Reflecting on 2018’s challenges

Now that we’re two days into 2019 and I’ve once again forgotten to buy new calendars before the year change, it seems like a good time to reflect on the challenges of 2018.

In the pre-spring of 2018, my basement flooded because my sump pump stopped working correctly. I managed to repair it temporarily and get the water out of my basement, but then had to throw out a lot of items that had been on the basement floor. Considering that I hadn’t needed those items in the almost seventh years I’d lived in the house, I obviously didn’t need them.

Then my kitchen drain wasn’t draining properly and my attempts to snake it failed to clear the clog. Called a plumber and they discovered that my line to the septic tank was partially broken, thus things weren’t draining properly. So my issues cost much more than a simple snaking, but avoided problems in the future. Plus I got my sump pump replaced with a smaller, safer unit.

After that came a challenge I’d known was coming, getting the transmission on my Toyota Matrix replaced. That cost more than expected, but with a new clutch and transmission now it should last a good many more years.

Just when I thought I might be in the clear, the water pressure in my house took a significant dive. It turned out that the line from my well to the house was leaking. So once again, plumbers dug up my yard and fixed the problem and once again I faced a large and unexpected plumbing bill. But the upside is that I have great water flow and pressure now and know that my well gets plenty of water.

I got a brief reprieve from challenges until late summer when wasps suddenly started appearing in large numbers in my bedroom. I discovered they’d bored right through the wall and into my closet. I then had to spray my closet with Raid and plug the hole with expanding foam.

During that traumatic escapade, the Raid damaged items in my closet and it was then filled with dead wasps I needed to clean out. So I had to clean out and reorganized my closet and that’s something I’ve needed to do since I moved in. While I didn’t enjoy that experience in the least, I do like having a tidier closet that’s easy to store things in.

So while I wish that the challenges of 2018 hadn’t been quite so financially expensive, I certainly learned a lot and was forced to make long overdue changes. Sometimes the universe gets tired of sending me subtle hints that I miss and has to send bigger slaps upside the head. This year, I’m keeping my eyes open for those subtle hints in the hopes of avoiding any bigger issues that arise.

How and Why I “Spoil” My Daughters

triumphant trio hands

From the day they were born, my girls have been my first priority. They are the best gifts I’ve ever received and my life would be incomplete without them. They continue to amaze me every day with their unique personalities and diverse talents and I know they both have bright futures ahead of them.

As I only have my daughters half of the week, I do my best to make the most of every moment with them. This involves “spoiling” them, but perhaps not in the way you think. I don’t shower them with gifts and let them get away with “murder” but I make sure they’re happy. I make their beds in the morning, I fold their clothes, I make their meals and I keep my home relatively tidy and clean. Do I assign them chores? No, I do not. Do I think this is stunting their growth or preventing them from developing into independent women? Not for a second. They’re kids and I want them to enjoy being kids for as long as possible.

I realize that there will come a day when my girls no longer live in my home and they’re out on their own making their own lives. I won’t have to make their beds or meals anymore or fold their clothing. I know I’ll miss it. While I want them to have their own fulfilling lives, I’m not looking forward to having a home devoid of my daughters. Therefore, I want us all to be happy during the years we’re living together.

In my almost 40 years of existence, I’ve discovered that the only way to learn how to exist on one’s own is to actually live on one’s own. As I went from living with my parents to living with my future husband/now ex-husband, I didn’t know what it meant to live alone until I was 34 years old when my separation agreement was filed and I moved into my own place. I lived in a townhouse-style apartment for a few months before moving into the home I have now. Experiencing days and nights without my girls was heartbreaking for several months. I was lonely and felt abandoned and lost.

I don’t want that for my girls. I don’t want them thinking that there’s something wrong with being on their own. Thus, I spoil them by showing them that a woman can take care of herself, be independent, maintain a home and achieve all sorts of amazing things without a partner in her life. I’ve learned a lot in my almost six years as a homeowner and my girls have seen me tackle all sorts of jobs on my own including fixing the furnace, staining the deck, mowing the lawn, sawing tree limbs and building a fire pit. When something needs doing, it’s up to me to do it and the more I succeed, the more they see what’s possible for their future.

Another way I spoil my daughters is by trying to be a good role model and setting the best example I can. I try very hard not to complain about feeling fat even if I’m feeling fat because I want them to always have a positive self-image. I want them to see that I love myself and my body (curves and all) and that I exercise and eat good food for health reasons and not because I want to look like some impossible standard set for woman by pictures in magazines and movie actors.

When the time comes for my girls to strike out on their own, I know that I’ll have done all I can to prepare them to tackle real world challenges. I’m not perfect by any means and I make mistakes, but I learn from those mistakes and I keep improving. I want my girls to know that no matter how “grown up” they get, they can always count on me to “spoil” them with advice, a listening ear or an extra hand for home maintenance tasks. We are and will always be a triumphant trio of powerful women.

