greatbear: (seasons greetings)
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah, everyone!

Yeah, I still exist, but in a very low-key, nearly zero social media version. I will have to catch up on LJ happenings soon, but I felt it necessary to say hi.

Peace and love...

Nostalgia

Jul. 20th, 2016 12:35 am
greatbear: (aerial me)
I really miss this place.
greatbear: (aerial me)
Oh hay sup LJ, it's been, what? Since Xmas? I guess it has.

The ol' blog thing has been neglected since I have made a decision to minimize so-called social media in my life. Most of the people who I used to interact with here have moved into that noisy barroom brawl otherwise known as Facebook, so I grudgingly left that venue as the last one I would keep mostly open for business on my end. Even so, I rarely post much there either. It's just me being me, or actually the old me, the one who just keeps quiet and watches the world around myself doin' its thang. Just about everyone I would interact with on here has ended most extended contact anyway, no phone calls, emails or other off-LJ interactions too. So, social media has become more isolating than ever for me. Sad, but it is what it is, I suppose. I still try to keep up with what few regular posters are up to, but even that is getting more difficult. Nearly every time I start reading my friends list, I have to first go and find the giant photo(s) that people post that blow apart my friends list view. Despite having all high resolution screens, a 16 megapixel photo or worse brings about the scroll bars of doom on my end. Some of your selected formats constrain large photos in your view, but not others. I get hugeness in all its grainy glory. Some days I open this thing up, find my screen is three sizes too small, and just give up.

Life here has been interesting. Jeff and I took our first winter vacation, a ten-day Caribbean cruise last month. We had a blast, made new friends, did many strenuous activities like kayaking, snorkeling, swimming, bicycling all over Puerto Rico, you name it. Here's the best part: I did this all while relatively pain free, a first for this time of year since 2008. Last year at this time I was laid up with spine troubles, but this winter has been mostly normal. This had the side benefit of making winter itself fly by. Now with spring in the air, I've been busy outside in the yard and garage, catching up on projects I started years ago. It feel great. I'm still cautious, of course, and sometimes fear I will cause more injuries if I overexert myself. So far, so good though.

Not sure what I will do insomuch as continued use of this venue. I will try to keep current, or at least try to post comments when I read. I miss the good old days.

Happy Xmas

Dec. 24th, 2015 11:38 pm
greatbear: (seasons greetings)
My posting here hasn't been frequent, as most of you reading have probably noticed. I still peek in a couple times a week to read and comment when I can, so, rest assured, I'm still reading everyone on my friends list, even if I don't always comment. All that being said, life here has been pretty much okay for the most part, I've been busy as hell, with our own needs as well as helping out a couple friends that haven't had it so good in recent times. I am happy that, for the first time in six years, I am able to enjoy a Christmas day not immobile with pain and drugged mostly out of my senses. I've decided that this gift of normalcy is one I am sharing with people, lending a hand where I can. Money for me is very tight, so physical gifts are small this year. I feel happy doing what I can, and it certainly proves something I've known for a long time, that the gift is in the giving.

I hope everyone here in LJ-Land has a wonderful Holiday.

Still here

Dec. 5th, 2015 02:19 am
greatbear: (aerial me)
Yes, I am still here, though my time using LJ is pretty much limited to about once a week, a far cry from days gone by when I would check entries several times a day, leave many comments, and write on a fairly regular basis. For me, it's not just LJ being neglected, but all forms of social media. Recent events have turned many a friends feed into disgusting political diatribes, link farms of massive acreage, and every other imaginable method of getting a point across. I have gotten beyond fatigued from this, even from those posting along the lines of my own ideologies. Interestingly, here in LJ Land, things are rather quiet. I'd normally move my focus here, but, well, I feel like I am in a large but empty warehouse, shouting into the reverberating space where few, if any, even take notice. This space invites me to write in my wordy style, and spend a lot more time crafting an entry, but the end result seems lost in the emptiness. Being that most, if not nearly everyone I would interact with here has moved to that noisy back alley party known as Facebook, I ending up posting there for maximum effect. The very nature of that site prevents me from posting anything substantial, so my entries hold little interest to people that Facebook deems worthy to actually see the posts in the first place. A conundrum it is.

Since it has been over two months since I wrote anything, here is a quick summary. State of the Mayhem, as it were.

-I've been mostly unencumbered by pain, already well into late Fall, which is a first in nearly six years. Normally I seemed to fall apart around September, then be completely housebound for months as I undergo treatments or surgeries that would not turn me around for the better until mid-Spring or early summer. I was able to see the leave change in real time, as well as cleaning them up. This alone, while sounding more like a chore, made me happy with the accomplishment.

