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: (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: (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: (forearms)
As most of you who read my posts know, I have been dealing with serious, debilitating back issues for several years, the latest episode starting last September. As a result, I can't do most of the things I am able to do. This has me falling behind in house repairs and projects, for one. I just can't do these things, or it's now a long, often painful process. Imagine my utter frustration while taking a shower Monday night and finding the water backing up around my feet. Then finding the toilets completely backing up too. The "old" (read: young, able) me would've simply jumped right in, pulling up toilets or cutting pipes in order to get rid of the blockage. No can do, so I called on a plumber (never did that before, unless I was subcontracting them for a job) on Tuesday, which didn't show until today. I was a tad skeeved at this, but as long as he could do the job, I didn't care. Besides, I was holding it in for a couple days now. Imagine my dismay when the plumber dispatches a guy that has similar back issues as I am currently dealing with. The two of us were hobbling like two broken old men (though he was considerably younger than me) surveying the problem and what to do. I even did the work of disconnecting and removing the toilet to help out, he machine-snaked the drain, clearing the blockage and we were done in a little over an hour. He was barely making it back out to his truck with his supplies. Me being me, I felt bad for the scrawny guy, as I was bracing my own broken body against the door as I let him out.

Irony is so much interwoven with my life, I should open up a foundry business.
greatbear: (picture start)
I guess it's time for me to bid Ye Olde Yeare farewell. 2013 kicked our asses here, but with the setbacks came rebuilding and healing. We started on our way with a good outlook, lots of plans and energy and it went well until April, when we got the call that Jeff's parents' house was on fire. His mom was not in danger, being in a nursing home. Luckily, we happened to have dad with us at the time. While the house burned completely, the most important contents were safe. Rebuilding went well and was pretty painless, all of us having varying degrees of input and effort in the process, now dad has a nice, safe, comfortable new place. A lot seemed lost as well, but even that held some surprises. While the family lamented the loss of beloved family portraits and pictures, I realized a bit later that I had scanned most of them several years back as part of a little project to fill a digital photo frame with those prints as a gift for mom. I looked through backups and found the scans, which were adequate for reprinting. I had printed two of the most treasured ones to give to dad on his birthday, while he was still living in our camper. I think it was that particular moment in time he realized that all wasn't lost, and things will turn out for the better once everything was mostly finished. I'm happy to say that has mostly been the case. His only regret is that mom is completely unable to share in the rebuilding and good fortune. And I agree. But I have no doubt that she would've really liked how it has all turned out.

Jeff has had a decent run so far with his new job at the hospital. It's not entirely frustration free, but it is a far cry from the last gig. He's still called on to work some holidays and weekends, this time it includes New Year's day, and he did have to work today as well. This does change, someone else will have to be manager on duty for this time next year. It is also far more predictable and fairly flexible, we can plan our things around working weekends and holidays, and, if needed, some things can be changed. Gone is the total unpredictability and downright frustration of working in government services and for/with people who are completely inept and with political bents.

As for me, well, I did start off the year on a high note of sorts. I had planned on making good use of my "unplanned retirement" to fix up the house and yard, taking care of long-term repairs to make my elder years better off for both of us. The fire did sidetrack some of our vacation plans, but we did manage our major PTown trip with complete success. I was on my way toward major house repairs and upgrades, as well as taking care of vehicles with things such as new tires and other longform maintenance so I wouldn't have to worry about such things for at least several years. I had started on some garage and workshop upgrades, new tools and machinery to end just about any reliance I might've had on outside sources for repairs and upkeep of vehicles, electronics, house and yard stuff and whatnot. Our garden was beginning to produce produce, and things were going well. Then I injured my back, far worse pain that I had experienced before with similar troubles, and it knocked me back big time. Te pain, near complete immobility for months put a lot of progress to a halt. The subsequent surgery didn't immediately result in relief, in fact, things got far worse for several weeks before any improvements began to show. In the last month now I've become more mobile and active, but still needing a lot of physical therapy. Around the house I can get around without the cane, walker or other assistance, and I've even begun venturing away from the house leaving the cane behind if I know I won't be walking far. I've even begun to tackle some of the simpler tasks, projects and goodies I had been forced away from since early September. I'm still not without difficulties, I overexerted myself the day before yesterday working on vehicles and am feeling it today, but it is important I keep on moving, walking and standing. I still walk with a very pronounced hunching over, and standing upright is a monumental task at times. But, I can say each week has been bringing about more relief and returns to normalcy.

