Grumpy about the bad days 

It’s been 21 days since I posted up a blog. I’ve been busy with other shit, as you may have guessed if you read my last couple posts. Anthony and I have been ripping out old wall-to-wall carpet in a room, and we sanded the floor and refinished it.

It looks pretty good. Here’s  the progression. What it looked like right after we lifted the carpet:


Then after we sanded (with a 130-pound buff sander so unhinged that managing it was like dragging an unbalanced washing machine around the room):


And then this:


Oh. Wait. That’s the Spam I fried for Jesse that day. Hold on while I find the right photo.

Okay, here’s what it looked like after the first coat of varnish:


And after two more coats:


Anyway, there’s been other stuff to do as well the past several weeks, like feeding minions and trying to remember to have them bathe at least once a week. Also school lunches. Also tae kwon do shit. Also finishing pants and shorts that I’m sewing for Jesse and Nick. Also sitting on the sofa slothfully in a mild depression, staring blankly at dust bunnies floating in the sun, which I have to do every day for a little while after I take Nick to school.

Because Jesse has had a few ba-a-a-a-ad weeks and Nick is in the midst of a five-year-old’s equivalent of a mid-life crisis.

So it got under my skin when I saw that there were two new comments today on my most recent blog post and this is what they said:

“When will the next post come?” (Anonymous)

“Really how long do you expect me to wait for your witty and emotionally draning [sic] commentary?” (Anonymous)

I don’t get a lot of comment action on my blog because WordPress’s default is to require commenters to leave their email address and I haven’t figured out yet how to change it. Who has time for that shit? So most of the comments I get are like these — slightly off-kilter, weird things written by what I assume is some sort of translator spam machine, along the lines of “thank you for your insightful insights into the operations of things. I am look forward to reading much more helpful and useful iterations of your creativity.”

Still, it got under my skin. I read the comments and shook my head, thinking, “Listen, joker, it’s not my commentary that’s emotionally draining, it’s my LIFE.”

Nick is totally out of control right now. He’s going through the terrible twos, three years late. (My kids are late bloomers.) He screams frequently and at random moments, throws tantrums and hard toys at me, doesn’t do anything I ask, refuses to share anything with Jesse, beats her up and follows her around the house attacking her with imaginary weapons and then falls into bawling tears when she pokes him with a feather. He’s driving all of us crazy.

But who is Jesse to judge? She’s been throwing her own tantrums, and she’s turning 10 next week. It’s been day after day of horrifying, emotionally numbing outbursts and melt-downs. She’s a tornado when she gets like this, hurling random insults at others and herself, making threats to hurt others and herself, and unable to gather the reins in.

But who am I to judge? I’ve been following Jesse and Nick down the path of crazies. Instead of offering useful, mature parental guidance, I’ve been yelling at the kids every day for all their fighting and insanity. After nearly a decade, I still have limited reserves for dealing with Jesse when she detours into emotional oblivion. And Nick hurts too because I don’t have any reserves left for him. His sister uses them all up. I can’t tolerate his normal five-year-old shit with any equanimity lately. So I yell, I stomp and have hissy fits, and I complain about everything. I hate myself.

Rationally I know there are lots of reasons why Jesse’s negative behavior, which is rooted in her anxiety and self-loathing, is ratcheting up a million notches. Our house is a wreck because of the carpet ripping and floor refinishing; shit is in all the wrong places. We’re trying to get an even bigger renovation project going as well, and this is making Jesse feel very unsettled. Badger tests are next week. These standardized state-wide tests have no meaning to Jesse in terms of her development and potential, but they sure matter to public schools and their teachers, who make a big deal out of them. I keep telling Jesse they don’t matter, but she’s not buying my line; she’s totally stressed out about the testing. Last week we competed in tae kwon do tournaments, and Jesse (and I) sparred for the first time without adequate preparation. Major stressor. Next week is testing to advance to the next belt. Jesse’s birthday is next week, and for some reason she has a lot of anxiety about her birthdays. I think she’s expecting some sort of transmogrification to occur. “I’m ten today, Mommy! Look, I have wings now!” Or maybe she’s wishing, and preparing herself for the emptiness of another ordinary day. A teacher told her class that if it doesn’t rain soon, California is going to run out of water. She came home filled with trepidation about what’s going to happen to Grandma and Uncle Mark and Uncle Ted. Will they have water to drink?

