We are “paint-grade” people

We’re done with our kitchen. After 16 years of Home Depot cabinets with sagging shelves and broken drawers, a tile countertop with missing grout and a stove fan that circulates air into the kitchen, we are ready to upgrade – to experience the good life of smooth granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and glass-tile backsplashes.

Nothing like standing in front of the stove while it blows the fumes right at your face. Great design. I am personally going to smash this with a sledge-hammer when we demo the kitchen.

We are ready to stop lying to friends who visit: “we’re planning on re-doing this whole thing soon.”

We are ready for an adult kitchen.

Or we thought we were.

What we believed would be a fun and exciting transformation has a been a self-esteem roller-coaster. And it has to do with living in Los Angeles, where it’s damn easy to feel poor every day.

Yes, interviewing contractors delivered the harsh message: we are “paint-grade” people.

Paint-grade people.

We are the people who don’t choose the stained, hand-picked maple cabinets or the stone mined in a remote area of Brazil, polished with coca leaves, and hauled by donkey to the United States.

We are the people who don’t have the unlimited funds to give the contractor a platinum American Express card and instructions to “go wild.”

Could we afford the maply-goodness of stained cabinets? Probably, it’s all home equity. But it’s still our money, the money we worked for. And we elect to save it for a rainy day. Four-thousand dollars to us is not a trivial amount. We’d like our daughter to get a good education. And 4K in her college fund today may be a big deal to her in eight years. Or we hope it will.

So the contractors have come and left their bids and stories of larger, better jobs in larger, better cities – Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Encino. “We’re doing a 30-million dollar remodel in Century City. Some computer-guy and his wife. You’re much happier than they are though. They agonize over every detail. They love to micro-manage.”

(Translation: Money will buy you a great kitchen, but it won’t make you happy? I have my doubts.)

Or this gem, “It’s good to see construction here in the Valley picking up. That’s a good sign for the economy. It never went away in Brentwood and Beverly Hills. You couldn’t drive down a street there without construction.”

(Translation: The 1% did okay while the rest of the country was hurting, but they weren’t enough to create the jobs for the many. The middle class is needed for that.)

The paint-grade people are needed to get the party started.

So, the search continues for the right contractor, the one who walks into our kitchen and doesn’t tell me romantic stories of past million-dollar remodels and 30K custom-built dining-room tables. Who doesn’t feel the best jobs are in high-income zip codes. A contractor who doesn’t frown when you tell him you want painted white cabinets.

Yep, when I find that guy or gal, I’ll write the check. Until then, life in our paint-grade world goes on. And it’s a good, happy world to be in.*

[*Exception: when remodeling a kitchen.]

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Coming up for air

[There is no medical advice in this post. I’m a complete idiot, not a doctor. Please don’t forget it.]

Her name is JJ and she loves me for me. I don't have to pretend when I'm around her. And she's always there for me.

There’s nothing like catching a cold two weeks after getting out of the hospital to jar your positive outlook on life. Especially when I have a terrible track record against colds. Oh, and then there is the C diff I’ve been battling. A beautiful double punch to the lungs and gut.

One day the sun is shining, the bat breaks, and here comes some splintered maple, WHACK to the head. Hard and fast with no helmet to protect me. I was just sitting there eating my Dodger Dog, watching the game when the next thing I know I’m on my back with a piece of wood sticking out of my forehead and mustard on my shirt.

My daughter brought the cold home, which always makes me feel bad because it’s not her fault it finds its evil virus way to me. Most normal fathers withstand colds just fine. And I think I have a pretty good immune system because the times when my wife gets it too, I fare pretty well compared to her.

It’s the inflammation it causes in my lungs that roasts me. I can’t get the junk out. I recover from the cold, but not its wake.

But since I started taking higher doses of vitamin C, I’ve been faring better. This was the first autumn I stayed out of the hospital in years, and during the recent hospital joy ride, my PFTs recovered for the first time while I was in the hospital, something rare and unseen for many years. And my pulse ox was higher than it normally is for an exacerbation. Odd, but in a good way.

And now, after a week of this cold and a Saturday I can only describe as a descent into Virus Hell – a day of my body and mind misfiring I’ll never forget – and four straight days of eating mostly liquids, bowls of Tom Yum and Tom Kar Thai soup, and flushing my sinuses three times a day, and eating as much vitamin C as my stomach could manage, I’m may see a thin glow in the distance.

And it may not be the fluorescent glow of hospital lights.

I can’t say if I’ll avoid the hospital. It’s touch and go, but there is hope. Scary stuff is still coming out of me. But my lungs feel like they have better air each day and are moving the trapped garbage out.

