Good morning!  Welcome to Computer Tips with Becky!  Today we are going to go over one of my favorite projects - updating your personal website. We've got a lot of material to cover, so let's get started.

  1. You're going to migrate over to Wordpress eventually, but until you can pay someone to do it for you, you need to make do with Blogger.  You're a big-time, important writer now.  You're creating article proposals.  You're submitting short stories.  You deserve a website that reflects how big-time and important you are, so you need to make sure you research it and do it right the first time!
  2. Spend a long time on Pinterest, looking up blogging tips.

  3. Congratulations - you have now designed the world's most amazing imaginary pantry for your kitchen. What do pantries have to do with websites?  Nothing, other than the fact that you're on Pinterest, and ohmygosh, look at the shelving space on that one!

  4. No, really.  FOCUS.  Websites.  You're here about websites, and researching what makes one look professional.  Here, let's just focus on one thing.  Why don't you find the world's most perfect Blogger template?  Surely you can focus long enough to do that, right?
  5. Oh, you found it!  Oh.  Oh, oh, oh!  It's perfect!
  6. Oh, wait.  The "World's Most Perfect Blogger Template"  costs money.  Start your search over, and include the word "free" in the search bar, because that's how you roll.  You're classy like that - nothing but the best for you, baby.
  7. Find the "World's Second Most Perfect Blogger Template".  Go to download.  Realize that it's a scam.  Start over.
  8. Settle on something that looks good enough - it's not flashy, but it's clean and it'll do nicely. Save it to your desktop.  The last time you saved it to your downloads it disappeared and never resurfaced.
  9. Upload the template onto your blog.
  10. Stare at it in horror for a few minutes.  That's.... that's not what it looked like on the preview mode.  That's not what it looked like AT ALL.  Screw it - you should just go back to your old template.
  11. Wait... where is your old template?
  12. Oh.  CRAP.  You mean that "old template" you were supposed to download before uploading the new one?
  13. Spend several minutes cursing.  Your kids are hanging around eavesdropping on your mumbling, so try to make it creative.   MOTHER FLETCHER!  FLAMING HECK!  OH, FOR THE LOVE OF PICKLE FARTS.... STONE OF A PEACH!
  14. Realize with a dawning sense of horror that it's up to you to fix this monstrosity of a website. Why is your header so teensy-tiny?  Why is it off-center?  Why are all the gadgets all over the place?  Why does nothing make any sense?
  15. Spend 45 minutes clicking around uselessly.
  16. Spend another 30 minutes clicking around angrily.
  17. Finally lose your temper.  Is something out of place?  Delete it.  Is something else out of place? Delete that.  In fact, delete everything. If it wanted to stay on your blog, then it should have behaved, amiright?  DELETE EVERY SINGLE THING THAT DARES MISBEHAVE. That'll show your stupid website who is boss.
  18. Calm down.  Realize you deleted important stuff.  Calmly try to re-add those important items.
  19. Wait, what were the  actual links on your sidebar of your favorite websites? You can't remember.  That's why you created those links in the first place - so you wouldn't have to remember.  You mean you didn't even screenshot the thing before going on your deleting rampage?  Crap.  DOUBLE CRAP.
  20. Give up on fixing the "Most popular posts" or "Websites I Like" gadget.  Instead, you should probably try to fix your header.  I mean, it's the most important thing, right?  It's the first thing that people see when they first go to your page, so it should probably be gorgeous and perfect and reflect who you are as a writer.
  21. Fiddle around with the teensy-tiny, crooked header for another 45 minutes.  Get angry and decide to start from scratch. Delete it.  Look in your computer for the saved version so you can try uploading it.
  22.  BOB SAGET!  You accidentally deleted the old header when cleaning out your pics the other day, and you even emptied the trash can. Settle in for another round of creative cursing, doing your best to avoid anything that has the word "fart" in it, because your kids still haven't finished singing "Pickle farts!  Pickle farts!" at the top of their shrill little lungs.
  23. Fifteen minutes later you should probably give up and delete the header entirely.  Whatever. You didn't need a header anyways.  Headers are for stupid people.
  24. Give up trying to fix your "Pages" section.  That's okay.  Nobody needs an "About Me" section anyways.  "About Me" sections are for stupid people, too.
  25. Spend several minutes trying to delete the navigation bar at the top.  It's cool, but you can't figure out how to fix it.  What the heck's a shortcode, anyways?  How do you get that to redirect to something useful?  What's a layout button?  This seems important - I mean, you're having problems with your layout, so wouldn't accessing this fix everything?  Then why can't you access this to fix?
  26. Maybe you should take up drinking.  You can't help but feel that an entire bottle of tequila would make this night marginally better.
  27. Whatever.  Websites are stupid.  Turn the computer off, turn on some Norah Jones and Jack Johnson, and pick up a book about werewolves.  You can't actually kill anyone,  even if you're in the mood to, but at least you can pretend to be a main character who can kill people, right?

Anyways, this concludes my latest installation of "How to Update Your Website."  Tune in next week for "How to Throw A Computer Through a Window" or "How to Stab a Laptop Screen".

I'm sweating.  It's 6:40 in the morning and I'm literally sweating.  Yesterday it was sunny and in the mid-60's..... in February, for crying out loud. Today it's not even 7 and I am waking up five minutes before my alarm because I'm sweating beneath the covers.  I throw them off of me and ease myself out of The Bean's unconscious too-warm hug, seeking a cool spot on the sheets.

