Pool project #1: excavation and beyond

This is what our backyard looked like originally: You can see the orange chalk lines of where the pool was to be dug.  We began talking about this with our contractor in February.

After much back and forth, we finally got some drawings and renderings in June.  It’s so cool how they can do this.  We still don’t understand why the garage contractor couldn’t have provided this for us.

Excavation began in August.  Pretty much immediately, the landscaping in the back was getting trampled.  We had the contractor put up a plastic fence to try to keep people out of there, but that didn’t work.

My daughter and I got to climb in the Bobcat at one point.  That was fun.

Because the water lines were being rerouted, the sprinkler system was shut off in the backyard.  Azaleas began struggling right away.  It was either stand out there in the August humidity with the hose, getting bitten by mosquitos, or find a solution.  We ended up rigging up a few sprinklers that attached to the hose on a timer, which worked as long as the workers didn’t take the hose off… which happened every few days.  So frustrating.

Because of the rainy weather, we had this for a few days…

This is what it looked like for quite a while, collecting rainwater and breeding mosquitos…

By September, it was looking like this…

Surrounding the pool was quite a bit of mud.  The things it’s hard to see in photos are rerouting sewer lines, water pipes, etc.  Doing all of that and waiting on the city inspectors took a bit of time.

Posted in Home | Tagged , | 1 Comment

What did I read in May? Politics!

May was a very busy month with not much reading time, but I did manage to finish a few. Several years ago, I read the amazing story about how Barack Obama’s campaign was run and how it gathered momentum.  So, mainly out of curiosity, I read a book about each side of our recent 2016 election.  Both books were skewed but fairly interesting.  And the one by a former Secret Service UD officer… wow. I tried to balance out the nonfiction with two novels.  Wait ’til you hear what I’ve been reading in June! (No more politics.)

Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes

It’s always interesting to read insider stories.  The writers who brought us Hillary’s biography have now put together an inside perspective of the many things that went wrong for Hillary’s campaign.  Scandals, lack of messaging, untaken opportunities, miscommunication, bad decisions: everything can be traced back to the candidate herself.  Her campaign just couldn’t catch a break.  I have to say that after reading about half of this, I had to start skipping ahead because it was just one unfortunate occurrence after another!

“The campaign was an unholy mess, frought with tangled lines of authority, petty jealousies, distorted priorities, and no sense of greater purpose.  No one was in charge, and no one had figured out how to make the campaign about something bigger than Hillary.”

She was unable to prove to many voters that she was running for the presidency because she had a vision for the country rather than visions of power. And she couldn’t cast herself as anything but a lifelong insider when so much of the country had lost faith in its institutions and yearned for a fresh approach to governance. All of it fed a narrative of dynastic privilege that was woefully out of touch with the sentiment of the American electorate.”

Crisis of Character: A White House Secret Service Officer Discloses His Firsthand Experience with Hillary, Bill, and How They Operate by Gary J. Byrne

If the previous book treated Hillary like a superstar, this one labels her a villain.   The Secret Service Uniformed Division ranks among the nation’s most powerful law enforcement agencies.  Byrne served our country for 29 years with honor and integrity.  He gives a firsthand perspective of the Clintons that he states was his obligation to tell the nation prior to election day 2016.  If it is all true, “the Bill and Hillary show” is just appalling.

Besides that goal, this book is a memoir of Byrne’s progression through his training and various positions within the Secret Service and the Federal Air Marshall Service.  It is fascinating to read his stories about what his job was like.

Character in leadership comes down to two questions: Would you trade places with anyone under your command? Do you hold yourself to the same level of accountability as those for whom you bear responsibility?

With the long-shot goal of selling 20,000 copies, Crisis of Character has sold well over 450,000 copies.  Reading it, I have to say (and I can’t believe I’m saying it) that it’s possible we are better off with our current POTUS.  I’m relieved the Clinton dynasty is over, at least.

God-Shaped Hole: A Novel by Tiffanie DeBartolo

“We’re all searching for something to fill up what I like to call that big, God-shaped hole in our souls.”

