The Bathroom Renovation

Our house is old. When Rob’s mom bought it, she was told it was built in the 1940s.  Come to find out that it was actually built sometime in the 1930s, and there are no blueprints available because there was a flood at some point in the city’s history, and they were lost in that.  But neighbors across the street built their house and said ours was built after theirs.

All of this is stuff I’ve been told, since I wasn’t any part of choosing or buying the house, since it happened about ten years before I moved here.

And there are so many other stories about this house.  Some pertaining to changes and fixes since it was bought, some about before.  Like the bathroom.

When Rob likes to tell the story, he figures a previous owner had a set of the Time Life home improvement books. And used them.  Example–the wiring for the upstairs floor has two breaker switches.  Common sense says that one would be for two rooms and one would be for the other room and the bathroom.  Yeah, no.  Far as we’ve been able to figure, everything is on one, except for one outlet in my writing room.  Though it somehow seems like that got screwy and now it’s one plug in the one outlet, but that one plug no longer works.  We know this because of having air conditioners, tvs, computers, and other stuff all running in three different rooms in the summer.

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I’m not great at the panoramic photo thing. The sink really wasn’t that wonky shaped.

So, the bathroom.  It was brown.  Like dark beige brown.  The tile, the tub, the insert, the toilet, the walls above the tile.  I think the floor tile and the vanity were the only things that weren’t.  It was like being inside a sand dune.  And the tub–it was all kinds of screwy.  The drain’s on the righthand side.  The faucet and knob were on the back wall.  And the showerhead was on the lefthand side. The top of the righthand wall of the bathtub had some weird thing going on with the tile so it wasn’t straight.  The overhead light stopped working, so we stopped using it and started using the sconces over the vanity.  IMG_4140

We knew it was gonna be an expensive job, and that the room needed to be gutted. We had no clue what the plumbing or wiring was gonna be like, or the floor and subfloor.

So we got a contractor, got all the stuff we needed, and got an expected start date of beginning of January.  Then the contractor had space open and started work at the beginning of December.  We only had to go out and buy the tub, the vanity and sink, and toilet.  And a few other bits and pieces as they came up.

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Already an improvement.

The bathroom was gutted.  Under the tile, there was a layer of plywood.  Under the plywood was hardwood, but it was in crap condition and also got pulled up.  The subfloor was in pretty good condition.  The plumbing had to be redone–all cast iron.  The electrician found an outlet beside the window.  We never knew it was there because it was covered over by tile, and probably also the wall put up over the plaster wall.

So we got all new insulation, new wiring–the overhead light had stopped working because the wires had broken and frayed, and the box had a bit of corrosion on it–new plywood over the subfloor, PVC pipes, new walls, everything.  The shower plumbing was all moved to one side, and we paid a little extra to get tile instead of another insert.  We’d wanted to do an inset shelf in the shower wall, but depth of the wall or something kept that from being a viable option, so instead we got a couple of shelves in the back corner.  I think it looks better than the original idea would have.

Some stuff didn’t come out quite as good as the contractor wanted–the light over the vanity wasn’t perfectly centered, a couple of tiles weren’t quite straight, he couldn’t clean the edges of the window as well as he’d like.  But really, with what we had, those were such minor quibbles.

IMG_4953The bathroom came out great, and I think it was definitely worth the money.  There are still a few things to do–we’re probably gonna get some kinda shelving unit/tower thing for the alcove, and curtains haven’t IMG_4950yet been put up.  The new and shiny hasn’t quite worn off yet, so it still almost feels like a hotel bathroom.

Except for the cat litter.

 

Things done: new plumbing, new electric and lights, one light includes a fan, new insulation, new walls, new plywood, vinyl woodgrain look floor, new tub, new and bigger sink and vanity, bigger mirror, new trim around the doors and window, new baseboards, new paint, new toilet, cabinet over the toilet instead of a medicine cabinet, new towelbars.

More photos are in an album on Flickr.

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New year, new challenges, new attempts

Last year, I wrote just under 81,000 words and spent about 91 hours on research, read throughs, and revision.  I submitted a short story seven times and got rejected seven times.  I put up five blog posts, and read 63 books–20 in audio, 19 electronic, and 11 paper.  And I included shorts and comics/graphic novels in there, too.  Would’ve been 65 books, if I counted the two I just finished, but I read the majority of them this year, not last.

