June has started and we had our first outing on the new boat! On the Wednesday after Memorial Day I had a training ride with someone from the Marina. He showed me how everything worked and we did a tour of the lake. It had been awhile since I was behind the tiller of a boat, but it slowly came back to me. It was a weekday so the lake was not crowded and there was little wind so the lake was like glass. I was able to really let the throttle out so we made great time getting down the lake. I actually was able to dock it successfully the first time (I wasn’t on Sunday with all kinds of people around!). Meg had her training on Saturday morning and everything was new to her but she did very well. On Saturday afternoon I brought Carolyn, Wojceich and Griffin to the Marina and we met Meg and all went out! After a rough launch by me, we made it into the lake. It was cloudy and windy so the sun kept popping in and out of clouds. When it was out it was very nice, but when it was behind a cloud the wind made it pretty cool. We never got lost, but we were confused several times about where we were in the lake, but we were always able to figure it out and get back on course. We were hoping to stop at an island so that we could try to get Griffin to go in, but when we tried there was already a boat there with a dog that kept blocking us from approaching shore. Getting the boat back into our slip went better than I had expected. Once you realize that you do not have brakes, like in a car, and can gauge the drift after you put it in neutral it goes a lot easier.
Griffin & Carolyn Swimming
Catching Some Rays After Swimming
The second weekend of June we went out again on Sunday, when it was like 90 degrees. There were quite a few more boats on the lake this weekend and the waves were more intense but we had a nice time. Carolyn went swimming and that encouraged Griffin to try. He was nervous, but the dog paddle must be encoded in his DNA because he did a great job swimming with Carolyn. We are starting to know our way around the lake a little bit and we found out way to chicken rock, but it was so crowded we didn’t feel comfortable anchoring near all the other boats so we wound up out of sight of the rock but found a nice spot to anchor so Carolyn and Griffin could swim. In order to try to get to an island to park the boat at we either need to get there very early or go on a weekday when it is not as crowded. We hope to do this so that Griffin can enter the water from the shore and not have to only go in off the back of the boat. We should be able to go out during the week after Meg gets done with school next week!
For Mothers Day weekend Kate and Kenny were scheduled to come visit and then Carolyn decided to bring a car load of stuff home from Ithaca, so we had a full crowd. Kate and Kenny arrived Friday with a big announcement – Kate is Pregnant – so Meg and I are going to be Grandparents!!!! Her due date is December 13, 2017 – two days after Kate’s birthday! We were totally surprised. Meg is already at work knitting baby things. We are both in a state of shock, but when we talk about it we get very excited. Most of our talks are about what Grand Parent name do we want to be called. We had a great visit. Carolyn came on Saturday with a car load of stuff from her apartment. These visits are great but they always seem to end too soon and then everyone is gone. Griffin had a great time, he exhausted himself, and then he sleeps all afternoon Sunday after everyone leaves.
So after waiting for a year for the Bryant Speranza boat that was a part of the 2016 HGTV Dream House Prize it finally arrived but due to a variety of paperwork issues the Marina wasn’t able to get it registered. Finally after talking with the DMV, Bryant Boats and Echo Bay Marina we were able to get Bryant Boats to re-issue the Title directly to me so I could take it and get it registered. I finally was able to take the paperwork to the DMV and get it registered and pay the sales tax. Now I was supposed to pay sales tax on the full value of the boat ($57,000) and trailer ($4,500) however because of how the sales receipt was written I only was charged sales tax on the options I ordered – $9,900. So instead of paying the $5-6,000 I expected to pay, I only paid like $700. I tried to explain that I won the boat and owe the sales tax but they wouldn’t hear it. So if anyone wonders why the State of CT is in such a financial mess look to the bureaucracy that is not at all flexible. My one fear is that someone reviews the transaction but they went thru the same training as the clerk at the counter – so I should be safe.
The weekend after mother’s day we went to Ithaca for Carolyn’s Graduation! Kate and Kenny met us in Ithaca on Saturday afternoon. Saturday night we took Griffin to the Ithaca dog park and he ran with Kenny and Wojciech and he had a blast. Then we went up to the IC campus for the Graduation Fireworks Show. Sunday we woke very early and still almost didn’t get in to the Graduation. We arrived in time but by the time we got thru traffic and actually parked the Academic Procession had started. Kate, Kenny and Wojceich were on one side of the procession and Meg and I were on the other. Of course we couldn’t get into the stadium from where we were, but on the other side they could so they actually got a seat on the side of a hill in the end zone. Carolyn Graduated Summa Cum Laude, with an honors program cowl and in the Spanish and English honor society. We are very proud of her and look forward to watching her future in Law School and beyond! Monday morning we packed up her apartment and headed home. Because Carolyn has had a slight cold, Meg rode with her and Griffin rode shotgun with me! We got home Monday night and Carolyn and Wojceich left on Wednesday for a post Graduation trip to California!
Meanwhile work on the addition continues, and we are nearing the end. The back of the house has been sided, a new back door has been put in, central air conditioning is installed and working, a new front door is in, and finally the front steps and walkway have been ripped up. Right now there is a big pile of concrete in the front yard waiting to be hauled away and I am looking for a mason to put in the new steps and walkway. With the addition almost finished we are scrambling to get the final details completed. As I type the painter is at work. This past week we ordered some new furniture (we actually used a designers services – very unlike us), and purchased a new TV. Hopefully by mid to late June we should be all set.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
The 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!
So 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.
In 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!
February 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.
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!!!
Meanwhile, 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!
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!