greatbear: (picard upset)
Jeff and I do most of our grocery shopping at a nearby Giant Food store. Like so many large grocery chains, this one has a customer loyalty card (read, marketing and research device). In addition to the supposed discounts the card offers, it also accumulates "points" that can be used for discounts outside the store. The chain has partnered with Shell gas stations that will give you $0.10 off of a gallon of fuel with each hundred dollars spent on groceries. Fair enough, especially since we do spend a lot on food, and there's now a Shell station mere walking distance from Mayhem Acres. The point accumulate, but need to be used within a month of earning them. In some cases we've earned anout points to get 50 cents or more off each gallon. As the rules state, these can be used to purchase up to 35 gallons of fuel with a discount. Jeff is usually the one that takes the discount regularly, since he is the one most often footing the food bill (he's a chef). In order to make the best use of the discount, we've often filled a car along with several five gallon jerry cans we use to power the fleet of outdoor equipment and generators among other things, this in order to get as close to the 35 gallon maximum. My trucks also benefit here, as the tanks are bigger than those on the cars. The other day I needed to fill the big truck, knowing it would take close to 30 gallons of diesel fuel to fill. Points were set to expire soon (we've lost some before this way), and having just come home from the grocery store with enough points to drop 40 cents per gallon, it was time.

Just like anything that promises discounts, redeeming them isn't exactly easy. It's doable when you pay at the pump, but it takes a rather technical song and dance with precise key presses, card scans and such. I lose my temper when I try, because I'm not familiar with it. Jeff has come along and done the button pushing in these cases. The other issue is, when paying at the pump, the transactions are limited to $75 dollars or so per transaction. This will not buy enough fuel for the truck when it's thirsty for one, and the discount is limited to one transaction. Anything more is regular price. There is a way around this as well, you have to pay the cashier inside to ring up a big enough transaction. Okay, that's doable, but I wasn't able to walk to and stand in the store, so Jeff did this while I sat down on the pump island. It took him a while to do this, and while I was waiting, the store manager was wandering around cleaning the pumps and tidying up the place. This man is a certifiable dolt, he's been there for years, the staff hates him and quits constantly, and he's dumber than Forrest Gump but also lacking in any of the charm or lucky situations, not to mention politeness. Well, our intricate procedure needed to get cheap diesel fuel was finally in place, and the pump began beeping to tell me it's ready. I pull out the nozzle, press the start button and began fueling. Well, didn't the fool with the rag and spray cleaner decide to start cleaning the pump I was using (again!), and while doing so, he stuck his hand inside the slot where the fuel nozzle gets stored and causes the pump to immediately shut off. I stood there totally dumfounded for a second, with barely six dollars on the counter. The guy is looking at me with his hand inside the nozzle slot and a quizzical look on his face, and I realized that he not only stopped the pump, but it was the same action as finishing up filling and returning the nozzle, completing the transaction. I honestly didn't know what to do for a moment until it hit me. I just saved 40 cents a gallon on about two gallons of fuel. I slammed the nozzle into the pump and told the guy he just wasted my points for the month. Manager Guy was rambling and mumbling, I told him I am not returning here anymore and started climbing in serious pain back into the truck. He did surprise me by taking a $20 bill out of his own wallet and apologizing, which I did accept. I sat in the truck and fumed for a bit, Jeff shaking his head. I decided to go ahead and get my fuel, but my card wouldn't work in the pump. I was ready to pull my beard out and head home, but Jeff used his card to get the task done. I gave him the cash and we both went home for the night. Seriously, I have a short fuse when dealing with certain people. I am also very forgiving, and can tolerate quite a bit at first. But some people are hopeless. I also can't stand it when things are needlessly difficult. It's sad to think that both of these are increasing in number at a frightening pace.

