Friday Piles

September 26, 2008

There’s been a lot of of silence here at my house.  Or rather I should say the only sound has been me typing and the occasional squeak from Daisy’s Wubba. Today I turn in my tenure portfolio and things can get back to normal…we hope!


Remembering Maslow

September 6, 2008

Why am I always amazed at how much time goes into mere life maintenance? I’m thinking about my own basic needs (food, clean clothes, the badly needed haircut); Daisy’s needs (a lot about eating, peeing, and pooping); the house’s needs (vacuum much? bathtub? the neglected garage?); the car’s needs (rotate tires, change oil, figure out what that weird oily mark is); and then the needs of my job (which I won’t even go into here). It feels like every time I start to ascend Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, something (self, dog, house, car) pulls me right back down.

Is this how Sisyphus felt behind that boulder? Maybe I’m too focused on movement and progress. Maybe I need to appreciate the here and now and the daily a bit more.  It’s not like there’s some final stage where all these things melt away or get resolved forever. It’s just life, baby.  What would Maslow do?

The laundry, most likely.

On Routine

August 26, 2008

They say that getting a puppy is good practice for having kids.  I can see the similarities: working on potty, creating and maintaining some kind of reliable schedule, taking morning naps, making time for play, etc. My four-legged baby and I are finally settling into a groove and she’s even learning to heel on that miracle harness. And, unlike a kid, I can tempt her with a peanut butter-filled Kong and lure her into her crate while I go to work for 4 hours at a time. She may not like it, but she’s got to get used to it.

The trick is not to try and do too many things at once. Dogs live in the here-and-now and that’s got to be one of the best things about them in the world. By working with Daisy and letting her explore her boundaries and learn her limitations, she’s teaching me patience and presence. I think. I hope.

And I even got an estimate (finally) on the bathroom and am hoping to get into the handyman’s schedule for early October. Here’s to persistence and patience in all things.

Painting project #1

July 16, 2008

It turns out that painting is like everything else in life.  Once you’re in the groove, it’s fine, but getting started is hell.  Since I’d been living in blissful denial, it’d been a while since I was doing any major daily painting.  I unearthed my painting duds, bought some more exterior latex semi-gloss, rediscovered my favorite brush, and clipped on my shuffle. Good to go.

I was about half way through This American Life when I remembered how important prep work is. You know, the scraping, priming, and cleaning part. Oh yeah.  After a few false starts and lots of neon Mr. Clean scrubbing, I think the porch and I are off and running.  I’d also forgotten the motto of house painters everywhere: There’s no such thing as one coat of paint. Good to know.

Home to Roost

July 9, 2008

When I bought the house, my dad asked me a lot of questions about the the basement and the size of the garage. Naturally, he wanted to be sure these crucial spaces were dry and in good condition. But I now realize that he had an ulterior motive. He was ready for me to take back all the stuff I’d been storing in his attic and garage for the last two decades. And really, who can blame him?

So over the course of a year, the things of my life have slowing been accumulating around me and this house like nails to a magnetized screwdriver. My purple mountain bike from college has found its way back to me, as have my four snow tires, and a whole slew of mildewed cardboard boxes.

At first I planned to go through all the cardboard boxes and I did find some things I’d forgotten I owned–like the brilliantly masochistic Silver Palate Cookbook and a clutch of wooden spoons I’d collected in college. But then I started finding piles of old letters from old boyfriends and school pictures from seventh grade and the hand-sewn doll named Ed that my mother made for me when I was two. All those years of storing stuff at my parents’ house meant that I was free of my own past. But now it’s here with me. So I went to Lowes and bought some of those durable plastic tubs with snap-on lids. Everything’s in there now, stacked neatly in a dry corner of my basement until I can figure out what it means to have the remnants of your history so close at hand.

Yet Another Reason to Love Vermont

June 3, 2008

It’s not like we actually need more things to love about the Maple state. What we actually need are more reasons to love upstate New York–besides the Hudson river and the post-apocalyptic architecture of Rockefeller Plaza.  But here it is!  Leave it to Vermonters to not only come up with such a sentence for trespassing teenagers, but to actually go through with it.

As a writing teacher, however, I have to question the continued use of writing (and reading) as a form of punishment. Will these kids really gain an appreciation for Frost’s poetry? Or will they just make sure they plan the next kegger for an abandoned barn?


Free is Never Free

June 2, 2008

Recently, my fondness for used things has been eclipsed by the beauty of free things. Even better than spending a couple bucks is spending nothing. Case in point: my soon-to-be dining room light fixture. You may remember that I spent a few tortured months cruising expensive websites and stores, but to no avail. Until, that is, my mom spied a box on the side of a road in St. Albans. Because who doesn’t stop for  a “Free” sign on their way to the Chopper?

Voila–my new lamp! Of course, it needs a bit of love, but that’s what we do, right?

Today I decided to paint it. I stirred my old paint, grabbed a brush, and got to work. That was when I realized that there was some hardware decisions to be made. Some of the brass got a coat of white paint, but in order to reach the far prongs of each arm, I decided to be thorough and actually remove the five little electrical cones. (I’m sure there are proper technical terms for all these bits and pieces, but that’s not my thing.) So I was feeling kind of triumphant because I was learning and growing by being thorough for once in my life. It felt kind of good, actually, to be doing something the right way instead of half-assing it and rigging it. Which is my, ahem, usual style.

But tonight I tried to put the little cone pieces back on with their little screws and it turns out that the washer goes on the inside of the cone. That’s right! It goes behind the nested electrical wire. So, I poured a glass of wine, gritted my teeth, and pulled out the electrical part. I can’t see how a normal human with two hands could possibly put these f-ing things back together. With one hand, I’m holding the cone on to the arm thing; meanwhile, I’m trying to screw the screw back in the tiny hole with the other. No love. Not working. And since when do I do electrical?

Is there a lesson in all this? As I contemplate the ruins of my free lamp, I can’t but help feel a tad bitter. Before I braved this lamp, my tried and true motto was always “That’s good enough for me”! But today I tried to do the mature thing, the patient thing, the right thing. And now I’m left with a kind of Russian doll version of electrical pieces and stripped screws. I know, I know. You’re probably thinking I should stick this out and make it work. But I’ve got a headache and the couch beckons me. Plus it’s just really dark in here by now.

I’ll deal with this shizzle tomorrow. Now that’s more like it!