Sunday, July 29, 2018

In Which I Bury the Lede (As per Usual)

I should be doing many things right now, namely: unpacking my clothes (which means I have to find the majority my clothes), massive clean up of M's bedframe (that was somehow removed from under protective plastic at the beginning of the demolition and can't be moved till "de-hazmatized"), reorging a basement that's so full one requires gold-standard tetris skills to manage it (and till this is done, furniture that isn't supposed to live upstairs is piled in a corner of my living room) - I could go on...

The thing is, I'm exhausted. I'm exhausted on pretty-well every level. I'm about to go back to work tomorrow (after a two-week "break") and I don't even know how my intellectual self is going to resurface. I'm trying to find the spark but I'm like a lighter at the end of its fluid.

My nature is compelling me - I'm scared shitless that, if I don't get up and work on everything right fucking now, I'm going to lose my will (already rather non-existent) and I can't bear to spend the rest of my life in this state of chaos. In case you're wondering about the veracity of one's mind being a bad neighbourhood that one shouldn't visit alone, I'm the very instrument of this misery. I'm the bomb I need to detonate. Scott keeps promising me that he won't lose his will and that, if we do even two hours a week, things will get done eventually. I just didn't think that things would continue to be so challenging, even though Scott warned me constantly, in an effort to prep me for ongoing stimulus.

On the flip side, I'm sure I'm learning many excellent life lessons I'm going to appreciate next year.

But talk about burying the lede. This post is about how - despite the flaws in my brain-state - my broken faith in humanity is being restored - in large measure because I am the most fortunate person on the planet when it comes to friendship.

Let's take a moment to dwell on that: I have awesome friends who show me love and acceptance and support at every turn. They call me to check in. They lift hundreds of pounds in boxes and furniture. They manage my work portfolios when I'm on vacation. They buy me dinner and dessert and listen to me chatter incessantly. They give me beautiful bottles of pink bubbles (that are real Champagne!). They inspire me with their diverse experiences and philosophies.

I have always said that, when it comes to friendship, I won the freakin' lottery. They should write on my gravestone: She reveled in friendship because she had the best friends.

Which brings me to the most fantastic experience I had yesterday. Gillian - who truly is as adorable in real life as she is in your blog feed - made a point of it to invite me to a sewing meet up (despite my not having looked at a machine in 18 months) and sweetened the deal by a) picking me up / taking me there, b) making me a NEW dress that actually fits (Lady Skater, my fave design ever) and a gorgeously-fitting new black T-shirt, c) cutting me out a Camino Cap T pattern plus fabric while d) standing by me with confidence-inspiring words while I serged it together amongst a group of utterly lovely women. And then she gifted me a copy of the "dress of the summer" pattern: The Fiona Sundress. Can you imagine such generosity?

Not only did Gillian take me away from the overwhelming in my own environment, but she guided me through an experience that might have been differently overwhelming, but wasn't, by making it normal. That's the mark of a terrific teacher and an excellent friend.

But let's go back to the part where she made me a dress and a top. I freakin' need that dress and top! They fit so beautifully. She chose perfect fabrics (I will post photos soon, I just have to take a shower before anyone sees me in anything). The dress is in animal print! What I learned yesterday, what metaphorically smacked me in the head, is that I have to stop with the goddamn fitting perfectionism. Lord, people - Gillian didn't even have my body there when she cut out these patterns, and the clothes fit.

Let me say this in front of an audience so I cannot back track in the future: Perfection is the enemy of the good because there ain't no good once you slice it to shreds - 3/8 of an inch at a time.

My goal as a sewist, over the coming months, is to go slowly (I don't need to make a capsule wardrobe in a weekend - not that this ever worked, given my natural pace) and to make the assumption that I'm not so much a special snowflake on the fitting front that I can't make a change or two to the vertical dimensions and call it a day.

