DIY

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About two weeks ago, I looked into the living room and decided I didn’t like the brick fireplace very much.  My room is starting to come together, first with a light, sky blue paint for the walls, then a salsa red couch, a painting that my maternal grandmother bought years ago and I inherited and re-framed, as well as the rugs and throw pillows.  It’s a north-facing room and I love the way the colors pull the limited outdoor light into the space.

I knew we did not have the time or money to redo the masonry and I’m not a huge fan in most instances of opaque-painted brick (I’ve seen a few examples where it goes right but wasn’t comfortable with the high probability that it would go wrong).  Enter whitewashing: it lightens the brick but leaves the variation and texture intact.  I spent a lot of time browsing DIY and decor blogs and sites, figured out a general plan, and tried to figure out a time to complete the project.

Then, one day, I randomly decided to go ahead and prep the area with tape and tarps.  I’d planned to just do a test strip, but about two hours later, sent Arthur a text message with this picture:

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I may have gotten a wee bit carried away.

So that evening, I finished the brick and painted the first coats on the mantel.  By the end, what had originally looked like this:

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Instead looked like this:

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I’m still figuring out how to arrange everything on the mantel and such, but it really does brighten the room considerably.

It’s weirdly therapeutic to create a space for myself after so many years living in apartments and rentals.  It’s also a huge change to start and finish a project where I have a fair amount of control over the outcome.  I hadn’t realized how much the randomness of infertility treatments and the NICU (and the corresponding lack of control) had messed with my mind over the years.

Taking joy in creation is a wonderful new feeling.

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  To read more or participate yourself, head over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.

 

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Home Improvement

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Well, I certainly didn’t plan to abruptly disappear into cyberspace, but holy heck, that’s what happened.  The short version: we closed on the house and commenced on a huge round of cleaning, painting, flooring, packing, and moving starting in early January.  Having never owned property before, I did not realize that all of this is really a much bigger undertaking that I had thought.

In two months, we have:

  • Replaced almost all of the upstairs flooring (it was ancient carpet, the previous owners had two large dogs and two cats, and we have allergies) and had professionals put in nice, water-resistant laminate
  • Painted three of the bedrooms ourselves to a nice, neutral warm cream color
  • Repainted a bunch of trim/doors in the upstairs ourselves
  • Had the kitchen and living room professionally painted as there were a lot of nooks and crannies that were going to be tough to do well ourselves (both were gray to begin with, which I know is really trendy right now, but it felt depressing to me – so now the kitchen is a very pale creamy yellow and the living room is a light sky blue)
  • Bought area rugs for bedrooms and the living room
  • New sofa and benches for the living room.
  • Installed various curtain rods
  • Packed up our old place
  • Hired and supervised movers for all the heavy furniture (we considered having friends/family help us, but we have a sleeper sofa that is horribly heavy plus a washer and dryer, and decided the risk of one of us throwing out a back was too high)
  • Replaced the dining area chandelier
  • Unpacked most of the bedrooms
  • Bought a guest bed

I love all of it, though!  It’s the first place we’ve lived that actually has felt like mine/ours.  There are a few less “fun” things to get done, such as hiring a handyman to get a little bit of the wooden siding on the front repaired now that the weather allows for it, but we’re making headway on that as well.

These days, we’re in the tough sort of “in-between” phase where we’re living in the new house but still cleaning out bits and pieces from our old apartment (our lease is up at the end of March).  We’re also unpacking and having a lot of those “wait, where is (fill in the blank)?!” moments.

Other than the moving/house, I’ve been reading Sheryl Sandburg’s Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.  I have mixed feelings about it.  On the one hand, she has some really good advice about coping with life’s truly horrible moments and shares a lot of her personal story that I found moving and relatable.  On the other hand, it’s also very rah-rah, you can move through this, and kid/parenting heavy.  I found a lot of the advice about coping with an unexpected death like my brother’s good, but I know if I’d read this during my fertility struggles or when I was in the hospital expecting to lose my older daughter any day, I would have found a lot of it really frustrating.  I guess like most advice books, I’m taking what applies to me and leaving the rest.

