March 31, 2014

My final short essay for Glow In the Woods, writing about Letting Go. You can go here to read it.

January 24, 2014

The sort of year I'd like to remember fondly, but I'm still too close to the chaos of what it was.

 I will remember my sister.

 I will remember her taking my four year old out dancing until 11pm, as if she was nineteen, sneaking her into the club, busting moves to whatever the kids are dancing to these days. I will remember all of the late nights talking and scraping floors and rolled organics and road trips West, North and East. I will remember watching her run a marathon through the hills and neighborhoods of the twin cities, driving frantically from mile marker to mile marker in hopes of catching a glimpse and cheering her on. She is one beautiful and dedicated and independent woman if there ever was one.

 I will remember my Dad returning from trips this way and that, Africa or Turkey or Columbia or who knows where, and the way he looked at my children as if it had been a whole year since he saw them last.

 I will remember my mother and her condo in the city, a refuge of cleanliness and padded carpet and tenderness that was our home away from home.

 Dear, beautiful, like minded friends, who we stayed up late with and shared Thanksgiving with and fixed gutters with. You don't think it's possible to make deep friendships anymore, like there isn't room in life or your good fortune has run out, and then you move to a new city and introduce yourselves and then it happens.

 And my kids. Taking in stride their parents crazy whims, taking baths in plastic bins and moving from place to place, room to room, bed to bed, while we shuttled around the house to the repetitious tune of fixing and cleaning, fixing and cleaning. Having one parent a day, five or six days a week, mom till 3, dad till bed. They made friends and explored and grew up and neither of them will probably remember much of it.

 I will though. Our crazy year spent fixing up a broken old house, etc.

December 25, 2013

It's our third Christmas without Margot.Thirty-one Christmas eves before and three after.

My life, before her. And after.

Time shifted in March 2011. A new beginning by which all events and experiences are measured as they are remembered in my mind.

The 85' Bears. Before.
Middle School. Before.
Indianapolis. After.
The apartment on Euclid. Before.
Christmas Eve, 2013. After.

The Christmas Eve after she died was spent in our car, in the In N Out parking lot, eating hamburgers and listening to Judy Garland, Stella jumping from front to back, hopped up on the lethal combination of Christmas and a chocolate milkshake. There was no tree that year.

Their are four of us now, living, huddled around mattresses in the living room, listening to Judy Garland, dancing and laughing by the light of the tree. There is happiness here in the after, a trace of innocence, a steadfastness in the present.

We have muddled through, somehow. 

November 7, 2013

We sold our house to the first people that looked at it.

Eleven months of grunting and sweating and arguing and guessing our way through the restoration of an old beauty. Forty-one thousand, seven hundred and sixty three dollars and thirteen cents of our savings poured into every inch of our tiny plot of land in the city. Living an Indiana life that was the upside down version of our California life, trading time together for time on the house, trading leisure for stress, trading family evenings and dinners for Kari working five nights a week. 

And then, suddenly, the house was finished and two days later the house was listed and one day later the house was sold. And that was that.


I sit here now in my living room, days away from closing. It really is a beautiful room. The poplar floors are something out of the old world, full of colors so rich and original that it's nearly unmatched. The ten foot ceilings have never become commonplace. The eight inch baseboard and window trim are made from solid oak and the curves and lines that make up the molding are incredibly precise and complex. The two pocket doors creak and hiss as they open and close but these gigantic five panel doors were one of the reasons we bought the house and they have captured my historical imagination ever since.

I see this one room and remember scraping the floors till my back gave out and caulking the cracks and meticulously sanding and refinishing all of the trim and I am not sad to say goodbye.


The sand mandala is an ancient Tibetan Buddhist tradition that involves several monks all working tirelessly and meticulously on a concentric structure, with no beginning and no end, made from crushed stones that are carefully dyed with colored ink. They work from the center and move outward, using funnels and scrapers and other small apparatuses to place each tiny stone in the proper place. Some of these larger mandalas can take a team of monks several weeks to finish.

When these beautiful pieces are complete, they dismantle them, shape by shape, symbol by symbol, color by color, until there is nothing left but a jar full of sand. And then, ceremoniously, this sand is released into a river or a body of water as a symbol of impermanence, a non-attachment to the material world.

We have often thought of this house as our mandala over the past year, knowing this would probably be a temporary home for our family. And as the months trudged on and the to-do lists grew and the physical and emotional demands of a broken house intensified, the more appropriate the metaphor seemed.


I do not feel sad about leaving this house. I do not feel happy to leave it. My relationship with these walls is complicated and I'm not quite sure how to process everything this house has meant to me, both in the anger and joy and exhaustion it has brought. But as we pack our bags for California, I do feel grateful. I am grateful for what it taught me both practically and mentally, grateful for what it revealed to me about perseverance and grief, grateful that it has helped heal my broken heart.

And yet, it is time to move on. This place is temporary, impermanent. I'm ready to walk away, releasing it to the river.

November 3, 2013

Finally getting down to the end of the before and after pictures! Only one more post left. :)

The first task upstairs, which used to be the upper floor of a duplex, was taking out all of the garbage that was left up there for decades and hauling it to this huge steel bin. I'd guess 75% of what's in this bin came from the upstairs. 

From there, we scraped and sanded the original pine floors, which laid beautifully under several layers of paint, tile and in a couple of rooms, plywood. Then we ran new plumbing to the bathroom, updated all of the electrical and began taking steps to restoring each room, slowly and painfully.


The old kitchen was arguably the worst. The ceiling was caved in, the wood floors were a uneven and couldn't be salvaged and there were gas and water lines running everywhere. After ripping out most of the ceiling, we added insulation and then drywalled the ceiling and one wall. We removed existing water and gas lines and, laid down a new pine floor, updated electrical, added baseboard and quarter round and finally, painted. 

While this room is one of the smallest in the house, the transformation and ample light makes it one of my favorites.

The origina bathroom was full of pink appliances and a green and white checkered floor. One of the windows was broken and falling out and laying inside the window was a dead bird. Suffice to say, it was a mess. Some friends replumbed the entire bathroom, installed new shower, toilet and sink and then laid tile. We took it from there with electical work, caulking, new windows, fixed doors and new lights and mirror.

The last remaining work upstairs were in the two bedrooms. After restoring the original pine floors and installing new windows, we went to work on refinishing all of the beautiful oak woodwork around the windows and floors. All of it needed sanded and re stained and some of it needed replaced. Lots of drywall patches, updated electrical, paint and new ceilings fans rounded out these huge rooms.

This room has now become Leo's room, who has the entire upstairs all to himself. :)

The front bedroom needed the least cosmetic attention.