Saturday, July 31, 2010

“Re-Decorating Will Be Our Move”

We decided not to move—a relocation that had been our focus for the past three weeks.   What happened was this:  a condo for rent with all the qualities we were looking for became available yesterday. (Well, all the qualities except price—a little too high—but we were ready to go there.)  A skookum place as we say around here—local Indian for “swe-e-e-et.” 

This place had its drawbacks, of course, and one of them was a deal-breaker:  we still have too much shit to move; there just wouldn’t be enough storage space, we realized, even after all the sorting.

We don't consider rental of a storage locker an option.  It's not what our kind of people do.

The decision comes as a relief, after all.

As BFF said, “Re-decorating will be our move.”

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Moving Soon

A year ago we moved from a home, and a neighborhood, that we loved.  We have not been so happy in our present house, and we are soon moving again.  However, one of the things we will miss most is our—or rather the landlady’s—garden.  That possessive, though, kind of tells the tale—it’s not our creation.  In fact, we have discovered that BFF can’t even go outside without breaking into hives.  It’s the raspberries.

So we’re giving a big raspberry to this place and moving on to a condo apartment, but I, and she, will really miss the garden. 

My Chosen Profession

I just finished reading and responding to the above-headlined Atlantic article discussing the President's contention that teachers "must be accountable."  This was my response:

As an elementary school teacher with six years experience who came into the field after a long career as a small businessperson, I have a few observations pertinent to the current debate about public school education.  My college's teacher training poorly prepared me for the classroom.  A “rigorous residency” would have helped me, at least, present a higher quality education earlier in my career.  However, subsequent professional development is often wasted because there is not enough time or resources for its adequate implementation.  If I could wish for one thing that would help me do my job better it would be qualified assistance with my lowest performing students in reading and math.  This worked well at our school during the year when funding was available for a single grade.  To ask one person, for six hours a day, to consistently and appropriately engage 30 or more students who are learning over a range of three or four grade levels is asking too much, regardless of the pay incentive.   Finally, I have been consistently impressed by my colleagues’ skill and hard work on behalf of their students, but it has been my observation that the most reliable predictor of a child’s success in school is not the teacher but the parents.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Evening, in the Backyard

Sun setting deeper behind the mountains; cool, still air sinking to the earth:  twilight, its quality impossible to capture in a photograph.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hard Times

There’s a fellow removing the siding next door so they can replace it with something more attractive.  I’ve spoken with him a couple of times; he’s friendly, warm even, about 35, I reckon.  Regular-looking—round face, short blond hair, a little pudgy, but muscles, I’m sure, and a tan, both from his line of work.  Family-type of guy.

A couple of hours ago, our daily “Mornin’” morphed into a conversation about government regulations and illegal aliens, both of which he’s against, in a mild mannered but heart-felt way.  It was getting uncomfortable talking with him, especially when the topic turned from paper to people.  I avoid confrontations, sometimes to a fault, but I couldn’t be real and not express my disagreement with some of what he was saying. 

Fortunately the conversation took a turn and he began telling me about his personal situation.  He’d been accustomed to making upwards of $35 an hour but was doing this, his first major job in 18 months, for $10 less.  The kicker, though, was his six-hour daily commute.  There’s only scratch work out in the small town and logging-based county where he lives, and not much of that.  He feels real fortunate to have landed this job 75 miles from home; now he can make enough to keep that home out of foreclosure, even though it means these long, long days, barely seeing his family.


Another "there but for the grace of God."

When I inquired about future prospects, our carpenter fellow said he was looking to retrain, in fact had a plan to work at the big Navy shipyard hereabouts.  He'd almost gotten a job there but it just fell through.  The necessary security clearance was denied because he was in default on this home.  Now that it looked like he would soon be out of that hole, he was planning on applying again.  I hope he makes it, and I hope the work lasts.