I wiggle around for a few moments, but there's no cool spots to be found.  It seems I used them all up as I clawed my way to consciousness.  I give up on sleep, sliding tired legs out of bed, groping for a robe.  I stagger to the bathroom in an uncoordinated wobble, willing energy into my barely-functioning limbs.  I haven't jogged in days.  In fact, I'm edging closer to two weeks of no jogging.   It's not a "I wanna look good in a bikini" thing, although I wish it were that easy to look good in a bikini.

The thing is, my body's natural state seems to be wooden, kept at bay by regular movement. Every day I don't exercise finds me returning to petrified...  glue?  I dunno.  Petrified wood is like a rock, and rocks seem sturdy, strong.  Useful.

My body feels like glue.  Thick, ropey, wiggly strands of useless glue.  Moving feels like swimming through mud, thinking feels like peering through a fog, and it's my least favorite part of rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus, or MCTD, or whatever the heck is going on with my immune system. The blood tests were inconclusive, so they need to be interpreted by a specialist.

I consider making a return appointment with the fancy rheumatologist in Portland I'd been referred to... but I dismiss it almost immediately.  I still haven't forgiven her.  Three months of waiting for my appointment, and she turned me away for being 9 minutes late.  I know it's not really her fault.  I should have left my house earlier, should have left time to be stuck in traffic, waiting on the world's slowest train to cross.  I tried explaining, but the receptionist was firm.  I may have been 9 minutes late to the appointment, but check-in time was 15 minutes prior to appointment time.  This seems silly to me.  If they wanted me there at 2:30 rather than 2:45, why didn't they just make the appointment for 2:30?

After wasting years of my life in waiting rooms, something about the whole scenario is incredibly insulting.  I know it's just business, but I can't help feeling snubbed. I'm not ready to get back on the waiting list yet.  Soon, maybe, but not today.

So, I waddle through the house on my glue-thick limbs, yawning, battling an exhaustion which constantly clouds my limbs, thoughts, body, brain.  At least I'm not flaring anymore.  I'm pain-free right now (or as close as I come) so that's a plus, but it's small consolation when you're left driving a body that resembles something closer to overcooked spaghetti than it does a useful bit of meat and bones.

I suppose I should think better of my body than that, but right now we're like two angry roommates forced to share a bedroom.  We're barely on speaking terms.  If we were siblings, we'd have the cereal box between us so we didn't have to look at each other in the morning.

I stagger into my muddy work boots and head outside in the early morning light to let the chickens out of their coop.  This morning they're cross, and their disgruntled clucking mirrors my own feelings.  I agree, ladies.  Morning did come too early, didn't it?  Sorry I wasn't here before dawn. After years of safety I grew complacent, leaving their coop unlatched at night.... and yesterday I got a worried text from my neighbor while I was dropping the DragonMonkey off at school, having missed the bus.  Had I checked on my chickens yet?  They were acting weird - huddling together, quiet, subdued....and there were feathers everywhere.

It took almost 15 minutes to get home to confirm:  Goodbye, Moaning Myrtle.

It feels a little dumb to mourn a chicken that I was considering giving away next fall to someone's stew pot.  Chickens stop laying regularly around 3-4 years old but can live for almost 10 years....  I love my chickens but I love regular eggs more.   Moaning Myrtle was approaching her eggless years, and while the plan had always been to treat our hens like farm animals,  who can eat a chicken they've named?  Not me.   So even though the plan was for them to end up in the stew pot, I'd always planned for it to happen off-screen.

Besides, there's something more than a little macabre having to spend a morning picking up little bitty chunks of your pet all over the yard - feathers with bits of friendly fowl and fond memories still attached. The other chickens had followed me as I cleaned up, clucking quietly.  Itchy.  Scratchy.  Martha Stewart.... even fat, clueless Tanesha.  They circled me, pecking at the feathers I scraped up with a rake, courage returning with my presence.

It's not love, but there's something soothing about the consistency of a hen's greedy hunger.  Chickens are hardly sentimentalists.  If they thought they could get away with it they'd happily eat me.  Still, I feed them, and in exchange they bolt towards me in an ungainly sprint when I call, making me laugh.  It's a relationship which works for us.

I head back into the house, kick off my boots and heading upstairs, flinging open the boys' curtains. Wake up.  Time to hop in the shower.  No, I'm not carrying you downstairs - you're too big.  No, whining won't change my mind.  Hush - you know better than to complain before I've even had a sip of coffee.

By the time they tumble downstairs and are stripping down for their shower I'm working on remedying my coffeeless state - emptying the coffee grounds while holding my robe closed with an elbow.  Why does it keep untying itself? The Bean passes by me as he heads into the boys' bathroom.  He reaches for the light bulb, preparing to unscrew it and bring it back to our bathroom, but he's met with a chorus of cries from the boys.  They can't shower in the dark - the bad guys will eat them... or something.

The Bean sighs and returns to his bathroom for his shower, and I promise to hurry the boys along so he can have the light bulb by the time he needs to shave.

I echo his sigh as he leaves, frustrated at myself.  It's 2015.  We should not be huddling over our house's only light bulb like it's 1915.  I need to get to the store.  I really, really need to get to the store.  Maybe I should go instead of jogging today?

I lean forward to pick up a toy and feel some kind of ligament pop in the back of my knee from the motion.  No.  No, I need to jog.  I'm going to turn to stone if I don't get some exercise soon.  I need to remind my body how to circulate, or whatever it is that running does for me.  Besides, my eyeballs feel like I've coated them in itchy, hot sand.  I don't know why jogging helps with my dry eye, but it does.  If I don't jog today I'm going to end up with red, itchy, burning eyes that make me look like I'm high on pot.

