Thursday, May 30, 2019

Singing my heart (burn) out: part II

It turns out there's no easy test for heartburn.  That really surprises me.  In fact, there are expensive tests for all sorts of other things that have similar symptoms as heartburn -- and I've had a whole bunch of those last fall and winter.  But I never once got tested for heartburn, and in fact the only reason I'm sure that that's what I have now is that (a) I've been tested for just about everything else and (b) the massive doses of heartburn meds I'm taking seem to work.

For something like two years now, I've noticed that my voice has been getting raspy.  I had no idea what was causing that, and my primary physician basically said, "well, that kind of thing happens".  I figured I'd try strengthening my throat muscles by singing (although I've since learned that ENTs say the best cure for a sore throat is to rest, not to keep stressing it).  Still, I had fun singing and learning voice exercises.

About eight months after I started the singing stuff, about August of last summer, I started noticing that I'd occasionally have an odd pain underneath my right rib.  Also, sometimes a bit of stomach pain.

In early September, my raspy voice turned into a sore throat that would eventually bother me for several months.  All of these (I now think) were symptoms of heartburn, but I didn't know that at the time.  I also had a tingly arm (which my physical therapy friend diagnosed as sleeping with too many pillows, curing that condition overnight in mid-September, yay!) and I had a lump on my stomach that was completely benign but wigging me out because of all the other funky issues I was having.

My doctor sent me to an ENT (for Test #1), who declared my nostrils were "perfect" and that my throat looked perfectly fine, too.  I have "cryptic tonsils", he noted, but they probably weren't the problem.  He suggested I'd be fine soon, and it was probably just a cold.

But the rib still hurt, and so at the end of September, I went for a Sonogram (Test #2).   It tickled, my belly looked good; the experts said my problem was probably just the lipoma -- the benign belly lump.

Toward the end of October, the throat still hurt, and the rib pain still bothered me.   Not knowing what the heck was going on bugged me, too, and so I restarted my anxiety meds.  So far, it had been two months and nobody (not even me) had thought of heartburn, but here I was, getting expensive meds and expensive tests for unrelated things.  I'm not complaining -- I'm just still surprised at all the round-about aspect of this.   But there was more to come.

In early November, my throat was bad enough that I was living on cough drops and having trouble falling asleep.  My doctor recommended a sonogram of my thyroid (proposed Test #3).   But just before I got that test, I suggested that maybe the feeling in my throat might be related to heartburn, and I ought to try those meds first.  And what a great suggestion, because the throat pain subsided a bunch.

But the rib pain was still there, and becoming more constant.  And sometimes it would turn into a belly pain that made it hard for me to teach.  At the end of December, I had the lipoma removed (actual Test #3), hoping that somehow that would help (maybe it was pressing on a nerve?).    My doc, seeing that the lump had come back as benign, suggested that maybe I was doing some repetitive action that gave me a pulled muscle.

But just to be sure, at the end of December my doc sent me in for a chest X-ray (Test #4), which found nothing wrong.  And the doctor doubled my heartburn meds and anxiety meds.   I'm so glad they did, but of course we still had no way of knowing whether this dosage was enough, and it turned out it wasn't.

After being on the doubled heartburn meds for a week in early January, the pain started spreading from my rib to my belly, and I was super tender there -- if I crossed my arms in front of me, it would hurt my stomach.  The constant pain was starting to freak me out, in spite of all the tests I'd had saying I was fine.  Because, I didn't feel fine.    That Friday night, my belly hurt so much that I called over to my doctor's office and talked with the nurse on call, who referred me to the emergency room.

So I walked over the emergency room.  They did an EKG (Test #5) and confirmed my heart is fine.   Then they did blood tests, urine tests, and Cat Scans (I'll count that as Test #6), and reassured me that it wasn't pancreatic cancer.   Don't even ask me why I was afraid that pancreatic cancer was causing my heartburn -- I know better than to self-diagnose via the web, except when I don't.   Sheesh.

The ER decided that what was probably going on was that the heartburn acid was spilling over into my belly cavity, and that's why I was so tender.  They put me on a bunch of monster heartburn pills and sent me home, encouraging me to meet with a gastro doctor.

Which I did.  My gastro doctor adjusted the meds here and there, and then ordered an endoscopy (Test #7).   Again, everything checked out fine.  The gastro doc refilled all my meds and told me to hold the course.

What causes heartburn? My gastro guy says it's a weakness in a muscle called the "lower esophageal sphincter".  Me, I'm all about strengthening muscles, and I asked for exercises that might help, but apparently there's no such thing.  It's either meds or surgery, and he recommends meds as the preferred course.

