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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May you all have a fantastic 2015!
greatbear: (ciggie bear)
Okay, it's been a week of pain and bother. I had begun the usual regimen of pills which at best took just a bit of the edge from the pain but did nothing for my total lack of mobility. This means another trip to the orthopedic doc, who will send me off to be shoved into the MRI contraption and then a shot or three in my spine, and if that doesn't work, under the knife. Then there's the very real chance surgery won't help anymore. I seriously can't handle this anymore. I am literally living half the year in pain and immobility, and an all-too-fleeting period where life could pass for somewhat normal. I am a miserable cuss to be around right now, I feel worthless, and anything I try to do to take my mind off it at all sometimes causes me more frustration. The poor pooches, who look forward to our nice long walks during the day, wonder where their big distractions went. There are things I need to fix outside before the shitty weather comes around to stay. And the little fun things I am actually able to do given my constraints are being nagged by discomfort. I just can't get a break.

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

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

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

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

*sigh*
greatbear: (jeff and me)
Jeff and I met 14 years ago on October 23, 2000. That was yesterday (Thursday). Until we got married, Oct. 23 was our "unofficial official" anniversary date, one we'd always celebrate with a dinner out. While our marriage date has become the "official" anniversary, we will continue to celebrate both days. Why? Well, because it's fun and nice and we get to have a special dinner in unusual places and we can get all sappy and lovey and just plain be happy. So, as has been our tradition all these years, we went out for dinner, trying to pick some place where we never had been before. As it turns out, we didn't have to travel more than about a mile from the the house to a restaurant that opened a couple years ago but one we had not explored yet, saving it for, well, a special occasion. Funny how that turned out. This new place, Sushi Tendou, turned out to be a delightful little Japanese steakhouse. The menu was packed with selections, and we were settling on some interesting things we never had before. Now, I'm not sure exactly why this happened, perhaps being a stone's throw from La Casa Mayhem, or the way that strange things seem to happen to me, but the system they have playing new age-y styled Oriental-tinged music begins playing a song very familiar to me, but one I had not heard in many years, "Midnight in Moscow," also known as "Moscow Nights." Why a Japanese steakhouse would begin playing a very Russian song in a light new age style is beyond me, and it took me a few seconds for the minor keys to register in my brain. Once that happened... I lost it.

This was my Mom's favorite song.

A little bit of history is needed. In the mid-1950s, Mom was settling into her life as an American citizen, having left stateside Army duty as a WAC during the Korean war, and starting to build a domestic life that eventually settled in Maryland not far from where I am today. She got married, Mom and Dad moving into a new home yet still remaining connected to the Army at nearby Ft. Meade. She had come a long way from her early life that began in Kiev, Russia. Around this time "Moscow Nights" was written, being initially penned in 1955 then reworked a bit to become what it is to this day. In 1956 the song was recorded for use in a documentary movie. The movie didn't get very far, but the song became unexpectedly popular. The song won an international song contest, and became popular worldwide, especially, oddly, in mainland China as well. My mother had become more than a tad homesick, as you would imagine, by the time she was settling down. Via shortwave radio, she heard the song first via Radio Moscow. A few years later, this undeniably Russian song was recorded by, of all things, a British jazz group called Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen, which had a U.S. hit that peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 right about the time I was born. So now this Russian song that made a circuitous trip from Mom's homeland and eventually finding it's way to our shores as a New Orleans-style jazz makeover, became permanently attached to me as well. In 1966, when she figured I was old enough to travel, Mom and I made our way back to Mother Russia, where I was shown off to her family. I actually remember quite a bit from back then. I was very big and strong for my age, and when Mom's mother asked what she was feeding me, she told her I ate a lot of oatmeal. It was then that I was introduced to Russian oatmeal. I think it was more like oats they fed to horses. Blecch! It was also the time I was introduced to Mom's old friend Alyosha, who worked with electronics and I believe was an aerospace engineer. He also spoke English and he and I hit it off immediately. He saw my very early precociousness with mechanical and electrical things, as well as my extreme interest with things that fly. He and I made several forms of paper airplanes, flying whirlygigs and other fluttering, twisting and soaring bits made from paper. By several, I mean lots. Hundreds, maybe more. We tried different things and tossed them from the window of Alyosha's high-up apartment. I don't know how many things were "designed" and flown from that window. but the street below looked like a parade had gone by. Paper littered the area like autumn leaves. Somewhere in La Casa is a Russian kid's book that I used to be able to read quite well from back in those days, though now I can only at best fake a Russian accent. More importantly, inside that book is a paper airplane that Alyosha made for me. Alyosha and I had a lot of fun. Much more importantly, he worked with me using some of his electronic and electrical bits he had at home. He convinced Mom that I had a natural talent for this sort of thing, to the point where he was practically astounded. He urged Mom to have me pursue these interests as my vocation. It was then she realized I was not taking my toys apart just to be destructive, but I was using the parts to make my own versions of my toys. I have vague memories of a lot of things Mom and I did on that trip, which took us not only to Russia, but had stopovers in Prague, London and I believe France. I got lots of interesting toys that may have strained Mom's meager wages, the one thing I remember well was a die-cast model of James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 from Thunderball, which was equipped with all the awesome gadgetry as the one in the film. I wish I still had it (it'd be worth a mint if mint), it was lost or stolen soon after I had gotten back home. Mom's beloved takeaway from the trip was a 78rpm recording of the original version of "Подмосковные вечера (Moscow Nights)" on the Russian state label Μелодия (Melodiya). That record remains safely ensconced in the record collections here. My life took a turn for the better on that trip, and upon coming back to the states, we began visiting hobby stores, and it was that time I discovered Radio Shack. That, dear readers, was my heaven. As things turned out, a seemingly agonizingly long 16 years later, I took an electronic engineering and test job which was involved in the building of fighter jets and radar systems. Funny that, from paper airplanes and little electrical and mechanical experiments to this. And from Russia with love, apparently.

