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.
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: (seasons greetings)
Pardon me if I'm not exactly filled with Christmas spirit. The weather outside is frightful, with lots of rain and even thunderstorms battering the area for the next couple days. The fire is so delightful, however, as I have the woodstove cranking to offset the dreary, cold, wet mess outside. Jeff and I have both been hit with a very nasty gastrointestinal bug, where we got it isn't clear. I've had these before, but this is by far the worst I've gotten slammed with such a thing, which made me violently ill. I think the worst is over, for I tried to have a little bit of chicken soup tonight and no warning sirens are going off yet. Jeff thankfully has off tomorrow, and with both of us under the weather, our dinner plans might have to be changed to something very light, if anything at all. He has to work Friday, unfortunately. We were planning of heading up the see his family and make a nice dinner, but that looks like it might out of the question given our messed up health. We will see. I was hoping to make it through the holidays without the usual, inevitable winter maladies dropping by to say hello, so instead we got something different and just as unwelcome. Ah, well, it is what it is. I got a couple nice presents for Jeff, he apparently has a couple for me, and we have no idea what we are getting. So that's good. Little surprises, lots of love and warmth.

Our little pooch Kodi needed to have some serious surgery done to remove a number of bladder stones. These were discovered during examinations for something unrelated, and these had the potential to wreak havoc on the little guy had those stones moved into and blocked his urethra. Little trouper he is, after the surgery he was mostly his cheerful self, but kept having accidents around the house. These have subsided, fortunately, and he's almost back to normal. In fact, it seemed in recent months he'd beg to go outside to pee more often than usual, and the frequency is less than before. So I think we had something taken care of before it could get a lot worse. Today I promised him he'd have his stitches removed, but that turned out to only be partially true. When we initially picked him up, he had of course been fitted with The Cone of Shame for obvious reasons. A day or two later he somehow managed to knock the thing off, and he went straight for the surgery site and the stitches. Jeff saw this in time and stopped him from doing any damage, but apparently he pulled one loose and created a large scab. So all but two stitches are gone until next week, where hopefully the disturbed area heals up a bit more, the scab comes off and the remaining stitches that are all caught up in there can be taken out. The Cone of Shame remains on as well, but Kodi has gotten used to it in some ways. Around here, to make the little guys feel better, we don't call the collar the "Cone of Shame," instead it's known as "The Bowl of Kisses," because all you have to do is hold that bowl in your hands and put your face inside, and you will get lots of happy licks.

As for me, well, I'm still down and out from the crumbling spine issues. Only a bit less pain, but unable to do much to the point I have even stopped climbing the walls in frustration. The pain that radiates down and concentrates on my lower left leg has resulted in now shocking amounts of atrophy. My calf is about the size of my forearm, and my thigh is about the size of my biceps before I began having all these old man issues. These days, the biceps are pretty much gone too, my clothes hang off me like a scarecrow, and everyday objects feel heavy. Some of my tools and equipment that are normally quite heavy are nearly impossible for me to deal with. On Jan. 6, I will head in for one last chance at a needle in the spine to help matters. If this doesn't do the trick, I will either have to have very invasive surgery to bolt my back together, or resign myself to pain and disability for the rest of my life. Honestly, with my track record under the knife, the latter choice is looking more promising.

I figured I owed y'all an update, unfortunately it isn't all peaches and cream. But I'll get by. I had so many opportunities to exit the human race but defied the odds. I was born prematurely, with low birth weight and needed resuscitation before spending my earliest days in an incubator, I've been hit by lightning, been electrically shocked hundreds of times during work and tinkering, been in nasty accidents, a round of misdiagnosed peritonitis that had one day left to kill me, and any other number of near misses, bad ailments, stupid situations and close calls. But I'm still here. Too bad that old saying about that which doesn't kill us makes us stronger is pretty much bullocks, because I'm the weakest I've been since most likely elementary school right now. I should be the world's strongest man.

All the best,

Phil & Jeff & Kodi & Snickels
greatbear: (panic panic panic)
Sometimes I can't catch a break. After hassling with Amazon about how payments weren't registering right (one screen would say everything's fine, the other says something is still wrong) I slept on it (a far-too-long, drug enhanced, nightmare cinema sleep). Checking on things today I see the same problem is still there. I call the credit union which is the issuer of the backup card, wondering if the sudden uptick in activity was resulting in balked payments. Lo and behold, I find out the card was shut off quite some time ago. WTF? The account is there, big and proud in my lists of accounts, and I use it as a buffer at times, what could have gone wrong? I'm told it was reported lost. Who the hell did that? It's not as if I woul...

Oh. Yeah. From when I lost my wallet. Six months ago. D. U. H. I had forgotten about this completely, and even though I encountered similar with my secondary debit card several months ago, the credit card completely slipped my mind. Forwarding to today, I am faced with a conundrum, which was a timing-specific purchase of "Cyber Monday" goodies and gifts at considerable savings, and the timeframe for getting payment to Amazon before the transaction was canceled was looming. Well, I was told by the exceedingly friendly woman on the phone that they offer same-day issuing of credit cards if I come in, so I thank her and muster my hunchbacked self into the car and headed over, less than ten minutes away. I got to talk to my favorite associate, Jill, who got everything straightened out along with some extra things I needed to accomplish. My visit took nearly an hour, not because of slow processes, but the two of us catching up on life, love and other stuff. She asked how Jeff has been enjoying his new car. We talked about our pets, which she had met at one time. I lamented about my poor health at the time, she told me about her current home life, and we just had the nicest cawfee tawk overall. In this impersonal world, there are a few oases of direct, personal and genuine contact still to be found, and these little happenings always brighten my day. Customer service, when done well, will make you feel like more than just a customer.

