Friday, December 21, 2007

Solstice Henge

Today is the Winter Solstice. A day shrouded in mystery and heralded throughout the centuries for its sacredness. On this important day I would like to take the opportunity to shine a light…on my brother-in-law’s dishwasher.


He sent me this photo. Dish Henge, he calls it. Here is what he wrote with the photo: “Once a year, the sun shines through our laundry room window at just the right angle to completely illuminate our dishwasher (~16' away), and only our dishwasher. Dish Henge occurred this year on Sunday, Dec 16th, 3:30pm MST.”

My husband and I couldn’t stop laughing when we saw the photo. How strange! How silly!

Of course, I have to wonder, Is it a sign? I ruminate on what it could mean. Something like: Clean house! Or Illuminate your flatware! Certainly the same gods who were responsible for Stone Henge couldn’t have in mind anything as pedestrian as, “Run the dishwasher!” Or perhaps all those Druids got it wrong. Maybe their efforts to move all those rocks to create that calendar had been the result of a complete cosmic misunderstanding, the sun gods merely trying to tell them to take out the garbage or invent the trash-compactor.

A similar phenomenon occurs at our house in the spring and fall. Light-Henge. For several days, the sunlight catches our hall light in just the right way that it casts rainbows all around the first floor. Whenever this happens, I think it’s a good sign. My boys agree and always come running to get me when the lamp is “doing the rainbow thing.” We imagine out loud what good fortune it imparts: I’m finally going to get a ferret! I’m finally going to get my Spider Amp! Someone else might finally clean up the kitchen!

I think the Universe, God, whatever you prefer to call your divine entity, if you choose to believe in one, gives us all little signs every day. Signs that things are going to get better—or worse. Signs that give us little hints of what they have in mind, like the time right before I got pregnant with my twins when I cracked open an egg with two yolks.

My husband says the only sign Dish-Henge and Lamp-Henge impart is that the sun has reached the same degree of declination on it path along the ecliptic as it has in every year in the past history of the earth and sun and all the rest of us are just a bunch of Froot Loops for thinking otherwise.

He’s always been the romantic one.

I like to think these signs are maybe just a little bit more. Maybe they are a communication with a higher spirit and I think on this day, this Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, the day with the most hours of darkness, we should take some time to think of what it all means. The Winter Solstice has indicated rebirth throughout the ages. It symbolizes a moment when hope springs eternal. A time, steeped in ritual, of the victory of light over darkness.

We should take advantage of this time, this opportunity. We should perhaps see these strange light phenomena as a way for us city folk to reconnect with the ancient. We should think of this day as a new beginning, and take a moment to look inward. To shine a light where one is not usually shone, to explore our hearts, our souls or maybe, well, more probably, just the interior of our appliances.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Wildest Christmas Wish Ever

People are confiding their wildest wishes and dreams to me. These wistful secrets cram my website inbox and what tales they tell! No, I haven’t taken a side job as a Fairy God-Mother. It’s because I’m running a Wildest Wish contest on my website (www.kimstrickland.com) as part of an AuthorBuzz web-promotion for my novel, Wish Club. Giving away five copies of the book was a requirement for participating in the ad campaign. Turning it into a wish contest was my idea of a good marketing tie-in for a book that’s about making wishes come true.

This morning I sat staring at the jam-packed inbox on my computer screen. It thrilled me that so many people had taken the time to enter, but it simultaneously exhausted me as well. The task seemed insurmountable, but I had to begin. I started reading, thinking, I’ll just take it a few at a time.

Immediately, I was hooked.

People confided their wildest wishes. I was amazed at how open and honest they were. (And just in case you’re staying tuned out of some sort of kinky, prurient interest, I can tell you right now you might as well tune out.) The wishes were not what I expected, nothing at all—and certainly nothing kinky or prurient. They were all so simple.

Most asked to win the lottery or had other, similar money-themed dreams. Others struck a strong emotional chord and I found myself in tears after the fourth or fifth one. Hopelessly addicted now, I sat in my chair until I’d read every single one.