I didn’t exercise anywhere near as regularly as I wanted–mainly because of the foot issue (saw the doctor yesterday, got two shots this time–one for the neuroma, one for a joint because apparently some of the pain is from that), and in December our bathroom got renovated so there was a door being stained in the basement and my treadmill had to be moved for access to the water shutoff thingie, and lots of stuff taking up space in my room.  Plus holiday travel and all that.

So this year.

I’ve already started exercising, and I’m hoping I can keep up the habit until it just happens and I don’t have to think about it.  I’ve already seen an improvement–I bought a new fitbit that’s got a heart rate monitor, and when I would occasionally check it, the number was usually in the 80s, and after one day of exercise it dropped into high 70s, and then into low 70s. Except for yesterday, but I’m pretty sure that was caffeine and doctor visit anxiety.

The writing thing I tried–monetary and other rewards for writing so much and doing so many things–didn’t really work.  Not because I didn’t get the writing done, but because I got really bad about keeping track like I should.  So I had the thought that I should turn it into a game type thing–with experience, leveling up, rewards, and all that.  Except I really had no idea where to start, so I tried searching for something to help.

And I discovered Habitica.  It’s available on the website, and as apps, and it gamifies life.  I put in different things I want to accomplish–divided into to-do, habits, and dailies–and each one I complete gives me experience and in-game money.  The in-game money lets me buy armor and weapons and stuff, and I can also make my own rewards.  I’ve been using it since Sunday, and I keep wanting to find stuff to add to do so that I can check it off and gain experience.  But I’m not, because I’ve got quite a few things on there already that I’ve been needing to do for a while.  Like clean my room. And my desk.  And find a place for all my clothes.

I’ve seen The Force Awakens three times.  Once in the theater Rob and I normally visit, once in a really awesome theater in Texas–assigned reclining seats, giant screen, free popcorn and drink refills, and I find it incredibly amusing it’s in the old K-Mart building–and then IMAX 3D.  Not a fan of the 3D viewing–not so much because I didn’t care for the 3D, it was good although not necessary, but more because the glasses for the IMAX theater sat really uncomfortably over my own glasses.  I don’t have any trouble with the glasses at the usual theater.  But yeah, loved the movie, and of course I want to see it again.  Cause really, I’ve only seen it three times.  I saw The Phantom Menace nine times.  Though that was a little bit easier because it was during college, during summer break, and I didn’t have a job or anything like that to worry about.

I should make that a reward in Habitica–I’ve already made a higher-priced reward for seeing Rogue One.

This year, Rob and I are keeping our convention plans at a minimum.  The bathroom reno and holidays and trip to Texas all happened close together, so we’re playing a bit of catch-up, plus Rob’s got a lot of issues that’ve cropped up with his car registration being due. And saving up to go to Helsinki for WorldCon in 2017.  So this year we’re going to Boskone because we really like that one, we’re thinking about ReaderCon, and our big trip is supposed to be the Writing Excuses cruise.  I’m not a big fan of ships–no matter how big–or the Caribbean, but a weeklong writing workshop is something that I think will really help.

And going back to writing, I’m working on revisions for my urban fantasy novel and handing it off to Rob to read through to get his take before doing another revision pass and sending to other beta readers (once I find some), and I’m about halfway through my read through, and I don’t think it’s quite as bad as I feared it would be.  Once I’ve done that, and while I’m waiting on Rob, I’m going to start a space opera.  And I’m trying something different this time.  Writing Excuses season 10 was done as a year-long writing class, and I’ve gone back to the first episode of that and am trying to work through the space opera with the lessons and exercises there.  This is the best piece to try with because it’s a story I really want to do, but I’ve also done very little to flesh it out, aside from a couple random snippets of character and scene.

So let’s see…that means for this year I’m going to attempt to exercise regularly, revise a novel draft, start/write a new novel rough draft, go on a cruise, and try to see The Force Awakens about seven times more.

It could happen.

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Draft done!

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I wrote this!

At just over 80,000 words, my novel draft is done.  And almost a full month before the deadline I gave myself and told Rob.  I told him I’d be seeing Star Wars, and I was so certain, I bought the tickets when they went on sale.  I did expect to finish sooner–around Halloween–but we went to the zoo, then the weekend after we went to a convention, and this past weekend we went to a corn maze.

