Monday, December 31, 2018

December 31: Happy Things

I hate New Year's Eve.

I'm a teacher, so I don't even think in "years" the way normal people do. The year begins in late August and ends at Memorial Day. June, July, and early August are time to take stock, heal up, learn new things, experience life, sleep, hike, camp, and then it starts again. The idea that the year ends today and starts new tomorrow is ludicrious.

The year takes two and a half months to end and begin again. It must gestate. Cocoon. A countdown and a kiss at midnight is not enough to mark the end of one and the start of the new.

But here is the way I will end it:

Last year, last fall and winter, I was living at my parents' house and in the process of divorcing. I had recently been let go from one job, which, as a teacher, is a devastating thing, a career ender. My kids were angry and sad at alternating intervals.

This year, I have moved into my own place. The divorce is final. I got my master's degree and my job, although often crushingly hard, is well-paid and my boss likes me. My kids are less angry and less sad. I threw my first party. The squatters are gone, my neighbors see me, and I am standing on my own two feet.

That's not a bad year.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

December 30: Happy Things

My father was mean to me on Christmas Eve. He spent the evening sniping at me and I realized by the time we were opening gifts and he was graceless there too, that this is how he always is. Sometimes it is tempered with vague positive feelings towards me, but since the divorce, that hasn't really happened anymore. I have three siblings and he makes fun of them too, but Christmas Eve, it got harsh with me as his only target.

We drove home, my kids and I, Christmas Eve, only an 8 minute drive, and opened gifts around our own tree in my own house. And then I went to the kitchen and cried, just a bit. My children went to bed, they were leaving in the morning to go to their dad's house and down to Cairo to my inlaws for a few days, it was late, there was no time to spend together that late at night, try to linger and make my heart feel better.

It wasn't their job anyway.

I am not going to be that parent. I am not going to lean on my own children to try to make up for something I'm missing in my heart. I am going to take every criticism of my parenting that Sophia gives me (freely, her hand open, so many suggestions!) and work to be better. I am going to have fun with my kids because I don't want Sophia to be sitting in my house on Christmas Eve in her 40s and taking her family home to cry because of who I am. And never coming back.

I will not be like them.

My youngest sister brushed it away, saying this is how he always is, it's terrible but that's the way it is, that's the way they were raised and so they don't know any better, even now. Even when we are all adults trying our best. Even if I'm mysteriously divorced and Ian is a recovering alcoholic who woke up one morning and became a teacher, even if Bevin works at a grocery store and Colleen never learned how to drive. We are a mess, and yet we are adults and we deserve better.

So my resolution this coming year is to unhook my life from theirs as much as I can and to continue to throw off the bowlines tying me to their harbor. It isn't safe and it isn't what ships were made for.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

December 29: Happy Things

Christmas is over. My brother is back in Texas, my kids are back from visiting Mike's family. For most adults, life goes back to normal.

Not me.

My school district doesn't return until January 7. How I wish we went back on the 2nd or 3rd and instead got a full week off BEFORE Christmas, but I will take the days either way. My kids go back the 3rd and I get just a few spare days of my own.

I already know I will squander them on naps and Netflix.

Friday, December 28, 2018

December 28: Happy Things

I am so grateful this year has brought me back to blogging with Linda, Dona, Kate, Susan, and Helen most of all since she isn't on facebook and I'd lost touch with her. Getting to meet Maureen and Kim this way and read about their lives as well has enriched my own.

I don't want to stop.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

December 27: Happy Things

That wonderful little party I had last weekend?

My priest friend, the one I used to be so close to, the one who didn't visit Maeve or even text me while she was in the ICU, he and I had talked about this party the last time we'd gone to coffee in October.

I sent him an invite. He's a party kind of guy. Loves to make people fun drinks and laugh and talk and sing. A no brainer way to interact with him and try to rebuild our friendship. He wrote back asking if this was my parents' party or was this at my new place? (My parents used to throw one every year and I took their spot for this year). I confirmed it was mine, at my new house.

