Saturday, April 5, 2008

Gettin' Old Is Hard to Do...

I'll be turning 39 soon. The number itself doesn't bother me, but I am opposed to the aches and pains that go with it. I feel like I'm falling apart a little more each year.

At 30 it was a thyroid infection. Thirty-two found me fighting horrible post partum depression. At thirty-four I injured my shoulder while water skiing, and spent over a year rehabilitating my throwing arm. For my thirty-sixth birthday I hobbled about with plantar fascitis. And now as I approach 39, my knee has gone on strike.

I don't know what happened, really. On the last Tuesday in March, I ran around the church building with my Cub Scout Den (and came in second), and three hours later I suddenly couldn't walk right. The left knee had swollen and there was a painful click and pop with every step. Wednesday morning I went to a family practice doctor, who took x-rays, and couldn't see anything wrong. He prescribed ibuprofen, sent me to a physical therapist and made an appointment for me to see an orthopedist the next week. The physical therapist helped reduce the swelling some on Thursday afternoon, but I still had to limp around, dragging my left leg behind me like a zombie.

Against my better judgment, I went to my clogging class Thursday night. My original plan (and what I ensured Tom I would do) was to just sit and watch to learn the new steps. But I took my clogging shoes with me anyway. Why? Because I am not a sit and watch person. I am a highly competitive, impatient, perfectionistic person. I had to know if I could still clog, even a little bit. It went quite a bit better than I thought it would, actually. I did everything I could during class in a clumsy effort not to fall behind, and although my dancing was pretty ugly and there was some pain, I didn't feel any instability in the joint. Jessica had a good laugh watching me hop around like and idiot and got kicked in the patootie for her disrespect. I went home somewhat encouraged, and went to bed with bags of ice.

The ibuprofen seemed to help reduce the swelling, and by Saturday afternoon I was able to walk without that painful popping - which was huge to me. Monday morning I awoke with my leg feeling better than it had yet - and I went to see the orthopedist, feeling like a hypochondriac.

The orthopedist was optimistic; there's nothing structurally wrong, and while he suspects a minor cartilage tear, he thinks there's a really good chance the knee may heal on its own. So I'm to wait for 4 weeks, and if it's still giving me trouble, then he'll do an MRI.

In the meantime I'm supposed to stay off it as much as possible. Hah. I've cut clogging practice to once every other day or so, but I still need to walk around, climb stairs, and stand while cooking every day. This morning I did some light garden work, sat through four hours of conference, and stood for a couple hours while cooking, and tonight my knee is more painful and swollen than it's been in over a week. I was going to practice clogging after the second session of conference, but it was already so stiff and sore that I decided not to.

Maybe it's a two steps forward, one step back kind of deal. But I wonder how am I ever going to keep up in clogging while trying to rest this leg? Thursday's class was really frustrating, because already I'm falling behind and forgetting steps. I was mediocre at best when I had two good legs. Now I'll be the class idiot.

I've still got eight weeks before recital. Will it be enough?

Goodbye to the boys

Last week, we had three cats. Now we have one. Bob and Sox have moved on to a new adventure, and I am trying to suppress the guilt.

We adopted the brothers from the San Jose, CA animal shelter in July 2001. They were a delightful part of our family and survived the move to Utah in 2002.

King Bob

Sox, the 14 pound lazy bum

I love cats. They each have their own unique personalities, and I'm convinced they read minds. All I know is that all I have to do is think about the bathtub or the vacuum cleaner, and the cats nervously run from the room. When Bob was let in the house in the morning, the first thing he did was make his rounds to squeek at everyone to say good morning. Megan thought it was fun to wake up to a Cat Alarm. I love the way the cats follow me around the yard when I'm working outside. They'll sit in the shade and watch, and then come running over for a belly scratch when I take a break or sit down. Sox was so gentle and cuddly and slow to scratch -- great for a family with little kids.

With the arrival of Baby, the siamese, in Dec 2005, however, Bob began marking his territory in a most unacceptable way. He was banned from the house. He became ever more desperate to get inside, and would wait by the door and sneak in unless you stuck your foot out the door as you opened it. If he managed to get in, someone had to go find him immediately or he'd wet somewhere. It was annoying beyond belief.

Finding himself in exile, he began wetting all over the garage, and on the welcome mat by the front door, etc. If there was a plastic bag on the ground, he wet on it. After more than two years dealing with his messes, I had had enough of cleaning up after him, and Tom convinced me that it was time to reduce our cat population. Sadly, I agreed. I felt guilty, like I was sending them to almost certain death. I wondered if these cats would testify against me at the Judgement Bar. But I'd finally had enough, so I was willing to take the risk.

