We did good.

Yesterday was the drop off day for the two families we helped out this year. It was a unique experience from the past two years, because for the first time ever, I got to actually have a conversation with the one mother.

In years past, I drop off the items, give my hugs, leave. This year, one of the moms was unexpectedly away when we went to deliver. When we called, she was at the hospital at her grandmother’s bedside. We offered to come pick her up, drop off the items, then take her back to the hospital, which she agreed to do.

But let me start at the beginning.

The first home we delivered to was the single mom with two boys. As we unloaded the items, her smile grew and she began to cry. Trip after trip, box after box, she kept saying, “Stop. Stop, seriously. This is for us?”

When we brought in the TV she said, “This isn’t real life.”

She lived in a part of town that I don’t often travel through. You can think that you’re used to ‘depressed’ neighborhoods when you drive through parts of East Liberty or Homewood and think – oh it’s not that bad. But to drive beyond that, and to go deeper into some neighborhoods, where the busses don’t run and everyone walks and the doors are rotting away – that’s a depressed neighborhood and that is exactly who needed help.

She was a very kind woman, and I think she hugged me approximately 20 times. Tears fell from her eyes when I showed her the wrapped gifts and told her what was inside them. When she heard she got the tablet for her autistic son, she hugged me like she’d never let me go and whispered “thank you,” into my ear. She tried on her coat, to find that it fit perfectly, and she raved about the boots, saying she hasn’t had a pair of winter boots in years. I handed her her envelope of gift cards and when she saw one was for a clothing store only she could benefit from (not her kids) she said, “I get to buy myself something?

It’s hard to explain to these families prior to us dropping off the items that they are going to be getting a bunch of things. For one, you don’t want to make promises you may not be able to keep and two, they don’t believe it until they see it, which I completely understand.

So when the second mom climbed into the back of the ambulance with myself and my friend Ron, she looked at the stuff packed in there, and casually asked, “Oh, do you have more places to go after me?” to which I responded, “No, this is all for you.”

The tears were instant, and she immediately said, “But I’m sure there are people out there who need this more than me.” Which, sure, it may be true, but I simply told her, “You are deserving of these things.”

There is always going to be someone worse off than yourself. Always. I explained to her that while she may not be the worst case out there, it doesn’t mean she deserves it any less. She’s in a rough patch financially and emotionally, and she told me that this is a lift to her spirits.

I then gave her my email address, because she would like to be able to pay it forward when we do this again next year.

I really wish that I could have gotten videos of the deliveries. I wish you all could share in that moment, because it is truly like no other. To see, first hand, the giving back and genuine smiles from both sides. To offer hope when one feels hopeless. Everyone standing a little bit taller.

Every day we are bombarded with the horrible things that happen around the world and in our backyard. I offer this as a small way to hopefully neutralize some of that.

Yesterday, we saw no politics, no race, no war. What we saw was happiness, kindness and equality. Yesterday, I stood next to people who, when I didn’t even ask for it, gave me something no one can ever take away from me: joy. And I thanked them for allowing me to help them.

When you feel enveloped with fear or sadness, remember: an act of kindness, in any size, can change someone’s life. Even your own.

Thank you again for allowing me to do this, because this means more to me than you will ever know.

What gives?

I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day regarding charity. With it being political season and all, there’s been quite the smattering of memes being posted all over Facebook. I’ve gotten very good at simply scrolling on, but the ones that have really been frustrating me lately are the posts about how people who work, pay for those who ‘refuse’ to work. Ironically, they’re typically followed with some sort of religious post about how God is good.

Pick a lane, people.

Now, don’t get me wrong, God is pretty neat. From what I’ve learned in my life about God and Jesus is that, well, Jesus was a nice guy who gave to those who needed it and didn’t judge.

Yet, all I read about is people judging, then hiding behind their God and their religion. But! But! I’m a good person! I go to church every week! I can quote scriptures!

That’s really nice and all, but really, what makes someone good?

I like to believe that I am good. While I don’t follow any one religion, and I couldn’t tell you a thing about what happened in the book of Luke, I can say that I give to those who are in need. I actively search out people, who have less than I do, and do what it takes to give them what they need and deserve. Because while, yes, they may even be on welfare (gasp!) they are human beings, and regardless of how they live their lives, they deserve kindness.

I often wonder where we fell apart. Where the old adage of, “Walk a mile in their shoes,” went.

I have zero issues with religion. Everyone should have their bit of happiness and peace. I find my happiness and peace in a really good run or yoga. Some find it at the bakery. Some find it in church. That is awesome. As long as the end game is happiness and peace, why does it matter how we find it? I spent years thinking there must be something wrong with me to not want to follow a religion. I had a long, tear-filled conversation with my mom asking her if I was a disappointment. I’ve gone through all the feelings and levels of denial. But here I am, with a clear head, and a plan for me – my life – and I’m happy.

Ironically, what I’ve found is that there’s no rhyme or reason as to who gives. I’ve noticed, however, in the past three years of doing my Christmas thing, is that those who give, a lot of them are people who don’t have a lot of extra to give. But they do anyhow. Because it makes them feel good.

