what to say
i can't speak for anything
what to say but toys don't talk
a pretty pale plaything.

what to say besides footsteps
headed away from your orbit, what to say
besides lips strung together and tied quiet

what to say besides keep busy
what to say besides stay strong

what to say besides
why not
why not
why not.

A lot of the self help and motivational things I've read and watched talk about the importance of being grateful. Today I'm thinking about the things that have happened over the past few days. I woke up earlier than I have been. I've been trying to cut back on the amount of allergy medication I take while avoiding the mistake of not taking it soon enough when I really need it. I'm not positive, but I think I've had a breakthrough in what may be a cause of some of my symptoms. Every morning I wake up feeling like I can't breathe, I have other symptoms that are associated with allergic reactions, itchy eyes, sneezing fits, fatigue, and generally feeling run down without expending significant amounts of energy although I have been unusually productive these past couple of days.

When we bought the bed that I have now it needed to rest on a flat hard surface so my ex constructed a wooden platform in lieu of a conventional boxspring. The iron bed frame we used to have is at the condo, the one he made for my bed doesn't fit so I've had my bed lying on top of bed risers that I bought at Marshall's thinking that would keep my bedding from dragging on the ground. Probably one of the greatest gifts I have is my willingness to learn new things and try to solve the problems I have once I'm aware of them since I have an incredible tendency to bury my head in the sand when I think a problem is too large for me to solve on my own. I tend to think of myself as alone, but that's really not true. 

Both of these books, The Vitamin Cure for Allergies and My House Is Killing Me! have showed me the necessity of making some lifestyle changes, but more importantly, they've helped me understand that until you understand what variables are causing the problem, you can't eliminate, reduce, minimize, avoid, or take other helpful steps. In the past we've had these gross flying ant things in our sunporch. Now I know that those are carpenter ants and any of the insects we saw scurrying around are attracted to wet and rotting wood, furthermore each of them are capable of becoming a queen.

For years I told my ex that we had carpenter ants, he blew my concerns off and tried telling me that all homes have ants in the summer. The year our roof was replaced the area above our porch was exposed. Nested in that space was a massive ant colony with a queen that was as large as a bee. Probably the biggest advantage I've gained in reading My House Is Killing Me! is recognizing what a symptom indicates. Spiders are attracted to wet cool spots so I find them in the corners where there are outer walls connected to interior ones. The word definitive is sometimes overused, there are probably things that weren't included in this book, but I would encourage everyone to pick up a copy of this and read it from cover to cover whether they own, rent, or ever intend on doing either. 

While some of the stories are worst case scenarios, he shares homes where he's unveiled toxic molds, insect and rodent infestations, uncovered leaks that were unnoticed or minimal in nature that revealed greater unseen damage, helped people discover gas and oil leaks, and found asbestos where it shouldn't have been. He offers a lot of very practical home maintenance tips as well. At the end of each chapter there's a bullet pointed list of things to watch for and do with your furnace, air conditioning unit, ventilation systems, as well as other structures and surfaces. His explanations are thorough, witty at times, and fascinating to me as someone who has a lot of the problems he's addressing in this book.

I've had problems breathing in this place since we moved in back in 1998. I've never been up in the attic and have rarely peaked in the crawl space. We did extensive remodeling when we first arrived, and I so wish I had known about this book and many others before we installed new carpeting throughout the house. I got my way with the hardwood in the kitchen, dining, room, and going down both halls. I've since had the carpeting in the bedrooms removed, but I can't imagine how many fights and problems we could have avoided had I known then what I do now. Considering how critical indoor and outdoor air quality are to the continuation of the human race, I'm appalled that I'm just now learning some of these common sense things. 

The other day I was ready to move. I may still, but I'll have a much better idea of what I'm shopping for when I'm hunting for a new place to stay. As rough as it is here, I think part of the problem is the wood that my bed was resting on, I pulled that and the risers out this morning. I'm hoping that painting will seal the wood fibers in, but I realize it may not which is okay. Paint is cheap and I have a garage and a neighbor who purportedly loves to paint that I can ask to help. I can do it myself, but it's always nice to have friends and help, her experience will be a bonus and she may have some ideas I hadn't considered. She wants a cabinet and a bench I have down in the basement. I can tell her she can have it in exchange for her help with some of these home improvement projects. 

