Within 6 weeks after my hip replacement surgery I was back at work on the new bedroom. I took it sort of easy for the most part. There are restrictions after total hip replacement surgery, (posterior type), the most critical being not bending at the waist more than 90° or carrying heavy weight. Keeping that in mind, the first order of business was to run the electric rough-in and then insulate the ceiling to R50. To install the insulation, I had to stand on a rolling, 4’ scaffolding. I just had to be careful getting up and down but, while up there, I was held in place by the ceiling joist–so it went pretty well except it was cold as hell with no heat yet. I hadn’t knocked a doorway into the heated house because I wanted the room insulated first. Putting up the 5/8 sheetrock on the ceiling by myself was challenging but I just took it slow and got it done. I cut the bedroom doorway into the house by the end of February and completed all the sheetrocking, spackling and priming by beginning of April.
Throughout all this, my hips worked pretty well. I didn’t have any problems until I went outside and tackled a big project that needed to get done by mid- spring.
Ferns needed to be transplanted around the new bedroom, but before the ferns could be transplanted I needed to dig a trench through that location for my insulated heat pipe that was running from the house to the outdoor wood boiler.
I thought this would be a fairly easy job until I excavated along the bedroom foundation. Two years earlier I had buried a large culvert pipe that ran from inside the basement wall, under the cement slab dining area, to a point parallel to the outside of the new bedroom foundation. This buried pipe was intended as the conduit for the insulated heat pipe going to my outdoor wood boiler. Problem was, unbeknownst to me, when I poured the bedroom foundation wall, the pressure of the wet cement had pushed out the footer portion and partially covered the end of this pipe. So I had to spend half a day with a hammer drill, chipping away at this concrete.
Once I got the concrete out of the way, I had to first put down a 4” perforated drainpipe and cover that with clean #2 stone. Then a 20-foot long, 10” plastic culvert had to go down in the trench, connecting to the end of the pipe, which I had just cleared of the hard concrete. I back-filled around that and then finally I ran three 1”, PVC conduit pipes on top of the culvert. These were for electric power and controls for the outdoor wood boiler. Then the trench was backfilled and I could finally start to plant the ferns over this area. All that took 2 full days. The whole job turned out to be more strenuous than I thought it would. Whew!
I felt fine when we left that weekend to go back to the city but, while working at my TV camera job and walking around the city, my hips started to cry out in pain. Both hips- the replacement hip and the old, original hip. To make matters worse, I had to do a couple days of shooting with a very heavy camera while walking around.
The next weekend I went back to the country and transplanted all the ferns- it had to get done now or wait ‘til next year. Now it was. This wasn’t too painful and I thought maybe I was OK. So I go back to the city and the pain gets as bad as it was before the operation- in both hips. Every step I took had painful consequences. I couldn’t see how I was going to work as a cameraman let alone finish my house. Social Security Disability was the way I was heading at this rate. SSD is not easy to get and for the most part you can’t be able to work or at least not make more than $1K/mo for 6 months. In my research I found that you need documentation to back up your case. So I went to see my PCP and gave him all the details. Dr. Mele, who knew about most of my issues was on board and helpful. When I went to see my hip surgeon, Dr. Ranawatt, he told me I had 6-monthitis. It happens to everyone except in my case it happened at 5 months. I told him I couldn’t see going on with my career in this pain and that I needed to document this for SSD. He said that wouldn’t be a problem. I said I wanted to wait on replacing the right hip for a year in order to know what to expect recovery-wise from the replacement hip. I am not going to go ahead with replacing the right hip if the left feels as bad as it does, (pain in the thigh not the joint area). I told Dr. Ranawatt I thought the pain was from carrying around 50 lbs of camera equipment and it was unrealistic at my age to think I could continue with this kind of work. He halfheartedly agreed. Hip Surgeons want successes not failures. I told him I was going to have to start taking pain meds at work if things didn’t get better. On the way out he gave me a script for Tramadol for pain and Diclofenac/Misoprostol, a Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug with a buffer for people with GERD. I then asked Dr. Ranawat if it was OK to ride the stationary bike? He said, “I would try to take it easy for awhile.”