I’ll never forget. The first year I held my spinathon for the fundraiser, a woman, who did all six hours of the spinathon, and therefore donated over 60 dollars, told me about when she was a young mother, and her ex-husband kicked her and her son out, literally into the cold. When she finally had a place to live, and it was a very sketchy place, she cried every night, worrying about how she was going to supply Christmas for her son. When she awoke Christmas morning, there was a bike with a bow on it outside her front door. Seems her neighbors heard her cries. Someone did, anyhow, and she said she would never forget that random act of kindness.

Even now, she doesn’t have a lot to give, but every time I host a fundraiser, she’s there, always. With whatever she can give.

I want to be that.

I don’t want to be the fear mongering, hate driving person who complains about where their taxes go. I don’t want to be the person who sits there on their pedestal and judges others. I certainly don’t want to be a person who cares so much about someone else’s life and what they do with it, that I stop living mine.

I want to be that person who donates 5 dollars to a GoFundMe about a kid that needs emergency surgery. I want to be the person who sits with their friend as they await news about their sick dog. I want to be the person who understands that there’s so much more out there than anger and pettiness.

On Monday, November 16th I’ll be delivering the items to the families. If you would like to help our cause, we could really use more diaper donations and the exersaucer. The mother specifically asked for those items. The social worker told me that the mother of the newborn, prior to having the baby, cried to her about how she didn’t even think she could afford diapers. That’s so horribly sad.

Posting a meme only looks proactive. I choose to be the change.

Do Good

Okay. Now that I’ve talked about me a lot the past few posts, let’s talk about something that makes me even happier than a renovated house: helping others.

Last night I was talking with a friend about how rude people can be when commenting on certain things, such as pregnancy. I remember when I was pregnant with Audrey, I’d get some nasty back handed compliments and after having endured them for three other pregnancies, I realized that I was done with that. So one time when someone had said something along the lines of, “Wow, you know you could have just adopted,” I simply said, “Do you realize that your words hurt? Was that your intention?”

Social media is wonderful and awful all at the same time. Now a days people think it’s quite alright to talk about how they don’t approve of abortions, welfare, death penalty, Chipotle, democrats, republicans, or sports. Fine, whatever. But I often wonder why people have such strong opinions on things that aren’t happy.

I don’t live in a bubble, even though it may seem that way. Instead, I understand a lot.

One thing I try not to do is judge other people. I try so hard. Some days I fail miserably, but most days, I do okay.

When I got the list from the families that I’ve taken on to help this winter, I saw that the new mom, after she listed all the things she needed for her son, wanted a massage. I immediately thought, “Well, I can’t tell people they’re raising money so she can go to the spa! What would they think?”

And then I thought, “Screw that, she deserves to treat herself, too.”

Guys, poor people aren’t criminals. They aren’t awful people. They are people who, simply put, are poor.

And I can fluff it up and say less fortunate or in hard times or currently low on the income, but let’s be real here. They have little to no money to spend on anything extra aside from food and rent, so yes, that constitutes as poor.

When I wrote the letters to the moms from last year’s group, I wrote, “I don’t want you to think I take pity on you or think that you can’t take care of yourself. You are having a hard time, and I would like to help to try to lift that burden, even if for a little bit. So that you can know that we are all in this together.”

Because I don’t take pity. I just want to help. It makes me happy to know that if even for just one day, their stresses were lessened.

I’d also like to think that if I was in need of help, someone would help me.

Words hurt, but we can take action to let them know that there are people who care. Every mother deserves to see their children outside in a warm winter coat and boots. Every person deserves to have a massage once and a while. Everyone deserves to know that they are loved, even when the world beats them down. Everyone.

So this year we have two families. Both single mothers. One has two children, a six year old boy with autism and a one year old boy. I don’t point out the autism as a defining thing about this boy, but I am mentioning it because it does add to the mother’s daily struggle. She gets absolutely zero help from his father and I can’t even begin to imagine how that must feel.

The other mother is a mother of a newborn.

I’ve created the amazon.com wishlist and am hoping very much that if you would like to give someone a little bit of cheer this holiday season, buy something off the list. Just as it has for the past two years, everything you purchase comes directly to my house, where I stuff it into an ambulance (thanks Larry!) and hand deliver the items. Every single thing you purchase goes to them. I don’t sell them from the back of my Volvo on the black market, I assure you. Though that would be a fun sight.

Everything that is listed says who it is for and I list it by priority. There are some pricy things and there are some not so pricy things. Also, if anyone reading this that peruses the list finds something that they have themselves in good condition and would like to donate it, I’d be happy to take that as well.

Please also feel free to share the list. It takes more people than I know to make this thing happen.

Thank you for taking the time to consider helping and please know that you have my undying love and respect for continuing to support me. I wish I could hug all of you (and I don’t even like to hug, but lately I’ve been okay with it) and tell you to your face what it means to me. Honestly. Love you all.