-I've been keeping busy, taking on some small subcontracting work for income. It's not much, but every little bit helps. if I last a year without having another rash of spine/nerve problems, I will try to reenter the workforce. I can't bring myself to put forth the effort to find a job only to have my body betray me and ultimately make me lose the job, causing me more and more trouble in the future.

-Family life is mostly unchanged. This is a good thing, as we are still doing things for fun, and nothing really bad has occurred (yet). Time will tell how this pans out.

That's about it for now. Hope everyone reading this is doing well.
greatbear: (aerial me)
Today Jeff and I worked at splitting most of the firewood I've been cutting up from downed and dead trees in our yard. The three small racks around the house are filled to capacity, and the big woodshed is nearly full now, which is good; this is enough wood to get us through an entire winter on average. Thing is, I have barely scratched the surface, since the giant silver maple that has been slowly dying over the past several years has been taken down. This tree alone will yield several cords of mostly usable firewood, and I don't have much more "official" space to store it all. I haven't finished the cleanup I began of a large, three-trunked cherry tree that got blown over in a nasty derecho (violent windstorm) a few years ago. this will probably end up being another half cord on it's own in addition to the large amount split and stacked today.

We did this chore in about 4 hours, and with mostly minimum interference from our somewhat damaged bodies. Jeff has mostly recovered from his hernia surgery, but I am still highly cautious of my back/spine giving out again. It seems that it has happened around this time of year every time, and as the result of doing lots of work involving lifting and twisting. By the end of today's chore, I was feeling the twitches of pain that reminded me of how it began to give out all those times, and I started getting upset. So far, I only have the normal bit of soreness that comes from doing physical work beyond the everyday levels, which is good. But I can't help but feel that trepidation when I take up my work clothes and tools and perform the next usual chore that comes with living at Mayhem Acres and wondering if this one is going to be my downfall once again.

I hate this feeling with every fiber of my being.

We worked for 4 hours today. I can't say I was spent afterward, actually, after we had lunch and rested a bit, I was ready to go out and do more. Or, more to the point, my "old self" was ready to go and put another several hours in, but my new reality kicks in and holds me back, and I spiral into frustration. If indeed my spine gives out, I can look forward to about nine months of pain, immobility, atrophy, and the sheer frustration it all brings. I have no idea if I would be entering another circle of hell, or it would be just another good accomplishment. So I feel stuck. All I can do really is just go on with life, albeit carefully, and hope for the best. Problem is, rather than have my normal drive, I am just coasting through my days while the world shoots past at breakneck speeds as it leaves me behind.

I am wired to measure my life by my accomplishments, big and small. For the longest time, I was doing really good. The health stuff put the brakes on several times, and each full stop had a longer period to get back up to speed, never matching what was in the past. I am quite literally a broken man, beat down by these accumulated mishaps, abandoned by friends, standing in front of the mirror and on several occasions being shocked at the shrinking, bony and wrinkled visage staring back. My clothes don't fit anymore, they hang on me more like on a scarecrow, and even the newer stuff I got which is more size appropriate still has me looking haggard. I'm not aging gracefully, but this is my gig now, and all I can do is run with it. If I had more certainty in things, I know I could do better. As it stands, I don't know if the next day would put me in the hospital. And with that, the mental load is far worse than the physical.
greatbear: (aerial me)
It has been just over 2 months since my last entry here. The reasons are what you might expect, I've been busy, we had our vacation, there have been disasters both little and large... in short, life more or less as usual. Jeff was beset by a pretty nasty hernia, and had surgery for it a few weeks ago. Since neither he or I have been able to stoop, most of the yard work at Mayhem Acres has been entirely neglected. Weeds taller than me in the flower beds, I can't even see out of the sunroom windows, vegetable garden nearly completely neglected, the house looks abandoned and I have ended up in tears a few times because of it. No help offered, of course, except for one person, and that had to be postponed due to illness. I'm getting to the point where I don't care anymore. I'm not inviting anyone over to socialize in this mess. And the socializing I'm doing has become minimal. This goes for the virtual world as well, hence my absence here.

Since a fair amount of people I used to interact with here have moved onto Facebook, it's there where I will concentrate what little time I now spend on social media these days. There's little to no interaction here anymore, the effort is greater in creating a post, and I am no longer willing to write deeply personal stuff for general consumption anymore. Minor fluff and occasional messages I am comfortable with; I guess I finally reached social media overload for whatever reason(s). I have no idea if this will ever change, I had high hopes for blogging, and the practice as a whole has been basically dumbed down. What was once small-scale publishing from creative people of engaging stories, often with wonderful layouts and photography has been squashed into the sameness of Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Tumblr and other similar outlets. Gone is content-rich, replaced by mobile-compatible. The latter is destroying the internet as a whole in my opinion. LJ is one of the remaining holdouts, but almost nobody want to use this platform solely of smartphones, so it too gets neglected. I still try to catch up on reading here every day if possible, though in recent weeks, it has been more like every couple of days. I remember the days when I would be away for a weekend and have to catch up on LJ by reading a hundred entries or more. Now I can be gone for a few days and a single page of friends carries everything, including quite a few entries read those few days ago.

