Taking my own advice

Today I was publishing a piece on Medium about getting unstuck in your creative process and remembered that I have more drafts here than I think I could ever finish.

It’s been over a year since I posted here and it’s all my fault.

Instead of trying to catch you up on 13 months of my life, here’s a brief rundown of the highlights and lowlights:

  • I’m selling my house after 11 years of ownership
  • 80% of my belongings are now in boxes
  • I’ve taken up quilting and finished 2 in 9 months
  • This year I lost my precious pup Jackson, my grandmother and my writing mentor
  • Recently the world lost my friend Chelsea to breast cancer, fellow blogger Rachel to breast cancer and Mike to brain cancer and we are fighting for Quinn who has a brain tumor and Murph with leukemia (they are 19 and 3 yo respectively

So yeah… lots going on.

I would like to showcase the before and afters in this house but in all likelihood, I will close down this site after moving and start fresh. This blog has been going since 2007ish and it’s probably time for a new start.

I think the hardest part of this post will be hitting publish. I’m fighting expectations that this needs to have some images and an engaging question and be a certain length… sometimes the tools we use just become barriers.

I hope you are well.


17 Years

Last night I got caught up reading this thread of memories from people the world over recounting their memories of 9/11. It was 17 years ago today and, for the most part, I’ve never liked seeing “bloggers” share their self-centered stories that center around how much they love shopping in New York and how shocking it was.

This year, I’ve decided to recount my own memory, for a project I’m working on.

I was a typical 16-year old, sleeping in when the first plane hit.

In 2001, I was a month into my senior year of high school in Walnut Creek, California. The 11th, a Tuesday, was block period and I didn’t have to be at school until 10am so when my parents woke me up, I was annoyed like any teenager asked to get up early. Then the second plane hit. Then the Pentagon was hit.

It was hours before I needed to be at school but staying home alone that morning I was too frantic and scared because there was so much unknown. Were we at war? Would something happen in California? How many people had just died? I stopped at the grocery store for breakfast on my way to school and it was eerily quiet, as if everyone had been instructed that they could only talk about one thing. Like the nation was collectively shell shocked. The cashier was the first person who said to me, “they think it was Osama bin Laden.” I had no idea who that was.

I don’t remember much about the drive to school, just standing with my friends in the parking lot before 1st period. Rachel came up, cheerful as ever, and we had to ask carefully if she’d seen the news and explained what happened. Some friends were worried as they had family or friends in New York. Some had no idea what the World Trade Center was, assuming it was Wall Street or meant a financial collapse. Few of us had cell phones and no one was calling or texting so it was hours of the unknown.

In US History class, where I acted as the TA, our teacher shared her theories which only led to more fear.

“They might fly a plane into buildings in San Francisco. Or the Golden Gate Bridge.”

“The Naval Weapons Station is a target, there are nukes in the bunkers there.” One student was visibly upset by this idea, his house was next to the station. “Don’t worry,” the teacher announced, “if it gets hit and a bomb goes off, we’re all dead.”

There are memories I didn’t know to hold onto at the time, like sitting with my lab partner in Anatomy unaware that in 7 years his younger brother would die in Afghanistan fighting the war that followed. I didn’t know that my mom had a friend and her son, a pilot, taxied on the runway behind one of the hijacked flights, wondering why they were not chatting with the tower. I didn’t know that Shane, on his way to California for his mother’s funeral, was recalled by the Navy to active duty.

I knew I wanted to call Shane’s mother, who had been a mentor to me growing up. I’d spent a lot of time at Evelyn’s house, interviewing her for a class project, and she opened up about losing her first husband in the war in her final months as she battled cancer. She had just passed away and I wanted, selfishly, to call her house. Listen to her voice tell me that it was going to be okay. It was the first time I experienced loss on a personal level, wanting to be with someone who was now dead.

Because it’s been 17 years, and I was 16 when it happened, I don’t have perfect memories of the days that followed. I do remember the following August when I first visited Washington D.C. I don’t think Arlington Cemetery would have had the same impact if I hadn’t lived through the declaration of war. My parents and I drove past the Pentagon and the gaping hole in its side. We ate lunch one day at Costco, talking easily to a man who’d worked at the Pentagon that day and hearing his story. I remember the memorial service held the first year after. It was one of thousands and I sat with my friends on cold, hard bleachers as we listened to thousands of names being read aloud. I remember standing atop the Empire State Building some 4 years later, looking south to the site which was still being excavated and wondering what it was like for the tourists who watched from the Observatory Deck that day. I recall listening in horror when my friend Tanya described taking the bus into Manhattan and her front row view to the attack.

