Patio and yard improvements

In preparation for Sprog’s grad party we’ve been working very hard on cleaning up and improving our yard and patio spaces. I doubt you care about the many hours of yard work and resulting bags of limbs, leaves and grass we carried out for several trash cycles in a row. What you might care about, however, are the things we bought and how we have set things up.

We have two back patios and a covered front porch but for the purposes of this party we only focused our efforts on the backyard.

For the little patio aka my patio, the changes were minor: sunny yellow spray paint for the black bistro set and some fresh plants for the planters.

On the larger patio aka Willy’s patio
We purchased a new larger table, which I am obsessed with, and three heavy duty but modern white plastic chairs from Ikea. I also bought 3 woven chairs with arms from Big Lots.

The cushioned glider bench and reclining chair have always been on this patio just in different locations.

As an early Father’s Day gift we picked this up for Willy
It’s not in its final location in this pic however.

This table was in place of our former smaller glass table with cheapo chairs (2 of which are in the trash after ripping) from Target. The table is still functional and we needed the eating space regardless so I grabbed some new chairs, on sale, from Target and set the whole thing up with the umbrella from my little patio and put it out in the yard.

Finally, we have a little fire pit area in process. We still need to add gravel or sand or rubber mulch as the ground cover out there but I like the place holder in the meantime.

Here’s a wide angle shot from my phone that gives you an idea of how all the spaces relate to one another. Our grill is off to the left of this shot and we have a wide swath of grass around the corner to the right of that back table for games of redneck golf, bocce and beanbag toss.
All of it together

Eventually I’d like to have a lattice surround for the pool so it’s not such an eyesore and I am going to make a canvas shade for the little patio as well.

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one new backpack

Friday, when news of the shootings in Sandy Hook broke, I was sitting in a classroom full of children. I had spent the entire morning in various classrooms with various children doing interviews and prepping them for their digital photography entries into The District Science Fair the next morning. I am not a teacher and until I started working with these kids months ago? I had never seen them before in my life, yet I held back my tears and refused to let them see me upset. I refused to let my shock and grief upset their day and their routine because thankfully these kids, at least, didn’t know yet.

My sister teaches in a title one school (as Sprog now attends) but hers has always been one and these kids walk through metal detectors, they go through regular bag checks, they carry mesh or see-through backpacks only and are not allowed lockers. They get lunches for .10 and breakfasts for free. I’ve talked about this all before but in that moment, that moment of fear and grief and sadness, I was overcome with wanting to just DO something. Something good. And more specifically something good for a kid in need. One of these kids.

So while I sat there in that classroom, I got on Amazon on my phone and bought a brand new backpack for a student. He’s a student that is in the foster care system. He has a pink backpack right now and kids make fun of him for it. He tries to play it off, but it’s obvious that it bothers him. He was sitting alone at a desk away from all the other kids while I shopped for him, having no idea that I was doing it, and my heart was just broken for him. It’s even more-so now that I know that he’s in a group foster home situation, not an actual home and that his birth mother just got herself arrested for drugs again. Now that I know that he’s got an IEP and is medicated for certain disorders and the kids think he’s just dumb.

Today the backpack came in and I ran to Target and stocked it for him.

One shiny new backpack packed with goodies and ready for a child in need!

I bought him a new notebook, pens, highlighters, pencils, erasers and then some fun stuff like animal cookies, mamba fruit chews, slim jim, gobstoppers, a tootsie roll bank filled with candy, a slinky, fruit snacks, granola bars and a gatorade.

I know it’s just a small thing, one small gesture, but it’s the gift I’m most excited to give this season. And I don’t know that it’s the right response in light of the tragedy on Friday but in a moment of such unfathomable darkness, I think any light is a good thing.

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the american dream

I think the majority of people my age have grown up with the idea of owning our own homes as part of the “American Dream” it’s something to strive for, it’s something that is a good investment, it’s somewhat of a status symbol. It’s important, plain and simple and it’s a sign that you’ve grown up, become an adult, arrived.

I’ve never been that person. I have always been a renter. I have always wanted the option of getting the hell out of dodge, if I wanted, probably because I am so very miserable here in Houston (WHEN WILL THE ALLERGIES END) but also because I wanted the headaches to be someone else’s. I wanted the $1249 water main break to be someone else’s problem. The replacing of a toilet wax seal because the toilet leaked all over our floor. The replacing of very pricey appliances. The $3500 Pergo floors. The very expensive A/C repair. The future roof replacing. The very near future siding replacing. The ENTIRE FENCE REPLACING. The very expensive tree trimming. The reno of the guest bathroom. The reno of the kitchen. The leaking of the shower into the wall and under our floors. The destruction of baseboards and carpets. The reno of the master bathroom. I want all these things to be coming out of someone else’s pocket and weighing on someone else’s mind.

But for the past 5 or maybe 6? I don’t know now…these problems have been our problems and this house has been our house and we have very diligently paid our dues. We have made smart upgrade choices, trying not to over-upgrade our smallish starter home. We have replaced things that needed replacing. We have fixed things that needed fixing. We have lamented things that our inspection should’ve caught but didn’t. We have maintained our termite warranty. The roses have flourished in my care. The carolina jessamine is already beyond the second set of trellis I added to help support it.

And then this weekend my husband opened a piece of mail that essentially made all that work worthless. One piece of mail that cut $21,000 out from under us. ONE PIECE OF MAIL=$21,000. Just like that we were told that about 30% of the houses in Houston were considered “over market value” and lucky for us, we/our area made that cut…we are now paying on a mortgage for a house that is completely not worth what we pay for it every month. We already were paying more for it than it was worth…so this is just MORE OUT OF THAT BUCKET. And yes, people will say but the market could change. And yes, people will say a house is a long term investment…your money could come back to you. Here is the problem. I WANT OUT OF THIS PLACE. I need to move somewhere that I can BREATHE. I haven’t been able to breathe out of my nose IN YEARS. YEARS.

I have had one sinus surgery already. I take multiple medications daily. I have a headache almost every day of my damn life even with the meds. My son is about to graduate high school in ONE YEAR. I HAD A LIGHT AT THE END OF MY TUNNEL and of course it’s a damn train. Because OF COURSE IT IS.

And beyond that, I can already see this neighborhood is not what it was 10 years ago (I have lived in this subdivision for 15 years almost) there are more apartments, there are more dollar stores, there are more thrift centers and Fallas Parades and all the “high dollar” places and restaurants have moved further down and further away. My son’s school applied for and won Title 1 status from the state (which means a certain percentage of its students are living at or below poverty) I can only see my property values going further down from here. FURTHER DOWN.

This is not my beautiful house.

getting by


Sometimes it’s the little things like a favorite old spoon with stars in the handle, a lovely coffee cup from dear friends, hot chai mixed with coffee and coconut milk creamer and getting a project that’s been nagging off of your plate.

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