The last phone call…

It was a Monday, November 30th, 2009 and a little after 5:00 pm EST time and I felt God Nudging me…telling me to call and check on my dad.

I picked up the phone while I was still at work and called…


Jane, it’s me, how is he?

Well, he is different…

What do you mean?

His breathing, it is a lot slower and he is colder to the touch…

has he passed?

No, he is still with us, the lady from hospice is here and she says that happens as they get closer to death.  Do you want to talk to him?

(I was taken back by the question cause I was not sure if he could hear me…but I jumped at the chance!) Yes, hold the phone up to his ear…

Dad, it’s me, Dena.

…No response from him…

I love you so much dad, I wanted you to know that I kept my promise… I came back home and went back to work.  Just like you wanted me too. I really love you, dad…

(tears were streaming down my face…but I was trying not to sound like it as I wanted to sound strong for him.  But in reality, my tears were so thick I could hardly see and by this time I was driving home, I had to pull over).

…no response from him…

(a long silence…)

Dad… I love you so much and it is ok if you need to go.  We all love you so much and it is ok if you need to let go…I really love you, dad! 

(Jane gets back on the phone)  Dena, Are you done? Did you get to say everything you wanted?

Yeah, I did, i gave him permission to go.  i wanted him to know it was ok, just in case he needed that permission.

ok.  Well, I am going to hang up, I’ll call you if anything changes.

By Dena, I love you…

I love you too Jane…

(5 – 10 minutes pass and by this time I am at home…and my phone rings again, it is Jane.)

Dena?  Honey, he is gone!

I start bawling!

Dena, I think he heard you…he knew he could go because you gave him permission…

I just hung up the phone… and cried…

And I continued to cry for what seemed like forever.  And when I thought I did not have any tears left…somehow more would still come out.

Giving my dad permission to go and to have the last phone call with him…is something I will always treasure!  But it was also one of the hardest things I have ever had to do!

…and just like that… He was gone!

That day my world forever changed and it was about to change more…and I just did not know it yet…




ARE, Site Planning and Design

Day 6 of Studying

I started my day early again, just like yesterday.  Sitting at Starbucks by 9:30 am this Sunday and jumped right in with taking another online exam.  (Finding it hard to attend church and study if I want to make any dent in my study material and still spend time with my family some point in the day.  I’m still working on time management with my studying.)  This time it was the Kaplan (Brightwood) online supplemental exam and I got 31/50 or roughly 62%.  So I have some problems I need to go back and study.  I found that I was guessing on quite a few questions or making some educated guesses no less.  Which actually is what happens when you take the actual exam.  NCARB wants to see you make judgement calls with the information you have on the subject to see what kinds of decisions you would make.

I am studying the following resources:

Kaplan (Brightwood)

Architect exam prep

Lora Teagarden’s ARE Sketches

And Kent Ballast books from

I am cross referencing all of these books and seeing what each says on the same subject, taking notes on each and building my knowledge while referencing all of them at the same time.  I feel like I am getting a more comprehensive understanding this way as opposed to if I was to read them all separately.  This way the subjects I am studying from each resource are studied in context…this helps me to comprehend the concepts and ideas.

I am missing a night out with my girlfriends to study today/tonight.  But as they say, sacrifices need to be made while studying, in order to pass the exams, studying has to come first.  So tonight is the start of my sacrifices. Sucks but it is what it is.

OK back to studying. 37 days till my exam and 398 days till I plan to be licensed.

The fact that my exam is in just over 5 weeks keeps me going and motivated as I want to make sure I am totally prepared by the time I get to the testing center.

ARE, Site Planning and Design

Day 5 – 38 days till I take my SPD Exam.

399 Days till I plan to be a Licensed Architect.

I am starting to get into the groove.  Here I am on a saturday when I have the kids and my husband is home that I break away and come to Starbucks and study…EARLY, no doubt!  Even though I would rather be at home.

I have found that I am much more successful about studying when I leave the house and have very few distractions. I am not tempted to address questions from the kids, to do the dishes or the laundry or randomly start cleaning bathrooms as a way of procrastinating on studying.  (trust me I have done this!)  I find that leaving the house and isolating myself is about the only way I can motivate myself and remove mostly all distractions.

I got to Starbucks this morning a little before 10 am and will plan to study until about 2:45.  That’s 4 hours and 45 minutes of studying under my belt for Saturday, not bad at all.

