Friday, April 30

Screen door Conundrum

Screendoor conundrum
Originally uploaded by wittyandsmart
I installed a new screen door last fall, but did not put the handles on until this spring when I realized that the door is about 3/8" too wide for the door to actually latch. My initial plan was to go find a piece of wood 1/4" thick, take the doorframe off, put the piece of wood on and then put the doorframe back on. This would make the seal more airtight and allow the door to latch. Home Depot did not have any pieces of wood that are 1/4" x 1" including trim and I should probably get either pressure treated wood or cedar because it will be outside (sort of). Then I thought I could find a piece of rubber that was 1/4" x 1" because that would be waterproof and allow some flexibility, but as of yet I've had no luck finding it. Any ideas on where I can find really small pieces of wood or rubber? Or a better idea on how to fix this? Also, there are more pictures if you click on the image. Any tips or tricks would be greatly appreciated.

Thursday, April 15

I Decided to Call it "Diet Cancer"

Let me start out with the fact that I'm going to be just fine. Promise. The cancer they found is so small it can't be found on a CT or Pet Scan - just a few cancerous cells discovered during a biopsy for a totally unrelated health concern. Three to four weeks of radiation and it should all be gone. I won't lose my hair, I don't have to think about freezing eggs if I plan to give birth one day and I can still work. The only side effects will probably be some nausea toward the end, I might be a bit more tired and I'll have a small tattoo where X marks the spot.

With that out of the way I will start from the beginning. It was a fluke they even found it. I had been getting food stuck in my throat for a few years and it was getting worse so my doctor recommended going in for an endoscopy. When they were checking that out they grabbed some cells and sent them to the lab (I'm guessing the idea is that they were already there and I was already drugged). The initial problem was solved by stretching my esophagus (and did it ever! All better!), but when the biopsy results came back they had found MALT lymphoma. For most people it is caused by helicobacter pylori bacteria and quickly cleared up using antibiotics within a couple of weeks. But since the h. pylori bacteria was not in the biopsy cells they wanted to do another blood test to make sure that was the cause.

Four days later I hadn't heard anything from either doctor, so I called the gastroenterologist's office and was told that he was on vacation and his admin had no idea why I hadn't called my GP's office (apparently I was the stupidest patient ever). Frustrated I called my GP's office and her admin also had no idea what was going on and was equally annoyed. Her repeated interruptions of me trying to read the letter the gastroenterologist had sent me knocked me right over the edge. I told her she needed to shut up and listen to me. I also told her that when a dr. gives a diagnosis that involves the term "lymphoma" I expect someone at either office to know exactly what is going on. She was much nicer after that and told me I would soon hear from a nurse that would be better equipped to give me answers. Thankfully the nurse was much nicer and he arranged the blood test the next day.

No h. pylori bacteria in my system scared the living crap out of me. Not my favorite place. It's dark and paralyzed with fear and makes you cry every morning when you drive into work or talk to a medical professional. I had no idea what would make me burst into tears, I just hoped I could find someplace to be by myself when it happened. I could not find anywhere on the INTERNET that talked about MALT Lymphoma that didn't associate it to h. pylori. All the things I didn't know and couldn't find out made me into a crazy person.

Meeting with the oncologist alleviated a lot of my fears. He reassured me that even if it had spread beyond my stomach it was a very treatable cancer. I would live. Very reassuring. He did recommend a crapload of tests to see if it had spread. In addition to the 6 vials of blood he took (and then I went to a happy hour and drank 2 beers - woo hoo!) that day, I was scheduled for a CT/PET scan and a bone marrow biopsy (there is also a creepy youtube video of the bone marrow biopsy). I have learned valuable lessons from both tests: for the next CT scan I am only allowed to sing 99 bottles of beer on the wall instead of imagining how much cancer the technician is seeing and I will totally get the pre-drugs if I ever have to get another bone marrow biopsy. The results of all the tests was that I am cancer free except for those few cells in my stomach. I will need radiation to get rid of it, but after that I should be fine. I scheduled an impromptu happy hour with all the people who knew about it and I attempted to drink away all the anxiety I had experienced over the last month.

Some of you might be wondering "what the crap?!? I just saw you and you didn't say anything about this." I tried not to tell anyone because I thought until I knew what was going on I would just be this hysterical person without answers. It turns out when I would have a bad day I needed to talk about and get reassurance so I would tell whomever I ran into or happened to call my house. There were days I didn't want or need to talk about it at all. And even though talking really helped, it is emotionally exhausting to tell someone for the first time. Which is why I posted it on the INTERNET. It's easier for me. I'm hoping it's hard to hold a grudge against someone with cancer. The people I did tell were amazing and supportive. They went to tests with me and reassured me that it would be ok and told jokes when I needed to laugh. Accepting this help took some getting used to. I am still working on my ability to say "thank you that would be lovely" rather than "I can do it alone." I didn't realize how bad I am at taking care of myself emotionally until all this happened. I'm working on it.

