Saturday, August 30, 2008


I have been unpacking.

When I first saw the massive pile of boxes in the living room, full of stuff that has been in storage for over a year, I thought, "Wow, we own a lot of stuff!"

Several hours later, having made only the smallest of dents in the pile, I am now thinking, "Wow, we own a lot of paper."

That stack is only a small part of the packing paper that has been unpacked so far. These boxes are but a small fraction of the boxes yet to come.

Back to work.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


This morning, jet lagged, lying in bed waiting for the clock to show a reasonable hour, I listed in my head the many things I still needed to do to finish moving in. Tell billion things in my brain at once. And then I thought of my blog.

My poor blog. Last on the priority list. No time to write for hours and hours, in spite of all the great stories I had to tell. I hoped I would remember those stories when I had enough time to sit down and write them.

And then as I watched the clock, waiting for a reasonable time to get up and get busy, I realized that jet lag time is a perfect time for telling stories.

So here you go.

International travel

Here are the ingredients.

4 bags to check, weighing 17, 16, 14, and 23.0 kg respectively.
One four-year-old.
20 hours of travel time.
Three buses, two airplanes, customs and immigration, six hours of airport time, one hour in a car, a terminal change, two carry on bags, and jet lag.

And just me.

Mix and stir.

Just for fun, add in the following. Third bus, after a half hour wait, I hang towards the back of the queue as I try to unload my four suitcases from the cart. The four year old waits patiently by my side. No one makes eye contact, much less offers to help. The driver shuts the door in my face. "Full," he says, as he drives away.

Yes, these people were all part of the human race. Sometimes I want out. Of course, as a human myself, instead I stood at the curb wishing them all a flat tire.

Fifteen minutes later, as the next bus pulled up, a kind man in a huge rush offered to help with my bags. A kind woman with two young children pointed out my stop. And the four year old stayed close and waited as instructed as I dealt with unloading. I decided the human race was ok after all. But I still looked, and nope, we didn't pass a bus with a flat tire. Dang.

Otherwise, the travel was really quite smooth. It was a miracle. The four year old stayed nearby as instructed. He liked having his "telly" (television) on the international flight, although even the novelty of picking your own movies and cartoons wears off after several hours. He interrupted my movie so often to take walks to the toilet or up to get a drink that I still don't know if my movie had a happy ending. He liked watching the airplanes during the layover. He enjoyed the moving sidewalks. I did have to finally tell him sternly that it was time to sleep on the final flight after 17 hours of travel time and only happy bright eyes from him. That meant two hours later I had to wake him up and tell him it was time to leave. He cried and fussed and tried to punch me into letting him stay on the airplane, all the way out to baggage claim.

Other passengers turned and stared and asked themselves, "who is that nightmare child?" and "why does that mother stand for that behavior?"

And I thought all the way, "who is this amazing miracle child who just traveled 19 hours and is only now fussing?" and smiled broadly at all the other passengers and offered soothing words. I am such an enabler.

And we made it.


Yesterday I fired my contractor. It felt good. I'm not sure how long this happy feeling of euphoria will last, but for now, I'm happy to have fired my contractor.

I don't think my contractor story is unique. The guy said he'd finish the whole house by August 5. When that deadline slid, I gave him until August 20, when the movers came. When that deadline slid, I was in the middle of moving, so delivered no ultimatum immediately.

I arrived, jetlagged, late Monday night. Projects I had thought he had finished he had not yet started. He had not called nor showed up to work for a week. My mother in law finally had hired a separate electrician so that I would have power to run the refrigerator, and a separate plumber so I would have running water in the kitchen and a toilet in the bathroom.

I tried to call the contractor a few times yesterday during the day, but received a busy signal or no answer. So finally I sent him an email.

I told him that as I was now back in the US, living in my house, supervising the remodel project, things were going to change.

"First and foremost: You are fired."

I then threw in a comment to the fact that my lawyer had recommended x, y, z, to let him know I was serious about the firing. Honestly, my lawyer would cost a lot more than he costs, so I hope the contractor doesn't need me to hire the lawyer. One thing about my lawyer, however: He shows up on time.

I hit Send. It felt good.

No, I have not yet heard back from him. Yes, I'll try calling him again today. I think I'll also send a regular letter to his mailing address on file, so I can state that I've tried every point of communication available. Maybe I'll call him at 5 am, when I'm sure not to get a busy signal -- assuming his phone works at all anymore.

Meanwhile? That electrician that my mother in law hired is really really good. He fixed all the electrical outlets in the kitchen, connected the lights, and even fixed the phone that had been broken for weeks due to somebody's missteps. The plumber was also excellent. I will call him again in a heart beat -- probably when I'm ready to hook up the sink and toilet in the other bathroom in (cross your fingers) another week. Shower guys are coming to give an estimate this morning. Things are finally rolling again on this project, and I feel good.

Please just don't call back, oh contractor. My lawyer is expensive.