“It isn’t personal,” they say. “Don’t take it personally,” they say.
Well, I take things personally. Always have. Probably always will. For me, there is no “just doing my job,” or “just following the rules.”
When my First Grade teacher taught me to read, she was just doing her job, but it was personal to me. She called me her “Young Spaceman,” and I loved her. She had given me the greatest gift in the world.
When my Third Grade teacher threatened me with a tree branch, because she was following her rules and I wasn’t, it was personal. I frustrated her. She pretty clearly hated me. When my other Third Grade teacher (my father fired the entire school on my behalf and took me elsewhere) taught me my multiplication tables, a year late and after much struggling, it was personal, and I loved her too.
In high school, when the yearbook advisor told me that our senior yearbook would likely not be published until the class after ours had already graduated, it was personal, and I stayed late every day for two weeks, getting the layouts finished, meeting the printer’s deadline. We had all worked hard on that book, and I wanted it in people’s hands. That wasn’t just my job or my grade, it was personal. I could make a difference, and, dammit, I was going to.Continue reading
September 25th, 2018
Dear Daddy –
It’s been a bit since I’ve worked on the pink bathroom. Susan was having surgery, and Dawson was coming to stay, so I wanted to get the green bathroom downstairs in shape to be used. That meant sealing the grout, caulking, and—very important—getting a door up. I believe I’ve talked about that already, missing hinges and all. But all of that is done, and, though there’s still work to do in the green bathroom, the pink one has tile in place that hasn’t been grouted. Without grout, tile stuck to the SimpleMat or the MuscleBound adhesive mats (I use whichever one the store has when I need it) tends to fall. I find the MuscleBound holds the tile better, but the SimpleMat is more broadly available. In any event, they expect you to put the tile up and grout immediately. Not so for me, especially with all the tile that needs to be cut.
So today I grouted one wall of the pink bathtub. Rather frustrating work, what with the grout glopping all over the place as you go (wasteful process!), but I got the wall done. I may do the last bits today—the narrow wall on the end, and the trim above the toilet and sink. Then again, I may decide to let some of the dried grout scale off my hands for a while, so I can get them coated again on a later date.Continue reading
May 27th, 2019
Dear Daddy —
The walkup steps to the basement have been pretty neglected lo, these many years. In your honor for Memorial Day–because you always believed in working holidays–Christian and Renee decided to pressure-wash them. There’s something rejuvenating about seeing your masonry look almost new.
September 24, 2018
Dear Daddy –
Yes, it’s been almost two weeks. Yes, it’s been a bad time. Yes, there’s a lot I’m not saying.
So… It’s been a bad few weeks. Come to that, it’s been a bad summer. Not that it was all bad, not that some good things did not happen. But the stress level has been high—very high. Not everyone has been happy with me. I can get very few specifics about that. I’m a person who likes to know specifics. They don’t have to be hard facts. They can be opinions. But, if someone says to me, “I don’t like what you’re doing,” they had better be prepared to tell me exactly what it is that I’m doing that they don’t like.
I think of an experience I had in 3rd Grade. I had a teacher whom I will not name. Let’s call this teacher Miss Flax. (“Miss.” The term “Ms.” had yet to catch on in Howard County schools in 1973, when I began 3rd grade, even though the magazine by that name had been in publication for a year.) Mother and I were just talking about her last night. Miss Flax did not like me. She made that very clear. Naturally, I wasn’t enamored of someone who threatened to beat me with a tree branch, who called me “Wilson,” when she called my classmates by their first names, and who deliberately embarrassed me in front of the class on numerous occasions.Continue reading
Two years ago this evening, my father died. He was 94. I began this blog immediately, to mark the changes and passing of days without him. The biggest topic of discussion in my letters to him is the progress I’ve made finishing the house he planned, but left mostly unfinished for fifty years. People ask me now, “Have you finished remodeling your dad’s house yet?” Remodeling. Heh. I’m building from the world’s biggest model kit, with half the pieces missing. No, I won’t be finished for some time. For those concerned about the content herein, written some months ago, no, my mom did not move out. And no, I didn’t find the hinges. And no, I didn’t get back to the pink bathroom. All things in time.
Dear Daddy –
I didn’t write last week. That is, I didn’t write to you. I did write, trying to work out a problem, as I sometimes do, words not meant for other human beings to read, not even dead ones.