Fast forward to last Thursday once again. Jeff was suddenly confronted with me doing a total 180 from our happy perusal of dozens of sushi and seafood items to me having a complete breakdown in less than five seconds. It took me a while to regain enough composure to tell him why and to ease his worried look. I was being bombarded with memories too fast to sort them all out, but I began rambling with stories from my deep past. I managed to gather myself up enough to give my order to the now somewhat concerned waitress then sat there awash in pleasant memories. Jeff said it was Mom's way of joining us for our special night. He's right, I suppose, and what better way to make an entrance. We had a very enjoyable meal, and added the little restaurant to our must-go-again-especially-with-friends list. And if the initial shock and aawww from hearing the song didn't make me feel there was something more to this special night, hearing it being played once again(!) just before we were finishing up kinda made it clear.

Happy Anniversary, Jeff.

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

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

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

I could get through this!

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

So, there's been a lot going on, and I had not been in a mood to write about it. As i kick the blast doors open which protected me from the world at large (and, more importantly, vice-versa), along with support from others, I hope to be back to my old, gregarious self. Concerts and shows will be attended, ball games enjoyed, parties gone to and maybe hosted, seeing people and making new friends, it's all been happening and will happen soon. I finally ordered up the new entrance door to La Casa, a new car for Jeff has been bought, lots of normal activities take place like, well, normal. And the happiness and security that all comes with is the best medicine I could ever have.
greatbear: (forearms)
Jeff came home early Thursday for a doctor's visit, the last few days he's been having mild flu-like symptoms. We made a trip together to the doc and tests seem to indicate it is viral in nature, so it is mostly a rest and wait it out situation. I went with him to see if there was anything I could help with at home, and to get an idea what it was, since chances are good I would get it too. I've been battling a form of exhaustion for a few days too, I can only do so much before I need to take a nap. Problem is, I sleep and nap during the day and by night time my body clock on its graveyard shift time zone keeps me awake. So, when Jeff along with By-Tor and the Snow Dog head to bed, I head into my little lab and fix stuff. This time I tackled my failing Dell 30" display. After a half hour of thermal testing the display lamp driver board I narrowed the trouble to what seemed like bad soldering in a 1 square inch section of the board. There is about three dozen components about the size of sesame seeds in that space, and out came the tiny iron and other tools I have for such work, including the 3.5-90x stereoscopic microscope I got for such things. After more thermal stress testing after the repair with good luck, I threw it back together and am now using it while creating this entry. I hope it holds out, I absolutely love this display, but I relegated it to lab bench PC duties. The irony here is the particular computer and display is connected to the aforementioned microscope. I could've had a nice panoramic view of the board on the display it it weren't the one in pieces under the scope!

