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I Have To Do Better in 2018

Posted on Monday, January 1st, 2018

Dave!I never get mad at my cats.

It doesn't matter what they do that's "bad," I can never bring myself to get upset at a cat for being a cat. My cats make that pretty easy. They're well-behaved, for the most part, and don't get into to much trouble. Now that they're grown, they never scratch at the furniture or pee on stuff or anything like that (so far, anyway)...

Sony 90mm MACRO

On occasion there are problems. One of them will get to a place they're not supposed to be and break something, for example. But... how can that be their fault? More likely my fault for not anticipating the problem and preventing it. If I'm mad at anybody, it should be me.

It occurred to me a while back that if I can't get mad at my cats, shouldn't I be able to translate that passivity to people?

The Trump presidency has caused a lot of anger in me this past year. His dangerous ignorance, utter stupidity, and inhuman ability to not give a crap about people he is supposed to be representing as president... it grates on me like nothing else ever has. I find myself consumed with rage on a near-daily basis because every day it's just more of the same horrendous shit raining down on the world from The White House. Or, more likely, whatever golf course President Trump is occupying this week.

As somebody who honestly believes that anger is more destructive on the person who has it rather than those it's directed at, I know this it not healthy. Not for me. Not for the people I care about. Not for my cats.

And so, after completely unplugging from the world for two weeks in Antarctica and becoming accustomed to not being angry every waking moment, I made myself a promise to try and be more pragmatic, caring, and less angry in the new year. To attempt to let my anger go and focus on positive things so that I can help be a solution instead of being part of the static that divides us.

And then... just as I was making my mind up, it happens. A tweet President Trump unleashed finds its way into my news cycle...

Trump Idiocy in Action: In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!

And see... here is why my "letting go" of my anger is so tough. When it comes to my new commitment to setting aside hatred, I've already failed the test. Because stupid-ass shit like this just reinforces how utterly brain-dead and dangerous this fucking asshole actually is for this country and the world, and I can't help but be angry about that.

He has no clue... none... what climate change entails, nor does he care. And yet he speaks as if he's an authority on the matter. This is the same idiot who thought that hairspray quality today isn't as good as it used to be because ozone-depleting CFCs have been banned from aerosols... the same CFCs that he said could never affect the ozone layer because his apartment is "all sealed."

You can't make this shit up.

And yet... here we are. And here I am. Right back to where I was in 2017.

There's more stupid-ass tweets to come, I'm sure. There always are. And that's not even the start of it. I'm sure he'll find a way to keep assaulting all the Americans he loathes in short order... the non-Christian Americans, the unhealthy Americans, the Mexican Americans, the gay Americans, the poor Americans... whatever... the list is never-ending. And that doesn't even touch crap like his assault on net-neutrality, something that I am beyond passionate about.

And so... what?

What to do with the torrents of overwhelming Trump-initiated anger that very nearly destroyed me in 2017?

I honestly don't know. I wish I could argue against his fucked-up agenda without getting so enraged about it, but that's something I'm apparently incapable of doing. President Trump is an affront to everything I care about.

And yet I have to try.

I have to do better in 2018.

I could never ignore what's going on in the world in order to make myself be happier. Ignorance just allows ignorance to propagate. But the same could be said for hate.

And so... a plan.

  1. I will try my best to accept the negative for what it is rather than what I make it into.
  2. I will educate myself on the negative in order to better understand it from an objective viewpoint rather than an emotional one.
  3. I will act upon the negative in a positive manner from a positive mindset in the hopes of bringing about positive change in myself and others.
  4. I will attempt to detach myself from the negative (Buddhist-style) in order to accomplish all of the above.

Easier said than done to be sure. But, as I said, I'm going to try. Finding more positive inspirations in my life that encourage me to make the jump will probably help...

And here we go...

   

Dieting and Mondays

Posted on Monday, January 8th, 2018

Dave!Jake needs to lose four pounds.

Which is not easy because he will eat every bit of food that I put out as soon as he can get it. Jenny prefers to graze over time, which means the minute she steps away Jake will pounce on her food immediately.

I've gotten a little more proactive in taking food away and putting out smaller and smaller amounts that I can ration so Jake isn't devouring food meant for Jenny.

