On the Third Day We Rise Again

 

It’s amazing what a good night’s sleep and the season’s first snowfall can do. Three days into our new house adventure and there might have even been some jazz-handing to Winter Wonderland down the stairs this morning.

This a dramatic improvement from the first night when I woke at some ungodly hour to the realization that my fingers were so swollen and so painful I couldn’t even close my hand and readjusting the pillows was definite cause for howling.

They’re still swollen, but I guess if spontaneous jazz hand sessions are breaking out all over the place they’re probably—as the doctors in costume dramas are always saying—out of danger.

The project list is still pretty long, but thanks to the phenomenal energy of my friend Jenn, most of the furniture in the living/dining area is in place, there are books on the shelves, and the kitchen is unpacked (if not painted). It’s really just a matter of picking things randomly off the list—I have Christmas decorations on the table but we have no waste paper basket for the bathroom; I have scented candles burning in the kitchen but there’s still painter’s tape around the living room window.

It’s a work in progress.

Oh, and we don’t have the cabinet doors on yet in the kitchen.

But we do have a fridge and stove now, so there are perhaps more entries in the victory column than the one dedicated to defeat. That’s always a good thing.

Also a good thing: While I did manage to set fire to our kitchen, I didn’t do any permanent damage.

That was Saturday, the day before the move.

I was spending the day painting trim in the master bedroom and dining room (I LOVE our trim—this gooey white, marshmallow cream color), handily being at the house during the window when Sears was supposed to deliver our new kitchen appliances. Which they eventually did, and we chatted about Modern Warfare while they hooked things up and peeled off stickers and told me that the fridge needed 24 hours before it would reach ideal fridge temperatures and the stove needed to be set at 350 for 5 minutes followed by a 5 minute broil session to burn off something or other (so you might want to open the windows; it’ll probably smell badish) before it was good to go.

Easy enough.

I saw them out, flipped the oven to 350 and went back upstairs to paint. It definitely didn’t smell good when I came back down and switched it to broil, but I figured that was normal, so I went back upstairs to paint.

And then the smoke alarm went off, so I wrenched it out of it’s socket  (I hate alarms of all varieties) and went downstairs to see that the oven had caught fire inside. Closer, panicky inspection revealed that there was a BOOKLET in the oven and it was very much on fire.

Now the question was: to let it burn out in the oven (limited oxygen supply) or try to extract it from the oven and get it to the sink (less chance of damage to the oven). It didn’t look too crazy in there yet, so I opened the oven and realized that I didn’t have oven mitts or anything like that… two pliers were the best I could do, so I start trying to slide the oven rack out with pliers, but at the first jostle the book slid off the back and landed in an ashy, blazing heap in the bottom of the oven.

Well, this was even worse. Now the fire was directly touching the oven finish.

A hammer and long-handled screwdriver were my other options, and I started to transport the book to the sink where I could get some water on it. Unfortunately, the book was mostly ash at this point and slipped easily out of the hammer/screwdriver grasp to drop to the floor. Still burning, of course, with a swirl of gray ash now drifting around the kitchen.

Third time was the charm. I finally had the fire contained to the sink, where I gave it a thorough dousing, and began to check the floor for permanent burn marks (none!) and the oven for other damage. You know that gleamy, new oven glow? Me neither. Our oven went straight from showroom beauty to battle-scarred veteran, it’s fancy pants monitor thing blinking F10 in soundless, endless agony.

Failure 10.

I tried hitting the off button. I tried resetting the heat. I tried resetting the clock. Nope. F10 apparently means a complete shut down, and I totally would’ve checked the manual but that was now a heap of sodden ashes in the bottom of my sink.

So…. that was out.

I called Carl. “The Sears delivery people tried to kill me,” I said, mostly because it sounded better than I accidentally broiled the owner’s manual until it caught fire. Should I have checked the oven before turning it on? Sure. Yes. Should oven delivery people hand you one packet of warranty information and then leave the actual manual hiding out inside the oven? No. Definitely not.

The next day during the move, my brother-in-law came downstairs to say the toilet wasn’t flushing properly and had I maybe accidentally flushed the owner’s manual down it earlier?

Ha ha.

It’ll be funny someday, Carl said consolingly, and he was right. It’s funny now, actually. But it wasn’t very funny when the delayed panic hit and I started sobbing in the McDonald’s drive through about an hour after it happened.

