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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The sky is falling

There are times when being a homeowner is a downright drag. Like when you look up at the kitchen ceiling and notice a faint line and the early indications of buckling.

Water. Must be water coming from somewhere. And then over the course of a year or years the buckling becomes even more pronounced to the point when the paint cracks and you’ve got unmistakable damage.

My ceiling, my kitchen ceiling that was completely renovated in 2002 is coming apart. And we can’t figure out why. All we know is that the fix has big dollar signs all over it.

Anyone who comes into our house notices it right away. “Do you have a leak?” Yes, we do, but it’s anybody’s guess as to its origins. It’s not constant and not a gusher, just the effects of slow dripping winding its way through the path of least resistance.

At first, we blamed it on the boys taking 20-minute showers. Then we blamed it on them not tucking the shower curtain in properly. Then we saw the problem worsen just below our master bathroom above our family room.

And this morning, Patrick yelled while I was in shower: “Mom, a chunk of the ceiling fell down!”


It’s not a chunk, just a two-inch piece of paint, revealing years of damage. Clearly, this is a problem that will not correct itself. It’s not that we are careless homeowners lacking pride, it’s that we’re in denial about the need to rip open the kitchen and family room ceiling and plunge thousands of dollars into repairs.

It will have to be done, but I swear I’ve just recently recovered from the trauma of having my kitchen torn up for four months during the renovation process. Nothing prepares you for the mess, the disruption, the disorganization and chaos.

There was a day during that process when our contractor warned me: “When you come home today it’s going to be bad.” That wasn’t the half of it. I was working downtown at the time and came home to my house filled with drywall dust, in every conceivable and inconceivable place. My mom came in the door behind me and voiced what I was unable to utter: “Oh my God, honey. Are you okay?”

I wasn’t. I just sank to the floor and tried to figure out how I was going to live this way. I’m a control freak and clearly my home, my sanctuary was utterly out of my control. I wish I could say I took it all in stride, that we were fortunate to be able to afford such a massive renovation. But it felt as if I was carrying a load of drywall on my back and the weight of it was suffocating me. The pain rested in between my shoulder blades, a pain that no amount of Motrin could touch.

It all came to a head one morning before school when my son told me he was supposed to bring in his 25 cents for Popsicle day earlier that week. I cracked.

“What’s with all this nickel-and-dime bullshit?! Don’t they (meaning the school) know working parents are doing their best just to stay on top of everything? Who needs this shit at this time of year? It’s this kind of crap that can send parents over the edge!”

Clearly that’s what it did to me. I had lost my marbles over a quarter. During that process I began to suffer from anxiety and panic attacks. It wasn’t all due to the remodeling, but it was certainly aggravated by that chaos.

In the years since I’ve learned to let go of things that used to send me to the moon. If the house is messy, I’m not going to become apoplectic. If I have the chance to go to the pool or wash the kitchen floor, I’ll grab the pool bag and go.

But I do worry about panic relapse. I spent a good portion of my life as a stress junky. I’d like to think I’m recovered and reformed. Hopefully, living through this repair doesn’t cause me to fall off the wagon.

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