Thursday, September 8, 2011

Death by Thorough

thor·ough  [thur-oh, thuhr-oh]  adjective
1. executed without negligence or omissions   2. complete; perfect; utter:   3. extremely attentive to accuracy and detail; painstaking   4. having full command or mastery of an art, talent, etc.  5. extending or passing through

House remodeling is amazing.  You get to pick exactly what you want and how you want it (assuming the cost isn't so high that you have to sell all your organs and your children's too).  I love... choosing. Ask anyone.  But my husband is an engineer and if you know any engineers, then you probably know where I'm headed.  When Rand gets involved with any of my projects (Our.  I mean our projects.), the process slows to a grinding halt and sometimes even reverses.  This is the truth.  The equal and opposite truth, however, like all great forces, is that he also makes everything better.  Better quality, better style.  Better period.  But that better comes at a near-fatal price. And lately, to be frank, that price is feeling just too damn high.

Take, for example, last night.  We were supposed to be choosing ceiling fans.  Nine little fans.  You can count them on your fingers.  No problem, right?  Especially when we have a "preferred" company/website that our builder suggests and our house is supposed to be ready to move back into in about 6 weeks (assuming we can actually commit... to fans, drawer/cabinet pulls, and paint colors, that is...)  We had even already done our preliminaries, or should I say, I had.   I had researched the size of fan needed for each of our rooms.  I had noted if they needed a light kit.  I had identified the probable finish for each.  And I had even done some solo searching and flagged a bunch of options that suited our joint style, thinking (Insert maniacal, uncontrollable laughter, please.) we could review those together and then Rand could search around seeing what I might have missed, thereby leading us to a well-thought-out, but fairly painless decision which could be emailed directly off my to-do list by 10 pm, still allowing for just enough time to squeeze in last week's True Blood before bed.

Now, let me interject a vital piece of information here: I am very particular.   [This is like Dr. Simon Tam (of Firefly) telling the crew of Serenity that he's very smart so that they appreciate the magnitude of his sister River's brilliance which far surpasses his own not-insignificant intelligence.]  If you know me at all (or have read even one of my essays) then you know I rarely just take what I can get.  I like things a certain way.  Just so, might be a neutral way of putting it.  That pretty much applies to everything -- how I fix my hair, make a sandwich, wrap a gift, decorate my house.  And I was lucky enough to find a mate who appreciates all of these things too. (Well, only partially with the hair; he likes the end result but thinks I take far too long grooming if it involves him waiting for me.) But there's a catch and it's a big one.  One that most women with spouses who don't care never seem to realize:  When your partner cares, then it becomes a Joint Decision, which is the deceptively-simple-sounding-but-in-reality-truly-exhausting Conclusion to the extremely painful Negotiation Period, which depending on how much both parties care (and we both care a lot), can be a nearly unending phase, much like the world's most litigious divorce proceedings.   Again, let me clarify here.  This is not about my husband and I not agreeing or having divergent tastes, like many couples.  In actuality, we are quite similar in our stylistic sensabilities as well as our Standards.  And yes, that requires a Capital S.   Seriously, it's not about deciding between the mohair chaise and the Eames chair.  It's about choosing the exact right shade of leather for the Eames chair or maybe if there's a slightly newer version with cleaner lines, a less substantial base, or slightly thinner cushions.  Oh, and can we choose which way the grain of the leather runs?  Those are the sorts of subtle details that we jointly labor over... for hours, sometimes days.  It's sad, I know.  I mean, mostly I love it. Truly! And I know when we finally move back into our house, it will all be worth it, but right now, I just want to commit to our damn hardware so we can actually guarantee our move-in date prior to Halloween and I can still host my big costume party when my house more closely resembles a gothic museum, complete with strategically placed cobwebs, specimen jars, mummies, and foreboding messages that mysteriously appear under ultraviolet light. (Try to curb the anachronistic finger-pointing please, it's just decorating after all, not Set decorating.)

