Monday, December 9, 2013

Manly Task #45

When we first moved into the house, we knew that eventually we would want to build stairs off the back deck.  It came in handy with Avery and Lil being young that they could hang out on the deck but not run off into the back yard.  The time came for us to build the addition and I started shortly after summer break began.  The planning took a while but I wanted to make sure it was done right.  I also put the plans through Georgetown Township to make sure all was done the right way.  We began the first part of the project on August 16th.  I did the building in small chunks.  I did the main support pole and platform framing first.  Digging a 4' deep hole was
a back breaker literally.  Then I realized that I would need to dig two more and decided to rent a pole hole digger for the other two (worth every penny).  I had to custom build the stair stringers because the deck was too far off the ground for a stock board.  I placed three cement bricks to support the stringers and dug the bottom deck pole holes.  The stringers were mounted and I put in the floor boards/steps.  The railings on the inside were a interesting since the rail ran up to the deck.  The finished product looks great.  I ended up building a gate out of spare parts left over and and it is a solid piece of work.  The deck was finished at the end of September.

Total cost: About $500

Manly Task #17

After the basement was finished, there were a couple of loose ends that needed to be tied up but wouldn't effect anything except my ease of mind.  One of those things was the cables that were routed throughout the house and gathered in the utility room in the basement.  When we were sinking cement nails in the walls when we built the studs, I also mounted the bracket for the wire box.  I went through and labeled all locations of cables and phone cords and set up the phone part of things.  The cables sat exposed and dangling for 3 years.  When I transferred the office to down stairs I needed to also get the cable set up so I decided to organize the box.  There were some issues with AT&T and the cable so I ended up also making the utility room the central hub for all wireless and cable/phone runs.  I ended up building a special shelf off the support beams to hold all the wireless stuff.  I think it turned out pretty sweet.  Here is the final product now that all is set up.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Manly Task #41

I discovered that in the back yard there was a grass barrier that had been taken over by grass.  It must have slowly grown over the 10 years and no one maintained it.  I decided to clean it up and make it clean again.  I had to do a lot of digging and clearing rock from grass was a pain.  I actually took the grass and placed it in some dead patches in my back yard.  I had to remove some of the dirt under the grass along the barrier line so the grass would sit lower than the barrier.  If I wouldn't have done this, it probably would overgrow again pretty quickly.  It looks really nice now that it's done.

Cost: $0  Just my time.

Manly Task #27

Today I took on tough challenge.  For a long time I knew that something wasn't right with our master bathroom heater duct.  About a  3 years ago I removed the vent covering underneath the sink cabinet to discover that the jerk hole who built this house decided to not finish the vent ductwork.  There is a full 4" of space between the heater duct and the edge of the cabinet where the duct cover was.  What the hell!  The result is a freezing cold bathroom in the summer and a sauna during the winter with no control at all.  The heavily effected the temperature in the master bedroom (currently a spare bedroom) as well.  When I first discovered this issue I was working on the basement so it was put to the wayside and has sat until now.

I first removed the front wood panel from the underside of the cabinet.  It had cracked in the middle at some point so I needed to also figure out how to fix this as well.  I measured it up, and penciled up the measuring on the new tin vent.  Pulled out my trusty jigsaw, did some cutting and put the two pieces together.  I fitted the front vent cover and bent the tin to it would hold snugly.  The length was correct so I started figuring out how to put it back together.  A difficult task considering I was working with a 5" high space.  I ended up making a wood L bracket to put back together the wood front panel.  It seemed to me that it would be easier to assemble everything if I place the three pieces separately instead of 1 big part and the duct.  I also decided to pre-drill all the holes so there would be no pressure put on the board since it would just be sitting and I wouldn't be able to hold it from the inside since it was going into an enclosed space.  I took the support block off the left side of the front panel and nailed it to the inside of the cabinet so I could attach the front panel to that support block.  The right side of the panel I would screw in from the side.  I attached the new duct to the existing one and put in two screws (this sucked).  I placed the left panel, worked the vent over it and then put the right on.  The right one was really difficult.  I couldn't reach in to pull it forward so I used a wire hanger as a hook and pulled.  I attached the broken piece and then finished screwing in the end of the right side.  I put the vent cover on and sunk in the two final screws to hold it in place.

