Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bathroom Renovation - Week 10

I know this is na├»ve, but when our contractor told us the bathroom renovation would take five weeks, I actually believed it would take five weeks. Ok, I did have a skeptical moment when I asked, “Five consecutive weeks?” By which I meant contiguous weeks. And even though I didn’t use that word (because it seemed pompous under the circumstances), we all knew what I was asking: five weeks, one after the other, with no extra weeks in between them?

“Yes, yes,” he said. “Five weeks. Six at the outside.” And I’m sure he meant it when he said it, just like all men mean what they’re promising you at that breathless point when you’re handing over what they’ve been lobbying for. Which, in this case, was money.

It is one of my shortcomings (aka: raisins) to regard this kind of broken promise as some sort of personal betrayal. And I think that once it became clear to me that this bathroom was not going to be done in five weeks (which would have been before school ended), or seven weeks (which would have been before the teenager went on his journey), or ten weeks (which would have been now), the whole process just started making me a little cranky.

So, when I spoke to the contractor the other day, trying (as I typically have) to get a handle on the time-line for the remaining work, I was a little gruff. I was ready to launch into some spiel or other that would have made him feel really small and apologetic, and which would ultimately not have made me feel better (because I really don’t want him to feel bad, I just want my bathroom to be finished), but it turned out to be completely unnecessary. Because he already felt small and apologetic and helpless and distraught. I could hear all those things in his shaky voice as he told me that he’d just made the decision to shut down his company. That the recession had hit him long and hard, and after he finished up our job and a few others that he was working on, he was going to do the unimaginable: discontinue the family business he’d worked his whole life building for him and his son.

So, that kind of mellowed me out about the whole time line thing. Consecutive. Contiguous. It just shut me right the fuck up.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bathroom Renovation - Week 9

The bathroom really looks like a bathroom now. The tile work is amazing and all the fixtures are in place. There’s still a lot to do, but you can begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But I don’t see the light. All I see is the cabinet – the replacement cabinet – and all its faults.

I spent an entire blog post waxing nostalgic about my old bathroom cabinet. And how I was sure that the new cabinet would never, ever be able to live up to the perfection of that which preceded it. Well, guess what? I was right.

Although it’s not fully built yet, the new cabinet is smaller. Less accessible. And now we discover that the face of it has to be modified so the door doesn’t swing into the radiator knob every time you open it.

I’m not just heartbroken over this…I’m a sort of a raving bitch. The amount of dismay I feel about this cabinet is so inappropriate for what’s essentially a shampoo repository. I started ranting to my husband all over again this morning. He listened. And then he moved around behind me, started rubbing my shoulders.

“The cabinet is going to be fine,” he said. “The bathroom is going to be great.”

Typically, this would be the point where I begin to hiss at him, delineating all the reasons he is wrong, wrong, wrong. But today, for some reason that remains inexplicable and divine, I just quietly nodded my head. And said a small, imperceptible thank you for having someone in my life who will gently remind me that it isn’t necessary to always pay attention to what’s wrong with everything. That when you do, you are missing all the stuff that’s good and lovely and right.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How I Sometimes Cope

One of the major focal points of Weight Watchers is to develop strategies to get you through tough situations. It mostly just requires anticipating events where you might falter and planning for them in advance. Having a few tricks up your sleeve. It doesn’t take many tricks to get through a banquet or a barbecue. Drink seltzer instead of wine. Fill your plate mostly with vegetables. And, the handiest advice: stop focusing on the food.

These tactics have taken me through two years worth of book groups, holiday parties and Girl’s Nights Out. And now I’m using the same general principal for coping with the teenager’s absence.

Moments after the teenager departed, my husband rightly pointed out that if we kept his bedroom door closed, it would seem as if he were home. I tried it, and it worked. I look at that big white door shut tightly in its jamb and it’s as if I can hear my son behind it, headphones on, glued to Facebook, while his gym socks ferment all over the floor.

I’ve even expanded on my husband’s idea. When I feel lonely for the teenager – wistful – I simply take out the jar of peanut butter and leave it uncapped with a big, gooky knife lying across the top of it. Or I turn some sweat socks inside out and toss them on the TV room floor next to the couch.

I can strategically place half-consumed Vitamin Waters, dampened bath towels, boxer shorts and Nike high tops throughout the house and create the illusion that the teenager is right here at home rather than 3,000 miles away sullying someone else’s nice tidy State Forest or Nature Preserve.

Unfortunately, Weight Watchers strategies are usually fairly general. They’ll talk about barbecues, but not The Barbecue at the Rawley’s on Sunday Night. Similarly, there is no specific Weight Watchers strategy for getting through a day when you know your son is on the other side of a continent climbing a vertical rock wall with thirty complete strangers. So, while my little deceits have helped me miss the teenager less, they have not helped diminish my worry.

The yogurt-covered pretzels – they’re no longer safe with me.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I Love LabelLand

Tonight, I participated in an age-old tradition just like the millions of Jewish women before me. I spent the evening ironing on name labels.

Last week, as I reread the section of the packing instructions that indicated that all the teenagers belongings must be labeled for his month-long excursion into the wild, it occurred to me that this might be a good time to get some of those pre-printed, iron-on labels that all my friends rave about for sleepaway camp.

The exact moment of this thought of mine was Friday, July 2nd at 6:45 AM. The teenager was to be on a plane very early the following Friday morning.

I googled “iron-on name tags” and clicked on the third entry. (I often click on the third entry in a google search. I couldn’t really tell you why.)

I went through the entire ordering process and when it came to SHIPPING I did my usual cheapskate dance about express delivery rates. The “free” option was a 7-10 business day delivery – that was clearly too late. The “rush” option was 3-5 business days for $12.99. And then the “super duper really extra fast” option was 1-2 business days for $37.99.

Even though I really needed the labels in two business days (it was Friday, and since Monday was July 5th – a federal holiday – the next “business day” was Tuesday), I could not bring myself to spend $40 on shipping. So I selected the $12.99 option, processed my order, and went on to read my email.

Within two minutes I was in a full-blown panic. I needed the labels by Wednesday, really, to give myself time to iron them all in. “Three to five days” was not going to work. I reopened the site and discovered that the company was in Ontario! How are my labels ever going to pass through customs in time? I thought.

I went back to my google search and clicked on the first two entries. Both were domestic companies, but neither could guarantee a Wednesday delivery. They needed two business days just to make the labels. And the order doesn’t even get processed for 24 hours. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I realized the Canadian company order needed to be canceled, so at 7AM I called them, just to see if they had a recording of their customer service hours.

And a person answered.

“Oh, I didn’t expect to get someone in this early!” I said.

“I haven’t gone home yet from last night, eh,” the guy on the other end of the phone said.


I explained my plight, how I was freaking out about whether the labels would come on time, how 3-5 business days might not really be enough. And then he told me wonderful things.

1. July 4th is just a regular day in Canada, so Monday would be a regular business day.
2. And they count Saturday as a business day.
3. And he has a friend traveling to New Jersey that very evening, so he will send the package with his friend and it will be mailed in New Jersey.

So, guess when the labels arrived? The very next day! In Saturday’s mail! I don’t even know how that happened, but I’m taking it as the first of what I hope are many good omens about the teenager’s trip.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Holly Holy

Holly. Is. A saint.

She’s the one who most often answers the phone at the teen wilderness trip office that sponsors the teen wilderness trip the teenager will be leaving on this Friday. Did I mention that the trip is in the wilderness?

This was one of those ideas that seemed a good one in February, when all I needed to do was watch a few videos on YouTube and send in a few hundred dollars deposit. But now that the day is nearing – the day where I send the teen across the country to spend three and a half weeks in the wilderness – (with strangers!) – I’m feeling (how would you say it?) a little high strung.

I call Holly nearly every day and I have for the past two weeks. I talk to her about little things (Can I send him with 24 oz. water bottles instead of 32 oz. ones?) and big things (So, exactly how many kids with asthma have actually been able to summit that 14,000 foot mountain of yours?). One hundred percent of the time, I hang up the phone feeling better.

Today, I called Holly three times. Once from the camping goods store and then twice from home. I ask her whether there are any other parents who call as much as I do and I think she says yes, but she’s giggling when she says it so it’s hard to be sure.

This trip is costing a small fortune, despite the fact that we got good rates on the flights and despite, also, that they provide the tents, sleeping bags, sleeping mats and backpacks. Nevertheless, I find myself running out every day, dropping another hundred dollars on some sort of gear or equipment that will probably never be used again.

Altogether, it’s probably just slightly more than I spend on therapy for the year. And I have to say, my conversations with Holly are quicker, more to the point, and rarely have anything to do with my mother. They’re just easier, you know? Which is why I’ve pretty much stopped therapy entirely, for now, and have just taken up with Holly.

It’s not like I’m going to talk about anything different in therapy than I do with Holly. I can ask Holly about whether they really need gaiters, and what exactly should be in their toiletries bag. And she’ll give me good, solid answers. Even though we both know that what I’m really asking behind each and every inquiry is that one single question that I would be bandying about for countless weeks with my Upper West Side shrink: Are you sure – I mean, are you really, really sure – that my baby is going to end up safe?