One thing is for sure, regardless of whoever lives here next they are going to have a lot of these hassles and headaches taken care of before they arrive. What they do with it after that is up to them. I'm not going to be able to implement everything this author is suggesting, but at least now I'm going to be armed with high quality information and some strategies that will be helpful when I walk into a new place, and believe me, I am going to be that person who opens closet doors and cabinets to check for droppings, spider webs, mildew, and other nastiness. I'm past the point of feeling like I need to be polite when I'm seeing a property, and now that I think about it, you're really not getting much when you walk through a property. 

I have an ultra keen sense of smell which helps. Today I was walking along the crest of a hill when I smelled dryer sheets. Houses are set a decent distance apart from each other and lots are generous in our neighborhood, but with the wind blowing I could smell someone's laundry exhaust. When we were thinking of selling this place we were interested in a home about twenty minutes east of here. The first thing that hit me was the smell. I wouldn't have walked through it after that. I knew there was a cat and that was an immediate deal breaker for me. The house photographed well, but it didn't show well with the smell of dusty cat and litter box hanging in the air. 

Another thing I love about this book is how he breaks down what smells are associated with what root causes. The odor of a dead mouse or other critter is very different from that of mold or mildew which is another beast entirely from solvents and oils. The carbon monoxide and radon warnings are things I'm going to take much more seriously than I have in the past. Reading about people who became very ill and some who died after inhalation of the scentless gas is good enough for me. Our furnace is very old, it seems to function well, but knowing that it could be leaking carbon monoxide into the air is something I need to be aware of particularly since I live alone and may not have others around to notice me acting oddly. 

There are unscrupulous contractors, home owners who think they know more than they do, and sometimes the unpredictable happens regardless of how careful and well informed a person is. I read about a truck that dumped oil into a home when it was trying to fill a tank. The operator of the truck was eating his lunch when he noticed the spill that eventually ruined the home. Reading about these catastrophic problems is also giving me some perspective, namely, things could be a lot worse. When I think about how we played in a basement that had carpeting and smelled like mold I wonder how many trips to the emergency room could have been avoided had my parents pulled that up and put down flooring. 

Money, ignorance, and apathy seem to be the main ingredients in a lot of these cases. People put down flooring without realizing that their pets were urinating on it and tried to cover up the smell with air fresheners. A couple remodeled their home extensively and never bothered to check the attic which was housing a large black ring of carpenter ants. People with roach infestations had the wrong type of ventilation in their attics. Flooding in basements, people who had incorrect venting in condos and apartments, there's a literal laundry list of problems that can arise from your heating and cooling systems, bathrooms, kitchens, crawl spaces, interior and exterior walls, ceilings, floors, windows, garages, bedrooms, play rooms, you name it there's a way for unwanted microbial growth, pests, and insects to infiltrate.

This book isn't the cheeriest thing I've ever read, but it's hard to beat for practicality on a topic that I feel is too often neglected or not taken as seriously as it could be. It's a pain to find out you have problems you didn't know about. Some of the cleanup and renovation can be quite costly, in some cases buildings had to be condemned, but in other cases despite the costs, the owners went on to live much happier, healthier, and more productive lives. Now that I know this I have to sit down and think about my next steps. Some of this cleanup is things I shouldn't be doing while other things require professional help. I'm going to make a list of things to inspect, get some inspectors and other authorities over and get a few quotes.

When I'm done with that I'm going to see what is reasonable DIY type stuff, insulation in the attic perhaps, depending on what we find up there, and what I need a contractor to do. Once I have a list I'll feel better. I can ask for help, it will be difficult, but that's part of life and an area where I need and can use help. I've helped a lot of people with a lot of things over the years. It's time for Jessica to start calling in favors. Another thing I want to do is help educate others. People in my family are often resistant to the idea that their crowded basement or garage may be problematic. Before my mother remarried her house wasn't as full as it is now. 

Her husband filled the garage and basement with his tools, wood, and collectibles. I can smell mildew in their basement (unless it's mold), anytime a space smells there's a reason for the odor. They wash clothes down there and since her clothes dryer isn't hooked up that's where they hang it. My mother smokes, she has a lot of upper respiratory infections, and I'm concerned that although her home is superficially clean. Her husband is extremely organized and tidy if that can be said about a pack rat, but from the various smells I know that there are problems they aren't aware of or not addressing if they have that awareness.

My mom puts up with a lot of crap, she hears what she wants to as do a lot of us. If the opportunity presents itself I'll speak up, but I'm not expecting a lot of buy in from family members which is fine. I have my own life to live, taking care of myself to the extent that I can is the best plan of action going forward so that's what I'm going to continue to do, hooray for healthier boundaries and a step away from codependency.

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