Category Archives: Happiness

I do not fear the time

“So come the storms of winter,
And then the birds in spring again.
I do not fear the time…”
— Sandy Denny

I turned 45 today. There’s nothing especially magical about that, but it’s a comfortable age. Five years into it, I’m still thoroughly enjoying my 40s, despite my elders’ assurances that I wouldn’t when I was a kid.

I have everything I need and most of what I want. Thanks to the surgery I had last summer, my most obnoxious and persistent health problem is gone. I have a rewarding career; supportive family and friends; a house full of pets and plants and mid-century furniture; a schedule that leaves time for creative pursuits; and a view of Tucumcari Mountain out my front window. I feel productive and appreciated — a feeling that was only reinforced this evening when three of my students were out for a walk around town and just randomly showed up in my front yard to say hello. (I don’t think they knew it was my birthday, but after all this social distancing, their unexpected visit was definitely a gift.)

I spent this morning celebrating the decade in which I was born by listening to the ’70s channel on Sirius while repotting some new houseplants and moving some old ones outdoors to give them better growing conditions.

I had a good day. I hope you did, too.

Emily

Free time

Here is some of the stuff I’ve been doing in my free time since I finished the draft of the novel last weekend:

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In February, I pulled up our stained, worn-out wall-to-wall carpet to find a beautiful hardwood floor hiding underneath. Instead of spending the better end of $5 a square foot on cork-look luxury vinyl tile, I spent less than $100 on sandpaper and Danish oil.

Before I could start working on the floor, I came down with bronchitis. Then the pandemic hit, and I had to figure out how to teach, put out a paper, and coordinate the production of a yearbook, all remotely, while writing the first draft of my latest novel.

I finally got a hand free Monday to start working on the living-room floor. At my dad’s recommendation, I sanded it by hand and gave it a couple of coats of Danish oil. It was time-consuming, physically demanding work, but I think it turned out well. We used part of the money we saved on the floor to buy a new wood-slice coffee table with hairpin legs. *Swoon*

To keep my neck and shoulders from completely seizing up on me while I was sanding and oiling the floor, I stopped every hour or so to stretch and spend a few minutes working on the new mural I just sort of randomly decided I needed in my office. I’m designing it on the fly, but I think it will look pretty cool when I’m done with it.

I’ve always sort of wondered what I could accomplish if I had a big enough block of time on my hands with relatively few distractions, and the pandemic has pretty well answered that question. I have several other projects brewing. We’ll see how many of them I finish before the world reopens.

Emily

 

Headed for the light

Ron and I found a welcome light illuminating the darkness this evening on Route 66 here in Tucumcari.

For several weeks, we’d been seeing signs of life at the long-shuttered Apache Motel. Ron talked to the new owner today, and this evening, she sent him a photo showing the lightbulbs around the perimeter of the motel’s iconic neon sign burning brightly.

We immediately grabbed our cameras and headed out.

Apache Motel sign with lights on around edge
The Apache’s new owner got some of the sign to light again.

The Apache was open when we took our first Route 66 trip in 2001. Some of the paint was peeling from the sign, but the neon was still burning, and chasing lights raced dramatically around the edge, calling attention to the motel for at least half a mile in either direction. At the time, I hadn’t yet learned to leave the shutter open long enough to catch all the lights as they flashed on and off, but you can see how vibrant the neon was:

Apache Motel sign in 2001 with neon lit
The Apache sign on Aug. 4, 2001.

Not long after that, the sign went dark, and the motel sat empty until 2006, when new owners bought it and restored it to its mid-century glory. I stayed there during a November 2006 road trip, which I blogged about at the time.

The motel closed almost as quickly as it reopened, and it’s been quietly decaying ever since — a heartbreaking sight, given the work that went into restoring it.

The timing of the coronavirus pandemic — arriving in the United States just on the cusp of tourist season — couldn’t be worse for my beloved Route 66. But looking up at the Apache sign this evening, I was reminded of one of the things I love most about this old road: Its seemingly endless capacity for renewal.

Just ask the Over the Hill Gang in Arcadia, Oklahoma; the Illinois Route 66 Association’s Historic Preservation Committee; the owners of the “Murder Bordello” in Galena, Kansas; Dawn Welch, whose Rock Cafe literally rose from the ashes after a 2008 fire that gutted its interior and collapsed its roof; or Ned Leuchtner, who reconstructed Cool Springs Camp from a pair of stone pillars.

The Mother Road and her children may see some casualties in the coming years. But as Ma Joad said: “We’re the people that live. They can’t wipe us out; they can’t lick us. We’ll go on forever … ’cause we’re the people.”

