Nine years

Jun. 29th, 2015 12:22 pm
greatbear: (me and mom)
Yesterday marked one year of wedded bliss between Jeff and myself. Much more happiness and oh-so-cool levels of awesomeness from not only the day before with the WIN at SCOTUS, but even more so seeing quite a few couples here, not to mention countless others everywhere else getting married on our same day. We're proud to be a part of the "anniversary surge" that will inevitably occur.

As such things go in my life, with much celebration also comes much sadness. Today marks the ninth year from the day I lost my mother to cancer. I know she would be enthusiastically taking part in all this celebrating were she still with us. It was quite by accident as we were planing our big day and how it best would fit in with the plans of ourselves and our guests. It was only after we had gained some momentum that I realized these two dates fell next to each other. As it turned out, because of the slip-up, a good part of our wedding celebration was made to include a tribute to our moms, who couldn't be there with us in the seats, but who were definitely there is everyone's hearts.

I miss you so much.
greatbear: (me and mom)
I know not everyone has the best of relationships with their mothers, I was fortunate enough to have the greatest mom ever, in so many words. It's pushing nine years since I lost her to cancer, and I still get upset at times, as though it just happened. I miss her so much.

I was fortunate enough fifteen years ago to be accepted into Jeff's family, with his mom and dad treating me like one of their own from the get-go. Jeff and I make it a point to head north and visit for both Mother's and Father's Days. Last year, in the legal sense, Jeff's family became mine when we got married (here's another take on "for better and for worse" being that some of the extended family are, to say it nicely, not easy to live with). Mother's Day is a somber sort of affair, since she's now deep in the grip of Alzheimer's disease and is pretty much off in her own tiny world. Every now and then we will be treated to a little ray of light from that tiny world.

I've been fortunate enough to have two moms, but having lost one and now having one so far out of reach, this day gets harder and harder to take.
greatbear: (aerial me)
That famous holiday, a favorite for the florists, chocolatiers, restaurants, candy makers, wineries, Hallmark and others, has come and gone. I hope everyone was able to make the best of it, and didn't fall into the "Singles Awareness Day" negativity. Valentine's Day can be whatever you make it. A coworker from years ago would get gag chocolates from another friend who worked at the company. It was a highlight of his day.

This week had been a downer for me, as it happened every year. My Mom's name was Valentine, and being that her birthday is four days prior, we used it as an extra day for something nice. Mom would say that my birthday fell on a holiday, so she was in her right to claim the next closest for hers, and none other would be more appropriate. Yeah, it was in the realm of silliness, but it was our little bit of fun. About two weeks apart, we had out own personalized days, mine thanks to that weather prognosticating critter from Pennsylvania, of course.

For whatever reason(s), the last week or so has been rougher than usual on me. Another winter in a row filled with constant pain and the side effects of narcotics play a part, so does the colder-than-usual weather, feelings of uselessness for greater than in the past, getting one more year older, I could go on. I've mostly salvaged the days for the better, and today seemed to be no different. Jeff had been asked to be a personal chef for some friends of mine. It seems he and his partner have decided to change up some things in their lives, and coupling that with buying some sort of business, he asked Jeff to take a shot at helping them entertain in a little bit more formal fashion. Tomorrow is the gig, a sort of test run for them as well as Jeff. We went to Wegman's today to pick up the fresh ingredients for the meal as well as our own weekly supplies. Well, wasn't the store a total mob scene, with the typical batches of self-absorbed Columbia patrons that normally tend to block aisles and snarl traffic with their carts and clustering, except at least three if not more the usual number of them. We didn't get into the store for more than two minutes before declaring it to be an absolute disaster, with Jeff's already busy mind planning the event and being more easily frustrated as a result, I put the single loaf of bread I managed to pick up on entering the store back on the rack and we both went back home. I went for a nap, and apparently Jeff did the same in order to cool off. After a while he went to our local supermarket instead, with me staying behind this time. I said we should just take care of this gig tomorrow and deal with our bit some other day. I conked out again while he made his run. Just as well we put off our grocery run, as our mostly empty fridge became filled with food for the party. Because of the setback, we ended up changing our dinner plans. We had picked up a really nice rack of lamb and other stuff to have for our VDay dinner. Because Jeff had to do prep for tomorrow, and I didn't want to overburden him with even more kitchen mayhem, I made us dinner for the night. My appetite has been shot for months now, and rather than attempting to enjoy an involved meal after a day of stress (and pain for me) we had a nice, relaxing meal of sandwiches and soup and chips and samples of tomorrow's big dinner. And you know what? For that moment, it was just as good as that lamb dinner would've been. If all goes well, we will have our postponed dinner in the early evening on Monday.

