Thursday, March 29, 2012

untether yourself.

I meant to come here to write my fifth "Check Yourself" post, and to jabber about reaching a flow state last week and drawing energy from hours upon hours of manual labor. Buuut that's just not what I'm feeling right now. Because know what happened earlier this week? My therapist and I - we terminated. Like, we're done. After a full year of weekly (for six months) and then every-other-weekly (for six more months) sessions. And this is...not how I expected to feel.

Untethered is the word that keeps coming to mind. I depended on my clockwork appointments to keep me grounded, to keep me from exploding or imploding or whatever else might have happened. Everything would build for days, and then would be released. It was my place to be totally selfish and to seek validation like mad, but from which I would always emerge feeling powerful and hopeful. Hope - that was something that I thought had just vanished, to the point where I actually forgot about it, forgot to notice its absence. Now, a year later, it's my driving force.

Well, and that's the thing. I know, logically, that everything I need to continue my upward trend exists within me and blah blah blah, but I really, really benefitted from regular reflection and guidance with someone else. And maybe it's also that she was fulfilling that "I'm-a-real-grown-up-who's-wiser-than-you" role for me, considering my struggle with accepting adulthood. I don't know...I think I'm just surprised at how this feels like such a loss.

At the same time? There's a reason we both thought it was time to terminate. Since the end of December, things have been...better. And for a couple weeks now, rather than waking up full of dread, the opposite has been happening. Regularly, reliably, and amazingly, I wake up feeling unbidden excitement. As with the dread, sometimes I can pinpoint the source (kitchen reno, sweet after-work plans, fancy March weather), and sometimes it seems to originate from everywhere and nowhere all at once. There's also random, genuine gratitude - and for the craziest shit, like a glimpse certain color combos in corners of my house or a waft of magnolia-scented air. 

I know I go to extremes. I used to pride myself on going to extremes. And I'm just so happy that, these days, the extreme negativity is balanced, or even outweighed, by the extreme and mostly effortless hopefulness. That's why I agreed to the termination, after all.

Here's where my therapist would ask, "So, what changed?" Ha - which reminds me:

"Shit Social Workers Say." Cracks me up every time - I've said it all, it's been said to me. I use it to study for my licensing exam. It counts, right? Um, but anyway....So, what changed?
  • I enjoy the work I do, but I've consciously made things outside of work my priority. The ironic thing is, it makes me better able to be present at work and fully commit to it while I'm there.
  • I've taken up projects (again, outside of work) that have a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end. I mean, for real, it's super hard to be in a profession where the job is never done, especially since I thrive on reflecting on completed tasks. It makes ventures like the closet-office and the bedroom light display that much more satisfying, and I don't have to count on getting my sense of completion from my job.
  • I'm reconnecting with my essential self and creating new personal and professional goals (i.e., hope becomes a sustainable resource when it grows from passion - since passion is a self-fulfilling prophecy, sort of like its counter-force, anxiety).
  • I'm also reconnecting with my creativity, in a million different ways - house projects, this blog, my journal, etc. I'd forgotten how creativity begets creativity, and that awesome feeling you get when a project is just blooming inside of you (um, not a euphemism for pregnancy), and the details and possibilities just start spilling everywhere.
  • After analyzing it intellectually and professionally for almost a decade, I finally understand the connections and differences among thoughts, feelings, and actions. Yeah. Maybe not such a quick study on that one, but better late than never.
  • And, along the same lines, that endless loop of fear and negativity that plays in my mind? I can purposefully, forcefully interrupt it now. 

I think those last two are the parts that I struggle with the most, and for which I required the most support. But I get it now, and I do have strategies and techniques that I can reliably access. Not all the time - no one can all the time - but truly, the vast majority of the time.

Um, and it also helps to know that if I'm really not ready, I can just go back. It's not like she's going anywhere right now. Still right down the street and covered by my insurance. Is it maybe the relationship that I'll miss, more than the regularly scheduled Hour of Self-Indulgence? And am I able now to provide that guidance and support for myself? Eh. We'll see. I know it's typical to feel sad when ending a client-therapist relationship (and no, not the inappropriate kind that I keep reading about in my actual licensing exam study materials)...I just hadn't experienced it from this end before.

Aaaand that's what she said.

Monday, March 26, 2012

work yourself.

I know! I haven't posted in a week. But I have a good excuse. I was busy turning the kitchen from this...

...into this (the still-totally-unfinished-but-in-a-different-way version):

Ignore the weird black gate - that used to separate the other half
of the kitchen from the family room. I took it off months ago.
And there it still sits.

