Home Improvement Update: BRIX!

It’s been nearly 2 weeks since the last update on the Eternal Infernal Brick Project of Doom. My, time flies.

When we last checked in, the steps into the front yard mini orchard were in this state:

Finished up the steps proper:

From the porch.
From the orchard.

Came out well. The hole on the right and the bare concrete on the left will be the sites of two little brick towers upon which will be mounted a gate.

Meanwhile, out against the street, we left the brick planter/wrought iron style fence, southern section, in this state:

We’ve reached this critical juncture:

Looking south.
Looking north.

So, now I get to hammer-drill a few holes into the concrete, epoxy in some rebar off of which will hang some hardware from which the wrought iron style fence will be supported on either end, build the little brick towers, fill them with concrete, install the fence, add capping bricks to the front double-brick wall (can’t do it until the fence is fitted, as some of the bricks will need cutting or notches for the iron fence uprights to pass through). Similar process for the porch, for the gate hardware.

Then fill the planter in the front and puts some, I dunno, plants in it. THEN build the southern border wall – I hear such things are all the rage – which is similar planter concept, but without an iron fence, thinking more wooden lattice.

Got a month and a half of summer. Will he make it? Stay tuned!

Also, I mentioned earlier that my avocado tree project had failed, and, rather than let prime garden spots lie fallow, I threw in a some tomatoes and peppers – and 4 pumpkins. Which is between 2 and 4 pumpkins too many.

Prime spot. Hot, sunny days. Plenty of water. These suckers are going to take over the yard, the house, and it not stopped somehow, THE WORLD. OK, maybe not, but they are growing like crazy. On the plus side, as they crawl out of the bed and onto the surrounding ground, I’m motivated to clean up and weed, to make room. Two sugar pumpkins for eating, two of some giant variety for fun. Here’s the current status on the Great Pumpkin Conquest of Concord:

They’re only maybe 8 weeks along. I think with a little patience you could see them grow. The giant variety is in the foreground, and will be trained into an open area to the left; the sugar pumpkins are in the back, and will be trained off to the sides. That’s the plan, anyway.

Vermin have discovered my garden and orchard. We have a fair array of furry little bastards – pardon my Urdu – from moles, mice, rats and gophers through possums, racoons and potentially deer (seen plenty a few blocks from here, never seen any this far up our street. The threat is there, however). Damage so far suggests squirrels or rats. In a just world, it would be perfectly acceptable for me to spend a few nights out front with a pellet gun, nail some of whatever they are, and leave their carcasses to rot upon little pike-equivalents as a warning to their vermin kin.

But I think that’s frowned upon.

I do have some commercial-level vermin poison, stuff farmers use, which I of course never use anywhere anything other than vermin can get it, which kind of rules out the front yard. Sigh. So – we’ll see. Will check out various traps. Don’t know what the local policy, if any, is regarding offing squirrels – there are certainly plenty around here, many of whom die trying to outsmart cars. A few garden-fattened vermin would not be missed…

How about a raptor eyre? Probably not viable short term. Seen all sorts of hawks and owls around these parts…

Stay tuned for more exciting old-guy home improvement news!

Update to the Completely Unnecessary Update

Hey, at least this one will be short.

First, an overview of the Insane Eternal Brick Project (Eternal here denotes project duration, not assumed useful life). Several years ago, when this project was only a glimmer in my deranged mind, I made a bunch of nice diagrams on graph paper (of course I did) to help visualize, on the one hand, and estimate the number of bricks I’d need (answer: lots. thousands.) so that we’d know how hard to hit Craig’s List for free bricks. We’ve got LOTS of bricks. Enough, I think.

But pencil on graph paper is unlikely to scan or photograph well, and I’d have to look for them, so: here’s something lame I whipped up on Paint:

North is to the left, in case you’re wondering. The whole ramp, porch, little towers with the handrail thing is not included. It would be just above the completed work shown. That was almost as much work as the entire other completed area. And there’s more to do on the porch as well. INSANE.

