Nearing Equilibrium

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  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?

32 thoughts on “Nearing Equilibrium

  1. Wow! You have really been busy. No wonder you have been a little more than absent lately. How do you keep up! The new kitchen looks fabulous and you should be proud. What a bright and lovely space to work in now 🙂

    • Thanks, Susan! I do think I’m still in recovery mode. Somehow I’m still finding it difficult to catch/keep up. I love our new kitchen but we still haven’t moved everything back into it. As for blogging and writing, I fear that my only recourse may be to (shudder) get up earlier in the day 😉

    • Thanks for commenting, Melissa. I like how you describe kitchens. I grew up with a kitchen that was large enough for a small table and chairs. It’s where we ate our daily meals (the dining room was reserved for Sunday dinners, guests) and where a lot of family dynamics took place. It was the heart of our home.

  2. Yay! It’s beautiful, Marie…so nice and open now. AND nice sink 🙂
    I went a long time not writing – when I first moved out here and was working at Stanford. Writing and stress don’t mix for me. And it’s amazing how I could actually feel – as you said – the stress leaving my body.

  3. I haven’t done a major remodel – but we dug the basement and lived in it while we built the upstairs of our house – we did it all ourselves so it took forever. I figured if we could survive that, we could survive anything! It was definitely stressful – but the end result was definitely worth it. We ended up with a very low mortgage (which is close to being paid off now) and a beautiful home!

    • Oh, my, doing it yourself! I’m not really a do-it-yourself gal, but the downside is then you have to trust other people to do the job right. We got very lucky with the cabinet installer; he was a perfectionist. And the countertop people were very good, just seemed to take forever to get that.
      That’s great that you’ll have your home paid off soon. We paid ours off a couple of years ago and it’s wonderful! The extra money is great, of course, but so is the whole idea of not having a mortgage. I love not being in debt 😉

  4. Your new kitchen is gorgeous! Congratulations. 🙂 You must be relieved. I remember when my parents had an addition built onto the kitchen and renovated the room from the cabinets down to the floor. It took almost a year because of multiple delays and issues. But in the end, the new kitchen was worth the patience and the wait.

    To answer your question about stress and writing: Not really. I find writing to be a kind of stress reliever; it takes my mind off of whatever’s bothering me at that time. So far, the only thing that sends me to no-writers-land is when I’m sick or when I need or plan to do other things with my free time.

    • Thanks, Sara, for your kind words about my kitchen! We were careful to not do too much remodeling, partly for budget reasons but also because we might move in a few years. But at least for the time being, I have a kitchen that I can actually enjoy cooking in 🙂
      You know, I would usually find writing to be a stress reliever, but maybe the real problem for me was the lack of free time. Time that I would usually spend writing, I was spending on the kitchen. Well, nice to have that behind me now. Thanks for commenting!

      • You’re welcome! And I totally understand the lack-of-time issue. This summer has been a lot busier than I had expected; I’ve had plans or commitments during the free time I’m normally spend writing. So I haven’t made a lot of progress on my WIP. But things will slow down over the few weeks. And now that your kitchen remodel is done, I hope you can quickly regain momentum on your projects. 🙂

  5. I saw this on B’s blog. I love this I felt like I was watching HGTV! This is amazing how you photographer each stage! You should enter this is the Good HouseKeeping contest! It’s amazing and you did a great job! That was not easy but the payout finished project is fabulous! 🙂

  6. Remodelling of any kind in your home is stressful – and certainly gets your routine off of the rails. The completed kitchen is well worth it I am sure.

    • Oh, indeed it is worth it! It’s so wonderful to stand in the kitchen and be able to see straight through to our back yard without having to duck 😉 Thanks for reading and commenting.

  7. Reblogged this on Busy Mind Thinking and commented:
    My friend Marie has the patience of a saint; if you read this post you’ll know why! I am thankful for any and all experiences and pictures you’re allowing me to see as part of your life. These are examples of the love that exists in this world and you’re sharing it all with me. xoxo

  8. What an experience. The first thing that comes to mind is what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, something we can both laugh at in spite of tears. Warm hugs. I love that you opted to do something different. I find beauty in everything Marie, it’s what keeps me sane. It’s being attentive to the little things and appreciating them that carries me. Much love to you!

    • Belinda, what you are going through takes a lot more strength and faith and perseverance than my lowly kitchen remodel 🙂 But it was fun to write this and realize just how retentive I can be in my daily life. The whole remodeling experience actually went very well, but I’m very glad it’s over 😉

  9. I would think stress affects people differently. You’d think – hey I love to write – it is my release but no, do not feel like it. I have not been able to run for the past year. It has always been my source of letting go, relaxing, relieving stress and disappearing but not when my very best friend died at 51, I inherited the responsibility of running his strapped company so it could he sold, my boyfriend dumped me because I lived two hours away and he could not handle it, my son graduated middle school, my older son finished high school and got his first job and left for college, we moved and my cat died. In the middle of it all I could not exercise. My depression kicked in at full force and I actually contemplated the unthinkable. In the middle of it all, I rediscovered my blog and writing – which is not me. I am a physically active person. But writing became my salvation. Go figure.

    Congrats on your kitchen;)

    • Oh, my, you definitely had a lot … no … too much stress at one time! I’m so glad you got through it and have your blog. Do you think you will start running again? I don’t run, but I have so many friends who do run and they run for the same reasons as you did. I’ve known quite a few writers who run also. I once heard Joyce Carol Oates say that she writes or edits while she runs. I hope you can get back into running. Thanks for coming by and commenting 🙂

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