The coffee is percolating, releasing a scent which improves my spirits, so I go hunting in the fridge for some kind of breakfast.  We're almost out of almond milk, which means we can't have cereal.... and after three weeks of being passionately in love with zucchini omelets, the boys have suddenly decided they hate zucchini.  Figures.  We're out of anything easy to make - no microwaveable-this or toaster-that.  We're out of bananas.  In fact, we're out of fruit.

I tap my fingers on the side of the fridge, conscious of the time crunch, and finally decide on a loaf of bread, a carton of eggs, a bit of butter and the last swig of almond milk.  I'll make french toast - who doesn't like french toast?

I start the pan heating on the stove, to cut down on the cook time, and rummage through the washed-but-not folded laundry.  A pair of pants.... a sock...  the boys' outfits emerge one at a time, crackling with static electricity.  We're out of dryer sheets.  I really, really, really need to get to the store.

I whip up the eggs, vanilla almond milk, and a bit of cinnamon, soak the bread and toss it on the sizzling butter in the pan.  Then I begin the rapid-fire breakfast dance - drying skinny little boy bodies, flipping the bread, helping an arm find a sleeve, soak a new piece of bread, button the pants, switch out the toast on the stove, hoping the boys don't notice the blackened edges.

Somewhere in the middle of my whirling ballet of busyness The Bean steals the light bulb, and the boys gravitate out of the dim bathroom to the kitchen with its fluorescent lighting.   I slap the french toast onto colorful plastic Ikea plates and comb their hair while they eat.

"This is really good!"
"I love my Mama's cooking!  You're the best cook in the world!"

They're still trying to mollify me for the way they reacted to the Ruined-Chicken-Nugget incident from Valentine's Day. I'd messed up the crock pot carnitas. Just so you know, you can turn on a slow-cooker all you want, but if you don't plug it in it won't actually accomplish anything.  The only meat I had left was chicken breast, so I tried to make gluten-free chicken nuggets from scratch.  They looked good, but who knew Lawry's seasoning salt would be so salty?

The worst part is I couldn't even serve them with ketchup to mellow the taste - man, I really do need to make it to the store.  The boys were disgusted at the idea of a too-salty, nearly inedible dinner, but I was too tired to try for a third round of culinary failure and called it quits.  A little salt never hurt anyone, right?  DragonMonkey and Squid were horrified that I wouldn't cook anything else and there was nothing for them to make on their own, so they complained how horrible their dinner was until I almost broke down into tears.

They're only 4 and 6 but they know when they've pushed too far, and they've been making an effort ever since.  It sounds forced and fake, but I figure learning how to give fake compliments is good training for the future (who knows if they'll marry someone who can cook?) so I don't call them on it. You're welcome, future spouses.

The coffee finishes brewing right as I'm shoving a snack into DragonMonkey's lunch bag, and The Bean emerges from the bedroom - freshly showered, starched business clothes, bright-eyed and brushed teeth.

I retie my frumpy robe for the 17th time and pour myself my first cup of coffee, clearing the mossy cobweb-feeling from my mouth with the first sip.  I close my eyes, finding a moment of stillness in the morning chaos, letting the aroma of coffee swirl around my brain as I count backwards from 10. I can afford ten seconds to myself, right?

10.  9.  8.  7.  6.  


5.  4.

"I said leave it alone!  Don't touch--- MOM!  HE SPIT ON ME!  SQUID SPIT ON ME!"

Six seconds.  Apparently I can afford six seconds.  I set the cup down and intervene, eyeballing the clock behind me.  The Bean offered to drop DragonMonkey off at the bus stop this morning, but if they don't leave in three minutes, they're going to miss the bus.

I let them know this, and both the Bean and DragonMonkey grow visibly anxious.  They're cut from the same cloth - both loving schedules, and order, and rules, and the idea of being late makes them leak an anxiety that's almost palpable.  I'm throwing shoes on DragonMonkey, fishing discarded Superman hoodies off the porch, stuffing take-home folders into Angry Bird backpacks, kissing, hugging, waving, and they're finally out the door.  The Bean returns for a quick kiss - he smells like soap and tastes minty fresh, which means I don't.

Man, I really need to start brushing my teeth first-thing in the morning.  I hate feeling self-conscious about goodbye-kisses.

"If you miss the bus bring him back and I'll drop him off!" I pause, wondering if I ought to add something more romantic.  It'll be about 14 hours before I see The Bean again, and that's only if I stay up late to greet him, otherwise I won't see him until tomorrow morning.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again:  Friends don't let friends become public accountants.

"Love you!" I holler as they head out the gate.  Hey, it's not exactly a Shakespearean sonnet, but I've only had one sip of coffee.  Speaking of which....

I pick it up and take a sip, making a face.  It's lukewarm, edging towards cold, and I cross to the sink to pour it down the drain.  I hate wasting it, but I've never gotten the hang of microwaving coffee.  It always tastes... well, microwaved.

I ditch the robe and find jogging clothes, tripping over dogs that circle me in quiet adoration.  Squid is standing in front of the couch, staring wordlessly at Caillou. I grimace at the sound of it.  I hate that show - it's like they're deliberately teaching children how to be whiny little ingrates, plus the main voice actor was a 17 year old girl who died in a car crash, so I can't even feel right about hating it.  Still - it captivates Squid, and he's still for the first time all morning, staring up at the TV with his scruffy hair spilling over the back of his shirt in a little mullet.  I wince.