As much as I don’t like the idea of not doing something I so very, very, very much want to do, making that my reward/deadline, and telling Rob, does help a lot.  Plus it helped that a lot of what I was working on was mostly rewriting scenes.  The framework was already there, I just had to add to it.

But now I’m not sure what I should do.  The smart thing would be to move on to something else and let the story sit a bit before diving into the next draft/revisions, but I’m still very much attached to the characters and want to make the story better, especially cause I already know a few places that need improvement, even though some are pretty minor.

I could also start on the next story.  I kinda already have, since the first ending got reworked and a large part set aside to begin the second, but I also need to work out an outline/plot since I never got quite that far when I started. Though I’ll need to go through the old files and figure out what’s good enough to keep–if anything–and what to get rid of.  And there are two different drafts, too.

I think it’d probably be easier to just start in on revisions than to work on the next one.

There are lots of short story ideas I could work on, but none of them have really grabbed me yet, which is the main reason I stopped working on them and focused on the novel draft.  There’s also the beginnings of a space opera, though it’s extremely early in planning–I’m trying a different path with this one, and it’s in the worldbuilding phase.

So, since I’m not sure what I want to work on, I printed almost everything I might want–printer kept acting up, and it’s running out of ink.  I really should get a laser printer that does duplex.

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And the (weight related) problems add up

1.

At one GP followup last year, my blood pressure was slightly high, so she ordered an ECG to check my heart, even though she was pretty sure it was most likely weight-related.

The results of the test showed a patent foramen ovale. It’s a hole between the atria of the heart that usually seals up after birth. For something like a quarter of people, that doesn’t happen. I think it might also be the reason I get so dizzy when I cough too much or sneeze a lot. Or I could be completely off on that.

It’s generally not problematic, though there’s a slight–from what I’ve found, very slight– possibility of a blood clot passing through and making its way to the brain, and it seems like surgery is usually not considered unless there are other reasons for it.  So, my GP prescribed baby aspirin.

2.

My weight loss hadn’t been working well, and I’d been looking into possible solutions in addition to metformin, and one that came up a few times was to combine metformin with birth control–one to regulate insulin and one to regulate hormones.  Sounded like the best bet.

In March, I talked to my OB and mentioned that I’d looked into maybe starting pills again.  She said that probably wouldn’t be an issue, and then looked at my info and asked about why I was taking aspirin, and I told the story about the blood pressure, the test, and the hole.

Her response was that pills were out of the question, as was any other hormonal treatment.  She said that if the aspirin were just for high blood pressure, she could suggest something other than pills, but because of what it was, nope.

I asked if she had any other suggestions, and she shrugged and said to try exercising longer.

3.

When snow and ice come, I wear sturdy boots so that I don’t slip and fall on my ass. Or hurt myself worse than that.  I switch back to sneakers when the ice gets brittle and starts to crackle, and most of the snow has melted to leave mushy grass and mud.

This year, I switched to my sneakers, and I started getting pain in my right foot.  Then Rob and I went to Iceland, walked around a lot in Reykjavik, and my foot would scream in pain when I put my weight on it.  Same thing in England.

I saw my GP after we returned, and she referred me to a podiatrist.  I got X-rays of my foot, and nothing looked bad there.  The doctor pressed and poked at my feet and said I have a neuroma–growth on the nerve, or something like that.

He suggested I try orthotics, so I tried for two weeks and went back, still with pain.  The options then were shots–cortisol or alcohol–or laser treatments.

I tried cortisol shots.  Four shots, one every two weeks.  Still painful, and some slight pain starting to develop in my left foot.  He gave me different orthotics, and I tried those for a couple weeks.

I got impressions of my feet for custom orthotics, and I’ve been wearing them for about four weeks, then had a followup.  They were causing some pain, and when the doctor checked, they hadn’t been sitting right.  So they’ve been sent back, and I’ll have another appointment in about three weeks.

But because of the pain, I haven’t been able to exercise much.  Any sort of vigorous movement in my foot exacerbates the pain, whether I’m using the rowing machine or the treadmill. Even relatively light exercise like stretching can be painful the next morning. And I don’t mean the usual sore-from-exercise pain, I mean actual ow-I-can’t-stand pain.