So: the recent unnecessary update had to do with the yellow In Progress area, as does today’s update to the unnecessary update.

The large root I removed yesterday was to the right of the water meter; today I worked on the trench for the footer on the upper side of the In Progress planter. It only needs to be about 4″ wide, as it only supports a single depth row of bricks (1) .

Guess what? There were more roots:

The red mandorla mostly surrounds one root about as big around as my thigh. At the top is a place where I managed to chop out most of a couple lesser branching roots, and get started on the Big Kahuna. At the very top of the picture is the hole left by removing the *other* big root.

Trying to pace myself, in the sense of not courting heat stroke or a heart attack too vigorously, so I’ve had enough for today, will try again tomorrow. This is the area right in front of where the tree, a large, old walnut, had stood for 75 years or so, thus it’s hardly surprising there would be some serious roots right here. I’m telling myself that the next phase, the planter on the south border, farther from where the tree stood, will not have any giant roots in it. Right? Please? I’d like to get this done this summer, or at least within my lifetime…

  1. The footer in the front holds up an 8″ double row of bricks; it is tied to the back 4″ footer at either end by the footer for the little towers that hold up the wrought iron style fence, and by little steel-reinforced concrete strips at two places in the middle of the planter. It acts as a whole 24″ wide structure. Don’t want my little walls tipping over en mass.

Holes. Update. Manly Diggin’ and Choppin’

Even though Foxfier kindly suggested in a comment to this post that organizing stuff is a perfectly manly thing to do, discreetly ignoring that what I literally did was spend hours making cute little wooden boxes and painting them cheery primary colors, I still felt the need do some, you know, manly stuff.

So I dug some holes and chopped some roots.

Have to drop the level enough to add gavel and sand under the brick walk, then enough next to that to add forms for the footings that go under the wall. and had to rearrange a bunch of bricks and clean up to have room and a place to dump the dirt. About 4 hours of work.

See the nice brickwork – manly brickwork, I hasten to add – in the background? Well, I need to do that again on this side of the water meter, visible just below and to the left of the white bucket top center. So yesterday I dug out about 10 wheelbarrow loads of our hard clay dirt, screened 4 buckets of gravel and rocks out of it (as you can see in the orange bucket) filled in some low spots with a couple loads and dumped the rest in that pile you can see top right center.

Then yesterday evening, ran into this:

Right next to the water meter, occupying the upper left quadrant of what is to be a footing for the little towers at the end of the brick wall, is a nasty, thoroughly not rotted out chunk of walnut stump & root. So I grab me a splitting ax – heavy blunt blade on one side, sledge hammer head in the other – and a long heavy duty pry bar, and had at it.

My hope was that it had rotted out enough that a little blunt trauma would loosen it enough to work it free without having to chop it out with a regular ax. Nope. Hit it a dozen time with the sledgehammer end, and – nada. Just bounced off. Next, tried chopping it a bit – you can see what little damage a heavy but blunt ax did. Finally, tried to ram the pry bar under it, in the fading hope that maybe it would pop up with the proper application of leverage. Didn’t happen.

Well, the sun had set, and the next step would be getting out the garden adz, shovel, and my good ax, excavate around it, then chop it out. which will take time. So I called it a day. A manly, sweaty day!

Shortly after showering and sitting down for a bit, my body reminded me that I am a 61 year old man. Took some acetaphetamine. Couple hours later, took some ibuprofen. Today, got up with high hopes of doing some more. My arms had different ideas. After breakfast, I sat down at the piano a bit. My right arm started getting numb – it didn’t even want me to hold it up over the keyboard. So, maybe tomorrow? Lots more digging to do, which, while tiring, isn’t, I think, as hard on my arms as swinging an ax. We’ll see.

Not half done with the digging, then need to put some forms down, add some rebar, and pour a bunch of 4″ concrete slabs to support a couple walls – the south side is not pictured, and it is getting a much simpler wall/planter, but there’s still digging to do on it. 15 year old son will help, when he’s home – he’s pretty good with an ax and has helped me pour a lot of the footings, so there’s that. The digging is pretty much me, however.