My dad has been on heartburn meds basically his entire life, and at 83 years old he's still climbing ladders, hiking, working out on the treadmill at the gym.  I take after him in a bunch of ways, so I'm adjusting to this life of Many Medicines, glad for his example.

This heartburn never actually felt like burning (except maybe in my throat) and it didn't really ever cause pain in the area of my heart.  It was my throat, my right rib, and my belly.   So maybe it's not really heartburn after all --- I keep being surprised that there's no test.  On the other hand, taking heartburn meds has cleared up my belly and rib pain, as well as my sore throat.  So for me, the way I keep tabs on how well my meds are working is to think about how my throat feels. 

And also, my voice isn't raspy any more.  So . . .  awesome.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Singing my heart (burn) out: part I

A year and a half ago, I made a bold (for me, anyway) resolution:  Sing Daily.  I figured that this was going to be kind of life changing for me . . . and it turns out I was right, but not for any reasons I could have guessed.

Here's how that resolution went:   I sang.  Pretty much daily. 

I was really bad, partly because I hadn't practiced remembering words, so actually coming up with songs to sing was tricky.  For a while, it was a lot of "happy birthday", and two or three songs that I made myself learn again.  (These were, "Be Thou My Vision" and "If I only had a brain", which I kind of giggled at singing in juxtaposition).

Eventually, I started singing more often because songs started coming to me in various situations.  I'd come home and start singing to the dog:  "How much is that Doggie in the Window?", and "Where, oh where has my little dog gone?".  My girl scout campfire songs started coming back to me.  I'd sing to my granddaughter, who begged me to sing again:  "I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck . . . "

Some friends at work heard about what I was doing, and they told me they wanted in on the action.   We attempted to start a singing group: the "Sing Somethings".  We declared the only requirement is that you had to have more enthusiasm than talent (I love that requirement).   But somehow, nobody but me could ever make the get-togethers, and after a few valiant attempts on my part (at their urgings, mind you), I bailed and stopped trying.  That was too bad.

I also learned of a couple of groups that I will probably want to join when I have a bit more time.  My daughter and son sing in a local anyone can join choir (or is it chorus?  I can never remember the difference).  And there's a Sacred Harp group that meets once a month near me, that I might check out some day.  (Thanks, EH, for pointing that out to me).

So, at any rate, basically I sang more and more from January through the summer, and got through the awkward phases into more fun phases, but not quite into the group scene.  Everything was progressing nicely . . . and then September came.

I had started singing daily in 2018 because I'd noticed my voice was getting raspy.  In fact, I'd had a persistent sore throat through the fall of 2017, and really wanted to enjoy my voice now that my throat had cleared up.  But in the fall of 2018, I finally figured out the cause of my sore throat and raspy voice:  heartburn.

That -- the figuring out that I had heartburn -- sounds like it ought to have been easy.  But it wasn't easy, and that's a whole other story, with all sorts of twists and turns and a lot more excitement than doggies in the windows.  So I'll save that for later, and end Part I of the Sing Daily update here.

Monday, May 27, 2019

From quilt to dog bed, with photos!

Even if the dog beds in the pet shop didn't cost tens and tens (sometimes almost a hundred) dollars, I wouldn't buy one.  Because, I'm getting to the point where I think of everything I buy as an eventual disposal problem, and who-the-heck knows what kinds of non-biodegradable things are in the foam of dog beds?

But the dog beds in the pet shop do cost a bunch of money, so that's my official excuse for not purchasing one.   And yet, Prewash likes curling up in the dog bed my step-daughter (and self-declared Dog Nut) bought her.  So I'm not averse to dog beds in particular, just averse to buying something from a store.

And so here's the description of how/why I made a dog bed out of an old quilt.  It's a quilt my mom bought for me many decades and decades ago, as I was heading off to college.  Over the years, the quilt pieces started fraying, and finally I declared it Not-Fit-for-Human-Use, but still Perfectly-Acceptable-For-Dogs.

The first stage of making a quilt into a dog bed was just to fold it over with the fraying side inside and throw it on the floor.

Prewash is not particularly picky when it comes to dog beds.  She thinks any kind of fabric on the ground makes a great bed: my husband's sweatshirt, a folded quilt, my husband's jeans, her official dog bed, my husband's t-shirt . . . (sense a pattern here?).

She loves lying on the quilt if there are no piles of laundry present, although she tended to unfold the blanket, and then the quilt became a tripping hazard.   So the second stage of making a quilt into a dog bed was to fold the quilt into fourths and sew it into that shape.  The sewing machine is my friend, even through four layers of worn-out quilt.

