Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Feeling Good Monday #5 (A Bit Late)

Still working on packing up stuff in the house to make it more desirable to prospective buyers. Still trying to get my little projects completed, but my brother now has a parttime job so he's not too available. Will be engaging a handyman shortly. Still selling through eBay and the space I've rented at 3 different multi-dealer shops. So, it's all pretty much status quo, with one exception:

I've lost 19 pounds! Am quite happy about this. The last few weeks I hadn't seen much movement on the scale (figuratively speaking, since I use my Wii balance board to weigh-in), but then a huge drop this morning at my weekly weigh-in. I guess that's why my jeans seem quite loose lately. Will have to buy new ones. I think I'll buy used ones on eBay since I'm hoping I don't wear them for very long.

Back to cranky musings tomorrow. Have a great day!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Word Verification on Comments

I wanted to turn off word verification for comments, since it seems some of my blogging friends are having troubles reading the letters and I'm indifferent if I get a few spam comments here and there. If I look in the "Posts and Comments" section of "Settings," though, there's no way to turn it off. Other than turning on moderation for all comments, does anyone know of a means for turning off word verification?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Grim Reality: It Won't Get Any Better

There's been a little too much positivity and sweetness and light on this blog of late. Time to get back to some down and dirty crankiness. I was originally writing this as a cranky reason, but really, this reality doesn't make me cranky, more feeling sad with tinges of fear, wondering what's coming next.

Most people who have MS have the relapsing-remitting kind, where symptoms can come and go. Others have progressive forms where what you lose to the ravages of the disease never comes back. That's the form Skip has. It's true she had some sight issues that recovered (thankfully), but other than that, once it was gone it stayed gone.

Flashback 28 years. It's 1984 and we're living in a wonderful apartment on the 4th floor, no elevator, with a cool roof deck in Boston's South End. At the time, it was Boston's gay mecca and we loved living there. I was going to computer programming school and Skip was the bar manager at a Japanese restaurant on the waterfront. She started having feelings of pins and needles on her thigh and lost some sensation in her fingers. She thought it was pinched nerves and went to a chiropractor for a few months. Not surprisingly, the treatment was ineffective. Fast forward to the present and Skip no longer walks, can't even move a toe. Basically, nothing below her armpits works anymore. And, her arms and hands are becoming increasingly weaker. Her left hand doesn't do much of anything anymore. She needs help for just about all tasks of daily living. Even feeding herself is becoming a challenge on many days.

Between then and now, there've been lots of little and large losses, where we've said goodbye and mourned each successive loss. And, most importantly, made accomodations to the new world order. Skip went from the funky sensations she first experienced on to weakness and foot dragging in her left leg. This brought on a cane. As the disease progressed, we went on to a walker (fun for a woman in her 30s), then a manual wheelchair when we were out and about to full-time wheelchair use in the house. And so on.

We have a fairly standard routine whenever a new device comes into the home. I greet it with gusto as I see it as a wonderful boon to Skip's life and it will make my life easier as well. Skip finds its arrival very depressing because it's only necessary due to some new MS symptom and loss of functioning. Eventually, though, she adapts to the new device and is glad for the assist.

Now, I'm thinking about assistive technology devices that we need to replace her hand functionality as it continues to degrade. She's having problems with the tv remote and the computer keyboard. We need to get in an Occupational Therapist to assess the situation and recommend some tools. In fact, there's an OT with the agency that provides visiting nursing and home health aide services. She's on vacation this week but will be contacting us next week so we can begin discussions. Soon to come, I suspect is another round of tools that Skip will be depressed about but eventually accept as she learns to use them and sees how much they help her life.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The First Non-Wound Day

Five and a half weeks ago was Skip's flap surgery. She's been in bed, not sitting up, since then. Yesterday, she went back to Brigham and Women's Hospital to have the stitches out. We rode together in an ambulance so she wouldn't have to sit up en route to her appointment.

Imagine, riding in the stretcher for the brief distance between our front door to the ambulance was Skip's first fresh air since January 13th! I'm glad it was a cool, crisp day with no rain or inclement weather to ruin the moment.