He didn't write back.

He didn't come.

Maybe he was visiting a friend in the hospital.

He just gave me the freedom to move on.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

December 26: Happy Things

I think the squatters have moved out. The blankets have been taken down from the windows and yesterday afternoon I saw Andryia Ciaccio (I know her name now, and names have power, ask any sci-fi fantasy reader) walk out the front door with her arms full of crap, yelling at the young man in the car waiting for her.

They drove away.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

December 25: Happy Things

I threw a party on the 22nd and lots of people came from different parts of my life and Leo had three of the friends spend the night and it was my party on my turf with my people and even though its just a start, it's a start. The next day a couple of them, parents of Leo's friends, told me what a great time they'd had.

It was exhausting to throw a holiday/graduation party three days before Christmas. I've never thrown a party in the evening before. The only gatherings I've had have been post-baptism cake and punch affairs.

This one was alcohol and appetizers and people brought wine and homemade egg nog and people stayed and talked to each other and laughed and drank and shared the time together.

My old house I shared with Mike, I was always so ashamed of it, how dirty it felt, how things never felt right in it. I was too embarrassed to have a party. And that realization makes me sad to think of it.

But Trisha, who was once my very best friend, but who has kept her distance for the past several years for many hard reasons, hugged me goodbye after staying longer than she'd planned and said, "this place works, you work in this place."

Monday, December 24, 2018

December 24: Happy Things

My cute little Tudor Revival has a huge stone hearth. A non-functioning fireplace but it has a gas hookup....maybe one day when I have extra money lying around. But this stone hearth demands attention in a way that my delicate Victorian mantels did not--the ones in my "World's Fair" (1904) foursquare house were fancy and beautifully carved (or in two cases, likely pressed--they were always meant to be painted).

My current mantel isn't delicate. It stands on its own two feet and does things for its damned self.

The former owners hung a flat screen TV above it; my TV is in a cozy basement ratskellar (as old St. Louisans refer to those little dens or rec rooms). I could hang one above this mantel but it would detract from it like vinyl siding covering up the red brick on the outside would.

So I hung my bows above it. And decorated the fuck out of it for Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Saturday, December 22, 2018

December 22: Happy Things

Helen said she thought my job would be incredibly hard but potentially rewarding.

It is. Every year it is. Each school is hard in a different way and rewarding in different measures.

Some places made me feel like I was doing God's work, like the school filled with refugees. That was the same school where I met the mom would would eventually be Maeve's godmother. And the same place where I met John, who grew up to be the young man who lived with us in 2013 and 2014 and kind of changed me forever without meaning to and then he went and died of a preventable genetic flaw instead of how we all thought he would, of a drug overdose or getting shot or pushed out of a car over the edge of a bridge into the icy water.

Some places were easier than that. Not as hard but not as rewarding. But the last school brought Maggie into my life and I'm still writing beautiful letters of recommendation for some of those students.

Names stay with me over time. Some of them, I know their stories after our time together. Efi went to college and is a film maker. Grant is deciding between some very prestigious universities and the Naval Academy. Bao is friends with me on Instagram and has a chow chow and a tall boyfriend. Joe and his wife just had their first baby. Pete lost both feet while jumping a train and now owns a boat off Vancouver Island. Rachel is happily married and works with the elderly as a social worker. John died. Arlanda died. Greg died.

My public school retirement system sent me a letter this summer letting me know I'm eligible for retirement in 15 years, but that it would be better to wait for 17 or 18 years. How many more names? How many more terrible colleagues and stories you have to laugh at so you don't cry and kids you just want to take home and let them take a long hot shower and moms who yell at you and moms who cry and moms who never answer the phone and wondering how Jack is doing out there in the world, hoping that this year will be easy or that kid will graduate or this family won't leave and people telling me my job is a vocation when really I think it's just a job, a hard job, a job that nobody who has anything else to do should ever try to do because it obliterates you while I watch my spectacular young co-teacher with the incongruous Hispanic last name but the blond hair and pale green eyes burn to a crisp while I stand there unable to help him except to tell him he's phenomenal and it's time to go, go somewhere easier where the rewards are greater and the challenges are fewer because baby, you don't have to work so hard getting so little back don't waste what you have on a school that doesn't care but some of them, him included, want so desperately to stay because they were broken and put themselves back together and want to make this true for others and it's such a delicate dance between saving yourself and saving the world one person at a time and sometimes kids even die on you.