DeBartolo is the Founder and CEO of SF Bay Area record label Bright Antenna Records. Knowing that, I can see why this book includes it’s own playlist! This is a love story that left me sobbing so much I couldn’t see the words on the page.  Beatrice replies to a personal ad and meets her soul-mate, a writer and seeker of life.  Their story is at once juvenile and touching.  It does make you wonder if some people are meant for each other.

“I suddenly thought my life was perfect. Or, at least, more perfect than it had ever been. It was as if all the melancholy I’d ever known, all the nights I sat alone thinking life sucked, had added up to our place in the world—finally a good place—and the spirit of that rightness was meant to echo on until the end of time.”

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos: A Novel by Dominic Smith

Three sides of a triangle weave together this story: rare landscape by a female Dutch painter in the 1600’s, an inheritor of the work in 1950s Manhattan, and a celebrated art historian who painted a forgery of it as a struggling Australian grad student.

As she unpacks the camera obscura, it strikes her that she has never painted exactly what she sees. Surely, this is the way of all art. The painter sees the world as if through the watery lens of a pond.

This book is well-written with likable, relatable characters and gorgeous detail.  Highly recommend.

You carry grudges and regrets for decades, tend them like gravesite vigils, then even after you lay them down they linger on the periphery, waiting to ambush you all over again.

The Making of the President 2016: How Donald Trump Orchestrated a Revolution by Roger Stone

This book is quite obviously slanted, but I was very curious about how and what made the Trump campaign so successful.  I found it fascinating to read about Trump’s ability to engage people with big-picture ideas and to tap into their distrust of career politicians and anger toward Washington.  I did not know that Nixon was his long-time advisor or that he’d been interested in running for President since the 70s, waiting for the opportune time.

Just as Jonathan Allen,  Amie Parnes, and Gary Byrne write that Hillary’s failures can be sourced directly to the candidate herself, Stone writes that “Donald Trump is his own strategist, campaign manager, and tactician, and all credit for his incredible election belongs to him.”

Posted in Books, Books - Monthly Reports | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Garage project #1: moving day and demo

We are absolutely loving our new setup!  Benefit #1 – we can BOTH park in the garage! No more “could you move your car?” every day.  Benefit #2 – Mr. B works upstairs when he’s in town, leaving the house peacefully quiet.  That said, it was ultimately a very l o o o o n n g project with many hiccups along the way.

Here you can see the outline for the pool and how our backyard used to look. I tried replanting them, but ultimately because of the construction, I had to give up my mandevilla on the garage wall.

We broke ground on the pool right around the same time as we demolished the garage. We began work in August of last year (really, it was months before that with all the drawings, paperwork, city and neighborhood permits…).

Day 1: Put garage items in storage and prepare for demolition.  Before doing that, we had to reroute the electrical panel that was in the back of the garage.  They had to bury the cables under part of our driveway.  Thus began the influx of contractors treating our home as a construction site, leaving coke cans and trash everywhere.  You can already see that they threw dirt over some of my plants.  They were banging all day, playing loud music, and even putting holes in our living room walls without asking us.  Fun times.

Since he no longer lives there, I can probably safely share that we lived next door to Arian Foster of the Houston Texans for about a year. He was moving to Miami when we were packing the storage unit, so we were twinsies!

I rented one of those storage containers that they bring over and leave in front of your house for you to fill up. When ready, they take it and store it in a facility somewhere.  I figured we’d have it back in 3 months.

I have used a local company, Muscles for Hire, many times during our moves and have always been more than happy with them.  The 3 guys who came to help us empty our garage were awesome.  They tried to move things across the broken driveway, through the mud, but ended up doing most things through the house to our storage unit out front.

I had the guys move our enormous treadmill out of the master bedroom and into the storage unit because I thought I’d be putting it in the upstairs office once it was built.  The original installers actually built it in my bedroom, so these guys had to disassemble it partly in order to get it through the doorway.

Moving in August is exhausting!

I made a trip to the toxic waste recycling center with all this old paint.

It’s never a good surprise when you have holes in your wall you didn’t put there yourself.

