Category: personal

When Trees Attack

Friday night, Denisa and I woke up to some kind of noise. None of us were really with it (it was 1 in the morning, give or take). The power was out. Denisa headed downstairs and ran into Tomas, who had also woken up, though he couldn’t remember why either. Nothing appeared to be on fire or causing trouble, so we all went back to bed. Because sleep.

In the morning, the power was still out. I went down to investigate what the cause might be. One glance out the back window was enough. Our large silver maple in the backyard had dropped a huge branch right across the power line and brought it down. There had been no wind that night. No lightning or storms. The tree had just decided enough was enough, apparently. (We heard from a neighbor down the road that they’d actually heard the limb fall all the way over where they were. It was loud.)

I phoned in the outage and downed wire, and the electric company had someone out fixing it in about an hour, which was fantastic.

But now we have a tree limb that needs to disappear, and a tree that we no longer really want near our house. We had a guy come give us an estimate yesterday for what it would cost to make that tree just go away. Just wave a magic wand and make all the wood and leaves disappear. (Essentially.) The verdict? Thousands of dollars. Like, around four of them.

That’s . . . a whole lot more than I wish I’d have to pay. We have calls out with other arborists to have them come by and give estimates, but it’s kind of a downer of a way to begin the process. There are plenty of other ways I’d rather spend thousands of dollars.

But the tree needs to go away, and with how little effort it took the tree to drop the one branch, I have no idea what might happen when a real storm comes by. Especially with the tree leaning toward the bulk of our house.

The joys of home ownership, right?

I’ll just keep telling myself that . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Remembering Who I Was

I’ve kept a journal off and on since the early 90s. Sophomore year of high school through senior year, and then all during my mission, and then again since the mid-2000s. (I still write every day, though the entries aren’t always stellar. I consider this blog to be a journal of sorts as well, and these entries are obviously much more robust.)

But Tomas is at the point now where he’s almost as old as I was when I started my journal, which gives me a unique opportunity: to reread my entries from back then and remember just who I was at the time and how I thought. I hadn’t picked up my high school journal since . . . high school, probably. I thought I remembered just how I behaved and what sort of a person I was back then.

I was wrong.

For one thing, high school me was full of pretty strong mood swings. In my head, I’ve always considered myself to be pretty even, but one entry will be all about how angry I am at a friend, and then two days later we’re best friends again. Obviously, a lot of this centered around girls. Wanting them to like me. Trying to figure out how to interact with them and not make an idiot of myself. This was only made more complicated by the fact that most of my best friends were girls. I always got along well with them, but in some cases it was the age old “How can I get her to like me not as a friend but as a boyfriend?” dilemma.

I also really disliked Social Studies, I guess. Judging by how often I singled out my resentment for having to do homework in that class.

In my head, I was always a diligent student. In my journal, I got a D on an Algebra test and didn’t really seem to care that much. I squeaked by with an A- in the class, and that was only by doing every shred of extra credit I could get my grubby paws on.

I was much more judgmental than I am today, willing to assume the worst in some people for the simplest of reasons.

It’s so strange to read the entries again now. In some cases, I can remember actually writing them, almost down to the feel of the paper under my pen as I was scribbling. In others, I stare at the words and swear someone must have added them when I wasn’t looking. I have no recollection of things that happened at all.

It’s been helpful to me to read the journal, though. And I even loaned it to Tomas, on the off chance he might find it interesting. At the very least, I hope it might prove to him that I’m not making things up when I say I remember what he’s going through, and that I went through similar things myself. Then again, if he reads them carefully, he might be able to throw some of the things I did back in my face, or call me out for some hypocrisy.

Fair game, I say. I was just a fifteen year old kid trying to get through life, the same as he’ll be next year.

Did any of you keep journals in high school? Do you ever revisit them?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

 

Taking Pictures for Find-a-Grave

This Saturday I headed up with the fam to Bangor for a church service project. On the agenda? Heading over to a large cemetery to take pictures of graves for the Find-a-Grave website. If you haven’t encountered it before, it’s a site that aims to have pictures of all graves in all cemeteries. When you’re doing family history research, you can then go to the site to see pictures of your relative’s graves.

On the surface, I know this can seem a little trite. Why would you care what a long lost relative’s headstone looks like. All I can say is that, having done a fair bit of family history research myself, there really is something impactful in the experience. Not only that, but often you can get important information off headstones. Yes, you can find the same information on death and birth and marriage records, but sometimes you don’t have access to those. Find-a-Grave, thus, becomes an important avenue to explore.

Naturally, any undertaking that large takes a lot of effort. The cemetery we went to in Bangor has less than a fifth of the graves photographed. Even then, I found multiple graves that didn’t even have entries on the site, so I created new ones for them. So there’s plenty of work to be done, and I found the service project pretty easy to organize and execute. I’d recommend it for other groups.

