Sunday, January 29, 2017

Day Eighteen: Books and Art

I don't think there's any such thing as "home" without books and art. So after the guys left on Friday night, I hung two paintings and put some books away.

The guys put the last couple of cabinets up but did not get finished. One of the cabinets needed some work by the electrician before it could be put in. Some of the toe kicks aren't done yet. And none of the handles are on.

The freelance plumber had a work emergency, so the fridge stayed in the middle of the floor for most of the weekend.

The next day, I put away nearly everything. It hasn't been three weeks yet. It's amazing how quickly the time goes. No wonder these things can take six weeks!

Day Seventeen: In. Stalled.

Two and a half weeks into my renovation, and everyone arrives when they're supposed to. The cabinet installers come at 8:45, the designer come at 8:45, and everyone understands each other.

Fortunately, I marked all the boxes the night before; it saved an hour of checking stock numbers against the plan. 

The guys take a lot of breaks. They install a cabinet, and then they take a smoke break. They install a cabinet, then take a smoke break. They sit on the deck and chat. But they seem to do good work, so I'm OK with that. 

Thing is: they cut out at 3:00 most days. If they worked eight hours, they wouldn't have to be here for three days. 

Lookin' good, eh?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Day Sixteen: Call a Cab

I woke up at 5:00 thinking about my backsplash: What colors would I use? How fast could I build it? How many pieces would I make? Where could I get the right plates? Did I want to use plates? So after tossing and turning until 5:30, I got up and had some coffee to wait for the delivery of 35+ boxes, most of them large boxes.

The driver arrived at 7:15. He complained for the first 15 minutes: the deck was slippery, there were too many steps, the boxes were too big, he didn't have any help, nobody told him, nobody measured. Ugh. What is it with the complainers? I'm the customer. I'm the one who gets to complain, damn it!

And complain I will. I was terrified that some of the cabinets would have to come out of the boxes and get slid across the floor and rip it. (That didn't happen.) But the mud and grass clods and dogshit did come in on the delivery guy's shoes and the hand truck wheels. I was feeling a little frantic, and as soon as he left, I washed what little of the floor was showing through. (Part of me still trembles with fear that the floor is permanently stained.

While I was squeezing dry the sponge mop, there was a frantic knock at the back door. It was my neighbor, come to tell me that the delivery truck knocked limbs off his and my other neighbor's trees.
[sigh] That's terrible. I feel awful about it. And I don't want to just callously say that shit happens, but if a UPS driver were delivering a package to my house and side-swiped a car, would that be my fault? I didn't force the cabinet guy to come through the alley (I even said he might have to bring a hand truck up the alley and park on the street). But he knew what he was doing. 

When I got to work, I was upset, and I stayed upset all day. 

The cabinets will be installed on Thursday. That means in just over two weeks, I'll have most of a kitchen. All hail the Kitchen Bitcher!

Day Fourteen: We Blue It

I knew this weekend would be tough. We'd hoped to get to the Women's March on Washington, but we woke up too late and wound up turning around at Ft. Meade. But that's OK. We had a nice lunch and joined a local rally of 5,000 people fairly close to home. We still participated. We even donated $40 more to Planned Parenthood. And though we didn't feel the exhilaration we'd have felt from nine hours on our feet in DC, we were able to come home and paint the kitchen ceiling, then wake up Sunday morning and paint the rest of it. 

How is it that a ceiling—already white and being painted a brighter, fresher white, needed a second coat? But it did. So Marty re-rolled it while I started on the walls. 

You should hear us: he bitches; I moan; we both grunt. It was a full day of grunting. We sound like old people trying to get up from the toilet. 

The paint is pretty good. I chose Behr Marquee (primer and paint in one) in Beach something or another, and it covered in a single coat. Actually, the paint is exactly the same value as the previous paint, so there were spots when I was all finished where I didn't realize I hadn't painted there yet.

Good prep made cleanup easy. But by the time I was taking the painter's tape off the floor, my fingers had stopped working. I've been up and down the ladder so much in two days (I cut, Marty rolls), that took three ibuprofen and a whole hydrocodone before bed.