Don't teach.

Or if you do teach, teach all the way.

Friday, December 21, 2018

December 21: Happy Things

The tamales got me remembering.

I used to teach at a Catholic school in the city, my parish school actually, that had the tagline: "We bring the world together". We did. Students were white and black Americans, but also immigrants and refugees from all over. Mainly Vietnam (50% of the student body) but also Angola, Liberia, Eritrea, The Philippines, Bosnia (Romany), Laos, Guatemala, and Cambodia.

Only one Cambodian family, and Binh was in my homeroom. His sister Lily was the year behind and I taught her math.

The day before Christmas break, Binh brought me a brown paper lunch bag with grease stains at the bottom. I opened it and found two egg rolls inside.

"My mom said she will make you two egg rolls every Monday as a Christmas gift."

Binh or Lily would drop them off on Monday and I would stand there at my desk and eat them immediately, hot, greasy, wonderful. I asked Lily one morning what was in them.

"You don't want to know," she replied.

So instead I just would hoover them up the minute I got my hot little hands on them each week.

It was the best Christmas gift I ever received from a student.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

December 20: Happy Things

My ex-husband has a steady girlfriend.

The reports are that she fits in easily in all the places--family, friends, ex-friends. People like her. Read: she's not hard like me.

I'm trying to name the feeling but it escapes me.

I'm glad for him, in a distant academic sort of way. Relieved, too. Worried--what does she bring with her and will my kids be ok?--but not much, since my kids are older. A little surprised.

I have a fluffy white dog, a cute house, and a master's degree. I'm about to have a new water heater. I have a job that wrings me dry every day but pays better than any other teaching job would for me. I have drug dealing squatters across the street and a lot of nice acquaintances. Very nice actually. I have three children who are growing up to be amazing people. I have one amazing friend who sings in my heart's key.

I will sleep with the promise of tomorrow/although tomorrow may never come

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

December 19: Happy Things

My water heater is leaking all over the floor of my basement.

But the happy things are:

1. Since it's within the first year of buying my house, it's covered under this home warranty thing that the sellers provided.

2. It was installed in 1983 and could have waited 6 months to crap out and then it would have been much more expensive

3. I get to take Thursday off to sit and wait for the plumber instead of doing what teachers do in December (crowd control, insane crowd control).

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

December 18: Happy Things

Outside my partner teacher's window. Immature bald eagle. It was so large. A few of my kids, normally uninterested in anything outside of themselves (middle schoolers rarely are, I find, and the students I teach are especially difficult this way), came over to the window as well and took a picture. Then it took off, heading back to the river.

Monday, December 17, 2018

December 17: Happy Things

"You're like the fifteenth teacher today who has said these things to me," he said. "Why don't you all talk to each other and figure that out?"

"I'm the fifteenth teacher who has talked to you about this today because I care about what's happening and I want you to succeed and I want you to hang in there with us this year."

He pulled his stocking cap down over his face.

I got him to promise that he would turn in one thing tomorrow.

One thing.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

December 16: Happy Things

This past week the parents in Leo's class got an email from the teacher. The boys, two boys in particular, were excluding one single girl. It was bordering on bullying and she mentioned a couple of details that made me think Leo was one of those particular boys. So I had an unpleasant conversation with him about this and it was clear that he owed the girl an apology and to clean up his act.

I wrote to the teacher to let her know how disappointed I was about this.

It wasn't Leo.

I was so relieved, but puzzled why he would have accepted the blame. But then the teacher told me that many of the boys had become followers in this, but in Leo's case he generally ignored the girl in question.