At BWH's Wound Center, the ambulance drivers rolled her right into the examining room. After a short wait, two nurses came in to remove the stitches. The lead nurse was quite pleased to see how well the incision had healed. She mentioned that the last two flap incisions they'd seen had both been failed operations, so she was particularly happy about Skip's great outcome.

Turns out, though, that Skip's not out of the woods yet. She is only supposed to sit in short bursts, increasing a bit every day, until after a month she can sit up for 2 hours at a time. How naive I was ... I thought she'd be back spending a good amount of time in her chair right out of the gate. She's decided to do her sitting in bed for the next few days at least, postponing her first wheelchair sit for now.

In reality, without my realizing it, we've embarked on a new phase of life. Skip really shouldn't spend hours and hours at a time sitting in her wheelchair, even when taking advantage of its tilt and recline functions to change the pressure points. (See below for photo of her chair's capabilities, taken when she got it about 3 years ago.) We'll have to see how that changes things for us going forward. Here's hoping we still get those trips to Fenway and further afield, like Las Vegas and Washington, DC.

Bottom line, though, is that Skip has no pressure sore right now for the first time in a very long time. That is a most wonderful thing and not to be downplayed at all. Woo hoo!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New Cranky Reasons #2: Cranky Needs Glasses

Last fall, I drove to the Cape, sometimes twice a week, to help my siblings pack up my Mom's house. It was a two-hour drive each way. I typically left about 8pm, so was driving after dark the whole trip home. I noticed for the first time that I was having some issues driving at night. I found myself relying on all the road reflectors and lines to find my way more than I ever had. And, if it was raining, night driving became very difficult for me. The shininess of the wet road and signs from my headlight beams really created challenges in making my way along the highway.

Some people would have had an eye examination soon after experiencing such troubles. But not me. I managed to put off the exam until yesterday. Well, bah! I'm near-sighted, far-sighted (I've been wearing reading glasses for 10 years) and have astigmatism. I ordered glasses with progressive lenses as I was assured I had 30 days to return them if they didn't work out. But, oy, they are expensive! I got frames that are virtually indestructible in the hopes I won't destroy them, as I've done with readers many times in the past.

Yeah, I'm cranky. I don't want to wear glasses. Though, I'll be happy if night driving gets much easier.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Feeling Good Monday #4

There's plenty to feel good about today.
  • I wrote about my Foxwoods trip on Saturday. I had so much fun, I've already figured out the next time in early March that I can go back!  Having experienced the poker room last time, I can see myself trying out the Omaha tables next time.
  • Skip's stitches come out tomorrow! She's been in bed since January 13th and, boy, is she ready to get up. She's been much weaker lately, having some significant problems with her hands, requiring MW or me to help her eat and hold her water bottle while she drinks. We're all hopeful that getting up again will be a positive change, helping her shake off this weakness.
  • This house is just filled with stuff to sell. For example, I decided we'd really need to get rid of some of the kitchen stuff we have. In my first look at the cupboards under the counter, I spied in the back a copper bowl used to whisk egg whites for making souffles. This is an artifact from our entertaining days. Skip was a chef before MS and we used to have great dinner parties for our friends back in the day. I haven't whisked an egg in that bowl for more than 20 years, so it's time for it to go. Best of all, on eBay, the used ones like ours sell for between $30 and $50. Woo hoo!
  • A load of gold jewelry I had for sale at a local multi-dealer antiques shop sold in one fell swoop. Bam!
  • We had some improvements done in closets downstairs. The quote was reasonable and the work was done on schedule as promised and within budget. Yowza!
  • We stopped having the house cleaned to save money, which has resulted in a far less clean house than I'd like. To have the place in shape for showing to prospective buyers, we're starting back with the wonderful couple that used to clean it for us. They're coming for a major cleaning on Saturday. It couldn't be soon enough, from my perspective.
Hope you all have a great day!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

All Work and No Play Makes Cranky Even Crankier

Caregiving is hard work, let me tell you. It's not continuous effort, but you're always on call to help. There's a strong but invisible tether that keeps you close by so you can lend a hand when needed. Being on call 24/7 is wearing.