In addition my inappropriate sense of humor is in full force. I have decided to use cancer to my advantage mostly because it's not hanging around for very long. I may cut in line, eat the last bite of dessert and drink all your liquor. It's really hard to hold it against someone when they have cancer, right? When you shake your fist in the air I will assume it's because you think cancer is an asshole and not because I am :)

Saturday, January 30

Flip Video + iMovie + cute dog = fun

Dog Detective
Originally uploaded by wittyandsmart
We do presentations for our work holiday party every year and this year I did one of the dog. Our t.v. at work was stolen earlier this year so that is the case I'm referencing in the video. Susan gave me this great flip video camera I hadn't had too much opportunity to play with yet so this was a nice excuse to play with the video camera. I might be late to the flip party, but I'm already a big fan. Also I've never created an entire movie in iMovie, so that was a good experience as well. I was telling my colleagues that I might become one of those people that records strangers then invites friends over to watch home movies. I'm guessing after awhile they will be busy whenever I call.

Monday, November 23

Home Surprise!

I love being a homeowner. It is seriously kick ass to sit around my house and think that I can do laundry whenever I want, clean the house whenever I want and when I invest money in the house there is a good chance I will get it back in the long run (ok, not until the housing market picks up - but someday!) The only problem is, I'm not as fearless with my own house. I want it to look perfect! I avoid projects because the ability to achieve perfection is difficult (ok, impossible) and I don't want my house to look stupid. However, I have been trying to get over myself. I am making myself do projects around the house even when I may have no idea how to start. I do give myself some leeway. I can read up on a project on the INTERNET. I can check out a book from the library. I can start random conversations with other customers at hardware stores or find another salesperson at Home Depot when the one I'm asking questions of looks at me like I'm an idiot. I can ask a lot of really stupid questions without prefacing it with "this might be a stupid question but..."

This has allowed me to finish painting the garage (without too many threatening letters from the city and the lovely help of my awesome friends). To put in a new screendoor (yes, I still need to add the handle, but I either need to rent a drill, borrow a drill or find a 9/16 bit that will fit my current drill). To install a new toilet.

Each of these projects has come with its own surprise. The garage siding was also the garage wall and you can't just replace a splintered board because they haven't made that tongue and groove siding for years so you copy the previous owner who affixed a piece of aluminum siding over the old board and then paint over it. Not perfect, but good enough. Since I used a heat gun to get off the paint the garage looks lovely. Should it start to look like crap in the next few years I will put up non paintable siding over the top of the old stuff because using a heat gun to scrape the garage again will kill me dead.

The back screen door installation pointed out that the edging around the door might just be plastic or lightweight aluminum but it looks just fine from far away, so I'm not worrying about it. It also made me realize that I am reluctant to ask others for help and thankful for my neighbor across the alley who offered it anyway. Amazing how quickly a door goes on the hinges when there are two people hoisting it up there.

The toilet was another interesting project. I've hated the old toilet since I moved in and was super excited to put the new one in. Of course this couldn't just be simple. I had to discover the old toilet was bolted to the wall and that behind the toilet was exposed lathe - no plaster or tile there. Just lathe. Also, the screws were attached to the floor, so I had to saw off the secondary screws just to put the new toilet on. Add to that what looks like a ceramic soil pipe that is starting to crumble and my future bathroom renovation just increased in price. Awesome. Since I do plan to renovate the bathroom in the next year or two, I'm putting bead board over the hole and adding shims where needed to make sure it's balanced and running well. And so far nothing has exploded or leaked.

I think the most important part I've learned by jumping in and trying to do home repair is that I try my best to do it right, but still enjoy the final product even if it's not perfect. I also realize that the longer the project, I start to re-evaluate just how perfect it needs to be and finally settle for "good enough." I don't want to be paralyzed by perfection. I want to be creative and inquisitive and learn how to do it myself.

Sunday, August 30

That one time when I lit my best friend's brand new house on fire

I was very excited to visit Beth a couple of weeks ago in Colorado and see her brand new house. It's a great house in an up and coming neighborhood that is both safe and offers delicious breakfast burritos for $4 and interesting carts full of mango covered with chili (I will definitely be sampling this when I am there for her wedding). The house looks great - the last owner improved it greatly before selling it. Unfortunately one thing he didn't improve was the circuit breaker box. The inspector had told them they would want to replace the circuit breaker box because the company that made it went out of business due to all the lawsuits when the circuit didn't break when it's supposed to. They had planned to replace it as soon as they got the tax rebate, but that changed after the house fire.