I can't believe the amount of work that's gone into this room...and the amount that still needs to happen. But let's back that ass up and focus on what HAS been done, shall we?

I took advantage of the gorgeous weather this week and played hooky from work for a day and a half. Well, not "played hooky" so much as "was forced by a generous boss to go home and paint," but eh, same diff. Why this week? Priming the cabinets and doors was going to be a stinky affair, and it needed to happen with the windows open (in the case of the cabinets) and outside (in the case of the doors). It was in the 70s and 80s every day this past week - perfect painting temps - and I wasn't sure when we'd get a mild stretch like that again (possibly not until May, omg).

I had a meeting Tuesday morning that got canceled on Monday night, and I took that as a sign to accept my boss's offer to let me stay home to work on the kitchen. I literally couldn't sleep last Monday night in anticipation of starting everything on Tuesday morning. I was up and showered before sunrise (seriously), and I got my to-do list together quickly. I swung by Lowe's (for a couple random tools, crown moulding for the cabinets, and to check out range hoods), the Benjamin Moore paint store (for...paint, duh), and work (to grab some empty boxes for all of our kitchen crap).

Once I returned home, I packed up the contents of the cabinets, removed the last wayward cabinet door (with my new, tinier screwdriver), and got to work.

Tedious, tedious work.

And I loved every second of it. Like, forgot-to-eat loved it. Mmm, flow state...

But it was definitely tedious. I sanded all the doors (18 of them) and cabinet frames, which took for.ev.errr, mostly because of the wood filler I used to smooth out the routed designs and all the cabinet defects (dings, nail holes, gouges). After two rounds of wood filler and sanding, everything was ready to be deglossed.

So. Many. Holes. To fill. (Heh.)
Deglossing was, to put it simply, gross. Basically, it's liquid sander/cleaner, and it helps with kitchen materials because it cuts through the greasy, gunky build-up that accumulates over years of heavy use. I had no idea how disgusting some of our cabinet doors were until I tried deglossing them. Like, embarrassingly dirty. I half-wish I'd gotten a close-up of some of them, and am half-glad I didn't so I wouldn't be compelled to post them on the Interforevernets. Oh, wait. Here's one for you:

Gross drawer and door, complete with mysterious
drips, fades, gouges, routed design, dirt, and gunk.
The deglosser even ALMOST got rid of my favorite part of our kitchen - an upper cabinet door on which the previous owner had inscribed, "Tupperware Only Please." Look really closely and you may glimpse it...

We did not, in fact, use it for Tupperware. SINNERS.

On to the priming. I did it as quickly as possible, since I wanted to get at least one coat of paint on everything before the day was over. (No problem - I was done with priming by late afternoon.) I somehow skipped getting a picture of all the doors laid out in the garage, but here are the cabinets in their primed glory.

The cabinet interiors still needed to be de-gunkified at that point.

The only annoying parts to prime were the two open shelves between the upper cabinets on the right side. So many nooks and crannies, tops and bottoms and sides. Well, there were some other annoying spaces - the stupid undersides of the stupid upper cabinets - but, thankfully, I somehow forgot to prime half of them, which is good because I might not have ever found the motivation to paint, had I primed all of those. 

Finally - the paint! Now, I'm kind of notorious infamous awesome for having no decision-making skills discerning taste when it comes to paint colors, specifically in kitchen.

Aaand it ended up blue. Whatever.
But for some reason, I just kind of...went for it with a shade of white for the cabinets. I knew I wanted to use Benjamin Moore Advance paint, which is supposed to be the shit. It's high-quality, low-VOC, self-leveling paint magic, and word on the 'Net is that it's the perfect durability for kitchen cabinetry. And I saw a picture once, way back in the day, of some cabinets done in BM's White Dove (BM...heh), and I thought it was pretty. On someone else's cabinets. With a different color scheme in their kitchen. Not taking into account the effects of lighting, etc. So, why not buy a gallon of it and spend a week painting the main room of my house with that color? Whatever, I don't understand me, either.


Good news is, I think it looks good. I'm still getting used to the shock of white cabinets, and it looks super weird with our off-white countertops and our stained beige-and-green flooring...so I'm doing my best to just close my eyes and go with it. Worst-case scenario is I have to paint them a different color when it's all said and done. Which would be a sucky scenario, but not the end of the world.

Picture darker countertops and actual doors...can you see it yet?
Because I can't, and it's kind of freaking me out.

Another sucky scenario?