After filling the script I took one tablet of the Diclofenac. Within an hour I walked outside and I noticed immediate improvement. In the morning we drove upstate and I was able to walk around the property pretty much pain free. The next day I gave the body a big workout transplanting the rest of the ferns and had no problem. What is this stuff? I can’t believe it- my life outlook totally changed. I can look forward to the future again with a positive outlook. I never had to take the pain meds.
With the ferns taken care of, I could go back to working on the bedroom. I didn’t plan on finishing the job until the fall but I was so excited about its development that I plowed ahead. I got the hardwood maple window jambs in, everything primed and painted, the laminated cork flooring put down, closet doors in, king bed platform built and installed. The room was ready for sleepers- but that didn’t happen till late fall.
Of course after the bedroom was finished Deb was like- “Now finish the floor in the kitchen.” She didn’t want me to go outside and start the pavilion until the kitchen was taken care of. I was hesitant to start the pavilion anyways because I was worried my other hip would give out and I would have to get that replaced at any time. If things got bad and I had to stop working at least most of the kitchen would be completed and we could start to use it.
We picked out the kitchen tiles, (that was over a yearlong journey). In the end Lowe’s Home Improvement had what we were looking for, “Aspen Sunset,” porcelain tiles in a combination of 12×12” and 6×6”. The tiles were to be laid on a diagonal, with a pinwheel design. This would be the biggest tile job I had ever done at 300 square feet, consisting of three, offsetting rectangles.
I was more than a little concerned about this tile job. The issue was the pinwheel design, a 12 x 12” tile, surrounded by four, 6 x 6” tiles on each corner. This design made it difficult to keep everything going in a straight line because offsetting tiles interrupted the lines. Also, I wanted to change layout directions so I wouldn’t back myself into a corner. Luckily I stumbled across this advertisement for an inexpensive Bosh laser square. It was for floors and walls and shot out two laser beams at right angles. I was worried that after changing directions and then eventually meeting up with the old layout my grout lines would not line up. Or worse, that the tiles wouldn’t fit and would need to be cut down- a disaster. This Makita laser saved my butt. Only in two, far corners did I have to fudge the size of the grout lines a little and you would never see it unless you were looking very closely. In hindsight, the only thing I regret is I took a little too much grout out of some of the joints as I wiped the excess away. No one else noticed or cared.
John, I hear you asking, why do you make things so difficult to begin with? Why lay tiles on a diagonal or use two different sizes of tile in a pinwheel layout? The answer is in the results- doing something pedestrian verses doing something special. I don’t have any kids, but this dream, “Wildcat Dreams,” is the creation that will outlive me.
With the kitchen tiles down, the island, cabinets and counter could be put back in place permanently. We could have moved in at this point, but didn’t because it was getting warm again and we still loved our old little place. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t ready to move across the street to the new place- it didn’t feel like home.
Oddly things changed one day in July when I was scratching my back. Something was stuck to me and I pulled it off. It was a big engorged tick!
I had never seen an engorged tick before. I looked at my back in the mirror and I had a big bulls-eye there. This freaked me out. I saved the tick, taking it to the Doctor later in the week. He looked up pictures on the Internet and we both agreed it looked like a deer tick. So he put me on a 14-day course of antibiotics but he also sent the tick to the lab for testing. The next day the Doc called my cell phone and told me to stop taking the antibiotics because it turned out to be a wood tick- they do not carry Lyme disease. The bull’s eye continued to weep for a few weeks, which didn’t reassure me, but I felt fine and now it is gone. Over the 19 years I have been working on developing my property I never once got a tick bite that I know of, nor have I seen that many. I have spent hours outside in the forest, meadows, springtime, summertime and fall. Deer and mice were all over the area but no tick problems. Believe you me; from now on I am going to pay attention.
