How Did i Get Here?

“Those are nicer cabinets than the ones I’m putting in my kitchen”.

Dan was half of a two-man crew from Habitat for Humanity, stopping by to pick up the oak cabinets i’d just had removed from my kitchen, in preparation for a massive remodeling job.

“i just want them to find a good home…”

Since i moved to the new place in 2008, i’ve been tackling one project each year. Billiards room, home theater/audio system were top of the list, but the office renovation, theatre room upgrade and fitness center remodel are all completed according to plan. i’d put off re-doing the kitchen because it would be more expansive – and expensive.

Initial plans were more modest, but once i realized that Mom and Dad’s final gift would be more than expected, i decided to go balls out – and make it a dream kitchen. Serious design work started in January with a professional, and i pulled the chain in March when i placed the order for cabinets.

And then the guilt started to work on me… My kitchen was perfectly serviceable. Why remove the walls? i’m not a serious cook – do i really need to upgrade to a gas cooktop and double oven?

My facebook-based flea market began in earnest – i gave away two perfectly good tables, a working refrigerator, stove and dishwasher. Donating the cabinets to Habitat for Humanity to make sure someone, somewhere could use them.

Realizing the magnitude of the job, schedule became a challenge.

“i’m going on a two-week European holiday at the beginning of June – can we have the work done by then?”

Did i say those words to my contractor? Yes. Yes i did…

In order to accomplish a 6 week project in 4 weeks, i took on a few parts of the job myself. Professionally trained as a program manager – Cost, Schedule, Performance – this is what i do for a living.  i worked with the contractor (and subcontractors) to run things in parallel where possible.

So i’m the luckiest… The absolute fucking luckiest human on earth right now.

Sure, i’ve worked to earn a paycheck from the day i turned 16. Something in my wiring diagram does not allow me to go without my own paycheck – even when starting university, i was in a co-operative education program  at 19, picking up a job as a secretary in the engineering office during the semesters i wasn’t working full time.

i made the choice to go to graduate school at night, while working full time and breeding. Those years are a bit of a blur, but i did it. So did my spouse.  My husband and i made the choice to live on one income, and invest the other. We lived well under our budget, and prepared to send the two spawn off to university should they choose to go.

Why do i feel guilty? Where does the voice come from inside my head that says “You’re being selfish? You don’t deserve this!”

Is it enough that i know i’m lucky to have found myself here? That i’m lucky enough to have had parents who squirreled away something for their children? That i haven’t been bankrupted by a major medical disaster, or lost my job through downsizing, or random events beyond my control?

As i write this, i’m sitting First Class, given a complimentary upgrade on a flight to Florida for my sister’s wedding. Drinking free booze, and munching on tasty kibbles handed out by a smiling flight attendant.  Unlike the guy that Exile on Pain Street wrote about earlier this week, you won’t catch me bitching about the lack of single malt scotch. i’m pretty happy with my Jack Daniels and Diet Coke.

jack and diet coke

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29 thoughts on “How Did i Get Here?

  1. Some people say that we make our own luck.Perhaps, up to a point, that’s true, but I think “luck” is something extra. Luck is what steps in and loads the scale in your favour when illness strikes. Luck is the gap between trees when you’re forced off the road.
    And the best luck is the good people who come into your life. Enjoy what you’ve worked for, otherwise, what was the point? 🙂

    • i have always agreed that “luck favors the prepared”, but you are absolutely right – sometimes it’s just random good fortune. Having, and keeping, good humans in my life has indeed been the best of it. i need to just roll with the good fortune, and be mindful of the fact that it could all go away in the blink of an eye, or the explosion of a neural artery, or swerve of a distracted driver…

  2. Enjoy. We may be the last generation to profit from our parent’s ability to make enough money to actually save. Or, in my case, join class-action lawsuits. Wish the brides well from me.

    • My accountant gave me good advice – “If you want to leave anything to your children? Buy a life insurance policy. Otherwise? Spend what you’ve got. You can’t take it to the grave.” This advice was given to me about nine months before my accountant died due to complications from a rapid and aggressive cancer.

      The brides are nervous and happy and so far all is well… i could use a bit of that good luck to get us all through this weekend!

  3. Enjoy it. You have worked long and hard and are reaping some rewards. Which is right and proper.
    I hope the wedding goes superbly.
    If I knew where my guilt button was I would disconnect it. Permanently. I cannot think of anything positive it has brought into my life.

    • People give me grief – “Seems as though you’re always on holiday”. They weren’t around when i didn’t take vacations. When every bit of paid time off was spent on visiting family once a year, or camping trips with our children.

      i think part of the reason I’m bugged by the guilt this time is that i prefer to spend money ‘doing’ things, rather than ‘acquiring’ things – and to do this kitchen, there has been a LOT of acquisition. i intend to throw some massive parties in the new space, and i can rationalize that these acquisitions will enhance future experiences….

