Rock Star Good Man

One of the things I didn’t miss when I was teaching third grade was the end-of-the-year crunch that comes with teaching the graduating grade in a school. We don’t have to make class lists, but we have to vertically plan with the next school, plan graduation, tour the middle school, throw a massive party, etc. The students are feeling rather cocky about being done with elementary school and yet are nervous about middle school, but trying to hide it by acting cool.

Throw in the school-wide assemblies, public library visits, band concerts, field day, specials ending, and other teachers throwing in the towel and showing movies all day and giving students dot-to-dots as schoolwork (in fifth grade? You must be kidding me) and it’s really hard to keep any sort of routines for the students.

Still, I tried. We did some great math lessons based on Guinness Book of World Records and the students got to compete for class records. We did some language games that the students enjoyed and reflected on our year. And when they were just so squirrely they couldn’t deal with it, the students helped me clean and pack up the room.

Today we had our big class party and I asked Good Man to show up for some of it so he could help me bring boxes home after school.

I met him in the office just as two of my former students were coming down the stairs. “Hey, Mr!”

A few minutes later we passed my entire class in the hallway. The fourth grade teacher started waving her hands excitedly, “We saw Mr! We saw Mr!”

The whole class waved, “Hello Mr! Hello!”

Good Man just laughed and shook his head. “You’re a rock star!” I said.

The Hassles of Living on a Popular Street

So this takes the cake for misdelivered mail….

We live on a street with a very common American street name. When we bought this place, the survey company actually tried to survey our address on Common American Avenue instead of Street. And since that property is much larger, they almost overcharged us quite a bit of money.

We’ve had problems with our mail ever since we moved in. One neighbor’s surname is surprisingly close to mine, so I always get his mail. Some kid nine doors down? We get his magazines. A few weeks ago, we a package from a doctor’s office intended for a neighbor three blocks down. I’ve talked to every mailman about it, but nothing changes. So I’m not surprised to get the wrong mail, but…

Last week, we got a letter in the mail from our exact address, except the city was West Des Moines, Iowa. Enclosed was my $20 gift card from Angie’s List (headquartered in Indianapolis) and a handwritten note on the Angie’s List form letter:

Your name + street address showed through the envelope window, but not the city and state. So we rec’d it instead–thus we’re forwarding to you.
Regards from Iowa.

I might just send them a postcard back, thanking them for forwarding my mail all the way from Iowa!

Charming House and Thoughts on Unpacking

A year ago today, we found our house.

Everyone is right: Owning a house is a huge responsibility. But being in control of when things get done, whether or not they get done, and the quality with which they’re done? Freedom. And not being able to hear our neighbors? Delightful.

I say this as we’re tripping over two lawn mowers in the basement since one was a lemon that I need to return. I say this as we’re considering getting new gutters because [mature trees + narrow gutters + maple seeds = gutters that need to be cleaned constantly]. I say this as we are looking at some social shopping site deals to get an electrician to hardwire our exterior outlets since running an extension cord 70′ across the basement makes no sense.

Now I wonder if the basement will actually be entirely unpacked before our closing anniversary of July 9th. I am feeling a bit doubtful.

Last night I found another large Rubbermaid bin full of fabric in the basement. Sure, this is great, because I found some fabric that I remembered missing. (Most of the time, when I unpacked my fabric, it was a great surprise to be reminded of what I had.) But I truly have no space on my shelves for the fabric.

I haven’t even started to unpack the yarn. There is nowhere to put it. Since I haven’t been knitting much lately, and since our basement is dry, I think the yarn is fine down there.

A few weeks ago at work, I found a reusable tote from a local yarn store in my mailbox. It had no name or note, and my class and I turned into detectives until we figured out who put the bag in my box. She is a new knitter and I might go through my yarn and find some stuff to give to her.

Since moving out of my parents’ house at 18, I have never taken this long to unpack. I was sure I was not going to be one of those people who has boxes left in the basement.

But it’s so easy to just chuck things in the basement…

Like a lemon lawn mower.


Good Man: Be positive, Amanda.
Amanda: About what?
Good Man: Everything.
Amanda: Oh, because you’re so positive?
Good Man, thinks for a moment: OK, not about the world, because the world is incompetent, but about you. I am positive about you.
Amanda: Awwww…

A Contemplative Hike

Yesterday Good Man and I went hiking at Sky Meadows State Park. We’d never been to the park before, and ended up (unintentionally) doing the exact hike found in Best Day Hikes Near DC.

We got to the park shortly before nine, which was later than I wanted to get there (the park opens at eight) but earlier than we ever get to hikes, and early enough that the morning light was still great for photos.

Sky Meadows

We started our hike by going up a long hill. I had to keep stopping to rest, and I was getting really frustrated. There was another couple a bit ahead of us who was stopping to take photos, and I was embarrassed that I needed to stop so much, and wondered what they thought about how often I needed to stop.