I waddled back home, new card in hand, and now a bit of Xmas won't be spoiled, plus I was able to discover something wrong while being able to immediately tend to it instead of finding out at a bad time, like away from home and no gas in my tank, with no means to pay. Granted, I still had other means to be prepared (my days in the Cub/Boy Scouts weren't totally wasted), but I'd rather the shocks hit me while not far, far away.

Tomorrow I will be drugged, blasted with radiation, and have very long needles stuck into my spine in hopes of returning to a better life. Jeff will once again have to come home early and be my driver, since I won't be in a condition to drive after the procedure, according to the doctor. While I tend to mostly be even more wobbly and weak after having this done, I doubt I would've been unable to drive the relatively short distance home myself. Even though I hate imposing on Jeff's time with work, I feel more comfortable with him around. It's part of the therapy. Wish me luck.
greatbear: (old graybeard)
So, frustration has been the key work in recent days. No real improvement in pain levels or mobility, so it looks like this week I push on to the next level. One thing for certain, between pain and pills, my body chemistry and rhythm are fucked up again, I can't sleep at night, and I try going through the day until I start dozing off in the middle of whatever I'm doing. The narcotic pain killers help me to get some sleep beyond what is comfortable or sensible. Not getting a lot of exercise day in and day out leaves me with lots of unusable energy. Rather than climb the walls, I find little things to pass the time and feel useful. Even this has a special little bothersome horror for my brain. You guessed it, it makes me want to do more stuff. lol

I've been taking some time to organize video and music I have stored on the servers here. Keeping with a method I've had for decades, a drive on the server acts as a repository for all my digital music. About 8 years ago when I built the current server, I loaded it with a half dozen 1 terabyte drives. Seemingly huge at the time, most of them are now at or near capacity. The drive containing the well-sorted music held on the longest, but last night while adding several dozen more albums and artists into the heap, I finally get a notice from the server saying the drive only has about 50GB left. I anticipated this about a year ago, I bought a 2TB drive as a replacement. The current drive is being backed up as I write this, then all the data from the current drive will be copied onto the new drive, I will then swap the drives and put the old one in a safe place as a backup. It will take me what will hopefully be a long time to fill the new drive, after all, it's only music. Granted, I am dropping bigger and bigger files on it, everything is high bitrate mp3 or better, with lots of lossless and high res 24 bit/192kHz these days, the latter being a few gigs just for one album at times. When the new drive gets to be too small, I repeat the process. There's no practical way to make offline backups for a terabyte or more of data other than stockpiling drives. I have a separate server that is tasked solely with automatic backups of data stored on most of the PCs here, and I have begun the rely on two NAS units with lots of capacity to hold online backups of the backups as well.

As I was sitting uncomfortably in the Mayhem Lab where all this IT infrastructure quietly hides, I've also realized that I am maxing out some of the electrical circuits I put into the space. This was inevitable too. When I built La Casa back in '88, I slightly raised eyebrows at the electric company when I specified a 400 amp service for the house and garage. This is split between the house and garage, with each having a 200 amp, 42-slot breaker panel. Before the house was completed, because of the all-electric nature of the house (no gas, water or sewer were available) the breaker panel in the house was not enough to hold all the circuits, so an additional subpanel was needed. As I added more goodies to the house and built the workshop in the basement as well as the lab, I tore out the little box that held ten circuits and put in a 20 space panel. The workshop, with the woodworking machines and lots of outlets and other goodies got its own dedicated 20 slot box as well. My plans are to add two more 20amp circuits to the lab, plus a new lighting circuit for the basement. Problem is, I have only two spaces left for three circuits in the main house panels. Soooo, my little lab wiring update will force me to pull out the 20 slot panel and install a second 42 slot in its place. There is a method to this madness as well, since I plan on installing a backup generator as well as solar electric panels in the not too distant future. By juggling the electrical loads between the panels, I can segregate the critical loads (lighting, water pumps, fridges and freezers, the lab and the like from the unnecessary heavy draw items like the heat pumps & A/C, electric heaters and other things that don't need to be run off the generator. This, along with other means of performing "load shedding" lets me have better control of what gets critical power in order to make the best use of it and lower costs. This sort of thing is actually fun for me, and despite having an electrical service more befitting small industry, our electric bills are not that outrageous as one would think. It also adds to my sense of security in cases of emergencies and really bad weather. Like all too many things, I take the electrical installations here very seriously. I use commercial/industrial rated components, and the seemingly excessive numbers of individual electric circuits is done in order to prevent any possible overloading of the individual branches, and to prevent a tripped circuit from causing an unexpected issue. For one example, the branch circuit the feeds the two freezers in the basement was also shared with a pair of infrared heaters in the bathrooms. The branch was sized accordingly, and was never going to be overloaded even if both freezers were running along with the heaters. One day the bulb burned out, and given the bulb's 250 watt rating, it went with a huge flash. Unbeknownst to me at the time, it also tripped the breaker. It took me a while until I found water on the floor in front of the freezers and the food in danger of soon thawing out. Luckily I saw this in time, reset the breaker, then eventually moved the heaters and freezers to their own dedicated branches. In the case of the lab, the computers, servers, etc are on one of two dedicated lab circuits I put in, along with a separate lighting circuit, a shared electric heating circuit and a 120/240 volt special purpose outlet. As my relatively tiny 10x12ft lab accumulated more and more test equipment and other goodies, the two branches have become maxed out. I have some specialized soldering equipment that takes a lot of power when in use, an infrared heating table takes 16 amps just by itself, the hot air reflow unit is 7 amps, a heat gun I use along with all that is 13 amps, and this isn't counting all the test equipment, extra lighting and the surround sound system with subwoofer that is often playing while I am working. The little room gets hot in a hurry, so fans are needed. I am trying to figure out how to install some sort of air conditioning to all of this as well. As you can see, when I get into something, I go all out. :)