If I want to be different - and I do - if I want to grow as a person and as an artist - then I need to see things through a different lens. If I can sever myself from perfectionism when it comes to the things I make - the things that are supposed to bring me joy - then I will be able to transfer that awareness to the other areas of my life.

Yesterday Gillian gave me a wonderful gift that I will not forget, one in lieu of the beautiful clothes that she made for me. She brought me closer to myself, and for that I am very, very grateful.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Just Right

Let's shake it up today, let's go light...*

Let's talk about how, when you go through a big experience or 5 (like a couple of moves, a reno, transitioning a new government or having a kid grow up and go away for a while), your body may change in any number of ways. And when it changes, chances are none of your clothes, namely bras, will fit. And if you've just moved, your stash of bras in every size may be nowhere to be found.

No joke - I have spent the last few months looking increasingly unglamorous. But I don't judge. For starters, I don't have time. Then there's the whole energy thing. I mean, I've gone to work without makeup. Multiple days in a row. My work bestie Michael loves to say to me, whenever feasible: Hey, you washed your hair! (I feel compelled to confirm that, whenever I have fancy meetings I find my best fitting garments, wear makeup and do wash my hair. But the rest of the time...)

Here's a thing that I haven't had a lot of exposure to in the past: shrinking size, NO fucking tone. I mean, in all of my past, even if I was unhappy with the dimensions of my shape, I was toned. Tone was kind of my thing. What with massive over-training (I now understand) and a tendency towards tautness, I've sometimes had a layer of fat I disliked, but it was nicely held in place by a few muscles and firm skin.

I've done approximately no yoga in 6 months. In truth, I've done relatively little to maintain fitness in the last 18 months (I mean, practically nothing by my standards), but in the past 6 months it's been a non-starter. I've also been walking less than usual because I'm always late for something - work, inspections - or in pain. (Ain't gonna get into this topic now, but be assured that pain management is a constant.) Unquestionably, if you want to maintain your health in the face of a degenerative but remitting condition, you should not be leading my current lifestyle.

Then there's the fact that I've been nauseated for 6 months. When I say I can't eat, I'm not joking. I'm actually starting to wonder if my hideous 7-months of morning sickness wasn't caused as much by pregnancy hormones as by stress hormones. I routinely have to stop myself from throwing up by any means possible. I'll go days only able to eat one food - like a toddler. Hot dogs and custard win by volume. If hot dogs are actually poison, I should be more worried than I am. Sometimes wine is the only thing that I can stomach. I know this is not optimal. Honestly, its tangy, astringent taste turns off the sick-feeling so that I can eat a few bites of food. Alas, at this point, wine has also started to turn my stomach so I can't use it as leverage. My urge to mood-alter is stronger than just about anything. Thank God for design shows and knitting.

All this is to say that I have lost some weight (on top of the weight I lost when I stopped eating the SAD). I can say from first-hand experience, when you wear clothing that's too big, it looks bad - every bit as bad as wearing clothing that's too small. But it's not uncomfortable (cuz all is delightfully loose) and it creeps up and all of a sudden one looks rather frumpy. Mind you, worse than ill-fitting clothing is an ill-fitting bra.

I am embarrassed to tell you that I have been wearing bras that are 2 sizes too big and they look horrid. Seriously - in case you think that a too-big bra isn't a big deal (I mean, it's not like your boobs don't have enough space), think again. I should post photos (which I'll never do) just to show you the ughness of it all. Middle-aged, projected breasts that are proportionately large, have a tendency to look so sad floating around roomy cups. Something I've learned: at a certain moment (esp when one has lost weight in the breasts in middle age), you need the bra that fits to produce lift.

Sure, this is a silly bit of blog fodder. I have more than enough body fat in my stomach and boobs to keep me going in a famine. No one ever died from eating little, because of stress, for an interim period of time. I'm confident that my new sewga room - the ceiling of which is my own modernist Sistine Chapel - a collaboration between height, angles, wood, spheres and pink light - will encourage me to regain some tone. And mercifully, bras exist in all the sizes. Which is why I have bought these sets, of late, in the correct dimensions (I hope). In full disclosure: I haven't even been wearing matching undies these days because I can't find the will?! but this is about to change.

