26 Before 26: a Retrospective

Last year I started a list of 26 things I wanted to complete before my 26th birthday. I thought if I had a finite list of things, I’d be motivated to cross the items off one by one. In the middle few months, life and work got crazy and I lost focus. However, I still was able to complete items I certainly wouldn’t have otherwise. With my 26th birthday come and gone, here’s a retrospective on my progress and how I plan to continue with my venture.

Things I completed:

Took a weekend trip to Sedonalink
Read and returned all borrowed bookslink
Got a record playerlink
Saw Fountains of Wayne in concertlink
Reconnected with an old friendlink
Replaced master bathroom showerlink
Watched The Godfatherlink
Organized the garagelink
Digitally organized and archived all photoslink
Lost 15 poundslink
Learned to properly cook a steaklink
Created wedding books for my parents and in-lawslink

Things in progress:

Replace guest bathtub — Materials purchased and ready to be installed in May.
Host a poker night — Poker chips and table are ready, interest has been shown, date to be set soon.
Reduce my private debt by one fourth — I’ve set up a timeline and payment plan and have already made my first payment. I should be debt-free in a couple years.
Refresh and customize an old piece of furniture — I have the piece already, but have been agonizing over what paint color to use.

Things I still plan on completing:

Paint the kitchen cabinets — Just waiting for a long weekend so I can do it all at once. I may try the bathroom cabinets first as a test run.
Have a smores party — We plan to put in some grass, a fire pit, and a nice seating area in the backyard. Then, smores for everyone.
Paint a picture for myself — I have a few commissions lined up, but will soon after begin painting more for myself.
Learn how to change a tire — Someday…
Take a city tour of Phoenix — Of all the tours I researched, the Town Lake segway tour sounds the most fun. May have to wait till fall for the best weather.

Things I don’t plan on completing:

Build a piece of furniture — Too many tools to buy and too much work. I’d much rather spend time browsing antique stores!
Try snowboarding again — Last time I was in snowy climate, I found every excuse not to go snowboarding. Too expensive, too scary, and too much prep. I’ll stick to wakeboarding and warm weather.
Take a pottery class — My dad and I are going to take a printmaking class instead. Fun!
Stay up all night and watch the sun rise — I’m just too old for this, ha!
Buy a nice set of dishes and flatware — I actually shopped around for these, priced everything, and then decided I’d rather spend my money on other things. Our IKEA plates and Target flatware are good enough for us.

While I didn’t complete most of my list, I still feel great about it. One of my resolutions this year was to complete more projects I start. I loved the process and now am considering some larger, more difficult items for my 30 before 30 list.

Garage Organization

Last night I was able to complete one more item on my 26 before 26 list. I’d been working on it slowly over the last few months and can finally cross off #17: Organize the garage.

While our little house has plenty of closets, there wasn’t much outdoor storage for larger items and those not needed in the house. For the first couple years, we used an old storage shelf I had bought for an installation art piece during college. It had been painted so many times that the pieces no longer fit together properly. So I decided it was time to get things in order.

Here’s our garage before:

While this is nothing compared to the clutter most people have in their garages, it made the organizer in me cringe. Stacked chairs, sports equipment, Christmas decorations, and much more just sat where they wanted, occasionally falling over when we accidentally bumped against them. Not a great situation.

I had Clay help me remove the useless cabinet from the garage wall. Doesn’t he look excited to be here?

Then, I put together two new storage shelf units from Home Depot to fill the space. They were $70 each and much cheaper than any other cabinet option we considered.

And here’s the after with all of our boxes and things on the shelves. The organizer in me wanted to get all matching containers, but the thrift shopper in me said to make do with what we have.

The last step was to get some Elfa wall hooks and hangers from The Container Store to get the rest of the stuff up off the ground and out of the way. It seems like such a small change, moving the items 5 feet above where they original sat, but it makes such a difference. These items are the ones we only use once in a while or seasonally, so having them on the wall clears up walking space and keeps them out of harm’s way until we need them.

(Disregard the pile of building materials. These are simply waiting to be installed in our guest bathroom and will be gone soon!)

When we moved in, we had made it a point to always be able to park inside our garage (especially during the hot summer months). It’s easy to start packing and stacking items in there and soon your garage is overflowing with things you don’t even care about. This new system will hopefully make it quick and easy to keep things organized.

Overdue Books

This item on my 26 before 26 list was difficult for me. I technically only completed half of it, but I’m still crossing off #4: Read and return all borrowed books.


For the past year, I’ve discovered my inability to read books. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading. I used to read a book a week and couldn’t get enough. Lately though, with work, family, and house, I just can’t seem to focus long enough to get through a decent number of pages. I read a chapter, but can’t remember most of it. My mind is a wanderer. So as I work towards getting my reading groove back, I decided to return any borrowed books from friends and family anyway.

I was surprised to feel a weight lifted. The pile of borrowed books on my to-do list was always in the back of my mind and it was a relief to clear them from my space. I’ve resolved to first read any books I own that I have yet to enjoy and, in the future, to only borrow one book at a time.

Friends Again

I’ve been examining my 26 before 26 list, trying to determine which items I will complete before my birthday on Tuesday. It was then I realized life had already helped me out with one of them. Joyfully, I am crossing off #12: Reconnect with an old friend.

I was introduced to Kate Farrar by a mutual friend in high school. Although we didn’t attend the same school, we saw each other all the time. We shared a love for pop-punk and could easily be found at the same shows or hanging out at the 92nd St. Starbucks/Chipotle. We worked at the same retirement home and she even permanently borrowed a pair of my Converse (even though she doesn’t remember).