I ended up being more than a bit on the cranky side today, anyway. I know, what else is new. I slept worse than usual the night before, with the weather alert radio going off four times in the middle of the night, warning of high winds and extreme windchill from the nasty weather system currently beating up the northeast. During most of the day, the weather was very calm, and a late afternoon snow had begun once Jeff returned from the store. So much for all the noise that kept me up the previous night. Jeff couldn't get a couple items while out, the store was out. So I did the deed going to another grocer nearby. There was already a couple fluffy inches of snow everywhere, and during the short time I was out, perhaps 15 minutes or so, the snow had erased all the signs of me leaving the house. The footprints, the dry area where the truck had been, the tracks on the street were completely gone. I had recently bought a little cordless snowblower to keep the walkways and deck clean, and I've been jonesing to use it since. Knowing how my actions here at home can affect statewide weather patterns, buying this snowblower as well as getting the big monster blower all set for use at a moment's notice meant there was a good chance our area would remain snow-free. Sure enough, though it amounted to maybe three inches of accumulation before stopping, the long-promised wind had finally shown up as well, and unless there's going to be some drifting, my maiden voyage of the new toy snowblower might end up being a disappointment. I love how technology is blasting ahead in so many ways. For years, I used an electric snowblower to keep the decks clean. I used to shovel the snow from the deck, and I had engineered in a means to make this task a bit easier. The railings have a six inch space between them and the deck floor. All that is needed is to push the snow off the edge rather than heaving it over the top. I hadn't considered what would happen to the snow once pushed off the deck. Being a story in the air, and with bushes and shrubs below, the snow would crash onto the plants and break them. So, I had gotten a little electric blower to fling the snow well beyond the area of the plants, with the bonus of giving Mom something very easy to use as well. A couple years ago, though, I inadvertently ran over a stray bungee cord hidden in the snow, and it wrapped around the spinning axle and blade. The resulting friction melted the plastic housing and the bearing mount. In my attempts to cut the tangled rubber with a utility knife and slicing open three fingers quite badly, the damaged blower has been sitting in the basement since, waiting for me to fix it. Last year became the time that cordless, battery operated outdoor tools such as lawnmowers, edgers, trimmers and even chainsaws and snowblowers had finally matched the power of corded electric and even some gas engine powered equivalents. I decided replacing the old corded blower with this new cordless thing would be even easier for me to use than the old one. It's lighter, I don't have to bend over and pick up the icy cord, and it's even more maneuverable. I really, really detest not being able to do even a fraction of the tasks I would think nothing of. I've been spending a lot of money on effort-reducing things to help me along. And I am that fucking stubborn to want, nay, need to continue doing some stuff on my own. I mean, I already am burdening Jeff with a lot of things. And this is a man that suffered a heart attack not long ago. I have to pull as much of my own weight as I can, no matter any consequences. And I absolutely can't change that.

Since I'm in the social media space here, I can talk about things I can change. I'll be cleaning up my LJ presence, streamlining it some, perhaps freshening things a bit. I paid for it, so I might as well use it. This will remain my primary point of presence on the net. I already ditched a lot o other things, and those remaining, like Facebook, will most likely only have links to here rather than any substantial posts over there. I have gone on a lot about how I don't like FB and how it handles information. Sadly, most, if not all of the people I knew from LJ have migrated over there, and seem to have lessened their once detailed posting for lighter fare. The remaining few that have continued their long-form posting style have ended up being boxed in by the format of other social media, and more often than not, I never see these posts because Facebook decides to let me see what they think is important, and not what I want to see. A good many if not all of my posts are not seen by anyone there at all, once again due to how the site works and not including my stuff in what others might want to read. Of course, I can pay the fucker(berg) to put my posts in the streams of friends. Nah, never going to do that. If people really care, they'll come looking.

