Month: October 2013

200 Square Feet

200 Square Feet is the size of the room I, the male person, the boy child, and the bulimikitty have lived in these past 3 days. It represents one bedroom, one bathroom, one kitchenette, and one livingroom/kids’ room. It has not been harmonious joy. Surprisingly, not because of the humans.

Look, I’m a little difficult when it comes to large-scale change in my life, and I need a certain sense of order and organization to function; living in a hotel room with other people at any length while trying to have a “normal” day — functioning as mom, functioning as worker-bee, functioning as human — is difficult. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to have a dishwasher again.

No, my issue is with the cat. The cat who meows loudly. Every 10 minutes. From 10pm to 6am. Don’t worry folks, she’s here all week. The last two nights have been a repetitive round of “MEOW! MEOW! MEOW!” followed by harsh, hasty whispers by the male person to “Stop That!”.  Each morning the alarm beckons at 5am and I freely admit, only one of those mornings did I actually get up to work out.

I’ve rediscovered the joys of cooking on an electric range (the old-fashioned sort), as well as having a Real Dishwasher. The past five weeks have consisted of doing dishes in our bathtub. It has caused me to start checking my left wrist again, as for ten years there was a Seiko there that had to be carefully removed before doing dishes by hand in the first, and second, apartments I had whilst wearing it. That was more than ten years ago.

Tomorrow is Halloween, what was once my favorite holiday; on that day I get to go “home” but it still won’t quite be home as I still won’t have things back where they belong. My study and library are full of boxes, the dining room table is in the livingroom. The boy will be at his father’s house, having an Epic Halloween! I’m sure, and we will receive our usual two new people who don’t realize that our street, as busy and uphill as it is, is not as fun or lucrative to Trick-or-Treat on as the one just two blocks up. It’s the same story for Halloween at this house, one I’ve lived in, on and off, for the better part of 26 years. The house is larger than 200 square feet, for which I am newly, appreciatively grateful.

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Little Blessings

I am in a hotel room that is, charitably, 200 square feet. I am in heaven. There is a dishwasher here.

There is a sink!

After four weeks of cooking in my garage, and washing dishes in my tub, the two spaced fifty feet apart, I am in heaven. The loud, mechanical hum of so much soap and water provides a nice soporific as the boychild showers in the only bathroom and the male person is off to gather cookies.

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Larkspur Hotel Bellevue, where our cat can hide under the bed for $10/day and apples are available 24/7. I have just had my first “stove cooking” experience in four weeks and I didn’t waste it: Chicken Cacciatore and Caesar Salad and there are ice cream sandwiches for dessert. Sure, my son and I were on a 2’x2′ table each doing our homework, and there is only one bathroom (I may have mentioned that), but I am far more content now than I have been in weeks previous.

Then again, that *could* be the knowledge that I will soon have real cabinetry and a real sink and a real dishwasher on Friday. It could be the knowledge that ALL of the laundry is done (shower curtains included), folded neatly, and waiting for me in rooms with carefully closed doors against hardwood floor chemicals. Heck, it could be because Halloween is here, and that is my favorite holiday in a year, save Thanksgiving.

Whatever the reason, I am content. I have my fuzzy socks on (courtesy of Ali the Person Who Dragged Me To New York And I Liked It Oh Well), free WiFi, in-room Coffee, and a cookie. The boy is taking a forty-minute-shower (he’s 10) on someone else’s hot water bill, and the cat is blissfully quiet (she did come out … twice… in the last 12 hours). My weekend consisted of homemade biscuits and gravy (thank you for my Bday Kevin and Margles) and I lost two pounds anyways for the week. My back is responding to muscle relaxants.

Too often we are tempted to find the irksome things in our path, or that which annoys us, or the shit that really gets us down (frankly). Perhaps I have drunk the Kool-Aid. But I’m content.

Economics and the Power of Hindsight

I recently found myself on a direct flight, courtesy of Delta, from JFK to Seattle. Having thrown out my back (technically dislocated two rear ribs), and not slept well the night previous, I was tired and cranky as I checked in. For most travelers, checking in means using a kiosk or online app, which in turn peppers you with questions like “do you want to check your bags?” and “do you want to upgrade your seat?” As I had arrived at SeaTac on the way to JFK in pretty much the same state, I made some fiscally dubious choices on the way out, and on the way in. Here you get to learn from my mistake(s).

