April – A Variety of Things Happened

So it has been a month since I have posted anything and a variety of things have been happening with the construction, family visits & movement on the HGTV Bryant Speranza Boat!  I had the surgery to finally remove the cyst on my neck at the end of March.  It went very well and all the stitches were under the skin and they will dissolve on their own.  There are three layers of stitches so there is still a small bump on my neck but it is receding as the stitches dissolve.  I saw the reconstructive surgeon and he told me there was nothing in the cyst – Good News!  It doesn’t bother me at all like the cyst did, but I feel a little friction when I wear a shirt and tie – fortunately that is not really a retirement look for me these days.

We have made a lot of progress on the addition this month!  At the beginning of the month they were just finishing pouring the foundation and since then they framed it out, put on the exterior walls, roughed in all the work for the AC, Electrical and plumbing, and the Deck is almost finished!  This coming week they are putting in the wood floor, putting up the wall board, putting vinyl siding on the addition and the back of the house, and finishing the deck.  The work is going well, but everything is just starting to be impacted by the weather – last month it was snow and this month it is rain.

Griffin, our new puppy, is an absolute joy to all of us, but Meg and I are having a blast with him, although he exhausts us out most days.  In April we had visits with our daughters almost every weekend.  Kate/Kenny & Carolyn and her boyfriend came to visit for the weekend and when they left the Dog was exhausted.  There was always someone to play with him and when done they passed him on to the next person.    It was a great weekend and nice to see everyone and we ended with everyone going with us to church for Palm Sunday and then we went to brunch.  After everyone left Griffin went to sleep and only go up to go out to pee!      We had a full house and Carolyn made her law school decision!  She will attend the UCONN Law School in Hartford, CT as a UCONN Presidential Scholar with a full scholarship!  She had a variety of very good options at very good schools.  UCONN will give her some opportunities that she is interested in doing, including studying abroad, summer programs and internships.  Now we are looking forward to graduation in less than a month!  A slight pause for trips to California and a family wedding in Texas then the summer job in Philadelphia and the frantic rush to get ready for Law School!

For Easter Weekend Kate invited Griffin to come to visit in MA, but his parents had to come as well!  We had a very nice visit and Griffin didn’t terrorize their house too much.  Griffin also got a chance to meet Kate’s in-laws new Poodle, Holly.  Holly is about Griffin’s size although she is two to three months older.  The meeting didn’t go as well as planned but they eventually interacted and had some active play time together. Griffin had just woken up from a nap and Holly had an over abundance of energy.  Eventually Griffin woke fully and was able to get active with Holly and show her who is boss!

The weekend after Easter we went to Ithaca to see Carolyn present a paper at a Literary Conference that her Honors English Class organized.  The conference was on feminism in literature and her presentation was on the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling.  I am sure I would describe her paper/presentation wrong so I won’t even try, but needless to say it was well received by the audience and Meg and I had a very nice chat with her Professor that she has been working with all four years at IC.  While we were there Griffin spent the night with Carolyn her boyfriend, Wojceich, at Carolyn’s apartment.  Griffin had a great time playing with them and also with Carolyn’s cat Ollie.  Griffin had so much fun that he slept most of the drive home!  We have done several long trips with Griffin and many short around town trips that he is really enjoying time in the car!

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Surgery, Construction and the March Storm of 2017

Construction on the addition started  and was going great until the winter finally caught up with us in Mid-March.  The old porch and foundation have been removed, the foundation has been excavated and the footers and the walls have been poured.  Then it snowed and we were in a holding pattern but they returned after two days to uncover the walls and then to waterproof the walls and the top of the footer.  The building inspector has approved us for spreading the back-fill, but we must wait for the snow that is on the pile of dirt to melt.  My back yard, especially where the majority of the fill material is, gets very little sun so this may take a while.  The other option is that we shovel off the snow so they have access to the dirt.  While we are waiting for the snow to melt, they cut the hole in the basement foundation that will serve as an entrance to the crawl space.  Originally I thought they wouldn’t be able to even start any construction until at least the start of spring, so we are still way ahead of our plan.  At this rate we  may be done before June, so we will get to use our new deck for the whole summer.