Anyway, unless something big and newsworthy, or a want/need to unload in a deeper, more personal style, I don't really know what to do here anymore. Crossposting is an option, but I'm not keen on Facebook having its tentacles in this space. I still like having a mostly quiet, private space here, but I don't know who sees my entries anymore. I know of a few that I'm pretty certain still comment and interact with me here, though most are on that other site as well. I'm open for suggestions.

Nine years

Jun. 29th, 2015 12:22 pm
greatbear: (me and mom)
Yesterday marked one year of wedded bliss between Jeff and myself. Much more happiness and oh-so-cool levels of awesomeness from not only the day before with the WIN at SCOTUS, but even more so seeing quite a few couples here, not to mention countless others everywhere else getting married on our same day. We're proud to be a part of the "anniversary surge" that will inevitably occur.

As such things go in my life, with much celebration also comes much sadness. Today marks the ninth year from the day I lost my mother to cancer. I know she would be enthusiastically taking part in all this celebrating were she still with us. It was quite by accident as we were planing our big day and how it best would fit in with the plans of ourselves and our guests. It was only after we had gained some momentum that I realized these two dates fell next to each other. As it turned out, because of the slip-up, a good part of our wedding celebration was made to include a tribute to our moms, who couldn't be there with us in the seats, but who were definitely there is everyone's hearts.

I miss you so much.

Devastated

Jun. 11th, 2015 11:35 pm
greatbear: (candle)
Today I found out my best friend's mom died last night or early this morning, suddenly. This woman was like a second mother to me. I knew them since 1973. I'm still in shock, because Jeff and I saw them on Saturday when we took some bulky items to their place, and she was looking great.

This will be rough for my friend. They were already hit by some hard times and illnesses, and he's in far worse shape because of back and nerve trouble than me, plus a bunch of other medical issues. They were struggling to keep their home, and I had been doing my part by buying up his old shop equipment from the days when he ran an auto-truck repair business. I wish I could do more.

This hits hard.
greatbear: (aerial me)
Today at the Laurel Amish market, I notice I out-bearded all the Amish men in the place. I also laughed as I was entering the place and saw one of those guys, perhaps my age or so, sitting outside on a bench, smoking, and starting intently at his smartphone, swiping and tapping like an old pro. One thing I have noticed with a lot of the Amish in the area where Jeff grew up, while the horses and buggies are de rigueur, the buggies have LED lighting in a lot of cases, and a good many have cell phones, some are even smartphones. The whole idea of cell phones works with their belief systems in a way that regular landlines couldn't, since they have control of them and can turn them on and off. They help them in their work, and let them keep in touch in emergencies. But seeing this one fella today zipping through screens made me almost lose it. Is there a Scruff or Growlr for Amish?

The place also employs a fair amount of non-Amish, usually high school and college types who are off for the summer. So it was just as strange when a young lady working at the produce counter asked us if we saw Rush at Jiffy Lube Live (we had out merch on from the show). A bit surprised, we said yes, and she informed us she had also been there. We had a nice little discussion as we gathered our produce and paid for it.

That is one high-tech, rockin' Amish market.
greatbear: (gay men like rush too)
I know it's been a while since I posted anything, By request, I am reposting this from Facebook.


This weekend was Jeff's birthday weekend. I was hoping for decent weather among all the things we had planned. The weather did not disappoint, and the weekend, which included Friday afternoon, really couldn't have been better. We made a last-minute decision to go and watch the Orioles play. Unlike other time when we purchased tix beforehand, we took a shot to see what we could find at the ticket booth at the stadium. I splurged a bit and got us club level seating. The O's squeaked in a win at the last possible moment at the bottom of the 9th and everyone went home happy. We got an early start on Saturday, heading off to Home Depot for more garden supplies, bits to make one more grow frame and some other goodies. After a bit of a break, we headed down to Bristow, VA to see Rush on the R40 tour. 40 years! I was there nearly at the beginning too.

Seeing Rush is an experience unlike any other rock band I know of, and that experience begins well before getting close to the venue. Checking into the hotel 4 or so miles from the venue had people in the lobby in Rush clothing and swag. The TGIFriday's where we got our late lunch/early dinner had I would say 3/4 of the clientele going to the show. But, unlike any other fanbase, there were old greybeards like us, young couples, teens, old folks, grandparents, great-grandparents, you name it. A couple at the restaurant had two young boys, the oldest maybe six. They had Rush shirts on. The crowd entering the venue looked more like what you'd see heading into Disney World. My boys put on an amazing show, as always. We stayed overnight rather than taking a bleary-eyed trip home nearly at midnight. It was a good decision, we picked up late night grub at Wendy's to take back to the room. I slept mostly like a rock for a change.

