Confession Time

Over the last few months I’ve struggled with how much to share here. This is a blog. It is a public forum and I’m under no delusions about how interesting I am. I’m no design maven, I’m no DIY expert, I’m not even a lifestyle person; I’m just a regular person whose house needs to be vacuumed and who forgets to put the garbage out for pick-up most Fridays. But I consume a lot of material online and find so much representation for the people who do it perfectly or who are stylish and creative but not a lot for those of us who don’t have a design background or who have four kids or four dogs (or both). Don’t get me wrong, I love many of the fabulous sites and find inspiration and ideas from these people but there is a perverse, contrary person in me who refuses to stage pictures and freely admits multiple errors and failures as I stand next to all the experts (well, probably more like down the block and around the corner from them).

I just really like holding up reality next to the fabulous. I like that contrast. The fabulous is all the sweeter for living the reality and reality is more comforting and grounding when you’ve experienced fabulous for a little while. Recently though, I took my eye off reality because it wasn’t something I wanted to deal with.

A few months ago I was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Don’t worry, it is the “best” cancer to have next to skin cancer. It was only stage one and giving up the uterus would take care of things. After the surgery, they decided that, even though they got everything, they would like to do a little radiation. It is only a very little and I’m not sick or losing my hair or anything. Something that does bug me though is that I wish I had dealt with this sooner. Yup, I have great benefits and really good medical care in general but I was embarrassed to go to the gynecologist while I was having a period. That’s it. We don’t like to talk about them. I don’t like to talk about them. But it is a reality that I shouldn’t have been ashamed of. If you are having issues with Aunt Flo (terrible euphemism), just get it checked out right away. Your dignity can take it.

The odd thing is, SO many other women I’ve told have gone through something very similar. I can’t believe how common this is! If I hadn’t been so shy about it with friends and family, I might have been less shy with my doctor. Why was I pretending everything was fabulous when I was struggling with something? My doctor also told me that endometrial issues like I was having can very often turn into cancer. Ignoring the reality can make any of us women, very sick. It’s OK not to be fabulous all the time. If something is cramping your style (HA! Pun!), talk to your doctor and trusted friends.

Cancer is a scary word but it hasn’t been that bad. Reality is always there, whether we want it to be or not. For me, facing it hasn’t hurt the fabulous. I hope each and every one of you, if you have a little reality you have been avoiding, looks it in the eye and beats it down with your fabulousness. Get your screenings, make that appointment you have been avoiding, do that “thing” you know in your heart you need to do.

You got this.

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I’m armed with axes to back you up.

It’s the Little Things

I could also title this “The Joy of Caulking.” That doesn’t mean I love to caulk, but I love the results. Caulking is not at all sexy and not something you would ever known was done in one of those fancy, staged rooms. However, I think it is a critical piece in “finishing” a room. It is the kind of thing you don’t notice if it is done, but you do notice if it isn’t done.

I think one of the most dramatic results was my door frame. This really confronted everyone who went out the door. I caulk around the baseboard and the door trim but this was really in-your-face. The left side is what it looked like before and the right side is after a quick bead of caulk. It took about 10 minutes and a tube of caulk costs about $3 to $5. A tube will cover several average-sized rooms so this is highly affordable giving us a lot of bang for our buck.


My windows are going to be tricky though. The gap around the window trim is way bigger than a bead of caulk can fill. I’m researching how this can be filled but I’m thinking there is likely some kind insulating fill that I can stuff in the crack and then caulk over that. I can’t believe that this isn’t making my heating/cooling less efficient.

And, as usual, I was well supervised. Here for your “awww” of the day, Scarlet Kitty playing with a Q-Tip. She’s blurry because she never holds still.

I See Baseboards

Because nothing is funnier than an out-of-date cultural reference.

I got my baseboard on this weekend and finished a job in the home office project that seemed really hard. Of course, in the end, it was nothing. I managed to sweat up a storm which was either because it was hot and muggy or it was a hotflash. I’ll bet you don’t hear too many contractors complain about those. Either way, the sweat was not warranted because this was easy and done quickly.


Now I just need to get my caulk on which sounds way more fun than it is.


Slow and Steady Wins the Race

I’ve not abandoned things here, I swear. Life is moving at a painstakingly slow pace as I heal so it just feels like there is little to share. “Worked for an hour. Took a nap. Painted the baseboard trim. Took a 2-hour nap. Worked for 3 hours. Laid down for a while.”

Not to be judgy, but I’m not sure that’s interesting reading.

So many little things have added up these past weeks (like the tumblefur!) that I think it will behoove me to just bring in some cleaning help so I’m not playing catch up for the next month and a half.