2013 might have been a year less of setbacks as it has become more a prospect of gaining some traction. I hope 2014 continues this trend. Jeff and I have some pretty mean plans for the new year. Getting married, some cool trips, sharing our successes and good times with friends and family, and hopefully increasing our circle of friends along the way. More fun outings like concerts, shows and more. I'm looking forward to improving quality of life here a Mayhem Acres so life down the road is less hassling and more fun. Wish us all luck.

Happy New Year to my LJ family and friends. You're a hardscrabble bunch, hanging in here. You deserve a great 2014.

Daddy bear

Dec. 9th, 2013 09:23 pm
greatbear: (old graybeard)
A bunch of pictures have been taken lately, everything from "before" pics of Jeff as he begins gym workouts with a trainer, to weather photos, holiday decorations and whatnot. I had Jeff snap a photo of me as I was able to stand up almost straight. This is what the cashier from Saturday thinks is the father of a 51 year old man:

Not too far off, I guess. lol

We had a frozen land of icy mayhem here today, freezing rain coated everything in a glassy sheath. Luckily it wasn''t like some years where the ice builds up more and more and it starts taking down branches, whole trees and power lines. This time was rather benign, Jeff had no issues getting to work using main roads and highways. He usually takes a back way that shaves of several miles as well as a few dollars in tolls both ways. He came home that way without issues. Tomorrow might prove a hassle again, as the weather radio warning sounded for bad icing and snow conditions throughout the day. Yippie. The snow blower is ready. Not sure how ready I am for it though.

Some more photos:

This is the snow from the Sunday prior, you can see the big Blue Atlas cedar bent over the walkway from the weight of the ice, along with some of the shrubbery burdened with the frozen delight in the picture before, this is "normal."

Let's see what Ma Nature has in store tomorrow.
greatbear: (mike wazowski!)
Last couple days were sprinkled with accomplishments, last night I began making use of the pile of parts and gadgets accumulated for work in my Mayhem Lab, installing some of this stuff required hole saws, climbing over and under tables and general nimbleness I've not had in ages, and waking up this morning was not too fraught with soreness. We moved around the various equipment in the garage and I got the snowblower ready and handy for any incoming bad weather. I mothballed the MINI for the winter on the carport, after filling the tank and taking it for a spin around the town. No problems with working the clutch and other pedals, that's a good thing. The truck was empty of fuel, it got the same fuel-up and trip around to warm it up and make it happy. After all that, Jeff and I went out to get groceries. With bad weather looming, the store was rather busy. As we were checking out, Jeff was making small talk with the cashier I wasn't paying attention to. I asked what all the hubbub was about, he said she had mistaken me for his freakin' father. She blushed when he told her I'm her partner of 13 years and we're the same age. She produced a rainbow hued bracelet and asked him if we were partners in that respect, so to speak, and he said yes. She then said something to the effect of. "Well, hello! Nice to meet you!" So there's a lesbian cashier at the Giant in Burtonsville, MD.

Jeff would not stop laughing all the way home over her "mistake." We've endured countless mistaken identities as brothers. This time, I'm not sure I should laugh or cry. I knew the last round of injuries and pain took a very visible toll on me, but I had no idea I look 75 years old.

Ah, well.
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.

greatbear: (fucking painting trees)
Jeff and I had a really nice little T-Day together once he got home. The turkey had already been in the oven for a while, so when he came through the door there was that takes-you-back aroma of the holidays in the air. I insisted on helping out with more kitchen duties, using my rollabout tool cart as a mobile mashed potato making station. Dinner was wonderful, the turkey so amazingly good, the simple accompaniments (the aforementioned mashed potatoes that no one makes like I do, a bit of sweet potatoes, fresh asparagus and, of course, homemade stuffing) absolutely perfect for the two of us. This was also the first time in many years that Jeff and I had an actual whole turkey for ourselves. We usually head up to Jeff's parental HQ and have diner with them and varying numbers of auxiliary familial units. We usually bring a whole turkey with us, and if we (more often than not) have a dinner here at home as well, we pick up a turkey breast. When having turkey up north, tradition dictates the bird is fully disassembled into slices before bringing it to table in order to let people grab what they want. Jeff was practically giddy to be able to carve the turkey for us at the dinner table. I honestly can't remember the last time we did this aside from the days when Mom was with us. Though I tend to eat very little these days since the injuries and surgeries, I ate more than I have in one sitting for ages. It was That. Good.