As you can sort of see in this picture, even though I sanded for-freakin'-ever - even used my random orbital sander for a bit, until the sandpaper flew off and would not re-attach and I didn't have a back-up piece (FAIL) - you can still see where the wood filler went in around the old routed design (FAIL AGAIN). Everything was smooth to the touch, but the fancy-pants paint somehow highlights my overzealousness with regards to wood filler. I'm crossing my fingers that the half-round moulding I'm using for a new design masks it, but I'm also pissed because I should have just filled in the corners of the design instead of the whole thing - since the moulding design would have covered the sides of it anyway. Oh, well. Live and learn and cry when you think it's ruined and threaten to just have open shelving from now on.

...Right. So - this week's to-do list:
  • Exchange 30" upper cabinet from the ReStore for a 36" one (for the fridge surround), because I think the 30" one is going to be too disproportionate
  • Donate old 12" base cabinet/find new-to-me 15" base cabinet at ReStore
  • Buy trash cabinet conversion kit
  • Start cutting half-round moulding for the cabinet doors
  • Return nail gun (because - well, THAT'S a funny story for another time)
  • Finish drawer for IKEA dresser hack
  • Call the electrician, who never called me back with a quote (WTF)
  • Call the HVAC guy, since having our fridge in front of the only kitchen vent does, in fact, make our kitchen colder, despite his reassurances that it wouldn't
  • Get new microwave, dish rack (ours is broken beyond repair), and range hood
  • Craigslist the old bathroom light and the kitchen gate
So I worked 14 hours straight on Tuesday, 10 hours straight on Wednesday, 4 hours after work on Thursday, and straight through the days/evenings this weekend. There were a couple times where I wanted to throw things (again...nail gun story) and when my back muscles were screaming at me, and I may have developed a psychosomatic aversion to the new Florence + the Machine album (which played on a loop Tuesday and Wednesday and is now permanently associated with endless, fruitless sanding)...but, guys, this is so much fun. I have cuts all over my hands, bruises on my legs, and paint under my fingernails. I can handle my caulk like a pro. (Yep.) I have a hacking dry cough that's either sawdust irritation in my lungs or seasonal allergies. And - best of all - now I'm at the part where there's less deconstruction (removing doors and hardware, scraping and sanding, ripping down cabinets) and more putting-together (returning cabinet contents, building drawers and cabinetry, attaching moulding and hardware).

J.J. and his dad also bought the wood for the fridge surround and the pantry, and I'm hoping those will be constructed this weekend. I seem to have saved my decision-making crisis for "pantry placement" instead of "paint color," but I'm working through it, if mostly by channeling all my negative energy into sanding. I mean, talk about therapy. This is some of the best mental health work I've ever experienced (no offense to my very talented and patient therapist). Yeah...work it, work it.

Monday, March 19, 2012

check yourself III/IV.

I was a bad girl and never checked in last week, but seriously, I've been a very, very good girl overall with my physical and mental health goals. That might all be heading downhill, what with my kitchen growing increasingly non-functional - and with me pushing the limits of my renovation abilities - but...but at least the last two weeks were quality.

I've been taking mad advantage of the warm weather and have gone for two runs and some walks. It turns out the more I exercise, the easier it is to motivate myself to exercise. It's like, when my ass was on the couch for two straight months, the idea of moving my muscles for anything more than chewing candy was totally overwhelming. But I think I broke through that barrier; now, I find myself looking for ways to exercise throughout the week. I even (get this) did an Insanity video on Saturday! I also played football and Frisbee that same night, which probably pushed me over the edge - I'm still totally sore today. But I did it! Who knows if it will continue beyond this exercise challenge, but for now, I have check marks next to all five weeks (which for me means I'm logging at least 10 minutes of exercise per day and at least 30 minutes on three out of seven days per week). And no, I didn't count the minutes of running through downtown Ann Arbor on Thursday for the safety of Jolly Pumpkin as tornado sirens wailed and hail pelted me. And yes, one of my runs was to the drugstore to purchase Cadbury Eggs, but whatever! A run is a run.

Goals over this next week? Another Insanity video and another run, at minimum. It's fun to keep adding new things, but I'm not sure what else to add. Maybe the dance video Yanna had mentioned? And I haven't busted out my Wii Fit or Dance Dance Revolution at all...

Okay, first things first: I had two harsh weeks in a row at work. One was harsh because my boss was out of town, and, as fate would have it, things just went batshit crazy while she was gone. Being second in command, it was on me to un-crazify things, and I did. Everything. All the things. That might not seem like a big deal - after all, that's my job, and I deal with most of that stuff regularly anyway, but truly, it was like the seven circles of hell descended upon my workplace. Pretty much anything that could go wrong, did. It was bad.