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

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

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

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

Cheers, everyone!
greatbear: (jeff and me)
Despite my working in aerospace for over 30 years, and my childhood years on being a bit of an aircraft aficionado, I never tire of seeing promotional and action photography depicting what the aircraft are capable of. Being that I worked with warplanes and military craft the closest, our promo video showed a lot of really cool planes being totally awesome. I'm no warmonger, and I didn't like what some of these bits of handiwork would be involved in, but the flip side being many were used to protect our own people and allies. A good amount were also used in science, research and civilian fields. And there were the boring, workaday commercial aircraft that many mostly ignored. What is rarely seen outside of industry people and enthusiasts are promo films and video of those big commercial beasts outside the workaday world. Many people know of the Boeing (Boo! Our competitor!) 787, aka the Dreamliner. This in the newest, most technologically advanced commercial airliner ever built to date. Advanced materials, computer systems, powerful and efficient engines, it's got it all. While it's had some growing pains (pesky fires, structural issues, etc) not unlike any new plane, it's still one of the most anticipated and talked about airplane in years. Boeing is bringing the Dreamliner to the Farnborough Air Show in the U.K.. Before this big event, pilots gave the 787-9 a few test flights. This Boeing promo shows what the big gal is a capable of, without even breaking a sweat.



Amazing how something so big and otherwise utilitarian can look like it's light as a feather and maneuverable as a Cessna. I think it's one of the sleekest metal tubes in the air these days. Nice to see this bird with a chance to play before it begins its daily grind.

As for us? Well, we're off. Not flying, unfortunately, but instead, we're dragging the Travel Trailer of Mayhem up the coast to PTown for about a week and a half. This trip, planned last year, was so close to our wedding day that we are considering it as a honeymoon of sorts, but not the only one. Not sure yet what the real deal is, but I'm happy for this one. This time, I'm heading up in the middle of the night, with the traffic being lighter and, hopefully, little or no construction. Unlike our trips departing from Pennsyltucky, this is the first time in years we are heading up straight from MD. This should, with luck, get us up to Provincetown in the fairly early morning, were we then can set up, take disco naps and enjoy the afternoon in style.
greatbear: (jeff and me)
My how time flies when you are having fun. And it flies even faster it seems when one is very busy and there seems not enough time in a day to get everything done. My apologies for not updating everyone since our big day. It's almost two weeks ago, and yet it seems like just yesterday. We've had some time for things to "soak in" and to get a feel for any "changes." Well, in so many ways the days after don't appear any different. But for the two of us, there's a new feeling of belonging, of protecting, of being closer. Hard to describe, but it's definitely something. The days just after the wedding seem to be a blur. The cleaning up, the opening of gifts, the catching up on work set aside while we were tying the knot. The following weekend was July 4th/Independence Day. To beat the holiday traffic, we headed up to PA at zero dark-thirty Friday morning for our monthly visit with family there, despite many of them coming down the week before. Jeff really wanted to visit with his mom at the nursing home. We got there early to find her in good spirits. Since we got there earlier than we usually do, we spent our time with her before lunch, and we hung around as she had her meal. With Jeff's help, she ate heartily. He and I along with Dad concluded our visit as mom began to fall asleep, looking quite contented. Some of our visits in the past were quite depressing. This one was different. We hung out longer than we usually do. Everything seemed more upbeat, especially after Jeff told her that we had gotten married. Somehow, I have a feeling she understood.

Later that day we had a chance to meet the newest addition to my family. There, I said it. My family. With the loss of my mother, I had no more family I could truly call my own. No longer cast adrift, I now am part of a growing family. I guess that is one of those "different" feelings I have now that me and Jeff are married. No family is perfect, and mine (I said it again! Wow...) has some fraying at the fringes, but the core is solid, and I have more relatives than I ever had in my life. Anyway, sorry for the aside, but, well, something hit me as I was putting these words down. I also needed a couple tissues. Where was I... Ah, the new addition. Jeff's oldest niece, her husband and their adorable daughter (who was to be our flower girl) had been slated to join us for the wedding, but had to bow out, as she had just given birth to a beautiful little girl. The many pictures being sent and shared through Facebook can only go so far. We finally got to set eyes on the little gal, and she stole our hearts in an instant.

