Kick Ass or Die

Well, shit. 

That’s about the only articulate thing I can say about 2020. To be fair, I’m out of practice. However, I’d also  guess I’m not the only person stuck in the space between “there are a lot of things that should be said about this year” and “dear god, I’m sick of people talking about this year.” A space that i believe can be most accurately described like this: 

Well. Shit. 

Sixteen years ago I started writing stories on the internet (about the adventures of renovating houses) before this was a thing. Just to put that in context, it was before YouTube existed, before Reddit existed, before HGTV was HGTV. A time where your best bet for finding information about how to DIY something on your house online was to delve into the fraught and contradictory advice on old contractor’s forums. 

It took a certain amount of courage, in those days, to put stories about your life on the internet. To say, authentically (as a 23 year old woman, who just bought her first house), “Hey, I’m not an expert at this, and I can’t find any goddamn information on it anywhere, but here’s what I tried and how it worked.” 

There were no rules. No real algorithms. A little money to be made (which, in fairness, I did), but not a whole lot of ways you could “sell out” even if you didn’t have a strong set of values around your platform. (And, let’s be honest, “platform” really is a generous word for it.) 

There were, however, a lot of stories. There was a little bit of magic about being invited into people’s lives online, and I still carry those stories with me. I remember when Rob “Acidman” Smith from Gutrumbles died unexpectedly. When Patti from OMT had her first grandchild. When Sara and Shaun from Russet St. Reno got married. When Sarah from Ugly Duckling House broke up with her ex and took on all her house projects single-handedly. When Julia and Matt from Home on 129 Acres bought a farm at the exact same time I did. When Alex and Wendy from Old Town Home bought their historic Foursquare. (This list could go on forever.) And it’s not just the highlights of these stories that have value for me, but the whole of them. The projects, the searches, the obstacles. The tragedies and the strength. The joys and the successes. 

Funny story (and something that almost never happens these days) I do not share religious, political, or lifestyle beliefs with everybody on that list. I don’t even share building philosophies with everyone on that list. (Although to be fair that’s because almost all of them are smart enough to wear PPE and don’t do electrical work while drinking… but whatever guys. To each their own.)  And yet, there was no vitriol in these spaces. Just general enjoyment, entertainment, and, also, appreciation for being invited to know these people as people (even if, from the other end of the keyboard, it sometimes feels like you’re just telling stories into a void.) 

These days, when I interact with people and the world via the internet, I don’t remember the stories (which, to be honest, are not so much stories as status updates.) I haven’t lost my curiosity, but it has very often been overridden by whatever dopamine hit scrolling endlessly through memes on instagram provides. And, in a lot of ways, I had been participating in that algorithm-driven machine, which we all know exists solely to sell us shit and waste our time, and yet can’t seem to quit. I participated through the way I posted, or didn’t. Through the way I branded this website. Through the way I monetized my “platforms” (seriously, every time I type that word I literally say “oh, go fuck yourself” to myself, out loud. It’s almost as bad as when someone unironically uses the term “influencer”… and now I’ve rolled my eyes so hard I think I pulled a muscle. Fuck.) 

Even outside of the realm of blogs and influencers, I have friends (who have also been kick-ass colleagues in the corporate world) who write posts on LinkedIn that promise “5 Tips for [insert whatever business buzzword is hot this week]”. And I get why they do that. Why they have to do that. But also, dammit, I want your stories. Your real stories. The ones that you tell me over a couple of beers after a long week about the real challenges you have, and how some of them you overcame, and some of them you didn’t, because goddamn it life is hard. Interpersonal relationships are hard. Work, when you’re challenging yourself appropriately, is hard. 

But that’s not how stories on the internet work these days. 

A year ago, what I said to myself was: It is impossible to participate in any of this authentically anymore. And if you can’t participate authentically, you’re not participating at all. (And, also, because I’m basically a grumpy old man trapped in a slightly less old woman’s body, and “kids these days” have ruined the internet, which is not like it was back in the glory days of my youth… I threw a year-long temper tantrum about it. Goddamn sue me.)  

