Fighting Our Way Forward, Again

Last April, we got blizzards on three consecutive weekends and I spent three consecutive weekends blowing snow out of the driveway. Then of course, the entire basement flooded, which meant more work to do. I documented this back then but it set off a long period where the tendinitis in my hands really limited my guitar practice. Almost to the point where I packed it in.

This winter I expected that after I gave up plowing snow on my own, I’d be back on track. And for a couple months, I was. Then came the trip to the Twin Cities, following by numerous drives to the vet, a trip to Minot to take care of some issues for my aunt, and a couple runs to other neighboring towns set me way way back. I again considered packing it in.

Today was the first time I had picked up the acoustic guitar in over a month. First of all, I was shocked that I could play without pain for more than a few minutes. I even experimented with sliding my basic power chords up and down the neck. I have trouble with power chords. I have small hands and any strength I had in my two little fingers has atrophied. The acoustic guitar has a short scale (which means the next is about 3/4 of an inch shorter than on my electric) and while a power chord sounds like ASS on an acoustic guitar, it does ring true. I remembered eventually that it was easier if I dropped my thumb behind the neck and damn, my little fingers worked better. I realized “I can do this”.

So now I am feeling a little more confident. The yard work that I do only affects my tendinitis for a short time, particularly if I am aggressive in icing up soon after mowing the lawn or wielding the hedge trimmer. So whatever I do when spring finally gets here won’t stop me from playing guitar for more than a day. It used to be, back in my bus-driving nightmare days, that it would screw me up for days and then I’d have to mow again.

I am relearning a lot of things this time around, taking baby steps as I really bear down on fundamentals. I know that with enough repetition, muscle memory does indeed kick in and it can reawaken. I found that out when I just slowed down on my shuffle rhythm and forced myself to keep at it for longer than a few minutes. And you know, a slow shuffle on an acoustic or electric guitar still sounds funky.

We had a horrible end to our winter. The loss of a beloved pet, a somewhat ugly trip to the Twin Cities, the final failure of my treadmill, and a very hostile winter that went on forever. But right now, it just feels a little brighter days might be coming. We may actually get some work done on the house this spring. My guitar practice shows promise. The temperatures are rising into the 40s next week, which means I can finally start walking outside. And if those rising temperatures cause a flood downstairs, I have the basement ready to minimize damage. Baseball is underway and the Twins are over .500. And my writing…feels good.

I still have to deal with a broken spouse and that will take an extraordinary amount of time. There will undoubtably be setbacks in the remodeling we want to do. The Twins have a really strenuous schedule for the rest of April. On those occasions where Carjo can see beyond the darkness, we are in agreement on how we shall move forward. We are in one accord of how the season of renewal and rebirth will be undertaken and enjoyed. We got this.

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RIP to the First of His Name

Two weeks ago we had to say goodbye to another pet. Our beloved Joffrey was put down after a brief but nasty battle with pneumonia. One lung was no longer moving air and the other was failing. We tried antibiotics but as the vet said, “we just can’t get ahead of this one”. It was time to end his suffering.

He came to us from a big box pet store in Bismarck ND. At the time he was about three months old and miserable to be in a glass kennel. My wife declared that she would set him free and begged the store manager to let her have him, forgoing their usual waiting period. And thus, in a few hours, he was in the car making the long trip to a new home.

It was an unforgettable trip. The vomiting began somewhere near Wilton ND and went on for about 20 miles. Then came a steaming package of semi-solid shit that made the interior of our Mercury Land Yacht smell like the Fifth Level of Hell. We dumped that dump in a vacant lot in the hamlet of Cole Harbor ND. After that, the exhausted kitten slept.

We were naming cats after Game of Thrones characters back then (almost ten years ago). We already had Sansa and Arya. Though she despised the character, my wife decided that this new kitten should be named Joffrey, after Joffrey Baratheon, the First of his Name, King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men Lord of the Seven Kingdoms Protector of the Realm Lord of Storm’s End. You know, the sonovabitch everyone waited for four seasons to die a horrible death.

Joffrey was full of piss and vinegar but he had none of his namesake’s bad qualities. He was a loving fellow that liked nothing more than getting some “sugar” from his humans. He was skittish, probably from his time spent in that glass cell at the big box store. He never let anyone else near him, just us. I have a couple cats that are gregarious, particularly Sansa, but Joff had no use for anyone other than Carjo and I. We have had people stay in this house for days and barely get a glimpse of him. But if I sat on the couch, he’d appear, ready to climb on my chest, demanding his nightly supplement of sugar. At night he’d spend time with each of us, reassuring us that we were “his” and nothing would come between us.