I painted from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. After dinner, I scraped the windows and then pulled up all the drop cloths and the tape, washed brushes, folded drop cloths, and went up to take a shower. I don't know how I washed my hair without being able to lift my arms over my head.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Day Twelve: Floored

I was expecting the flooring guys from 8 to 10 a.m. When they weren't here by 10:05, I called. I was on the phone with the company when they showed up, complaining that someone had spelled my address wrong, and they'd been driving around the city for the past hour.

Things don't get better for those guys when they see the state of the kitchen. The guys who removed the tile didn't remove the lauan plywood underlayment. It was delaminating, which left splinters of wood everywhere. So the phone calls went back and forth, and yes, they had to pull it all up. They ripped it down to the bare wood, which, if it didn't have rotting black felt on it, would've been glorious.

They worked for hours. The first 30 minutes, though, they bitched: "Why didn't they take the floor out?" "I just can't understand why they did this shit, man." "It would've been so easy to take the floor out." Thirty minutes. Over and over and over again.

I wanted to yell at them, though I doubted I'd have been heard over "Livin' on a Prayer." This, not a Trump presidency, is the kind of thing you should be able to "get over" within the first few minutes.

It took them until about 6:00 to finish and get out. And it looks good. There's some weird stuff I wouldn't have done, like matching vinyl shoe molding, which, for some reason, is not around the base of the door trim. I think
when it's all finished, I'll have some things finished right. Till then, I'll have to suck it up. Or get over it.

Toward the end of the day, a friend came over to help us put in a new toilet (not in the kitchen). So much going on in this little house.

Also here: the new ceiling fan.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Day Eleven: Not a Hardship

 This morning, I checked an email to see what time my appliances were coming. I hadn't realized I was supposed to confirm the appointment, but I did, then I went back and read the email, which specified, among other things, that "Threshold and White Glove deliveries do not include flights of stairs besides the first two steps leading to the entrance of your home." The surcharge? Thirty dollars per seven steps. Thank goodness I have an alley, I thought. Otherwise, they'd charge me at least $60 more. 
The next point asked whether I'd measured my doorway to make sure the products will fit through, boxed. Boxed? If the products don't fit through the doors, they will be left. If I won't be home, it's a $75 fee to take it back and another $75 to reschedule. 

The back door would not accommodate a 30-inch stove, but the front door would. I called my brother-in-law, who told me not to panic. 

Next came a note from the electrician telling me that the track lights I want will cost $4,000 additional, while the track lights I don't like as much will be $400 more. I'll suffer with the lesser beauty.

At 10:00 a.m., the truck arrives, with two Russian gentlemen, one who didn't speak much English and the other who was angry with me because of my steep steps. I showed him the alley. His truck wouldn't fit. He could park it at the bottom of the alley, but he chose not to. 

I tied the door open for him and he and his partner prepared the hand truck. I wasn't going to watch, so I worked until the stove came inside. The man threw me shade and complained and breathed heavily. I ignored them until the dishwasher and microwave were both inside, and the Russian whipped out an invoice for me to sign. "Was very hard. Was many steps. Dis was not right." Oy. I went upstairs and returned with an $80 tip, $40 each. He still didn't smile, but he thanked me, as if I'd only done the right thing, not a generous one. 

Oh, the stove is glorious. And so clean. My already-good food is going to taste even better.

* * *

This isn't a hardship. I know it's not even been two full weeks yet, but all we've had to do is fill the dogs' water bowl upstairs now and then and wash like three dishes in the basement every day. It's not a big deal. One of the worst things thus far is that our microwave was connected by extension cord, and we could tell by its reduced power that something was wrong. Then we could tell when we burned up an entire power strip. We replaced that with a new power strip, and we burned up a plug. Oops.

But at 8:00, my husband announced that he was going to bed because there was nowhere for him to sit. I stopped him at the bottom of the stairs and slid the dishwasher across the floor. Then I pushed the stove. I was able to clear enough space for him to take the recliner and for me to take the sofa. Chance was on his bed, Jett was on the floor, and we had an unobstructed view of Mozart in the Jungle. 

