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: (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: (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: (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.

Stressfest

Dec. 3rd, 2014 02:21 am
greatbear: (kmfdm icons)
I found out today that my primary credit card number has been used for fraudulent purposes. Thankfully the card issuer stopped it from going any further, but it tossed a spanner into the works at a bad time. I luckily have a backup card from another financial institution, so not all is lost. I don't use the secondary card often, and I'm worried my sudden usage of it doesn't trigger suspicious activity warnings on it until I get the replacement primary card. In the meantime, more stress piled on at critical times.

Today I took Kodi the the vet for his annual checkups as well as to have a chipped tooth looked at. The little guy had to have the tooth removed, and other tests found he has bladder stones which will require surgery to remove. I was upset, as was Jeff when I informed him. Couple that with his crying as I left him with the vet and I was pretty upset. We have to schedule the surgery date in the near future, as there is a risk of the stones shifting and blocking his urethra, causing even more dire situations. I guess this trip was a blessing in disguise, as the vet originally wanted to give him x-rays for look for other things. I want our "children" to live a long, healthy life with us.

Speaking of doctors, after dropping Kodi off, I headed up to my orthopedist to get some relief for my increasing pain and immobility. He will go through the same process as I've been using for many years now, which begins with shot into my spine. I did get some good news, for this time I won't have to take another trip through the MRI, an ordeal made far worse because of the pain becoming excruciating when I try to lay down. This will save me some money and time too. That was an unexpected surprise.

The little bit of good news wasn't enough to offset the stress, and when I later got the call from the vet about Kodi's condition, I was becoming a complete wigged-out mess. While sitting at the studio workstation I disturbed something on the already cluttered desk that caused a chain reaction of stuff falling, including a glass of water, which landed squarely in my lap. That was the last straw, and I proceeded to clear everything from the desk, clutter, hard drives, peripherals, mixers, paperwork and other debris by hurling it onto the floor. The stress, pain, frustrations and general hate for the world as a whole caused me to pop my cork. I stumbled into the bedroom, climbed into bed, tried to find a position with minimum pain, and checked out for the rest of the day until Jeff came home with Kodi. Snickles, despite being chased out of the room by the initial cursing and flying objects, joined me immediately in bed with a concerned look on his face, then burrowed under the sheets and cuddled closely against my chest. I call this his teddy bear mode, and he seems to know to activate it when I am not myself (pretty often, of late). We both conked out, me with chemical additives to accelerate the process, my arm on top of him.

I am really hoping for some relief from the doc with nothing more than this procedure. I had a similar flare-up in June, which was putting a huge damper on our wedding preparations, and after a couple weeks, I was doing much better. The doctor even remembered about us getting married, asking me about it while at the office today. That put a smile on my face as I gave him the Reader's Digest version. He didn't have any prompting from me, he remembered on his own. I've noticed a lot of folks having definite positive reactions about our wedding, both before and after. So, not everything was tantrum-worthy today, but sometimes blowing off steam is a net positive.
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.

*sigh*
greatbear: (tools)
I've been scarce around these parts. I've been preoccupied with a lot of different things lately. When I last left LJ-land, I had posted how I had finally brought my new front door home after weeks of waiting for it to be built and shipped. I was anxious to start the installation, but rather than putting on my tool belt and kicking butt, instead we took some time off for much needed rest and headed out to the Eastern Shore of MD and did some camping at Elk Neck State Park, along with some friends we had made this year in PTown. We got two adjoining campsites so we could be neighbors. While they had camped at the site before (and recommended it to us), we hadn't, and were very pleasantly surprised at the calm beauty of the area, despite there being a lot of families camping that weekend. The sites had lots of space between, and the area was wonderfully wooded with tall trees, with the whole shebang nestled along the Chesapeake Bay. Camping in this sort of setting takes me back to my early childhood, and I feel a warm comfort in that environment. Couple that with our friends and some of the most perfect weather and you have the recipe for pure relaxation. The pooches loved it, and they too had their own four-legged friends to socialize with, as our camping buds brought along their two Italian Greyhounds. We went for a little excursion to the adjoining little town of North East on Saturday, where we found delightful little artsy shops, antique stores and quirky eateries (I know, how gay) among the friendly locals and visitors. Jeff and I decided to put our newly discovered campgrounds on the short list of ideal getaway places. At about 80 miles from home, it's far enough to feel like we had traveled a good bit, yet not so far that too much of the event is taken up by driving. We will be be doing a bit more "vacationing locally" as a means of getting to know the more immediate areas and what they had to offer, with the added bonus of being a cheap means to have fun.