At least one thing was almost comically easy, especially given the circumstances. That night, while I was writhing in pain laying in bed, cussing and fuming before the painkillers took effect, I was able to pull up parts diagrams on my little laptop and order parts to fix my MINI Cooper left hand window. I remember when I actually had to go get car parts from a shop during the day. Right now, that's too difficult.
greatbear: (ciggie bear)
Okay, it's been a week of pain and bother. I had begun the usual regimen of pills which at best took just a bit of the edge from the pain but did nothing for my total lack of mobility. This means another trip to the orthopedic doc, who will send me off to be shoved into the MRI contraption and then a shot or three in my spine, and if that doesn't work, under the knife. Then there's the very real chance surgery won't help anymore. I seriously can't handle this anymore. I am literally living half the year in pain and immobility, and an all-too-fleeting period where life could pass for somewhat normal. I am a miserable cuss to be around right now, I feel worthless, and anything I try to do to take my mind off it at all sometimes causes me more frustration. The poor pooches, who look forward to our nice long walks during the day, wonder where their big distractions went. There are things I need to fix outside before the shitty weather comes around to stay. And the little fun things I am actually able to do given my constraints are being nagged by discomfort. I just can't get a break.

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

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

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

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

greatbear: (forearms)
In my last post, I made mention of hoisting my GoPro camera aloft once I get the hang of being a drone pilot. Well, that really didn't take long, and Sunday I had installed and tuned up the camera rig and sent it up for a peek in the skies around the house. Because I have no view on the ground as to what the camera is seeing (no "first-person view") I had to mostly guess as to exactly where the camera is pointing. That turned out to be relatively easy, since the camera pans with the rotation of the copter. I have control of camera tilt by a dedicated lever on the remote control. so it was simply a case of spinning the drone to where I wanted to see and tilt the camera down a bit. I took it up to various altitudes, I estimate at about 400 feet at the highest, and did a slow pan and tilt. I had no idea what to expect, so after a while I landed the rig and took it in the house. I pulled the tiny SD card out of the camera and put it in the card reader, and I was greeted with some amazing shots. Kid-in-a-candy-store time! Since I can't operate the camera shutter or other controls from the ground (yet), I set it to take a shot every two seconds. Later in the day I put the thing in the air again, but this time I flew it quite a bit lower and did a slow circle around the yard, to see the house from all angles, and hopefully getting a shot similar to the aerial picture that was taken of the house 20 years prior. I am proud to say I got pretty close for a first attempt.

This is the photo from 1994:

Click here to see how much changes in 20 years )
greatbear: (old graybeard)
I've been laying low these past several weeks as far as social media and socializing. Part of the reason is I've been busy, or at least trying to be, with everything from work on the house, cars, tractors, yard, and whatever my body allows me, as I play catch-up. The other, more sinister reason is I have basically been detoxing. It's nearly a year since I was beset with my last round of serious back injuries, with this bout being far worse than any of the previous, inasmuch as pain levels, discomfort, disability and recovery time qualify. I'm still nowhere near 100%, and, unfortunately, I shall never be, not even close. However, I am able to more or less fake a normal lifestyle from an outsider's perspective, getting out and about, taking trips, even a nice vacation. As it usually is with trying to maintain a facade, there is a lot going on behind the scenes. None of this has been accomplished without some residual levels of pain, and while I can suck it up and make do, there comes a time, usually later in the day, or, mostly, evenings when I am getting ready to hit the sack where getting comfortable was impossible without chemical assistance. Every trip to the various doctors, surgeons and physicians that had their hands and tools on or inside me gave me scrips for heavy duty painkillers and other goodies, often at my behest. This was needed because, without the strong stuff, my ability to get anything resembling quality sleep was near zero, and my disposition wasn't doing anyone any favors either. Nothing over-the-counter would give relief. So, for the past three seasons, give or take, and out of sheer necessity, I was locked into using a set of narcotic substances I really didn't like taking.

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

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

I could get through this!

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

So, there's been a lot going on, and I had not been in a mood to write about it. As i kick the blast doors open which protected me from the world at large (and, more importantly, vice-versa), along with support from others, I hope to be back to my old, gregarious self. Concerts and shows will be attended, ball games enjoyed, parties gone to and maybe hosted, seeing people and making new friends, it's all been happening and will happen soon. I finally ordered up the new entrance door to La Casa, a new car for Jeff has been bought, lots of normal activities take place like, well, normal. And the happiness and security that all comes with is the best medicine I could ever have.
greatbear: (blackness)
I apparently have some sort of curse. Seemingly without fail, when things seem to be going my way, I am happy, productive, enjoying life basically, something will come around to smack me back down. It has come to the point where I can foresee the big slapdown happening. No, I can't predict what exactly that "slapdown" entails, but it like a deatheater cloud lurking around some corner ready to pounce when things are at their rosiest. Lately, life has been pretty damn good here at Mayhem Acres. Jeff and I are getting married, as most of you know from recent posts (and have been reading). We've been working our literal asses off getting the house and yard in order for the big day. We enlisted Jeff's sister and nephew for a few days of help here too, taking them out for nice dinners and a trip to the Baltimore Aquarium to let his (our, actually) nephew experience new things. It's not all work, at least for guests. The driveway and work area as well as the building that comprise the Garage of Mayhem have been pressure washed and are so clean you can literally eat off of the concrete. To top it off, Jeff and I became grand-uncles once again with the birth of little Brooke. In short, lots of really good things have been happening.

