2008 Year in Review

I’m home alone tonight with a wicked sinus infection, drinking a lot of tea, running warm saline through my nostrils and reading Jeremy Clarkson. I sent my parents on their planned new-years outing with Tim and Carol earlier today, and saw Danielle off to her ball-drop party an hour ago, so the house has now fallen quiet with only myself and the cat remaining – and neither of us is putting shoes on until at least tomorrow. It’s been relaxing and festive having my parents here for the last week and a half, and tonight my empty house feels exactly that without them all around but I’m taking advantage of tonight’s opportunity to recuperate so I can enjoy the last couple days of their stay to the fullest. I am truly blessed with an incredible family that love each other unconditionally and are the best of friends, and I can’t say enough how much I appreciate the powerful (and rare) gift of growing up in a happy home. I thank God every day for them, and pray that I never take them for granted.

At some point tonight, I’ll probably turn on Dick Clark and let a team of underpaid television interns tell me what noteworthy things happened in 2008 while the world toasts each other on this oh-so-magical of holidays centered around humans’ apparent fascination with nice round numbers. Before that hour arrives, though, I feel compelled to look back on my own noteworthy 2008 moments.

Brian’s 2008 Year in Review
I made my modeling debut in early 2008 when my face (and a Threadless t-shirt) graced the Crutchfield website and greeted readers of their email newsletter. So far I’m not America’s next top model, but regardless it will make a great bullet point on my A&E biography.
While I technically bought my condo and moved in Dec 2007, it wasn’t until my sister and I returned from the holidays in January that we really started making it our own. I spent many long nights last spring pushing a paintbrush or tearing up carpet and I owe so many thank-you’s to the friends, family and neighbors that have lent their assistance – especially my parents, who have worked tirelessly on my home as though it was their own. I’ve learned a great deal about homeownership, remodeling, and project management, as well as memorizing the number for Dominos. I felt like such a grown-up purchasing major appliances, and I can’t explain how satisfying it is to look at the mantle I built with Mom or picture the attic insulation I installed with Dad and see the successful results of our teamwork. Danielle’s creativity has really made the decor come together, and I love that she found ways to incorporate my model cars and nerdy fixtures into the scheme. It’s a place I’m very happy to come home to, but it’s not been an effortless year by any means and I’m not sure I’ll schedule 2009 with the same remodeling pace.

My job really turned into a career this year, and 2008 was full of exciting challenges, new faces, huge opportunities and the heartbreaking change that is inevitable in the business world. There have been many nights I’ve lied awake fretting over big decisions or writing and re-writing an email in my mind, a sign that the responsibility I bear at work is shaping me and becoming part of who I am. I’ve grown up a great deal (professionally, at least) this year and I don’t feel like the same person anymore that struggled so much 7 years ago to find any job at all. My title changed 5 times this year (although only 2 of them were actually promotions) but there’s an intangible promotion that happened somewhere along the way, wherein I became a professional in my field, and more than just a lucky bloke that landed a good job by being in the right place.
Travel – boy, did I. More new cities and new countries in 2008 than in any year of my life, by a long shot. Texas in April, visiting Clint, Christi and Lilly on the beach in Galveston, and then again in July for more fun in the sun. Denver in June, San Francisco in July, and New York in September, all on business – a part of my new job and something I’d always hoped would be asked of me. In August I visited North Carolina for the first time, and internationally there was London in June for an amazing 2 weeks with Audrey and back again in July for another week with Katie and the UK team. Then I spent half of October down under in Sydney, an experience that I will never forget. I put a lot of new dots in my TripAdvisor profile this year and it was all pretty awesome.
Hobbies-wise, 2008 was a pretty banner year for me. I finally bought a motorcycle like I’d been wanting to for years, and managed to promote the SLUT when I earned my rider’s license. Some amazing photoshoot opportunities presented themselves this year and I was ready with camera in hand, from picturesque Nissan shows (where my Z happened to take first place) to the British Motor Show, Australian Motor Show and Seattle Motorcycle Show. Other than cars (and bikes) I also managed to capture a lot of Sydney and take advantage of Danielle’s connections to shoot a private tour of the Ballard Fishermans’ Terminal. Next year I’m hoping to take better advantage of local Seattle places and events, and hopefully still fit in photos of a few exotic locales, as well. I’ve also got a renewed energy for my Z and the Nissan team, and I’m excited for another summer season with them (where hopefully I’ll be in Seattle for some of it). 😉