So I get it. I understand why Jesse is emotionally in the red zone. But knowing that with my brain doesn’t make it any easier for my body and emotions to cope. Because Jesse is a terror when she gets like this, and our family is coming unhinged.

This morning Jesse woke up and started right in. She came to my bed and head butted me on the nose. When I told her to go back to her own room, the whining, ululating, and rage bursts started. Before I even made it to the bathroom to pee she had thrown her first real punches at me and screamed at me about (a) what an awful parent I am, and (b) what an awful child she is. She hit a clean emotional blow when she screeched that all I’ve been doing is yelling and screaming at her every day.

“Huh,” I thought to myself as I brushed my teeth. “That’s pretty accurate.” I made myself a promise, one I’ve made hundreds and hundreds of times before. I didn’t yell.

Eventually Jesse made it downstairs in a quieter mood, but instead of coming to breakfast she decided first she needed to finish her homework. I asked her to eat breakfast first, but she settled into her work instead with weird humming and moaning noises, which continued helplessly as Anthony tried to say good bye to her.

I dug deep and kept trying not to yell at the kids as the morning progressed. I snapped to be sure, but I didn’t descend into the crazies. I sent Jesse to her room a couple times for screaming insanely and picking on Nick. I ignored her best I could. And after she cleared her plates from breakfast (assisted by some snapping from me because she was definitely going to break something with all the slamming going on), she disappeared for a good long while.

After washing dishes and pouring another cup of coffee, I settled on the sofa and stared glumly out the window into the spectacularly beautiful woods in our back yard. Nick, who was in pacifist mode, played quietly by himself. A few minutes passed, and then Jesse came tip-toeing down the stairs, dressed and ready for school. She settled silently onto my lap for a snuggle, without a word. There we sat, an emotionally broken woman and her equally lost daughter, holding each other like lifelines. I continued to stare out the window, preparing myself for whatever Jesse might throw at me. But all she threw was a glance up at my face. I could tell out of my peripheral vision that there were question marks and longing in it.

So we sat a moment, and then Nick came over and snuggled in. And there we sat in silence, Jesse on my lap with her head on my left shoulder, and Nick pushed in against me with my right arm wrapped around his still-tiny body.

So we sat a moment, and then our diminutive dog came down the stairs and joined us. Madeline sat her fluffy six-pound self down on my tummy, and still we sat quietly, enjoying our mutual company in silence. Love blossomed up around us. In that moment, it was enough to crowd out those awful weeds of anxiety and self-loathing, the stupid bickering and fighting that inevitably accompany a life shared in minutiae.

If you saw us then, you would have said we were a picture-book family, a vision of joy and happiness. (Unless you had seen us about 45 minutes earlier as well. Whatever.)

So an ordinary day passed, and many good things happened. Anthony decided to come home early to be with Nick while I worked out. I realized later that he was just being excessively nice to me because he gets it — the kids have flayed me. After I picked the kids up from school, I dropped Nick off with Anthony and headed to the gym. Jesse’s swim team worked for an hour and a half and I worked out too. Jesse wanted to have dinner with just me at a park, so we picked up some carry-out and did that, enjoying a quiet meal under some trees without the noisome energy of Nick drowning us. I could tell Jesse was just trying to reconnect with me, trying to show me she deserves my love. I realized I was doing the same thing. It was all good, and we didn’t have to debrief any of the big issues that haunt us.