Hope I don’t hit any more major walnut roots.

On a cheery note, the cherries are ripening and the pomegranate is setting tons of fruit:

There’s only maybe one nice bowlful of cherries on the tree – first year bearing fruit – but it’s still cool!
One of many little pomegranates.

The potato vine we planted by the two little towers by the front door is doing great, too:

That’s more than enough for now. Needed a break after the Epistemic Closure opus. Maybe finish/review a few more books?

Final 2019 Graduation Update

…then back to something more serious, promise.

Thomas More College of Liberal Arts has a lovely campus in Merrimack, New Hampshire, next to the comparatively larger Nashua. The weather cooperated, as the sunny 70F low humidity day is about the best they ever get in New England.

They have a lovely but tiny chapel, so they set up a tent for Mass:

Chapel
Almost the entire interior.
Tent
Lovely icon.

The college requires graduating seniors to make a 5-minute presentation on their thesis before the parents, in a ceremony held at the Mansion, a large 114 year old building a couple miles from campus:

With 28 graduates divided into 2 groups, this didn’t take too long, and we were able to turn to socializing and refreshments.

Bragging break: our son got honors for his thesis defense at TAC; the college president at TMC, unsolicited, told us our daughter’s paper was one of only 2 he’d really liked in his decade-long tenure as president. They did well.

Sunday, we attended Mass at St. Patrick’s – pics in the last post – before heading off to the kid’s uncle’s house (complete with aunt and 4 cousins). On the way, stopped in Northfield, MA, to visit the new TAC East campus. Wow.

One of the dozen+ beautiful buildings on this beautiful campus.
Chapel.
Main doors
Interior, from the choir loft.

The college is renovating some of the buildings, especially the chapel, which, having been built by Protestant Evangelicals, had no center aisle for processions. Overall, most of the buildings are beautiful, the grounds are very striking, just a lovely place. What a blessing!

Our son will be a prefect there next year, meaning he lives in the dorms and hangs with the students, in an effort to help seed the culture which TAC has spent almost 50 years developing on the west coast. He also will be a manager in the kitchen, which means supervising students, mostly, but also doing some cooking. He’s excited. He starts in 6 days.

Daughter soon heads off to Israel for a visit, then back home for a few weeks – then off to Africa as a lay missionary for a year! Yikes! On the plus side, older daughter is moving back to northern California from L.A., so we may see more of her, which is very nice. Down to one 15 year old child, and he’s making noise about doing college early. Kids these days.

So packed house at the moment – we also have another guest – soon to be largely empty. Prayers for the safety and success of our kids would be much appreciated.

Next up: Younger Daughter’s Graduation TMCLA

Posting this from a reception at the President’s House of Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in NH. It’s nice:

Each soon to be grad presented a 5 minute summary of their thesis, to the cheers of the assembled thronglet, and then the wine and hors d’oeuvres were rolled out. Our daughter did well and is beautiful. No, I’m not biased. No way.

Next up is the parents dinner on campus; then tomorrow Mass and commencement.

Further bulletins as events warrant.

Rustic High Table for the Pizza Oven

Sunny and about 90F today, so spent hours cleaning up around the pizza oven, trimming back the overhanging olive tree, cleaning up the piles of junk lying on the ground, leveling the dirt (a pile had formed during the excavation for the footings for the oven, and sort of never got dealt with). THEN decided it was high time I made a high table to go next to the oven as a working surface.

A friend from church gave me this:

Casualty of a bathroom remodel.

Figured I cut cut the sink hole portion off, and still have maybe a 42″ x 20″ table top. So I hit the scrapwood pile, and found some old fence posts and runners, and had at them:

Sized and notched.

Put them together so:

A bit too much on the dirty side of rustic…
Definitely need to run some sandpaper over this…

Added a little shelf. Then worked to get the area where it’s going to be level enough. Then positioned the table and tried to put the top on it.

Sanded it down some, added little slats to make a shelf and add stability. It’s pretty sturdy at this stage.