I lost 25 pounds in the first 3 months of 2008 and got back to size 34 jeans, a feat which I credit to a lot of determination on my part, a lot of protein shakes, and my excellent trainer Austin. I’m in better shape at 30 than I’ve been my whole life, and the spoils of victory have been sweet. I tackled wakeboarding this summer with Sean and Julia with more success than I’ve ever had learning a sport. I sold all my “fat jeans” on ebay and put the proceeds towards new designer ones, including a few from overseas shopping ventures. It’s been fun buying new, slimmer clothes, but even more fun having more energy and feeling healthier.
I turned 30! Yes, it’s just another celebration based on an arbitrary round number, but my parents, grandparents and friends all gathered to help me ring it in, and that’s what made it a milestone. The calendar says I’m officially a grown-up and in many ways I feel appropriately like one, but in others I feel as young as ever and as wide-eyed about the possibilities ahead of me as I’ve always been. Life continues to be good to me and despite small challenges I can honestly say my soul is very happy inside this body, following this path, living this life, and I think anytime you can say that you should consider yourself a success.

The carpet project: a visual retelling

And here are the pictures. No ornate literary wrapper this time – I know what you’re here for.

The ever-so-cozy temporary sleeping arrangment:


All the furniture and everything out of the closets, moved downstairs:


The most evil glue ever conceived:


A few shots taken during their lunchbreak of the work in progress:





And finally, the completed ones:





The vinyl floor we hastily put in the laundry closet, to take advantage of someone else finishing the carpet threshold.


And the little patch of vintage 70’s shag I left in the linen closet, just for nostalgia.


The hallway carpet is pretty plush, but the shag in the bedrooms towers above it like midtown over Central Park.


The street was littered with fuzz and threads afterward (I did try and sweep it, but the stuff refused to be wrangled by a broom).


If you can’t do it right, don’t do it yourself.

images.jpegSettling down for the last time on my cozy mattress island amidst a sea of plywood, staples and drifting tidbits of foam, awaiting tomorrow’s carpet delivery and the long-awaited end to this dreadful project. As Danielle and I trudged around the unfinished floors tonight, sticky with residual carpet glue in the few places where the old stuff actually came loose and indignantly spongy in all the places where it refused, I settled into the sullen regret I now feel in taking this project on at all. It’s one of many things I’ve promised lately, either to myself or someone else, that has contributed to the rising tide of tasks that threaten to drown me every day until I learn it’s ok to make a splash and say “no, I can’t do that right now” if that’s what it takes to keep my head above water.

Let me give you the backstory. For an extra $90 the carpet installers would also remove the old flooring and do all the in-between prep work to ready the raw floors for the fluffy new covering my parents were so kind as to order. Yet I wanted time to finish painting the bottom 3 inches of the walls, and to chase the many squeaks in the floor with some well-placed screws, so I chose to forfeit this add-on and take on the removal and prep work myself, with Danielle’s help (assumed, probably unfairly).

Pulling the carpet turned out to be much more than I’d bargained for, another home-improvement project that turned on me like a domesticated tiger after tasting human blood. Apparently carpet glue was all the rage 20 years ago, or was on sale that fateful week when my carpet had been installed, as it was applied with reckless abandon between the thin, ugly carpet and the plywood floor, bonding them together with the kind of permanence that an orthodox priest would approve of. After hours of back-breaking agony on Sunday, with Dave mercifully coming over to assist, we peeled back the worn wall-to-wall abomination, mostly by separating it from its thin, spongy backing which remained intertwined with the floor, its apparent soulmate. Hands aching from the struggle to grip something which defies proper gripping, we stacked the outgoing material in neat piles – carpet, pad, baseboards, thresholds – in the garage for their ready disposal by the install crew. While I purchased a “floor scraper” at Home Depot – which turned out to be mostly a flat, ineffective shovel at twice the price – we chose not to worry about the remaining layer of carpet backing and glue, as it’s very thin and inconsequential, and we were very tired and frustrated. Plus, the only employee I could find at Home Depot that night said it would be fine.