Tonight the wind is howling outside, gusts so far at least 30mph. And it is only 8 degrees F as I write this. However, we are reaping some of the benefits of my earlier work last year. The drafty front door is gone, the cold air that used to come in through the recessed lighting in the kitchen is gone too. These were the most major air infiltration points upstairs, and there is a big difference in comfort levels as well as energy usage. As I write I am also babysitting the upstairs woodstove, keeping it filled with wood and making it undeniably cozy. When the wind blasts outside like it does, it blows across the chimney and creates a vacuum. This "turbocharges" the draft through the stove and makes the fire burn very hot. The stove has a catalytic converter, similar to the ones in cars. This captures and burns unburned smoke and gasses from the wood fire, and adds to the heat. The studio here is a balmy 80 degrees. Snickles, who never misses a chance to sleep under the covers with us, is instead parked in front of the stove hearth. A warm dog in winter is a content dog, that's for sure. Since having these damn spine troubles, my legs absolutely can't take the cold anymore. I park a little space heater under the desk to keep them warm, also so I can keep the rest of the house cooler. I don't need it now. This was also planned way back when I was designing and building the house. A woodstove was intended as a form of backup heat and as an occasional thing to use, like a fireplace. It didn't take long to find out the stove is much more enjoyable in the winter than previously thought. And on a night like this, it's one of the few things that make me feel secure and happy in a time where I feel less of these things.

Anyhow, I've rambled on enough for one night. I hope everyone has some way of escaping the cold if it's currently causing grief. And I hope you had a good Valentine's Day. Even if the highlight was only sandwiches.

ETA: I almost forgot to include this lovely little ad for the holiday. It's from a Spanish department store chain called El Corte Ingles (colloquially: The Tailor's Cut) As such, it's in Spanish, but you don't need to speak the language to tell what's going on. Click the "CC" button on the bottom right of the frame to turn on English subtitles) If you click the YouTube button on the bottom right of the frame, it will take you to YouTube itself, where you can also see it closed captioned. Do what I initially did. Watch it in Spanish, and see if you got the gist of the story. My Spanish is rustier than the Titanic, and I got pretty close. Love knows no language barriers anyway. The guys are adorable, with an awkward, dorky charm that's nearly squee-worthy.

greatbear: (me and mom)
Happy birthday, Mom. Still miss you so much.
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: (me and mom)
For someone who has problems getting around and has to work on anything that involves standing or exertion on a 15 minute on/15 minute off work cycle, I seem to have quite a few irons in the fire. The door project spawned several concurrent sub-projects, which was actually planned for the most part. What wasn't necessarily planned was how many sub-projects ended up being spawned from this main one. The good news is I am finally putting to use a lot of the supplies I had gotten in the past. The only thing I could say that is bad about it is slows down the individual pieces of the puzzle as a whole. I don't mind this in the least, because the concurrent bits are taking less time by far than if they were done piecemeal. I brainstorm along the way, and discover ways to make things work better and build-in paths for future upgrades and easier maintenance. For example, I've had an alarm system for the house I bought all the way back around 1995. I'm finally installing it. I hid the sensor for the door in the frame, and ran the cabling for it since I had the wall apart. Yesterday I hid a conduit in the closet so I had an easy way to run wiring from the basement (where all the brains are) into the attic. So today I was able to connect the little dome camera above the door into the switches in the basement in record time. I should've done this years ago. I gave it a test run tonight, and I am beyond pleased. I have full-HD, 3-megapixel, bulbous video:



The camera does not have "night vision" using infrared LEDs as an invisible floodlight. But the automation system will turn on the light above the door as someone approaches, and if things are set to do so, a pic can be taken and sent to wherever I am, and this also starts a video recording. If it's someone I know, and they need to get into the house, I can unlock the door from across the country (or planet, for that matter, wherever I can get interwebs) and lock it when they leave. It has been a lot of fun messing with this stuff. I do the noisy work during the day, and when Jeff hits the sack early in order to get up a 0dark30, I can quietly fiddle with the electronic end of it. While everything does tie together in one way or another, if the automation were to go on the fritz, everything can work manually, and life is the same as it usually is. Having had unfortunate delays for years that kept me from doing these things earlier meant that technology has improved immensely, and not only is this sort of stuff mure capable and reliable, it's much easier to install and integrate.