Today the girl's mom friended me on facebook. Although I knew it could have been a trick, I accepted. She sent me a message: Leo is a good kid. But you know that already.

I wrote back and told her my side of the story and promised to listen if she brought concerns about my son to me.

And then I cried.

I've been that girl more times than I deserved and I need this to be ok.

But I think it will be.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

December 15: Happy Things

I graduated today.

I have a master's degree in special education: cross categorical disabilities.

I'm for real.

Friday, December 14, 2018

December 14: Happy Things

Squatters live in the two-family across the street. They are drug dealers and their property, as well as the property next door, have been flagged by the city and the police as nuisance properties.

I've been in this situation before and I'm so tired.

Tuesday, gunshots happened again, although no one was hit this time.

I live across the street from drug dealing squatters with guns.

But I'm not the lead actor in this play this time. I'm doing things, a lot of things, behind the scenes. But I'm not alone and I'm not the angriest neighbor. For a change.

It is good to not be the angriest neighbor. Because I live across the street from drug dealing squatters with guns and I'm so tired.

So Neal and his wife down the block are the leaders here. They work from home most days and know everyone on the block. I'm just a supporting actor. And letting go the need to be in charge of something, especially something so dangerous, is a gift.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

December 13: Happy Things

It was hard to be happy today. I had a terrible day at work due to terrible adult behavior. The whole day was long and drawn out and I even had a meeting that could have been an email with a powerpoint attachment.

But I came home and a friend came over and our little dogs played together while we talked and I felt the day's frustrations melt away a little bit. We laughed and talked and had a couple of beers and split a pizza and I felt young.

I don't have a lot of friends anymore since the divorce, and I have very few close friends. Besides Maggie, I have my sisters. And that's about it these days. It's a lonely December and I am finding myself 44 years old and needing to use friendship-building skills from my 20s. When it was easy. Because I had young children and scout troops and, hell, I helped build a school from scratch and I lived on a block of people I could count on and loved my parish.

I'm on my own now, like a pioneer heading west or an immigrant taking a boat across the ocean. It's really hard. My job is hard, grueling and brutal most days. I have obligations to my children and I am wrapping up grad school this week, which is awesome but it took real time to do this. Time that I didn't use to build and rebuild relationships.

So Maggie sitting on my couch talking about Christmas presents she hasn't bought yet and each of us sharing worries about our kids, it was what I needed most today.

And I was lucky to have it happen.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

December 12: Happy Things

Tonight I presented my capstone project.

My professor from the other class I took this semester loved it.

I don't even care what my grade is now. He thought it was excellently thought out and presented. I win.

Monday, December 10, 2018

December 11: Happy Things

From my window at work, the second story of a behemoth three story school building, a building filled with desperate traumatized children (and to be sure, adults--you know those adults who pull themselves out of unhappy childhoods and then try to have the hearts big enough to turn around and pull other children out? I teach in a school filled with them, and it is heartwarming, dangerous, precarious, and heartbreaking), I can see the following birds on a regular basis:

Chipping sparrows
House sparrows (eyeroll)
A red-bellied woodpecker
Wild turkeys
Canadian and snow geese
Coopers hawks
Red-tailed hawks
Bald eagles.


I am less than a half mile from the Mississippi River and I drive past a huge nest by the Chain-of-Rocks Bridge every day and think about the world I live in where I can see bald eagles in the wild.

Sometimes we fix our mistakes.

Whether our broken upbringings or our pesticide use, sometimes we mend what's broken.

And that can be enough.

December 10: Happy Things

All our talk about e.e. cummings and his maybe quote made me think about quotes that keep me going. Anything that keeps you going is a happy thing.

She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails -- Elizabeth Edwards

And don't worry about losing. If it's right, it happens--the main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away. -- John Steinbeck

A ship in harbor is safe--but that's not what ships are built for" -- John Shedd

We must bring our own light to the darkness. -- Charles Bukowski

Sunday, December 9, 2018

December 9: Happy Things

About ten years ago, my sister Bevin gave me a Christmas present. As I opened it, she said, "I thought I would take a chance."