Now he’s gone. Next week the weather will likely be in the 50s and he would be on the deck, basking in the sun, soaking its warmth into his long orange tabby body. He was a big boy and it gave him a certain swagger, a confidence that the world was his to explore and enjoy. So while I deeply mourn his passing, I take comfort in that he lived the life he wanted to the fullest. Carjo is beyond despondent, torn by his sudden passing and the senselessness of it all. She never takes the loss of any member of the family well. This time is especially hard and it breaks me to see her so anguished. But we will go on, our live made better by spending the time we had with him. It just seems so empty without him.


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A Trip to E St

This past week we went to the Twin Cities. Our Family Truckster had been making a noise all summer and I just knew it was one of those things that was going to bite me in my fat white ass if it wasn’t resolved. I also had Springsteen tickets. Sorry to bury the lede.

We had also planned on going to a college baseball tournament with our bestest friends, The Pharma Couple. But they woke up feeling terrible the day before and of course, ended up testing positive for COVID. So there was no baseball. They did get on Paxlovid and are on the mend. That’s the important thing.

The Family Truckster needed some medical intervention as well. The water pump had sustained some damage (probably due to ND roads) and a piece of metal was flapping around. It was also cutting into the timing belt. The owner of the garage said, “you guys wouldn’t have made it back to North Dakota, and likely would have ruined the engine when the timing belt failed.” So there was our best bit of luck for the weekend.

My brother had gotten our seats upgraded for Springsteen and we ended up a row behind “the pit”. That’s about 35 feet from the stage. My back was weak and my ankles were failing (due to getting hammered from running up and down the stairs at my brother’s place) so I took a few breaks to sit down during the show. But the other 18000+ in the audience pretty much stood all the way through the show.

Was it a good one? Well, the local paper said it was the best Springsteen show the Twin Cities has seen in this century so yeah, I think the old man had a good night. We got a couple songs not performed yet on this tour. “Pay Me My Money Down” was particularly well received. The forty minute “encore” was a blitz of several big hits, plus we got “Rosalita”. He’s not sliding across the stage on his knees or leaping off the piano anymore but sheesh, his energy was unfailing. The audience was utterly insane, to the point that Bruce had to point out to us in his thank you before closing the show “You are a MOTHERFUCKER”. Indeed we were. If this is the last Springsteen show of my life, and I’ve seen a few, this was the one to go out on. Just a relentless night of rock and soul.

It wouldn’t be a trip back to Minnesota without an update to the beer fridge. Small breweries are booming in western North Dakota but the selection in liquor stores has gotten progressively worse. I was down to my last six brews so it was time to indulge. Here’s hoping that I can make this stretch out a few months.

I’ve been drinking dark brews for most of the winter so it was time to get back to brews more bitter than an ex-wife. I think this group will do the trick.

Now we’re home. The cats have lost their minds, state basketball tournaments have begun, and a monster blizzard is coming our way. I think I’ll ride this out with beer, basketball, and Bruce.

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In Which I Get a Cleansed Bill of Health

A few weeks ago I had my first physical in years. Apparently Medicare has an idea that such things are important and my clinic agrees with them. And so I made the appointment with a PA who I’ve seen before regarding my back. I don’t go to “the doctor” that much, especially for someone my age. But I needed to get a few things off my mind so off I went.

My dad, a great uncle, and my first cousin on my mom’s side all had prostate cancer. I hadn’t had a PSA test in twelve years so I was more than a little overdue. I’m on a low level statin for cholesterol but that Rx is quite out of date. And last, but not least, I hadn’t had a colonoscopy for 15 years. One of my cousins just had one and several polyps were found so I had some reason to literally get my ass to the clinic.

Despite my whining about aches and pains, that’s really all the health issues I have had. The rhomboid muscles in my back, tendinitis in the back of my hands, and arthritis in my left ankle are my complaints. So far, nothing truly internal is going on. I do think about the other issues and given that cousin’s recent adventures, it was time. My sphincter puckered in anticipation.