Things weren't all peaches and cream, though. I hopped into the MINI to run a couple errands and I noticed the passenger's seat was wet. I then noticed the window was slightly open. Okay, no biggie, it's been raining like crazy lately, close the window. All it did was squeak and move a a fraction of an inch. I tried to lower it, and it went maybe an inch at best. Then it wouldn't go back up. Even wrestling with the glass didn't help much. So, now I have an unexpected little project. Strange that it's the passenger's side, which doesn't get used nearly as much. This also makes i the first real problem I've had with that car in over 11 years. I did have some minor problems when I first got the car that were taken care of under warranty, and last year I replaced the speakers because the ones in front failed. So today I have been drying out the car and will look into it during the weekend. Most likely it's the window lift mechanism. I would have simply parked the car on the carport where it normally sits off season to keep the rain out until I can fix it later, but the trailer is parked in the way. I'd rather fix it and be done with it.

The one thing that really took the wind out of my sails happened the other day. Since I needed to get into the entryway closet to not only install the conduit, but also do some serious cleaning and prep for the new floor. Inside the closet was a few of Mom's coats, most of which ones that I had yet to find a good home for. One of them was one I was keeping, it was a mink-trimmed coat she had gotten around 1970. She was very proud of this coat, since we were not well-to-do in my earlier years, she had scrimped and saved to buy this one thing to make her feel a bit more elegant. When I pulled the coat out, I noticed a hole. My first thought was that moths had gotten in and chewed on it. Upon further inspection I found the right sleeve has been totally destroyed by a mouse, who nested in it and chewed away the better part of the sleeve and even some of the fur trim. I completely lost it. I wanted to just throw everything away at that point. After a while I regained a bit of composure, but my will was shot and my enthusiasm for the projects was dashed. There is absolutely no hope for the old coat now, so I will cut off the remaining fur trimmings and toss the rest. I've had a fair share of "physical memories" like this ruined over the years, mostly from outside forces. And it reopens old wounds, puts me mentally is a dark, cold place, and my willingness to be outgoing and to do things becomes impossible. I eventually recover, but momentum is slow to build once again.

I am hoping that progress and my limited mobility keep improving, or at least maintain their current state. We have a lot of plans and trips for the very near future, and Jeff needs a huge break too. My work is giving me pleasure for the most part, and we could use some downtime fun.

In the spirit of my 2.8mm wiiide-angle view, it seems ol' Homestarrunner and gang are back for the first time since 2008 with a new cartoon.

Happy weekend, everyone!
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: (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.

Pink tears

Feb. 24th, 2014 09:41 pm
greatbear: (half awake)
Why is it I can hear a song a million times, have minimal reactions to it for the most part, but suddenly have it hit me like a ton of bricks on a speeding train falling off a bridge? It happened today, and the song was Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here." Mind you, I've had the album since it came out in 1975. I used to play the guitar parts by recording myself on tape then following along the same way the song does at the intro, singing in my terrible voice all the way through. I know all the words. I know the meaning, which is basically missing someone or feelings of loss, as Roger Waters wrote as he and the rest of the Floyds lamenting the departure of band-mate Syd Barrett due to increasing mental breakdowns. Yet here I was, being domestic during the day and taking the opportunity to give a high-dB listening to my recently purchased Wish You Were Here Immersion box set. I had the 2009 5.1-channel mix playing while I did various tasks and cleaned the living room. When the subject song came on in full surround splendor, as "Have a Cigar" sucked itself into tinny nothingness and into the opening segment with the radio being tuned among the static, until the now famous guitar lines are found was coming from the back surround speakers, with the harmonizing "lead" feeling as if it was in the middle of the front of the room. I dropped what I was doing and sat on the Swiss exercise ball I use for my back rehab. And I sat there dumbstruck at first, slightly swaying by the all-so-familiar lyrics.

I then began bawling my eyes out.