Inside was a black leather Coach purse, vintage late-1970s, a "9170". I was thrilled. She guessed right. I carried whatever old thing I had around or even sometimes just a canvas bag that was a giveaway from a zoo membership or other such deal. I would never have spent the money on myself to buy something durable, classic, pretty. It is this purse (this is not mine, this is a stock photo):
Heavy brass zipper and buckles, the leather well-cared for, I was so happy to finally graduate to an adult purse. And people noticed. An elderly Dutch woman at the parish asked me if that was a "Coach handbag" and told me she had the same one back in the 80s. Stylish friends congratulated me on having such a well-preserved version, from (their words) "back when Coach was so well-made."

This purse made me feel like I'd won the lottery. I took good care of it, but it still aged because it was my everyday bag. It is more worn now, and the strap needs replacing or repair--the leather binding has cracked in a few spots. Otherwise, though, it is perfect. Simple, goes with everything, carries all I need, just perfect.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

December 8: Happy Things

Ten favorite things about winter, my most hated season:

1. My down comforter

2. Doxylamine succinate (I never get colds until it is cold, for whatever reason, but when I do, I go to bed)

3. My electric hot water kettle in the kitchen

4. Twinkle lights

5. Opening up the drawers of wool sweaters, the box of coats, the Christmas storage, and remembering what I put in there last year (St. Louis' other three seasons do not require much of a change of anything, and the YMCA indoor pool means swimming gear is never stored away)

6. Wool socks

7. Hibernating with good reruns

8. Watching snow fall from behind an insulated window

9. Sunrises are spectacular here in the winter

10. Getting one good snowfall and sledding with my kids, proving that I am not the stick in the mud mom they think I am (I am in the winter, but I like to prove them wrong at least once)

Friday, December 7, 2018

December 7: Happy Things

You don't have to read this. But I wanted to write it for a long time. My ten favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes, in mostly no particular order:

1. Chain of Command I and II: Picard goes on a mission deep in Cardassian territory, gets captured and slowly tortured. Doesn't sound like a popcorn episode, and it isn't, but it's a commentary on torture and it lets Patrick Stewart really act.

"What I didn't put in the report was that at the end he gave me a choice – between a life of comfort or more torture. All I had to do was to say that I could see five lights when, in fact, there were only four."

"You didn't say it?"

"No! No. But I was going to. I would have told him anything. Anything at all! But more than that, I believed that I could see five lights."

2.Clues: The Enterprise goes through a wormhole that knocks everyone out except Data, the android. But nothing seems right. And as they begin to investigate the truth, their chances at survival diminish.

"Then, Mister Data, I'm going to ask you again, and I order you to directly answer me. What really happened to us?"

"I cannot answer that."

"What would you have me do, Data? How would you handle this if our positions were reversed?"

"I am apparently guilty of falsifying the Enterprise's records, of interfering with an investigation, of disobeying a direct order from my commanding officer. Your duty seems clear, sir."

"Do you know what a court martial would mean? Your career in Starfleet would be finished."

"I realize that, sir."

"Do you also realize that you would most likely be stripped down to your wires to find out what the hell has gone wrong?"

"Yes, sir. I do."

3. Sins of the Father: Worf's father is accused of treason and he has to decide what is best for him but also what is best for the Klingon Empire. It starts an arc of Worf being out of step with his people in a very public and humiliating way. And there's the Klingon food critique here:

"How long has this bird been dead? It appears to have been lying in the sun for quite some time."

"Well it's not dead, it's been replicated. And you do understand that we cook most of our foods…"

"Ah yes, I was told to prepare for that. I shall try some of your burned replicated bird meat."

4. The Drumhead: A witch hunt on board the Enterprise. A kangaroo court gets set up, Worf gets carried away by the guest litigator in his search for justice, and things nearly unravel.

"Sir, the Federation does have enemies! We must seek them out!"

