Walking Into A Furnace

HOT

Oh my God was it hot last weekend! I’m not talking about above average New England temperatures either. I’m referring to heat and humidity that felt biblical, made you wilt, and made you feel like your body was melting.

The talking heads warned us it was coming, and for once they got it right. Warnings of dangerous heat and humidity plastered the airwaves on Tuesday, and they amped up the volume during the subsequent days.  Friday came and, as predicted, the heat steadily grew throughout the day, but that was simply a dress rehearsal for what came next.

When I went outside early Saturday morning to check the pool chemicals my body felt like it was shrouded in a hot, moist shroud, and this was at 7:30! It seemed like every pore in my body started leaking, and I’m not the type of person who perspires at the drop of a hat.

Under normal circumstances, the weather would make any sane person stay indoors and do as little as possible until the heat broke, but with an imminent move on the horizon as progress on the new house rolls on, sanity took a back seat.

To give you an idea of how oppressively hot it was, the heat index was around 115 Saturday. I don’t think it was quite as humid on Sunday, but we’re splitting hairs, and as we returned home from the job site at 8pm Sunday evening, the outdoor temperature was 87 degrees. Are you kidding me?!

What is it about oppressive heat and home construction? When we built our first house in 1997, we lived in Southern Indiana (Evansville), which by far is the hottest place I have ever endured. Completely landlocked in the southern tier of the country, the heat had nowhere it go. Temperatures were routinely in the 80s and 90 with humidity to match, and it was hotter at 7pm than it was at 3pm.

How hot was Evansville? One day in July I took a day off to help clean up the construction site. Arriving there at 7:30 in the morning, I brought three gallons of Gatorade with me to consume so I wouldn’t cramp up or pass out. Between the time I arrived and 2:30 in the afternoon, when it simply became too hot to continue, I had consumed all of the Gatorade and peed only once during those seven hours. My clothes looked like I showered in them, and the dust from the site had caked onto my exposed skin.

That is what was last weekend was like. It felt like walking into and living inside a roaring furnace that got hotter as the day got longer.

Of course, I was 23 three years younger back then and didn’t have MS, and I still felt miserable that evening. I wasn’t foolish enough to push myself like that this past weekend, but I know I was still outside more than I should have been.

On Saturday, we helped my nephew remove and pack some furniture, file cabinets and tools that we no longer needed into a large van, then organized the garage a little to create more room to maneuver given the new open space. The pool was a godsend, and I jumped into that sucker a number of times during the day. Perhaps that is why the heat’s full effect didn’t arrive until later that evening,  when a wave of fatigue I hadn’t experienced in a long time consumed me.

Knowing I  over-exerted myself, Sunday was going to be a day spent inside. That lasted until early afternoon, as one can only stay cooped up for so long. Cabin fever compelled me to put on the swim trunks, open the deck umbrella, and take turns reading and jumping into the pool to cool off. Cooling is a relative term, because the water temperature was 90, having increased three degrees in less than twenty four hours. Still, it was blissful by comparison. Any relief the pool offered was short-lived, however, because within five minutes of leaving the pool, not having bothered to dry off, I’d erupt in more perspiration. Within ten minutes I’d once again feel like I was baking from the inside out, so back into the pool I’d go. This routine lasted for maybe an hour an a half, when the process became more annoying than refreshing.

Unfortunately, one task to do at the construction site remained. A Chickadee had decided several weeks prior to build a nest in what turned out to be an ingeniously difficult spot to get to in the corner of the garage.  For weeks, we’d hear the chirps of baby birds asking for their momma, and watch her dutifully fly in an out of their lair to feed and attend to them. As the sheetrock went up, nobody wanted to touch them, and we certainly didn’t want to entomb them. Assuming it would not be long until they flew the coop, we left that part of the garage open.

Well, it turned out last weekend was the time the coop was flown, either because they were full grown or it was too hot to stay put. I wanted leave the nest where it was and sheetrock over the remaining open space, but was vetoed by K. So we brought a ladder to the site after seven, and up I climbed to see if I could exhume the damn thing.