This past weekend I watched Jack Ryan on Amazon and overall it was a great series. But it reminds me how much of our culture has changed. Media, both our entertainment and news focus, is so much more centered on terrorism. The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty, films about the attack itself I’ve never been able to watch… it’s hard to admit that most of us (myself included) didn’t care much about extremists until they visited our shores. Attacks in the Middle East seemed so far away, diplomacy was the job of the man in the Oval Office at the White House.

It might have been 9/11, it might just have been growing up, but 17 years ago marked a shift from seeing my life as isolated to one that is intensely interconnected. Everything from the fuel for my car to international sanctions and foreign aid are elements of this post 9/11 world. In some ways my high school experience was bookmarked by twin tragedies. Freshman year there was the shooting at Columbine and while it wasn’t the first school shooting, it definitely marked a trend that continues now 19 years later. Senior year began with 9/11 and was the end of childhood.

I remember taking a few days off back in 2011, I was already working for myself and decided to go to Santa Cruz on a whim. I didn’t have cable tv at home so it was a rare luxury to watch some design shows or catch the news. I came back in the evening, flipped on the TV set…. and saw President Obama announcing the SEAL team raid had successfully killed bin Laden. Nearly 10 years and everything rushed back, it was a relief and painful all at once.

17 years ago.

2,977 people died that day.

A thousand more have died, from cancer and other illnesses, as a result of being there.

Thousands of children have grown up without a parent.

Half a million have died since the start of the Iraq War.

So those who scream “conspiracy!” can fuck right off. Trump, who claimed to see Muslims cheer from New Jersey and has lied about losing friends in the towers, can go to hell. Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York, who said we didn’t have terror attacks until Obama was in office, should be admitted to mental health treatment post haste. Anyone who takes a tragedy and focuses on the way they can gain power, push an agenda or get famous didn’t learn anything from 9/11 and are unfit to lead in any capacity.

Undoubtably there are many people who have suffered more personal loss as a result of 9/11 and I’m not interested in comparing grief, as if it can be quantified so easily. To me, 9/11 will always stir up those early feelings of despair, fear, grief and worry and our response should always be to reach out in love, give what we can and stand in solidarity.

What I’ve Been Up To

It’s been a hot minute since I posted here because life is chaotic and wonderful all at once.

In the last few months every room of the house has experienced a big shift in furniture and even paint. I’ve refinished a mirror, bought a new desk chair, rolled out new rugs…

In the garage I gave the wood storage units back to my dad and replaced them with a new HDX unit from Home Depot. Can’t wait to show you how awesome it looks out there! If I have time later this summer I’m going to move my canned goods storage and maybe even add another work bench.

Inside, I’ve finally trimmed out the kitchen windows and added new curtains. In the midst of moving out of my office, I filled in nail holes and caulked the window in the old office.

Project: Backyard Oasis is on-going and I’ve been pulling a lot of weeds and trimming a lot of rose bushes. I picked up 3 awesome wood planters which got a coat of outdoor paint from the oops section at Home Depot.

Back in May I went to LA for an event and then to the East Coast for a wedding and to visit friends in DC. In early July I spent a week at my parent’s place near Yosemite, mostly painting and writing.

Nearly done remodeling my master shower stall from the studs up and will have some of that to share soon.

January Project Recap

I had high hopes for January but I was also out of town for 2 solid weeks so the number of projects I could conceivably complete was greatly reduced. However, I got a good start!

1. Garage – add security film to window

This one was a lot easier to install than the last privacy film – it was easy to reposition and remove to adjust. I got it on Amazon here for $10.




2. Living room – have fireplace tested and inspected

This one was a little “good news/bad news” situation. I had a professional company come out to inspect and clean the fireplace and overall it’s in good shape. However, there’s a crack in the floor of the fireplace which means heat can go down and impact the flooring, walls and create a lot of other problems. So it’s still do not use until I can budget and schedule to get that replaced. While I don’t use the fireplace very often, I do want it to be working properly.

10. Garage – trim out the window

As you can tell on the update above, I did manage to trim the window with 1x4s before I worked on the privacy film. Here’s a picture of it before I caulked all the joints:

There’s a small patch piece there on the window sill because I can’t fit my nail gun behind the clothes dryer to install it. I’m going to get some liquid nails and tape and see what I can do!

