Friday, August 24, 2012

Deck Chairs!

Cane & Rita over at This Sorta Old Life posted a DIY on Adirondack styled chairs back in July. If you're not inclined toward woodworking, then this is the DIY to start with. Cane lays it out step-by-step with very helpful pictures and explanations of why and how when necessary. They were able to do one chair in about 2 hours for around $10. We came out double to those figures but still saved a TON compared to buying one AND have the pride of having made it ourselves! This was literally my first ever build-project and I'm pretty pleased with myself for pushing through.

Cane & Rita were able to find cedar fence planks at their Home Depot for $1.28 each but we weren't so lucky. We tried to hold out for some freebie used fencing on Craigslist but got impatient when we got some unexpected cash gifts. The cheapest we found was also at Home Depot. The 6ft by 6" boards were $2.35 and the 4ft by 3" boards were $1.08. We don't have a table saw and really liked the look of the narrower slats so we bought the 3" boards for the seat/back and the 6" boards for the frame/legs/arms.

Our spending breakdown for 2 chairs:
9 six-foot by 6" cedar picket boards: $21.15
14 four-foot by 3" cedar picket boards: $15.12
1-pound box of 1" exterior screws: $3.39

Total: $39.66

We also had to buy a drill bit and a jigsaw blade but that's our own fault (*heh*)

Or maybe it's *my* fault. Snapped right off!

Sweetie had sanded all of the boards so they would be nice and smooth (or as smooth as cedar can be, lol).

I started measuring and cutting all the boards around 5pm on a Sunday. I had just taken a 20 minute nap and felt refreshed, but was still pretty exhausted and tired. (Sundays are my running on empty days because of how job hours work out.)

Somewhere around 6pm or so, I was ready to start assembling. I brought the boards needed for one chair outside and laid them in piles according to which step they'd be used in. I quickly realized that it was going to be a longer process than I expected. Every piece is held to another by 3 screws. Each screw hole needs to be pre-drilled to prevent the wood from splitting. The pieces need wood glue between them before the screws are fastened. We don't own clamps. The first attempt, I smeared the glue on and held the pieces together to pre-drill. Then as I changed the bit to fasten the screws, the pieces moved ever so slightly so I couldn't be certain the holes were lined up anymore. So for each attachment, the process was:
  • Drill one hole
  • Change bit
  • Lay glue
  • Screw till just poking through on one board
  • Lay the poke into the hole of the other board and finish screwing in
  • Change bit
  • Drill the other 2 holes
  • Change bit
  • Fasten the other 2 screws
The sunset finished around 8 and the twilight lasted about 20 minutes after that. I only had one step left at that point - putting the back slats on - and couldn't see the screws or pencil marks anymore so I had to call it a night and finish some other time. 

Fast-forward to Thursday. Finally, I had time AND motivation to go out and finish attaching the back slats. The chair was finished in about 30 minutes! I sat in it and felt proud. 

Then I got up to tackle the second chair. I had about 2 hours before sunset but I felt confident that I could finish it closer to the 2 hour estimate since I had all the trial and error stuff worked on on the first one. Sweetie wanted the arms of the second chair to be curved so I grabbed the jigsaw and cut those first. Then I decided to pre-drill all holes, lay the glue, then poke all the screws through one board and shift it around until all the screws landed in their holes. Then fastened them all down. That saved a bit of time! 

There was a swarm of gnat-like bugs congregating on the finished chair, and moving onto me when I used the chair as a brace to hold the boards. The humidity was up and so the mosquitoes were out in numbers. I was being attacked and was getting highly irritated. I finished step 2 and threw in the towel until Friday.

Friday I took my chances with the bugs and started as soon as I got home from work at 5:30, hoping to get done in time to shower and eat dinner before leaving for the night job at 8:20. The sky was threatening rain every second of it - and I even had some light sprinkling for a bit - but I had the grill cover ready to drape over the chair if it actually opened up. We've had too many "chance of thunderstorms" with not a speck of rain for me to hold off on this project any longer.

I finished just after 7pm! The front horizontal brace of the second chair is just a titch slanted. I'm not sure how that happened because I used a level on ever step of the second chair. I eyeballed the first chair and had no noticeable issues. *sigh*

All told, we are very satisfied with our new chairs! Sweetie is doing some research on sealant options. Until then, we will keep moving them into the shed when there's rain.