This nest was tucked between two 2x4s, and the entrance to it was a sliver of a triangle, at least eleven feet up in the rafters. I gingerly made it up each rung while K dutifully held the ladder. I had some long, heavy duty tweezers, and methodically pulled pieces of the nest out of its shelter.

It was hot and nasty up there. The air was still, heavy and dense. I’m not sure how long it took, but after removing what I felt was almost three-quarters of the thing, pulling out a variety of twigs, straw and plastic with each tweezer-grab, I had to stop because I was getting light-headed and started to feel a little queasy. Getting down the ladder was hard. K had to help by literally grabbing the ankle of my bad leg and guiding it to the next step down. Once I landed on terra firma my legs felt like jelly and my body felt like a limp dishrag. Remember, the air temp was 87 at the time, but it had to be at least another five to ten degrees hotter up in those rafters.

I shuffled over to the car, not able to lift either foot off the ground, shed my sodden clothes once we arrived home, slowly and carefully made my way upstairs to take a cool shower, then collapsed onto the bed, where I didn’t move for two hours. I felt a lot better after that, and was able to use my legs again.

I was a little surprised at how my body reacted because I actually did more physical work the previous day in higher heat and humidity, but suspect this reaction was more of an accumulation of the weekend’s events. I pushed myself to see how far I could go and what I could endure.

I wasn’t sure what Monday morning would bring, but it wasn’t any more difficult than a typical morning, so the heat’s impact didn’t linger into the next day. I could sit here and vow to never do that again, but that would be a lie. Stuff has got to get done if we want to move before Labor Day, so while I will try to be smart about my approach, I know the limits will once again be pushed if the situation calls for it.

Hopefully we won’t have a repeat of this past weekend’s oppressive heat. Storms rolled through the area on Monday and into Tuesday to wring all the moisture out of the air. Temps will revert to the upper 80s and low 90’s over the next ten days, which is hot by Connecticut standards, but sounds like Nirvana compared to what just occurred. It actually feels pleasant outside today by comparison.

It would be nice if last weekend turned out to be the worst this summer has to offer but I’m not banking on the idea that we aren’t going to experience another round of excessive heat.

That would be too convenient.

 

It’s Getting There

Last pic

Daze

A brief update as I climb back into the saddle

It was good to take a step back for a few weeks and recharge the writing batteries. The break provided me with time to look forward to getting behind the keyboard once again, not to mention provide time to let my mind wander and come up with a host of ideas and subject matters.

Having said that, the new house has become an all-consuming monolith that dominates my daily life. I took week off to start getting our current house in shape for the market in addition to helping out at the job site.

This process is taking a lot longer than we hoped or expected. The first house we build in 1997 took about seven months to complete. Our current home took less than six. We assumed this project would be no different, however we are currently into our ninth month of work. There are a number of reason for this, which I might elaborate upon in the future, but we truly expected to be moving in any day now when we initially broke ground. Instead, the sheetrock will be completely up and taped by week’s end.

The pace of our progress picked up when K took control of the project several weeks ago, and I suspect that will continue on the remaining items that need to be done: painting, the finish carpentry, the cabinet and fixture installation, the lighting, the flooring, the garage, the final excavation and grading of the site,  installing the driveway and seeding the lawn. There may be a few tiny things I’ve missed but those are the biggies.

The biggest fly in the ointment right now is the excavating. The individual we hired is now doing this part time, his hired help is gone, and the laundry list of items that need completion are long. We have sniffed around to see if there are other contractors that can pick up some of the slack, but so far have been unsuccessful in our search as they are all booked with other projects. If we do find someone, I am sure they won’t be cheap, and this project is already way, WAY over budget.

Then there is the stuff needed to get our current house ready for sale. That list is almost as long as the one needed to finish the new place, which was the motivation behind taking last week off.

The pressure to get this all done is immense because we want to be get the house on the market while the weather is still nice. We initially believed everything would be settled before the end of August, and that the financial piece of this odyssey (selling our house, settling our accounts and depositing some funds instead of constantly drawing from them) would soon be over and we would begin enjoying the new homestead, the move a painful memory. Instead, our goal has morphed into moving by late August/early September, which is not ideal because the goals was to get the house sold before all the kiddos go back to school. That is a pipe dream now. Our original timeline allowed us to fix up the old place once we were moved and it was emptied. Instead it is more likely that we have to do this and put it up for sale while we live there. That means we have to work on both places simultaneously. Maybe that is for the best because I have read is it always better to sell a house when your are still living in it rather than when it is empty., but it does complicate things exponentially.

