Saturday, September 15, 2018

Summertime Sickness

At the beginning of August, I went back to Indiana to celebrate my brother's engagement and my niece's first birthday. It was a wonderful weekend, but a couple days after I got back home, I started to feel sick. I thought I had a cold, so I put off going to the doctor, but after three days, I was miserable and went to an urgent care clinic. They did a strep test and it came back positive. I was mad at myself for not going to the doctor sooner, and the strep took longer than usual to get over.

While recovering from strep throat, I developed a horrible cough that would keep me (and sometimes my husband) up all night and would make me feel like I was going to throw up. I spent days sleeping on the couch, and even after I finished the antibiotics for the strep throat, I was still coughing. (Plus, my sore throat came back). I finally decided to go back to urgent care (although I went to a different clinic this time). The physician's assistant told me I definitely had bronchitis (which is completely unrelated to strep throat) and said I needed to get it under control before it developed into pneumonia. They did a strep test and it came back negative, so she said the sore throat was likely caused by the cough. She gave me a steroid injection in the office and sent me home with prescriptions for five days of antibiotics, five days of steroids, and cough syrup to help me sleep. 

I felt much better after a couple days, and although the cough was still there, I could breathe and sleep better. I even managed to go to campus during orientation week to shoot some photos of incoming undergraduate and graduate students (as part of my assistantship). I had been asked to teach a poetry class last-minute, and I was so excited to teach it that I didn't even mind planning the course while recovering from bronchitis. I was finally feeling better and was ready to welcome the new semester (and the last year of my PhD program).

I finished the round of antibiotics and steroids and school started Monday (August 27th). On Tuesday, the sore throat was back. On Wednesday, I got up to get ready and go to campus to teach. I looked in the mirror and my face, neck, and chest were covered in a terrible rash. I didn't know what to do except to try and get through teaching my class (it was only the second day and I didn't feel like I could cancel), so I got ready and drove to campus. On my way home, I was almost in tears because of how bad the rash was, and my husband and my mom both said I should go back to urgent care.

Later that evening when my husband came home from work, we went back to urgent care and the same PA from the bronchitis visit was there. I had a fever of 101 and I hadn't even realized it (I had had a low-grade fever since August 7th, and it was now August 29th), so nothing seemed out of the ordinary to me. The PA really wasn't sure what was going on, but thought it was another respiratory infection (which can cause a rash) or that it was possibly scarlet fever (which sounds scary, but no longer is because we have antibiotics). She did another strep test and it came back negative. She said she could order some blood work, but was sure I would get better with another five days of antibiotics and steroids, so I went home with the prescriptions and hoped this was the last of the mystery illness.

The rash slowly went away while on the antibiotics, and I luckily had an extra long weekend to relax and recover since it was Labor Day weekend. When Wednesday came around, I had to go back to campus for meetings and to teach, but I found myself struggling to even get out of bed. Even though the rash had gone away for the most part, I was still feeling ill and not like myself. If you know me, you know it's hard for me to take time off because I always have something on my mind and always have a to-do list. I was concerned about how lethargic I was feeling and how difficult it was for me to wake up and get any work done. And, a couple days after finishing the second five days of antibiotics and steroids, the rash came back even worse than it was before. 

I was at a loss. I was starting to feel down and depressed and felt like I could burst into tears at any moment. I stupidly started looking up my symptoms online and was convinced I was dying of some awful disease (I was sure I had lymphoma). I called my family doctor's office and scheduled an appointment and she was able to see me the next day. I was sick, tired, and miserable and had no clue what was happening. 

I went in for my appointment the next morning (September 7th) and, when my doctor walked in, she saw my face and thought I had a strep rash and told me it would go away on its own. I was almost in tears because I knew it wasn't a strep rash and I was desperate for someone to tell me what was wrong with me. I told her I had recently had two negative strep tests, so it couldn't be a strep rash. I proceeded to tell her about the past month of illnesses and visits to urgent care. She looked something up online and showed me a picture of a rash.

"That looks a lot like your rash, doesn't it?" she asked.