You can probably guess that what lurks around the corner is done lurking.

I had to get fuel for the big truck after one of our myriad trips to the garden supply center. Jeff was concerned since I was holding onto my wallet because the gym shorts I had been wearing all day had no pockets, so he took it from me, put it in his pocket for safe keeping. The next day I went looking for it since I had to run several errands and it was nowhere to be found. We turned the house inside out searching for it, along with the vehicles, yard, garage, everywhere we had been and most places we hadn't. It's gone. Along with several credit and debit cards, driver's license, medical insurance IDs, and at least two hundred in cash. So, after a weekend of incredible progress and joy, my Monday was spent in an angry funk, searching and re-searching for the damn wallet to no avail. Jeff came home earlier to help with the search, though fruitless. He's upset, I am at the point where the tiniest thing sets me off. Today Jeff came home early again and will be off of work until Tuesday so we can continue prepping for the wedding. But a lot of that prep is being pushed aside as I begin the agonizing process of getting new credit/debit cards, license, etc. To top it off, I stopped by the one credit union to get the new cards. Well, I couldn't without ID. I left in a huff saying that I will be back when I get the new license. Turns out that is a process that will take about a week, as the replacement gets mailed to the house. I plan on calling the credit unions to tell them any charges that might show up on the cards are not going to be my responsibility. I am hoping the wallet is lost here at the house and not in possession of someone else. So far, all the accounts look untouched except by me. The bright side of this is I can finally reposition all of my automatic payments and such to the more local credit union versus the one where I used to work. Still, this is an annoyingly frustrating ordeal.

So, I am trying my best not to let this cast a dark cloud over our big day. Things can turn out even worse, given the circumstances. Presently, I am totally unable to buy anything locally or get any money out of my accounts until I get the new cards or at least the license. I no longer have any valid photo ID. I did place a few last minute online orders using open accounts and have them on rush shipments, but nothing local unless I pester Jeff. Aaargh. Not good at all.

This is why I have a difficult time trying to enjoy myself or truly let go and enjoy life. I must not be meant to be completely happy, because there will be consequences with impeccable timing. Without fail. It's because of this I am really beginning to hate my life more and more with every one of these damn occurrences.
greatbear: (big beard)
Despite still beating down a nasty cold that has lasted over a week so far and now has me blowing and sneezing up copious amounts of snot, escargot and what appears to be Cthulhu's offspring (Ia! Ia! CHOO!), I decided to start the day on a happier note, playing with the dogs, sharing my bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios with them, and listening to Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 “Choral” in D minor, Op.125. It's been a good morning so far, well, other than the percussionist trying to make the music of the day "Beethoven's Nine Tympani" by trying to get all Metallica with his kettledrums in this particular performance (Wilhelm Furtwängler and the Philharmonia Orchestra, recorded in Switzerland, 1954). Still, despite the coughing, sneezing, bizarro weather and other issues, it was a nice way to start the day. In my morning online dalliances, I happened to come across a normally annoying captcha that was more in spirit with the flavor of the day.

Thanks, Google ReCaptcha, for making me feel criminally real.
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"...


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: (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: (forearms)
I had forgotten all about this. Been busy with all sorts of way overdue tasks and projects in order to make good use of time. My apologies!

[ profile] furr_a_bruin asks, "I know you're fond of Mayhem Manor and have your trailer for getaways - but if you were to pick someplace to have a second "sticks and bricks" home... where would it be?"

