Sunday, February 28, 2010

Renovating a House Remotely

Back on January 18, I bought a small fixer-upper house and had begun the process of renovating it so that I could add it to my rental inventory for community heroes. My partner and I had cleaned it out. We replaced the windows, including the frames. I was just about to tear out the old electrical system and install a new one when I fell and broke my leg.

During the time I have been stuck at home and unable to lift a finger to do any real work, I didn't want the house to sit vacant and be significantly delayed in being lived in once again. I did what my best friend said that I should have been doing all along: I hired contractors.

I sent nephews, cousins, and some friends over to check on their work and to take pictures for me. I intervened twice when I thought some work was not being done correctly or to my specs. But most of the work was done quite well.

I saved the electrical work for myself. See, back in the time when I bought my first "Harry Homeowner Special," (a local reference to an old house requiring significant renovation), I was a poor, newbie teacher barely making enough money to make ends meet. I couldn't afford to hire an electrician. So I studied and took the exam for an electrician's license and got one. I kept it current by taking occasional coursework and by doing a lot more actual electrical work on my own homes as well as for friends and neighbors. I even installed all of the wiring in the house that I live in while I was building it, which was no easy feat (my house isn't enormous, but it isn't a cottage, either.)

Since electrical work is something I truly enjoy doing and was my first successful experience in a skilled trade, I just couldn't imagine hiring that work out. I compromised: yesterday, my partner and I went to the house and I explained to my partner what he needed to do, especially when it came to fishing wiring in the walls. A good buddy who is a Master Electrician also joined us for two hours. Believe it or not, you need two good feet for running wiring in a house (as well as two good arms, good eyesight, and patience.) I remained in the basement near the circuit panel box with a fluorescent flashlight helping me see what I was doing. I connected the wiring to circuit breakers in the box following the circuit pattern that I designed for the house.

Unfortunately, I pooped out earlier than I thought that I would, so I had to come back home in the early afternoon. I also got involved in watching response to the earthquake in Chile and the tsunamis in Hawaii.

Today, I plan to return to the house to finish up. I will lay on my side on floors to connect electrical outlets and face plates while my partner will install switches and a few overhead lights that I cannot reach because doing so requires climbing on a ladder.

My licensed master electrician buddy will come by late this afternoon to inspect my work, and then connect it to the power company's line. We will not turn it on, though, until the county inspector checks it out on Monday. I'm sure it will pass inspection. After all, the work was done right and according to (and often above) the adopted code.

A cleaning contractor will come on Wednesday. I will have my partner bring me over on Thursday evening to check everything out. Provided all is well, then I will begin the process to identify eligible community heroes in need of affordable rental housing, and go from there.

Yes, it can be done remotely. It cost me a lot more than if I did the work myself, but ... I did what I had to do.

Life is short: get 'er done!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Not Castlessness

This case of a double negative means... sigh... while my orthopedic specialist who saw me yesterday said, "for a guy your age, you are healing well," he didn't authorize much change in my current condition. I still have that damn, heavy, lunky cast on my leg.

He did say that I can begin to put some weight on it, which means that perhaps mother-hubbard-partner will let me get out, even a little bit. He worries so much about me. I love him for that, but also will begin to put my (left) boot down and begin to assert myself in going out to some essential, critical community meetings provided a friend provides transportation.

I am doing okay, really. I have no pain at all. I am not sleeping well, but mostly it's because the cast wakes me up since I can't move while I am sleeping. If I turn, it twists my leg and just wakes me.

Oh well, so begins the three-week countdown.

528 hours
31,680 minutes
1,900,800 seconds

Life is short: three weeks sounds the shortest.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Mudlessness

Okay, while I am on the "lessness" theme of blog posts, today, Friday, I am mudless. Or shall I say, my boots are in a state of mudlessness.

That is their usual state. And I presume all of my boots are mudless (save for some of my work boots that may still show some dirt in the lugs). In my current condition, I cannot see them. My boots are in the basement or my upstairs closets, and I am in between -- safely situated on an easy chair in my family room which is on the middle floor of our house. Having a broken leg with a cast on it that weighs a ton prevents me from going up and down stairs to check on the status of my boots. Not seeing my alarm panel change from "all secure" status indicates that my boots must be where I last saw them a month ago -- in their respective storage areas in their usual state of mudlessness -- and are not walking out the door all by themselves to go play in what has become a mud pit of a back yard since a lot of our snow has melted.

Why am I carrying on about my boots being in a state of mudlessness? Well, had I not broken my leg, I would have gone on a business trip to Alabama this week. The event I was scheduled to facilitate would have ended at 3pm today. Then my good friend, Bamaboy, would have picked me up from the hotel and we would have gone to "play" and have some pair of boots become, shall we say, "a bit dirty," or as Bama would say, "all mudded!"

What is it that as men in our 50s and grown adults that we like to go jump in mud puddles? Are we reverting to our childhood? Well, perhaps for play, fun, and seeing the results of the superb photographic work that Bamaboy does... sure, I'd love it! Last time I saw Bama, it was dry as a bone and no mud could be found. We kicked up some dirt, had a nice dinner, and enjoyed each other's company as good buddies.

Well, alas, here I remain in Maryland, unable to put on a pair of boots, and only snuck (snow and melting mess) in sight. This is not quite where I wanted to be right now, but it's what I have to endure.

Perhaps sometime in the future the stars will fall on Alabama again, align, and bring me back to enjoy some muddin' with my buddy, his company, camaraderie, amusing humor, and gettin' a little mud on our boots. That's okay, the boots can clean up. Eventually. Returning to their usual state of mudlessness.

Life is short: dream on!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Month of Bootlessness and Leatherlessness

Glossary:
  • Boot•less•ness. noun. The state of being without boots on one's feet, as in "bootless."
  • Lea•ther•less•ness. noun. The state of being without leather, as in "not wearing leather."
One month ago, on a chilly, wet afternoon, this Boy Scout wearing a full leather uniform (consisting of leather jeans and a leather jacket) and strong, sturdy Chippewa Firefighter boots was escorting a little old lady from his truck to her home. He was burdened with some heavy bags of groceries.

The Boy Scout was lazy. He piled the groceries into two large bags, and put the lady's arm in his arm. He could have spread the groceries out into three or four bags, and made two trips to the truck. But nooooo... he had to try to carry everything at once.

The Boy Scout felt the little old lady teetering, and he steadied her. She remained upright, and the Boy Scout was upsot. "Crack!" went the fibula. The rest, as they say, "is history."

For a guy who enjoys wearing leather almost every day, especially in the winter, this was quite a way to test his resolve and to determine, once and for all, if leather is simply clothing or a fetish interest, or both. Since the leg was broken and there has been a progression from splints to a big, heavy, fiberglass cast on the leg, this Boy Scout has been both bootless and leatherless for the duration of his recovery so far.

Well, correction on that: I have been able to wear one boot on my good left leg. But I still can't put on a pair of leather jeans, as the cast won't fit through the leg. I guess if I were really having a bad case of "leather withdrawal," I could wear chaps. But I have found that an old pair of bellbottom denim jeans works fine ... much better than wearing PJ bottoms, that's for sure (LOL!).

Do I miss wearing boots and leather every day? Well, let me put it this way: I miss having that choice. Since the cast prevents me from wearing two boots, much less standing on my own two feet, and it also prevents me from wearing normal pants, I'm kinda stuck with accepting what I can wear.

Does it bother me? Am I having serious leather withdrawal? Are my feet protesting being in a long-term non-booted state? Am I unable to have sex with my partner? ...

Poppycock. Well, the poppy anyway. I'm fine. My partner remains as frisky as ever, and we've learned not to let the cast get in the way of some "fun" (evil grin). Since I am not using any pain meds, my performance is not affected. (smile.)

I would like to return to having the choice of putting on my own clothes, and choosing to wear boots and leather in this cold weather. But I'm surviving. I'll be okay. Remember, to me, leather and boots are functional clothing and footwear. They're really not fetish, as they are function.

