1. Get up. 2. Turn on computer

Are you a list maker?

I am; my husband is not. (This came out at our pre-marriage counseling with the pastor — this was about as revealing as it got.)

And no, I don’t make daily lists that start with “1. Get up.”

I make lists for two reasons: (1) It’s the only way I can keep track of things when I have a lot to do (mostly at work) and most importantly (2) I need to see progress. Progress is very motivating. I might have 20 things to do, but if I’ve already done 5 of them, at least I’m getting somewhere. Making progress is what keeps me sane.

I once read somewhere the first step to achieving a goal is to write down everything it will take to make it happen, then have at it.

I took that advice to heart when I decided I wanted to work for myself. Sadly, I can’t find the list anymore (written on a 3½” x 3½” square of paper), but I think it included things like: Research business structures (e.g., S-corp, sole proprietorship); Get tax information; Choose name and register it…very concrete and doable.

I do remember clearly the last thing on the list: Quit my job.

Ten years later, I’m pretty sure making that list was a big part of my success. It forced me to concentrate on one thing at a time and just do it.

Shortly after we moved into the house, I started a House List. It’s posted on our extra fridge in the basement (relegated there after we redid the kitchen and got a new fridge that doesn’t deserve to have ugly lists posted on it).

Here’s where it stands, almost four years later.


Lots of things crossed out; others we won’t get around to for a long time. And it’s  rather out of date. I don’t even have “Build powder room” on it, though that’s what we’ve been working on for months now. Nor does it adequately represent our biggest ongoing project, the front porch repair/sunroom addition.

I keep the list around to remind myself how far we’ve come. Maybe sometime I’ll add more projects, just so I can have the joy of checking them off and marking our progress.

I recently, just for fun, started a different kind of list. Not to-do’s for a change, but wishes, ranging from pie-in-the-sky (a Kindle) to mundane (a narrow leaf rake). Maybe on my birthday, Mike will pick an item from the list, or I can refer to something on it for our family gift exchange at Christmas.

I’ve refrained from adding things like “Retirement home in Tennessee mountains.” Besides, Mike just found this list that considers Pittsburgh one of 10 great affordable places to retire. (Who knew that PAT buses would factor prominently?)

Hmmm….speaking of retirement. That’s a goal we’re all aiming for, right? What would that “just do it” list include?

I’ll start it:

  1. Save $14,770 each year for the next 20 years.

I can probably stop there.

You will achieve a grand dream a day at a time,
so set goals for each day — not long and difficult projects,
but chores that will take you, step by step,
toward your rainbow. Write them down, if you must,
but limit your list so that you won’t have to drag
today’s undone matters into tomorrow.
Remember that you cannot build your pyramid in
twenty-four hours. Be patient. Never allow your day
to become so cluttered that you neglect your most
important goal — to do the best you can, enjoy this day,
and rest satisfied with what you have accomplished.
~ Og Mandino

Halfway? Maybe.

We were at our neighbor’s yesterday for a delicious “Irish feast” as she called it — corned beef, cabbage, taters, & carrots; colcannon (decadent mashed potatoes); baked potato soup — it was soooo good. Her sister-in-law gave everyone a glass shamrock “favor.” Pitt managed to eke out (more like eek out) a tournament win. I drank apple wine from an Eastern PA winery (an amazing shade of lime jello green), and ate way too much dessert.

We almost didn’t go, though, because it meant leaving our DIY projects in process and losing several precious hours of work time. We’re making progress on the powder room, but it’s slow going. Both of us are so tired of it (Mike especially, as he does the majority of the work). Our neighbor even asked, “So, are you going to throw a bathroom party when you’re done?” “Sure, ” I said. “Everyone can come on over and have a tour — and a flush.” (As it will be “one of” the world’s smallest powder rooms, akin to a phone booth, it’ll be a very quick tour.)