Maybe I am just more than a little bit strange, but this is also my way of building a nice place for the two of us to enjoy our myriad pursuits as we close in on retirement age. I want a lot of this done so I can cruise along and not have to worry about anything done half-assed. I've done a lot of involved work over the years, with the eventual result being able to forget about the work and just use it in day to day life. For example, I did a large amount of plumbing upgrades a few years back. I "built in" many means for any future updates if needed. Adding solar water heat, for example, is all about installing the system and connecting two pipes to what currently exists. If a filter, water heater, softener or other major component needs to be replaced or worked on, flipping a few valve levers lets the water stay on and uninterrupted while the problem piece gets removed. The modular nature of a lot of the work I did over the years has been paying off later on. All the climbing around now will make life easier when I am older and unable to deal with it like in my younger days. Sadly, I've been getting a lot of previews as to what that sort of life is going to be like. I just wish my body would stay together to let me get the work done so I can have my enjoyment later. One big plan that vein is an extension of the deck by the sunroom and the installation of a hot tub/spa, something I was hoping to complete in the next couple years. The funny thing is, technology and materials are finally catching up to a lot of the ideas I had many years ago. I never finished the sunroom remodel due to health reasons. Part of that involved hidden lighting and automatic shades. Back then it was not easily done, but now it will be something that will integrate perfectly into bits and pieces I've been adding this year. It's also more efficient and connected than ever. The geek in me is having a lot of fun with it all.

I sometimes feel as if I am in some sort of race, one to make life simple later on with some concerted effort now. These health/injury setbacks become extremely frustrating. I am getting a taste of the payoff, but the goal isn't reached yet. Life keeps teasing and testing me at the wrong time.
greatbear: (ciggie bear)
Okay, it's been a week of pain and bother. I had begun the usual regimen of pills which at best took just a bit of the edge from the pain but did nothing for my total lack of mobility. This means another trip to the orthopedic doc, who will send me off to be shoved into the MRI contraption and then a shot or three in my spine, and if that doesn't work, under the knife. Then there's the very real chance surgery won't help anymore. I seriously can't handle this anymore. I am literally living half the year in pain and immobility, and an all-too-fleeting period where life could pass for somewhat normal. I am a miserable cuss to be around right now, I feel worthless, and anything I try to do to take my mind off it at all sometimes causes me more frustration. The poor pooches, who look forward to our nice long walks during the day, wonder where their big distractions went. There are things I need to fix outside before the shitty weather comes around to stay. And the little fun things I am actually able to do given my constraints are being nagged by discomfort. I just can't get a break.

I wish I had friends that lived closer. Anything for a distraction and a bit of assistance.
greatbear: (static)
Well, at least I had a pretty decent run since around the time of our wedding til a couple days ago. Once again, my lower back decided to crumble from beneath me and I am again a hunched-over invalid in lots of pain, needing a cane to get around and no longer leaving the house. While it is not nearly as bad as my situation last year at about this time, it's similar to my original symptoms that eventually needed surgery to fix, and after that first surgery I was left permanently affected with nerve troubles. At least I can sleep mostly normally this time, unlike last year where laying down was impossible in any form. I am hoping this is a temporary setback that won't require trips to the doctors or worse. This all flared up late last week while I was doing the last bit of electrical work on the house. I was installing an electrical outlet in the entryway in order to plug in an illuminated console cabinet, a task I've been wanting to get to for over twenty years (I definitely put the "pro" in procrastination). This involved walking back and forth from one room to another, squatting or sitting on the floor, making holes in walls and fishing cable, among other involved tasks. Perhaps it wouldn't have been so bad if I had noticed before that the wiring in the wall was 12gauge instead of the 14guage I had assumed, and needed to start over. Halfway through the work and with live wires sticking out from the wall and many of the remaining outlets in the living room dead, I couldn't stop, so I finished everything and cleaned up despite the increasing, excruciating pain. If there's a bright spot in any of this, I had gotten most of my numerous current projects and tasks completed, save for taping/spackling/sanding the reconfigured wall between the entryway and living room, and the paint and trim work. Jeff's excitement of me also finally finishing the skylight project I began 4 years ago will be dashed once again. As usual, I feel like I let him down, which I feel is often the case. I just can't catch a break anymore.

We were set to go watch Penn State play Maryland up in PA, but I sent him up along with Snickles, with Kodi and I staying behind to rest. Snickles likes to take the long walks at least twice a day in order to do his doggie business, and those walks were a big part of my exercise routine, many times 5 miles or more. Those are definitely out, and while I can simply let Kodi out of the house by himself to do his thing, Snickles needs to be leashed and walked lest he take off to points unknown, his only issue remaining since we've had him in training. We have also some shows/concerts in the works, and I'm afraid I will lose out on those too. If there is a silver lining in the cloud this weekend, there was more family drama that erupted during my absence, and this is one thing I want no parts of. I am no longer technically an outsider and will hold not one damn thing when it comes to the intra-family drama, feuding and attitude problems. Seriously, there are Jerry Springer levels of lying, thieving, homophobia, bigotry, closet cases, mental illness, addiction and more in the extended family, and both of us are glad to be far enough from it not to deal with it on a daily basis. Still, it creeps in over the phone, emails and text messages, and it makes stress levels go up. If it weren't for his mom and dad, we both would remove ourselves from any further contact. It's nearly always some stupid issue whenever the siblings call. This is why I 1) am so glad I am an only child with no other family and 2) I refuse to be dragged into this nonsense. I have no problem telling them where to go, nor with the amount of broken noses I might leave in my wake.