We headed out early, and integrated our trip home with our weekly grocery grab. A cool bonus was getting there early, at the time when the Burtonsville cruise was in full spring. This little local event, held every Sunday in the spring and summer has grown quite a bit. We walked among the varied cars, trucks and rides. Jeff got his first glimpse of the Slingshot three-wheeler and immediately fell in full lust with it. After snapping lots of phone pics on top of the dozens from last night's show, we got our goodies for the week and headed home to a pair of very appreciative pooches. we took it easy for a change, then had steaks on the grill, big baked potatoes, veggies and an ice cream cake I picked up while Jeff was cooking dinner.

This was the most walking and activity I have had since last September, when my spine gave out again and left me immobile for the entire winter. I managed better than I expected, but dealt with a lot of pain due mostly to having to (try to) stand for the entire performance. I've got the walking part down pretty good. I can even do some not-so-light work if I am able to take numerous breaks. But the thing that is death to me still is standing motionless for more than a few minutes. I was nearly delirious from pain after the show, but I was too blown away from the concert to worry too much. Here's where the overnight stay helped a lot as well.

This was a great weekend, one not so full of work for a change, and one that we had deserved for the longest time.
greatbear: (me and mom)
I know not everyone has the best of relationships with their mothers, I was fortunate enough to have the greatest mom ever, in so many words. It's pushing nine years since I lost her to cancer, and I still get upset at times, as though it just happened. I miss her so much.

I was fortunate enough fifteen years ago to be accepted into Jeff's family, with his mom and dad treating me like one of their own from the get-go. Jeff and I make it a point to head north and visit for both Mother's and Father's Days. Last year, in the legal sense, Jeff's family became mine when we got married (here's another take on "for better and for worse" being that some of the extended family are, to say it nicely, not easy to live with). Mother's Day is a somber sort of affair, since she's now deep in the grip of Alzheimer's disease and is pretty much off in her own tiny world. Every now and then we will be treated to a little ray of light from that tiny world.

I've been fortunate enough to have two moms, but having lost one and now having one so far out of reach, this day gets harder and harder to take.
greatbear: (aerial me)
I had several long paragraphs going into detail about my use of social media, my current activities, my improving health and other updates, but some strange accidental swipe of the trackpad while typing selected all the text and it all went into the ether. About a half hour of thought and typing was wasted. I'm not bothering to recreate that effort.
greatbear: (aerial me)
It's been a bit since i last tapped away at this old blog thingie. Today was a nice day, and I couldn't stay cooped up in the house. After taking the dogs around outside for their morning rituals, I limped my way down to the garage to begin whatever necessary work I've been putting off which I feel I can manage to tackle, given my limitations. I began by rearranging the outdoor power equipment as well as dragging out of mothballs a generator that has been parked inside for about ten years or more. This generator burned out long ago, and the cost of parts exceeded that of a new generator. I finally decided to modify the thing and bough an entire, new generator head (the part that attaches to the engine that actually generates the electricity. while doing this, I also took some of the other equipment out of storage that will be used soon, like the lawnmowers, tractor, etc. I discovered the battery in the tractor has finally given up the ghost. The big rototiller needed some carburetor adjustments. The aforementioned generator, unused for all those years started up on the first pull. So I had lots of little engines running outside in front of the garage, where the nice breeze and warm sun urged me along. Life was good. Or so I thought.


It's not easy for me to do these sorts of things these days, when five years ago it was something I did practically on autopilot. I have to take things slow, and moving all the equipment feels astonishingly heavy and immovable now. But I managed, and I got my partial fleet of stuff running and at least tuned up. The wind being what it was, and the strange air currents that seem to make all the leaves collect in front of the garage as well as blow them all over inside when the doors are open also seemed to make life difficult for me to keep from getting exhaust fumes in my face. After a while I had already had enough for a while and headed up into the house for a little break in the easy chair and a drink. Not soon after I sat down, I started shaking. Badly. It was getting tough for me to keep my balance, and I felt about to black out. I moved into the studio where the window was open and the breeze was coming in. I contemplated calling Jeff, but after a while things slowly started to clear up. I believe having four engines running at the same time and having the wind spilling over the garage concentrated the fumes more than dissipated them, and despite also having the big exhaust fan on in the garage, I was working in the middle of a fair amount of carbon monoxide. After a couple hours I was mostly my old self again. Jeff came home while I was still a bit out of sorts and I told him I didn't feel well, and he admonished me to not hesitate to call any time I am in need of help. Then the ironic part hit (there always seems to be an ironic part with me). When I started telling Jeff the rest of my day, he saw on the news of a MD family that was killed from carbon monoxide, from a generator. I've never had this sort of thing happen with me before. I've worked on hundreds, if not thousands of engines in my life, and I always take precautions like proper ventilation, not running stuff in enclosed buildings, even having CO detectors. The Starting of the Engines of Spring is a yearly ritual I've engaged in for decades. Oil gets changed, blades get sharpened, tune-ups done, and often I will have a dozen engines running at the same time. It's a gearhead's version of A Joyful Noise. But today was the first time I had any ill effects from it. I barely picked at dinner, my appetite, already a constant trouble, was shot. I waited until after it got dark to go back out and put everything away. It appears most of this week has rain in the forecast, so that will probably keep me from doing more work. But I plan to keep going, as if nothing happened. Except I will keep the noise down to only one or two engines at a time, and one big industrial pedestal fan.
greatbear: (aerial me)
Happy Pi Day from The Lab of Mayhem!