Let’s do this.

TGRo2015 Part II

The bathroom. I’m going to tell you now, that this is the room I was the most excited about. When family was over for Claire’s birthday party, I welcomed people to bring their wine up to see it. Because it’s a classy space, people. CLASSY.

When we first bought the house, I immediately wanted to save for a bathroom renovation. The ‘master’ bathroom, if you will, was tiny. The shower, in theory, could have been large, since it was four feet wide, but it was a fiberglass drop in, that had two benches and bump out shelving, reducing it to an 18 inch square in the center that we had to stand in.

This photo, taken the night of the water damage, gives an idea of the size. Also, note the bench in the shower. We had one on either side of the shower. Talk about space waster.IMG_2917

The master closet was much nicer. It had vaulted ceilings and was very large. It had plenty of space for Matt and me, but the problem was, there was no way to close the door, so if you didn’t keep it tidy, you always saw your mess. That’s why Matt’s side was on the most visible side, as he has OCD when it comes to closet organization. The second you actually walked into the closet, however, you saw all of my stuff, and well, embarrassing.

The worst part about this whole renovation was probably the day everyone from DRS and plumbing stood in the bathroom/closet entrance next to my bras and underwear and cat litter box and we talked about toilets.

I don’t remember ever taking a before photo of this, but here’s a during:


This was taken when the only place I could sit was in the window seat in my room because there were people working on every floor and basically every room (save for the kids’) so I had to make do.

So to orient you, to the left is the old bathroom and the right is the old closet. You can still see the shower and toilet in there. Here they were taking down the drywall to reframe the wall to put in my pocket door.

The opening to the room was always that high, as you can see in the center, and I didn’t want to loose all of that, so I came up with a fantastic solution, which I’ll get to in a second.

But first, people always ask, “OMG, but now you don’t have a closet! What will you do?”

Simple. We created new ones!


We had DRS come and cut up some of the ruined hardwood and I asked my carpenter to build closets. This is the front of our room, and frankly, Matt and I have always agreed that our room was far too big for the two of us. It has beautiful vaulted ceilings and all, but wow, we could never find the correct furniture to make it feel cozy.


Obviously this photo is old, because now the room is finished with floors and such, but you get the idea. That was our solution. And now our room feels so less sterile.

So the bathroom. Here we go.


First thing, we closed up the entrance way to allow for the pocket door, however I bought a transom window and had the guys install it. Since we added a window to the outside, and we don’t have a lot of windows in this house, I wanted to make sure we didn’t miss out on any bit of the light. Our bedroom is bright all of the time, even on rainy days, and I can’t even begin to explain how happy it has made me.

I really wanted the doors cased in as one whole unit, and so I had to go online to find a picture to show the main carpenter because he kept looking at me like I had 10 heads. He *finally* got my vision and wow, I just love it all.


So the window is huge. Four feet wide by three feet high. It’s over the roof that we had built over the deck a few years back and faces the quiet backyard and pine trees. The tile on the floor is the same tile and configuration (pinwheel) that we have in the basement and main floor powder room. The marble subway tile on the walls are just about the greatest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. If you remember from the last post, Mike the tile/floor/amazing guy came up with the idea to embellish with a little pencil edge at the top before the beveled marble piece to cap it.


I spent the better part of this morning assembling the corner cabinet. Obviously we’re still missing the heat vent cover, but the guys still have some work to do, so we can just ignore that. I’m sure it’ll be fancy when it’s in.


The shower is the exact same size as the old shower, but it FEELS so huge. I asked Mike to make a niche instead of a shelf, because a.) I tend to knock stuff over in the shower and b.) I didn’t want any space to be taken away. I got the shower curtain on super clearance from West Elm.


I have a chandelier. When I handed it to the electrician, he honest to god said, “What the fuck is this shit?” which made me laugh so hard. I mean, sure, it would be over the top if we didn’t have the vaulted ceilings, but I think that a high ceiling requires bling. My response to him was, “Are you going to bathe here? No? Shut up.”

*Note, these guys were in my house every day, for eight hours, for nearly 3 months. We have a good rapport.


The vanity is so awesome. I ordered it from ATG Stores, a byproduct of Lowes. It arrived in one piece, unscathed, with free shipping and 10% off. The top is marble, which means that if/should I henna again, I cannot do it anywhere near my bathroom. (Marble stains.) The drawers are soft close, which, yay! And the mirror is from Target. Note the pencil edge on the tile. LOVE.


My tub was a pain in the butt, because apparently it was special ordered. It’s 19 inches deep and what was so special, was the overflow valve. At the time, I was pretty frustrated about the whole ordeal, but after everyone left and the kids were asleep, and I took a nice hot bath, I didn’t care anymore. 19 inches deep! I mean, seriously.


The rug is from Rugsusa.com. I got free shipping, no sales tax and 70% off. I mean, shut up.

So that’s my bathroom. It’s perfection. I feel like it’s something people put on Pinterest and dream about.