I could have left it that way, all flat, but I think it's totally adorable when Prewash curls up into a little ball inside her store-bought bed, looking like an egg in a nest.  So I wanted to give this dog bed walls that she could curl up inside.

Enter the third stage of making a quilt into a dog bed.  The sewing machine couldn't make its way through eight layers of quilt, so I got out a heavy-duty needle and some button thread.   I sewed a triangle at each corner . . .

And then folded the triangle flat against one of the new walls, and stitched the pieces together.

When it was done, the Former-Quilt-cum-Dog-Bed looked a bit like a rectangular nest.  Voila!
A very floppy rectangular nest, all ready for my dog egg.

Let's see how well this works for holding a dog . . .
Well, her *paws* fit in the bed at least.
Okay, now half her body fits.
 Maybe if we wait a while, she'll take to the bed?
Oops, no back to the front paws only.  
Oh, well, it was worth a try.  Maybe someday I'll figure out how to make a dog bed she actually likes curling up in.

Dawwwww . . . 

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Miser Family update: growing up version

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household.  We've been reveling in the glorious May weather.

For example, on Tuesday my husband and I both decided to do something that hardly anybody dares to do anymore: we voted in the primaries!  Woohoop!  The lines at the polling place were . . . well, they weren't very linear.  We zipped in, zipped out.  Voting, man.

J-son and a friend dressed as adults
for a play at my college
many years ago
N-son seems to be having a lot of fun at school:  he helped repair and clean up a bunch of places in the town after this past week's storms brought a tornado that touched down in four places. 

But I'm not as up-to-date on what he's doing as I'd like;  his phone died a week or two ago, and so we ordered him a new one and shipped it his way.  And then some of us got to learn a new lesson:  if you forget your email password, don't create a completely new email account to set up your new phone and then forget the new password, too.  Because (a) the phone doesn't get set up that way, and (b) undoing the bad email account on the new phone takes multiple car trips, parental cursing at inexplicable web-site instructions, and a bunch of help from kind people at various telephone companies.   At any rate, N-son now has a working cell phone again, PLUS a restored password for his former email account.  Phew.

J-son and a mom dressed as adults
for a Certificate Ceremony at his school
a few days ago
And as long as we're on the topic of car trips to rescue and return cell phones, it worth mentioning that this has been a week of travel for my husband.  Not only has he driven to see N-son and the infamous phone twice, but he returned a Miata that a friend had sent to winter over in our garage (driving to Long Island to reunite the car with its owners).  AND he Amtraked his way back and forth for Tuesdays with Toomey.  AND he rode far enough on the bicycle that he came back home and wondered aloud whether he'd "overdone it" (which sounds like he's back to normal, to me).

Also, this week I got to go see J-son walk across the stage at the ceremony where kids (I mean, young adults) in the Career Training program got their certificates; he got his in Sports Therapy.   Man, he looks like he has trained a lot; he's got muscles on his muscles.  I introduced myself to all his friends showing them my muscles, and saying he got his muscles from me.  (Which is kind of true, if you stop to think that I bought our home gym that he started using when he got into boxing.   So, yeah).
I also got to spend a bunch of time with my granddaughter, and not much time (yet) with my daughters (although that's coming up soon).  At school, I'm working on grant proposals and referee reports.  At home, my pile of summer reading keeps going up and down; I returned two books to the library, and found five more I want to read . . . life is good.

A blurry J-son and others up on stage. 
And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

storing papers by date

David Allen, the personal productivity guru of Getting Things Done, talks about organizing papers (etc) by whether they are active files or reference files -- keeping the former close by, and the latter filed separately a bit further away. 

For me, that resonated quite a bit.  I don't have a filing cabinet at home, and so I've stored my papers mostly by year in a multi-pocket binder like this.  I file bills and papers into separate pockets for utilities, medical bills, auto repair, etc.   When a new year starts, I start a new binder.
A binder labeled to hold one years's worth of household records.
Here's one huge advantage of this system, now that moving time has started rolling around:  I don't have to sort through all of my paperwork to figure out which things I can ditch.  I just got rid of something like 20 pounds of paper --- all of it goes to shredding/recycling without having to wonder whether to keep it, all because it's older than 7 years old.   Whoop!

As I move forward, I'll have less paper to store in each of the future binders.  Back in 2010, 2011, 2012, I hadn't switched over to electronic billing so much, so I had lots of envelopes and records to tuck away.  Nowadays, not so much.  But I'll still store whatever I have by date.

