One home project at a time

Since the end of July / beginning of August and largely due to covid-19, I have been embarking on a prioritized home project every week to ten days. It feels good to accomplish projects with a beginning, a middle and an end. I can check them off my list which is great. I can also enjoy the added sense of new homey touches for home enjoyment and decluttering our living spaces.

At first it was being sure my daughter had a good place to do her remote learning. We set up an existing table as a desk for her, got a new rug, added a new pillow, and cleared the room of most of the clutter. Another project was sprucing up the back porch by adding two new jade plants. An additional project was adding two new plants to my daughter’s room – a peace plant and a pothos or fast-growing climber. Another more costly project was getting a new dining room rug since we will soon be inheriting a new dining room table from my mother who is downsizing to go into a facility for the elderly. This took a lot of work and some not so subtle swearing from my husband and me to get centered into the dining room. In addition, I have been cutting the back and front yard every week to ten days this summer and attending to flowers out front of the house. The outside of the house looks nice. It is looking nicer with each project completed inside as well.

For the most part these projects have not been too expensive. Going to discount stores for pillows and decorative accents and to Home Depot for plants helps with the price side of the equation for sprucing up the home. A new plant or a candle can do great things to brighten up your living room or other area where you spend a lot of time.

In addition to home projects, I like to check off my list the regular weekly chores as projects as well. This includes things like grocery shopping, watering plants, vacuuming the downstairs, cleaning the bathrooms, paying bills, getting a pescatarian meal on the table each day, doing the laundry, and other regular maintenance activities. I feel I need to give myself credit for those tasks as well even though they are more maintenance and less of home projects. There are times when I don’t feel motivated to take on a new home project so I have to give myself credit for getting maintenance work done during those times. It is nice that my husband thanks me when I am doing these chores and that he is aware of those contributions.

Other home projects on the horizon include: getting mums for the fall for the front porch to replace the current flowers, getting the dining room table from my Mom, putting down a new living room rug from my Mom, organizing my closet, organizing the kitchen towels and napkins and place mats, etc. I hope to get a further list together in the next few weeks.

Overall, I have to say that having home projects and regular maintenance projects to do is one way of combatting cabin fever due to covid-19. They give purpose to the day and they end up making the home a more comfortable place to be. And that is important because at home is where we need to be now and for the foreseeable future.

What is your take on home projects during covid? Are you in maintenance mode with weekly chores which is still a fantastic accomplishment! ? Or can you tackle a small home improvement project here and there? Not on the scale of official remodeling but more along the lines of decluttering a family space or adding a new touch of color with a candle or a plant or some such small gesture?

My Sojourn through Bipolar Illness – Development of High Anxiety

In the years after I was first diagnosed with bipolar illness, I would have a break and go into the hospital about every six months.  Eventually with the right meds I got to the place where I would have mini-breaks every six months and stay with my sister Jane and her family rather than go into the hospital.  This was during the days of Mellaril, Ativan and Haldol.  I would leave my apartment and take the subway to my sister Jane’s house about 25 minutes away.  Oftentimes this ride was a huge challenge.  I would arrive at Jane’s house with an overnight bag and some meds and put my belongings in the basement where there was a guest room.  I would spend between three and seven nights at Jane’s house where she would help me with administering meds.  In those early days, the anxiety associated with waiting for the meds to kick-in was excruciating.  I often requested to hold Jane’s hand as we lay in the bed until the medication had had time to sink in and sedate me. 

At that time, the meds for bipolar illness were not very advanced.  Meds seemed at that time to treat the symptoms of the illness rather than seeking to manage the illness before the break-through of mini or grand episodes.  I am forever grateful to my sister for allowing me several years of staying with her and her family every six months or so and managing though those mini-episodes. When I was at her house and under the care of Mellaril, Ativan and Haldol, it would take about an hour for the impact of the meds to sink in.  During that hour of sheer hell I would sit and smoke cigarettes nonstop waiting for the meds to kick in.

Since those early days of a mini break every six months, I have been prone to high anxiety which is often at times consuming and sits sometimes in the background, as a nagging reminder that I continue to struggle with my moods every day.   Managing the anxiety associated with bipolar illness has developed into my greatest challenge besides the reversal of stigma.  Perhaps pairing the management of this anxiety with a willingness to explore potential abuse as a child will make an impact on this generalized anxiety – hopefully reducing it substantially. 

I also have more recently added an additional medication Trileptal to help with the anxiety and this appears to be making a difference for me.

As an aside based on commonplace discussions, I have been told that family intervention for people with behavioral health diagnoses is much more common in Europe than in the US.  Just like our propensity in the US is to care for the elderly in homes for the elderly, we tend in the US to care for people with psychiatric disorders in a hospital setting.  Personally, I feel that the more care that can be provided in the context of the family and the family home the better.

Once again, my illness has developed in phases.  Early in my diagnosis were “grand episodes” including hospitalizations.  These ”grand episodes” gradually gave way to more “mini episodes” managed in the home with a few exceptions. In my postpartum period, I was back to having “grand episodes” and being in the hospital again for those first three to four years. 

As I became more comfortable with managing my illness and being a Mom, I went back not to having “mini episodes” but to having a general level of anxiety to manage at all times.  Goals but not necessarily accomplishments include daily meditation, daily exercise goals including walking and yoga and a daily commitment toward transparency in my faith and my diagnosis.

Poem for the day – Resilience

There is a day not quite on the horizon where we can see what will become of us.

We know between then and now we are resilient.  We are strong.

In time, waves will wash ashore whispering

With every lap upon the sand this too has passed

While trees will bend to the wind without breaking

And sunshine will fill us with redemption.

Those dear to us will come closer once again and we will see

All God’s beauty shaken perhaps but not dismayed.

We will learn what it means to protect this tiny sphere

We call home.  We will nurture her and protect her and love her.

As we love those around us, neighbors near and far.