Our new puppy, Griffin, is turning out to be an incredible handful, but an absolute joy.  He really enjoys the snow.  During the snow storm last week we had about 16 inches of snow with drifts in areas up to 24 inches.  Griffin had a blast playing in the snow.  At first he was a little tentative but he was soon diving in head first and charging all around the yard.  He was afraid of the snow blower.  The week of the storm my daughter Carolyn was home from college with her cat Ollie and the two of them hit if off after a day or two of getting to know (sniff) each other.  At the end of the break when Carolyn and Ollie had to return to Ithaca, Griffin would look all over the house, even sneaking down the hall to Carolyn’s room looking for Griffin.  Meg and I miss Ollie (and Carolyn too) mainly because he was able to get Griffin exhausted so that he sleeps at night.  Ollie will be visiting for a weekend in early April and then he will be with us all summer starting in late May until Carolyn goes to law school in August.

Of course my surgery to finally remove the cyst from my neck was scheduled for the same day that the storm came, so it was postponed the day before and now won’t be until the beginning of April.  The more time that passes the smaller the cyst gets, but they want to get it out so they can make sure that it isn’t growing inwards.  Now the cyst has reduced in size dramatically since this photo was taken but we still need to get it out.   I did have a major spill in my driveway on the ice/snow and wound up landing on my back.  I landed fairly flat and it was spread over my whole back but then so was the pain.  It took about a week but now I am fairly pain-free except for the arthritis in my knees.  I did have an appointment with the transplant center in early March.  My kidney function continues to remain at 1.0 and my prograf level is also doing well.  I asked if I could stop the prednisone but the answer was no and they may even increase it.  It will depend on my next blood test which is not until the beginning of May.

 

Two Year Kidney Anniversary

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So this week is the two-year anniversary of my kidney transplant!  It is hard to believe it has been two years since the transplant and so much has happened to both me, and my family.     My kidney disease was a long developing problem that started with my diabetes and at some point I was prescribed a BP med that kind of put me over the edge and shut down my kidneys, but I drove myself to the edge.  My lowest point was during the winter/spring of 2013 prior to starting dialysis on May 2, 2013.  The transplant was a long involved process, but as I’ve detailed that process in earlier blog posts, I’ll skip to my transplant on March 3, 2015!  It came up very suddenly and involved 4 women donating to 4 men.  All 8 surgeries done on the same day at Yale New Haven Hospital.  It has been two years with many ups and downs (health wise), and many ups in my personal life!  Many thanks to everyone that made this possible but two people really stand out.  Meg – the love of my life – was with me thru my dialysis and helped me to put two giant needles in my arm every day, sat with me thru hours of dialysis and then gave a kidney to a stranger so that I could receive a kidney.  And also my donor, Patricia, who just wanted to help someone by giving the gift of life!  I will never be able to thank these two enough!

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This past weekend WE picked up our new puppy – Griffin!  By WE, I mean a large contingent that included Kate & Kenny, Carolyn and her boyfriend – we kind of descended upon Fox Creek Farms like an invading army.  We spent the night before in Hagerstown, MD and my sister Carol who came up from Washington, DC.  We had a very nice visit and night out for a very nice dinner.  Griffin is a Goldendoodle that was born on 1/1/17.  At only 8 weeks old he is still very little (weighs only 5 lbs.) but is very cute and lots of fun.  He was pretty quiet on the ride home and alternated sitting on Meg and Kate’s lap, but did get active when we got home.  This week, during the day, it has been just Griffin and me at home working on housebreaking and all the other puppy activities – learning not to chew on everything, playing games, and lots of sleeping.  He sleeps in a box next to our bed, mainly for housebreaking, so if he cries too much we can take him out at night.  It will be a long several months until this process is complete but we will survive.