So last week, after I had discovered yet another smelly spot in my master bedroom, I caught Bob and put him in the cat carrier. Later that afternoon I loaded him in the van to take him to the local animal shelter. He meowed pitifully all the way across town. When I arrived, I was shocked and chagrined when the clerk told me that it cost $50 to drop off a pet. If it was a stray animal, there was no charge.

FIFTY DOLLARS?! Yikes. I wasn't at all prepared to pay that much, so I dejectedly began the drive home, again to the sound of Bob's moans from the back seat. I'd been determined and tough on the way there, but now tears of defeat stung the corners of my eyes. What were we going to do now, drop them off in a field somewhere? Or lie and say they were strays?

Tom took pity on me and took both cats on a long car ride to the Nephi Fairgrounds. He reasoned that they have everything they need there: shelter, water, and rodents. Megan cried for a day, but seems over it now.

Interestingly, I don't miss them at all. But I dreamt last night that Bob found his way back, and was wheezing from the exertion of running all that way. Guilt runs deep when you've betrayed a friend.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Thou Shalt Not Covet: Part III

In this final post, you will find all the "after" pictures you've been demanding. But first, I must wax eloquent about the process of choosing the paint.

It's always been interesting to me that you spend far more time prepping to paint than the actual painting. Yagotta put on the ratty clothes and spread the drop cloths and assemble all the tools you'll need to do the job right. Yagotta prime and tape and caulk if you want the even finish and crisp lines. The actual painting takes but a fraction of all that time and effort. I love painting walls and trim. The immediate gratification, watching the new crisp clean color cover the old tired surface and bring it to instant life, is very satisfying to me. Especially when painting with a cool color like Lime Sherbet Green.

My lovely, creative teenagers were the inspiration behind this color choice. I had been leaning in the orange direction, based on a showroom on the IKEA website. (I heart IKEA, btw. More later.) Then, a week before the walls were ready for paint, we went to dinner at the Spaghetti Factory. And the walls were green. The girls began a vigorous lobbying campaign to use that color in our new laundry room. I guess I'm easily influenced, because I ultimately agreed.

Tom was opposed to using any bright glaring color. He's a restful neutral shades type of guy. But I stood firm. After all, how much time does he spend in the laundry room? He only goes in there occasionally to get clean socks. He doesn't sort, he doesn't wash, he doesn't fold, nor does he sew or craft . If there is any room in the house that I can claim as MINE, the laundry room is it. I wanted a bright, cheerful color, even if it made the room seem smaller.

Now, this is a small room. It is just under 9 feet wide and 15 feet long. The furnace, water heater, and water filter take up half of one wall. So, Tom's concerns about a dominating color making the walls close in were valid. But I figured, hey - if I paint and I hate it, that's only $25 wasted. I'm gonna live on the wild side for once in my life.

And with that unnecessarily long but oh-so-gratifying-to-write introduction... Here we go.

Remember the East wall?


And after: transformed into a craft center. Now, when Megan has a complicated art project going, it doesn't have to be spread across the kitchen table, which causes Megan's mother to gnash her teeth and rant upon the earth when dinner time comes. Now, she can park her cute little bottom on the stylish birch chair from IKEA, and paint her watercolors on the birch-laminate worktop with adjustable legs from IKEA to her heart's content. When she's finished, she can store the paints and paper in the glossy white cabinets, also from IKEA.

But what happened to the ironing board, you ask? Two words: Deseret Industries. And it was succeeded by THIS:

Wall mounted foldaway ironing board with outlet and light on a timer, BABY! The iron stores on the shelf right inside it. How cool is that?

Look, it even has a "sleeve board". I'll bet you and your creased sleeves feel inferior now.

West Wall, before:

And after:

Better, don't you think? All that drab, formerly wasted space above the appliances is covered in shelves (from IKEA) with a bin for every type of thing that comes through the laundry: items to mend, seasonal stuff to store, items to donate, stray socks, towels and aprons waiting to go up to the kitchen, and more. The folding area is now on top of the washer/dryer.

Check out the gnarly galvanized boxes (with lids!) from -- you guessed it -- IKEA. There's nothing in them yet, but I liked them. And thus, I simply had to buy them. I swear, I had no choice! Afterall, it was IKEA! That place is like, dangerous in an addictive sort of way. I counsel you to avoid it at all costs. Unless you want a cool laundry room like me.

To the left of the washing machine is a drawer unit (from you know where) which is the perfect location for my detergent and powdered bleach (remember all those paint cans? They now live behind there).

And here to the right of the dryer is one of my most favorite aspects of the new setup -- a sorting system for the kids' clothes (also from that evil, cash sucking store): One large drawer for each, and their clothes go in as they are folded. When a child wants clothes, he/she comes down, gets the bin full of clean clothes, and then returns it with dirty clothes from his/her room. That's the theory. The "returning with dirty clothes" part needs a little more training before it becomes a consistent reality (hence the empty spot where -ahem!- Karianne's bin should be). But hey - I love not having leaning Towers of Pisa on my folding table. It makes me feel so organized. And superior. Which is the goal of my entire existence, as you well know.

Here's a closeup of my magnetic/hooks board from IKEA, where I store my prewash and other stain removing concoctions (note the wood glue-it's amazing stuff!), as well as dryer sheets, scissors, and pens. And other assorted stuff that is found in pockets, for which I charge exorbitant fees when the former owners come looking for said "stuff". They tend to protest, but I tell them to think of it as a tip for excellent service.

Here is my new sink and cabinet (do I need to keep telling you where it's all from?). Big improvement on the old one, don't you think?

Check out how deep it is. Righteous, dude.

On both sides of the ironing center, there are shelves with clothes rods underneath: one side is for clothes waiting to be ironed, the other for clothes ready to be put away. The sewing cabinet on the left is on the project list to be painted white at some point in the future, or whenever the mood strikes me.

I bet you're wondering what those horizontal wire thingies hanging under the right clothes rod are....

Wallah! Collapsible drying racks! Now my girls' spandex camisoles will not lose their elasticity from being dried in the dryer. No longer will their size three "Barbie" jeans shrink until they are far too tight for this mother's sense of modesty, thus necessitating the expenditure of yet more of their father's hard earned shekels to buy new ones. Hallelujah!

And last, but not least, take note of my painted floor (from Home Depot--the paint, not the floor.) with recycled plastic flakes. Much better than the old stained cement, yes?

And now that you are as green as the walls of my new productivity center, we're done here. That's it, show's over. Move along now, folks. I need to go do some laundry!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Playing with your mother's camera can get you in trouble.

So I was looking for laundry room pics to satisfy your insatiable need to waste time here, when I came across some very funny shots of my oldest. Apparently these are self-portraits, taken with my borrowed camera.

Just in case you're wondering, no, I did not photoshop the eyes on this adorable girl. These are unedited photos of the real thing.

And yes, she gets comments on her unbelievably blue eyes everywhere she goes.

"I'm just ga-ga over this adorable guy in my guitar class!"

"Listerine gives me minty fresh breath!"

"How did I get the rotten luck of having Driver's Ed at 5:30 am?!"

"But at least my driving partner is a dreamboat! I hope he asks me out!"

"Cept that once the week was over, he never spoke to me again! I guess my mad driving skilz didn't impress him after all."

"But guess what! I got asked to prom by two different boys in the same week!"

"What?! Mom found those photos and posted them on her blog?!? "

Thou Shalt Not Covet: Part II

It would seem that a few of you were vexed by the first installment of the laundry room remodel series. Are we a little teensy tinsy bit impatient?

I could jump directly to the after pictures, of course, but that would cheat you out of experiencing the whole process with me. Along with the pain. Yeah, I'm cruel like that. Therefore, let us recommence the journey together.

My handsome, strapping man began the renovation by installing a stud wall on the west wall, behind where the washer and dryer would be.

And here is the finished stud wall, ready for drywall.

But before the walls go on, the ceiling boards must go up.

I rather enjoyed watching Tom install the ceiling drywall panels. Aren't those bulging muscles just scrumptious? Oh baby.

But I digress... Ahem.

Where was I? Oh yes.

One of the fringe benefits of doing home improvement projects is that the project usually requires the purchase of a new power tool. In this case, a Dremel rotary cutter.

Tom's pulse quickened just holding the thing in his hand. It glides through drywall like an overused cliché. Truly, it is a thing of beauty. In a masculine sort of way.

And here we have the glamorous assistant holding the drywall steady while it is measured and cut. Vanna White's job has never been more secure.

Once the walls and ceiling were up, the fun part began: Taping and mudding the joints and screw holes.
The whole family got involved for this step. Nathan and Megan were the ceiling specialists, while Karianne and Susan helped me with the walls. In a blink, the first coat was on.

Thank your lucky stars that I did not document the second and third coats of mudding interspersed with sanding. It created a horrible amount of drywall dust that infiltrated every room in the basement. My dear sweet husband did nearly all of this thankless task, bless his heart. Do not fret, though. He was well rewarded for his diligence.

Then, the walls and ceiling were textured, and they were ready for paint.

To Be Continued....

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Thou Shalt Not Covet: Part 1

Some of you may remember that we started a renovation of the basement utility/laundry/sewing room around Thanksgiving time last year. The project dragged on amidst fits and starts and various delays until, at last, it is finished. Actually it was finished a few weeks ago, but I have procrastinated taking the pictures of it, and how boring would a blog about a remodel be without pics, so... that's why I've taken so long to get this up. Besides the fact that my very important and busy life has interfered, and also the fact that I just forgot because I was enjoying doing laundry in my new room so much. Okay, maybe not.

But all that is past now. And here they are.

Disclaimer: If you are the sort of weak minded person (like me) that covets cool things that other people have, you may not want to read this series of posts, because after seeing the finished product, you're gonna be most unhappy with your own laundry room. And that can get expensive. You have been warned.

First, the before pictures:

This was the east wall, aka "The Ironing Area" before. No sheetrock, wires hanging out all over, paint cans stacked up on the floor, and a pitiful single light bulb on the ceiling. A piece of surplus carpet covered the bare concrete floor.

Here's a shot of the south and west walls. Notice the food storage boxes from the church cannery that support the $30 laminate countertop from Home Depot that served as a nice spacious, but ugly folding table. It was not always as cluttered as it is in this photo, but quite often I only had the use of half of it. Stuff just seems to collect on a horizontal surface of it's own accord. I'm sure that's a Law of Nature. Or something. The light brown sewing cabinet in front of the washer was not normally there either. (I forgot to take the before photos before we started moving stuff around. Silly me.)

The stark concrete wall behind the washer and dryer was completely wasted space, and depressing to look at. The cheapie plastic washtub was stained from 5 years of washing out craft painting brushes, and couldn't be used to soak clothes for fear of ruining them. A makeshift shelf made from a 2x12 board held the detergent, etc.

It was an ugly, unfinished, cluttered room, but I didn't really notice it all that much until I got the new washer and dryer. You know how it goes...

They were so shiny and new and - dare I apply the word to an appliance - BEAUTIFUL, that the rest of the room looked like Armageddon by comparison. And that is how the time and money pit known as remodeling was set in motion.

To Be Continued....

Got Food?

I imagine that everyone has noted the price of food is rising. Some things have gone up sharply in the last year - meat, eggs, milk, cheese, and wheat to name a few.

We buy our bread from the local Macey's grocery store. They have an in-house bakery that produces some decent bread. For the first 5 years we lived here, that wholesome, preservative free wheat bread was 99 cents. Last fall it nudged up to $1.09. Everything goes up in price over time - so it wasn't a big deal at first. Since then I've watched the price go up dramatically, to my chagrin. The latest hike was a shocker though; in two weeks, the price went up from $1.39 to $1.69.

Yeah, I know that's still cheap compared to what some of you may pay, but that's not really the point. My point is the relative increase in price - 69% in the last six months. How much more will it go up? When I came home and mentioned to Tom how much the price had jumped, he asked me, "So how high will the price have to get before you begin baking your own?"

Good question. I haven't figured that out yet.

I participate in a couple of online LDS forums, and there has been a lot of talk about food storage and the price of commodities. They've discussed how wheat is all but impossible to find anymore, even at the church canneries, because people are buying it up in a panic. World wheat stocks are very low right now. If the yield this fall is again reduced by drought, as it was last year in Australia and Russia, the supply could become very tight indeed. Today, one guy reported that in the last six weeks, a 50 lb bag of long grain rice rose from $10.15 to 17.68, with worldwide shortages predicted for the coming year. In my short life, I've never been aware of a worldwide food outlook this grim. Certainly nothing that has affected the good life here in the U.S.

And then I went downstairs to my family "store" and got out some rice and beans that I bought several months ago when they were cheap. I looked round at the buckets and cans of wheat, oatmeal, flour, sugar, oil, etc. that make up our year's supply. And then I said a quick prayer of thanks to the Lord for prophets that have counseled us since before I can remember to lay up extra food for hard times. I watch the news and furrow my brow at the trends, but I am somewhat insulated from the increases in the price of these staples. And that brings a lot of peace.

Now here's where I get preachy: Most everyone will be receiving a tax rebate in May or June. Whatever your plans for that money are, I would encourage you to consider using at least part of it to get your food storage up to date if you haven't already.

Prices are not likely to come down much if at all in the short term, and are likely to continue to go up. Please do whatever you have to do, short of going into debt, to set some food aside. You'll be glad you did.