A while back I listed some blog posts I wanted to write, including one about what I was learning helping neuro-atypical adults adapt to college. At the time I had two college freshman. Within a couple of weeks I’ll have zero. Both of my young adults have decided that the best decision for right now is to step back from college and take care of other things first. The thing I’m working to learn is that the more I help, the more their life learning slows down. I have to let them do the hard bits by themselves so they can discover how strong they are. So I don’t think writing up that list about helping is useful to anyone really. I’m actually feeling pretty good about their choices. I can see they’re choosing right for them for right now. I get to focus on my choices and the places where I need to be stretching, trying, and failing.
Month: October 2019
One of the last tasks remaining before we can declare ourselves done with disaster clean up was to replace the carpet in our family room. Only a small portion of the carpet got wet with flood water, but since it is attached to the rest of the carpet, the whole thing had to be replaced. Since the carpet was over twenty years old, it was past time anyway. Here is Milo displaying what needed to be removed.
The first thing we did was remove extra furniture and clutter. Most of it went into the garage with the remaining clutter from Howard’s office, an my office, and the bathroom. The garage will have to be it’s own project later. For now it is a hodge-podge of items shoved together randomly. The biggest challenge was that large sectional sofa. We didn’t want to have to carry it upstairs, so we opted for the “shove things to one side” approach.
Pulling up the carpet was fairly simple. It cut into strips and we made rolls. The padding came up quickly as well, except where it had been glued to the concrete. We took crowbars and hammers to pull up the tack strips around the edges of the room. Then we used scrapers to remove glued on bits of carpet pad. Some of the glue spots scraped away cleanly. Other bits were…goey. But we got it all clear.
That meant it was time to push all the furniture onto the cleared concrete so we could repeat the process on the other side. Callie was quite interested in the re-configured furniture. (She’s wearing a cone because she had a sore on her chin that she kept scratching open.)
It took a full day to pull out all the carpet and scrape the concrete clean. I had help for a few hours in the morning, but the rest of the time it was just me, so the work went slow. In the evening we put the couch back into position so we could watch TV.
The next day I began work laying down the luxury vinyl plank. This is click-and-lock flooring which is very easy to assemble.
After I got the room about half assembled, I notice a couple of problem spots. I went across everything I had done and marked the problems with pink tape flags. One spot wasn’t clicked together properly, another couple had strange lumps underneath them.
But the really nice thing about this type of flooring was I just took it apart, fixed the problems and lay it back down again.
Once side one was complete we were ready to put furniture on it and lay down the other side.
The floor went down in a single day because I had help from two teenagers and another adult. Once it was down and furniture re-positioned, everything looked lovely again.
After the above picture was taken, I still had to replace the trim, but the rest was complete. Honestly, the only complicated bits were around door frames where I had to custom cut pieces by hand to fit around the edges. The first try on this one, I didn’t cut right.
The second time I cut more carefully, and I put the trim piece on the top of the stairs.
We’re very happy with the new look for the room. And as soon as I finish the stairs, I can have the insurance adjuster come inspect and then we’ll get the final insurance payout. Slowly but surely we’re restoring my house to normal again.
I have notes for a blog post on parenting depression with a focus on teenage and newly adult depressed people. Meant to write it up today, instead my dishwasher flooded through the floor into the basement. This required every towel in the house and six buckets to contain the water. Now I have dehumidifiers and fans running in two rooms. Again.
On the up side, we had four functioning adults in the house to rapid manage the flood. Even though my daughter’s fiance was actually supposed to be convalescing on the couch with a head cold. We made him lay back down as soon as the crisis was over.
Also my parents were in town for a visit and we ended up having lunch in my house (instead of meeting at a restaurant) while I talked with the plumber whose error caused the flood (and who will pay for the damage to be repaired) and also the disaster recovery company guy who brought me the fans and will do the repairs. Visiting was squeezed in around signing of contracts and contingency planning. Fortunately my parents already planned to stay at a different house because not only do I not have guest space, I have one of my kids who will have to sleep on the couch for the next five days.
Also I fielded phone calls from my kid who is considering moving back home and shifting his trajectory for the next six months. He needed help possibly applying for a new job and considering his options. My plan had been to invite him to stay home over the weekend and do a test run of living at home, only now his bed has buckets on it catching dripping water. So if he wants to come home, he’ll join his brother in sleeping on a couch.
Also I took my one of my college freshman to find out how to do a medical withdrawal from courses because they haven’t been able to make themselves go to class for about three weeks now. Depression, anxiety, and OCD can be serious hurdles for getting to class. Grades are no longer salvageable and it is time for us to regroup and figure out what comes next. (The answer is likely: take a gap year while they get a handle on self care and basic adulting.)
Tomorrow I have to get up, put on professional clothes and spend the day at a conference giving a presentation. Fortunately it is a presentation I’ve given many times before, so I can use my existing notes.
So that is how I spent my Mental Health Awareness day.
One of the hugely important and joyful things of this past spring and summer was watching my daughter and her boyfriend grow close and figure out how they wanted to be together. There were ups and downs. Days where they cried (and I cried) and days where they spilled joy through the house. I couldn’t talk much about any of it because their story doesn’t belong to me. Now they’ve reached the point where they are making announcements and I can be happy for them out loud. Here is what they posted on social media last week:
I feel happy whenever I look at it. He fits so well into our family and even better with my daughter. They will take care of each other and balance each other for years to come. Now I’ve added “help plan and finance a wedding” into my tasks for the next few months, but I don’t mind. This is the happiest task on the list.
