The roof over my head

The living room ceiling has leaked since I moved — we moved — into this house. The first winter I was here, barely holding it together and nursing a newborn on the couch, I watched with horror as the brown spot that had been growing steadily bigger on the ceiling finally opened like some portal from hell and released a flow of dirty, icy water onto the floor.

At the time, it was both a reality — something was broken — and also a metaphor: the carefully constructed walls around my life were breaking down, letting in the demons. Or, at very least, the elements. Greg, our (angelic) next-door neighbour, ran out of his house when he saw me attempting to scale a ladder up the side of mine in December. He and my other angelic neighbour from across the street ended up on the roof, hacking away with axes to break up the ice dam that had melted into the chimney flashing. The next summer, we got new shingles, and assumed that the problem was fixed.

It was. That is, until it wasn’t. A couple of years went by, and then the roof leaked again: same spot, same seam in the plaster. Guys came over and re-tarred the flashing. Things stayed dry for months. We had the ceiling repaired and replastered. It leaked again. More tar. And on and on it went, months going by with nothing happening and then some freak windstorm or snowfall and I’d wonder what that dripping sound was. And then it would stop raining and I’d go back to denial. I mean, if the roofing guys couldn’t figure it out, how was I supposed to know? How were we?

That, of course, was a metaphor, too: the way things slide into disrepair, and the ways you fix them, and they hold for a while, until they don't any more. 

And then, I designated this past November as maintenance month. While everybody else was writing novels and blogging daily, I was getting the car tuned up and mending the holes in seams. In November, I changed the filters on the fetish vacuum. I hacked away at the summer garden and put it to bed for fall, raked all the leaves. I filled in forms and sent them off. I went through kids’ clothes, my e-mail inbox, the basement. I made chicken stock. I hung photos. I put up the net over the ping-pong table, made all the phone calls, got the winter tires put on. I went to the chiropractor. In essence, I tried to think of every niggling thing I could think of, every open loop, every loose end, and I tried to deal with it, close it, tie it up.

I called the chimney guys. And I called them repeatedly, because you know how they get busy and don’t come the first couple of times, or on the date they say they're going to, but I was on a mission. Because this house, which has been subtly and not so subtly transformed over the last year as I have gone from “we” to “I,” needs to be safe. It needs to function without threat of the elements coming through, without me wondering what kind of black mould has been festering in the attic, right over my head.

The chimney guys came this past weekend. They erected scaffolding, ripped out the old flashing, took up the shingles to check for rot: none. (None!) They laid down waterproof membranes and new shingles, installed actual new flashing, sealed it tight. They sent me pictures from up above as they went along. In the spring, once the snow melts, they will come back and replace the missing bricks in the chimney. The job went so well, my chimney guy told me, that he would knock a bit off the original quote. And it’s guaranteed: if it leaks, they’ll come back and figure it out.

This may or may not be the end of the story. But it’s a new chapter, and I’ll take it.

I think I'll call her Zelda

I have a new baby.

Vintage kroehler.

Vintage kroehler.

I haven’t settled on a name yet, but I’m taking suggestions. She’s a little rough around the edges, but for $50 off kijiji, she’s a steal.

I’ve been looking for a new dresser for a little while — you know, to go with the newly painted bedroom (which I painted LIKE A BOSS, I might add; photos forthcoming). In my search, I’ve discovered something kind of interesting about furniture in general: there’s no middle ground. Either it’s essentially free or it’s a billion dollars, with very little in between except for MDF crap. I'm right about this, arent I? Witness: the dresser that I really, really, really want to buy except for every single one of the nearly three thousand dollars it will cost.

So, so pretty. So, so, expensive.

So, so pretty. So, so, expensive.

So, yeah: kijiji won that contest. But I’m actually kind of ecstatic about that, because, perversely, it means that I CAN HAZ ALL THE PROJEKTS. (Also, I’ve somehow convinced myself that I’m now $3000 richer.) It wasn’t enough to spend five days painting the bedroom. Or the following weekend touching up the hallways and the doors (and they look marvelous). Or completely refolding every single thing in the linen closet. Or any of the other roughly zillion household projects I’ve taken on in the past few weeks. I want more, apparently — more backbreaking, painstaking, fiddly steps involving power tools and chemicals and dust and fumes and dozens of opportunities to screw up. Bring it, I say. I watch myself say that, and I know what’s ahead, and I still want it. There’s a metaphor or twelve in that, too, but right now I’m too busy googling “refinishing very thin veneer” to do that kind of thinking. Which is probably a good thing.