So, back to the fans.  Not only did he not even look at the preferred website, let alone my flagged choices, he started with a "how to find the best ceiling fan" type of search, as if we were back in our house (instead of a tiny 2 bedroom apartment with 5 people, 1 dog, and 1 cat), idly researching replacement fans because we had nothing better to do (besides watching True Blood, that is.)  This sort of thing happens all the time.  I ask him a simple question which should involve a moment or two of thoughtful consideration followed by a reply but for him takes 45 minutes, 2 computers, and quite probably graph paper, after which, it is no longer relevant because said action item has now expired.

Rand then found a downloadable, but not sortable or linkable (and with no images) spreadsheet of Energy Efficient fans broken down to show the various energy usages when on low, medium, and high speeds.  It was a most impressive document (as I'm sure all documents are originating from but impossibly long and I literally got a tightening in my chest and a tick in my left eye every time he toggled over to scan through it yet again.  And naturally, every single fan that had excellent ratings was either verrrrrry expensive (imagine Pretty Woman snarky-saleswoman voice) or was your typical traditional style, something suited to a covered porch on a sultry New Orleans night, with too many curlicues or -- gasp -- leaf-shaped blades.  Not us, in other words.  Did we end up finding our nine fans?  Yes, we did, but it took four more hours, and more than double our planned budget (because, contrary to popular opinion, Jen is not the only person in this family that appreciates expensive things.)

I should feel great, right?  Well, I sort of do, but that's because it's 10 am, I'm temporarily over my lack-of-sleep, sitting contentedly at my computer drinking chai in my lounging clothes, writing.  Present Jen is rather pleased with herself.  But even as I type, there is a hovering specter, dark and foreboding, looming just outside the blurred edges of my peripheral vision.  It is Future Jen.  (Think Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come but instead of a scythe she's holding a can of Whoop Ass and a copy of our Remodel Master Spreadsheet.)  Future Jen has to deal with the next step in the process: "Drawer and Cabinet Pulls, Towel bars, etc." which, though smaller in scale and seemingly less important than fans, are by their very nature, many in number and nothing avoids the ever-searching Eye of Rand. (I know you saw this one coming; go ahead and envision the Eye of Sauron.  I'll wait.  In fact, seriously, click on that link; there's an awesome image that makes it even better.)  We have already spent countless hours looking at hardware in showrooms, sketchbook in hand, copious notes taken and thumbnail sketches committed to paper.  We've searched online, comparing the Lowe's and Home Depot Brands to the pricier high-end versions in addition.  So it should only take us, what, 6 hours?  If we start at 8 pm, right after soccer practice, we can finish by 2 am if we're lucky!  That leaves paint for Friday night.  Or rather the slightly longer All Weekend as it will require one or more visits to both Lowe's and HD to get paint swatches to then take to our empty, half-finished house to see how those colors look in the real light of our home  (at more than one time of day, no less) not just the pallid fluorescence of our apartment.

[And that doesn't even take into account discussing with our children the shades for their rooms.  Vivi we can probably easily sway as long as it is some pink or purple hue with an appropriately fabulous-sounding name like Iridescent SunriseCooper is actually quite easy going so he'll most likely agree to whatever we suggest if offered in an enthusiastic and convincing manner.  Our first born, Will, will be the problem, of course.  And I say both problem and of course with nothing less than the same equal mix of love/frustration/pride in my voice that I use when speaking of my most excellent husband.  Will is such his father's son, it is truly remarkable.  And exhausting. (Not that I can avoid foisting some of the blame on myself, it's true.  Being the eldest of two Type-A parents is somewhat a mixed blessing... for all of us, I dare say.)  And, yes, he loves to hear about all the house details every step of the way, jumping in to heartily interject his opinion on any given topic even when it is most pointedly not requested.  Yet another reason for Future Jen to be somewhat less than a picture of patience later tonight whereas he's currently off at school while Present Jen enjoys the momentary solitude of our abbreviated abode.  I can already hear Future Jen starting to grumble and sigh audibly...]


If given a choice, I think I'd prefer Death by Chocolate or Death by Margaritas.  Or even Death by Avocados.  (mmm...avocados...) But seeing as how I'm still very much alive, I guess I'll stick with Death by Thorough since it's been working for us this long.  Life couldn't get much better than this, no matter how many computers Rand might attempt to have at his furiously fast fingertips.