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 And it’s  rather out of date.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

Oh yeah, the house

Lest you think all we do is worry about the election, we have also been moving along on house projects. With the long-awaited, anxiety-ridden sewer project behind us, we’ve at last been able to make progress on putting the front porch back together (half of it at least) — this time, enclosed to make a sunroom.

First, Mike had to return the yard to some semblance of normalcy after heavy equipment and the giant dirt pile had pretty much decimated it. (I was overwhelmed at the mess so he handled it by himself, thank god.) We’ll probably have to totally redo the lawn at some point, and add more topsoil near the porch as it settles, but that we can handle. (We already did that once, adding a couple truckloads of topsoil a couple years ago to level it up from when they installed the original sewer line from the street a couple years before we bought the place. Nothing like déjà vu all over again.)

The brick piers holding up the porch had deteriorated badly, so we had two of them rebuilt (the other two and the other half of the porch will have to wait). It took one guy one day — after we’ve been fretting over it for 3 years. What a relief.

With that key step done, Mike shoveled in 2 tons of gravel (by hand) to fill most of the giant hole under the porch. Can you say, “Oh my aching back!”? Even torn apart like it is, it’s really the best it’s ever looked!

Next he’s installing new floor joists. With the nice weather this week, we’re hopeful we can maybe get a floor back on before winter. Mike thinks big and would actually like to enclose the room, but I just don’t think that will be possible. It’s likely the windows and sliding door we’ve already purchased will just have to wait out the winter in the garage.

In the meantime, I’m thrilled we’ve gotten this far and look forward to someday next year enjoying the view of our beautiful Japanese maple from the new sunroom. It has the most amazing fall color. I’ve always said it’s the best part of the house. But maybe if we keep going the way we are, the house itself might just catch up.

Why one of our 11 trick-or-treaters exclaimed, “I love your house! It’s like a mansion.”

This despite the unfinished driveway piers, the ripped up porch, the construction debris…wow. I wanted to give that sweet little girl a big hug and a big handful of candy. Out of the mouths of babes…

I can live for two months on a good compliment.
                                                   ~ Mark Twain


Probably the last time you heard so much ado about a wall was when one came tumbling down. In Berlin. In 1989.

My version is about a wall going up. At our house. After 14 months of waiting.

Share it with me.

































No, no steps yet…I think they befuddled the contractor. At one point yeserday there were four men staring at the dirt where the steps will go. And they didn’t come back today. But as I told Mike last night, even in its unfinished state, the area still looks better than it has in the entire 3 years we’ve lived here.

Stay tuned for the sequel (Beyond the Wall) in which our intrepid homeowners decide how to finish the newly lengthened driveway (where the gravel is now). Will they choose more asphalt? Pavers? Something else? Oh the excitement of it all. But don’t hold your breath — this will likely take a while. There’s still that pesky sewer issue to fix, front porch to rebuild, closet-turned-powder-room in the works, a deck to resurface, a “honey, what if we…” project ongoing in the back yard, and a half-dozen other items on the to-do list.

The big fun never ends on Pleasant Valley Road. But slowly, slowly, slowly, the house is looking like responsible, motivated, proud owners live here.

 He conquers who endures.
                        ~ Persius

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