Of course, once dinner was cleared away, the football games came on and Jeff was in his glory. I joined in, naturally. It's almost more fun watching Jeff watch the games than watching them directly. We relaxed and had dessert. More teevee was watched until Jeff started to get tired and headed off to bed for his short work day tomorrow. I was going to have a nice shower and climb into bed with the heady feeling of a nice big meal spent at home with family. As my contemporary luck would have it, a big old spanner was thrown into the machinery as my stitches suddenly let go when I was in the bathroom. That resulted in at least a half pint of blood going all over me but thankfully mostly into the toilet. I called Jeff out of his recently begun slumber to help me out. I bled profusely for a couple minutes at most, then stopped. Once cleaned up I asked Jeff what he saw back there. I could feel the surgi-strips still in place (these look like short pieces of tape criss-crossing the incision, put there to help hold the immediate area together against the normal stress) which Jeff confirmed. The doc had use absorb-able sutures rather than staples or permanent sutures that required later removal for this procedure, and I think they gave out before their time was no longer needed. We put some heavy gauze and stretchy wide rubber tape to hold my insides in, and as of this morning, things seem high and dry. I had stopped taking some of my usual pain killers earlier in the day, and since some of these were either acetaminophen or ibuprofens, I lucked out and didn't have lots of blood thinners running around. I try not to constantly drown myself in pain killers or any other "optional" meds just so I know what it truly feels like, although the anti-inflammatory aspects of those meds are part of the healing process especially early on. Right now I am just achy and sore, but I'll take that over leaking at every gasket for now. A bit of oxycodone sans NSAID took care of the nerve pain I am still beset with.

All I can think right now is I don't know what I did to deserve all this medical hell. At one time I was healthy as a horse and strong as an ox. Those days seem long gone. I have a followup visit with the surgeon on Tuesday. He's getting an earful.

As for those who say "that which doesn't kill us, makes us stronger"...

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.



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.
greatbear: (forearms)
Aaaand, we're back. Too early to tell how great any successes are, being I am masked in a fog of pain killers and other numbing agents, but I think there is some improvement, I will know more in the next couple days. Big test is soon, if I can sleep properly in bed without the searing pain I had for months. I did conk out in the truck on the way home from exhaustion though. :-)

Thank you for all the kind words, thoughts and well wishing. Y'all's gots some powerful mojo!
greatbear: (kmfdm icons)
I guess I should post an update regarding my health sitch, it has been a while. As usual, when I am sick or hurting, I tend to keep quiet and to myself. The quiet part is up for debate lately, as not a day goes by that I am not growling if not downright shrieking at the top of my pipes in pain at least a couple times a day and/or night. The sound effects are not nearly as bad as early on in my ordeal, but opportunities do present themselves, unfortunately.

I have a surgery date set for this Monday. Originally scheduled for December 11, then moved up to the day prior to Thanksgiving, this latest date is much better, earlier relief notwithstanding. Not so close to the holidays, better chance of getting resolutions if anything were to go awry by not being up against the holidays. While not as involved as my first back surgery, I am still slated for 90 minutes of operating room time. I should give Jeff the laptop so he's not bored out of his skull waiting.

This time there are two procedures being done, a revision laminectomy and a disc fragment excision. The former is a cleaning up of scar tissue built up in the aftermath of my much more invasive laminectomy procedure from 2010. Apparently the scar tissue has increased over time and coupled with my latest injury this has put pressure on the spinal cord in that general area. The other procedure is needed to remove a "free fragment" of ruptured disc that has split off from the mothership and has wedged tightly in the spinal canal in an area where lamina remains and is pinching off the spinal cord. This chunk will be removed as well. I will see if the doc will put it in a jar for me to bring home for show & tell. Like an old car being taken in for repairs, I like to get my old parts back.

I'm hoping the recovery from this operation is not anything like the previous. There were complications apparently and it took months before I could feel much from above the knees down, and I was beset with balance problems and lots of falling down. This time the operation is not as widespread (mostly confined in a space between L3 and L4, originally was L4, L5 and S1 plus a bit above and below) and no bone saws are needed. I will most likely need a round or two of physical therapy afterward once I've healed up enough to accommodate the exercise.