So big and comfy!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

1000 Squats in 10 Days Challenge

1000 squats in 10 days! This was another challenge presented to me by the same friend who had created the last event on Facebook and one I had no trouble getting on board for. I knew I could easily tackle 100 regular squats a day. In a previous workout routine, I was doing as many as 55 in five minutes (rotation of 5 pushups, 10 crunches, 15 squats for 5 minutes - did 11 rotations consistently for 4 days).

The challenge I presented to myself was to do a different squat variation each day, and possibly add a 5lb weight to each arm if I ended up repeating any variations.

On the second day, I realized a little research was in order for stretching. In addition to the shadows below, I also stretched by leaning to the left or right - trying to get close to a 90 degree bend. I noticed it stretched my inner thighs and I could do that while getting ready in the morning. 

By the third day, I realized I didn't really know very many squat variations. I turned to youtube and found Tom Greenwald to be the most helpful. Some of these variations looked more like lunges to me than squats, but the outcome seemed to be the same so I was up for it!

The sixth day was a Saturday. I was in the kitchen all afternoon cooking up lunches for the next few weeks and decided to try the Hindu style squats. They left me in complete muscle exhaustion after completing the last 20 of the 100 set within 45 minutes. Saturday evening I was having some difficulty going down stairs but otherwise was fine. Sunday morning, I was having difficulty walking. I pulled my ankle up to my butt during service to try and stretch it out but nothing seemed to make any difference. I didn't do any squats on Sunday. Monday I had jury duty selection, but besides that the pain in my quads had intensified. I was walking funny by this point. The pain was definitely lessened by more movement so I took the stairs for anything less than 4 flights. There's a LOT of sitting in jury duty selection though, so there was a lot of pain. When I got home I literally passed out. I slept from 7pm until 7am .When I woke, the pain was noticeably lessened in my thighs. I think my body and muscles just needed some rest!

Here's the detail day-by-day:

Day 1:
Completed regular style in the span of 4 sets throughout the day. No soreness, no fatigue. I really wasn't excited about doing them yet and obviously wasn't pushing myself.

Day 2:
Completed pulse (or "bouncing") style in the span of 2 sets within 3 hours. I was definitely pushing myself on this day. The last 10 of each set was burning in the quadriceps and when I stood up straight my hamstrings joined in on the warmth. My legs were also shaking - which is a good sign of muscle exhaustion!
Soreness was mostly in my inner thighs.

Day 3:
Completed wide-stance style. The first set I did 50 in about 4 minutes while I was in the bathroom. I should have gone pee first because I was a little unsteady sitting down after all of those. That was definitely me pushing through to the end. About 3 hours later, I went to do the last 50 over a scheduled five-minute break.  I had to stop after only 10. I walked it off and shook my legs, then tried again. I got another 20 out before I had to walk and shake again. Finally pushed out those last 20 just barely within the 5-minute mark of my break.
The wide-stance style was noticeably more difficult. I was apparently using a set of muscles that I don't use often and found out the next day exactly which muscles those were from the soreness!
Soreness on Day 3 was only in the front, back & sides of my thighs.

Day 4:
Completed "hold" style. Held the first squat position for 52 seconds. Tried again about 10 minutes later and held for 48 seconds. Both holds I had to grab the wall in front of me and sort of walk myself back to standing position because I felt "stuck".

Day 5:
Completed narrow-stance style. This style was the easiest by far of all the styles I had tried. I was able to do 50 at a time and finished within an hour.

Day 6:
Completed hindu stule. Very exhausting but so much fun! I did the first 50 at once, getting lost in the playfulness of the movements. I had to shake my legs to get the muscles to relax, did some cooking, and about 30 minutes later was really craving to finish the last 50. I did 30 more before my muscles felt shaky. Punched at my thighs for a few minutes to loosen them up and finished the last 20. Hindu style is unlike anything I've ever done. Complete muscle exhaustion that I didn't recover from for 2 days after.

Day 7:
None. Extreme soreness in quadriceps. Took some ibuprofen and did some stretching.

Day 8:
None. Soreness intensified in quadriceps. Difficult to walk. Went to bed and slept for 12 hours. I think my body and muscles needed to rest!

Day 9:
Woke up feeling much better and quadriceps were noticeably less sore. Completed 200 regular style in intervals of 30 every hour from 9am to 5pm. Decided I would finish the 1000 in easier styles as opposed to risking injury. Soreness would creep back in after sitting for about 15 minutes. Took a 3 mile walk that evening and it helped warm the muscles so I could do some deeper stretching.

