The Next Big Project

BW6

Last summer, I mused about needing a new house. At the time, the sentiment was real, and the motivation was there, but the desire was more wish than reality. Our list of requirements was long, you see. We wanted to either build something new, or completely gut a run down house in a good location. We also wanted to remain in our current town, have access to city water and sewer, and to own a relatively flat piece of property, but finding any land that checked off all the boxes AND not cost an insane amount of coin turned out to be like trying to eat soup with a fork.

K had doggedly turned over over every rock, and called anyone she could think of who might know somebody or something, but every promising turn resulted in a dead end. It was getting to the point where we began to wonder if we needed to revisit our requirements because at the rate we were going, there was no possible way we would move in 2019, which was the goal.

While this hand-wringing was going on, a new option presented itself almost by accident. We discovered an opportunity that was not yet public knowledge, and K ran with it. Lo and behold, after several months of back and forth, we reached and signed an agreement and forked over a deposit, which was necessary because the owner’s development plan for the property and not yet been submitted to or approved by the town’s Planning and Zoning committee. We had confidence it would, but timing was important because our desire is to break ground before winter, and move during the spring or early summer.

The town approved the plan on August 2nd, and we are currently in the waiting period where the requested changes P&Z made have to be submitted. The period in question also allows anyone who wishes to dispute the committee’s decision to file a complaint and gum up the process. Assuming the changes are made and nobody raises a fuss, we should formally close and own the property by the end of the month.

Now the fun begins really begins. We’ve been working with an architect for almost a month to create a plan that pleases K’s aesthetics in addition to being ADA compliant. We’ve also been looking at things like windows, doors, flooring and material of that nature so we can begin pricing this out.  We’ve had preliminary discussions with our bank to discuss financing options that are going to be predicated on whether we are going to serve as the general contractors for this project or hire a builder to oversee everything, which is another decision that needs to be made soon.

Actually, there is no “we” as far as being our own contractor is concerned. K will serve in that capacity. We’re familiar with the drill because we assumed that responsibility with house number one after we fired our general contractor before it was completely under roof, and hired all the subcontractors after that. Her father, a retired carpenter who knew how to build  a house in its entirety once a foundation was poured, was alive at the time and served as the on-site general foreman.

House number two was done by a local contractor, who built a decent house, but there were issues along the way. K has always been ahead of the curve in terms of healthy house construction. Much of what contractors thought was crazy twenty years ago is code these days. This wasn’t much of an issue with house number one because we subbed out most of it and paid the subcontractors ourselves, but it was on the second house. The contractor’s primary interest for that job was to get the thing up quickly with little deviation from his normal process, and he was therefore reluctant try anything new or different. Still, with K riding his butt, sticking firm to what she wanted, and making sure everything the subs needed was on-site so they didn’t wander off to another job, we moved into the place less than six months after ground was broken.

K has been and will continue to be the driving force behind this project. Of course, she will want to pull out her hair during the construction process, and repeatedly lament what possessed her to take this on, but the truth is she loves this stuff. The other truth is we can save a lot of money by doing this ourselves.  In retrospect, she and her Mom missed their calling. They have the eye and talent as far as house design and layout are concerned, and her Dad had the skills to make their visions a reality. They could have created one hell of a successful business flipping houses long before it became the rage, and maybe I’d be comfortably retired by now.

So, assuming there are no blips within the next two weeks, the thought of a new homestead has transformed from a conceptual idea to something very real over a relatively short period of time, and some anxiety comes with it.

Why? Well, it didn’t take long for sticker shock to set in. Building materials and costs have increased dramatically since 2000, the last time we did this. We know what we want this project to look like when we are finished. The great unknown right now is whether the cost is going to force us lower our expectations. I hope not.

We also know nothing ever goes as planned when it comes to building a house, so there will be many stressful and aggravating moments along the way, especially if this drags well into next summer. Managing stress is going to become paramount, especially for me since I know it exacerbates my symptoms. I may not be on the front lines while this is going on, but if K gest stressed, I get stressed.

It is going to be quite the challenge for her to pull this off, maintain her writing schedule, and keep up with the current house. I will do as much as I can, but we’ve long established the fact that my physical limitations prevent me from picking up my fair share of the slack. But I will try to approach things methodically as this develops, and address one item at a time. It is easier not to become overwhelmed that way.