Emily

Success story

This is Maggie. She’s a good dog, but when she came to the shelter, she wasn’t a very well-socialized dog. What she lacks in social skills, she makes up in size, which is unfortunate. When you’re as big and strong as Maggie, manners are important.

Maggie had a bad habit of lunging and snarling at other dogs who barked at her from behind fences.

Natalie, one of the other shelter volunteers, contacted me for advice. I recommended a gradual process of desensitization that involved establishing herself as Alpha to gain Maggie’s confidence, then demanding that Maggie sit and stay within sight of the kennels, gradually working her closer and closer to them, until she could sit still no matter what the other dogs were doing a few feet away.

Natalie started working with Maggie on Wednesday. She got the other volunteers on board, so they’d set the same expectations for Maggie whenever they walked her, and this morning, I watched this happen:

That pretty little brindle pibble in the background is Brenley. Maggie and Brenley do not get along. Brenley barked at Maggie, but Maggie was focused on Natalie and sat and stayed as she was told.

When Natalie praised Maggie for being a good girl, Maggie rolled over and clamored to have her belly rubbed.

If you know anything about pack instinct, you know why this was a huge deal for Maggie. Rolling over, belly up and feet in the air, is an extremely vulnerable position for a dog. It’s a submissive posture that says, “I’m no threat to you” — kind of like when humans put their hands up to show they’re unarmed.

I expected our incremental desensitization project to work, but I had no idea it would work this fast or this well.

Maggie is going to make an excellent pet for somebody. Bravo to Natalie and the other volunteers who made the effort to train her.

Emily

Little victories

Things I can put in the win column this week:

1. My sophomores did a writing and peer-editing assignment using the End-of-Course exam rubric and a form I made for them. Their essays were solid, and their critiques were even better.

2. The child I am teaching to read has gained at least two grade levels since August. I intend to double that by May.

3. My journalism students are finally getting the hang of proofreading. I awarded bonus points to three kids today for making good catches — two for content issues (an incorrect name in a cutline and two jumps that didn’t match) and one for a design issue of the sort I’ve seen veteran copy editors overlook.

4. I came up with a project today that will — if it goes according to plan — resolve a conflict with a colleague, provide some multidisciplinary collaboration, and give a student a good shot at winning a statewide journalism award and several FFA competitions next year.

I’m tired and ready to spend a little quality time with my fictional banshees this weekend, but it’s been a good week.

Emily

The kids are all right.

This is one of my fifth-graders, using inDesign — the industry standard for desktop publishing software — to lay out the next issue of our school newspaper.

The kids are all right.

BTW, that Promethean board is a godsend for design training. I can sit on the futon and coach her through each step without having to hover over her shoulder. It’s a fantastic tool.

Emily

Hi-dee-ho, here I go

It was missing a piece.
And it was not happy.
So it set off in search
of its missing piece.
And as it rolled
it sang this song—
“Oh I’m lookin’ for my missin’ piece
I’m lookin’ for my missin’ piece
Hi-dee-ho, here I go,
Lookin’ for my missin’ piece.”

— Shel Silverstein

Have you ever misplaced yourself and not even realized you were gone until parts of you started turning up unexpectedly?

That’s how I’ve felt over the past few months: I haven’t exactly been lookin’ for my missin’ pieces, but I keep running across them, and it’s a joy whenever I find one.

Last Easter, for the first time in nearly 20 years, I found myself singing Sandi Patty’s “Via Dolorosa” for church. It was very well-received, and it felt good to be there, singing a song I loved in front of an appreciative congregation. It felt as if I’d found a piece of myself that I didn’t even know was missing.

In early June, I volunteered to sing “It Is Well With My Soul.” I realized too late that I no longer had the backing track for it — which apparently had gone out of print — so I wound up working out how to accompany myself at the piano. I hadn’t played piano in front of anybody in at least 25 years, but it felt right. Another missing piece clicked into place.

This fall, somebody invited me to join the local community choir, which puts on a cantata every Christmas, and I found a missing piece in the soprano section.

A self-defense class started tonight at a dojo that opened downtown recently. I bowed in, stepped onto the mat, and plunged into a workout that probably wasn’t half as strenuous as it felt. The missing piece that I grappled and kicked and blocked back into my life tonight is woefully out of shape, and my legs are awfully sore, but I feel better right now than I have in years, and I don’t think it’s just the endorphins.

Emily

Drive my car

Once again, I’ve managed to neglect my blog because I was busy doing cool stuff that I should have been blogging. If you’re still with me, thanks for hanging in there.