I am climbing the walls, but only because the confinement during a period of really bad weather and NOT being able to get out (or anywhere even within my own house) on my own is driving me bats. But you know, it really could be worse. I keep telling myself that, and know it in my heart. I have a nice home, comfortable surroundings, a wonderful partner who cares for me deeply and tends to my every need. I have friends and neighbors who care and check in on me regularly. I even have some lovely casseroles of mysterious stuff in the fridge.

What more could a guy want?

I will be okay in my current state of leatherlessness and bootlessness. Thanks for your concern.

Life is short: wear your boots and leather if you can!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Re-Fryed in Frye Boots

I had ranted a while back about Frye Boots, where I had mistakenly said that since the Frye Boot Company was bought out by a conglomerate, that all of their boots were now made in China. I have learned that statement is not accurate.

To prove it, someone sent me a new pair of Frye Campus Boots, which were made at a plant in Arkansas, USA. I can see it on the box and in the label inside the boots -- "Made in the U.S.A."

I stand corrected, and this post was written not only to respond to the person who sent me the boots to acknowledge, publicly, the error of my thinking, but also because I really LIKE the Frye Boot style. Some of their boots are still made in the U.S.A., while some others are made in China. The person who sent me the boots said that some of the shorter boots and newer styles made in the Frye name are made overseas. But what we know as traditional men's Frye Boots -- campus and harness boots -- are made here in the U.S.A.

I am uncertain, yet, if the quality of the leather and the boot's construction is the same as I know from my vintage Frye Boots made back in the '70s and '80s. I can tell already that something's amiss: a Frye Boot cardboard insert was attached with a string to a boot pull inside the shaft of the left boot. When I pulled on it gently, the entire boot pull came off. And this was on a new pair of boots! If I didn't get them for free, I would have returned them. Yeah, I hate to say it, but new Fryes just aren't made the way they used to be. Cheap, cheap, cheap....

These boots are very handsome, in the traditional Frye sense of style. Big clunky, rounded heels, and the traditional rounded toe. The height is 14," which is also the traditional height that vintage Fryes had (though the current harness boot style remains only at 12".)

The leather has the same colorations as found on the vintage styles, with some streaks of colour throughout. The new-to-me Fryes are in the "banana" color, which again is classic for Fryes. They are lined with leather and feel comfortable. The boots that I received are one size larger than I usually wear, but they do not seem to swim on my foot (as I can only wear my left boot right now since my right leg is in a cast.)

I am glad to be "re-fryed," and to celebrate the nostalgic occasion, I put on a pair of bellbottom jeans to go with the boot (fortunately, bellbottoms have a wide opening, so they'll fit over the cast on my right leg.)

Nothin' like a pair of traditional Frye campus boots in their style. And it's a good thing, too, as my buddy FBLSD has joined the Boots Wiki Team and has updated the Frye Boots section of the wiki. Check it out!

Life is short: enjoy your Fryes!


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Recovering Drug Free

Ongoing readers of this blog know that I broke the fibula in my lower right leg on 24 January, and I am recovering in a cast, waiting for it to heal while at home on disability leave from work.

Some people have inquired about how I am doing. I appreciate the inquiries, and caring concern.

I am doing okay. Really. I am finding ways to keep busy, from preparing income tax returns for senior pals (40 out of 50 completed), to getting the Boot Wiki going, to continuing to support my current job, to searching for a new full-time job, doing some consulting which keeps my brain busy with new challenges, and writing a book (I won't give away the plot just yet).

I don't like to have to be confined to sitting in a chair all day with my leg propped up, because I cannot walk... yet. I am uncomfortable sitting in an awkward position using a TV tray as my laptop computer's "work station," but it works. I have burned up more cell minutes than I want to, and am finding a way to make my regular home phone more accessible, so I can use it as my primary means of communication and avoid cell overage charges.

Most of all, I am not in any pain. I would say that most of what I am feeling is soreness, as the use of crutches and relying on my one good (left) leg and hip just makes me sore. By late in the day, the soreness and confinement both make me a bit grumpy. Some of my family and friends have noticed that when they have spoken with me on the phone, so I have to work on that.

However, soreness isn't the same thing as chronic pain or bone pain. I have none of that. My leg was painful for the first few days, and last week when I accidentally bumped hard in the bathroom and fell (but didn't break anything), my left side was painful with a big bruise. But generally speaking, I am not in any pain now that a couple of aspirin can't handle.

I am glad about that. I like my mind (what's left of it) to remain clear, and my gate to be as stable as possible as I hobble on crutches to the bathroom and to the kitchen, plus once a day to and from the bedroom. Narcotics have a funny way of messing with your head, as well as with your physical strength.

The doc gave me a prescription for enough narcotics to take 4x/day for a month. I really wondered why. That's an awful lot of pain pills. Everything I can find on the internet says that the pain that occurs with the type of break that I had lasts for perhaps as much as one week, unless you have to have surgery, which fortunately, was not required in my situation. I am fortunate that my pain didn't last but a few days.

Unlike prescription antibiotics, which are to be used as prescribed until gone, with prescription narcotics, you should take them only when you really need to do so. And I really don't.

I searched on the internet, and respected government agency websites specifically say that the type of drug that I was prescribed should not be flushed down the toilet. It is a very popular drug with abusers, so it shouldn't be discarded in the trash, either -- though some sites say that if you mix it with kitty litter or coffee grounds, that might be an option. Well, not having a kitty nor being a coffee drinker, that is not an option for me.

I called my local health department, and couldn't find anyone who could tell me what to do. I decided, then, to call my tenant who is a police officer, and ask him. He said that when they seize drugs from nefarious people, they enter the drugs into evidence. Since I am not a drug-dealer and have these drugs legally, he said would ask for me. He called back later and said that our county has a program where drugs could be returned to a pharmacy and they would dispose of them properly. So that's what I will do.

I will remain, "drug free."

Life is short: be drug free and live it as fully as you can.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Buying New Boots via the Internet

People have asked me how I get the best deal possible on the purchase of new boots. Following are my "secrets" which aren't really secret, but may not be known or practiced by some.

1. If a pair of boots comes to my attention that I would like to have, I get the manufacturer name, model name, and stock number (if I can find it).

2. I use a search engine, like Google, and enter the information about the boots. For example, "Justin Bent Rail Buckaroo."

3. I read the results that are presented on various websites, but I generally avoid the first three results at the top, which are paid advertisements and not necessarily the least expensive source.

4. If I find a good price, I note the seller and I bookmark the page. But I don't buy YET!

5. I visit the websites of my favourite boot retailers. Links to these boot retailers are on my website. I check to see if my favourite retailers carry the boots and what their price is. They may or may not carry the boots, and if they do, they may not always come up in a search. So it's always a good idea to check your favorites when you have something with which to compare them. (From Step 4.)

6. I generally avoid buying boots from Sheplers, because their shipping charges are outrageous. However, sometimes they are the only source of a certain brand and style of boots. They are a great retailer and have excellent customer service. I just wish their shipping charges weren't double what their competitors charge, such as Bootbarn.com. Also, it should be noted that Sheplers runs a sale every week now. Don't fall for their email promotions that say, "only 3 days left!" Ha! The next week, the email changes to "only 6 days to go!" They run a perpetual sale, so their promotions have lost credibility and the sense of urgency.

7. When I have narrowed the potential sources down to two or three, I then use Google again and type in "Discount Coupon XXX" where "XXX" is the name of the on-line retailer. Many times, I have come up with an active, working, on-line discount coupon from a retailer that gives me an additional 10%, 15%, or even 20% off the listed "sale" price. This step is important, and can save you a LOT of money!

8. I then compare shipping charges among the top two or three on-line retail choices. Sometimes, like the example above with Sheplers, the boots may cost a little less, but the shipping will make the final total higher. Factor in all costs, including whether you have to pay sales tax. (For example, if you live in California and buy from Bootbarn.com, you have to pay local sales tax. If you live in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, or other states where Sheplers has a brick-and-mortar store, you have to pay sales tax.) Go through the motions of placing an order to determine what the final price will be, including all taxes and shipping fees, as well as applicable discounts.