First, the way out: it was 5:30AM when I got to Airport Road and my flight left at 7am. I did not intend to check my bag, so that was a blessing, but I figured security would be awful (I was proven right). Therefore I opted to park at the airport rather than offsite as per usual, saving me the shuttle ride to and from the airport but costing me (it turns out) about $36 more for this trip. The verdict? Nice, but not worth it. It was nice not having to hassle a shuttle ride, and being able to pay a machine on my way to my car and just drive away, but it wasn’t $36 nice and I would’ve made my flight despite the long security line. I didn’t check my bag and I had already checked in online the night before.

Now, on the way back: it was 4:30AM when I arrived at JFK and had 3 hours to kill. My back was aching and my sleep had been nonexistent, and so I both checked my bag ($25) and upgraded to Comfort Economy (or Delta’s equivalent), for $39. (NB: each time you use the kiosk to do a transaction, you run your card for EACH PART of the transaction and get a receipt for EACH PART of the transaction. Not efficient.) The results on this are mixed: the bag check was totally worth it: for the remaining 2.75 hours I had post-security, I didn’t have to lug around a heavy bag (just a heavy laptop) and it was one less thing to have to manage from seat to coffee shop to seat to other coffee shop (there’s not a lot to do in JFK at 5am). I didn’t have to fight anyone for overhead bin space and could plop right down into my seat. Verdict: worth it.

That said, “Comfort” Economy is a joke. I had a window seat, which should have been a lot more comfortable, but it wasn’t. My knees hit the chair in front of me (I am 5’10” in flats) and the seat appeared as narrow as the “regular” Economy seats. The sole nod to comfort that I could see was that the attached-to-the-seat pillow was slightly plusher and of a lighter color leather. For $39 I wasn’t expecting first class, but an inch or two more of legroom and a nicer chair would be good. Verdict: so very not worth it.

Delta has free-first-bag bag check with certain levels of flight status/mileage membership and/or their credit card. I get a similar deal on United and it’s nice.  The question becomes if I’m willing to pay $25 for the privilege of checking my bag, would I pay the same (or more) for guaranteed overhead compartment space?

40 Hours

In 40 hours in New York, specifically Manhattan, I:

  • lost a favorite sweater, but comforted myself that I had had it for 3 years and probably got my money’s worth
  • ate two fantastic dinners, ate entirely too much, drank entirely too much, did not get hung over
  • tried a new app, Uber, which I was impressed with via friends’ use and then via my own
  • saw a Broadway show (Kinky Boots, which gets an A++)
  • discovered that a NY sommelier can handle clear directions like “pick a Rhone that puts hair on your chest”
  • shared an apartment with four other women (even if only for one night) and we’re still friends
  • messed up my back (again)
  • rode the subway, got carsick in a cab
  • walked through a bit of Central Park
  • had GREAT coffee (Manhattan), had crappy coffee (JFK)
  • saw every human cliché: the skinny socialite, the modern family, the naked cowboy next to the Cookie Monster in Times Square
  • had someone else do my makeup with satisfactory results (including false eyelashes)
  • slept 8 hours
  • rediscovered my friends, realized how much I missed them, and vowed to try harder to see them.

I did not get to partake in everything, courtesy of the back, the need for sleep, and just general timing. What I was there for I enjoyed thoroughly. But I think that has more to do with the company, than with the destination.

Wi-Fi-Less Flight

Because this flight continues on as an international one after we depart JFK*, there will be no Wi-Fi available on this flight.” And with that, my entire plan “A” for keeping occupied for five hours in yet another large metal tube found itself unraveled. No internet. No emails. No progress. This after the Delta website was down over 12 hours yesterday whilst I was trying to check in.

Instead I completed two chapters of Pre-Calculus homework (yes, ambling a long that Econ route slowly but surely) and discovered that I self-teach a lot better than having someone talk at me.  I “sent” a couple of emails based on what had been saved in my inbox. But the frustration lingers, today was supposed to be An Important Day at Work and if everything goes smoothly I should be able to blog about New Awesomeness. Somehow knowing that New Awesomeness is out there but I can’t get email statuses on it makes me unhappy.