Jake is not taking his diet well.

Tonight I caught him eating from a bag of dry food I was foolish enough to leave on the kitchen counter. He knows exactly what it is... and apparently knows how to open a sealable bag as well...

Jake with his head in a bag of cat food.

I yelled for him to get down, which he did.

Not five minutes later, Jenny hopped on the counter to see if she could get away with snagging a bite or two...

Jenny decides she wants food.

I yelled at her before she could manage it, and she won't look at me now. Even once I called her to come up to bed, she refuses to look me in the eye. Which means I've been getting snubbed and side-eyed all night...

Jenny giving me side-eye all night.

Jenny giving me side-eye all night.

   
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

If I am killed in my sleep, check for claw marks.

   
UPDATE: I've been asked how much food they get. Jake and Jenny get three tablespoons of dry food and a tablespoon of wet food twice a day (each). Jenny doesn't know what to do about wet food. She ate it as a kitten, but now she just licks it. Jake will then walk over and polish off her gravy-free wet food before tackling his dry food. So, essentially, Jenny is eating less than a half cup a day while Jake is eating over half cup a day, when it really should be reversed...

Jake eating Jenny's wet food.

I bought some expensive stainless steel bowls that spread the food out while keeping it centered so that they avoid "whisker fatigue"... but my cats don't seem to care, so I still use bowls for their wet food. As they wear out (or break) I've been replacing them with shallower bowls in the hopes that the cats find them easier to eat from.

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Furry Butts and Dishwashers

Posted on Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

Dave!Between the weather and my work schedule there's nothing much else going on in my life.

Except for the cats, of course...


Catastrophe!

Catastrophe!

Catastrophe!

Catastrophe!

   
Turns out I didn't close the pots and pan cupboard, so Jake and Jenny were climbing all over in there. This is great, because I was dying to wash six loads of metal in the dishwasher, and now's my chance!

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Haircuts and Ryan Reynolds

Posted on Friday, January 26th, 2018

Dave!"You're only as good as your last haircut."
—Fran Lebowitz

Growing up, I never had to pay for haircuts. Or rather, my parents never had to pay for haircuts. My grandpa was a barber, and he liked me enough that haircuts were no charge...

My grandpa the barber.

My grandpa the barber.

   
After my grandpa retired, he still cut my and my brother's hair. He had a barber chair and all his tools in his basement and, since there's few things better than a free haircut, he was forced to come out of retirement every other month.

Eventually, cutting hair was too difficult for my grandfather's eyes and I had to venture out into unknown territory... paying for haircuts. Not that I ended up getting many haircuts at that point...

Dave with Long Hair

For most of my life I ended up paying for haircuts until the day came that I desperately needed a haircut but couldn't afford one. I had bought some hair clippers ages ago, but never had the guts to use them... until I had to. And it wasn't no Flowbee like I dreamed of owning either...

Dave Photoshopped to be using a Flowbee hair cutter.

No, it was real, honest-to-goodness Whal brand clippers.

And my cut didn't turn out that bad...

Dave Buzz Cut!

The problem with cutting my own hair is that I don't cut it often enough. I wait until it's so long that it's not at all easy to cut.

Such was the case today.

I hadn't washed my hair since Wednesday because it's always easier to cut when it has some stank in it (which meant my Boston Red Sox cap was my best friend for the past couple days). But no amount of stank will give me a flawless cut because no matter how many times I run the clippers over my head, I always miss spots. Which is why I cut my hair on a Friday. That way I have a weekend where I can re-cut and re-re-cut before people have to see me again on Monday.

Hopefully by then all the missed spots get cut.

Interesting to note the similar images that popped up when using Google to find the blog entry where I cut my hair. It's a who's who of Dave doppelgängers...

My grandpa the barber.

Yeah yeah yeah... but let's take a closer look at result No. 50...

=faints=

Google image search thinks I look like Ryan Reynolds!

My grandpa the barber.

Yes, I had to suffer 48 photos of Google thinking I look like Captain Cold from The Flash, Jason Statham, Arsenal from Arrow, Brad Pitt, Bradley Cooper, Captain America, Paul Walker, Shemar Moore, Justin Timberlake, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Zac Efron to get to Ryan Reynolds... but I totes look like Ryan Reynolds! My hetero man-crush for decades! (so much so that Jake my cat's full name is "Jacob Ryan Reynolds Simmer).