Tomorrow, the kitchen gets a floor.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Day Ten: Plastered

It's been ten days since the first floor tile was popped up, the shot of the starting pistol that began this race to be the fastest, best kitchen renovator in the business.

It's only been a week and not such a difficult one at that. So far, the most serious argument we've had was over the vegetarian chili that Marty brought home on Monday and that took me until Wednesday to eat. (It was good.) But there's time.

The plaster guys arrived on time (!) at 7:00 this morning. I let them in and went to work. When I returned at 11:35 a.m., they were eating McDonald's on overturned buckets. I apologized for not leaving them chairs. Within about an hour, all the plaster work was done, with a bit of sanding left for me to do tomorrow night, before the floor goes in.

The appliances are scheduled to arrive tomorrow, which will be a small headache, as I accepted delivery of a large special gift, which arrived in two large pieces, for my husband, a prince of a guy. More on that when it's installed for his royal hiney on Friday (I don't want to flush out the surprise!).

This evening, I got word that the cabinets will have to come a day early, as they need to acclimate to our room for two days before being installed. I guess it's natural.

By the 12th day, the floor will be in. By the 14th, the room should be painted. By the 16th day, the cabinets will be here, and by the 19th day, the cabinets will be in. All that's left will be the countertop and hooking up the appliances.

Having a usable kitchen is the finish line, not having a completed backsplash or the track lighting installed. But as I look at this timeline, I realize that we'll be heading into a full month before having a countertop. Sounds like a job for: KITCHEN BITCHER!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Kitchen Bitcher

It's Tuesday again. We've been without a kitchen sink since last Wednesday, and it's not been a huge hassle. Marty went to his mother's over the weekend and made a bunch of stew and chili (meatless for me, though it's a bad time to have given up meat, especially since I devoured a box of low-fat Wheat Thins in two days by myself. Can you say Wheat Fats?).

I'd hoped to have the floor installed tomorrow afternoon, but the order's not in yet due to a delay in the molding. It's due in Thursday, so I'm offered any day next week for installation. I also have to sign a new change order to account for the extra $75 I'll spend to have them move the refrigerator a few inches into its cubby after the floor is installed behind it. (The other choice is taking the doors off to move it into the dining room, then putting the doors on so we can use the fridge, then taking the doors off to move it back, then putting the doors back on. Isn't it worth $75?)

At the same time I learn that the floor can't go in until next week, I hear from the appliance company, who will be delivering a stove, a dishwasher, and a microwave on Thursday. I also hear from the cabinet company, who will deliver 18 cabinets on Wednesday. That's tomorrow. Where will all these things go? ACK!

I call the floor company and beg them to install on Friday. And for some reason, it's still "a pleasure working with you, Mrs. Miller." Next, I text the wall plasterer and beg him to come on Wednesday. I beg the cabinet hangers to come do the upper cabinets on Thursday. That should cut down on some of the traffic, right? Right?

After a brief unpleasant discussion with my husband, who wants to know where in hell I think we'll be able to put the path from the steps to the kitchen, through mountains of boxes, I dash off a quick note to the kitchen designer to see if the cabinets can wait till next week. I never thought I'd postpone anything.

From the start, it was my ultimate goal not only to get the kitchen of my dreams but to get it in record time. I'm looking to beat six weeks, start to finish. By the end of week two, I'll have a floor and smooth walls (and maybe some paint).

If this works, I'll hire myself out as a kitchen bitcher.

Nothing Happens on the Weekend

It's the weekend—and a long one at that. And nothing happens on the weekend. So I decide I'll paint. I set up and pick a starting point, but there's no wall that's ready. They all need sanding and more spackle and smoothing. I'm sneezing anyway. I'm a doer, so I continue looking for stuff I can putter with. I paint a stripe of the new color on the back wall. Ack! It's the exact value of the previous color but a tad bluer. I don't mind it, but it's not exactly it. Maybe once the whole room is painted? I go back to bed.

On Sunday, I paint the back door with the semi-glass version of the same paint. Ack! It's baby blue. No, no, no.

Marty and I discuss the color on Monday. He points to a pale orange shade in the dining room table and tells me that's the color he picks. If I'm buying new paint, it's his choice. Peach? Peach?!?! What decade is this, anyway?!