This is our precious internet cable. Since it was attached to the garage, we had to do something with it!

The last step before demo was to remove the breezeway cover connecting the house to the garage.  It was interesting to watch them work.  We found old phone lines too.

Ready for demo!

Finally, the City came to deliver a storage container that lived in our driveway for months.  The way they left it, our driveway gate could not be closed.  Thanks a lot.

Next… destruction photos.

I don’t remember what I was originally expecting, but it took quite a while to take down the existing garage structure.  Once that was complete, they had to remove the concrete foundation slab, which turned out to be unnecessary because it was 18″ thick! If we had known that, they could have left it.

They started with a jackhammer, escalated to an extention on that excavator, and ultimately had to bring in some sort of machine that dropped a large boulder from high up to try to break up the foundation.  It took about 1.5 weeks for all that to happen.

And all the while, we are trying to make sure nobody touches that internet cable dangling in the air. 🙂

In case you’re wondering how we got from this to that very first picture of the finished product, come back for the next post.  Thanks for reading!

Posted in Home | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Dear Lady Jane: out with the old (and other signs of growing up)

Dear Lady Jane Sweet Girl, (I called you “Lady Jane” the other day and you very assertively told me not to call you that!) (But wait! This is my blog!)

You and I have spent the past few days clearing out many things you have accumulated over the years.  Remember, you used to be that person who wouldn’t throw anything away, even if one could rightly call it trash.  Your personal growth has previously caused a few spurts of Good Will donations, but this one feels different to me.

It wasn’t like you were itching to get rid of anything.  No, you have never been bothered in the least by having clutter everywhere. You are capable of hopping this way and that past any obstacle to enter a room.  I don’t think I’ve seen you become upset by opening a cabinet and having everything inside fall out.  This time, your interests have simply changed.  I told you that if you wanted to get anything else for your playroom, we simply had to do a major clear out.

You began playing school as soon as you came home from the first day of second grade and have not stopped, but this latest version is more semi-professional.

You have watched YouTube teachers guide viewers through their classroom, “a day in the life” curriculum videos, and even organizational tricks for moms.  I have no idea why these interest you, but you could do worse, I guess.  So your playroom is starting to look like an actual classroom.  You have colored drawers and file systems and workbooks that my friends gave you from their older kids after school ended.  Your ultimate perfect day would include a trip to Lakeshore Learning and then The Container Store.

“The goal in raising one’s child is to enable him, first, to discover who he wants to be, and then to become a person who can be satisfied with himself and his way of life. Eventually he ought to be able to do in his life whatever seems important, desirable, and worthwhile to him to do…” ~ Bruno Bettelheim

Raising kids who are independent means raising kids who are curious about the wider world and eager to explore and see things from different perspectives.  So why would I not encourage this type of expression? You are confident and excited about it!

You have recently been pretending to make your own videos, guiding people through your classroom.  I watch you conduct your imaginary classroom and I marvel at how many years you have until you can actually teach for real.  Maybe you’ll be a T.A. of something when you’re a teenager, but really, you’ll have another 15 years at least before you can lead a classroom.  I hope you don’t burn out before then!

When I took the big tub of Barbies, dolls, and doll clothes to Good Will this morning, the volunteer there told me her daughter loves all that right now.  I almost told her it may soon pass…  appreciate that stage… or some such babble.  I certainly never consciously wanted dolls/princesses/Barbie in my house, but it came nonetheless and didn’t last as long as I thought it would.

You’d rather have makeup and nail polish than Shopkins.  You read chapter books, not picture books.  You had asked me so many times to “tell the truth” about the tooth fairy that I finally admitted that I am she.  We were both a little sad about that one, but I think you felt more grown up knowing that secret.  Plus, you have been very complimentary about my methods and surprises!

I felt sad handing over more of your “little girl” toys.  Not sad enough to keep it, of course, but sad that that phase of childhood is gone.  And I am still shocked that you can look at a pile of your old papers and drawings and random crap junk little prizes and firmly state, “toss it all.” Who are you???