It was heavy. Too heavy, it seems, to support the end with the sink hole, which decided to break off and shatter on the ground just as I was positioning the top.

Oh, well. I was planning to cut that part off anyway.
Position relative to the pizza oven. Made it almost as tall as the oven floor, so that swinging stuff from the table to the oven and visa versa should not require adjusting height – a good thing when what you’re swinging tends to be very, very hot.

A that point, decided that having spent 6+ hours total working outside in the heat today, that I’d get out the diamond blade and angle grinder and clean up that edge first thing tomorrow. And clean up the mess. Ya know?

It will be cute, I think.

Easter Tuesday Update

1 The front yard mini orchard makes me smile:

Figs are doing nicely. Plus, fig trees are very beautiful and peaceful.
Our two little apricot trees are doing well. Lots of fruit setting.
A few cherries on our 3-in-one cherry tree. These are Bings, I think.

Some pears are setting on our 4-in-0ne pear tree. Something is attacking the leaves, leaving unsightly spots on them. Must check into that, and get some netting for all the trees so we don’t end up with fat, happy squirrels and other vermin and no fruit for us.

The pomegranate is just now starting to blossom. That little bush is irrepressible: for the three years we’ve had it, I’ve ended up trimming away most of it a couple times a year, just to keep it a manageable size. Doesn’t matter: it began the spring as a collection of bare sticks about diaphragm high, and is now is as tall as I am and wider than it is tall.

The citrus tree is likewise going to town. I trimmed it so much this winter I was afraid I’d damaged it. Nope. It’s an unsightly thicket already a couple months later and – this is new – has quite a few blossoms on it. This is the tree grown from a seed by our late son Andrew, who, when he was very little, asked what would happen if he planted a seed he got out of a piece of fruit he was eating. We said: plant it and find out. The seed grew and progressed, from a little pot in a window box to a larger pot on the patio, to a half wine barrel. At one point, I had to basically cut it in half – it was getting so tall and stringy in its barrel. It has produced maybe 4 pieces of fruit in its 15 or so year life.

Needs some serious trimming/shaping, but it’s blooming, so I’ll probably have to wait until fall. B y which time it should really be a mess.

Three years ago, we positioned it in a spot set aside for it out front behind the brickwork I made. It was MUCH happier in the ground than in a pot, and immediately took off. Again, I have to trim it ruthlessly a couple times a year – it wants to be a big tree, we need it to stay a little tree. And, finally, this year, while far from covered in blossoms like many citrus trees this time of year, it does have quite a few! Maybe we get fruit this year.

2 Radio silence from our little school, at least as far as gender theory goes. I am learning to embrace the hatiest hater label. Maybe I’ll get it put on t-shirt. At least I’m sleeping a little more. I don’t know how my wife can take it. At least school is out this week.

I alternate between being ashamed I did such a poor job defending our position and the realization that it probably mattered little: once the mob has decided you’re a bigoted hater, it’s not like you’re going to get much of a hearing. After the fact, one thinks of many things one could have said. For example: Freud, the rest of the story:

When Ziggy first started analyzing people, his customers were, naturally, people who could pay for it. Thus, the parade of identified patients were largely the children of wealth and status.

In this parade, Freud found a number of patients who claimed they were being or had been sexually molested. Thus, he came to one of the great turning points in modern psychology. He could believe the patients (his records show that he initially did!) and go to bat for them – and find himself accusing the people who were paying his bills, the people to whose parties and teas he was being invited, of being monsters or, at least, of having monstrous things happening under their noses. It would have most likely ended his career, or at least put it on a less immediately gratifying trajectory.

Or he could ‘discover’ in a flash of Hegelian enlightenment that these patients were merely fantasizing or hallucinating because they were sexually repressed or suffering under an Oedipus complex or just in general obsessed with sex in the deepest darkest corners of their minds. That way, he could refocus what would be really uncomfortable attention from the family and friends of the patient back onto the patient’s own problems. He could still get invited to all the cool parties, build his practice with their help, and get paid.