It did. She had me sit on the exam table. My lymph nodes were extremely swollen (which I knew and was one of the reasons I was convinced I had lymphoma). I lay down on the table and when she felt around on the left side of my abdomen, I almost cried out in pain. She told me my spleen was very enlarged. I told her about how tired I had been, how I could barely function at work, how I had a fever that wouldn't go away. 

She told me she was 99% sure I had mononucleosis, and would order blood work to confirm. She also sent me to the hospital to get my spleen checked (when you have mono, your spleen can get so enlarged that it can rupture). While I was relieved to finally have a diagnosis and know that I wasn't dying, she said mono can take 6-8 weeks to recover from and that there are no treatments/cures. The only thing you can do is take time off and rest and sleep and drink plenty of fluids. 

Friends, I am the kind of person who doesn't relax easily. It's hard for me to take time off, and it was very difficult for me to give up teaching that poetry class that I spent so much time planning. BUT, I'm currently taking 4-6 weeks off of work and school to recover, and while it's not always easy, it was the necessary choice for my health. Some days, all I can do is sleep on the couch and occasionally get up to let my dog out (my husband works every day, so I'm home by myself most of the time). Other days, I can do some work from home for a bit (job applications, dissertation stuff, etc.). But I tire easily. And mono is very lonely. Most days, I don't even leave the house because I'm not feeling up to it. I went from seeing and interacting with people every day to spending most of my hours with my dog (don't get me wrong, I love my sweet Ruby, but she's not very conversational - lol).

This past month and a half has been tough. I'm relaxing and resting and sleeping as much as possible and am still tired, but I'll get through this. I'm so grateful it wasn't anything worse, and I'm hopeful that in 3-5 weeks (it's already been a week since I found out I had mono), I will be feeling like my regular self and will be ready to return to campus (and to finish this PhD strong). In the meantime, if you feel like bringing someone ice cream, you know where to find me. 

Monday, August 6, 2018

Tyler + Jodie Engagement & Madilynn's Birthday - Photo Shoots

This weekend, I got to shoot my brother and future sister-in-law's engagement (Tyler + Jodie) and my niece's (Madilynn) first birthday/cake smash. The photos of Tyler proposing are not staged - he asked me to hide out and capture the moment as it was happening, and my dad was in another area getting video of it! I'm so grateful to have been a part of their special moment.

Here's just a small snapshot of the photos I got this weekend. Interested in booking a photo shoot? Check out my photography website to find out more!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Restoring & Repairing Our Antique Radios

This has been a busy summer so far! Not only have I been working a job on campus and working on my dissertation, but Justin and I have had lots of projects going on at home. We repainted a shelf for our bathroom, painted a tabletop for my desk, and sanded and repainted all of our bedroom furniture (see a post on that here). This past week, we decided to work on restoring some of our cherished antiques.

We have lots of antiques, and most of them were given to us by family and friends (to see a post on all of my typewriters, click here). My favorite piece is definitely the 1940s Philco radio phonograph that my great grandfather gave to me about four years ago. Justin and I had just moved to Ohio and he had to go back to Indiana for one of his grad school classes. I went with him to Indiana and he dropped me off at my parents' house so I could spend the day with my dad at my great grandfather's house. He was 94 at the time, and we had a wonderful day spending time with him and helping him around the house. My dad told him I love antiques, and my grandpa told me to go look around in the attic to see if there was anything I might want. I found so many cool things, including boxes of old cameras, records, vintage suitcases...and this 1948 Philco radio phonograph. When I asked him about it, he told me that him and my great grandmother had purchased the radio brand new and that he had had it for over sixty years, and that he wanted me to have it! My dad and I managed to get the radio out of the attic and into the car, but it was in rough shape.

It had been in my grandpa's non-temperature-controlled attic for many years, so it endured lots of extreme cold and heat. It also needed a deep clean. My dad and I took it back to my parents' house and spent the afternoon cleaning it and polishing it. It looked completely different by the time we were done.
The plug needed to be replaced, so my dad and I couldn't turn it on. When I got it home, Justin and I replaced the broken plug and tried it out - of course, it didn't work. I began doing some research about how to fix old radios, found a schematic online of the inside of the Philco model I had (we later realized there was a schematic on the inside of the radio that we didn't know was there), and found a website that sold the vacuum tubes I needed. We ordered them, installed them, and the radio worked! We were so happy, although the radio only picks up AM stations, so there wasn't much to listen to. We decided to try fixing the record player next, but that journey ended up being a three-year saga of disappointment. 