Posted in Dear Lady Jane, Motherhood | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Catching up

This little guy got stuck in the pool. I took this photo because I liked how it exhibits the surface tension of the water. Only when I looked at it on my computer did I notice all the concentric circles!

My last post was over a month ago! I have missed having the opportunity to sit down with my laptop and share my latest ideas and projects.  I would love to hear from you about what you’ve been up to as well.  It’s a recurrent theme with me but truly, I need to balance my obligations with my hobbies and try to fit it all in.

There was all the usual end-of-school flurry of activity: dance photos, dance recital, teacher gifts, class parties, last Brownie meeting, and various celebrations.  We had our Sisterhood installation luncheon and I planned a staff appreciation lunch.  Relative to the past few years, we have entertained A LOT, mainly because our new pool makes it super convenient and fun.  We’ve gone to baseball games, a U2 concert, and started our summer reading clubs.  I finally got my hair highlighted because I actually have some gray hairs growing in (gasp!!) (I really dislike giving up 2 hours of time to get it done, so it has to be so bad that it’s a necessity.) And I turned 42.

Now Sweet Girl is in the first of her weekly camps and I have been enjoying quiet time to do my own thing: read, do puzzles, swim, read some more, and think about getting back into the art room and to this blog.  Can you believe I’ve been writing Poetic Aperture for 6.5 years now? I would like to catch up on my book-making too. I’ve only done the first 3 years.

I have been trying to slim down and since January, I’ve lost 17 pounds.  About a month ago, I noticed that I’d lost my motivation to walk in the mornings and to count calories.  One day of slacking became two, etc.  Some of my family have been successful on Naturally Slim, which is much more of a lifestyle change than a diet, and so Mr. B and I have been doing it for 3.5 weeks now and we’re both excited to be losing weight.  I have at least 10 more pounds to lose, so I will keep you posted.

Just had to show you our end-of-year cake for our Brownie troop. Such cuteness!

The outside home projects continue. We are actually still tweaking the pool setup.  Today it’s our vacuum that is not behaving.  We did some landscaping that I’ll show you as well.  I’ll be catching up here over the next couple of weeks, telling you about our backyard, the books I’ve been reading, a few art canvases I’ve done, and my new camera. Stay tuned! xoxo

Posted in Mindfulness, Motherhood, Writing | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

April showers mean lots of reading

This month began with a quick escape… Mr. B and I went to Cabo for 4 days and truly relaxed and connected.  It was heavenly and VERY hard to come back to reality.

We finished the pool, built a pergola and completed landscaping the backyard, made SG’s summer schedule (the number of days left of school is in the teens!), and hosted a big Passover seder.  I’ve been busy (shocking) finishing up various volunteer commitments… and putting together more puzzles.

The Bookshop on the Corner: A Novel by Jenny Colgan

Nina is a young librarian who has only always wanted to match the right book to the right person. Since losing her library job, the next best thing, to her, is opening a mobile bookshop.  Not too much substance here, but a good story about romance, changing your life for the better, and starting over.

There was a universe inside every human being every bit as big as the universe outside them. Books were the best way Nina knew—apart from, sometimes, music—to breach the barrier, to connect the internal universe with the external, the words acting merely as a conduit between the two worlds.

How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids by Jancee Dunn

I could write a post about this book alone! It is part memoir, part social science, and 100% true-to-life funny.  I read this on our weekend couples escape and Mr. B and I were laughing out loud at the observations and truth behind Dunn’s words.  Whereas before kids, the Dunn couple shared household tasks equally, they quickly slid into traditional gender roles after their baby arrived.  And the resentment started to build.  

I feel like he’s a guest at the hotel I’m running. I’m constantly taking a silent feminist stand to see if he’ll step up and lend a hand. The scorekeeping never ends… And so I fume, and then unleash the beast at the slightest provocation. A typical scenario: I am in the kitchen, simultaneously cooking dinner, checking our daughter’s homework, and emptying both her school lunch bag and the dishwasher. Tom heads into the kitchen and I brighten—Oh, good, some help!—but no, he is only wending through the typhoon in order to reach the refrigerator to pour himself a glass of wine.”