9. If the on-line retailer that offers the best price is not one with which I have experience, then I will take an extra precautionary step. I will go back to google, and enter "XXX consumer complaints" where "XXX" is the name of the retailer. I want to see if there are serious complaints about the company from multiple people. A single rant from one dissatisfied person is not enough to scare me away. But multiple legitimate complaints may cause me to order elsewhere.

This process can be a little arduous or time-consuming, but it can save anywhere from US$20 - $100 on a pair of new boots. Since boots will last a long time, the time you put into shopping for a good price is worth it.

Life is short: enjoy your boots!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

My Home, My Community, My Life

As I continue on the path of recuperation to care for my recently broken leg, I have a lot of time to think about a lot of things. I truly feel that one can have the advantages of "small-town community" within suburban sprawl if he wants it to happen.

I know a bit about growing up in a small town. When I was a kid, we lived six months each year on my mother's family horse ranch in rural Oklahoma. The nearest town was 14 miles away. And even then, "town" was one traffic light, one lower school (grades 1-8), one high school, one grocer, one "druggist," and one library. Everybody knew everybody. You couldn't snitch a cigarette in the back of the hardware store with your buddy without someone tattle-taling to your Mom. You couldn't have your eyes on a pair of boots in the western store without the store owner having "a chat" with your Dad. You weren't really "from" there unless your grandparents were buried in the local cemetery. You always bought or traded everything you needed with your neighbors. It was just that kind of place. Everybody knew everybody, and there was a strong sense of "community belonging" and cohesion.

When someone was down on their luck, sick or injured, or someone died, all of the neighbors would rally around and offer help. True help -- the kind you needed when things went wrong. They brought food, helped do housecleaning, provided childcare, did laundry, or whatever needed to be done. That is what neighbors in a small town do for each other, even to this day.

Some people love that kind of life. Some others do not. There are trade-offs. You have no privacy. You have no sense of individuality. It is very hard to come out and be accepted as a gay person, especially if the majority of the community residents are "Christian" (quotes on purpose.)

I began to live permanently within suburban sprawl, north and east of our nation's capital, when I was ten years old, after my Dad was stationed permanently in Washington after working in Europe six months of the year for a long time. We lived in Maryland, which borders Washington, DC. We visited Oklahoma in the summers instead of half a year.

Almost one million residents call our county "home." There are few defined cities. We ramble from one zip code to the next. There is a lot of history here, but you have to know where to look for it. Most people who live here came from somewhere else. I am among the few who can point to the local cemetery and show the graves of my parents and paternal grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins....

It is easy to be anonymous among all of this sprawl. Rent an apartment or buy a house, then go to work, come home, go out to eat, make friends of co-workers who live in outlying suburbs. This is the common way of life for many of my neighbors. The anonymity happens due to the dearth of local connections. Some people like that. Personally, I don't.

I have always felt that the small-town feeling of closeness to your neighbors is important. Therefore, throughout my life, I have worked hard to make my sprawling 'burb a "home." I have gotten involved in community life. I was elected to a non-partisan position that works on many community issues. I have gotten to know all of my neighbors, not just those on either side of my house. I have grown deeply involved in a large retirement community that is near where I live. This is where my "senior buds" and my aunt live. I'm over there all the time.

Over 40 years of local "community building" has resulted in my truly having a home where I live, with a casual and mature kind of tolerance. My partner is accepted completely, as I am -- as gay men among the local residents. We are not the "token" gay couple by any means. Good thing about living around here is that most folks "live and let live." I know my neighbors. I know their kids. I know the names of the regular employees at most of the local stores at which I shop (but can't tell you the names of the barista at the Starbucks or the server at the local chain restaurants frequented by the yuppie set, 'cause I choose not to go there).

I can tell you the names of the cops on the local beats, and the firefighters at the local station, and the faculty in the local schools. I mean, this is my home. This is where I live. This is my community. This is MY LIFE.

Man, I'm so lucky to live in such a wonderful place. Rich with life, with diversity, with ideas, with acceptance, with community spirit. Both my roots and my boots are planted deep.

When I had my recent set-back in breaking the bone in my leg, my house has been a non-stop beehive of business -- of neighbors getting to work to help out. It brings tears of joy to my eyes, and a song to my heart, to know that we can and we do have a strong, vibrant, local community because we have made it that way.

It is possible...even while living among suburban sprawl. It is what you make it to be. And I can show you the rich rewards that the investment of community-building has brought to me, and to my neighbors, friends, and senior buds.

Life is short: love where you live!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

One Year Ago Today

My, it's weird how things can change in a year's time. One year ago today I was visiting my best friend, AZ, in Phoenix. I had rented a Harley and we saddled up and went for ride to Sedona, Arizona. Within that year, my best friend bought a house and moved (still in Phoenix), and I broke my leg. On the bright side, his "condition" is permanent, while mine is temporary (or better be!)

I can remember that trip as if it were yesterday. The scenery was gorgeous. The ride was fun. The roads were great. The weather was perfect. What I recall the best, of course, is the fun I had with my best buddy, and his warm charm, smiles, and delightful way of making you feel good about yourself and life, in general. He has that way about him -- a unique gift that makes everyone around him feel great.

Today, I sit at home with my leg propped up, still, and I am not able to walk. I couldn't ride a bike if I wanted to. I am uncomfortable, cranky, and longing to get out of the hole in which I am stuck, albeit temporarily. I look out the window at mountains of snow in my yard. We still have at least two feet of snow in the yard from the back-to-back attacks of Snowzilla we endured not that long ago.

Instead of dwelling on my desire to be out of this predicament and be anywhere -- ANYWHERE -- else in two boots on two feet, I close my eyes and think of the long weekend that I spent with my best buddy, a wonderful host, and my best friend. Those memories bring serenity and smiles.

This is yet another reason why my partner likes AZ so much -- because try as he might to snap me out of it, my partner hasn't been happy that I've been grumpy. Having "mental diversions" like this help me relax, and makes my partner feel better, too. He hates it when I'm unhappy. Bless him -- he's always caring for me however he can.

Life is short: enjoy your memories!


Friday, February 19, 2010

Count Your Blessings

If you can wake up in the morning, get out of bed, and stand up on two feet...

If you can go into your bathroom and brush your teeth all by yourself...

If you can stand at the toilet and pee all by yourself without having to have someone steady you so you don't fall while in such a compromising, personal position...

If you can take a shower and wash your body and hair all by yourself...

If you can dry yourself off...

If you can stand at the sink and shave...

If you can go to your clothes closet and pick out your own clothes to wear and put them on all by yourself...

If you sit at the end of the bed and put on a pair of boots all by yourself on both feet...

If you can make your way down stairs all by yourself while upright (that is, not have to sit and come down on your rump stair-by-stair while your partner holds your crutches and hovers over you to make sure you don't fall)...

If you can make your way to your own kitchen and prepare an actual breakfast with real food, pulling juice from the fridge, put toast in the toaster, cook eggs or waffles or pancakes on the stove...

If you can walk to the end of the drive to get the daily newspaper that was delivered...

If you can get into a car or onto the saddle of a motorcycle and drive yourself somewhere...

If you can ride public transportation and not be afraid of someone knocking you over and actually finding a seat in the zone reserved for people with disabilities...

If you can walk to work without worrying about climbing over mounds of snow or ice and potentially slipping, falling, and breaking something (again)...

If you can go to work and be productive all day...

If you can drive yourself back home and perhaps stop at the grocery store to run an errand or mail a card...

If you can stop at the home of your family member whom you adore and want to make sure is alright, parking in a distant visitor's space and walk quite a distance to her building...

When you get home, if you can get the mail from your mailbox all by yourself...

If you can fill the backyard bird feeder all by yourself...

If you can plan and prepare a nice home-cooked, satisfying meal for dinner at home with your mate...

If you can get to an evening meeting in the community, speak at a hearing, collaborate on a political campaign, or just visit with friends at their home...

When it's time for bed, if you can get yourself up stairs in an upright position, not having to go backwards up on your rump one stair at a time while your partner holds your crutches and hovers over you because he's afraid you will fall...

If you can brush your teeth, use the toilet, and wash before going to bed all by yourself without help...

If you can change out of your clothes into what you wear when you sleep all by yourself...

If you can go to sleep without the necessity of taking sleep aids, pain medication, or other drugs and actually fall asleep...

