Build This Life

There’s a movie that came out in 2001 called, “Life as a House.”  It was pretty terrible, I wouldn’t recommend watching it to my family or friends.  (Hayden Christensen was one of the main actors, and I never liked him in anything he has acted.)  The movie is about an architect named George who was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and he tries to make the most of the rest of his life before he dies.  He reforges his relationship with his son (Christensen), and manages to pull Christensen out of a dark hole by being a father and being present in his life again.  That element of the story is redeeming, but it was still a bad movie.

There’s this line in the movie that stuck with me since the one and only time I’ve seen the film about eight years ago.  The architect is talking to his son about change that has been in his own life, and I think he’s acting as a good father trying to talk to his son about his son’s bad life decisions:

George: “You know the great thing, though, is that change can be so constant you don’t even feel the difference until there is one. It can be so slow that you don’t even notice that your life is better or worse, until it is. Or it can just blow you away, make you something different in an instant. It happened to me.”

That is what the past several years have felt like as a young professional for me, looking back at them.

Slow, steady change that I didn’t even realize was slowly happening until I looked back.

I’m still chasing my dream of becoming a licensed architect.  After working for six years in the field, I’ve left my job and gone back to graduate school to earn my Master’s in Architecture degree so I can gain my professional license.  I’ve spent the past six years since the summer of 2009 learning about professional practice, how buildings are constructed, and how a set of construction drawings go together as a set.  I left college with a non-accredited undergraduate degree, undeveloped skills, and a thirst to work because I hadn’t learned what I wanted in my undergraduate education.  I worked in designing schools for almost three years, then designed an industrial factory for about nine months, then was designing Panera Bread restaurants for almost two years. It was good for me to be working, and I was having fun.

To relate it back to film, I’ve felt like my undergraduate education compared to myself now in graduate school is more like Steve Rogers (played by actor Chris Evans) in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) with pre-serum and post-serum.  Pre-Serum J.T. was dragging his architecture model in the mud, just barely getting by in school.

Now that I’ve been working for a while, going back to school has been a big change.  Now I’m ready to destroy Hydra tanks.  Watch out, Red Skull.  Captain J.T. is here!

New York City Townhouse

Early diagram images:

Myrtle and the Other Turtle

“Myrtle and the Other Turtle”
by John Tyler Pennington

This is the story of Myrtle and the Other Turtle
and you may have heard of it before
but I ask you to listen again
for it is a tale worth telling once more.

Myrtle the Galapagos turtle loved
the Other Turtle very much,
His name I cannot recall.
It doesn’t matter much, truly, above all.

“Myrtle would come in the morning
after being out all night,
she brought food to the Other Turtle
and the food kept him alive.”

“At one time we had been lost
had no food to share,
when we crossed upon by chance
another turtle of young.

Knowing we were hungry,
and the Other Turtle sick from the road
he tricked young Myrtle
with his guile short pink tongue.”

“I know the way to food!”
he exclaimed with a grin,
for he knew they were lost.
“Only I’m afraid there is
a borrowing cost and
a marketing cost and
the largest of them all is
the carrying cost.”

Myrtle looked at their money
and back at the Other Turtle,
and gave the Guile all of her trust.

They got the food
and carried it back.
When the costs came up
there just wasn’t enough.

Myrtle didn’t eat that night.

The Other Turtle awoke
the next morning early
better from his journey
with his wife of a good
some many years.

“How are you, dear?”
“I’m better, thank you.”
“Here, eat -
this is for you.”

The wife told the Other Turtle
of a story she’d heard
from the stranger she met.

“I heard this story last night,
of Galapagos Turtles of Old,
an old married couple.

Her name is Myrtle,
but his name I cannot recall.
It doesn’t matter much,
just listen - and she started with awe:

They love each other so much,
isn’t that grand?
they talk all day, together a team -
they stay together to offer
one another their helping hand.
Thats what our marriage
will be, when we get old with glory.
We will be able to tell others
of our own very story.”

That night, the Other Turtle
called his wife, “Myrtle,”
and she smiled with a pause.

“I love you too,
the Other Turtle.”

They took on these names
an identity anew,
and shared their names with
everyone they met
as “Myrtle and the Other Turtle.”

The first time she told the story,
I was the brother of Myrtle,
and she was my wife.

The second time she told the story,
she had believed herself Myrtle
and I needed not a name.

This worked out quite well you see
‘till one day at the beach
Myrtle was talking to an very old couple
who laughed real hard.

“I am Myrtle,” she said with love.
“This is my husband, the Other Turtle
as he is so called.”
The Old Other Turtle looked at me
with his big suspicious blue eye.
I knew he didn’t believe me
so I gave him a guile smile.
Holding hands, he gave his
Myrtle a very small tug.

