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.

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Why I stopped reading your blog

Recently I was talking (i.e. ranting) to a friend about what’s wrong in the blogging world and thought it would make a great topic here.

Understand that this is heavily influenced by my own view of blogging because this site does not bring me income and has never been designed to make me famous, get sponsorships or support my lifestyle.

Which is why the selling out of blogs, specifically DIY and decorating ones, makes me ill. And as I recently cleared out my bookmarked folder of sites I made notes about the reasons I’m so disenfranchised with blogs lately.

Reason #1 Amateurs pretending to be professionals

Sometimes this is simple, in the form of bloggers who don’t proofread and make numerous, obvious errors in their writing. I’ve never claimed to be a grammatically correct fiend but when I publish for professional sites, every piece is edited by an expert.

Another symptom of this is the bloggers who disappear for weeks or months at a time because they’re “just not feeling it” anymore. Fine, whatever, if you’re not making this a professional endeavor. But for the rest of the blogs, do you really think a client or boss would allow you to just stop working because you weren’t happy doing your job?

Reason #2 Habitual racism, homophobia or discrimination

This one is a little harder because very few sites are blatantly discriminatory anymore. But it’s there and subtle and when it’s not just a single incident but perpetual then I just can’t. I can’t support bloggers who use their platform for exclusion and hatred.

For an example of my personal philosophy, there’s a bumper sticker I saw probably 10 years ago that had such a great message of understanding : “Straight, not narrow” and I love it. Because you don’t have to be a member of a community to extend graciousness and support.

Reason #3 Over sponsorship

Some sponsorships are just ridiculous. I don’t want to read about your super hard life as a stay at home mom in the most privileged nation in the world and how Sponsor’s pain pills helps you through your super hard days.

I’m sick of reading about how your recent remodel was “so affordable” or how you “splurged” on professional installation and then, wayyyyy at the bottom of the post is sponsored by in small print.

And “all opinions are my own”  is just b.s. in my opinion because you can’t serve 2 masters. I’ve yet to find a blog that is authentic to its audience and simultaneously serving the needs of sponsors. It’s completely disingenuous to say “I’d buy this anyway!” because you didn’t. It was given to you.

I’ve seen this on everything from vacuum cleaners, mattresses, clothes and cars. Yes, vehicles worth over $30,000. Again: b.s.

It extends to giveaways as well, promoting flash sales or “curating a collection” and not divulging that when your readers click to buy you get a substantial kick back in the way of money or credits.

Reason #4 You’re boring

I shared this on Facebook recently but in any given year I can predict the subjects of articles all year long. Everything from resolutions in January, love your ____ (fill in the blank) in February, surviving Daylight Savings Time, blah, blah, blah.

It’s boring. Uninspiring. Tedious.

It’s one of the reasons I haven’t been blogging as much myself because when I fall into those traps I can’t stand to hit publish.

A subset of this is the blogger who perpetually does and redoes the same project over and over. Listen, I have decorating ADD sometimes too. I hang a picture and then want to move it pretty much the next day. But I really don’t want to read about how you’ve changed your kitchen island 47 times or how this basket used to be in the garage and then the toy room and now the living room! as if it’s some critically important aspect of life.

Reason #5 You’re weak on the details

This is specific to DIY blogging but if you post a project with no details then I’m unfollowing. If you post a “big reveal” and don’t share sources then I’m unfollowing. Inspiration is everywhere and Pinterest is a goldmine. But if you don’t provide the how or the where or the price then what good is inspiration? It’s a rabbit hole of research to find the answers and I’ve got enough to do, thanks.

Now, I understand that when something is secondhand or a gift or was purchased so long ago you don’t know where it came from those questions are hard to answer. But anticipate the inquiry and address it in the post, not in the comments, not in a follow up post “to come” months or years later.

Reason #6 Your site is obnoxious to navigate

Obviously I include sites that look like cutting edge 1998 design, with too busy backgrounds or flashing ads, popups and 170 sidebar boxes. But also sites that are planned intentionally to be annoying to the reader.

Here are my real pet peeves:

  • sites that have 1-2 posts per page and 3,948 pages of blog posts.
  • sites that when you click “next” reopen in a new tab. Stop. that. now.
  • sites that have truncated posts so you have to “read more” and never take you back to where you were reading so you’re always scrolling around.

