Sunday, October 20 2019

houses, orchards, cooking, and games

Dear Journal,

Good morning everyone. It's a wonderful Sunday morning. I just spent the morning cleaning up from dinner and straightening up the kitchen before the rest of the family joined me to eat breakfast. We've got a busy family day planned, but before we get to that, let's recap the action-packed weekend we've had thus far.

We left my parents' place in the late morning. The drive was long and dreary, but I rediscovered my love of the Stuff You Should Know podcast, which curtailed my boredom. As Marissa dozed off in the front seat and Rodney stared blankly out the window, I helped myself to the fascinating audio narrated world of "environmental psychology", which apparently is kind of a loose term for the discipline that tries to wrangle together design, psychology, and sociology all to answer the question of how our buildings affect the way we behave. A quote that stuck with me, said famously by Winston Churchill, went "At first we shape our buildings, then they shape us." The context here was when the Nazis bombed the British parliament building and when it came time to rebuild it and resume government operations there, Churchill stubbornly insisted it should be built the exact same way (even though it was on the smaller side before the war). I think I would have liked Churchill.

As I sat in the driver seat staring down the long stretch of Midwestern highway, I thought about our house and how it has shaped the way we live. If I had to update the quote for my experience, I'd say "first we nourish our buildings, then they nourish us." Shape, nourish, defend, protect - all different words for the same moral I think. This property line fiasco, which I'm happy to report is finally winding down, has me thinking a lot about my house I guess. We've been through a lot, and Marissa and I have sacrificed a lot for the sake of this little house behind a Burger King, but there's love here. There's love in the creaky floors, and the hole studded walls, and I can feel it loving and protecting us in return, especially on chilly fall mornings like these.

We returned home with the dogs around 1 PM, giving us about a half hour before we had to get back in the car and meet some friends at an Orchard. They were one of our first friends in Madison, and while we were sad to see them move to Ohio a few years ago, they're one of those people that set an example on how to stay in touch long distance. This weekend, they were passing through Madison and decided to invite some friends to the Orchard.

Despite the thoughtfulness of the invitation, Marissa and I were reluctant. We were tired from the road, and nothing sounded more fun than crashing on the couch. But with the help of a hot shower and a new change of clothes, we rallied, and before long we were on our way.

We spent about a half hour wandering the orchard before we ran into our friends, but all the while our mouths were agape in wonder. They had old tractors, animals, fresh apple cider and apple donuts. After a few minutes of silently marveling, Marissa remarked "well I think this makes up for our last orchard trip." Marissa waited in line to get some cider and donuts, while I took Rodney to climb on the tractors. He proudly sat in the driver sit, flipping levers and wrenching the steering wheel. We scurried over to a wooden cut out train, where he flashed a thumbs-up for the camera looking out the conductor window.

We bumped into Jon over by the animals. Rod climbed out of the red wagon to go study a brave sheep that had wandered over to the fence while Marissa and I caught up with Jon. We were pleased to hear that he and his family are doing well.

As the orchard was closing, we gave Jon a lift to where we was staying. Later I'd meet up with him for game night, but first we had to cook dinner. I dropped Marissa and Rodney off at home, then went to Hy-Vee. Moving quickly to make up for lost time, I picked up tilapia, snapper, corn and beans. I also extemporaneously nabbed a mango and some bell peppers. Remembering how well the tilapia tasted with my pineapple habanero hot sauce, I decided to extend the theme by frying the corn with a spicy mix of mango, pepper, and cilantro with just a splash of hot sauce. It felt good to be in the kitchen again. We ate dinner, Marissa and I put Rodney to bed, then I made my a few blocks across the street for game night.

I knew a few people that were going, but I didn't know the host, which made me feel especially weird just wandering over and letting myself in through the front door. "You must be…?" "ALEX" I replied enthusiastically. "And I brought cookies." That's something nobody told me about baking - bringing cookies is like an awkward social situation immunity. People can only get so annoyed with a guy that brings cookies, right?

Jon's friends greeted me and gave me a seat at the table. They were playing some kind of card game version of Monopoly, but seeing upwards of twelve million dollars in my lap, it was clear the stakes were a lot higher. Calvin smirked as he collected my twelve million dollars in "rent", but the tide must have turned when I used a wild card to snap up a monopoly on water and electric. For a first time robber baron, I think I did pretty well, but it could have been beginner's luck.

We played a few more games and had some more drinks before I bid everyone farewell and made the brisk walk back to my house. Marissa was in the basement busily cutting float frames. I asked her if she wanted to grab some air on the deck.

Yesterday was a great day, and a much needed source of energy for this weekend. Today, we're running errands. We're hoping to hit Target, Home Depot, Hy-Vee, then pick up lunch all before the Bears game this afternoon. Today Marissa and I are going to buy the stuff needed for the IT corner remake. Other than that, just soaking up as many moments at home as we can.

As you should, too. Hope you have a wonderful, relaxing Sunday, and Bear down!