Friday, February 26, 2010

7 Things They Didn't Tell Me Before I Moved to Colorado

1. The Alaska/Hawaii Effect
The above picture is a good illustration of the kinds of things you learn only by living in a place. It's not something folks from Texas would even think about when buying a house. But it turns out that the direction your house faces up here matters a lot. North and west facing homes are stuck shoveling snow. South and east facers get enough sun to do the job for them. The little kids in elementary school will tell you, one side of the street is "Alaska" and the other is "Hawaii": snow piles directly across from grass yards, up and down every street you drive in the winter. We lucked out and bought on the right side of the street.

2. The Fizz/Boil Effect
You've seen the "high altitude" baking instructions on your packages, but this extends to the amount of soda fizz you will pour into your cup as well as melting things in the microwave. It takes me more than 10 minutes to make queso in the microwave here, almost twice the time it ran me in Texas. The fizz in soda goes down very slowly and typically will be about half of the glass. I'm guessing beer on tap has a similar reaction. Bartenders must be very patient.

3. Car Registration
Alright, everything in Colorado costs a fortune, but this one beats all. $55.00 in Texas for the annual car tags? Don't ever complain. It was more than $500 for my Honda. It's a sliding scale, so once you're vehicle is older than 10 years, you've got it made. But new? Forgetaboutit.

4. Snow Days
When we moved up here, we expected lots of snow days. In three years we've had exactly three and those came this October in a row in record snowfall. Students are like the mailmen, they go in anything. The best you get is an hour delay when a foot or more has fallen. And no, you don't use chains, ever. Giant semi's use them on the sloped Interstate in ice, but no one has them on regular cars. You just learn to take it easy, slide a bit, and brake long before you might need to. Life does not shut down when it snows here.

5. Football Stadiums
Ok, yes, Texas High School football is in a league of its own; we knew that. But what shocked us was that many of the high school fields here are one-sided. Both teams' spectators sit together, with no seats across the field. It's just weird. There's still some attempt at segregation, as typically each team's fans divide at the 50 yard line, but it's just not the same.

6. Birds
The crows up here will eat chihuahuas for dinner. They are stinking huge! Five times the size of the crows in Texas, at least. They are downright scary. And why in the heck are there lone seagulls zooming about? On the flip side, I do love the Canadian geese. They spread out by the hundreds on snowy fields and make such a lovely racket honking on the move.

7. Snow, yes. Rain, no.
It very rarely rains here. The air is too dry, so that when clouds drop their load, its absorbed into the dry air before it hits the ground. I miss the sound of rain terribly. We get serious thunder and lightening storms, the kind that shake the house like an earthquake, and you sometimes won't ever see a drop from them. I'll still take the trade off, though. The snow is still magical, the summers are amazing, the fall colors breathtaking. But I miss the rain.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Quirky idol

Siobhan Magnus: what a cool name! (Irish of Jeanne, feminine of John, "God is gracious) But what really made me love her was seeing that Gashlycrumb Tinies tattoo. And a Chris Isaac song, yes, yes, yes, I'm there.

However, Crystal is my favorite quirky girl this season. Can't stand Alanis' voice, love the lyrics, so good choice. And with that Melissa Etheridge autographed guitar and harmonica... Rock on Quirky Girls!!
Sunday, February 21, 2010

What I Do

I've not been an English instructor for nearly two years now, but what I do in its place is something less easy to explain. Most people guess incorrectly at what I do when I tell them I am a warranty administrator.

Basically, car manufacturers warranty their new vehicles so that when you have something not working correctly, provided it is manufacturer's defect and not from outside influences, you can drive your vehicle to the dealership, get it fixed, and not pay for the repair. The dealership is left have to go to the manufacturer and prove that it was defective and therefore the dealer should be reimbursed for their labor and parts by the maker. Of course, the manufacturers will be passing that cost back to their vendors who make too many of a particular defective part and the cycle continues.

Where I come in is the connection between the dealership and the manufacturer. I'm the person who makes sure the claim will hold up to the maker's scrutiny, navigate the endless hoops required for reimbursement, and get the money back on the dealer's books as quickly as possible.

