The Submit Button

There was a time when what stood in between me and a Bachelor’s Degree were 65 credits, nearly $70,000, and eight years.

After dropping a class that didn’t fit in with my budget, then another class that didn’t fit in with my schedule, taking off one semester after my daughter was born, then taking off another semester when we moved into a new house, then taking off another semester when Emmett was due to be born, then showing up for class even though I had hand, foot, and mouth disease, showing up for class about 12 hours after I was discharged from the ER, finding out I had to take four more credits than I thought because I needed another Fine Arts credit, finagling with my professor to have her teach me a course independently of the rest of the class so that it fit my work schedule, showing up in the morning for early classes before work – while wondering how I’d get in my 40 hours of work that day – and showing up late in the evening, after dinner, because that was the only time I could fit in a class, and not being able to say goodnight to my kids that night, worrying that my dying Chevy Cavalier wouldn’t get me from my job to my class, answering my phone during class because my wife was worried about our sick child, or because a coworker had a question, studying late at night, on vacations, and during breaks at work, strategically arranging my course schedule to maximize my tuition reimbursement from my employer, and going through the annoyance of having to submit just the precise documentation on a user-unfriendly site needed to get said reimbursement, I slowly chiseled away at everything that stood in between me and a 4-year degree.

Now all that stands in between me and my degree is clicking this submit button, which will upload my final paper for my final course to my final professor, and which I plan to do promptly…

Submit button

The graduation ceremony is Saturday.

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5½ Years in Our Home

As of this week, we’ve lived in our home for 5 and a half years. As I’ve done semi-annually since we moved in, I will hereby provide an update on improvements we made to our home in the past six months.

By the way, if you’re interested, here’s the blog post detailing what we did during the six months prior to these most recent six months.


-Sanded, painted, and re-installed trim around windows.IMG_1494IMG_1493

-Sanded, painted, and re-installed baseboard trim.

This really, really created a lot of dust. So much so, I was able to employ that time-tested joke of writing “CLEAN ME” onto a surface so dirty that a person can actually write by removing part of that which needs to be cleaned.

In fact, in the photo of the bush that is right next to our house, you can see splotches of white that resulted from our box fan which blew sheetrock dust out of the house all day while we worked.IMG_1331IMG_1332

-Painted ceiling and walls.













-Stained putty that had been the wrong color for about three years.











In the before photo, at left, the wood putty is barely noticeable. It’s in that crack in the top right corner of the trim. Notice, in the right photo, I’ve stained it the proper color. I inserted that putty into the trim in, probably, 2013. Not sure how I forgot to sand and stain it until just last month but it’s good now.


-Removed accordion door.

There was an accordion-style door at the top of the stairs. We used it very rarely and, last summer, it tore. It was in pretty cheap, sorry condition and I’m actually surprised it’s lasted this long (it came with the house when we moved in). Jennifer finally tore it down last fall.


-Installed lattice work on north side of deck.
Here’s a picture from last September, following the installation of the beams that hold up the lattice (you can see the lattice leaning up against the house, just waiting to be installed): 4x4s-noth-deck

-New retaining wall installed.

IMG_1205 IMG_1206 IMG_1207 IMG_1208

This project began in early September, and actually spilled over our  year anniversary in our house. So here I’m showing the new retaining wall, installed just after our five-year anniversary here. The wall is longer than the previous one, extending up the whole length of our driveway on the east, and continuing to just shy of the little free library on the west.

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2017: More Loss

My sister came over to cut my hair today. She does that once in a while. While under the electric razor, I made tentative plans for her to come over and dye my hair one month’s hence so that I have no grays. I told her I was again attending the National Conference of Undergraduate Research and, unlike last time, I was going to put forth an effort to not look like the oldest student in attendance. “I don’t want to be the senior senior,” I put it succinctly.

I asked her if she’d heard from our dad or any Floridian relative lately, and she said she hadn’t. “I’m just wondering how Papa’s doing,” I added.

“I think he’s just the same. Still moving along.”

“Man, he just keeps going. I thought he was gonna die back in September.”

“I know, me too. Now it’s getting close to his birthday. He’s gonna be 90.”

After Diane left, I again commented on my grandfather’s unexpected robustness, and Jennifer asked if I had decided whether I will go to his funeral. I reiterated my general distaste for the Sunshine State. Coupling that with our impending vacation there in December, I’m not sure I can stomach two trips there in a single year. After not stepping foot in Florida for over a decade, I’ve just about recovered. All this would suffice in itself, but then there’s the whole matter of how I’ll be treated – if complete shunning can even be considered “treatment.”

“I’ll probably just celebrate his life in my own way,” I concluded. For the moment.

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2017: Loss

A sudden warming of the weather has arisen Jennifer’s global warming anxieties, but we both had to admit that the higher temperatures, couple with the steadily increasing daylight, has improved our photoperiodic moods. Somewhat.