Here’s where we are…doesn’t look like much, but we really have come a long way. So far, we’ve:

  • Remodeled the kitchen, which allowed us to move the refrigerator that used to occupy half the powder room space
  • Researched and found small fixtures, without which the project couldn’t happen
  • Stripped off plaster and lathe from walls & ceiling (multistep, multimess process)
  • Plumbed for sink and toilet
  • Installed plywood underfloor
  • Installed electrical for exhaust fan, light, and outlet
  • Framed out, insulated, and installed 3 walls

(Sorry for the funny angle. I have to take this from outside the house, while holding the storm door open and keeping the cats from getting out. This is looking toward the powder room door. The front hall is beyond that door. We won’t have this view ever again once we get the last wall up.)


We’re far away from being able to party in it. We still have the fourth wall to install, ceiling to install, electrical to finish, platform to build to raise standard-height toilet to “comfort” height, trim to add (kind of elaborate), everything to be stained/painted, floor tile to install, more trim, fixtures to install… it’ll be a while yet.

So, as much as I can’t wait for the weather to get warm and stay warm, it better stay uncomfortably cool for a while longer yet. Otherwise neither of us will be able to stand to be indoors, laboring in what will be a 38″ x 45″ space. Especially not when there’s a big, bad, beautiful sunroom to be built out of what still looks like this (the ground has sunk so much where we had to dig it up for the sewer repair that Mike’s had to re-prop the porch up three different times).


But…it’s all progress. We’ll get there.

Perseverance is the hard work you do after you
get tired of doing the hard work you already did.
~ Newt Gingrich

Clean what? Seriously?

I’ve been a loyal reader of Prevention magazine for years — starting way back when I was a kid and my parents subscribed. It was kind of a freaky, crunchy, vitamin-obsessed thing then, but has morphed into more of a healthy-lifestyle, woman-oriented magazine today. It has pretty much perfected the “bite-size chunks” approach, offering lots of little health tidbits in addition to short articles, beauty tips, recipes, and exercise regimens.

I look forward to getting it every month, but had to laugh at an article in this month’s issue about how to foil the “10 Worst Germ Hot Spots.” A few pearls (you do these already, right?)…

  • Take the aerator out of your faucet (the little metal screen when you unscrew the tip) and soak it in a diluted bleach solution (here’s the kicker) once a week.
  • While you’re at it, keep the bleach solution out and clean the rubber flange thingy covering your garbage disposal (yes, every week).
  • Squirt hand sanitizer on the outside of the ketchup bottle in a restaurant or swipe with a disinfecting wipe (no doubt the salt and pepper shakers too). (Sorry, grabbing it with a napkin isn’t good enough — the little germies squeeze right through.)
  • Don’t trust that public soap dispenser either — germ magnet (actually the article said “fecal matter” UGH.) Wash your hands with soap and hot water and use hand sanitizer to be safer.
  • And of course you’re wiping down your refrigerator seals at least once a week with that bleach or a disinfectant?

Really, I’m used to living on the edge. I still ask for lemon in my water and iced tea at restaurants. But I had no idea I had one foot over the precipice even at home. The heck with having guests remove their shoes — it better be cleanroom suits all around (for your safety, not ours). 250px-cleanroom_suit

In another story this month, a vet offered suggestions for how to break your cat of  bad habits. I skimmed eagerly over how to stop kitty from jumping up on the counters (clearly not a problem at my house, too clean), attacking your ankles (they do this?), or scratching the furniture (only recently a problem, and only with one chair we are planning to get recovered anyway).

But, alas, no advice for how to stop the early-morning wake-up calls (4:00 a.m. this morning, thank you).

If it had told me how to solve that little puzzle (in a way that didn’t involve violence), I’d have renewed my subscription for the next 20 years…and maybe even wiped out my bagless vacuum with diluted bleach and sprayed the doormat with Lysol to boot.

Vacuums don’t clean houses. People clean houses.
~ Marie Barone, Everybody Loves Raymond

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