greatbear: (candle)
Leonard Nimoy, actor who played Mr Spock on Star Trek, dies aged 83.

“Of my friend, I can only say this: of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most… human.”

You might be gone, but your influence on so many, especially in science and space exploration, will live long and prosper.

I'm really broken up about this.


greatbear: (aerial me)
That famous holiday, a favorite for the florists, chocolatiers, restaurants, candy makers, wineries, Hallmark and others, has come and gone. I hope everyone was able to make the best of it, and didn't fall into the "Singles Awareness Day" negativity. Valentine's Day can be whatever you make it. A coworker from years ago would get gag chocolates from another friend who worked at the company. It was a highlight of his day.

This week had been a downer for me, as it happened every year. My Mom's name was Valentine, and being that her birthday is four days prior, we used it as an extra day for something nice. Mom would say that my birthday fell on a holiday, so she was in her right to claim the next closest for hers, and none other would be more appropriate. Yeah, it was in the realm of silliness, but it was our little bit of fun. About two weeks apart, we had out own personalized days, mine thanks to that weather prognosticating critter from Pennsylvania, of course.

For whatever reason(s), the last week or so has been rougher than usual on me. Another winter in a row filled with constant pain and the side effects of narcotics play a part, so does the colder-than-usual weather, feelings of uselessness for greater than in the past, getting one more year older, I could go on. I've mostly salvaged the days for the better, and today seemed to be no different. Jeff had been asked to be a personal chef for some friends of mine. It seems he and his partner have decided to change up some things in their lives, and coupling that with buying some sort of business, he asked Jeff to take a shot at helping them entertain in a little bit more formal fashion. Tomorrow is the gig, a sort of test run for them as well as Jeff. We went to Wegman's today to pick up the fresh ingredients for the meal as well as our own weekly supplies. Well, wasn't the store a total mob scene, with the typical batches of self-absorbed Columbia patrons that normally tend to block aisles and snarl traffic with their carts and clustering, except at least three if not more the usual number of them. We didn't get into the store for more than two minutes before declaring it to be an absolute disaster, with Jeff's already busy mind planning the event and being more easily frustrated as a result, I put the single loaf of bread I managed to pick up on entering the store back on the rack and we both went back home. I went for a nap, and apparently Jeff did the same in order to cool off. After a while he went to our local supermarket instead, with me staying behind this time. I said we should just take care of this gig tomorrow and deal with our bit some other day. I conked out again while he made his run. Just as well we put off our grocery run, as our mostly empty fridge became filled with food for the party. Because of the setback, we ended up changing our dinner plans. We had picked up a really nice rack of lamb and other stuff to have for our VDay dinner. Because Jeff had to do prep for tomorrow, and I didn't want to overburden him with even more kitchen mayhem, I made us dinner for the night. My appetite has been shot for months now, and rather than attempting to enjoy an involved meal after a day of stress (and pain for me) we had a nice, relaxing meal of sandwiches and soup and chips and samples of tomorrow's big dinner. And you know what? For that moment, it was just as good as that lamb dinner would've been. If all goes well, we will have our postponed dinner in the early evening on Monday.