I’ll post periodic updates as this process unfolds, and share more of the specifics of what our plans entail. Meanwhile, I have to dust off the calculator, figure out how to pay for the damn thing without mortgaging our future, and hope/pray that Mr. MS doesn’t decide to up the ante and create a host of debilitating problems before the job is done. What a shit-storm that would be.

 

 

 

Our Era of Intolerance

intolerance

I follow some of the social networking groups for people with MS, and a lot of what I read is sad, but not in the way you might think. Yes, it’s hard to read the about the plight of others who deal with physical pain, but it’s reading about those with emotional pain and scars that is especially rough.

I’m referring to the torment men and women feel about not being the kind of spouse or parent they think they should be. Then there are the single people who are alone and lonely, lamenting the bleak prospect that their disability might make them a social pariah for eternity. I’m also talking about people who lose the ability to sustain a job because their physical limitations prevent it, or their employers put so much pressure on them regarding unscheduled absences and lack of dependability that it isn’t worth the relentless emotional strain.

What I find incredibly sad, however, is reading posts from people whose friends and family question their integrity by suggesting or implying that they aren’t really sick, and that their symptoms are psychological.

Is this kind of callousness the exception or the rule? I’d like to think it is the former, but am afraid it is becoming or has become the latter.

For some of us, our disability is obvious. All you have to do is see the way we walk, or how we navigate our walkers or wheelchairs to recognize we are dealing with something that prevents us from being whole. Your senses provide proof that something is wrong, which makes our condition understandable and acceptable.

But for many, the symptoms are less obvious. You can’t see pain. You can’t see crushing fatigue. You can’t see cognitive fog. You can’t see depression or the general malaise that can emerge from constantly fighting a losing battle. These are not tangible things, so it’s easy and convenient for able-bodied people to be derisive and dismissive.

While I think it’s bullshit, I understand how people who are unrelated and unconnected to us can make those kinds of judgements. After all, we live in an intolerant age, at least in this country, where the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue practices and promotes this kind of thinking. What I can never understand or accept is how family and supposed friends can be so unsupportive and cruel.

Perhaps these attitudes have always existed, and I was blind to them until MS opened my eyes to the plight of others. After all, people who have been living with mental illness or who are not neuro-typical have been dealing with this kind of prejudice for ages.

Still, why is it so hard for people to accept what their eyes can’t see? What makes individuals so dismissive about anyone who is less than whole, who may be odd or quirky, or who simply beats to their own drum? Why is someone who struggles with a physical or mental/emotional illness considered flawed, damaged, and therefore less of a person. Don’t we all deserve a little respect?

Is it insecurity? Do individuals feel uncomfortable or threatened by what they don’t understand? Or do people have the need to prop themselves up by tearing others down?

It’s sad to think that people are more supportive if you are stricken with something like cancer than dealing with a condition that isn’t as obvious, as easily understood, or curable. I hope I’m wrong about this, and am allowing the grim scenarios some of these posts describe to color my judgement about the world we live in. That would be ironic, because I don’t watch news programming of any kind for that very reason. The news is so negative, and paints such a bleak picture of society today, how could anyone who constantly exposes themselves to that message not be pessimistic about the future?

Maybe I should take a respite from these sites.

I was a child during the turbulent 1960’s, so I didn’t understand or feel the civil unrest that existed during that decade. After watching a recent documentary on the year of 1968, I concluded that I would have thought society was coming apart at the seams had I been an adult back then. I also would have feared for my child’s future.

I don’t think we have bottomed out to that degree yet, but it does feel like we are experiencing a renaissance of the 1960’s and heading in that direction. Our current level of social discord permeates everything, and perhaps feeds the point of views that allow people to conclude that our symptoms are all in our head, and all we have to do is stop feeling sorry for ourselves, suck it up, and get with the program. Kindness and empathy still exist, perhaps more than we think, but it is drowned out by all the other noise, and seems harder to find.