I am also on track to set a new record for myself, but not for the right reasons. Once all is said and done and before I am adequately recovered, I might end up weighing less than 200 pounds for the first time since 10th grade. Normally weight loss is a good thing, especially before and after a difficult medical procedure, and this will help me out in most respects. My appetite is not the best when I am sick or hurting, and given I've been in lots of pain and taking all manner of nasty drugs since late September, my want for food is not at typical levels. Some of the drugs and side effects caused food not to taste or smell the best either, compounding the issue. This is fine in and of itself, but the yucky result of drugs and bad eating habits resulted in near constant bouts of constipation and a badly impacted colon. So there is an insult to injury at play here making me want to eschew food entirely. This is tough to do with a chef with a career in healthcare food services watching out for me, and I thank my honey for providing well in the sustenance department. Dealing with the impacted colon is a matter I took into my own hands, saving Jeff another trip in the middle of the night to take me to the ER again. I'll spare y'all the TMI. The sadder part of the weight loss comes from the rather severe atrophy of my legs and other muscles, especially the left leg which is the main target of the nerve pain. Apparently the leg pain, despite it being "virtualized" in my lower back by scrambled nerves and not a result of actual injuries to any part of the leg itself triggers a kind of wasting process the same as if the leg were somehow actually badly injured, in my case and by the type of pain, badly burned. Jeff told the doc it is if I were affected by polio, my left leg being practically a stick compared to the right, and the right leg itself being atrophied by all the non-use. I had already lost a considerable amount of muscle mass in both legs the result of the previous nerve problems and a really bad case of Achilles tendonitis in the left leg a couple years prior to that. This has caused me a great deal of body image issues in those years as I was rather proud of having very powerful and muscular kegs. This can be remedied, of course, if all goes well with the operation and I am back on my feet and can do some decent working out to bring back at least some of my former glory. Being a middle-aged old fart with too many years racking up on an increasingly creaky old body precludes my ever having 21 inch calves that doubled as a car jack in my younger days.

I guess the latest, most unexpected slap in the face came today when the surgery center called to confirm my appointment and to make sure I brought along all the recent MRI films, required paperwork, insurance cards and ID and all that stuff and to, oh, make sure to bring along about six thousand dollars for my share of the procedure costs. I mean, WTF? I guess they don't believe in billing patients after procedures anymore, or that everyone has six grand in their pockets. Granted, I live in one of the richest counties in the US (We're number two! We're number two!), but really, c'mon. I knew I would be socked with a lot of costs (again) but I never expected to be plunking down a big wad of cash coming in the door as if I were putting a down payment on a Lexus. Thanks, Obama!

I moved a hunk of money out of my normally untouched savings to deal with the health issues as well as some needed (and wanted) upgrades to the house, so the shakedown by the Piccard Medical Center (make it sutured!) won't have me panhandling, but it's the psychological hit that only added to a long punch list of frustrations, emotions, cabin fever, stir craziness, self-worth crises, boredom and a litany of mental sandbags weighing heavily on my brain of late. I am honestly doing my best to hold it all together, as it were, but cracks do appear. Luckily Jeff is only a party of a smaller portion of these, but the ones he witnesses can be doozies. My cane came out from under me as Jeff took me to the doc yesterday for the final consultation before being knifed in the back, I beat the cane on the asphalt until is was more like a boomerang. Thankfully the consultation meant everything was in line for a relatively easy procedure and we went out for dinner afterward. I get cranky when I am hurt, and I am almost completely unable to do all those little (and big) projects I love doing that keeps my mind healthy and leaves me with a sense of accomplishment. You've read about them many times. Yes, I like to relax and unplug once in a while, but my mind is far too active to shackle with inabilities and disabilities. I did upgrade the home theater setup with a new Onkyo receiver and Oppo everything-disc player in anticipation of a winter spent quite a bit more inside and in low activity than usual; Jeff and I had a few movie nights recently and it takes my mind somewhat off of other "things." I've been doing my best to keep a date we had with other friends of ours to see Jersey Boys at the Hippodrome in Baltimore Saturday evening, and I think I can make it. I can sit for a while in a seat with only a bit of difficulty, I will make sure I take Rush Limbaugh's drug of choice prior to the show to keep the pain in check. It will be good to see some of our friends who will be joining us that night, the complete lack of visitors since being hurt hasn't made me feel any better about myself, so this will do my mind some good having fun, as long as I don't run into any issues walking to and from the theater and my seat. Jeff and I did a Costco and Wegman's run earlier in the week after a trip to my primary care physician and I did quite well. Of course, I was hanging off the back of a shopping cart those times, it was my arms that gave me hell from carrying most of my weight that day. No shopping carts this time, and I have a couple undamaged canes and five lovely people that can help if needed.