So, for decades afterward, any number of abused children, when sent to Freudian analysts, were systematically convinced that they were deluding themselves, that their memories were mere fantasy, and that they needed to focus on their own twisted minds. Mom and dad were largely off the hook – the patient may have issues with them, but, alas! we’re all slaves to sexual repression, so what else could one expect?

When this gaslighting was finally exposed, largely in the 60s and 70s, Freudian teachings and theory were of course excoriated from all the pulpits of academia, and his name became an insult and cautionary tale. Just kidding! Nope, his theories had proven far too useful for deflecting and misdirection, so we continue to use his language and understanding to this day.

Similarly, up until that fateful day in 2013, when ‘gender dysphoria’ was slipped into the DSM in the dark of night, responsible therapists, when presented with a child who claimed to be of the opposite sex, would gently poke around a little, to see what else was going on it the kids life. Were they being bullied? Were the boys pestering them for sex? Were daddy and mommy getting along and being kind to them? Did they understand that puberty was hard and confusing, but that people do get through it OK? Those therapists, had they received their training prior to the complete convergence of their field in academia, were aware that 1) the vast majority of kids presenting as dysphoric resolve their issues in favor of their actual sex if given time and support, and 2) that cases where that doesn’t happen tend to very miserable – all the usual problem: addiction, depression, suicide, etc. occur with much higher frequency and severity.

In other words, specifically, the post 2013 words, such careful and compassionate therapists were the hatiest haters and bigots imaginable! They dared to ask questions that might just point back to the ruined lives of these kids, ruined by divorce, abuse, and rootlessness. Under the new theory, even asking questions was hate and bigotry. Just like the victims of Freud, the new heroes of gender theory get to bear their pain alone, while having everyone around them explain everything away – and, desperately seeking relief and reinforced by the adults around them, the kids will embrace it!

But I said nothing of the sort.

3 Had a glorious Easter, which we will continue to celebrate right on through next Sunday, when we will have a huge backyard pizza party for the RCIA team, members of our Teams of Our Lady team, and the Feasts & Faith crowd. If everybody and their familes show up (unlikely), there would be a couple hundred people. I’ going to plan on like 75, spread out over the afternoon and evening. Got the trampoline cleaned and ready to go, will put up the hammock and hammock swing and kiddie toys, and basically have out backyard ready. Should be fun.

On a related note, I am making pastrami, which I have done a number of times before. Goes well with the ciabatta I will be whipping up for the pizza party. My previous efforts have run from pretty good to outstanding. This time, I splurged and bought 13 lbs of prime brisket from Costco, about 10.5 lbs after trimming, which I had to cut into three pieces in order to brine it. Decided to cook up the smallest piece after three days brining and one day of rinse (you let it sit in cold water for a day after you’ve brined it to leach out some of the salt, otherwise it tends to be too salty), as a test.

Very disappointing. Taste and texture were way off. I used a very simple rub, which just didn’t cut it, and the taste was bland. Crumbly, over-fatty when sliced. Let’s hope that another 4-5 days of brining and a better rub improve the other two.

4 Starting to do a little work for a potential start up, of which of course I am free to say nothing. Looks like it could be fun, at least. Wish me luck.

Bricks, Fruits & Flowers: Update

Some seriously serious stuff coming down at Casa de Moore, I will write about it once the situation resolves itself. For now, let’s rejoice!

Finally finished the little brick tower and handrail thingie, except for finding and installing a mailbox on the larger tower:

The mailbox will go atop the tower on the left. Would an old ammo box send the wrong message? Tempting…
Need to spray all this with mortar stain removers.

Next, spring has righteously sprung:

They don’t show up well, but there are lots of little apricots on this tree and its neighbor, and lots of little peaches on the trees behind. This is Year 3, the first year one is supposed to let the trees bear fruit, after two years of setting roots, if they are up to it. Looking good so far.

The pear is in bloom….
…as is the cherry.
Lots of tiny figs on the dwarf fig tree.

