Archive for August, 2012

Into the Blue Again

August 28, 2012

When we began remodeling our new place in March, I never considered that the work would still be going on while we were at my family’s annual Tahoe trip in July. But that’s where we found ourselves six weeks after we moved in. It was time for Tahoe, and we’d only been able to unpack a one box; the kitchen cabinets still weren’t in; we were over time and budget and out of patience. What else was there to do but pack up the car and head up the mountains?

On the drive up Highway 50, we listened to the Talking Heads and the lyrics from “Once in a Lifetime” seemed to echo some of the same experiences and thoughts I’d had in these last few months:
And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?
You may ask yourself, am I right, am I wrong?”
You may say to yourself, my god, what have I done?
(The lyrics were so apt that I’ve used some of them as the titles of these last few posts.) The song even spoke to how I’d felt that day when we turned our backs on the remodel and on our contractor who suddenly wanted to meet that morning, and chose to head to the lake instead: “Into the blue again, after the money’s gone”.

Given all that we’d been dealing with in the months before Tahoe, I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with the family Tahoe trip this year. I wasn’t sure I could handle the reminders of how different it is from the trip that used to be so important to me. I didn’t have patience for the usual family dramas, the same worries that come up year after year about where we would all sleep, what we would all eat, and even where we would all park. (One of my aunts admitted that on nights when she has trouble falling asleep, she tries to figure out the best way to fit 20+ people in the five bedroom place we rent every summer.)

But it turned out that I needed Tahoe this year. I didn’t realize how stressed I’d been or how much our move and the remodel was weighing on me until we were at the lake. After two days, I found that I could go hours without thinking about the work that we still had to do on our place, and I began to fall asleep without thinking about how to deal with our contractor. I finally silenced the part of my mind that I hadn’t realized had been constantly preoccupied with the remodel. Perhaps because I’ve gone to Tahoe every summer of my life, just being there seemed to trigger a deep relaxation response in me.

To quote another line from the Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime” (the line I quote the most*), Tahoe was the “same as it ever was”, and that sameness was comforting. There was the same dock, the same walk around the meadow, the same people renting the place next door. There was the same shock of the cold water when I  dunked in the lake, and that same joy I felt floating in that clear blue water, looking up at the mountains and the sky.

Usually, I use Tahoe as a time to catch up with my aunts, uncles and cousins, but this year, I didn’t participate as much. I didn’t have long conversations with my relatives. I didn’t play cards as often as in years past. I didn’t cook as much. I hardly looked at the crossword puzzles my aunt made copies of each morning, and I didn’t even think about trying make it down to sunset every night. Instead, I just sat mindlessly and let Tahoe work its magic.

(*Around my parents and sister, I don’t even have to say “Same as it ever was”, I just do the hand gesture that David Byrne does in “Stop Making Sense”, tapping my hand down my arm. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, to go 3:53 on this video. I just watched it again and rocked out).

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Letting the Days Go By

August 27, 2012

I’d expected to feel proud, excited, maybe even a little scared, when we moved into our first home. Instead, I felt defeated.

I knew our place would still be under construction when we moved in. The plan was that the bathroom would be done and the kitchen would still have a few weeks to go. But two weeks before our move-in date, the bathroom didn’t even seem close to being finished, and the rest of the place didn’t seem inhabitable either.

The toilet was in the living room along with old pipes, boards, beams and construction debris. The dining room had been used as a wood shop and sawdust covered all of the decorative woodwork. Our bedroom was a staging room for the tile work that still needed to be done, and there were even more supplies outside on the deck.

We managed to push our move back an extra week — squeezing in a few more days out of our landlord, rescheduling the movers, and getting Mr. WholeHog’s weekend shifts covered — and we called in reinforcements. My parents came down (twice) to help take all the construction debris in the living room to the dump. While we were at work, my mom helped with packing and waited for our sink to be delivered and my dad cleaned up all the sawdust in the dining room.

It was a terrible, stressful time, without even the Beasties to help me through it. I tossed and turned at night, kept up by visions of us having to use the port-a-potty and wash our faces with the garden hose. Mr. WholeHog would fall right to sleep, but when I woke up in the morning, I’d find him wide awake, staring at the ceiling. “What are you thinking about?” I asked. “The house,” he said.

The stress didn’t go away after we moved in, it just changed. Although the bathroom had come together in the nick of time (the sink, faucet and tub fixtures were installed on Friday; we moved in Saturday morning), the place was still far less ready than I’d anticipated. We weren’t just living with out a kitchen, we were living without a bedroom, too. We spent the first month in our new home sleeping in the dining room, surrounded by our dining room table, the desk, dresser, hutch and stacks of boxes. We walked narrow paths through the boxes and furniture to the couch, the bed and the closet. We didn’t unpack any boxes; we lived out of them. It was more like living in a garage or a storage unit, than in a home.

And amid all this upheaval, the work continued. Our contractor still had questions and we still had decisions to make: How big did we want this drawer? Did we want one shelf or two? What paint color had we chosen? What size was the kitchen sink? What sort of trim should go around the doorways? How thick should the countertop be? Had we chosen lights for the kitchen? How far above the stove should the hood be installed? Had we ordered the windows? Would the trim be painted the same color as the walls?

Between all the stuff and stress that we lived with and the relentless work of the remodel, I retreated from the things I normally pursue, including this blog. Why write when I had nothing positive to say? Why go to the farmers market when we had no kitchen to cook in? Why go work on the farm when I’d have to rearrange the boxes and furniture in our already chaotic living space just to find a sunhat or work clothes?

I didn’t reach out to anyone either. I didn’t even send an email to friends or family to let them know that we’d moved. I didn’t want to fake any enthusiasm about how things were going, and I was afraid that if I sent out our new address, someone might stop by and see the state we were living in.

The best I could do was simply try get through each day — get up, go to work, come home, go to bed; get up, go to work, come home, go to bed — and that’s where I’ve been these last few months, just trying to get through one day to the next.