One of the cool things I’ve been doing lately is detailed over at my teaching blog, Foolish Wand-Waving. Hop over there if you’re interested in seeing the inexpensive stim tools I’ve been cobbling together from dollar-store materials.

Another cool thing I did recently was buy a new car. I wasn’t sure this was cool at first. I wanted to drive the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcar a million miles, but at 220,000, it landed in the shop with a mysterious engine problem, and school was about to start — so the day before the new semester began, I bought a Chevy Spark.

It’s not the Dreamcar, and it’s not a stick shift, but it has three redeeming features:

1. A CVT. Less fun than a stick, but optimal fuel economy.

2. A real-time mpg meter to facilitate hypermiling.

3. A trial subscription to Sirius XM, where I discovered there is an entire radio station devoted exclusively to the Beatles. Where has this been all my life?

The CVT and mileage meter are probably the main reasons I’m getting an average of 43.2 mpg (and climbing), but it can’t hurt that I am in zero hurry to arrive anywhere when I’m driving around with the Fab Four on the stereo.

Fine, Spark. You’re not the Dreamcar, but maybe I’ll love you. (Beep-beep’m … you know the rest.)

The third cool thing I did was start a free obedience class at Paws and Claws. Our first lesson was this morning. Seven dogs and their humans showed up, and Ramona happily served as my teaching assistant, demonstrating “heel,” “sit,” and “stay” as smoothly as the average Westminster champion.

I gave her a piece of bacon jerky when we got home, but I think the bigger treat for her was getting to see her old friends at the shelter. We adopted her almost a year ago, but she obviously remembered the volunteers who’d taken care of her when she was a puppy:

Woman cuddling an Australian shepherd mix
Ramona was delighted to see her old friends at the shelter.

I’m proud of Ramona. I knew she was going to be good at obedience, but she’s exceeded my wildest expectations. I suspect she’ll be able to go for walks without a leash before the winter is out.

Emily

 

Serendipity

So I’ve been plotting to adopt another Chihuahua for several months. I wanted to do it as soon as school let out, but then I had surgery, so I decided to wait until I recovered.

Once my doctor released me to resume normal activities, I sent an application to a Chihuahua rescue group in Albuquerque, but after an initial flurry of emails back and forth, they went silent, and I couldn’t get a response to my questions so we could advance the adoption process. I’d just about given up and was about ready to go to one of the shelters in Amarillo or Lubbock.

Ron and I were at the feed store Thursday when we bumped into a couple of board members from our local shelter. One of them was supposed to do my home visit for the Chihuahua group, but they never got back to her, either. Before my surgery, I’d been training dogs out at the shelter, but between recovering from surgery and fighting off the tension headaches that followed (protip: If you’re recovering from surgery, DO NOT spend the entire recovery period reading fanfic on your smartphone in bed), I hadn’t had a chance to get back out there all summer.

In my absence, someone had brought in a 13-year-old Chihuahua whose owner was ill and could no longer care for her.

As soon as we finished up our feed-store run, we headed to the shelter and came home with Tootsie, who adjusted to life in our pack very quickly and is contentedly napping on a pillow under my desk as I write this. I am not sure how I got by without a Chihuahua for the past 10 months, but I don’t ever want to go that long without one again. It’s like trying to get by without bees, chickens, or green chile.

New dog. She looks more alarmed than she is.
Man holding smiling Chihuahua
Tootsie is more tolerant of Ron than Lillian was.
Why does my dog look like Jack Nicholson in “The Shining”?

That last picture is from our trip to Clovis on Saturday. Tootsie was sitting on the floorboard, watching Ron and making her very best “Heeeeeeere’s Johnny!” face.

She’s a character.

Oh, and I managed to get back out to the shelter today. If you want to see pictures of the pooches I worked with, look up @redforkhippie on Instagram.

Emily

Winning

So tonight, I found out that the girl who bought our old house in Cape — who insisted she really, really loved it and was just DYING to move into it but simply could not get her lender to approve her for more than the pittance she was offering — never actually moved in. She just used it as an Airbnb, then flipped it for about $12,000 more than she paid for it.

Now, it’s possible she was telling the truth, and her circumstances simply changed unexpectedly, but I’m skeptical.

I should probably be irritated over losing my arse because I allowed somebody to manipulate me into letting her pay way less than fair-market value for a good little house that I worked like a dog to make into a great little house just so she could turn around and sell it for more than it’s worth, but here’s the thing: I have Joni Mitchell on the turntable, bizcochitos in the oven, and a view of Tucumcari Mountain from my front window.

All she has is $12,000.

It’s hard to muster up anything stronger than mild annoyance at losing money on a real-estate deal when you have literally everything you want.

Emily