Our heads are swimming with all the stuff that needs to be done, and how to deploy our dwindling resources. I don’t remember the process being as stressful as this one has turned out to be, perhaps because we are financing most of this, but it is what it is. I forgot, but now vaguely remember, everything coming to a head towards the end of the process, where you feel like the tail is wagging the dog.

Meanwhile, it is soooooooooooooooo freaking HOT! I picked the hottest week of the year so far when took last week off. Temps were in the 90’s with high humidity all week long, and I felt as if I were melting. As you know, MS and heat are not a good match, but I plowed through it for eight to nine hours each day, drank a ton of water, then jumped into the pool to cool down when we called it a day. My body was thoroughly shot by evening, and I shuffled around the house like Frankenstein. Crawling into bed felt like heaven, but by morning I was so stiff it took a while  to get loose enough to get back at it.

Nonetheless, I survived and in some ways thrived. It was good for the ego to learn that I’m still fairly useful, even though it takes a lot longer to do things compared to the pre-MS days. But at least I still can. My balance and leg strength seems to be a little worse than before. I can’t tell if this is real or imagined, but it feels like it is more difficult to get around under controlled conditions. Then again, that disappears when I get to the job site. Maybe it is the motivation or adrenaline to get things done. Maybe it is all in my head. I guess we’ll find out when the move is actually complete and we can finally exhale.

Mother nature isn’t going to relent, unfortunately.. The heat index is going to be in the 105-110 range this weekend. It is going to remain hot next week, and many are predicting this will be the hottest summer in recent memory. That’s par for the course. We’ll have to be smart about working in that environment.

So as I climb back in front of the keyboard, I don’t know if this will be an every week thing again or whenever I have the time. I am sure you will read more about our progress in the short term, as it is the easiest and quickest thing to write about. Completing the house and actually moving has become an obsession, time is limited, and this will be a good outlet to vent. However, I’ve had a few epiphanies during my hiatus that I want to share, and will eventually get to them.

One before and after pic opened this post. Here are a few more to give you a sense on how far we have come. At times both K and I feel like we are running on fumes, only to get to what by now must be our fourth or fifth wind. In the scheme of things we are in a final sprint on the home stretch, but it feels like it will take forever to finally reach the finish line.

Pic7

Pic1

Pic8

 

Pic9

Pic12

Pic3

Pic4

Pic6

Heat

summer

The summers of my youth were idyllic. I remember family vacations at cottages on the Connecticut shore, where a Good Humor truck was always parked near the boardwalk. Days would be spent frolicking in the water, crabbing, and riding bikes. Twice a week, we’d grab blankets, pillows and snacks shortly before sundown, and trek to the beach to watch a movie. The night air was warm, the sound of the waves gently lapping on the shore was always present, and the sand was filled with chairs and blankets as kids and families gathered to see what was typically a Disney movie. This was Heaven for a ten year old boy.

Days at home during the summer was spent riding bikes all over town, visiting a friend’s house to go swimming in their pool, or playing baseball all day long at one of the large grassy fields near my house. When it wasn’t raining, the only time I was in a house was to have breakfast, lunch, dinner and to sleep.

Summer was, and always has been, my favorite time of the year. The onset of summer vacation from school was wildly anticipated and celebrated, even for those of us who liked school and were good students. Summer days seemed to last forever when I was a kid, and while the new school year always arrived faster than expected, the break felt like a long period of time.

My enthusiasm for the season didn’t diminish when I became a teenager, and had to obtain a summer job. All that meant is I had less time to have fun, but fun was still to be had, and I pursued it with the passion of a religious zealot.

What is there not to like about summer?  It’s much more enjoyable to throw on a t-shirt, shorts and sandals than to bundle up in layers, struggle with a pair of boots, and find places to stash winter gloves or a hat. There are no limits to what you can do in whatever free time you have compared to the cold winter months, when darkness prevails, you’re in hibernation mode, live in sweats, and spend most of any free time you have in front of the boob tube.