Good Man and I rested at the first overlook for a few minutes. The bench was fairly high and Good Man joked it was made for a basketball player.

View from the Lower Overlook

High Bench

When we finally made it to the top of the path, the couple that had been ahead of us was resting on the bench. The woman said, “We made it!”

“We did. I used to be in better shape…” My voice trailed off.

“Me, too!”

We talked for a few minutes. It turns out that she was in a car accident around the same time I fractured my tailbone. We talked about how long it takes to heal, and how frustrating it is to feel healed, and to look healed from the outside, but to realize that internally, things are still working themselves out.

After chatting, we wished each other good luck and continued on with our hike, greeting everyone we passed. While we hiked, I thought about the phrase “hike your own hike.” I had thought this couple was judging my pace, and didn’t even consider that they might be stopping because they needed to or wanted to. How ridiculous.

The trail continued through some woods, and then meadows, and we stopped at the overlook for Paris, VA, and Good Man seemed unimpressed. (Paris has a population of fifty-one people.)

Studying the Guideposts

Good Man Peers at Paris

Paris, VA

After more walking, we were on the Appalachian Trail and back in the woods. We continued on, listening to the birds and crossing paths with several other hikers. We headed down the North Ridge Trail for a bit and met several Boy Scouts hiking uphill in a group.

Some people say the downhill hikers have the right-of-way. Others say uphill hikers do. Pretty much everyone agrees that large groups should step aside for smaller groups, pairs, and solo hikers.

Even though they were a group, the trail was narrow and it can be hard to regain momentum when you are going uphill, so we stepped aside for them and waited. Almost every one thanked us, which I thought was kind.

Chewed Up Log

A few minutes later, we got to a trail intersection. We were both feeling a bit hungry so we decided to stop and eat. A man was sitting on a bench and happily scooted over for us. The three of us ate in silence for a while, and then started chatting.

He asked us if we’d seen anything interesting, and we chatted about the park and Northern Virginia a bit. Then we started talking about other places we’d been to in America. When he found out I was from Minnesota, he talked about how gorgeous the North Shore of Lake Superior is. We both talked about the Badlands, and how few people out here know about them, but how they’re amazing.

He pulled out his phone and showed us a photo of his wife and himself taken at the Grand Canyon. He told us he’d been there about a month ago, and his wife couldn’t walk and was dying of an incurable disease. He said the National Park Service at the Grand Canyon had been incredibly kind, letting him and his wife use the service road tourists can’t use so they could see more of the park.

His story really hit me. I was struck by how young the man was (15 years older than us), and I was touched by his story. It made me like the NPS even more than I already did, and it restored some faith in humanity.

We ended up talking for about a half an hour before we departed, going on separate hikes and wishing each other a good day.

Flowers Growing in the Debris on a Rock

Spring at Sky Meadows

Good Man

We walked down the South Ridge Trail in silence. After a mile, Good Man spoke. “What are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking about how much stuff I want to do with you, since we never know what the future will hold.”

Leaf, Flower, Insect

Snowden Ruins

As we made our way back to the parking lot, we found this squirrel, which was eating very loudly. I took several photos with the squirrel continued chomping away.

Flirting with the Camera

Chewing on the Nut

Wind-Blown Squirrel

On the drive home I kept thinking about how I’d felt sorry for myself at the start of the hike, the man’s visit to the Grand Canyon, and the park rangers’ kindness.

I felt very blessed to be able to do the hike, all 5+ miles of it, especially with Good Man.

Well, That Didn’t Last Long

So, my promise to make six items from stash didn’t last long.

I did make one item from stash, a Vogue dress that looks great on everyone else, but not on me. I used up the last of a horrible knit fabric I bought from I wasn’t supposed to use up all of the fabric, but I had to cut pieces of the pattern repeatedly. It was awful.

I was keeping up my stash promise until a few weeks ago. As I was leaving my sewing class a few weeks ago, I stopped abruptly.

Could it Be?

I pulled the fabric out and found this on the selvedge. Well, 2002 would be about the year I bought a dress at Marshall’s for $5. This dress, which later became a skirt that is still sitting in my closet.

Shamash & Sons

$5 Mica Dress from Marshall’s, Bought Circa 2004

I snapped photos of it, and when I got home, I showed them to Good Man. “Do you remember this?”


I dug through my scrap stash, where I still had pieces of the top half of the dress, because I use them for my fabric scrap books. I brought it to him. “Now?”

“Oh. yeah, that dress you wore when we were first dating.”

“Look,” I said, lining up the iPod with the fabric swatch. “That’s the same fabric, isn’t it?”

“It is.” Good Man smiled. “You should buy it!”

“I’m supposed to sew six things, and it’s not on sale right now.”

“Amanda, go buy it.”