Meet Brooke:



Once again, Jeff and I are grand-uncles. Only a bit off from being grandpas. I have the perfect bald head and white beard for the role too, I suppose. But here we now have another focus for our love and attention. I couldn't be happier. Brooke is a delight and full of facial expressions. She's so tiny, barely more than a handful for me. But she snuggled in my arms and fell asleep, a contented look on her face not unlike we had seen earlier in the day. Our spirits lifted high, we headed back to dad's with smiles on our faces that I don't think have worn off completely even now.

We scooted home on Saturday afternoon, traffic-free and started bringing things back to normal at La Casa Mayhem. I've been sorting through pictures, wrestling with a new VPN/firewall/router as well as the (hopefully) final work on the LAN and PC upgrades for a while. Vehicles needed tending to, as well as some of the outdoor/garden equipment and the trailer. We finally got new cell phones, and Jeff finally meets the '10s head on as the proud owner of a smartphone. The rush begins anew as we get things done and ready for vacation. Yeah, PTown again, during Bear Week, but due to work constraints with Jeff, we won't get there until Thursday. We'll be saying through the week after, and we'll be running into quite a few of the folks who were down here with us on our big day. I keep saying we do PTown "in spite of" Bear Week, instead enjoying running across our extended friends and "family" during the days. I have a feeling we'll be enjoying ourself like we usually do, but with a little something extra. I won't know it until I sense it, and I'll try my best to share. It might be a bit late, but, well, that's me I guess. ;)

Looking up

Jun. 26th, 2014 10:54 pm
greatbear: (jeff and me)
Good news! I found my wallet. Bad news, I lost my beard. Well, a good bit of it, at least.

By tomorrow evening the yard will have more tents in it than if Cirque du Soleil were performing here.

The front door here at La Casa Mayhem is a rusty, ugly disaster. I had hoped to replace it before the big day, but I had to postpone that project a multitude of times due mostly to physical health issues. When I finally decided I was in good enough shape to tackle the project, when I tried to order it up, the lead time was too long. So, I bagged that project. Instead, I did a quick and dirty paint job to the door itself, the frame and sidelight. It took about half the day, since the paint was peeling furiously and it needed a lot of sanding and other prep work, but for a door assembly I plan on ripping out in a couple months, it looks damn good, better than I expected. I had to *try* not to obsess over the details like I am prone to do, just slap the paint on and be done. Now I won't have to be ashamed, and the rest of the outside entryway which I fixed up a couple years ago doesn't look shamed by the last remaining part that was to be replaced. It was embarrassing to see that pitiful entry to the house we've been working so hard on lately.

Right before I had found my wallet the other day, we were running errands (one of which was getting a replacement driver's license). We stopped at the dry cleaners to pick up Jeff's work duds and I walked over to the suspiciously quiet area which is our favorite local restaurant. It's a little Chinese place called Hunan House, it has been there for close to 30 years. I've eaten countless meals from there, everything from a lunch grabbed to eat while building the house here to sit-down meals with friends. Never had a bad meal in all that time. The staff got to know us by name, knew our favorites, always asked about how we were doing and what was going on in our lives, etc. To my utter dismay a sheet of paper was taped to the glass saying they were regretfully closing after all these years and thanked everyone for their years of patronage. I drove home sobbing. In fact, though finding my wallet did cheer me up somewhat (it was more like a big relief), losing our favorite haunt was like a kick in the groin.

Our friends that are joining us for our wedding begin to arrive tomorrow from out of state. We still have a lot of work to do, but it is now mostly the setting up and getting ready variety. Tomorrow morning I will put the final touches on the cleanup before putting away the pressure washers. A bit if the walks up front need to be cleaned, as do the two long asphalt drives. The carport is spotless; this is where the caterer will be set up. The Garage of Mayhem is looking beauteous, and the big concrete area in front is clean enough to eat off of. The trailer is in its rightful parking spot as well. I have to cram all the big equipment into the building tomorrow when I'm done, that should be a chore just by itself.