Just when you think Friday can't get any better!

Time for a shower. I'm done with my stank head.

   

State of the Reunion

Posted on Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

Dave!Everybody: "Did you watch the State of the Union address?"

Me: "Fuck, no."

In an effort to remain more positive in 2018 than I was in 2017, I have made a huge effort to avoid things that will send me into fits of absolute rage.

Which is also why I am no longer accepting babysitting jobs. So please don't ask me.

   

Farewell to Winter

Posted on Thursday, February 1st, 2018

Dave!This evening it snowed a little bit, but that quickly turned to rain and everything melted away.

It's the first day of February, and it's feeling very much like late March. Possibly even April. Which okay, I suppose... but we sure didn't get much winter this season. So now it's time to start worrying about drought for this coming Summer.

Turns out that if you live in my neck of the woods and want to build a snowman, your time is running out...

Snow Time is Over

Note that the only reason my yard has this much snow on it is that Mr. Plow deposited everything from the driveways onto it (and took a chunk out of my lawn again).

Guess it's a good thing that my snowman-making days are behind me...

Young Dave Builds a Snowman

   
The good news to come out of all this? Pretty soon I'll be able to park my car outside and turn my garage into a wood shop again.

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Caturday 52

Posted on Saturday, February 17th, 2018

Dave!When I bought a house, I truly was not prepared for how much work it would be. My HOA fees cover the yard care and the snow removal... what else is there?

Turns out there's a lot.

Tons of little tasks that add up and overwhelm you day after day. For the longest time I just ignored them until forced to deal with them, but then I started writing all the little things down on a "Daily Chores List" and tackle a new task every day. Sometimes it's something quick and easy... like washing the bathroom mirrors. Other times it's something more involved like fixing the toilet handle or replacing the washers in my kitchen faucet.

Today's chore was three-and-a-half hours of cleaning out my toolbox and organizing my screws/nails/fasteners/etc. storage chests.

It would have probably gone faster, except I had "help" from my cats...

Cat Help!

Cat Help!

Cat Help!

They simply would not stop "helping." They'd climb in any open box or bag. They'd root through every container and bag of garbage. Half my time was spent wrangling cats.

Jake and Jenny just loooooove to "help." Like when they "helped" with my taxes...

Cat Help!

And, of course, they were right there to "help" when I was cleaning out my dresser and end-table...

Cat Help!

When a new order of food and toys arrives from Chewy, the only "help" they're interested in is composting the packing paper...

Cat Help!

Cat Help!

   
I suppose I should be grateful that I have such kind-hearted and helpful cats?

Probably.

   

Receiver Deceiver

Posted on Monday, February 19th, 2018

Dave!After I finished mopping all my floors as my Chore-of-the-Day, I decided to get to work and turned on my television for some background noise. Then, once again, I got a "Cannot Communicate with the Satellite Dish" message. I assumed it was the cable to my DVR that was dying, because I can usually wiggle it and get things working again. But not today.

And so... I had to postpone work and go buy a new cable.

That was the easy part. The hard part was replacing the cable because I have all my cords wrapped up, and replacing one of them means having to unravel others too...

Jenny the Cat

Since I was already having to wade through all my cables, I decided to just disconnect everything and start over. I've made several changes since I first organized everything, and the mess has gotten a bit out of control. Also... I wanted to relocate my stereo receiver because the cats like to lay on it for warmth, and I worry it's not getting enough ventilation and might blow out...

Jenny Sleeps on the Stereo Receiver

Jake the Cat

   
Unfortunately this is a much bigger project than it may first appear. The IKEA media center I have is a really poor design because the shelves don't have enough space to fit my receiver. I decided to modify the unit by taking out the middle drawer, building a shelf there, cutting out the back so I can run cables, then moving the center shelf up an inch-and-a-half...

   

IKEA STUFF!

While I was at it, I decided to see if moving my router off the top would interfere with the WiFi signal. Turns out it did not, so I decided to move it along with the receiver. This is nice, because now all I have on top of my media center is the center channel speaker and Alexa. Much cleaner, and my living room looks less cluttered.

