2020 30-Day Minimalism Challenge

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Two weeks I wish I could do over... differently.

I missed last week's YOP post due to being sick.  I was second in succession of at least five people in my circle who got bit by the flu bug.  One of them being the dear lady I help care for.  Please pray that she can knock this down.  I am worried about her.  Finally feeling better myself, I'm seeing her tomorrow for the first time in nearly two weeks.

Before I started feeling significantly better, though, a major plumbing problem showed itself Sunday night - that's a week ago as I write this!

That Sunday night, I just happened to look up when I was in the little half-bath off our family room  and I noticed something odd-looking about the ceiling.  The drywall was bubbled out and it looked soft.   When I touched it, the bubble moved.  Yikes!  There was water just under the surface of the drywall!  My husband (hereafter referred to as Hub) was already asleep and I made the decision to not wake him up with a problem that could not be resolved that night, but to tell him in the morning, then call the plumber and hope that they could take care of it the next day.  Hub may have slept that night, but I don't think I did.

Our plumber's docket was already filled with jobs on Monday, and since the drywall was still holding and not looking much changed, I decided to take a Tuesday appointment and pray the leak would stay contained for another twenty four hours.

I went to bed Monday night, setting my alarm, planning to greet a plumber first thing the next morning.

Tuesday morning a plumber arrived, cut the affected section out of the ceiling, located and fixed the leak very handily. He did what inspecting he could in that little area and he let me know that while there didn't appear to be any more leaks, our copper drain pipes were showing serious corrosion and considering the age of our house, we should brace ourselves for needing to replace them pretty soon.  Within a few months would be our safest plan.   Before he left, he gave me a preliminary estimate on what that job would cost. I soberly sent him on his way and made a mental note to get that job scheduled sooner rather than later - since an extensive pipe replacement job would mean cutting into more drywall it seemed best to get that big job done before fixing the relatively small hole in the half-bath ceiling.  No sense in hiring a drywaller twice if I could help it.

The pictures in this post are of the finished work and are not not representative of the chronological order of anything that happened over the last two weeks, nor relative to any text they may be near. They are simply here for your enjoyment.

After the plumber left, I headed for the recliner where I could rest - while trying to hack up a lung from a lingering cough from the flu I'd had over the weekend.   In that state, between dozing and coughing, my phone rang and it was one of my sisters in Florida.  We don't talk often, so I was happily surprised to get a call from her.  The pleasure was short lived though.  She had some devastating health news.  We talked, I cried, and suddenly she had to go - she had called me in between phone calls with doctors' offices and when they called she, of course, needed to take their call.  Then she called me back - this scenario repeating itself once or twice more (memory fades) and finally I was left all alone in the middle of a very quiet house with a hole in one ceiling, I no longer thinking of sleep, still feeling a bit sick in my own physical body, and now sick at heart over my sister's news.

I should stop and make note right now that Hub was gone for three days (had left that morning) for an out of town work conference.   Preferring him to be able to talk to the plumbers before having them make swiss cheese out of our drywall, we both decided (over the phone)  to put off scheduling the larger job until the following week.

I spent the rest of the day suspended between two realities that I didn't know existed just a few hours prior.  A house with a hole in a bathroom ceiling and me contemplating more holes and more mess before it was all over, and a sister over 1,000 miles away facing a health crisis.  She has breast cancer.  She has a great spirit about her.  She's a Christian and has a very strong faith.   She confidently quoted scripture and she even talked about plans she's made for later in the year to travel.  She also wanted to talk about our mother who died of breast cancer 24 years ago, just four years older than my sister is now.  She talked about genetic testing.  I can only imagine the thoughts and emotions she is battling as she awaits surgery.

I remained in this contemplative state the rest of the day.  Alone, deeply concerned for my sister, praying, coughing the remains of the flu out of my system, and I might add... feeling the lingering effects of the vertigo attack I'd experienced just three weeks prior.   It was a surreal few hours.  And the calmest hours of my week.