We got home and the peacefulness continued, except we saw that slightly depraved look in Anthony’s eyes that told us he had been alone with Nick for more than three hours. As we snuggled down in bed to watch an episode of Odd Squad, Anthony spoke out of the blue, with a sly smile on his face. “So Carla… Did you like my comments on your blog today?”

grumpy about Home Depot

I hate Home Depot. So I can’t explain why I called my local Home Depot this evening to find out if they carry a random orbital floor sander. The Home Depot website says I can rent one from locations that carry rental tools, and I really want to rent one to refinish the fir-like softwood floors we just exposed upstairs when we ripped out the wall-to-wall carpet.

Home Depot’s tool rental info page had a spot where I could enter my zip code and it would tell me which nearby locations had this particular sander in stock. But I was on my iPhone and here’s a news flash: the zip code widget didn’t work. Not to worry. I decided to just call the store. How long could it take them to tell me if they have a random orbital floor sander in stock for me to rent?

Here’s how the call went. More or less. It’s hard for me to remember all 33 minutes verbatim (my finger did not twitch and accidentally hit that number key twice), but I have the sequence of events exactly right:

Br-r-r-ringgg, br-r-r-ringggg.

“Thank you for calling Home Depot. If you know your party’s three-digit extension, please dial it now. Please listen to the following options, if you are trying to reach a department. For flooring, press one. For kitchen and bath, press two. For gardening and outdoors, press three. For lumber, please press four. For additional options, please press the star button.”

I press star.

“For electrical, press five. For plumbing and heating, press six. For windows and shutters, press seven. For tool rentals, press eight.”

AHA! I breath a sigh of relief and press 8.

Br-r-r-ringgg, br-r-r-ringggg. I count five rings. There’s a pause, and then two more rings.

“Thank you for calling Home Depot. All of our customer service representatives are currently helping other customers. Please stay on the line and a representative will be with you shortly.” Eighties rock-style music kicks in with an emphatic, macho male voice overlay. He says all sorts of exciting stuff along the lines of, “you want to fix your house, and we want to help. LET’S DO THIS.” I’ve stumbled into a monster truck rally. It’s a repeating loop.

Click. “Hello, this is Mary. How can I help you?”

“I’m trying to find out if your store carries random orbital floor sanders that I can rent.”

“Oh, you need the rental department. One moment please.” Click.

Damn. I know exactly what she’s doing, but she moved so fast I didn’t have time to stop her. She’s transferring me back to the rental department.

Br-r-r-ringgg, br-r-r-ringggg. I count five rings. There’s a pause, and then two more rings.

“Thank you for calling Home Depot. All of our customer service representatives are currently helping other customers. Please stay on the line and a representative will be with you shortly.” Rock-style music kicks in with macho male voice overlay saying stuff empathically along the lines of, “you want to fix your house, and we want to help. LET’S DO THIS.” Monster truck rally continues.

Click. “Hello, this is Mary. How can I help you?”

“Hi. It’s me again. Still trying to find out about the random orbital floor sander.”

She speaks cheerfully. “Oh, I’m sorry. I know they’re back there. They must not have picked up. Hold on.” Click.

DAMN. Too fast. I know exactly what she’s doing.

Br-r-r-ringgg, br-r-r-ringggg. I count five rings. There’s a pause, and then two more rings.

“Thank you for calling Home Depot. All of our customer service representatives are currently helping other customers. Please stay on the line and a representative will be with you shortly.” Rock-style music kicks in with macho male voice overlay saying stuff empathically along the lines of, “you want to fix your house, and we want to help. LET’S DO THIS.”

I breathe.

Click. “Hello, this is John. How can I help you?”

This is new. I must have finally gotten through. “Hi John! I’ve been on hold a long time. I want to know if you carry random orbital floor sanders to rent.”

“Hold on, I’ll transfer you.” Click.


Five rings, pause, two rings.

“Thank you for calling Home Depot. All of our customer service representatives are currently helping other customers. Please stay on the line and a representative will be with you shortly.” Rock-style music kicks in with macho male voice overlay saying stuff empathically along the lines of, “you want to fix your house, and we want to help. LET’S DO THIS.” 