I will give Delta this, they’ve recently updated their safety video and for anyone who has either a sharp eye or flies way-too-much, you’ll notice that the pretty redhead who over-emphasized how “Smoking is NOT allowed on ANY Delta flight” from a couple of years back, is now the pretty redhead who shakes her finger at the “example smoker” in the scenario (while another pretty lady emphasizes how “Smoking is NOT allowed on ANY Delta flight”). The rest of the video is chock-a-block full of other visual tongue-in-cheek. Examples: a person using a typewriter instead of a laptop, the guy smoking was dressed as Sherlock Holmes, grandma had a full boom box that she had to put away (because the card shows you can’t use radio on the plane, and the graphic is, you guessed it, a boom box).  It’s nice to see a sense of humor brought into what is usually otherwise an incredibly dull five to ten minutes in which we yet again learn we must know where the nearest exit is, that our seat cushions are flotation devices, that the air bag will not inflate but don’t worry, and that the seatbelt on a plane is apparently so detailed a contraption that we need to not only have verbal cues but visual, slow-motion ones as well.

Apparently in awareness of breast cancer month, we had the opportunity to purchase a pink martini, for $7. Here’s the interesting bit: Delta is “cashless cabin”, EXCEPT for purchase of the pink martini. So please riddle me that, as my seatmate had to re-dig-out her wallet to provide a card for her breakfast, because the flight attendant couldn’t take cash. Then 90 minutes later he could if she wanted a pink martini. The economics and policies remain inconsistent and odd.  Given the adage that “the way to make a little money in the airline industry is to sink a lot of money into it”; you’d think they’d be up for all that traffic would bear. I suppose it’s a trade-off against the incremental sales they would make by people who prefer to transact in cash when possible vs. the time it takes for a flight attendant to make change if necessary, and track the cash itself. (NB: if you purchase with a credit card in the cashless cabin your only option for a receipt is to have it emailed to you – which requires the attendant hand you a machine, you type your email in, and you hand it back.)   So I’m not entirely sure what is “gained” here. I do know that I was offered a seat upgrade for $50 on what was then a full flight, that a checked bag would have cost me another $20 or $50 (I can’t remember), and that I’m still surprised they don’t charge for the overhead compartment.  (Mark my word, that is coming).

We’re about an hour from landing and I don’t want to watch one of the movies, I might bust out the PreCalc book again, and I wish I had brought my knitting. I am also going to regret having told work not to worry, that I would have connectivity for most of the trip. The fact of the matter is Sur La Table (like Expedia) will do just fine without me, but I’m not sure how well I will do without it.

 

 

*Hey, I don’t work for a travel company anymore! Why am I flying to New York? Great question. There are seven women of variant age (all within about 5 years of mine) gaggling, giggling, and galloping through New York as I type this; I will join them in about three hours. Then I will spend the next 40 hours doing All Kinds of New York Things, mostly including food and entertainment. I needn’t mention the scale has been particularly sassy of late, so this weekend is going to be an exercise in portion control. Good luck with that.

 

Entropy

For a dyed-in-the-wool control freak, the absolute worst thing you can do to them is to introduce mass chaos into their environment for which there is no solution but time. Welcome to my kitchen remodel.

The notion of this remodel has been some time coming, and after much deliberation and fiscal jiggling we signed papers in July with a contracting company. A dear friend warned me that contractors never, ever, ever come in on time and on budget, and so far we are finding that pretty much true. While the budget creeps are of our own choosing (Let’s do this light over that light! This countertop over that countertop!) the time overruns are not. My cabinets are in Canada somewhere and there they will stay until December, so we’re going with an alternate vendor. The cabinets being stuck meant the countertop can’t get cut according to schedule. The drywall guy has come and gone but can’t finish until the cabinets are in, and the floor finish can’t be sped-up. And so we wait for cabinets.

Meanwhile, seven large boxes of kitchen gear, and two sets of curtains and assorted wall decor, are stacked in the small available space of the study. Another box, a kitchen aid, and stacks of cookbooks impede on the library. Pots, pans, glassware, an end table, a wine rack, and a stack of coats take up the spare space in the bedroom. Dishes are done in a large blue plastic tub in my son’s bathtub. My current kitchen is the male person’s workbench plus a fridge, in the garage.