Matt kept telling me the whole time I planned, that we were only doing this once, so we may as well do it right.

I feel as though this is right.

The Great Renovation of 2015 Part 1

Now that my home is about 95% complete, I feel as though I can finally come out and share photos. First, let us refresh our memories of where we have come from.


Immediately after the water damage in April, my oven was ruined. The stove top was still salvageable, but the insulation got wet in the oven and they said no go for using it until it was replaced. They took down all the overhead cabinets and our house stayed this way, along with various holes and drywall missing, until August.


When they finally were able to start, they removed the wall between the dining room and kitchen, to allow for us to expand the kitchen. That wall coming down alone, was hands down, the best day ever. Our house went from feeling small to feeling so huge.


We lived like this for a few weeks, maybe four or so, on the exposed plywood. But as soon as the walls and ceiling came down, the electrician came in and roughed out for the new kitchen and put in the pot lights.


When the floors and walls were removed, they discovered a nail had gone through a hot water pipe when the house was built. Over the years it started to leak. I had mentioned to them before renovations started that I felt a dip in the floor and could push it with my toe. Well, this was why. A simple fix, and they moved on.


Prior to DRS starting the major work, I had the carpenter who built the basement come back and change out this bannister, because it was hideous.

We also had our upstairs bedroom/master bath/closet area gutted, but that’s for another day.

So it’s safe to say that basically every single surface in my house has been replaced or refinished. Every. Last. One.

The floors have gone from a roll out vinyl and the hardwood that we had put in was damaged by the water, to a wide plank engineered hardwood. The kitchen went from 6 feet of broken up counter space divided into three spots, to now I have no idea what to do with all the space.


So please remember I said we’re 95% done. If you’ll notice, the drawers aren’t all there or straight, because we’re waiting on the cabinet company to send us new parts that were damaged in transport, and the crown that’s covering the duct work on the tops of the cabinets aren’t in yet, but here it is.

It’s much better in person, I assure you, but let’s chat about it.

First of all, all the work was done by Disaster Restoration Services out of Gibsonia. Every single carpenter that showed up to my house to do work was kind, courteous, prompt and fun. They all treated me with respect, but moreover, my children AND dogs. Beau got so much attention, I think he’s really sad they’re not here today. I can’t stress enough how much I love them. I had the project manager’s number so I could text him any issues, and if I wanted something modified, they would do it. Plus they were funny.

True story, one day as the carpenter was pulling drywall, a pipe burst (totally not his fault, the pipe was weak) and was gushing hot water all over him. Prior to that, we were talking about pulling the wall by the stairs back by 7 inches to widen the doorway. He was saying it probably couldn’t happen, and I was sad, but okay with it. Once all the water was cleaned up and the carpenter called himself a dumbass, he walked over to the wall and said to the electrician, “How can we make this happen?” He felt so badly that we would be without water for 24 hours while the glue dried on the pipe, that he went above and beyond to make that wall happen. And it did. And I love it.

So if you ever have any sort of damage to your home ever, please call them and tell them I sent you.

The counter tops are quartz, called Sparkling White. We went through Troy Granite, and highly recommend them. We shopped around to three other places, and I will say they had the best customer service. I will never do business ever with Armina Stone on 910, because the manager refused to give me the quote, rather she wanted to send it to DRS, even though I was paying for it with my own money. I suspect she a.) wanted to build business with big companies and b.) wanted to allow them to up the price so they could pocket some more money, which they didn’t want to do. And even after repeated calls, she never gave me my quote. So whatever. Bye.

The cabinets are by Armstrong in linen.

The wall color is Guilded Linen by Valspar.

The floors are Saddle in 5 inch wide planks by Shaw.

The paint on the back wall by the desk area is called Aloe by HGTV Sherwin Williams.

I chose to use oil rubbed bronze handles to tone down the amount of white. Matt was concerned the kitchen would be too white, but the floors and handles really pull it together.


The bannister has been replaced by my carpenter Steve Mosco. I stained it with a dark walnut and used a matte poly to finish it up.

The photos on the wall were a project I did with some wooden plaques and blocks of various sizes, spray paint, spray adhesive and some printed photos.



The sink and faucet are from Amazon and made by Vigo. They got some of the highest ratings out there. The stainless doesn’t scratch easily and it’s got noise dampening, which, let’s face it, four kids and loud plates…IMG_0439

For the first time since April, I can bake things. With two ovens! All of the appliances are from AJ Madison. If you want a good deal, free shipping, and no sales tax, then I highly suggest them. They even upgraded my shipping to in home delivery and gave me a 5 year warranty that is pretty darn awesome.

The pendant was a find on Amazon. I can’t remember now what it’s called. But I loved the cracked glass. I had purchased an edison bulb for it, but the electrician put this one in and I haven’t changed it yet.IMG_0468

The backsplash is made of crushed pearls, and I’m not even close to joking.

The man who put in all of the floors, tile, and backsplash was so incredibly amazing I have to make sure to give him a shout out:


I dare you to come over and find one flaw with any of his work. It’s perfection.