You know what these are? Tricks to increase page views and time on the site. And they’re foolish. Because more often than not I’ll just leave forever.

And so that’s what I’ve done on a large scale. I’m not interested in individually messaging bloggers about their sites, I’m just not investing my time anymore.

There are a precious few that I’ll follow and even more on my “last chance” list but since the beginning of the year I’ve removed at least 50% of the blogs I used to read for the reasons above.

Blog more, worry less

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I like blogging and how to get back in the habit this year. I’m not going to make any grand promises and I don’t care at all about sponsorships, ad revenue or subscriber counts.

I blog because writing is how I express myself. 

I blog because it’s a more permanent record than the dozens of faded journals cluttering up my office.

I don’t blog because I want to become famous, make lots of money or have “fans.”

No offense if you are a fan, I’m just not doing this blog to cater to the masses who would likely judge and criticize my every choice.

What I think helped is realizing what I like to read on blogs is different than what I like to write on my own. I’m not one for photoshopped vignettes of cookies and a sprig of mint or the most perfectly displayed holiday table.

I don’t have cute kids that pose for the camera or travel to new countries every few weeks.

Most of the drafts (uh… 21 of them) are just waiting for photos which tells me I need to be okay writing without pictures more often.

The dominance of Pinterest has created this stress of getting the right picture in perfect light and that’s just not realistic.

One project I do want to complete is to re-launch my home pages with new pictures since every single room was painted in the last 12 months. It’s challenging to a) deal with lingering piles of paper or clutter, b) get everything sparkly clean and c) keep it that way for 24 hours so I can photograph, edit and re-take if needed for a single page. Multiply that times 10 “spaces” and the yard and you can see why these things take me forever.

So unless it’s a really photo necessary post, I’ll probably be just writing more. Like now.

And before I get distracted by the internet or the dogs or something else entirely, I will just hit post.

This is all my fault

I’ve been thinking about the future of this blog lately and wondering what I should do next. The posts have slowed down even if my work around the house is speeding up.

Today I realized the problem. Everything on my business blog is planned. Calculated. Measured. And as a result there a lack of spontaneity. That’s fine.

But it’s definitely spilled over here where I am half writing posts and then adding to them but not hitting publish because I need to finalize photos or something.

This blog is first and foremost mine. I don’t have ads or sponsors because I don’t want to pursue any goals but my own and this whole thing started as a photo and memory journal for my first house.

Maybe I’ll end it when I move, maybe I won’t. But I will definitely be going back to the spirit that made this blog fun in the first place and that’s the unstructured, low stress nature of My Friend Kelly.

Which is ironic because it’s nothing like me in that way!

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Today is Saturday and I have no idea how it got to be May so soon! It feels like Spring has been here since December though and the only notable difference is that the garden centers have all their flowers on sale.

I currently have 4 hydrangea plants in my garden boxes that aren’t dead yet!

This morning was productive, even if midnight to 3am was riddled with insomnia and YouTube videos. My goal today is to completely exhaust myself and spend a few hours at the gym if I can’t sleep so I fall asleep before midnight.

To that goal, I have already cleaned up mushrooms and dog poop in the backyard – the mushrooms tell me that I may be watering too late. The sprinklers go off at 12:36am (ask me how I know THAT) and while I’m glad the water doesn’t evaporate, it may be keeping the grass wet too long and nurturing those disgusting fungi.

I only water for 5 minutes because we’re in a drought and all but since I’m not washing my car, I figured I could keep watering for 5 minutes a night. A midnight.

One way I’m saving energy is with the new water heater we installed in April. The old one sprung a leak and proceeded to bathe my garage for a few days. While I like the new one I really, really want to replace the box it’s propped up on. You know, the box that had water and mold and nastyness on it for weeks? That one.

Perhaps my priority right now though is 1) to power wash everything I can reach with the sprayer I borrowed from Dad and 2) add some side shelving to my office and guest room closets.

The office also got a makeover this morning, simply by moving the desk (again) and bringing in a new bookshelf to organize. Also in here is the gigantic dog crate that was given to me some time ago but someone. It’s big enough for Jackson so I put his old square bed in there along with a blanket for burrowing and the dogs have a new favorite spot in my office.

