the outcome

They came. They saw. They conquered. My horrible overgrown yard, that is. Yesterday was my turn for 2013 and for more than the prescribed amount of time, my friends tangled with what can best be described as the evil thorny cousin of tumbleweed. They also pulled ivy. They cut down trees. They planted. Kara and Don bequeathed me a gazillion plants from their Cheverly house yard, not to mention the patio furniture and chimera that they no longer need now that they are urbanites living in Baltimore.

And the result? I have a yard. I have a place to sit and enjoy my quiet slice of peace outside the chaos of the city. I am already thinking of other things I want to plant, and I want to throw dinner parties out here before it gets too hot and buggy to enjoy.

Once again I find myself overcome with emotion over the dedication that a group of friends can display over projects that get shoved to the bottom of our own to do lists at home. I’m especially touched that my friend Rob, who said he couldn’t stay long because he had some deadlines he was stressed about, decided to stay well into the evening because he was “having fun.” And that’s the thing. It’s fun to help. It’s much more fun to be at another family’s Warriors day than it is to run your own. Because there is nothing like transforming a room, a yard, or whatever the object of change is and seeing the look on the face of the owner of said space at the end.

But with that said, in spite of the sore muscles, sunburn, and piles of debris in my front yard that need to be hauled away, this was the best Warriors ever. And I cannot thank my friends enough.



Month of Chelsea

Photo by chelseachronicl

I have designated November to be Month of Chelsea. I’ve had enough of tears, frustration, bad weather, illness and death. I’ve had enough of sleepless nights, back pain, and wondering when things will turn around. There’s no sense in waiting for change. It’s time to make it for myself.

I had this epiphany exactly yesterday, on day one. And what did I do on this day? I early voted. It took a five-hour split shift on a rainy day to get it done, but it was important to me to fulfill this civic duty. In between line waiting, I spent some quality time with my hairdresser and dropped by the kids’ school where I had a nice chat with the principal about my kids’ education.

So far day two has found me breakfasting with one of my favorite people in DC and receiving this unexpected gift in the mail from my friend Kassie. It’s my very favorite shoe of all time, the Treat by Bettye Muller, custom dyed in a gorgeous coral-orange shade. Later today, I hope to make it to Biker Barre and after, to visit with my old boss to discuss an idea I have to return civility to Washington, DC. Yes, I am thinking big this month.

On tap for day three I have Weekend Warriors, one of my favorite days of the month. Other goodies in the Chelsea queue include: publishing at long last my story; heading to Michigan for Election Day to campaign for the Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs ballot initiative; and later this month, I head to San Francisco for Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. And then there is my upcoming vacation to Hawaii.

How can November not be month of Chelsea when I’m spending seven days of it in Hawaii?

I won’t torture you with daily updates, but did want to share my newfound energy, enthusiasm and purpose. If we all decide that November is going to be our month and we all made the most of these 30 days, wouldn’t all that positive energy result in a vast amount of goodness?

I’m not saying that this is the solution to all the world’s problems, but at least for one month, I promise to not let the negative get in the way and to live each day with the promise it deserves.

43 by 43, tiny update

This week, the boys tried (and liked) dragon fruit.

It felt like I had achieved more, but I just counted and can officially cross off ten items from my 43 by 43 list. Now, I keep reminding myself that there are items on the list that are meant to become new practices, such as introduce the boys to something new each week (food, idea, place, etc.) so while I have been maintaining, I can never really cross these goals off.

I can thank Weekend Warriors for knocking off four items: paint the living room, install surround sound, convert the playroom into a functional room, and hang curtains in the new functional room. In addition, I have started composting, went to the dermatologist to have my moles checked, did a juice cleanse, attended a DC fashion event (FNO) and a few goals that are a little too personal to share on the interwebs.

Where do I need to improve? Posting to the blog at least three times a week, going to the dentist, and contributing to the boys’ college fund. This morning I spoke to Colin in a mean voice before calming down and trying to reason with him in a compassionate voice. With some of my goals, I have taken steps toward fulfillment. For example, I’m signed up to take Knife Skills: Poultry at Hill’s Kitchen so that when I roast my duck, I can also carve the damn bird myself. (By the way, it turns out a lot of you want to be at the dinner table for duck, so I will either have to host three duck-themed dinner parties or cook more than one duck for the evening. I’m humbled that so many of you have confidence in my duck preparation abilities.)