I’ll be gushing next post about him when we talk about the bathroom, because it’s basically all tile, and all his work.

Yesterday my friend Nick and I constructed a built in for the living room. It’s not done yet, so when it is, I’ll give a tour of the rest of the first floor. The dining room chairs will be here tomorrow, as will the new rug.

So for right now, that’s what I’ve got to share.

I’m excited that not only is this now the house of my dreams, but that after all that happened, and living in a half broken house, and going days without working appliances, water… bathrooms… what have you, we got through it. We didn’t argue. I’ve seen every last part of my house, and what’s hiding behind the drywall, and it’s pretty neat, but I hope I never have to again. My family pulled it together and took the kids on days when there was a lot of stuff going on during the summer days, which is so awesome. For two months, we had to eat dinner out on the deck because we didn’t have a table inside or any space to eat as a family. We had to wear shoes 24/7 to keep from stepping on screws or nails. We would go days without eating a proper dinner because I had no real way of preparing something, or the kitchen was too busy all day and I couldn’t start a crockpot (or forgot.) The kids enjoyed the days when we’d dine on cheese and crackers and fruit and peanut butter.

But last night, for the first time in months, I made Matt’s favorite – turkey meatloaf with mashed potatoes, and we all sat in the new dining room and enjoyed a meal together and we all agreed – it was worth it all.

Dear Claire

Dear Claire,

I’ve been a mom now for eight years and it hasn’t gotten easier. The days, they change, and I get better at the basic stuff, but there are nights when I go to bed and I think to myself that I sucked as a mother. That there was that split second where you looked at me and I didn’t hear you. I heard you, but I didn’t hear you. And in that split second, I lost a little bit of your trust.

The same goes for you. Being a kid isn’t easy. Every time you turn around, someone bigger and older is telling you what to do. They boss you and they blame you and they expect you to listen.

But you take it.

The other day I ran into another mother of a kid at your school, and she couldn’t stop gushing about how sweet and kind and genuine you are.

Did you know that that’s the ultimate praise a mother can get?

While I’m sure parents appreciate knowing their kid can read well, or get good grades, or is a wiz at science; knowing that your kid can go out into the world, without you, and do well, is such a compliment.

Claire, I trust that when you leave the house, that you will do exactly as I’ve taught you: to treat others kindly, and with respect, and to mind your manners.

And you do.

Every time.

There are days when I wonder if I gave you enough attention. With having three siblings, I’m sure there are times when you feel that I don’t give you all that I can. Just yesterday as I was painting the walls, you stood behind me, bored, and watched. When I asked if you were bored, you sighed and said yes, and I said if you were so bored you could clean your stuff out of the car. You instead chose to go back outside and ride your bike. Should I have talked to you, instead? Should I have asked you what was on your mind? I don’t know. Probably. I’m still learning, too.

I’ve been a mom for eight years today because of you. I don’t ever remember wanting to become a mom, until one day I decided I did. It just seemed like a good idea at the time. No one my age that I knew or was close with was having babies. When Facebook became a thing, and I started to connect with old friends, I found that I was in the minority. I was just 22 when you were born, still very much a child myself, and I think that you helped me become the woman I am now. Aside from the patience I had to acquire (because, really, who at 22 has any bit of patience?), I had to learn how to cope with the isolation that came with being a young mother. So even now, eight years later, I forget that you are a very good conversationalist, and that I can talk to you and you’ll understand what I’m saying.

So what I’m trying to say is, I’m sorry that I didn’t talk to you when I was painting, but earlier in the day, when we were driving home from the grocery store, and you went on and on about the different clans the cats are in in a book you’re reading, and when I told you that you have your whole life to be an adult, I meant it. Be a kid. Go outside and bike and imagine you’re flying a plane. When you’re in the circle with your brother and sisters digging in the dirt, you are an excavator. Yes, you can believe that Jill is a lynx, manx, bobcat, and Batman is really a real person. If that is what you need to hear, and you know to be true in your heart, and you continue to be the amazingly sweet, and kind person that you are today, I’m okay with that. You spend your days imagining and reading and writing and drawing. You don’t need an app for that.

Today you are eight years old. I don’t really know what more to say about that.

Who you are right now is exactly who I had hoped you’d become. You make me proud every day. You look at me with those big brown eyes and I can feel it. I always can. You are so much more than you will ever know. Who do you want to be when you grow up? Do you want to save the world? Or do you just want to live life with integrity and be the best you can be?

Here’s my mom advice because I have to give it. You will always be judged by others and you will always be compared against your siblings. You may not be as outgoing as Mae or as good of a reader as your brother, and Audrey may be able to pull the cute card out more often than you, but you’re not them. You’re you, and that’s who you are supposed to be.

There will be times when dad and I may be disappointed in something you do, because let’s get real here – we all make stupid decisions, but you can always tell us the truth. Remember what I always tell you: tell me the truth and I will be upset, or mad or concerned, but lie to me and I’ll be sad and upset or mad or concerned.