Day 10:
Completed 200 in various styles on the top of every hour from 9-12. Switching it up within each set made it easier to do more at a time. I did 50 in each set (20 regular, 20 narrow, 10 wide). Still had some noticeable soreness but was able to walk without discomfort and kept stretching throughout the day.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Litter Cabinet

We can finally mark another item off of our William Morris Project List! I'm not doing so great at getting on the ball. Sweetie did most of this project AND gets credit for the idea.

When we bought this house, it had 3 bedrooms. We thought this was perfect, as we could have one room, the cats could have their own room, and the dog could have his. Max's room has really turned into a catchall room. It's where the pantry lives, the piano and guitars, some commonly used tools, the wireless router and cable modem, and his tunnel frame. It's also the only room that didn't get carpet, wallpaper, or original drapes removed. Poor Max. But really, cats totally rock and deserve their own room ;-)

Our idea in the beginning was to make the cat's room look more like an office that just happened to have cat stuff in it. Then we realized we didn't need an office because we have laptops and can work wherever we want.


So now we just want to make it look less like a cat room. First thing first, hide the box!

Sweetie found the cabinet for free on Craigslist. Her idea was to cut a hole in the side for access. Turns out, the cabinet had a wall on the inside as well. No biggie, just another hole - one that no one will see.

I suggested drilling holes in the top for two reasons.
  1. To let it "air out".
  2. To let more light in when the doors are closed.

We borrowed a massive drill bit from a friend of ours. It was brilliant. If the cabinet still seems to be having issues with smell, we'll stuff some carbon filters into some of the holes.

I was concerned that litter and/or the inevitable misdirected pee would end up running down the crevices and cracks and be a nightmare to clean. Sweetie had another flashbulb moment and suggested covering that side with contact paper.

Also, possibly unnecessarily, I was concerned with the exposed cuts of the press board soaking up smells so I painted all of the exposed cuts with the leftover bathroom grade white paint (from when we repainted the bathroom vanity and trim).

Once we've eased Charlie into using his litter box inside of a cabinet, we'll close the doors. At that point, I want to put a carpet scrap on the "walk-thru" side to help get the litter off his paws and hopefully keep less from getting on the floor. I'm not quite sure how that will translate when it's time to clean the carpet though.
Always a work in progress!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Princess Sadie

My favorite picture of Sadie & me - I think from 2006
I have a black/gray/tan/white tabby cat that I got waaaaay back in 1996. I co-adopted her from the city pound with the girlfriend I had at that time. We were actually looking through the kittens and I hadn't realized I was in a new "section". When I looked into Sadie's crate, she came right up at my face with those big round cat eyes (the ones reserved for melting human hearts) and screamed at me with her now trademark loud meow. I looked at the card on her crate and asked B what the date meant (it was the next day's date). She guessed that it was probably the euthanize date. I truly had no idea. I was heartbroken for this cat. None of the kittens had expiration dates, why this older one? I have long since learned that people don't typically adopt cats, but prefer kittens. Kittens are cute. They make us go "Awww!" and "Ooooh!" and they melt our hearts and make our brains all mushy. Adult cats look like the strays that are everywhere and they rarely get a second glance when there are kittens around. Luckily for Sadie, she was vocal and not afraid to stare me down.

B and I decided we just had to save this poor adorable thing. The kittens would have time to be swooped up by someone else but Sadie's expiration date was the next day! (note: I have since learned that the date was probably something more along the lines of when a vaccine expired or something less mortal.) The subject of who actually made that decision to save her is still a matter we debate. The important result though is that she was saved.

Sadie was the best mannered cat I had ever encountered. She never got on the counters or tables. She wouldn't lay on you unless you asked her to. She was very light and light-footed. We guessed that she was probably about a year old when we adopted her. She was full grown but still very playful and would chase my laces as I tied my shoes in the mornings. She barked at birds outside the patio window. (Kind of like a rough and choppy meow. Just imagine what a cat would sound like if it tried to bark - that's what it sounded like.) She quickly let us know who was boss and who was to be revered, hence the nickname "Princess".

She has been my co-sleeper for 16 years. She has been Sweetie's co-sleeper for 10 years. In fact, the first night that Sweetie slept over, Sadie laid next to her or on her all night - something she had never done before and has never done since (to a "stranger").