We spent time with them
Myrtle and Old Other Turtle,
walked with them and
talked with them.
I was always with
Old Other Turtle
and my wife Myrtle
was with Myrtle.

For weeks
I drilled him about money,
hard times and all.
I wanted to know what
made him tick, how
they had been together
so long.

The old timer didn’t say
a whole lot about money.
For some reason, all
he wanted to talk about was love.

I tried to listen, truly I did,
but hours of droning
left my head a groaning.
Looking back, I would have
listened more fierce.

I don’t know what Myrtle and Myrtle said.

One day, I’m not sure when
it came to me
I was jealous
of this fella.

I knew our cover was up
for we were not truly
Myrtle and the Other Turtle
and if we were to stay
their names, why
this old couple would have to go.

I waited till I knew he was asleep
and planned my attack.
He must go first, I thought to myself,
then I’ll get Old Myrtle,
she’ll be easy as pie.

I bit into his neck
and he awoke with a yelp
clawed and fought.
I was stronger, and
after a while
his shell was limp, tail and all.

I let him go,
looking for fell Myrtle.
I found her alone.
My Myrtle was gone out for a roam.

About to attack
powerful jaws ensued
for I was locked
in a deadly feud.

Old Other Turtle said in his jaws.

And in that moment
in my neck I heard a loud pop.
My arms went limp, my legs went limp, my tail went limp.

I could feel them not.

My Myrtle was there.
“WHY?” she cried with tears
in her eyes.
was all she could cry.

he said with a spit.

“b-b-but I can’t walk, you see,”
I started with a plea,
and that was when Myrtle turned on me.

“Leave them be,”
she said with a tear.
She walked hand in hand
out with her mate.
My Myrtle held mine,
and I wanted to cry.

“Old… Myrtle…” she said between sobs
“she told me how they
stayed together so long.”
She shook with hard cries.
“… she said… it was
not houses, fame, or glory…
that kept them together so long.
She said ‘small things each day,’
like holding hands and such,
and talking with love.”

She sobbed with new tears.
“I asked her this morning,
if I could keep her name.”
“Of course, my dear, of course you can.
Go for a walk and think about it some more,
for my name Myrtle means, ‘Love You More.’”
“And what IS his name?”
I asked her with a small smile.
“Other Turtle, my dear, you yourself called him so.”

She looked at me with eyes anew.
“These names we will keep,
so shall I always keep you.
Call me Myrtle from now on.”

She goes out at night, finds food for us both.
Brings it home by morning to rest.
She feeds me, helps me to eat.
She eats herself, and then to rest,
so each day passes, without a single protest.

Now listen up I say,
for this is true -
“Always love your wife.”

I talk to her each morning
we share times of old.
I could not live without her,
I need her so much.
She tells me, “I know.”
She tells me, “I love you more.”

The Tortoise and the Hare

It’s been almost two years since I’ve written on here.  I promise I’m still alive.

I wonder if anyone still reads what I write.

My buddy Aaron gave me a gift last week.  I’m trying to get back into shape, and I’ve starting running again.  My junior and senior year of high school, I worked out five days a week in the mornings before school.  I felt great when I graduated, I had so much energy, and I was proud of how my body looked.  In college, I exercised less as I worked so hard on my architectural undergraduate degree, even though I found new activities that I loved such as rock climbing (both at the plastic rock wall and real cliffs), backpack hiking, and being out on a canoe or kayak.

Anyway, Aaron’s gift for me was a iPhone arm band case and the shoe clip and the Nike Plus chip for the Nike Plus running program.  I really appreciate his encouragement and helping me get back into shape.  Trying to think of something nice to do in return, I decided to write him a nice thank you note, but the only thing that came to mind was the story of the Tortoise and the Hare.  I used some of the watercolor cards that I have had for ages and painted for the first time in five years.  I had fun, and I’m going to do it again soon.

Thanks, Aaron, for believing in me.

The Owner called with a problem with the doors.  First it was getting the door hardware installed on the job - hardware that must be programmed for multiple users to have access into the school with complex software- and now it’s the closure mechanism.

The problem is that the form of the door pull has to meet ADA requirements (it looks like a “C” form in shape with a required certain depth before it returns flush with the surface of the door and the key hole has to be inside that form to comply) but for the closer to hold the door open, you have to push the door open beyond 90 degrees to activate the mechanism that holds the door open.  We didn’t design for that space, 4″ depth for the hardware.  When the doors are fully open, the pulls knock into each other.  In order for the doors to be held open, you have to push the door beyond 90 for the closure to click and activate.  We can’t do that in all instances of our brand new building because that consideration was skipped in the design process.  One door can hold open at a time, but we lack 8″ for both doors to remain open at one time.