Always listen to that voice in your mind that tells you what to do. It’s your moral compass and yours, since the day you could make decisions, has been spot on. You understand right and wrong, you know when to ask for help. You can imagine another person’s struggle and you can empathize. These are things that, try as we may, cannot be taught.

Claire, you are a gift, there’s just no other way to describe you. From the moment I felt you kick me in my belly, to when I first heard you cry, to when you told me you loved me, I’ve been so honored that you are mine.

So while I still question my abilities as a mother, you help make it easier. Please know, that I’m still learning and that even though I love you very much, there are days when I just am not into it, and pretty much suck. And I’m sorry. but, if anyone can understand and forgive, it’s you.

Eight years ago, I was still very much a child in so many ways, and while I’ve grown up in age, I still think I know what it means to be a child at heart. Thank you for showing me that it’s okay to be that way. To be smart and strong, but to stay young and silly.

Most importantly, always remember that you are worth it. You are worth someone’s time and energy. You are worth it to have someone speak to you and look you in the eye. You are worth it to be heard. You, my dear, smart, beautiful daughter are worth all of that. Always.

Happy 8th birthday.




When I was a kid I read an article in Muse magazine about slaughtering practices in modern farming.

I was appalled.

Probably one of the worst, and sometimes the best things about me is that once I make a decision, I don’t back down. That day, after reading the article and seeing the pictures, I never ate red meat, or pork, again.

I don’t sit there and tell people why I choose not to eat that meat, I just say that I don’t. And while I know I can go to a local farm where the cows and pigs are happy until they’re killed, I just can’t. Once I make up my mind, it’s made. Quite honestly, I don’t feel as if I’m missing anything, and when a stray pig shows up at the animal shelter, I can chill with it, knowing I didn’t just eat its cousin the other day.

Also, before someone thinks, well, she DOES eat chickens and turkeys…reread the title of this post. I am a hypocrite.

90% of the time the chicken I buy is sourced from places where they are happy and not fed their dead friends, or pumped full of antibiotics. So at least there’s that, but even then, I don’t consume a lot of meat in general.

Anyhow, a few months ago, I went to my doctor because I’ve been having significant hair loss. I’m not talking about some extra hairs on my shirt or in my brush, I’m talking clumps of hair coming out, to the point that my hair is so thin I’m considering shaving my head and starting over.

My first visit with her, we did a whole slew of blood tests, assuming my thyroid was out of whack, but instead we found out that it was perfect, as was most of the blood work.

I am, however, anemic.

I went to the store, bought some good iron supplements, and went on with my life.

The hair loss continued, and it felt like it sped up. I don’t know how many hairs are on the average human, but I felt like I was probably down 75%. Why?

Frustrated, I went to my neighbor to have her cut my hair, figuring having less split ends would help when I brushed – less tangles, less pulling.

She looked at my hair and said, “It’s not the ends, it’s all of it. It’s so brittle, that even the new hairs growing in are breaking. I think you have a protein deficiency.”


So now, aside from worrying about vanity, I was worried about what was really wrong with me. I went back to my doctor, who looked at my hair and said, “Yup. I bet it’s a protein deficiency. For how much you work out, and based on your diet, you need to add protein powder to your smoothies and I’d strongly advise gelatin.”

What the what? Gelatin? Horse hooves?

Yah, no. Good, quality gelatin is actually cow. Gelatin is a protein obtained by boiling skin, tendons, ligaments, and/or bones with water.

I had to have a talk with myself. Is this still about vanity? Is this about health? What is more important to you? Because right now, you’re wearing your glasses 24/7, you can’t wear eye make up, your hair is so thin and brittle that there’s no amount of anything to make it look okay. You feel ugly. You’re a hot mess. And while the glasses are only temporary, right now – right in this moment – it’s wearing on you.

After researching (a lot) I found a good, quality gelatin that uses happy cows. The company even has a third party come in and do frequent checks to make sure it is so.

I guess that makes me feel better. What makes me feel the best about it is that at least all of the cow is being used, so there isn’t any waste. Nothing makes me sadder than waste. But am I still a hypocrite?

Often times we forget all the things that go into a human to keep them healthy. While I eat rather clean, exercise enough, and keep generally active, I was still missing something. I still wasn’t as healthy as I should be. Why were my muscles so tired some days? Why was I losing hair? It all makes sense now.

I’m giving it a few months to start to improve. If it doesn’t, I may just shave my head. What’s the point of keeping something if it’s only bringing you down, right?

George Foreman saved the day

Hey there. Yup, still in renovation land. It’s getting closer to being done, but we’re still looking at at least 2 more weeks for the bathroom and until the counter tops will be installed. They removed my stove top on Monday, which now means that the only cooking devices we have would be the electric griddle, a crockpot that I keep forgetting to put together since my kitchen always has people in it, and the George Foreman.

First world problems, of course, but man is it hard to feed a family of six with just those items. Creativity hasn’t been flowing lately, and I’m lacking serious counter space, but today, after 10 years, I used the George Foreman to grill some chicken for salads.