If it's a choice between beach and peach, it's beach all the way.

You might wonder why I bought all my paint before testing different colors in the room. Well, I guess the answer is: I'm not new. I've been painting—personally and professionally—for about 30 years. I've had more than 60 paint colors in five different homes. I've had eight—count 'em, eight!—paint colors in the same living room. (Yes, it looked like Fruit Stripe gum.) (That room is now Ralph Lauren Suede in brown, and believe me: the complaints have been pouring in since the first day.

[to be continued]

Day Four: Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th is good luck—unless you have triskaidekaphobia. Fortunately, I don't have it.

In the morning, I get a visit from the cabinet designer, who came to check a measurement. He sees what happened and asks about the joists. He knows a little, he says. And so he goes to the basement, pushes aside the fiberglass drop ceiling panel, and touches the joist just under where the refrigerator was. It's dry. There's a large cra
ck and a little bit of white powder that could be some mold, but it's minor, and the joist is in great shape. He scratches it with a knife and is pretty confident.

The Landers guy comes back with my parts. He fixes the fridge and takes lots of pictures. He holds up the cracked pan while I take pictures.

I have a phone meeting and drive to work for an in-person meeting. All is fine, and I was worried for nothing.

On the drive home, I talk to the flooring people to see if they can repair the floor; they can. I get a text from someone who's coming to inspect my joists. Those guys are there when I get home, and they take a bunch of pictures and give it two thumbs up. No structural damage.

They leave, and I get a call from Lowe's. It's the claims adjustor calling to tell me she's going to cut me a check. She'll take a word-of-mouth estimate and a copy of the receipt. She'll mail the check on Tuesday. What?!

I take the family out to Clementine to celebrate. We take a quick jaunt to Home Depot to pick up paint ($289!). We come home and watch Mozart in the Jungle.

Day Three: Getting Lit

The third day of construction is not construction at all; it's my electrician pointing up at the ceiling and asking what fan is going there and what light is going there and what new track head is going there.

While he's in the kitchen, I call Lowe's and get passed back and forth from person to person. I'm not happy about it.

I am asked to come into work the next day for a meeting, and now, because of the way things are going, I'm worried.

The electrician's still in my kitchen when I leave to get a crown. I'm in the dentist's chair crying. Everything hurts—brain and teeth. I'm shaking. It's already been a full week.

The day has gone to the dogs.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Day Two: The Freeze Out

It's Wednesday morning. The folks yanking out the cabinets and appliances and hauling all the old crap to the dump are due at 8 and show at around 9. It's the same guy from yesterday, but he brought the one who called in sick. A little later, two non-English speakers show up to scrape and patch the wall's many bad spots. The company's owner also shows up briefly.

I'm working from home because I'm expecting Heavenly Cool to come fix my fridge nightmare. At some point around 10, we turn the power off to pull out the dishwasher. Just to make sure I didn't miss a call from the fridge repair folks, I call them.

Surprise! They've never heard of me. I'm not on the schedule, and the don't do Baltimore addresses on Wednesdays. Even if they could, they've got no time to see me. So I call Lowe's. The woman tells me that Heavenly Cool accepted the appointment, but that's not the word when she calls them. What do I want to do? Well, I want her to get me another appointment. I stayed home to wait for the tech, so they owe me a tech. "I'm sorry," she says, "but we don't do same-day service."

That's when I yell. "Same-day service? This is the NEXT day! I am waiting for the service today that you promised me yesterday!" I tell that I'm calling Landers, and I expect Lowe's to pay for it. I get the spiel about the repair place needing to be a "certified" Whirlpool repair company and ask for a list of those, but she has no such list. So I call Landers, who is at my house in 20 minutes.

The tech is Danny. He's your best construction guy fantasy—tall, handsome, confident, and competent. He pulls the fridge out of the spot where it's been since May of 2014, when Video Tech Center came to fix it. Which is exactly what didn't happen. I gather from the look on his face that something's wrong, and he shows me. "See this hose? It's not hooked up. It's supposed to be connected to the freezer, but it's just lying there! And the pan? The technician put a big hole in it." He takes my phone to get good pictures of everything.