I thought of how I lost Mom, and how I lost so many good friends over the years, even my long-gone pets. This entirely too familiar piece of music, albeit one of my favorites, took on a new life and feeling as it swept me into a totally not unpleasant trip through my thoughts. Even Snickles, who was playful and carrying on not a moment before, sat for a moment watching me staring blankly into the room with tear-filled eyes before standing between my knees and gripping my one leg in a kind of hug with his head tight in my lap for the rest of the song. He's never done that before. It might've been a painful five-and-a-half minutes in some ways, but it was wonderfully cathartic, completely unexpected and it left me with a warm, comfortable feeling for the remainder of the day. Jeff came home and I played some of the other tracks from the set, including the original quadraphonic mix not heard since it was originally released on Quad LP and 8-track. Even Jeff didn't mind the half-kilowatt plus of amplified goodness while he was making dinner. He usually tells me to turn the music down when he gets home after a long day at work. For Jeff, it was a chance for him to relive a wonderfully relaxing moment we had at Hillside along with some friends we've since lost touch with. It was a quiet night, alongside the creek that runs through the lower part of the campground. I had my iPod filled with lots of Pink Floyd, and we played this as well as DSotM at an elevated volume enjoying the solitude the moment brought us.

Ah, memories.

greatbear: (me and mom)
Today would've been Mom's 88th birthday. While time has indeed soften the edge of loss, it doesn't take a lot to bring me into that sad, cold feeling of loss. The first half of this month, in fact, once a personal period of happiness in our tiny family, with my birthday, then hers, topping off with Valentine's Day by simple fact that Valentine was Mom's first name (it's pronounced "Valentina," but an error in translation/spelling when she came to the states in the early 50s made the unique spelling stick, not such a bad thing really) makes a good excuse to have another celebration day. After all, I get Groundhog Day by dint of sharing my first name with a certain weather prognosticating furrball in Pennsyltucky, so why not make cozy wintertime hay with it? As one might expect, coupling these days of yore and the pleasant memories they had entailed with the remaining cold, grey winter and my disabilities and pain puts me into a bit of a funk. I try my best to push on, remembering all the good stuff, quietly playing records I haven't spun in decades, surrounding myself with the two little pooches who obviously sense something, and waiting till Jeff gets home. We went out for a nice little dinner at a local place, and some more minor parts had arrived while we were out that pertain to the IT infrastructure at Mayhem Acres, so while Jeff studies for a seminar tomorrow, I am down in the bowels of electronic underpinnings of La Casa putting the final touches on a new server, listening to obscure prog rock and classical and trying to keep myself composed. It's all I really can do these days, as Spring slowly arrives in six more weeks, more attention will be focused on some very important changes here and the frigid grey funk a memory.

I lost Mom nearly 8 years ago, but her birthday will always be a special day for me. I celebrate with her spirit that lives on around me.
greatbear: (me and mom)
I'll miss you always, Mom.

Triggers

Jun. 18th, 2013 12:34 am
greatbear: (me and mom)
We had a busy weekend, Jeff and I. I had planned on doing more yard work but I needed to fix the car, plus I ended up doing a lot of work on a friend's car as well. Jeff did work outside and around the house, plus made a nice dinner of baby back ribs on the grill which we ate outside in beautiful weather. Sunday rolled around and I was able to to some more stuff outside, having to take time and pull the carburetor off one of the lawnmowers because it was acting flaky from dirt inside. Jeff made a pot roast, searing it first and making the house smell wonderful before braising it in the oven. I was still outside doing all manner of things and came in later. I walked into the kitchen to get a drink and stopped dead in my tracks. The kitchen was enveloped in the aroma of the pot roast as it was nearly finished cooking, and I was immediately hit with a flood of memories of Mom and all of her wonderful meals. I quietly bawled my eyes out for a few moments, collected myself and went along with my business. Later, as Jeff was getting dinner onto the table, I told him what had transpired earlier. He said the same happened with him, he couldn't help but think of all those meals with his family. The schmoopy feelings were good ones, of course, and I wouldn't change it for the world. Funny how my rather copious schnozz tends to trigger so many memories at the most unlikely moments. Of course, my thoughts have been drifting in that direction a lot lately, I lost Mom in June nearly 7 years ago. Last night I laid in bed staring at the ceiling and I could barely wrap my head around it being that long already. Time has indeed softened the hard edge of loss, but, just like the Sunday dinner, or the blooming of the lilacs and mock orange, or seeing pictures or hearing a certain piece of music or something else entirely, I get knocked into silence with memories pouring in.