If you can be comfortable in your own bed, without having to prop your damn leg higher than your heart on a bulky pillow...

If you can sleep next to your mate who isn't afraid of hurting you or being hurt by sleep-kicking of an unwieldy, heavy, bulky cast on your leg...

And if you don't have to repeat the entire process the next day, day after day after day...

And if you have a partner, spouse, mate, or close companion who will help you with all of these tasks of daily life that you no longer can do for yourself...

And if you have competent health care that ensures you actually WILL recover from a severe injury or illness...

...COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS!

I do, every day. I am so deeply appreciative, thankful, and blessed to have my man by my side as I continue on the road to recovery from this broken leg. I appreciate that I do have health insurance and good doctors and a pharmacy plan. The teabagging morons who could give a shit about their neighbors just don't get it...and unfortunately, they never will.

I think of all the people I know who have a permanent condition where they can't fend for themselves any more, at all ... and who have limited health care through Medicare or Medicaid, or no health care access at all. They put up with a lot more than I have had to deal with... and it's a life sentence for them. Such a "life."

While I am annoyed at being temporarily hobbled and confined, there is light at the end of the tunnel and I'll be back into two boots and on my feet soon, while some of my elderly friends don't have that option. They're alone, lonely, and abandoned. This is why I go out of my way to care for others. I've seen it, and now have experienced it with my own bum leg! I'm no saint. I'm no angel. I'm just a guy who cares, and acts on his passions.

I can truly understand now better than ever why my Uncle Charlie just wanted to die at the end of his life's winter. It's miserable to be completely dependent on another and be so unable to do ... what you once could do.

Life is short: count your blessings!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Gay Men-Straight Men Friendships

The other day, someone googled the phrase, "Gay Men - Straight Men Friendships" and it ended up on this blog. But I realized that I haven't blogged much about those types of relationships.

Okay, so I am a gay man. I am in a monogamous relationship with a man -- my mate, partner, best half... etc. Most of my friends are straight -- as is most of the world. What is my relationship with men in my world who are straight?

To be honest, it varies. Most guys I know are open-minded, and don't consider my sexual orientation as a threat to their manhood. But some are wary, distant, puzzled, or just don't want to deal with it. That description fits best about the guys who I ride motorcycles with. They're fine if I'm out there riding, but they generally prefer not to socialize with me. Then again, I don't socialize with them much, either. Not because I don't like them, but because the social activities besides motorcycling that they do are not something I enjoy: going to a ball game, dancing, hanging out late at a restaurant or bar. All these things don't interest me. They never have. And not because I'm gay, but because I never have enjoyed sports, dining, dancing, drinking alcohol to excess, etc. (Just ask my twin brother!)

In the on-line community, I have enjoyed hearing from a lot of guys, both gay and straight. They all express concern and camaraderie, and bring a smile to my face in knowing that they care. While most of my on-line contacts are gay, not all are. In fact, several of the guys I communicate with regularly are straight. Sexual orientation isn't an issue to these guys who are secure in their own self-perception.

It really all comes down to how confident and secure people are. Men who are confident in themselves, their identity, and their sexual orientation don't care if I am gay. They care about me as a person. One who can share information, fun, and camaraderie.

I can say that I have a lot of friends, many of whom I have known since childhood. They have known me all of their lives and the fact that I am gay is never an issue because they knew me before they knew my sexual orientation.

New people who I meet generally are friendly and we get along well. Then when they find out that I am gay, some don't think a thing about it (or indicate that they do), and some will become more distant. I let them decide how to relate to me. I don't push myself on them (or anyone.) It's their decision as to what type of relationship to have with me.

Does it bother me that some men distance themselves from me once they find out that I am gay? Sure. I'm a sensitive guy. But I am also mature enough to realize that some guys just don't want to develop a deeper relationship as a friend with a guy whose sexual orientation is opposite their own.

Further, I have to admit that what forms bonds of friendships is shared interests. Are you interested in boots and leather? We can talk for days, weeks, years. You want to know about websites, blogging, wikis, etc.? Let's talk! How to repair and remodel a house? I got 'ya covered. Shared history in going to school and growing up together? We've got lots to talk about.

But if you want to know who is competing in the Olympics, what teams are playing football or baseball, or what grammafronzit fits best in a motorcycle engine, then that leaves me out. I'm just not interested in those things. Interest in sports, engines, or activities like that is not a gay/straight matter. There are a lot of gay guys who are very interested in sports, who build bikes, or fix up cars. I just don't happen to be one of them.

Issues about shared interests is what begins the development of a friendship, and builds those bonds for a durable period of time. If we aren't interested in the same things, then we don't have much to talk about, do we? That has nothing to do with being gay or straight as it has to do with what we can do and talk about together.

I look at who I call my "closest" friends. Two (one straight male and one straight female) from my childhood; my very close friends met through on-line activities: AZ, Clay, Kevin, and Bama -- three gay and one straight. My senior pals -- almost too numerous to count -- and all straight. They are close because of what we have done and shared together, and my sexual orientation has nothing to do with it.

I am a confident, secure, masculine gay man. I am well connected in my community and in my profession. If someone doesn't want to be my friend, I can live with it. I do... all the time. It's natural, and I no longer get upset if someone doesn't seem to want to reach out and build a closer relationship. That will happen with some people, and not with others.

Life is short: know who you are, and be happy with that. Have friends who care about you, and show you care for them.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Best Friend

What's a "best friend?" I think of grade school, when you picked one person to be your "best friend" and everyone else was second....

As an adult, of course, things are different. I have my partner, life-long friends, intimate friends, close friends, casual friends, and acquaintances. Of course my partner is my "bestest" friend, but that's a different story. He's got to be!

My life-long friends know me, or they think they know me; however, memories of the "me as a kid" sometimes affect their perception of the "me as a middle-aged man." This applies to most of my siblings, as well. But that's to be expected. They all love me, for who I was and who I am and who I will be. They will be with me all of my life.

My close friends are those who know me pretty well. They know I drink Coke (Zero) instead of coffee in the morning, am uber-annoyed at people who won't "hang up and drive," that I don't eat broccoli, and that I abhor violence (or even play-acting violence on TV). They know when I'm feeling a bit down, and what to say to help me feel better. They let me help, and they help me. They're "there" through thick, thin, and in between. We communicate regularly through a variety of methods, and have a good sense of what works to form that net to which I often refer -- the net that supports someone throughout his life. These friends form the fabric of my "life net."

Intimate friends, of which there are very few, not only have all the qualities of close friends, but also truly know my heart. They can read me and intuit how I feel. They know just what to say -- or sometimes, what not to say. I am not referring to sexual intimacy, which is reserved only for my partner, but rather, I am referring to personal intimacy. These are the friends who I trust and allow into my personal space. Few get that close. Few ever will.

I was speaking on the phone with two of these intimate friends yesterday -- AZ and my twin brother -- and they each made me realize how incredibly rich I am. I have a partner who loves me, cares for me, and will do anything for me. I have a nice home. I have health insurance and am getting decent medical care. I have people who look after me and show me how they care -- as I have tried to show them that I care about their well-being, too.

Further, though, AZ and J reminded me that while I feel down, frustrated, angry at being confined and hobbled, that I have talents that I can apply to get me out of these doldrums. Each in their own way urged me to engage my talents and concentrate on doing something during this period of confinement that I would not have had the time to do if I were engaged in my usual busy, active life. You know what? They're right!

And what's interesting to me is that both of them knew how I was feeling before I even told them. They just know me. They know my heart.

Luv 'ya, guys... with all my heart.

Life is short: seize your talents. Your intimate, close friends want you to!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Best Unseen Surprise

I mentioned earlier that I had arranged for a guy dressed in full leather to come to our house on Sunday, which was Valentine's Day, to present a gift of a dozen red roses, a red velvet cake, and a card to my partner.

We began our day with a long, cuddly snuggle. We just held one another, talked, and listened to hopes, dreams, desires, thoughts, and ideas.

We enjoyed a simple breakfast. I truly wish that I could have made my partner's favourite breakfast of waffles and all the accompaniments, but I just could not do it as my broken leg was throbbing and not behaving.