My tears didn’t come from pity. I want to make that point absolutely clear. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I didn’t feel compassion for those who seemed to be going through inordinately huge struggles. I did. I do. The reason I began to cry was because I’d had the audacity to think I’d been having a bad day.

I was in my grumpy place. My jet-lagged, exhausted, haven’t-started-my-Christmas-shopping, my-Christmas-Photo-Card-from-Exposures-came-back-blurry place.

It occurred to me as I read, so many people were wishing for things I take for granted. A family vacation every year. Being able to go out to eat and not worry about the cost. To see children they hadn’t seen in years. I was reminded, vividly, how truly blessed I am. Some wishes were heartbreaking—sight for a blind child, to get out of a wheelchair, to be able to trade places with a sibling with cancer. I don’t think I’ll be capable of having a bad day again.

My wish is that I did have a magic wand, one I could wave and make everyone’s happiness come true. I wish this year, just once, Santa could turn real and deliver wealth and health and happiness to everyone. I want to tell the contestants I wish I could send each one of them a copy of my book (but then I think I’d be wishing to win the lottery myself.) I want to tell those that don’t win, if they buy only one book this year, buy The Secret (or maybe Conversations with God.) (Of course, if they buy two books this year, they should buy The Secret and Wish Club!) Because as corny as it sounds, I really believe we all have the power to make our wishes come true.

I hope in some small way, by writing down a wish and mailing it to some strange (and I mean strange) author that maybe, just maybe, a few people have begun the process of making their dreams real. It’s Step One of The Secret. It’s the first step for the women in my book.

Soon, I’ll mail out copies of my book to the winners, but I’ve decided to keep my Wish Contest going. Award a book a month or something. It’s not much, I know, but until I get that magic wand, it seems like it’s the least I can do, and it’s the best way I know to consistantly remind myself to count my many blessings.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Book Signing Monday November 26th

On Monday November 26th from noon until 1p.m.
I will be signing Wish Club at Books-A-Million
144 S. Clark St.
Chicago, IL
312.857.0613

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ironic Quest

I’ve begun to notice a disturbing and increasing trend in ironic behavior lately. This leads me to postulate an old philosophy that I just made up: We all have our own Personal Ironies, we just don't know what they are. But now I’m on a quest to find mine.

My husband and I talked about this at dinner the other night. He seems to think that, once you know your own Personal Irony, then the irony is lost. But I disagree. I think the irony can still be there until you take the steps necessary to clear it up. “What is a Personal Irony,” you may ask? (Or perhaps, more accurately, “Kim, what the heck are you talking about?”)

Here are several examples of what I would call Personal Ironies: The chatterbox who hates people that talk too much. Someone who starts a war to end violence. And here’s a personal favorite: Once, I was invited to the home of someone I didn’t know very well. A rather violent painting hung in the front hall. She saw me staring and told me the painting was a protest of the deforestation of the Brazilian Rain Forest, then proceeded to point out all the mahogany and Brazilian cherry features of her home. It’s a good thing she hadn’t offered me a drink, or its contents would have found their way out through my nose.

I’m sure you’ve seen other examples of Personal Ironies. For example, the party guest who leans in to you and nods at another person in the room, “I can’t believe he’s such a gossip.” My husband is an avid alternative energy fanatic, totally trying to save the environment, insisting on replacing every bulb with compact fluorescents, but do you think he could walk a soda can over to the recycling bin—what with the regular garbage can so close? I think my kids are a little young to have developed their own Personal Ironies yet, but apparently they’re working on it, if you count how often they scream at each other to shut up.

I think we’re all great at pointing out the Personal Ironies of others, but when it comes to our own—not so much. All this finger pointing has me wondering: certainly I can’t be immune to this trend. So I brainstorm a bit. I’m a pretty competitive person. Maybe my Personal Irony is the fact that I’ve been known, and I’m not proud of this, to do competitive Yoga. I know, I know. Kind of defeats the whole purpose. But I don’t think it’s me that actually starts this (hear my husband sniggering here.) I merely feel the competitive energy of others around me and respond.