So what does that mean? It means that twice a day, every day, for the last two and a half years, the freezer has been defrosting into the floor.

Meanwhile, the tile guy is lifting up the old floor to reveal a big hole. In a few months, that refrigerator would've been in the basement.

I decide it might be best to let the warranty repair company do the work, so I call them to ask them to bring the two parts; Danny from Landers gives me the parts numbers. Heavenly Cool tells me that the techs don't bring any parts for warranty work, and they have to be the ones to diagnose the issue. So the guy will come out, look at it, go back to the office and make sure the repair is covered by the warranty, order the part, and come back out to fix it. Danny's jaw drops. He orders the part and will be back Friday to fix it.

Meanwhile, my work day is wrecked. I can't concentrate, so I put in to take the rest of the day off. By 2:30, the paint scraping guys have gone, though they aren't done, and the demo guys have scraped the last of the tile and are about to leave. Rick has saved me one bead from the original wall. It has little scary faces on it. I'm making one of those scary faces.

It's 3:00, and I am alone and seething over the refrigerator. I've made a dozen calls to Lowe's customer care, service, and corporate, and I have reimbursement forms to fill out. I cry for a few seconds, and then I design this masthead.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Day One: Out on the Tiles

We're scheduled to start removing the floor and cabinets during the second week of January on a Tuesday, so I arrange to work from home that day, just to make sure nothing horrible happens. [cue Bernard Herrmann]

The night before, my daughter and I sit on the kitchen floor and play music together for the first time in who knows how long. And it's beautiful. I don't think she and I have had a better time together in years. I'm verklempt thinking about it. We played the Indigo Girls' "Closer to Fine" and Adele's "Someone Like You." I went to bed smiling.

On Tuesday, only one of the two guys shows up, but he's an animal, and I mean that in a good way. He is there to work, and he starts prying up floor tiles. They're coming up whole, some of them, and he's vocalizing his approval. "Yeah!" "Oh, nice!" He's basically Englishing the crowbar. Every so often, he takes a break on the one chair I've left in the kitchen, but he doesn't sit long. In no time, he's got a big hunk of floor done. The tiles are breaking now, but they're still coming up nicely.

Every so often, I hear a little "shit" or "damn it!" I yell, "Are you OK?" and he is. At 11:00, he calls me in to take a look at something. He has found a section of damp floor, and the sub-floor is peeling like paper. The closer he gets to the fridge, the wetter the floor is. So he moves to a different part of the floor, and I call Lowe's, where I bought the Whirlpool refrigerator in 2013.

I remember that we had a leak a year after we bought it, and it was covered by the warranty. Lowe's sent a guy from a company called Video Tech Center, and he was completely unprepared, despite my having described the problem perfectly when making the appointment. (I even filed a complaint with Lowe's about my technician.) After he told me that he'd gotten dozens of calls for this refrigerator, and it's always the same issue, I asked him to fix it, and he told me he had to order the part. Why didn't he bring it with him, then, if he knew what it was?! (I'd be without a fridge for a week, and when the part came in, no one would call.) Lowe's tells me they'll send Heavenly Cool out the next morning between 8 and 11, and I get an email confirmation.

The contractor, who was supposed to come by at 10:30, has sliced his fingers and has gone to ER to get stitches. The tile guy keeps working until the tile is gone from everywhere except the area around the refrigerator. And then, at 2:30, he borrows my shop vac and cleans up and goes home.

Running on Empty

It takes a long time to clean out 23 years of stuff, even if it's just stuff in a single room. Kitchen things are tiny. You'd be surprised how many turkey lacers, which I use for testing the doneness of cakes and for removing the rubber seal from my coffee mug to clean it, I have amassed over the years. OK, I have four, but my point is there's lots of little stuff.

I was able to take a leisurely pace, starting early, stuffing it all into $75 worth of Sterlite and Hefty plastic storage containers, neatly grouping like things together: tape, string, and glue; tools; 38 mugs; etc.