After breakfast, we went into our family room, which is on the first level, near the front door. I was working on my computer (getting the Boot Wiki going) and hoping... hoping... hoping that the guy would come with the gifts.

At 1:00pm, we had a light lunch. Still nothing.

Then the doorbell rang, and I said what I had planned to say, "will you answer it, please?" My partner grunted at being annoyed that the doorbell rang and visitors were here, but he answered the door. I got up as quietly as I could, grabbed the camera, and made my way toward the door to see who was there. It wasn't the leatherdude, though. I had four visitors (senior pals) who came over to see me. We talked for a while, then they left.

By then it was about 2:30, and I was wondering if the guy were going to come over. I sent my partner upstairs on a ruse and quickly called my friend who arranged it, and only got his voice mail. I left a message.

My partner said, "I recorded a movie that I think you would like on the Tivo in the basement on high-def. Let's pop some corn and go watch it." I said, "what if some other friends come over?" He said, "I'll just answer the door." I really didn't have any other excuse I could use, and my partner wanted to see that movie with me. He had this romantic, far-away look in his eye.

I hobbled down the stairs, as I didn't want to disappoint my partner. Also, I wanted to see a movie with him. I enjoy spending time with him like that. We settled down on our sofa, got the movie started, dimmed the lights, and held hands. Soon we were involved in the plot of the movie.

We decided to take an intermission about half-way through. I hobbled over to the basement bathroom. My partner said, "I'll take the popcorn bowl to the kitchen and use the bathroom up there. I'll be right back."

He went upstairs, and I got "settled" in the bathroom. Well... I don't need to explain what I was doing, but I heard the doorbell ring and my partner answer it. He began to laugh. I knew that this was it! And here I am on the toilet with my pants down. There was no way I could get dressed and up the stairs without help. So I missed it. Damn!

My partner came back to the basement a few minutes later with a big smile on his face, and a tear in his eye. He had put the flowers in a vase. He put them on the coffee table, and began to cut slices of the cake that was delivered.

He reached out, held my hand, gave me a kiss, and said, simply: thank you, Valentine!

... then he told me that our nebby neighbor across the street saw the whole thing. We laughed uproariously.

I wish I could have been on that level to see his surprise, and perhaps have taken some pictures. But what was most important is that my valentine enjoyed his surprise.

Life is short: show those you love that you love them!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Wanna Wiki?

What's a wiki, you ask? A wiki is is a website that allows the creation and editing of any number of interlinked web pages via a web browser. A wiki is essentially a database for creating, browsing, and searching through information. A defining characteristic of wiki technology is the ease with which pages can be created and updated. A single page in a "wiki" website is referred to as a "wiki page," while the entire collection of pages, which are interconnected by hyperlinks, is "the wiki."

One of the reasons why website interfaces like Facebook and blogs have become so popular is because they are interactive. They allow you to share information with others and leave comments. Rather than being static, providing one-way content as most "web 1.0" websites do, a wiki is part of that "web 2.0" world that allows two-way communication.

At the suggestion of a friend from Singapore, I have begun moving toward developing a "Boot Wiki." It will provide for a medium to share information about boots beyond what I can do with my website.

It works best when people "join the Wiki team." That way, various people can interact with it and share their collective knowledge and information. However, because the topic is narrow, and the development of this Boot Wiki is being led by a gay man, I am being careful with it. I am allowing others to register to join the Wiki Team if they ask me to join, and I know who they are. (I do not have to have met them in person, but I should have communicated with them, at least, via email.)

Would you like to be among the first to join my Boot Wiki team? If so, click here to sign up. Thanks for considering it. I think it will be fun!

Life is short: embrace new technology!


Sunday, February 14, 2010

To My Valentine

Happy Valentine's Day!

I will keep this short, only to say that my beloved Valentine will be surprised today when a special treat that I ordered just for him is presented by a leather-clad stud. A dozen red roses, a red velvet cake, and a card. 'twasn't cheap, but well deserved. (Thanks, Dave!)

Meanwhile, I'm feeling a bit more human. Yesterday, I put on a pair of jeans and a flannel shirt, with a real boot on my left foot. I ditched the sweats I had been wearing since I broke my right leg. Guido and I sat on the island in my kitchen and prepared cupcakes for my special valentine, my love, my hunk, my partner, my best half.

I made these cupcakes to throw my partner off the scent that something else might be delivered today. When the doorbell rings, I'll say, "will you please answer the door since I can't get up?" Ordinarily, my partner avoids answering the door and interacting with people, but since I broke my leg, he's been pretty good about doing that. Since some family and elder buds have been dropping by to visit or bring (more) casseroles, he wouldn't think twice about the doorbell ringing again. I just want to be there to see his face when the flower-bearing leatherhunk is standing there! LOL!

To the man I love with all my heart, soul, and every ounce of my being: HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!

Life is short: show those you love that you love them!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Reasons to Smile!

My partner broke through the mounds of ice, snow, and ... whatever ... to get me to the orthopedic specialist yesterday. I have had a cast on my broken leg for almost three weeks. It was time for the doc to fish or cut bait!

Good news was that the bone in my leg had not displaced, so I could get a cast on it and I will not have to have surgery.

The bad news is that I still can't put any weight on it so I cannot walk. Anywhere. I hobble with crutches to the bathroom and into our kitchen. But that's it.

I don't want to take any chances, so I am keeping it elevated and following doctor's orders. I am a bit bummed that I can't get around in the manner to which I am accustomed, but soon enough, I'll be back in two boots, standing proudly, and doing what I usually do.

Meanwhile, a big broad smile remains firmly on my face, as I look at my beloved, wonderful partner who has done so much to care for me in so many ways, from helping me to bathe, to preparing meals, to accommodating my every need in every way, even if it causes him pain. He has broken us free from this mountain of snow, all with his muscles and focus on task.

I smile when I look into the faces of my brothers and sisters who have come to visit and help tend to my aunt, and some of my senior buds. I smile when I gaze into the faces of my nieces and nephews who are also pitching in. I smile when my twin brother and my best friend, AZ, call me every day to check on me. I smile when I read emails from Bama, Clay, Kevin, Brian, and some other friends, who keep me entertained and knowing that they care about me. I smiled HUGELY yesterday when a contingent of 14 elder buds dropped by ... with more casseroles and nutless brownies! Woo-hoo! Bless 'em, bless 'em all. I smile because, deep down inside, I know I'm loved.

Life is short: show those you love that you love them.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Are Boots Supposed To Be Noisy?

I received an email the other day from a guy who asked this question:
Any time I'm in a store or wherever and there is someone who is wearing boots you can hear him from a mile away. Clop, clop, clop. My boots don't make much of a noise when I walk, for the most part. Are boots supposed to be noisy, or are they noisy because these guys' boots are ill-fitting?
This was an interesting question to me.

In order for a boot (or a shoe for that matter) to make a clunk, the person wearing it has to drop the heel a split second before the foot. When a boot-wearer does that, he (or she) will hear a distinctive "clunk" as the heel hits the floor sooner than the foot. On the other hand, if you walk in boots as I usually do, I place my foot on the ground slightly before the heel. Walking that way, you can barely tell from the sound that I have boots on.

What is it about wearing boots that makes some guys want to hear that distinctive "boot clunk" sound?

My answer to the writer was one of preferences. Some guys like to hear the "boot clunk" sound, and some don't care. There are some boots that are more prone to making a clunking sound -- such as vintage Frye Boots. Also, some guys modify their boot heels by having taps added, or removing the soft rubber heel plate. Those modifications cause boots to clunk -- on purpose.

I admit, there are times when I will clunk my boots, but mostly when I am by myself and in an area with good acoustics -- so I can hear the sound reverberate. I do that for self-entertainment (it doesn't take much LOL!)

Other guys really like to hear that noise, and walk that way on purpose to attract attention.

Boots that make noise when they are worn make that noise because the person wearing the boots makes it happen. Seldom does the boot make a clunk all by itself. It needs "help."

Is there anything wrong with clunking a boot, especially on a wooden floor, for example? No.

... but some people don't like it, are annoyed by the sound, or do not understand.