I breathe some more. Also I groan and start pacing.

Click. “Hello, this is Melanie. How can I help you?”

I can’t hide my irritability. “Melanie. You’re the third person I’ve talked with. I just keep being transferred and put on hold. I think they’re trying to send me to the rental department. Who were they, and who are you? Where are you in the store?”

Melanie laughs. “I’m at the customer service desk, ma’am. What can I do for you?”

I grit my teeth and speak politely, because I know it’s not Melanie’s fault and I’m not irate yet. “I want to rent a random orbital floor sander. I’m trying to find out if you carry them in this store. My phone tells me I’ve been trying for 12 minutes. Please don’t just transfer me back to the rental department, because they’re not picking up.”

Melanie is relentlessly polite. “I’ll transfer you to a manager.”

Br-r-r-ringgg, br-r-r-ringggg. A gruff, rushed, and self-important sounding voice answers. But the man is not clear-spoken. “hewwo ths ess Brfs, wu cu I dfya.”

I can’t make out his name. It doesn’t matter. I figure out that he’s asked me what I need. I tell him.

“You need the rental department.”

“I know. They’re not picking up.”

“I know they’re there. They’re probably helping other customers. I’ll walk back there ma’am, with you on the line. Hold on.”

I wait. I continue to hear human sounds, and the macho man truck rally doesn’t come back on, so I’m happy. Sort of. The human sounds are muffled, as if the manager is holding the phone against his body as he walks, so I can tell he’s got a mobile piece. There’s a lot of talking, but I can’t tell if he’s talking to me, so every 20 or 30 seconds I say hopefully, “hello? Hello? Are you talking to me?” I can’t tell if I’m getting a reply, because all the noises are incoherent. After about 7 minutes of this (the iPhone call timer does not lie), suddenly there’s silence.

I wander into the kitchen and mutter to Anthony, who’s doing dishes. “I think he hung up on me.” Huh. But the iPhone doesn’t think the call has ended. I put the phone back up to my ear, just in time to hear…

“Thank you for calling Home Depot. All of our customer service representatives are currently helping other customers. Please stay on the line and a representative will be with you shortly.” Rock-style music kicks in with macho male voice overlay saying stuff empathically along the lines of, “you want to fix your house, and we want to help. LET’S DO THIS.” 

Now I’m irate.

Click. “Hello, this is Melanie. How can I help you?”

“Hello Melanie. I’m back. I’m trying to rent a random orbital floor sander. You transferred me to the manager. I have no idea what he’s doing.”

“Oh. Did you speak with him?”

“Yeeees. He said he was walking to the rental department.”

“I’ll get him again for you.” Click.

BP meds kick into action on my end, stopping the stroke I can feel rising up in my brain.

The manager answers the phone again. I remind him who I am. He’s practically nonchalant, and this is when it all falls apart, in my mind at least.

“I’m sorry ma’am. I was helping a customer. What is it you need?”

“A random orbital floor sander! If you had been listening the first time we spoke, you would know that!”

He’s still nonchalant, and apparently indifferent to the fact that we’ve travelled this path before. “I’ll walk back to the rental department right now.”

“That’s what you said you were doing last time I spoke with you! What were you actually doing??”

“Ma’am, a customer on the floor needed help. I stopped to help that customer.”

“With me on the line? What am I?? Aren’t I a customer??”

“Ma’am,” he says suavely, as though he’s explaining to me how to wipe my ass, “I had to help the customer.”

My decibels are rising now as I sass back at him. “You could have at least told me! I was just waiting on this line listening to you help another customer?? No wonder your staff act like this!! WHY DIDN’T YOU AT LEAST TELL ME?? YOU CAN DO BETTER THAN THIS. YOU’RE HOME DEPOT. I’ve been listening to your stupid macho man recording tell me over and over again that LET’S DO THIS!! Are you gonna DO THIS??? COME ON! YOU CAN DO BETTER!! YOU’RE THE HOME DEPOT!!!”