I use a similar system for email folders, by the way.   My committee folders get a name like "2018-assessment".   If the committee is active and I'm using the folder a lot, I add a symbol to bring the folder up to the top:  "@-2019-hiring".   If the project is over and done with, I add a "z" to push the folder down toward the bottom of the list:  "z-2016-colloquium".   This system really makes my life a lot easier as I try to keep track of the various tasks I play around with.

This summer, I'm going to try to rearrange my computer research folders along this method.  I've named all my research folders by the topics that the papers were looking at, which makes it surprisingly hard to find exactly what I'm looking for.  I'm going to try to go through and relabel everything by the date it got published -- or at least the date I abandoned the project.  

As I've worked on organizing my family heirloom stuff, I've found that labelling things by date has been really helpful there, too.  You'd think that labeling something "Sam Smith" would make it easier to find -- but if there are several photos of good old Sam, then this gets complicated.  "1872-Sam-Smith" or "1902-Sam-and-Francis" turns out to make sorting and filing a heck of a lot easier, and it makes finding the right picture in a giant list of many pictures WAY easier.  So.  Dated organizing it is.  

Monday, May 20, 2019

I *finally* made a drill bits holder (old t-shirt version)

I guess different people lust after owning different kinds of things.  For about two years now, I've been admiring the homemade Root Simple drill bit organizer (made with a 2x4 block of wood and a sharpie).   I haven't made it for myself partly because I didn't happen to have a right-sized block of wood hanging around the house, but also because I tend to use my drill on the go, not in the shop.  But I really, really admire the elegance of this holder, which seems obvious in retrospect but clearly eluded me most of my life.

Mr. Homegrown of Root Simple made his organizer because his drill bits kept rattling around in his drawer.  I lusted after a better drill bit holder for myself because I hate my metal drill bit holder. The bits slide down and mess with the hinges to keep it from opening the whole way, or else -- once I've finally pried it open -- they slide down and mess with the hinges to keep the contraption from closing the whole way.  I spend way too much time wrestling with this holder.
Drill bits in an awkward holder

So.  I made a drill bit holder out of an old t-shirt.  Figuring out how to fold this over so that the heights of the pockets would work out okay was a small geometrical challenge, but a bit of fiddling helped things to come out right, and then I pinned the heck out of everything so I could sew all the pockets in the right place.  The sewing was easy and even a bit therapeutic.  In homage to Mr. Homegrown (and also because, labeling!), I used a sharpie to mark the sizes of the bits.
Drill bit holder made of an old t-shirt, with labeled slots

I also attached a velcro strap to one end, so now I can roll the whole baby up and close it, so that I can chuck this in my portable drill bag without worrying about losing my bits.
Sewed-on velcro strap to keep it closed.  
This is a small happiness in the land of Miser Mom.  yay.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Miser family update: old house, new house, fish house, stair house

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family household.  It's the week of house-related things, for sure. 

First of all, we've done the walk-through inspection of the new house and asked the owner to do a few safety fixes, and that's all been agreed; the other repairs the inspector suggested went into a giant list that my favorite construction guys have agreed to tackle in early August, right after we move our stuff in and I head out of town for math meetings.  It's going to be an exciting time!

Three drills: one for the regular holes, one for counter-sinking,
and one for screwing in in the screws.  What a great set-up!
Second of all, we are now under agreement on our current home, with a family who has four very active kids all set to move in just as soon as we move out.  So packing begins in earnest, even though the move date is still a bit more than 2 months away. 

N-son, off at school for building maintenance, is involved in a different kind of house:  he told me with great excitement that he made fish houses with his class.  I'm not sure whether a fish house is (a) a restaurant, or (b) something Minnesotans take out on the ice, or (c) something you stick in an aquarium, or what.  But he's happy -- and with any luck the fish are, too.  On the other hand, his phone burned out and stopped working.  So my husband drove out to see N-son today and help him get a new phone set up. 
Not a fish house.  My daughter's porch stairs, upside down.

Old stairs upside down near us;
new stairs under construction at the porch.

Speaking of my husband, he's closer and closer to being back to normal.  His flexibility is now beyond target (instead of merely flexing 0-120, he can flex 0-125).  He's on the bike, and he's back at yoga, and traveling to and from Philly for chemical conferences and protests. 

I've had a wide assortment of activities this week:

  • a day-long workshop on inclusive learning, 
  • a trip to Philly to give a talk, 
  • a bunch of work around the home,
  • a fabulous theater performance of Sophisticated Ladies with my daughters & husband, and
  • a bunch of grant proposal writing, and
  • making stairs at my daughter's home.  