The office remains my focus because I use it all the time. The baseboard is ready to be installed. I’ve been working on reducing the crap going back in. The best description is “pecking” at the hill of stuff. I’ve set up a little system for myself that keeps progress progressing. I try to sit down as often as possible and just get a garbage bag full to throw away and then I can quit. It is both incentive to throw things away and it keeps the task doable in the middle of a busy, regular life. At this point, the big barrier to overcome is getting that baseboard in so I can put together the new shelves and start putting away things that I’m keeping.

No boss, the baseboard is still not there.

Maybe I’ll get this weekend to do it. I haven’t had a weekend to myself in ages. The grandparent drama is on the upswing right now. They are both 96 and the aging stuff is very prominent in all of our lives as change seems to be constantly required to keep things safe for them. The very latest is admitting to ourselves that they can’t go to doctor appointments by themselves because they just don’t have the cognitive abilities anymore to understand and retain what they are being told. This is a tough commitment for anyone in the family. The best solution we have come up with so far is to set an appointment day (or two if needed) once a month and try to schedule multiple appointments on that day so that one of us only has to take one day off. If anyone else has had to deal with this in their family and found something that works for them, let me know. This stuff is tricky to work out and not let it take over everything.

While I was stuck being “quiet” I read a LOT. No hardship there. I love reading and it feels like a luxury most of the time so I was super excited to have an excuse to just read constantly. I got hooked on a weird genre: murder mysteries set in the 20s with a upper-class female detective. It seems to be the combination of the social changes in the 20s and the social situation of upper-class women that I find so interesting. I went through two series (Her Royal Spyness and the Daisy Dalrymple series) that are very light and easy to consume. The popcorn of literature. When I finished these up, I couldn’t find a series that replaced them. There are a lot of murder mysteries set in the 20s but it is the upper-class female perspective that I was finding interesting; the limited freedom of a woman of that class as well as the huge social changes happening with a large middle class and women’s roles and expectations changing dramatically. I started reading biographies of women who were in service at that time “downstairs” which was interesting, but I wanted to learn more about the upper-class. I’m still craving that so I’m looking around for more. I get on these binges of subject matter and I can’t get enough. I did this with the Tudor period, the Elizabethan period, and Victorian steampunk, etc.

In between books, I’m taming wild beasts.

Anyone else getting any reading done this summer?

Back on the Horse

I’ve been silent for a while and I apologize. not that anyone’s life was emptier for my lack of blog posting, but, I committed to myself to writing regularly and then I let it slide. True, I did have surgery and have made recovery from that my first priority, but if I’m honest with myself, writing wasn’t going to wear me out much.

The recover goes extremely well. It is weird to be limited in what I can do and lift. I’m not allowed to lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk. Which is SO easy to forget. I also need naps suddenly in the middle of the day. I chalk it up to healing and I’m lucky I work for an awesome company that lets me work from home so I can sleep when needed and work when I am awake.

On the home front, because I have limited energy and lifting capability, things are slow. But I’ve plugged away at small jobs in the office: replacing door knobs, measuring and cutting baseboard, etc. I’m ready to paint the baseboard and hopefully install it this weekend. I’ve had company for the last three weekends in a row and it just seemed rude to start that kind of project while they are here.

So I’ll just leave you with a few images of what we’ve been doing these past few weeks.

I picked up some shelving for either side of the fireplace in the family room. Just need to accessorize them.

Vicious dog keeping me company while I have to rest a lot.

My mentor and coach on the resting part. I don’t know what I would do without her example.


I had surgery yesterday. The first time I’ve ever had surgery or even been admitted in a hospital. All is good and things went remarkably well. It was a long day so I’m left with all these little moments that were surprisingly funny.

I’m parking in the morning and it’s a very confusing system. At one point, I find myself driving the wrong way in a one-way section. My brother quips, “Oh good! Let’s all have surgery today!”

Me arguing with my Mom that it wasn’t the drugs talking when I thought it was so awesome to be taken from point A to point B in a comfortable bed. I’m totally off the drugs now and I still think it was the best way to go.

Requesting tuna noodle casserole as my “recovery” food. I asked about it enough that Mom finally said, “You’re just a little too excited about tuna noodle casserole.” She’s right.

Being asked by the anesthesiologist if I had any loose teeth. Surprised, I asked, “Why? What are you planning to do?”

Trying to show my brother my little laparoscopic incisions and he just turned and ran out of the room. I’ve never seen my line-backer brother move so fast.

I’m even more excited about the tapioca pudding. Mmmm. Tapioca pudding.

Weird Outlets

I started getting the measurements for the baseboard and figured, while I’m on the floor, I’ll swap out the outlets. This ended up not being as straight forward as it has been for me in other rooms so I thought I would share what I do when something doesn’t look like the youtube video.

All of the outlets in this room are cream and I want white. This is just an easy little update that I think, combined with other easy, little updates, adds up and leaves the impression of a home well cared for. I think this helps when selling the house. I’d rather do this a bit at a time than try to do it all at once when I decide to sell the house. Besides, I want to enjoy the pretty updates too and not just make them for a stranger.

I did my usual power off routine where I turn off the power at the circuit breaker but I still check every outlet with my voltage tester. I do this every time because I have a room with one outlet on a different breaker so I’m super careful about this.

As soon as I got the old outlet off, I saw that I didn’t recognize the configuration at all. I have the new outlet in my left hand and the old one to the right of it. The new ones have screws on the sides of the outlet but this old one had the wires going in the back of the outlet.

I stopped what I was doing and started watching youtube videos. Fortunately, I found one that sort of applied to my situation.

This was very helpful except my outlet didn’t quite match his. I had little slots in a different place but putting my screwdriver in there didn’t release the wires at all. I finally just got frustrated and cut the wires.

Once I had the old outlet out of there, I could easily, and quickly, replace it with the new one. The very next outlet though gave me pause again. This one, only had one set of wires for some reason. The other had two white and two black. This only had one of each.

OK. This must be one of those annoying outlets where one of them doesn’t work. But why would someone do that? I decided I’d figure out how to fix it later but would at least get this replaced now so I swapped it out with the new one.

The last outlet really confused me. This one had an extra wire. Now there were three white and three black. Why?

Another problem was that the outlet was giving me some hot readings. Enough, and consistently that I just wasn’t comfortable mucking about with it. I took a little video so you could see the reading I kept getting.

Because of this, I decided it just wasn’t worth it. I didn’t know what the extra wire was for or if I could just tuck it away. So I put the old outlet back and left it alone. This might be a good job for an electrician. I think when I have one here for this outlet, I’ll get the outlet with fewer wires fixed so both outlets work. It shouldn’t be an expensive job and it’s just worth it to have an expert do it right.

As usual, I was well supervised.

Building Up the Nerve

I’m getting up the nerve to do my baseboard installation myself. I don’t know why I’m so sure I can’t do this. It’s one of those projects that doesn’t look hard but people are always saying, “Oh, that is too difficult, you should pay someone to do it.”

Everything I look at makes it look simple. So maybe what others think is hard, is the part I’m comfortable with. I can’t help but think a lot of “helpful” folks are getting baseboard mixed up with crown molding (which does look a bit trickier because it has an angle back as well as an angle in the corners).

So I just keep watching these and look for the tricky part. I’m building up the nerve to try this tomorrow. It isn’t like I’d have to do the room over if I got it wrong.


Installing Recessed Outlets

I finally dragged myself to the hardware store to pick up some of the items I needed for all the little electrical finishing. Then I promptly bought half the wrong stuff.

Of course.

The world would end if I only had to make one trip to the hardware store for a project. End.

But I could do at least one project. After painting the family room wall, I still had to replace the outlet covers and I wanted all the outlets and covers to be white (instead of a random mix of ivory and white).

I found a recessed outlet that would be perfect to go behind a bookcase that will go on this wall. I never even knew these existed until I saw them in the store but how handy to have these behind furniture instead of the plug poking out.

You don’t need a lot for this little project. I had my favorite screwdriver, pliers, and my voltage tester.

The voltage tester tests for two different voltages. I admit, I’m not entirely sure which one is found where so I always test for both. One voltage is represented with a blue light, the other voltage is a green light. On my voltage tester, you just hold down the power button to switch between the two.


Shut off the power at your electrical panel. Use the voltage tester even if you are pretty sure you got the power off to whatever you are working on. Electrics (or electriks if you are reading a steam punk book like I am) can be wired weird. I have one appliance in my kitchen on a different breaker than everything else in the room. So always test.

If you have a different voltage tester, be sure to read your instructions. Mine just needs to be pointed at the power source and it will flash red if it is live (as in you did not shut off the right thing). I just pointed this at my laptop and got a “hot” reading.


Once you have verified the power is off, you can start pulling out wires. I was glad to see all the bits on the old outlet matched all the bits on the new outlet so it would be easy to swap out.

The screws don’t come all the way out, you just loosen them until you can unhook the wire from around the base of the screw.

I cannot emphasize enough how helpful it is to take pictures of the outlet and wires before you remove anything. No matter how careful I am, the wires get moved around a little so there is that, “Wait, was that on top or in the middle?” moment.

Hook the wires around the screw in the direction they are turned to be tightened so that they kind of grip the wire. It’s much easier than hooking it in the other direction.

Once it is all on, I turn the power back on first to make sure I did it right and everything works before I cram it all back in the wall. That is surprisingly hard.

Outlet changed! A little project that took about 20 minutes and it’s cheap! Standard outlets are less than $2, the face plates are less than $1, the recessed outlet did cost about $6 so it was the “expensive” part in this project.

Tricky projects, like this phone plug on the same wall, where there is no box in the wall for the face plate to screw into and the hole is so large, the screws don’t even have drywall to grip, have a pretty simple solution too…

Double sticky tape. Sometimes, you just don’t need to over think things.