"Squid, come here."  What he needs is a haircut, but what he gets instead is a quick trim on the back of his hair.  We don't have a lot of standards in this house, but I have to draw the line at mullets.  It's a bit crooked, but hopefully nobody will notice.

I glance at the clock as I gather up the plates from the kitchen table, noticing as I do that in the excitement of getting DragonMonkey out the door on time one of the dogs has somehow managed to countersurf the baggie of leftover Valentine's Day candy off of the kitchen counter and is now hiding with it in her kennel.  Well, I say "one of the dogs", but I know exactly who the culprit is.


She slinks toward me, all apologies, and I glance inside her kennel - it's too late - it's already gone.   There's nothing but empty wrappers and slobber.  She stares at me, guilt-ridden, and I sigh.  Yelling won't bring the candy back, and at this point the only thing that's going to stop her counter-surfing is getting the mouse traps someone suggested.... but again, there's that trip to the store I keep putting off.

I help Squid into shoes and walk him over to daycare, realizing as I do that I've forgotten my coffee on the counter again.  By the time I get back it'll be cold.  I think I managed two sips out of this cup. We go through creamer at a horrific rate, but the truth is that I feed most of it to my kitchen sink.  It'd probably be cheaper to pour myself coffee one sip at a time, but that just feels dumb.

I glance at the clock, mentally ticking off the errands still left on my plate.  Let's see.... make sure the chicken water is filled, let the dogs go potty, check the cat food.... find my keys and squeeze in a sanity-saving jog before heading to work.  Pick up the DragonMonkey on my lunch break, make lunch for both boys, drop both DragonMonkey and the lunch off at the sitter's, and return to work.

I want to see Caspian today - it's been too long - but do I have time?   How much work is on the docket today at the barn?  I love the fact that I'm making money working at a horse barn, but I can't seem to find as much enjoyment as I want to.  There are no set hours, and I find myself unable to relax.  While I'm there I keep thinking of all the unfinished tasks that are waiting for me as soon as I'm done, and I spend the whole time weighing the decision of thirty more minutes of paid work versus thirty minutes of unpaid chores at home.

Speaking of unfinished.... I wince as I remember the still untyped dictation I owe... no, no Caspian today.   Again.   I need to finish up the dictation so I can get my time card off to my job.  I need the check for board, so it's a non-negotiable item.  I can do it after work,  before I pick up the boys at 5.... but by that point it'll be dinner time.  Should I chance a trip to the store with hungry kids, or try to go after dinner? I keep trying to go after dinner, but by that point I'm so tired I don't even feel safe behind the wheel, which is why we are living a life of One Shared Bathroom Lighbulb. What I need to do is cancel the jog with my friend and just go to the store now.  It's makes the most sense.  Maybe I could make my body learn how to release itself by writing, instead of moving?

Speaking of blog - my poor, un-updated blog.  I need to be blogging more than ever now.  If I'm really taking this whole "writer" thing seriously, I need regular posts.  I need pageviews, and likes, and a ready-made audience to better "sell" myself to agents and publishers....

But seriously.  Whose stupid idea was it, anyways, to brand myself as a humor writer?  I think of the dozens of partially-finished stories in my drafts box, and find myself shaking my head.  I'm too tired to be funny today.  Today, walking up the front steps of my house is as much of an effort as I can handle.  There's just nothing left in me to make other people laugh.

I'm so lucky - most of the medications for auto-immune diseases have side effects like "cancer" or "death".  Don't get me wrong, it's better than living a life of crippling pain, but still scary as heck.  I'm so lucky that thus far I've been able to keep serious flare-ups at bay... but I really do need to make an appointment with that rheumatologist.  This last one took it out of me.  I've been mostly pain-free for almost two weeks, but I'm still caught in that flare-up fog.  I'm only 33.  Walking to my front porch shouldn't feel like this big of an accomplishment, but it does.  A trip to the rheumatologist might give me some answers.

But seriously, I was only 9 minutes late.  Between gas and baby sitting and time off of work it cost me over $30 to make it to that appointment, only to be turned away for being 9 minutes late.  I search my feelings and realize I'm still a little too angry to make the call, so I shuffle inside, searching for my keys.

I glance at the clock  It's not even 8 in the morning and I'm already exhausted.  Of course, is "already" the right word?  I haven't stopped being exhausted, not for days.  Still.  There, that's a better word. It's 8 in the morning, and I'm still exhausted, but that's okay.  I'll feel better after I jog.  I don't have time for a jog, but I can't afford not to.  The store can wait.

Every year I go through the Valentine's Day cards at the store.....

And every year I refuse to buy one, because they never say what I really want to say.

So, this year.... I made my own.

Happy Valentine's Day, Bean!
DragonMonkey is dyiiiiiing for a tablet.  His one friend has a tablet.  His other friend has a tablet.  His other, other, other friend has a tablet.  Can't he have a tablet, too?

Son, you're in kindergarten.  You're getting matchbox cars and firetrucks for birthdays and Christmases.  If we start you out on little miniature iPads now, we'll have to upgrade to weird stuff like hookers and cocaine by the time you're in your teens, in order to "top" last year's gift.

The DragonMonkey is not amused, in case you were curious.

Anyways, my parents were over at my house watching the SuperBowl game last night, and as such they brought the Holy Grail... or rather, their tablets.  The DragonMonkey happily buried himself in a sea of blinking computer lights and downloaded airplane game apps for several hours while we watched a quiet, practically child-free Superbowl game.