A few things I learned through actually doing the work:

  • Taking pictures of the graves and uploading them from your smart phone seems like it should be straightforward. It would have been, had upload speeds complied with our task. Instead, it took something like five or ten minutes to upload each photo. That was . . . less than helpful. If I were to do this again, I would just take the pictures with my phone’s camera and then upload them once I was at a place with a better internet connection. If you live in a more urban area, this might not be an issue.
  • This was a very kid-friendly activity. My kids all enjoyed the process of getting outside and exploring a cemetery. That said, we were also in a very picturesque cemetery. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been so enjoyable had it been a standard cemetery with rows and rows of identical graves.
  • Having a scraper with you to clear the graves off is very useful, particularly in older cemeteries. As we tried to transcribe the inscriptions on the older stones, it occurred to me that having paper with me to do a rubbing would have been helpful as well. Some of those dates just couldn’t be made out at all.
  • This was a good way to get kids interested in family history, as well. DC came to me the next day and wanted to see what research had already been done in our family. We had a good time looking at familysearch,org for a half hour or so.
  • In the course of an hour and a half, I think we uploaded something like fifteen photos. If I hadn’t insisted on trying to get them to actually upload, I think we could have done many more. (Hence the recommendation.)
  • We finished with having cake together with the rest of our group. Promising cake to kids at the end of the activity is definitely a great way to keep them motivated, and I would suggest others follow suit.
  • We contacted our cemetery ahead of time to get maps of the plots and to ensure we wouldn’t be disturbing any burial ceremonies. I would suggest others do the same. Some parts of the cemetery were unmapped. More adventure, but almost impossible to find any specific graves.

All in all, a good activity and a fun outing. If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Winding the Clock

I love clocks. I know there are people who can’t stand listening to something tick tock it’s way incessantly through the day and night, but to me, a home isn’t really a functioning thing until it’s got that beat to it.

I’m not sure why. My dad had a cuckoo clock I liked when I was growing up, and I liked to watch it get wound. (Three chains that you’d pull to raise weighted metal pine cones.) My house had a clock in the kitchen for the last . . . seven or eight years I lived there? Something like that. I just grew accustomed to it. I think part of it is I like a house quiet enough that you can actually hear that tick tocking, wherever you are. Not all the time, but at least several times a day. I don’t like having the television on just for noise.

Quiet is good. (You can leave the librarian jokes at the door, thanks.)

About a year ago, I got a grandfather clock. I was extremely excited for the acquisition, as that’s sort of the best clock I can imagine. It takes its ticking and tocking very seriously, But it also has very precise demands on when it must be wound. If you don’t take the time to wind it, then it will inevitably stop. (Like any clock, I know, but for some reason the big grandfather clock is a much better reminder of this for me. Probably because my smaller clock can be wound once every three weeks or so, but the grandfather clock needs it once a week.)

As I was winding it this morning, it occurred to me that I view people in much the same way. I believe we all need time to wind the springs and gears to keep everything running smoothly. Ideally, people figure out what works best for them. I’m not talking about regular sleep, a good diet, and exercise. In my book, that’s just keeping the clock in good repair. Rather, I mean doing things that take yo you away from the regular chores of everyday life and work.

For me, this is time spent reading, watching movies and television, and playing games. Ideally with my family, but I can do it on my own in a pinch. I know that if I have enough time to make time for these “extra” things, the rest of my life works so much more smoothly. I have the patience and attention to get all the things I have to do done. So doing those fun things are as much a part of doing the actual work as the work itself.

And that’s my deep thought for the day.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

17 Years

Denisa and I have been married 17 years today. And with a bit of searching online, I discover that means I should be getting her a piece of furniture. Lucky for me, we’re in the middle of renovations, and we ordered some porch swings that should be arriving today. So it looks like I’ve got that “furniture” thing off the list. See how devoted I am?

One of the problems of writing a regular blog is that I continue to feel like I need to say something new and exciting about events as they roll around in my life. And April is packed with them, between MC’s birthday, Tomas’s birthday, and my anniversary. At some point in time, it begins to feel like there’s nothing more I can really write about something. That I’ve said all there is to say about it, and writing a new post is really just a rehashing of the old one.

But at the same time, perhaps that’s the most important time to continue to write those posts. After 17 years of marriage, it can be all too easy to take something for granted. To just assume it will always be there. Kind of like how I’m coming up on my 15,000 day anniversary of breathing successfully for every day. Breathing might not make a big splash most of the time, but when it goes away, you certainly wish it would come back. Soon.

And marriage isn’t static. Not from a long perspective, at least. The first few years we were without kids, both of us going to school, living in apartments and basements. Compare that life to what things look like today, with three children, multiple jobs, taking care of a house, and everything else. If our lives were a television show, you’d think they were two entirely different series.

As all those extras get added, it can be difficult to maintain a solid relationship. To continue to make time for each other. It’s been a busy end of the semester, for sure. Denisa has a lot of late nights, and I’m up early most days. We still get to spend some time together each evening to watch a show and talk about what’s coming up in our lives. (And there’s plenty of time to talk when you’re sealing grout. Just saying.) But add enough stress to a life, and things can get downright trudgy.

Which is why it’s great to have these yearly celebrations. To remind yourself of what you’ve been through, and to make sure you’re still headed where you both want.

I’ve had 17 years to see other people’s marriages at work now. 17 years to make different friends and see how people interact with each other. And I have never met anyone I would want to be spend the rest of eternity with as much as Denisa. In fact, the vast majority of people I think I’d go crazy if I were stuck with them for longer than a few days. Whether it’s exploring the back streets of Paris, planning out the logistics of a busy school week, or trying to come to an agreement on just which kind of mirror we should have in the bathroom, I’m continually grateful that I somehow stumbled into such a great relationship.

I know many people choose only the best parts of their lives to show to the world. I’m not going to say that Denisa and I never argue. (We both have strong opinions, and we’re both not afraid to make those opinions known in detail. Even about things as simple as which mirror to choose for the bathroom.) But we really are a team. Our strengths are complementary, and that makes things ever so much easier.

So happy anniversary, Denisa.

(And for the record, the brushed nickel, fog-free model really is the best one.)

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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