Plumberpalooza

IMG_3343

The current effective “standing” room in our first floor bathroom and plastic enclosed hallway is about 25 square feet, some of it not contiguous. Yesterday we had 11 people in or near our bathroom, specifically near the “yuge” hole in the floor. To wit: the plumber, the structural engineer, the soil expert, another soil expert, two lawyers, the Home Owners Association (HOA) management company president, the HOA building manager, the facilities manager, and me and David. I have named this confabulation of people “plumberpalooza” even though, clearly, only one was an actual plumber.

(Did you know that confabulation, often shortened to “confab,” usually employed to mean a gathering of people to confer or chat, is also defined as follows: “the production of fabricated, distorted or misinterpreted memories about oneself or the world, without the conscious intention to deceive”? As in: ‘you sincerely believe that you caught a ginormous fish, and you confabulate its size into your fish story!’  I learn so much as I write my blog posts, double checking words that I use often, and occasionally, wrongly.)

Back to the plumbing drama in progress.  We have had plastic sheeting wrapping our first floor hallway and bathroom in a Dexter-style tunnel for about two and half weeks, held in place by a PVC pipe frame and duct tape. There are zippers in the plastic sheeting that allow us to go upstairs or into the guest room where David has established his temporary office. Two weeks ago, the plumber and his concrete contractor bored a 30 inch diameter hole in our bathroom floor (they wanted 36 inches but the boring tool would not fit through the door). It is approximately 5 feet deep as follows: twenty inches of 1inch rebar-reinforced concrete, a thick membrane, almost like wetsuit neoprene to shield the concrete from water, and another three feet of gravel in which the offending, and broken, pipe rested. (See pictures below of the very impressive hole.)

The cause of the break which caused the two floods in our unit in February and March is unknown. It is possible that the settlement of the gravel – there is a gap of several inches between the top of the gravel and the bottom of the concrete – caused the pipe to break. More likely, the pipe broke when being installed and was either deliberately overlooked or not noticed. What I learned yesterday from the soil guys is that the building itself isn’t settling; it is built and rests on enormous steel I-beam pylons. However, the whole area is on what we San Franciscan’s call “Bayfill” which means it used to be the Bay and was filled in with a range of tossed materials, including demolished buildings. The bayfill sits on soft bay mud which inevitably settles and compresses, and an estimate of how much compression and in what time frame is built into the building design and construction in the area.

Yesterday’s confab was intended to yield certain information. The plumber wanted to develop a plan with the structural engineer, and get his perspective on boring another hole – this one at the base of our stairs – to ensure that the repaired pipe had the proper slope and wouldn’t bend and retain water, and also to repair what appears to be the beginning of another break discovered while inspecting the drainline with a camera. The soil men were providing additional context and information, having been involved in the design and building of many of the structures in Mission Bay. The lawyers wanted to see if there was anything useful in the hole or the plumbing or the diagnostics that would support a lawsuit against the developer. The management company wanted to be in the loop on any new discoveries or plans.  David and I wanted to know what was next, and how long it would take before the replaced bathroom concrete would be “tile ready.”

In the meantime, we’ve been trying to source wood flooring akin to what we already have. Who knew that 3 ¼ inch wide engineered white oak planks were so difficult to come by? We’ve learned that what is “in” right now, and what the flooring manufacturers are producing, is 5 inches or 7 inches wide, and mostly in a “white wash” finish to boot. Today we settled on 5” wide white oak.

I’m sorry – did I skip too quickly over the likelihood of them boring another hole in the slab? I believe I did. That will extend the work on the plumbing repair for at least another week, likely two.  More plastic sheeting. More noise and gravel and people in and out all day. All of which further delays the restoration part of the project: the new floors and the painting, which by itself is estimated to take 2-3 weeks.

I hope it is clear that I am learning a great deal during this process, about soil, about plumbing and pipes and construction, about flooring and what’s popular at the moment, among other things. It might not be clear, yet, that today I feel very DONE with all this. I am crabby (and David will confirm this) and put out and a little dysregulated by it all. I had hoped to find a new rhythm, with heavy doses of exploration and fun, upon my return from British Columbia. I am finding fun a bit out of reach these last few days.

As I’ve noted before, these are all first world problems, and we are quite lucky in spite of the very large hole in the floor. Still, there are days, today being a prime example, when the hole in the floor draws me into a downward spiral and I lose perspective. I also know that a good night’s sleep tonight will make a world of difference for me, as will an early morning workout followed by a Board meeting of the United Way of the Bay Area, an organization focused on lifting Bay Area residents out of poverty. I have no doubt that perspective will return, and then, like the plumber, I’ll climb out of the hole.