"Oh, yes. That's how it starts. But the road from legitimate suspicion to rampant paranoia is very much shorter than we think. Something is wrong here, Mr. Worf; I don't like what we have become!"

5. The Survivors: The Enteprise encounters a dead planet with one tract of land still intact with two people living there without any explanation. The episode isn't especially spectacular except for one scene, in which the away team approaches the house and the elderly man residing there tries to fend them off with a phaser, which Worf can easily tell is nonfunctioning:

Sir, may I say your attempt to hold the away team at bay, with a non-functioning weapon, was an act of unmitigated gall."

"Didn't fool you, huh?"

"I admire gall."

6. Who Watches the Watchers: A simple little story where a science team is secretly watching a group of stone age equivalent aliens. Something goes wrong, and the existence of the Federation team inadvertently changes the primitive society to believing that the Captain is their god. The rhetoric between the tribal leader and Picard as he tries to convince her that he is not a deity is nicely layered together.

"Look at me... feel the warmth of my hand, the rhythm of my pulse. I'm not a supreme being. I'm flesh and blood, like you."

"Not like me."

"Like you. Different in appearance, yes, but we are both living beings. We are born, we grow, we live... and we die. In all the ways that matter, we are alike."

7. Cause and Effect: The episode opens with the destruction of the Enterprise. Then it backs up. I usually don't like time travel episodes but this one has a tiny loop and they are caught in it, being destroyed again and again, trying to send a message into the next iteration. It's a good mystery/pace to it and the scene where they start picking up minute sounds from previous iterations is like a haunting shortwave station from the past.

"Somehow we've entered what seems to be a temporal causality loop. We think we're stuck in a specific fragment in time and that we've been repeating that same fragment over and over."

"Is this what's causing our deja vu?"

"Yes, but it's more than that. In deja vu, you only think you're repeating events. We actually are."

"Our theory is this: every time the loop begins again, everything resets itself and starts all over. We don't remember anything that happened before, so each time we go through the loop, we think it's the first."

8. Yesterday's Enterprise: An alternate reality episode, with a single decision altering the past and the present. Everything is different, and everything is wrong. And prune juice. The bartender, played by Whoopi Goldberg, sits down with Worf and hands him a glass. Worf drinks it and asks what it is. She tells him it's from Earth, called prune juice.

"A warrior's drink," he declares.

9. Darmok: In an attempt to communicate with a species that speaks only in reference to shared mythology and legends, the Captain and another ship's captain go down to a planet alone to fight a beast. It is a truly nerdy episode, one I still quote and only other nerds have any idea what I mean.

"Temarc! The river Temarc in winter!"


"...and Jalad at Tanagra. Darmok and Jalad... on the ocean."

"Sokath, his eyes open!"

"The beast at Tanagra. Uzani, his army. Shaka, when the walls fell."
- Picard and the Tamarian first officer, finally able to understand each other
10. Inner Light: a probe in space zaps the Enterprise and knocks out the Captain. While he is comatose, he essentially "lives" an entire lifetime of a person from the long-dead civilization that sent the probe before their planet was destroyed by natural causes in the hopes that it miht one day find someone and tell them their story. It is HEARTBREAKING and makes me cry every time and cry when I try to describe it. It's so haunting. It's so good.

"We hoped our probe would encounter someone in the future. Someone who could be a teacher. Someone who could tell the others about us" 

"Oh... Oh, it's me... Isn't it? I'm the someone. I'm the one it finds. That's what this launching is. A probe that finds me, in the future."

Thursday, December 6, 2018

DEcember 6: Happy Things

I have a bichon frise - poodle mix. Her name is Rosie. She is nine months old, crazy smart, and a tiny little white dog with apricot ears.

She went to the groomer yesterday.

She looks like a puff.
She is also very very hard to photograph.