All I'm saying is, peeps - wear the clothes that fit! Things that fit highlight the beauty in every silhouette. Things that are too big are as unappealing as things that are too small. They glare. They call attention from what matters - the body they sheath.

PS: I will never stop harping on this idea.

*...because I truly can't bring myself to talk about the current prevalence of violence in my city - violence that - in the last month - has impacted my own neighbourhood and those adjacent, violence that yesterday killed two girls that could have been my child or yours). We've got to make it near impossible for everyone who's neither a legit farmer/hunter nor a police officer to access guns. People who experience serious mental health issues, gangs - these are two of the cohorts that use guns to willfully shoot and kill children (and other people whose lives are just as important). Violence is going to happen but it should be much harder to achieve than it currently is.

Saturday, July 21, 2018


Perfectionism is a bitch. FWIW, I do not consider myself a perfectionist, 90 per cent of the time, but this reno is bringing up all of my big-time issues. It's is like sugar addiction - relentless in its drive to consume and to be consumed.

It's pretty safe to say that, at this point, the reno is not about the reno. It's about me. It's about how I acclimate, how I accept, how I engage (or do everything feasible to avoid engagement - because engagement is so fucking all-encompassing and it sickens me).

While I do what I can to forget about parenting, early or otherwise - I mean, right now I have 6-months of child-free living (as the kid is at Katimavik) - I'm continuously reminded of the moment my daughter was born and it's incisive.

The circumstances of Miranda's birth were traumatizing. No question, we were blessed with good-fortune in that she made her way here robustly, nervily. But, as a person who (only in retrospect) understands the sickening push-pull of stimulus, that was a mind-fuck to end all others.

I don't have many regrets - and even those I have seem unnecessary, anachronistic - but I wish that I had found a way to engage with M when she was born, not to have blamed her for the chaos that unmoored me, but to have been joyous for something I had created with love and effort. I wish I had not sent her away with Scott and my mother and the midwives. I wish I had not said: Get that thing out of here. Sure, I was legit half-dead and tortured by the idea that she might die, but I'm certainly not the only one who's found herself in these circumstances. I mean, all you need to do is watch Netflix to get that. Those mothers still embrace their babies, despite shock and pain and the unknown.

This may seem absurd, but I want to feel about my home the way I couldn't feel about my daughter: I want to accept it, despite associated imperfections and momentary, if incessant, discomfort. I want to feel confidence relating to it - willing to acknowledge its fundamental beauty, recognizing that perfectionism is an illness because it is the barricade of contentment.

I cannot change the past but it's my spirit guide to the future. It is because I didn't have the means to be "better" then that I can find a way to be different now.

When perfectionism prevents joy - when it's the greasy film between what you have made and how you perceive it - well, it's maladaptive. It's challenging for me to accept this. How does one accept anything but absolute perfection? How does one find perfection in the imperfect? It just isn't there.

My new brick wall is the salve of this home. It's chipped. It's paint-splotched. It's multi-coloured in a completely random way. When the morning sun shines against it, one sees the irreverant reflection of reality - different colours and textures and saturation. It defies flawlessness with its mass and strength. It says: If you don't love me, you can just fuck off because this is how I'm supposed to be and, if you don't get that, it's on you.

Perfection is the least perfect thing because it brings pain. Acceptance is perfect so I have to broaden my scope to find it. And I will. But man, liberty is expensive.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Latest

As I write this, 9 trades are working on the house:
  • The tile guy came back for the 30th time cuz he didn't finish the job on any of the other 29 occasions.
  • Three kitchen people came back to functionalize the cabinets that look great but don't work (do not even get me started on this because I'm seeing red, no pun intended).
  • There are 4 painters trying to get through the painting and finishing.
  • There's the fireplace guy, who's fixing the final glass and showing me the ropes.
Fortunately, there are movable boxes everywhere (and not set-up furniture) because they're using pretty well all of the floor space to fix and finish.

