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Forced Write-irement

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Photo Credit: Joe Flood

I have been PRAYING for time to write during the last few weeks. We’ve got a lot going on.

  1. We decided to buy out the rest of the siblings and move to Dad’s place. This means

    • We need to downsize, as the house is smaller (although we plan to add on)
    • We must quickly finish all home improvement projects
    • We have to have our current house market-ready ASAP before the Spring House Rush begins
  2. Our Boy had the flu for four days. The expelling-a-demonic-force-from-your-gut version. This means

    • He called me to his room every fifteen minutes to ask if he were dying
    • He called me to his room every thirty minutes to confirm his time of death
    • I got nothing done for a week (spent Friday recovering from no sleep)
  3. Hubby and I spent an entire day rolling around in the crawl space under the house (looking like Mars explorers in Tyvek suits and respirators) to replace the insulation and vapor barrier. This means

    • We did not walk upright for almost 8 hours
    • I spent three days walking around like an old lady
    • I finally realized I am no longer seventeen
  4. Hubby got laid off after almost 20 year with the same firm. This means

    • We have to figure out insurance
    • We found out his insane work ethic and sense of humor have won him a ton of friends and supporters; he received literally hundreds of supportive texts, email messages and phone calls
    • He suddenly has time to work on the house
  5. I was sick three days ago, then had a fever relapse today. This means

    • Hubby has been Mr. Mom (and he’s done a fabulous job)
    • The kids have had to take more responsibility (and have done a fabulous job)
    • I completely lost my voice and spent the entire day in a chair writing and looking at the river at my aunt’s house (voice loss: not so fabulous; river: fabulous)


So, here’s the good news: my prayer was answered and I had time to write today, because with a fever and the inability to talk, I can’t do much else. (Post scheduled for tomorrow.)

This is what you call “Forced Write-irement.”

More good news: Our Boy is fully recovered and is up to most of his old shenanigans, but he also got it in his head that the flu might have been punishment for his behavior the last few months, so he’s been watching himself.

This may be my fault. Every time he asked if he might be dying, he also asked, “WHHHHHHHHHYYYYYYYYY is this happening? What have I EVER DONE to DESERVE this????” At some point, running on three hours’ sleep, I maaaaaay have responded, “Well, think through the last eight weeks. How much of that was spent on good behavior?” He didn’t ask me about it again…

Even more good news: if all goes as planned, Hubby already has another job lined up, and they’re willing to wait a couple weeks on the start date, so he’ll have time to work on the house.

It’s been busy and I’m exhausted…but God is good.

ALL the time.

Oh, and did I mention I’m thinking about writing a non-fiction bit about working with trauma kids? In case I get bored.


How to Prevent More Damage after a Leak without Losing Your Mind

I’m very thankful for our house, don’t get me wrong. But sometimes, I dream of living elsewhere. In a house with dry walls and ceilings. No bubbles of water under the paint. No soggy insulation.

We’ve had seven leaks in this house. No, eight, counting this week.

On Wednesday, I planned to do some yard work to surprise Hubby. He’s been under crazy pressure at work and I was excited about giving him a break. Pulling on work clothes, I looked up at the wall in our bathroom next to the door. A swelling bubble, the size of my hand, glared back at me.


No no no no no.



Positioning my fuzzy purple towel under the anomaly, I pierced the bottom of the bubble with tweezers. Sure enough, water soaked out into the towel. A tiny splash hit my toe from the other side of the doorway; I craned my neck to see a steady drip-drip  coursing down the wall from the ceiling on the opposite side.

The only source of water in the ceiling was the air handler, possibly dripping too much condensation into the drain pan. I ran downstairs to grab the shop vac (an item I highly recommend you keep on hand if you live in an older house).

With the kids’ help, I lugged the cleaner up the creaky attic ladder. The lightbulb had blown and I couldn’t see a thing. Fighting vertigo caused by being more than two inches off the ground, I took pictures in order to see in the dark attic. Sure enough, a small, steady stream of water poured from the handler’s corner.


Water stained the floor under the handler supports.


I checked the water level in the pan; oddly, the water level stood nowhere near the top. My initial suspicion that the pan had overflowed was incorrect.


Yet everything under the pan was soaking.


The insulation was sopping.


And then…I found the source. (See the shine? It’s a little hard to see.) Water leaked between the tape on the duct work joints onto the insulation below.


After vacuuming up the water in and around the pan (just in case there was still a pan leak), I called for a dry towel. The attic temperature was triple-digits; I didn’t trust my sweat-soaked ability to navigate back across the trusses without a slip-and-crash, feet-first entrance through the ceiling below. I clambered down the ladder and hyperventilated for a moment. Phillipe Petit I am not.

Then, I started pulling away the saturated drywall. Steady drips fell from seams in the duct (that silver thing in the picture below). No drips, steady or otherwise, should be falling from the duct—it’s for air flow only. I stuffed my towel in to stem the flow, then pulled down more drywall (wet wall?) and then removed the batts of fluffy yellow fiberglass insulation. Like yellow cotton candy, but way more itchy.


Three industrial garbage bags later, I had most of the wet insulation out. Hubby arrived home about that time, so together we pulled down more drywall and removed insulation until we felt sure all the standing water was removed. We cut away about a foot around the top of the wall anywhere it was damp and I peeled the paint away like sunburned skin.


With two high-powered fans (and the really hot attic) on our side, the walls steamed. We finally made it to bed around 1 am. The next morning, things were dry enough to consider replacing the ceiling.

We called the plumber (who also does HVAC work). In short order, he fixed the air handler (an internal pipe clogged, causing water to fill the unit on the INSIDE and spill down into the ducts).

That afternoon, less than 24 hours from leak discovery, we replaced the insulation and drywall. We’re leaving the wall open for a week to make sure everything is completely dry.


And that, my friends, is how to mitigate a ceiling leak. All you need is a shop vac, broom and dustpan, trash bags, a drill, drywall screws, two fans, a slab of drywall and a trusty purple towel.


P.S. I’ve used Wikipedia in my links this time (rather freely), which is normally taboo for this blog, since I like to be right. And I like to be right all the time, according to my mother… Anyway, I’m so tired right now, I checked to make sure the first sentence was accurate and moved on. Before making any decisions based on information found in Wikipedia, please double check facts elsewhere. 

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