Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Two years ago, we decided to redo our deck. We thought we could just replace the flooring. But when we pulled up the wood, we found extensive dry rot. Which means the home's builder (who I won't name, but is known for its *classic* home style) didn't bother to use pressure-treated wood to build an outdoor structure. The project came to a screeching halt. Later, some friends helped us take out the old wood and replace the frame and floorboards. We used composite on the flooring.

Time passed while we tried to decide what to do for rails and balusters -- and passed and passed. Two years later, we decided to use wood rails and aluminum balusters, along with copper post caps and solar post cap lights. It took two grueling, sun-baked, god-awful-hot weekends, but we finally completed our deck. And added a couple of brightly colored wood Adirondack chairs and side table for kicking back and enjoying an iced tea or beer.

I've never been much of a do-it-yourselfer. I'm not exactly handy with tools -- especially power tools. But it feels pretty good to walk out and see something I helped build. It's quite an accomplishment.

Monday, August 04, 2008

What I did this summer

I've been able to read for as long as I can remember. I could read when I started kindergarten. In 4th grade, I was reading at a college level, according to the standardized tests. That's not to brag, just to say that reading has always been easy for me -- and a pleasure -- and the thought of not having that is almost beyond my comprehension.

So, with some extra time on my hands this summer, I decided to volunteer as a tutor for the Children's Literacy Center. I worked one-on-one with two different children at Adams Elementary School: a six-year-old boy and a nine-year-old girl. I tutored each kid for an hour a day, twice a week, using the Children's Literacy Center's Peak Reader program. It made my job easy. I just had to follow the curriculum and lessons in the book. The most fun was doing flash cards with the kids. Some days, the boy I worked with was a little wound up so we would go out in the hallway with the flash cards. When he read a word correctly, I would have him hop forward or spin around or do some other activity. By the time he'd read all the cards, he'd be ready to sit down and do a lesson.

I find it interesting to think about learning to read. Think of the English language and all the crazy "rules" it has. Then look at a word like "said." How does that fit in anywhere? How does "ai" make an "eh" sound? Or think about "two" which sounds like "to" and "too." Why is there a "w" in that word? In our sessions, we called these kind of words "naughty" because they don't follow any rules. You just have to remember it. It gets crazy when you think about it for too long.

By the end of our eight weeks together, the kids had learned the words on their flash cards and were doing well reading on their own. I hope they learned a lot and are ready for school to start. I know I am a better person because of the experience. I'm sure I got as much out of as they did.

At the end of it all, we had a party with cookies and games and lots of smiles. I have a picture of myself with the two kids, all of us smiling and really enjoying ourselves. The boy I tutored wrote me a note that said, "I love you Pam." It almost made me cry.

I'll be tutoring again in the fall. I don't know if it'll be with the same kids or different ones. But I'm sure it will be rewarding. It feels good to think I've made a small difference in these kids' lives, even if it was just for the fact that someone took time out of her day to spend it with them.