No explanation. Just a moment captured.
Friday night, after a long week that ended in two days of back-to-back parent-teacher conferences, I was treated to a delicious meal at my friend Laura’s home. With a bit of mind mush, I drove to her house and was immediately greeted by the delicious aroma of her kitchen and her warm smile. We spent the night with a few of our friends laughing, telling stories, and sharing in a great meal. The week had been so long and tiring and this was exactly what I needed to decompress and reconnect. Laura worked so hard to ensure that we all enjoyed a fancy meal on her finest dinnerware. She did all of the work even though we strove to help her. It was amazing to receive so much selfless care and love on a Friday. I was incredibly thankful.
The chicken that was prepared was so delicious that I told David that I just had to make it for him during the weekend. He was a bit skeptical as he saw me toss in the ingredients into the basket, “Soy sauce and honey, are you sure, Melissa?” Promising him a dish that would tap into his umami taste buds, I assured him he would be pleasantly surprised. The recipe itself came from Real Simple Magazine and as always it was a simple meal to follow and did not take much time to prepare. Within an hour we were sitting down to our feast. And….David enjoyed it! It is going to be added to our running list of meals for our home. I hope it makes it on to your list as well!
The Recipe: Soy Balsamic Roasted Chicken with Rosemary
Six years ago, David and I met. It is amazing how short this time has felt. I am so lucky to have found my best friend and soul-mate out there in the wild. Waiting to catch a bus one random morning never turned out so good!
Our first picture together ever. Look at those baby faces! It’s a date. (For those of you who remember this was in my grad dorm room!) We said yes! Snuggles and kisses
The best guy in town!
Another month has slipped by since the last post about the retaining wall. And unlike the month of August, September was a wild ride in our backyard. From ultimatums to last stands, we became competitors in a game of chess. Waiting to evaluate the move of our opponent, we sought to survey the field and make a step forward that not only advanced our position but saved us from a paralyzing checkmate. From August 22 until September 17, David and I were fully consumed in the nuances of this battle of wills (I know what you must be thinking, but weren’t you consumed in this power struggle all summer? And, yes, we were but not even we could have imagined the heated intensity that would emerge over this latest time frame).
Thankfully, at school I was utterly distracted each day. Between setting up the classroom, writing lesson plans, and interacting with my new crop of students there was little time during the school day for me to think about the mason or our destroyed yard. But, the ride home would inevitably come. Sitting in the car waiting to pick up David, my mood would change. From pacing through the thousands of questions that define a school day, I would become fixated on one: Did he show up? We have a 45 minute commute home. Some days we practiced our confrontation lines. If he says X, then we will say Y. And then, if he says Z, we will say A. And on and on we would go until rounding our block. Most nights though the car fell silent and we stared straight ahead completely exhausted, frustrated, and on the brink of tears. When we pulled up the drive the answer was always the same: He did not show up and he did not communicate with us. We were trapped, without the wall complete if we fired him we would need to hire a new mason to complete the wall. But every mason we called declined to take the job citing that the project was too near completion, that there was no money in it for them to make, and for us to just hang tight until our miserable mason finished. We tried to express to these possible future masons that what was one day of work for them had dragged on and on and on with our guy. They commiserated a bit but still said it was not enough to entice them.
Coincidentally on a Thursday off from school while getting a manicure with a co-worker, I learned that her husband was a trained mason and that he would look at the wall and even help us finish it. WHAT?!?! Something to be hopeful about!?! Armed with this possibility and a sense of an upper hand over our mason. We gave him an ultimatum on Friday. David told him, “If you do not complete the project by next Friday, your work on the project is done and you can pick up your tools and leave the premise.” Our first real strategic move on the board since the start of the project was made. The mason acknowledged it and we waited for his return move. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of the following week came and went and no move was made. No sign of the mason and no communication.
While this is illegal in the game of chess, we moved a piece again. Thursday night David reached out again and said, “Clearly, there is no way you can complete the project in the next 24 hours. Let’s cut our ties and please pick up your materials. Your work with us is done.” Unlike before, there was no response. What kind of maniacal plan was he hatching!?!? Never good with stress or anxiety, I began to imagine the worst case scenario. Would he come to our property and light our house on fire? Would he come and tear down the wall he did build? Would he steal our grill which sits out back? My mind and emotions were reeling in fear. It is in moments like this that I am particularly thankful to have married David. Always calm and collected, he talked me off the edge.
Friday a day after being fired from the job, my neighbor informed me that the mason was on our property. Terror ran through me! His move was made. But alas, it was a curve ball and he was actually doing work on the property. So wait, all we had to do was fire him for him to feel a sense of commitment to the project!? Rushing home, he was still there. Our move: a bit of good cop-bad cop routine. David told him his work with us was finished, to pack up, and go. The mason demanded his last installment of the money and David refused. We got stuck in this cycle of: leave, not with out my money, we are no giving you any more for an incomplete job, then I am not leaving. Around and around we went. Finally, I made a move. Sign a contract sir that says if you do not finish any item on the list of to-dos you will receive no further payment. He signed. Feeling a checkmate coming…David and I were on high alert.