Once the noise from drilling and sawing was done and the cats came out of hiding, I was surprised at how quickly Jake noticed that his favorite sleeping spot had vanished...

New Media Center IKEA Hack

When Jenny finally noticed, she was not happy. Not happy at all...

New Media Center IKEA Hack

The cats then tried to find a new "favorite sleeping spot," but nothing seemed to make them happy...

Cats on Couch Back

   
And now I realize that I should have waited a day to do all this since tomorrow is their visit to the vet, and that's going to be traumatic enough without them losing their stereo receiver napping spot.

Probably more traumatic for me than for them. Which is why I've been dreading tomorrow all year.

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The Pergola Predicament

Posted on Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

Dave!My addiction to home renovation shows has reached critical mass. My list of woodworking projects I want to do has gotten so long now that I would have to retire if I even wanted to make a dent in it.

Right now I'm excited for Spring to come so I can turn my garage into a woodworking shop again and get started on two (well, actually three) projects...

  1. Custom Picture Frames. I am building a wall collage in my stairwell of family and friends photos. I'm to the point where there are no frames I can buy to fit in the places I need to fill, so I need custom frames to make it work. Alas, they are SO expensive, so I bought a router table and am going to make my own. It's so much easier than I thought it would be. I also have some prints that I'd love to display, but could never find frames to fit. Now I can make my own.
  2. Remodel My Laundry Room. I want some narrow shelving that will be easy to build, but the main thing I want to do is build new cabinet doors as practice for...
  3. Remodel My Kitchen. I ran out of money when I was remodeling my home, so I never got to replace the kitchen cabinets which I hate hate hate. I then decided I would just reface them with new doors and drawers, but that was also insanely expensive. So then I decided to buy the tools to build my own doors and drawers. I'm also confident that I can tile my own backsplash. About the only thing I am not confident about is replacing the countertops, so I'll have to hire somebody after I'm done with what I'm going to do.

That's months of work given that I can only work nights and weekends.

And yet...

I've got another project I'd really like to tackle.

I want a pergola on my patio.

Well, a pergola over the part of the patio which remains after I built a catio out there. It might also be cool to build a cat run into it with seating on top, like yo...

Pergola Planning

That way I could sit outside and read a book under a little bit of shade while my cats run around. Big Fun for all of us!

By far, the biggest project I've ever tackled, if I end up doing it... but it looks like a lot Big Fun to build too!

   

Belated Caturday Antics

Posted on Monday, February 26th, 2018

Dave!Since this past Caturday was spent discussing a cat of an entirely different kind... Black Panther... I am picking up the slack by posting my crazy cat lady stuff today.

One of my best finds in the cat toy arena is a new scratching post that the cats have been loving because it's really tall. Unlike most posts, they can stretch out as much as they want and not run out of pole. On top of that, they can climb it like a tree, which is something they both love to do. But Jake is a little more enthusiastic about making a game out of it. Set a toy on top, and he'll jump and climb his way up to grab it and throw it off...

Jake's New Scratching Post

He's kind of violent about it, so you have to be sure that your hands and other protruding body parts are kept clear...

   
It's all fun and games until Jenny makes noise jumping up on the couch and scares him just as he's reached his goal...

   
The reason Jenny is jumping up on the couch is because I set my freshly-laundered pants there. For whatever reason, that's always an open invitation for her to jump up and use my jeans as her personal scratching post. Or, as in this case, bite the crotch out. Which is exactly what I want her to do if somebody ever tries to grab my pussy...

Jenny Crotch Attack... Do NOT Grab This Pussy, Dammit!

   
As I've previously mentioned, nobody appreciates a good belly rub like Jenny does. Every night when I go up to bed, she sprints up for her nightly belly rub. And she will stare at you until she gets her way. Or, if she's really impatient, she'll start meowing at you...

Jenny Belly Rub

Jenny Belly Rub

Jenny Belly Rub

Since Jake got a video this time, here's Jenny's...

   
When it comes to using the litter box, Jenny has gotten increasingly insistent on having a clean place to poop in. She loves a clean box so much that if something goes wrong with the Litter-Robot and she has to wait too long for it to cycle, she has zero problem waking me up at 4:00am to fix that. Last night I noticed her sticking her head in the litter box acting like she was scared to go in...

