Saturday, August 11, 2007

Happy Birthday--55!!

I was 55 yesterday. Last year about this time my brother Les and his wife Donna were here to visit for a week, feed me, and help around the house. Les called yesterday morning first thing with birthday wishes. He and Donna always remember because my birthday is the same day as their younger daughter's.

For my birthday, Jim gave me a lovely card, a lunch out, and a Nintendo DS Lite with the Brain Age game. I am hoping the game will work to put some of my cognitive functions back together. First I have to learn how to turn the darned thing on.

Jim and I were able to have a fairly low key day compared to how it's been lately. The reason for the recent ruckus around here? Jim has decided to buy into my house. We are starting some renovations on the house to make his living space handicapped friendly and accessible, preparing for the eventuality that that health may yet again pose a challenge for him.

We are turning his half bath into a full bath with a handicapped shower with 2 seats. That is probably the biggest part of the project because the floor is poured concrete that will require jackhammering to break into for the new sewer connections. The utility room off the bathroom will turn into a walk-in closet.

The single roomed dungeon will turned into a suite of sorts when the contractor places a custom built room divider between the "living" and "sleeping" areas. Improved lighting (with the electric panel upgraded to 200 amps), berber carpet, fresh paint throughout. We are going to bust out one double set of windows and the wall below them and replace them with a patio door. To do this, we have to have the exterior graded because the dungeon floor is about 3 inches below the outside grade.

Outside, we will have a paver patio built. It will have a handicapped ramp if needed. The patio will be covered with a roof, and there will be lighting and a ceiling fan installed there. Completing the outside work will be a paver walk around to the rear laundry door and an 8x12 shed to hold from the garage and utility room.

The final part of the project is the laundry room. Paint, shelving, lighting, a linoleum floor, and a portable handicapped ramp for the rear door.

For the contractor, we are using a fellow Jim grew up with. We have seen his work, and it's really good and creative. He's letting me get involved in the design end. My taste for this house runs to the Prairie/Mission style, and I am designing the layout of the wall divider, which will be a shelving/storage/drawer unit with a central feature of an aquarium. We have to start shopping the aquarium today so that the size of that item is all set.

This project (except for the patio door) hopefully will be finished in about a month/6 weeks.

Jim will have everything he needs down there except food. He will not HAVE to come up the steps to leave the house.

Separate from this project but affecting it is replacement of all windows in the house, except the fairly new Andersons in the Florida room. The old windows are original to this 55 YO house, with some really lousy storms. We will be getting vinyl replacement windows, the type with the tilt in sash. I have done alot of research on U factor, the rating element that indicates the amount of heat/cooling loss through the window. We are choosing a relatively high U factor window (although still within EnergyStar criteria) because it appeared to me that a lower/better U factor was not a value for the up-front cost.

We may also have a little exterior siding work done by the window company, which is a smaller family-owned business (thus leading to lower overhead and thus lower costs).

The window project, which includes the patio door, will begin in about 8 weeks and take about a week.

I had my interview with the SSDI-contracted psychologist this week. I went in pretty anxious, wanting to not do too well, but not really knowing where the cutoff might be between seeming impaired and seeming deceptive. After awhile, I just cut out that nonsense and tried my best. The psychologist said he was contracted to test whether I was capable of handling my own funds or whether I would need a trustee. That seems like bullshit. He was clearly giving me a cognitive function test. I felt pretty depressed when I left, but that was going to be the outcome regardless of what or how I did. It's all a matter of uncertainty.

I am getting closer to making an appointment to find a new plastic surgeon. My chest is getting increasingly uncomfortable from the scarring and the implant. I wonder if anyone can make me feel normal in that area again. There is numbness in places, tenderness in places, and tightness everywhere, including from the cording in my armpits. Right now I am eyeing Dr. Bernard Chang in Baltimore (he has a national reputation, having once been the head of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Johns Hopkins) and Dr. Topham at Fox Chase Cancer Center. I will then choose an oncologist at whatever facility I choose for the surgeon.

This week my psychiatrist raised my Lexapro (antidepressant) dosage to 20mg, the maximum. (I am also on Cymbalta.) I am just not sure how much biochemicals help with situational depression. Ann the talk therapist thinks we will be able to cut back to once every two weeks in September.

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