All in all, not a bad January! I have my next few projects in the works from this master list and I’ll be working throughout February to make good progress.

2018 House Planning

By mid-November I get easily swept up in the planning for the new year and all the fun things I want to do. This year I took off for London, Dublin and Manchester in early December and by the time I got home I was right back into planning mode.

Business plans are underway and I’ve already set my personal goals.

Now, let’s talk about the house. Realistically if I am working out 4 days a week, doing Whole 30 5 days a week, reading 1 book a week and traveling around the state twice a month then I’m not going to have a TON of free time for other projects.

Good thing the house is looking damn good these days. Instead of going room by room I’m going to list all the things I want to do and then put them in priority order.

I have a total of 30 goals (about 1 per week) and 3 potential bigger projects that require things like redirecting gas lines, water and drywall. Those are bonus projects that I am hoping to get to this year. One project that’s not on this list but will be carrying over from 2017 is replacing my gutters and downspouts. That should be coming in January.

1. Garageadd security film to window

2. Living roomhave fireplace tested and inspected

3. Dining room – touch up paint around the built-in

4. Dining room – add finishing piece to the built-in

5. Office – finish caulk on window trim

6. Guest room – remove hooks from ceiling

7. Kitchen – replace garbage disposal – n/a fixed existing one! 

8. Garage – add overhead lights in 2 banks 

9. Kitchen – trim the windows

10. Garage – trim out the window

11. Master bedroom – remove the canopy and patch ceiling

12. Master bedroom – touch up ceiling paint

13. Living room – replace overhead light

14. Guest bath – fix shower can light 

15. Side yard – add hooks for second ladder to hang

16. Office – trim and paint closet shelving

17. Backyard – build a cart for table saw

18. Master bath – replace bath fan

19. Kitchen – add new curtain rods and curtain

20. Front yard – replace mailbox and post

21. Living room – refinish the dresser

22. Master bedroom – rebuild bed frame n/a purchased new one!

23. Office – replace ceiling drywall (patch) 

24. Backyard – build pergola in the corner 

25. Living room – reupholster the 2 wingback chairs 

26. Backyard – make a walkway to the sideyard

27. Front yard – re-pour sidewalk up to the front door 

28. Master bedroom – replace sliding glass door, trim and fix transition piece

29. Front yard – plant a tree

 30. Back yard – plant a tree

Potential Garage Project

Garage – drain the water heater, build a new box

Garage – add water softener 

Potential Kitchen Project 

Kitchen – re-configure cabinets and dishwasher / new countertops and sink

Kitchen – relay flooring with new configuration

Potential Bathroom Project

Master bath – replace pan in shower stall

Master bath – replace shower fixtures

Master bath – tile shower stall

2017 Plans – Recap

I was just looking back through the year of posts (in a word: pathetic) and came across my 2017 Home Goals post. I’m copying it over with an update on how things have gone this year.

Overall I’m really happy about the bigger projects that got done including the whole house trim, 7 new windows and the whole house painting. I’m also eyeing a few of these smaller ones which I might be able to get done over the weekend (but no promises).

The kitchen:

  • Get the counter tops re-sealed
  • fix or replace garbage disposal
  • remove the pull out trash can

If budget allows:

  • Replace the stove/oven
  • Replace (3) windows
    • Trim windows inside and out

The dining room:

  • Install bookshelf
  • Add lighting to bookshelf
  • Fix chain on hanging light
  • touch up wall paint

The living room:

  • Re-finish the dresser (possibly paint)
  • Get fireplace working
  • Replace window
  • Trim window inside and out
  • Hang new shade in window

The guest bath:

  • Install a can light in the shower
  • Fix transition piece
  • Touch up wall paint

If budget allows:

  • Re-tile around bathtub
  • Replace bathtub fixtures

The office:

  • Touch up wall paint
  • Replace damaged drywall on ceiling
  • Finish off closet shelves
  • Replace window
  • Trim window inside and out

The guest room:

  • Hang rod in closet for curtains
  • Remove hooks from ceiling
  • Replace window
  • Trim window inside and out
  • Hang new shade in window

My master bedroom received a whole new bed set up and mattress but I’m still eyeing that sliding glass door.