Honestly, I'm not sure these days. Generally, I've always been fond of New England-like seaside towns. I love being near the water, and prefer a quiet, low-density area. Being that most "seaside towns" are mostly, if not in the process of becoming, crowded. I've also gotten a bit spoiled by being somewhat out in the sticks yet reasonably close to a whole lot to see, do, and experience. So, if I can come up with a nice cabin on a lake, isolated enough to be silent night or day save for wildlife, dark enough to enjoy a starlit night, yet not too far from civilization (say, 50-100 miles or so), I'd be happy. A nice home base, one I can do some traveling from. Make sense?

[ profile] maxauburn wants to know, "How is the *NEW* puppy doing?"

Right now he's at that unfortunate stage where his name should be Chewy Bitey McGnawton. Not so much tearing up furniture, but play biting when you pick him up, or attacking Kodi or Pinky until they finally snap and bite (or scratch) back, or littering the house with lots of rawhide chew things and doggie toys. He's a flurry of impossible-to-contain energy with an annoying (and dangerous) habit of not coming and staying when called. And he hasn't quite got the knack of being housebroken yet. When he isn't being a dynamo from hell, he's one of the most cuddly dogs imaginable. He usually sleeps the entire night, either in his crate or under the covers with us. He makes noises in his sleep that can be adorable or sometimes frightening. His feet, as awkward as they sometimes are, can one minute be cold as ice or delightfully warm, always a surprise when he's burrowed under the covers and pushing said feet against naked skin. He's done with all his (expensive) shots until next year. He's a typical puppy, adorable and frustrating, all at the same time.

[ profile] meddler_inc queries, "How are you doing? How's the weather?"

I'm doing okay, after slowly recovering from a nasty, drawn-out cold-like mess that had both Jeff and I in its grasp for a while. The weather is slowly working its way to Spring, and I hope to be getting out and enjoying the weather soon, even if it's cleaning up from the past winter and bad weather. I love Springtime. So many pleasant memories.

Wanna sk me something? Go here, and fire away.


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: (no cat farts)
Today, out of the blue, my cadre of neighborhood cats increased by one.

I was in the sunroom, and I saw what I thought was one of the two "regulars" that hang around here come up to the door. Upon a closer look, it was one I've never encountered before. The thing is, this new kittykat walked right up to the door, and then accepted my petting with no qualms whatsoever, and with Kodi not far away. The new one looks related to the male we are calling "Tigger" except with white from the belly down as opposed to the orange whorls that Tigger has. Sure enough, not long after my introduction, Tigger shows up as if to say "See? I told you they're cool. Now watch, here comes the kibble!" No to let anyone down, I poured some food for our new guest and his old, familiar brother.

Later on after Jeff got home, all three of the cats were waiting on the back deck. Pinky was there scratching at the screen for attention, the other two were hanging out. Jeff give everyone some more food, and I manage to get this shot;


From bottom to top, Pinky, Tigger (aka Snaggletooth, his teeth are completely screwed up) and, for the moment, TiggerToo. I hope to get better photos soon.

Kodi was at the door not knowing what to do next, he's getting outnumbered! Kodi is tolerant of the cats to a point, at least when we are around. In the open territory of Mayhem Acres, however, Kodi will give chase. More to the point, the cats will give the chase and Kodi will fall for it. They have mastered the Kitty J-Turn and will return to what they are doing while the dog is still insanitybarking around the yard.

These cats are also the giving sort. In the picture you can see what remains of a big green katydid. These are the cats' favorite night time playthings around the garage while I'm inside tinkering. This is a typical scene:

Pinky: (running into garage with prey/offering) "Meeoof!"
Me: "Whatcha got now?"
Pinky: (mouth obviously full) "Meeoof! MEE-OOF! Mphfmfmfmm. *purr*"
Me: "I'm sorry, I don't understand! *giggle*"
Pinky: "MEOW!" (Katydid flies from now open mouth)
Pinky: ...
Me: You know, I get you every time. Ya think ya'd learn by now."
Pinky: (Srs cat is srs expression) *Takes off, goes crashing around the garage trying to recapture the critter*

Tonight it was MEEOOFMEEOOFMEEOOFMEEOOFFF as she came into the building with a mouse. Great. The last thing I need is mice in the garage, or a dead carcass of one stinking up the place. I left her to her cat-and-mouse game for a while as I came inside to do a few things, along with writing this post.