I cam home from work to yesterday and today to find she had made unexpected progress on a few home improvement projects that have been in the works too long. So that makes me content. I revel in the idea that our home has only gotten better in the time we’ve lived here – a happy converse from our time residing in apartments.

At work yesterday, I looked up at the calendar to confirm the date, and suddenly realized it had been 25 years since I attended a talent show, at a city park, held by a local Witness congregation. It was there that I met so many people that ultimately became my friends. It was also where two of my existing friends – Rhett and Ryan – performed a song of their composing. Rhett having since passed, I emailed Ryan to remind him of this anniversary. Or, rather, to tell him that this was the anniversary of his public display of his song “Balalaika” since, truth be told, there was no way he’d have any recollection of the date of that performance.

So after I got home and contented in the progress Jennifer had made, she said, “So you emailed Ryan some link today?”

“Yeah…how did you know that?”

“Because he posted it online.”

“Well he didn’t write back to me. I kept checking my email to see if he had anything to say about it.”

“Well, he mentioned you in his post. He said something like, ‘Thanks to my friend James for recording this.’ Then he listed all the times him and his brother played live.”

“Oh, we’re still friends?” I asked, half in sarcasm, half in sincerity.

This, then, precipitated a long conversation of what makes a friend, and exactly how long can go by without purposefully interacting with someone before they can be considered no longer in one’s life. This, then, connected to our placid lament that we no longer have any friends, excluding family. And “family” I define as all of her relatives, minus her younger sister, and none of my relatives, minus my younger sister. I told Jennifer that I had only been invited to two social events thus far in 2017 – one friend invited me to lunch and I accepted. Then I said, “But I’ve been invited to two events,” and told her how I had to turn down one of them because I had to attend class. Not to be outdone, Jennifer note that she had only been invited to one social event this year – one that she concocted at my insistence.

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2017: Happy with Bust

Most days lately, Jennifer asks me if I’ve heard about a recent development in the national political scene. There’s a bevy of stuff to discuss: Every day either Trump is doing something stupid, trying to explain something stupid, or experiencing the fallout of something stupid. Every unfurled incident seems to be a step toward impeachment or resignation. And though I agree that his failure is virtually inescapable, it’s unsettling to live in a world where I am looking forward to a Pence presidency.

In the rare case there aren’t any executive branch snafus during a given 24-hour period, Jennifer tells me about the protests around the country. I know about these, usually, but she’s always tied to social media and has a real-time approach to the events. I gave up social media in November, figuring I’d wait until someone noticed. After several weeks and no one noticed, I figured that was typical. I guess I just don’t care what people have for breakfast, and I’m not interested in arguing with people I haven’t seen in twenty years.

So one day, a bunch of constituents showed up at one Senator’s house and demanded he stop acting like a baby. Another day, lawyers set up shop in the airport, hoping to score income from the downtrodden who can’t get back into the country. It goes on and on like that.

Thinking I had some information Jennifer didn’t, I told her someone put up a large “Resist Trump” banner on the foot bridge over I-94. She said another one of our neighbors put up an “All are Welcome Here” sign, and I told her the woman across the street taped an “I Stand With Planned Parenthood” sign in her porch window. “It was too small for me to read it,” I explained, “so I got out the binoculars to see it.”

Jennifer asked if I had seen the “All Are Welcome” mural on the park fence a few blocks away. A few neighbors tied colored rags to the chain link, slowly morphing from one hue to the next unto the three words and a heart icon formed a complete Roy G. Biv rainbow. “It’s kind of a contradiction emblazoning ‘all are welcome’ on a fence,” I said, trying to be smart, “Since a fence, pretty much by definition, is saying someone’s not welcome.”

Jennifer didn’t like the joke, and said that fence is to ensure the children from the local elementary school don’t run off the grounds onto the streets.

“I hope all this stuff amounts to something,” I said.

“It will,” Jennifer said, with uncharacteristic optimism. “The country really isn’t taking this anymore.”

“Well, I wish they would’ve woken up four months ago. People are so like that. They wait until it’s too late, then they try to fix the problem.”

I then drew several parallels to history – the Nazis, of course; Nixon, of course; Bush v. Gore, of course – and point out that most adults don’t even have the wherewithal to recall the important events from the previous summer, much less the previous election cycles or previous decades.

Jennifer said this time it might be different. “There’s social media now. People can find out about everything, right away. And they can travel faster and get information out quickly, and they’re calling out those stupid congressmen who don’t do their jobs. No one’s happy now.”

“Well, some people are happy. Trump supporters are happy – some of my coworkers think he’s Jesus, for Christ’s sake. And all those Bernie-or-Bust supports must be happy. They didn’t get Bernie, but at least they got Bust.”

She did like that joke.

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