As he kept talking I learned the back story, and it put a human face on all the news articles you read.  Three, four years ago our carpenter friend was pulling down 75, 100 thousand.  He saw lots of others a little higher up in his trade making that much money, a lot faster, flipping houses.  He borrowed to build a couple himself and had just finished when the economy tanked.  Finally sold one for a 38 K loss, ended up giving the other back to the bank.  The American Dream, "it's not what it seems," as Willie Nelson has poignantly put it in song.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Free LiLo

I just had a nice phone chat with my old friend Bob.  Having a nice phone chat is not at all something in which I ordinarily indulge.  I just don’t take the time; there’s always something else to do.  Bob is retired, and during the summer, being a schoolteacher, so am I, in a way.  So I have more time to nourish my poor neglected friendships.

It was sweet to talk, sharing things we hadn’t in ages, especially as we wound down our conversation in a manner that has become our custom: working up a juvenile fantasy about the current crush object.

We’ve decided to form a Lindsay Lohan support group. That was Bob’s idea but I enthusiastically jumped on board, being a big fan of freckles.   I’ll skip the details; just say they betray our arrested development while lapping at the swill of mass media.

Let's see...What's next on the "To Do" list?

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Chaos of Objects

The past two weeks I’ve been sorting through a chaos of objects, from large as a drill press to tiny as a post-it, in boxes and piles so spread about it was a dangerous dance getting through our good-sized basement. This is not a skill area for me, although I’ve come to, if not enjoy, at least be obsessed with its completion.

Much of the work has been fairly straightforward: put the chisels with the carving tools with the screwdrivers and call them all long-handled tools with a business end. Crescent wrench goes with pliers go with sockets and drivers because they’re all about loosening and tightening. Et cetera. That part was relatively easy.

The hard part came with all the papers and pictures and cards, letters and journals, the objets de whatever. That’s what got me to thinking about the larger meaning of this strange but commonplace activity. It’s like, “Are you on the bus or off the bus?” over and over again.

For example, take the daughters’ pictures. It’s not easy consigning a half dozen of sweet Second Daughter’s preschool graduation pics, even though I’ve already saved one good one, to the same box where I have thrown a leaky liquid nail cartridge. Ditto the Father's Day and Birthday cards. What do I look for when deciding which one makes the cut?

At least initially, that was a question I wrestled with when it came to assigning a fate to the embarrassing things, like the volumes of indescribably puerile writing trying to masquerade as something worthwhile. Fortunately, I argued myself out of the stance that saving a least a selection of such crap is important for understanding "my development."

Some of the stuff I've been going through is cringe-worthy and some of it downright sad, like Mom’s hour-by-hour description of what Dad went through his last two days on this earth. I imagine her detailing his suffering as a way to maintain her own sanity and semblance of poise in his time in extremis.

The sorting is complete now, at least for this move. I never came up with a formula. Every day it seemed like I had different criteria for the task, and some things I just put in boxes to give to the daughters. Let them perform their own triage. For me, for now, this shit is squared away:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ripped Raw

Last night BFF and I went to a local jazz club to hear Bettye LaVette. Every ache and yearning in her 65-year-old mind and body comes through the strongest and most raw voice you can imagine. It had me gulping back what she had touched inside, wiping the tears away after every song. One of life’s crowning glories is our ability to be moved far beyond our present circumstances by music.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


A year ago BFF and I moved into a smaller and cheaper (rented) house, just downhill and a little south of a place where we’d lived for three years, half that time shared with Daughter Two. We’d liked that house and loved the neighborhood. Not so much here, though, down in the flats. We’ve decided to move again.

Two goals: less money and better location. We’d gotten spoiled having a great little grocery next door, cafes and taverns, book and hardware store, dry cleaner, boutique video, and coffeehouses galore, all along a shady not-too busy street. I recently discovered something called the “Walkability Index.” Our former house would have rated about 90. The one where we're living now? 25?

Money is the other thing. Now that retirement is only a couple of years away, we want to salt away all we can for our move down south. An apartment the size of our current house, even condo-quality, would save us a bundle.  The calculus goes something like this:  three months of savings here and now equal two months retirement rent in Guanajuato, or wherever.

Walkability--isn't that a great concept?  A neighborhood that pulls you outside.  We're craigslisting places near the central business district of our neighborhood, within easy strolling distance of an urban park with musicians and water features, public library, my fine gym, excellent movie theater and coffee houses, the best Mexican restaurant in town, sushi and other bars and clubs, plus acceptance for the many homeless around here who offer a bracing dose of "there but for the grace of God."