My back has been mostly holding up, but I have been trying my best not to overdo the exertion and whatnot, and sometimes failing that I get a not-so-gentle reminder that I am still a feeble old man. All I am hoping for is it holds up for our big day and for our PTown trip next month. After all that, I can truly take it easy. We need this vacation badly, and more than ever, it seems.

I can see light at the end of the tunnel, and this time it's not a speeding freight train.

Registered

Jun. 20th, 2014 12:40 am
greatbear: (jeff and me)
I am not one to solicit things from people, but I am doing this since a few people have asked if we had a wedding registry. At first, it wasn't going to be, but after being asked early on, and given our common use of Amazon.com for so much stuff, we put two and two together and I created a wedding registry for us there. Now, I am new to this in more ways than one. We originally were going to eschew (gesundheit!) any gifts for ourselves, however, for many, the gift is in the giving. I am in that camp as well, I like to be generous in any way I can, it's how I was raised, after all. I myself don't like to be denied the opportunity to give of myself, and such is the case with more than just a few of our friends as well. That being said, Jeff and I have been trying to come up with various items we could use. As I said before, I am new to this, and once I figured out how to get it going, it should be easy. Well, it's tough to think of desired gifts. We've been slowly adding to the list. It hasn't been without a humorous side effect though. Adding a registry to my account also added an extra button on every product page. I use a wish list to bookmark items to compare and to hold off until later. Well, the registry button took the original position of the wish list, and by accident I had been adding all sorts of totally unlikely "wedding gifts" to the registry. Tools, computer parts, hardware, car stuff, you name it. Jeff wondered why some odd shit was there and I had to laugh. I took most of it out but left a couple things there for the laugh value. I mean, a receiver hitch for the car? Heck, we are getting hitched... lmao

So, here it is. Our wedding registry. We'll be thinking of stuff to add as the day grows near.
greatbear: (jeff and me)
Today Jeff and I had one of our most productive errand-based type of day. He started earlier than I, going to work as usual while the sun itself was still snoring away. I got up before the dogs bothered to squirm about in the bed to get me up, whereupon Jeff came home and took me to one of my myriad doctors for more jamming of needles and chemicals into my spinal column. After that, we headed up to the auxiliary courthouse building to get our marriage license. We got a bit confused because the building didn't look right, and I tried in vain to get my now-worthless smartphone (Thanks, Obama Verizon!) to work, making me frustrated and beating it on the dash. We stopped at Wendy's for a breakfast/lunch (it was lunch as far as food type) while I waited for the several reboots of the phone in order to get more details of where to go. After the meal, we headed back to the sprawling government building, where we found the marriage license department first off. The process was remarkably easy and quick, aided by every one of the office staff genuinely happy and congratulatory over and above courteous and helpful the entire time. As we finished up in the last minute, and gave our thank-yous among the well wishing, it really started to hit us. Both of us were trying and failing to hold back happy tears as we left the building.

From there, it was to the Mall in Columbia (Don't call it The Columbia Mall), for wedding and vacation clothing. I'm not fond of clothes shopping at all, but today, buoyed by our almost giddiness, we had fun with it. Bonus points for both of us getting smaller clothes this time as well (I haven't worn a 34 waist in probably 34 years). I managed to get some loud shirts and shorts for vacation(s) among more sensible stuff, and had an uncharacteristically good time doing so. We were also there for giftage for the wedding "crew", but our initial idea had gotten way too expensive and impractical when we inquired about the personalization. I'm way too practical, and our initial idea did kinda fly in the face of the practicality, and it hit with the force of a slushball in a heavy winter snow when we got specifics. We discovered that several very unique stores had opened in an outside area next to the mall and we went exploring. We hit the jackpot. I told Jeff that I think we just found our "practical gifts" and his face lit up like mine. The deal was done, and we pick up the goodies tomorrow. I have a neat idea for personalization too.