First, Dunn reviews the statistics: that though men are doing much more of their share of the household tasks, it is still far from equal.  Next, they visits many specialists to try to resolve her resentment and anger and to help her husband see the need to contribute more at home.  In the end, after consulting psychologists, sociologists, time management consultants, and other researchers, they come to some solutions.    They change how they see their roles (“Home life is a functioning business, albeit a weird twenty-four-hour diner/daycare/hospital type of business,” how they can specifically deal with conflict, how they help each other, and how they negotiate and make continued effort to function better.

The book is full of anecdotes like this one:

“Comedian Dena Blizzard, a New Jersey mom, says she would bristle when her husband would return home from work, look around at the chaos wrought by their three children, and ask her, “What happened here? Who pulled all this stuff out?” “Every day, he would say it,” she tells me. “I’m like, ‘Oh, this? Yeah, I pulled all this shit out. I was really bored today, so I thought I’d throw everything on the floor.’” Then he would follow with the question dreaded by stay-at-home mothers worldwide: What did you do all day? “I did a hundred things, but none of them added up to anything,” Blizzard says. “I vacuumed, I called Poison Control because my son ate a plant, and I think I took a shower. I’d tell him, ‘We have three kids. This is as far as we got.’ He would always be surprised. It was hard not to want to punch him in the face.”

We know that women do countless invisible tasks… One is “kin work,” which Smock defines to me as “giving emotional support to relatives, buying presents and sending cards, handling holiday celebrations, things like that…” Then there’s “emotion work,” the constant checking on the wellbeing of everyone in the household: Is your tween still feeling excluded in the school cafeteria? The dog seems under the weather—is it time to get his kidney medication refilled? Did your husband hash out that issue with his boss? Yet another kind of invisible work is called “consumption labor”—buying the kids’ underwear and school supplies, researching the car seat and the high chair. “This often falls to the woman,” says Smock, “unless you’re talking about big-ticket items like a large-screen TV and the refrigerator.” Let us not forget the schlepping: a study in the journal Transportation found that women shoulder most of the load in the drearily named “average daily household support travel time” category (the school run, grocery shopping, hauling kids to piano lessons). Women do this an average of eleven minutes more per day than men—even when both spouses are breadwinners. Perhaps the least visible but most pervasive job is that of household manager. “That one is constant,” Smock says. “It’s the person who remembers everything: that Joey needs to have a dentist appointment, what foods each child likes, that a babysitter needs to be hired for the weekend. If a mother is handing her husband a grocery list, he is given credit for going shopping, but she has done the work of constructing the list. Giving direction to the husband is labor. It’s in every area in terms of childcare, and it’s always going on in your brain, even if you’re not aware of it.” And mothers resent it, says New York psychotherapist Jean Fitzpatrick. 

“In study after study, research indicates that—surprise!—when men take on their fair share of household responsibilities, their partners are happier and less prone to depression, disputes are fewer, and divorce rates are lower. The day-to-day labor of keeping a household running is a remarkably significant issue for couples: a Pew Research Center survey found that sharing household chores ranked third in importance on a list of nine items associated with successful marriages. This put it ahead of pretty vital basics like good housing, common interests, and “adequate income” (which ranks at number four). This rather amazing finding surprised even the Pew researchers, who said that in seventeen years of polling, no item on the list has risen in importance nearly as much. In other words, this issue is about more than laundry: it’s a direct depiction of the sense of fairness, or unfairness, that exists within a relationship. It touches on so many significant, and interrelated, issues: gender roles, money, respect, values, intimacy, tradition.”

So from this book, I learned how to better tell Mr. B what I need and how he could help, how to get Sweet Girl’s help much more often around the house, and to try to let some things go.  Highly recommend to parents but also people thinking of having kids… try to work some things out in advance and save yourself the struggles! (Well, at least these ones.)