Whatever it is that is driving this mean-spiritedness, I hope it dissolves in the not so distant furture, and we all emerge relatively unscathed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tell The Scale to Shut Up

Scale

My weight didn’t vary a lot in my thirties and forties. There was a brief period of time around the turn of the century when I was consulting, which meant I lived on the road and ate out and drank more than usual, where I puffed up like a blowfish. When that gig ended and I got a job in Connecticut, I got on the scale and was aghast that I was thirty pounds heavier and exceeded two hundred pounds for the first time in my life. Around that same time, K asked how I would feel about going on a diet together, which was fortuitous timing. I lost seven pounds the first week (she lost 2 and hated me), and within three months I lost all the weight I had gained, and then some.

Since then, I have been able to maintain that weight for the most part. There might have been an occasion where my work clothes felt snugger than I liked, but I would fetch my diet crutch (WW) and get back to where I wanted to be in a reasonably short period of time.

My battle of the bulge took a different turn when MS dug it’s hooks into me. During the summer and warm weather months, I could still work in the yard and generally not sit around as much, which meant I was more active and ate less. Winter was a different story, where other than snow removal, I would come home from work, get into my sweats, plop myself in from of the television, and snack. Thus began the viscous cycle of gaining ten to fifteen pounds of winter fat, and losing most of it between April and October. Keep in mind I said most of it, which means that each year I was a little heavier than the year before.

This past winter was no different, and by the time April rolled around, buttoning my slacks and the collar of my shirts became a struggle, so back onto WW I went. The only problem is once I shed about half the amount I wanted, my clothes became comfortable again. I lost my mojo, decided that counting points and weighing food was more of a pain in the ass than it was worth, and started to wing it, which never works.

So I am currently in no-man’s land. I have not reached my weight goal, but am not invested in the process of getting there. Meanwhile the scale has become my enemy.

While K would argue this point, it isn’t that I eat badly. Other than coffee, I don’t eat breakfast, and lunch usually consists of a large Tupperware container of cut up vegetables, sunflower seeds and cheese, followed by a piece of fruit. I also don’t pig out at dinner. My problem is I like to snack at night. So it is not necessarily what I eat, but when.

Part of this struggle I’m sure is age. As the stench of 60 gets closer, my metabolism is slower, and my energy isn’t what it used to be. It’s getting to the point where since it is so hard to shed the weight and so easy to put it back on, part of me that thinks, why bother anymore? I’ve reached a stage of my life where I shouldn’t have to worry about this kind of stuff. It’s not like I have to get leaner because I’m on the prowl to find a partner in life, or want to get naked with some chickie to get my rocks off. So what if I’m a little heavier. I wear it well. All I have to do is buy some new clothes and not get huge.

If it were only that simple. First of all, I’m self conscious about the way I look, and am harsh on myself in that regard. If you saw me I am sure you would ask what the big deal was, and tell me I’m being too hard on myself. And you would be correct. The problem is I think I should have the body I had in my thirties and forties. Hey, I never said I was rationale.

Secondly, I have a hard enough time dragging this carcass around, with the MS. Having to carry excess weight makes it that much harder, so it behooves me to find a happy medium. As sedentary as I have become, I know that eating well, and maintaining a healthy weight is important for my overall health, MS not withstanding. The problem is that what medical professionals consider a healthy weight for someone my age and height is simply not going to happen.

Lastly, I am cheap when it comes to spending money on myself. The idea of buying new clothes because I don’t have the discipline to lose weight and consistently maintain it so I don’t feel like I am putting ten pounds of sugar into a five pound bag pisses me off.

So, I’m not going to say fuck it and let the weight chips fall where they may. I will try to be a good boy at night and eat healthy snacks. Perhaps I need to listen to what K has long been preaching, which is to eat more during the day so I am not as ravenous at night. I’ll also stick to water and seltzer for weeknight beverages.

I can be a real stubborn guy when I set my mind of something, so I’ll try to keep my weight within a range I can live with. I know there will be rough patches where that is easier said than done, but if those will become fewer and fewer if I follow this plan.

Meanwhile, I will continue to scream at the scale when I don’t.

The Three Magic Words

Happy

“I love you,” are not the three words men most yearn to hear. This may have been the case early in our courtship when we were drunk with love and romance, and the mere mention of these words would make our hearts flutter and groins stir. No, as the relationship matures and the question of love is no longer debatable, those three words are supplanted by a new trio. These words always turn our heads away from the television, the I-Pad, or otherwise remove our focus from whatever world we currently inhabit.