We are all different. Some clunk our boots, and some do not.

Following are two YouTube videos that I did quite a while ago that demonstrates what boot clunking sounds like.





Thursday, February 11, 2010

Relentless

Image courtesy of the U.S. National Weather Service, and shows snow depths from the most recent storm by color. The sickly green color means the deepest snow. I live within that sickly green area.

This is not a rant. This is not a whine. This is an observation.

Today marks the fourth day in row that the Federal Government has been closed in the DC Metro area. Actually, the feds closed a half-day last Friday, so this marks 4.5 work days that they have been closed in a row. As go the feds, goes my employer who "follows the lead" of the Federal Government. I get the time off with pay, as well. That's good, because otherwise I would have to use vacation time until I reached the max and began using disability leave. Now perhaps I can preserve at least a few days of vacation time. We'll see....

All day yesterday, we experienced a second round of a relentless series of storms. By evening, we had about 12" (30cm) of snow accumulate on top of the 30" (76cm) that had not begun to melt from the last storm. The snowfall yesterday was hard to measure because we had sustained winds of over 30mph (48kph). The winds blew the snow to cause drifts that looked as large as automobiles.

We lost power at 10:30am, and as my partner and I were debating about firing up the generator (which is not an easy feat), the power came back on. Yea! Thank goodness for small favours.

My partner went out yesterday morning and used the snowblower to remove the first 6" (15cm) of snow, but said he would wait until today before he attempted to remove the rest of it. I agreed with that idea since the winds were howling, the wind chill was incredibly cold, and the blowing snow would cover what my partner removed. [Pictured is our little buddy Snowbeary who wants my partner to take him sledding.]

Meanwhile, we consider ourselves rather "lucky" compared with others I know who have been without power for four days (and counting), or who have had trees fall onto their house and caused significant damage. So far, for us, we're okay. We are confined inside our house, but we are managing well. My aunt, bless her soul, is so pleasant and easy to care for. She reads, watches TV, and naps a lot. We are happy to have her with us. (She has even been able to help me out somewhat so I don't have to try to get up and walk, which is still very difficult.)

I was able to prepare a great beef stew that went well with the homemade bread that I baked yesterday. It was that kind of day, and the stew was perfect: hearty and tasty.

Life is short: make the best of it!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hot Buns

I am learning how to get back to doing what I love to do: bake. I can sit on the island in our kitchen! Yippie!

You may wonder why that makes me happy. You see, I like to make our own breads, pasta, and other delights, but because I broke my leg and am under a doctor's orders not to put weight on it, I can't stand as I ordinarily do when I work in my kitchen. I thought my days of creating culinary delights were temporarily suspended.

However, I found that I can sit on the island in my kitchen and reach everything (or almost everything). Yesterday, my partner put all the ingredients on the island that I needed to make yeast-raised parmesan bread. I measured the ingredients and put them into a breadmaker which kneaded the dough. When the dough was ready, I formed four small loaves and put them in an unheated oven to rise. To hasten the yeast doing its work, I asked my partner to put a large bowl of hot water in the oven with the dough in the small pans.

A couple hours later, the dough had risen and it was ready to bake. I heated our bread oven (which is pretty much like a regular oven, but is only 10" high and is lined with ceramic tile). I transferred the bread into the hot oven, and 33 minutes later, voi-la!

At dinnertime, I sliced the bread. My partner pan broiled some chicken breasts. When the chicken was ready, I put it on the sliced bread and placed some sliced mozzarella cheese on top. We put that in the oven and broiled it for about three minutes -- and out came a "new" kind of hot chicken sandwich on fresh bread which made a great dinner. We enjoyed it with a small side salad.

These buns will be tasty today when I cover them with homemade meatballs and sauce so we can have a hot meatball sandwich for lunch. My partner will need to have a hot sandwich about that time, as he will have had to go remove snow again from our drive and walks. Sheesh, that snow is unmerciful this year!

Life is short: enjoy buns! Especially hot ones! (LOL!) [Sorry, I reserve my partner's buns exclusively for me. Look, I may have a broken leg, but I'm not dead!]

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Worn Thin

Ordinarily, I am a very patient man. I work with a lot of the bureaucracy of our country's federal government, which if that work has taught me anything, it is to be patient. The wheels of government grind very slowly. They take forever to make a decision, and often change their minds.

Currently, my patience, and that of my partner, has been tested and worn thin by this really crappy weather we have had to deal with. 30" (76cm) of snow last weekend, and with our home county being in the target zone for some 8" (20cm) to 16" (40cm) of snow due to start falling later today through the night.

My partner has had to do everything, because I cannot stand up for more than a minute. From cooking to cleaning to shoveling snow to operating our generator to helping me bathe to going to get more gas and groceries between storms ... you name it, he has to do it. It is really hard on him. He has tried to be as patient as he can be, and it hasn't been easy.

I am frustrated as heck because there is very little that I can do. Our street was plowed yesterday morning, and a neighbor who has nothing better to do used his snowblower and opened up the rest of the street and neighbor's driveways (all except his disabled next-door neighbor who he doesn't like). I got a couple of buddies who I am tutoring for their upcoming citizenship test to come to the neighborhood and dig out that disabled neighbor (because I can't tolerate spitefulness). They also dug out our fire hydrants so they would be accessible... just in case.

I have been helping to prepare volunteers with critical, time-sensitive, safety advice. These volunteers are using their 4WD vehicles to provide critical transportation for essential workers throughout our county. We almost lost a whole family who lives in our county. They used a cooking stove indoors during a power outage and almost died due to carbon monoxide poisoning. There is a lot of safety advice to give, but my expertise is knowing what is most critical information to give to certain audiences at the right time. As they say, "timing is everything."

As far as the eye can see... more and more snow. Wish us safety and comfort as we prepare for the filming of the sequel, "Snowpocalypse II." An alternate film also in production is "Snowzilla." I just hope that they can mesh the mouth movements better than they were able to do with the original "Godzilla" movies (LOL!)

PS: If blog posts appear that are not related to our current situation with the weather, then it is likely that we have lost power and internet service again, and this blog has gone on "automatic," meaning that some other posts I have written for "anytime" will appear each day until our power and internet service is restored.


Monday, February 8, 2010

I Don't Swear

I don't swear (often), but when this emergency message just popped up on my computer, all I could say was, "oh shit!"

-----------------------
THE NATL WEATHER SVC IN STERLING VA HAS ISSUED A WINTER STORM WARNING FOR SNOW WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 9 AM TUESDAY TO 4 PM EST WEDNESDAY. THE WINTER STORM WATCH IS NO LONGER IN EFFECT.

* PRECIPITATION TYPE: SNOW MIXED WITH SLEET AT TIMES TUESDAY EVENING.

* ACCUMULATIONS: 10 TO 20 INCHES OF SNOW.

* TIMING: MID-MORNING TUES THROUGH WED AFTERNOON.

* TEMPS: TEMPS NEAR FREEZING AT THE ONSET TUESDAY AFTERNOON. TEMPS WILL DROP INTO THE MID 20s TUESDAY NIGHT. HIGHS IN THE LWR 30s WEDNESDAY.

* WINDS: LIGHT SOUTHEASTERLY WINDS TUES BECOMING NORTH-NORTHWESTERLY 15 TO 25 MPH WEDNESDAY.

A WINTER STORM WARNING MEANS SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF SNOW ARE EXPECTED OR OCCURRING. THE COMBINATION OF SNOW & STRONG WINDS WILL MAKE TRAVEL VERY HAZARDOUS.

---------------------
Due to this impending version of "Snopocalypse II," I had to cancel my doctor's appointment scheduled for Wednesday to get a cast on my leg. Who knows, it may be summer solstice before the snow and ice melt enough for me to get back to the doctor's office.

Life is short: and with these ongoing storms, it may be shorter! Arrrgggh!

700th Blog Post

Welcome to blog post #700*. Since I began writing this blog in January, 2008, I have found this process to be interesting and a fun way of sharing my outlook on life.

Since the blog is updated daily, I see that I enjoy visits by some 250 regular visitors every day, and some 500 casual visitors who drop in, usually via a search engine directing them here.

They may be searching for information about life as a monogamously partnered gay man, who is happy, settled, and enjoys life. Or they may be looking for information about masculine gay men, about which I have blogged a lot.

Else, they could be searching for information about motorcycle police patrol boots, cowboy boots, or leather gear. There continue to be a whole lot of people who are confused about whether to wear jeans tucked into their boots (or not), as well as whether they can or should wear leather gear such as a pair of leather jeans, in public.

I try to project that gay men are part of the community, and take an active interest in helping to make things better and life more enjoyable where they work and live. That not all gay men are prissy queens, but those who project a fun, flamboyant image are part of the mix at the large table at which we as humanity are seated.

I try to encourage others to relax, be themselves, and to try doing things that are new to them. Part of the gay "coming out" process is learning to be comfortable in one's own skin. Learning how to have self-confidence is not something that is done overnight, or learned in one high school elective class. Surrounding oneself with thoughtful, caring, supportive family and friends is critical to making life's journey productive.

I sincerely appreciate that my partner and my family have made it that way for me. My partner is a secure, confident, caring and thoughtful man who brings out those characteristics in me, every day. My parents, may they rest in peace, taught me lessons that remain solid to this day. My siblings -- the whole raucous bunch of 'em -- care a great deal about me and love me, no matter if we may disagree politically or otherwise. My very close friends -- some of whom I grew up with and others I have met more recently -- mean the world to me and compose a rich fabric that I refer to as my "net." It is more than a "safety net" as it is a net composed of various parts that together make me stronger, more secure, as well as safe and loved.

I will keep blogging away, and I hope you will keep reading. Let me know your ideas and suggestions for this blog (or leave a comment). I enjoy getting ideas to blog about from suggestions that are sent to me or that I observe based on various activities that I do and things that I read on the Internet.

Life is short: keep truckin'!

* in full disclosure, this actually is blog post #703; posts about our recent "snowmageddon" snowfall pre-empted this post.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Time Out

Like we get 30" (76cm) of snow every day. To my neighbors: of course the snow plow hasn't come down your side street yet, and it's not because the operators are sipping lattes at the local coffee house. Would you want to have that kind of job? No? Then kwitcherbitchen.

The snow plow operators have been working day and night since before the snow began to fall, and all through it and for days following. Give 'em a break!

Look, everything is closed on Monday, including schools, local, state, and federal government offices, and most private facilities. Stay home, recover from your hangover at your party watching that football game, chill... read a book. But stop whining!

I would much rather that the plows give priority to making hospitals and other community essentials accessible, as well as help utility repair crews identify and be able to reach downed wires so they can restore power. That's much more important than whether I can get out or not... and should be the same for you.

Relax, take a "time out." Life will resume its regular hectic pace soon enough. Enjoy this chilled-out holiday!

Meanwhile, the computer is now going off, and my partner and I are retreating to our media room to watch some movies we have recorded. I'm not a football fan, so we're not all hyped about "the game." We'll sit, relax, hold hands, have some popcorn, enjoy a movie, and hit the sack at our usual early hour.

Life is short: chill out!

Snowpocalypse II

The sun rose this morning and shone its beautiful golden rays on the trees in the forest behind our house, striking a contrast with the snow. It is a gorgeous sight to behold... as were two cop buddies of mine who somehow made it to our house at 5am and finished shoveling us out. I made them some hot cocoa and buns, which I pulled hot out of the oven just as they finished up. Thanks, guys! You're the best! (I'll find a way to repay the favour when I'm rebooted and back on my feet.)

Life is short: enjoy its beauty and celebrate good friendships.




Just imagine... in about six weeks, this hill behind our house will have thousands of bright yellow, orange, and multicoloured daffodils blooming on it.... just imagine...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snowpocalypse

As of 4:30pm, it is STILL snowing. It started snowing 30 hours ago! Measurements that my partner took around the yard reveal anywhere from 24" (61cm) to 30" (76cm) and we have some drifts as much as FIVE FEET (153cm)!

We lost power to our home in the middle of the night, which we anticipated would happen because the snow that fell was wet and heavy, and there were a lot of reports of power lines being hit by falling tree limbs. At daylight, we worked on getting the generator running so we would have heat and preserve the food in our refrigerator and freezers.

My partner has become a pro at using the snow blower, bless him. We are just amazed. It truly is the biggest snowfall we have ever had. I don't expect a county plow to come until the middle of the week. Meanwhile, my partner, my aunt, and I are safe, warm, dry, and managing to deal with this just fine. (Power came back on about 2pm, which was a welcome surprise!)




Snow Is A Four-Letter Word

Oh sh*t... this wicked winter just ain't ever gonna end.

It began to snow yesterday morning about 10:30am, and continued snowing all day and all night. The forecast is for over TWO FEET (20m, or so it will seem) of accumulated snow by the time this storm ends. [For the unfamiliar, the average amount of snowfall during an entire winter season in the DC/Maryland area is less than 15" or 38cm. We got more than that already in our record-breaking December, 2009, snowfall.]

My poor ol' hard-workin' partner has been out there... shoveling away. He also decided that this snowfall was just so much that he would use the snow blower, after initially saying that he did not want to try to use it. The machine is hard for him to handle, but he will do okay with it. It's not really that hard to use, once you become accustomed to it.

I have quit feeling guilty that I can't be out there to help him. I have accepted the fact that I have a broken leg and there's nothing I can do about the snow. I am caring for my aunt, who is staying with us "for the duration" and I am doing some other things that I can do via the Internet -- as long as we have power. The snow is heavy and has covered tree branches, so I would not be surprised if we lose electrical power and internet connectivity. That's okay, we are prepared.

How prepared are we?
  • We have enough food and water to last us for at least a week. Most of the food can be eaten without heating, if need be.
  • While we enjoy VoIP telephone service so we can make "free" long-distance calls throughout the U.S. and Canada, we kept one hard-wired telephone which is powered independently by the phone company, so we will have a working phone if the power goes out.
  • Plenty of flashlights and extra batteries are at hand. No candles -- which are huge fire hazards.
  • We have a generator that can be connected to power essential circuits in the house through a properly installed transfer switch, and adequate fuel stored safely.
  • The generator will power a circuit that will keep the fan in our gas-fueled furnace operating so we will be warm.
  • Most of all, we have each other. We'll take care of each other and get through this just fine.
Life is short: be prepared!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Math Project: Home Remodeling

Some faithful readers of this blog may recall that I bought a fixer-upper house a few weeks ago and had begun the process of cleaning it up and renovating it so that I could return it to the rental market for a community hero. Usually when I get involved in renovating a house, I do a lot of the remodeling work myself. I enjoy it. It is good exercise, and allows me to use skills that I otherwise don't get to do.

Further, doing remodeling well offers many practical applications to apply math knowledge and skills, which I enjoy demonstrating to questioning younger members of my family who have asked, "why do I have to learn that stuff?"

Well, "that stuff" such as geometry and algebra sure come in handy when you're trying to compute the correct cut for angles for window frames, for example. Measure twice, cut once -- and correctly! Or when you're estimating materials required for a project.

Regretfully, the broken leg that I am dealing with sure puts a cramp in my style. But I am not letting it get me down. I sent two young members of my family over to that house last week to get some measurements for me. And they had to be precise so that I could order the correct materials and supplies for contractors to install.

These math-avoiding great nieces needed to do a "practical" project for their eight-grade math class. Their open-minded, creative math teacher accepted a proposal from my great nieces (via me) to compute the requirements to replace a non-load-bearing wall that was in sore need of repair. This wasn't a simple project. Computations of size, shape, depth, and odd-angle dimensions had to be developed that would determine the number of studs, nails, and gypsum (wall board or Sheetrock®) as well as electric outlets, switches, and wiring required to be put inside that wall.

I admit, I "cheat": I have a computer program that does a good job of estimating materials for projects like this. But "what if" we went back to the "olden days" and had to figure this out manually? How is math applied? Well... I am pleased to say that my great nieces figured it out. It took them a while, but they were proud to give me the results of their calculations, which I accepted and used to phone in an order for materials to be delivered to the job site.

I got the correct amount of materials for a contractor to install based on my great nieces' work, for which they earned an "A" for their school project. The contractor finished the installation yesterday and told me that he had very minimal waste and scrap. Good goin', girls!

I'll figure out how to do this renovation project even if I can't do it myself or see it in person for a while.

Life is short: teach while you find alternative methods to get things done.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The View

Looking out my kitchen window is so beautiful...this is the park we built in the forest behind our house, and the view from our kitchen window after yet another snowfall. This snow was of the variety that it clung to every branch, twig, and trunk and looked amazing.

This view is among the reasons why I love to spend hours in my kitchen cooking various things for my partner and me to eat, baking goodies for my elderly friends, and otherwise enjoying creating culinary delights. In nicer weather, my partner spends hours in the forest, just watching.

The cardinals decorate the trees much like Christmas ornaments. The squirrels play "catch me if you can" or "where did I hide that nut?" and the Baltimore Orioles twitter a happy little tune while flashing their orange wings against black bodies. What a sight.

Life is short: love its beauty.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dealing with Disappointment

Yesterday, my partner brought me to the medical center where my right leg and ankle were evaluated. New x-rays revealed a slight displacement of the fibula. The foot and leg were still somewhat swollen, and were all colours of the rainbow... yellow, green, blue, red, and even black.

Oh crap... no cast yet. The doc said that I still have to wait for the swelling to go down and have more x-rays. He had a technician wrap it again in another splint-plus Ace Bandage, this time double-wide to prevent me from twisting it which, hopefully, will inhibit further bone displacement.

He introduced that word that I didn't want to hear -- "surgery." He didn't say that I had to have surgery yet, but he did say that surgery may be required if the displacement of my fibula worsens.

How am I dealing with this news? Well... of course I am disappointed. I wish my partner wouldn't dwell on it. I'll survive. Perhaps I will not get around for a while in two boots, but I will eventually return to a routine. It just will take longer to get there.

This situation with my ankle and leg is bigger than I thought it would be, and requires major reorganization of a lot of my life. It affects work.
It affects my ability to care for my beloved elderly aunt and my senior pals. It affects my voluntary positions. It affects my community advocacy. It affects my minimal social activities, such as being able to attend meetings of my motorcycle club.

I am reorganizing my life, and I will make the best of it. I am not happy, but then again, matters could be much worse. I'll live. I have a partner who cares for me, a family who loves me, neighbors who help, senior pals who keep me company and well-fed, and I live in a safe, warm, comfortable home. Really, if I have to deal with a broken leg, at least I have caring company and a nice place to recover.

Now... where's that damn broccoli? I have some deer raiding the bird feeder and perhaps, if I aim well... [splat]

Life is short: keep smiling -- they'll wonder why.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Broccoli and Nuts

Tales of this gimp's ongoing recovery from the broken leg, while bootless....

I mentioned that senior pals brought us a lot of food last week. Most of what they prepared was in containers that we could heat in the microwave and enjoy in one sitting. Though I must say that Mrs. K just went crazy -- she prepared a type of goulash that was delightful, but very filling and was in a huge container! I finished it at lunch yesterday, and my partner and I had two full servings for dinner last week. I just wish she didn't put broccoli in it. Oh well, I just picked it out. (Broccoli and I never got along... ever.)

And who woulda thunk that broccoli would be added to corned beef? I can understand why it was in potatoes au gratin, but not mixed in with corned beef. (And yeah, I also picked out the cabbage. That doesn't work well when your digestive system is on overdrive.)

The doc warned me that the prescription pain pills have a bad side effect: constipation. I haven't been taking the pain pills very much, and the good news is that... I don't have that problem. Thank goodness for small favors.

I also muse, "what is it about nuts in everything?" Okay, I understand why nuts were in the brownies that my neighbor made for me, but why were nuts in the pasta casserole? Nuts make me go nuts... so it's no additional nuts for me! (If you get what I mean -- LOL!)

One of the things I am learning to handle is not preparing my own meals. When I cook, I know what is in everything I am eating, and thus can ensure that I don't have any unwanted "post-effects" caused by reactions to compounds in certain foods.

I love to cook. When I built our house, I worked with our architect to design my dream kitchen. It is large, spacious, and has a commanding view of our park-like back yard. I have spent hours cooking away, singing, and enjoying time preparing meals for my partner, my friends, and family.

Now that I cannot physically stand up for more than a minute or two at a time, I cannot prepare meals. I suck it up and say "thank you" and enjoy what food has been prepared for me. Besides the omnipresent effervescent casseroles that seem to multiply more quickly than the rabbits in our forest, we also have foods in the freezer that I made a few weeks ago. We are doing fine, food-wise. I long to return to the time when I can prepare our meals -- and leave broccoli on my partner's salad, and nuts in the bird feeder!

"What, time to eat?" ... my partner calls me to the table. I hop in and get settled. He says, "oh, there were some side-dishes in some smaller containers. I heated one of them... hmmm, what's inside? Why, it's broccoli and nuts!"

Life is short. Just smile, and eat your vegetables. Mom would be proud!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Gimp Tales

It has been a whole week since I fell and broke my leg. This is the longest time I have gone without a pair of boots -- or even one boot for that matter -- on my feet. It also is the longest period of time I have gone without wearing a pair of leather jeans. I'm livin' in sweats and comfy flannel shirts.

I am still resting with my right leg elevated. My partner puts ice on it every few hours. I have not had to take prescription pain medication except when I first go to bed for the night -- that's when the pain is worst. Otherwise, the pain is manageable with regular aspirin.

My partner has been heating the casseroles that were prepared for us, and preparing other meals. My appetite is good, but I am being careful about not eating too much because I am not getting any exercise (except if you call hopping to the bathroom on crutches exercise!) I have been drinking my milk, too! The doctor recommended making sure I get lots of calcium in my diet. Since I can't eat leafy green vegetables, I have been drinking milk and taking a calcium supplement.

Yesterday morning, as my partner and I were waking, snuggling closer together, and watching the sun begin to rise and make the trees glow a bright orange, we heard this strange sound. It sounded like scraping. It was not a snow plow, but the noise persisted.

My partner got up, put a robe on, and looked out the front window. He saw four friends of mine -- all cops -- who were shoveling the remaining snow and ice from our drive and walks. I have participated in helping these guys with some motorcycle training, and rent a house to one of them. It was so nice of them to come over and do the rest of the snow cleanup for us. While they were there, the county snowplow came. They cleaned up the snow and ice that the plow pushed across the front of our drive.

By then, I had hopped into the kitchen and brewed a big pot of coffee. My partner heated up some sweet rolls that one of my elder pals made for us. I invited my friends inside to warm up. They graciously accepted, though my partner wasn't all that happy to have visitors when the house was such a mess.

Overall, I think my partner truly appreciated the "hunky help" -- as did I! My partner was awfully sore from the work on Saturday afternoon with the manual shoveling that he did. And don't let me mislead you -- my friends were not in motor boots and uniforms. They were off duty, and came over to help us out of the kindness of their hearts.

Sunday afternoon, the doorbell rang. My partner exclaimed, "now what?" One of my friends had gone around to see some of my older pals for whom I do "that time of year" volunteer work. Yep, it's tax-time! My friend brought me ten envelopes with information that I need to begin to prepare income tax returns for my senior pals. That sure kept me busy the remainder of the afternoon and evening! I even filed my own personal income tax returns and anticipate enough of a refund to get a certain pair of boots that I've been thinking about. (Even though my leg is broken, I am still a Bootman at heart!)

As I was writing this post on Sunday night, the doorbell rang again. It was our next-door neighbor, who baked me some brownies. My partner is growing more and more irritated with that doorbell and visitors, but he just has to accept that my life is closely intertwined with so many others. After all, my community is my life, and our home.

I go tomorrow (Tuesday) to get a cast on the leg... and a prognosis for how I will be able to be more mobile and how long I'll have to reorganize my life in order to fully recover. Wish me well!

Life is short: remember to smile. I have lots to smile about, as my heart is warmed with each email I receive, each telephone call, each visit, ... sniffle, sniffle. And thank you, loyal blog readers, for your caring concern, comments, and emails. I appreciate it very much.