Love,
Susan

IMG_3259          IMG_3258

Get regular updates via email from DancingOnTheWayHome by clicking the “follow” button (on your tablet or pc screen – the mobile screens somehow don’t show it!). And thanks for reading!

Follow me on Instagram (dancingonthewayhome), where I post whatever catches my eye, in addition to a shot of our “front yard” every day at or after 5pm. Leave a comment or send me an email at DancingOnTheWayHome AT gmail dot com; I’d love to hear from you.

Back to School

IMG_3853

I spent last weekend in Middletown, Connecticut, primarily to attend a meeting of the President’s Council of my alma mater, Wesleyan University.  The Council is composed of a group of 40 or so alumni from a range of disciplines and backgrounds, and is intended to offer discussion and guidance to the president and the University administration. (This discussion and guidance is a supplement to other sources, such as that from the Board of Trustees, which has a fiduciary role.)

Our meeting focused on two key topics: a review of key metrics for the University and the communications strategy and plan developed by the new vice president of communications. The metrics topic provoked discussion about which metrics were most “meaningful” to the mission and which also reflected the values and outcomes of the University. Of course metrics are very tricky, and a fair amount of time was spent recognizing the ways they can distort focus rather than sharpen it. The law of unintended consequences is never far when metrics are at hand.

The communications discussion was more wide ranging, as one might expect, and discussion of “how” (i.e., media) quickly morphed into loose debate about the “what” of content. A question about what the goals of the communication strategy should be evolved to a discussion about what the University’s brand is and should be. This was fascinating to me on many levels. Obviously, brand and identity inform the strategy, but it also should be possible to articulate the desired outcomes of a communication strategy. It was also clear to me that loyalty for one’s particular experience as an undergrad, and possibly as an alum over a period of time, was a key driver of discussion. I was left with a deeper respect for governance of a living institution, one that stands for some constant and universal things even as the institution is also shaped so much by its students, and then alumni, and their engagement and experience.

I remembered, while sitting in that room, that my chosen profession when I was about to graduate was educational administration. I had worked as a student interviewer in the Admissions Office my senior year, and was lucky enough to get a job later that summer as an assistant dean of admissions at a small liberal arts college in upstate New York. As I sat there and as I write this, I see that my passion for education and all that it can do, and for Wesleyan in particular, is still alive.

The highlight of the day was joining a group of students for informal discussions about career, job searches and the future. They were bright, articulate and impressive, although they were each on a different spot on the continuum of knowing what they wanted to “do” and what should guide their process. It was fun to ask them questions in response to theirs, and to dig together about their interests, motivations, ambitions and aspirations. They were polite and sophisticated in their interactions, which helped dispel the stereotype of young people as less interested in social face to face interaction than social media on their phones! It is a hopeful, heartening experience to think about these students as our country’s future.

It also occurred to me that I sit exactly where they do, albeit nearly 35 years later, older and with more experience: full of potential, energy and curiosity, and a vague sense for what to do next to find my way. What do I want to do? Who do I want to be? Each conversation is a spark that illuminates part of the path for each of us. In that moment, we find our commonality and community even in the ways we are so different. During the first part of my career (at least until this January!) I was guided by a loose sense of direction: finding and doing what was new, interesting, and challenging.  A fellow alum offered his perspective this way: he focused on determining and then doing what made him happy. In his case, he studied chemistry and worked in a lab as an undergrad, which made him happy. After a number of years in the role, he stepped down not too long ago as a CEO of a pharmaceutical company!

I learned again last weekend that we often get back as much or more as we are giving. I think the students appreciated our discussions; I know I did. The whole experience of being back on campus, engaging with the president and staff and alums, and then with students, was enriching and stimulating. While I’m not sure what I want to do as a result – and I’m not under any pressure to have a firm direction or plan — I am happy to have found so much to inform my experience and thinking.

In other news on the ‘school’ front, I have signed up for a six session drawing 101 class that starts in early May. I’m excited to remember how to see again, and to learn more about putting what I see to paper with pencil. I have been yearning to explore the visual arts, and have felt curtailed by inexperience and lack of skill, if not talent!  I’ve also found an “absolute beginner” hip hop six session dance workshop that would start in mid-June and think that would be a fun way to challenge myself physically while learning more about the genre. If new and interesting and challenging are still my guiding principles, I’m still on the path forward.