At some point that evening, I visit the little half-bath with a hole in the ceiling, and I noticed that there was water on the floor.  Confused, thinking the plumber must have splashed water on the floor and it had gotten missed in the clean-up, I started to wipe it up.  And then I saw a splash.

Looking up into the now gaping hole in the ceiling I could see water dripping out of it.  Climbing up to get a better look I located another leak less than a foot north of the first (now fixed) leak.  WHAT?!?   Suddenly, my sad little contemplative world turned into a panic as I called back the plumber and told him the larger job just moved up in priority!   I wanted to get it scheduled immediately.

That night I went to bed, setting my alarm, planning to greet a plumber first thing on now the second morning in a row.

Two (different, but friendly) plumbers from the same business showed up the second day and after analyzing where the drain pipes ran, made a plan for where the cutting of drywall needed to happen.  Walls and ceilings were cut carefully to create as little damage as possible and I commenced to trying to find places to be where I was out of their way as they went up and down stairs, between bathrooms, crawled in and out of the crawlspace, making a crazy amount of noise, working, working, working.

Every once in a while I jumped up to move stuff out of the way where I hadn't anticipated they would need to go.  At 6:00 in the evening, and them not finished, I began to worry that I wasn't going to have running water and plumbing that night.  They assured me they wouldn't leave me high and dry and they did get things hooked up so I could do laundry, shower and do all one does with running water and plumbing, but they had to come back in the morning to finish up the job.  They assured me, it wouldn't take long and they'd be gone before noon.

I went to bed setting my alarm clock, planning to greet the plumbers again first thing for now the third morning in a row.

After rising early, getting ready for the day, I mindlessly went downstairs and headed for the kitchen when I noticed the shine of water on the floor of the back hallway.  WHAT?!?   Proceeding to the bathroom on this floor, I could see that the toilet in this little half-bath (a different half-bath from the one with the leaky ceiling) was overflowing, creating a little lake on the floor, out the bathroom door and across the small hallway - heading into a heating vent.  I grabbed towels out of the dryer I had washed the night before (that had been used to mop up water from the downstairs half-bath), spread them out to soak up the mess, and once again called the plumber explaining this new problem.  Because, clearly, they were now going to be here at least a little longer than they had planned.  In tears I cleaned up this new mess and waited for the plumbers to arrive.  In case you have forgotten, Hub was still gone on his work-related trip.  The plumbers got here exactly when they said they would, but it felt like an eternity waiting for them that morning.

After spending time trying to figure out what might be creating a blockage, they decided to finish the drain pipe replacement job, and they would ream out the system before they left.  Everyone hoped (and expected) it would be a simple job to get the drains (the brand new drains) flowing freely.  In the middle of the afternoon on Thursday, Hub arrived home to plumbers working to both clean up from the job of replacing pipes, and reaming out the house's main drain pipe through the clean-out opening in the front yard.  It was a busy place.

After an hour or so of that scene, in the middle of the afternoon, the plumbing company's owner showed up, presumably to see what was taking so long and to make sure we were doing okay with this.   For another couple of hours attempts were made to dislodge a mysterious blockage.   A toilet was pulled and the machine auger was brought inside to clean out the drain from that direction.

At some point, water began to flow, the toilet was reset, the plumbers left, and all was finally right with our little world again.   Happy to have everyone gone, Hub went out to get us a fast food supper and after we ate, I set to work cleaning up from all that had happened the three days prior.

When cleaning and putting back together the second half-bath (where they had reset the toilet), Hub was upstairs showering, the washing machine was once again washing towels, and suddenly the toilet began to fill and would have overflowed again had I not been right there to stop it.   WHAT?!?!  After much yelling and running and getting buckets (that had been put away) and rubber gloves and more towels, we called the plumber yet again!   Clearly the clog hadn't been truly cleared, but how on earth had we been able to flush and run water for a period of time with seemingly no problem and now suddenly there was this clog again?

After some time of dealing with that, and getting the toilet under control, I went to transfer the towels from the washing machine to the dryer and lo and behold, the laundry room floor had a small puddle of water.  WHAT?!?!?  The washing machine drain pipe had overflowed. It wasn't a huge mess, but clearly, it wasn't draining properly, and this was a new dilemma.