I passed the PSA with great numbers, so that was a sigh of relief. I did need to level up on cholesterol medication but for three months. Given that I’m shedding weight I figure that I’ll be able to drop to a lower level then. And I got on the schedule for the ‘scopy that all dread. Actually, the test itself isn’t dreadful. You are under anesthesia for that. It’s the prep that’s the shits. No eating, pounding down a couple gallons of frigid Gatorade mixed with a vile powder, and finally, evacuating so much from your bowels you swear that an interdimensional portal has opened in your lower intestine, bringing forth sewage from alternate reality. Again and again and again. In my case, I still was flushing liquid materials from the nth dimension even after the procedure. Good times.

They did find one polyp which tested to be benign. So another hurdle passed. The PA told me today that because that polyp was in my upper intestine they should do another one in 5 years. That was a pretty shitty determination but I guess it could be worse.

So now I go forth thinking that despite some aches and pains, I’m in relatively good health. I’m up to 30 minutes on the treadmill and if spring ever comes to this godforsaken land, I’ll be walking outside. I would like to get back to riding bike as well, even though the old school ten speed in my garage is a bad fit for me. If I stay on track for losing weight I should be at what I would consider my goal by Thanksgiving. And then I’ll have a lot to be thankful for.

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Going Dry…For a While

There have been a lot of posts about beer in this blog. There have been a lot of posts regarding health and diet in this blog. This is a post about all of these things.

I am coming to the end of an entire month of NOT drinking beer (or anything else alcoholic). It’s part of my focus on diet following my revulsion at gaining weight last fall. I knew one of my failings was the fact that when I had a beer at night (and it’s almost always just one) I have a compulsion to overdo it on salty snacks like pretzels and popcorn. I figured that one way to cut calories and jumpstart my weight loss was to experiment with a dry January. So on December 31, I had my last beer.

I am now five days away from the end of the month and I think I can safely make certain conclusions. I have had no withdrawal issues at all, other than missing the taste. I really like the taste of a well-brewed ale and that will likely never change. I am losing weight. Part of it is because I am hitting the treadmill but a bigger part is that I am just consuming less, be it solid or liquid. So when I return to enjoying beer again, I will have to be just as vigilant about my intake of calories, if not more so. I thought I would be more likely to sleep through the night without having to get up once to pee. This is not the case, probably because instead of an evening beer, I’m guzzling an evening diet soda. So that’s not going to change.

I have been plagued with headaches all my life. If’s a genetic gift from my mother and I hate it. I was assuming that part of my headaches were caused by the alcohol, especially the ones that would come just before going to bed. Guess what? They’re still there. It’s not a consistent problem but it irks me that this sacrifice was going to pay off in a little less pain across my forehead. Nope. Still there. I’m now convinced that I’ll be on my deathbed and there will be a little nagging headache, making my passing just a hair more painful. Sigh.

But my biggest win in all of this is that I am able to do it and not go back on my vow. I’ll walk across the finish line having given up something I love for a rather long month and I did not break. As someone with ADHD (or whatever we’re calling it this week) discipline and sticking-to-it has always been a problem. And this was giving up something I love. I am a little impressed. The fat old man is a little less fatter and feeling emboldened. I don’t think I am going to be trying giving up anything else in the near future (other than extraneous calories) but it’s good to have this victory to reflect back on.

I’ll be spending a fair amount of time in the next few days contemplating which beer I will have to break this fast. I might even have two!

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A Whole Old You

I quit walking in September (see the post: I Have Become Danny Glover). My ankle had been bothering me all summer and my right foot had suffered a minor sprain. It was time for a break. I did some research and it seems that the arthritis that was foretold by the MD that treated my broken ankle had arisen. It was suggested by a few medical sites that I find an alternative form of exercise. I tried using Carjo’s bike but it was a battle. Something about it strained my hips and I gave up. The nearest indoor pool is 40 miles away so that’s not feasible. The online exercise classes weren’t working either. I don’t have the patience for digital yoga. And the pounds started coming on.

A couple weeks before Christmas, when struggling to fit a shirt over my gut, I hit a breaking point. I have a checkup coming this January but I wanted some answers now. In my search I hit a couple of medical school sites that suggested that in dealing with arthritis, alternatives or even giving the ankle a rest for the remainder of my life is not the answer. In fact, doing nothing makes it worse. Attacking the beast where it lives is the only answer. Thus, the day after Christmas, I was back on the treadmill. I have walked three times a week for two weeks now and I have actually increased my time spent on the treadmill. I am almost back up to the speed I had established last winter and the pain I get can get treated with a topical ointment. So it all works. I just have to keep moving.

On Monday, I return to my Swedish Death Cleaning of the basement. At some point this spring I am going to a.) hire a dumpster and b.) hire some young muscle to move all the dead and dying furniture out of the basement. This is not a job for a senior citizen with a back issues. I’ll trash/toss the light stuff all winter, leave the heavy stuff for the young backs, and when everything is out, hire one of those specialized cleaning services to get all the granular debris and mold out of the basement. If our plumber is true to his word (and that’s a rarity out here), I’ll get sump pumps put in downstairs. And for the first time in at least thirty years this house will have a clean dry basement. And I will be there, walking the treadmill.

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God Yul!

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate. Above, an actual photo taken from a surveillance camera on my roof.

Peace on earth and goodwill to all, let’s approach 2023 with cautious optimism.

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Cold Enough for Ya, Then

That’s what my dad and his generation used to say. Note the “then”. That usage was pretty common in the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. I even catch myself doing it now and then.

But this is isn’t about speech/grammar idioms of the plains states and upper Midwest. This is about how freaking cold it is. My wife and I actually went out yesterday for a run to the grocery store for a few last minute items. Yah, it pretty damn cold. The wind cut right through my jeans. I need to go out again today because of course, there’s a couple things we forgot. I’m also waiting for one last Christmas present for my beloved but even though Amazon promises it is just not going to make it even into this state until after Christmas.

I grew up with bitter cold like this. In my teenage years one of my best friends and I went out into a minus fifty wind chill day on snowmobiles just to say we could do it. But hell, we were well bundled up with snowmobile suits, heavy boots, mittens, and helmets. And what’s even crazier, the parental units thought nothing of it. Parenting then was certainly laissez by today’s standards. So I know how to deal with it and how to prepare going out into it. You dress in layers; heavy protection on hands, head, and feet; warm up your vehicle before taking off; and stay inside whenever possible. And don’t let teenage boys do stupid shit just because they can.

Stay warm folks. It’ll be in the 30s from Christmas day and into the next week. After that, who the hell knows. It’s like the climate has changed.

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This Time I Won’t Whine

I have come to realize that I do way too much whining about physical issues in this blog. Maybe it’s just venting but I need to start catching myself doing it. I am better than that (I hope). Moving forward, let us start with Tricia because dammit, that old post about her bottom still generates traffic and I must make amends by posting a photo of her in somewhat less revealing circumstances. I don’t really have a Tricia Helfer fixation. I am clearly on Team Charlize (time to rewatch Atomic Blonde).

At this time of year I am usually posting YT vids of holiday favorites but those tend to disappear over time so I won’t do that. Instead, as we are now balls-deep into the Holiday/Solstice season, here’s a favorite image that I like to use for a desktop wallpaper. Merry, Merry.

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Just a Smidgen of the White Stuff

As you may have heard, this part of the US got hit by a wretched storm. On I-94, running across the southern part of the state, the snow drifted up almost to the cab of the snowplows. Don’t believe me?

OK, now you believe me.

I was lucky. I did have someone who cleared my driveway twice. But he can’t do the fine stuff like shovel away the snow from the back door (see top photo). That I had to do myself. And it was a beast. Following the storm, our temperature cratered. So I was out there in subzero temps, trying to carve out the back steps and the five foot drift that enveloped them. I also had to excavate the outside gas meter. You do not want that snowed over and causing a gas leak. But it’s done and hey, no injury to my back and my tendinitis was only mildly aggravated. Here’s another look out the back door and then our deck.

A friend of my wife, who lives in one of the Carolinas, questioned our sanity for living in such conditions. But really, people around here know how to deal with cold and snow. If anything pisses us off, it’s ice on the roads and sidewalks. But even when I was shoveling snow, I had a heavy coat, mittens, boots, and scarf. I was out of the wind and I never felt uncomfortable.

Currently the temperature outside is a balmy -17F. That’s frostbite weather but hey, I’m inside. Dog, cats, and wife are all comfortable and asleep. I am typing this in the coldest room in the house and it’s maybe, 68F. That’s doable. So we’ll be fine.

What I am really happy is that my snow blowing career is over. No more stress on my back, no more strain on my hands. I am not slapping Salon Pas on my back and hoping it doesn’t spasm. I am not applying ice to the back of my hands and hoping I’ll be able to pick up a guitar again by New Years. This works for me. I can just sit back and plan on a really, really White Christmas. Merry, Merry.

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