As my dear readers can probably imagine, I am going stir crazy already, I hate laying about doing nothing. I was like a smiling pig in a big puddle of slop doing all these projects and more, and setting up ideas and supplies for the next thing on the evolving list. Lots of momentum was brought to a complete halt now, and while I might not be literally climbing the walls, I am bracing myself against them as I move about. I just gotta focus my energies on things that don't require much movement. The one thing I have managed to avoid so far in all of this is a return to taking the narcotic pain killers I had needed the last time. The side effects are something I just don't want to deal with unless the pain becomes totally unbearable, and I definitely don't want to go through the detox process again either.

Finally, I consider this the "third strike." Since I initially was beset with these back problems and the lingering damage and disability afterward, I could not bring myself to file for permanent disability. I figured I would be able to pull myself out of it all eventually and head back to the workforce until my official retirement date (or even after), but I am beginning to face the fact that that day does not appear to be coming anymore. This is the biggest hit to my pride that I can think of besides the disability itself, as I have always, always been proud of my independent nature, my ability to literally lift myself from poverty to living in what is currently the second-richest county in the US, and to be able to handle whatever might come my way. My ego didn't want to face this day, and it's looming larger than ever. I feel I am giving up. I have run out of options by all measures, and it kills me t think about it.

greatbear: (old graybeard)
I've been laying low these past several weeks as far as social media and socializing. Part of the reason is I've been busy, or at least trying to be, with everything from work on the house, cars, tractors, yard, and whatever my body allows me, as I play catch-up. The other, more sinister reason is I have basically been detoxing. It's nearly a year since I was beset with my last round of serious back injuries, with this bout being far worse than any of the previous, inasmuch as pain levels, discomfort, disability and recovery time qualify. I'm still nowhere near 100%, and, unfortunately, I shall never be, not even close. However, I am able to more or less fake a normal lifestyle from an outsider's perspective, getting out and about, taking trips, even a nice vacation. As it usually is with trying to maintain a facade, there is a lot going on behind the scenes. None of this has been accomplished without some residual levels of pain, and while I can suck it up and make do, there comes a time, usually later in the day, or, mostly, evenings when I am getting ready to hit the sack where getting comfortable was impossible without chemical assistance. Every trip to the various doctors, surgeons and physicians that had their hands and tools on or inside me gave me scrips for heavy duty painkillers and other goodies, often at my behest. This was needed because, without the strong stuff, my ability to get anything resembling quality sleep was near zero, and my disposition wasn't doing anyone any favors either. Nothing over-the-counter would give relief. So, for the past three seasons, give or take, and out of sheer necessity, I was locked into using a set of narcotic substances I really didn't like taking.

'Tis true that I finally had relief and comfort, and sometimes it was a warm, floaty, stoner sort that was far from unpleasant. In my mind, though, I would constantly grouse against a backdrop of pain ranging from mildly irritating to beyond excruciating. The side effects were few, but sometimes ugly. My mental state, if it were to take a roller coaster form, would injure and maim a lot of the riders. I lived in my own world of quiet despair, mostly unbeknownst to those around me, even Jeff. I tried my best to keep the worst of it outside out family life, but I had my moments where it was best I remained alone. A few times I sent Jeff alone, or with one of the pooches on the trips up north to visit family that we would normally go together. My mental state would often make me angry, as I would totally lose my train of thought in mid sentence, or my mind would completely blank out and fail to come up with the right word, or, worst yet, I would become a stuttering, incoherent mess when I had to think and talk at the same time. I normally pride myself for being able to multitask and think fast and well on my feet. Unfortunately, during these foggy mindtimes were were beginning to lay some of our most important plans ever, the marriage, the preparations before, vacations, renovations, and lots of other intensive thinking was needed, and, especially in the beginning of the year, I was in no condition to handle it all at my normal pace. I knew the painkillers and other stuff were the main cause, and peripherally my inability to get proper sleep made for the one-two punch. I knew, for our sake, I needed to get myself off these meds and back to my normal self. Cold turkey was not possible as you might expect. I weighed my pain and discomfort levels as the summer approached and adjusted dosages in order to get so much of the hard work done yet be able to get good rest and still not turn into a blithering, blathering idiot anytime I processing more than two thoughts at a time. I/we made it through the wedding plans and prep without too much issue, though Jeff was at times frustrated at my slowness and lacking input on certain things. As impossible as it seemed at the time, so much of the big event went off flawlessly and with many added surprises as I had written of earlier. We had our vacation as well, and, luckily, time had come where I figured I could deal with my daily levels of pain and I can now ramp my intake of the hard stuff to zero. If only things were so easily done...

After taking less and smaller doses over a period of a few weeks, I finally stopped. Life was actually quite good, so to speak. I did have my days where I would be hurting from exertion, and, with maybe an Advil or two, I could mostly live with it. The problem came when it was time to head to bed. As I would begin to nod off, that's when the racket would begin. Rather than it being loud neighbors or dogs barking, this was all inside my head, or body, as it were. I would get restless and uncomfortable, hot and cold and totally unable to drop to actual sleep levels. Earlier I found a fractional dose of the hard stuff would put things right and I was off to the land of Nod like nobody's business. But even this was more than I wanted to deal with and the cycle needed to be broken for good. So, for the past three or four weeks, I endured the on-again, off-again battle of the bed, trying my damnedest to run the gauntlet of nerves bent on anarchy on my way to sleep. Once this would happen, I was fine as frog hair. The next day was refreshingly normal, albeit at times with soreness and discomfort for the ordeal the night before.

I could get through this!