The week that followed I had gone out for the rest of the supplies needed to install the door, and I also ordered more of the pieces to build the home automation system. I began removing trim and other parts to take out the old door and frame, then with the help of our local friend, Wednesday when Jeff came home I tore out the old door and the three of us maneuvered the old one out and muscled the (much heavier) new assembly in. I temporarily affixed it in place to keep the weather out and the dogs in, we enjoyed some dinner later in the evening. The following days I positioned, shimmed and adjusted the door to close and seal properly, trimmed the door out on the exterior, sealed and caulked and installed the keyless lockset. That weekend we went to PA for our monthly visit to Jeff's parents. This week I began the electric work, installing a new inside lighting fixture in the style of the new door glass, and installing the devices for the automation and control. Part of this involved tearing apart a portion of a wall next to the door and reworking some of the electrical wiring inside. That wall hid something that had been bothering me for 25 years. When the electricians that initially wired the house before the drywallers closed everything up, they had forgotten a short run of cable between to electric boxes. This resulted in the forward part of the living room having no power to the outlets. To fix this, they had popped holes in the two adjoining boxes and fished a cable between them. I never knew how they had fixed the issue until several years later when I had taken out a light switch to install a dimmer and found a huge chunk of the plastic electric box missing and a cable spliced inside. While I had the wall open I replaced the boxes, the hacked-in wiring and added space for three controls. Two of them directly control the light outside the door and the inside light in the entryway. The third space in the box will have a "scene controller" that will operate several outside lights located all around the house from one location. Pressing a single button begins a programmed process that can, say, turn all the outside lights on at full brightness, useful if we have company or we are doing work outside at night. Other buttons can turn on and off various combinations of inside and outside lights before leaving the house or returning, or turning all the outside lights off and setting the one outside the front door to a very dim setting before going to bed. All of this is part of a Z-Wave remote control protocol that integrates with the home automation system. It's already programmed to turn on a few inside lights at a low setting early in the morning when Jeff is getting ready and leaves for work, whereupon it shuts them all off until the next weekday. Now the outside lights can come on as well, since he leaves when it's still dark. The system can control existing remotely operated lights and appliances here, along with the Nest thermostats, the home theater receivers, alarm system, and lots of future items I have planned. Best of all, I can control it all remotely via the internet either with a PC or smartphone from anywhere. I can make sure the door is locked, open it if a friend needs to be let in while we are away, turn lights on and off, you name it. The system can grow as I need it to. It's a very practical system, and all the devices and appliances can work manually as if there was no profound technology behind it all. It's also a fun way to seriously get my geek on.

In coming days I will close the wall back up, spackle and finish the drywall, then install the interior trim around the door. I also want to take out the 25+ year old vinyl floor and put in some nice ceramic or marble tile. After that is done, I will move onto the living room, finally creating the light shafts for the skylights I installed in the roof four years ago, then begin the somewhat major reworking of the living room and dining room areas. I want to split the living room into two separate areas rather than the oddly shaped, somewhat amorphous "great room" it is currently. New carpeting and flooring will go in at this point. Then onto the sunroom, where I can finally finish the relatively small amount of work left over from where I started on that room about ten years ago. All of this will be a good winter/indoor project as the seasons change.

Those that know me well are quite aware of the wildcard in all of this, and that's my overall health and my back and nerve issues I am constantly dealing with. While I have been busting all manner of ass lately, it has been far slower than I am usually able to do such work. I can get maybe a half hour of good working time before I have to stop, sit down, and take the load off my lower back and recover. If I go for longer than that amount of time, or I have to do much in the way of twisting, or standing in one spot, the pain begins to appear then fogs my concentration. I get angry, the quality begins to suffer, and I will go totally aggro if things are not coming together as I want them to. Tools get tossed about, cursing begins, dogs hide under beds, and progress becomes more halting and drawn out. So far I've managed to keep up pace, but I have to force myself to quit while I'm ahead, as it were, before things start to crumble. So far, I've been lucky that I haven't had any major setbacks (yet) and I've learned to stop work despite the urge to keep going when things are going well. That last part is a doozy for me.