I ended up being more than a bit on the cranky side today, anyway. I know, what else is new. I slept worse than usual the night before, with the weather alert radio going off four times in the middle of the night, warning of high winds and extreme windchill from the nasty weather system currently beating up the northeast. During most of the day, the weather was very calm, and a late afternoon snow had begun once Jeff returned from the store. So much for all the noise that kept me up the previous night. Jeff couldn't get a couple items while out, the store was out. So I did the deed going to another grocer nearby. There was already a couple fluffy inches of snow everywhere, and during the short time I was out, perhaps 15 minutes or so, the snow had erased all the signs of me leaving the house. The footprints, the dry area where the truck had been, the tracks on the street were completely gone. I had recently bought a little cordless snowblower to keep the walkways and deck clean, and I've been jonesing to use it since. Knowing how my actions here at home can affect statewide weather patterns, buying this snowblower as well as getting the big monster blower all set for use at a moment's notice meant there was a good chance our area would remain snow-free. Sure enough, though it amounted to maybe three inches of accumulation before stopping, the long-promised wind had finally shown up as well, and unless there's going to be some drifting, my maiden voyage of the new toy snowblower might end up being a disappointment. I love how technology is blasting ahead in so many ways. For years, I used an electric snowblower to keep the decks clean. I used to shovel the snow from the deck, and I had engineered in a means to make this task a bit easier. The railings have a six inch space between them and the deck floor. All that is needed is to push the snow off the edge rather than heaving it over the top. I hadn't considered what would happen to the snow once pushed off the deck. Being a story in the air, and with bushes and shrubs below, the snow would crash onto the plants and break them. So, I had gotten a little electric blower to fling the snow well beyond the area of the plants, with the bonus of giving Mom something very easy to use as well. A couple years ago, though, I inadvertently ran over a stray bungee cord hidden in the snow, and it wrapped around the spinning axle and blade. The resulting friction melted the plastic housing and the bearing mount. In my attempts to cut the tangled rubber with a utility knife and slicing open three fingers quite badly, the damaged blower has been sitting in the basement since, waiting for me to fix it. Last year became the time that cordless, battery operated outdoor tools such as lawnmowers, edgers, trimmers and even chainsaws and snowblowers had finally matched the power of corded electric and even some gas engine powered equivalents. I decided replacing the old corded blower with this new cordless thing would be even easier for me to use than the old one. It's lighter, I don't have to bend over and pick up the icy cord, and it's even more maneuverable. I really, really detest not being able to do even a fraction of the tasks I would think nothing of. I've been spending a lot of money on effort-reducing things to help me along. And I am that fucking stubborn to want, nay, need to continue doing some stuff on my own. I mean, I already am burdening Jeff with a lot of things. And this is a man that suffered a heart attack not long ago. I have to pull as much of my own weight as I can, no matter any consequences. And I absolutely can't change that.

Since I'm in the social media space here, I can talk about things I can change. I'll be cleaning up my LJ presence, streamlining it some, perhaps freshening things a bit. I paid for it, so I might as well use it. This will remain my primary point of presence on the net. I already ditched a lot o other things, and those remaining, like Facebook, will most likely only have links to here rather than any substantial posts over there. I have gone on a lot about how I don't like FB and how it handles information. Sadly, most, if not all of the people I knew from LJ have migrated over there, and seem to have lessened their once detailed posting for lighter fare. The remaining few that have continued their long-form posting style have ended up being boxed in by the format of other social media, and more often than not, I never see these posts because Facebook decides to let me see what they think is important, and not what I want to see. A good many if not all of my posts are not seen by anyone there at all, once again due to how the site works and not including my stuff in what others might want to read. Of course, I can pay the fucker(berg) to put my posts in the streams of friends. Nah, never going to do that. If people really care, they'll come looking.

Tonight the wind is howling outside, gusts so far at least 30mph. And it is only 8 degrees F as I write this. However, we are reaping some of the benefits of my earlier work last year. The drafty front door is gone, the cold air that used to come in through the recessed lighting in the kitchen is gone too. These were the most major air infiltration points upstairs, and there is a big difference in comfort levels as well as energy usage. As I write I am also babysitting the upstairs woodstove, keeping it filled with wood and making it undeniably cozy. When the wind blasts outside like it does, it blows across the chimney and creates a vacuum. This "turbocharges" the draft through the stove and makes the fire burn very hot. The stove has a catalytic converter, similar to the ones in cars. This captures and burns unburned smoke and gasses from the wood fire, and adds to the heat. The studio here is a balmy 80 degrees. Snickles, who never misses a chance to sleep under the covers with us, is instead parked in front of the stove hearth. A warm dog in winter is a content dog, that's for sure. Since having these damn spine troubles, my legs absolutely can't take the cold anymore. I park a little space heater under the desk to keep them warm, also so I can keep the rest of the house cooler. I don't need it now. This was also planned way back when I was designing and building the house. A woodstove was intended as a form of backup heat and as an occasional thing to use, like a fireplace. It didn't take long to find out the stove is much more enjoyable in the winter than previously thought. And on a night like this, it's one of the few things that make me feel secure and happy in a time where I feel less of these things.

Anyhow, I've rambled on enough for one night. I hope everyone has some way of escaping the cold if it's currently causing grief. And I hope you had a good Valentine's Day. Even if the highlight was only sandwiches.