Christie helped us touch up the walls’ paint last night, and (again, an example of very poor project scope control on my part) I also decided to move the washer and dryer into the hallway and install linoleum in the laundry closet Monday night, as if there weren’t already enough tasks to accomplish. I did a relatively good job with the flooring and then ruined it by impatiently moving the appliances back only 24 hours later, gouging several large holes in the still-soft vinyl.

Tonight, as I finished off what had seemed like a giant box of screws when I bought it but which quickly became a paltry sum in practice, driving the last one into a suspected-squeaky spot in the master bedroom’s plywood, I surveyed the results of my efforts. The floor still squeaks tremendously. I can’t say with any certainty that I made any improvements with that whole box of screws and that whole evening kneeling on the unforgiving plywood wielding a drill. About one in six of the screws broke off inside the floorboards anyway, judging by the number of loose phillips heads I tossed in the trash. Yes, the walls are painted all the way to the floor, which will hopefully mean I can postpone any trim-related projects for awhile. If there is a silver lining to this week, that will be it.

Lying alone on my mattress island tonight, I’m exhausted, frustrated and defeated that I expended so much effort – and asked the same of Danielle, Dave and Christie – all to save $90 on the install and spend $20 on useless screws to partially-prep the floors for what I assume will be an indignant, mean, grudge-carrying (if their telephone scheduling team is any indication) team of carpet technicians tomorrow. The dark of this tunnel is soon giving way to light, as by this time Wednesday night I’ll be moving furniture back into a cozy, rug-covered bedroom and lounging luxuriously on the medium-brown shag, likely making carpet-angels in it’s voluptuous threads and dozing happily nestled amongst its indulgent fibers. My only hope is that the job tomorrow is quick and seamless, leaving no noticeable traces of yet another project that I wish I had said “no” to before it started.

A few more after pictures

I scrambled to finish the remaining half-done remodeling projects before the housewarming, and other than a few exceptions (note the mismatched light switches in the pictures) I managed to wrap them up. If you came to the housewarming, you saw most of it, other than the sweet rug we found at Target the next day (thanks for the gift card, Josh!). It’s a huge relief to have so much of it completed, and to start just enjoying it for awhile. I’ve been playing Halo 3 online with Clint in the evenings, or just watching shows on my AppleTV and going to bed on time (imagine!).

Here’s a few shots of the rooms that weren’t done before:











Here’s the rug Josh inadvertently bought us – you have great taste, Josh! 😉


And a beautiful sunday morning out my bedroom window – I finally pulled out the phoneless-camera to take a good picture. I’m really happy in this place, and the whole thing has worked out very well. I feel very lucky.


A world of difference

First off, a huge thanks to my painting crew two weekends ago (seen here relaxing in front of the Seahawks game after a hard day behind a brush) for all their help.


I had an excellent crew – they did very thorough work and even brought their own equipment!


After a day with them (and a whole week with Mom and Dad here) my house looks amazing, a complete transformation. This is even before I’ve finished replacing light switch covers, installing trim and molding, and setting Danielle loose on the decorating. I’m working on a more Trading Spaces-esque before and after, but here’s a few previews:






As you can see, there are a lot of finishing tidbits to do, a lot of which I’ve done since I took these photos weekend before last, but in general it’s become a place that feels modern, classy and – most importantly – mine. Thanks again to everyone who helped – you rule!

Back to the Grind

I’ve been away forever, it seems, and not just in the sense that my last post of any substance is dated Dec 8. Traveling for Christmas and spending most of my time at home with my parents trying to relax and forget all my responsibilities made the nine days in Montana more like a winter quarter away on exchange, and I’ve returned feeling like a foreigner in my own country. Coming home to a new house that’s piled high with unopened boxes and half-started moving-in projects has left me longing to go home *for real*, to the apartment I left behind in November where things were put away and I could walk in the dark without shin guards.

Christmas at home was great, full of amazing meals and happy family moments, an endless feast for the body and soul. I’m very lucky to have a family that is as supportive, as joyful and as appreciative of each other as mine is. We focused less on gift-giving this year and more on just enjoying each other and our time together free of duties and deadlines. I highly recommend it.