Video games suck in the DragonMonkey like nothing else - he'll hone in on them with a ferocious intensity and only emerge to notice the world around him from to time, like a swimmer surfacing to breathe.  It's a little like me and books, so I can't say I don't understand.

Last night he emerged briefly during this commercial:

If you haven't seen it, you really need to watch it for this next part to make sense.

Anyways, the sound of the pig rocketing out of the barn drew DragonMonkey's attention, and he eyeballed it dubiously.

"What even is that?  A... a cow?  A.... a warthog?"  He shook his head with absolute disgust, rolling his eyes in disdain before slipping back into his video game coma.  "That kid shouldn't do that to his dog.  That's not nice."

Sure, son.  We'll buy you a tablet.  And a Nintendo DS and heck, why not an XBox One to go with our PS3?  You don't need any more actual life experience.

On a side note, does anyone know when the county fair is coming to town?  I want to go show my son the non-flying warthogs.

Back in my early 20s I used to deliver pizza for Domino's, and one of my favorite parts about it (aside from the free mistake pizzas and the great tips) was getting the chance to peek into people's living rooms.

Look, I'm just being honest here.  I'm a nosy, nosy person.  I'm usually discreet, but I find people watching (and, I guess, living room watching) endlessly fascinating.

Anyways, there's a company based out of New York called Urban Compass - it's a real estate platform which helps you find a place to rent, based on your personal tastes.

You know how you go on Craigslist and start searching for apartments in your budget, and then you Google the address, and then maybe use Street View to figure out what kind of area it's in?  And then you might narrow it down, but you still have to kind of drive around and get a feel for the area and waste a bunch of gas money trying to figure out if it's a good fit for you?

Well, it's like that, only someone else is doing all the annoying work.

Anyways, they're doing this thing right now called Starter Stories where people are sharing stories about their starter home - either their first home or the home that gave them a fresh start, and all the trials and tribulations and joys that go into renovating and decorating and whatnot.

All of this to say- dude.  It's like my old Domino's job - I get to gawk at people's living rooms and it's not even illegal.  


Anyways, after spending waaaaaaay too long looking up other people's stories I decided I wanted to participate too. This was gonna be so much fun!  I could spend a couple of days scrubbing the house till it shined, and then I would use the “good” camera to take the prettiest “after” pictures. 

Ooooh, maybe I could even create little side-by-side before-and-after photos!  I could use Photoshop to draw out the future projects so people could understand, and, and, and, and….

…and then The Plague hit our household. It’s been nine days since the first of us succumbed to the flu, but we’re still shuffling around in old robes and stained slippers and unwashed hair.

Welcome to the House of Bean, where we are definitely not bringing sexy back.

The problem with nine days of sickness is it looks like a tornado ripped through here, and I don't have any energy to begin cleaning up the devastation.  In fact, as I look around my house right now I realize… you know, the only project I have in mind to accomplish at any point in the foreseeable future is cleaning up the cat vomit in the laundry room. 

Before I go any further, I’d like to clear my good name.  Please don’t imagine I have spent the last few days looking at a pile of cat vomit every time I had to go in the laundry room.  That’s gross.  Even I have standards.

No, when I first saw the new pile of kitty puke I was so overwhelmed at the thought of one more chore on top of caring for a houseful of sick people that I nearly burst into tears.  I realized I just couldn’t, absolutely couldn’t handle one more thing….. so I grabbed a Tupperware bowl from the kitchen sink and plopped it upside-down over the pile of puke.

I mean, everyone knows that if you can’t see the vomit, it doesn’t actually exist, right? 

So, yeah.  I sat down to write a post about all the tribulations of renovating my house, and how I feel like this home is kind of a piece of me, and I was trying to create some kind of collage of my delightful, Pinterest-worthy house and all the projects we were doing …. 

And the only real thing on my household project list was cleaning up cat vomit.  Well, that and maybe throwing away the Tupperware bowl instead of washing it, because, I mean, EWW.

Martha Stewart, I am not.

The thing is, sick or not, unattended piles of cat vomit or not, I really do love my home.  It’s a quirky little place – and I still find myself kind of in awe that I'm an homeowner.  There’s something so deliciously grown-up feeling about inviting people to spend the night in our guest bedroom.  It makes me feel… I dunno.  Mature.  Responsible.  The kind of person you’d trust to water your plants when you go on vacation.

Note:  Please don’t hire me to kill your plants.

I love my house, and I understand how lucky I am to own my own home, especially in this economy.  So when I talk about stuff I want to change, please understand I’m not complaining.  I am lucky, I am blessed, and my life is amazing.

It’s just… my home was built in 1916.  That means it’s nearly 100 years old, and over the course of a hundred years, a lot of people have left their mark on it… and unfortunately, not all of the marks were for the better.

For instance:  There are four bedrooms upstairs.  FOUR.   Let that sink in for a moment.Okay, well, technically it’s three bedrooms, since the largest room doesn’t have a closet and can only be counted as a “bonus room” – but still.  There are FOUR BEDROOMS UPSTAIRS.



I mean, I guess I kind of understand.  All the bathrooms are downstairs, so if they wanted to flip the house quickly, being able to advertise the house as having a “master suite with a walk-in closet” made a lot of sense….

But still.  There are FOUR BEDROOMS UPSTAIRS, and now there is a fifth bedroom downstairs and only one tiny, itty-bitty living room downstairs.  

All of the bedrooms upstairs are pretty small, especially because of the sloped ceiling from the A-frame roof.  Sloped ceilings are gorgeous and cozy in photos, but they make furnishing a room really irritating.  You can’t have tall dressers, or big pictures on the walls, or even beds in the corner. 