I could’ve ruined the oven. I could’ve burned the house down. I could’ve DIED, and then my BABY would’ve DIED too.

You know. Classic stuff.

But I didn’t ruin the oven, and I didn’t burn the house down, and I didn’t die, and Baby J continues to have her sugar induced dance parties every time I eat anything delicious. Life goes on.

And—little known secret—unplugging the stove for five minutes apparently wipes it’s memory, so even the stove has forgotten to be wary of me and very trustingly allowed me to make rice pudding last night without incident.

Life, the house, and my mood are all starting to look up again.

Although, given the hardness of life/my recent brush with death I might perhaps curl up with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for an hour or so before getting back to the grind. There has to be some sort of celebration for making it past the deadline move-in horror. Anyway, house projects ye have always, right?

Right.

Happy Wednesday, everybody!

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Thanksgiving Post: Counting Edition

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!

Carl is still snoozing, but the parade is on and I’m about to make a cup of coffee, so we’ve got this Thanksgiving thing kicking off properly. Every year, I like to make a list, but since I’ve got packing to do I’m keeping it simple this year.

I’m choosing one picture and counting my blessings from there.

Let’s see.

I’m thankful for:

  1. My person! Not only does he hold tables down, he also brings joy, laughter, and peace into every day of my life. And he also contributed some necessary genetic material for our daughter, so he’s definitely top of my list this year.
  2. Warm communities. I had a lot of family before I got married, and I have even more now. And while family members have often been my best friends, it’s equally true that my best friends have become like family. Each one adds happiness, warmth, and/or, um, PERSONALITY to my world. You know who you are.
  3. This picture was snapped after a hard day of painting the new place, so I’m going to go ahead and list THE NEW PLACE as blessing #3.
  4. Food. I am super thankful for Jet’s pizza and all other forms of eatables that have appeared regularly on our table for the last 3.5 years. Being pregnant has only heightened a love for food that is (hopefully) just this side of vicious.
  5. Writerly friends. Joel (for ex) might be my baby brother, but he has an amazing eye for good craftsmanship in writing. And his knowledge of grammar is way out of my league. I don’t have a ton of writerly friends in my life (sadly), but I’m so grateful for the ones I do have.
  6. Good memories and the framed pictures to go with them. If you know me very well, you know I have a lot of bad memories in my life—and I strongly believe the only way to make peace with bad memories is to work through them, something like cold clay that gradually, from the warmth of your hands and the friction of your movements, becomes pliable. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last decade working with the darker memories, but the truth is of course that there are many happy ones rattling around in my brain too. And I’m very grateful for all the opportunities and experiences that have combined into a very rich life for a 29yr old who still isn’t exactly sure what she’s doing.
  7. Help. I’m extraordinarily thankful for all the people who have offered me help over the years in so many different ways. My family and friends have rallied around to help paint and prep our new home, but there are so many little, rarely commented upon offers of help in my world. Friends who talk me through the snarls in my emotional life; my fantastic neighbor who shares her eggs and half cups of sugar when I’ve calculated a recipe wrong; people who engage my thoughts and, wittingly or not, teach me things by disagreeing in a constructive way. I’ve begun to learn that being accepting help and being strong aren’t the opposite ends of the spectrum. Strong people are simply those who have learned to accept help when they need it. Some of us struggle with accepting physical help, others have a harder time accepting emotional or intellectual help. But we all need it. And the amazing thing is how ready most people are to give it.

So there’s my list. And now it’s eleven, an hour at which I feel totally justified in waking up Carl to come beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee with me. Which is exactly how I say it. Poor man. If he’d paid more attention to how I talked to my cats, he would’ve known exactly what he was getting into.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!!! Hope it’s a wonderful one for you and yours.

The reality behind the dream

So basically I’m sick and pregnant, Carl is smack in the middle of his busiest time of year, and we totally thought it was a good idea to buy a fixer upper 9 days before we have to be out of our apartment.

Ha ha.

We are foolish.

Fortunately, we have a lot of amazing family and friends who are chipping in with the painting and cabinet rehanging, and we have an in with a great contractor for the stuff we can’t do (like put in a toilet that works. That’s sort of key), but…

Yeah.

I will not be redoing a house on the cusp of a third trimester again.

Wish I had some pictures to post, though. The study is painted and once Carl rehangs the closet doors, we can scratch that room off the list (kidding. Actually it needs shoe trim around the whole perimeter and one of the window casings is kind of gouged up and needs to be replaced).

