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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big change for Jeff today. He had been working at a government facility that relocated to Fort Meade from Virginia. I warned him to expect a bit of self-entitlement out of the clientele that is so (unfortunately stereotypical) of that area. Well, it was more than just a bit. Jeff had to contend with some of the most selfish and downright hostile people he ever had to deal with especially in a (very) professional environment. Couple this with a racist and homophobic client he finally had enough. Prior to, and while he was out recovering, he made a lateral move within his company to a healthcare facility outside of DC. Today is his first day at the new place, and he has high hopes for it. I sure hope this will be a good one, since Jeff worked most of his life in healthcare, he feels the most at home there. Wish him well. I head off for my doctor appointment in a few minutes, and I already know there could be some new surgery involved. I hope I can put it off for a while so I can get back to work, catch up there as well as here, and plan on a specific time for any needed cutting so I have a feeling of control and pace, rather than uncertain waiting and lack of income. Wish me well too, while you're at it.
greatbear: (forearms)
I know I have not been posting a lot here. Been instead sequestering myself in the basement doing electrical and lighting work, fixing up some of my old machinery and generally being a hermit. It's what I do best. Since signing up for Facebook I have found instead of giving myself another outlet for my thoughts, it seems to have put me off on posting things anywhere, be it FB, LJ, various forums I linger on, etc. Perhaps this is just a phase, bit I will sequester myself mostly in LJ as if it were my basement. Complete with the sawdust and upgrades.

Some updates I guess are in order. Jeff and I have nailed down our Hillside camping dates, so as it has been for a while now, Bear weekends 2 and 3 and Wrestling/Car Show weekends are a go. We have our favorite site for all of them, which is really only one of a couple available that can accommodate our trailer setup plus any friends we manage to have on the site. So, that fills out our planned camping excursions for this year. Deep Creek Lake, MD at the end of May, Hillside for July and August, and P-Town for July for Bear Week. Anything else is going to be a surprise for us.

Cut down yet another tree over at Jeff's parent's place. While I am not fond at all to his dad's scorched-earth clearing of trees in the yard, I can see what he's up to. These are trees along the creek that divides their lot from the farm behind, and opening this up allows a rather awesome view of the farm and the buffalo being raised there (they are delicious, btw). It's getting tougher for him to deal with the yard and the leaves, so this also helps in that respect. Still, I dont like seeing healthy, viable trees taken down. It's my nature. There are some dead and dying stuff that will come down as well. Of course, the bonus here is that I get to bring home all sorts of good firewood gratis. The lower part of this tree filled my truck up, with the remaining wood needing two or three more trips to being home.

While bucking the tree into stove-length logs, one of the roughly 30-inch diameter logs slammed onto my foot, leaving me with a nasty bruise and a woeful limp. I am hoping nothing serious has happened, I am going by the assumption that a break would hurt a helluva lot more. I've busted toes before, so I know the pain.

While Jeff's dad and I were at the hardware store, his mom took a bad tumble and broke her arm. I feel awful about this, since it's affecting the last family I know. She took it in stride, and will be seeing a specialist tomorrow to determine a course of action. Hopefully it's not involving of surgery, screws, pins and brackets.

It's snowing it's ass off outside at the moment. On tap to receive 3-6 inches and possibly more, I am sort of skeeved at March coming in like a crazed lion after a relatively snow-free winter so far. Nothing I can do about it other than wake up tomorrow morning, haul the snow blowers out and deal. The aforementioned firewood, roughly 1000lbs, will give the truck that much more added traction.

The last of hopefully any more hard drives have been acquired and installed into some enclosures I have here, plus one more enclosure bought for the occasion. These will be near-line regular backups that get connected every week or so to back everything up and taken off line and put in safe keeping. A pair of 1.5TB drives, a second pair of 1TBs, plus a third TB drive set aside as a spare for the servers. If this does not make things all set and wonderful, I dont know what will.

I have a feeling my hermit-like behavior will be around for a while. So if there's a lack of online activity from me, that's why. It's not like I am terribly missed anyhow. I still manage to make my usual comments that are often misunderstood and taken as the opposite as the obscure humor I intend. You've been forewarned.
greatbear: (Default)
We are playing hosts to Jeff's parents this weekend. If the weather cooperates, I plan in taking his mom and dad to DC for a while, including a visit to the Vietnam Memorial. One of her school friends is on the wall. They have never been to DC. For kicks, a trip to Annie's Paramount Steakhouse is in the cards as well. Not to be left out, I will take his dad to a couple big hardware stores and possibly Bass Pro Shops. Should be fun.
greatbear: (forearms)
Spent a fairly relaxed weekend up in PA with Jeff's 'rents. And Kodi. And, for the first time in a while, Kodi again tossed his doggie biscuits all over Jeff a mere ten minutes from our destination. Perhaps this would not have happened had we not been delayed due to trees being blown into the roadways by a storm that got into town about a half hour before us.

It was also our first visit in quite a while, so we needed to make up in the way of Mother's and Father's Day presents. At our past exploration of a new Best Buy in Columbia (which is basically the same as the old one, which is the same as every other BB you'd wander into), we spotted a Westinghouse digital picture frame. We thought it the perfect gift for his mom, so I loaded it with some of the nicest and most memorable shots I have taken over the year of his family members. Turning the thing on, you are greeted with a configurable slide show of pictures on a very bright and sharp 8 inch diagonal LCD. It was an instant hit! I was later presented with a stack of pictures to be scanned and put into the frame. The thing even does video (actually, more like silent movies. No sound. But that's kinda a good thing here).

We got his dad a pressure washer. He wasted no time trying it out. Another hit. More Gerberra daisies for the front of the house and some other trinkets were bought while wandering about in Lowes.

Went out later that Saturday to do some shopping for the new trailer and to see Shrek 3. We liked it, but it's clearly the weakest of the three flicks.

Got back today and futzed around the house and the trailer. This week, the evenings will be spent doing chores, working on the yard, the truck and whatnot. More busybusy stuff. But we are making nice progress I think.

The trip up and back was accompanied by my new portable GPS, a Lowrance iWAY 600C. This little bugger rocks. In addition to the usual 2- and 3-D maps, it has detailed US waterway charts and topographical overlays, and satellite imagery to boot. It's like Google Maps in a box. Plays mp3s and Ogg Vorbis audio files, and can display photos on it's incredibly bright and sharp 640x480 screen. It seriously kicks ass, and can be used in anything that moves. It's waterproof too. Highly recommended, especially if you are a geek like me.

Off to bed, it's gonna be a long week.

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Phil

December 2016

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