The last weekend before construction was scheduled to begin, the whole family finally got involved. I packed it all and then got to point and say, "Take this [upstairs/downstairs/in the other room]." Every time I cleaned out cabinets, I kept opening the doors to see if there was anything in them, so I wound up taking off the doors.

And then it was done, which meant one thing: the acoustics! Whoa, did my voice sound good! I spent an hour or so on the floor late one night after everyone had gone upstairs, and I sang and played guitar. The next day, I shot a video of the real talented one, my daughter, of Legends of Et cetera and Birdhouse. Here she is playing Hozier's "Cherry Wine."

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Prologue: Kitchen Bitchin'

My kitchen’s seen better days—about 8,500 of them. Every day is worse than the last, even with the newish refrigerator.

Of 204 12-inch floor tiles, at least two dozen are cracked, chipped, or otherwise broken. A few sharp edges stick up. The teal laminate on the countertop, fabricated and installed by a friend as an early wedding gift in 1993, has pulled up from the plywood beneath it; it’s stained and discolored from years of draining dishes on a dish towel. (The dishtowels look even lovelier.) The porcelain Kohler sink, which cracked down to the iron about 15 years ago when a hot pot was placed in it, is rusted around the edge, and the faucet, repaired in June as a short-term solution, has been dripping steadily into the cabinet below it since October. (An old pot does its best to catch the water, and what it misses, a cookie sheet does its best to catch; the result is a rotting, water-stained base cabinet and some clumped Clorox.) The door to that cabinet has fallen off for the last time and sits by the trash can. The thin molding around the glass cabinets has been hammered back over the years to keep the glass from falling out; that repair lasts less long each time.

The stove, which was not new when we brought it here from our last house in 1993, came from Montgomery Ward, a department store that closed its doors for the last time in 2001. It was a good stove when we bought it. Now, the burners don’t light half the time, the grates and other metal pieces are rusty, the caps have fallen out of the handles (leaving sharp edges to catch on your clothing or skin), and, most important, cakes take longer to bake, banana bread is mushy inside, and my cookies puff up. The oven light hasn't worked in five years; the lightbulb is dangling from an inside corner of the oven. Just dangling. And even if it worked, you couldn't see in from all the grease on the window. (When the light did work, I used to scrape the glass with a razor blade.)

A year and a half ago, the dishwasher became irreparably broken. It’s a KitchenAid Custom by Hobart. Whirlpool bought out Hobart in 1986, which makes this no younger than 30 years old. (I think there’s year-old water in the bottom, but I’m afraid to look.) The microwave, from the ‘90s, makes plates scalding hot while keeping food frigid.

The furniture, nice hand-me-downs from my mom, hasn’t fared better. The kitchen chairs have lost their feet padding and scrape loudly across the tile. The screeching noise makes everyone’s nipples hard for 10 seconds. The artisan-etched glass tabletop sits on a small base of carved dolphins. It’s lovely, but if you lean on the table, the glass pops up.

The light over the sink hasn’t worked in a decade. One light in the track lighting needs to be nudged back on every day. The dimmer switch for the track worked for about a month. The ceiling fan is fine, if dirty, though you only notice that in the winter, when it's still.

I forgot to mention the paint above the back door, which has bubbled and peeled to the bare plaster. The door’s teal paint has been scratched white by anxious dog claws. When did we paint this room? Was it 2004?

It’s clear to everyone who visits what has been dubbed “the Miller Kitchen” for its mini-Sunday morning concerts posted to Facebook that we need a new kitchen. Yet not everyone in my house is on board with it. My husband would like to simply repair and replace a few things: the sink, the faucet, the broken floor tiles, the light over the sink. He suggests we put new doors on the 23-year-old Ikea particle board cabinets. We don't need a light on the stove, and we never use the dishwasher; it can just sit there. We could paint.

A new kitchen, he says, is “obscene.” By way of comparison, he says there’s a homeless family living under a tarp at the park. 

I get it. We're liberals. Extravagance isn't what we're about. And it's hard to see others suffer, regardless of why. But a new kitchen isn't a luxury—unless you are a person who can be perfectly happy with bookshelves made of plywood and cinder blocks. That's Marty.