After spending some time analyzing what was working drain-wise and what wasn't (so we could, hopefully, hasten the diagnosis the next day) I went to bed, setting my alarm clock, planning to greet the plumbers again first thing for now the fourth morning in a row.

Friday morning, the first plumber - the man who had been here on Tuesday - showed up with another  machine drain cleaner and set to work right away to remove the same toilet that had been pulled and reset the day before, and augered the main drain line from inside the house.  Again.

At some point, he finally hit "pay dirt" and said he could feel the release of the clog.  Yay!  We both went outside and watched with fascination through the clean-out pipe as water wooshed through the main drain pipe over five feet below us.  I could have done a happy dance.  I kept my cool, though, and tried to be friendly, all the while eager for us to say our goodbyes and me to have my house back so I could set to getting it cleaned up and put together (to whatever degree it could be put back together - remember... we still have holes that need repair, and after that will have walls and ceilings to paint, and stuff to be moved back to its right locations when those big jobs are done).   Sigh.  None of this was in my plans this spring...

But for now, I am enjoying doing laundry, washing dishes, showering, and (ahem) flushing without fear.  Well, without much fear, anyway.  I have to say... I still feel a tad skittish when I hear water running through the pipes, listening for any unusual splashing or the dripping sound of water where it does not belong.   I figure I'm probably due to be a little nervous for at least as many days as I went through to get it all right.


Dear reader, I thank you if you read this long and messy tale.  And if you did not read it all, but somehow landed here, I am thankful for that and would be so appreciative if you'd just read the next paragraph and offer up your thoughts and prayers...

Beginning yesterday (Saturday morning) and I'm sure for the foreseeable future I will live somewhere suspended in the surreal place between my reality in Indiana, where life goes on (more or less) normally, dealing with my messes and my limitations, so very aware of my sister's completely not-normal reality as she begins her battle with cancer.  If you pray, I (and I know she) would appreciate prayers.  For strength, for health, for healing, for courage...  for me to know how to be of some kind of emotional support for her in all that lies ahead.   Sighs and sympathetic groanings do not go unheard, either -  I am sure.  Thank you.


And now, while this is of absolutely no importance to me anymore, I share what pitiful little crocheting I did over the last two weeks.  Most of the last two weeks I either had no energy or emotion to spend doing something like this.  Though, a few days, keeping my hands busy with mindless crochet stitches was my therapy as I prayed and thought.

At some point, I think when I was first coming out of my flu fog, I wanted to crochet something easy, so I whipped up another Openwork Scarf using two different yarns held together:

This was a fast project crocheted with an L (or 8mm) size hook

And while the plumbers worked away, for four days in a row, my all but forgotten Last Dance blanket saw the squares finally seamed together and the edging started.   

All that's left to happen here is that I crochet many rows of a linen stitch border until it's wide enough, and then weave in the ends.  I may finish by next week.  I may not care when I finish this.  My heart has already moved on to to another idea for what my hook needs to create.

To see what other  YOPpers are up to, visit our group on Ravelry!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Dance Line-up...

Putting all 48 squares together last week I don't know if I was more overwhelmed or underwhelmed.  Laid out (even without a border) I could tell that forty-eight 9-inch squares was going to make a huge blanket.  While I've seen pictures of this blanket made large enough to cover a queen sized bed, it wasn't until I saw all those squares laid out in person that I knew I didn't want a blanket that large.

And then there were so many gray squares!   Why did I think 3 shades of gray (4, if you count graphite as gray - but it sort of looks brown, too) would look good in one blanket?  And then add the light blue...   well, it just completely underwhelmed me.

I had it on the floor for a few hours - trying out different arrangements, even adding some bolder yarn to the mix - wondering if I should make even more (brighter) squares...


And then I decided to just pull most of the gray squares out.  That definitely improved things.  Both visually, and I liked the size better.   But turning my 48-square blanket into a 35-square blanket filled me with regret at all the time (and yarn) spent making those now unnecessary squares.