The next 48hours were a flurry of activity. For someone with a supposedly broken ankle, he moved quickly around the yard. Yet, still he maintained his bad habit of not coming for full days but rather an hour here and there. How did he plan to make the deadline exactly? He told us he had purchased the fence months ago for example, but we found out from our neighbor that the mason was at Home Depot buying the fence on Sunday! Finally it was Sunday night. it was a race against the clock and the sun. Texting back and forth with our neighbor, we waited to see what the final move would be. Would David and I have played a bad move and in giving him 48 hours be paying for a sloppy finish and find ourselves without the money to tidy his project and our yard? Would he admit that he could not finish in the allotted time and leave?
At 7:00PM it was over and the sense of utter relief washed over us. For over three months my mind was held hostage by this mason. For over three months, David and I were embarrassed of our home and fearful for what his work and lack of work meant for our life’s savings. For over three months, we tried to establish some kind of regular communication with the mason so that both of our objectives could be satisfied. In the end, he drove off and we took shots of brandy.We were relieved and ready to start new with a new landscaper. I wish our old mason the best and I hope that the family and life difficulties he shared with us, if true, are able to be sorted out. Our final move brought back some hope for us and brought this summer saga to a close.
Does going twice to the Big E make it tradition? I declare that it does. Somehow it feels more like Fall now that we have eaten our fill of fried cheese curds, chocolate covered bacon, pork chop sandwiches, fried pickles, kettle corn popcorn, and apple crisp. The weather was cool as we took in the sights, smells, and rides with our friends this past weekend in Springfield, MA. It wasn’t until the next day when David said, “Now the Fall has arrived,” that it became apparent how much we enjoy this wildly weird event. Clearly, Fall in New England is marked for us by two traditions: The Big E fried food extravaganza and Apple Picking. We have one down and now it is time for the next fall favorite!!
Things have gotten a little tighter these days. Most nights after dinner, David and I race off to the tennis court. Talking “smack” to each other all the way there, we pump each other up for our hour to two hour tennis match. We weren’t very good at first. Balls typically spent more time hitting up against the chain linked fence or popping up and out of the court then back and forth between our rackets. I have taken a hit to throat, leg, stomach, and head most recently and David fell over himself on a few occasions. We are a sight to be seen. But, what is most important is we have a blast. Between rallies we laugh out loud, sneak kisses, and roll our eyes at each other for missing a shot. Then at some point we got better, I would even go so far as to say mildly good.
Our rallies are lasting longer, our endurance has increased, our serves stay in and we can actually get through games and sets. Practice and playfulness really is making a difference in our game! And as a result we are noticing those pesky 10 pounds we each have wrestled with since our wedding slowly slip away and our figures tighten up. When we first started this new hobby, I did not think it would last longer than a session or two. It has turned into a positive addiction. Each of us tries to best the other. We challenge each other to play harder, faster, and stronger. To celebrate our new found evening adventure/commitment we stayed in last night to watch the men’s US Open Finals. Inspired by the tremendous game, we head out again!
Today was my first day back in the classroom with students. It always feels good to start using my teacher muscles again. At 7:15AM I felt nervous about my first class. It was as though I had forgotten how to walk and talk at the same time. Feeling stiff and out of place, I began to think about what it must be like to be a new freshman. At least I had some experience at this school and knew familiar faces. Quickly I sought to snap out of myself and begin doing what I love: engaging students, getting to know them, and getting them started on their work. As soon as they were in their seats the “teacher dust” brushed off and I could feel my old self again and it felt great. Watching them collaborate – even briefly – on the first task was invigorating.
Despite the energy of the day, I left school feeling wiped out. Where had all of my stored up energy from the summer gone? Upon reflection, this wave of fatigue was most likely caused by dehydration. Somehow I had gone the whole day without drinking water! Crazy how once you are in the zone something as simple as drinking water is forgotten. When I picked up David at the T, I was so thankful that he took over the wheel and immediately turned on his “partner role.” I was completely swept up in his love and care. We arrived home and I settled on the couch equipped with a giant ice water and David cooked up a storm. He prepped and cooked us Thai noodles, which are my favorite! I ate a giant bowl in my pjs. Afterwards, he cleaned up. It was perfect. David could read me when he first got in the car and knew exactly how to take care of me after my first day. Finally after being rehydrated and fed, I was able to share stories from the first day of my fifth year of teaching. While I am still tired (I expect to get a good night of sleep) I look forward so much to tomorrow!