That House that Farrah Star Built

The Temple is for sale.  Long live the Temple!  You know about her from Temple Techbuilt, which I closed the day I learned we’d be leaving Madison.  Here she is in her professional attire (realtor pics):


If you’d like to see the rest of the house, check out our listing:

I put my heart and soul into this house by way of wallpaper and paint.  That master bedroom (above) used to be bright orange.


Would I have hung purple polka-dotted wallpaper on the ceiling had I known we’d be selling in 2.5 years?  No.  Neither would I have hung pink peacock feather wallpaper in Farrah’s room.

Farrah's Room

I made bold choices and I love how our home looks but once our furniture and art are removed I’m afraid a potential buyer might not share my vision.  Cross your fingers we sell, Dear Readers.  I am sad to leave Madison and sad to leave this house.  I can be very rah! rah! a new adventure! but the truth is we are leaving far sooner than we ever thought we would, if we ever left at all.  Look at my house.  Absolutely nothing about it says temporary.

Family Trees  Blue Painter's Tape

Farrah Star was born in this house, right there in the master bathroom.  That’s where I needed to be, thrashing about, climbing the wall and vomiting.  When I was about to birth Farrah, my body moved from kneeling to standing and if that’s not a metaphor for motherhood, I don’t know what it is.


When I think about leaving this house, the house that Farrah Star built, I don’t think about ripping out one of those master bath wall tiles and turning it into a keychain.  I will not place a scoopful of dirt from the back yard into a mason jar.  I will leave the extra key for the new owners.  I will let it go and simply hang on to what I know is true, something I’ve learned over the years of leaving homes too soon and from watching “Ghost” 162 times in the early 1990s:

I’m taking it with me.






Becoming Montreal: The Scene of Our Friends’ Wedding


From Madison to Montreal; how did this happen?

After our lovely 2006 wedding, I expected that one day we’d return to Montreal for an anniversary celebration.  I looked forward to such an occasion, vaguely, and packed away my loonies and toonies.  Five years later, the only two people we know in Montreal, Erica and Sebastien, announced their engagement and then invited us to their wedding in July of 2011.


Another happy reason to return to Montreal.  This was becoming a habit.

Our entire trip was joyful but very different than our previous visits.  We had become parents.


Instead of hitting up strip clubs we hit up the Bretagne Bakery at 7am every morning and stayed inside our rental apartment every night.  (Side note: this might be the last photo of Kris wearing glasses.  He had lasik eye surgery while we were there.)  Times had changed but Montreal hadn’t.  I was still drawn to her street art and gritty city-ness.

Erica and Sebastien hosted a gorgeous wedding and I’m so happy they asked us to witness and share in the celebration.  I am particularly grateful to Erica who, some three years later, would tell Kris about a position in her company’s Montreal office for which he’d be highly suited.

Becoming Montreal, the final installment, coming soon.

The Sleepy Owl

Arlo’s teachers are now introducing all pages when reading a book; the dedication, the job of illustrator and author and possibly even publisher.  I reinforce this at home and shared with Arlo that eleven years ago today, Mimmi gave The Sleepy Owl to her grandsons and Arlo’s cousins, Ryan and Shayan, and now that book belongs to him (and Farrah Star)!


The Sleepy Owl is a story of Owl and Tom, two friends who long to play with one another but can’t because they live in different worlds: night and day.  They try to meet but the sun hurts Owl’s eyes and Tom is busy sleeping in the middle of the night.


Tom paints a kite to let Owl know he’s thinking of him.


Owl sees the kite as he returns home to sleep for the day and as Owl and the story concludes, “He is still my friend, even though we can’t play together.”

Mimmi hasn’t seen Arlo or Farrah Star since last October, Farrah’s Annaprashan.  She won’t see them again until next spring.  This is devastating for any grandparent but especially for Mimmi who comes from a culture where multiple generations live in the same house or at least in the same neighborhood.  This was true of Ryan and Shayan’s childhood but it is not with Arlo and Farrah.  Bermuda was the closest we ever lived to Mimmi’s New Jersey home.  Last October is a lifetime ago; next spring unfathomable in the changes and developments of 5- and 2-year-old.  It is sad to watch this gap widen – to be a party of it even – as a mother myself now I can’t believe we are so far apart for so long.  I wish we could play together.

I know the sun hurts your eyes Mimmi, and that is why I painted this kite for you.  I will keep painting for as long as you fly overhead, thinking of your faraway friends.

We love and miss you, night and day.

MMM: Plastic Coyote Figure From World’s Smallest Carousel Ride Sniffs Dirty Diaper

Mostly Madison Mondays – a howdoyoudo from and around my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin

I have no idea what possessed me to make dinner, pack it up and have a family picnic in the middle of last week.  I am not myself these days.

An even number of shovels and buckets in the car, we headed out to the beach at Governor Nelson State Park.  Neither the shovels nor buckets were used.