I will continue to tick items off the list and periodically update you, but the bottom line, as evidenced by my mean voice use this morning, is that the challenge continues.

weekend warriors

Last year, I wrote about the “book club for home improvement” group that I belong to, Weekend Warriors. My friend Kara already expressed how fantastic this group of families is on her blog, so instead of repeating her declarations of love for these friends, I’ll let a picture (or collage) tell a thousand words.

On Saturday, the Warriors came to my house, read the list I had prepared in advance, and conquered my projects. We painted the living room. We installed surround sound (and by “we” I mean a team of guys led by Neil, an Emmy-winning sound technician for NPR) and the backyard was laboriously cleared of the weeds and debris that had been encroaching on my house. The kids potted flowers for my front stoop. We painted the exterior of my front and back doors. Emily (and kids) power washed the side of my house. Curtain rods were hung in the playroom-slash-office, and Ritzer removed the door that had served as a barrier between this room and the rest of the house. Rob (and kids) made a cork board out of exactly 128 wine corks. Afterwards, we ate three different types of chili. We drank beer. We drew for 2013 months.

There had been a moment as we neared the four-hour mark when I looked around and thought to myself, “I have a long night of work ahead of me once the whistle blows and everyone leaves.” But no one put a brush down or otherwise stopped working until the work was done. In fact, a few guys are coming over later this week to make the wires to my speakers “pretty.”

The entire process made me teary, though by my own rules, there’s no crying in Warriors. There is dreaming though of my 2013 turn, coming in April, a perfect month to really landscape that yard of mine. In the meantime, I will enjoy the process of participating in other people’s projects. (It’s much less stressful to go into someone else’s house and tackle their needs than it is to manage your own.) And every time I see the results of the hard work of these good friends, I smile.

I am a warrior people belong to book club. I’ve heard of dinner club, cookbook club and wine club. But one thing I had never heard of until I made friends in Cheverly is Weekend Warriors.

I’m not sure whose conception it was exactly as I’m a recent inductee into this esteemed group, but several years ago my friends created the book club equivalent for home improvement projects. Think of it as a modern interpretation of barn raising. Ten families over 12 months come to one family’s house on the second Saturday of each month (except December and January) for half a day’s worth of work. Your month is predetermined at the beginning of the year and you are supposed to make eight out of ten months. Projects I’ve seen so far include building a greenhouse, landscaping, deck staining, painting (there’s lots of painting), plumbing work, tile grouting and of course, someone has to herd the children.

I don’t officially have a slot in Warriors until the 2012 cycle begins, but I still participated in a couple of projects over the summer and fall.  Since I had helped in the 2011 cycle, and I drew August 2012 as my month for the next round, a couple of Warriors members suggested that if I had some small projects that I send a note around over winter break for a mini-unofficial Warriors gathering.

Do I have projects? I had some ceiling tiles that needed replacing in my basement (a constant reminder of the pipe bursting incident Inaugural weekend when temps were in the single digits) and I needed electrical work in the basement bathroom my brother renovated but was not comfortable doing the wiring on. These were two projects I could not do on my own.

I was overwhelmed by the number of families who came to help what were really two one-man projects. I could have called last night’s gathering “borrow a husband” instead of Warriors since really it was the Don and Rob show while their wives and I drank champagne in the kitchen, and the children ran amok until someone wisely turned on the TV. (A very rainy day prevented outdoor play.) In all, five families came over to enjoy homemade pizza, leftover Christmas cookies, champagne, Bell’s Winter White and the merriment that fifteen children (only four of which were girls) confined to the indoors can make.

And now, my ceiling tiles are replaced. I have power in my bathroom, though I need to take a trip to Home Depot before we can actually install lighting, but Don promises me this is a 15-minute job once I get the parts I need. We even got to do a little advance work on what my August 2012 project(s) should be. Do I want to rip out the carpet in the playroom/mommy cave and replace with wood or faux-wood flooring? Build a wine closet? The more we drank, the bigger the ideas seemed to get. But whatever project ends up being, it’s the spirit involved that means the most.