But somehow, as a writer, I believe my Personal Irony ought to be bigger. Maybe it’s that I think I’m a funny writer and I’m not. Or maybe it’s that I don’t like mean people, and somehow I’m actually really mean. I don’t know, but I’m certain there are countless friends and family members out there that would gladly point out my Personal Irony to me. I think sometimes—No, scratch that. I think always our points of contention with other people reflect the traits we fear most in ourselves. I hate people that don’t hear me when I speak. But could this be because I need to work on my listening?

Whatever my own Personal Irony is, I’m hoping I’m not the mom who takes the kids to Medieval Times for a birthday party and then gets mad at me for buying junior a sword. And until the day I discover what my Personal Irony is, if you ever try to best me at Standing Head to Knee Pose, I’ll crush you.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Ploys of Running

When I go for a run, I often imagine writing about my experience as I make my way along the Chicago lakefront. I always come to the same conclusion, however. Anything I write about the joy of running, will be just as God-awful boring as anything I’ve ever read about the joy of running.

So instead of pontificating on my “rave run” or espousing the virtues of fartleks, (which I never do in polite company.) (Hey, you should never get too old for a good fart joke!) I’d like to talk about my children as the motivating factors in my workout regime. No, they don’t motivate me because I don’t want them to be able to catch me, but because they truly motivate me.

My morning routine when school is session begins with me crawling out of bed after the alarm goes off, usually for the third time. Without my kids, I wouldn’t have to get out of bed at all. See how already they’re motivating me to action?—And they’re not even awake! As I contemplate my morning, I have to decide if I should jump in the shower and start my day—or sleep for another seven minutes, then throw on my running clothes. I usually opt for instant gratification. Seven more minutes of sleep.

After I drop the kids at school, I park the car, and the dog and I take off for a run along the lake. It’s an incredibly time-efficient drill: by 9:30 a.m. I’m home, I’ve worked-out and so has the dog. And I get to run the lakefront, which I normally wouldn’t get to do much of, it being a fair distance from our house.

My boys are always interested in how many miles I go. For years I ran a loop that was just shy of three miles. (I’m slow, so this took me about thirty minutes.) Why don’t you go four miles? Four miles? What, are you goofy? That would take me until lunchtime! Their math is sadly (sadly?) very quick and they promptly inform me it would only take me forty minutes. Hard to argue with logic like that. So, in the fall of last year, my loop increased to four miles. Until Ethan said, Why not make it five?

Why not start saving now for my knee replacement surgery? But I think, well maybe five. Then soon, Why not five? These old knees feel okay and besides, I would be doing it for him.

As a city mom, I worry my boys don’t get enough outdoor exercise. At least not like we used to as kids, roaming free throughout the neighborhoods. I don’t know any city moms who let their ten year-olds play outside without supervision, and we don’t live on one of those blocks where all the kids run up and down while their parents sit on porches. It’s like pulling teeth to get them out most days, even just to the backyard, which they don’t like because they might see an actual bee. Their fear of bugs cracks me up. Makes me want to taunt them with a cry of “City boys!” (But secretly I’m proud they’re such city boys.)

While I can’t make my kids want to run up and down the block, I can lead by example. I really do love running and they know this. As a kid, it was hard for me to imagine anyone ever enjoying exercise, especially one as grueling as running—just look at all those unhappy faces on all those runners.

But my face is always smiling as I complete my run along the lake, my dog by my side, a breathtaking view of the city and water that motivates me almost as much as my sons—for six breathtaking miles.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Pet Tales

The PR lady I hired to promote my novel asked me to write something funny about my pets here—she said it would give me a better shot at a feature in Chicagoland Tails Magazine.

Well, I thought, it is timely, since this has been a week of All Pets, All the Time. My dog is running around in one of those ridiculous cone-head collars meant to stop her from destroying her new stitches and my cat was just in the hospital for a week and a half with a liver disease that turned his skin a strange shade of yellow. Plenty of comedy to be mined for my shot at the CTM Author's Corner. Why not? Here goes...