Thanks for reading.
greatbear: (picard upset)
Actually, it has been a bit over a month now since I wrecked my back, and my life has been as miserable as you'd expect. Honestly, this has been the worst "suffering" I've had to deal with regarding a health problem. The levels of pain have been on par with the bout with severe diverticulitis that became a serious case of peritonitis which came close to killing me. That ordeal only had me in extreme pain for about a week. Even when I was in a car accident that busted up my shoulder and left me with a permanently detached collarbone was easier to deal with. I've spent the entire time unable to sleep in a bed, I sleep sitting in a chair with a small table (or, more often, my keyboard drawer, thankfully I had made it "industrial strength") with my face buried in a pillow or sofa cushion. I wake up from increasing pain as the drugs wear off. If I have the misfortune of putting myself in a bad position while asleep, the pain makes me groan and cuss. I tried a couple times to lay in bed after I had an epidural injection into my spine thinking it might be doable. I woke up in such searing pain I nearly blacked out. I could almost put all that aside if it weren't for the fact that I am basically unable to do anything to take my mind off of it all. I need a walker to move about the house, and two canes the few times I went out with Jeff to the various doctors. The walker is to wide and cumbersome to easily move around the house, so instead I am using a dolly that has five stacked and connected power tool cases. It's narrower, and I can use it to cart things around, and the weight of everything (maybe 80 pounds) gives me a bit of resistance that helps my legs. I guess it fits my character a bit better too. If I stand, I make Quasimodo look like a model of good posture, gait and stance. Walking without any support is impossible.

Those who know me well are quite aware of my apparent need to constantly build, fix, examine, design and tinker with things. The fact this injury has all but stripped me of the ability to do these things is tantamount to cruelty and torture. Yes, there are chores and tasks needing attention, but I am unable to do a lot of the cool and fun projects and such I had in the works. With little more than the computer to keep me entertained, I peruse my various forums when I am lucid, and I spent far too much time dreaming up new ideas as well as collecting thoughts on current stuff. I also discovered that popping over a dozen pills a day including narcotic pain relievers fogs my judgement as evidenced by the purchase of yet another high-zoot home theater receiver to redo the big setup in the living room. I can at least take some comfort (and distraction) as I integrate this new unit and be able to watch movies in style once again. that is, until the required drugs kick in and I fall into a near narcoleptic sleep wherever I might be.

I have a doctor visit tomorrow to discuss the next course of action, which will involve more surgery on my spine. I suffer now from degenerative disc disease, and moderate to severe scoliosis. The real problem at the moment is due to a herniated disc once again compressing the spinal nerves, along with a "free fragment" of that disc separating and digging hard into the nerves. This is worse than the original problem I had with the spinal stenosis which slowly over time constricted the nerves and left me with pretty severe sciatic nerve pain. At least back then I could get relief laying down, or, oddly, sitting cross-legged on the ground. This time it's just sheer hell with no relief in sight for who knows how long. To add more insult to injuries, this doesn't take into account my Jenga'd vertebrae which will will undoubtedly be a source of future problems, which most likely will involve metal plates and screws and bone fusion. Right now, I am fortunate to have Jeff to help me with daily life and trips to the hospital and doctors. I am just so sorry I get him awake in the middle of the night so often when I end up screaming from the pain.

I have a lot on my mind considering the future. This might end up being a permanent disability, one that will require lots of rethinking and changes. I'm trying not to let that absorb me too much, it's too depressing. In the meantime, I am trying to stay as positive as I can. Wish me luck.

Edit: I want to thank everyone who has left me well wishes and good thoughts. Sorry I haven't gotten back to thank everyone personally, writing my thoughts out online has been an exercise in futility and lots of misspellings and goofy grammar. Drugs are bad, mmkay...
greatbear: (blackness)
I've been absent in my online stations for a while now. I reinjured (for lack of a better word) my back a couple weeks ago, and the pain has been nothing less than excruciating and continuous. This is even worse than my original issues surrounding the spinal stenosis and the required surgery that only partially corrected it. Unlike that whole ordeal, this time I am completely unable to lay down in any position to get any rest, and walking is impossible without two canes. In order to get any sleep, I have to sit in a chair and put pillows on a table. Sleeping has been a lofty goal I am unable to achieve, I usually conk out from exhaustion and wake up a half hour later from pain. Delays in being able to see the doctor at the outset forced me to the emergency room for strong pain relief meds to help with the tortuous pain levels. Initial work by the doc to ease the suffering haven't netted me any real relief. I am slated to see the orthopedic doc tomorrow, who will undoubtedly want a series of x-rays and MRIs done. My problem there is I am completely unable to lay inside the imager for the tests, it will probably require me to be under general anesthesia just for that. My feeeling is before all is said and done, I am going to need surgery far more involved and invasive than before, with metal plates and screws and braces and who knows what else. Right now I don't care what it takes, I just want to be able to lay in a bed and get some real sleep for a change. My legs are all swollen from the constant sitting, and I am barely coherent from being contantly drugged into numbness. Poor Jeff and the pooches are on edge from my screams of pain in the middle of the night. I can't even begin to describe to utter frustration I am feeling. Even coming up with this post and the ton of spelling and grammar errors is enough to make me throw the keyboard across the room.