Even summer chores are more pleasant. What would you rather do, mow the lawn, tend the garden, and maintain the pool, or scrape ice and shovel/plow snow?

Another thing I loved about summer was the heat. You see, I would always rather sweat than freeze, and there is something about sweating in the summer heat that appeals to the prehistoric recesses in my brain. When I lived in Southern Indiana for several years, the summers were brutally hot and humid. From Memorial to Labor Day, a typical day would involve temps in the 80’s and 90’s with extremely high humidity. I never lived in a place where it would be hotter and more uncomfortable at six in the afternoon than it was at two or three. Being land-locked, the heat would just build and increase throughout the day, which is one of the reasons they had such horrific storms. You could literally walk outside and start sweating so badly you felt as if you were melting.

But I didn’t mind it one bit.

New Englanders can wax poetic about the beauty of our autumns, and feel invigorated by spring, where everything quickly explodes into a lush green after the long winter months, but I will take summers any day of the week.

It is too bad summers don’t like me that much anymore.

I say this as we approach a stretch where we will have a week of 90 to 100 degree weather and high humidity. Once a cause for celebration it instead is a reason for caution because, unfortunately, heat and MS don’t co-exist very well.

Pretend for a minute that your body runs on a battery, which gives you the energy to work, play, move, think, concentrate, or do virtually anything. Food and rest help recharge it on a daily basis, which in turn allows you to function from day to day.

For some reason, heat drains my battery to virtually nothing the longer I’m exposed to it, and I’m not unique. Many, if not most, MS Warriors have this issue. I believe an increase in body temperature is the cause for this power drain, but I don’t know if that is the true clinical reason.

The drain occurs more quickly if I’m active while it is hot, but it has gotten to the point where I can feel a difference by simply sitting outside for an extended period of time. When humidity gets added, the effect is exponentially worse.

Imagine your body feeling completely limp, like every bone is missing. Imagine feeling so weary that the idea of getting out of your chair feels overwhelming. Imagine your  head feels like it weighs one hundred pounds. Imagine your mind feeling like a vast wasteland of emptiness, where the act of thinking feels like a herculean task. Hell, even the idea of sleeping seems like a herculean task. Your focus becomes a narrow pinpoint that centers on the thought that you can’t believe how shitty and utterly spent you feel.

I’m describing a worst-case scenario, but I’ve been there on an occasion or two. Most of the time the feeling is one of significant physical and mental fatigue, and the mental aspect is far worse than the physical.

Some warriors use cooling vests to regulate their body temps during the hot summer months. If I still lived in Southern Indiana I’d probably own several and wear them constantly in order to survive their summers, but they aren’t necessary in my neck of the woods.

My respite from the heat is a pool, which includes a deck and large umbrella that provides a lot of shade. The umbrella cures a lot of sins in terms of the heat from the sun, but nothing can escape the humidity. Nonetheless, immersing myself in the pool provides relief from the heat, and cools my body temperature immediately. It isn’t a perfect solution, because prolonged exposure to the hot sun can still make me feel like the battery is at fifty percent or less, even when I’m in the pool. But it certainly makes life more tolerable, and who doesn’t love the feel of being submerged in comfortable, crystal-clear water on a hot summer day. It brings out the kid in all of us. I especially love to float in a raft where my butt and feet are in the water, my upper body and head is resting comfortably in a semi-upright position, and a cool beverage is secure in the cup container within arm’s reach. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Every winter and summer provides a platform to gauge the pace of my progression. The struggles of maintaining a clear driveway this past winter told me there was a definite progression compared to the previous year. Now, this next week will test the theory from the heat and humidity perspective. How much of a difference will I notice compared to last summer?

When I left the house to drive to work this morning, it already felt like a sauna outside, and the sun hadn’t even risen yet. I know it’s going to feel like an oven for the foreseeable future, but I have stuff to do. So it will be interesting to find out if I feel like a rag doll when the evening rolls around.

I hope not. I don’t mind bitching about the winter, because the winter deserved to be bitched about, but I hate the thought of being a prisoner in my own house during my favorite time of the year. I can live with watching people enjoy themselves from the sidelines. Watching it from the inside is a completely different story.