I’m also finishing up Eve Schaub’s book Year of No Clutter and thoroughly enjoying it so far (though, be warned, near the end there is a chapter on sorting out her daughters’ baby things).  Schaub writes about her “Hell Room” – the largest room in her house that is so cluttered and full of stuff that she can barely get into it and so just closes the door.  As someone who firmly falls on the ‘packrat’ side of the clutter/decluttering continuum, even though I have not reached the point Schaub has, I still can relate to quite a few of the feelings Schaub discusses about dealing with “stuff”.  Schaub’s story about keeping a mummified dead mouse (!) because she wrote about it and now feels attached to it, however, was definitely not one of those moments (I hate, loathe, despise, and otherwise cannot stand dead critters in my living space).  When she talked about craft projects that she saves and never gets to but can’t bear to throw out however…well, my mind went guiltily to my fabric drawer, stuffed with un-finished sewing projects.  Given that we’re in the stage of trying to figure out what to keep and what to toss, though, reading the book has been a bit of a companion in the stress of trying to deal with the “but I might NEED IT SOMEDAY!” moments.

This post is part of Microblog Mondays – if you want to read more posts from other bloggers, head on over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.

Alternate Routes

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When I started looking at nursing schools, I made a plan that looked something like this: get my associate’s degree in nursing (ASN) at the community college where tuition was affordable, practice for a few years, then go back for my master’s in nursing (MSN) after we’d had a couple of kids.  I knew that bachelor’s in nursing (BSN) was becoming more and more necessary for hospital, management, or critical care jobs, but I already had a bachelor’s degree in English and didn’t see much value in getting a second one.  I looked into MSN programs that would allow me to skip that step, found them reasonable, got my ASN, and started on having those couple of kids.

Ha.

In any case, after IVF bills, NICU, and knowing that we still have FET bills and a bit more time in TTC world, I am nowhere near ready financially or ability-wise to commit the time/effort to go after a master’s degree.  I’m not even quite certain what direction I’d want to go in for that master’s degree any more.  None of this mattered so much for a bit.  I was completely embroiled in doctor and therapy appointments, trying to get E to eat, and dealing with life as well as learning a new department at work.  I had a job, that was what mattered.

Into all of this entered a co-worker a couple of months ago who mentioned that one of the other local health systems was now pushing for all of their RNs to have BSNs.  While it didn’t threaten my position, I did sit up and take notice.  It marked the first time needing a BSN (or higher) had come up this close to home.  I saw the writing on the wall: it was time to talk about next steps.

At first, I re-researched the MSN programs.  Maybe I could fit it in somehow.  The research, however, more or less confirmed that an MSN was simply not in the cards right now, or really, for at least the next five years.  I took a deep breath, looked into BSN programs, and found an online one through my state system.  The price was reasonable.  Most of my credits transferred.  The coursework looked manageable with all of my other responsibilities.

I applied, got accepted, and plan to start in July.

It means I can wait until I know what I want to do for that master’s degree.  It means I don’t need to worry so much about jobs.  It means I can wait ten years or never go back to school if that’s what I want.

It’s not the route I envisioned originally.  As far as alternates go though, I’m pretty excited about this one.

This post is part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want to read more or get in on the fun, please head over to Stirrup Queens.  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting!

A Wonderfully Geeky Valentine’s Day

I like both posts I messed around with today.  So I’m keeping them both, and double posting 🙂 – sorry for any confusion. 

Arthur and I have been trying to learn our new city. From the best routes to go from point A to point B to where to get groceries to finding a favorite latte, we’ve gradually begun to find the places that make it home.

On the list was a sweet shop several people had recommended to us but we hadn’t had a chance to try. For a Valentine’s Day treat, we decided to go and check it out.