It’s been a bad couple of weeks. Lots of lost sleep. I won’t go into the details, because, again, other people will be reading these words eventually. And my perceptions of what’s been happening in my life are mine alone. Other people have other opinions of who is doing right and who is doing wrong, and I don’t want to touch off a shouting match six months after the fact.
As always, when things are emotionally draining for me, my creativity suffers. It’s hard to put words down–at least words that would mean something to someone else–when in a state of emotional turmoil.
Things are not resolved, but they’re stable. I guess sometimes that’s the best you can hope for.
The chicken run is pretty well complete. The roof is installed, although it needs some shoring up with zip ties, to hold the courses of wire together better. And I still want to run chicken wire around the inside, to keep the girls from sticking their heads out and inviting hawks to run away with them. Run away with their heads, that is. It’s been raining constantly. Hurricane Florence has been ravaging the Carolinas this week and has sent us a lot of rain. It’s rained most of the summer, though. We get a dry day or so every other week. Every time I cut the grass, at your house or mine, I’m cutting off six or eight inches, it’s growing so fast. The rain is also making the doors swell on the chicken coop, so I’ll be having to make some adjustments to them.Continue reading
August 29th, 2018
Dear Daddy –
Your youngest grandson turned 19 this week and spent his first birthday without us. Of course, he was with us the Sunday before; but for his actual birthday he had classes and rehearsal and wasn’t available to even talk to us until after 10 in the evening. It felt odd, just as it feels odd to be living in a house without either of my sons, and to be finishing your house without you here.
The pink bathroom’s plumbing is in. I have to finish its tile. We now have four working bathrooms, though, 50 years and 10 months after we moved into this house.Continue reading
June 13, 2018
Dear Daddy –
I’ve been able to do part of my work on the back porch today, when I wasn’t smearing grout all over myself in the master bathroom. The weather has been very nice the past few days, after what seems like weeksof solid rain. We did have rain Sunday and Monday, but yesterday and today have been very nice.
The back porch hasn’t always been usable. You designed it to be another large room of the house, albeit an outdoor one. It runs from the West end of the house to the breakfast room wall—about 50 feet. One end is narrow—5 feet wide. The other is deeper, leaving a space about 10 feet by 25 feet. You had intended to screen it. It’s in the drawings. You never even finished installing the permanent columns. Its roof has been supported by doubled 2x4s all these years.Continue reading
August 22, 2018
Dear Daddy –
I found the missing tile! Ethan took apart my general purpose room, where all the tile had been moved last Spring, in hopes of finding a stray box. I checked the attics, went through every box of tile on the shelves in the basement (they were all labeled “Regency Blue”) and checked the closets and under the beds in the crib room—the tile’s first stop after sitting in the blue bathroom for all those years.
August 15th, 2018
I took this week off to finish the bathrooms so that the plumber can get the sinks, toilets and shower/bath faucets completed in time for the August 20thexpiration of our permit. The plumber assures me that we can get another extension, but I’d rather get it done. There are so many other things to do, both in your house and mine, and I need to move on to them.
Speaking of other things to do… I have to dig through the attics and general purpose rooms—I’ve already checked the basement—to see if there’s another case of pink tile. I started with six sealed cases of 96 tiles each, plus about 35 loose tiles. Where did the loose tiles come from? There has to be a partial case here somewhere, unless you bought them loose, which doesn’t sound like you.
Hey, I can check the invoice to see how much you bought! Must do that.Continue reading
March 30, 2019
I don’t have time to write much this week. Too much going on, and I’ll tell you about it later. Plus my late model MacBook Pro has become once again an exhibit for your lectures on “Design for Failure,” and requires its second keyboard replacement inside six months.
I’ve written about the deck before, the one at my house. You didn’t have much to do with it, other than laying under it with me at 3:00 in the morning, drilling a hole through the house foundation so we could install an electrical outlet. It’s been there for either 14 or 15 years now. And, as of yesterday, it’s gone. My friends Ren, June and Scott came over, and, with Ethan, we tore off the deck planks I had not yet removed, dismantled the joists and beams, and now all I have left is eleven posts to pull out of the ground. Quite a project for four fifty-somethings and an overworked Millennial. But we did it.Continue reading