Love,
Susan

Get regular updates via email from DancingOnTheWayHome by clicking the “follow” button (on your tablet or pc screen – the mobile screens somehow don’t show it!). And thanks for reading!

Follow me on Instagram (dancingonthewayhome), where I post whatever catches my eye, in addition to a shot of my Western sky every day around sunset. Leave a comment or send me an email at DancingOnTheWayHome AT gmail dot com; I’d love to hear from you.

Yes and No

IMG_3855

When I shared with friends and colleagues last year that I was going to take 2016 as a “gap” year from work, the advice I got about managing my time from those who had made transitions of their own fell into two categories. One was protective, with people saying, in essence: “You’ll be asked to do a lot of things once people know you aren’t working full time; you should say “no” to everything until you have a strong sense for what you want to say “yes” to.” The other was expansive, and indicated that this was a year for me to say “yes” to everything new or even vaguely appealing or interesting, as that exploration might lead me to my next professional adventure or career, and certainly to fun.

Now that I am back in the Bay Area, I have been noticing how resonant that conflicting advice has been. I’ve been curious to notice when and how I find whether my response is protective or expansive, and how I apply it to questions big and small.

A former colleague-now friend recently asked me if I would be interested in working with her as her coach as she took on an expanded role at her work. For pay! At first, I had a reactive “must say no” to the idea, when in fact I was excited, and frankly, honored to be asked. I have always thought that coaching professionals with their work and self-development would be a natural extension of my skill set and experience.

I worried about the slippery slope of saying “yes” to this opportunity: what if I found myself wanting to expand into the work and do more of it? This was supposed to be a full year off from work… I have always been a bit of a rule follower (although rebelling also comes naturally) and I just want to do this gap year thing right –whatever that means. And then I got real: coaching my friend is an important engagement that I take very seriously, and the time commitment would also be modest. And aren’t I in charge of myself, fully intentional, and quite capable of avoiding the slippery slope into whatever? I think so. Besides, the opportunity to work with her – something I find appealing and interesting – also fully fits the criteria for a yes response. So, I have in fact said yes, details to be worked out soon.

Last night, David and I took a friend out for a birthday dinner. David proposed taking a drive after dinner to City Hall where there was an interesting art installation. I begged off, and asked to be dropped at our place first. And it nagged at me a bit that I was saying no to a fun little adventure. This week I returned after three months to my early morning bootcamp, which is basically a group exercise class/training session outdoors with a trainer. Getting enough rest and getting up early this week has been a challenge after sleeping without an alarm for months. I wanted to pass on the City Hall trip in order to get back home to organize myself for the morning and get ready for bed.

As I write this, I’m on a plane to Hartford, Connecticut. I’ll be joining my alma mater’s President’s Council tomorrow at Wesleyan University. This was another ask that I was hesitant to say yes to, not being sure how focused or helpful I could be to this semi-annual advisory group. And then I remembered that one of my wants for this year is to stay intellectually stimulated, while paying attention to what interests me and what doesn’t. I no longer have the amount of interaction with smart and engaging people my workplace afforded me, and the President’s Council is full of people just like that. The more I thought about it, the more it sounded like the right sort of adventure for me for this year, so I said yes.

What I have noticed is that I am getting better at paying attention to the noise under my first “should” response, and to knowing what I really want. I’m also learning to be more comfortable saying no when that’s what I really want, which is hard to do as it often disappoints people. I think many of us need a lot of practice knowing what our truth is in any given moment, and then being solid about acting on and around that clarity. It takes patience, self-compassion, and courage on daily basis.

As I thought about the advice on managing this year, I realized it really is more complex than committing to a standard approach – whether yes or no – to what comes my way. Rather, it is “both and.” As a current example, I am trying to make self-care (sleep, exercise, clean eating) a priority right now, which means saying yes to my bed, to Zumba and early morning bootcamp, and my Whole30 eating plan. It also means saying no to staying up late, to sleeping in, or to enjoying a glass of red wine or a bourbon cocktail. For me, this gap year is about being both expansive and protective, and saying yes and no at the right times for me.

Love,
Susan

Get regular updates via email from DancingOnTheWayHome by clicking the “follow” button (on your tablet or pc screen – the mobile screens somehow don’t show it!). And thanks for reading!

Follow me on Instagram (dancingonthewayhome), where I post whatever catches my eye, in addition to a shot of my Western sky every day around sunset. Leave a comment or send me an email at DancingOnTheWayHome AT gmail dot com; I’d love to hear from you.