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Even Pollyanna must have got the blues sometimes

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

So, I'm having some family issues and have been struggling with them for a while. As many of you may know, my sister and her partner adopted two kids last fall. Their oldest, my niece, has had a history of mental illness dating back years. Because of a traumatic background with her biological parents, she has a laundry list of disorders and came to us with her very own psychiatric team. It's been an ongoing concern for our family, but never more so than it has been since about September of this year. She's just been gradually... unraveling is probably the best way to put it. Anyway, the week before Christmas, things progressed to the point that she had to be hospitalized. Since December 19, she's been out of the hospital about two weeks total. There's been a ton of blame, guilt, anger and frustration with just about everyone in my family ever since then.

It's my nature to try to be as supportive and positive as I can possibly be. Unfortunately, even I have my limits. And even more unfortunately, I'm expressing my own stress and unhappiness in stupid ways. I first put two and two together on Monday afternoon. I had brought in a chocolate cake for my coworkers as a Valentine's treat, and had a small piece myself. My sister called me and told me that my niece was back in the hospital and started talking to me about everything that led to that. After about half an hour, she got a call from my niece's new psychiatrist and had to take it. When we got off the phone, I had two more pieces of cake. I wanted to eat the last piece pretty badly and was contemplating throwing it away, when someone came and took it. Yesterday, I ate two leftover Valentine's cookies that were marked down in the little store here at work. I felt pretty awful about it and spent a bit of time thinking things through.

One of the things I've gotten pretty good at over the years is figuring out ways of dealing with issues before they get out of hand. In my younger years, I went through a couple of periods of depression because I let things just sort of steamroll me. One of the coping skills I developed as a response to that is recognizing the signs of an impending problem and dealing with it as soon as possible. I even have a five step plan for it.
1. Identify the problem. What behaviors am I doing that made me realize there was an issue? Why am I unhappy or angry? Am I angry at anyone in particular? In this case, I've been eating unhealthily since before Christmas. I got out of the habit of eating properly and never got back to it. It has led to me being unhappy with myself and my choices. And I am growing more and more impatient and angry with my family.
2. Identify the root cause of the problem. Did the behavior start at any specific time? Did anything else happen at that time? If I'm angry or unhappy with someone in particular, what's going on in their life and how is it effecting me? It took me a long time, but it wasn't until my sister asked me to babysit my nephew tonight during a family meeting at the hospital and my reaction was anger, guilt and then a desire to eat something that I figured things out. It's my nature to help people. I've spent months being the most supportive, positive and helpful sister I can be. I babysit my nephew whenever they have a crisis with my niece. I serve as a sounding board for my sister and her partner. I try to keep my Mom's reaction to this on an even keel. I almost never respond to "Can you?" with "no," even when it means canceling or rearranging my plans, or giving up hours of my pretty limited free time. I didn't realize how resentful it was making me until I realized that I was angry at my niece and how much that shocked me.
3. Can I figure out the solution on my own? If so, work out a plan to correct the situation.
4. Do I need to ask for help? Then do so. Besides saying no to a request for help, asking for help is one of the hardest things for me to do. I hate admitting that I can't do something on my own. Sometimes, all I really need to do is talk to someone about what's going on with me. Sometimes, their ear and their opinion is all I really need. Sometimes, I need more than that.
5. If I can't figure it out and no one else can either, is it something I can learn to live with? As hard as it is, sometimes the best solution is to just accept that something is not fixable, and then move on.

So, the solution to my current situation is to be honest with my sister about not being able to help her. I have a lot to do between now and February 25 and not much time to do it. I need every moment I can get. I'm exhausted and stressed and I need to focus on my own issues. As hard as it was to do so, I asked her to find another solution to needing child care tonight. I have 4-5 opportunities for physical therapy between now and the half marathon and I need to do that tonight. I also need to run, do dishes, clean, do laundry, and do other household chores. The other thing I need to do is take my health in hand and recommit myself to healthful eating, at least between now and my trip. I tried to do this once before and failed. Now that I know why I'm stress-eating, I think I'll have better luck. No sweet baked goods. No Tootsie Rolls. No diet soda. No alcohol. I may choose to have one meal out that will be the exception to these rules. But that one meal and one exception will not become the rule. And when I come back from my vacation, I will come up with an approach to this that is workable long-term.

Other things I will be just as strict with myself about: I will do at least four PT sessions at their office between now and my trip. My therapist noticed that my ankle has gotten weaker again. I will also make a concerted effort to do the most helpful stretches (calf, hamstring, hip flexor) on days when I'm not at PT. I will log in to SP every day and honestly enter what I eat and what I do. And finally, I will be in bed by 11:00 PM every night. I've had it up to here with the whole falling asleep on the sofa thing.

I need to control the things I *can* control. It will make dealing with the things I *can't* control so much easier.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

LMLOPEZ 2/19/2011 9:21PM

    Jen, great insight into your troubles. Identifying is more than half the battle. Hope you get in for your pt so you can do your personal best for the race!!!
emoticon emoticon

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BLUEMRSM 2/17/2011 9:31AM

    You have incredible insight! Your sister may need to learn from you also--you always have to take care of yourself first when you are taking care of others. Also, your sister may be interested in a support group for those with family members with mental illness (I think NAMI is one). emoticon

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    emoticon I think it is often hard to say no to family especially. Remember you must take care of you first and foremost. You are the most important thing - because if you don't you can't help others.

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LILYBELLE8 2/17/2011 1:05AM

    Well, for what it's worth, I think that Pollyanna was the one who opened Pandora's Box and we're left with trying figure out what to do with the chaos that it created. Else why would you (and me, and many others) have so many different things tugging at you for attention???

While you are trying to manage all of the balls you are juggling right now, take a few minutes and concentrate on how well you've done this past year. Looks to me like you "ticker" is moving in the right direction and sounds like you've thought of several solutions to the issues that are bugging you. So - how about a nice cup of team, some quiet, meditation time, and a bubble bath before bed???

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XTMONT 2/16/2011 11:57PM

    You're so calm and focused in the middle of that storm. You are amazing!

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FUNFROG79 2/16/2011 3:44PM

    I love this blog and how you do a step by step decision making! It's fantastic!! emoticon

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LAURIE5658 2/16/2011 3:16PM

    Jen, why it si it seems like crap rolls down to our own doorsteps. You have a plan in place for YOU and that is vitally important. See you next week!!!!


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PLATEAU11 2/16/2011 2:46PM

  Congratulations on your decision!

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Be your own Valentine

Monday, February 14, 2011

Many, many years ago, I started treating myself to little presents for Valentine's Day. It started with a rose and a box of half-priced chocolates when I was in college. The next year, it was pajamas from Victoria's Secret. Eventually, I came up with a new name for February 14: Selfish Day. Over the years, I have treated myself to countless fancy dinners, bottles of champagne (non-vintage, but still the real stuff), frivolous shoes, video games, office chairs. I even bought my car the day before Selfish Day.

The intent behind Selfish Day is pretty simple: whatever you do that day, make yourself happy. The way I see it, you have one guaranteed lifetime relationship. There is only one person in your life who you know will be with you from cradle to grave. If you haven't figured it out already, that person is you. Therefore, I believe that you have to love yourself as much or more than you love anyone else. And if you love yourself, why wouldn't you want to make yourself happy?

The truly lovely thing about celebrating Selfish Day instead of Valentine's Day is that you'll never be disappointed that your Valentine didn't get you what you wanted. If you want flowers, buy them for yourself, just because they are pretty and they make you happy. Flowers don't have to symbolize anything other than the joy of something beautiful, even on Valentine's Day. The same thing can be true of jewelry, lingerie, or even a single gorgeous piece of chocolate. Why wait for someone else to make you happy, when you can do it yourself?

