Keeping Track

I come from people who keep track of everything: groceries to get, bills to pay, upcoming events, the day’s experiences, and past events.

As a young woman, my mom kept a diary that noted what mattered in her days: starting a novena and that a guy she was dating was kind of full of himself (they were happily married for 67 years anyhow). WE’RE AT WAR! she wrote in December 1941. Later in life, she recorded the weather daily on small pads of paper she kept next to the sofa. At her funeral, my cousins told me my uncle (her brother) had also kept meticulous notes—some about his garden, others about the weather. We marveled at the shared habit.

When my mother-in-law recently moved, at least 20 years’ worth of journals turned up. I was aware of her habit because she often asked how to spell something we’d served for dinner. Cioppino or ratatouille. She enjoyed keeping notes about what we ate and did during visits.

I’ve gotten an extra measure of documenting genes. Off and on since high school, I’ve kept personal journals in which I work out confusing feelings. I also make entries in a gratitude journal to remind myself of what’s good and right in my world despite the pandemic and trying political times. I document garden plans—what’s planted where and ideas for next year’s garden. I have lists of books I want to read along with books I’ve already read and what I thought of them. When dieting, I keep track of my exercise and meals.

I’m not alone in those habits, but for me, it doesn’t stop there. I have a ridiculous number of notes in my phone app. Supposedly 194 of them, but that can’t be right! Poems I like, blog ideas, writing tips, ideas for pottery projects, a list of lawn chemicals that won’t harm birds and pollinators, the steps for starting the snow blower. The notes go on and on!

My reasons can be practical. I want to remember something or find it quickly, and my phone is always with me. I tell myself I’m being efficient and orderly . . . but maybe ‘obsessive’ would be more accurate! Other times, keeping track is an emotional impulse. My personal and gratitude journals help me maintain equilibrium.

The habit of keeping track intrigues me. I think there’s something universal, something beyond the practicality of grocery lists, receipts, and calendars. The same impulse that leads people to document their lives on Instagram or Facebook, keeps me writing extensive notes and ongoing journals. It’s what caused my relatives to make daily diary entries.

As far as I know, my mom didn’t consult her weather notes after the fact. My uncle might have looked up which kind of tomatoes did well. I don’t know if my mother-in-law refers to her notes to remind herself of a previous year’s Christmas dinner. I suspect she doesn’t.

I believe the impulse to keep track is a way of saying, “I was here. My life matters. To me.”

What do you keep track of?

Our Handyman, Tim

Tim 004This is not a paid advertisement.

On April 28th, an article in the Star Tribune written by Paul Muschick stated that in 2012 the home repair industry was the most-inquired-about industry at the Better Business Bureau (BBB). It was also the second-most-complained about.

My family is lucky we found Tim.

When you have children you acquire (whether or not you want it) – a calendar – that posts events in your mind that are Before Kids or After Kids.  Tim belongs in the Before Kids category.

Our relationship started simply enough. Leaving the YWCA in Uptown, Jody lifted his business card off of the advertisement board. We were dating then. She had witnessed my attempt to block birds from nesting inside the air vents on the roof. Thank goodness a storm blew through Richfield breaking my windows and leaving me with hail damage. Insurance would pay for a new roof and I’d have to hire someone to do the work.

Tim, Antonio, Crystel

Tim, Antonio, Crystel

I had a history of floundering as a homeowner. An electrician I had asked to make a repair in the bathroom mangled an outlet and the wallpaper. It was never the same again. The contractor I hired to put on the new roof was unable, even after many attempts, to fix the leak on the porch roof.

Finally, I put a cake pan inside the ceiling to catch the dripping water.

Until Tim came.

Tim smiled, handed me my cake pan.

He fixed the leak and has been with us for over ten years. We’ve had him longer than we’ve had the children. I think of us as growing up together: Tim, Jody and me, Antonio and Crystel.

Our relationship has matured to the point where we keep a running list of any repairs we need done and schedule him in the spring and fall. Tim lets himself in and finds the list on the counter.

004I look around our home and there is little that he hasn’t touched. He’s painted and tiled, painted and tiled. Put in an egress, trimmed trees, planted trees, tilled our garden, put up fences, taken down fences, removed the window that kept slamming on Crystel’s hand and in its place put in a patio door. He’s taken apart and put together exercise equipment, desks, futons, and beds. He’s put in windows, taken out windows, the same with doors.  He’s tuned up what needs tuning in the spring and fall.

I have even had him change light bulbs.

Jody couldn’t believe that. She said she could do it. I told her, that I knew that she could but that it goes on the list and if it wasn’t done by the time Tim came then he’d do it. Now she’s a believer. The kids are too. When something needs repair, even a toy, they say, Tim can fix that and we put it on the list.

Tim working on our porch project

Tim working on our porch project

Tim is a person of few words. He never said anything when I had him make a jungle gym on the second floor for the kids. If I could imagine it, he could do it. They had a swing, a climbing rope, trapeze bars. He never said a word when I had him take apart Crystel’s bunk bed and move it to the finished basement letting her transform her closet into a cave. Hopefully, he’ll have few words when I have him bring the bunkbed back to her room.

Phone May 2013 344Our latest project has been changing our 3-season porch into a 4-season and taking down the wall between the kitchen and the porch. First, he added new windows and a door on the east side, then he added windows to the west side, and he just finished the mudroom – from conception to completion. The couch he built has storage underneath the cushions.

Next year the wall will come down.

In-between the large projects, Tim has lists.

This summer, if all goes as planned, he will be working with Antonio and Crystel to build a tree house in the backyard. We wanted someone to show the ten-year-olds how to use tools. Who do you call for that? Tim, of course.

The BBB advises homeowners to take the time to choose a trustworthy contractor.

What I like most of all is that at any given time, I have a home that I am proud of.

I have Jody and a handyman to thank for that.  Email timschwartz@wwt.net for an appointment.