In the early stages, I took him to a cabinet store. I showed him every cabinet and countertop I liked, but he didn't care; he spent the hour talking politics with the salesman, who completely ignored me, even when I had questions or needed assistance.

So I have mostly begun this renovation process alone. I shopped for floors and cabinets and interviewed contractors and electricians and plumbers. I met with the designers, selected a layout, and chose all the appliances and fixtures and hardware alone. And I did most of the prep work myself, too: I emptied all of the cabinets and drawers myself, throwing out the broken duplicates of junk, discarding ripped, coffee-browned dish towels, trashing foods with expiration dates from a previous decade, packing up old dishes and silverware for Goodwill, creating a space in the dining room to make coffee and heat up foods and spread condiments on sandwiches, all to the dismay of my family members, who want to know where the such-and-such is and how they will be able to feed themselves amid such chaos. Some of it is in jest, but it's a bitter jest.

I worry that his not being behind this renovation means he gets to complain in perpetuity about the choices I’ve made: the stove, for instance, which will not have a broiler because stoves don’t have those anymore, and that's my fault, because if we had just kept the 30-year-old relic with the dangling bulb.... Does it matter that I’ve selected a stove with a double oven, thinking of our needs as a family and my husband's needs as a broiler? I’ve met my own needs, too, choosing a slide-in stove so that we can avoid the drips down the sides, where our mouse becomes well fed. But the stove is yet another obscenity: $2,100.

My family will be able to complain about the new silverware, with raised dots that will irritate their fingers. What was wrong with the other stuff, gotten for free for spending money at the grocery store?

If the refrigerator experience is any indication, I'll be hearing about my by bad choices for a lifetime, especially since this will likely be my last kitchen remodel.

When we bought the fridge, I thought it would be more energy efficient to get the new kind, with the freezer on the bottom. Plus, I'd had back surgery, and always having to bend over to get fruit and vegetables was a hassle. Who uses the freezer that much?  My husband calls that a cadaver drawer. And true: it’s a heavy, unwieldy thing that has barely enough room for our Costco hauls of meat. But the only fridge that wasn’t like this or side-by-side was one $800 white refrigerator with a top freezer at the scratch-and-dent shop. I exaggerate, he tells me. 

They will be able to complain about the new chairs, whichever ones I get, because, although every chair that comes in the house is uncomfortable, the last one is always sorely missed for its superior cushioning or back support. The latest set, which came here under Marty's extreme protest and never quite fit under the table, are now beloved, though they were awful compared to the keyhole-back chairs.

The stainless sink, which promises not to break the glasses that tumble over occasionally, will be inferior to the rusty one. I can tell already that the faucet will be too tall and will splash water. The paint will be an ugly color, too dark, too light, too blue, too green (pick any two). The light fixtures will be silly, the bulbs too bright or not bright enough. The floor won’t be as easy to sweep as tile. The kitchen won't be as acoustically pleasing. The kitchen drawers will be configured poorly, will be less roomy, too deep, too shallow. We won't be able to put things exactly where they were. 

But the appliances and furniture and cabinets and flooring and paint color and fixtures will not be the problem at all. They’ll be gleaming and clean and glorious. The hallelujah chorus will sing to us from the kitchen even as we sleep above it. The tinkling of fairy dust will accompany our footfalls. Our royal hineys will feel pampered in the new throne-like seats. The kitchen will still allow us to sing, and the songs themselves might be just a little bit happier. The singer will be. 

The real problem is change. And I can understand that. I live with two people who dislike change of any kind, and I am always moving their cheese.

This kitchen renovation project will be the biggest cheese we have ever moved. How will I keep it from stinking? For the next six weeks, while the refrigerator is in the dining room and there’s a hole where the sink once was and the boxes are piled six high with plates and silverware and cookbooks and dish towels and the coffee maker is in the dining room beside the microwave and toaster and a cutting board and we are using disposables, how will I block out the grunts of inconvenience, which are sure to lead to a perpetual dissatisfaction with every kitchen decision, including how much salt was added to the split pea soup?

With that, I lug the last of the boxes—the one with the baking powder and rice flour—to the basement, the sting of eye daggers pricking my shoulders as I descend the stairs.