So many of us feel unlovable or somehow worth less when we are overweight or obese. That is something that never fails to make me sad. I know that the root of that lies in not loving ourselves. If you don't love yourself, you'll never truly believe that anyone else can. When someone says, "I love you," you'll always think, "Why?" Stop doing that. Stop it right now. Instead, acknowledge what a beautiful and lovable person you are.

Trust me when I say that if you make yourself your Valentine, it will make this the best February 14th ever.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

LITERARY_CHICK 2/16/2011 12:05PM

    Once again, you have inspired me out of my pity party.

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DRPOOH63 2/14/2011 9:13PM

    What a beautiful blog. Thanks! emoticon

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RENLA6991 2/14/2011 1:24PM

    Thanks. I needed to read this today.

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ELLABELLE66 2/14/2011 12:26PM

    What a wonderful blog! I think I may have found my new favorite holiday :) Happy "selfish" day to you

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LUV4CHOCOLATE 2/14/2011 12:13PM


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KARVY09 2/14/2011 11:56AM

    So true!!!!

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    I think this is the most awesome thing I have heard of.

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LAURIE5658 2/14/2011 11:51AM

    You ALWAYS have such a cool way of putting things. This is yet another shining example. See you soon!!! LiterallY!

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FUNFROG79 2/14/2011 11:46AM

    I love this!

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My face froze that way!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

So, running has added a new wrinkle to my life.


When I started running again after weeks of PT, it was just in time for running outside to become winter running. I run inside on my weekday runs because it's dark when I get home, but I run outside on weekends. I always pray for "sun and mid-20s," but the truth is, as long as it's not actively snowing heavily and the roads are clear enough that sharing them with cars is safe, I'll run outside without much complaint. Honestly, I'd rather run outside in the winter than run outside on summer days when it's over 84 degrees. Seriously, 84 is my cut-off. As my miles have been getting longer, the weather has been getting steadily colder. I'm running 12 miles this weekend and it was -2 F this morning, so I don't see that changing any time soon.

Last month, after a long run on a cold day, I returned home and got ready to take a shower. I looked in the mirror and saw something new. It was this:

It was just that sudden, too. One day, I had a smooth, unlined cheek. The next day, I had a wrinkle.

Now, I'm about to turn 40 in five weeks and I've spent the past few years seeing those tiny lines creep in. I have pretty youthful-looking skin, so it hasn't been nearly as obvious to others as it is to me. I like to say that I have "baby crow's feet." Those little lines around my eyes have me giving all of those "wrinkle defense" products a second glance (with my wrinkly eyes).

But not this wrinkle. I kind of like this wrinkle. I find it fascinating, both in how it just sort of showed up one day and in how I got it. I think it's probably not really clear in that first picture. Want to see my wrinkle in action? Here's a close up, all annotated and everything.

But to know why I don't particularly want to eradicate my new wrinkle, you have to consider the big picture. Here is the big picture:

That's no ordinary wrinkle- that's a smile line! That's a line that comes not just from being older, but from being older and happier! YAY! You go, wrinkle! You're awesome! The fact that that wrinkle popped in after a winter run is testament to how happy running makes me. Well, sure, it could have been because I make weird faces when I run. (Seriously, in every race picture I've ever seen of myself, I'm making this weird slack-jawed fish face because I'm breathing hard through my mouth.) And the cold air probably made my skin drier and less elastic. But I happen to know that one of the weird faces I make is this huge grin that says, "Oh, man, I LOVE THIS!!" Since the wrinkle first appeared, it's been etching itself more and more permanently into my face, mostly after I've been smiling or laughing. Ergo, the reason for the wrinkle's post-run appearance wasn't fish face or cold, it's because I was smiling as I ran.

Now, why wouldn't I want to keep that wrinkle, knowing how it got there?

Of course, if I finish up the Princess Half Marathon looking like this, I'll demand my Dad drive me to the nearest Home Depot for some spackle!

On the other hand, if I look like that when I'm her age, I would be perfectly happy with that. emoticon

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

ADKONKLE 2/14/2011 9:46AM

    I love having that smile painted on face. As for the last picture.. If running caused that much happiness than I'll keep on running.