The nursery would have been painted, except there are these weird blue dots (like ink) that have bled through 3 coats of primer and paint. So now we need to buy this expensive special primer that’s supposed to keep decomposing old paint dyes from bleeding through.

And I’ll spare you the details on the master bedroom except to say the carpet in there is saturated with the allergens of a thousand cats. We’re using the carpet instead of a drop cloth while we paint in there (after which we can tear it out), but neither Carl nor I can stop sneezing as soon as we set foot in the room.

AGH!

At this rate, we will either have the perfect home or be dead soon. I’m pretty much good with either.

Free Books!

Anybody want some free books? If you live near Plymouth or Grand Rapids… or will be passing through… or want to send me a couple of bucks for shipping… they are yours for the asking.

Here are the titles I’m getting rid of:

1. Nurture Shock by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman. Great book about childrearing. It was indeed shocking. Sadly, you can only be shocked by the same information once.

2. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence. I throw Lawrence books into walls, but you might like them.

3. Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

4 and 5. Cover Her Face and/or The Black Tower by P. D. James. I like a good P. D. James mystery but don’t have the shelf space for all of them.

6. Forgotten God by Francis Chan. This was a book study selection, so there’s some underlining—but it comes with snarky margin scribbles, so there’s that.

7. Crazy Love also by Francis Chan. I thought it was annoying, but again—it might be your favorite book ever. You’ll never know unless you take it and free up some shelf space for me.

8. Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. This book makes me want to punch things.

9. Victory over the Darkness by Neil T. Anderson. Another study book. This one I really liked, although I’m pretty sure there’s at least one “WTH, Anderson” in the margins.

10. His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley. We read it, and our marriage is clearly perfect. I’m not sure the two are correlated, but I thought it was an interesting read.

11. The Pocket Stylist by Kendall Farr. I like to read about being stylish. It’s way more fun than actually doing it.

12. Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell is This? by Marion Meade. Because everyone needs more biographies of random minor American writers from the 20s.

That’s all I’ve got right now, friends. Any takers? You can feel free to email me if you don’t want everyone else to know that you collect style books or are a huge Tatiana de Rosnay fan. Although, admittedly, I would probably buy a book just for her name. It’s kind of fun to say.

Dear World

 Please stop airbrushing the identifying features out of people’s faces. You make even your most loyal customers feel squinty and doubtful. I seriously had to read all the accompanying type in order to figure out who this person was… and I like Amy Adams.

But that’s not Amy Adams. That’s Robo Adams.

A vaguely familiar mashup of models and aspiring country singers.

Also, as a side note, you really don’t want to draw any more attention to your verbage than you have to because I’m pretty sure most forms of sentient life will start laughing as soon as they actually read a headline like, “EAT, DRINK and DON’T GAIN A POUND THIS SEASON!”

Apparently food only comes now in an all or nothing model? Thanks for the heads up.

Sigh.

Rant finished.

Now to curl up and look at all the pretty clothes and pretend I’ll actually be small enough to fit into normal ones next summer after I, like most good cellular life forms, divide.

Thanks.

Ladies and gentlemen, in just TWO DAYS

We will own a house.

It’s getting exciting around here, and our stack of packed boxes is growing. I went through my side of the closet yesterday, through all my shoes and bags and the clutter of two and a half years, throwing stuff out and packing the rest. The stack of guest towels in the bathroom is in a box marked “Upstairs Hall Closet: Bedding and Towels” (because I’m pretty sure caps look more organized), and it makes the bathroom look a little mournful to me.

It’s getting empty.

I’m going to have myself a serious cry fest at some point. Carl was already living here when I met him. We dated here, had Christmas, repainted, came home from our wedding. It’s been a happy place, and you can’t leave a happy place without a little looking back, you know?

Not that the bathos is dampening my excitement.

We close at 4pm on Friday, and then it’s off to pick up paint and supplies. We spent an hour at Home Depot last weekend pouring over color swatches and combinations so we’d be ready for the big days ahead. My fam is coming on Saturday to help paint the upstairs and get rid of the fallen tree in the backyard (which reminds me: I need to call the dumpster people today), and a couple of friends have volunteered to help me out during the rest of the week since Carl’s in the thick of holiday busyness at work these days. So, naturally, I created a huge master list of tasks for each day—not because I think it will work out like that exactly; just because master lists make me happy.