On that subject, many of you know my fondness for Pixar movies, and everyone knows most of those movies have at least one major reach-for-the-kleenex moment. A year to the day after losing Mom, Ratatouille was released and in the theaters. Named after the dish that my mom was fond of and made a lot, I worried I might get choked up while in the theater and made sure I had a pocket full of tissues just in case. But, as the movie progressed, delightful as it was, I didn't get the usual "hit" I had gotten from most of the other Pixar flicks that preceded it. Well, that was a short-lived assumption, because the scene came up where the "evil" food critic Anton Ego is served the plate of ratatouille (as confit byaldi) and has the flashback to his youth, with his mom and all the happiness and warmth it encompassed. I absolutely lost it, and I lose it every time I see that scene. The few seconds of that flashback so mirrors how I feel in such a situation.



Sunday dinner was a feast for more than the palate.

Mom's day

May. 12th, 2013 02:00 am
greatbear: (me and mom)
For those that celebrate the day, I hope you and Mom had a great Mother's day.
greatbear: (me and mom)
Happy Birthday, Mom.
greatbear: (seasons greetings)
Okay, I'm gonna try to play catch-up on some postings I shoulda been doing all along. No thanks to LJ having a case of the butt when I did try. Anyway, enough of that, let us see if there is to be some success.

Jeff and I filled out paperwork today declaring us as domestic partners to be able to share in medical insurance. Our wonderful credit union witnesses and notarizes things like affidavits for free (membership has its privileges!), and the folks there not only don't bat an eye when presented with stuff in that realm, but are genuinely encouraging. The morning's pleasantries done, Jeff had a new task with his new position in his new job that had him doing a cooking demonstration at a D.C. hospital. When I asked him about it, I tried to have him liken it to various Food Network shows. "Well, was it Kitchen Nightmares? Diners, Drive-ins and Dives? Restaurant Impossible (woof @ Robert Irvine)? Iron Chef (Today's secret ingredient is... BEDPANS!)?" Jeff answered with what was to be my next choice, "More like Rachel Ray." Hee, figures. He said he had a good time, people said he put on an amazing show, and he came home smelling of garlic and onions. Someone assisting Jeff got him a chef hat and said, "Here, I got you a 'torque'." This was a demonstration all about cooking and eating healthy. On his way home after 8pm, despite all that cooking, Jeff hadn't eaten anything to speak of. Before getting back to La Casa Mayhem, he stopped to pick us up a little dinner. Of course, after all the healthy cooking and eating schtick, it was McDonald's.

Here at Mayhem Acres, things are a study in contradiction and contrasts. The water heater needed a shot of refrigerant. The no-frost freezer needs to be defrosted. The refrigerator stopped making ice cubes and is instead making puddles. My work is never done.

Verizon just installed a fiber optic connection solely for the landline phone here because the 50+ year-old copper lines in the area are in too bad of shape (I've had ongoing problems with line noise for over 20 years). To this technological triumph I have connected my 1957-vintage, black 500-series Western Electric rotary dial telephone, which is fully functional and has never sounded better. Sadly, there have been a number of growing pains with my newfangled service. Aside from noise, the old copper lines had 99.99% availability.

We had a delightful visitor just before Xmas. [livejournal.com profile] erstexman was in the midst of his whirlwind, several-state tour and paid us a visit. It's been a while since I've had a known-you-on-Livejournal-for-ages-and-we-finally-meet meetup. Evan is a delight, and though his time where was limited, we are talking about doing something sometime in summer. Here's my best attempt at a social-media ready, arm's-length self-photo of us:



Unfortunately for Evan, he had an unexpected bumper car ride in one of the roundabouts about a mile from the house. Mind you, I love me some roundabouts, when there's no one nearby and I have the Mini Cooper all warmed up. Unfortunately, there are too many people around to make this joyride happen every time, and they are no fun when I haul around 50 feet worth of loaded truck and travel trailer though them. I normally have to pass through 3 or four of them in succession, and there are nine(!) such circles within a less-than-2 square mile area here, with a couple more to come. That HAS to be some sort of record. None of these nine circles of hell existed here 15 years ago. At least they aren't traffic lighted intersections.