And then I got an idea.   I stacked all the light blue and several shades of gray squares together.

Huh.   Those don't look bad together!   Maybe add some squares in a darker blue (a medium blue) and white?  Maybe?   As is, I've easily got enough squares already to make a baby blanket.  Add a few accent squares of darker blue and white (? - not sure why the white makes me hesitate), - and I've got enough squares for a child-size blanket!   Yay!  Two blankets out of this Last Dance CAL!  I'm not going to jump into making the second blanket just yet, but I'm saving the squares above 'till I figure out what to add to them.  Maybe add some soft lime green?   I dunno.

I'm open to suggestions.

Anyway...  Happy enough that I had come up with a plan for all the squares above, I started joining these:

It's slow going, but after several mistakes I finally got all but one vertical seam finished.

Since I can't get a decent color picture today, I'll just give you four seamed squares in black & white. 

And then it's on to the horizontal seams. The good thing is the horizontal seams are shorter than the vertical seams so they should finish up quicker.  The bad thing is there are more horizontal seams than vertical seams so they may take longer.  Another good thing is now that I know what I'm doing and since I don't have to fiddle so much with the squares, the horizontal seaming might still go quicker.

The plan is to get this thing finished by next Sunday.  Seamed, blocked if necessary, border finished.

I think I can do it.  What do you think?

To see what other YOPpers are up to visit our group on Ravelry.

2018 Yarn Stash-Down:  11.26/100 Skeins

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The dance is nearly over...

Feeling significantly better from the vertigo attack I had last Tuesday (and struggling until mid-Thursday, getting better each day) I managed to finish four more squares by last night:

I decided to try making random bobbles again and it worked better for me this time.  These represent hailstones, though I have no idea how these squares will actually translate to the viewer once the blanket is all stitched together.  They may just look like random bobbles.  I'm cool with that.

And now...  one more set of squares to go!  I almost can't contain my giddiness at being nearly done!

These navy squares are possibly going to be a combination of designs of other easy squares I've already done.  For one thing, I'm finding out navy is hard to crochet with, so I'm not interested in struggling with both a pattern that isn't easy and struggling to also see my yarn.  Secondly, I really just want to get this blanket done already.  I'm not in love with it anymore and I just want to start stitching it together.  I think I'll like it well enough when it's finished, but will I love it?  I'm letting go of any such expectations I might have had when I began this thing.

As soon as I sign off here, I'm going to lay out the squares I have to date to get an idea of what this baby is going to look like.

Hopefully, next week will see some progress on the joining of these 48 squares.

To see what other YOPpers are up to, visit our group on Ravelry.

Friday, February 2, 2018


It was a rough week for me.  While I wouldn't say "rough" is becoming my normal, it's becoming way too familiar.   The week started out just lovely - a week stretched out in front of me with few commitments.   And suddenly on Tuesday afternoon I was struck with vertigo.   Thus began two full 24-hour periods spent mostly just trying to hold my head still, but by Thursday afternoon I could see straight enough that I could manage to get on the computer a bit (had some tasks on Ravelry to tend to, so that was handy).  I did some Bible reading which I was glad for.  And I finally even managed to do a bit of crocheting...

Today, Friday...  in the wee hours of the morning, while I'm still not 100%, I'm clear enough to be able to write.  Good idea, or not, I'm going to get something off my chest.  Right here.  Right now.  Again, on a day when few are likely to venture in here seems safe enough.  ;^/

A month ago I was diagnosed with Menieres.  It was no surprise.  It was actually an odd relief (followed by some amount of depressing feelings, to be sure) to finally have an official diagnosis for  a decade or so of random and unexplained vertigo episodes.  I'd begun to take note that the episodes were coming more frequently in recent years, and oddly, they were seemingly changing...   in their presentation and duration.  Over the last year and a half I've been experiencing BPPV (I came to find out) in addition to the violent out-of-the-blue vertigo episodes related to Menieres (which is all I had known for years).   I didn't know exactly what was going on - I just knew that what had become familiar to me in regards to vertigo was becoming less familiar.