So, yesterday I cut the cord for a bit and went to Foxwoods. Skip's aide/friend, the intrepid MW, was staying with her until I got home, so I knew she was in good hands.

I haven't been to a casino since early 2007 when we last went to Las Vegas. And, I stopped playing poker online over a year ago, before the federal government shut down the 2 biggest online poker sites for US players in April 2011.

First, I stopped off in central Mass to drop things off at the two spots where I have stuff for sale. One is associated with a flea market, so the stuff I put there is generally household items and low-end items. I dropped off about 50-75 baseball caps that I'd purchased for Skip over the years. She had me get them wherever I traveled to during my many years of heavy business travel. Then, I went further west to the antiques/collectibles shop where I just set up a small space last week. I brought all the items from our Kennedy memorabilia collection there last week, among other things. It was fun to see that some of the stuff had already sold. Yesterday, I dropped off a bunch of fruit crate labels Skip collected many years ago. I found them shoved away in a closet I cleaned out at home last week. They'd been there for 20 years.

So, following those errands, I headed off to Foxwoods. I realized just how long it was since I'd been there when it came into sight. There was a huge new hotel, the MGM Grand, that wasn't there when last I was. And, all new roadways had been added to make traffic flow around the casinos much better. I swooped right into valet parking and headed into the complex.

The first thing I noticed was the smell of stale smoke. I forgot how casinos are just about the last indoor places that people can smoke. Fortunately, the poker room is completely non-smoking. I wasn't sure whether I'd play poker or craps first, but as I ventured inside, almost the first thing I saw was the poker room entrance, so that was my first stop.

I really prefer pot-limit omaha over all other poker games, but I've never played PLO in a live casino, only online. Online, it's much easier to keep track of the pot size, which is a very important consideration in the betting rounds. Most of the Omaha spread at Foxwoods is limit and is also the high-low variety, neither of which I like anywhere near as much as PLO. So, I wasn't sure if I would play Omaha or just stick with no-limit holdem.

When I got into the poker room, it was huge huge huge. I found the desk for signing up. It being a Saturday of a holiday weekend, there was a dizzying array of games offered. I hate to admit it, but I found the environment a bit intimidating. I signed up for 1/2 PLO, 5-10 Omaha hi-lo limit and 1/2 no-limit holdem. But really, I figured I'd play holdem as that's the simplest game of the 3 and good to start with for my first visit in millions of years.

In about 5 minutes, I got called for the NLHE and went off to a table where I was fortunately seated in the center, across from the dealer, which made viewing the cards on the board easy. I've found in the past that if you're at one of the ends, it can be difficult to see the suits and even occasionally the numbers of the cards. I was 2 from the dealer position on the first hand and posted to get started right away. AQo ... nice! An ace came on the flop. A short-stack in early position went all-in and one other person besides me called. I bet out on the turn and the other guy called that bet, which was fortunate, since the shorty rivered 2 pairs with his A6 so I only won the side pot.

It's funny, in my first 7 hands I got AQo, AQo, xx, AJo, AA, xx and JJ. My $200 buy-in went up to $550 in the blink of an eye. I joked that I'd now seen all the good hands I'd get for the rest of the day and, unfortunately, I was right. Over the next few hours, I managed to give back about half my winnings before I finally picked my remaining chips and headed off to the casino to find a craps table.

In a few minutes, I located a busy craps table that had a spot for me to sneak into next to the stick man (the dealer at the table who holds the stick to move the dice around and who controls the action). The first few folks who rolled the dice did okay, so I made a bit of money. The next shooter was a crazy guy (there's one at every table, it seems). He bet $100 on the pass line and always slowed down the action putting his place bets as he gave poor instructions to the dealer, so there was always confusion to resolve before the game could get moving again. He was a generous soul in an obnoxious way. Every payoff he received, he threw the white ($1) chips back into the center of the table, shouting "dealers!" Great for them to get tipped but a pain for them to retrieve the chips that have knocked other chips around and such. At one point, he took a handful of pinks ($500 chips) out of his pocket to cash one for smaller chips. At least $10k there.