But there's much yet to be accomplished in this phase of the reno. (Note: There's all kinds of additional stuff that needs to begin in the next few weeks - things that were not contemplated as part of the original build, rather, new requirements given that parts of the house destabilized as a result of the new build. When I speak of this phase, I'm referring to the stuff that was supposed to be done before we moved in...)

Since our hardscaper didn't meet the timelines he assured us that he could (the backyard was supposed to be complete by Sunday - instead, he's weeks away from finishing another job and didn't bother to show or clarify until I managed to reach him), I look out my windows at mounds of garbage that should have been long-binned, amidst dirt and encircling wildlife (cats and raccoons abound under these circumstances). I may, in fact, have the pleasure of renting my own bin and cleaning up my own construction site f I don't source a solution somehow- note to reader: that's not my idea of time well-spent i (esp. since I paid people to do this 3 times over). Ever tried to find a hardscaper in July??

Alas, while I'd love to shut my black out blinds and just ignore it all, they're not on the windows because the blinds peeps didn't cut them optimally the first time so they had to refine them and, apparently, this takes longer than making them in the first place.

The lighting also continues to need refinement. I will say, last night some shit was seriously put into perspective when the electrician incorrectly positioned his ladder, while aiming to reach a misplaced pod, and almost killed himself. No joke. It's utterly MIRACULOUS that the worst of it is needing to refinish a part of the floor that was damaged. He managed to jump off the ladder just as it grabbed at his freakin' crotch?! and somehow it didn't crash through a piece of glass / wreck the upstairs railing / destroy walls etc. But really, who the fuck cares about a floor that can be fixed. I am so glad that guy had good reflexes - though his placement of the ladder, in a two-story section over a stairway, was utterly stupid. It's strange when near-disaster becomes good-fortune. PS: The floor held up spectacularly, all things considered. It's scuffed but there's only the tiniest dent. Oak is truly superior wood.

The evenings are the challenging time. That's when I have to look around at everything that's not adequate, though it should be. That's when I can't find any of the things still in boxes, so that I can live in my house like, well, I actually live here. That's when I see the peeps and the feral animals staring into my backyard. That's when I have to shore myself up for whatever bullshit is going to come the next day - and the dozen people who will arrive starting at 8 am (if we're lucky). It's a mind-fuck to, on the one hand, loathe the activity (because it's SO disruptive and I'm so angry about the trades being here largely to fix things they did inadequately in the first place) - but also to be so grateful for it because it's the only way the affronting problems can be resolved.

I'm so out of my comfort zone. My house is generally my best reprieve from over-stimulation - except for now, when it's the sole source of all that stimulation. Tahiti is looking pretty good right now, just sayin'.

No question, this house is not photo-worthy on any level. I know that this end-stage is a moment in time, if one that feels interminable - that it's always darkest before the dawn and all that shit - especially when you have to live amongst it while it all unfolds. Mercifully, we have internet again, after 4 days without (which is a serious issue when you work from home, as Scott does). This means I can, once again, mood alter with the only thing that vaguely undercuts the sickening anxiety - Grand Designs. Somehow, watching the more complex, expensive, visionary and miserable projects of other unsuspecting home renovators really takes the edge off. I mean, those people have it BAD. I'm also availing myself of terrific weather and patios with good cocktails.

I realize my narrative needs to change. It needs to change because I don't want to be the bitter lady who spent 4 years of her life (once all is said and done) realizing something beautiful, only to begrudge the process to the extent that joy can not be found. I used to be friendly and optimistic. Right now I'm brittle and mistrustful. A smudge ceremony is in the near future. As necessary, so will be an appointment with a therapist.

Forgive me for my angriness - I don't do things half-assed, including feeling the feelings. I promise that, as soon as I have the slightest amount of bandwidth, my goal will be to reveal the many beauties of this home - and to appreciate them with the requisite gratitude. I just need a bit of time.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

The Eyes of the Home

I should not be writing this post right now. I should be packing or shopping or cleaning or confirming something. I know this because my husband is so in my face that he could blow an eyelash off my cheek. So. much. bossiness. I get it. We're at that primal moment when war behaviour is destined to emerge. The kid's gone so he can't control her process. That leaves me.

Just for the record, I know that when you're moving next Saturday, you have to pack all the things before that day arrives. I don't need to camp for a week.

But that's not what this post is about. This post is about my choice of windows. Unquestionably, I knew what I wanted: Crittalls, from UK. They're steel framed, generally single-glazed (esp. in olde days) because they are designed for a temperate climate. I love the skinny horizontal mullions. I love the black frame, the smallish panes. They walk that tightrope of old, industrial and new. When facing a small, green space, there is nothing more beautiful IMO. They're moody but they let coziness shine through.

Crittall Windows
Photo from the Crittall website linked to above.
Alas, the only Cdn vendor that approximates this look is Pella and the cost was going to be about 54K for 2 walls of windows. Yeah. Partly that's cuz I live in Canada and everything here costs much more than elsewhere in NA and prob than most of Europe. We have few economies of scale.

Ironically, had the original builders not fucked me over, I could have bought these windows 4 times and been no worse off. But that's not how this process goes.

In the absence of the Pellas, the architect suggested something unappealingly generic so Scott and I spent a weekend redesigning the drawings and came up with what we call "a little bit Crit". We pulled this look off for 12K (but note the full window budget was 25K and we replaced all windows in the house except for those on the third floor which was renoed 5 years ago):

Small portion of the back wall of windows - only decent shot I've got, currently. 
These are vinyl outside (to last through the winter), triple-glazed and wood on the inside, painted black.
Notice the absence of casings. We inset the windows and finished with a U channel (in stark contrast to the fancily cased Victorian windows at the front of the house). We offset the vertical mullion and skinnied up the horizontals.

But until earlier this week, while I LOVED the windows, both Scott and I were vaguely dismayed because they didn't look Crittall at all:

This is the other back wall of windows on the second floor - aka Kristin's sewga room, re-envisioned.
See how un-Crittall those gorgeous windows are? By later this week they'll look like the downstairs ones inasmuch as they'll be painted black.

Here's my point: I looked and looked and looked at those windows all the freakin' time and I couldn't figure out where we went wrong. I mean, I was more than happy to get with the windows I got, but (not being a profesh designer and all) I couldn't understand why they didn't look Crittall. And then it hit me - they needed to be painted black.

I know - really self-evident. Perhaps I seem dim. But till I figured it out, it eluded me.

My other points are these:
  • You can design whatever you want. Whether you get it in the end depends on many factors outside of the scope of your control but, in theory, you're in charge.
  • You don't need to spend a zillion dollars - but you do need to be creative. Also, unless you're REALLY creative, you will need to spend to some extent. 
  • Break it down. What do you like about what you like? You really need to see what's going on in a granular way in order to recreate a look.
One other point: As I continue to go back through years of posts wherein I discussed design and what was then the impending renovation, I'm pretty amazed to find that I spoke about doing all of the things I've actually done, to some extent or another. To suggest I don't have a process is flat-out wrong. My process is dialoguing here. You don't need a mood board if that board is already in your mind.

On that note, I can no longer ignore Scott bellowing at me from the third floor. Off to roll up a mattress prematurely.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

In Which I Remind You that Renos Suck

Lest you think we're sliding into that "reno sweet spot" (what with our move back to the house happening on July 14), please be assured that there is no such thing. On today's laundry list of compelling issues that just slide off one's back (sort of), the motor on our furnace blew and it did something to the gizmo to cause all of my pipes associated with my new AC unit - and the actual AC unit - to freeze solid.

Let's look at the bright side: We're having a massive heat wave so the unit should be thawed by tomorrow morning when our HVAC guy comes to fix the situation. Moreover, our HVAC guy is one of the few trades I can respect - and he's giving us a huge discount on the fix. (He was not the cause of the issue!)

On the less bright side: the heat wave - in the absence of working AC - means my paint is drying at the pace of an actual snail.

Also, it would be good to know when my 12 new doors are going to arrive, like, optimally before I move in - not that anyone can tell me.

Oh, and the counter people (aka the Princesses from Vaughan, as I now refer to them) have advised that they can't confirm our installation date and time until Monday (the day they're supposed to arrive) because the person who looks that up on the computer is away. Also they just don't give a shit about my tiny job. It didn't go over well when I suggested that it must be rather difficult to run a professional business the size and scale of theirs without having, perhaps, 2 employees (out of 100) who understand how the computerized booking system works. Yeah, I know. Not my most strategic move but I'm ready to explode.

Then there's the fact that extreme heat may impact drying timelines for my final floor seal - which could have implications for all kinds of things that I cannot broach right now without becoming vaguely hysterical.

Also, the fix for the stove vent (you may recall 4 separate trades managed to mess this up independently with nary a second thought) is entirely sub-optimal from my vantage point. My husband spent 5 months designing the most beautiful mechanical wall you've ever seen - which is no small feat in a house that's 15 feet wide - because his hate-on for the ugliness and wasted space produced by bulkheads is rivaled only by my profound disappointment in this entire process. The only reason I didn't go full-on reno-zilla is that he swore to me that a 4-inch high valence, coming down from the ceiling,  truly wasn't going to bother him and he begged me to let it go for everyone's sanity.

By the way - this is merely a short-list of today's issues. I can't remember them all without looking at a spreadsheet. (Wait - now I remember but I just can't bring myself to write it down.)

Add PMS to this list and it leads to a fun tale about how, today - when I ran out for 5 minutes desperate to find something to eat between multiple work crises while simultaneously having a heady debate about tiles with Scott, on the phone - I had to quickly switch gears to lose my shit on some idiot who decided to cut in the line I had been standing in for far too long. I didn't even start the argument. She had the audacity to imply that I was being rude by not tolerating her breach of protocol (Canadians tolerate) and, at that point, I was done. Oh, that woman didn't know what hit her (namely a barrage of multi-syllabic in-your-faceness, the subtext of which was fuck off bitch). It was quite a spectacle. Unsurprisingly she backed down a) cuz possession is 9/10ths of the law and the cashier was already checking me out and b) when you go at someone without cause and that someone comes back at you hard, you gotta carefully consider how crazy she actually is.

When that was done, I remembered that I was still on the phone with Scott. He confirmed that I was "scary like a lawyer" and then he decided it might be more fruitful to talk about tiles tonight.

Over the past few weeks, I've heard first-, second- and third-hand tales about multiple people who can't get any traction on their renos, currently in play. Like none. They're, 6, 10, 18-months in, living in their basements, eating takeout, bathing their children in a kitchen sink. While I'm incredibly critical of the broken-ness of the building industry - and I will continue to be this way until I find a way to fix it (and I will find a way) - these stories make me understand that I do have traction - albeit builder-grade* (the worst concept ever). Sure, it's taking a veritable furnace of life-energy from two perfectionist overachievers who should probably be more mindful of their health, but I will move back into that house in less than 2 weeks - and I will have bathrooms and a kitchen - if not interior doors. Goddess-willing, I will also have initial backyard hardscaping, blinds, wood beams, a sexy barn door and a bunch of new kitchen gizmos (if no furniture, cuz really, who has money for places to sit?)

*On this topic, is it not sad that this term refers specifically to mediocre workmanship. Like, you can have good work or you can have "builder-grade". Take back the night, Builders. Find the pride in your industry because you're the only thing standing between us and the devolution of architectural value everywhere.