Jenny and Litter-Robot

Then I saw that the red light was on, which meant that Jake must have beat her there, and Litter-Robot was waiting five minutes before it cycles, which allows the waste to clump and be disposed of more easily. This is no big deal, because Jenny is perfectly content to wait for it to clean itself. I've seen her do so many times.

But this time?

This time she started meowing for Litter-Robot to hurry up.

I started laughing because just when I think my cats can't surprise me... they go and do something like this.

Or this...

Jenny and the Dubai Apple TV Screen Saver

Jenny was watching television, but I had to pause in order to take care of something and the cityscapes screensaver activated. Jenny was not please about this. Not pleased at all. In fact, I think she was quite cross.

I don't know why. That's one beautiful screensaver. I've not been to Dubai yet, and that Blade-Runner-esque view makes me want to visit real soon now.

And that's all I got. See you next Caturday... which is a short five days away!

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Snow Melt

Posted on Thursday, March 1st, 2018

Dave!The weather has been weird lately.

Just when you think that Winter is over and Spring us here, it snows. Lately any new snow hasn't been sticking around long... the sun or rain washes it away... but there's still been old snow hanging around.

Until this week, when the last of it finally melted...

Snow Melting

Snow Melting

Snow Melting

And so... I guess that's that for Winter. At least in my neck of the woods.

Though never say never, because we could end up in a blizzard tomorrow if Mother Nature has other plans.

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The Sunken Place

Posted on Monday, March 12th, 2018

   

   

   

   

The Sunken Place from Get Out

   

   

   

   

   

Debt and Freedom

Posted on Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

Dave!Ignore me if you will, but this is a subject that means something to me.

Credit card debt is a pariah that will consume you. And now that interest rates are going to increase past the already absurd rates that credit card companies charge (thank you Federal Reserve!), it's more important than ever to get yourself out of credit card debt if you have any. Large balances are designed to keep you paying high interest charges forever, without ever fully paying off your debt. It's a trap... and it's really tough to get out of once you're caught in it.

I know this, because I've been there.

During my two years in college, I accumulated huge debt. Huge.

I wasn't working very much because of school and travel (and partying), but was spending as if I were a CEO. First it was one credit card. Then it was another. Then it was another. It took *decades* for me to climb out of it. Years of barely being able to make payments. Years of getting nowhere in paying off my balances. Once I realized the thousands of dollars being blown every year on interest, I started focusing on paying off my cards. It was hard. Very hard. I'd buy nothing but the bare minimums I needed to survive. I wore clothes until they fell apart. I'd do any activity on a shoestring budget and limit expenditures any way I could. It took years of this, but eventually I clawed my way out.

And I have made it my mission to pay off my balance every month ever since. Sometimes there are emergencies. Sometimes I haven't saved enough for vacation and it takes a couple months. But I work very hard to not spend money I don't have so I can pay off my balance every time.

There are a lot of ways to get help if you need it. Apps that help you set payment goals. Books on financial planning. Websites with great advice on how to get out of credit card debt. And, if you are really in deep, financial advisors that can come up with a plan and negotiate with banks to get interest lowered... or help you find a loan. But however you mount your attack on credit card debt, it's hugely important that you start immediately. Our own government is working with banks to enslave you with debt, and it's only going to get worse. Much worse. The sacrifices needed to escape their clutches are hard ones to make, but ultimately worth it.

I honestly don't know what the future holds with our Federal Reserve manipulating things the way they have been. They don't even bother hiding it any more. This country is now designed exclusively for the wealthiest among us. That may not be you, but finding freedom amongst the ruins is a goal worth having.

Good luck to you.

Good luck to all of us.

We need it now more than ever.

   

Opening Day Blues

Posted on Thursday, March 29th, 2018

Dave!Oh joy. An opening day loss for the Red Sox.

Here we go again...


Dave Loves the Red Sox!

All the pieces for a great season are there. They just need to fit together.

Here's hoping...