I did have a side effect, one that seemed to make me irritable around people. Even if thing were going well, I had this slow burn of aggravations running underneath it all, but that was simply my greater personality being amplified, and I knew the best thing to do was lose myself in my thoughts and tasks as I have always, and hope that I could break out of it all without much difficulty. I'm pretty proud to say that this challenge has been accepted and my goal has been achieved. I can make it through the entire day taking nothing but one unrelated prescription pill a day and nothing else. If I am hurting, I can take a break, or if that doesn't work, I pop a Naprosen and ride it out. Sleep is an occasional issue, with the nerve problems caused by my first surgery and the electrical storm below the knees a permanent feature now. The hair on my lower legs is still missing from the kicking and rubbing them together constantly when detoxing. I use a TENS unit when it's bad, otherwise, as they say down under, Bob's your uncle.

So, there's been a lot going on, and I had not been in a mood to write about it. As i kick the blast doors open which protected me from the world at large (and, more importantly, vice-versa), along with support from others, I hope to be back to my old, gregarious self. Concerts and shows will be attended, ball games enjoyed, parties gone to and maybe hosted, seeing people and making new friends, it's all been happening and will happen soon. I finally ordered up the new entrance door to La Casa, a new car for Jeff has been bought, lots of normal activities take place like, well, normal. And the happiness and security that all comes with is the best medicine I could ever have.
greatbear: (blackness)
In case you might have been wondering, my social media silence for the past several weeks is due mostly to exasperation and other pissedoffedness as I deal with pain, immobility and other health issues. I've been trying my best to be as useful as possible as the both of us stare down the impending wedding date and the increasing rush to get things done before the big day. There have been setbacks but most have been figured out, but there's still more to come. Rather than sit here and bore everyone with rants and other negativity, I just stay off the internet. Currently I've been seeing several doctors and having tests and procedures with little relief. So, that's about where I stand health wise. Most of the wedding invitations have gone out to those who have provided their addresses, and a trickling have been coming back, around 70/30 attending. Kinda miffed at the lack of communication that inevitably happens, but I have my way around that too. If I have to be strapped to a handtruck and rolled down the aisle on the big day, that's what I'll do. I'll be happy just to be able to stand and not be in pain.

So, there ya have it, the reason for radio silence.
greatbear: (walken)
What a way to start the New Year here at Mayhem Acres but with a nice winter snowstorm! Jeff had to work on New Year's Day (I always get the earworm thanks to U2 when I see or use the term) as well as NYE, the weekend before, plus yesterday and today, so he had a long week already. On his way home yesterday the snow had already begun falling. Thankfully he got home without a hitch, I had walked the dogs before the airborne crystalline assault began to gather ground troops and we were safely ensconced in wood-heated bliss for the evening. By early morning when Jeff was ready to head off to work (he's critical personnel) about six+ inches had fallen. By virtue of living off of a road deemed critical for emergency traffic (a police station, fire and paramedic department is about a mile-and-a-half away), and this road intersects three major highways, the road was clear enough for Jeff to carefully drive in to work. Once near the hospital, though, it was a different story, ironically the roads right up to the hospital were a mess. He got in without incident, and had an otherwise normal day. I waited until he got home before I attempted to tackle the snow in the driveways and walks, just in case I would fall, get hurt, or have some other unkind fate befall me. I'm pleased to say I managed to clear the walk and most of the driveways before the snowblower ran out of gas. I have maybe a fifteen minute job remaining, if even that, for tomorrow. After the dig-out we headed to the pet store and grocer for our week-plus of food and supplies. It was only after all that work and walking that I was finally breaking down and in need of a rest. All if this without a fall, a sudden burst of pain, a heart attack, shingles, athlete's foot or any other nasty body problems. Go me!

The PT I've been undergoing has been doing me some good. I am quite sore the next day, with enough DOMS to make me feel like I am accomplishing something at the gym. I weight less now than I did as a sophomore in high school. I'm not too concerned about the weight loss at this point since I don't need be be trying to haul a lot of bulk around. Part of the therapy involves electrostim treatments on my lower back. The therapist always comments on how much "energy" I have them set the machine for, apparently more than most people can handle, and I only increase it through the run of stim. I tell her that in addition to 40+ years of working with electricity and having it "greet" me on its own terms countless times, I've been hit by lighting as well. Makes for amusing conversation if nothing else. One of the things I'm going to try for is to get a decent home-use e-stim unit, the therapy does do my body good, and it might also have some, ahem, extracurricular use later on. I still have a long way to go until I can no longer walk looking like a stand-in for Quasimodo trying to imitate the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but I'm getting there.

Speaking of working out, weight loss and gyms, Jeff has been going to a local gym here trying to better his health and lose some weight. Earlier in the year he was attending a kettlebells gym. While he was increasing strength and flexibility, it was doing nothing for weight loss, something his doctors were insisting on as part of ongoing work since the heart attack. He found a decent deal that also includes a personal trainer, who not only set him up with specific routines and goals at the gym, but some pretty strict initial dietary guidelines as well. Since starting this about a month ago, he's down a good 14 pounds or so, with obvious changes to his physique to boot. Woof. The two of us will be heading through '14 leaner and meaner. I'll definitely be rockin' the meaner part, as I'm turning into a grouchy old cuss as 52 rounds the corner in less than a month.

I've also been getting back into some studio-oriented work, mostly with "remastering" some of my favorite music and making my own mixes. If I finally get the nerve to try without getting frustrated, I might pick up the guitars and basses here and give the old fingers a workout. I love music, and recent upgrades to the stereos, home theater and digital music servers are part of my getting back into serious listening and involvement with music. My recent setback after surgery with becoming quite deaf in my right ear is either beginning to subside, or I am getting used to it. I will soon upgrade my studio monitors, I was using headphones as my primary monitoring means, and a recent purchase of a different style of headphone hasn't really made a difference in my discomfort in using cans as monitors that has crept in recently. I might spring for that pair of Mackie bi-amped nearfields I've always lusted after. I can crank them while Jeff is away, and resort to the cans for nighttime listening.

As I often do when it snows, I poke my camera lens out the front door and take spooky, available-light shots of the snow falling on the trees in the front yard, so this is my first photo for the new year. Kinda blurry, but it's a handheld shot for a second or less.

Tomorrow, since Jeff is (finally!) home during the day, I might take shots of the dogs frolicking in the snow. Last year, Snickles didn't want anything to do with the white stuff. He'd stand around shivering, picking his feet up one by one and generally be miserable in the snow. I worried this year how he'd handle it, but it appears he's beginning to love the stuff. Kodi was always a snow-dog, he can't get enough of it. Snickles can potentially get around better in it than Kodi, thanks to his long thin legs. He still gets cold after a while, since he's a shorthaired pooch with less body hair than I have, apparently. We have a little jacket to help with that issue.

I hope everyone is starting off 2014 on a good note. I know I am trying to do so, and we'll see how it turns out as it progresses.

N. B. It seems LJ has been lazy with comment notifications with me lately, I didn't realize my last few posts had collected a fair amount of comments until tonight. I'll probably be going into my previous posts and answering some of them. Damn Russians!
greatbear: (forearms)
This week has been one of mostly successes and accomplishments. Jeff took off Tuesday to haul my increasingly narrowing ass to the doc for my 2 week followup. Despite the blowout of my sutures and the resulting bleeding on par with a gunshot wound the few days prior, he said I was healing nicely, the intern pulled the remaining bits of sutures and doc set me up for physical therapy centered around traction, e-stim and strengthening. I will get those sessions scheduled starting next week. After the appointment, which was held at the Montgomery county office instead of the more local Howard offices, I took Jeff for a nice lunch, celebrating my second leaving of the house since the surgery (I managed to do some grocery shopping with Jeff a day before) and being able to get around mostly using the cane, albeit hunched over and very slow. But progress is progress. The pooches, left alone and uncrated in the house for the first time in a long time, were well behaved as we found upon returning home, so riding the crest of accomplishment we went to Lowe's and Home Depot to pick up some decorations for inside and outside the house, plus some tools and bits, and a shopping trip to the Goodwill store. Today was a trip to the Amish market in Laurel then a trip back to Home Depot for more stuff and deals and back to the Goodwill store to pick up a DVD changer I spied the day before for a good price. This was a lot of walking, albeit hanging off of shopping carts for support, but it's walking nonetheless.

I have three more days of Jeff at home with me and we will do as much as we can as well as enjoy our time together. I need to rearrange the outdoor equipment in the garage in order to have the snowblower handy and ready to go, and I have to get some other equipment put up for the winter. I am finally getting back to all the minor and major tinkering, fixing, building and other things that make me happy. I am way behind in many thing, the yard is a mess, some vehicle projects not done with boxes of parts sitting stacked in the garage, but that stuff can wait until I am far more mobile. THe yard, well, the leaves will blow away eventually. Things could be worse. I did notice the alternator in Jeff's truck is getting increasingly noisy, so I have to replace or rebuild it soon to keep him on the road. Luckily it is an easy job on his truck, no crawling underneath or digging deep into the engine compartment from above. At least the rest of the fleet is usable and I got some work done on them before being hurt.

I am anxious to get back to a normal life, but I am still not going to push it getting there. I ordered a couple new walking sticks to make getting around easier and safer. Today was the first road test for them. I shouldn't be taking taking spills on asphalt as I did a while ago. I look forward to the day I can take the dogs for a walk once again.

Irony Man

Dec. 1st, 2013 09:45 am
greatbear: (forearms)
That old saying that goes "if it weren't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all" seems to fit me so well lately. Seemingly unrelated changes to other parts of my body since the back surgery has me a bit more than miffed. In a "good" case, for years after a very nasty sinus infection, my left nostril would be nearly closed up at all times, becoming a high pressure annoyance at times when sleeping unless I used a nasal spray to clear it up on those days it was particularly bothersome. Since the surgery, it's been absolutely clear. How a spinal issue in my lower back becomes essentially a deviated septum is beyond me. I'll take any sort of unintentional victories I can at this point in time. Such celebration seemed short lived, however, after spending a far from insignificant amount of money upgrading my "main" home theater/stereo system in the living room as well as a secondary system I use in my lab for testing as well as pure entertainment purposes (the latter far more often) I have become profoundly deaf in my right ear. I'm hoping this is temporary at best, but if recent history of mine with tinnitus and occasional unbalance is any indication, I am better off listening in mono.


Off I go

Nov. 18th, 2013 12:23 pm
greatbear: (forearms)
Well, I'm off to get knifed in the back. Hopefully this will fix my back issues for good. If you don't hear from me in a day or two, something went wrong.

Wish me luck.
greatbear: (forearms)
Any time I hear or read "Istanbul", the auto-complete routine in my brain, scrambled as it is, adds "not Constantinople", then I am subjected to a half day-long earworm of said song by They Might Be Giants. I decided to share this time, here's the wonderful version starring Plucky Duck and the Tiny Toons.

Other news from around Mayhem Acres, Snickles continues his painfully long assimilation into family life here. It's at times a rocky road to ride, what with teething, chewing and barking that puppies are wont to do, but there are also those moments of starry-eyed schmoopiness that make it all worth it. I will write more in a State of the Pooch entry later on.