So I took a practice exam this morning and I got 42 out of 61 correct.  So that is 68%.  Not bad… I know that is still not passing but that is pretty good when you are studying.  I have gone in to take an exam and passed it, but failed the practice exam the day before.  So that being said… I don’t feel bad about my score.

Area’s that I apparently need to work on are:

Soils and Foundations

Stormwater / run-off coefficients

Parking slopes/Streets Drainage

site analysis


Types of streets


sun orientation

…and a few other things.

So at least I know what I need to review.  🙂

Once I leave here I can go play with “My Boys”  Cole, Landon, Nicholas and Brandt!  We are going bowling, one of our favorite past times in the summertime!  🙂




Day 4 – 400 days until I plan to be done with my exams.

39 days before I take my exam.

So it is finally sinking in that after all I have been through I am really doing this.  I have had a few days to study and I am really keeping myself accountable with this blog and I will really have this behind me.

I started reading the Study guide from Architect exam prep, and so far so good.

I have my study plan done, I have all of my bookmarks in my pages so I know the date I need to be at certain milestones. I know that after I finish studying AEP then I am going to read Ballast and do the final exam.  Then I will be working on the graphic parts of studying… 🙂

Hitting a chapter of AEP tonight. 🙂


Beginning (again)…

So after passing all exams, having the carpet yanked out from underneath me and having to start over, and after a 5 year break (because emotionally I just needed that time to recover since I had to start over), I have finally decided to start taking my exams again

I heard the voice in my head…

“It’s time to get those exams done and behind you…”

so here I go…


The ARE, a.k.a Architectural Registration Exam, is a 6 part or 7 part exam (depending on the version you are taking) that prepares you and licenses you to be a registered architect.  It covers the topics that architect’s need to know and practice on a daily basis to be successful.  Things that are covered in the exam are things like the health, safety and welfare of the public as well as contracts and other legal “mumbo jumbo” that you may have or may not have learned in school.  The exam is extensive and is not designed for you to pass as many of the questions make you feel as though you have not studied for the exam at all when in reality the premise for the exam is to see if you can think on your feet and make informed decisions based upon the knowledge you have and what you know.  Taking the exams often makes you have this “WTF” feeling and when you walk out of the exam even if you passed you feel as though you not only failed… you REALLY failed!  I can tell you I have had many experiences where I walked out and thought… “well I will be taking that one again…”  only to find out later that I passed. Pleasantly surprised for sure!

In order to qualify to take the Exam you need to have done 2 things:

  1. Go to a NAAB Accredited Architecture school.
  2. Complete your IDP (which is know today as the AXP.)

The exam is given at the Promtric testing center where there are lots of people taking all sorts of exams.  The ARE is a multiple choice exam and there is a graphic portion too depending on the version of exam you are taking.


Dena, age 45, a creatively obsessed wife and mother.  I am from the Pacific Northwest but have lived in Florida for the better part of 20 years. I wanted to be an architect when I was 4 years old. Matter of fact my first drawing was a floor plan of my bedroom.  At 4 years old I did not know what an architect was but I could point to a building and say  “I want to make that.” As a little girl I loved any toys that I could get my hands on that allowed to build something.  Lincoln logs, Legos, Tinker Toys, Blocks, you get the point…

When I was in HS I joined a mechanical drafting class and was the only girl and I am sure I knew the least about drafting in the class at the beginning of the year.  I was so young and naive I did not even know how to read a ruler.  But at the end of the year, I walked out of that class with the highest grade!  I had done better than all of the boys which at that age that was a thrill for me and I could not believe it!  I was not the kind of girl that took Home-EC in HS and learned to cook and sew.  As I was the girl that joined the shop classes and was the one who was building things or welding, etc. As this I saw as a bigger more advanced version of playing with Lego’s and Blocks.

As a kid since I always knew I wanted to be and would an architect I would say  “…WHEN I am an architect…”  not “…IF I am an architect…” as this has always been a constant in my life and one that has been a long time coming.

Since I graduated from Architecture school I have been working in architecture firms or Architecture departments within the corporate world.  Recently, within the last 2 years, I have not worked in architecture in the traditional sense but I am doing a subset of architecture, accessibility, and I really love it!

The Goal:

To be licensed by next year, the summer of 2018.  19 years after I graduated from Architecture school and 42 years after my initial interest and love that not only developed into a dream but truly my identity throughout my life.

I will be doing the 5 exam plan which is actually a cross between the 4.0 exam and the 5.0 exam.  I am finding myself in the transition so I am going to use this transition to my advantage.

Exam #1 – Site Planning and Design.

Ready…. Set…..Go!