The pomegranate doesn’t bloom for a while; the citrus tree shows nothing yet – it has only born a few fruits, like single digits, over its existence. Our late son asked once what would happen if he planted a seed he found in a piece of fruit. We said, of course, plant it and see. So he did, and the little tree sat in a window box until it got too big, then in a pot on the patio, then a half wine barrel. I had to trim it rather ruthlessly, as it was clearly not happy being small in a barrel. Finally, we stuck it in the ground out front and it took off. I have to trim it even more ruthlessly now. But no fruit.

The avocados are a disaster, stunted and bare. I think it just got too cold for them and I didn’t do enough to keep them warm. Avocados are fragile when small, and very tough when mature, but really are subtropical. We are definitely not. I only try because there are plenty of avocado trees growing in Concord, so it can work. Getting them past the first few years seems to be the trick.

Further reports as events warrant.

Concrete (and Wood and Steel) Sins

May God forgive us for modern church architecture.

Have we turned the corner on terrible church buildings yet? I sometimes think we have, but that may be just me putting the blinders on so I don’t have to look at this:

There is nothing to recommend this building. It is preposterous and ugly by any standards. That it claims to stand in the line of the many noble and glorious cathedrals around the world is an insult to our intelligence.

Or this:

Image result for san francisco cathedral
This building, on the other hand, is not so terrible in and of itself – it would make a daring convention center – and has been enholied by the beautiful masses celebrated there, especially by the current archbishop. But in and of itself, as a church? Not so much.

Or this:

Oak Cathdrl 1.jpg
Wouldn’t this make a great Apple Store? The bomb-shelter greenhouse look will come back into vogue some day, eventually, and we’ll be ready for it! Not so ugly in and of itself, but insulting when compared to the thousands of much-beloved churches around the world.

and pretend they are anything other than hideous abominations, insulting to both God and man.

Ya know? Or this:

Image result for newman hall holy spirit parish
Berkeley Newman Center. If it weren’t for the sign out front, you’d be hard-pressed to identify it as a church. Looks like a detail from rejected plans for the Maginot Line.

The bomb shelter look was big. I remember reading about the Los Angeles Cathedral, how they took care building it to last 500 years at least. This is achieved by deploying thousands of tons of concrete and steel. Unlike many ugly parish churches, which probably have a 50 or so year life expectancy before the repair/tear down calculations starts to get (mercifully) interesting, these monstrosities are built to last. If the goal was to burn through the Church’s money while saddling her with repulsive buildings for generations or centuries to come, the outcomes would not have been any different.

The L.A. Cathedral is in a class of its own – there’s just no redeeming it, artistically. It is a giant, $200,000,000 middle finger to the Catholics of L.A. To get rid of it is almost impossible. I fantasize that a billionaire might come along, buy land next door, and build a huge beautiful Neo-Gothic or Romanesque Revival church, seamlessly incorporating influences from Mexico, the Philippines, Asia, Africa and so on in order to honor the remarkably world wide nature of L.A.’s Catholics, and then offer it to the diocese. The underlying tensions would thus be exposed. And L.A. would get a nice church.

At least in San Francisco and Oakland, one gets the feeling they were trying for something good, even if they went about it under the constraint that whatever was built must rebuke the pre-Vatican II church. The unhealthy compulsion to be different, which has lead to many bad fashion decisions and questionable tattoos on a small scale, leads to stuff like this when writ large:

These are a few of the approximately 800 louvres, I guess you’d call them, that make up the walls of the Cathedral of Christ the Light.

Louvre mania! And an imposing image peeking past the cables and braces!

These features appear to be slabs of laminated 2 x 12s, bolted to laminated uprights(1) with some seriously industrial looking galvanized hardware and bolts. They would make excellent work benches and picnic tables. Here? Oh, I’m sure there’s an artist’s program somewhere that describes how they are meant to let in the light in some deeply meaningful way that only a uncultured peon would fail to understand.

The effect is just weird. Like I say, not irredeemably ugly, just – weird. With 2,000 years of church architectural experience to draw on, this is what you do? Only if hell-bent on rejecting all that collected experience and wisdom.

