If we value the pursuit of knowledge, we must be free to follow wherever that search may lead us. ~ Adlai Stevenson

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Where To Even Begin

On June 25th of last year, my life changed irrevocably. On that day, just a few days after his 51st birthday, M passed away in the ICU of a local hospital after a few days on life support. He died from cardiac arrest and multiple organ failure after being diagnosed with early onset dementia back in March of 2019. On June 24th, I had to tell our children their father wouldn't make it, and then the next day, we let him go. Despite the fact that he was almost completely a different person for the last year or so of his life -- a difficult, cantankerous, paranoid, and angry person -- it was still incredibly hard, and it continues to break my heart. That's the short version. I'll add the long version someday, but it's still too hard.

Fast forward ten months and a few days.

So now we are sheltering in place, and for us, it has not been all that difficult or hard to navigate. We're enjoying having more time together as a family, the three of us, and more time to work on long neglected tasks around the house and yard. It's been a chance to feel more connected to the things that matter.

What We've Been Up To

My primary job, with the university, is all from home now. I have been navigating the world of Zoom, Google drives, and more. I am technically working fewer hours but in a more concentrated form. I do actually go to my second job, as a bookkeeper for a small printing company, twice a week for a few hours. It is open as an essential business due to the fact that it largely deals with blueprints, including those for hospital needs such as Covid tents. The Boy works there too, but full-time. He's learned, in short time, printing, scanning, combining and retouching documents, and more. He really likes his job, and he likes his boss, who is a generous man. Classes -- all hands on -- were cancelled for The Boy, so he has the time to work.

Speaking of The Boy, there has been an interesting shift! He rebuilt a car (19963 Toyota Tercel), which is now his commuting car. The process of rebuilding it was a good one, but it also made him realize that while he loves working on cars as a hobby, it is not something he wants to do 8+ hours a day, day in and day out. He's planning on taking more general ed classes in the fall, working toward an Associate's degree in a yet-to-be-decided field. He wants to explore more of the options out there, take some science classes, maybe some engineering. He also has the option of a free ride at any of the California State Universities (one of the perks of my job), so may do that after getting the general ed requirements out of the way.

The Girl decided it was time to focus more on basic academics as well. She's working her way through The Great Courses' Mastering the Fundamentals of Mathematics as a review course, and is working on essay writing. We also re-subscribed to Curiosity Stream, and she loves the plethora of David Attenborough videos that are available! For history, she has been wrapped up in clothing and food through the centuries, something she explores on her own time, largely through historical fiction and YouTube videos. She was volunteering regularly with a local organization that cooks and delivers healthy meals for cancer patients and their families, but with her asthma, she is considered "at risk" right now, and so is staying home.

My class has moved online as well. I'm working on a Master's degree in Education, with a focus on Social Justice & Equity. This was my first semester in the program, and it has been a strange one!

We also play board games, watch movies, cook delicious food (more of it vegetarian than in years past), and just talk.

Plans That Are Afoot

We are finally building raised vegetable beds! My mom's fence collapsed in a storm earlier this year, and as it was being rebuilt, she offered me all the redwood planks. They are a little old, beautifully weathered, and should last me at least a few years. I plan on ordering soil in the next day or two. We are also redesigning the rest of the backyard, which is overgrown with weeds and blackberries, and cluttered with castoffs from M's various unfinished projects.

He was a full-on hoarder the last year+, meaning that we're also planning on getting a dumpster shortly, so that we can have a massive clean-out of the house and yard, and move forward with a more minimalistic style. We have been working diligently on reducing our carbon footprint, and would like to continue doing so. This was something that was once important to M as well, but the dementia took that away from him.