In fact, it was actually two lengthy BPPV episodes in 2016 that finally got me to an otolaryngologist at the end of that year where I underwent a series of tests that resembled what I liken to a kiddie kollege torture laboratory.  Funny camera goggles, a simulated spin chamber, an audiologist shooting a water gun in my ears, and then playing audio ping pong into my ears while electrodes on my head measured muscle (or maybe it was nerve) signals.  This last one was supposed to be the test that determined Menieres.   While I got good and sick on the other tests, this last one, the one that was supposed to determine the worst, is the only test I failed, evidently.

image from https://lmhofmeyr.co.za/info-for-patients/balance-and-dizziness-examination/

That said, while I was sent home a year ago without an official diagnosis, I was told that I am experiencing two types of vertigo.

The longer term episodes of on again/off again vertigo are indicative of BPPV, but many of my symptoms and experiences (over the past decade and outside the lab) are classic Menieres.

They determined that my BPPV is caused by crystals in the anterior ear canal, and wondered if I had experienced any head injury.  I explained that I'd had a mild whiplash injury ... maybe 5 years prior, but hadn't experienced these types of vertigo until more recently.  The whiplash seemed to be discounted as the reason I'd be having BPPV now, so much later.   But I was invited to take advantage of their therapies when I experience BPPV and it doesn't resolve quickly.

To try to minimize what she suspected is Menieres-onset vertigo, I was given the same instructions as if she had given me a membership card to the M-club.  Cut salt, caffeine, stress, etc...   So now, in addition to noting various types of fat content and other nefarious substances, I've become sadly aware of how much sodium there is in...  well...  nearly everything that comes in a box or a can.

While at the same time that I've become shockingly aware of the salt content of all my favorite foods, I've grown a certain amount of comfortableness with what feels like playing Russian Roulette with occasional french fries or potato chips.  I've pretty much eliminated caffeine - pop is a rare treat at this point.  Truthfully, though...  I don't really miss it.  And seriously... who needs all that fizz?  And stress?  In the last couple of years, my life is about as stress-less as it's ever been and is ever likely to be. 

And vertigo still got me - twice now in just a couple month's time.  For some reason, this past November, after I took my now annual hearing test and reported another vertigo episode (that had happened the week before), my otolaryngologist decided to make it official with an actual diagnosis.  They're calling what I have Menieres.

Nothing changed really.  Diet restrictions remain the same.  Though, I was presented with several possible "treatment" options, none of them are acceptable at this point as the risks involved are  worse (in my opinion) than what I'm currently experiencing.  Especially, when so much that surrounds Menieres seems to be theory as opposed to anyone knowing anything for certain.

It seems that surgical treatments that might relieve the vertigo carry a high risk of permanent hearing loss.  The maddening situation is that each vertigo attack likely damages the hearing in the affected ear each time it happens.  Talk about a catch-22!  When I (sort of) jokingly said that perhaps such treatments will feel more acceptable if/when I've finally lost my hearing (which is what typically happens with Menieres) she nodded understandingly.  It was later that I learned that by the time a person loses their hearing, the vertigo episodes tend to subside or disappear altogether.  What kind of sick joke is that?!?

And we'll not get into a lengthy discussion of tinnitus for now.  It's depressing enough to learn that it is phantom noise the brain produces when a person begins to have hearing loss.  In other words, it is quite literally "all in the head".  It's actually kind of fascinating when you start to look into it.  It would probably be more fascinating if I didn't have to contend with the constant whistle in my ears while trying to concentrate on what I'm reading.  So much to research and learn about vertigo, tinnitus, sound therapy, Menieres.  So many possible roads to go down.