The Bridal Chair: A Novel by Gloria Goldreich  

This is one of those easy ways to learn about the life of a painter… here we learn about Marc Chagall and the Paris art world before WWII through the eyes of his daughter, Ida. First she struggles for independence but ends up as the strong one on whom her family depends in Nazi-occupied Paris and the south of France.  And that is where I left them… I read about 1/3 of this book and honestly felt it should wrap itself up.  With there being so many books I want to read, I couldn’t justify “persevering” through this one.

However… I decided to skip a bunch of chapters and picked up again at chapter 44.  It was like reading about familiar people who I liked and knew, but in a completely different environment with new characters as well.  I finished it and was glad I read more.

She did not sleep well. Once again, frenetic dreams caused her to toss and turn, to awaken gasping for breath, her body awash in the sweat of nocturnal terror. In that nether world, she was racing, as always, but she was no longer a child clinging to her parents’ hands. It was her adult self, grown to a monstrous size, who propelled her much-diminished parents forward, their slow and belabored pace hampering her own progress. She lurched forward, hobbled by the burden of her father’s rolled canvases and the small awkwardly shaped bundles of her mother’s sorrows strapped to her back. Now and again, she tried to run, stooped though she was beneath her burdens, fearful of her pursuers who grew closer and closer. The hooves of their horses pounded as they gained ground.

But of course, who would not be intrigued by her father, that elfin narcissistic genius whose imagination soared and whose faith in his own power and prestige was indomitable? After all, she herself had revered him as an artist, marveling at the enormity and eclecticism of his talent. It had taken her years to confront his flaws, to recognize his foibles and frailties. She loved him still, but she saw him with a disturbing clarity.

The Beautiful Possible by Amy Gottlieb

A postwar love triangle between an American rabbi, his wife, and a German-Jewish refugee that spans about 70 years.  This one I also had to stop reading after several hours, finding myself only 25% of the way through the book and tired of the characters.  I had trouble reading a book about a marriage founded on deceit.

Rosalie makes a pact with herself and decides that she will always stay home on Kol Nidre, close enough to hear the words, yet distant enough to let the prayer resonate in her bones. If every Jew is standing to face a Torah scroll on the first hour of the Yom Kippur fast, Rosalie will face a yard, a tree, a night sky. Closer to Walter. Closer to remembering how she felt when they climbed the stairs from the lower geniza, how her skin was a fibrous membrane that could hold memory and music, and if she listened well enough, the symphony of her own body would teach her everything she would need to know.

Under the Wide and Starry Sky: A Novel by Nancy Horan

I really liked Horan’s Loving Frank, and I also love historical fiction as a way to learn more.  This is a story about the backgrounds and relationship between Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson and his American wife, Fanny.  Despite family expectations and obligations and real struggle, both manage to have some happy years together.

He longed to say, If you want to find out who you really are, then go travel. To move is the thing. He wanted to say, Something important has begun. Every chance encounter, every change of landscape in the journey, offered itself up to his pen. He could see a way now to go out and have adventures, to pour all that he witnessed through his soul and onto paper, a way he could make a living doing what he loved, in spite of his father’s plans for him. At the end of the journey, after he had maneuvered the Arethusa to a dock in Pontoise, it was raining. He hated wet weather. Yet he had put his face up to the drizzle and thanked it for falling on him.

Am I Alone Here?: Notes on Living to Read and Reading to Live by Peter Orner

Marriage, renewal, writing about words, and very human… sign me up!

Maybe we write in order to try to feel things we know we should feel in life but don’t. Maybe we write—and read—because we don’t pay enough attention.

Often, I’m less prone to having an actual experience than I am to relating what I’m experiencing to something, anything, I’ve read. It’s as if I don’t quite exist in real time. I have a friend, a yoga teacher, who says I don’t live in the present, and I say, who wants to live in the present? I looked at this lone chimney rising out of the dust and I didn’t pause a moment to think, as I should have, of the generations of women who might once have cooked meals in this very spot. Instead, I thought of a Welty story called “The Burning.” It was as if I needed Welty to see what I was seeing. Do you know what I mean? I needed her eyes.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Posted in Books, Books - Monthly Reports | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment