Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Our Last High School Senior

It's almost the end of the third quarter of Maria's senior year. Any day now she may hear from a school, about admissions. Or not. If she feels any tension around that it's from me being excruciatingly casual, reminding her to check her email. We ordered a cap and gown. She's considering going to prom, and Comedy Sportz. This weekend is the last FIRST Robotic's Regional Competition of her time as a Paradox. There's going to be one last movie night for Japanese National Honor Society. There are clocks already counting down, but neither of us is ready... each for our own reasons and with our own reactions, but we talk about this and agree, it's come too soon.

With one semester thrust into online, two years ago, then an entire year of remote learning, a lot has been lost for this class. Maria lost a year of Japanese class, and had to double up, but still had to take the AP test. She missed friend time, and socializing at school. Just this week, since the mandatory mask rule was dropped, she's learned that friends have piercings she'd never seen, moustaches, smiles! The laid back and open culture the school was famous for is gone, because of COVID, and school shootings, vandalism, and yet it's still a resilient, courageous and beautiful school, there is still hope, and enthusiasm, caring, curiosity. She doesn't want to skip a day, she doesn't want to miss out.

For me, it's about how much I loved the time when Alex, then Max were in high school. I knew their friends, and teachers, I could volunteer, support staff, mentor. Twice a year parents would be introduced to their students' teachers and classes during Back to School Night, and it was so cool! I loved sitting in Max's chair, visiting the shop where Alex learned metals, meeting their teachers, getting a sense for what kind of semester they would be having. And then, run into my own friends! Finally, being a part of a community, living in a neighborhood, it was an increasingly dear experience to see all of the familiar faces, have hugs, and laughs, and build more connections. No more Back to School Nights, and when this last one was online, just sitting at my desk watching videos, I cried.

I am very fortunate. A lot of the connections to the school and staff that I made while the boys went there, have lasted, and between this and Robotics, and Book Club, I still have opportunities to volunteer, to meet students, connect with staff, support the school. I'd like to add, that I am thankful to Alex and Max... during their years at the school they made good, and lasting, impressions with teachers and staff. They are still recognized, and that's always made a nice introduction, start, for Maria.

This week I am hanging out in the screenprinting room. Maria needed a teacher's signature for a field trip so I went with her to the Arts & Humanities Building... probably haven't been in there in over two years! She could show me in her English classroom, then Fashion-Design. I could see the desks, the bulletin boards, and books, the view from the second story windows, the art on walls, her's, her classmate's... and I teared up. Again. I know... emotions. I was raised to suppress those, and feel apologetic, but I can't, not any more. I am emotional. At 55 I may know myself well enough to say, "This is who I am." And it's all too hard to suppress these days, so who am I kidding? I am sad that so much of the beauty, the learning journey, has been isolated from us, and I am sad that this wonderful journey of being a Mom to young folks, in grade school and high school, in clubs, and on field trips, going new places, making new friends, that for us, for me, is coming to an end... not over, but certainly transitioning into a realm that is far removed from these kinds of spaces and opportunities. I have loved it, all of it, even the tricky parts. It has been worthwhile and a privilege, too. Maybe I cry from a kind of happiness, too. At graduation, I expect at least one student will quote Theodor Geisel, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." Certainly, there is a great deal to smile about. I loved loved loved this quiet visit, slipping into rooms, getting close up with art and school culture, and listening to Maria's voice as she described what happened here, or there, where she sits, where her friend sits, even the pause in her voice, waiting for my impressions, and repsonses.

I would like to thank every teacher that has had any tolerance for phones in the classroom. Actually, I happen to know that phones are an essential tool of the classroom these days, but still... I really appreciate that somedays I get texts from Maria. She updates me on events she needs to attend, or asks for a number for a student form, or even to help her recall dates, places where things took place, related to school or functions, or things coming up. She shares moments from Homeroom, from activities, like Culture and Pride Day, and pajama day, and Senior Java. Just now I am texting her about heading back to screen printing. Gotta get those shirts done for FRC!
Culture and Pride Day... the student's answer to vandalism, and racist hate crimes. Maria texted me all day, concluding with "This is a good day." She bought the sunflower in support of Ukraine. Simon bought an armful, and shared more with Maria, and she shared her's with Acorn. Maria said it was heartening to see sunflowers carried around all over campus.
One more quarter, and if it can be as good as it's been, or better... that would be wonderful.

Monday, March 14, 2022


This post is all about the primary bathroom, the one adjacent to our bedroom. We have transformed it, and I don't want to look back!
I was very deliberate about taking some before pictures. Deliberate, but reluctant, because I was finally ready to admit something I had suppressed for a very long time: I did not like our bathroom. Until the stone tiles began crumbling apart, there wasn't anything so awful that I felt justified in complaining about it, or even imagining changing it. But our hardwater made the glass shower doors a headache to clean, and the tiles too. And the big tub was increasingly troubling... it was inconvenient to clean, we had some doubts and concerns about the weight of all of that water on a floor that extends unsupported, so that I was always anxious about using it, and when we did use it the water would cool quickly. It was a waste, unfortunately. Our faucets (and this is an embarrassing admission) were corroded and the valves stopped working properly years ago, so they were a real hassle to shut off. Big mirror (a favorite, repeated choice by the previous owner)... did not like. The egg-shell light fixtures... did not like. The blinds, self-destructing... ditto. Even having two sinks was mildly irritating. So, I didn't have pictures, not happy ones, of the bathroom. Maybe I have some from the stormy night when we were so concerned for the goats that we let them "sleep" in the shower. Once we knew Mike was coming, I began making choices for the new bathroom, and that was when I started to see that I was really really really eager and excited to make this room completely new, different, ours.
Mike arrived in January, and before he started on our bathroom, he repaired the hall skylight, which became an attic access, and he repaired the upstairs guest bathroom, where we had another skylight and water damage. Oh, and the window... I almost forgot about the big window he replaced. While he was doing all of that work, I was immersed in paint chips and tile samples, and the headaches of supply chain issues. A few times I shared about that journey, picking tile, deciding on a look. I've learned that remodeling is a privilege, and for me something of a torment, because I do it so mindfully... so full of concern about not doing a poor job, wasting money, time, effort. It feels like this is my big chance, don't blow it! Geoff wants me to just go for it, and he's not critical. It's my own internalized worry monster that plagues me with doubt, insecurity, constant fretting. And then, just when I could breath a sigh of relief, I would learn that our order was cancelled, because something was out of stock. It was getting closer and closer to demolition time, and time when Mike would need materials, and I was still trying to figure it out. Finally, we got tiles, and I was dizzy from staring at options and figuring out every variable... but privilege has its price! Oh, and the wallpaper! That was wishful thinking... just one statement wall with William Morrison's Strawberry Thieves. Geoff will indulge me anything, and Mike is master of many trades, but they each turned me down flat on hanging wallpaper! We laughed long and hard when I gently, hopefully, inquired, and they both answered in the same certain and absolute terms, "No. No way."
My last job in the old bathroom was to clear out! By early February, the demolition was in full swing. No turning back now! Beneath the tub was a hatch, an access meant for shutting off the water valve to the tub, which, by the way, was never installed... anyway it was very handy for dropping demo mess to the ground floor outside, so most of the old tile didn't have to be carried through the house. And then William cleared that heap away!
Mike used the tub framing lumber to build a stem wall for the shower and the shower bench. Ok, my two big design thrills were the bench in the shower and the alcove shelf on the outside of shower wall. Absolutely tickled to have Mike make those for me, and then I was stoked about putting in built-in tile shelves for shampoos and soaps... no more metal stand that always seems to turn into soapy rust. And! He installed a safety grab, which is just me acknowledging that we are not getting any younger. He raised the shower head... good for my taller husband. And... and without a massive tub to climb up and into, we could finally walk over to the three windows in that corner and easily look out! We have discovered that the best and unmatched views from any part of the house are at this spot! We can even crane our necks and spy the ocean. I am not saying this was part of my design choice, nonetheless, I guess I am taking credit for this wonder. Mike works clean, but it's still a messy process, and he works fast, but it still took time. I admit, I am still restoring our bedroom, and there were moments when it all felt inconvenient. What am I trying to say? It was hard, but it wasn't. Does that make sense? I do think I have a high tolerance for disruption, and clearly it was all about to pay off...
Eventually, through hemming, hawing, fretting, and polling... I settled on paint, and curtains, and a new cabinet, and everything got closer and closer and closer to being really lovely, and I was even eager to share glimpses of what was becoming something I felt excited about.
Instead of replacing the vanity, Mike painted it for us, and rebuilt the counter for one sink. Geoff and I have never crashed nor clashed around any bathroom, no matter how many sinks there were. More counter surface has far more appeal. I feel like I am rushing this post now... like, I was going to document every detail and date, and delivery of supplies, and trips to the hardware store, and record the times when I had to make one more decision, but it's done, and behind me, and I survived, and honestly... why look back? I just like stories, and I know that I learned things that will be helpful in the future (because we are building an accessory dwelling unit this year) and I will appreciate my own notes on this process, those lessons. But, yes... let's just see it done!!
Technically, it's almost done. When Mike can return, he will add baseboards. But: Ta Da!

The fireplace is a spaceheater, and my Valentine's Day gift to Geoff. He likes a warmer room for his late night, after work shower, and the chair was one we've had for a long time. Either of us can pass sleepless insomnia time comfortably, without disturbing the other. William assembled my Ikea cabinet... at last, intentional storage space, that can be closed, pretty. The dark walls are Behr Deep Breath. The lighter walls are Behr Clear Pond. The cabinets are Behr Dragonfly. The shower curtain, and the drapes, are from Target, so is the vanity mirror. It wasn't a snap, but I love it like it's magic! And I made a fun reel to show the magic of transformation. A nice development has been that I feel comfortable in the room, and there's space, obviously... it's a big bathroom, so I brought in my yoga mat, and free weights. I have been doing activities from physical therapy, and letting the room remain calm, and inviting... it's a luxury, a gift, and I am so glad it's done. I love this transformation.

Bird House Notes: I feel chatty, like sharing more of our recent activities, some deep thoughts and other musings, but I am reluctant to bury this post about the ensuite completion! Thank you, friends who have chimed in and are celebrating this success with me. These are such heavy times, around the world, even closer to home, and... it's like that poem, about 'suffering and beauty coinciding.' Can't we all meet, over tea, on soft cushions, and talk about everything, and linger, laugh, sort it all out, and change the world for better? What time, where? I would love some company. March 15, 2022

Public Service Announcement: Pasta is back at Trader Joes! But they still have no frozen tamales, nor vegan Indian food. I haven't recovered from the loss of their hazelnut coffee creamer, frozen juice concentrate. We love Trader Joes, but we must guard our hearts... one never knows when we may lose a favorite product! And, thank goodness for small wounds, little frustrations, minor hardships. They give us reason to vent, without any real trauma. March 17, 2022

I am going to take a shower. And light a candle, maybe play a movie I have seen dozens of times already. If there were any cake around, I would eat that. Two servings. There is tea. My favorite tea. I might have two cups. March 22, 2022,