With the record player, it turned on and the record would spin, but we couldn't hear any noise. Justin replaced the capacitors and resistors, but it still didn't work. He thought that the arm for the record player was the problem, but we found out that the part we needed to fix the arm didn't exist anymore. We were disappointed, but I still loved that the radio component worked. My grandpa passed away about a year after giving the radio to me, so I loved being able to have a piece of him in my home that I could see everyday (and share with guests when they come over). 

A couple weekends ago, my husband and I were camping with friends in Indiana. Our friend, B.J., started talking about how he restores antiques, and Justin told him about our radio. He agreed that the issue with the record player probably had to do with the arm, and B.J. gave Justin the contact information for a guy in Michigan who sells parts for antiques. While we were already told several years earlier that the part we needed didn't exist, Justin emailed the guy anyway.

The guy confirmed what we already knew, but did some research anyway. He ended up finding a universal cartridge replacement kit, and while he didn't know if it would work, we decided to give it a try for about $28. The part came in the mail, and Justin worked on installing it. The parts were very small and it was a tedious process, but he got everything put together. We stood in my office anxiously waiting as the radio warmed up so we could see if, after four years of having the radio, the turntable worked. 

It didn't.

Justin started working on it again and realized he had re-installed the arm wrong. He fixed it.

It still didn't work.

I stood there watching in disappointment as I had hoped this last effort to fix my grandpa's radio would work. Justin made a small adjustment with the needle, and all of a sudden, the record started playing. 

There may have been happy tears involved! We polished the wood again, and now the radio looks beautiful and is in complete working condition (and it sounds beautiful). Also, Justin replaced the bulb behind the radio display, so it has backlighting again. In the video, we're listening to one of my grandpa's Nat King Cole records that I found in his attic along with the radio. 

My great grandmother and great grandfather got that wooden camel figurine in Israel during a trip they took around the world. It was another gift from him, and I have it displayed on top of the radio he gave me.

I found this whole stack of records (78s) in my grandpa's attic. They may skip a bit from sitting in his attic for 50 years, but for the most part, they sound wonderful. Somehow during the many years my grandpa owned the radio, the back came off and we weren't able to find it (although the screws that held the back on were still drilled into the sides of the radio). Justin and I went to Lowe's to get the material to make a custom back for the radio to protect it and keep dust out. We added some ventilation holes since the vacuum tubes get hot while the radio is on.

In addition to the Philco, Justin and I have also been working on a 1973 radio/record player/8-track console we found last summer for free (to see the original post on this console, follow this link). It was also in rough shape because someone had left it sitting out in the rain. We brought it home, cleaned it up, and realized all of the electronics still worked (except for the turntable, which needed a new needle cartridge). Here are a couple photos from cleaning the console up last summer:

Before cleaning.

After cleaning.

It cleaned up well, but Justin and I decided to sell it since we didn't have room for it in the house. We posted it on several sites, and there was some interest, but no one bought it. We decided to fix it up a bit more (the exterior was still in bad shape from having been soaked during a rain storm). We sanded it and got it ready to paint. Justin found a replacement needle for it from the same guy who sent us the cartridge replacement kit for the Philco. 

After sanding, adding wood filler, sealing the bottom, and gluing parts of the exterior back down, I decided to paint the piece black with a gray top (and I spray painted the hardware metallic black) to cover up the imperfections from the water damage (plus, I added a layer of clear coat at the end to protect the surface). Justin installed the new needle and the record player played beautifully. We decided to keep it this time. 

That's Johnny Cash on the 8-track player (found at an antique shop in Dundee, MI) and AC/DC on the record player (found at a Goodwill store). 

