a new year’s resolution

I know we don’t often veer from the design/DIY related posts here, but I wanted to write this post because it is such a huge part of chezerbey and our first several years of homeownership.


Deb was our neighbor from the day we bought our house till she moved in the summer of 2010. She was a vibrant and fun-loving person who did hair from the salon in her home. (That’s Deb on the left and Kyle’s mom on the right. Kyle’s mom is a stylist so they bonded instantly during her first trip to Seattle several years ago.) She was always the person that had time to stop and chat – in fact, you hoped to run into her because she just had a way of making you feel better about everything…that life was going to be ok and maybe you just needed to chill out a little bit?

Exterior Painting 16

We actually met Deb for the first time when we came to look at the house. Days later, our offer was accepted and we guessed she might have had something to do with it (the seller lived out-of-state and we were competing against developers with cash who wanted to tear the house down). When we tackled the roof that first summer, she took photos from her second story window to document the process and provide encouragement. As we moved inside the house, she lent us her nail gun and compressor and generously refused to take them back when she moved. In 2009, as summer turned to fall and we still hadn’t painted our house, she actually came over (while we were at work!) and helped us out. (Like, literally climbed up on our porch roof with a brush and paint can.) We didn’t ask and she didn’t ask, she just wanted to help and so that’s what she did.


Three and a half years ago Deb left Seattle for her native Austin but ended up in Florida instead to take care of her ailing mother. The photo above was taken the day she drove out of town. A group of 15-20 people gathered in the rain to see her off, which gives you an idea of the impact she had on those around her. Not long after she moved, she was diagnosed with breast cancer which ended up taking her life last week.

I didn’t think too much about New Year’s resolutions this year, but on the first day of January I sat down and started compiling a list that quickly grew to 6-7 rather broad goals. But in the back of my mind, I couldn’t stop thinking about Deb. I think it’s easy to become self-absorbed with making improvements to one’s own self/house/career, but maybe that doesn’t really matter as much. Maybe the real resolution is to be a better person, to take more time for other people and enjoy life to its fullest. To be more like Deb.

We are looking forward to this coming year; to growing and learning and connecting. Here’s to 2014!


36 Responses to “a new year’s resolution”

  1. Paul says:

    A good neighbor is a rare treasure. So Sorry for your loss.

  2. Paige says:

    Such a sweet tribute. Let’s all be the Debs of the world.

  3. Adriana says:

    Being more like Deb is a great resolution. My grandmother, mother and aunt were/are all breast cancer survivors. It’s always shocking when someone doesn’t actually survive cancer since we hear so many stories about people that do. So sorry for the loss of your friend. She sounds like a great neighbor and a real peach!

  4. Ariane says:

    BE MORE LIKE DEB ! That’s a good motto for 2014 and the next years. I lost a good friend of mine about 6 weeks ago from heart disease (he was 41) and I also decided to focus more on my friends while they are still alive instead of taking a long trip to attend their funeral … That’s why I recently took a 4-day trip to Paris to meet my friends from Connecticut although I’m broke and starting a business.
    Happy New Year Lauren and the Zerbey family.

  5. Sally says:

    Thanks for sharing that – what a great way to remember Deb.

  6. Maria says:

    We all need to be a little more like Deb!!

  7. Toni Myers says:

    Thanks for this, Lauren. I’d intended to write something about Being Debra Dew on her site. When we lose someone special, it’s important we inhabit part of our loved one’s self in order to keep her and honor her. You got it just right. I learned about you from Deb, sometime between when she met you and you bought the house. Yes, she very much wanted you as her neighbors. This made me cry and also resolve to be DEW.

  8. Kelly says:

    I’m so sick of cancer taking so many people!

    This was beautiful, thank you for sharing this wonderful ladies story (or a small glimpse of it).

    I lost my dad (in 93) when he was only 51 to lung cancer and I lost my step-dad a year ago to skin cancer. They were both amazing men and I’m tired of farkin’ cancer taking loved ones!

  9. Linda says:

    That’s my kind of resolution . . . to Deb and 2014!

  10. Dana says:

    One of my favorite chezerbey posts ever. Deb sounds like a wonderful person. I’m so sorry for your loss but so happy she was and still is a part of your life.

  11. dian says:

    This is a lovely post. Thank you.

  12. LauraC says:

    I’m so sorry, loosing someone we love and care about hurts so much. What a special tribute to her, and thank you for letting us “meet” her and know of her cheerfulness and influence in your lives. Will be thinking of you, Laura

  13. rebecca says:

    Beautifully written, and touching. You were lucky to have had a wonderful neighbor and the resolution sounds perfect.