  • Trim transition piece by back door
  • Touch up ceiling paint
  • Remove canopy and patch ceiling
  • Fix chain for hanging light

If budget allows:

  • Replace the sliding glass door
    • Trim back door

The master bathroom:

  • Remove glass door
  • Hang new shower curtain

If budget allows:

  • Replace shower floor pan
  • Re-tile shower stall
  • Replace shower fixtures

The backyard :

  • Remove 2 dead rose bushes
  • Remove corner patio
  • Replace fence boards on east side
  • Add lights to fence for night
  • Create a walkway to the side yard
  • Disassemble flower boxes on corner patio
  • Fix gutter downspout
  • Build cart for table saw

The side yard:

  • Empty compost bin
  • Hang lights
  • Replace damaged siding
  • Take the old gutters in for recycling

The front yard :

  • Replace gutters and downspouts
  • Set up bricks along the fence
  • Replace mailbox and post

If budget allows:

  • Pull sprinklers
  • Pave square by front door
  • Demo sidewalk
  • Re-pour sidewalk
  • Extend fence to front of the property
    • add a gate to the end of the fence
  • Landscape the front yard

The garage:

  • Add overhead lights
  • Trim the window, caulk and paint it
  • Build a new box for the water heater
  • Build workbench

If budget allows:

  • Add a water softener

There are a few bigger projects that impact the whole house: 

  • Add quarter round to all baseboards
    • Hallway and hall closet
    • Office
    • Guest room
    • Master bedroom
    • Living room
    • Dining room
  • Re-caulk and paint all trim
    • Hallway and hall closet
    • Office
    • Guest room
    • Master bedroom
    • Living room
    • Dining room
  • Replace rotting facia boards on roof
  • Paint house exterior
    • back wall
    • Sideyard
    • Entryway
    • side from kitchen to garage
    • around garage door
    • up on the roof

I’m currently working on plans for 2018 and I might be organizing this a little differently in the coming year. My big 2018 goals are already set (on this page) but looking at projects around the house is always part of the process.


A year in review

I was looking back at my goals this year and I’ve been super happy with my progress.

-I’ve donated 790 items and I’m close to my goal of 800

-I’ve had 131 workouts with my trainer out of my goal of 130

-I’ve read 60 books out of my goal of 52

-I published my print book

Since it’s not fun to look at the items I’ve donated or workout selfies, I wanted to take a look back at the books I read. Instead of grouping them by month, I sorted the books into general categories.

Category 1 : Autobiographical (comedy) 

10 books in this category and these were mostly fantastic, strong women with a few (British) men included.

Favorite Pick: Scrappy Little Nobody & It’s Not Me It’s You

Category 2 : Alphabet Series Mysteries

25 in this category which makes up nearly half of my annual goal. I read A to X from Sue Grafton plus Kinsey and Me. Great series and really got me back in my reading groove.

Category 3 : Vonnegut

Years ago someone suggested reading one or two Vonnegut books a year so you’ll always have a new novel and I tend to follow that advice. Also, I can’t read too many in a row or I go a little crazy. 2 in this category this year.

Category 4 : Graphic Novels

3 books in this category and these came recommended from MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. I can’t recommend them highly enough. Should be required reading for all Americans.

Category 5 : Food

Total of 3 in this category in 2017. I started the Whole30 in May and read these books over the second half of the year.

Category 6 : General Fiction

4 in this category and the Handmaid’s Tale was my clear favorite.

Category 7 : Non-Fiction

Five this year and it’s so hard to pick a favorite. I was so impressed  with Gloria Vanderbilt – her life stories and intelligence into her 90s was inspiring. Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air was so beautiful I cried. The Psychopath Test was really interesting as a subject and while I loved the content of Braving the Wilderness, the font and type was so poor that I struggled to understand the message.

Category 8 : Mystery / Drama

Just 4 this year, but I made the Sue Grafton books separate for a reason. If you haven’t read Murder on the Orient Express it’s a great read, reminds me of Sherlock Holmes. Otherwise John Grisham’s Rogue Lawyer was a favorite. Steve Berry is very similar to Dan Brown only… better.

Category 9 : Real Life

These were more real life non-fiction and both were enjoyable. I recommend the Women in Science book for anyone with younger children. The illustrations are beautiful and I’d like to pick up Women in Sport next year

Category 10 : Fantasy

While this is not typically a favorite category of mine, the Sarah Maas series came highly recommended and I read the first 2 books on vacation this summer.

Total Read: 60

I do have quite a few books that I’ve started and not yet finished. I purchased a half dozen more for Christmas but I also want to finish up the ones I started earlier this year. Here are the 4 I have in progress: