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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Simple console table

I love Ana White’s website. And I have a bit of a girl-crush on Ana herself. She is amazing and skilled at building things. I totally want her to move to St. Louis so we can be BFFs and work on projects together :-)

But in all seriousness, if you haven’t checked out her website, I highly recommend it. There are a lot of woodworking project plans with free tutorials. Lovely!

After getting irritated with my husband’s habit of just throwing down his wallet and key on any empty surface in the house, I decided he needed a designated spot for his stuff. Naturally, I went to to look for plans for a console table. There, I found the Simple, Cheap and Easy Console Table plans. This table has nice, clean lines. The simple angles fit with the many pieces of Asian décor that we have. So, the Simple, Cheap and Easy Console Table was a clear winner.

Since this table was a gift for my husband (and a small gift for me since it would mean he’d no longer just throw his stuff around), I worked on it while he was at work and after he went to bed at night. It took a little longer than I had planned because I bought cheap white board from big box lumber. I bought the straightest pieces I could find, but even these pieces were mildly warped. So, pulling the pieces square was difficult since I was doing the work without help and without clamps. (I bought new clamps after finishing this piece.)

Painting and sealing were a bit of a problem on this piece. I wanted to use low VOC paint, so I was stuck using latex on wood. Wood and latex paint are NOT the best of friends, and the finish can have a bit of tack. The sticky, tackiness goes away after a while, but it can be annoying at first. I prefer the look of an oil enamel on wood, but the latex is more environmentally friendly.

I was disappointed with the brown latex finish, but as it's cured, it has grown on me. My husband picked out the color and really likes the finish. I'm just glad he now has a bowl on a table to keep his stuff tidy.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Race 12: March 20 - Germantown Half Marathon in Memphis

With Lady after the Germantown Half Marathon

I forgot to write about this race and race 13. So much has been going on in our lives that it
just slipped my mind.

My hubby eating Memphis barbecue the night before the race

This was a fun race for me. My husband, our dog, and I camped out at a state park in the Memphis area the night before. It was a beautiful place to camp, and I was thrilled that my husband could be there for this race.

The race start - aren't the trees beautiful?!

The race was a modified out-and-back course. It ran through a neighborhood, where the residents sat outside in their yards to cheer us on. This makes any race better! There was even a little girl dressed up in a princess costume cheering us on. :-)

Like most races, I ran with complete strangers who quickly became friends. There's something about traveling over 13 miles together on foot that just brings people together! Only at the final stretch did we breakaway from each other to finish.

At the final stretch -- we all broke away and finished at our own speed.

At the end of the race, my husband and dog ran beside me as I finished. I love how supportive my husband is! After I cooled down a bit and ate some bananas, we went downtown to eat brunch at a restaurant with a dog-friendly patio. We then strolled around downtown, and walked to the park at the riverfront. Lovely!

The three of us after the race.

A DIY upholstered ottoman

Our new ottoman. Ignore the mess in the background--we are still unpacking!

As I’ve stated before, I’ve been making a lot of furniture and décor for our new house. One of the things I really wanted was a storage ottoman for the living room. I wanted a replacement for our coffee table after I turned it into a bench (more on that later). But when I searched for an ottoman, I couldn’t find one I like for a price that I thought was reasonable. So, I decided to make it myself.

Here are the steps I took when making our new ottoman. This is not a tutorial per

se, but just a list of the steps I took to make our ottoman.

Step 1: Look online for inspiration pieces.

I scoured the internet for inspiration ottomans. I looked at all of my regular sites: West Elm, Z Gallerie, Crate & Barrel, Jonathan Adler, and Pottery Barn. I then searched through all of the ottomans at Finding the perfect inspiration was hard, but I finally found one that I loved.

This is the inspiration piece--from

Step 2: Put the inspiration picture on

I had to put the picture of the inspiration on my Future DIY board. This kept me accountable—I couldn’t procrastinate too long knowing it was posted for all to see. Granted, it sat on my DIY board for over 5 weeks... It might still be sitting on that board if it hadn't been for the Pinterest challenge hosted by Young House Love, Bower Power, Ana White, and House of Earnest. Even though I'm not sure it really qualifies for the challenge (does it count if I pinned it myself?), this challenge still lit a fire under my rear, so to speak. It got me building and blogging.

Step 3: Decide on the size

I used the measurements of the inspiration piece as a starting point. But since I had specific items that I wanted stored (e.g., my husband’s RockBand accessories), I put the items in a pile and measured them. Using the sizes of the items to be stored, I found my minimum measurements. I then added 2 inches to both the length and width so I could be certain that there would be ample storage.