In 2008, Sadie had what we refer to as "the episode". We came home from Saturday night church and there was vomit and diarrhea all over the house, and still coming. She was in obvious pain and stress so we rushed her over to the animal ER. After running a bunch of blood tests and an x-ray, they determined that she had 20% functionality in her kidneys, and needed hydration. Other than suggesting a "senior" cat food with lower protein, they didn't have any other advice. This is just something that happens to older cats and if she has another episode, we would need to put her on subcutaneous fluids (basically hydrate her by poking her with a needle every 6 hours). We knew we weren't going to put her through that and we were heartbroken. It sounded like a death sentence. We had a talk that night about exactly what sort of behavior would have to change before we made a decision to euthanize. By 2008, a quality of life for Sadie meant eating well, keeping the food down, and being able to jump up on the bed for cuddles.

Sweetie did some research and found that senior food is actually the worst formula of nutrients that a cat with failing kidneys could have. She determined the best diet would be grain-free and normal in protein. We started feeding her Wellness brand canned food. We added water to it as a way to get her more fluids. We haven't had a single episode since. It was probably the best thing we could have done for her and I'm so grateful that Sweetie took the initiative to do the research.

Somewhere along the line, Sadie started eating less. We noticed she'd still have a lot of food left in her bowl when it came time for the next feeding, so we cut back a little. We eventually went from a whole can a day to 2/3 a can a day. Just recently, she started eating even less than that. About 3 weeks ago, we dropped her to a 1/2 a can a day but there's still quite a bit of food left when we pick up the bowl. I moved the bowl closer to where she slept thinking maybe it just hurt to walk to the other room. It helped for a few days but then she was right back to not eating. We had thought for awhile that she was going senile so I thought maybe she was just forgetting to eat. I started going in periodically to "remind" her by tapping the bowl. She would sometimes come over and eat a few bites, then go back and lay down. It's as if she was intentionally starving herself. And when I wondered aloud at why she would do such a thing, Sweetie reminded me that when animals are ready to die that's what they do. They recluse and they stop caring for themselves. Sadie still came up to get a little cuddle time at night but I realized that she wasn't staying all night like she used to. Her weight had been dropping over the last year (as I've seen in older cats), but it dropped off drastically in this last month. I felt like I had to be extra gentle while petting her. If I went to pet her somewhere different and moved my hand too fast, she'd lose her balance and fall. So I learned to slowly work my hand up to the top of her head before letting go. I could feel every bone in her body. Her spine made the fur on her back poke up, and when she was standing she looked like a skeletal version of the healthy Sadie we knew only months earlier.

Sweetie and I made the very difficult decision to euthanize. Sweetie took on the task of making the appointment (thankfully, I'm certain I couldn't have gotten it accomplished without bawling). It was settled. Tuesday morning, Sweetie called and she was scheduled to be put down on a Saturday morning. If you ever need a sure fire way to ruin your week, schedule to euthanize your beloved pet many days beyond the current day. That finality of an appointment was a very unexpected blow to my emotions. I thought I was prepared for this. I can't speak for Sweetie, but I cried so much on Wednesday that I was exhausted. There was less crying and more just "welling" of the eyes on Thursday but that rock in the pit of my stomach and the knot in my chest just sat. Appetite - gone. Friday morning, I found myself crying while singing to "Tonight Tonight" by Hot Chelle Rae (of all things!) while driving to work. I had to laugh at the ludicrousness of it all. Friday evening, B came over to say her goodbyes. I wished we hadn't waited so damn long. I questioned our decision every single day, many times a day. Just when I'd be sure of it, Sadie would stay longer for cuddles and make me wonder again. Or she'd give that trademark loud meow that I hadn't heard in so long. Or she'd eat more (still not near the amount as before, but still - more). As far as Sadie could tell, everything was going on as normal, but everything was far from normal for us.

Finally Saturday morning came and we did what needed done. Sweetie fed Sadie that morning and it seemed so strange. Picking up the bowl to put the remaining untouched food down the disposal was gut wrenching. And no matter how evident it was that she wasn't well, or that this was the humane thing to do, I couldn't get rid of that doubt that it wasn't the right time. Every other pet I've had that needed euthanasia had a very evident disease or trauma, like cancer or a dog fight, or had licked up antifreeze from a leaking radiator. The decision was always made by my parents, usually in a vet's office after being given the options. This decision that Sweetie and I had to make was so methodical and planned. It just seemed so wrong. It's obvious that it's the right thing to do but I feel wrong doing it.

I wish I had some pictures of her when she was young. That was before the digital age and the photographs I had of her were destroyed in the flood. I do still have pictures from 2005 through 2012 though. Thank you internet & digital cameras!