These cats are pure entertainment, and they do tend to earn their keep. I hope they have been fixed so there won't be a new batch. If they are indeed strays, and no one owns them, I might claim them and have that deed done.

More hell

Aug. 13th, 2010 11:03 pm
greatbear: (f.u.)
Well, it appears that the latest round of treatment might have been completely ineffective. I'll know more as the weekend passes, but it would appear that my minimally invasive options are exhausted. If I go under the knife, the recovery time would be anywhere from six to eight weeks, and could be close to a year before I can resume work. That won't do, but I guess I have no choice.

To add insult to injury, I find out today that my disability pay has been cut by more than two-thirds. This is not enough to pay for necessities, mortgage, etc, and will not be able to cover inevitable medical bills. I am NOT a happy camper right now, and this, coupled with other problems cropping up in the last few days, life is really getting stressful and annoying. I don't need this right now.
greatbear: (picard upset)
Well, I gave it a few days, but it seems the last medical procedure done to help my with my lower extremities as far as pain, spasms and weakness has been a complete failure. No change. So this means another plan of attack, one that will undoubtedly require some time under he knife. My spinal cord looks like a garden hose with a car parked on it at one point. So, later this week I will see what the next course of action is.

Ugh. Make it stop is all I ask. I want to return to my semi-normal life.

In bloom

Apr. 24th, 2009 01:11 am
greatbear: (blackness)
Given our somewhat sluggish arrival of Spring this year it's taking a while for the various plants, trees and bushes to wake up from their wintry slumber. The lilac bushes are finally starting to bloom, which is always special to me. Some of the bushes here are taken from ones from where I grew up and predate me. The smell takes me back to my youngest days the instant it hits my face. When I came home from work today it was a sunny, clear day for a change, and I walked over to the big old bush to bury my nose into the blossoms. I knew very well what was going to happen. As I inhaled, memories of my early childhood came flooding back, all those good times, and, most of all, memories of Mom. I bawled my eyes out.

Of all the senses, the sense of smell elicits the greatest reactions in the human brain relating to memories. It's a purely chemical process, not at all different than in (other) animals, a product of millions of years of evolutionary process yet relatively unchanged in that time. It's a raw, basic process geared towards survival instincts and self preservation. But it has a wonderful emotional aspect as well. And I am very thankful for it. Especially now.
greatbear: (fuzzy)
Yeah, well, I've been around, if just barely. I've kept LJ close but quietly, catching up where I can and making a couple comments. Some very sad news around the flist, but some bright spots in people's lives as well. My heart goes out to those who are dealing with tremendous losses and changes. And my thumbs up for those enjoying some of the good stuff that life brings about.

As for me, last weekend I took a trip over to where I was born and raised. Camera in hand, I wandered about taking shots while being overwhelmed with memories. Long story short, just about everything has been obliterated, but there were a few remaining hints of the past to be found. Some day, hopefully sooner than later, I can assemble the pictures taken along with others I have as well as scans of photos going back to before I was born, creating a photo essay of some history very close to me. It's likely to be uninteresting to most, but it will be meaningful and perhaps even cathartic for me.

As for this weekend, not a lot went on. The weather was nice on Saturday, so Jeff and I spent part of the day doing yard work. I did tinkering around the garage, trying to gather things back into some semblance of order in preparation for springtime projects. The highlight for today was a trip to Verizon Wireless to replace our aging handsets. Jeff got a nearly-new Razr thanks to [ profile] sfmini, and I sprang for a new LG Voyager. It's kinda like an iPhone, but without the smugness and with an extra battery. ;) :D I feel so techie modern now.

Here's to a good week.
greatbear: (half awake)
A really nasty storm crashed through the area at around 7pm tonight. The power went bonkers several times before staying out for at least an hour. The wind was strong enough that it tore apart the 10x20 foot tent/canopy in the front yard that was set up for Jeff's (since cancelled) Graduation party. Several large limbs were snapped out of trees and scattered around the yard. Mom's beautiful rose bed is in shambles, she did manage to visit it this morning at least. The yard, driveway, street, it's all a mess of leaves, branches and whatnot. Hail fell for quite a while, at one point becoming the size of quarters, so I can assume the cars have been damaged as well.

I can only imagine what else might be in store for me.


greatbear: (Default)

December 2016



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