After I got over my initial meltdown (yes, I had one, get over it) I tried to look at it for the charm. It’s kind of like camping but with electricity, right? I get to really test my recipe mettle. At least it’s not the dead of winter and the garage is a comfortable 60 degrees. The boys can play radio control cars on the unfinished floors. Above all, this chaos forces us to be more organized , more cognizant of where we put things and how we use them.

Yet the change keeps coming. In my head I had a due date of 11/4 — on that date, I had a kitchen again. I had a dining room. My study and library would be cleared and I could get to my sewing machine. Then came the news that after you get your floors finished you must wait 30 days before putting furniture on it.  And so now I’m hopeful that by my son’s birthday we have furniture in place.

Which is not to say that there hasn’t been a bit of change in other areas as well. A recent re-org at work, while ostensibly relatively minor, puts into question overall vision and goals which of course trickles down to those of us “unaffected”. As the holiday season approaches I am reminded as well of all of the dire warnings from friends who had worked in the Retail sector before. At Expedia, things are relatively slow business-wise in November and December, the time is used to plan for the new year. At Sur La Table, the push and craziness starts mid-September and I’ve heard it ends sometime around January.

Layer The Rest Of Life onto this and I’m looking forward to a potential power outage or some other unseen force that will allow us all to take a little break.

AFTER I have my kitchen back.

Tough (-ish) and Clean (-esque)

Today I went to the gym for three hours.

About three months ago a bunch of (well, call it four plus me plus some outside) people from work decided we should Do Tough Mudder. To which my response was “I’ve just posted how I’m not signing up for any large events, so really? You’re asking? Really? Okay.” And so I signed on. I proudly told this to my trainer, with whom I meet pretty much weekly, and tasked him with getting me ready.

For three months I met faithfully with David (trainer), each Wednesday cursing things like burpees and pull-ups and push-ups and other things whose Official Names I do not know but that doesn’t prevent me from dearly disliking. And about a month before Tough Mudder, we lost a team member.  A week later, we lost a second. A week after that, a third. And then there were four.

Four is not a big team, and four may-or-may-not have been successful in getting us over hills and walls and so forth. Add that to the fact that I was now the only female on the team, and certainly the slowest runner (hello, 10 minute mile!), I was uncomfortable. So I decided to see if I could pad the team. I checked in with my gym, and found someone willing.

Except he was signed up for the Saturday, and I couldn’t do the Saturday (hey, I was snack mom for the soccer game! Priorities!). OK, fine, I put an ad in Craigslist.

Now, I like reading Craigslist for entertainment, and have used it to sell many things, but not really to do something social. I got one response. It detailed the length of some male person’s phallus and an invitation to ride it. I did not respond.

On the Wednesday before my original Tough Mudder–which I have now bumped off to next year — I devised a plan with David. I would chart the obstacles and the runs, and create gym-equivalents. Running is fine (treadmill), but how many pull-ups do you figure equates getting over an 8′ high wall (somewhat assisted — say a push up or a pull up from a team member)? David figured 3 sets of 10. How do you replace swimming? David figured you’d use the same muscles as burpees and knee-bend deadlifts with weights, so 2 sets of 10 of those.  To simulate running in mud he added ankle weights. The only thing David did not compensate for was electric shocks (which I was to skip anyway) and an ice bath. On the flip side, instead of the cushy wait times in front of obstacles that my more mud-laden brethren got, I got one (1) three-minute break.

Two hours and 40 minutes later, I had run just over 11 miles (well, I had run about 9 and speed-walked another 2 because the knee was hurting) and done crazy crawling, push-up, pull-up, weight-lift, balancing obstacles throughout the gym.  I left the gym incredibly icky (not muddy) and wondering if an ice bath would have helped.

There’s a few things I can take away from this experience, and yes, a couple more goals:

1.  No, you don’t have to train running-wise as though you’re training for a half-marathon. But I probably should have run something over 3 miles recently.

2. If you do it alone, or in the gym, or both, you don’t get the event-based adrenaline rush.  You trade that for the “comfort” of controlling your environment.

3. I could have done it by myself in the mud. And I probably should have.

4. I’m training as though I WILL be doing it solo next year, because I don’t want to have to do it in the gym again.

Not that I don’t love David. I loooove David (in a totally platonic, he’s like an uncle kinda way). He is awesome and patient and inventive and he doesn’t let me slide. But next time I want him waiting at the end of the route, standing in the mud, with a beer. And I want that extra load of muddy, muddy laundry.