When I first put the giant cone collar on my dog, Wrigley, I swear she gave me a look, like, I can’t believe you’re making me wear this fashion atrocity. All the other dogs will make fun. So I told her it’s an “E-Collar.” The “E” stands for Elizabethan. As in Queen Elizabeth. Very fashionable. She looked about as convinced as she did last Christmas when I told her her new black collar was very slimming.

It didn’t take her long to crack its clear plastic cone and my husband brought the duct tape out for repairs. I made him use the clear plastic tape. As a woman, I understand the perils of being a fashion victim. However, when she cracked the cone the third time, it was me who brought out the duct tape.

It should be noted that in my neighborhood, when you yell “Wrigley” out your back door, about four yellow Labrador Retrievers come running up. Now it’s three, because the cone has contributed to our Wrigley’s selective hearing, allowing her to ignore our calls, but seeming to amplify the word “walk” whenever she hears it in a sentence. And it’s certainly worked as an amplifier for her breath. Eeuw.

The cone is a source of embarrassment for my husband, who won’t take her outside with it on and it’s a source of discomfort for me, because now my writing foot-warmer constantly pokes me in the shins. And even though she makes boo-boo face at me every time I lace up my running shoes, I refuse to let her come with me, even though the vet said she’d be fine. I fear being chased down the sidewalk by angry PETA members who’d see her bandaged leg and think I was abusing her. (She tore her carpal pad—that weird, vestigial foot pad up high and behind her front leg. It didn’t even require stitches; it was simply suggested as a better way to heal her up.)

Which brings me to my cat. How did he get liver disease? I’ve never seen him in the liquor cabinet, yet it would explain the sometimes astonishing rate at which the Chardonnay disappears.

He had to go to the North Shore to an emergency veterinary clinic. My first reaction, upon hearing my vet wanted to transfer him up there was along the lines of I don’t know if I’d transfer my husband to the North Shore…

But my cat, Mr. Bigglesworth—(Okay, his name deserves some explanation. We adopted him three years ago and he came with the name, which we liked enough to keep, although I felt like a complete idiot every time I called to check the condition of Mr. Bigglesworth. Around the house, we just call him Biggs. (My husband had a pre-disposed, Sex in the City aversion to calling him Mr. Big.))—is the best cat I’ve ever owned. He gets along with everyone, man and beast, and he’s always been large and jolly, until earlier this summer when he began losing weight. At first, we rejoiced. Finally! The photograph of the really fat cat we put on his food canister was motivating him to diet. But no, Biggs was sick. He stopped eating altogether, something that, sadly, went unnoticed for a few days in our hectic lives.

As I sat with my kids in an exam room at the fancy-schmancy pet hospital, talking to my husband on my cell phone, trying to decide at what price-point saving a cat’s life becomes too much, my sons’ resolve began to falter. They both began shedding big Hollywood teardrops that dribbled telegenetically down their cheeks. My husband and I had agreed on a plan of action, but when the vet walked in and handed me the Payment Agreement form to sign, with its hefty North Shore price-tag, my resolve faltered as well. I signed on the dotted line. It’s what Mastercard is for.

I was at the veterinarian’s every single day last week. Well, with the exception of Thursday, when my kids and my babysitter brought the dog in for me, because she’d ripped off her bandage, tearing her carpal pad even further. I had to go to the dentist, where I ended up getting three surprise root canals. It’s still a toss-up as to whether I’d rather have gone to the vet’s again. When I called home after my horrid morning at the dentist, to check on my dog and my cat and, oh yeah, my kids, too, I was informed my dog needed surgery. I called the vet.

“But, could she get better without stitches?” (Each root canal: $850)

“Possibly, but since we’re closed for the holiday weekend, if she did get worse, we wouldn’t be able to see her until Monday.” (Cat at hoity toity North Shore animal hospital: $Thousands)

How much will the stitches cost? ($450)

Coming to the insane conclusion that $450 to fix you dog’s paw sounds like a bargain: Priceless.

