready for a houseguest. And that was before lunch. But after I had made breakfast and The Coach’s lunch, read the paper, did the crossword, walked the dog and paid a couple bills.

On my “anniversary.” Somebody bust out the champagne.

So, yeah, maybe not exactly the future I pictured 29 years ago, but whose is? And anyway, you know what I think is the point of celebrating/recognizing/acknowledging (let’s face it: HAVING) a 29th first-date anniversary? It’s that it serves as a reminder that, no matter what the ride has been like for nearly three decades on our roller coaster of life — we got off to a pretty good start.

This was not our first date, but maybe four days later. Good grief, we were young

This was taken at a party a few days after our first date. Good grief, we were young.

Another random list, post-Thanksgiving edition

Here we go again with some things that are bouncing around in the old cranium:

  1. This might seem off, but this week I’m making resolutions. But they’re not exactly New Year’s resolutions. More like The Next Two Weeks’ resolutions. And they include but are not limited to losing a few pounds …
  2. …which may seem totally lame considering we just got all revved up with Thanksgiving and are transitioning into Christmas. And I noticed on my shopping trip yesterday that the store shelves are stocked to overflowing with flour, sugar, cake mixes and the like, which are anathema to me because …
  3. … yesterday I started a “diet” — no carbs and/or sugar of any kind for two weeks (see #1 above). This might seem like an odd (stupid, insane, impossible) thing to do at this particular point on the calendar, but I don’t care. I’m the one who got on the scale Saturday morning (couldn’t bring myself to do it Friday because, well, you know), and my decision was pretty much made right there. But I waited to start til yesterday because, duh, leftovers.
  4. My attic de-cluttering project has been on hiatus lately, but I’m determined to stick with it, no matter how long it takes. Which could potentially be kind of a long time. The project is starting to almost take on an Augean Stables sort of feel, but I refuse to be outdone by it.
  5. I was going to post a photo of my attic and all the mess, but I took one and looked at it, and thought, “I might be the only one who has a problem with this. Someone else might look at it and think, So what?” So, never mind. Trust me when I say it really needs to be dealt with, but can’t be just by redirecting a couple of nearby rivers.
  6. And you know, when I stop to think about it, I’ve had this weird energy lately — although to be completely honest, it kind of comes and goes — that feels sort of like nesting. Which I last remember experiencing 25 years ago. (Maybe it’s the HRT hormones I’m on.) For example, yesterday I spent about an hour cleaning out the refrigerator, and I’ll be darned if it wasn’t the most wonderful feeling.
  7. I think that’s because cleaning stuff out and getting rid of stuff you don’t need or want anymore almost feels itself like losing weight. You instantly feel cleaner and lighter, personally, not just refrigerator-wise.
  8. And even better: Sunday I went to the newest Tupperware party-type event — am I dating myself when I say Tupperware party? — which is where the hostess invites a bunch of friends over and brings in a professional precious metals buyer, who looks at all your old gold jewelry and stuff, and then he GIVES YOU CASH for it, right there on the spot! I made over $500 for a fairly small amount of gold jewelry I knew I’d never wear again. It was amazing. Not to mention profitable.
  9. So now I have a little extra cash in my pocket for Christmas shopping. Which I’m mostly not looking forward to, but at the same time, I kinda sorta am. I just have mixed feelings about the whole retail frenzy Christmas shopping season that we have to slog through get to enjoy over the next four weeks.
  10. Which reminds me of this cartoon; you may have seen it on Facebook:

Look at that shopping cart: I’d love to get my hands on that and just start throwing stuff out. That would be such a rush.