Wish us all luck.


Oct. 2nd, 2012 02:52 pm
greatbear: (Default)
I think it's only fair, given my post out of the blue from last night, that I should follow on with some news and other blather on what's been going on in the past months. Far from a comprehensive list, this is just going to highlight most of the major bits.

One of the things Jeff and I had been looking forward to more than anything this year was to have a longish vacation. We had talked many times about extending our stay in Provincetown beyond our usual week. It would always seem that we'd run out of time to do all the things we wanted to, as well as explore the greater part of Cape Cod. So, this year we did just that. However, and interesting thing occurred. We had two full weeks to play with, yet we did far less than we would on our week (or less) of time in the past. We got caught up on just relaxing, there were a couple days where we never left the campsite. We had the perfect shady spot, all of our canopies, tables and cooking gear set up, comfy chairs and tables, lots of music, and wonderfully mild weather when the majority of the USA was experiencing record setting heat along with some severe weather events. Despite not hitting the clubs and trekking all about, the relaxing was precisely what the two of us needed, especially Jeff. There is something to be said about just disconnecting from everything and, well, doing what feels good. By far, this was our most relaxing vacation yet.

If anything put a damper on our enjoyment it was the fact on the day of our arrival La Casa Mayhem and the surrounding vicinity got nailed HARD with a severe storm, knocking out power for over five days. In fact, as we were getting into Massachusetts I noticed a convoy of utility vehicles, bucket trucks and such heading the opposite direction. My comment to Jeff was that I figured the area had gotten hit with one of the myriad summer storms and now the trucks were heading back home. It wasn't until later that evening I read on the news that the Maryland area was hit badly and help was coming from many surrounding states to restore the record power outages. My attempts to connect with great computers filling the hallowed halls of Mayhem HQ failed as well, and I knew we were without power. Normally when I am home, it's just a simple task for me to connect the generator and fire it up, and life becomes normal. Unfortunately, this is not an automated process, and the power failure lasted over five days, taking with it two freezers full of expensive food, plus everything in the upstairs fridge/freezer as well. I had a local friend check on the house occasionally while we were gone. When the power was finally restored, the water system failed to come back up (I have a well) and this prevented the automatic watering of the veggie garden. So, I resigned myself to having lost not only the food inside, but some of the garden crop as well. It was searing heat and drought the entire time I was in PTown, and that took its toll on the garden. First thing I did when I got home was to figure out the problem with the water (a screen in the system got fouled with sediment that squeezed out of the empty storage tank, a simple fix, rather than the well running dry or the pump failing) while Jeff assessed the now re-frozen messes in the freezers. Later on we'd document the losses and toss out a portion of the mess each week on trash day, and the now empty freezers got totally dismantled inside for a much needed good cleaning. What we now have stored is streamlined and all inside of one freezer. There was way too much old stuff lost in the deep confines of the freezers, so not everything was a true loss. Most of the meats, however, were a different matter.

Work for me had become quite a bit better, with the folks there realizing they had the only one left from a large loss of retirees which jumped ship for retirement or early buyouts who know the most about the breadth of equipment and processes, so once they found out I had been saving their bacon upon my return from disability, I finally got some of the respect I deserve. It had actually become somewhat enjoyable for once.

I had been riding a slow wave of recovery from my back issues since the beginning of the year, but Jeff was increasingly plagued with health problems caused by his thyroid and the large goiter that had attached itself there like a face-hugging alien. Between that and some time constraints we decided to cancel the usual long weekend camping trips to Hillside that we had been doing continuously for a dozen years. This allowed me to have a chance at catching up on projects around the house and garage. I tore apart the Stratus that got whacked on the front corner due to an idiot in one of the traffic circles (one in over a dozen in approximately 2 square miles of area, this has to be some sort of record!) here at home. I put off this project until after PTown since I had other vehicles to tool around in. All the while Jeff kept being delayed over and over again by the staff at Johns Hopkins hospital increasing his frustration during a time where his workplace was becoming a living hell. I don't see how such a world-class medical facility can have such a totally inept and unprofessional support staff. The doctors are awesome. Their office staff, however, is the pits.