      I’ve often thought that guilt has driven much of my charitable work – survivor’s guilt, lifestyle guilt, general privilege…Would i try to give something back if i didn’t feel guilty? Probably…

    • i always thought a convection oven was good for speeding up the time it takes to make a roast slab of meat – and originally didn’t plan to get the double oven with convection. Appliance salesman did a good job on this one – “Do you bake?” Given my biscotti factory during the holidays, i will be able to cut the amount of time spent baking substantially, or quadruple the production. And even more decadent? The drawer microwave oven going into the island… That shit is just beyond cool. Serious nerd points there…

      So far, the family is being great – no drama, no messes… Fingers crossed that we get through to the other side without anyone getting thrown overboard!

  4. RE: 1st class – it smells better. it’s like having a waiter vs someone going down the isle resentful you are stinking up the place. I’ve only flown a couple of times, but the +++service of the front of the bus is worth it.

    • It isn’t often that i get to ride up front – most of the time i’m in steerage. i always appreciate it when the flight attendants in the back are extra kind and gracious. They are the ones dealing with the cramped quarters, extra crabby people, infrequent fliers and all the crap… i wonder how they decide which flight attendants get to work First?

  5. i have one thing to say: you will never know how lucky i felt to have you here in my town during those awfulterribledays back in 2011. call it whatever, but i heart you! 😉 as to the reno work and holidays…just do it and enjoy it because your insurance guy was right! xoxoxoxox

    p.s. thanks for the tips re a convection oven and the drawer style microwave!!

    • i was happy to keep you distracted, my dear! Still hoping to get back that way sometime and get to meet up with you! i’ll post pics of the ‘before’ and ‘after’ when the kitchen is done… i’m gonna be such a dork about that microwave. it really is goofy and awesome…

  6. And hurrah for a gas cooktop. Responsive and wonderful. How I hate recipes that call for ‘bring to a boil, then turn heat low.’ Not on an electric stove…no way, no how (except to use two burners). As I see it, part of the problem is that women are raised to be nurturers and to take care of other people’s needs…at the cost of their own needs / wants / blah, blah. Hurrah for you, taking care of (and nurturing) yourself. Whenever I do something nice in my house, I remind myself that I’m increasing its value…which will someday benefit my kids.

    • Really looking forward to that cooktop! And trying out the oven! Who knows? This may be a trigger to get me doing more experimentation in the kitchen…

      Two very difficult phrases for most of us – “I want…” and “I need…”. It’s been about 8 years since i started the ’empty nest’ process, and i’m better at saying them now, but it still doesn’t always come easily…

  7. Boy, you really are a Buckeye, aren’t you? Aren’t we? I get the same pangs. Who am I to deserve anything. Obviously, you earned it, but if that doesn’t work for you how about this: Gutting your kitchen might not be conducive to your lifestyle, but it sure as hell will increase the value of your property. Can you look at it as an investment? Is that easier to swallow?

    They don’t call it First Class for nothing. Hope the wedding goes well. All good wishes to you and your family.

    Thanks for the shout-out. I don’t see you becoming an insufferable corporate snob anytime soon. You can’t. It’s not in your DNA. We are, after all, Buckeyes.

  8. Apart from “drainage”, almost anything can be articulated through the medium of Talking Heads lyrics. Once in a lifetime is a particularly good choice.

  9. You deserve every good thing that comes your way! And kudos to you for donating what you couldn’t use to those who are probably thrilled to receive it. You, madam, are one of the good ones. 🙂

    • Thanks for the affirmation… It is appreciated. The more i think about it, i think much charitable activity is motivated – at least in part – by such guilt. We all want to give something back when we can…

  10. Money spent on a kitchen is never wasted — it’s the centre of the home. In my house it’s virtually my living room.

    By the way — if you’re ever in England, don’t say “i pulled the chain in March when i placed the order for cabinets.” That means you flushed the loo, which implies that buying the cabinets was a much scarier experience than the way you describe it 🙂

    • It is the heart of my home as well – and it is now glorious and open and inviting, even though there isn’t quite yet a floor, a refrigerator, or plumbing…

      Thanks for the tip on dialect… it also means the same thing here. What i meant is i flushed the contents of my wallet into the wallet of my prime contractor… :-/ It IS frightening to be spending this much money. Infrastructure investment and all that, i rarely spend this much…

  11. I would explain how you got here but no one wants to think of their parents having sex… and i will cite the New Order song Guilt is a Useless Emotion, it’s something a i don’t really relate to cuz i’ve never really felt guilty even when i’ve been guilty as fookin’ ell, which has been on more than a few occasions, think my mama used to try and guilt me and once i figured out it was just a ploy i was much better off, right there saved me hours of therapy… i’ve ignored all the home improvement stuff cuz now that i’ve been promoted to full time hausfrau i’m just lining up all the shit i have to do and trying not to think about it, but it’ll get done, this dude abides…

    • Thanks for that, Kono… the “guilt is useless” part, not the thought of parental intercourse. i’m working on shedding the guilt, but it’s part of my wiring. How do i walk that line – appreciating what i have, yet never allowing myself to feel entitled?

      Read a bio for a visiting professor giving a seminar at work. In his bio he said that he is proud of his students who have “earned good lives”. That shakes off some of the entitlement. i have worked for what i have. Others have worked a fuck of a lot harder for a fuck of a lot less, though.

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