These words have the same effect as a cold shower, but in a positive, refreshing way. Instead of pretending to pay attention but only hearing wah wah, wah wah wah when our wives or girlfriends are talking, and our attention is divided between whatever it is they are saying and the sports page, we snap out of our stupor in a nanosecond and focus like a laser beam on the conversation we were mostly ignoring. What are these magic words? You….are….right!

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not minimizing the significance of “I love you.” I never want the day to end without saying those words to K or Shodan. Even though we sometimes say them with the same gusto as “honey I’m taking out the trash,” they are nonetheless meaningful, and shame on the poor fool that takes them for granted.

But to hear, “you are right”… is almost orgasmic because it’s so rare. Not winning the Powerball rare, but more akin to witnessing the perfect sunset, observing an underground lake, or discovering crop circles, where an intrinsic feeling of wonderment and awe overwhelms the senses. It puts a spring in our step, gives us reason to have faith, and otherwise makes us feel that perhaps we not as obtuse are we are led to believe.

Most women I know would derisively scoff at this premise, flatly stating that the reason we don’t hear this very often is not because they are loathe to admitting this. No, the reason we don’t hear these words very often is simply because we are right about as often as you’ll see polka-dots on a zebra.

I don’t remember that last time I had to choose between being right and being happy, primarily because I don’t keep score. If I’m rational, I will choose happiness, be satisfied in knowing that I’m right, and not belabor the point. I’d much rather concede the issue and keep the peace because I know that if I let my stubbornness get the best of me, and it’s usually over really stupid inconsequential shit, I may win the battle but lose the war. You see, the thrill of victory is fleeting and once the narcotic wears off, the hangover sets in. I’ll realize I’m deep in the doghouse, and for what?

K will still think I’m not only wrong, but an insensitive flaming asshole to boot, and is now doubly pissed that I disputed her omnipotence. I’ll cower like a scolded pup, wonder how the hell I did this to myself (again), apologize after an appropriate cooling off period, and swear upon everything I hold sacred that I won’t put myself in that position again.

Later on when the dust has settled and I’m alone I’ll replay the events, be my own judge and jury and render an unbiased verdict on the matter. More than half of the time I’ll concede I was wrong, but the ratio is a lot closer to 50% than 0%.

In the end it doesn’t matter, and all I can do is wait for the next time those three magic words are offered without prompting or hesitation, and bathe in the warm glow of redemption.

 

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Program For This Important Announcement

leg

This was one of those weeks where coming up with a topic to write about was a chore, and writing about said topic was tedious at best. For the better part of an hour and a half, I fought my way through writing about something my heart wasn’t really into, and trying to make it sound entertaining and relevant. When I was done, I had my typically shitty first draft completed, and was poised to make it look pretty and shiny today.

Then the obvious hit me like a bolt of lightning.

As you know, most of my recent posts told the story of my decision to dip my toe into the medical marijuana world, and what the experience was like. A lot of readers were enthused about the journey I described and asked for updates. My plan was to go back to that subject in a month or two, but after I had closed the file on the draft I was going to polish today, I had an epiphany about something that happened within the last week.

I am walking better. Better than I have in years.

When I had my last flare, the symptoms moved from just below my knee to my lower thigh above the knee. This was a game changer because I no longer had a firm foundation below me. My leg felt like a broken kickstand, one that could easily wrench violently to one side, tearing ligaments in the process. My limp became more pronounced, my balance became infinitely worse, and the leg felt like it didn’t belong to me. Performing any physical task became more difficult and potentially dangerous, as my tales of woe about snow removal this past winter described.

But as I rose from my recliner to grab a can of seltzer from the fridge last Saturday evening, it occurred to me that I was actually bending my knee as I walked, and moving the leg in more of a normal walking motion rather than having the knee locked, and swinging the leg forward by the hip. The knee felt strong and stable, which meant the entire leg felt more controllable, and I felt steadier on my feet.

Keep in mind I was a little buzzed at the time, compliments of my PM dose of CBD oil, so I asked an impartial observer, Kim, if it was my imagination or if I was actually walking better. After watching me move around the living room and head back to the recliner, she agreed it appeared that way.

Talk about a holy shit moment!