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Our Spring construction project began today (March 2, 2017), with the taking down of our old back porch.  It was taken down today and the next step is to take out the foundation and dig out the ground for the new, and bigger, foundation.  The dumpster was also delivered today and hopefully the excavation starts tomorrow!  When complete it will be a 16′ x 20′ addition with a 15′ x 10′ attached deck.  The addition will be our new living room and what is now our living room will become a formal dining room.  We have been thinking/dreaming/planning for this since we bought the house 13 years ago, but it wasn’t until the 2016 HGTV Dream House win that this became anything more than just a dream.

 

 

Cold Gone – Surgery Pending – Law School – Puppy!

th-3The cold that I had for most of January finally left me during the last full week of the month.  It never became pneumonia, but for like ten days it felt like it was trying to move into my chest.  Although I never actually went to the Doctors office I did communicate with him several times about how I felt and he told me what drugs to take to prevent it progressing and eventually to get rid of it all together.  The old me (prior to transplant), would have just ignored the cold symptoms and just kept on working thru it.  The first time I got a cold since my transplant (late June 2015 or 3 months post transplant) I basically did just that and wound up in the hospital with pneumonia.  So this time I was determined to do any thing I could to prevent that from happening and thankfully I was successful – this time!

th-4So I finally did get to the plastic surgeon to see about removing the remains of the cyst on my neck that developed in late December.  the Emergency Room Doctor did cut it open and broke up all of the puss filled balls and started to get it to drain.  Then I went home and continued to force fluid/puss out of the hole and keep the opening they cut into it open so that it could still flow.  It has gone down considerably but my primary care doctor feels that it should be removed.  I saw the same surgeon that took out a similar cyst on my chest in November 2015.  He agreed that it should come out but since it is continuing to shrink into itself, he wants to wait like another 2-4 weeks before scheduling the surgery so that when he takes it out, it all comes out and there is nothing left of it.  So hopefully I will finally get this removed by the end of February.

91a4a5d27cc2cd41e4f523379b9b10d6In other news Kate just returned from a week-long business trip to Sweden.  Apparently she had a very nice visit but wasn’t able to see a lot of sights since she was working with the IFP office – it was a business trip.  Carolyn is currently in her final semester at Ithaca College and also sweating out the waiting on her law school applications!  She applied to 9 schools and has already been accepted  to 5 out of the 9!  Financially she was offered a full tuition scholarship to one school and a $30,000 per year renewable scholarship.  The other schools she has been accepted to have indicated that merit/financial need offers will come in the coming weeks.  Once she knows all her options she will have to arrange campus visits and make the all crucial decision!  Visits can be combined into 3 trips since the schools she is applying to are centered in Boston, Washington and Hartford!  The goal is to attend the best school that you can, but still come out with the smallest debt load!   I have completed the FAFSA, still have to finalize the CSS Profile.  I get to do the easy part – Carolyn has to make the decision!

thFebruary is also new puppy month – and we can’t wait!  We lost our family dog and cat within a week of each other last June.  Frodo and Snickers had been with us for a long time and it really hurt all of us, more than we realized at the time.   We are getting a Goldendoodle, not the one pictured above, but it should look fairly similar as this picture is of an eight week old puppy.  Our puppy was born on January 1, 2017 and will be ready to bring home the last weekend in February.  It is a boy that we are planning to name Griffin, but this may change when we meet him.  This is becoming a family road trip weekend as Meg and I planned to spend the night before picking up the puppy in Hagerstown, MD, so I invited my sister, Carol,  to come visit and since my daughters haven’t seen Carol in a while they are coming as well.  We hope to visit for part of the afternoon and evening and then have breakfast Sunday morning and then go get the PUPPY!  So now my efforts have to be put towards making sure my cold doesn’t return and to get the house puppy proof.