At work I had succumbed to a minor back injury while moving a heavy (and very expensive) piece of electronic gear using the aging, rickety carts provided for such purposes. The cart tipped rather than rolled, and I caught the 80 pound signal generator from hitting the floor. I strained my back and was out for a couple days while the worse of the pain subsided. A few weeks later the same thing happened, this time with a different lab cart and a similar piece of heavy equipment. No sudden back pain that time, but I hadn't become pain-free since the first accident. I had issues with an achy and increasingly bothersome back for a while, then I had awoke one night in the same intense, searing pain shooting down one leg that I had dealt with before the surgery in 2010. I took my cane out of mothballs and started seeking serious medical help. It was then when I found out the new medical insurance company I had to get through work was something I wasn't qualified for. I spent my own coin on the first couple visits, but I needed some expensive tests which I had to delay for about three weeks while the benefits department switched me over to a different company. Last week I was finally shoved like a torpedo into the tube of the MRI scanner. Rather than getting a huge envelope full of films this time, I got a CD with all the scans as well as the same utility the doctor uses to move through the various layers and scan depths. I made my own diagnosis just for kicks, and a little while ago the doctor's office called and confirmed what I had seen, which was a new protrusion of the L4-5 disk onto the spinal cord, against some swelling of scar tissue left over from the laminectomy and apparently made worse by recent injuries. For the past month I have been once again off of work, in sometimes ridiculous pain and unable to do a lot of things I like and/or need to do.

Frustration is the keyword of the moment I guess, but it has not been without a side benefit. I was able to be home with Jeff as well as taking him to and from his surgery and doctors visits. His surgery was a success, and he's been recovering nicely. As our odd luck would have it, during the time Jeff has been off for recovery, his mother took a nasty spill at home and broke her hip. Unfortunately, she's been succumbing to Alzheimer's for a while now, and since her surgery has been placed in a nursing home. Jeff's (and my) time off has afforded him (and me a couple times) a chance to visit as well as help out his dad. Mom has recovered from her surgery fairly well, but her return home has been stymied by her fear of getting up to walk, which is a condition of her release. She's afraid she will fall again, and refuses to walk many times. If she's distracted by some other thought, she does just fine, but when it's in her focus, it's a no-go. So sad, since she wants to go home to familiar surroundings. I'm hoping in these next couple weeks she does what she needs and can go back home. Unfortunately, she needs increasingly intensive care, something dad can't provide, and is reaching the limits of what in-home care is providing. Seeing her in bed when we last left the home was heart-wrenching for me, I can't help but flashing back to those days when my own Mom was declining. I wish I could do more, but I am frustratingly unable to do so, once again. Life is a wondrous thing, but it can be fraught with sadness and pain too.

Big change for Jeff today. He had been working at a government facility that relocated to Fort Meade from Virginia. I warned him to expect a bit of self-entitlement out of the clientele that is so (unfortunately stereotypical) of that area. Well, it was more than just a bit. Jeff had to contend with some of the most selfish and downright hostile people he ever had to deal with especially in a (very) professional environment. Couple this with a racist and homophobic client he finally had enough. Prior to, and while he was out recovering, he made a lateral move within his company to a healthcare facility outside of DC. Today is his first day at the new place, and he has high hopes for it. I sure hope this will be a good one, since Jeff worked most of his life in healthcare, he feels the most at home there. Wish him well. I head off for my doctor appointment in a few minutes, and I already know there could be some new surgery involved. I hope I can put it off for a while so I can get back to work, catch up there as well as here, and plan on a specific time for any needed cutting so I have a feeling of control and pace, rather than uncertain waiting and lack of income. Wish me well too, while you're at it.
greatbear: (jeff and me)
Today I took Jeff to Lutherville for carpal tunnel surgery in his left wrist. The procedure was successful, and surprisingly quick. It was not even 45 minutes before I was led back into the recovery room to see how he was doing, help him fill out paperwork and get dressed. I collected my groggy cub and took him to lunch on the way home. I then took him to get his prescriptions filled and to get some groceries, a stop at the donut shop, then home once again for more doting before I made pizza and salads with ice cream desserts. He's going to be mostly out of commission for several days before being able to return to work. Couple this extended stay at home with his vacation from last week, and he's sure to be sick of seeing my mug and begging for a return to work. ;-)

Once he's fully recovered from the left side surgery, the process gets repeated on the right arm, this time with the ulnar nerve included. I plan on making his life just as it was today when that time comes. I gotta take care of my Jeff, he's all I have.