This is what the entryway looks like currently. If I manage to get all the other work done I described above without (much) incident, and some other, more pressing things get done, I want to take out the aluminum vertical siding that is currently there and replace it with some form of brick, slate or stone. but for now, I am happy, hell, giddy that I got this far. It's taking more time and much more effort than I am used to, but it's still me doing all the work and doing what I love to do. Now, if my increasingly old body can keep from falling apart at the same increasing pace, I will be a rather happy dude.
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: (forearms)
Jeff came home early Thursday for a doctor's visit, the last few days he's been having mild flu-like symptoms. We made a trip together to the doc and tests seem to indicate it is viral in nature, so it is mostly a rest and wait it out situation. I went with him to see if there was anything I could help with at home, and to get an idea what it was, since chances are good I would get it too. I've been battling a form of exhaustion for a few days too, I can only do so much before I need to take a nap. Problem is, I sleep and nap during the day and by night time my body clock on its graveyard shift time zone keeps me awake. So, when Jeff along with By-Tor and the Snow Dog head to bed, I head into my little lab and fix stuff. This time I tackled my failing Dell 30" display. After a half hour of thermal testing the display lamp driver board I narrowed the trouble to what seemed like bad soldering in a 1 square inch section of the board. There is about three dozen components about the size of sesame seeds in that space, and out came the tiny iron and other tools I have for such work, including the 3.5-90x stereoscopic microscope I got for such things. After more thermal stress testing after the repair with good luck, I threw it back together and am now using it while creating this entry. I hope it holds out, I absolutely love this display, but I relegated it to lab bench PC duties. The irony here is the particular computer and display is connected to the aforementioned microscope. I could've had a nice panoramic view of the board on the display it it weren't the one in pieces under the scope!

Our latest pup, Snickles, aka By-Tor mentioned above, had his first day of doggie school this evening. He had fun, and seemed to react well. He's finally growing out of his puppy-ish stages and has become a very loyal companion for the two of us. He needs to learn some discipline for his (and our) sake, and I think with some "official" training he will be a model pooch. Kodi did well in his schooling about 7 years ago, and I am hoping for the same results with Da Snick.

Jeff is very close to buying a new vehicle. His '00 Chevy S-10 has been decent for these fourteen years, but it's getting long in the tooth at over 185,000 miles, and given the fact that I have two trucks as it is, he's in the market for a wagon/small SUV sort of ride that gets decent mileage, can haul stuff as well as people and will be reliable. So far he's narrowed it down to the new Jeep Cherokee, the Subaru Outback, and the Subie Forester. Friday we are going to kick tires and take test drives. Hopefully this will be with as few hassles as possible. I had a decent time with my last vehicle purchase once the dealer was finally able to get the model I had settled on to the lot.

I'm happy to see some more old, familiar faces showing back up here in LJ-Land. The more I sit here and take the time for a "real" entry as opposed to a handful of words scooped up and thrown at Facebook, the better I feel about "socializing" online. I see usernames in my friends list of people who have cast off this mortal coil and are no longer with us. Those names seem like pictures hanging on a wall, and their journals acting as memorials as well as places to visit and remember the days gone by. None of the other popular "social media" behemoths have this. Nor do they have the control or accessibility of everyone's posts like LJ does. I think people are feeling this too, and while making entries here is a bit more work, it definitely pays us back in the depth of contact and interaction. Let's keep up the good work.

Well, the display has been performing like new as I've been writing this between other tasks and not flashing and shutting down like it had begun to do several months back. I wasn't about the scrap a thousand dollar display. These things are supposed to come with 3 year warranties, but I bought this from Newegg, and, disappointingly, it showed no warranty from Dell when I started the process. I've since reconsidered a lot of purchases from there, a shame, since I've generally had good luck over these many years. I hope my repair lasts until it somehow becomes obsolete, which I don't see happening for at least another ten years or more.

Cheers, everyone!
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: (blackness)
So, this weekend my back decided to, once again, crumble and leave me, once again, hunched over in extreme pain, unable to walk for any distance without my stick, and make sleeping an uncomfortable activity at best. This setback, one I was dreading more than anything in the face of so much going on with the wedding prep, spring cleaning and fixing, recalcitrant vehicles and just everyday life, puts into question everything that has been planned for this year. If this gets any worse and I need to go under the knife, it will have to be the most invasive procedure so far, where my entire lower back will have to be fused, with who knows how long of a recovery time (I've never actually recovered from the first time, much less this second go-round), and my abilities to lead a normal, active life from here on out are completely destroyed.

