Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Building Decks is a Metaphor for Something Something Something

Don't you want to ask me why those posts are so tall?

Despite not having posted here in a while, I've been writing a fair amount.  Like emails and stuff.  That's writing, right?  Also, I've been writing drafts and pieces that will be published in the future and what not.  So don't worry.  I haven't given up.  Somebody told me I seemed grumpy on my blog lately.  I think it was ever since I kvetched about having to go back to work on the days my kids are in preschool, instead of getting paid to write about my feelings.  But guess what?  Working is pretty okay, after all.

I haven't done any teaching for a couple months, but I've been doing quite a bit of remodeling.  I must admit that it's pretty satisfying and confidence-building to do something I have some expertise in.  When I'm teaching or writing (or parenting), I often feel like a fraud, a hack, or a dilettante.  However, when I commence to drivin' nails, there's not a lot of anxiety involved in the process.  I was a little worried that I had lost my instincts, but a couple things convinced me otherwise.  For instance, I just got done replacing all the windows in a friend/client's house.  I always charge by the hour when clients are cool with that, because I think it's kind of bullshit to give them an estimate when all that really is is me trying to figure out how long it's gonna take and multiplying that by how much I want to make per hour, and adding as much as I think I can get away with on top of that, as a cushion in case I've underestimated, or a nice bonus in case I get done sooner than I anticipated.  So instead of doing it the bullshit way, I say, "I charge x dollars per hour, and I think it will take me x hours to do the job."  Anyway, when I got done with the window job and totaled up the time it took me, it was within a couple hours of what I had estimated.  That might actually be more of an indicator of how crappy a businessman I am than how awesome an estimator.  Still, that kind of thing makes me happy.

Now I'm building a deck.  Actually, a second level on an existing deck.  And building decks almost always makes me happy.  The first encouraging note was when I gave the client a ballpark figure for the materials, off the top of my head, only later realizing that it had been a few years since I had priced redwood and pressure treated lumber.  Then I did my takeoff and called it in to the lumberyard, and when they called back with the price, it was like, exactly what I had quoted.  I was all, I'VE STILL GOT IT BABY.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Grandma's House

Not actually Grandma's House. Just the playhouse.


I got home from the BlogHer conference in New York on a Monday at 4:30 a.m., after the third-worst domestic air-travel debacle I've ever experienced.  On Tuesday I got a facial and a haircut.  On Wednesday the whole family went to LA for the day (about which more later) and returned in time to dump the kids into bed.   On Thursday I replaced a bunch of windows in my friends' house.  Then on Friday, we headed back up to LA to catch our flight to my parents' home in Central Oregon.  (It's much cheaper to get there from LA than from San Diego.)

Since I was still suffering PTSD from my recent travel nightmare, it didn't surprise me much when we were told at the United gate that our flight had been delayed indefinitely.  I had begun to regard airports and planes as Kafkaesque mindfucks and medieval torture chambers, respectively.  So of course we would have to wander around from terminal to terminal, being shunted from one agent to another, as our children tried to ride our luggage and screech louder than the din of discontent that filled LAX.

While standing in a 100-person-deep line for customer service, my wife and I spoke to three different agents on our cell phones.  One suggested that I call the airport in San Francisco, where we were supposed to make our connection, and ask if they would hold the plane for us, which I did, and to which the agent in San Francisco responded by asking if I had lost my mind.  The Indian fellow my wife was speaking to recommended taking a taxi from LA to San Francisco, to which she responded by asking him if he had lost his mind (I try to be open-minded about outsourced customer service, but this clearly demonstrated the shortcomings of the enterprise).  It didn't look like we would make it to Oregon that night.

But the third guy, a Texan, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, managed to re-route us through Denver, on a flight that was boarding immediately.

I felt like a SWAT team leader getting instructions through an earpiece as the agent fed me intel over the phone: "GATE B8...GATE B8...NO, IT JUST CHANGED...B16! DO YOU COPY?  BOARDING PASSES WILL BE WAITING FOR YOU!  MOVE MOVE MOVE!!!"

I translated the urgency to my family:  "LET'S GO PEOPLE!  MOVE MOVE MOVE!  GET OFF MY ROLL-Y BAG!  WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE CHILDREN?! WHY ARE THEY SCREAMING?!

Turns out both the girls had just dropped deuces in their diapers.  I know.  I need to work on the potty training.

******** 

We got to Oregon, landing about three hours later than we had planned, without our luggage, and that seemed...not so bad to me.  Could've been much worse.  Thank Little Baby Jebus, the kids love airports and airplanes.  We had packed some distractions for them--new books, new games for the iPad, toys--but we didn't even need them.  They were fine sprinting on the airports' moving sidewalks and thumbing through the SkyMall catalogs on the planes.

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