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Between the Sheets

Posted on Saturday, March 31st, 2018

Dave!When it comes to bed sheets, I want them to stay cool and dry. I want crisp, breathable fabric that is tough enough to last. I don't like satin sheets. I really don't like "sateen" sheets, which are cotton sheets pretending to be satin sheets. When a hotel has sateen sheets, I have to kick them off (if it's warm) or wear sweats (if it's cold) because the glossy finish makes me sweat.

After being puzzled for years over things like "finish" and "thread count," I finally figured out that the sheets I want are called "percale," they're made of cotton, and the lower the thread count the better. What's great about this is that the sheets I just described are the cheapest you can buy. Also the opposite of what most people prefer, which is "sateen" in the highest thread count possible... 800 or higher.

So when I was shopping at IKEA and saw "percale" weave sheets at a mere 152 thread count, I was intrigued. Could these DVALA sheets at $25 a set (Queen) be the cool, crisp, breathable, dry sheets I've been dreaming of?

IKEA DVALA Bed Sheets

Turns out they totally are the sheets I've been looking for!

They are absolutely perfect.

No, they aren't soft and silky smooth. Truth to tell, they're actually kind of rough... even after having been washed twice. But that's exactly what I wanted because they are cooler to sleep on, they're tougher, and they have that crispy feel I love.

Cat hair sticks to them like glue, however, so I guess you can't have everything.

But anyway...

It's been an interesting morning at my house. At 6:02am I received a robocall from my credit card company saying that I may have fraudulent charges on my account. So I call the number they gave me, only to find out that they have no idea what I'm talking about, and they made no such call. And I'm like "THEN HOW DID I GET THIS NUMBER TO CALL YOU?" and they're all "WE DID NOT CALL YOU!" and I'm all "YOU DID, BECAUSE I JUST DID A REVERSE LOOK-UP OF THE CALLER ID AND IT'S YOU!" — I'm put on hold for a bit, then they come back and say "Oh, there's a problem with our computers calling people." Typical.

As I'm talking to my bank, I hear the cats banging around in the catio. They've heard that I'm awake, and come charging up the stairs demanding breakfast, even though it's almost an hour away. Jake has chunky white dust all over him, and I wonder if somebody threw a bag of cocaine into the catio while being chased by the police or something. I'm not about to snort my cat since I have no idea if the cocaine is premium grade or not, so I brush it all off and try to go back to sleep. Meanwhile Jenny has found Mufasa on the window perch that was left there last night. She starts ripping into him when Jake notices. And so then I have cats chasing each other all over my bedroom when I just want to get some sleep.

Abandoned Mufasa on a Window Perch

When Alexa finally chimes at 7:00am and the cats come back all crazy because it's breakfast time, I see that Jake has straw in his mouth. The only place I have straw is in the garage... I keep some for Fake Jake's winter shelter. So I go running downstairs and, sure enough, I left the garage passdoor ajar and my cats have been having big fun in my garage, including knocking over a bucket which was filled with drywall dust. Which means there won't be a bag of cocaine in the catio as I had first thought.

AND THEN, as if that weren't exciting enough, I can't find Jake and Jenny's Easter baskets. So now I have treats and cat toys for Easter morning, but no baskets to put them in. Looks like I'll be tearing apart my garage looking for Easter baskets this afternoon.

So this is my Saturday.

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Shoe Money Tonight!

Posted on Thursday, April 19th, 2018

Dave!For the money, the most versatile piece of furniture I've found has been HEMNES Shoe cabinets from IKEA. At just $99 each, The four-drawer version is nicely shallow... just 8-5/8" deep... and since it mounts directly to the wall and there's no rear legs to push it away from the molding, there's no wasted space. On top of that, the drawers themselves are deep and spacious so they are actually useful. Not just for shoes (though they are great for storing shoes) but for all kinds of things (the one in my kitchen holds placemats and napkins!).

Once I found out that I wouldn't be able to wall-mount my SONOS One speakers as I originally planned, my first thought was to purchase a couple of HEMNES units, drill holes in the top, then hide the SONOS cords behind them. They're the perfect height, allowing the speakers to rise just above my couch...

IKEA Hemnes Show Cabinets for Sonos One

IKEA Hemnes Show Cabinets for Sonos One

Since the table-top on these extends from the ends of the cabinet, I had to modify them slightly so I could get the two units to sit flush against each other, but they turned out great. Even more importantly, they work perfectly for giving me excellent surround sound.