And so on. Manager maintains his dignity. He finds the rental department and we settle down to business. Then it goes wrong in a whole new way.

“Do you want the sander with a round sanding pad or a square sanding pad?”


I don’t know what to say, so I reply as clearly as I know how. “I don’t know what the pads look like. I know I found the product on your website. It’s called a random orbital floor sander.”

We go back and forth in a completely senseless conversation that I can’t even repeat here, because I can’t remember it clearly. It’s like we’re speaking different languages, but eventually I decide the manager is trying to unload a drum sander on me. But it’s really hard to tell. What IS clear is that the manager is full of shit and doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I’ve completely lost it by now (though I’m not yelling anymore, yay for therapy!), so I speak in my best suave and didactic voice, as though I’m explaining to him how to pick his nose. “There’s a drum sander, which is too aggressive because I have soft wood. There’s a buffer, which is too light because it’s really just for touching up floors. And then there’s the random orbital floor sander, which is just right in the middle. I don’t want a buffer, I don’t want a drum sander, I want to rent a RANDOM ORBITAL FLOOR SANDER. It’s sort of TRIANGULAR. Do you have something that’s TRIANGULAR?”

There’s a long moment of silence.

“We don’t have it in stock tonight.”

“You don’t carry it?”

“No, we definitely carry it! It’s just been rented out.”

Yeah right. I try to hide my snickering and I end the call as fast as I can.

I hate Home Depot.

Grumpy transference

I’ve been really busy with practicalities for several weeks. I realized all of Nick’s pants have become culotte length, so I started sewing him a new batch, plus some shorts. Since I was doing that for him, I decided I may as well do it for Jesse. 

Sewing in bulk gives good returns but it requires focused time, which is in short supply. Also unfortunately, the sewing machine has to sit in front of the computer, so that’s a small barrier to blogging. 

What a mess.   

Last week was spring break, so I had the kids with me all week. Woot woot. We had loads of fun but it meant no time to sew, launder, cook, or bathe, let alone write anything. 

Over the past weekend, Anthony had a carpet epiphany. We’re at the tail end of planning an outrageous renovation, but it’s taking forever to get bids and every passing day makes us feel cheaper and cheaper… So we decided to pull out the wall-to-wall upstairs where our bedrooms are. We’ll refinish the original wood floor in one bedroom for now, and that’ll be the haven room where our beds go during the renovation. 

That’s what I’ve been doing with my spare time since Saturday. The twelve pants and shorts will have to wait a bit, and no time to write. Ripping out carpet is dirty work, and when a staple or tack hits a finger, YOOOOOWWCH! This job just has to get done fast. 

Here’s an example of before. Hideous carpet. I hate it. Can you say dust mite hell? 

And after. Floors from the 1940’s, desperate for air and a good sanding.    

 What a mess. 

Last night Jesse and I made kimchi anyway. It was fun, but working with this stuff makes skin burn and eyes water. These jars contain about eight pounds of cabbages, the juice of an onion and a couple bunches of chopped green onions, three heads of garlic, and almost four cups of red pepper flakes. No typo on that last bit.  


Ferment and eat. Mmmm. 

We swirled water in the bowl where we made the spice mix and poured it into a measuring/pouring glass. Jesse then poured that into the jars. Everything got washed well, no worries. 

This morning I used that measuring glass to heat a cup of water for my neti pot. Once I started hosing my nose, I realized my mistake. After I stopped crying, I tried not to wonder for too long about whether running extremely  diluted kimchi juice through my sinuses will do any permanent damage. 

Gah. Anyway, so busy! And I didn’t think I was feeling that grumpy anyway. No grumpy, no blog. I started to wonder if a year of blogging has accomplished one possible therapeutic goal: a grumpy-free life? 

I mentioned this in passing to Anthony. He looked at me in his quiet stink-eye way and muttered, “Please, blog. Keep blogging.”  

Ah. So writing isn’t curing my grumpies. I just transfer them to this blog. My family needs me to keep doing that. 

I guess there are worse crutches to have.