The specialty of the shop? “Geek” sweets. They make all kinds of superhero, Star Wars, and Harry Potter confections, including chocolate frogs (that alas, don’t seem to jump), a truffle Darth Vader, and “zombie brains” (a green-tinted white chocolate shell with cherry cobbler filling). They also have a rotating menu of deserts they prepare in house and that can be enjoyed with drinks such as butterbeer or pumpkin juice.

This, of course, was right up our alley. I am a huge Harry Potter fan, and am fluent in Star Wars. We came home with the aforementioned zombie brains, a TARDIS, and two versions of the Millenium Falcon (smuggling peanuts with maple cream in one, nutella and bacon in the other). Quite a fun Valentine’s Day outing, and we look forward to one of these days going for one of their in-house deserts.

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No Lord of the Rings sweets, though. Perhaps one of these days they’ll make lembas. Hey, a geek can dream!

Not Just Another Page In History

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As I was sorting through my bookshelves recently, I was working on winnowing my “Tudors and other assorted European royalty” shelf. Mostly comprised of Tudor history, I have books on Elizabeth I, Jane Grey, and of course, Henry VIII and his six wives among others by authors such as British historian Alison Weir, Antonia Fraser, and Eric Ives. One book made me pause as I picked it up.

Titled The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, author Alison Weir recounts the trial and execution of Henry VIII’s second queen. It’s a very interesting read if you’re in to Tudor history. Weir examines the great lengths Henry VIII went to, trying to put an official, righteous gloss on the entire sordid affair to appear justified in ridding himself of this wife and marriage. It didn’t work, needless to say. History does not look kindly on Henry VIII’s execution of Anne. Anne’s story is especially poignant and ironic given that her daughter Elizabeth became one of the greatest queens in British history, truly the legacy Henry VIII went to such terrible lengths to ensure.

I was reading it a little over a year ago during my second fresh IVF cycle and stopped in the midst of a passage talking about the fear and anxiety Anne endured as she waited for her fate. I had a visceral moment of identification with this woman who had miscarried and in the end, most likely died because of her inability to produce the desired child. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at Anne’s story and eventual execution quite in the same way again, from a comfortable distance of centuries and a complicated legacy (some of the best contemporary sources on Anne Boleyn are the letters of the ambassador to Charles V, a man deeply partial to Katherine of Aragon and extremely hostile to Anne, which makes it difficult to suss out the true dimensions of Anne’s personality).

It was a sobering reminder of the very real ways infertility and pregnancy loss have affected families and people’s lives throughout history.  I put the book back on the shelf, but I don’t know that I’m going to read it again.

This post is part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want to read more posts or join in, please go visit Stirrup Queens.  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting!

Have been messing around with this post, but I think I’m sticking with the original – sorry for any confusion.

 

Cleaning House

When I was in college the first time around, I finally managed to break my 16 year habit of biting my fingernails. I was maid of honor in a good friend’s wedding and decided that while no one was going to be focusing on my nails, we were all getting manicures so I wanted nails I could be proud of instead of hiding in my bouquet. It took probably a total of six months to kick the acute part of the habit and another two years to stop reverting when I got stressed out. I’m pleased to say that other than a couple of isolated incidents during IVF cycles, I haven’t bitten my nails since.

I also managed to kick a lifetime of being supremely un-athletic when I was 24 (other than a year in high school where I ran, which ended when I got bitten by a dog out on my daily run). People told me it would take 21 days to establish an exercise habit, to which I say “HA!” It took me probably around 6 months before I started feeling “good” after going to the gym. Then it was another two or three years before I started enjoying running while I was doing it (most of the time), not just the endorphins afterwards. I still have zero athletic talent and I’m slow, but I’m proud of the fact that I made it off 18 weeks of various forms of bed rest and still retained a strong enough habit to currently get myself out and moving 3-4x a week.