Worked like a charm.

The funny thing about renovations, is that everything else looks so pretty, that the old stuff that you put back in can kind of look meh in comparison. Take for example our dining room chairs.

To say they’re a hot mess would be a huge understatement. Just yesterday, Luca took a pen to it and wrote Mae’s name all over it, along with a bunch of squiggly lines. Why on earth would he do such a thing? you might ask. Well, after much crying and threatening, he came clean with his reasoning – he wanted Mae to always sit next to him, so he designated her a chair. Next to his. While it was a sweet gesture, it basically solidified the fact that our chairs are nasty. Next time he’ll use paper and tape, of course, and I told him if he ever does that again, he will probably be grounded for a month.

But of course, we bought those chairs when we didn’t have kids yet, and thought that a light cream microfiber chair would be perfect.

Boy were we stupid. However, before Luca decided to take a pen to it, it has had at least a million spills on it, including sauce, salsa, and acrylic paint. They’ve been ruined for years.

Among the dead or nearly dying would also be my beloved Dyson. May it rest in peace. The shop vac has been super helpful. Gross, but helpful.

Aside from the every day renovations that are still going on, nearly two months later, I’m in the process of getting new families to help out this winter, so please stay tuned for that.

I’m also getting Lasik done next month. That’s pretty exciting. I will say, however, that teaching with glasses is a nightmare. They fog up and slide down my face and make it really challenging. And the thought of essentially having a vacuum suctioned to my eyeball as a laser cuts into my eye… let’s just say I took them up on the offer for the Xanax they so kindly offered free of charge.

But for real, it’s been really fun around here. The whole first floor has one seamless, engineered hardwood floor. The cabinets are finally in, the recessed lighting is awesome, the living room has been moved from one side of the house to the other, and I began to put artwork and photos up on the wall in a gallery style layout. One day at a time, it’s becoming a home again.

So for now, while I look at the piles of boxes and misplaced items, the kids are loving every day, coming home and seeing the changes. It’s like a fun game, trying to find all the things I need to use in a day. What box will it be in today? Will it still be there? Is it really that important? Ah, screw it, it’s not that important.

You know. Renovation life.

Respect the Taco Tuesday

It’s a weird thing, letting people into your house,  leaving them there, and trusting that they’ll do what they’re supposed to do.

The company we’ve been working with on the renovations have been so amazing. It was a little rocky of a start, but now that it’s fully up and running, it’s been so nice. I’ve always heard the common nightmares with renovations are that people don’t show up, don’t communicate, basically suck. Every day, they show up, and on time. They tell me what is on tap for the day and at the end of the day, they walk me through what they’ve done.

As I said before, there’s a lot of thought that goes into big renovations, and really, a lot of stupid little things you never would otherwise think about. Say, for example, wood floor patterns and the color of grout. Or when they said they’d have to close up a wide doorway a little bit (by nearly a foot) we came up with a plan to create a half wall instead.

I’m not sure if it’s helpful or annoying that I’m home almost all the time. But the guys that have been steadily coming are hilarious and really fun to have around.

Today is Taco Tuesday, but Carpenter Jim wanted to rip out the kitchen today.

Carpenter Jim: Are you still using your stove top?
Me: It’s Taco Tuesday.
Carpenter Tyler: You can’t ruin Taco Tuesday, Jim.

So they did their thing, ripped out the kitchen, the vinyl flooring below, replaced the drywall, and then put the stove back in place.

Carpenter Tyler: Taco Tuesday has been restored!


Indeed it has!

We’ve had a few mishaps, but nothing too major. Sure, the one day Carpenter Jim accidentally busted a hot water pipe, but he got his punishment when he used his hand to hold the break. Of course, that day, no one knew where the water supply was at, so I had to quickly run downstairs to basically save the day. As I ran down the stairs, I heard, “Yah, so this is the HOT water…just saying. Please hurry..”

Pretty much every difficulty that’s happened is because of the fact that our house is a Maronda home. They’re not really known for their reliability and they’re all built at a price point, read: cheaply. The plumbing is a mess. The piping they use isn’t even manufactured any longer due to the fact that they have a 20 year life span and are incredibly fragile. The way they wired the house was a nightmare to sort out, and the way they put in the heating ducts were a complete joke.

The best thing was probably when they pulled the drywall off in our old master bathroom. Carpenter Jim called me upstairs and said, “Did you ever get heat out of that vent?”
“Now that you mention it, no, why?”
“Yah, I think I found the problem.”


There weren’t any ducts connected to the vent, with an actual note saying, “Fix me.”

The big stuff is about to start happening soon. Tomorrow they’re moving a floor vent from the middle of the room (previously butting up against a cabinet that will no longer be there) to be closer to the wall, and then they’ll begin laying some of the floor so that they can put the beginning of the cabinets in.