Well, okay, you can put beds in the corner... specifically because it keeps kids from jumping on their beds.  Short ceilings aren't all that bad.

I don't have a lot of before pics of the upstairs bedroom - only the ones we got off the sale ad.  I'm sure they were going for "neutral" colors, but flesh-colored walls and flesh-colored ceilings made me hear "It puts the lotion on its skin" every time I went upstairs, so I repainted as soon as we moved in.

By doing a two-tone look on the walls made it seem bigger, especially with the little doorway thingie.  (You like my technical terms?) In reality, the ceiling is so short my three year old can't stand up on his bed without ducking.  

We are planning on buying the boys a short little Ikea bunk bed - once we do that I plan on redecorating their room with some kind of a theme.

In other words, it’s a Hobbit House.  We have second story full of tiny, cozy little hobbit caves, which sounds adorable, only nobody ever uses any of those Hobbit caves.  I mean, the kids do sleep in their bedroom, and occasionally we have an overnight guest, but still.  We have all of this square footage that sits empty, and some days it frustrates me.    

I even tried creating a little theater-style seating in the bonus room, hoping we could turn it into a “media room” where people would lounge and hang out and play video games, but to no avail.   I'm the only one who ever uses it.

On the other hand... checkout my kickass homemade theater seating.  I was originally going to paint the bottom white and line plywood in the little holes so we could use them as little pockets to stash stuff..... but I've changed my mind.  Instead, I'm going to cover the bottom with carpet so they look built-in.  The cushions are just old futons I got from garage sales and friends, and the sheets and pillows I grabbed at GoodWill.  Eventually I'm going to sew the sheets as covers, rather than just tucking them, and it'll look super fancy....

But man, I hate sewing almost more than I hate laundry.

I don't know about you, but I think I rock.  Who kicks butt decorating her house on her monthly budget of $0?

I do, that's who.

Anyways, I’d say 85% of our time is spent in itty-bitty living room, the other 10% is spent in the kitchen, and people only venture upstairs when it’s to sleep. I've pretty much given up trying to lure us upstairs, although... I dunno.  Maybe I could lay some Reese’s Pieces up the staircase and lure us up?  I mean, what’s the point of having a second story if nobody uses it?

Also, I’m pretty sure that last sentence is the most stuck-up, #FirstWorldProblems sentence I’ve ever written in my entire life.  The next thing you’ll know, I’m going to be flapping my hands about how uncomfortable my money mattress is, or how the help doesn’t prepare my nightly filet mignon to my standards.

It’s just…. Dude.  WHY DID THEY CUT MY LIVING ROOM IN HALF TO MAKE A FIFTH BEDROOM?   I WANT MY LIVING ROOM BACK.  Don’t  get me wrong, my bedroom is lovely.  It has gorgeous hardwood floors, and tons of floor space, and a giant walk-in closet, and a lovely attached full bath.

From a seller’s perspective, it was a brilliant move. 

From a practical perspective?  Unless one of us eats bad sushi, or has some other stomach bug which makes us grateful to have a bathroom only a few steps away…. I daydream almost daily about tearing that wall down and reclaiming that space.

I mean, think about it:  how much time you really spend in a bedroom, unless you’re a depressed teenager?  The answer is:  not much at all, unless you're asleep or, uh... you know.  "Folding Laundry" with the hubby.   I dream almost daily about going all Fried Green Tomatoes on that wall.

Confession:  I'll never actually do it.  I mean, like the idea of crazy renovation like that, but it just seems like so much work – and who wants to work that hard on a house when there are so many horses to ride, or new cities to visit, or books to read?   I mean, wasn't the whole point of moving to a small town in the Pacific Northwest to, you know, actually GET OUTSIDE?

I sure didn't move to St. Helens - a small town outside of Portland - so I could spend my time decorating and redecorating and re-redecorating my living room.  We moved here because - well, because it's GORGEOUS.

St. Helens is a small town, full of friendly people, has an amazing laid-back vibe, and there are tons of fun little hole-in-the-wall businesses and gorgeous trails to explore.  If my living room feels too small - I dunno.  Maybe I it's a sign I need to spend less time in it.

Now, I don't want to make it seem like I'm against doing big projects on the house, or that renovation projects are bad.  I'm all for buying a house that needs a little work.  I fact, I have to say that some of the best money we’ve ever spent was the $1,000 we spent on our chain link fence.


After: caged children are infinitely preferable to free-range children

One of the neat things about installing our fence is that I’ve met more than one person who admitted they thought about buying our house when it was still on the market, but ultimately passed on it because it didn’t "have a yard".

Best.  Money. Spent.  EVER.

Also, best front yard.  EVER.

Narnia.  I live in Narnia.  Well, Narnia in the spring/summer, and a mudhole in the winter, but who cares?  It's Narnia some of the year!

We have lots of plans for our house, and if I had an unlimited budget and the energy of a six year old, we'd probably have them all done by now.  After all, we're going on three years living in this house.   The reality is, though, we don't have an unlimited budget, nor do we have endless energy, so we have had to figure out which projects and purchases mean the most to us.

Would our living room look a million times more spacious with that gorgeous, soft grey, "L" shaped sectional I saw over at Fred Meyers?  Absolutely.

Would I end up eating my children or skinning my dogs when they inevitably tramped mud or spilled apple juice on it?  Absolutely.

So, fancy furniture will have to wait.  It's not worth the headache, you know?