So- back to why I eventually moved across the street to the new house. At night I tend to wake up to go to the bathroom and usually can’t go back to sleep so I read. Deb doesn’t like the light from my Kindle so I get up and lay on the bedroom floor carpet, reading till I am ready to fall back to sleep. The problem was I realized later that Deb would take her clothes and shoes off and drop them right where I lie down and read. These were the clothes she had worn out in the fields when she collected blueberries and whatnot (weeds that supposedly had healing purposes). I was lying next to these clothes for two nights in a row till we went back to the city. I figured that is where the tick came from (maybe). So I told Deb- “Why didn’t you take off your dirty field clothes and leave them in the back room like I do my work clothes?” I told her I wasn’t going to sleep in that bedroom again till she vacuumed it all out, thoroughly cleaning it and washing all the bedding. Well she was not into taking orders from me, so that didn’t happen and I moved across the street at night, sleeping in the upstairs bedroom alone. After two nights of that she came over during the third night and silently climbed into bed with me. We both smiled in the dark.
We began to really appreciate the new place and even after Deb cleaned out the old bedroom we didn’t move back. That is how we came to get used to and enjoy our new world. Once the nights started to turn cold, though, we moved back to the old house, (we still cooked and ate there). We had a wood stove in the little house that could easily take the chill off with a quick fire. It is a very cozy place.
Back to the building of my small town. After I spent seven days tiling and grouting the new kitchen floor I noticed some of my old spinal stenosis symptoms were coming back. Symptoms that for the most part had gone away with the sit-ups and leg marches I had been judiciously doing for the past couple of years. My stenosis symptoms were strange sensations in the tailbone, buttock region and much more frequent leg numbness. When I had started swimming laps in a pool once a week and I slacked off the PT a little. Thinking maybe that was the problem I religiously started back to doing the crunches and leg raises. In spite of this “come-back-to-haunt-me” issue I plowed ahead. Throughout August I worked on excavating the pavilion area, installing drainage pipe, stone, gravel and the 6×6” pressure treated post that would hold up the roof.
By September 10th I was ready to pour the slab. The insulated heat pipe had been run to the basement, all the rebar and forms were in place, time to getter done! The night before the pour I started to have doubts: 7.5 yards of concrete, 352 square feet that need to be screeded off and floated, with 3 guys. My strength, back, and hip issues concerned me and I wondered if I would be able to step up and go big for the pour.
The cement truck showed up 20 minutes early and one of my two guys was missing. This driver was all business, no small talk just, “How do you want it- wet or dry?” I could tell he wasn’t too happy about seeing only two workers for a pour that big. With only two guys it would take longer to pour the cement, which meant the truck would go overtime and he would be late for his next delivery, backing the day up for everybody else- on a Saturday no less. I usually prefer a dry mix- not as much water- it’s stiffer and harder to work with but stronger concrete after it cures. But this wasn’t a road I was building, just a parking area. I said, “Wet!” with a strong sense of relief and resignation. The driver jumped back in the truck to put more water to the mix, gunning the engine and making that big drum rotate like crazy, mixing in the extra water. Pronto he backed up the truck, didn’t ask if we were ready and just let ‘er rip.
It was 7:40 AM, Rich and I just stood there looking at the cement pouring out the shoot for a few seconds, watching the work accumulate before our eyes. Inertia had us stuck for a moment. Snapping out of it, I went to work with my shovel and Rich with the rake, pushing and pulling the mud around. Archie showed up, jumped into his rubber boots and pitched in to help. I was so glad we went with a wet mix because it made our work so much easier. When it came time to level off the cement with a screed, it was no harder than spreading soft butter over toast. HA! Rich didn’t even pop a bead on the first pass. The whole thing got poured in less that an hour so the driver didn’t charge any wait time and drove off lickity split.
After being paid Rich and Archie, my tow helpers disappeared in a flash and I continued with floating the wet slab. Nice job!
Not being a professional concrete contractor, ahead of a pour, there is something anxiety inducing about knowing the finality of hard concrete and the things that could go wrong, that when it’s over, I get a strong sense of relief, satisfaction and optimism for the work ahead, because the hardest part is over. So much planning and work goes into the prep for the pour and for me- second guessing, so when it’s all over you just say- YES!