Monday, December 13 2021

back to school, window removal, and burnt salmon

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everybody. Happy Monday. From my desk in the dining room, I can hear the quiet dribbling of the fish tank in the corner. I can hear the churning of the nearby construction site at the end of my block. I can hear cars whizzing by where our side street meets East Washington. It's a beautiful day today, and I feel like writing and drinking coffee.

Sip. Big news today. Rodney is finally back at school. He came down with a cough a week and a half ago, then his first set of COVID tests results were lost. We took him to get another test, and this time the results came back the next day. Finally, he had a reason to put on more than just a pair of underwear today.

He was beaming when he came down the stairs this morning, taking his usual seat at the table in front of a little bowl of Captain Crunch and a glass of cold milk.

"Dude, people are gonna go nuts when you walk into school today," said Marissa. "They're gonna go RODNEY! RODNEY! RODNEY!."

Rodney blushed and shirked into his cereal bowl.

"Dude, here's what you do," I said taking a seat next to him. "When you walk in the room, say Don't call it a comeback.."

We were excited for him to go back to school. Most of all, Rodney needs the outlet for his energy. During this past week while homebound, we've noticed he's been taking longer to fall asleep. He's been complaining about scary dreams at night. He's split his free time between fiddling with his LEGO's and following around me or Marissa. Without school, he's bored and restless.

Most of all, it feels exciting to get back into a normal routine. Lately, my to-do list feels like a death by a thousand cuts, and I feel charged up enough to attack all the little things. Emails. Returns. Slacks. The Calendar. Online paper work. I could probably fill my entire day with five minute tasks that I've been putting off this month, and I very much intend to.

But before we jump into the work day, we had better reflect on the weekend. Last night's Bears game is fresh in my mind. I went to bed with the bad taste of extinguished hope in my mouth, after packing Rodney's lunch of course. The stench of defeat even seeped into Rodney's lunch by way of the napkin doodle. I always try to capture a little piece of the weekend on the Monday napkin doodle, but the game put me in a bad mood and I admittedly got a little carried away.

"You can't give him that napkin," said Marissa, staring down at my drawing. "That's so sad." I penned a cartoon bear with football jersey, sobbing.

Marissa grabbed a second napkin. Fifteen seconds later, we were staring at a simple, friendly snowman.


Football brings out my superstitious side. I see too many parallels between how the Bears play with how the contextual events of my life unfold, and much like last night's game it was a weekend up soaring highs and crushing lows.

For instance, we knocked out another old window. This was the one behind our dryer, half boarded up with wood. It sits right next to the cut-off valve for the hose. In past entries, I've affectionately referred to this dark corner of our basement as the spider hole.


Well, the spider hole got a little less dark this weekend. Marissa made strategic cuts in the metal frame with a hand saw, and the rest was done with a hammer and crowbar. We raced the setting sun and evening chill, grunting and prying at the twisted metal. The rusted frame finally snapped free. I dropped the crowbar at my feet and flopped back into my neighbor's lawn, breathing a sigh of relief.

To date, this was our cleanest DIY basement window removal. We were done in only a few hours. We didn't even need to break the glass. This was one of those soaring highs, like a 97 yard punt return touchdown. The only downside was we both got the yellow, foamy quick drying cement all over our hands, and we learned the hard way that it doesn't come off so easily. My hands are still covered with green and yellow splotches - I really hate that color combination.

But there were some crushing lows too. I bought a salmon fillet from Hy-Vee this weekend. On Saturday night I slipped it into a bag of brine. On Sunday, I carefully arranged the beautiful strips of ruby red fish meat around the grill beside gently lit charcoal topped with cherry wood.


I lifted the lid for the first time four hours later. My heart sank.


Dried. Burnt. Charred and desiccated. A perfectly good salmon fillet rendered into petrified fossils. I'm not sure exactly what happened. I guess I was a little too committed to letting the fish cook undisturbed. Or I was a little too confident at my sense of timing and temperature. Maybe I didn't prepare enough, or I should have made better adjustments for the second half. Thinking of all that fish going to waste stings like back to back Aaron Rodgers touchdowns.

You can't win them all, I guess. That's what I got today. Thanks for stopping by, everyone. I hope you have a great day today.