And, as a bonus, my LaserDisc collection now has a home. A perfect home, actually, since they are stored vertically, but pull down at an angle so I can read the spines easily...

IKEA Hemnes Show Cabinets for Sonos One

It's kind of weird that I now have seven of these shoe cabinets in my home considering I don't own many shoes, but they're just so versatile and functional. The shallow depth also means they can go just about anywhere. Yes, quality control at IKEA is shitty and you may get a defective part that will need replacing, but if you've got a tight spot you're looking to fill, these are definitely worth a look.

Something tells me I haven't purchased my last Hemnes shoe cabinet.

   

Under the Counter

Posted on Friday, April 27th, 2018

Dave!After catching a doozy of a cold on the plane back from Europe, I've spent my entire week mired in a miserable haze of over-the-counter medication abuse. Partly because I hate hate hate being sick... but mostly because I can't work when I'm sneezing and coughing my head off. This morning I finally turned a corner and felt well enough that I only took a single dose of cold meds instead of a double dose, so... putting one in the "win" column, I guess.

Where I most definitely did not win was having to skip the midnight premiere of Avengers: Infinity War last night. Because what would suck more than skipping it would be to dope up on cough suppressants then falling asleep half-way through...

XXX

Oh well.

Guess I get to spend the next several days avoiding spoilers until I find a day I can get away to see it.

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McSodium Explosion

Posted on Friday, May 11th, 2018

Dave!Today I finally made the time to have my winter tires changed over to summer tires.

My plan was to arrive just when the tire store opened because you can usually get right in. Except there was an accident on the bridge into town so I was delayed 20 minutes. By the time I finally got there, the wait was up to an hour-and-a-half, and it would have been faster for me to change my own tires at home with my emergency car jack and a lug wrench.

It was a bummer, but it wasn't the wait that bothered me.

It was the reason for the wait.

As somebody at the tire store noted, there was no skidmarks on the bridge. Which means that the car (van?) which crashed into a car (which then crashed into another car) never made any attempt to stop. Which means they weren't paying attention. Which means they were probably texting or changing their baby's diaper or cooking a steak, or whatever the fuck it is that people do when not looking at the road like they're supposed to be.

Apparently the distracted driving "no-texting" law that Washington State passed has done nothing to solve a serious problem that's only going to get worse. Which begs the question... how many people have to die before this starts being taken seriously?

And speaking of dying...

As I've said many times before, I love McDonalds... despite constantly taking shit for liking McDonalds.

My favorite breakfast is a McDonald's Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit, no bacon, substitute round egg instead of spongey yellow powder egg. I could eat them every single day because it's just such a perfect breakfast food. The reason I don't eat them every day is that A) McDonald's is a 20 minute drive from my house, and B) they are expensive as hell. But right now McDonalds is running a special where you can get two of them for only four dollars! So, naturally, after getting my tires changed I did not pass GO, I did not collect $200, I went straight to McDonalds for a late breakfast.

It was, as expected, delicious.

Except I made the mistake of looking up the Nutrition Facts for my breakfast while I was eating it.

We'll set aside the 80 carbs in two Breakfast Biscuits and skip right to the 2100mg of sodium... 88% of the sodium that you're supposed to have in a day. And saturated fat? 11g which is 106% of the recommended daily ammount!

Holy shit!

I've never been so grateful that McDonalds is 20 minutes away and their McBiscuits are usually so damn expensive, because I'd be dead if they were next door and, you know, affordable and all.

Except they are on sale... and I am driving over the mountains tomorrow... so it looks like I may be courting death once again. Curse you McDonald's and your delicious breakfast!

   

Yesterday So Far Away

Posted on Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

Dave!Today was one of those days that makes me want to stick my head in the oven. But my oven is electric, so all that would do is give me a sunburn. I also have a microwave, but it only runs when the door is closed.

And so I guess I'll be sticking around for another day. Which is probably a good thing, because my cats are in kind of a needy mood after all the time I've been spending away from home. And that's nice. Though I could have really used another day recuperating from my weekend.