I hadn’t talked to or seen her since high school, until earlier this year I discovered we had mutual friends in common still. She came to work at meltmedia and I’m so glad she did. We quickly and easily became friends again, and we discovered our mutual loves for HTML, Star Wars, and not wearing pants. Both of us searched through our old photos to find a picture of the two of us from high school. We each found pictures of the other from nights we know we were both in attendance. But sadly, none of the two of us surfaced. Here’s us now, coworkers and friends again.

Digital Archiving

With only eight days until my birthday, I’m making a mad dash to complete items on my 26 before 26 list. I’ve been working on this one for a while and finally completed it: #20: Digitally organize and archive all photos.

I took this opportunity to not only organize my photos, but all my documents and media. I picked up a LaCie 1 terabyte external hard drive and started filling it up. All my artwork, schoolwork, music, and movies were easy to transfer from various storage systems and now are all organized in one place. My photos were a different story. I had boxes and boxes of prints, CDs, memory cards, and negatives to sort through. Luckily, Target took care of most of it for me. I dropped off bags of prints and negatives and picked up some neatly stacked photo CDs. I now have digital copies of all my photos and even found some pretty good ones from the past (see below).

Shiny New Shower

After a quick five weeks, I’m giddy to cross of another item on my 26 before 26 list: #13: Replace master bathroom shower.

Whoever put in the original shower in our house must hate all things good. They did everything wrong and chose the cheapest methods and hardware possible. The first thing I wanted to do when we moved in was replace the shower. Two and a half years later, we finally got around to it. After speaking with contractors, we were a bit disheartened at the high estimates we received. Our friend Paul stepped in and offered to help us out at night and on weekends. This morning I used the new shower for the first time and actually squealed with delight. No longer do I need to worry about water soaking into the walls, my products have a nice shelf to sit on, and I’m not embarrassed if someone sees it! And the absolute best part? We saved about $5,000 doing it ourselves.

I searched through all the photos I took when we moved in the house for a “before” photo, but I couldn’t find a single one. It’s probably for the best, because it was pretty gross. No worries, it’s beautiful now!

Feeling Healthy

Due to an overly crazy workload and other obligations, I slowed down quite a bit on my 26 before 26 list. This one I’m pretty happy to cross off: #21: Lose 15 pounds.

For quite a while, I’ve been feeling tired, sluggish, and all-around icky. I was drinking several diet sodas in a day and eating plenty of junk. While I’m not one to condemn the delicious merits of fast food and processed treats, it was time for a change. So five weeks ago I started a nutrition plan in hopes it would raise my energy levels, make me feel better, and, as a nice side-effect, allow me to shed some pounds. I decided to cut out all carbs and sugar, eating 4-5 meals a day of lean protein and vegetables. I’m glad to report that I feel more energized, much healthier, and my clothes are fitting better too. I’m going to continue on this nutrition plan for 3 more weeks and then slowly start incorporating more foods in. I definitely want to keep eating fresh, healthy food from now on, but with the occasional pop-tart or cheeseburger thrown in.


Clay’s parents flew in for Thanksgiving this past weekend. We decided it would be fun to take a day trip to Sedona. Although we didn’t spend the whole weekend, I’m crossing off another item on my 26 before 26 list, #2: Take a weekend trip to Sedona.

I’ve been to Sedona a few times growing up, but never to tour and learn more about the city. I’d intended to go up there when the weather is more desirable than here in Phoenix, but the opportunity presented itself and we took it. I simply love road trips and the two-hour drive there was relaxing and beautiful. We booked a trolley tour and picked up some walnut fudge from the Sedona Fudge Company. The weather was freezing, but the scenery was amazing. I particularly like the cohesiveness I felt there; They’ve done a great job at keeping all the architecture, roads, and homes along the same design aesthetics. It all feels very quaint.

After the tour we headed to the lookout near the Sedona Airport and ran into a snow storm. We certainly were not prepared or dressed properly for that kind of chill so we decided to head home for dinner (missing out on the rattlesnake at the Barking Frog restaurant, unfortunately). The day trip was fun and relaxing and we are all excited to make it out there again for a better planned weekend. I’d love to take a hot air balloon or helicopter ride over the city.

Fountains of Wayne

Yesterday my brother and I drove out to Los Angeles to fulfill a dream of mine and to cross off another item on my 26 before 26 list, #9: See Fountains of Wayne in concert.

I first fell in love with Fountains of Wayne 13 years ago. Their self-titled album was the perfect blend of emotion, humor, and power pop. They had me instantly. As I grew up, they delivered three more amazing studio albums and a 2-disc b-sides album with songs to fit every mood and experience.

For reasons unknown, I let these 13 years pass without ever seeing them live. Their touring schedule is usually light and mostly dedicated to the east coast. When I saw they were going to be playing at the famous Troubadour in West Hollywood, I jumped at the opportunity. I’m happy to say it was completely worth it. They played several of my favorite songs and even a few new ones. It’s really unbelievable how many awesome songs they’ve written and how much I still love each one. I can’t wait for their new album to release and to see them again as soon as possible.

I snapped a few photos before the show, but was so enamored with their performance that I forgot to take any photos during. Also, the Troubadour is an amazing venue!

The Godfather

Regrettably crossing off another item on my 26 before 26 list, #15: Watch The Godfather. I’ve never been a fan of old movies or mob stories, but I thought I couldn’t truly claim that until I saw THE old mob movie. The Godfather is at or near the top of every “see before you die” list, so I figured I’d better.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really enjoy the film. I found it insanely boring and the characters difficult to understand, both audibly and personally. I’m not sure what all the fuss is about, and now I’m pretty confident in saying mob stories just aren’t for me. I did enjoy James Caan’s horribly fake fight scene, though.