Pets add so much to our lives, but there are certainly times when I question the sanity of having them. After a roller-coaster week of good news and bad news about Biggs, he’s finally home. I’m relieved. I made a good fiscal decision. Even so, this week, Cat III is my favorite pet. The only healthy one who didn’t cost me money.

Yesterday, before we left the hospital with Biggs, I deadpanned to the veterinarian, “Will he have Super-Powers now? Because we sure paid a lot for him.”

She paused for a moment, then said, “You mean besides turning yellow?”

See how it was all worth it? After spending all that money—my cat is better and I get a great one-liner for my blog to boot.

I guess it was a good week for writing about my pets—or a bad week—depending on how you look at it. Let’s just hope my PR lady doesn’t get any bright ideas about The Journal of Endodontics.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Life's a Beach

Life is a beach. Or so they say. All I know is I can’t wait to get to one.

School is out for summer. I’m frenetic because our babysitter went on vacation—two days after my book came out. One day before school let out. What could I tell her when she asked? Her nephew back in Poland is sick. Very sick. She had to go. I gulped, then choked out, “Of course, it’s fine.”

We did find interim childcare, but the turmoil of the last two weeks has been intense. And everyone knows what the last week of school is like—the plays, the concerts, the picnics, the parties.

I dream of the beach. When I first met my husband, he’d never been on a beach vacation. Now, he wonders if there’s any other kind. Every year we go to Florida for spring break. Same place. Same condo. Considering my career choice, I don’t like to travel much. And now, after ten years, my sons are addicted to beach vacations, too.

Each summer, we try to grab a piece of that, heading down to North Avenue Beach for the day. Today is Father’s Day and my husband knows we plan on the beach tomorrow. The boys want to watch a movie tonight—but it will keep us all up late. My husband says, in a way that fills me with a surge of guilt, “I have to be at work early tomorrow.”

I think, Poor Jeff. He has to work tomorrow. And we’re going to the beach. Which is when I think of all the things I should be doing tomorrow. All the millions of errands and chores and calls and wouldas and couldas and shouldas that should happen tomorrow if I don’t want to hate myself on Tuesday.

My first novel was released two weeks ago. My babysitter/cleaning lady is off. I need to follow-up with bookstores about book signings. My checkride is in August. I need to schedule my annual mammogram and take the dog to the vet.

I busted my butt this weekend—grocery shopping, doing errands, writing a few more e-mails, sending one more promotional postcard for my book, all because the boys and I want to get to the beach tomorrow. I had doctor’s appointments and dentist appointments scheduled all through June, and tomorrow, we were supposed to take the dog to the vet. “When am I going to find time for summer?!”

The boys and I looked at each other, the same idea in our eyes. I called the vet, “We need to reschedule. Wrigley is very busy and she simply can’t be there Monday.”

With all due respect to the soldiers of Normandy, I feel like I’ve been through a war. It’s amazing how hard we’ve had to fight for the beach. It shouldn’t be this way, but it’s a battle worth winning. It’s too easy to fill your days with those woulda, coulda, shouldas. And as sad as I am that my husband will be at the office tomorrow, I refuse to feel guilt. I worked hard for my day at the beach, too.

Usually, when we plan beach days, I send out e-mails to the moms of all my boys’ fifth grade friends: If you can join us, we’ll be at North Avenue, fourth lifeguard pier from the boat. But as we ate our cornflakes Friday morning, I said, “Hey guys. Do you think maybe Monday it could be just us? No friends?”

I was stunned, to the point of tears, when they first looked at each other, then at me, and said, “Yes!”

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Science Fair

Spring is around the corner and in Chicagoland this means parents everywhere are getting ready for—you guessed it, The Science Fair. This is the time of year when we, as conscientious parents in solidarity with our children, formulate our own personal hypotheses, something along the lines of: I will be out of my misery much more quickly if I stick my head in the oven than if I hang myself from a ceiling fan.