Mom arrived last night and Dad is due in Wednesday to help us paint this weekend and otherwise do some fixup work. They were excited to see my first real estate purchase so they’re here in Seattle only a week after we were home in Montana. It’s great to have them, though, and their help and ideas. I can’t wait to paint over the peach walls, it’s going to totally transform the place. Goodbye Barbie dream house, hello my dream house.

I had my first 6am appointment with Austin, my personal trainer at the gym, and feel great afterward even though I had trouble even getting out of my truck in the parking lot because I couldn’t sit up. I’m excited for the goals he and I have set together, and so begins yet another January remodeling project – here’s to the new year and no one recognizing me on the lake this summer.

The joys of homeownership

It’s officially mine and I’ve begun to pile my boxed possessions in every room, making my apartment slowly seem larger and my new condo’s “giant” rooms slowly shrink to average size. Dave was a huge help last night, running loads of belongings and keeping me motivated, amidst various pauses to discuss all the things I could remodel. Not that I need a longer remodel list – it’s already getting out of control. There are so many small projects that will make the place nicer, more modern and more mine but I need to focus on moving and cleaning right now and save the fun stuff for at least January.

That’s not going to be as easy as it sounds. There are some urgent redecorating items that will be staring me right in the face every day until i address them. For example, when I saw the place with Gloria a few weeks ago there was still some furniture littered about – a hutch in the dining room, a low cabinet along one wall, a giant mirror above the fireplace. When I walked in Thursday night with my newly-acquired keys to survey my new kingdom, I found the furniture is gone and the true nature of the beast is revealed.

Apparently the kind of people that would paint a whole floor in homage to Princess Peach – including the wood trim, the beams in the ceiling, the doors, the outlets, the plant hooks – people so into peach that they’d cover every paintable surface with three layers of latex peachiness, are the kind of people that also don’t move the furniture away from the walls when they paint.



As if the peach wasn’t ghastly enough, now I get to stare at the brown hole above the fireplace every time I look around. We’ll definitely be having a painting party sometime in January.

This is how my week is going.

I’m not sure if the universe operates on some sort of yin/yang, good-luck/bad-luck cycle, or if I’m just only happy when it rains, but it seems like when I’m stretched to the limit that’s exactly when every little thing starts to go wrong and every molehill becomes a mountain. These are the kinds of things I’ve been dealing with this week, in the midst of trying to pack, buying a condo, getting ready to move, etc. I apologize for the lazy bullet-point format but that’s what my life has been reduced to in December – a series of lists. It’s really all I’m capable of at this point.