This brings me to the next challenge I’ve tried to tackle on and off for years. I like being organized. I like having a beautiful, clean home. I suck at the implementation. I aspire to be one of those people who loves organizing their cabinets, making sure everything fits just so. I would love to find cleaning stress-relieving. But I don’t. I know how to clean and organize effectively and lots of techniques for doing so, I just hate doing it.

I’m pretty sure keeping up the house would have been a chore, but do-able if we had started from a “zero point” (house mostly organized/clean, just have to maintain it) after E was born. Of course, we were not starting from a zero point, having moved while I was in the hospital. When I came home, I had a bed to sleep on, a couch I could get to with a bit of effort, a suitcase with a few clothes, and thankfully, my MIL and SILs had unpacked most of the kitchen so I could make myself a cup of tea or coffee. I was (and am) supremely grateful we had that much done with help. It was enough to get us through those first several weeks.

Bit by bit, we got items unpacked as we needed them but it was slow going. With me working weekends and Arthur working weekdays, it was difficult to find times where one of us wasn’t completely exhausted or where we could summon up enough motivation to spend the precious little time we got together to deal with extra organizing on top of everyday chores such as keeping the bathrooms cleaned, the kitchen disinfected, or the laundry folded.

A couple of months ago, Arthur asked me why I was living out of a laundry basket of clean, folded clothes, instead of, you know, putting it away. I finally had to make an embarrassing confession: “Because it doesn’t fit in the dressers or the closet.” With my body changing so much during infertility treatments and pregnancies/losses/c-section, I’d acquired clothing that fit at the time as well as pieces I liked. The combination was flowing out of every bit of space we had, much of it in piles on top of the dresser or stuffed in the closet. It wasn’t just me or my clothes, either. It was Arthur’s desk. The dining room still with boxes. The den, which had become the place we put everything that didn’t go anywhere else.

Clearly, we needed help.

My aunt, who had seen our place, offered us a unique Christmas present: a personal organizer to get the place feeling a bit more like home. I didn’t know people who did this for a living even existed, but she found us some numbers, I called, and the organizer came a couple of weeks ago.

It’s a humbling moment to show someone your mess and admit just how out of control the stuff had gotten. Of course, we had done none of the normal minimizing before we moved. We’d spent nearly ten years in our former home, and all of our furniture had been bought with that space in mind, so it didn’t quite fit in the new space.

The organizer started by having us clean up the bookshelves. Then Arthur and I got the bit between our teeth, energized by having accomplished a small task, and tackled the bedroom ourselves. I went through my clothing mercilessly, getting rid of everything that didn’t quite fit, that I liked the “idea” of but that never truly looked right on me, and anything I didn’t wear. I listed what was saleable on an auction site, threw out some things, and sent the rest to a thrift shop. Arthur did the same. Between us, we sent seven large reusable bags to the thrift shop and I’m pretty sure I wound up cleaning out about half of what I owned. We rearranged the furniture. By the end of the day, all of our clothing fitted in the allotted space, laundry actually got put away, and we had the bedroom arranged to maximize the space.

Yesterday, the organizer came and we went through part of the den, dealt with most of the living room, and started a small bit of the dining room. It was very helpful to have someone working alongside us, keeping us on task. I know I would have stalled out in the living room especially – I hate dealing with papers, and the living room had become a morass of medical paperwork over the last several months. The organizer helped us get it under control. We threw out so much stuff from old papers to ancient magazines and sent another three bags/boxes to the thrift shop.

Arthur and I now have a few more small things to work on, and then the organizer will come back to help us continue with the big projects. While I don’t know that I’m ever going to reach my goal of being constantly neat, I think a house that’s well organized with a place for everything and properly minimized will help immensely.

And hey, it took me over 2 years to enjoy running…maybe in a couple of years, this will become better as well.