I cherish my visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, and my many visits to Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity at Thomas Aquinas College, as both buildings are very beautiful and built in the last decade or so. Beautiful and appropriate churches can still get built, if people want to build them.

Obligatory note: over the centuries, many people have pushed and pulled church architecture in many different directions with greater and lesser success. Gothic, after all, was an innovation at one time. I’m not wedded to any particular style or approach, as long as it strives to embody the true, the good and the beautiful. For a century now, many architects have actively rejected those ideals. Such should not be let anywhere near a church design project.

Final funny (at least to me) moment: Youngest son and I were visiting the Oakland Cathedral for a Boy Scout function, when a mom came up to me (I was just sitting there! Minding my own business! I swear!), pointed at the huge image of Christ Enthroned, and asked: “What is He doing with his right hand?”

Somebody thought a 70 foot tall heavily pixelated image of Christ partially obscured by structural members was a good idea, the dominant and central statement of the building. Right.

I answered honestly that he was giving a blessing, and that such images – Christ enthroned giving his blessing – are quite common. She was hesitant to accept this, but eventually gave in. “I thought he was flashing a peace sign. I was afraid they’d gone hippy on us.”

“I have no comment.” I smiled.

  1. I have to think the external frame, or a steel core to the uprights, or most likely both, are actually holding this thing up. Those louvres have got to be heavy.

2018: Let Me ‘Splain…

Image result for inigo montoya let me sum up

Life is good. Having breakfast (Huevos Rancheros with both red and green New Mexico chile sauces – the only way to fly) with our kids and their grandmother on a cold, crisp Sunday morning after attending a lovely Mass together – what more is there to life in this world? I am indeed blessed.

Elder daughter is off being courted at the moment. Nice young man. Elder son is studying. He had a meeting yesterday with his thesis advisor – at our home! Seems he and his wife were up in the area to visit a brand-new grandchild, and so came over to visit. Charming an intelligent conversation ensued.

Younger daughter is having that experience I’ve warned them about: the reward for competence is getting more work. We are for the most part a competent family, and end up organizing, executing and cleaning up after a lot of things. It’s worth it, but can get exasperating at times. Beats the alternative. She (both daughters, actually) is an excellent seamstress. A young lady who teaches at our school and has been staying with us for the last 2 years is getting married, and younger daughter volunteered to make her wedding dress. She loves doing this sort of thing, but it’s a big job.

Wedding dresses tend strongly toward the ‘more involved’ end of the dressmaking spectrum. So, this being our daughter’s only real break between now and the wedding, as she will be writing her senior thesis during the 2nd semester of her senior year, she is trying to get it done this week. So, since she should be doing her seminar readings now, my beloved wife is reading aloud to her while she sews.

Younger son, the Caboose, is indulging in some video games. I need to take him Christmas shopping, since he’s the only one who can’t drive himself and we will be having our gift-giving on January 1. We had it on Epiphany for many years, but recently the kids have been drawn away to jobs and school, so we tend to have it on the last day everybody is here – New Years Day this year.

On Thursday, we met up with a young family visiting San Francisco. College friends of elder daughter. After lunch, we had only a couple hours to show them around, and chose the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. This is a 140 year old large wooden greenhouse stocked with rare tropical plants and flowers, the oldest public collection of its kind in America. They have dozens of different carnivorous plants, including some pitcher plants whose traps could hold a good size bird or rat. Funky looking.

I took a few pictures. They aren’t very good. If you want to see good pictures of flowers, check out Zoopraxiscope.

Wacky-looking yellow spirally flowers on a typically weird tropical plant. You know, I suppose I could have taken a picture of the little placard, and thus told you what this here thing is. I’ll try to remember that in the future…
Tiny yellow orchids. And plenty of ’em. They have lots of orchids, too, in the less sweaty/drippy rooms.