The temperature in both rooms is perfect.  I didn't think it would change things that much but it really did!  Really happy with this home repair since eventually M and I will move into this room.

Heater duct - $5.69
Screws - Free (already had a bunch laying around)
Spare Wood - Free (from other old projects)

Time spent: 4 hours

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Back Update #10 - One Year!

(This was taken a couple days ago of me getting my groove on... sweet to be dancing again!)

It is the one year anniversary of my spinal fusion surgery!  I can't believe it's been a year.  What a long and interesting time it has been.  I haven't posted in a long time and that's because life has been pretty much normal.  At around the February/March timeframe I finally started to feel "normal".  It was exciting.  I took a quick easy jazz gig around that time and tested out the waters with my back.  I purchased a special back rest for my drum seat which supports my lower back.  The guys were great and made sure that I had breaks so I could stretch.  It went well.  Since then I fell I'm getting close to having my chops back.  This past weekend, I played a 2 1/2 hour gig with no stops and made it through.  Not drumming for almost 8 months really took it out of me.  Not to mention the muscle building I had to do in my legs and back after laying on a floor for almost 3 months and surgery recovery.  It feels good to play, that is for sure.

In April we had this beautiful stretch of warm weather.  On one of those days M, the littles, and I decided to take a walk.  About 1/2 way through our walk Lil decided it was time to stop.  Not thinking I just grabbed her and put her on my shoulders.  We walked for a few minutes and M was staring and smiling.  She said, "you have her on your shoulders, you are back!"  It was like before I was hurt.  It was one of my first moments where I wasn't thinking I'm going to hurt myself and just was living life!

School came and went and summer break is here now and yesterday I went to Michigan Adventure and rode some rides and did some water slides.  I felt this was another test of my back and passed with flying colors.  I have heard that it takes about a year until the "healing/bone grafts" stops and we are there.  I have not had any major incidences since the surgery and I am thankful.  There have been a few moments where I felt a twinge and just made sure I was careful but all in all, I'm back.  I don't feel the surgery area any more and would say I'm about as close to 100% as I will ever be.  I do have some nerve damage that hasn't healed.  My right foot between my middle toe and the 2nd to smallest and down that line on the top of my foot are quite frequently numb especially when I'm tired or on my feet for long periods of time.  Not sure if it will ever go away but I will take it compared to where I was one year ago.  I'm hoping that I can lose some weight and maybe this will help with this.  We will see.

I want to send out a huge thank you to all of you who supported me throughout this journey.  I hope I never have to live through something like this again but I am thankful I could recover from something like this.  My surgeon was amazing, my physical trainers kicked my butt in a good way, Ave and Lil gave me love and hope, my friends and family gave me so much help and support, and most importantly, my amazing wife gave me patience, care, and love that lifted me to fight and beat this bump in the road.  M, I know that this past year was more of the "for worse" side of marriage but you are amazing and my love for you has grown so much.  I will never be able to put into words what you did for me this past year.  Thank you to all!  I am humbled and thankful for every well wish, prayer, and thought you passed my way.

I think I am done with the back updates now.  Thank you to all of you who read and followed my journey.  Time to start writing about other random things!  Maybe I'll get back to that to-do list I created a couple years ago "Bookies Manly Tasks to do".

Much love to you all!  I will certainly see you on the flip side!

Back Update #9 - 6 Month Checkup/More Surgery?!?

(I just realized that I typed up this post way back and it's been sitting in my cue as a draft... oops.  Anyways, here it is!)

It has been a while since my last back post and I felt that enough stuff has happened that I could put together a substantial post.  Here are some milestones that have happened since last I wrote.