But, as any ten-year-old scientific mind can attest, we’ve formulated a hypothesis that is impossible to prove! I think this ability to choose impossible hypotheses must run in my family, because it seems my children are good at it too. And I’m pretty sure we’re the only people on the planet who couldn’t get food coloring to climb the stem of a white carnation and turn it blue. Even with the second batch of carnations, which I had to run out and buy because, as I told my five-year-old son, “The first carnations were ‘bad.’” He looked at me and then the flowers as if perhaps I might give them a time-out.

I don’t know why Science Fair is so hard. All the work, the time, the frustration. And it’s tough on my kids, too. Although I have to admit this year, they’re finally at an age at which they’re capable of doing most everything without my assistance. But this hasn’t always been the case.

In those earlier, carnation-in-food-coloring years, they just had to give a short speech on their scientific topic, not actually form a hypothesis or follow any scientific procedures. Not that you would know it from any of the presentations I saw. I remember my son Ethan gave his Science Fair speech on the different types of rock, you know, igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic. I was just impressed he could pronounce them. Until we got to the Science Fair and I saw the other project displays. Lab equipment, poster boards with outlines, digital photos, all the graphs and data.

And then there was my son, watching his classmates give their PowerPoint presentations while his mother had sent him to school with a pocketful of rocks.

There really is no way around helping your kid with the science fair. You have to buy supplies and help them get everything set up. Last year, as I grouchily cooked agar over my stove in preparation for the “Sickly Germs” experiment, I was cursing under my breath. I‘m a busy lady. I’d worked all day. I had dinner to prepare. I shouldn’t be required to cook agar on my stove. And let’s not talk about the fact I had to store twelve Petri dishes full of sickly germs in my cupboards for two weeks.

Over the course of past Science Fair years, I’ve had bloody chicken bones dissolving in my dining room, plants under black lights in the attic and paper airplanes flying through the front hall. At one point, while measuring the flight distance of a tissue paper airplane, I looked at my girlfriend, the mother of the boy my son was doing his science fair project with, both of whom were seated contentedly on the couch. Watching us measure. What’s wrong with this picture? I don’t mind helping my children with projects; it’s when I end up doing them that I get pissed. I understand the idea of challenging students, but I think they shouldn’t be allowed to take on projects that are not entirely within their means to execute.

I’m thinking about all this, my Science Fair Manifesto, as I test the holding power of the ceiling fan in the kitchen.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Soup of the Month

“So,” I say to my husband. “When were you planning on telling me?”

He looks at me with that male, “I know I’m in trouble for something but for the life of me I can’t think of what” look on his face.

“About the news,” I say. (I’m being cagey on purpose.) “When were you planning on telling me the good news?”

He’s still perplexed.

“You know, about the Soup of the Month Club.”

Yes, much to the envy of all of his friends, my husband has been nominated for membership in The Soup of the Month Club. Two 15-ounce tin cans of soup delivered to your door every single month, all for the low, low price of $12.95. I know! I found it hard to believe myself.

It makes me wonder though. Who is it out there who thinks my husband so exciting he warrants membership in such a club? I do a mental scan of the people in his life, the ones who might associate my husband’s name with soup. I’m reminded of the college pranks he and his friends used to play on each other. Signing someone up for a subscription to Cat Fancy magazine, or maybe Playgirl. I think my all time favorite, perhaps because it’s the most vicious, was when my husband got a subscription to The Socialist Worker for my ROTC brother-in-law.

And now I’m struck with not a little fear. Is this just the beginning of the karmic repercussions? What’s next—toothpaste of the month? Potted plant of the month? Who knows where this might lead!

For a while there, product of the month clubs were all the rage in gift-giving at our house. I gave my husband a one-year membership to a Beer of the Month Club for his birthday one year, and he like it enough to renew it for several years thereafter, until beer guru Michael Jackson ended his association with that particular club and my husband noticed a precipitous drop off in the quality of the exotic beers. I was relieved. It was always me who had to sheepishly sign for the case of beer delivered to our door by the UPS guy every month.