We are currently brainstorming solutions…


In these years we’ve had five
I’ve never felt so much alive.
Never felt so in love
we’ve been put together by God above.

Your smile so sweet
it makes me feel complete,
your laugh so genuine at my jokes
even when they are poorly spoke.

Our time together I treasure dear,
my love language of time spent near.
My words I speak to fill you up
I hope they overflow your cup.

Less than a year we’ve been wed,
“I could never be happier,” I truly said.
Than with you as my bride, by my side,
Our adventures together stride by stride.

Ten years down the road
a wild party we must hold!
To celebrate love so bold
that others see and we behold.

Job and Career

I went to architecture school for for years; graduated with a bachelor of arts in architecture degree. I am apprenticing in a firm to earn my intern development program credits (IDP); I will return to graduate school to get my master’s degree in architecture.  I will complete my IDP and start taking 7 architect’s registration exams (AREs).  I will gain my license to practice architecture.  I will participate in continuing education credits and attend seminars to stay up to date with my profession.  I will become a project manager.

At times it feels frustratingly overwhelming how much I feel I don’t know.  My employer gave a very interesting dialogue today of the paperwork that our firm fills out during the design development process of our educational jobs, and it was really interesting to me; within a few hours he had me transcribing marks on payout forms from a general contractor, discussing how he determines and evaluates how much to give builders.  On a current project that we have in the office, the construction manager (CM) provided us with a design development cost estimate, and I had no idea how the monetary figure was determined for rough carpentry - and had to look at a specification to see what was included in the woods section.  These are new things that I didn’t receive exposure to in school and feel completely inexperienced.

At the same time, I’m learning so much.  In just over one year, I can see a tremendous change in myself.

I’m learning to listen - and not just “hear” people.  I’m getting better at not interrupting people while they speak - and it’s amazing what I’ve missed for so long.  I’m seeking to see patterns in the needs of my employers, so I can better aid them and make their jobs easier.  I’ve been asked to take on more responsibilities at work: I’m now the webmaster of our website, and I’m assisting in promotional projects like adding our company a page on facebook.  I’m learning how to read a set of documents to answer questions about the building’s existing conditions and verify construction progress to a set of contract documents.  I’m learning to draw in more detail than I ever did in undergrad- and compose a set of documents in a beautiful, artistic, and logical way.  I’m seeking to be more thorough in quality control of the document review process.  My vocabulary is expanding.  My 3D vision is becoming more fine tuned.  I’m interested in flashing details and issues of environmental controls.

I think architecture is what I want to make not only my job, but also my long term career.

The Lake House

“I’d like to get the foundation on  #17 dug today.”

“Look, I know you’re new around here, kid.”


“I can’t get to 17 until at least next week.”

“Comeon, Mulhern, That’s bullshit and you know it.  Take Clemens and Rodriguez off roofing.  Jorge can run the backhoe they’re not using on 14…  Grab 4 or 5 of those other guys who are sitting around not doing nothing on 7 and 10.  Paulie, Carlos, Frank, Danny, and what’s-his-name, the tall guy?”



“Let’s go.”


This is a quick section sketch I did of the Paul Sawier public library in Frankfort, KY.  I need to go out sketching more to practice those hand muscles, because I felt clumsy and uncertain of myself at this first documentation sketch I’ve made in several weeks.

Through the primary entrance and 8 sided dome occulus

Through the primary entrance and 8 sided lantern/oculus

My section doesn’t capture this well enough to my liking, but as you go in the primary entrance to the library, you enter a wall of 4″ deep display casework with sliding glass doors, and then enter a hollow metal door frame with transom light to enter the circulation area.  Above that entrance, the ceiling rises to 18″ higher, and you can see an 8 sided lantern that looks into a second 8 sided lantern above you, and from that you can see the sky above.

I went up to the second floor (children’s wing) and stood at the large glass lantern, looking down into the space where I had just stood at the entrance.  I then looked up, and out to the sky - and saw that there are side walls outside of the second lantern that conceal roof conditions (stucco with a metal edge trim around the top).  One the second floor, a column separates some computer spaces lit by a chandelier, and a open web truss carries the roof load down to the exterior wall on a slant.

Looking at my drawing, I needed to make some small thumbnail sketches before I started to describe what I wanted to say graphically.  I also missed the entrance foyer hallway and the steps down to grade, which really accents this vertical relationship that I’m trying to show.

I need to go and draw it again.

My paper looks yellow in my scanned image, yet my acid-free paper in my sketchbook is white.  I will look at the scanner settings before I try to post another sketch.  Any tips or advise how to make this look better?  There is also a little bit of the scan from my previous page visible in the top right corner, so perhaps I need to start my next sketch on a clean page front and back to prevent this from happening.

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