My specialty right now is Mercedes Benz and Audi, but I've done Cadillac (GM in general), Porsche, Land Rover, Jaguar, Hyundai, and Volkswagon. My company processes every maker, but each administrator tends to specialize in a few so they can keep up with all the nuances and requirements. Every manufacturer's system, mandates, and "hoops" are different. And most of the dealers' systems operate on a handful of different interfaces as well, and NONE talk to each other with any efficiency. This industry is SOOO ripe for someone who can learn the needs of the system and write code that could adapt between car lines and maker's website interfaces.

In a nutshell, here's the life of a claim when its in my hands:

1. The car is at the dealership with a complaint. The story must reflect the specific complaint that brought it in and the repair must be related to that complaint. You find something else wrong? New line, new repair, called an add-on, which requires the manager's approval in writing.

2. The tech has to figure out what part is actually defective. I have to make sure that part is covered under the warranty, and the story of the repair has to reflect all the work that went into correcting the problem. The tech has to punch the time he took on each individual repair and I have to make sure he has the time to justify what we are going to charge the manufacturer for.

3. I have to find the labor operation codes for each thing he did, code it, and link it, for Mercedes, to a damage code. The Benz Germans brought in three different translation teams to convert their words to English for the damage code group, one for the labor operations group, and one for the parts. AND THEY DIDN'T CONFER WITH ONE ANOTHER. So what the tech is calling something may have three different names in labor, damage, and part wording. I have to put all of those together and find each piece of the puzzle. Once I've worked out the puzzle, I plug each piece in to its respective place in the dealer's system, and close the claim, so that the money hits the books, waiting for a credit from the maker to balance out those books.

4. I have to transfer those claims over to the manufacturer's system and then tweak them, because the two systems are nothing alike and things have to be moved around, some things added along the way, to get it paid. I then submit it and hope it appears as a payment on the next morning's credit note. Sometimes there are problems and it gets sent back to me to continue to work out the puzzle of how to get each claim paid.

5. I post the payments, run the schedule showing things that have been closed and not yet paid, or claims that have been paid and didn't pay what I closed them for, and make adjustments to send those credit or debits back to the correct accounts within the dealership. Example: Mercedes pays different handling credits depending on the model year. The dealership's system can't adapt to different amounts, so about half the payments on the parts are more money that we have on our books. I have to send that extra money back to parts to get it off my schedule and balance that claim out to zero.

I do this for each claim, for each of the dealerships I serve, which currently include ones in California, Alaska, and Michigan. Those dealerships probably generate about 25-30 claims a day that I'm working on. I'm also the assistant warranty administrator on the largest Cadillac/Hummer dealer in the world. They have more than 150claims each day. And a claim can have from one to twenty different repairs, each its own issues and problems.

It's an interesting job, one that now allows me to work from home, and one that is never the same from day to day. I've learned tons about cars, ten keys, and accounting I never would have discovered otherwise. My research and problem solving skills have served me well in this new career. And other than nightmarish end of month (when all the books need to be closed on ALL the repairs done that month, even the nastiest ones, before midnight of the last day of the month), I've honestly enjoyed it.

I have become very partial to Mercedes vehicles due to my time with them. I can tell you about the seat massage feature, the aluminum backed full wood grain trim throughout, the incredible navigation features than include night vision displays to see things out in the dark, headlights that sense curves and alter their course for you, and sensors that alter the seat position, head restraint, and seatbelt tension within 2 seconds to protect you in a crash. In stop and go traffic? Your car can lock on the vehicle in front of you and alter your speed to stay in the same position behind that vehicle without you touching the pedals. You can choose the option where you engine is made from start to finish by a single engineer, one set of hands until it reaches your car. Ah, to be rich.

More than you probably ever wanted to know, about Mercedes or my job, but there it is.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pablo, e.e., et al

I admit I have become just a bit obsessive with my StumbleUpon account. I am now peeking into complete strangers' lists who seem to match my own interests, but this is just because I don't know anyone else with their own SU account. So what follows is a smattering of poetry pages I've "favorited" since starting out.

Turns out, there were some poets that I knew I liked, and some I was surprised at. (And I somehow marked three different pages with cumming's "I carry your heart" so I must really have a thing for that one.)

XVII (I do not love you...)
I do not love you as if you were salt, or rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
~Pablo Neruda

Poem 20

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example, "The night is starry
and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance."