I started the year at 240, and my weight’s fluctuated up and down between those numbers, sometimes above to about 244, sometimes down to 236, but it likes to sit around 239(when I originally wrote this about 2 months ago, I was down to 236, but fluctuations happened).

I’m losing weight, slowly, but I’d really like to be able to bump that up a bit.

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Weighty problems

Sometime, maybe around 3rd grade, I was with my mom at the mall, and she ran into someone she new–a cousin, a coworker, a friend, I don’t remember that much–and I recall overhearing that person saying that I was a bit overweight.  My mom’s response was “It’s baby weight. She’ll grow out of it.”

That stuck in my memory. I’m not sure exactly how long it took for me to realize it wasn’t true, but for the longest time, I was certain I’d be able to lose the weight.  I wasn’t inactive, even though I spent a large amount of time reading. And while I did like candy and ice cream, I didn’t go completely overboard when I ate.

Instead of losing weight, I gained. My weight continued to inch upward, edging from overweight in grade school to obese in college.

I tried pretty much anything you can think of.  Appetite suppressants. Low calorie, low sugar, low carb.  Exercise.

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One of my most favorite snack combos, and one I have to severely moderate.

During all this, I did learn some stuff.  Potato chips have an almost immediate impact. Soda, too, though to a slightly lesser extent.  Other high carb foods like pasta, breads, candy, cookies, cake, and ice cream have varying effects, always dependent on the amount I consume, the other foods I’ve had that day, and how active I’ve been.

Of everything I’ve tried, low carb had more results.  Meaning, I lost maybe five pounds.  But I wasn’t willing to sustain it–I refused to cut out Dr Pepper and ice cream completely.  I know my food weaknesses, and I moderate.

When I got my job, and finally had decent enough health insurance, I started going to my husband’s general practitioner.  She did blood tests for pretty much everything.  Checked my blood sugar (within normal levels), triglycerides (high, but they always have been since Mom first tested them), thyroid (normal), and anything else she could think of.  She found nothing to explain my issues with weight.

So I started exercising more, and the food was a bit more regulated, leaning toward low carb.  I bought a new treadmill to replace the old one and bought a Wii and exercise games. I used both regularly for about a year, and my back stopped aching and cramping, muscles started getting definition, and my stamina and endurance got better.

Then I got sick and diagnosed with bronchitis.  The GP prescribed prednisone.  I stopped exercising because just breathing would make me cough, and I didn’t want to exacerbate anything.  I lost a few pounds–sick, and steroid-type meds.

The weight came back, plus some, once I got better, and since then, I haven’t been able to get back into the same physical health.  I still have some of the muscle; I still have the endurance and stamina, but I haven’t managed to get my core muscles back to where I don’t have to stop doing whatever to stretch my back.

When I turned 30, I decided to stop taking birth control. Weight was part of the decision–my GP agreed that stopping should help me lose weight–and the other part was stroke risk, since there seemed to be a possible familial risk there.

About three years ago, I started seeing an OB/GYN–I’d been previously been going to Planned Parenthood because of lack of money/health insurance–and the doctor believed I might have polycystic ovarian syndrome–PCOS.  Three main symptoms are irregular menstruation, excess androgen (male hormones) which can show as excess hair growth, and polycystic ovaries.

My OB ordered bloodwork–she tested my testosterone and insulin levels, and because of the history of stroke, tested for the possibility of genetic risk.  The test for stroke came back negative, so it seems like I don’t have any more risk than would be expected.The testosterone and insulin levels came back high.  My actual diagnosis is insulin resistant PCOS.

This means it’s difficult for me to lose weight.

One of the treatments is metformin, which is mostly used to treat type 2 diabetes.  The way my GP explained it to me is that my body overproduces insulin to keep my blood sugar low, but it doesn’t use that insulin efficiently.  The metformin is supposed to correct that.

I’ve been taking metformin for nearly three years, and while it’s been a slow process, I have seen some improvement.  The highest weight I’ve reached, when I first visited the OB, was 250–my personal highest, weight in the morning before any food, was slightly lower at 248.  This morning, my weight was just about 238.

Not a big difference, but a difference.  Especially when my weight tends to jump up and down a couple pounds before it finally drops, and then repeats the same thing.  And when I’ve been exercising inconsistently for a variety of reasons.

It’s progress, and going in the right direction.

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