Step 4: Build a box

Building an ottoman really isn’t too hard. Basically, you build an open box using your measurements. I used 3/4" plywood to create my box and lid. It’s pretty logical and self-explanatory. I cut the plywood to measure and used kreg screws and lots of glue to hold all of it together.

Step 5: Build a lid

If you don’t care about the height of the lid, I suggest just using a flat lid that rests on top of the box portion. This is the easiest way. And, since I like to complicate things, this is not the way I chose to do our ottoman. I chose to have a tall lid that is 4 inches high. This means I had to cut 4 extra pieces of plywood. But I love the way it looks, and think the added effort was worth it. If you plan on tufting the lid, drill your holes now.

Step 6: Add the legs before you upholster

I just used scrap 2x2 pieces as legs. Since I was planning on lining the inside of the ottoman, I just screwed the legs to the box from the inside. Easy, peasy.

Step 7: Upholster

Upholstering the ottoman required quite a bit of sewing. I used a separate piece of fabric for each surface, and stitched them together using my sewing machine. For the lid, I used some single welt cording that I made by cutting the fabric on the bias and sewing it around some cord. (Because I’m cheap, I re-used the free cording that Lowe’s gives you to tie your trunk shut.)

The body of the ottoman after upholstering, before lining.

Step 8: Tuft

I used a button maker to make covered 7/8” cover buttons. Using these buttons and heavy duty upholstery thread, I tufted 8 spots on the top of the ottoman lid. This step isn’t necessary, but it definitely makes the piece look a bit more professional and a bit less DIY.

A view from the top -- it shows some of the tufting.

I love the end result. It wasn’t very expensive, and it houses my husband’s belongings perfectly!

Here’s the breakdown of the costs:
3/4” plywood (I used purebond, so it was a bit pricey) $41.00
2x2 legs – they were made from scrap $ 0.00
Spray paint for legs – leftover from another project $ 0.00
Fabric – 2 yards on sale at Hancocks $18.00
Buttons $3.00
Approximate total $62.00

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Lupus and pain scales

When you tell your doctor that you are experiencing pain, the doctor often asks what type of pain you are feeling? Sharp pain? Stabbing pain? Dull pain? But the problem with lupus is that the answer can be all of the above. You can feel a dull ache in your joints while resting, but an intense, sharp pain when you try to bend them.

And the answer is also complex when the doctor asks, "On a scale of 1-10, how is your pain?" Different areas of the body experience different levels of pain. And as a lupus patient, you live with almost constant pain during flares. So, you start to get used to pain. And as your pain threshold grows, your pain number can decrease despite no change in actual pain levels.

When I'm stressed, my pain levels fluctuate so dramatically. This makes it so hard to plan activities and to plan projects. And not being able to plan projects makes the stress levels increase. It's very cyclical.

Anyhow, this pain has made remodeling and building difficult. In the last 3 months, I've not accomplished as much around our new-to-us house as I have planned. We have a huge list of to-dos, but haven't made as large of a dent in it as I'd like. But we have made a dent, and I'm thankful for that. We have had our wood floors refinished. One of our bathrooms has been remodeled, although the contractors didn't do a very good job and we're going to have to redo it. I have made a beautiful upholstered bed and tufted headboard for our bedroom, a new rustic & modern dining table, an upholstered storage ottoman, a tilt-out garbage bin, a liquor cabinet, a side table, and refinished two chairs for our den. I still have to finish a daybed, chairs for the dining table, a bench for the dining table, a laundry basket dresser, a shoe dresser, and two small square ottomans for in front of the daybed. The to-do list just seems so large! I just hope it's not too cold of a winter as the cold makes the pain worse! I just have to remind myself that I need to suck it up and deal with it :-)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

No races right now

I haven't be able to run any races in a while because too many other things are going on in my life.

First, my blood pressure has been too high, and my Dr. doesn't want me to stroke out while I run. So, she told me not to run until we can figure out if my lupus is hurting my kidneys, and until we can get my numbers down. Luckily, it's slowly getting lower, and will hopefully be back to normal soon. I can't wait to get clearance to run again!

Second, my husband and I just bought a house. It was a foreclosure, and it needed a lot of work. We've been using our spare money (a.k.a., my racing fund) to renovate and furnish our new place. Working on our house has been a physical drain. With the stress and physical activity, I feel like I'm in a constant flare-up. It's really hard to hold a saw steady when your finger joints are swollen and inflamed.

Third, any extra money we have that hasn't gone into the house is being saved so we can visit my grandparents. My grandfather has inoperable, un-treatable pancreatic cancer. I want to spend as much time as possible with him before he leaves this world for a better place.

With these three interrupting factors, my racing has been put aside for a few months. In a couple of months, I should start again. But for now, there are other things that need my attention.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Race 11: February 27 – Cowtown Marathon

On February 25, my husband and I flew to DFW for the Cowtown Marathon in Fort Worth. His mother and stepfather came to meet us at the airport, and drove us to their house in Fort Worth. Arriving two days before the race gave us time to hang out with friends, and catch up with family, which was lovely.

Saturday, my mother-in-law enjoyed a day of exploring different eateries in Fort Worth. I enjoyed a delicious lunch of a chicken salad croissant, cake, and gelato. I was having a wonderful time with my mother-in-law, when my head started to throb and my lupus medicine began to churn in my stomach. I asked if we could call it a day, and we went back to their house. There, I spent the rest of the day and night terribly sick. I couldn’t keep down any food. I was cold and clammy. I ached all over.

When Sunday morning came, I debated running the marathon. But our friend Derek came down from Tulsa to run it with me. And I couldn’t bear with the idea of paying $85 for a race without completing it. Therefore, I decided to run and, if needed, walk the race.

We started off at a good pace, and Derek and I chatted—catching up on our various life events. I still ached, but I was having fun. We ran through downtown Fort Worth, and the course was nice and shady. Our pace was easy enough for periodic text messages and phone calls to and from our family members (my parents drove up from Houston to cheer us on).

At mile 13, my husband, the best man from our wedding, and my in-laws were waiting in front of a friend’s house, ringing cowbells and cheering us on. We stopped, briefly. And my husband gave me some medicine for my aching joints. He also told me where my parents were (they hadn’t quite arrived at the city by this point).

At mile 19, my husband, parents, and in-laws met us. By this point, I was feeling weak and extremely achy. I stopped and talked with my parents for a bit. I told Derek to run on without me. He protested, but eventually I convinced him. My parents and husband walked with me a little bit, and then they left to meet me at the finish.

At this time, the course was getting very sunny. The sun is like kryptonite for a person with lupus, and I quickly felt what little energy I had fading. But God sent me an angel in the form of another runner, who had stopped to walk. I finished my last 5 miles with an older gentleman whose name I can no longer remember. We walked those final miles, chatting about our families, jobs, and travels. He encouraged me, and I did the same for him. This man, whose personality was so much like my father’s, made sure I finished what I started. He even encouraged me to run over the finish line, despite our 6+ hour finishing time.

I’ve had better and faster races, but I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud of finishing a race. I could have easily quit, and used my lupus as an excuse. But I didn’t let my upset stomach, aching joints, or dwindling energy stand in my way. Lupus may have slowed me down, but it didn’t drive me to quit!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Race 10: November 21 - Tulsa, Oklahoma

I've been procrastinating writing about this race. This was by far the worst race I've ever been to. It was a horrible, gut-wrenching experience. At this race, I saw a young man die.

I was shortly behind the 27 year old guy when he collapsed. When I saw confusion, I sped up and reached the man just as a cardiac nurse was starting chest compressions. I was just one of many racers who stopped to help and offered to take over when the nurse tired, which she never did. She was amazing. For a full 6 minutes, she performed CPR. I just sat, helpless, feeling for his femoral pulse. His pulse was at best, thready and weak, at worst, nonexistent. The only air that came out of him was agonal breathing.

After a couple of minutes of compressions, we wondered where in the world the EMTs could be with the AED, so I sprinted down to a police officer that I had seen. When I asked him if he knew where the closest AED was, he gave me no verbal answer. Nor did he seem to care that there was a runner who cardiac arrested. He just grunted in the direction of the distant-sounding ambulance sirens.

Frustrated, I sprinted back to a medical tent. Again, this was useless. While the medical volunteers at least seemed genuinely concerned, they said that there were no AEDs on the course. I was shocked to hear this since a runner had previously passed away during this race.

When I made it back to the man, the nurse was still performing compressions. She was intense, concentrating on trying to keep this young guy (a kid in my 30+ mind) alive. Shortly after I returned, a race official pulled up on a golf cart. He asked if any of us knew the man. None of us did. The only thing that we knew was that his first name was Marcus--it was printed on his bib. The official seemed confused when we runners explained to him that Marcus was not carrying any keys and no longer had his bag claim tag attached to his bib, so it was logical to assume that he checked a bag at the bag check tent. We explained to the official that the bag would contain Marcus's personal items. But, again, the official just looked confused and stood staring at us for way too long.