And while both of those projects took quite a bit of time and effort, we had one last thing to do - find a knob to replace the missing one on Justin's great grandmother's Delco radio (given to Justin by his dad). We found a knob from a different seller and now the radio looks complete (and it works perfectly).



We finished working on these radios in a week's time! Like I said, it's been a busy summer. We are both so excited to have restored some beautiful pieces of history - one of which we found, one that belonged to my great grandparents, and one that belonged to Justin's great grandparents.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Upcycling: Bedroom Furniture

When Justin and I first got married, we used a bedroom set we inherited from my family. It was in decent shape, but the bed frame was for a full-size mattress, so we wanted to upgrade to a bigger bed. We bought a bedroom set at Value City Furniture because it was affordable (it came with a bed frame with four built-in drawers, two large nightstands, and a large dresser with a mirror), but we were never in love with the dark-colored wood. Since I forgot to take "before" photos of the furniture, I found some photos that I took of our room when we first moved to Ohio about four years ago:

You can see how dark the furniture was. (It's not a terrible color, Justin and I just prefer lighter, brighter colors). It made the room seem smaller, and we always talked about re-finishing all of the bedroom furniture, but we knew how big of an undertaking it would be, so we kept putting it off.

We have been in an upcycling mood this summer (so far, we've painted a bathroom shelf, a table, a large media cabinet - you can see a post on that here, and a record cabinet), so we just decided to tackle this project and re-do our entire bedroom set. We like to do things on a budget, and purchasing new furniture just seemed pointless since the furniture we have is in great condition, we just didn't like the color. So, we made a trip to the store to pick out paint and get some supplies.

We decided to do the nightstands and the bed frame in a grey color called "online" and the dresser in an orange-ish color called "armagnac." Both of these colors were from Sherwin-Williams' Urban Outlook collection at Lowe's.

This project was definitely a big undertaking as each piece had to be taken apart (the drawers, the back, etc.), taken outside, sanded down using several different grit sandpapers, dusted and wiped down with microfiber cloths, and then taken back inside for painting. I had several drop cloths laid out in my office area where I would take the sanded furniture and paint it. Since this was such a big project, we did it in three phases - first the nightstands, then the bed frame, then the dresser.

One of the nightstands, ready to be sanded.
As you can see, our bed frame is not your average bed frame. It has a huge headboard and side pieces that hold four built-in drawers. We bought this particular set because of the extra storage under the bed.

Justin outside sanding the bed frame. We live on the top floor of a duplex, and our front porch served as the perfect place to do all of the sanding.
Getting ready to sand the dresser. Look at all the sawdust on the floor!

We underestimated how many drawers we had! While painting, we could hardly walk through the office to the bathroom/bedroom area because there were so many drawers on the floor.
Justin did all of the sanding, I dusted/cleaned all of the items before we brought them back inside, I painted everything, and then Justin and I added a layer of clear coat (we used Miniwax brand water based Polycrylic protective finish) to everything to protect it from scratches and scrapes. We decided we didn't like the basic silver knobs that were originally on the drawers, so we did some research and found some black, vintage-looking knobs from Hobby Lobby on a 50% off sale. We have so many drawers/drawer pulls that we had to buy 32 knobs to replace the old ones!

So, without further ado, here is our freshly upcycled bedroom furniture. It was SO much work (the whole project took about three weeks), but we love how it came out. Our bedroom feels so much bigger and fresher now, and the new color is definitely a better fit for our style.

These knobs are so much cuter than the original, generic knobs!

I used this old burlap coffee sack to put the TV on.
I love the color of the dresser next to my vintage yellow chair (which I found at a thrift shop in Michigan for $15 about five years ago).
This upcycling project probably cost us around $100 for all of the paint, supplies, and knobs (and it definitely took lots of time and effort), but it was a fun project for Justin and I to do together and it certainly cost way less than purchasing a new bedroom set with a vintage feel. I can't imagine how much it would have cost us to purchase a hand-painted bedroom set like this from a shop, or how much someone would have charged to do the sanding and painting for us. We love getting creative and bringing new life to used items, and we love our "new" bedroom furniture!

Next on the list this summer: finding parts for some antiques we have to get them in working condition. Stay tuned for updates!