Saturday, September 11, 2010

Just in the Nick of Time

It was two days prior to the start of a new school year and I was beginning to question the steadfast budgeting standards I had set. My main home improvement project of the summer had been to replace all the old windows in our house (there were six of them). John had helped me finish most of three of them, but three remained and I knew it wouldn't be a good idea to start on my own after school started since I didn't really know how to do it myself and a gaping hole indefinitely in the side of our house probably wouldn't be the wisest move.

But there was another obstacle underlying my fear of diving into a project alone... our Lowes coupon hadn't arrived yet. Whenever we embark on a large project, we're sure to obtain one of Lowes' "golden ticket" coupons- a blanket 10% off on entire purchases. They used to be freely distributed at the post office but it seems that the downturned economy has altered that policy somewhat. And yet I couldn't bring myself to do what would be a $700 project without that coupon knowing that SOMEHOW there must be a way of obtaining one of the coupons. Joo's sister Jusu had moved to a new apartment and had signed us up for her Lowes coupon but it yet to arrive. So I had waited for two weeks and now school was a mere two days away, and like I said, I was beginning to question my rigid standards- should I compromise and just pay the full price so we didn't have to deal with windows that were rusted shut and draft for another winter? (shown below; yes I could have cleared all arachnids out, but the window tracks were beyond repair)

I had decided NOT to compromise and just resigned myself to waiting until Spring, figuring that I could certainly get a coupon by then. And then it came! The tricky part was that I would have to buy ALL the supplies for all three windows even though I wanted to just buy the stuff for one window and see if I could handle it first. But there was no time to ramble down one of my internal monologue marathons that can last for weeks over difficult decisions (making decisions has always been a particularly hard thing for me). So I bought it all. At 90% of the price of course :)

The first hammer smash at taking out the old frame was a bit nerveracking, but invigorating at the same time.

The hardest part about the project was choosing my leverage points. I needed to use various points for leverage to rip out the old frame, but I had to be careful not to bash out or bang up something that I needed to remain intact. After numerous close calls, I finally got the old frame out, made a new frame, and then set the new window in. At that moment, my memory is a bit fuzzy, but I believe there was a glorious chorus of angels harmonizing around us (perhaps you heard them from wherever you live?).

Yes, I had already put in a new floor, a new roof, some drywall, and some other random projects, but all of those had help, or at least supervision, of someone who knew what they were doing. Seeing the final product of the three windows in filled me with a sense of euphoria and self-confidence. But most of all, relief, at the fact that I completed it all in the final hours before going to sleep on the eve of my first day back to grad school. That way, the musical flow of a differential equations lecture the next morning at 8:00 had free reign in my brain and didn't have to compete with worries about how I was going to prevent squirrels from running through a hole in the side of our house.
Speaking of the freedom of release, it's been an odd past couple years with me in terms of friendships. There's a part of me that wants to set up regular, dependable meeting times with a close guy friend like I've had in most times throughout my life. Sort of accountability meetings perhaps to keep me moving towards my goals. And I think I've become rather attached to that idea, which hasn't materialized. But when I look back at the past two years since leaving Korea, I've met with close friends quite frequently... the only problem is it tends to be random, sporadic meetings. For example, a couple days ago Alex Friel called up and said he'd be near Athens and wanted to swing by. Of course I was delighted to see him again but it's always been hard for me to enjoy a good thing with the knowledge that it will end soon, especially when I'm not sure when the next time will come. So I guess it boils down to that elusive ability to savor one's blessings without attaching to them. Except for my relationship with Joo- I think that's one thing I'm fine staying attached to in my Jebudhi approach to life (Jebudhi comprises the Love of Jesus, the Peace of Buddha, and the Compassion of Gandhi).
Speaking of blessings, one of the best parts about my grad program so far has been my advisor, Bob Klein. He kicked the year off with one of his famous parties (but this was the first time I had been invited, so it was a true honor to mingle with his eclectic mix of colleagues). Wanting to spice up the party a bit, Joo and I brought some red ginseng...

And on that note, another school year began (for me -- Joo's still got another couple weeks before her culinary program starts up, although she did receive her chef's uniform and hat in the mail and looks quite dazzling in them!) This quarter is the third in a row for me that is packed solid with classes I truly enjoy. Perhaps the most challenging one will be Coding Theory; an exciting fulfillment of a boyhood fantasy to learn how to make and break secret codes (but this will be a bit more abstract and sophisticated then the evolving writing system I created to encrypt all the secret portions of my journals throughout my twenties).

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