This last bit was an extension of last year's birthday present to her, which was to stabilize the stairs to her porch.  We did a good job with what we had on hand, but agreed that this year we'd purchase some new lumber and make the steps much more sturdy.  This year, I came prepared with my giant green wagon full of tools and pencils and drill bits, and also a set of plans from last year.  My daughter helped out by standing on boards that I was sawing and by handing me screws, and I got to cover myself in sawdust.  So much fun!

Last thing: clean up carefully. Thanks, A-child!
And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous. 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Dumpster shopping

It's a real luxury to have the kind of life where I can drop everything to spend a day pulling ceiling tiles out of a dumpster, I think.

Our basement ceiling tiles have been kind of dank and ugly for, oh, I dunno, about two decades now.   When I suggested to a realtor a couple of years ago that we might want to replace them before putting the house on the market, she shrugged it off: it's just a basement.   So I didn't put replacing these tiles high on my priority list, even though their ugliness has kind of niggled at me for a while now.

Two summers ago, a construction crew swept through the second floor of the building I work in and pulled out all the ceiling tiles and light fixtures.  All of the old stuff went into a dumpster.   As they were finishing up,  a lightbulb went off in my head: these tiles they were taking out were "old", but honestly much much nicer than the ones in my home.  I nabbed one from the the dumpster, took it home to see if it fit.   The answer is "yes, if I cut it in half".  (My ceiling tiles are 2'x2'; the ones in my building are doubled, 2'x4').  Unfortunately, by the time I got back to work, the dumpster had been removed.  So I was out of luck for getting more.

Then last year, a construction crew swept through the third floor of the building I work in.  This time I was ready --- or so I thought.  But before I could get to the dumpster, the rains came in and soaked everything.  Soggy ceiling tiles just disintegrate when you touch them.   Then this year, on Monday, the construction crew returned and swept through the first floor of my building.  On Monday, alas, I was in meetings all day and the rain started at noon.  The soaking rain and then drizzle continued through Tuesday.

Then Wednesday, the sun broke through the clouds, both literally and metaphorically.   A new set of ceiling tiles went out to the dumpster.  I looked for someone to ask permission from, but couldn't find anyone.  So I dropped my plans for refereeing a paper and editing a chapter, and went home and got my green wagon.  

As I was loading the wagon up with tiles, a guy in a pickup truck pulled up.  "Are you getting tiles out of the dumpster?" he asked.   I admitted I was; I was taking tiles that were still in relatively good shape.   He started to get nervous.  "They didn't tell us to save any tiles; they told us to throw everything out.  They didn't tell us we needed to save any of them."   I realized he thought that *he* had done something wrong.  I assured him that I was not "them"; I was just dumpster diving.  He drew a big sigh of relief.

Some of the old tiles loaded up for the return to the dumpster.
I can't show you how huge my wagon was loaded, because I was in such a hurry to get these home before the dumpster left that I didn't grab my phone until much later.   The wagon was loaded 3 feet high with ceiling tiles.   A bunch of my friends saw me heading home and high-fived me for my finds.  (I'm really lucky to be surrounded by fellow eco-nuts who admire my quirkiness instead of thinking that I'm an embarrassment to all things decent).   I spent a happy afternoon with my circular saw, and installed the "new" tiles. 

Then I loaded up the old ugly tiles and hauled them back to the dumpster, putting them in as neatly as I could.  

Where I shop for ceiling tiles.
Today, I'm getting back to refereeing and editing.  But before I do, I'm going to say it again: I'm really lucky to have the freedom to do things like this:  freedom in the sense of having control over my time.  Freedom in the sense of having friends who think this is admirable, rather than icky.  Freedom in the sense of being established enough in my career and my community that I don't have to fret about the inevitable people who might wrinkle their noses at this.  Freedom in the sense of being financially secure enough that I'm doing this more for fun than out of necessity.

Man, this was fun.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

stuff in closets

By my reckoning, we will live in our current home for 77 more days.  The packing and purging we've been doing gets more and more serious.  We're hitting up friends for cardboard boxes.

As I keep reminding my husband (and what the heck, as I keep reminding myself) it's so much easier to think about packing the stuff we can see than the stuff we've forgotten about.  My guy has asked me about a half-dozen times about the clothes in his bedroom closet, the books sitting on the shelves in plain sight  I pointed him to the cardboard boxes of photographs stashed in a cupboard in the basement, essentially ignored the entire two decades we've lived here.

I've been taking my own medicine.   I open cabinets that I seldom open and look at what's in there.   I don't even ask the popular question,
  • Does it spark joy?