My garage is filled to the brim with appliances, cabinets, a vanity and other random things for renovation. The old playroom is where all the dining room stuff and pantry items ended up, and it’s standing room only. The living room has been blocked off by a plastic wall divider, where I’m sequestered to every day. It’s a sad little hole, and a giant bookshelf is blocking the tv, though that’s not too terrible since we hardly watch it anyhow. Our basement finally has tile going in. The carpet was ruined by the water, and the cats, in anger, peed on it, so we decided to just forgo the carpet from now on, and go with the tile we had in the mudroom. It looks pretty good, and in a few months, when life calms down and I’m sure the cats won’t be assholes, I’ll get some more Flor carpet squares for the area.

So that’s where life is right now. Every day there’s dust and noise and random people coming in and out of my house. But they’re super respectful and every day they clean up their mess.

Tomorrow school starts for Claire and Luca, and we will settle into a new normal of making lunches, quick catch the bus, random people entering my house, dust, noise, and bus drop off. I’m okay with that, if it means the work is done with high quality and I eventually get my house back.


Also, side note, I will be running the 2016 Pittsburgh Half Marathon, again, for the Animal Rescue League. I will, however, be running the 5k, the day before, for SPAAR. We are new to being a Marathon charity, and currently can’t offer to pay for people’s registrations, but if you’re running the race, and want to do good at the same time, with no minimum to raise, please consider helping us out. Click here for the link. Or, if you want to throw 10 bucks our way, it would be greatly appreciated. We are 100% crowdsourced and rely on kindness from everyone to keep pulling senior animals into our rescue.


And it begins

Remember about, oh I don’t know, nearly four months ago, I wrote about the water damage that basically ruined the whole right side of my house? 

Well goodbye money, we’re finally starting construction!

You know what isn’t easy? Making decisions. I remember sitting on my couch watching some episode of Property Brothers and thinking to myself, OMG these people are so whiny! Why is it so hard to choose a tile, flooring, sink, what have you? 

Oh. Oh Cassie. You judgmental thing you. Now that’s YOU!

Guys. I thought I knew everything about everything when it came to what I’d want my house to look like. But then I had to make legit decisions and put my money where my mouth is – literally.

I thought it would be all, “Hey, Cassie. What kind of floors do you want? What color cabinets do you want? Cool. We’ve got it from here.” But in reality, it’s do you want hardwood or engineered hardwood? Dark? Light? Wide plank or standard? Where are you getting your counter tops at? Do you want granite or quartz? Do you want light or dark? Do you want to spend a collage tuition on it? Yes? Community college or Ivy League?

And I’m sitting there, booting up the old Pinterest account and thinking, “I hate my life right now! This is the worst ever!” And what does Pinterest do? It makes everything worse. I suddenly get ideas. I want this and this and this and this, and before I know it, I just spent an imaginary fortune.

Well, shit.

I’m thankful that the contractor on the job is very communicative. I picked out all my new appliances and then sent him the specs so he could look them over to make sure they’ll fit in the cabinets he ordered. Then when he said that they would, I didn’t dare look at another kind of fridge because WHAT IF IT DOESN’T FIT, GUYS. WHAT IF.

All of a sudden I’m completely inept and unable to read for myself. I was told I could get a sink that would fit a 33 inch sink base. Okay. Cool. I go and look at all the ten million different sink options and I’m left going, “OH SCREW THIS,” and email my contractor what I like and he says which one fits, then I click order before I can change my mind.

So tonight, after I ordered my sink and faucet, I started to pack up the giant bookshelf because on Monday the crew is coming to start tearing down more ceiling and cabinets and I needed to feel like I was in control of something. It turned into me purging probably 50% of the kids’ toys and books. Most are being donated to the group pickupplease.org but the good stuff like the matchbox cars and dinosaur action figures are going to my sister in law, who will undoubtedly someday regret it.

My family of six, plus three cats and two dogs, will be living out of cardboard boxes for a while it seems, since they dropped of 15 for me to pack up the kitchen. That’s going to be super swell. I’ve been really looking forward to the time when I get to cook dinner using only a crockpot or grill. I’m going to be the MacGyver of food. I’m already having to be creative, what with not having a working oven for four months, so this is really going to test my domestication. Can’t boil water? No problem.

Actually it is a problem since the majority of the things the kids eat is rice and pasta. So this’ll be a fun, fun time.

All sarcasm aside, I’m so thrilled that this is finally going to happen. I kind of figured it would never happen and I’d be left to look at the inside of my house forever. I mean, I love how things are built as much as the next guy, but I also happen to adore ceilings and having a space without exposed wires. Call me crazy.

So if you feel like leaving a hot dinner at my front door, please know I won’t turn it down. I’m kind of afraid my whole kitchen is going to be ripped out on Monday, with no clue as to when I’ll actually have cabinets and stuff put in. I mean, let’s get real here – they have to remove sub floor because it’s that damaged. This isn’t a simple job, not by a long shot.

But for now, I’m enjoying the calm before the storm. Before I find out if all my hours spent on Pinterest were wasted (probably) and if the months of this weird new normal can adjust into an even weirder new normal.

Stay tuned.


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