And she is afraid of ceiling fans. Well, not really afraid. More like...wary. She's watching them. Just in case.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

December 5: Happy Things

St. Louis architecture, when you are talking about its city houses, is not something stunning and world-renowned, but it is...right. It feels right. St. Louis, you may recall, is a mess, a dirty "whore of a city" as my sister Colleen called it. But it's built on clay mines and most of its homes are red brick "masonry foundation" homes. And they feel right.

They vary from impressive stout foursquares like the one I used to live in to the tiny Tudor Revival I live in now. There are ancient flounder houses and two story and three story Second Empire dwellings. There are flat-roofed bungalows and a plethora of intact two- and four-family flat buildings of varying designs. All brick (some are stone fronted but the sides and back walls will be always be red brick), built onsite by master masons (including some in my ancestry), with decorative brick details added throughout.

The block I moved from, in Tower Grove, had 33 houses--7 two-families and 2 single family dwellings. All the single families were foursquares, built from plans, all identical (or mirror images) of each other. Tract housing of 1904...and yet each has its own bits and pieces that made it unique. Imposing three storied structure framed by sycamores and oaks.

The block I moved onto is on the edge of Holly Hills, a mix of Tudor Revivals like mine (think Hansel and Gretel houses) along with some Colonial Revivals and bungalows. Our alley backs onto Holly Hills Boulevard with fancier puffed up versions of the poor cousins we live in. But I love these. The outer walls are 3 feet thick and the doorways are arched. They are cute as flipping buttons and this one is mine.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

December 4: Happy Things

My father is a carpenter. Not, like, by trade, but by hobby. We moved all over the country growing up, and once we started buying houses instead of renting, he always built a deck on the back. All but one time--in Georgia--but it had a screened in concrete floored porch the length of the house. Oh, and Georgia was a lousy time for us. But everywhere else, a deck.

He built bunkbeds when I was 4 that my daughter still has in her room.

When I was 5, he built a "stereo cabinet" from Better Homes & Gardens plans, that my TV in the basement now sits on. Leo is playing Xbox on it as I write.

He built in cabinets where we lived, and he got better as time went on. Then he moved to St. Louis and converted an upstairs/downstairs 2-family flat into a 1-family townhouse that is woodworked to the max. He paneled the front hall. He converted the modest apartment steps into a grand staircase. Created mantels and kitchen cabinets. Made a beautiful home, from scratch.

He built a 10 person dining room table out of an ash tree his grandfather planted.

My dining room cabinet is his work; so is Sophia's hope chest that is as big as a loveseat.

On Saturday, he's coming to my house. He's expanding the little finished part of the basement to make a nice place for kids to hang out and maybe a corner for my sewing to live in.

"I'll get it done Saturday," he says. I know he doesn't mean everything--but he does mean almost everything.

And it will be perfectly done.

Monday, December 3, 2018

December 3: Happy Things

I'm a national park junkie. There's nothing better than getting out at the entrance to a national park and making kids stand in front of it and take their picture. Or checking in with the little stamp that shows the date and location, like a cancellation postal stamp, but of places like Apgar Village or Cades Cove. Getting a patch for my jacket.

I love that we had the notion to keep these places as wild as possible for as long as possible.

And build campgrounds with very very clean bathrooms.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

December One: Happy Things

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens...

My grandmother died two Christmases ago. Our relationship was fraught with complexity I won't go into here.

But the following summer my Aunt Chris, whom I adore, had me come over to the house to sift with her. Maybe a drawer or two? But it was also a bit of a museum tour of how much crap a person can accumulate if they don't pay attention. There was a lot of crap.

Chris picked up a plastic bag, not a ziploc, but a baggie, filled with crochet hooks. It had a note: Bridgett has the steel hooks. In fact I did. And here were more of their kind, and others.

I took them home. I left them when I moved out. When I came back on one of my many trips to gather my shit and move it with me, the pieces of bits and ephemera I would realize were missing and I wanted, my ex gave me the baggie of those hooks.

I took them to my new home. Stared at them on my dining room table awhile. Made patterns with them, little pictures. Made a sunburst. Decided it fit my little craftsman house, if I were to mount them somehow.

So I did.