  14. katie says:

    i am so sorry – thank you for sharing. i think that it is very easy to get caught up in “what’s next” and forget to really cherish each day. i know that this is something that i’ve been trying to focus on more recently as well.

  15. Shauna says:

    This post strikes home in many ways. Yes, a worthy resolution. Good wake-up call. Thank you!

  16. cheryl preston says:

    I echo the rest here…thank you!!! Reading this was like having a heartwarming talk with a good friend. Much needed. Here’s to you and us, growing, learning and connecting in the New Year!!!

  17. ann other Sally says:

    People who know you and Kyle (and Bailey) will attest that you also enriched Deb’s life.
    I’m sorry for your loss; hugs to you guys.

  18. Kyle Zerbey says:

    thanks sally, never met anyone like her

  19. As I read this, I dreaded how it would end… it doesn’t seem fair, but your resolution to bring back your own Deb into the world is the best way to honor her memory.

  20. Libby says:

    What a sad and tragic loss. We are so sorry to hear of your friend Deb’s loss. She sounds like a wonderful person. You are so lucky to have known her.

  21. What a beautiful post to remember a beautiful person!! I’m very sorry for your loss!

  22. Kelly says:

    I think part of my New Year’s resolution will be to be like Deb too. I’ve been a little too self-absorbed and introverted lately and am wanting to connect with others. The Deb’s of the world are such an inspiration. Thanks for sharing this.

  23. What a wonderful way to pay tribute to someone. Deb sounds like a wonderful lady, and I’m sorry for your loss.

  24. Steph Nelson says:

    I clicked over from House Tweaking and this post made me cry. So sorry for the loss of your friend. You can see the love in her from your pics. She radiated happy. I wonder things like what happened to her dog and does it miss her?

  25. Sabrina says:

    Austin misses having had her back, and having lost my husband’s grandfather to it this morning, I’m extra hateful toward cancer right now. This is a lovely tribute.

    • Kyle Zerbey says:

      sorry to hear that Sabrina, She did love Austin, Even though she lived in Seattle for a while, she still wore her cowboy boots a lot and I always thought of her as a Texas gal 🙂

  26. Carrie Lea says:

    I, too, came over from House *Tweaking and this just squeezed my heart and pushed tears out. I’m sorry for your loss. A loss to everyone who knew her. It’s a wonderful resolution and a beautiful tribute to her.

    I’m glad to hear that her dog was adopted too. As a single person I worry that something will happen to me, predominately because of my dogs. I watched my nanaw’s dog mourn her after she passed from cancer and I think the dog’s loss hurt me more than my loss did.

  27. Bill says:

    Really nice post. We have some great neighbors, too, in Indianapolis. And we try to BE good neighbors.
    That last picture of Deb in the truck with her sweet dog and maybe a kitty in a carrier…
    I don’t have any words. :- }

  28. Lorelei Weitzel says:

    Lauren and Kyle,

    Rebecca shared your blog post with Donna and I, and I have to tell you that it was just so sweet and perfect for Dew. Today is her birthday and I’ll read this again today and often.

    I remember coming to visit Dew from Austin and seeing your house take shape. She spoke so very fondly of you both and was proud of what you were building there, and so happy to have you as friends and neighbors. I knew that she helped a bit with painting and that she left behind beloved tools because she wanted you to use them. When Dew drove away that day, she was headed to our house to stay until she decided what to do. We wish we had had her back in Austin longer.

    Lauren, you captured her so well, and I will also strive to be more like Dew.

    Thank you and all the best to you both.
    Lorelei Weitzel
    Austin, Texas

  29. Cynthia Hartman says:

    I have met Kyle once when visiting Debra from pdx. She insisted I meet him because he was such a great neighbor , plus she wanted me to see your home and what you had done. Here’s the thing, I am not at all like Debra, she talks to all and drops whatever she is doing to say hi, strike up a conversation regardless of her time line. Not me, always moving full speed ahead and missing opportunities of meeting wonderful people.
    A tribute to be like her is beautiful. Kyle was indeed wonderful as all the cool things two architects do to their home. Wow, I was impressed. I didn’t think it about it until now but maybe I will slow down and take time to talk to people. Your work was fabulous, your stair case I esp remember and cool refridge. As for your new neighbors, highly unlikely they are as cool as Debra but I hope they are kind and taking care of her house.
    Thanks for sharing on this special day! Cynthia

Leave A Comment