Running

When I first started in nursing, I worked a twelve hour shift.  People would comment on how wonderful it must be to only work three days a week, but what few realized was that I usually had to spend a day recuperating because bedside nursing is physical work (and it’s rarely just three days because of often mandatory call time in addition to scheduled time). For the last couple of years, I transitioned to working an eight hour shift. While such a schedule had its drawbacks, I liked it.

Then E was born, and because she was so premature, we couldn’t send her to daycare with the germs and exposure. Fortunately, my field has a wide range of hours and non-traditional work schedules, so finding a job where Arthur and I could essentially trade off childcare was possible. This is an enormous bit of privilege, and we were grateful. However, it meant going back to the twelve hour shifts.

I spent from November 6 of 2014 to March 15 of 2015 on various forms of bed rest, ranging from a less restricted type where I could sit up in a chair to the final 7.5 weeks, which I spent in a modified Trendelenburg position in an attempt to keep E’s weight off my cervix and retain as much fluid as possible. Let’s just say that I was severely deconditioned. For several weeks after I was discharged, I found the walk from the parking lot to E’s hospital room – a distance I normally wouldn’t have thought twice about – a challenge.

Given all of the above, I probably shouldn’t have been so surprised when my first twelve hour day back (in late May) left me at about hour six wanting to lay down in the middle of the hallway and never get up again. I leaned on stuff. I sat whenever it was possible. I worked to keep up with my preceptor, trying not to obviously breathe hard as I hurried after her.

At the end of the day, I told Arthur “I need to start running again. I have to get back in shape or I’m not going to be able to handle work.”

It took another month to work out a schedule where I had a consistent spot four days a week for exercise. Then came the real fun: actually doing it (as opposed to merely aspiring to it).

I like running, despite the fact that I run in defiance of my body, certainly not because of it. I credit the combination of physical exertion and uninterrupted thinking time with keeping me sane on more than a few occasions. It’s how I work through problems and emotions.

But of course, I was used to being fit enough to go three to five miles a day without really thinking about it, which was why I could then use it to focus my mind. I had forgotten over the last five or six years just how much it sucked when I first started.

So my first day, I pulled out the running shoes I’d bought during the two-week-wait from the cycle that gave us E and hadn’t worn yet. I managed to fit myself back into my loosest athletic clothing, dug out my mp3 player, and walked out the door. I worked on power walking a little more quickly, moving towards an actual run.

I ran an entire 1/8th of a mile before I was bright red and completely out of breath. I kept at the running, and while the distance ticked up, it certainly wasn’t comparable to what I’d been doing before.

I was relating this to one of my doctors the other day when asked about exercise habits, and when I mentioned my latest running distance (around one mile), I gave a sarcastic “yay” and rolled my eyes. I still couldn’t believe how slowly this was progressing. Three to five miles was what I considered normal for myself.

She looked at me, and then calmly said “That ‘yay’ should be a real one. That’s actually a lot of work and plenty of people never get back to that at all.”

Remarkably few people have ever called me out on my perfectionism so effectively. I thought about this for awhile after I left the appointment.

Work was physically more do-able. I no longer was barely able to stay on my feet for the whole twelve hours. I felt better. My mind felt lighter after each run.

So, why the heck was I ragging on myself about the distance? Wasn’t I accomplishing most of what I wanted out of the exercise?

The next morning I went out for my run. I didn’t get faster or run dramatically further. I got a few steps beyond where I had the morning before. But I saw a great blue heron in the river and smiled at a few excited dogs out with their owners for a walk and waved at the couple I pass every morning. It was actually pretty nice.

It wasn’t as far as I wanted, but it was a great improvement from where I’d started. Instead of feeling frustrated or disheartened about the distance, I stayed present for a few minutes and recognized that it was just fine that I wasn’t running two or three or one and a half miles that day. Sure, there was more work ahead to continue progressing, but it didn’t negate all the hard work I’d done.

It was okay to let go of the old normal.