Which is great if it keeps Nixon off window sills.

Well, I am almost out of coffee and my to do list is 17 miles long today. If I have time later I’ll try to figure out how to import my Instagram feed since I’m posting pictures with little bits of commentary there every day or so and really liking that medium.

Typical Saturday Clean Up

This Saturday has been pretty typical – I got up around 8 but then stayed in bed since the dogs were snuggly and read for another hour. I had a to do list already so I started by loading up the car and cleaned up in the living room and kitchen (which is forever messy).

My first stop was out at the cemetery where I left some fake poinsettia flowers at my grandparent’s gravesite. The older flowers were dead or falling apart so I put them in my car to  throw away at home. I also stopped by my cousin’s resting place, straightening up one of the solar lights that had been knocked over by the fierce winds this week.

It’s a beautiful place, high up on a hill overlooking the surrounding farmland with the city in the near distance. But it’s also a sad place where I have 6 family members buried. It’s like this thistle that I found out there one day, beautiful and stunning but also painful.

2011_06_05 (04)After the cemetery, I drove back into town and stopped at Ace Hardware for some screws. Even years after leaving the electrical contractor where I worked, I still think in terms of the purchasing lingo that I used! I got a box of 1″ flat head wood screws for a project I’m working on (right now that project is in the boring stages of staining, buying stuff, and waiting for wood to cure).

After Ace it was over to consignment shop #1 where I handed over 15 items to sell in the next 60 days and sold one item in the store while waiting! The clothes they wouldn’t take went right back into the car and over to Goodwill.

Now, Goodwill in our town is closing in 7 days so I am in a frantic rush to drop off as much stuff as I can.  43 more items were given away and are all tracked on my handy donation tracker sheet! As soon as I got home that was stapled to the receipt and went right into the taxes box.

By this time the library was open so I swung by to drop off the books and movies I’d borrowed and then went a few blocks over to Palm Gardens where my grandparents lived for 5 years. There I donated a stack of magazines, a small Christmas tree (super small, fit in a paper grocery bag) and a wreath with holder. The man I talked to said they had a new resident moving in who would love the decorations so I hope it brightened his/her holiday!

At this point I was technically “done” with my errands but the wood for my project was tearing up the sponge paintbrushes I use for staining. So I went over to Michael’s to grab some extras and ran into my aunt and uncle. We caught up for a few minutes and after a long time in line I was heading home.

Note to self: this is why I don’t shop the Saturday before Christmas. Jeeze.

Thanks to the Carmelizer blended drink I picked up from Dutch Brothers, I had lots of energy when I got home! The car got emptied out and I managed to tame all those hangers. I spent an hour in the backyard scooping, picking up sticks from the neighbor’s tree, raking leaves and then cutting back the roses.

I’m just about halfway done with the rosebushes now, but the 96 gallon toter was full and overflowing so the rest will have to happen after the holidays.

I’ve got Christmas decoration bins to put in the garage, presents to pack in the car, clothes to wash and a second batch of stuff for consignment to gather for Monday.

This is a pretty typical Saturday. And I’m writing about it because I think we’re all fooled into thinking that life is a Pinterest snapshot and we’re all just floating from perfectly themed holiday party to remodeled bedroom to vacation destination. There are boring weeks, no matter who you are. There are projects that stall or seem to take forever. There are jobs that no one wants pictures of whether it’s scooping frozen solid dog poop or ironing clothes.

I’m writing about this stuff because it’s tempting to say “nothing” when someone asks what you’ve been doing. But this is the stuff in our lives. The salmon I’ll cook tomorrow and the books I’m taking to the library to donate. It may not be glamorous or fun-filled or Pinterest-worthy but this is life. My life.

In other “boring” news I am finally out of tea lights! Thankfully these go on sale after the holidays so I’ll pick up a bunch and continue to burn the larger candles I have. I picked up a laminator for $20 on sale at Amazon but now my printer won’t print so I can’t finish labeling all the storage boxes in the garage.

And I really want to finish off the upholstery job on my footstool with the right piece to cover the bottom. Should I just grab a remnant of white linen from my stash or find something in navy?

This is not a good underbelly look for such a beautiful footstool:

2013_11_30 (18)Finally, how long until my wood stops stinking from the stain so I can assemble the pieces in my new project?!