I am, however, a big fan of painting.  It's amazing how much new paint can really change the feel of a room.  I especially love bright, happy colors.  Orange.  Red.  Yellow.  Maroon.  Teal.  The brighter they are, the happier they are.

The Bean?  The Bean's more of a black/white, and occasionally a nice, muted grey kind of a guy.

Sometimes I feel like we're literally living out Fool Rush In.  Have you seen that movie?  You know the scene when Salma Hayek's family comes and paints their boring, dull, ugly house all those happy colors for a wedding present?

This scene doesn't have the right effect on me.  I think the colors they chose for the house are goooooooorgeous.  Cognitively I understand I'm supposed to dislike the paint job, but my heart? My heart is in looooove.

This used to be a point of contention between The Bean and I, but somewhere  along the way we figured out the perfect compromise between The Bean's fascination with boring colors and my fascination with gaudy colors.  The Bean gets to pick the nice, mellow paint colors, and after we've made our house all boring neutral looking, I get to splatter the walls with happiness.


And honestly?  It looks a million times better this way.  I'm no interior design expert, but one thing I have learned is that bright things look less garish on sedately-painted walls.

Speaking of paint, I'm going to repaint the whole downstairs.  The current paint colors aren’t that bad, although the ceiling is painted a lovely “1980s smoke-stained yellow”.  One of the previous owners did start painting the ceiling white, and it looks great…. But I guess they got bored halfway through the project and gave up.

Of course, I can sympathize.

That painters tape has been on that wall for four months now.  I swear I"m going to finish painting the bottom half a nice shiny white by 2016.  For realsies. Also, fiiiiiine, Bean.  You were right.  I know I said I hated blue.... but you're right.  It really does make our bedroom look bright and pretty.
I’ve mentioned before, but I’m horrible at choosing paint colors, so I've pretty much abdicated that responsibility up to The Bean.  My only requirements are:

  1. It must be at least a shade or two brighter than the "flesh" colors that our house came with.  It really makes a difference on those grey, rainy days.
  2. It must be a scrubbable paint.  Whoever painted before us put flat paint on un-textured walls…. which means I can’t give my boys damp sponges and order them to scrub walls as punishment for bad behavior.  Washing the walls is my favorite punishment for bad behavior – it’s as boring as standing in the corner, but it actually accomplishes something useful.

Our new downstairs colors: Sedate, calming, flowing  
I can't wait to ruin them by hanging something delightfully tacky on the walls. 

I plan on attacking the downstairs with our new paint scheme some time in February. I actually put the project off last summer because I knew that by February I’m usually hungry for something bright and cheerful to look forward to, so a painting project will give me something to occupy my time while I wait around for longer days, warmer weather, and less mud.

In addition to the tiny projects we're doing to make our house nicer, we usually have one or two "big" projects we try to get done each year.  The first of this year's "big" projects was accomplished over Christmas break... which, I guess, technically makes it last year's project, but whatever.

We finally, FINALLY, ripped out the totally useless built-in.... uh....display case? Floating shelves?  Weird bookshelf area?  I have no idea what it actually was designed for - all I know is that the shelves didn't fit books, they didn't fit dishes, and  I constantly bumped my head on them.

Before (from listing photos)


After - it looks a bazillion times bigger.  We'll eventually pull out the top most shelves, but I don't feel like trying to match ceiling texture quite yet, so this is my compromise.

This house actually has less storage than my first studio apartment, so it may seem odd to remove shelves, but the Bean Family motto for 2015 is:

Less Is More

I mean it.  We are really trying to live that this year.  For instance:  You know how I'm always complaining about how much I hate doing laundry?  

Well... this year I did something about it.

I have a drawer of undergarments, a drawer of pajamas, and a small box of exercise clothes, and THAT IS IT.  Also, you're totally impressed by my photoshop skills, aren't you?

Do you have any idea how freeing it is to get rid of almost all your clothes?   I mean, I'm not exactly a fashionista, so why did I have a closet full of clothes?  How many different variations of slovenly did I really need taking up space?  And even if I do fit into my "skinny" clothes again.... if I really lose all that weight, doesn't that merit new clothes, and not clothes from half a decade ago?

My closet wasn't the only place I purged.  DragonMonkey is six years old.  Squid is three years old.   Did they really need 417 different types of t-shirts?

The answer is no.  No, they did not.

What's that, boys? You're out of clothes to wear? 
Well, let Mama do ALL OF THE LAUNDRY in one afternoon.

I don't know when exactly when my new mindset clicked, but it did.  Maybe it wasn't that our house didn't have enough storage.  Maybe it was just that we had too much stuff.  We are not a fancy family, hosting fancy dinner parties and scouring interior design magazines. I mean, there is literally a pile of cat puke under a tupperware bowl in my laundry room.  Fancy is not who I am, or who I strive to be, so how much crap do I really need?

So.... instead of renovating this house to fit my dreams, I think I'm kind of renovating my dreams to fit this house.  It's not that I'm giving up anything - I'm just altering the landscape as I remember the whole reason we chose St. Helens in the first place.  If clutter-free is important to me, maybe I don't need to dream of a house with better storage and better closets.  Maybe I just need to get rid of some crap.

In addition to getting rid of clutter, I'm trying to figure out how to make everything in my life actually useful.  For instance: my upstairs office is everything I dreamed it would be - clean, quiet, peaceful:

The walls are not as yellow as they show on the right - 
my cell phone's panorama mode and I are NOT friends

But if I never write in it because I don't actually like sitting at a desk and the chair hurts my bum, what's the point?  Who cares if a room looks "nice" if you never actually use it?