I hope I don’t curse myself with this post. I know better. But have I made it this time? Or am I being teased?

If I did make it, say hello to my little friend, Vitamin C. She’s my new best pal in the fight.

Something I would give to my worst enemy – c diff

I don’t believe in the saying, “I wouldn’t give that to my worst enemy.” Not me. I’d give everything bad I could think of to my worse enemy. And other than passing on my cystic fibrosis, c diff would be second on my list.

This is the devil picture on Wikipedia? That's the best they can do? Hmm. Oh, well, I'm wishing c diff on the devil, though I have my suspicions he invented it.

Holy f**k, this bacteria is not pleasant. I had to start week three of the Vanco. And just when I think I have the upper hand on it, bang, boom, bang, there goes my stomach again.

Where is my worst enemy to give this to?

I’ve had some days with this sucker when I wished a meteor would fall from the sky, pulverize me and the c diff. Pile of dust and dead bacteria. Kind of like the movie where the hero grabs the enemy and jumps off a rooftop, taking both of their lives, to save the world. Not sure what that movie was called, but you know the genre, I hope. Hero dies to save the world. I just want to kill the c diff for the good of the world (and me).

I’m doing everything right. Taking the vanco on time, eating probiotics, getting sleep, making little c diff voodoo dolls to throw in the bonfire each night in an ancient c diff-be-gone ritual. Then I apply war paint to my face and chest and dance through the neighborhood in a kilt. My neighbors close their shades and turn off their lights. No one home, go away.  

Bacteria have it out for me. Story of my life. Story of your life?

In other random news, my wife is losing hair and is stressed about it. I think it’s from living with me and am surprised it didn’t happen sooner, like a week after she met me.

In reality, it’s probably her job. She stresses too much about it and is 10 times the worker I am. However, we don’t live in a big house or drive exotic cars, and we don’t have a boat or coke habits, and we don’t because we don’t want to stress about these things.

But she stresses like we do have these worries and that’s not right. And if she’s going to stress that much, we may as well move up to a larger house. I’ve always wanted a Porsche. And god knows I can throw a rock in any direction in this city and hit a coke dealer. Oops, sorry, meth dealer. I don’t live in Beverly Hills.

So, tonight I played the following TED video for her. It’s really about happiness, not work, and appreciating what you do have. Hopefully, it will help her fight the deterioration of aging and have a positive mindset. Or not.

I don’t like seeing her go through this, but I’ve been living it for many years and depend a great deal on Super Glue to hold my stuff together. Works like magic.

We all go through it don’t we? If we live long enough. But how we go through it is what matters most, isn’t it? No sense being unhappy about the inevitable. As my ex-friend Fox would say, Party like it’s your last.

(The TED clip is below. It’s funny. Please check it out. It may make you happier. Or maybe it won’t. Will. Won’t. Will. Won’t. Oh, hell, give it a shot. What do you have to lose?)

The sadness of gravity

Returning from space can be difficult.

Home, sweet home

I’ve been back for over 10 days and I’m still not acclimated to life on Earth.

Everything was so calm and cozy in that spaceship – Earth outside, round and blue. Just my fellow astronauts to bother me, but few challenges of every day life and dealing with people to stress about. Nope, just the hum of the space shuttle and the child-like joy of existing in a zero-gravity environment.

Everything I needed to sustain my life was in that confined, artificial space. My lungs felt good with reduced inflammation. My meals were brought to me. My treatments delivered and medicine piped into me. Oh, the quality of service in space.

And then I came back to Earth.

And its gravity. And its heaviness.

Its noises and traffic and people. Its smells, odors and sharp edges.

Its speed. Its weight.

I’ve been discombobulated since my return. I don’t feel in rhythm with my environment. People speak but their lips don’t sync to the sound. Damn Bluetooth lag.

Other than work, I’ve been less than productive. No blog posts. Little reading. And I’ve spent a good deal of time playing Forza 4 on Xbox each night. I’m practicing to beat @Onlyz after suffering numerous losses to him this weekend. Damn British drivers.

I have a bad case of the blahs and I need answers.

What’s the meaning of life, Siri?

Siri?

Are you there, Siri?

Is Steve Jobs really God, Siri?

Do the pearly gates have Apple logos on them? 

Siri, do you know what’s it like to be weightless? To float in space? To be confined for weeks at a time? 

Siri, honey?

Who am I, Siri? What’s my purpose? How should I spend my last days on Earth?

Siri? 

Oh, you’re just the beta version. Good, something to look forward to.