A few years back I gave my mother a six-month membership to a Wine of the Month Club. Hmm. I notice a disturbing alcohol-related theme here, but it’s not nearly as disturbing as finding a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon inside my mother’s refrigerator. When I called her on it, she gave me the most disturbing news of all—that it actually tasted pretty good when she mixed it with ice and a little Kool-Aid.

If only I’d known about Soup of the Month back then. And I’m still waiting for my Orchid of the Month Club gift subscription, which would be about the right pace of orchid reception considering the rate at which I kill them. But I imagine I’ll have to keep waiting, the gift subscription to the [fill-in-the-blank-with-your-choice-of-nonsense] of the Month clubs having fallen into a bit of disfavor at our house. A little post-traumatic stress induced, at least partly, by the whole Cabernet/Kool-Aid incident.

My husband took his Soup of the Month Club membership nomination postcard over to the computer and immediately looked up the website. “I don’t know,” he says. “This looks like a pretty exclusive club.” Is it possible he’s letting this thing go to his head?

He continues to scan the website with a discriminating look on his face, then says, quite seriously, “If they’d throw in some crackers, I’d think about it.”

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Men at Work

My basement is under construction and therefore my entire house is dusty and noisy and my life is fraught with constant interruption. I don’t want it to ever stop.

Not because I love all of the above, but because I wake up every morning with five guys in my basement that all want to make me happy.

Every woman should wake up this way.

The general contractor, Chris, is the most charming of all. Flirtatious in a mostly harmless way. He’ll be reporting to me about the cement work or something similar, gesturing in front of him as to how the finished product will look, when he’ll turn to me and look me in the eye. This is when he will pause, feign a startled look on his face—as if he’s just now noticed me standing there. And then he will say, “Kim, you look beautiful today.”

I know that this is a line, some shtick handed to me by a man who knows upon which side his bread is buttered. I know that he’s said these very same words to at least seven other women this very morning, but you know what? I don’t care. I float around the whole day. Kim, you look beautiful today. I tell my husband he better watch out. Or maybe just take notes.

All of Chris’s men are charming. They’re polite. They treat me with respect. They clean up after themselves. Do you see why I don’t want them to leave? I find myself thinking of them down in my basement with their brooms, sweeping up sawdust and taking out the trash, while I’m upstairs walking around picking up my boys’ underwear and my husbands dirty socks.

They all have nicknames, bestowed on them by Chris, granted without the tedium of prepositions. Martin, Right-Hand-Man. Wlodek, Famous Electrician. Joseph, World’s Best Carpenter. And let’s not forget Henry, Handsome Tile Man. I’m told women all over Chicagoland are so smitten with Henry Handsome Tile Man that they choose elaborate tile patterns for their master bathroom suites. I guess that’s their choice, but I’d take Martin Right-Hand Man any day.

I need to behave. My husband reads these. But, if I could be naughty for just a few more sentences, I’d like to add that perhaps the greatest feature about these guys is their English isn’t always so great. Talk about the perfect men! Think about it. No disagreements. No arguments. Just lots of smiles and nods and the occasional, Kim, you look beautiful today. Sigh.

They told me, via my Polish babysitter, when I asked her to translate something complicated for me, that they couldn’t figure me out. She said the workers didn’t understand how I could walk around, always smiling, always kind to them, offering them sodas and water and coffee and never complaining about the inconvenience of it all. To them I am an anomaly.

I know construction is a huge inconvenience, but it’s really fun too. I like watching my house take shape, the slow but steady progress every day, the pride these guys take in their work. It’s a blessing that we can get this work done, that we can afford it, that we live in a house that warrants it. I don’t understand how anyone could not be happy, much less take it out on some workers who are only doing their jobs.

Soon they’ll all be leaving and the house will be much quieter, although sadly, not much less dusty. I will miss them. I’ll miss the constant steady improvement in my home, their smiles and nods, the ridiculously obvious sycophantic compliments.

That is, until it’s time to finish the attic…