I’m actually really enjoying the being-busy-and-having-projects stage. It helps me to stop counting down the pregnancy weeks (and 40 weeks is freakishly long… longer than any semester or vacation or wedding count I’ve done before). This week I’ve been working ahead on AQ stuff (the nonprofit I work for) since I’ll be taking the rest of the month off; been organizing closets and packing boxes; been trying to get a few days of solid writing behind me.

My energy spools down pretty quickly though. I’m good for a couple of hours (longer if there’s good music playing), and then I become meditative—some might say vegetative—generally on a couch or other piece of furniture conducive to reclining zazen.

I kid. My only zen meditation these days is called sleep.

And I need about 30-60 minutes more of it per night than I used to, which means I like to be in bed around midnight. I’ve always liked having a TV in our bedroom, but these are the days I LOVE it. Because I hate going to bed alone, and Carl isn’t sleepy until long after I’ve conked out.

Now I can snuggle down in my nest of preggy pillows and drift to sleep to the sound of Bear Grylls snacking on bugs and raw lizards while giving detailed instructions on how to skin a dead camel… should you come across one while stranded in the desert, you know.

Yes. I’m not sure how many seasons of Man vs. Wild we’ve gone through now, but I am pretty sure we now have a fighting chance at surviving in any biome.

Sometimes—when the survival advice gets increasingly bizarre—I look over at Carl and grin. Sometimes he reaches over and puts his hand on my belly/our baby to feel those goodnight kicks. And sometimes (thanks, pregnancy congestion!) I snore.

It’s fairly magical around here.

And it’s not even Christmas yet. 🙂

I Harangue in Haste

Sigh.

It’s a media bias day.

I had breakfast to conservative complaints about the liberal bias in the media, then I had a little research period over lunch where I found myself growing increasingly uncomfortable with the conservative bias in my religious news. Being a Christian moderate makes a certain amount of whiplash inevitable.

But that’s ok. It’s what I have instead of roller coasters.

I HATE roller coasters.

Here’s the thing: I keep reading all of these alarmist Christian reports about the lurking dangers of the Arab Spring and how it means terrible things for the persecuted church, and while I am 100% concerned about the persecuted church, there’s something unsettlingly political about the rhetoric that I don’t really appreciate. Some underlying assumption that the only way Christians will be safe in the Middle East is if the West can maintain some sort of controlling role there. That makes me pretty uncomfortable, because [personal theory alert] it seems to me that one of the major reasons Muslims don’t tend to be the biggest fans of Christians is that the West is still loosely synonymous with Christianity. And the West has done a significant number of unawesome things in the Middle East lately.

Although, admittedly, it’s way easier to rely on the Ishmael vs. Isaac theory of poor relations in the Middle East because then we don’t have to take any responsibility. It’s Abraham’s fault!

Clearly.

I’m not saying the problems in the Middle East are all our fault. That’s equally silly. I guess I’m just saying I wish it was easier to be a Christian and be an advocate for the persecuted church without getting funneled automatically into all the fear-mongering about “Muslim states.” I don’t see anywhere in the Bible that says our mission as believers should be to set up Christian governments around the world, but I do see lots of places that teach we should take care of the oppressed. In the Middle East, that might mean Christians. Here in the States, guess what? It might mean Muslims.

I don’t know if this makes it clearer or all a bit murkier, but my basic feeling is this: I want religion in my politics, but I don’t want politics in my religion.

I’m thinking more and more that if we want to be close to God, we should probably spend more time thinking about the things God is as opposed to the things God is not. God does not belong to a political party, so let’s be careful about getting too attached to those identities. God is not gendered, so let’s not waste too much time or teaching on that either. God is not a tribal or national deity, so let’s be wary of getting sucked into “Christian nation” thinking. And, my personal favorite, God neither sins nor ruminates on sin, so maybe it’s time for us all to evaluate what percentage of our spiritual energy is directed at feelings of guilt or judgment.

What would it look like if 90% of our energy was directed at doing good, loving others, and taking care of the commitments God gives us, while only 10% of that energy went to thinking about and dealing with sin?

Or maybe that’s already true for most of you. I don’t know. I never thought about it in terms of percentages before. Will have to keep an eye on myself and see how much emotional energy I expend on things.

Which is approximately 2 blocks from where all this started, but what can I say? Lunch breaks don’t always lead to the most organized of thinking.

Anyway.

Happy Friday, everybody. May all your hatches be battened and your weekends relaxed.