2018 was an interesting year:

  • Our middle two kids completed the first half of their senior years at Thomas Aquinas and Thomas More. Have two graduation to look forward to in 2019 – on opposite coasts one week apart. Of course. I’m a happy daddy.
  • Singing in a Sunday choir for the first time in over a decade. The relentless poor quality of the music and the lack of any aspirations to sing anything better drove me off. But a friend got a twice a month job doing the Saturday anticipatory mass, and she’s doing chant and Watershed stuff, so I’m now in. Didn’t realize how much I missed it.
  • Youngest son progresses with violin. He can fiddle up a storm. He also decided on his own to join Boy Scouts. The particular group he joined seems good, and has not yet completely fallen to PC nonsense. He needs 3-4 years to make Eagle, so if the troop can hold out that long… He loves the outdoor activities and getting to hang with some relatively sane kids his own age.
  • Home Improvement projects proceeded at a crawl. Got a few thousand more bricks to lay out front, and some wrought iron-style fencing and some rails and steps to put in. Did make the carcass for a king-size bed platform out of oak veneer plywood. Unfortunately, had to press it into service before I had time (and decent weather – have to work on projects this large outside) to finish it. Therefore added another threshold to overcome before finishing it: taking it back out of the bedroom. In my mind’s eye it’s very nice, sort of reminiscent of Mission style. As it is, it’s a big plywood box.
  • Didn’t read nearly as many books this year as the last couple. Plan to remedy that.
Collected in one pile the reading materials I’ve pulled off the shelves over the last few months to read or reread. Now located next to a comfy chair by a window. That helps.
  • Did get almost done (what is with me and getting near the end of books and not finishing? I’ve not always been this way…) with Polanyi – what a load! – and a couple education books (dreary for the most part). Did read – and even finished! – a half dozen SciFi books this year. But, man, gotta pick up the pace. I spend an unproductive amount of time reading materials on the internet. Some are critical, such as source materials on education. Others – not so much. Must remedy this as well.
  • Continuing with an hour or two of piano just about every day. Got Beethoven’s Sonata Pathetique to the point where I can hack my way through it. Only took me about 12 months. Now, if I’d just put in another 6 months, I might get it to the point where I’d not be embarrassed to play it for somebody. Also worked up some rag time and a couple fugues from the Well Tempered Clavier. Tried a little Chopin, but – looks like a lot of work. So, maybe. Or maybe some more Beethoven or some Shubert. It’s fun
  • Over the last 6 months, made a miserable effort to get disciplined about writing. I could blame a series of minor injuries/illnesses, and there would be some truth to it, but many people have written through as bad or worse, so – no escaping it. I tried and failed.
  • On the other hand, did finish at least rough drafts of 3 stories, wrote several thousand words on the Eternal Novel of Infinite Enertia, and did a ton of blogging. There is that. But it’s not enough, not by a mile.
  • Lost my job June 30. I’m 60, 4-5 more years and I could have retired. Now? Got to come up with some way to get us through the next decade financially. No call for sympathy here, we’re doing way better that most people, it’s just I thought I had it licked, and – not so much.
  • Medically interesting year, which one does not want. Gone are the decades during which I never missed work and rarely had so much as a cold. Again, nothing worthy of sympathy – I’m just getting old and paying the price of letting myself go. I suspect regular exercise, eating like I’m sitting around all day instead of like I’m heading out to plow the south forty, and the related loss of, oh, 100 lbs, and I’d be a lot better off.

All in all, life is good. Good marriage, family I’m very happy to be a part of, no more than the usual amount of issues and problems. Can’t complain.

For 2019: We’ll see about writing some more. I could use a spiritual director. A job or some other income would be very good. Some discipline around food and exercise is required (hmmm – this sounds strangely familiar…) Reengaging a systematic prayer life would no doubt help. Pray, hope, and don’t worry, as St. Padre Pio put it. Yea, like that’s gonna happen. But nothing is impossible with God.

We wrap up 2018 tomorrow by finding an Adoration chapel to spend the last moments of the old year and the first of the new, then Mass, presents, breakfast and teary goodbyes to the older 2 kids. *sniff*.

Then we run it back for 2019! Interesting times. Good, but interesting.