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: (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.

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.
greatbear: (candle)
This holiday is a rough one for me. It comes four days after Mom's birthday, and we had always treated it as sort of an extension of the birthday celebration and an excuse to have yet another really nice meal. So, this brings up memories of all those good times and how they are gone now. It's the same when I see other things that remind me of her, like some pictures I was looking at yesterday evening, or when I see her name.

Mom's name is Valentine.
greatbear: (jeff and me)
Happy Valentine's Day to all who read my LJ. Every day you guys 'n' gals make me feel the love.

Since everyone gives flowers and chocolates on this day, I thought I'd be a bit different. I give to you the world's smallest bodybuilder:



At only 2'9" tall and all of 20 pounds, 19 year old Aditya 'Romeo' Dev is officially the world's tiniest bodybuilder. [livejournal.com profile] aadroma, you can now know what it's like to be Shaquille O'Neil. ^_~

Typical me

Feb. 14th, 2006 07:57 pm
greatbear: (jeff and me)

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