ETA: I almost forgot to include this lovely little ad for the holiday. It's from a Spanish department store chain called El Corte Ingles (colloquially: The Tailor's Cut) As such, it's in Spanish, but you don't need to speak the language to tell what's going on. Click the "CC" button on the bottom right of the frame to turn on English subtitles) If you click the YouTube button on the bottom right of the frame, it will take you to YouTube itself, where you can also see it closed captioned. Do what I initially did. Watch it in Spanish, and see if you got the gist of the story. My Spanish is rustier than the Titanic, and I got pretty close. Love knows no language barriers anyway. The guys are adorable, with an awkward, dorky charm that's nearly squee-worthy.

greatbear: (me and mom)
Happy birthday, Mom. Still miss you so much.
greatbear: (me laughing)
I managed to avoid LJ for just over a month. The reasons are simple, really. The posts would have revolved around my continuing spine troubles, the silly projects I enjoy partaking in but no one else could care a whit about, obscure old psychedelic rock music being played on stereo equipment older than a lot of people I know, computer problems and projects, my crushed ego that can't let me sign up for disability, the list goes on. Just looking back on the more "everyday" posts that are not about the rare special occasion or such make me sound like a broken record. So instead of the same old hash rehashed, I've just been keeping quiet. It's what I've done best in my 53 years on this crusty rock.

The coldest part of winter was often warmed up nicely during the holidays, and along with my youthful exuberance in decades gone by, I had some of the best days of my life during otherwise cold, grey days. Nowadays the grey is everywhere, from the skies to my face and to my thoughts. Today was a bit of an exception, as Jeff came home with 54(!) roses ("53 years old, plus one to grow" says he) and a nice card, and he managed, despite working his ass off in the hospital kitchens all day, to come home and make us a nice little dinner of my favorite food (chicken cutlets). The smiles and good feelings kicked aside the bad mojo for a while

Still, I felt undeserving of all that. Despite it all, I just keep feeling both worthless and somehow unappreciated. The latter is less an issue at home, but there is an inverse effect at play that is beginning to rear its head. This afternoon, a strange, odd power surge came down the line and disrupted several things here in strange ways. The heat was shut down, with the Nest thermostat suddenly disagreeing with the heating system, and I couldn't reset either.I mostly threw up my hands and proclaimed there's no heat except for the woodstove. Jeff asked a sensible question, "Can't we just call the heating company?" "You're looking at it" was my answer, and after a while, it dawned on me that I am the heating company, the builder, the mechanic, plumber, IT department, lawn care, carpenter, carpet cleaning service, appliance repair, well installer, A/V tech, works engineering, painter, locksmith, chimney sweep... you name it, and it has been all my doing for the longest time, even before I could legally drive in many cases. As small (and not-so-small) problems and issues begin piling up, I fear I might not be able to handle some of it and might need to rely on expensive outside help. So far, our attempts at doing so have been frustrating at best. My work at making a lot of things near maintenance free in recent years have been thwarted by, you guessed it, my inability to do anything. I feel I am losing this race. I'm close, but falling behind in the last couple years. Time will tell how this all plays out, but I am losing a lot of confidence in myself right now.

Tomorrow I am going for my third session of physical therapy. This therapist seems to be on a right track with my nerve issues, but at the same time I felt like I made some backwards progress. The rather dismal insurance I have requires a 50 dollar co-pay, and aside from that, most of the therapy itself won't be covered either, so this is becoming more and more expensive at the worst possible time. If the therapy actually helps, it will be worth it. If I go through a long-ish round of therapy and it doesn't do the trick, I will have wasted that money, and the next step will be very invasive surgery far more involved (and expensive) than any I had prior. I keep riding the same bad rollercoaster and the only ones benefiting are the doctors. Sorry if I am angry at times, but there you have it. I am used to being taken advantage of throughout my life, and it seems to be everywhere I go. No wonder I never want to leave the house anymore.

Well, there you have it in a nutshell. The reason I haven't been posting, and an example afterward.

So I can leave on a happier note, thanks to all who have wished me a happy birthday today. It's those wishes that made my day happier.
greatbear: (forearms)
I guess it is that time once again. Another year drawing to a close, taking me with it to places unknown. I have to say that this year has been one of my best, despite having a great deal of medical issues. The highlight, of course, was getting married. I keep replaying snippets in my head of that wonderful day. So much love, happiness and warm feelings condensed into a single day that the effects keep lingering. I got to meet people I haven't seen in way too many years, and yet we picked up right where we left off. There was so much worry about making sure everything was right, that all melted away on that lovely Saturday in late June. As quick as it all came together, it faded away, though, yet left us both giddy and excited and, well, "different." Hard to describe, but it's a real feeling.

We had already planned our vacation to PTown last year, and we used that as our honeymoon of sorts. We had our usual good time, and the two of us felt refreshed in the way a proper vacation should, with maybe a bit extra. We had a lot of momentum and enthusiasm. Life felt worth living.