Next time, [livejournal.com profile] erstexman says he's not driving here. I don't blame him. ;-)

Speaking of Mini Coopers, we were mulling what to get Jeff's grand-niece Kylie for xmas. She turns 3 soon, and we wanted to make her holiday special. We found a KidTrax electric Mini at Costco. We knew she'd love it and be the only kid in that old coal town with one (turns out she has a Jeep already, but, up there, everyone has one of those). I personalized it with custom stickers that said "Kylie's Cooper" in a playful font (no, not Comic Sans!). She kept getting inside while I was trying to put it together, when that task was finally done, we headed out in the blustery Pennslovakia cold so she could test drive it in the yard. For not even three yet, she's a pretty good driver. We might be looking at the next Danica Patrick.



Jeff's father had been making noises about getting a big flat screen television ever since he spent a few days with us and fell in love with ours. We got him a wall mount and a set of high-def cables, wrapped them up and gave those to him the same time Kylie got her ride. We didn't say that we got the set too. Though he didn't say it, we could tell he was just as giddy as our little girl once everything was set up. Being that the Newtown tragedy happened only a couple days prior to all this, it was nice to see a bunch of kids smiling and happy and safe. Dad included.

I wish I could say that the holidays were full of goodness and light, but sadly it was not to be. Jeff's mom has been falling deeper into the clutches of Alzheimer's, as such, the inability of the home care nurses to keep up with her needs, her increased incidences of falling and such finally forced Dad to put her in a nursing home. They treat her well there, and we know she's in good hands. The future in all this is uncertain, as it is for anyone similarly involved.

This weekend we are headed up to the homestead once again. Dad is lonely, being in the house by himself, and looks forward to our visits more now than ever. The silver lining in the recent clouds there is Dad is afforded much more time to himself, and can get out and around more. As such, we will hit the huge farm show in Harrisburg. This will get him (and us) out of the house, we can peruse tractors and livestock, see sheep being turned into shawls (well, their wool, to be precise), partake in greasy yet delicious fairgrounds food and be farmers for a day. We will also pay Mom a visit too, and bring her lots of love. We plan on sneaking Dad down here again soon so he can have a change of pace. He manages to fit in well in his own unique way. We take him out of Amish country but we bring him to our local Amish market. Wouldn't you know, he manages to find people down here who know the people up there. Dad is given a tray of whoopee pies along with a note written in Pennsylvania Dutch by his new-found friend to take to his relatives up north. Dad shuttles the Amish around as a sort of taxi service for extra money, so he knows a lot of them. The Amish are interesting folk, and, ironically, I can somewhat relate to them, beards notwithstanding. I go to a local Amish hardware store. A delightful place, there is no electricity, the place is only a few years old yet is lit by natural light from large windows, or gas mantles among the aisles. They have great deals on power tools, cordless stuff, high-tech lighting, solar power equipment and other items you can't find at the local big-box. Go upstairs and there is furniture, games, dinner ware, and clothing. The clothing is mostly what you'll find the Amish wearing, including those familiar hats. Dad keeps telling me he's gonna get me one of those hats, since my beard is starting to rival some up there. I guess he's right about that, the last time I was at that local Amish market down here, someone started asking me questions about the baked goods. An honest mistake, I guess. It made my day. It made Jeff and Dad howl with laughter.

This post is brought to you by hyphens.

Back

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.

Six

Jun. 29th, 2012 07:08 am
greatbear: (me and mom)
Six years ago, but still seems all too recent. Still miss you terribly, Mom.

MD

May. 13th, 2012 10:24 am
greatbear: (me and mom)
Happy Mother's Day, everyone.
greatbear: (me and mom)
Lately I've been engaging in some computer building and other related nerdery. The PC that got wrecked by the malware got a different hard drive and was nicely reborn as a workshop PC, and I actually bought my first desktop machine, as in one I did not assemble from parts. Newegg.com had a sale on refurbed business desktops, I picked up a cheap HP with minimal flash and glitz to use in the garage. For 149 bucks complete with Win 7 Home Premium, and a cheapass new keyboard and mouse thrown in, I figured what the hell. These PCs seemed to be all over the place at work, they go through life functioning quite reliably, and they get replaced with the latest 'n' greatest in a couple years. It's a five year old machine, ruggedly built and small. Hell, for all I know it came from my lab.