  • I can barely walk, apparently. I’ve been bumping things on other things, tripping over nothing, and otherwise banging myself up just trying to handle seemingly-harmless tasks. I hardly ever injure myself, but in the last two weeks I’ve hit my head on the closet door, closed my hand in a drawer, gouged my back on a shelf, knocked my forehead on the roof of my truck… I’ve become the world’s biggest klutz.
  • I lost my truck/house keys Monday morning. Or very nearly lost them. Last time I’d had them was Sunday afternoon, and Monday morning when it was time to leave for work, they were nowhere. I only have one key to the truck, so unless I found them it would become a giant steel paperweight. Picture my apartment, stacked chest-high with boxes, packing material strewn across the floor, wall-to-wall chaos with nothing in its usual place – this is the environment where I had presumably set my keys down. I tore through the place, opening sealed boxes, unpacking luggage… and nothing. Finally I retraced my last known steps with the keys – to the mailbox and back. I found them lying in my neighbor’s driveway, mere inches away from the gutter where the torrents of Seattle’s rainiest day in the past 50 years threatened them with a watery demise. My neighbor must have run over them as the keys are chewed up, but at least I found them. I was 98% percent to nervous breakdown.
  • I can’t seem to be on time for anything. I went to a meeting an hour early today. In my head, I was sure it was at 8am, and I half-jogged the 5 blocks to the other office building where it was held only to find I was alone in the conference room. Check my phone again: meeting is at 9. This meeting is at 9 every Wednesday and has been since April, but I was sure it was at eight. I was an hour early to my condo closing paperwork appointment yesterday because I seem to have lost all ability to estimate travel time; I spent the extra hour sitting across the street at Starbucks breathing into a paper bag.
  • As it turns out, my truck keys aren’t just chewed up a little. The keyfob is apparently slightly broken. I figured this out Tuesday afternoon when I walked the 5 blocks in the pouring rain to my parking lot and discovered I couldn’t unlock the doors. Some shouting and physical abuse temporarily revived it, but I’ve since been operating in constant fear that each press of a lock or unlock button may be the last one, leaving the truck permanently either dangerously unlocked or locked and immobilized. It’s something I would toss and turn about on a regular night, but this week it’s chewing me up. I really need my truck for the next couple weeks.
  • People keep wanting and/or needing things from me and I keep having to tell them no. It’s not like me to ever decline an invitation or defer to help someone out, and it makes me feel like a selfish, antisocial misanthrope. As I told Hannah yesterday during my massage, I’ve got a list (several lists, really) of things that have to be done this week, this weekend, next week, next weekend, before the 15th, before I leave town for Christmas… and if it’s not on my list, I can’t think about it. Moreover, if it doesn’t urgently need to be done before the 15th, it’s not making the list. The list is already so frighteningly long, complex and full of interdependencies that I can’t conceive it will ever be completed, so I’m having trouble looking beyond the 15th, either. Basically, I’m absorbed with this project. My apologies to anyone that’s trying to get or give anything else from or to me.
  • The weather. Maybe you’ve seen the underwater freeways and manholes-turned-fountains on the news. While I’ve so far escaped any massive flooding, I’m starting to worry it might snow while I’m trying to move; it’s already snowed in the city once this season, much earlier than it usually does here. Or worse – it might get suddenly cold again and freeze the city into a giant skating rink the day I pick up a uhaul truck. My moving help could all be stranded at home. My uhaul truck could get stuck at the bottom of the hill in the condo parking lot. I had hoped to do some outdoor things this past weekend – prune shrubs at the apartment, wash cars, pick up leaves – but 4 inches of wet snow on the ground and almost a foot of rain kept any of that from happening. I realize I’m the fool that is moving in December, but I had not expected it to be this bad.

Normally I wouldn’t lose sleep over these kinds of things – I’d turn them into humorous anecdotes and be done with them. But this week I’m on a deadline. And I hate slipping on deadlines.

Some days are really good.

I had scheduled today off work before I knew this week would be filled with house-buying-related errands, but it worked out well as Gloria was able to schedule my home inspection today at I time that I was easily able to be there and have the luxury of staying through the entire process. [I]nspector John was very thorough, testing every drawer in the kitchen, running full cycles on the washer and dryer, climbing up into the attic, bouncing on the patio floor. I took pictures of everything and Gloria and I followed John around asking questions, taking breaks occasionally to crack jokes about the decor and trade horror stories with John about scary houses we’d all seen. He found very little of consequence – a moderate wiring upgrade necessary in the breaker box, a small crack in the tub surround – and provided me a very short list to ask the seller for. Gloria’s hunch is that the seller should be willing to address most of it as we’ve asked them for very little so far.

I found a new shortcut between my new place and the old one on the way home for a quick lunch, enjoying a rare drive in my Z on what by now had turned into a beautiful, crisp fall Seattle day. Then to Z Sport, to talk cars with the mechanics and get a free-checkup that came out great. They complimented me on my car and its condition, and we discussed some things I’d like to do with it, things that are probably on hold for a bit now that I’ll be paying a mortgage but are still fun to talk about.

Then to Marysville and the emissions test center, where my Z passed easily on the first try, something it didn’t do two years ago. It could have been many things – weather, warmer engine, under-funded and miscalibrated state-run test facilities – but it made me feel good to think it might have also been my extra effort in the last year to do more of the preventative things and take a little better care of it.

And then, as if a Friday off work, driving my Z around in the sunshine, getting good news and hanging out with friendly people wasn’t enough that I should appreciate it in a blogular way, I found it. I found my lost iPod. Where, you ask? Why, in the inside pocket of the bag I carry to work every day. A bag I have literally dumped sideways, shaken, patted down and practically disassembled in search of my missing iPod. There it was, in its case, as though I had put it there yesterday. All I can figure is that the iPod gnomes must have felt guilty for taking it and returned it to its proper place, after the statute of limitations expired on their standard waiting period for confiscated objects. How else can you explain that it reappeared exactly one week (almost to the hour) after my replacement iPod arrived?