As some of you who read this on a regular basis, you know I began the year with health-related issues centering on my deteriorating back, with the year before leaving me in the worst condition yet. I metered my abilities and worked toward the big wedding day as best I could, and I did have a few setbacks. Once the ball was rolling, though, we busted ass. Mayhem Acres, rather neglected over the past few years because of my problems, became a beautiful garden once again, one that would've made my Mom proud. People who didn't attend the wedding who saw photos would wonder which park or resort we had used for our big day, and were astonished when we'd say it's our home. Those were words which made me smile every time. I've worked hard over the years, building this place from an overgrown vacant lot into a home where we can do whatever we want. Both of us vowed to be a lot more social/sociable and share in our good fortunes more often, inviting friends over for parties and other activities, as long as my health kept up.

I began making up for lost time by doing needed upgrades on the house, with a number of renovations, from a new front door and entryway, to new kitchen lighting, home automation, enterprise-grade networking, security and alarm systems and a number of other bit meant for making life easier and more comfortable in the future. Jeff decided it was time for a new car, and he got himself a nice Subaru Forester with all the goodies. This has been perfect for extended trips needing a lot of room as well as good gas mileage. I indulged my geeky kid side with a quadrotor drone and some other toys because I deserved it. Life was pretty damn good.

As that old saying goes, everything good must come to an end. Or, in my life these days, I can only get so far before my degenerative disc disease rears its ugly head once again and shuts me down in my tracks. In September, much like last year, I went from flying high to once again hunched over in lots of pain, unable to move without a cane, and in need of nasty painkillers to survive. I began the usual easy treatments with no success, then had the corticosteroid injections in my back before the holidays. This left me slightly better off, but still unable to get far without the cane, and with continuing atrophy in my legs making me weaker with every passing week. I guess I am used to this, I lived each day in a slow fog, with few accomplishments. It was also looking like I just might make it though the holidays without getting my usual cold/bug/flu/seasonal malady, but right before Xmas the two of us got a nasty lower GI bug, with mine being outright nasty. We made it past the worst of it by Christmas day, but our original dinner plans of a nice ham and trimmings with other goodies gave way to frozen French bread pizzas, potato chips and holiday cookies for dessert. Christmas day itself was almost surreal for me, after waking up I meandered into the living room and stayed there the entire day. We exchanged gifts we said we didn't want but we got anyway, we managed our little dinner after a week of gastrointestinal apocalypse, and the day closed with the ISS making an appearance in the night sky above the house. I stood outside, watching the flyover for the first time, smiling and misty-eyed, waving at the little dot fading over the horizon as it helped carry my hopes and dreams given to me as a kid with my love of science at a very early age.

Last night we wondered about what to eat, and I told Jeff I was in the mood for lasagna, though we had nothing of the sort, nor the wherewithal to make it after Jeff's long day at work, so we decided to get take-away from our local favorite Italian place. I should've known that thing were not quite on track, as it took Jeff longer than expected to return with the food. Apparently they messed up our order, gave part of it to someone else, then Jeff finally returned home exasperated with our dinner, minus some. That experience alone was making us rethink our patronage, but it wasn't until we sat down and I began eating the lasagna that the other shoe dropped. My lasagna was bad. Not improperly cooked, but spoiled. Like most restaurants, certain dishes are made ahead of time and refrigerated, and cooked when ordered. Well, apparently my lasagna carryout was made about a month and a half ago, and when I got far enough into it, my stomach turned. I endured another night of intestinal distress as a result. I've still not fully recovered.

I've had a lot of ups and downs in the past few years, and despite the setbacks this year, this one was overwhelmingly positive. The first week in January I will head back to the doc once again, for a second booster shot in my spine. As had happened with a setback in May that had me crawling back to the doc for those frighteningly long needles in my back, the second time did the charm, so I am hoping this time the double shot does the trick. I know my time hiding from the knife is fading, and one of these days I have to decide if I want to fuse my back with plates and screws giving me permanent limitations for the rest of my life is the thing to do, or keep going as I have been, hoping for the best. The other thing is the ultimate realization that I can no longer function as I have for my first 50-some years, and finally apply for disability assistance. My savings are running thin, and I'm too far away from collecting my pension. My ego keeps me from doing this, because, despite knowing and being told differently, I feel this is giving up. I've been too independent in my years, and I am used to doing things my way, on my own terms, to build and maintain my existence. Mom and I were practically dirt poor, and I did my best to use all my abilities to change that completely. Those abilities did well for me, Mom, Jeff and many others through the years, and I hate seeing them fade. I'm hoping this new year brings some surprises of the pleasant type rather than an early gateway into assisted living.

May you all have a fantastic 2015!

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Phil

December 2016

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