So sometime this summer I'll be selling the desk and will be scouting garage sales for an "ugly" but infinitely comfortable recliner.  Maybe I'll even find one of those fake fireplace heaters or, daydream of daydreams.... a LoveSac.  I had to sell my LoveSac when we moved here because it took up too much space in the moving van, and I'm still sad about it.

I actually would have already redecorated my office, but it’s off-season for decorating.  Garage sales are seasonal (due to the rain) here in the Pacific Northwest, and because of the lack of competition people on Craigslist charge exorbitant amounts for used furniture.   If you think I'm exaggerating, go check it out.  I once saw the world's UGLIEST used sofa going for $900 just because it was "vintage".

People - old and ugly does not mean it's vintage.  

You know, if I had the time and energy, I’d spend all summer picking up cheap furniture from garage sales, all fall/early winter painting,  refurbishing,  and reupholstering, and then make a pretty decent profit selling stuff on Craigslist during late winter/early spring, when prices are at their highest.

Buuuuuuut......I know I’m never going to do that.  I don’t have the energy for the stuff I already have on my to-do list, and there are already SO MANY PROJECTS we still want to do – amazing projects which will make living here a million times cooler.

We are going to punch a hole through the useless area at the foot of the stairs and frame in part of the laundry room and create a walk-in “L” shaped pantry.

My imaginary Pinterest pantry is sexier than your imaginary Pinterest pantry.

The fridge is currently just sitting in the laundry room – fridges are much bigger than you think, and it’s the only place it really fits (one of the joys of a century-old house.)  

Inside the pantry we are going to punch a hole in the wall so the back half of the fridge can sit in the pantry, while the front half can be easily accessible through the toy/breakfast nook area.  That's where they had the fridge when we bought the house, but it was so big it made the entire room unusable.  Besides, it stuck out, and eventually it was like looking at someone who has a giant whitehead  - all I could see was that giant pimple, err, fridge sticking out, so I eventually moved it to the laundry room. 

It's a nicer view from the living room: but I am really looking forward to not having to walk into the back of the house every time I want to get the milk.

Speaking of breakfast nooks, I can’t WAIT to build a breakfast nook instead of the catch-all playroom for the boys:

We also want to tear down the looks-only plaster wall (where we just tore down that bookcase thingie) and replace the useless under-stairs-Harry-Potter closet with  a little reading area by the kitchen.

We want to rip out the entire kitchen  and replace it with USEFUL cabinets. I'm really looking forward to this, because when we do it we're going to create a little drop-down barstool eating area..... and that space can then used as part of the living room.

We also want to put laminate down instead of the old-style wood flooring.  The idea of having 1916 flooring is just so much cooler than it actually is.  Not only is it painted over with funky-looking paint which would cost thousands upon thousands to strip and refinish, it has so many cracks and holes that whenever you spill water in the kitchen, it actually drips through all the way down to  the basement floor beneath it.

We want to build a deck in our giant, “useless” backyard.

Pretty to look at, but with the rocks, and the steep hillside, and the drop-off, 
nobody ever goes out there.

And on that deck there will be a with a REAL fire pit area we can enjoy during the rainy season most of the year.

Like this... only more roof and less expensive-looking, unless we win the lotto

We want to frame in and de-horrify the serial killer’s lab which passes for our basement. 

I think we can all agree that all it's missing is some plastic sheeting and some Dexter

With short ceilings (only 7 feet) it will never be totally inviting, but we can at least make it functional.  I want to line the walls with storage cabinets, and maybe hang a punching bag and get some workout equipment.   

We’re also planning on framing-in and creating a downstairs office for The Bean, although how he’s going to get any accounting work done with us galloping around overhead, I have no idea.

We want to repaint the porch floor.

We want to stain and epoxy the basement floor. 

We want to repaint the house trim, and put window boxes under the windows, and, and and…

We want to… We want to… We want to….

We want to have Friday night movie nights with our boys.

We want summer camping trips. 

We want to visit the coast, and bring chicken soup to sick friends, and teach the boys how to swim, and take the dogs on long hikes in the Oregon forests.  We want to ride horses, and fly kites.

We want to buy an old car and fix it up in our basement and sell it for money.

We want to enjoy this house as a home which brings us joy, instead of letting it become a never-ending series of DIY projects that leave me exhausted and snapping at my children. 

So…. We take it one small project  at a time.  So what if we’re roasting marshmallows in an asymmetrical hole I dug in the ground with a shovel, rather than the gorgeous fireplace on the deck of my dreams?  We’re roasting marshmallows, and we’re inviting friends over, and we’re making memories. 

And maybe it feels like forever before I’ll ever have my dream pantry, but when a friend needed a place to stay this past summer, I was able to open my home and give her a place to crash.

And you know what?   If another friend knocked on my door this evening and wanted to stay the night, my home would be open to them, too, cat vomit and all.   

I think that’s my favorite part of all about owning my own home – it’s being able to share, and give back to others, even if my home or my life isn’t perfect.  And maybe I’m not as carefree and adventurous as I was in my youth, but there’s something nice about being stable enough to help support others when they need a hand.

It’s probably going to take us years before we finish all of the projects we’re dreaming about.  Heck, maybe we’ll never get it done… but that’s okay.  I don’t want to put real-life on hold, even if it does mean pushing back the dream of a perfect living room.  Besides, even if this place isn’t the perfect house, it’s still a home. My home.  And that makes it perfect to me.

But seriously, I can’t wait until the downstairs is freshly painted so I can enjoy the sight of my kids scrubbing walls.