 

 

Preventing Pneumonia Again

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The past two weeks have been fairly miserable for me.  I have a minor cold but it has laid me up so that I can’t really do anything around the house or errands etc…  The main concern is to prevent this cold from becoming pneumonia like has happened before.  With my suppressed immune system ( an unfortunate side effect of my kidney transplant ), a simple cold can become pneumonia very easily, and pneumonia is something I don’t want to mess with again.  The cold started as a sore throat and now is be-boping around between my throat, chest and head.  I will have a couple of nights in a row where sleep alludes me and then I will have a day where all I can do is sleep and that cycle seems to be repeating.  Every time I think I am about to kick it out of my system for good, it comes back even stronger!   Frustrating!!!

th-4Meanwhile, while sick I am trying to get the permit application for the room addition completed and submitted so that when the winter ends we can start construction.  We have two permits to get approval for – first the Naugatuck Valley Health Dept. needs to review it based on the septic system and how close the new construction is to all parts of the septic system and will the system handle the capacity and then the City of Shelton (Zoning office and the building office) needs to give final approval.    After several trips to the NVHD, once Meg drove me and the final time Carolyn took me there, we finally got the permit complete and submitted.  After all the hassle and four trips to Seymour, I was called after one day and the first permit is approved and I can pick it up at their offices early this coming week.  Now I have to get to work on the permit for the City of Shelton.  I am not anticipating any problems, but it is a city department and they exist to create problems!

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After a month at home with us Carolyn has gone back for her final semester at Ithaca College!  She got home like 10 days before Christmas and left on Thursday, January 19th!  It seems like she had just gotten home like last week, but she had been here a month and while we had a great time with her home, I am sure she was bored to death with her parents.  While home she did get her kitten that she had been longing for and we all had a blast playing with him!  She also finally completed her law school applications and submitted them.  I was hoping to start the FAFSA application and show her how it is done and what is involved, but it was tough to do with my cold because it is impossible to concentrate especially on numbers.  So now my to do list has FAFSA – 2016 Taxes – City Permit Application, and to get the house ready for our upcoming Puppy!  See future blog posts for more details on our puppy, who was born on 1/1/17 and will come to CT at the end of February!

Back to the Emergency Room – AGAIN!

physician_postcards-rcc39a422536c42eba13942dde885be9d_vgbaq_8byvr_512I thought I was going to get thru 2016 without having to go to the Emergency Room and that plan was going very well, right up until December 28th and I wound up at the Yale ER!  I had developed a large cyst/abscess on my neck and my GP & the Yale Transplant Center wanted it removed as soon as possible, which translates to the ER.  I hadn’t been to the ER since 2015 and was hoping to avoid any trips to the ER in 2016.  As far as ER trips go, this was as different an experience as I have had.  The ER was over crowded so I had to wait to get a room but it was like 1:30 PM.  My past trips had been very early in the morning (6:00 AM when I went in with pneumonia) or late in the day (7:00 PM when I went in with a salivary gland issue) and I was admitted right away.  Also because it was so crowded they were determined to everything to make sure the visit was as quick as possible so that I could leave and make the bed available to the next people.

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Once in my room, a doctor (granted it was a young doctor that was under the supervision of an older experienced ER doctor)  came by, even before the nurse was able to get to the room.  Because it looked like she would get to cut open my cyst with a scalpel she was eager to treat me so I saw her attending physician and together they performed an ultra sound on my cyst.  It was a cyst that was filled with puss filled little balls so they agreed that they should cut into it and then cut farther into it and break up all the small balls of puss.  About a half an hour later they returned and after numbing the cyst up with lidocaine, they cut into it and started cutting deeper and deeper to get at all balls of puss.  It was really flowing well so they bandaged it up and sent me home with instructions to change the bandage frequently and to follow-up with my regular physician in the coming week.

img_1462For the first day or two the cyst continued to drain, but eventually the wound started to scar over and it stopped flowing.  Meg and I were able to get the wound re-opened using techniques for removing scabs that I learned when I was on dialysis.  This way we were able to keep the wound open and flowing for more time so the size has gone down considerably but isn’t totally drained yet.  I am having a follow-up with my primary care physician and we will see where we go from there.

img_1464I have been continuing to learn some new skills for my wood working hobby.  I am currently working on several wood carving projects.  They vary from some art projects to lettering projects.  Basically I am trying to gain some proficiency in different techniques that I am learning thru an online carving course.  I have a small set of carving gouges and several chisels but I need some more and hope to acquire some specific carving gouges and a set of chisels.  I hope also to continue learning to use the lathe.  I took a pen turning class and that went well and hope to take another class or two and eventually learn bowl turning.  I plan to rent some time at the Woodworkers Club until I get proficient enough to warrant getting my own lathe.  I am trying to concentrate on small projects that I can do well.  The carving is starting well, we will have to see how it finishes!