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is starry and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another's. She will be another's. As she was before my kisses.
Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.

If You Forget Me

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine
~Pablo Neruda

Because of you, in gardens of blossoming flowers I ache from the
perfumes of spring.
I have forgotten your face, I no longer remember your hands;
how did your lips feel on mine?
Because of you, I love the white statues drowsing in the parks,
the white statues that have neither voice nor sight.
I have forgotten your voice, your happy voice; I have forgotten
your eyes.
Like a flower to its perfume, I am bound to my vague memory of
you. I live with pain that is like a wound; if you touch me, you will
do me irreparable harm.
Your caresses enfold me, like climbing vines on melancholy walls.
I have forgotten your love, yet I seem to glimpse you in every
Because of you, the heady perfumes of summer pain me; because
of you, I again seek out the signs that precipitate desires: shooting
stars, falling objects.
~Pablo Neruda

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

~e.e. cummings

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

~e.e. cummings

You are tired,

(I think)

Of the always puzzle of living and doing;

And so am I.

Come with me, then,

And we'll leave it far and far away—

(Only you and I, understand!)

You have played,

(I think)

And broke the toys you were fondest of,

And are a little tired now;

Tired of things that break, and—

Just tired.

So am I.

But I come with a dream in my eyes tonight,

And knock with a rose at the hopeless gate of your heart—

Open to me!

For I will show you the places Nobody knows,

And, if you like,

The perfect places of Sleep.

Ah, come with me!

I'll blow you that wonderful bubble, the moon,

That floats forever and a day;

I'll sing you the jacinth song

Of the probable stars;

I will attempt the unstartled steppes of dream,

Until I find the Only Flower,

Which shall keep (I think) your little heart

While the moon comes out of the sea.

~e.e. cummings
since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis
~e.e. cummings

Suffer me gently in your dreams.

My somnambulant sighs

Will warm the edges of your bed.

Embrace my morphic specter,

Kiss illusory lips

That whisper to a sleeping ear.

Dreams are like the life

Unlived and forgot

That haunt our deconstructed lives.

Suffer me gently in your dreams

Caress illusion

And never doubt reality.

The great pain of things that will happen
turned into the most exquisite pleasure
when among a thousand photos that were displayed,
I had the grace and fortune of seeing you.

The kisses and the loving that was loved
recklessly from yours and my desire
flowering once again, will shine
in the misty light of daybreak.

The blessed past which was so cruel
and joyful today presents itself as tender
and makes my voice resonate again.

To exalt the resurrected love
that feeds on memory images,
changes the horror into sweetness.
~Carlos Drummond de Andrade

I sit and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all
oppression and shame,
I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men at anguish with
themselves, remorseful after deeds done,
I see in low life the mother misused by her children, dying,
neglected, gaunt, desperate,
I see the wife misused by her husband, I see the treacherous seducer
of young women,
I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love attempted to be
hid, I see these sights on the earth,
I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny, I see martyrs and
I observe a famine at sea, I observe the sailors casting lots who
shall be kill’d to preserve the lives of the rest,
I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon
laborers, the poor, and upon negroes, and the like;
All these–all the meanness and agony without end I sitting look out upon,
See, hear, and am silent.
~Walt Whitman


I would liken you
To a night without stars
Were it not for your eyes.
I would liken you
To a sleep without dreams
Were it not for your songs.
~Langston Hughes

Where will I rediscover you
and will I?
The question sits on all the lips of those
who lie in bed alone. You is/are the name
each of us give to what we love the most
or what we have not, will not know.

And it is almost always that One, absent,
Gone, through circumstance
or happenstance.
Where did I lose you and when? Did it
Happen even as we knew we were
discovering each other that first time.
Was loss a piece of swelling
big as the enlarging heart?

Sweet basil growing greener reaches up
and through the grass like weeds.
Mallards form a rope across the sky
coming from the south in secret.
Cinnamon Teal bring up the rear.

An early thaw has made all canyons
into rivulets.
The daisies saying love me now
or love me not.
If I have thought about you more than
now it must have been some other me
living in a different heartbreak house
surrounded by some other hedge of memory.

