This is for Belinda of Busy Mind Thinking. She has asked friends to post pictures of where they live as if on a travel tour. I’m going to do little something different. I am going to direct her to a series of photos for a kind of home improvement tour. Recently we had our kitchen remodeled. The upheaval started on June 26, 2013, with the cutting off of water to our kitchen and ended on August 21, 2013, with the reconnection of water to our kitchen. I invite Belinda and anyone else who is interested to view the transition of our kitchen from a rather claustrophobic dark space to a space filled with light and air. My pictures are available for viewing at http://www.flickr.com/photos/marieannbailey/sets. This is a public link so you do not have to create a Flickr account in order to view them.
I titled this post “Nearing Equilibrium” because I have felt so out of sorts, so unbalanced the last couple of months. Now that we are able to resume our kitchen routines, I feel myself approaching balance again. When we (finally) decided to remodel our kitchen, we made the decision with excitement and dread. We were excited because once we had settled on a design, we knew we would love the end product and immediately start berating ourselves for not having done it sooner. We also felt dread because, truth be told, my husband and I are “stick-in-the-mud”s. We are very set in our ways. We both have always been like that: not prone to spontaneity, feeling an exaggerated comfort in anticipating the same schedule every week. No surprises for us. So the idea of having to alter our routine for at least two months was, frankly, terrifying.
At first, though, it was fun and very satisfying to see how easy and efficient it was to wash our dishes in my shower with the shower hose. But that got old very soon; in fact, as soon as my lower back started to complain. We tried to make eating out or carrying in fun: hey, we have an excuse now to eat out a few times a week! But even that got tiresome as we felt the extra calories and extra expense pile up. And we couldn’t find things. If we did try to cook at home (which we did try once our cabinets were in and we could use our new microwave and old stove), it always felt like we were on an expedition, tearing through boxes and bags trying to hunt that one saucepan that we always used.
I started to get snippy when people would ask about our kitchen: Are the countertops in yet? Is it done yet? The cabinetry was in by July 6, but the countertops weren’t installed until August 19. That’s a long length of time to be always answering with, “Not yet. Not yet. NOT YET!” Once the countertops were installed, I had to contain my joy. There was still two days before the plumber would come and hook the water back up. I wanted to use my sink. My new deep single bowl sink where I could immerse large objects like the insert from my slow cooker and not get water all over the floor.
Now I consider my husband and I to be very fortunate people. Somehow we have managed to get through our lives without personal crises like being deeply in debt, fearing the loss of our home, or being unintentionally unemployed. It’s not that we haven’t suffered: we have lost loved ones too early and too painfully; I had cancer but was fortunate that it was early stage and resolvable through surgery; and we’ve had to make those emotionally wrenching decisions to euthanize a feline friend, never really wanting to let go.
But on the final day of our kitchen remodel, things could not go perfectly. The plumber came to hook up the water lines, the dishwasher and the garbage disposal. He wasn’t in the house for more than 10 minutes when I heard him say, “We have a problem.” A very quick consultation resulted in one of the cabinet shelves being moved up a notch in order for the pipes to be connected. But that’s not how the problem was presented; instead, the plumber first suggested that he would either have to cut through our new cabinetry or through our wall. Moving the shelf up one notch was his third suggestion. We went back to our respective rooms, our hearts slowly calming down from the near-horror of not having this kitchen done.
By the time the plumber left, nearly two-and-a-half hours later, everything was working except the garbage disposal. The plumber was perplexed since it was hooked up properly. We were stumped (and the horror of this not being done was rising in my chest) until my husband suggested that he needed to reconnect a couple of wires in the attic. So we let the plumber go, confident that we knew what the problem was and that we (my husband, that is) could fix it.
A few hours later, my husband’s idea was not working and he was hot and sticky with insulation from the attic. He was stressed because we did have to have the disposal working. We had gotten a single bowl sink, meaning the only drain was through the disposal. Putting it off was not an option. We went out to lunch.
Good Mediterranean food can help settle the mind, and my husband soon came up with a “work-around.” You should know that whoever originally wired our house did so in such a hodge-podge way that if you turn off the power to the kitchen, you will also be turning off the power to one of our bedrooms. My husband’s work-around meant that we would have to be mindful of when we ran the disposal (ideally, not when we have two or three other appliances running), but it seemed the only way to get the disposal working NOW.
By five o’clock that evening, my husband gave me the thumbs up as we both listened to the soft hum of the disposal as it ground air.
And now we are slowly resuming our old routines that were a couple of decades in the making. We are moving back into our kitchen one meal at a time. We have a lot of stuff and expect and hope that most of what we packed will wind up at a local charity. I’ve been able to create more space in my room by moving things into our new cabinets. As I create space, I feel my mind relax, my anxiety level get lower, and my desire to write return. I’m nearing equilibrium. It’s amazing the difference that space makes.
But is this odd? The experience with my kitchen was enough to sometimes drive me to drink, but it didn’t drive me to write. Has anyone else found themselves in this kind of no-writers-land? Is there anyone out there who is their most creative when their lives are the most stressful?