If you want to support Keliana with this project and her art, she has a patreon.
I was at a party and a young man, to whom I’d been introduced when I arrived, was asking couples to tell the stories of how they met. The inquiry felt unusual to me and I had to pause to figure out why, because I remember when the story of Howard and I meeting was often pulled out and shared on similar occasions. I then realized that this young man was recently married. Stories of how people meet and fall in love was very much on his mind. Also it is one of the most significant shared stories that he and his wife have together. In contrast, Howard and I have been married for twenty-six years. We have so many shared stories they could fill a book. The story of how we met is no longer a defining element of our marriage. The hundreds of shared decisions, crises, joys, and adventures since are far more relevant to who we are now. Howard summed up this idea very well in a tweet:
Was at a party where @SandraTayler and I were asked about how we met. We’ve been married 26 years. How we met has very little to do with how we ARE. It’s a nice story, but a meet-cute is not a rom-com is not an actual life-long romance.
Life-long romance has far more to do with continuing to choose each other and make space for the other person in your life as you change (and they change) in all sorts of unexpected ways. When I try to imagine what story I would tell at a party to encapsulate Howard and I as a couple, I’m a bit at a loss. The story of a newly married couple is short and compact with a clear narrative arc. The story of a long-married couple is more like a series of epic fantasy novels with multiple points of view, lots of random external characters, and a plot that frequently gets lost in side tracks. The story of Howard and Sandra is not easily summarized.
On a separate occasion I met a different young man along with his father. During our conversation the father shared a story surrounding the birth of his son. I could tell that it was a family-defining story which forever changed the shape of all of their lives. As evidenced by the fact that when asked to tell about his family, this is the story the man chose to tell, even twenty-five years after it happened. When the conversation with the father was over, I had a chance to talk with the son. I could tell that he was used to this story being told, and was surprised when I suggested that perhaps at twenty-five he could claim a different story. He didn’t have to be defined by this story of his birth, but could instead bring forth stories of things he had done as an adult. That defining stories of a family could be updated and recast.
As long as we are alive, we are in a process of re-invention. Sometimes it is a massive renovation akin to knocking down walls and completely re-invisioning a room. Other times it is as subtle as putting a new cushion on a couch. Yet even subtle changes accumulate over time, and the stories we tell about who we are have to evolve along with us. The stories we tell about those we love, especially the stories told in public, especially the stories told while the loved ones can hear, those stories have power. The stories we tell make others feel stronger or weaker. They can build people up or push them down. Howard and I frequently tell funny stories on each other. We have a rhythm and a set of performance roles that we use in public for effect and the amusement of others: Howard the goofball and Sandra the responsible. Yet we always check to make sure that we aren’t trapping ourselves in the joke, forgetting that we are larger than the stories we tell at parties. Making sure we remember the other stories, the ones where Sandra is funny and Howard is the hero.
Most of the best stories of us aren’t the kind of stories which are good to tell at a party.
After a summer of offices moved into living spaces, speed installation of drywall and flooring, then returning offices to their original homes, we were all ready to have life be calmer for a while. I decided to halt all house projects until after I returned from the Writing Excuses Workshop and Retreat. I figured that would buy us five weeks of relative calm. The dishwasher vetoed this plan and instead chose to leak underneath hardwood flooring a mere three days before my departure. We had to yank out the machine, turn on fans, and tell the kids they were hand washing dishes while we were gone.
It turned out the dishwasher wasn’t entirely to blame, a leaky valve contributed to the problem. This was discovered by my kids while I was away. They solved the problem with a bucket that they emptied regularly. Upon my return, I summoned the plumber once again, and paid to have plumbing fixed. For those keeping count, the plumber has been to my house for urgent repairs six times in the past five months. Six. I’ve begun to question the whole idea of indoor plumbing.
Here is the buckling on the hardwood floor, that light reflection should be a smooth circle, not broken up like it is reflecting off of waves. Which it is. Because my floor is all wavy now.
We’ll be living with the wavy floor for a while. I’m still trying to pay for the mess downstairs and can’t spend resources to fix a cosmetic problem like this one. The gaps between boards are also water damage.
Replacing the hardwood with vinyl plank was already part of the kitchen remodel plan. All of which is on hold until I finish the repairs downstairs. The last, giant, piece of downstairs repair is that we have to remove all of the carpet from the family room and replace it with vinyl plank.
It is not a small room and we use it every day. Having it torn up is going to be seriously disruptive. Once I start I want to get the job finished inside a week. I think I can, even though I’ll be laying the floor by myself. The adventure begins in earnest later this week.
Post Script: A listing of the six plumber visits.
1. Disposal under kitchen sink failed and was actively leaking under the sink.
2. Dryer died and we decided to do the plumbing adjustment for the secondary sink in our planned kitchen remodel. If we’d known about the coming things, we would have put this off. At the time it felt urgent to get it done while we were moving the dryer anyway.
3. Downstairs toilet was clogged so badly we ended up replacing two toilets and discovering a major issue with the sewer line, ripping out flooring in three rooms, and flood cutting walls in two rooms.
4. Putting back the downstairs toilet and sink once the room was reconstructed.
5. The downstairs shower needed a new cartridge so that it could have hot water as well as cold. This felt urgent because I needed to be sure that the hot water wasn’t leaking inside the wall somewhere.
6. Replacing a valve under the kitchen sink that was dripping water down the dishwasher intake line at the rate of a gallon per day.
Edited to add: As of 10/8/19 we’re now up to seven visits from the plumber. We had him back today to install the new dishwasher when the Home Depot install team completely failed to do their job.