It's discouraging.  And on some level, overwhelming.  When I first started trying to make dietary changes I remember saying to a friend, "it's a bit like trying to hit a moving target - you do these things, but in the end, you really don't know what triggers the vertigo."  But this week it's dawned on me, that how it actually feels is that I'm the moving target, trying to do what I'm supposed to do (though, admittedly, sometimes not) and vertigo has its gun leveled waiting to catch me unawares.  And frankly, it doesn't seem to care if I eat french fries or potato chips or down gallons of soda!  This time it struck me the day after overdoing broccoli for supper the night before!  And yes...  I had cheese on my broccoli, and I've made note of that.  I'm not unaware that allergies are thought to possibly trigger vertigo.  The possible triggers seem endless...

gif from epainassist.com

But today, I'm starting to come clear and my brain doesn't feel like jello anymore.  And it's a great relief.   I smiled today.  A real, honest to goodness smile.  I actually felt my face forming in a way that I had forgotten it feels. Frankly, how it normally feels.

I will spend some more time in upcoming days/weeks researching again possible solutions, helps, anything I can about vertigo, Menieres, tinnitus, sound therapy.  And once again, I will weigh whether or not to mention it to anyone I don't really have to because what always follows is "Do you know so and so..." i.e. whoever it is in our circle who experiences vertigo, or heaven forbid has been diagnosed with Menieres.  Or some variation of what has become predictable advice from those who've never had vertigo, but know someone who has and who has found their cure.  My bet is they haven't found their cure, they've just found their way of dealing with it.  Just as I'm trying to find mine.

I know people mean well.  Or so I tell myself.  I honestly don't understand the psychology behind certain types of responses.  The "Let's see if I can be helpful even though I don't know what it's like to actually experience what you have" response mystifies me.  I'm guilty of sometimes responding that way myself.  But I'm still mystified by it.  I'm still frustrated by it when I'm the recipient.

What I wish right now is, if I mention that I'm dealing with vertigo (as in explaining why I can't be somewhere, or wasn't there), just recognize and appreciate that I'm struggling.  Nothing more.  Just saying "I'm sorry you're dealing with this" or "I'm praying for you" is HUGE.  Asking if I need anything might be helpful, though honestly...  I'm not likely to need or want anything except for merciful sleep and the spinning to stop, and then for the (this time around) jello-head to dissipate.  Once vertigo has run its course, I'm just like you.  Capable.  Fully functioning.  Happy. Until the vertigo strikes again.

When advice comes quickly, I don't feel respected that I am where I am in figuring this all out - in dealing with a hard diagnosis that holds a grim future (that you, random person who's giving me advice, possibly doesn't even fully realize).  What we (I include myself in this) don't realize, is that in our well-intentioned advice, we deliver words that too often feel like judgement.  Judgement that the afflicted one isn't doing what s/he needs to do.   And a lack of recognition over hours spent researching a solution. Trying to find answers.  Praying for the courage to take what may feel like a big next step - in treatment, or just looking for what may be the root cause of the problem.

I take comfort hearing from another person who suffers vertigo attacks.  There's usually an instant kinship (as long as they don't too quickly dispense advice - lol).  Just interacting with someone who understands the ordeal is welcome.

While it may feel slightly comforting the first time I hear that "so-and-so" also has Menieres, or struggles with vertigo, after a dozen or so times of hearing it from second-hand sources it takes everything in me to be gracious about the now redundant information.  Please forgive me when I'm not gracious.

This has become quite the long post.  Or vent, if it comes across that way.  I think it's been something of emotional therapy for me.

I'll wrap this up by expressing relief that another vertigo episode is moving behind me, mixed with feelings of dread that another episode is hiding somewhere on the murky horizon.

I've had my itty bitty pity party of once again being caught in the quagmire of wondering if this is the type of vertigo I might benefit from therapy for (therapy, which frankly means going back into vertigo in order to be brought out of it - a therapist moves your head into positions that will bring on the vertigo, and once s/he has located the correct ear and determined the ear canal that needs treating, might be able to dislodge offending "crystals" and make them go where they belong - and hopefully, sooner rather than later, the dizziness and "jello-head" will stop.)

Or, this could be the Menieres-onset type of vertigo that simply needs to run its course.  From my experience, regardless of which type of vertigo it is, it runs its course.  So far, it always has. It seems to be again...