I have the reborn PC on the side cabinet on my basement workshop toolbox. The HP is in an identical situation out in the garage. While the purchased machine came with a kb and mouse, I needed to come up with something for the one downstairs. I didn't want to use anything fancy, the sawdust and dirt would take their toll in time. I was rummaging through my collection of still-usable computer junk and found a nondescript Microsoft optical mouse. This would work fine. I notice the green sticky dot that was affixed to the left mouse button and it gave me a bit of pause. Then it hit me. This had been the mouse that was attached to a PC that I put together for Mom many years ago. I had stuck the green dot on the left button as a reminder to her which of the buttons was the "main" one. She had gotten used to using the PC, but the dot remained. The PC was repurposed later on after she had died. Sitting there and staring at the cheap little mouse with the green dot, knowing what it had been used for, left me in a hollow, silent place for a bit of time. I got choked up, I stopped futzing with the computers for the night, I took the mouse with me, cleaned the dust and smudges from the time in storage, making it look new again. I left the green dot attached, still hanging on with its now dried-out adhesive. It's a nice little reminder.

V-Day

Feb. 14th, 2012 08:04 pm
greatbear: (oh squee indeed)
So, today is Valentine's Day. The day has meant something quite different for me over the years, compared to the traditional meaning that it has for the majority of people. In the case of the latter, most love, loathe or pretty much ignore the holiday. As is typical with "Hallmark Holidays", as they are derisively known, it is when the prices for flowers and chocolates rise to meet the inevitable demand. However, like so many things in life, it is the thought behind the gestures that has the meaning. For me, it was always a day to do something nice for my Mom. Even though her birthday was four days ago, the day had its significance because "Valentine" is my mother's first name. It is pronounced "Valentina", but during her emigration from the Soviet Union during WWII, she had misspelled her name on various documents. Rather than change it to the more common spelling, she kept it as is. It was unique in comparison to so many other names. As a kid, I always said it was "her day" and went out of my way to make it nice for her. These days I think people understand why, like on the day of her birthday, I feel downtrodden and sad, yet another reminder of loss. It's not all bad, though, as I have many fond memories going back four-and-a-half decades.

So, this morning started early, but I was mostly preoccupied in my thoughts and memories. A good friend of mine is currently closing down his auto repair business due to various economic reasons, so I am helping him move his tools, machinery and such from the building to his home, where it will stay until he finds new digs and a place to hang his shingle for business, hopefully with business partners that know how to better run an auto repair business other than into the ground.

Before I left to go help out, I had noticed the latest Google "doodle" on the home page. As much as I often distrust Google as a huge monolithic enterprise bent of taking over the internets, these little bits of date-specific artwork often make my day. Today was definitely one of those times:



This little piece of cuteness really "gets it." Watch carefully at the end for the funny and thought provoking other reasons why this works so well. I had forgotten all about what I searched for, the little distraction made my day as well as choked me up a bit.

I then go and help out my buddy, moving tools, stock and machinery that was far heavier than I should have attempted. I ended up with some of it as my own, the rest taken to his now stacked-to-the-rafters suburban garage. He is having the same, if not worse problems with his back as well as other health issues, where just trying to function normally is oftentimes beset with excruciating pain. The thing that really got me, though, is the look of abject defeat in his expression. A beaten man, the garage and home is also under a dark cloud of foreclosure. I wish I could do more to help. I can't help but feel how unfair life can be, and my faith in humanity turns into a cold stone of contempt for those who have made this poor guy's life so difficult (it's a long, convoluted story I won't delve in to here, mainly out of respect of privacy).

I collect my share of the pickings along with my now overworked body and come home, smelling of stale racing gas and other garage odors. Jeff is home, of course. I start to go off to the bathroom to clean up and wash the stink off, and I notice the beautiful bouquet of roses, the chocolates, and the card. Once again my hardened heart cracks, I become a gushing sop, I go back to Jeff, give him a nice long hug, and appreciate the reminder that I do indeed have someone still in my life who cares a lot for me. Outside of this house, those who do are few and far between, making them that more precious to me. I'm including those of you here on LJ that have shown me kindness and love through the years. So, today might be a dubious holiday for some, but it still has a special meaning to me, even if it's not like it had started out all those years ago.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone.

Profile

greatbear: (Default)
Phil

December 2016

S M T W T F S
    123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 21st, 2017 05:28 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios