February 10, 2012


Blog posts are currently separated into 4 categories:

  • Travel ProTips – tips on saving money and/or time while visiting a specific location.
  • Thoughts – random ideas or thoughts that don’t fit in the previous categories.
  • FMT – Our journey through fecal microbiota transplant

April 4, 2020

04.04.2020 Quarantine day 35

A few days ago we learned that the Washington State Governor extended our mandatory “Stay home, stay healthy” order to May 4th. People are restless.

Today, we went for a drive in the Celica. Liem has a 1977 Celica hot rod. The Woodinville Car Club was having a Birthday Cruise. There were probably 70+ cars, no one got in or out, we just lined up and drove the map, waving to hundreds of neighbors who cam out to see the festivities. I was a small thing, but it felt good, almost normal, to drive past all of these neighbors sitting in chairs or in truck beds in their driveways, just waiting for us to cruise by. A very good couple of hours spent today.

After that, my bestie Emily came over. Yes, technically we are breaking the rules, but we really are social distancing. She comes in through my back gate and sets up her stuff on a table next to her chair. More than 6ft away, I set up my chair and my stuff. We don’t touch each other’s stuff, we stay in our chairs. We play music, drink and just talk and laugh. It’s very fulfilling for us extroverts!

The rest of the evening, I will do a little sewing, watch some tv with my husband and read a summary of today’s news. It’s a bit like groundhog day these days, with everything feeling a bit stagnant, but we will get through it somehow. The reality is, my family has it really, really good. We both have jobs with essential services. We have a freezer for extra food. We have an ok savings. So we are doing what we can to help the local economy and to keep others safe, by staying home and social distancing.

April 3, 2020

When the World Stopped – 2020 Novel Coronavirus Pandemic

Today is April 5th, 2020. It’s day 34 of quarantine for me and my family. You see, we started early.

My first knowledge of the Novel Coronavirus was on Saturday January 26. I was in Woodland, Ca having a silly tea party with some of my besties, when my husband, Liem, texted me.

I probably wouldn’t have thought much about this, except that Liem is way less cautious than I am, so for him to tell me he is spending money on masks, just in case, I knew this was potentially serious.  Upon arriving home, I learned that just a week earlier, the first case of Covid-19 (the disease that the novel Coronavirus causes) had landed right at my airport.  The man was returning from Wuhan, China where he’d been conducting business.  Despite quick moves, someone was missed, because in late February it was confirmed that there was community spread in my area and a nursing home less than 2 miles from my home was the epicenter.

A March 18 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 129 cases of COVID-19 were associated with Life Care Center of Kirkland. This included at the time 81 residents, 34 staffers and 14 visitors.

We had my husband’s cousins and their spouses over for the last weekend in February.  We had all reunited the previous summer at a funeral and decided it was time to start making more effort to get together.  That was the last time we hung out with friends in a normal fashion.  As an extrovert, I miss it terribly.  March 1, we began our voluntary quarantine.

I’ve been intending to start this post since things started getting serious, but I’ve found myself so busy that it’s taken until now.  So let me try to catch up on memorializing this time in my life.

So, why a voluntary quarantine so early?  We didn’t have enough information about the disease at this point, so we decided to play it safe.  On Sunday, February 29, we went shopping and bought enough extra of our staples to get us through 3-4 weeks.  We figured it wouldn’t hurt to by things that don’t expire or can be frozen, just in case this got bad enough to slow the supply chain.  That was a smart move on our part.  A week later, all schools in our area had closed, including the university and store shelves were wiped.  People went crazy and bought hordes.  Some of them because they had large families, some of them out of fear and others out of greed.  Amazon started removing sellers who were price gouging.  Ebay banned the sale of all toilet paper, cleaning products and disinfectants.  The governor of Washington State suggested that people start social distancing.  This mean, not going out unless it was absolutely necessary and staying at least 6 ft away from other people at all times.

Meanwhile, our completely inept president was telling everyone that the Novel Coronavirus was a Democratic hoax to try and impeach him again.  He followed that up saying that we had 15 cases but they would “soon be gone”.

 “Feb. 26: “And again, when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.” — Trump at a press conference.

Then, on Feb 28th:

“Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus,” Trump said. “They have no clue, they can’t even count their votes in Iowa. This is their new hoax,” Trump continued”

What I remember most about late February and early March, is that there was tons of confusion and many levels of belief on what this virus meant for us.  A lot of us were watching the numbers and the escalating spread across Europe and preparing ourselves.  Others were watching Fox News and the president and hearing things like above.

Washington state really took the lead and while I felt that Governor Inslee could have been a bit more aggressive, he eventually did what needed to be done and put us all on mandatory lockdown.  All non-essential businesses must close, people can work from home if it is possible.

The president, by late March, was forced to start making some changes in his tack as numbers skyrocketed in New York, the second city to be hit in the U.S.  By April 1, NY had almost 80,000 infections.  He finally declared a national emergency, he finally stopped holding rallies (instead he held daily press conferences where he made promises he never kept and lied).

By the first week in April, the presidents tone had finally changed to somber.

On the night of Mar 31, the President addressed a press conference at the White House, saying that the country would go through “a very tough two weeks.”

Trump’s statement came after the White House projected that the ongoing pandemic could claim as many as 100,000 to 240,000 lives in the United States, despite the current social-distancing measures in place

Below is a list of all of the restrictions and measures that are currently in place in several states in the U.S., though not all.  Many of the “red” (Republican) states are still reeling from the very sudden change in temperature from both their president and Fox News.  Most are still doing nothing.  In fact, today, Friday, April 3, Georgia just announced it will be opening up it’s most popular beaches Friday night.

  • School closures, all students to do distance learning.
  • Graduations, Proms, etc. – canceled.
  • Self-distancing measures on the rise.
  • Tape on the floors at grocery stores and others to help distance shoppers (6ft) from each other.
  • Limited number of people inside stores, therefore, lineups outside the store doors.
  • Wear a mask when you leave your house.
  • Non-essential stores and businesses mandated closed.
  • Parks, trails, entire cities locked up.
  • Entire sports seasons cancelled.
  • Concerts, tours, festivals, entertainment events – cancelled.
  • Weddings, family celebrations, holiday gatherings – cancelled.
  • No masses, churches are closed.
  • No gatherings of 50 or more, then 20 or more, now 5 or more.
  • Don’t socialize with anyone outside of your home.
  • Children’s outdoor play parks are closed.
  • We are to distance from each other.
  • Shortage of masks, gowns, gloves for our front-line workers.
  • Shortage of ventilators for the critically ill.
  • Panic buying sets in and we have no toilet paper, no disinfecting supplies, no paper towel no
  • laundry soap, no hand sanitizer.
  • Shelves are bare.
  • Manufacturers, distilleries and other businesses switch their lines to help make visors, masks, hand sanitizer and PPE.
  • Government closes the border to all non-essential travel.
  • Stadiums and recreation facilities open up for the overflow of Covid-19 patients.
  • Press conferences daily from the President. Daily updates on new cases, recoveries, and deaths.
  • Government incentives to stay home.
  • Barely anyone on the roads.
  • People wearing masks and gloves outside.
  • Essential service workers are terrified to go to work.
  • Medical field workers are afraid to go home to their families.
  • Renters made a special class of people who don’t have to pay rent or worry about eviction.

Life for us has been a combination of normal and bizarre.  It’s very weird to go out in public.  When hiking was still being allowed, we realized you couldn’t really stop for a bite afterward, you couldn’t hit a restroom!  Things were closed.  People were covering their hands and opening doors with napkins or disinfectant wipes, mail gets wiped down when it arrives, groceries too.  It’s a bizarre new world.

Because I have a tendency to catch every respiratory flu out there and often times end up with bronchitis or walking pneumonia and because Cohen has asthma and we were strongly advised by his doctor to quarantine him, we quarantined the 3 of us swiftly and early.  We got lucky that the University of Washington moved their classes to online just a day after we insisted Cohen come home.

We are ordering all of our groceries and needs online.  Many companies are waiving delivery fees.  Restaurants have been allowed to stay open to try and keep the economy moving.  We try to order food in once a week to help and to feel a little normal.  That normal quickly fades as you put on latex gloves to remove your food after wiping down all of the containers.  It’s difficult to get grocery delivery slots.  Safeway is trying to hire 1000 drivers, people are having to choose between risking their health and having a job to provide.

The internet has gone crazy with ways to keep your children and/or yourself occupied!  TV shows, like the Daily Show, are being filmed and broadcast from celebrities homes.  Musicians are holding free online concerts, video chat services are going crazy, crafting companies are holding free online craft sessions, gyms are hosting online workouts – it seems  everyone is offering something special to do while you are social distancing at home.

Liem and I continue to work, thank God.  IVOXY is a tech company that supports IT infrastructure, so we are an essential business. Things are starting to slow down at work, but we are focusing on helping the other essential companies expand their ability for their employees to work from home.  I’m a little concerned as this drags on, what might happen with my job.  The company is small and we are working so hard to grow.

Liem, who’s job is to run our little Web Development company, had been out of work for about 6 months prior to this whole Coronavirus thing.  Our main client filed chapter 11 and stiffed us for a large amount of money.  By the grace of God, Liem was offered a full time, full rate, 3 year contract with an essential service that has been pre-funded by the government.

So, while we both feel a little bit like “everybody is on vacation” while we are working, we 100% realize how fortunate we are to have jobs during this time and to have jobs that were always telecommuting.  Staying home all week isn’t unusual for us but we do get cabin fever and it’s going to be worse than ever now!

Despite living in Washington State where will will now have April showers, May showers and then Junuary, we put our summer furniture and heater out on the back deck so we can enjoy some outside time when the weather cooperates.

Mental health is definitely something I will be keeping an eye on.  I am already feeling the isolation effects. Yes, I live with two people, but they are two introverted people.  My extrovert is crying out!  I just keep reminding myself of how sweet all of that social is going to taste when this is over.  For now, my one and only job is to quarantine to keep my family AND OTHERS IN MY COMMUNITY safe.

The quarantine has had some silver linings.  My son is home and I love that.  I am incredibly sad for him and his college days being reshaped by this.  We’ve told him that he can take a year off if he wants to.  This is an unprecedented time and one year isn’t going to make or break him.  Besides, until there is a vaccine or a very, very effective treatment, he and I essentially are trapped.

It’s also brought back creativity for us.  We are painting “paint by number” pictures! Lie!m is designing patches.

I joined a group called Seamstresses Unite! and within one day was made a Team Lead for my city (which has over 50 seamstresses today) and then quickly advanced to helping with creating the website and process documents.  I’ve been spending a great deal of my free time helping with this grassroots mission to sew enough masks for all of our medical professionals.  You see, one of the things I didn’t mention about this virus is that it spreads so fast, that it will very quickly overwhelm our hospitals.  Hospitals around the country are already reporting either being down to their last several days of Personal Protection Equipment or already using bandanas and scarves!!

This grassroots movement feels very similar to “Rosie the Riveter” during the World War II.  It has really helped me feel like I am helping in a time that we are all so helpless.


January 6, 2020

FMT Update! Almost 7 years later and we are claiming success!

It’s been a few years since I’ve updated this blog on how Ashley is doing since her FMT almost 7 years ago (it will be 7 years in April). Ashley has been living in Hawaii, on the big island, for about 5 years now. She believed that the abundance of really fresh fruits and veggies, the mild climate and the “Island Time” would be good for her stress and lifestyle. Well, she’s still had stress, because things are expensive in Hawaii, but her gut has held strong! She also decided to give up anything with gluten. She didn’t have a true allergy to it, but her gut did react badly to it. She was able to reduce her flares significantly by eating a gluten free diet. This makes sense to me, if her gut was leaky, as we suspect it was, gluten would be awful for it!

Ashley has not had a full blown flare since her FMT Booster and giving up gluten about 6 years ago.

We received the BEST phone call right around Christmas, from Ashley. She had gone to a party and ate something that she thought was gluten free. When her friend told her that it was NOT gluten free, she had a mild panic and braced herself for the major flare she knew was coming. Only, it didn’t come. She went out a few days later with a mission to test her gut. She did not check with me first, I would have told her no. She went to Burger King and ordered a Whopper (she said it was the worst thing she could think of to put into her gut). Again, NO FLARE!

She’s eating gluten again with no response from the gut! This is a major indication of healing!

It has now been about 3 weeks and Ashley is eating everything again. Especially bread, pizza, buns, all the things she’s really missed. She has had no reaction at all. We are working under the assumption that the FMT and diet change gave her body the tools it needed to heal and we are so over the moon! We are hopeful that even the small twinges she can occasionally get from stress will also go the way of the gluten free with more time. This has been a major success story for us and we are so very excited about it. Thank you for following our journey and best of luck to you, on yours!

October 23, 2018

How I Planned and Executed an Intimate Wedding with 25 Guests for $100 in 4 Weeks

I am a planner by nature. I can also be very frugal when I want or need to be. So when one of my dearest friends told me that she was getting married at the courthouse, I begged her to let me plan a wedding for her instead. Lori and I have known each other for nearly 20 years now. She’s been my mentor, my manager and my friend. She’s fought several different flavors of cancer and tumors in these 20 years. So much so, that she has a hefty medical line in her monthly budget to pay off horrendously large medical bills (don’t get me started on U.S. medical care), hence the original plan to just get married at the courthouse. I needed a project and something positive to focus on and she very much deserved a wedding. I was over the moon when she gave me the green light.

I had just 4 weeks to plan a wedding that looked expensive and catered to 25 guests with literally $0.00 budget. The challenge was exhilarating and the results are something I’ll always be proud of. The whole story follows.

When I was first given the opportunity to plan this wedding, I felt really overwhelmed, but I also knew that with a little help I could totally pull it off. I gave myself a $100 budget (this was my gift to her and her fiance) and then I started by reaching out to my friends and family who had talents I could utilize. My husband is an ordained minister, so we had the “clergy” set. My sister runs For The Love of Jo’s Belly, which is a cake decorating business, so I asked her if she’d donate the cake and she was more than happy to help. One of my best friends from way back in Middle School used to work for a florist, so I asked her if she’d design the bouquets and wedding flowers. A good friend at work does a lot of videography, and Lori used to be his manager, so I asked him if he’d videotape the ceremony for us. Lori and her fiance had just bought a home together and lucky for us, it was the perfect venue for the wedding. Lastly, the bride-to-be made lasagna, bread and salad to feed the small guest list. This took care of 6 very important pieces!

The secret to my success, however, was community. Not just those I know, who were so generous with their time and talents, but also my community at large. If you aren’t familiar with the Buy Nothing Project, I suggest you check it out. Buy Nothing is an organization that is volunteer run in just about every city across the United States. It’s considered a “Gifting Community”. The idea behind it is that instead of throwing out that baseball mitt, outgrown children’s clothing, coffee pot, computer, enter any other item here, you instead post it on the site (which is typically a facebook page) and offer it to your community. This keeps items out of the landfills and promotes reuse, recycle, upcycle. In my hometown, our volunteers on the Buy Nothing project had some sort of falling out, so you’ll see me refer to Green Bees instead of Buy Nothing, but it’s the same concept.

I posted on the Green Bees page with an ISO (In Search Of) and gave a brief explanation of the situation (why I was throwing the wedding) and asked for some specific items like old pallets, an easel, wood rounds, beer, wine, champagne, tea light candles and flowers and herbs (the bride wanted a lot of herbs in her bouquets) and logs to build a trellis. What happened next blew my mind. Not only did I get everything I needed, but the community started offering items I hadn’t even asked for like a calligrapher to add the words to the signs I was making from the old pallets, a photographer, Nikki Manley Photography, offered up her services for the bride getting ready through the reception, and a hair and make-up gal offered to come and get the bride ready! As time went on, my asks became more difficult to obtain and I didn’t hold much hope, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask, right? We ended up with 25 chairs, 25 chair covers, mix and match china, mix and match wine glasses, silverware, so many flowers and herbs, a veil, jewelry for the bride, twine, ribbon, so much stuff! The alcohol alone was insane! We ended up with 22 bottles of wine, 8 bottles of champagne and more beer and cider than I could be bothered to count! Between community loaned and gifted items, items I had and items the bride and my other helpers had, we had very, very little to purchase.

The few things I wasn’t able to find, I purchased. I spent $35.96 buying some bouquets at Safeway to round out our herb and floral collections with some splashes of color. I spent $45.30 at Dollar Tree purchasing 30 votive candle holders, 5 vases, some ribbon and batteries. Lastly, I spent $32.13 on Ebay for 25 cloth napkins, 25 chair sashes, 6 table runners and 1 table cloth.

I am forever grateful to my community for backing me up and helping me to do something special for a very special woman in my life. For a total of $113.39 and a lot of free labor from very good friends, family, and neighbors, we were able to produce the wedding you see below.

September 19, 2017


This will be my last post unless anything changes – so I’m extremely hopeful that this is my very last post! Ashley continues to do just fine in full remission. We feel extremely fortunate that this worked for her! Ashley has also since modified her diet to include only gluten-free bread (she’s not allergic but does feel better when she avoids it), she avoids emulsifiers by making her own dressings and mayo and she avoids Carrageenan, a thickener in a lot of dairy products. While she’ll very rarely still have a day where her tummy feels off, she no longer goes into long flares that prevent her from living a normal life. She’s gone from a pale, sickly young woman with stomach cramps, diarrhea, mucus in her stool, depression, nausea, hot flashes and fatigue just to name a few, to a completely normal lifestyle with symptoms no more often or extreme than the average person might have just from virus’ or eating something off. We feel so blessed. I hope that our documenting the experience can help others in similar situations.

September 20, 2015

Life After Poo – 2.5 years after original FMT, 1.5 years after booster

I am so pleased to write a very short post with a very exciting update for us!  Ashley has now been in complete remission for 2.5 years.  11 months after her original FMT, she did have some symptoms that lead her to believe she was going to have another flare, but after a short 5 day “booster” FMT, she’s been completely solid (no pun intended) for the full 2.5 years.  I am so thankful to the folks who were willing to share their experiences on the Sally Brown Facebook page and the doctor who helped us take the necessary precautionary steps!  I would absolutely recommend this procedure to anyone who is looking down the barrel of inevitable surgery for a colostomy bag.  Here’s to hoping I don’t have to write another update for another year, and that update will be similar to this one!

May 19, 2014

Dallas Comic Con 2014 – My Thoughts After First Time Celeb Photo Ops / Signtures

I am a geek, through and through.  So much so, that when I heard that most of the crew of Serenity (Firefly) were going to be at the Dallas Comic Con, I immediately bought tickets, booked a flight and found a hotel.  Not only did I buy tickets, but I spent a small fortune getting the coveted VIP tickets that would ensure that when I arrived, I would get the best chance of seeing the panels that my beloved celebrities would be hosting.  This was not my first con, but it was the first time that I even entertained the idea of paying for photos or signatures.  Ok, so I more than “entertained” the idea, I did it.  Go big or go home.  I bought 2 photos with Nathan Fillion, 1 photo with Jewel Staite (for my husband) and 1 photo with the nearly complete cast of Firefly (Morena Baccarin and Alan Tudyk backed out last minute).  All in all, those photos cost us nearly $600 (ouch, that’s the first time I’ve actually added that up!).  I rationalized this splurge by telling myself this was a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity (seven of the 9 together is almost unheard of) and that it would be an opportunity to meet them.  Boy was I wrong (or I have a funny definition of “meet”).  I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer.  I really am a very positive person and I look for the silver linings.  My own misguided expectations are to blame here.  Let me share my story:

» Read the rest of this entry …

April 24, 2014

Life After Poo 7 (1 year post original FMT, 1 month post 2nd FMT)

Well, it’s been 1 year since our initial 10 day round of FMT and I’m happy to say that Ashley has been doing really well.  We did have a minor setback last month, where after 11 strong months, she felt some of her UC symptoms returning.  We’re pretty sure we can attribute them to stress, but none-the-less, they were scary enough that we did another short round of FMT (just 5 days worth).  Ashley felt better immediately after the first application and has been completely back to normal since.

» Read the rest of this entry …

March 17, 2014

Life After Poo 6 (11 months post FMT)

Well, it looks like we’ve had a minor setback. Ashley has started complaining about the beginnings of her UC symptoms returning.  It’s still mild, but it’s uncomfortable enough that she’s missed a little work.  She’s had stomach pain, loose stools and a mild fever.  I suspect it’s the stress she’s under, but you never really know for sure with this disease.

» Read the rest of this entry …

February 4, 2014

Life After Poo 5 (9 months post FMT)

Another milestone reached!  On January 22nd, we hit 9 months post FMT and (drum roll please) 6 months off of meds.  Ashley is still symptom free!

I know it’s a short post, but honestly, what else is there to say?