We are slowly cleaning out, deep cleaning, and planning to make the house better for us. The Girl will have the master bedroom once it has been cleaned out, stripped of carpeting, and repainted. I will move from the family room and our Ikea pull-out couch bed (where I have slept for almost two years now) to The Girl's old room. In the short term, we're removing the last remnants of the wall to wall carpeting that covered all the hardwood floors, and repainting the entire interior in a lovely ivory shade (except the kids' bedrooms) called "Yards of Muslin." We decided to go with this as having it all one color will enhance the flow, make it more calming, etc. Light, bright, clean, and fresh. We're deciding between tile and linoleum for the shared bathroom floor -- both have pros and cons. We have to redo the shower plumbing in that bathroom still, and will strip all the old tile (we think it has lead!) off that walls at that point. I've been incrementally replacing furniture with good Craigslist finds, we're downsizing our collection of books as we have an excellent library system, and we're carefully choosing new art to hang once the walls are painted. We will bring in houseplants, sew new curtains, rearrange the few knickknacks we want to keep...

I have missed blogging. In posts to come, and there will be more, I'll include some photos, and hopefully happier stories.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Well...Hello There!

It's been so long that I am not even going to bother trying to "catch up" but instead will just start fresh, and share what's going on!

...The Girl...
A retrospective of fifteen years
She turned FIFTEEN this month! Can you believe it? She's studying math, writing, ancient Chinese history, environmental science, and baking at the moment. Her plan, as of now, is to start at the local junior college next fall, or sometime soon thereafter, entering the culinary arts program with a focus on baking and pastry. Eventually, she'd like to start her own bakery-café, but will spend at least a couple of years working for someone else to build experience.

In the meantime, she paints frequently, still loves sculpting, and still enjoys documentaries. She's also taken up archery. She helps cook dinner nearly every night, and on the nights I work late, she is always the one to pop a casserole in the oven and make a salad, although she and The Boy did make a veggie burger dinner together last week!

...The Boy...
Happily fixing his aunt's car
The Boy is enrolled in his first automotive class at the local junior college, and absolutely LOVES it. He's working toward becoming a fully ASE certified mechanic, and also dreams of having his own shop one day. He's also studying math, Russian, writing, environmental science, nutrition, and ancient Chinese history. He's rebuilding a 1972 Chevy pickup here at home as well.

Still loves reading, art, and science fiction movies! His ankle, injured from parkour a couple of years ago, is looking more and more like it will need surgery, so we'll be working toward that for summer. He'd love to get back into fencing by late fall, ankle permitting.

I'm still working at a grocery store, and at the local university. A month or so ago though, I came to a huge realization. I'm a decent teacher, but I'm not a great one. I'm simply not passionate enough about it. And students deserve someone passionate, and absolutely dedicated. I know a lot of people who are... just not me. Where I do really shine is in administrative work (aka secretarial work). And there are some good potential opportunities coming up at the university. I'd like to work there, at the junior college, or for a good nonprofit.

I am still working on my Master's degree as well. I had plans to tackle my thesis over winter break, and then the kids were sick, and I was sick, and then we all got better, and then we got sick again. Added to the unfinished thesis are the facts that I still need some foreign language under my belt, and I need to take the literature comprehension test. So that I don't kill myself over the next few months, I'll be paying for "project continuation" units over the next year; taking French over next fall and spring, taking the exam next spring, and working on my thesis throughout.

...And in Other News...
We fixed our leaky roof! The family room has been getting increasingly bad over the years, leaking so heavily last year that the room semi-flooded during the heaviest storm. But we put on "peel and seal" roofing, and it actually works! Our next major project is the kids' bathroom plumbing, which leaks like crazy unless we replace washers every two weeks. We're going to get a conversion kit to change it from an old, two-knob set-up to a single knob set-up. And we need to re-do the shower surround at the same time. Fun times!

M sadly lost his job last fall, and has been going through some health issues. We are working toward solutions for both, but it might be a while, which is part of the reason I've been putting in about 50 hours a week, and not working on my thesis. I'm exhausted most of the time, but the kids are really helping me hold it all together.

So, to finish things off for today, here are a couple of random pictures! The first is a drawing I did last night of an orchid from a book on orchids. It was the first time in years that I actually sat down and just drew, and it felt fantastic, and I am mostly pleased with the sketch. The second is a picture I snapped when leaving the university campus a few weeks ago.