Not helping the situation was the fact that I had a training to put together, one that I'd be facilitating four separate times over the following week (i.e., last week). Sometime in the last six years, I developed a seemingly intractable fear of presenting. Don't ask me where it came from - I was in theater and Forensics in high school, and I thrived on giving presentations during undergrad and grad school. Anxiety rears its stupid head, I guess.

So last weekend rolled around. I was feeling pretty good about juggling All The Things, even while I was a bundle of nerves about facilitating the trainings that were scheduled for four out of the five work days last week. And?

A mental breakthrough.

Seriously. Mornings are my worst time for anxiety, and I woke up last Sunday morning unable to concentrate on anything except the trainings - for which I was woefully unprepared, having had zero time to plan them the week before. Now, there are few things I dislike more than a sunny Sunday that's wasted stuck in an anxiety vortex. So I located the source of my anxiety - fear over not being prepared yet - and decided to accept the fear. Even beyond that; I welcomed the fear. It was going to motivate me on Monday to thoroughly prepare for the first training on Tuesday morning. It was going to guarantee that I wouldn't fail, that I wouldn't let people down, that I wouldn't make a fool of myself.

And, wouldn't you know it, once I accepted and welcomed the fear...it left me. Mostly. Like, 95%. It rose occasionally throughout last Sunday, but I just acknowledged it, and it would leave again. Unbelievable.

Then I had an inexplicably crappy end of the week, but the weekend kicked me out of that funk. Three days of a funk - it may have been random, but I'll tell you what, it's way better than a year spent in a funk, or months or weeks. Three days. It's manageable.

But it's all more manageable when I get sleep, so I'm going to do that now.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

better yourself.

Last year proved it to me: Sometimes, things have to get worse before they get better.

Let's hope that holds true for the kitchen.

So, progress. It's happening, but I have to say, this whole remodel seems to have a life of its own. Like, I had a rough plan for how I wanted things to go, but instead, things seem out of my control. They're dependent on the weather, my mood, and which random family member has the misfortune of stopping by and lending his or her expertise. Today, it was J.J.'s dad. And thank goodness for that; otherwise, it was doomed to be another weekend of aborted missions.

All J.J. asked for for his birthday (besides an iPhone and a Bamboo tablet for his art) was NOT to work on the kitchen. You'd think I regularly enslave him (heh) and force him to renovate against his will, but -- oh. Okay, so maybe I do that, but yesterday I was really good and only solicited him for a few minutes of help. I figured we'd be able to remove this cabinet easily:

The corner cabinet is crazy-making in its wild inefficiency. The right-hand side of it is fine, accessible and all, but the left-hand side has an opening that's only about six inches wide (maybe even less). The cabinet itself extends all the way to the wall on the right, but if you ever were to actually place something back there, well...good luck retrieving it, sister. (Unless you're Inspector Gadget. He could totally go-go his gadget hand back in there.) We used it to store spices, four jars wide, all balanced atop one another. And they fell. All the time. See? Crazy-making.

My trip last weekend to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore was made in part to address this issue. I found a suitable corner cabinet there, and although it did NOT fit in my car, I borrowed my brother's car a few days later, and it made its way home.

Having done extensive research read a couple of DIY blogs, I figured all we would have to do to remove the existing cabinet would be...to unscrew it. Well, following the theme of this house, the cabinet was (a) mysteriously sturdy, and (b) nailed, screwed, and stapled in 10,000 hidden spaces. Seriously, all we could visually locate was two screws, but I think there were probably two dozen nails and staples buried in there. So as not to overburden J.J. on his birthday, we gave up pretty quickly once we took out the screws and saw that the cabinet wasn't even a tiny bit wiggly.

But since I can't be in the general vicinity of my kitchen without working on it these days, I compulsively started trying to remove the cabinet doors. I plan to fill in the sexy routed design that currently adorns the doors and add some half-round molding, but this - plus my plans to paint all the cabinets white - requires that the doors not be on the frames. I set to work unscrewing the ancient copper-brass-whatever hinges.

I think I was successful with about a third of the doors.

Partially hidden behind the stepstool is the telltale cabinet door that has
one remaining screw in its hinge. So it's falling. Like about seven others.
The problem was twofold. First, the hinges are almost 50 years old, and they've accumulated half a century's worth of grime (more on that in a moment, with vomit-inducing photographic proof. Don't say I didn't warn you). Second, the screws on the hinges are strangely tiny, which means my (apparently giant) screwdriver just rips them to shreds. We devised an alternative method (yes, we...sorry for kitchening you on your birthday, honey), by which I was able to remove about three-quarters of the screws, but most of the doors had at least one screw that wouldn't budge. And that I stripped. Wonk-wonk.

But! On to the success. Today, J.J.'s dad stopped by. This is a man who builds anything and everything with his own two hands (and his far superior tools), including a zipline in J.J.'s childhood backyard, a play house that matched their actual house, and bunk beds in a closet. (And, hopefully, a fridge surround and pantry for us! Crossing my fingers.) J.J.'s dad had a variety of smaller screwdrivers that got the job done painlessly.

Which is how I gained the privilege of seeing this.

Look in the actual hinge part - that gooey mass to the bottom-right of the top left screw hole and to the left of the (completely stripped) top right screw hole. (Omg, best descriptive description EVER.) That gooey mass is an indistinguishable clump of...well, goo. Kind of hairy goo. It was gross, but not as gross as what I found in another hinge.

Let's play Highlights Magazine and see if you can find What's Wrong With This Picture. 

SEE? Do you see it?? Truth: You will never un-see it. It's a mummified yellow sac spider. In my effin' kitchen cabinet hinge. <shudder> The thing is, spiders don't creep me out too much - but last summer, we started seeing yellow sac spiders in our house, and THAT is unacceptable. My friend Scott was bitten by one once, and it messed his leg UP. Grody. Grody, grody, grody.

Anyway, 150 tiny, spidery screws later, all the hinges were off, and I hauled the doors to the garage and spent two back-hurty hours filling in the routed design with wood filler. But, hey, at least I got to work in the GARAGE, even though it's mid-March in Michigan. Seriously, going back to highs in the 40s is going to be brutal after these last couple weeks.

Oh, and our non-wiggly-even-after-we-took-the-screws-out cabinet?

J.J. and his dad had to take it down piece by piece - the frame, the outer edge, the right-hand cabinet box, etc. They destroyed it (with my blessing), but it's down, and the ReStore corner cabinet is ready to go up in its place (it's just resting on the counter backsplash in the picture above). 

So, yes...definitely progress.

That stuff on the drawer fronts is wood filler...pre-sanded.
I filled in the design, but was too lazy to move/cover the
contents of the cabinets in order to sand them down.
In the kitchen queue this week?
  • Electrician coming on Wednesday for an estimate
  • Sand the drawer fronts
  • Sand/wood fill the cabinet frames
  • Sand the upper cabinet that I bought for the fridge surround
  • Find a range hood already
  • Order a trash cabinet?
  • Maybe work on cleaning up the insides of the cabinets - they have old contact paper/years of grime caked in them
  • Try to sand down the walls/ceiling where things have been removed so I can paint them in the future
  • Purchase de-glosser and paint for the cabinets!!!
Sometimes I start to think about all of the big (and little) things that still need to happen - countertops, building a spice drawer, building the fridge surround and pantry, finding a desk, installing the floor, cleaning, painting, reorganizing - and I get overwhelmed. But, like I said before, the project has taken off on its own, and I guess I just have to go with it.

That said, I for sure had, like, four different freak-out moments in the last few days where I'd look around the kitchen and realize there's no going back. This is in motion, even though it seems to be happening independently of my plan. I feel like this is what pregnancy is like, too. You have a visual of the end product, but the journey to get there is fraught with mistakes and panic and buyer's remorse. And, you know, good things, too: Excitement and hope and dreaming out loud. Things can get crazy - maybe worse - before they get better. With the kitchen, it helps immensely to keep that inspirational end-visual in mind as motivation. No doubt that's a metaphor for about a billion other things in my life right about now, too.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

hate yourself.

The first rule of Cathy?

No being sad when the weather forecast is like this in mid-March:

The bad news is that I can't seem to shake this funk. The good news is that it's only been around for about 36 hours, and that this is the longest funk I've had in a while. But, oh, man - even sitting in my back yard yesterday afternoon, when it was close to 80 degrees with a pristine blue sky (UNHEARD of in Michigan this time of year), and kids were playing in the park and tulips and daffodils were blooming as I watched them - even still...funk.

It's mostly in my belly, under my heart. It feels like a constant squeezing - like I'm being forced to watch an endless loop of the scariest scenes in horror movies. My mind flits around, ferreting out the source of the emotion, but there's no root source, no single event in the past or future 48 hours that would spark such anxiety. I start attributing it to random interactions, start making mountains out of molehills, start letting the anxiety tell me that this moment was bad and this moment was misguided and this moment was my fault, my mistake. In my dreams last night, I searched for the cause; I awoke feeling hateful and dreading - dreading what? Nothing in particular. Just omnipresent, sourceless dread.

I need to get in the shower, go to work. Need to breathe, but I don't want to. I don't want to have to. I don't wanna listen to the awesome playlist I made the other day with my favorite upbeat songs, or my ream of melancholy songs...but I don't want to listen to NPR's spring fundraising drive, either. I certainly can't bear the silence that would be my other option.

Think. Today is: email catch-up, facilitating a training from 9:30-11:30, meeting from 11:30-1, supervision with my interns from 1-2, lunch break, then completing a cost of quality spreadsheet until I go home. These are not bad things; these are not the source of the dread. The source is...simultaneously internal and external, me and not me, controllable and out of control.

Maybe tomorrow will be a "suck the marrow" kind of day, but today? Today is a "suck it up" kind of day.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

give yourself a break.

Today's an annoying day of aborted projects. I guess it's only fair after the progress we made on the kitchen yesterday, but it sends me into a major sneaky hate spiral, which should be illegal on such a randomly beautiful March Sunday in Michigan.

So, first for the progress, and then for the hatred.

Since I hailed the kickoff of the kitchen remodel a week and a half ago, I had accomplished...nothing. No online ordering, no furtive measuring while J.J. tried to cook, hardly even a new Pin on my bitchin' kitchens board. I knew the next steps that needed to be taken - remove the copper backsplash, remove the upper cabinetry molding, call the electrician, scout out replacement cabinets - but ughhh, it seemed like so much work in comparison to watching 17 consecutive episodes of "Friends" while hoovering jellybeans into my gullet.

Then, yesterday, inspiration arrived in the form of my baby brother and his adorable baby girl. (To clarify, Baby Brother is 27. Not actually a baby with a baby. Though, think of the TLC show we could have...) While my niece indulged in an afternoon nap, I hovered around the kitchen, hoping my brother would get the familiar glint in his eyes - the one that betrays our genetic tendency towards ruining all downtime with masochistic projects. (Something about idle hands alleviating anxiety disorder...or something...)

After approximately 73 seconds of relaxation, success! Baby Brother asked what the next step was in the kitchen project, and I dragged my eyeballs toward the copper backsplash, emitting a moody sigh and flicking my hand around aimlessly. "The backsplash, I guess," I said. "I just don't even know where to start!" If I owned a chaise lounge, that would have been the perfect time to throw myself upon it. Instead, I leaned against the bare blue wall where the desk used to be (and where there are now five holes from when I tried to install a floating shelf...too flimsy; I returned it, but the scars remain).

"Well, let's see what we can do," he replied. OKAY.

Well, we not only tackled the backsplash, but we also took down the (under-functioning-because-the-filters-obviously-hadn't-been-cleaned-since-before-the-Reagan-era) range hood, leaving that little area looking like this:

Yeah, I know. It's definitely in the "going to get worse before it gets better" stage, but at least now the electrician can come and do his/her part. The backsplash actually came down more easily than I had predicted - we just had to wiggle putty knives behind it, and down it came, tile by tile. Dismantling the range hood was just a matter of opening up the (WARNING: Official Term Alert) filter-box-thingies, unwrapping the wires, and unscrewing the hood from the upper cabinet. Hoping to put both the "pristine copper subway tile backsplash" and the "retro 36-inch range hood" on Craigslist!

My brother soon left, taking his squeezily adorable offspring with him, but I was on a roll. I decided now was the time to remove the solitary base cabinet to the left of the range in the pictures above. We got the countertop off quickly, but could NOT figure out how the damn thing was attached to the wall/floor. While J.J. examined the toe kick for clues, I made the grave error of exploring the filler piece.

See that innocent-looking filler section on the right?
OH HAI, bird's-eye view. This is where all the world's spiders originate.

So, yeah, I was kinda grossed out at this point, thinking of the spider orgies that had been raging RIGHT BETWEEN WHERE I STORE MY MUFFIN TINS AND WHERE I BAKE LASAGNA. But the quicker we could figure out how to dislodge the cabinet, the quicker we could haul Spiderville outside.

That's when I made another grave error (tally for this post: two). I thought if we removed the filler piece, maybe we could access part of the toe kick that would clue us in as to how it was attached. So, off came the filler piece.

That's when we found something far, far worse than Spiderville.

That gray-brown mass scattered along the subfloor?

OMG IT'S EFFING SUNFLOWER SEED SHELLS. Hundreds of them, dating back to - when? Forty years ago? Or last Wednesday?! THERE IS NO WAY OF KNOWING. Let me gauge for you the level of my need ever, ever, EVER to have seen these seed carcasses: LESS THAN NEGATIVE ZERO HUNDRED. My imagination is still running wild with thoughts of mice (or worse: squirrels) burrowing in that cozy little filler nook. Gawd.

After I performed a not-at-all-embarrassing scream-hop around the kitchen and rinsed my eyes out with bleach (KIDDING, dumb ass, do not try at home [side note: must sometime share my Internet-at-home bleach remedy that resulted in calling Poison Control]), I fetched the Shop-Vac for J.J., who heroically hoovered the seed carcasses away. (Tally of usage of the word "hoover" as a verb in this post: two.) There didn't appear to be any...droppings...present, and, with Easter candy as my witness, I pray never to find the cache of droppings that must be somewhere in my abode.

Once I was satisfied that (1) there wasn't an animal currently chilling in the filler nook and (2) the evidence of it having been there was gone, we returned to the mystery of How the Hell Is This Thing Attached?! We tried rocking it, searching for screws and nails, and pointing the flashlight accusingly at where it should have been screwed in.

Then J.J. pulled option #P90X and just lifted it off the floor. Nails and all. DUH BAM.

I scream-hopped around the kitchen again (scream-hop tally for this post: two) while J.J. vacuumed more seed carcasses. But - at least that base cabinet was removed! I'm hoping to replace it with a slightly wider (15" instead of 12") cabinet that comes equipped with a trash can.

Following three hours of hard labor and scream-hopping, we were done, so we retired to the couch for a leisurely dinner and restorative conversation. Or...that's what we TRIED to do. But when you're sitting on our couch, the window across the way reflects the kitchen, and the crown molding on the upper cabinets was taunting me. Buoyed by the success of so much demolition (and not getting attacked by sunflower-seed-loving squirrel zombies from 1969), I got the stepladder, the putty knife, a flat-head screwdriver, and a hammer, and asked J.J. to slice the paint between the soffit and the molding. Then I spent two hours prying off molding. The best part? Taking down the groovy-wavy part over the sink.


I shall not miss you...except for your ability to hide the gaping
hole where a light fixture was removed. A year and half ago.

"Ah, Cathy, I see you're cooking beach towels, cherry
tomatoes, and prenatals for dinner...my favorite!"

So, right - progress yesterday...hatred today. Yesterday = awesome kitchen success. Today? Well, today = EXTREME WONK-WONK. I went to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore for the first time, and let me tell you, my excitement levels were shameful legendary. Like any secondhand store, I had to sift through the junk to find the treasures. But guess who I saw?

That's right - Stinky Pinky and Pink Sink! I donated them to the ReStore a couple weeks ago, and I spotted them frolicking in a rainbow sea of porcelain fixtures. We tipped our hats at one another, and they pointed the way to the cabinetry.

I went in hoping to find three pieces: a 12" H x 36" W wall cabinet to attach to fridge build-in; a 15" W base cabinet to transform into the garbage cabinet; and a corner wall cabinet to replace the nearly-non-functional pair of upper cabinets we currently have in a corner to the left of the sink. Well, I did find a cabinet for the fridge build-in that matches my current cabinetry (complete with hard-to-find-because-they're-so-outdated beveled-edge doors), but it was 30" W instead of 36". I figured it was worth it for the matching doors (and the price tag - $10). And while I did find a number of base cabinets that had been used for garbage bins, they were all caked with mold, sludge, and droppings, so I didn't take one.

The biggest wonk-wonk of the ReStore experience was the corner cabinet. I found one ($30...not sure if the dimensions for it will be right), purchased it, and - it totally doesn't fit in my car. Boo. I need to pick it up before Wednesday, or it goes back out on the floor. (Note to self: magically alter car's door openings tonight.)

A bit deflated, I returned home and thought, "Hey! I'm feeling sort of inexplicably crummy and vaguely hungry! Now is the BEST time to tackle a project that exceeds my skill level!" And so, I started on hacking my IKEA MALM Craigslisted dresser. The plan is to remove the top and build a shallow drawer for spices, which will also build the dresser up to the height of a regular base cabinet so that it looks seamless with the other cabinets.