Holy Projects, Batman

I’m fully aware I’ve been a bad blogger lately with the complete lack of projects going up on the blog. But it’s not like I’ve been bored over here the last few months.

Here are just a few of the projects I’m working on:

  • touching up paint on the master bedroom headboard
  • finished the new nightstands
  • adding lighting to the office and guest room closets
  • donating a boatload of books to clean up my bookshelves
  • creating a warranty manual
  • re-upholstering and staining a foot stool
  • re-organizing my DVDs
  • moving the kitchen hutch to the garage for storage
  • replacing an outdoor light which is vexing me
  • storing the outdoor pillows for winter
  • updating the crate covers for the little dogs
  • installed a new sink and faucet in the master bath
  • installed new floors in both bathrooms
  • installed a new shower head in the guest bath
  • added new lights and painted the hall closet

Because of all these projects (many happening simultaneously) the house is generally a disaster zone. I’m hoping to have new tutorials and pictures up just as soon as things go from “complete and utter chaos” back to “normal crazy” but until then you can catch up on some of the older projects I’ve done here on Pinterest:

Screenshot 2013-11-30 10.05.47There are so many more things to come, if only I had a fully time assistant who would clean my house, file my papers, professionally photograph everything and cook my meals.

Dear Santa….

Home Again

It’s been just about 50 hours since I returned home following 18 days on the road. In many ways I’m glad to be back (my own stuff, full kitchen, the dogs) but I’m also feeling unsettled.

A lot of big things shifted while I was gone including decisions I needed to make, plans that began and even my birthday.

I turned 29 last week and am surprisingly not freaked out. Much. I think in the year since JT died I’ve learned that growing old is a blessing denied to many so I’ll accumulate my years and not worry about them.

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While traveling I discovered that I really missed time at the gym with a regular routine. Doing ab work and squats in my rented apartment just wasn’t the same. Not even the hotel gyms were all that great.

I still adore walking on the beach, playing in the waves (dodging jellyfish) and lying in the sand. My backside is tan thanks to a gallon of aloe vera I poured on to keep from peeling.

Yes, I took sunscreen with me. Yes, I stubbornly refused to put it on.

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During my trip I read 2 books, one technically I finished last night. The first was a Kindle book The Templar Knights following a former CIA type in the same style as the Dan Brown/DiVinci Code books. It was fun fluff. The second book was a gift from the author Eric Holtzclaw about understanding consumer behavior called Laddering.

While it held fascinating insights for business, I was reading it on one of my flights and had to put it away because it made me a little sad. From page 57:

“As we move even further into a relationship-based society, we have to consider the following: Why would consumers think you care if you are not willing to sit down with them in their environments and truly understand who they are and what they want? Compare this with the process of buying a present for someone for his or her birthday or a holiday. The best gifts always come from a true understanding of what’s important, dear, and core to the receiver. The consumer who is spending money with your company deserves and expects the same level of respect and understanding.”

What made me so sad about that passage was knowing that I put a lot of time and effort into the gifts I give. If I don’t really know you or like you then you might get a card but most likely nothing. And every year for holidays and my birthday I hear “but you didn’t give me a list” as an excuse. Well, at 29 I’m taking a stand.

There will be no more lists.

If the people in my life don’t have a true understanding of who I am and what I want then please, save your time and don’t get me anything.

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I’m going to the farmer’s market today, to restock on groceries before I end up eating out every meal. My plan for the weekend is to make Lentil soup, tikka masala and maybe even prep the chicken for crispy tacos.

In some ways I’m glad to have the weekend to recover but also sad we’re not doing the backyard party I’d planned when I finished the backyard. Truthfully, the grass looks like shit and I’ll need to spend some time fertilizing and seeding it before winter really hits if I don’t want a house surrounded by mud holes.

The leaves are still falling in droves so at some point I’ll round them up with the leaf blower and tidy up the sideyard and front porch. I hope I can enjoy my chairs and new pillows outdoors before the rain begins.

At least I’ll have plenty of indoor projects this winter including my foot chest painting project, grouting the tiles in both bathrooms and sorting 100 years worth of family photos for archiving. Not to mention I’d like to finally scan and shred 90% of the papers in my house!

So, it’s good to be home.