Imagine Saturday morning at 4:30 am. Lily wakes up and barfs on the rug (I do like to leave a path of destruction) and wakes me up. Once I'm awake I have to go to the bathroom, so stumble into the bathroom and turn the light on. The light turns on, but there is also this scary buzzing noise. So I turned the light off. Except the buzzing noise didn't stop and then there is a popping noise and then a small fireball comes out of the outlet. This is the outlet next to the medicine chest containing flammable liquids. Also fire! If that doesn't wake you up at 4:30 in the morning, I don't know what will.

The thing is, you also act on instinct at 4:30 in the morning so I just tried to blow the fire out and in two big puffs I had it extinguished. My first thought was that my asthma had improved. My second is that adrenaline might make one huff and puff a lot more than I typically would have.

I yelled for Beth and she and Kris came running to see the fire and make sure the circuits were off, though we were all still slightly convinced that we might burn alive so there wasn't much sleeping the rest of the morning. Thankfully Kris' cousin is an electrician and came over the make sure we wouldn't burn alive before the circuit box was fixed. The box has now been fixed and the wiring checked to make sure it wouldn't start a fire. I was going to jokingly get them a fire extinguisher for their wedding present, but Kris beat me too it. Now I don't get to write "some fires should be squelched" in their card. Dammit.

As I was leaving I told them I was sorry I had started their house on fire, but they just responded that they were glad I'd put it out so quickly. But hopefully I won't have to do it again. Ever.

Tuesday, July 14

Good Intentions

So that wall I was totally going to get painted on the 4th of July weekend? Yeah, that didn't happen and still hasn't. First, it rained on Saturday that weekend. I halfheartedly shook my fist at the rain and then happily went and ran errands. I was going to paint last weekend and then replacing boards (or at least attempting it) involved caulk which needs to dry and then I spent Sunday morning sewing items for a baby shower that afternoon. So I didn't get it done last weekend either.

I think I'm sick of the garage. It's the never ending project I have spent too much money buying tools for. I did replace all the wood I could - though I did discover that I have tongue and groove siding that is also the wall. Removing any of the siding shows daylight when the garage door is open. I still need to spray the wasp nests under the eaves so I can scrape the paint near that area. I also need to figure out how to make the ladder even taller so I can actually reach the top boards. Heavens it will be nice to finish this project.

Tuesday, June 30

All I Want for my Birthday is a Painted Garage

It turns out I suck at this scraping the garage business. I rocked the main part of the garage, but the high places using a ladder are slowly killing me. I can really only get an hour and a half in before my knees and back are voicing their displeasure. The biggest issue is that the city of Minneapolis would like me to finish this painting business soon or I'm going to get fined...again. I had called the inspector after the first letter and he said that if I had made an effort I wouldn't be fined, but apparently he thought my effort was lacking because I received another letter last Friday saying I was going to be fined $100. I did call and leave him a message and if I don't hear by this Thursday I'll start stalking, er calling every department I can find until the fine is either reduced or removed. I started the project the last month of summer last year thinking it wouldn't take that long, but I really want to get either all the paint off or really smooth it down so I don't have to paint again for a very long time. I spent the month scraping and by the time the snow was flying, this is what my garage looked like:

I've spent the month of June using a heat gun (let me tell you how wonderfully satisfying it is to use a heat gun and peal the paint off. I've written very bad poetry about the heat gun that I only share with others when I can't keep it to myself because I'm in the throes of removing paint, or I've had too much to drink) and now one wall of the garage looks like this:

I have been happily listening to podcasts, playlists and books and working my way slowly through this paint removal business. I'm hoping at the end of the 4th of July holiday I will at least have this wall sanded and primed. Because seriously, it shouldn't take that long, right?

So I was complaining about this with some friends and they said they would totally help. It is really hard for me to ask for help but I thought I might be able to organize it around a my birthday at the end of this month. If people came and went all day and helped, then I have a snowballs chance in hell of not getting another letter from the city. Maybe two people at a time can be on ladders and then be spelled by other people so nobody's back hurts. I borrowed a heat gun and have one of my own and I'm guessing I probably don't want to add another one because it might blow a fuse. I have a couple paint scrapers, a couple putty knives (which I actually prefer with the heat gun), an electric sander, one ladder and a paint sprayer. Then that evening I would have a big potluck bbq - anyone who didn't want to work on the garage could bring a dish to share and I will grill loads of food for people. My mom will bring ice cream cake for everyone.

So it may not be as fun as the chef's table at Cafe Levain last year, but I just don't know how long it's going to take me. Plus, I do have fabulously helpful friends. Maybe one of you will have a really useful tip that takes 4.2 seconds and will remain beautiful for years without additional peeling paint. So far my mom has been helping me work on it, but I'm hoping that on August 1st, there will be plenty of friends who want to hang out and peel some paint off the garage. The end.