I can't walk the dogs, do yard work, hell, even vacuuming the floor right now is out. At best I can sit around uncomfortably for a while before I have to try and lay down to alleviate the pain and discomfort.

This bullshit has most likely put everything for this year in doubt, including our wedding.

I can't even guarantee that this pain and disability won't cause me to do something very stupid and rash.

Fuck my worthless excuse for a life.
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.

*sigh*
greatbear: (jeff and me)
Or as I like to call it, Happy T!

I don't have to reiterate how my life has taken a bad turn lately, I'm trying to plod on regardless. Jeff is at work, this had not been planned, he decided to help out for a portion of today and tomorrow, but home well in time to relax, have dinner and yell at the various football games on teevee. I managed to put the (free-range, natural-fed, solar power processed) turkey we get every year from the farm across the road into the oven. The procedure was about as clumsy as that sentence, as I pulled the heavy Magnaware roasting pot from the fridge that was Mom's favorite onto my rolling toolbox stack, shuffled across the kitchen and tried to think how I was about to put the awkward 20 pound assembly in the oven while trying to steady myself with one arm. I absolutely can't bend over or in any way hold anything in front of me, but I managed to crouch and brace myself as I took the pot and contents off the rolling cart and finagled it into the oven. Success! I was bound and determined to do this as I've been doing lately trying to live an everyday life with the hopefully temporary snafu I'm dealt. I can now make short steps with the cane, and I can navigate the stairs using the railings. I've began tinkering and fixing things again, I can't tell you how much this helps my mental state.

Thanksgiving. Well, despite it all, I am thankful. Though Jeff had to work, it was of his own doing this time, and it really won't mess up0 the holiday. Jeff was given a day off for the two half days he was to put in, I said to tell his boss he should get two days off considering it is a holiday. Guess what? Jeff told his boss, and he agreed. I get Jeff for a nice long weekend the following week. I also have him Tuesday, since he will shuttle me to and from the doc for a followup visit, where I will have an earful to unload. If all goes well, and since the crazy crowds will have died off, Jeff and I might go to the store to get me out of the house. If I can hang off the back of some sort of cart, I can walk anywhere.

I'm thankful to still be around, that I have Jeff to take care of me despite the often cranky moods and intemperate outbursts. I have a few good friends that, despite their distance, really make me feel like people care. And, at the moment, I am thankful for the hugeassed home theater setup with its 17 individual speaker cones blasting Pink Floyd as I mess around the house and play with the pooches.

I hope those in LJ are having a good day too. Without you, I'd be definitely less fortunate.

Thanks.

FML

Nov. 23rd, 2013 01:47 am
greatbear: (blackness)
I have been silent in these parts for the past few days since I got home from surgery, and, as I alluded to in the post prior to that one, extended silence means something went wrong. I gave it till the end of this week and I have stabilized, but not in a good way. The surgery did help alleviate the constant numbness and pain that kept me from getting sleep of any quality. Scarring from my previous procedure was removed along with a chunk of herniated disc that broke away and wedged tight against my spinal cord. This was thought to be the cause of all my symptoms including the stabbing sciatic nerve pain shooting down my left leg. After the procedure was done, I basically shook off the anesthesia, performed a self-test for the nurses and doc to make sure things more or less worked, and I was dumped into Jeff's truck for the ride home. I was still achy and stabby and numb, but a lot of that was leftover from the procedure itself.

Or so I thought.