I have a love/hate relationship with rolling the dice. To me, it's all random. I don't carefully position the pips on the dice in certain patterns like some folks do. I just pick them up and throw. I'd guess my experience with dice throwing is similar to everyone else's. Sometimes I completely suck. Based on averages, you have to 7 out immediately after setting the point over 15% of the time. Sometimes I am awesome. I had a roll at the Rio in Las Vegas that I recall where my name was being chanted before every roll. It went on for more than an hour and I made myself well over $1k. Oh, and made everyone else at the table a load of dough. My first roll last night was better than average. I made a few points and the third point I set was the 4, which is hard to make (as in, it's twice as hard to roll a 4 again before rolling a 7). I kept rolling 5's, 6's and 8's, all of which was making us money on place bets. Finally, I sevened out without every making the 4 point, but I'd made all of us a good amount of dough.

I played craps for 2-3 hours and managed to leave with a decent amount of winnings. Not the most of the night, but not at the low point. In fact, thinking about it, since I won the side pot on my first hand at holdem, I had no point during the day where I was losing. Nice!

Getting the car from valet was a snap. I'm doing this if I ever go again. Got out onto the highway. Put on Miles Davis. And headed home. Almost all highway driving. Home about 10:40. It was a fun day and a chance to really get away from the chores and responsibilities of my typical day. I've already suggested to Skip that another trip in March would be fun.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Feeling Good Monday #3

Despite the Pats losing yesterday's Superbowl, it's still a "feel good" Monday here.
  • In Massachusetts, your septic system needs a "Title 5" inspection before you can sell it. Ours happened this morning and it passed. The realtors were over this afternoon to review their market analysis with me and were delighted to hear this. They then shared a number of horror stories of homes that required septic system modifications costing thousands of dollars to pass ($20,000 was mentioned in one instance). Phew! That was one big bullet we dodged.
  • I'm pretty charged up with the project of house prepping pre-listing. I'm excited about how great the house will be when we're done decluttering and doing a few low cost projects.
  • I've expanded the amount of space rented for selling antiques, furniture and flea market-type stuff. This will be a great way to unload some of the crap we've accumulated over the last 22 years.
  • Opening day is less than 2 months away. It'll be here before we know it.
Enjoy your week!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

House Work

I'm getting all sorts of things in place to get the house ready for showing to prospective buyers. It's exciting to have a new and fun project to work on.
  • Title V (septic) inspection is Monday morning. When I spoke with the guy who is doing the work he said they'd either be depressed or euphoric, depending upon what happened during the Superbowl. My kind of contractor!
  • We have some closets downstairs that need rebuilding. Had a contractor recommended by our realtors. I called him last Wednesday and left a voicemail, figuring it would be a while before I heard back from him, if at all. He called back in 5 minutes. Said he had a job wrapping that afternoon and he could come over between 3 and 3:30 that day. He showed up right around 3. Gave me a quote on the spot and followed up with a written quote that evening. I'm not used to this kind of responsiveness from contractors. He starts on the 13th.
  • My brother came over last Monday and we walked through my punch list of small, handyman type jobs I'm hoping he and a couple of his friends can help on. Also, his friends (who are both younger than us) will also do things just before listing the house like: power washing the house, washing windows inside and out, sweeping off the roof, cleaning out the gutters and cleaning up the yard. Since we're having such a mild winter this year, I think the outdoor handyman work can start up right away.
  • I'm renting a large storage unit to store the extra stuff we need to get out of the house to make it show better. I'll wait to rent until we've accumulated a good number of packed boxes and furniture to move in there, probably in late February. The intrepid MW, Skip's companion and friend, is going to help us with the packing.
Let's hope the practically snow-free winter continues so we can get all the external projects and cleaning completed by early March so we can get this house listed for sale!