The earliest picture I have - 2005

She loved to play with the string - 2007 Pouncing Kitty Hidden Bear (heehee) - 2007

Loving the outside time - 2008 Sometimes her green eyes really pop - 2008 "Head shot"

Nap time = cuddle time (2008)

After getting ingrown claw clipped. She worked nonstop
to get that bandage off! (2010)

2010 "Head shot" 

She always appreciated a good book ;-)
August 2011
This goes to prove that new cats can teach even the
best mannered and old cats new tricks. Sadie never got on
the counters until she saw Charlie doing it! (October 2011)

2012 was a year of mostly sleeping And sleeping tends to be a-freaking-dorable sometimes :D

2012 "Head shot"

August 1st, 2012 - she's so tiny.  Another from August 1st. I hate this picture but I just
wanted to show how much weight she'd dropped in the
span of a month, and more so in the span of a year.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Memories For Tomorrow

"Each happiness of yesterday is a memory for tomorrow." -- George W. Douglas

I can tell you now, Saturday's post is going to suck. Today's post is crazy difficult to write with any of the joy that *should* be present when discussing the fun things we've done with friends. You'll understand on Saturday why today's post might seem a little less than stellar.

However, I didn't want to put it off. I want to stay accountable to our decision to create memories with ourselves and our friends. So here's what filled those last few weeks of July!

Sweetie's friend from college was in town and we had him over for dinner. Sweetie made some delicious turkey burgers, offered toppings of roasted red & orange bell peppers, a garlic mayo, romaine lettuce, tomato and cheese. She also made my new favorite pasta salad. They seemed to have a good time catching up. I felt like I came off rude because I was having trouble coming up with conversation and this friend seems to be much like me in that he needs someone else to get the conversation going. Or maybe it is just me. I'm glad he came over though. I do enjoy having him around.

Both Saturdays we took Max for his pack walk with The Pittie Pack Meetup group. I'm sure I've mentioned before how glad I am that we found this group. We walked at the Nelson-Atkins Sculpture Park and again at Indian Creek Trail. Both locations were beautiful in their own right.

Sweetie took the reigns this time!
And yes, this distance is an improvement, lol

One of our friends invited us over to the apartment complex they live in to swim in the pool. We went on a Saturday afternoon and had a good visit in the water. I sat on the ledge for reasons I won't state here, but having my legs in the water was nice! Sweetie was having trouble with her calves seizing up. At one point, she went to jump into the deep end and both legs seized up at the same time, essentially rendering her body a sinking ship. Once I recognized the fear in her face, I realized she wasn't just screaming from what I saw as a belly flop, but that she was in danger. I yelled at our friend to go get her and once she was close enough, I pulled her to the side with a foam noodle. We followed up the hours of water with a heaping dinner of spaghetti and salad, then played a few rounds of Contract Rummy.

July 24th was a friend's birthday. She invited us to dinner with her and her girlfriend at Buca di Beppo on the Plaza in KC. It was the first time we'd met her girlfriend so it was nice to finally put a face to that special person. I don't remember much about that night, not that I have any reason not to - I just don't. I have to assume it went well and I had a great time. I know we had some random person take a group picture of us outside the restaurant. It was taken with my friend's camera though so I don't have the pic to share.

I worked on one of the Wednesdays at church for Summer Concert Series, which was excellent. Sometimes I really luck out when it comes to getting paid to do really awesome stuff.

I had taken the next day off so we could celebrate our nephew's birthday lunch. Since I didn't have to get up early, I suggested to Sweetie that we head over to Missie B's for the Maddie & Melissa Show. I never get to see the weekday shows since A) I have to get up early and B) I don't have the money to tip. Well, that week I had $20 extra AND didn't have to get up early! 

Maddie & Melissa

It was great to go out and enjoy ourselves. Between the show and Ashley, I was laughing all night long. I had to go dig up this pic that someone else took because I was so present in the moment that I didn't even think to take any!

The 26th was my nephew D's 8th birthday lunch at Chuck E Cheese. That place is normally a terror but on a Thursday afternoon, it was actually pretty enjoyable! There were probably 10 other people there besides our group of four. D loved the fort kit that Sweetie made him and he had 100 tokens to use up all to himself. It was a blast watching him enjoy himself!

We had lunch with Sweetie's family on the 28th to celebrate her birthday and her mother's birthday which was the following day. We then went to their house and hung out for a few hours. It was nice and relaxing.