I Built a Patio

Sometimes you have to celebrate an achievement, not because it is perfect, but because it is yours.

I built a stone patio in my backyard, almost entirely by myself.

My orange cat, Lucky, was pretty helpful most of the time.

My orange cat, Lucky, was pretty helpful most of the time.

About six months ago my father brought me some stone pavers that he had left over from his own patio-project in his backyard. He loaded about 50 of them into the bed of his big Dodge truck and hauled them from the Bay Area, where he lives, to the Sierra Foothills, where I live.

We used it as an excuse to get together for dinner. It was good to see him and my step-mom. We ate at New Moon Cafe in Nevada City and had a wonderful evening of food and family.

Before his arrival, I had spent several months pulling weeds and trying to flatten the ground where the pavers would go. When we moved in, our backyard was a jungle of Blackberry and Creeping Charlie. The previous tenants had built a fence around the yard hoping that their dog could run free. But the dog was a jumper and couldn’t be left alone in the yard. It looked like they had tried to start a garden but then ultimately left the yard to its own devices. When we moved in, it was a mess.

After months of pulling weeds and moving dirt, I was finally ready for a patio. I was so excited for the paving stones. I couldn’t wait to lay them down. I thought that a 5 foot by 10 foot patio would be a perfect and quaint size, just the right thing for a couple of chairs and several summer nights of reading.

I put the stones down and looked at my creation. I was sadly underwhelmed.

Just the beginning.

Just the beginning.

Over the next six months we started buying paving stones little by little, whatever we could afford with each paycheck. The patio grew. So did my plans for dimensions. I kept a tally on a pad of paper posted to the fridge. I would write down that we only needed “34 more stones.” Then I would install those 34 stones and expand the project. “Only 16 more stones!” “Only 39 more stones!” This went on and on.

The yard already had a rock retaining wall and a couple of large cherry trees. Eventually, those two landmarks became the perimeters for my patio. I decided to go big and extend the patio the length of the retaining wall and meet the first cherry tree across the yard. Those were my final dimensions.

Last week, I wrote on the notepad on the fridge “Only 24 more stones to go!!” And I meant it.

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Yesterday I went to my local hardware store and drove right into the yard. The guys recognized my car, knew what I wanted, and immediately started to grab the pavers.

They asked, “How many this time? Ten? Twenty? Thirty?”

“Twenty-four,” I replied. “Just twenty-four. This is the last load.” They looked at each other and tried not to shrug with doubt.

For the past six months I have laid the stones one by one. We bought each stone when we could afford them. Sometimes ten, sometimes more.

I started laying the stones by lining them up against a couple of two-by-four scraps propped up on their sides. When I ran out of the stones that my father had brought me, I bought other stones. They were a slightly different dimension than my first set and I had to eyeball for accuracy and a sense of parallel lines. Basically, I had to fudge it.

I started digging up some of the stones I had already laid. I tried to make everything even. I had to move dirt from one side of the yard to the other. Eventually, I got the stones placed.

I got the last stone in place this afternoon. The local Hit Radio station was playing “Eye of the Tiger.” (Seriously!)  It felt really great.

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There are a few stones that are a little too close to each other. There are a couple stones that are a little wonky. Not all the lines across the patio are perfectly parallel. It’s not perfect. But it’s mine.

My Thoughts on Sexual Assault

Let me put it short and simple.  Let me be clear: ALCOHOL DOES NOT RAPE; RAPISTS RAPE. CLOTHES DO NOT RAPE; RAPISTS RAPE. A woman should be at leisure to go out by herself and enjoy a night alone in whatever outfit she chooses, the same way that a man is afforded the same such opportunity in our society. A woman should be allowed to approach an establishment and order a drink, without the fear of being drugged or coerced, the same way that a man is allowed to. Any woman, in any fashioned outfit should be allowed to patron any bar, restaurant, or any other place of public enjoyment without ridicule or fear that she may be targeted, drugged or assaulted. No woman should be targeted or forced to be the victim of assumed consent for any reason. Not ever. Not ever. It is never okay to assume that a woman is a “slut” or “giving it up” or a willing participant in sexual activity simply because of what she wears or what she drinks. A woman is never allowed to be characterized as a willing victim of sexual violence because she had a drink or wore a short skirt. No woman deserves to have violence thrust upon her person simply because she enjoyed a martini (or several) or because she wore a skirt above her knee. There is nothing that a woman can do that allows the activity of a man preying upon her to be acceptable or lawful. No. Never. Not ever. Stop talking to your daughters about what they should wear or what they should drink, and start talking to your sons about how they should treat women.

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