Hernia surgery!
I also went under the knife in January.  Turns out my umbilical hernia came back (had it done 5 years ago).  The hernia had worked around the mesh and needed to be redone so I went back in.  I know, I know, talk about being kicked while you are down but I had to get this taken care of.  So I once again went under the knife and had them pop in another layer of mesh to lock it in.  The surgery was a success but somehow about a week after the surgery, the skin separated from the muscle and caused some severe discomfort.  I thought I had wrecked the surgery.  Fortunately at the follow up the doc told me what was up and that eventually it would heal and to wear my belly band to keep it from moving around.  Yuck, but at least I was on the mend.  It took about a month and a half to get that out of the way and I could get back to physical therapy and work on my core.

6 Month Checkup
I had my 6 month checkup for the spinal fusion surgery with Dr. Brown in late January.   As I walked in and they did x-rays they had me do some forward bends and backwards bends while taking shots.  This struck me as odd but I just did them and went in to meet with the Doc.  He came in and said my back looks solid and nothing in the fused area is moving.  He was very pleased.  As we talked about everything I told him that I have no pain anymore and just some tingling in my right foot that comes and goes.  As we wrapped up our conversation he shook my hand and said that we are done meeting.  I was shocked.  He said that everything is great and that I only need to contact him if I have any issues.  This means I'm done!  I just need to take it easy and continue to heal.

First Gig!
In a few weeks I will have my first gig since before the surgery.  I'm playing with Pat and Kayle for a little piano jazz trio thing.  The nice thing is that I will be able to take a break whenever I need to so all should be well.  I'm looking forward to playing again.  I know I'm pretty weak compared to last time I played and my chops are rough but this is a great way to transition back into it.  I'm very excited!

Well, until next time friends!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Back Update #8 - Marching Season/Pool Therapy

10/16/12 Today was my final pool physical therapy session. Physically I have been making great improvement each day. The PT instructor has been really great and really knows how much to push and had a good handle on where I was physically through the 6 weeks we worked together. I could really see the improvement each week as we progressed through exercises. Water therapy is great. Next week I start working with Joline and she is pretty tough. I did a land session with her last week. It hurt. I think this is going to be a lot harder than pool PT.

Teaching the first weeks was pretty rough for me and I have taken some days off just because I don't always feel right. One of those days was the beginning of last week. We had just done our first double competition the past weekend and to put icing on the cake we found lice on Lillian so we spent all weekend dealing with that. I felt strange kinda like in the first few weeks after surgery. I took it as my body telling me it was time to chill so I did. The rest of that week was nuts with rehearsals, MSBOA, our last football game and another double competition weekend so I think it was smart to take Monday for myself. This week hasn't been much better for stuff going on but I'm trying to push through. I have been going to bed pretty early and sleep really hard. I'm tired but its the end of marching season, you are supposed to be tired. I just have to watch myself and make sure I put me first if I need it physically. My colleagues have been incredibly understanding and I am so grateful for all their help.

Three weeks ago I had a follow up with Dr. Brown and everything looked great. The bone graft is growing nicely and the fusion is set. I am still fully on my restrictions, no bending, twisting, lifting over 10pds but he told me I could start weening off my back brace so I started immediately. I have a love hate relationship with that thing. It feels good because of the support it gives but also just feels tight and constrictive. Currently I rarely wear it and only on those days when I am non-stop into the evening. I have had two or three days of not wearing it the whole day over the past week. It will be gone soon. My bed in the living room was also moved back downstairs last week also. I still am not 100% comfortable sitting on a couch but I don't have a choice now. The bed is gone much to M's happiness. I think personally, I could have made that bed permanent living room furniture but there is no way that will ever happen. I really need a good chair to put in there that will be good for sitting or reclining. Something needs to happen, I'm nervous I will never sit comfortably on a couch again and right now it's the couch or the floor. As for my right foot, there is still numbness/tingling in my toes and when I'm really physically drained, it's really present. I still have hopes this will go away. We will see.

Overall I am good. Life is slowly returning to normal and I am excited to get back to "normal". Whatever that will be. I'll post again in a couple weeks (mid-November) after my next Dr. follow up visit and when I'm four weeks into my land PT.

Talk to you soon!