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    I am LOL especially at the last pic.

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XTMONT 2/10/2011 3:01PM

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I love it!

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IFDEEVARUNS2 2/10/2011 2:30PM

    You're such a baby face! What gets me are the lines around my lips. Now THOSE make one feel OLD!!!!!

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FUNFROG79 2/10/2011 2:03PM

    Haha! That's great!!! emoticon

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RUNTRILAUGH 2/10/2011 1:51PM

    Such a great blog!!!!


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DRPOOH63 2/10/2011 1:49PM

    You so make me laugh! Love the last pic! Here's to smile wrinkles! emoticon

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LAURIE5658 2/10/2011 1:29PM

    Oh Jen, this is so awesome and I love it!! See you in 2 weeks!!!

emoticon emoticon

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Nervous Nellie

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

I'm not sure if I've really talked about this before, but I am totally nervous about the Princess Half Marathon. It's in 19 days. That's not a month of Sundays. That's not even three Sundays. There's this Sunday, then next Sunday, then on the following Sunday we run! There are only two weekends between now and the race, and also, my vacation. I don't think I have ever been this unprepared for a Disney vacation since I started planning trips as an adult. And of course, for most people, I've done as much planning as is necessary. But I am uber-planner! I make lists upon lists of everything I need to pack, everything I'll need to buy before I leave and after I arrive (Groceries and personal items- I'm not so nutty that I plan my souvenir purchases in advance!), every phone number and address I'll need to make sure I have. I do as much advance planning as I can so that when I arrive, I can just relax and enjoy myself. I never need to think about what I'm going to wear when I wake up down there, because I've planned my outfits for every day. I never need to worry where or what time I will eat dinner, because my dinner reservations are made months in advance and I have a cheat sheet with all of the times and reservation numbers. I don't worry about whether those reservations clash with the only time Fantasmic is showing because I've built the whole schedule around the fireworks times. It may sound kooky, but it's how I guarantee that I'm relaxed on vacation. I don't need to think on vacation, because I already did all the thinking back home.

But I'm having a really hard time thinking about my vacation planning. If I think about my vacation, I have to think about what I'm doing on Sunday morning. And thinking about *that* makes me nervous.

I don't get it. I ran ten miles the weekend before last and it went pretty well. It was exactly the run I expected to have: long, slow, not too painful, but particularly comfortable either. And afterward, I remember thinking, "Okay, I have run ten miles. That's only a 5K from the half marathon. I can do this. It might not be pretty, but I can do it." So, why am I still so nervous? Why do I still think it's 50-50 that I might not finish? Am I still going to be going through this after this weekend's twelve mile run?

I swear half of my sudden rather intense interest in home improvement is so that I will fixate on something else. I think I'm in denial or something. My brain is redirecting from thinking about running to thinking about upholstery. I didn't actually get in any weekday runs last week and though most of that was caused by weather and scheduling stuff, some of it was caused by a real reluctance to run. I mean, what if I hurt myself less than three weeks before the race? Where would I be then? I don't think I'll settle down until I've crossed the finish line. And even then, I might not believe it happened.

Well, I hate letting my fears get the better of me. I need to face this head-on. So today, I will at least rough in my packing list and tonight I will run. I won't let myself get distracted by thoughts of beautiful green velvet upholstery fabric until after I have run for half an hour and lifted some weights. One does not become freakin' awesome by freaking out over every little thing.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:


    You will be fine - seriously - you aren't alone - strike up a conversation with someone you don't know in the corral and even when running. You will find that the race will be over before you even realize it started.

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LITERARY_CHICK 2/9/2011 10:50AM

    I am so impressed by your planning skills. I always mean to plan that way but life gets in the way and I end up rushing around on the eve before trying to get things done.

I think you should treat this run like one of your vacations and plan it to death so you can just relax and enjoy it. I know you'll finish and do well.

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FUNFROG79 2/9/2011 9:26AM

    I totally relate! I'm feeling the same way, but we are going to have a great time! No worries!

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XTMONT 2/8/2011 10:24PM

    You can do it! You're my inspiration!

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DRPOOH63 2/8/2011 8:43PM

    This is so exciting. You are so close! AND you are going to be at Disney! AND you are ready! emoticon

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LIVE2RUN4LIFE 2/8/2011 6:05PM

    I second what Laurie said. Don't let yourself get carried away by the crowd and the excitement at the beginning. Run at your training pace for the first few miles and then decide whether or not to speed up. Hydrate and fuel as you go and you'll do fine. The goal of your first race should be to enjoy!

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LAURIE5658 2/8/2011 2:40PM

    Jen, this is your first HM, right? Trust me, every emotion you are feeling is N O R M A L. To us runners, this is a huge deal and we recognise the enormity of the event. For my first, I made two errors that bit me in my butt at mile 9. I started out way too fast and did not run my run/walk intervals for the first 5 miles. Why, I have no flippin clue. Error 2 was I was underfueled during the actual HM. I did not take into consideration that I was running at race pace and not my usual long run slow speed. i needed a third GU terribly and was grabbing at anything I could get my hands on in mile 11 and beyond which was really too late.

So, if you keep those two things in mind you will do fine. The last few miles is not espeically easy but VERY VERY doable. I am a little nervous too but knowing what I know, I am not freaking out. The little bling in the end makes it oh so worth it!

Just remember, your nervousness is normal and everyone experiences it. Have fun and I have a hug waiting for YOU!


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Super Build Weekend

Monday, February 07, 2011

So, one of the goals I have for this year is some pretty serious home improvement. I came up with three projects to improve the decor and functionality of my living room. And when I say "projects," I mean, "building furniture from scratch using nothing but lumber, power tools, plans and a little can-do spirit!" I don't have a good power saw, so I rely on the staff at Lowes and Home Depot to do most of my cutting. And last week, I built a bookshelf. I realized that I was missing a couple of trim pieces when I'd finished the bulk of assembly and I haven't painted it yet, but I couldn't wait. It is now standing in its intended spot, loaded up with yarn and craft books. Despite not being totally finished, I am far too proud of my bookshelf. I keep walking past it and thinking, "I built that. I BUILT a freaking bookshelf! I made furniture with my hands!"

Yeah, so I think I may have gotten too cocky with the relative success of the bookshelf. My plans for this past weekend were: four mile run, go to my sister's house to use her circular saw, cut boards for construction of storage bench for my entry closet and a tufted storage ottoman, assemble furniture at home, upholster ottoman. In between those activities were "church" and "Super Bowl."

On Friday, I did all of my necessary fabric and foam shopping and went to Ikea to get a couple of new picture frames. Then I went home, had dinner, and re-framed a couple of Edward Hopper prints that were in mismatched frames. They look great in the frames, but they are still sitting on the floor. I was tired, so I watched some TV. Then I proceeded to fall asleep, sitting upright on the sofa. And there I stayed until 6:15 AM! emoticon I've been falling asleep on the sofa a lot lately. I suspect the reason I stayed asleep so long is that at one point I managed to wake up, turn off the television, then sit up. I just couldn't manage the necessary fourth step of getting off the sofa and going to bed!

Anyway, I woke up at 8:30 on Saturday morning and dawdled a bit in the hopes that it would warm up a bit. Then I went out for a four mile run. It was kind of overcast and felt damp and cold, but it wasn't too bad. We had gotten about a foot or so of snow earlier in the week, so my biggest concern was a lack of shoulder on the road in some places. When I finished up my run, it was 12:20 and it was just starting to snow. The sidewalks in my condo community were totally bare it this point. I called my sister and told her I was going to shower, and then head to Home Depot on the way to her house. Well, I also checked my e-mail and read a bit, so it was two hours later when I finished getting ready and looked out the window. Where I had previously seen bare sidewalks, I now saw sidewalks covered with two inches of snow! I wouldn't say it was a blizzard, but it was like someone dumped a bucket of snow on us. I packed a change of clothes and a toothbrush in the bag of stuff I was taking to my sister's, just in case I had to stay the night. But I only got about a mile or so from my house before I came to the conclusion that I wasn't leaving my town that day. Instead, I drove to my local HD and called my sister to say I wasn't going to make it.