When first approaching the shore, there appeared to be a bloated pig carcass with an arrow through its abdomen.  Upon closer inspection it turned out to be a plastic coyote figure from the world’s smallest carousel ride, sniffing a dirty diaper.


I couldn’t make this up.

There were two more on the beach which we inspected with great curiosity.

Governor Governor

Perplexed but hungry, we made our way back to our blanket, enjoying the breeze and the view.  It was there we discovered the sign telling us the coyotes were decoys placed along the shoreline to scare off geese, keeping the beach free of waterfowl scat.  Also we were asked to please not touch them.  Whoops.

It’s a real thing, these decoys, but you probably knew that.  You can get them on Amazon for $31.  Dirty diaper not included.

The More You Know!

And here’s more from our evening.  Hope you enjoy.


I should have chased this stranger down. I bet she would have liked a copy of this photo.




A happy accident


Stay golden PonyBoy.

I Will Not Go Willingly Into The Nap

This is what our week looks like when we actually remember to write things down:


I wold like to point out that neither Kris nor I have a job right now, only the job of moving from Madison to Montreal.  Only.  And yes, I have a UTI that started on Monday.  Thanks Universe.

We move in two weeks.  I do not have time for this:


Farrah Star would not nap on her own today.  OF ALL DAYS.

The third appraiser will be here any minute.

I’m waiting on a very important call from the moving company who will detail the transport of our cats.  This information is critical because we have to buy airline tickets to Utah for a vacation we committed to many, many months ago.  We are 14 days out from that trip which means we’ve got to buy tickets TODAY.  But we can’t buy until we’re sure the cats are not coming to Utah with us.

The transport lady has told everyone we’re moving to Toronto so many follow-up calls need to be made to correct that wee mistake.

Kris is out getting his haircut and then immediately will go to the dentist so he can’t handle any of this.  He’s also spent the morning shopping new insurance so he’d probably prefer to get a root canal than be on the phone one minute longer.

We are hosting a moving sale tomorrow at 8am.  That requires a bit of attention.

My friends, Sue and Katie and their boys tried to Facetime me – together!  Like, that never happens!  What a great surprise!  But

Farrah Star would not nap on her own today.  OF ALL DAYS.

Napping has been consistent for a while now.  It’s been glorious.  It softens me as a mother and I like that feeling.  I would like that feeling to continue but

Farrah Star would not nap on her own today.  OF ALL DAYS.

I had to do it.  I didn’t want to – but I could not ignore her pleas, the desperate and tear-streaked pleas of a now 16-month-old.  I did not go willingly into the nap – oh no, I was kind of an asshole about it really – but I did it anyway.  It is after all a familiar place.

Photo on 5-6-13 at 11.04 AMPhoto on 5-8-13 at 1.42 PM #3

A reminder that there is no higher priority than the comfort and happiness of my children.  ALL DAYS.

Looks like the cats will be hitchhiking to Montreal.

Never More, Only Better

In two weeks we are leaving our 2100 sq ft house and moving into a 1500 sq ft apartment so the name of the game around here is PURGE.  This is the best part of moving for me as I love to live lean.  If I were alone in this world I would live my life in a 500 sq ft studio and still have plenty of room for all those cats.  I share a home with a family however and not everyone needs to live like I do.  I accept this fact with great and loud resentment as I make our home work for everyone in it.  Gah.  People and their needs.

My one piece of advice/strict rule for living lean is this:  Something comes in, something goes out.  In other words – never own more, only own better.

This article from Becoming Minimalist says it all and in an efficient number of keystrokes.  Enjoy!


“Owning less is far more beneficial than organizing more.” – Twitter /Facebook

We are a culture drowning in our possessions. We take in more and more (holiday, birthdays, sales, needs), but rarely find opportunity to discard of it. As a result, our homes fill up with more and more stuff. And because we believe the best solution is to find organizational tools to manage all of it, we seek out bigger containers or more efficient organizational tips and tricks. But simply organizing our stuff (without removing it) is always only a temporary solution. By definition, organizing possessions is an action that must be repeated over and over and over again.

At its heart, organizing is simply rearranging. And though we may find storage solutions today, we are quickly forced to find new ones as early as tomorrow. Additionally, organizing our stuff (without removing it) has some other major shortcomings that are rarely considered:

  • It doesn’t benefit anyone else. The possessions we rarely use sit on shelves in our basements, attics, and garages… even while some of our closest friends desperately need them.
  • It doesn’t solve our debt problems. It never addresses the underlying issue that we just buy too much stuff. In fact, many times, the act of rearranging our stuff even costs us more as we purchase containers, storage units, or larger homes to house it.
  • It doesn’t turn back our desire for more. The simple act of organizing our things into boxes, plastic bins, or extra closets doesn’t turn back our desire to purchase more things.  The culture-driven inclination to find happiness in our possessions is rarely thwarted in any way through the process.
  • It doesn’t force us to evaluate our lives. While rearranging our stuff may cause us to look at each of our possessions, it does not force us to evaluate them—especially if we are just putting them in boxes and closing the lids. On the other hand, removing possessions from our home forces questions of passion, values, and what’s truly most important to us.
  • It accomplishes little in paving the way for other changes.Organizing may provide a temporary lift to our attitude. It clears a room and subsequently clears our mind, but rarely paves the way for healthy, major lifestyle changes. Our house is too small, our income is too little, and we still can’t find enough time in the day. We may have rearranged our stuff… but not our lives.

On the other hand, the act of removing possessions from our home accomplishes many of those purposes. It is not a temporary solution that must be repeated. It is an action of permanence—once an item has been removed, it is removed completely. Whether we re-sell our possessions, donate them to charity, or give them to a friend, they are immediately put to use by those who need them.

Removing possessions begins to turn back our desire for more as we find freedom, happiness, and abundance in owning less. And removing ourselves from the all-consuming desire to own more creates opportunity for significant life change to take place.

As you seek to get your home (and life) organized, challenge yourself to remove the unneeded things in your home. Rid yourself of the extra weight in a permanent manner. Carry a trash bag from room-to-room. See how big of a donation pile you can make. Or help eliminate debt by selling them. It doesn’t matter so much how you remove them, as long as you do. For it is far better to de-own than declutter.

Just a Little Heart Attack

I’ve had chest pain for years.  It’s right there, under my left breast, beneath my rib.  It goes as quickly as it comes but when it comes I cannot breathe or move.  It can happen under any condition or circumstance.  It hurts like hell but only for a moment.  It scares Kris so I promised I would talk to my doctor about it.

My doctor, who I saw last week for a physical, offered no diagnosis.  The funny thing is on the day I saw my doctor, I had that pain (convenient!) but it was constant and low-level instead of sudden and stabbing.  The next day I had it too, along with a general queasiness, shakiness and shortness of breath.  Then the next day.  That night while watching a movie, my left arm went numb and I nearly threw up from panic.  I broke out in sobs saying “I love you so much” feeling this was the end and I was probably shitty to Kris earlier.  My kids  – thank god my kids’ last moment with me was one of bedtime stories and kisses and nursing.  Buy, why, WHY couldn’t I keep that 5lbs off from last summer?!?  What am I wearing right now?  Why am I wearing THIS?

Kris ran upstairs and brought me back two aspirin.  I promised to go to Urgent Care in the morning and I did.  They took me right away – they do this when you come in complaining of chest pain.


I have always enjoyed good health; from my blood pressure to cholesterol to my resting pulse, I am in good shape.  This is why for as long as I’ve had this chest pain I’ve thought that when I go, it’s going to be from some weird heart defect.

I absolutely believed I was having a heart attack last week and that I would die at any moment.  I cried.  I shook.  I was terrified for my children (because I have an ego to go along with my (presumed) grossly enlarged heart).  My kids, my kids, my kids.

My EKG was normal.  My vitals were normal.  The doctor told me something I will now never forget: “Heart pain is never stabbing or sharp, it is one of pressure and weight.”  He diagnosed my pain as pleurisy, most likely caused by two bouts of childhood pneumonia:

The defining symptom of pleurisy is a sudden sharp, stabbing, burning or dull pain in the right or left side of the chest during breathing, especially when one inhales and exhales.[6] It feels worse with deep breathing,coughing, sneezing, or laughing. The pain may stay in one place, or it may spread to the shoulder or back.[7] Sometimes, it becomes a fairly constant dull ache.[8] Depending on its cause, pleuritic chest pain may be accompanied by other symptoms:[9]

Dry cough

Fever and chills

Rapid, shallow breathing

Shortness of breath

Rapid pulse

Sore throat followed by pain and swelling in the joints

Ventricular tachycardia

Check, check and check.  Textbook – if that book were wikipedia or webMD. I am so relieved to know that a heart attack is most likely not forthcoming.  I feel like a weight has been lifted off my chest.

*Like a weight has been lifted off my chest.* – Heart Attack Humor!

Kris has relief too and that’s important to me.  I sent him this picture on my walk home from Urgent Care, telling him that he didn’t have to share it with the kids, that one was just for him – so you know shit got real.


I haven’t forgotten about my heart though.  As the enormity of parenthood collides with another international move, I spend all day in a state of panic and anxiety, wondering how I’m going to do it all and do it all so quickly.  Having done it before helps but still …. my beating heart.

I took this post title from the Go Red For Women campaign with this video starring Elizabeth Banks.  It’s a simple message conveyed with levity:  “Do I look like the kind of person who has a heart attack?!?”

Take care of yourself out there.  I mean it.


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