After coming home I found I could not stand upright or use my cane, so I used my POS walker to get into the house, sit down and begin healing. I was back to needing the tool box stack on wheels to get around, but I figured once I got some recovery in, I'd be fine. Crawling into bed that night was a nice surprise, as I was able to finally stretch my legs out with no pain (or far, far less, not entirely pain free) and conk out for a few hours continuously. I discovered soon enough when I woke up that the sciatic nerve pain was indeed still present, and in fact, far worse. I fumed about it for a couple days as it didn't get better, and me being me and assessing situations like I do, I came to a conclusion that I shared with the doc when I called the other day. My "diagnosis" is I actually have two separate injury sites, and only one was actually tended to. By removing the constrictions around my spinal cord, I am freed from the pain the constant pressure was causing, and as a result, the original weakness and numbness was mitigated as well. In simpler terms, the "signal" coming from my lower half is now clearer and without the short circuit that was pinching it off. The problem is, I also have a sciatic nerve pinch closer to my left leg, most likely at the base of the spine well below where this current work was performed. With this new high definition signal path in place, the already excruciating at times stabbing pain has taken on Dolby Digital THX 9.2 channel 3D IMAX proportions. With no attenuator in the signal path, this shit really, really hurts, especially when, if I am in a relaxed position, things are fine. If I stand and let my lower spine begin to take my full upper body weight, instant and excruciating pain. I can actually feel the vertebra stacking against one another right before the pain hits. I asked the doc for a methylpred dose pack once more in an effort to at least knock back the intensity of the pain. It's a long shot, but I'll try anything at the moment. I took the initial round today, if there are any improvements to be had, they will begin to appear in the next few days.

I guess I don't have to say I am one very miserable cuss right now, unable to do much more than lay in bed or sit for short periods in a chair diddlefarting online. Certain motions get me howling in pain, I can't leave the house nor go downstairs or anywhere else the walker or the toolbox stack won't go. I've stumbled and fallen a few times already and the act of catching myself feels as though I'm being attacked with a hatchet to the back, my resulting screams sending the poor dogs under tables and beds or scurrying into far rooms or downstairs. Being totally unable to do anything that normally takes my mind off of things makes me feel like I am in the worst kind of prison. The drugs, pain and inactivity also play hell with my gastrointestinal tract, adding a very directed insult to the injuries I am already beset with. The suffering pooches suffer that much more, as I am completely unable to take them outside much less for a walk, leaving Snickles to whimper knowing he'll only end up crapping in the house. I can let Kodi out on his own, he will do his business and return. Snickles needs to be on a leash, and he likes to do his business far from the house after walking. Jeff does this right after coming home from work, and Snickles, to his credit, seems to be holding it in better than I expected. Both dog's know something is up with me. They are both very appreciative of my return to somewhat normal sleeping, they will stay with me in bed from when Jeff leaves in the morning (between 4-5am) until I might finally get out of bed for good much later, like today at almost noon.

Poor Jeff has tasked himself with taking care of me and, honestly, I truly would be lost without him. He took a bit of time off to take me to and from the surgery and stay with me the following day to make sure I was okay. Work has been very, very busy for him and dealing with me is only a further burden. We were originally going to head to PA this weekend in order to visit his dad, plus mom in the nursing home plus some other things as well as get away from it all. I can't go, obviously, but I insisted he head up tomorrow to see his mom before the holiday, spend needed time with his dad. Dad misses both of us even more these days since mom is no longer at the house. Jeff needs a break away from me more than ever, and I hope the weekend gives him that. He will take Da Snick with him and leave me with the less-of-a-handful Kodi. I will wake up tomorrow (hopefully!) and try to make do with the hand I've been dealt for now.

So what do I think is in my future? I will have to get a new MRI spanning a far more expansive view of my lower back and hip region. The docs will find an impingement site and, due to the scoliosis and advanced disc degeneration, want to fuse a couple if not more of my vertebrae together as a more permanent fix. Anyone who has kept up with my problem here will remember I hurt myself not once, but twice before I was completely incapacitated. The first time probably herniated the disc, causing me the numbness, the second time most likely collapsed my lower spine, making the sciatic nerve pain the worst I ever had. The surgery will be far more invasive, the recovery time quite long, and, most likely, I will be considered permanently disabled at that point. When I had asked my doc for signed paperwork for a handicapped parking placard like I had before, this time he made it out for a permanent (blue) one, rather than the usual red ones I had while I recovered. He knows what I do already, and probably a bit more. I will have to make permanent changes in my life to accommodate this ongoing ordeal, and hope that I can restore at least some of my mobility without pain. Once I know a bit more where I'm headed here, I will file paperwork to apply for disability assistance. I hope to hell I can shake it off and do something real for a living, as it stand now, if I can't do the usual stuff just around here that makes me happy, as varied as it is, there's not much incentive for me to love life anymore. It will just be existing.

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greatbear: (Default)
Phil

December 2016

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