 

Kitchen Finally Complete!

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So the tile for the back splash was finally delivered to the store in Fairfield on Saturday, but by the time I found out about the delivery, it was after the service department closed (12:00 noon).  I was finally able to pick up the tile on Monday morning at 7:30 AM and was back at home with it in time for the tile contractor.  The tile was installed on Monday and the grout on Tuesday and it looks beautiful.  Under the cabinets is a basket weave design in a cream & brown colors to match both the counter top and the cabinets.  The design over the stove, is a herringbone pattern, in similar colors but, in a larger tile surrounded by pencil tiles.  It works like we had imagined and we had it in for Christmas, which was the goal.  Meg was inspired by the back splash in the kitchen of the HGTV Dream Home in Florida.  It was a black and white basket weave that went all the way to the ceiling (like a 12-15 ft. ceiling) over the cabinets.  It was a very dramatic effect, and while ours doesn’t go up to the ceiling, and is in different colors in our kitchen, it still has the dramatic effect we were after.

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The week before Christmas I took a class at the Woodworkers Club of Norwalk on ‘How to Turn a Pen.’  I had not used a wood lathe since shop class in Junior High, which is a very, very long time ago!  It was a very good class and because it was postponed from the day before due to snow, there were only three of us, myself and a guy from Ridgefield, and his young son.  After a brief introduction to the lathe, the instructor did a demonstration pen turning and then we were let loose on our own lathe and had at it under his helpful eye!  We made two pens each in the time allotted although the pen blanks were pre-drilled for us so we got to start with loading them onto the lathe and then turning them.  I made two pens, both in cherry,  that I gave to my daughters as Christmas presents.  The pens look very similar to our new cabinets in the kitchen and while there is a very light stain on the kitchen cabinets and no stain on the pens they look very close to each other.  Using the lathe was easier than I expected but the potential to make a mistake is there and you can easily ruin a pen quickly.  I enjoyed the experience, primarily because you go from a collection of parts to a completed, finished and working piece in a short time.

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We had a great Christmas!  Carolyn is home from college for a month and the week before Christmas she got her main present – a new kitten!  The kitten, which, is now named Ollivander (Ollie for short), is a lot of fun, and is really into the Christmas tree and the low hanging ornaments he can get to.  Kate & Kenny also came several days before Christmas but had to leave to go back to Kenny’s family in MA right after we opened presents and had Christmas breakfast.  We had our usual Christmas Dinner for Christmas Eve and then went to church at 10:00 PM. and then home for the usual last minute wrapping, finishing hand-made gifts, stuffing stockings etc…  Finally got to bed around 2 AM and then we had to get up early so that Kate and Kenny could keep to their schedule and leave by like 10:30 AM.  The dinner was great (roast beef tenderloin!), but we have to go with simpler side dishes rather than the real complicated like we always seem to do.  We had an involved process with the roast so we can switch to basic baked potatoes rather than the twice baked potatoes, or a simple vegetable instead of the stuffed mushrooms where there are like 18 ingredients that have to be prepared and cooked before stuffing the mushrooms.  We did go to a simple but very good Creme Brule for dessert, rather than the very involved Daquoise or Bouche du Noel we seem to do most Christmas Dinners.

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No real big plans for the New Years!  Carolyn’s new boy friend will be visiting and I think they are going out to dinner with some of Carolyn’s friends and then the horde will descend on our house to continue the celebration probably playing with the cat, board games, and eventually watching the ball drop.  Meg and I will probably do lobster or swordfish at home and then struggle to stay up until midnight!