Light the fire or freeze

interior of lit gas furnace

Last Thursday night the weather forecast was calling for the coldest wind chill temperatures yet and while I wasn’t excited about that, I knew as long as I had propane, a working furnace, and my space heaters to supplement, I’d be fine. As it turned out, I wasn’t as fine as I’d hoped.

Around 6 p.m. that evening, I was working at my desk when I realized I felt colder than usual. I had my space heater running next to me but it wasn’t helping as it usually did, so I decided I’d check the thermostat to see what it was set to. When I read 58 degrees, I rolled my eyes in exasperation because I’d forgotten to turn it back up when I arrived home from errands. Thinking I’d found the easy solution, I turned the thermostat up a few degrees and waited for the furnace to kick on.

The thermostat made it’s usually click sound, the furnace blower turned on and ran for a few moments…and then stopped. The heat hadn’t kicked on and I wondered what the problem was. Beginning some furnace troubleshooting, I tried fiddling with the thermostat settings a little more, but no heat came out of my registers. I finally concluded that the problem must be with the furnace unit in the basement.

I put on my boots to go into the cold basement and walked down the stairs nimbly dodging the kittens that were curious about my activities. The first thing I did for the basement segment of my furnace troubleshooting was to inspect the circuit breaker and flip the circuit for the furnace. Once again, the blower on the furnace kicked on, but after a few moments, it turned off without creating heat.

The next thing I did was go to the furnace and that’s when I saw two little lights through the cover window. They were both green, but one was flashing. I had no clue what that meant, but I flipped the light style switch on the outside of the furnace to turn it off and on again. Again, the blower turned on, then off, but no heat and the lights were doing the same thing. Now I wasn’t quite sure what to do, but what I did know was that if I didn’t light that fire, I was going to freeze and that thought didn’t appeal.

While I’ve never dealt with furnace troubleshooting personally before, I’ve researched furnace systems as a freelance writer and some of that HVAC knowledge was stuck in my mind. I vaguely remembered reading something about an ignition switch being part of furnace troubleshooting and I figured since I’d never had to deal with a pilot light on my furnace, that it probably had an ignition switch

Settling into a sitting position on the cold, cement basement floor, I started reading the furnace cover to see if I could figure out any useful instructions. The diagram on the cover vividly pointed out where the ignition switch was inside the unit, so I decided to unscrew the cover and see what I could do. Making sure the furnace was switched off, I unscrewed the furnace cover and found myself looking at a confusing myriad of parts and circuits. When I looked closer at the tiny LED lights, I saw that there was third light, that it was yellow not green and that it hadn’t been on with the other two. I assume that was the ignition indicator light.

Even with the diagram on the furnace cover, I had trouble finding the ignition switch and when I finally did, it was a rather tiny thing located toward the top of the cabinet’s interior. The switch was in the on position, which puzzled me, so I decided to check the furnace filter to see if dirt on it had caused the unit to turn off for safety reasons.

Sure enough, the furnace filter had so much dust, cat hair, and dog fur covering it that I could’ve made a dog/cat/dust bunny hybrid. I had three brand new replacement filters that I’d purchased shortly after moving in back in 2011 so I promptly changed out the dirty filter for a nice, clean one.

That task completed, I returned to the open furnace cabinet and flipped the ignition switch from on to off and back to on. I figured if taking out my car fuse and putting it back in had fixed the blower problem, perhaps flipping that ignition switch would bring the same happy fortune. Not quite sure my furnace troubleshooting solution would work, I didn’t screw the faceplate on before turning the furnace back on, but I did hold the cover up over the unit in case the flame actually did kick on.

Sure enough, the flame poofed into life as soon as the blower had run a few moments and I found myself hastily screwing the cover on. For any DIY furnace troubleshooting people out there, I highly recommend screwing the cover securely on first because propane gas flames aren’t something to play around with. I didn’t suffer any injury, but I’d definitely screw the cover on first in the future!

Once I had everything reassembled and heat was coming from the furnace again, I took my cold body back upstairs and started thawing out. Never before had the hum of my furnace sounded so glorious! I was quite proud of myself for fixing the problem on my own and for retaining enough HVAC knowledge to be useful. One of the things I often read in HVAC articles is to hire professional service people for furnace troubleshooting, but as it was Thursday evening and I didn’t want to freeze to death or pay through the nose for someone to flip a switch, I chose to do it myself. I now know what to do should my furnace act up like that again and it’s knowledge that will serve me well.

Unless it’s an absolute emergency, I highly recommend that you try to figure out household issues on your own. While it’s “easier” to have a pro do it, it’s not free, and being able to take care of your own house is a very admirable quality. If you’re looking for furnace help, I’d recommend this Furnace Troubleshooting article from This site often has useful, well-written information.

The moral of the story is that when faced with the choice of lighting the fire or freezing to death, I chose lighting the fire. I think it’s a good analogy for life too because if you don’t light the fire within you to pursue your dreams and goals, then you’ll be left behind freezing in the cold of a mundane existence.