I have been to town and back, to Greece
in dreams and in reality. To far shore,
near field, streets between and always I
have sought you out; on yellow days in
yellowed pages, through rages of the mind
and heart. I do not start out on a trip to
corner or beyond without you for you
have never left my head or would be heart.

Where will I come upon you, if I do?
Perhaps in death or life again. When?
Perhaps not ever, what then? I'll give
It another day, a week. Another month.
A lifetime more or less, then I'll give up.

~Rod McKuen

Nothing is ever really lost, or can be lost,
No birth, identity, form--no object of the world.
Nor life, nor force, nor any visible thing;
Appearance must not foil, nor shifted sphere confuse thy brain.
Ample are time and space--ample the fields of Nature.
The body, sluggish, aged, cold--the embers left from earlier fires,
The light in the eye grown dim, shall duly flame again;
The sun now low in the west rises for mornings and for noons continual;
To frozen clods ever the spring's invisible law returns,
With grass and flowers and summer fruits and corn.
~Walt Whitman

When You Are Old

WHEN you are old and gray and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face among a crowd of stars.

~William Butler Yeats


Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
~W. S. Merwin

From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then- in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life- was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold,
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.
~Edgar Allen Poe

How to Create an Agnostic

Singing with my son,

I clapped my hands
Just as lightning struck.

It was dumb luck.

But my son, awed, thought
I’d created the electricity.

He asked, “Dad, how'd you do that?”

Before I could answer,
thunder shook the house

And set off neighborhood car alarms.

“Dad,” he said. “Can you burn
down that tree outside my window?

The one that looks like a giant owl?”

O, my little disciple, my one boy choir,
I can’t do that

because your father,
your half-assed messiah,

is afraid of fire.

~Sherman Alexie

How shall I hold on to my soul, so that
it does not touch yours? How shall I lift
it gently up over you on to other things?
I would so very much like to tuck it away
among long lost objects in the dark
in some quiet unknown place, somewhere
which remains motionless when your depths resound.
And yet everything which touches us, you and me,
takes us together like a single bow,
drawing out from two strings but one voice.
On which instrument are we strung?
And which violinist holds us in the hand?
O sweetest of songs.

~Rainer Maria Rilke

Missing Scenes

She knows at once the spaces
where stories grow. The chance mention
of some frontier planet,

or a lost love. Something unresolved.
Five days a man spends off-camera.
Whatever happens

out of sight, implied in a glance,
she can fill the gap. She sees them
everywhere now,

the missing scenes, she can’t read
a book or watch a film
without shaping sequels,

nor leave a man or woman
a corner of shadow
or a blank page.

That day off sick, the week
away on business; who knows?
What couldn’t you do

in three years at college, twenty
in a crap job, a fortnight’s
escape each summer?

When she thinks, these days,
of her life, it seems to be
all missing scenes

where something should have happened,
but when she looks for the stories,
they won’t come.

~Sheenagh Pugh

The Just

A man who cultivates his garden, as Voltaire wished.
He who is grateful for the existence of music.
He who takes pleasure in tracing an etymology.
Two workmen playing, in a cafe in the South, a silent game of chess.
The potter, contemplating a color and a form.
The typographer who sets this page well, though it may not please him.
A woman and a man, who read the last tercets of a certain canto.
He who strokes a sleeping animal.
He who justifies, or wishes to, a wrong done him.
He who is grateful for the existence of Stevenson.
He who prefers others to be right.
These people, unaware, are saving the world.
~Jorge Luis Borges

Boys and Girls Together
Boys don't want to be princes.
Boys want to be shepherds who slay dragons,
maybe someone gives you half a kingdom and a princess,
but that's just what comes of being a shepherd boy
and slaying a dragon. Or a giant. And you don't really
even have to be a shepherd. Just not a prince.
In stories, even princes don't want to be princes,
disguising themselves as beggars or as shepherd boys,
leaving the kingdom for another kingdom,
princehood only of use once the ogre's dead, the tasks are done,
and the reluctant king, her father, needing to be convinced.