And yet, even with a year of non-participation, some of you reached out and told me stories. Told me you bought your first houses (or farms!) Told me about the hard shit in your lives. About how you, also, were learning to tell authentic stories (and figuring out your personal boundaries for how and when to tell them.) About how your little girl was scrolling Instagram and saw a picture of me “working on trucks like daddy does!” and that may be part of why she believes girls can do things too. Build houses. Fix trucks. Put up fences. Drink beer and do electrical work. 

(Or, maybe not so much that last one.) 

It has raised a lot of questions for me about if and how I want to participate in telling stories online. In blogs, platforms, social media. And about what the value is. What the responsibilities are. There was a time I wrote stories about my life online just because I could, because it required a level of courage and authenticity I felt it was important to model for the world at large, and because I was goddamn good at it. But now, the courage isn’t in the storytelling. The value isn’t in being particularly good at it. 

Also, as an aside, I have an Actual Professional Life. If the only things you know about me are stories from this website, you may be surprised that I’m as comfortable in corporate america as I am on a farm. Even though there’s no sawdust, no hammers, no getting your hands dirty planting seeds and then watching them grow. (I’m not going to say “no swearing” because that would be a big fucking lie. I swear in a boardroom as much as on a construction site, and I think everyone else should too.) There are, however, other things I love about it. Systems and processes. Figuring out how things work, identifying things other people can’t… things that are broken (or might break), and then fixing them. Identifying things that could be done better, and then improving them. Or growing and developing people, which has always felt like just another extension of hearing people say “I can’t” and showing them that they sure as shit can. 

And, if we’re being honest, I’m not 23 anymore. At this age, and this stage in my career, there is a very reasonable question about how many stories about me drinking beer and almost electrocuting myself a prospective employer should be privy to. 

But here’s a very real thing I’ve told the people who work for me: If you refuse to make a decision because you’re afraid you won’t make the right one… you’re always going to be wrong. Not that I don’t understand why inaction is so appealing sometimes. When you make a decision– when you pick a path–things will change. They may get better or they may get worse (those of us who have started “a small project” in 100+ year old houses know exactly how much worse), and I know how tempting it is not to do anything. When you choose inaction it’s easy to maintain the status quo. 

Which is exactly why that’s the wrong answer. For me, at least. And for the teams I lead. Because in my life and in my work, I’m not here for status quo. I’m not interested in mediocrity. I’m here to kick ass or die. 

And as far as this website is concerned, it seemed like it was time to take my own advice. To make a decision, instead of just sitting in a place of unanswered questions around if and how I should participate. So. Here I am. 

Telling stories, old school. 

No branding. No ads. No sponsored anything. No social media. Even if I don’t know exactly what the value in these stories is, I know that it will never be monetary, or measured in likes or followers or traffic. (I refuse to be the reason people spend more time on any of the apps.) The algorithm, frankly, can go fuck itself. 

There will probably still be beer and power tools. There might be more about the ways I live a life that kicks ass (and sometimes almost kills me) outside of building shit. There will always be swearing. 

2020 has been a weird year (to say the least) and I genuinely do not know what the next phase of my life will look like. More farm projects? Maybe. A finished house? Unlikely. A big move? An off-grid cabin in the woods? Building tiny houses? Climbing a big mountain? Flying airplanes? Running death races? I do not know. 

But I do know there will be stories. And you’re welcome to join me for them.

81 Responses

  1. I’ve been missing your stories.
    Could not yet delete your blog from my watchlist.
    (old school check them every week, no automatic updates pop up somewhere)
    And yes I almost shouted into the room when I saw your update.
    And yes my husband knew I meant you 😉

  2. Thank you! I’ve been missing your stories and nuggets and tiny jackasses. So glad you’re back!

  3. So very happy to see you back, I have missed your voice more than I can say. So many times I have wondered how and what you’re doing.

  4. Hello friend, it’s so good to hear from you. You were missed! I can’t wait for the stories. 🙂

  5. So so excited to see a new post!!! I missed your stories and can’t wait to hear what’s been going on! I need some badass -make me laugh- real life stories about your adventures!

  6. I was really pleased to see this post pop up in my feed reader – I have always enjoyed your blog and I’m pleased to see that you’re going to continue – looking forward to the stories.

  7. REALLY happy to see a post from you. I’ve been checking back regularly, just in case you popped back up, and I’m so glad you’re ready to start sharing again.

  8. Dude! Out-loud for reals WOOOHOOO when I saw your new post come in. I had to delay the gratification til I could kick back with 6 beers and enjoy it, which I just did 😀
    Ok, well, if I’m being honest I was actually fucking afraid you were leaving and I didn’t think I could handle it until I was drunk enough…so, yay Wednesday! Now I’m a super happy drunkish!!
    We’ve never talked, but I’ve been inspired by your stories for years. HAHA I’ll sometimes mumble to myself, ‘What the fuck would Kit do?’, and my husband doesn’t even think it’s weird anymore.
    What I’ve learned over the years from your stories: They are always relevant and you exceed your goal for authentic, fun, and constantly real experiences. You definitely validate my tendency to drink beer and use power tools, not to mention that if I could have a farm I’d have every single thing you have (THANK YOU!!) … but you unquestionably have a gift in writing. Authenticity is, as you obviously know, so hard to come by. So, thank you a giant fucking ton for everything! Your bravery is inspiring, and it’s fucking awesome how you document it. It’s a shit-show out there, and I only have a stupid cliché to add so, you get it 😉
    You can’t help it: you’re going to kick ass til you die 😀
    Fucking beer and power tools forever!!
    PS – Thank you for swearing. I think we all should, because fuck that algorithm too 😀

  9. So happy to see you post… I’ve been avidly checking the Gram for your posts to get glimpses into what you’ve been up to over the past year and those always made me so happy to see them and see you living your life… but I am beyond THRILLED to see a full post from you. Like another of your followers, I’m old school and don’t have an alert set up for your posts, so periodically, over the past year I’ve been checking your blog. Something told me to check it this morning and voila! You are here and I enjoyed the heck out of reading this….

    Also, this: “But here’s a very real thing I’ve told the people who work for me: If you refuse to make a decision because you’re afraid you won’t make the right one… you’re always going to be wrong. ” I can’t tell you how you just articulated for me a situation I’ve been going through at work with someone that reports to me…. he seems to be trapped in inertia because of fear of making the wrong decision and I can’t seem to coach him out of it… I’ve been saying things like, not making a decision is making a decision, so you might as well make the decision you CHOOSE instead letting your fear choose for you…. and it just isn’t resonating with him. I’m going to have to use your words today to counsel him and hope this works in a way my words haven’t previously.

    Welcome back, you’ve been missed… and even though you don’t know me and I don’t really know you, it’s like seeing a friend of mine I haven’t in a while. You really made my day, my week, and my month!

  10. YES!!! Another “old schooler” here that routinely checks the blog just hoping to see a new post. Your storytelling has always been authentic, real and always an adventure! Like everyone else I am glad you are back, on your own terms (although I doubt you have ever done anything but on your own terms), and look forward to whatever comes our way.

  11. I was just thinking about you. Decided to randomly look at your blog and boom!, to my surprise, you are here telling stories again! Awesome to have you back here writing! Looking forward to reading more of your great stories!

  12. A true longing for authenticity kept me coming back to your site. The stories never got old, I learned so much, and I completely respected your decision to step away. That said, HOLY CRAP! I am so happy to see this post! Take that, 2020!

  13. Been checking in periodically the past year….happily surprised and glad you’re back, you have a unique voice and I’ve learned a lot from you adventures and misadventures.

  14. Omg, I’ve sooo missed you! Can’t wait to hear more, feeling along right with you too! Ok, astrology chit, it’s a Mars thing, thru January, so it can be stirring us all up. Been there, done that lately. That double edged sword, the razors edge…Somerset Maugham.

  15. And, can’t wait to hear about those angry badgers! I’ve lost 8 of my 11 rescues the past 7 years (rescued cats since 1977, a few dogs too) rescued 2 in the past 18 mos. The latest I drove 100 miles RT to pick up, a hissy Missy to my 4 males. Abandoned kitties suffer, but she’ll eventually adjust. So, waiting for your stories!

  16. Yay! So happy you are back! Just tonight, I was considering adopting some mini-donkeys (I kid you not) and thought, “I know where to get the real story.” Just as I did when I got my chickens. I will spend the night reading your archives and ignoring the election results as best I can.

    What a treat to see that you are back!

  17. It makes me so happy that this wasn’t an “I Quit” post. And you are so right about F—the algorithm. Bless you, and I cannot wait to read more of your misadventures!

  18. I can’t tell you how happy I am to have stumbled upon this gem. I, for one, am fond of drinking whilst electrical working, it certainly keeps things exciting. My wife and I do 99% of things ourselves and have a hilarious time doing it, so far, no one’s gotten hurt (bad) yet.
    Keep killing it.
    Thanks for this:)

  19. I’m glad you’re back. I’ve been following you since you and Sarah did your DIY showdown.

    You were the reason my husband and I bought a “unique fixer-upper with good bones” that we tore down to studs and joists and rebuilt enough to move in 14 months later. Out families thought we were crazy. We still dont have floors 2 years later, but that’s ok – it’s a work in progress.

  20. I’m obviously late to the party, but welcome back. I’m glad that you decided to pursue this outlet for yourself, and also for all of us. It meant so much to see you mention us in your list–and especially that you mentioned Matt. Thank you. I feel a connection with you for lifestyle, timing, female-hood (I can’t say sisterhood), but I’m never sure if it’s one-sided. Or weird. It feels like it goes both ways even though we’ve never met and that’s very special.

    I often think of you and your absolute commitment to authenticity. I obviously have a different approach and the consistency of blogging is important to me. Sometimes, when I look back at a bad post I judge myself. Why publish it? Kit wouldn’t say something just for the sake of saying it. I should be telling a more authentic story. But we each have our own ways and we’re each our own people. I admire you for who you are, and I’m comfortable with who I am. (And it seems like you are too.)

    In the end, I’m glad that you’re back, sharing who you are and telling your own stories. It’s nice to have you in my life.

  21. Came on here on a whim just to see if maybe, just maybe Kit is writing. Holy shit! She’s back! So happy to see this is a reality. Have fun, laugh often, screw up and laugh at that as well. Most of all, enjoy yourself and have fun. We are your army and are happy to see you back in command.

  22. I check in on this blog from time to time hoping to find a new post…I am THRILLED today to see you’re back and I have multiple posts to catch up on. Merry Christmas to me! :o)

  23. Just randomly checked your site again and OMG, you’re back!!! (Yes, I am apparently a teenage girl trapped in a 50 year old body!) I’m sooooo very glad. You’re an inspiration, a badass, authentic as hell, and one cool as fuck chick. You do you, girl. My new favorite sentence of all time: “The algorithm, frankly, can go fuck itself.”

  24. Yay! !Ive missed you. and was just sitting here at my computer wondering if Kit had written anything lately.
    Im always up for a good story

  25. I am extremely new to the party, started reading your blog about 4 days ago after looking for chicken coops online! Stayed up until 0130 the first night I found you! Thank you for writing about your adventures and your life, I appreciate your candor and cuss words!

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I'm not interested in a mediocre life. I'm here to kick ass or die.