Once again, Halloween was a bust, with no one coming to beg for candy. This leaves us with a big dish (on legs!) full of unhealthy snacks. Some of these will probably got with Jeff to work, unless a friend of mine that stops by on occasions doesn't dive in first.
greatbear: (Default)
Okay, after an extended period of radio silence, I guess I should post something.

Life here at Mayhem Acres has been busy for both of us. And this is not such a good thing for Jeff. Unfortunately, it seems his work has turned into non-stop 12+ hour days of doing the work of four or more people at a time. A new facility with mostly all-new staff who don't value work ethic and call out or fail to perform as required leaves Jeff as well as the general manager juggling too many tasks as well as terminating the malcontents, making the short-staffed situation even worse. The result? I end up with a totally exhausted mound of cubbage who comes home and often collapses into a short nap before anything else. Remember, this is a guy who had a severe heart attack in December, right before Xmas. You now know why I am worried sick myself, and try to do as much as I can to make his evenings a bit easier.

I am back on meds meant to help with my spinal nerve reconstruction and rehab. I almost forgot how dazed and loopy this makes me feel at times. I walk around like Captain Jack Sparrow in all those Pirates of the Caribbean movies and sometimes feel like a spinning top with insufficient rotational momentum to remain solidly upright. Give me a bump and I will stumble and stagger like a hopeless drunkard.

Despite all of this, our weekends have been productive and sometimes quite fun. We've been finally taking on the yard in all of its overgrown bluster, trimming and cutting down wayward and damaged trees thanks to the bad weather of the last couple winters. Prior to restarting the nerve meds I managed to climb up ladders to cut branches, work on the buildings and install the pile of various LED outdoor light fixtures that have been sitting around the house for the last couple years. Things are starting to shape up, and we can admire our handiwork for a change. There are lots of plants to go in the gardens as well. I still have to do summer maintenance on vehicles as well as pull all the wheels off the travel trailer to check brakes and repack bearings, not to mention de-winterizing all the plumbing and minor fixes and cleanup before vacation season. Kodi had a Saturday trip to the groomer for his out-of-control hair, and came back rocking his new summer 'do. It's a new look for him, and all of us like it.

As a reward to all our hard work and resulting piles of wood chips, last night we had tix to see Sugarland with Little Big Town and Matt Nathanson here at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Jeff was unsure about going, since it was going to end late on a Sunday night and he had to go to work super-early the next morning. He actually tried to sell our tickets but the deal had fallen through, and we pondered leaving early from the show if we actually did go at all. Well, the event came, and we had a blast. This unknown (to us) new guy Matt Nathanson was really good, more indie folk than "country." He is touring with Sugarland because of their cooperation in Matt's upcoming CD. He opened up for Little Big Town, who rocked the house. Their high-energy set was spot on, but their most country-fied piece was an unplugged, accordion with big bass fiddle version of... "Born This Way." Yeah, Lady Gaga is everywhere, and LBT's "G" was a foot-stompin' romp that had everyone moving. Sugarland took the stage and expanded their "Incredible Machine" tour set we saw last year. Jeff was sad "(Why Don't You) Stay" was missing from the set list last year, this time, when I heard the opening notes I nudged Jeff in the side as his face lit up. I also passed him a napkin, knowing Jennifer Nettles' emotional delivery would have an impact. Sugarland kept up the entire set with tons of energy and a roaring good time. For an encore, in honor of the (failed) Rapture nonsense of a day before, they closed with REM's "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" with Matt Nathanson on lead vocals, and Little Big Town on stage joining in. As you noticed, every band/performer did at least one song not of their own. Sugarland nailed Madonna's "Like a Prayer" and C-Lo Green's "F You" among others, and even Matt Nathanson's set closer was Journey's "Don't Stop Believing." Unlike last year, we managed to get off the parking lot in record time (only about 5 minutes), getting home to pour Jeff into bed for a couple hours sleep before his big Monday hell. As I have been told, this Hell was not as bad as expected, so, cool bonus and happy cubbage this evening! I'm glad we did not miss out on this show.

I've got more time on my hands and hope to make use of it finishing up some much needed work on the house as long as my nerves allow it. I hope that does not impact our rather small vacation plans for PTown in July.

So, how has your days been?


greatbear: (Default)

December 2016



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