From there we put the final monies down on the wedding cake and cupcakes, plus another gift addition for the "crew." The bakery came up while I was making small talk on the operating table at the doctor's, as the x-ray tech and the doctor were familiar with the place, and the tech told me of the little, slightly run-down little convenience grocer in the same area that had good deli salads. So, I wrapped up the day by picking up some of the homemade macaroni and potato salad before heading home. The salads accompanied some mega tuna melts I made on the panini grill/press in an effort to give Jeff a break from cooking. We ate our dinner on the deck, continuing the nearly non-stop talking and planning and still frustrating things that still need taking care of. The next couple weeks will be insanely busy. I hope my back can withstand the rather serious labor I'm about to put it through (hence the trip to the doc today) as the deck, house and gazebo get pressure washed, the front door, frame and sidelights replaced, deck repairs, house and yard cleaning, landscaping and other stuff to make our paradise just that for our big, big day.

Outside the courthouse I attempted a selfie of us. I botched it in my nervous glee, and a couple going in for their license, despite taking our pic with the phone, didn't manage to do it right. so this is what we have.



As the cool kids say, shit just got real.
greatbear: (me and mom)
Happy Mother's Day.

A mom is someone that everyone has. How your relationship with your mother (or father, for that matter) develops once you've squeaked your way into this cold cruel world just as you were getting comfortable in your underwater oasis can take many turns. I was lucky to have a mom that made sure I was never hungry, never unloved, never without a roof over my head. My father, not so much, but this is not the day for that. I literally lost my world of all my prior decades when I lost Mom. I still feel great pains of loss at seemingly inappropriate times. With spring finally putting on a show here, lots of very early memories, sparked by sights, sounds and especially scents take me instantly back to my youngest days, where I didn't have the cares and worries I have as an increasingly broken, middle-aged man. No, these little moments are tiny vignettes of days of play, of sunshine, of meals made on shoestring budgets with the utmost of care, of literally being the man of the house starting at age 5, of exploring, of learning about the world and its good and bad, of falls and spills and bicycle accidents and the best medical care ever delivered while sitting on the edge of the bathtub, of happiness, of trust, and of love. Just when I think time is being cruel and robs me of something, the ol' memory banks get triggered and I am back in my fondest of places.

I sincerely wish everyone's Mother's Day could be like this.
greatbear: (jeff and me)
Well, just as I had promised by not seeing my shadow on my birthday, winter has been a PMSing bitch along its last six weeks of existence. Jeff got called Sunday afternoon to head down to the hotel near the hospital in preparation for the winter nastiness, and plans on being there until Tuesday afternoon along with other essential personnel keeping the patients fed and cared for. Yeah, I'm bummed some, but it did come off of a four-day weekend with lots of accomplishments and fun. We saw BOOK OF MORMON at the Hippodrome (Latin for "Horse Arena") theater in Baltimore Saturday evening, our sides are still practically sore from laughter. I had a friend come over yesterday to help me run network cabling in La Casa Mayhem, and I've been generally busy if not held back by pain trying to get on with daily life, at least my version of it. All this goodness became soaked in rain and sleet before turning into snow overnight, whereupon I woke (late) to yet another picturesque winter scene. I plan on tackling this latest mess tomorrow morning. In the meantime, By-Tor, the Snow Dog and I will have what is likely our last days of snowy fun and frolic. They love it, becoming a white cloud of snarling, yapping energy chasing about in the yard.

Now, for those who made it past the seasonal visuals, I must let it be known that Jeff and I have been very busy with some very important preparations that will culminate in an implosion of extreme fabulousness and celebration at the end of June, and I invite all who are reading this to please make yourself part of the festivities with us. Jeff and I are getting married on June 28! I know that I know many if not most of you reading only via the interwebs, but I sill consider you as family, and would love for you to attend. If you desire to be a part of the nuptials, along with with an incredible catered food extravaganza all being held here at Mayhem Acres in Maryland, drop me a PM with your address and the names of anyone else you'd like to accompany you and I will send you an invitation with additional details and RSVP card. It's gonna be a good time, guaranteed.

Yes, I've been a bit cagey with hints and details in the past, but that's my nature. I want this to be a fun event, open to all. I also have to overcome a bit of personal fears as well, and I think that has been progressing well. No fears about being wed to Jeff, mind you, that's a given and not subject to pause. No, my problem is associating it to the greater world of friends and family. As a pretty serious introvert I have some issues, but I want to cast them to the wind while having the most important day in my life, which I swore for nearly half a century that I would never get to experience for myself. So please, be a part of it. It's a huge reason to celebrate!
greatbear: (forearms)
Every coupla months Jeff has to work on a weekend as a manager on duty (at an Adventist hospital in the food service/nutritional specialties department, this is where the food for both the patients and employees/visitors is made. Plus I get to poke fun at Jesus on (their) sabbath. :-) My Sabbath is the Ozzy-Dio variety). While it does muck up the weekends, it can be a plus, as he gets to select the days off to compensate in many cases. He was home on Friday, and went in today and will head in on Sunday. Every now and then I will take a trip and join him for lunch. This time, after eating, he put me to work! I made up cost analysis spreadsheets, helped count money, looked into repairing some very expensive chafing dishes... I felt like a cross between a secretary and handyman. Working on my Saturday even. I didn't mind a bit. It got me outta the house for several hours, the ride was nice, and I finished up the trip with a visit to Home Depot.

Now I get to put more work into the major network overhaul here at La Casa Mayhem.
greatbear: (jeff and me)
Sometimes life throws you some lemons.

We didn't make any plans for Valentine's Day. We rarely do, and in those rare occasions where we do, it usually is a quiet night at home. Not worth trying to find a restaurant with the crowds and bustle, etc.. For this year, it was just as well we didn't plan anything, after all, there was the nasty storm that lasted for two days, dumping over a foot of snow on us and forcing Jeff to take up residence at a hotel for two nights close to work because he is essential personnel. I waited until today to tackle literally tons of wet snow, made worse by the rainy, sleety intermission yesterday afternoon between two furious acts of crystalline white horror. The dogs as well as myself suffering a bit of cabin fever as well as missing the major component that makes our little unconventional (yet still totally valid) family a complete, happy unit.

It then appeared things weren't so bad after all.

The weather today was bright and sunny, and, especially considering the snow situation, downright warm. So warm in fact, were it not for the blowback from the snowblower, I could've quite comfortably cleared all the snow in my t-shirt and jeans. I let the dogs out, who had lots of fun running, chasing and carousing in the snow. I dispatched all of the snow from the driveways and the walks, along with some paths from the house, garage and woodshed, saving the three foot high snowbank left by the plowing of the street for last, a means to keep the dogs corralled. As I was just finishing up, I ran over a branch that was hidden in the snow that jammed the augers and broke a shear pin. I was essentially stuck, with about eight feet or so of snow to get through till my freedom, but instead I had to jostle and wrestle the 350 pound machine manually through the snow. I made it, putting the machine in the garage and assessing the damage. I couldn't remember where I put the spare pins (these are made to break in cases just like this, it save the transmission in the machine from damage, instead breaking a sacrificial, two dollar pin). I head back into the house to take off my wet clothes and finally get something to eat, and the phone rang. It was Jeff, coming home early from work. Perfect timing, I got the driveways and walks cleared for his safe arrival. I greet him at his truck in my underwear (he practically dared me) where he surprised me with a beautiful flower arrangement. Picture a man wearing a t-shirt and tighty-whities standing amongst a foot or more or rapidly melting snow trying best not to cry and failing. That was me.

We talked about what to do this evening. I needed to go and get parts for the snowblower (there's potential for even more snow). He needed to take his clothes to the cleaner in order to have them ready Saturday. There are restaurants not far from the Home Depot. It's not even four o'clock yet. Bingo! Honey, I'm taking you out for Valentine's Day dinner. And off we went.

My mother used to always say to me through the years, "Things have a way of working out." Well, today was a perfect example of just that. An interesting convergence of seemingly unrelated events major and minor. Circumstances that aligned just right to make for a very pleasant, surprising outcome. I got my parts, we had a nice dinner, and got back with plenty of time to avoid the traffic, crowds and whatnot and still enjoyed our quiet night at home.

Life tossed a few nice, ripe lemons our way. But it made for some rather sweet lemonade after all. Or perhaps lemon snowcones, as the case may be.
greatbear: (walken)
I'm currently sitting in the bowels of Ice Station Mayhem watching the temperature outside drop with every glance at the thermometer. It's currently 4 degrees F, and still steadily dropping. The house is toasty warm, with the woodstove working at near blast furnace levels thanks to the howling winds outside causing the flue to draw like crazy and fanning the fire. I have the electric heater on in the basement workshop where I was prior, and here in the infrastructure bunker the computers alone have the otherwise unheated room at a balmy 84. I don't envy Jeff having to head out in the crackling cold at 5am, the temperature being predicted into the negatives possibly by then, and a high of a steamy 17 for our Tuesday. Brrr! My Russian heritage normally has me tolerating even rather extreme cold, but ever since my first back surgery, it's taken a while for me to regain that tolerance while recovering. Add in creeping old age, and I prefer warmth more than ever. I have another round of PT tomorrow afternoon, so I can shake my cane at Old Man Winter if necessary.

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

N. B. It seems LJ has been lazy with comment notifications with me lately, I didn't realize my last few posts had collected a fair amount of comments until tonight. I'll probably be going into my previous posts and answering some of them. Damn Russians!
greatbear: (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.
greatbear: (seasons greetings)
Jeff and I hustled up to his hometown on Saturday, it was our last chance to be with his family before Christmas, being that the holiday falls in the middle of the week this year and Jeff couldn't get time off for the real thing. He was also determined to visit his mom in the nursing home as well. The last few visits we found her pretty much not sure of who we were. Earlier in the week I was daydreaming as I am wont to do a lot these days. I was hoping his mom would be a bit more "herself", unlikely as that would ever be, for just this time as a Christmas present to Jeff. When we arrived at the home, mom was just finishing up having lunch. We watched her from the big windows around the cafeteria as the nurse went in to bring her out. When the nurse pointed to us outside the window to tell her she had visitors, we saw her say, plain as day, "that's my son." I could barely contain my glee, and Jeff was ecstatic. We sat with her in a side room, presented her with the xmas gift we brought, which was a lap blanket to help keep her comfy. She held the box tight as we helped her open it up, she looked at and touched the blanket and seemed, at least to me, like she was trying to process what was going on. We all sat and talked for a while, then me, dad, and Jeff's sister left to go and get a little something for the nursing home staff, for all their work and care, while Jeff and mom had a chance to sit quietly together by themselves. At the shopping center across the highway from the home, we found a gigantic box of Whitman's chocolates. The trek in and out of the home plus to and from the store as well as the shopping took a toll on me, and I sat in the truck with the pooches as dad and sis took the gift in for the staff. Jeff returned with everyone soon after, with an undeniably happy look on his face. While we were out, Jeff had turned on the little stereo in the activity room we had been in, and Jeff and his mom quietly listened to Christmas music together. He had given the staff the chocolates, which they were thrilled to receive. It seems not a lot of people consider all the work that staff does, and visitors probably don't bring much to them as far as gifts or tokens of appreciation. I have a feeling more than a few of the residents are forgotten this time of year, as unfortunate as that truly is. We could never be like that.

Later that day, Jeff's niece, her hubby and their adorable little one came up for an early Christmas with all of us. We had picked up a little Disney Princess powered three-wheel scooter for our little grand-niece, and she was thrilled to get it. Once assembled, she rode it around the basement and was having a blast. It was also the chance for Jeff's niece to break the news to dad that she is pregnant once again (we already knew). To do this, she got a jar of Prego tomato sauce, stuck a post-it with the word "I'm" above the Prego name and a copy of the sonogram below. Once dad figured it out, it appeared he already knew, which is not surprising given the gossipy nature of small towns like theirs. If all goes well, we will have a new addition to the family in or around early June. Dad was happy to get some tomato sauce too.

One Sunday, we, along with Jeff's sister, hubby, and two boys, had our early Christmas dinner together. It was also nice because the oldest was home from college for the holidays, so we got a chance to catch up. Even our pooches had some fun, especially when sis and company brought their little ankle-biter over and Snickles and her chased each other around the house having a blast. After all the fun, food and frolic, we headed back home to the land of Mayhem where Jeff watched his Dallas Cowboys squeak out a win while he yelled obscenities and cheered touchdowns on the teevee. Our dinner at home was more sandwiches and snacks rather than anything official, given we already had a big meal mid-day. The evening is quiet now, as I sit in the Mayhem Bunker writing this while a new PC for the lab bench gets set up, filled with updates and more updates, and gets my standard loadset of software. A little bit of music rounds it all out.

Indeed, sometimes life is good.

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.

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Phil

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