There’s a very good chance that my new dresser is going to be (even more) gorgeous. There’s a much higher chance that it’s also going to hurt. I can hold both those things in one hand right now, before I’ve entered a hardware store.

 I'll keep you posted. 

Two moms, two boys, two houses

waiting for the other one. it'll drop.

waiting for the other one. it'll drop.

Yes. That means what you think it means.

Rachel and I decided to separate in December. Last Wednesday, the movers came to pack up and cart off what she’s taking to her new house, the place she’ll live full-time, with Rowan and Isaac half-there, half-here.

Between then and now, I’ve kept pretty quiet (online, at least) about the whole process. Too raw, too close, and — frankly — too private. And in large part it will stay private. I can say that it was a mutual decision, that it was and is the right decision, that it’s generally amicable, that the boys are thriving, and that we tried really hard for a long time and in the end concluded that it just wasn’t going to work.

And so, we called it.

Between then and now, I’ve taken stock, in so many senses of that phrase. What will stay and what will leave? What will I have to replace, and how much will it cost, and which of those items can even be bought? Where do I stand in this very moment, in the moment after that, and the one after that? What have I amassed, to whose credit, and does it even matter any more? And I’m hardly talking about money or things here, although I have talked plenty, too much, about money and things.

Between then and now, I’ve been living what I started referring to as a “half homeless” existence: alternating time in the house with the boys with time travelling or staying with a series of uber-generous friends, colonizing guest suites and bandwidth, feeling utterly welcome and ridiculously taken care of and also needy, tiresome. Two weeks ago, I returned from a trip (actually, the Mom 2.0 Summit, where I got to share this news in the way, ideally, that it should be shared — in person — with a crowd of online intimates, and no that’s not an oxymoron, and of course that was invaluable). And I unpacked my suitcase, and nearly cried when I realized that I could put it away away, in the storage closet in the basement. I could actually unpack my toiletries case, take my toothbrush out of its holder, stop using the travel-size floss and skin toner. I’d reached the point where I never bothered unpacking it — why bother, when I’d be returning to it in a couple of days? Yesterday, there was so much more space in the bathroom cabinets, the drawers. The grown-ups’ coat closet is now navigable, with only my stuff in it.

And all that feels in-between, the emptied drawers and cleared-off shelves at the same time glorious with possibility and yawning chasms of emptiness. Are half-full closets half full or half empty? It depends on the day, I suppose.

I am in transition, shuttling through relief and grief, waiting always for the other emotional shoe to drop, to take me from euphoric to despondent, terrified to tough, content to anxious and back again. “The sky is full of shoes,” a friend of mine says, and she’s right: they’re all up there, suspended, waiting to rain down and clobber you or even, sometimes, hold you up.

And, speaking of friends, have I mentioned friends? Because they are the lifeline through this whole process, the way they show up and listen and listen and listen even more, witness you in all your devastation and don’t try to talk you out of it, give outrageously and still manage to make it feel reciprocal. I didn’t know what I had, really, until this happened. I could go on, but I get choked up whenever I try to write about it and I descend into clichés.

(Speaking of choking up: tears are good. One should never apologize for tears. But still, I am — thankfully — well over the reflex of bursting into tears any time anyone asks how I am, anytime I mention the separation. Because although they are useful and necessary, tears are also inconvenient, and get in the way of conversation. So, cry, and then be happy to be done crying quite so much.)

I originally typed/dictated these words in the literal midst of transition, spending an oddly intimate day with Rachel as we divided up household goods. I’d been dreading this day for weeks, but we managed to get over a couple of initial bumps (there will be more; remember that sky full shoes) and made it mostly work. In some ways, we are so ridiculously privileged that I’m not sure I’ll notice that I have only three flan pans instead of six. (And here’s a riddle: Q. How much Tupperware is half of your Tupperware? A. Still too much Tupperware.) But at one point that day I looked at all the boxes piled up at my front door and something about what they symbolized caught in my throat and I dissolved into tears just one more time (shoe!), and she did too, both of us sinking down the hallway walls to the floor, shaking our heads at the surreality of it all.

I’m in between spaces, phases, lives, between disclosure and privacy, (co)dependency and independence, intimacy and boundaries, between celebration and grief. I’m literally in between time zones, but that’s also a metaphor as I ponder the next phase of my life as a grown-up, which of those empty spaces to fill and how, and what, for now, to keep clear.

“You’re in a liminal space,” said a friend to me — a friend who has also been through this — over a bottle of wine one evening. “And you know, it was always in those in-between spaces that I found myself.”

Come over. I’ll make flan.