By the time the ambulance reached Marcus, the four minute window for the best response to the AED had elapsed by two full minutes. The EMTs took over compressions and hooked the man up to the AED, but it was to no avail. He was never revived. And my heart broke as they took him away because I knew he would soon be pronounced dead.

After Marcus was loaded into the ambulance and taken to a nearby hospital, the nurse (whose name I unfortunately forgot) and I walked together for a mile. She was an amazing person, and she, too, was disappointed in the emergency response time. After a mile of walking and talking, we fell into silence. Then we went our own ways. She decided to run to the finish line (where, incidentally, she greeted me with a hug when I finished). And I decided to call my mother and cry.

I was just so upset with the race situation and needed to talk to someone about why I never want to run in Tulsa again. The medical tents were not well stocked, race officials were clueless, and the police monitoring the course were rude and not helpful.

(In case you're interested in Marcus's story, here's an article about his death. His family and friends continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Race 9: November 20 - Cotter, AR

The weekend of November 20-21, I had registered for two races: one in Arkansas, one in Oklahoma. Since we knew I would feel exhausted after the Arkansas race, my husband and I agreed that I would drive from St. Louis to Cotter. Then, after the race, he would drive to Tulsa while I rested. And this is how our weekend began. I went to be very early on Friday night so I would be well rested. We got up very, very early—at 1:30 a.m.—and I packed up the car. Steven and the dog both slept as I drove.

There was no traffic, so we arrived very early. After we parked at the school where the packet pickup was, I slept some in the driver’s seat. It was very chilly and humid, so the longer I could stay inside, the better. I waited until the last moment to board the shuttle bus to the start line by the river.

After being bussed to the start, the other runners and I waited in the cold fog to begin. Most of us jumped around and fidgeted to warm our frozen limbs. The few moments before the start were, admittedly, miserable. But once we began, the race was quite pleasant.

The course was an out-and-back on the road on the edge of the White River. As we ran, the mist settled on the river’s surface. It was beautiful—a quiet, peaceful race without any pretense.

Steven, still exhausted, slept in the car during the race. I didn’t want him to meet me at the finish area, so he stayed in the car until I was bussed back to the school. After letting him sleep for a while, I woke him for the post-race lunch. It was a lovely potluck that several race volunteers organized. I fueled up on chicken soup and brownies, and felt refreshed. Then, I did something that I haven’t done in years—I showered in a high school locker room and changed into clean clothes.

After such an early morning and a decent race time (despite a broken toe), I fell sound asleep as Steven drove to Tulsa.

My bloody broken toe

Race 8: November 7--Huntington, WV

The plane crash that killed 37 football players from Marshall University occurred in 1970 (eight years before I was born). Last year marked the 40th anniversary of that tragedy. Therefore, the race directors of the Marshall University Marathon and Half Marathon decided to honor those players during the 2010 race. During a section of the race that went through the grounds of the university, runners carried carnations to honor those who passed in that crash. It was very touching, making this one of the most beautiful races I’ve ever participated in.

This race was also fun. The last 100 yards of the race are run across the football field. As you arrive onto the field, a volunteer passes you a football. You then race to the finish line with your football. Upon scoring your touchdown, you get your medal.

The course was lovely, and, for a small race, had more volunteers and supporters than I expected. The best way to describe this race is to say it was charming and southern. In fact, the refueling options were very small southern town. There were hamburgers and hotdogs aplenty. The potato chip supply was staggering, and there were varieties of Little Debbies that I didn’t even know existed. You could also grab a fried pie and wash it down with your choice of Pepsi product. It was fun to look at the selection of food products, but I was really glad I had packed a lunch at Grandma and Grandpa’s. (I stayed at my grandparents the night before the race since they live less than 3 hours from Huntington, WV.) After eating my prepacked meal in the stands of the football stadium, chatting with some locals, I changed clothes and headed back to my grandparents.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Goals for 2010 reached

I ran 10 half marathons in 10 different states in 2010. The last three I haven't posted about yet. These three include the Marshall University Marathon and half, White River Marathon in Arkansas, and the Route 66 Marathon and half in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Something very tragic happened at the last race, so I just haven't felt like writing about these races yet. In time, I will include them.

In 2010, I also completed 52 books. I enjoyed this goal so much that I'm extending it to this year as well. Except this year I want to read MORE than 52 books.