I am finally clearing out the long-neglected Lab of Mayhem of hundreds of pounds of obsolete and worthless electronic gear and other cruft, carrying this activity into the garage as well. Some of the stuff is being dismantled into the few remaining usable parts, the bulk is going into boxes to be taken to the recycling center. The lab itself is getting an overhaul as well, with some new tools and supplies obtained to make and repair stuff built with surface-mount components. I've also taken some of the reclaimed parts and cobbled them into usable items; an old fluorescent arm lamp, a salvaged DC fan and filters for a range hood became a soldering fume extractor, and ancient spectrum analyzer has been brought back to life with donated components, and a number of collected items have been finally installed and put to use. I want to get this all done before the weather breaks and I spend more time outside.

Health wise, I've noticed more healing of nerves in my legs and feeling returning to my feet in the last few months. I had resigned myself to never having normal feeling and abilities in my legs post-spine surgery, but I am not stumbling as often as I had been, and I can resolve temperatures better in my lower extremities. I might not have a future as an acrobat or b-boying, but anything is better than previous numbness.

I hope all is well with my fine readers this week. Stop in and chat a while!
greatbear: (eeeexcellent)
In today's mail was a large envelope. Inside was a certificate congratulating me for my years of service with The Company That Makes Funny Looking Airplanes, as well as a catalog of gifts. Major stuff this time, watches, espresso maker, crystal, clocks, 32G iPod, big screen TV, even bicycles. How long have I been at the same gig? Thirty years. At one time I couldn't imagine myself being thirty years old, much less working at the same job for that long.

I should feel a sense of accomplishment, but it pales next to my feeling just... old. I guess it's part of my current round of spine troubles making me feel all of my years behind me pushing back.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to shoo people off my lawn.
greatbear: (Default)
I hope everyone had a nice Memorial Day weekend. There is a lot happening here at Mayhem Headquarters, mostly good, some bad. I'm letting the good stuff trample the bad stuff. I know I've been a terrible blogger of late, what with very sparse updates and little interaction. I will put forth some effort to change that as well. Some ADHD bullet points:

  • Work sucks, but I am managing.

  • Jeff has gotten good news on the status of his heart health, and can safely have his thyroid removed without fear of another heart attack or severe bleeding.

  • We are slowly catching up on things that had to wait while we dealt with our various health issues.

  • We are looking forward to some quality downtime going camping in upcoming days. Next weekend to nearby Deep Creek Lake, and in a month, not one, but two weeks in PTown. We are both stoked.

  • We've been making time for entertainment and cultural outings. Sporting events, shows, concerts, and spending time with the extended family. Lots more of this is in the works.

  • There are some bummers along the way, I have to contend with a wrecked car, I'm behind on some repairs on the house and some other projects. If things keep on the current track, I'll get to them.

    I hope this finds everybody well.


    Oct. 13th, 2011 12:41 pm
    greatbear: (Default)
    I've been slipping lately in my bloggerly duties. It has not been helping matters as I continue to battle the worst-ever sinus infection the past week. Seriously, this is the absolute embodiment of nazztuh. The entire left side of my head feels as if I endured nine rounds worth of right hooks from Mike Tyson. At least I still have my ear. But my left nostril is sealed up tight, and the post nasal drip tastes of rot and sewage mixed with sulfuric acid. Honestly, I've had my share of sinus hell, but this beats them all. The doc has me taking a handful of industrial strength antibiotics, painkillers and decongestants. The last day I am noticing some improvement, but that has been tempered by the side effects of the regimen of meds. I was at least able to sleep in a bed last night, rather than upright in the recliner trying to keep my face from bursting off my head. I've also practically devastated our stock of tissues. I hope this is a side effect of the antibiotics, but my sense of taste as well as my limited sense of smell is all screwed up. Having dealt with this issue after being bombarded with strong antibiotics in the days after my colon ruptured many years ago (yeah, I'm pretty much a mess), it took months for my senses to normalize. My appetite is lacking, but that's no big deal.

    I've been very cranky the past week or so, and I've been avoiding people and interactions and removing myself from any drama-inducing situations for my own good, as well as those around me. I just don't "sick" well at all.

    Jeff has been going through his own health issues lately, and I've been accompanying him to his doctor's visits as well. Turns out he will need to undergo carpal tunnel surgery at the end of the month, which might eventually involve both arms at the wrist and the elbow. He also has to have a portion of his thyroid removed, but that can't happen until sometime next year, as his recovery from last December's heart attack and surgeries precludes it; the thyroid and surrounding surgery site is a highly vascular area, and the meds Jeff is currently taking post-heart attack cause significant bleeding. He bruises quite easily these days, and he tends to blame them all on me, which upsets me. Of course, at work he blames them on his boss, which is amusing.

    So, as it goes, in sickness and in health, right? We seem to have a lot more of the former lately, but we manage somehow. It's hell getting old, but at least we can do it together.
    greatbear: (Default)
    *brushes off shrapnel and debris from the controls after the failed KGB attacks*

    Now witness the power of this fully operational LJ!

    Yeah, well, I was laying low while shit got real during the DDoS hell that beset LJ for a while. Of course, it would have to take place during the time I actually wanted to make a post or two. Unfortunately this episode of unauthorized mayhem has caused an increase in the rate of defections to other venues for some of my favorite LJers. I myself have a Dreamwidth account I acquired at the time of Livejournal's sale to SUP (aka The Russians). I have it to fall back on, since I can't get it to be the dog 'n' pony show I have here. So I will remain stubbornly here if just to turn off the lights once everyone is gone.