Instead I ask:

  • Do I really want to keep this?
  • Do I really want to pack this up in a well-labeled box?
  • Do I really want to figure out where this goes in the new house?
A drawer with a few less corks and screws than before.
And I keep finding things for which the answer is "no".  For example, we're keeping one (count 'em, ONE) wine bottle opener, and one stopper.  And we're storing the rest of them "in the cloud".

Storing things "in the cloud" means, I'm taking things to re-use-it shops or bringing it in early July to our neighborhood yard sale.   And someday, if I ever need more wine bottle stoppers, I can just go to a yard sale or a thrift shop and get what I need then.  

A cupboard for the
well-hydrated family.
It's so tempting to hang onto things because they might be useful.  The vast collection of water bottles we've corralled into a cupboard of their own is one such example.  But close inspection of these babies, as I quiz them under the "do I really want to . . . " trifecta of questions, shows that (a) quite a few of these don't have appropriate lids, so they're not that useful after all and (b) they'd be even MORE useful if they were actually in the home of someone who used them, instead of sitting in the bottom of a cupboard waiting for a disorganized teenager to come along with a water bottle urgency.  

So into the cloud these water bottles go, if they're still working.  

Spray paint that may or may not spray.  
Cupboards upon cupboards of forgotten treasures.  My painting projects have reacquainted me with a surprising (to me) collection of spray paint.  When did I get all of these cans and colors?  They demonstrate that storing something that might be useful doesn't just delay their usefulness, but can paradoxically reverse their usefulness:  I should have put a bunch of these "in the cloud" when they were new, because now about half of these are caked up and won't work.  Even though I could imagine doing fun projects with the rest of the spray paint, I'm going to opt for the cloud instead of some unspecified corner of the next basement as the best place for these to go.  

It's hard even to call this "decluttering", because this stuff is well-organized and not particularly clutter-y.  It's possible that shoehorning it all into a smaller home might make the quantity seem larger and more overwhelming . . . but even without that, I'm glad to be moving these things out of the closets where they've lingered.   So many things to set free.  77 days to go.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Miser Family Update: new/old home, bones and bikes, io de Mayo

Life surges in its rich-and-full way in the Miser Family household.   The most exciting news of the week happened right at the beginning, when our offer on the new home was accepted.  Whoop!  We'll be moving in early August [never mind the fact that I'm out of town traveling for two weeks then; we'll find a way to make this work!]   Oh, and also, we have buyer for our current home . . . the paperwork hasn't been officially signed yet, but all of the arrangements are proceeding apace.  I've been a bit hyper with plans for cleaning up the current home beautifully and for all the arranging of furniture and such I'll get to do in the new home . . . it's better than having a dollhouse   (And I ought to know, because I was a real dollhouse fiend as a kid).

All of this happened as the week turned from Saturday to Sunday.  And then Sunday we drove several hours, dropping N-son off at school.  His school's architecture is built on the long, double-corridor model.  It's lovely for someone whose mother studies perspective!

And J-son has also gotten some happy news.  His foster mom texted me to say,
J-son made me smile yesterday. He got an honor roll certificate and said, "Yes, finally. It only took me 13 years to get this."
Go, J-son!  If N-son has long corridors stretching out ahead of him, J-son has really turned a corner.  In a good way.

Speaking of physical and texting, my husband texted me with three photos and the phrase "For the blog".   And . . .  just so you can see that my husband wasn't just pretending to have had knee surgery to get sympathy and drugs, here's pictures of my guy, inside and out!

If you noticed something familiarly spandex-y about the outfit my guy is wearing . . . yes! You guessed right!  He's officially allowed back on the bike, and he's already done short ride of a dozen-ish miles.  He's also walking up and down stairs with both legs, instead of one-legged.   What a happy set of advances these are!

We polished off the end of the work week with our 10-de-Mayo dinner (which we pronounce like "ayo de mayo").  A small group, but lots of food and good jokes.  A great event before Saturday's round of my college's commencement, held in perfect weather: sunny and just a tad on the cool side. 

If you look carefully, you can see A-child clearing plates,
putting them on the kitchen floor for Prewash to take care of.

And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

A three-day working holiday

I am taking three whole days off of college work this week.   Three days!  (Well, not quite three full days, because meetings and such keep coming up, but I'm trying my best to ignore my expanding email In-Box). 

And I'm filling my days with what feels a bit like spring cleaning.   So Much Work.  Yet So Much Fun!

I spent most of Monday painting like a maniac.   Tuesday, I was going to do electrical work, but I decided instead to put vegetable seeds in the ground. which meant pretty much a huge amount of weeding and mulching and filling compost piles.   OhMyGosh, but our yard is big!  This is the last summer we'll be in this yard, and although I'm super glad that I get to garden this year, I'm also looking forward to the day I don't have to deal with so much space for weeds to flourish every time I turn my back.

Today I got a full-body workout replacing some light fixtures.   The wiring in our house is really wonky and old, so figuring out which circuit breaker goes to which fixture turns out to require lots and lots of running up-and-down stairs, for example.  In an ordinary home, you might just plug in a blaring radio, and you know you've killed the power when the noise stops.  But in our home, the ceiling fixtures aren't necessarily on the same circuits as the outlets, so . . . I got a really huge stair workout.  

Then there's the arm and shoulder work out, lifting fixtures over my head. I got a working ceiling fan down from a room with a low ceiling (so the fan always kind of scared people, especially tall people), and I put up a small fixture.  Very satisfying!
This fixture went up nice and easy!
The light and fan in N-son's room stopped working suddenly about a month ago.  It's an even heavier fixture than the first one I took down, but I managed to get it down and install the other (working) ceiling fan in its place . . . only to discover now the new one wasn't working.   At this point, I have to suspect it's a house wiring problem, which is beyond my area of competence, so I'm turning the project over to the pros. 

Original fan on the floor;
replacement fan on the ceiling;
in a dark room because the wiring seems to be bad.
 So, then I started doing some serious paint organizing.   I labeled all the paint buckets that are staying in our house, by which room they're for (and whether it's wall or trim paint), and I also created a master sheet with the codes that the paint store uses, so it's easy to get more matching paint in the future. I curated and labeled the paints that we'll be taking to the new home.  I created a huge box of extra paint supplies that I'll be taking back to the painting store.   So that's all good.

Paint cans with labels for where they're used.
 But wait!  There's more!  I also used an awesome cordless drill that my daughters got me for Christmas to disassemble one of my wobblier homemade Adirondack chairs.  I love my cordless drill!  So much so, that I bought some accessories for it -- a bunch of screw bits -- and so taking things apart is super easy.
The seat of the chair is still together; the back slats are in a heap.
In the background, you can see my Adirondack Love Seat, which I adore.
 I rescued the wheels off the bottom of that disassembled chair and attached them to the bottom of a chest that we've used for storing wooden train tracks, so it'll be easier to wheel around.  Then I did the hugely laborious task of taping all the metal trim on the chest.  Taping trim is such a chore for me, partly because I fret about the trash involved.  I think taping took me two hours, because the trim is curvy in places and so I had to tape and use an exacto knife to trim it.  And then painting took me 5 minutes.
First coat.  I'll put on the second coat tomorrow.
Underneath that blue tape is gold-colored metal.  
This has been such an awesome, challenging, exhausting, satisfying three days.  Tomorrow I really have to go back to work and take care of a paper revision and referee reports and book design templates and such.  I love my job, really I do.  But I think I'll love it even more now that I've had such a physically fulfilling mini-sabbatical.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Touch-up paint: golly and wow

In the getting-the-house-fixed-up realm, we're getting to the smaller things.

The big things have mostly been taken care of, and they all have been so worth it, because these fixes make the place look better.  The first stage was to bring in the professionals for the really big stuff.  We hired some people to remove the 25-year old linoleum from the kitchen floor (that was damaged and stained when we moved here 22 years ago); they also replaced the counter and backsplashes with stuff that, I dunno, looks nice.  We had the pink bathtub re-ceramic-ed so that it's white.  The repair guys installed bedroom doors where bifold doors had been.  All of this has made the house much happier for me to live in, and I'm glad I get to experience it briefly before we sell and move.

Where the repair guys left off, I've taken over.  I've laboriously patched holes in walls, prepared and painted three bedrooms, and fixed lights and closet doors.  Everyone says a new coat of paint makes a huge difference, and it was gratifying to see the transformation:  from Teenager terrible  to something . . . actually kind of nice.  Possibly even terrific.   Huzzah for paint.

And then I started in on the small stuff -- touch-up paint on trim in the hallways and stairwell.   And I just have to say, man oh man, I wish I'd known long ago what an amazing difference touch-up paint is!  I am just amazed at how nice it looks.  That dinged-up baseboard looks . . . so clean.  I swoon.

I am totally not going to wait ten years and a house move to do touch-up paint projects in the future.  It's easier and better than spring cleaning, almost!

So here are three things about touch-up paint that I am taking with me from this project.

  1. I can take a small scrap of existing paint -- something I scraped off a door, or a painted light switch cover -- to the paint store.  My new bff* who works there has a machine that can scan the scrap and to an exact color match.  So cool.  The match is good enough that I really can just paint over one smudge, and not redo the whole (say) window sill, and it looks good.
    [* I don't actually know my new bff's name, but I feel like I see her
    just about every week now, which is almost more often than I see
    any of my non-running friends.  And she is as up-to-date on our
    home painting progress as anyone on the planet.]
  2. About the only good use for a plastic newspaper bag**, as far as I'm concerned, it to bag up a paint brush or roller.  The brush/roller stays wet and usable for weeks that way, and so I don't have to wash paint down the kitchen sink every time I dabble in a paint job.  Environmentally and time-wise, a win, I figure.
    [**I use newspaper, not the bags it comes in, to pick up dog-poop;
    see this post.   I've asked my carrier not to give me bags at all,
    and he mostly complies.  But every once in a while when it's raining,
    he gives me a bag anyway.  I roll them up and when I have a few,
    I give them back to him.  Well, I give him all except for the three that
    I've used this spring for painting projects.]
  3. I think I forgot what the third thing is.  Except, SO NICE!  For example, below is a corner by the front door.  It's accumulated grime and dust for years, and although I vacuum and even spray and wipe down with a damp rag, it just looks grungy.
    . . . but . . . not . . . now. 
Used to be one of the dirtiest corners in the house.
Touch-up paint, man.  It's kind of amazing.  

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Miser Family update: racoons, math, and kinda house offers

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household.  I keep saying that, but it keeps being true, somehow. Wowzers!

N-son and A-child at my talk.
The week began as all good weeks should:  with a bit of church followed by a trip to a math conference.  I brought N-son to the seminar, at his request.  He and I-daughter spent much of their childhoods tagging along with me as I gave talks at various places; I'd ask the organizer to supply the child sitter, who would play with my kid for the first 45 minutes of my talk, and then bring the kid into the lecture hall for the last 5 minutes, so the the kid could hear everyone clap for me.  This week, we extended the tradition by bringing A-child along.  She colored happily next to N-son during most of my talk, and clapped happily with everyone else at the end.

My husband is doing better and better with his new titanium knee. His sleep is improving; last night he dreamt that we had a magic pain reliever/medicine stored in our refrigerator in a canning jar.  He's also improving his range of motion; his physical therapist told him he can ride an exercise bike but do NOT ride a road bike yet, under ANY circumstances.  And I think he's only disobeyed that order once so far.  But I could be wrong.

April flowers are bringing May showers, but in between the warm misty rain we've had a few beautiful days, too.  The fair has opened in the park that's just two blocks from our home.  I-daughter wrote to me:
I got N-son 2 chances at the basketball (free throw?) game... And he won me a giant stuffed raccoon!
There were a lot of other happenings: I gave my final exam and graded it. I got to go out to dinner with my daughters for a great and important conversation.  Our CSA started up, and so our home is bursting with vegetables again.

But speaking of our home, here's the REAL excitement:  we started visiting homes for sale again, and found a really cute one that had been on the market for only 12 hours.  We figured it was basically what we wanted, and told our realtor that we might put an offer on it.  She told us that there were 3 or 4 other offers also coming in already . . . so we scrambled and pulled together a bunch of paperwork this afternoon/evening, and added our offer to the others.  We won't find out what the sellers decide until tomorrow, so this is as much of a cliff hanger story for us as it is for you!

But wait, there's more!  Because even though we haven't yet put our own home on the market yet, we already have a tentative offer on it!  So that's something exciting we'll try to flesh out next week.  (As you can probably guess by these two paragraphs, the real estate market in our little city is super hot right now).

And that's the news from our family, which continues to be rich in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous. 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Shopping unicorns, on my ears

One of my former students stopped by early last week to thank me and give me a gift. These unicorns with gold horns are carrying a bunch of dangly shopping bags.  So me.

She made me promise to wear them all day, and also to my calculus final exam. These little unicorns have on fancy coats and sunglasses. A paper cup with (coffee? latte?). And did I mention two dangly shopping bags?

I kind of love these, even though I haven't worn earrings for 6 years. It was in the summer of 2013 when I declared a farewell to earrings and gave all my dangly sparkly stuff to my daughters and friends.

Yeah. So I wore these all day, and turned my ear lobes red. And then my daughter got to wear another cute pair of earrings. I guess it's actually easier to see my earrings if someone else is wearing them than if I am, right?

On a somewhat related note, a bit later in the week, my granddaughter built a construction in the living room, which she explained to me is "a unicorn birthday cake with four candles". Looks delicious!
This is all her -- I'm kind of impressed at the
balance and symmetry in this structure.