I wasn’t going to take this as gospel though, because part of me was wondering if I was over dramatizing something because I wanted to justify taking the new med. It just so happened that I had my quarterly neurologist visit two days later, and I told Dr. G. on Monday that it felt like the leg had improved, that I had reclaimed some strength and control in the knee, and was walking a little better as a result.

He put me through the paces, and lo and behold, it wasn’t my imagination. I’m not going to bore you with the details of what the “paces” are, but he confirmed what I suspected. There was measurable improvement.

That assessment was reconfirmed yesterday, two days after I saw the neurologist, during my annual physical. My PCP put me through similar paces and drew the same conclusion. There is therefore no doubt I’ve regained some territory from my MS foe, and the functionality within my leg has improved to where it was before the last flare.

Great news, yes, but let’s not get carried away. What I’ve described represents a subtle, incremental, improvement. If I were to place a percentage on how much better I think I am, it would not exceed ten percent. I still need my cane, my balance still sucks, and I still can’t run, jump, or even consider going on a dance floor. I remain disabled.

However, walking with the cane doesn’t take as much effort, and I can actually walk faster and in a straight line with the cane instead of meandering from side to side. I can also lift the leg a little where before I had to grab it around the thigh or calf to lift it, particularly when getting into and out of my vehicle.

Most importantly, I have increased confidence in my ability to do stuff, where before I shied away from tasks for fear of falling or hurting myself. I’m actually looking forward to resuming my exercise routine, and am curious about how the leg will feel when I push myself.

After years and years of things slowly getting worse, this is the first time something sustainable seems possible. So what caused these changes?

I started taking Super Biotin about seven weeks ago, and the CBD Oil began a little less than three weeks ago. These are the only new items that have been introduced into my routine. I’m sure the CBD oil is at work here, because I was on Super Biotin once before for a longer period than the current six or seven weeks, and nothing changed at all. I don’t think it is any coincidence what I have experienced occurred shortly after I began taking CBD every day.

Is the improvement here to stay? Logic says no. In the past, I experienced improvements when new treatments or a new medication was introduced, but they were short term in nature, and faded as my body got acclimated to them. I’m therefore trying not to get too giddy about this recent development. While I would be sad, it would not shock me to see these changes regress over time, and have the weakness climb back above the knee.

Hopefully I am wrong, but I’m not dwelling on this possibility. Instead, I’m cautiously optimistic for the first time in a long time that maybe, just maybe, I’ve found something will actually help control my symptoms, and am enjoying every minute of this new feeling. I am a true believer in the benefits of medicinal MJ for MS.

As a matter of fact, I’m going back to the dispensary Saturday morning to re-load.

Zen

Bliss

Mind floats downstream

Void of thought or worry

Detached, yet acutely aware

Body, prone and uncoiled

Surrenders to gravity

Melting into itself

Light as air

Heavy as lead

Random debris

Floating in the periphery

Becomes conscious thought

Alive, vibrant and textured

Is fondled, savored, consumed

Then jettisoned

Body centered

Limbs extended

Palms flat

Floating in the stillness

The music of breathing

The one audible sound

Inhale…..exhale

Inhale…..exhale

Inhale…..exhale

Perfect stillness

Stark simplicity

No anxieties

No sadness

An empty vessel

Fortifies itself

For the new dawn

B&W Photo Challenge – Day 7

BW Final

Last day of the photo challenge. When Grace nominated me last week, my initial thought was, “Oh, great! Here’s something else I have to do.” You see, I can’t say no to Grace.  Her personality shines through in her writing: Unabashed, funny, engaging, self-effacing, free-thinking, and honest to a fault. If you ever need cheering up, check out her blog. I guarantee you there is something there that will make you laugh and, as she likes to say, smh.

The Rules: I’m not going to repeat them again. If you want to see them, refer to my last post. I think one of the rules for these things going forward should be that you don’t have to repeat them each and every time you post. Talk about a buzz kill.

So for my last great act of defiance relating to this challenge, I am going to open this up to anyone who wants to play. I’ve tried to identify people whose blogs I follow, and who haven’t been tagged by anyone else, but that isn’t possible in a seven day stretch. So Walt, Jay-Lyn, Caz, Jeannette, YouTwoHearts, the MS Lab Rat, and anyone else who I may have missed that follows this blog, have at it.