I bought all of my necessary tools and lumber and got it home safely. By that time, we'd gotten about 4-6 inches of snow. It was nuts. I've never had so many HD employees ask if I needed help. There were very few customers in the store, so they were all desperate for something to do. The kid in lumber was pretty happy to do the major cuts for me. I should have had him do all of them. I had some misgivings about using my jig saw to make my cuts. Jigs are not exactly known for straight cuts. I got slightly delayed helping my brother with an English paper and didn't start cutting until 8:00 PM.

Did I mention that I don't have a workshop at home? I do have a table in my basement, but my basement is currently so cluttered, it's not conducive to building of any kind. Instead, I put a plastic tarp on the floor in my living room and set up my work surface in there. Well, my first cut went awry, because I didn't have my boards clamped down sufficiently. Luckily, the crooked cut went into the waste part of the board, not the good part. But I knew it would be tricky to trim it to the right size. The second cut was also bad, this time because my blade kept jumping out of the groove it sits in.

It was at this point that I had what I call a "girly flame-out moment." There was a lot of cussing, a lot of whining, and possibly some tears of frustration. Did I mention that my only audience for my tantrum was my elderly cat? So I called my dad for advice and to grumble that "nobody in the family wants me to have a grown-up saw." Which is totally unfair, of course. My parents bought me the jig saw because they were concerned about me using a circular saw on my own. But it's not as if they gave me a hand saw and said "No power for you! You're just our baby girl and have no need for power tools!" So my dad offered me some advice, mostly about how jig saws are meant to be slow and not meant for long cuts. At any rate, we decided the best thing for me to do was to put everything away, have a drink and call my sister to ask if I could come over the next day. Did I mention that I'm PMSing? PMS and power tools are not a good combination. I had a small glass of Drambuie and watched some TV. Then I fell asleep on the sofa until 4:30 AM. RATS! emoticon

On Sunday, I woke up at 8:30 and called my sister about coming over. I went to Mass at 10:00, and afterward, loaded up the lumber and headed to her house. We got all of the boards cut and I decided to drill my pocket holes in her shed to avoid having to generate a lot of sawdust at my house. After that, we had a nice visit and I headed home at 5:00 PM. I helped my brother out a bit with his paper again, fed my cat, had dinner and then started working on assembling the ottoman. I should have stopped the second I started driving the screws and realized that they were poking through the sides. I thought I wasn't driving them in straight. Turns out, they were the wrong length screw. Grr! Anyway, I assembled the whole thing with the wrong length screw and started nailing the bottom to the box. I stopped when I realized it was after 10:00 PM. Not only was I getting tired, I decided that my neighbors would probably prefer it if I didn't hammer stuff late at night. Then I cleaned up my tools and building gear, watched a little TV and fell asleep on the sofa until 11:35 PM. emoticon Or is that progress?

So today, I am stopping by Lowes to buy the correct size screws (my father assures me that since it's also glued, it won't be any trouble to swap the screws) and I'm making that repair before moving on to assembling the closet bench and upholstering the ottoman. I also have a new goal for the month of February: stop falling asleep on the sofa!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

IFDEEVARUNS2 2/9/2011 1:07PM

    I'd love to see pictures of all of this!

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XTMONT 2/7/2011 3:57PM

    You! Are! AWESOME!

And is that couch comfy? Then don't worry about it! Sleep when your body says "Sleep now!"

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LAURIE5658 2/7/2011 2:42PM

    You are amazing! If it helps, I have not been sleeping all that well either and have headed to the spare bedroo. I go right out when I slip into that bed. Why is that? its a real head scratcher to me!

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FUNFROG79 2/7/2011 2:33PM

    Wow, you made a bookcase?! That's super impressive!

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