This is how far I got on that plan before throwing a fit and quitting:

Yep. It's topless now. And that's it. Because I started looking at measurements and wood types and building plans and then my head exploded and I had to clean that up instead. I was annoyed by things not going TOTALLY ABSOLUTELY PERFECTLY at the ReStore, and - more importantly - I was (am) exhausted. This has been, for reasons far and wide, an epically crazy week. Like, it's in my top three of Craziest Work Weeks Ever. And although I'm proud to say that I handled it well - didn't cry in the bathroom once, didn't lose my cool, just buckled down and did what I had to do - I am a wee bit tired. And it caught up with me today.

So, instead of berating myself for starting projects that I didn't finish this weekend, I'm going to give myself a break and concentrate on everything I DID get done. And the fact that some of the next big steps are in the works. I'm going to call the electrician for real this week (haven't done it yet, since the backsplash and range hood had to go first). The electrician will be:

  • installing a new outlet where the wires are hanging out the wall (used to be for the range hood; will now be where the microwave plugs in)
  • installing a new floor outlet for the range, which has been shifted to the left, and closing out the old floor outlet
  • installing a new outlet for the new range hood location (where the fridge used to be)
  • moving an outlet over for the fridge
  • removing the sketchy wiring underneath one of the cabinets
  • giving us an estimate on recessed lights (still not sure about those)
Probably won't be cheap, but it's all necessary for the new layout. I also need to Craigslist the backsplash, the range hood, the old bathroom light fixture (more on that soon), and the old range (at a new price), and I'm going to shop around for a new range hood. That stuff is all fun and within my skill set. Bonus.

First on the list, though? Dinner. And maybe taking the night off.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

check yourself II.

Week 2 of my new physical and mental health goals. How'd it go?

Uhh...well...here's an auditorial interpretation of my efforts this week:

Yeah, so, not my best. I had three goals for Week 2:
  1. Do a new physical activity this week - anything.
  2. Do a new mental activity this week. 
  3. Order the paperback version of The Joy Diet.
One out of three isn't so terrible, right? Because I did do #1, and I did it big-time. First, I went to my old step aerobics class on Saturday morning. I was out of practice, but it was good times. And then, last night, I attended an African dance class with my friend Yanna. It was...unreal. Live drummers, talented dancers, major adrenaline and endorphins, and...me. It was a workout, no doubt. I'm sore from head to toe today, even though I truly don't remember doing anything to exercise, say, my biceps. 

And you know what? I'm gonna go right ahead and count the dance class for #2 as well. I was way, way out of my comfort zone. Par exemple: A major portion of the 90-minute class involves forming two lines and then executing the dance steps I had learned less than 10 minutes earlier. Towards the live drummers. With all the other (super talented muscular intense awesome) dancers watching. YEAH. Yanna...I still am in semi-disbelief that I didn't run away screaming, and that may have only been because then I would have been stuck in Chelsea with no way home, nor did I want to bring shame to my high school kin. 

Some of you who regularly try new, exciting activities (!R, I'm thinking of you, with your acrobat classes and whatnot) might not think this was such a big deal. To that, I can only say, YUH-HUH IT WAS. I looked like a fool 98% of the time (that's 88 minutes, audience members), and my massive ineptitude was reflected in the host of floor-to-ceiling mirrors. I smacked an indoor tree with my hand, and then my foot. It was frightening, awkward, and uncomfortable. (Not unlike the ladybug orgy that's going down around my desk lamp right now...geez, ladies. Let's keep it civil.)

But also? It was invigorating. Empowering. A chance to completely lose myself in the moment, without even having to try. Fun, when all was said and done. And, now that I think about it, definitely a win for Goal #2.

So I didn't do #3, ordering the paperback, but that wasn't the most important one. I did stay on top of my work's exercise program's daily/weekly goals, but my mental health goals pretty much followed the same pattern as the week before - I did one full-out deep breathing session, and the rest were little spurts here and there. Hey, at least I'm remembering to try it when I need to. And I had big mental health success late last week, so I must be doing something right...

Now the challenge will be ramping it up even more, and staying on top of the daily goals. My physical activity goals are good; I may even up my weekly minimum minutes on the exercise program's website. The un-lousy Smarch weather (65 degrees tomorrow!) will help - I'm hoping to actually go for a run, which I don't do if it's less than about 55 degrees.

And, in light of the efforts I did actually make this past week, I'm taking the liberty to change my auditorial depiction to something a little more representative:

I don't know. Interpret at will. I think I'm doing okay after all. This week...I pledge to do one Insanity video, and to get outside tomorrow (while the gettin's good). And, come on, Cathy: How about three ten-minute breathing sessions? Like, it's breathing. It's not African dance.

We'll discuss my (non-) progress on the kitchen reno another time.


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