The next day, I bought what was left on the bolt. I also called the other two stores. Neither of them have the fabric. I don’t know if this is old stock or new stock or what, but I now have five and a quarter yards of it.

Five and a Quarter Yards

Steady March: Spring Chores

When we toured our house, one of the planks on the steps was a little jiggly. Over time, it became loose, and a few days ago I tripped over it and it came off entirely.

I had images of getting sued or breaking my ankle, so we continued the Steady March this weekend with some minor work outside.

The wood supports on the steps had cracked. We secured them with a little glue and then used 3″ deck screws to secure the step again. The previous owner used 1 1/2″ screws. The steps are an inch thick. They make “deck screws” for a reason…

Missing Step



Good Man worked on cutting some ivy and clearing some drains while I worked on digging things out.

In our driveway, there was a large hunk of concrete with Air Jordan in it. It was about three feet by a foot and a half. Mom said I wouldn’t be able to get it out without using a sledgehammer, but she didn’t realize how thin the chunk was. I removed some smaller pieces (you can see the space they occupied) and then used the shovel to dig the large piece out.

The yellow spray paint marks the gas line, and Good Man was terrified I’d hit it, but I knew it wasn’t that close to the surface and everything worked out fine.

Air Jordan


Ready for the Trash

In the front yard we had several large pieces of slate. They didn’t start anywhere or go anywhere, so I removed them. Below you only see half of the slate. I found several more pieces that were completely overgrown and took those out, too. I put them all in the backyard until I decide what to do with them.

Overgrown Slate

Freeing the Slate

Spring Flowers

It turned really hot last week, and the aircon was out at work. Teaching reading in a 94 F room? Yeah, not so successful.

A few days ago we finally got some rain, and the next day our yard exploded. Perhaps (regular commenter) Jonathan knows what some of these plants are?

I know violets are considered a weed, but I find them much less obnoxious than the ivy growing in our yard and happily welcome them in our yard.

Wild Violets

Confederate Violets (?)

I thought we had onion grass growing, but then these translucent white flowers appeared. They are so pretty!

White Flowers

I thought we would get a lot of daffodils (or something!) from the early bulbs that sprang out of the ground several months ago, but we got exactly one flower from them.

The rest of the stands are flowerless. I know our house was put up for sale in late March of last year. They mowed the lawn for the photos, and I think they might have “blinded” the bulbs for this year. I’ll see what happens next year, since I haven’t mowed them down yet.

Single Flower


When Mom came for a visit, she bought us a very Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree-like Japanese Maple. We planted it behind the big rock in our front yard.

Good Man and I also bought a two-in-one Asian pear tree and planted it in the backyard.

Trees are definitely an exercise in patience. I was afraid neither had survived our whacky winder, but then we got a spell of hot weather and some rain!


Japanese Maple

Asian Pear Tree

The established trees are also starting to bloom.


Dogwood Flowers

Storm Coming Up

Wildcat Mountain Hike

Yesterday Good Man and I went somewhere new for a hike. We went to Wildcat Mountain, which I thought was far away since we passed through two counties to get to it. However, it ended up being only five minutes farther than Riverbend, which is in the same county that we’re in!

The hike started with a half mile of switchbacks and wow, we need to start going out west more to get some more incline practice. Once we made it to the top, the path mostly flat.

Not Quite Winter

But Barely Spring

Eventually, you reach two small home sites and a stream that is either human-made or human-directed. I’m not sure what the bricks/stones were near the top of the stream. A well? Old foundation?

Near the Stream

Very Green Pond

Twist in the Tree

The home sites were interesting, and I wondered if the second site (the stone one) was actually intended to be a house since it had no windows and very low ceilings. I thought it might be a cellar or something like that instead.

Wildcat Mountain Home Site



Broken Windows


Second Home Site

Wooden Latch

Under the stairs, I found this. The beginning of a new nest? An abandoned one? While we were there, no insects appeared.


Apparently there are wild turkeys in the area, and we could hear them but couldn’t see them. I really wanted to see a wild turkey!

We stopped for lunch near the end of the hike. Because the trees were still bare, we had a tiny bit of a view (mountains to one side, and farms to the other), but this hike wasn’t really a hike for views. It was a hike for the hand-built stone wall and homes.

In the dead of summer, I think this would be a great place to go to cool off since there are so many trees.

Near the Picnic Site

Stone Wall

While we were there, a runner passed up three times in the opposite direction. While we were eating, we chatted with two people who walked by with a clipboard and a road-measuring wheel. They were working on a guidebook for the PATC and said that the runner told them he was up there most weekends, and he’d been there since seven. It was noon when they told us this.

Good Man and I made it back to our car, passing several couples and families on the way up. We had read that it wasn’t a busy trail, it was pretty busy!

I liked the hike and expect to visit again this summer.