    More doctor visits and tests upcoming for me. Tomorrow I have a nerve conduction study, and more bloodwork done. My overall condition is improving, but way too slow, and I still have aggravating issues like insomnia, limping and stumbling and the feeling of someone taking .22 long rifle shots at my legs and feet at random times. Yet, I don't know if it's the recent warm weather, but I've felt better about myself and an actual recovery. To that note, after my doc visit today I stopped by Performance Bicycle and picked this up:

    It's a Mongoose Teocali Comp all-terrain bike. It was on sale/clearance since it is a 2010 model, and it has everything I wanted. I decided on a fully suspended bike to help save my back from any more shock and compression than necessary. I took various models for a parking lot ride and fell in love with this one. The folks at Haverty's Furniture were probably wondering what the middle-aged dude was up to riding up onto their sidewalk and jumping off the curb. The disc brakes are a delight, and no longer do I have to worry about scaring people with brakes that sound like I am strangling geese. Despite the problems I have been beset with with my spine and whatnot, I can ride a bike like nothing is wrong. The riding position and pedaling action keep my rickety parts in an optimum position and I can actually enjoy a physical activity with no pain.

    Jeff has been, of course, putting in lots of extra time at work and coming home tired. I worry about this a lot, but at least it is not nearly as bad as his last few venues. Sadly, he has been filling in for general manager who has been taking care of his mother, she learned today she has only two years left to live, after finding out a little while ago she has leukemia. To top it off, their beloved dog has been stricken with kidney failure. I can sympathize here, since during the time my Mom was fighting her cancer, we lost Patches, our wonderful Dalmatian. It's watching the world crumble around me with nothing to stop or change it. I met his boss' Mom last year, she is a delight. That family is going through a lot this year, and I hope they work things out and find their peace.

    I always say that despite how bad I think I might have it, there will always, always be someone worse off. Gotta do the whole counting blessings thing, and make sure that life here at home for all of us is the best I can provide. I just hope that I am a good provider. I still have my doubts at times.
    greatbear: (Default)
    A quick update and some words. First off, and most importantly, Jeff and I went to his doc this afternoon for the results of the biopsy performed on his thyroid a a couple weeks ago. The growths are benign. This was a huge parting of dark clouds for us. Still needing to be addressed is the cause of and the symptoms (tiredness and lethargy primarily) from these growths. This will take place in the near future. Thankfully there is no push for surgery and treatments the worst of the news would have brought upon him. So, I can't yell "YAY!" loud enough or from too high of a mountaintop as an expression of relief and joy.

    Now I can get on with my own health issues. These have gotten me quite bummed, but I will work it out.

    And here's the part when I stand humbled, with hat in hand. In my post from a while back I lamented my dissatisfaction and disappointment in regards to "social media" and its varied and uncertain value to me at times. Well, in the posts since, I was (once again) reminded of the value of the phenomenon. While I still feel that it often exacerbates the disconnect I feel between friends because of the inevitable distances involved, there is no denying the connections offered. There are real people, with true concerns and even love at the other end of the posts, comments and messages. Yeah, I get frustrated that people I know I'd have an awesome time being around are hundreds or thousands (or even just a few) of miles away. So, I will try harder to measure the real folks with real words coming from the glow of my screen against the occasional disappointment I feel because they are not in the same room. I will also endeavor to rectify the latter as much as possible with more travel, trips and invitations. I might have been rather quiet here as far as followup replies to comments and such, but rest assured your words have a definite effect. And I loves yas all for it.

    So, it's with a bit of extra sunshine that the plans we've been making for travel and fun despite what has been unfolding for the past few months. We've got tix to see Elton John this weekend, Cirque du Soleil's Totem in a couple months, four trips to Hillside and an extended trip to PTown. And we'll do more I'm sure. And I hope to make real more of the virtual connections I have.

    I humbly thank each and every one who have left words of concern and encouragement. You've done more for me than you know. And, well, more than *I* know at times.

    greatbear: (seasons greetings)
    It appears my preparedness for the snow has apparently scared it off. Just a light dusting out there.

    Now that it's almost 364 shopping days until Xmas, I don't have to worry much about it for a while. Jeff and I had a relaxing few days. While we did not pimp out the house with lights, we did get into the spirit of the big day by going to see Dickens' A Christmas Carol performed at the Olney Theater on Christmas Eve. Olney Theater is a wonderful local outfit that has been around for decades, and every show I've seen has been very well done. We were in for a little surprise with this show, as it was performed entirely by one man. And if you ask me, it was probably one of the most engaging performances I've seen of the classic. Both of us enjoyed the performance greatly, afterward we headed to our favorite local restaurant/bar Looney's Pub for a nice, (very) informal dinner. A good day overall.

    The Big Day was almost as low key, Jeff make our little dinner whilst I tinkered with stuff. I had ordered a new (overkill) video card and (really overkill) power supply for the crazy quad-core PC I had built early in the year but basically flung aside while I took care of house- and garage-oriented projects until my body gave out. If I desire, the new mega-PC can support a hee-yooge desktop/workspace across no less than six displays. While such an endeavor is highly unlikely, I would like to eventually set up a two- or three-display desktop using monitors in portrait configuration. When funds free up, though.

    Today we braved the oncoming non-blizzard by taking a quick trip to the grocery store for some goodies, then I occupied my time in the basement workshop doing wiring and installing the new heater. The heater is a definite help, but not as effective as I would like since it basically has to try and heat the entire 36x48 main basement area that the workshop is part of. I have been wanting to wall up the various areas and have been making progress with other upgrades and such that needed to be done before such an undertaking. Perhaps this coming year will allow me the chance of clearing out a huge amount of cruft and beginning the creation of actual spaces rather than one big outrageous mess.

    Tomorrow both Jeff and I have medical and financial bizness to take care of. The lack-o snow and accompanying driving insanity will make this happen much easier. This week will be one of more recovery for us both, and we both hope to be somewhat productive around the homestead as well.

    I hope everyone reading this had the past few days at least as nice as we did. And here's hoping for a good '11.



    greatbear: (Default)

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