Boys do not dream of princesses who will come for them.
Boys would prefer not to be princes,
and many boys would happily kiss the village girls,
out on the sheep-moors, of an evening,
over the princess, if she didn't come with the territory.
Princesses sometimes disguise themselves as well,
to escape the kings' advances, make themselves ugly,
soot and cinders and donkey girls,
with only their dead mothers' ghosts to aid them,
a voice from a dried tree or from a pumpkin patch.
And then they undisguise, when their time is upon them,
gleam and shine in all their finery. Being princesses.
Girls are secretly princesses.

None of them know that one day, in their turn,
Boys and girls will find themselves become bad kings
or wicked stepmothers,aged woodcutters,
ancient shepherds, mad crones and wise-women,
to stand in shadows, see with cunning eyes:
The girl, still waiting calmly for her prince.
The boy, lost in the night, out on the moors.
~Neil Gaiman

Friday, February 12, 2010
All people are broken.
Some shattered.

But the truly dangerous ones
are those who have chosen to be irreparable.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Lost Garden

The Lost Garden

If ever we see those gardens again,
The summer will be gone—at least our summer.
Some other mockingbird will concertize
Among the mulberries, and other vines
Will climb the high brick wall to disappear.

How many footpaths crossed the old estate—
The gracious acreage of a grander age—
So many trees to kiss or argue under,
And greenery enough for any mood.
What pleasure to be sad in such surroundings.

At least in retrospect. For even sorrow
Seems bearable when studied at a distance,
And if we speak of private suffering,
The pain becomes part of a well-turned tale
Describing someone else who shares our name.

Still, thinking of you, I sometimes play a game.
What if we had walked a different path one day,
Would some small incident have nudged us elsewhere
The way a pebble tossed into a brook
Might change the course a hundred miles downstream?

The trick is making memory a blessing,
To learn by loss the cool subtraction of desire,
Of wanting nothing more than what has been,
To know the past forever lost, yet seeing
Behind the wall a garden still in blossom.

~ Dana Gioia
Tuesday, February 9, 2010


I had a really rare moment this weekend, one completely to myself, which of course I now feel compelled to share with the blogosphere.

Sunday was a gray, overcast day, the kind where the wind cuts more sharply because of the humidity, and your bones ache. It was the perfect weather to venture out alone to roam around old haunts.

What I wasn't prepared for was the kind of rolling waves of sadness and memories that built on themselves. The haunting Brio site, where we played softball and lined up along the new houses for parades, all gone, bulldozed into the toxic ground; San Jacinto where my grandaddy went to my summer psych class to talk about his early books on reflexology in one of his last outings before he lost most of his memory; Memorial Hospital that opened my junior year when I wanted to be a candy striper, but only if I could work in the ER (which didn't have volunteers assigned) so I quit; the Blake house where Trent's band practiced; across from Melissa's house, who hated me and seemed to conspire to cut me down every chance she had; the park where Jimmie asked to "go together" after meeting at the Skate Ranch the night before; the MUD building where we had girlscout meetings before Cindy's mom got sick with cancer and passed away; Steph's parents house and all the nights I spent there; that killer bike ride to Marty's house; the "back" way around to Meador, long gone, with the spooky crumbling house we dared each other to run up to; the basketball courts behind Lance's house; the field behind Dobie where Daddy and I flew box kites we'd made; the 7-11 where I rode my bike alone; the ditches I played in; it just rolled on and on until it had built up and burst forth by the time I hit Sageville. The second house on the left burned down one night. I remember mammammy waking me up in the middle of the night to come see. The people rebuilt in a newer style (at the time) and it sticks out oddly now, an old house among older houses. I remember every house on that street I'd trudged up to in order to sell girl scout cookies door to door; every kid I played with; or babysat, or the older teens I shyly watched from the house came rushing back to me. But the tipping point was my attic window. I took one look at it and the tears just started rolling. God, I loved that attic. Mom's old stained glass stuff all over the table up there in the little room; poking through the rafters to pull out old toys in cardboard boxes; making a cool hangout that could only be enjoyed a few days out of the year when it wasn't sweltering or freezing up there; the narrow built-in staircase inside the utility room where Alicia slept and the overhead door that dropped into the floor. It was just an old dark window pane, but it meant everything to me in that moment.

Five big trucks parked all over the place, boarded up windows, peeling ugly brown paint, missing trees, it's all so ugly and horrible, but that little window was just beautiful, and I realized that's why I was crying.