And to think... yesterday I was up at Newcastle's putting green overlooking Seattle and Puget Sound on a gorgeous day...

Newcastle Golf

Apparently Summer has arrived.

Time to set up shop.

Five months of woodworking bliss await.

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Kick the Bucket

Posted on Friday, May 18th, 2018

Dave!Today I had a rare 15-minute gap with nothing to do. Too little time to start a new project... too much time for a bathroom break. So I decided to update my List of Things to do Before I Die (That I’ve Already Done). It's a kind of "bucket list," but not really, because I only add things to it once I can check them off. No need to be on my death bed clutching a list of stuff I still wanted to do, thus dying a failure.

I'm up to 114 items which is probably enough for two lifetimes.

Which means I'm ready to die, I guess. And yet there's still so much left I want to do. Maybe I'll be able to add another dozens items before I check out. Maybe I'll be able to add just one. It doesn't really matter so long as I keep coming up with things to live for.

Though I've found that as I get older my idea of what makes it to my list is changing as my priorities change...

        Age 20 Top Priority: Look for my dream woman. Get married. Have kids.

        Age 30 Top Priority: Stay single for the rest of my life.

        Age 40 Top Priority: Wreck myself having the most fun possible, then die before I'm 50.

        Age 50 Top Priority: Stay healthy enough to keep on living so I can take care of my cats.

Assuming I make it there, I have no idea what my priority at 60 will be. But probably...

        Age 60 Top Priority: Wreck myself having the most fun possible, then die before I'm 70.

I'm relatively certain of what comes at 70, assuming my priority for 60 falls through...

        Age 70 Top Priority: Just die already.

This sounds bad, I know. But keep in mind that by that time I'll have probably added enough things to my list for three lifetimes. And isn't that more than enough? I'm close to done right now. Lord only knows how totally done with life I'll be at 70. Though who really knows? Back when I was 40 I wanted to die by the time I was 50. Now that I've reached 50... and I have cats... I'm happy to be hanging around a while longer. Perhaps when I turn 70 I'll get more cats and be good until I'm 90.

Who wants to kick the bucket list when they have cats?

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Health Scare

Posted on Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

Dave!I'm just going to come out and say it... health care in the United States of America is a festering pile of shit that is impossible to navigate and increasingly impossible to pay for. I'm sure this will come to a surprise to absolutely nobody, because we've all needed medical attention at some point in our lives... if not for us, for a loved one.... and then had to deal with the fallout.

Health care is a monolithic, byzantine maze of bullshit and corruption that's enough to make even the smartest person insane.

Take where I'm at, for example.

My health insurance deductible is huge. Thousands of dollars. I never get out of my annual deductible because I'm relatively healthy and, apparently, lucky. What this means is that I have to pay for absolutely everything medical-related out-of-pocket. But apparently I do get some kind of discount that's been negotiated between my insurance and my local clinic. What is this discount? Who the fuck knows. I've been trying to find out the cost of making a consultation appointment FOR TWO DAYS and have gotten nowhere.

This is how the system is designed.

The clinic doesn't want you to know the cost because you might not schedule an appointment if you knew. The insurance company doesn't want to commit to coverage for a future appointment, because they might need to increase their profits by reducing (or eliminating) their coverage before you see the doctor.

Which, if you live in an underserved region like I do, could take months to get an appointment.

What amuses me about this bullshit is that these are the bad things that people who don't want universal healthcare try and scare people with! It'll take forever to see a doctor? It takes fucking forever right now. We can't determine how much it will cost? We can't determine how much it fucking costs right now.

My issue isn't life-threatening. Well, I suppose it could end up there, but no... not really.

But what if it were life-threatening?

Well, the way it works in The United States of America is that you just have to sign on for treatment blindly and hope you don't have to declare bankruptcy so you can live.

And don't get me started about people who get sick and could be easily and cheaply treated in the beginning... but they can't afford it... so they wait and wait until they are near death and it's horrendously expensive to treat (if it's treatable at all) so taxpayers ends up paying for their bills because they end up losing everything. What fucking sense does that make? Give everybody healthcare so everybody is healthy and problems are fixed when they're cheap! As a taxpayer, I'd rather pay for what's cheap than what's horrendously expensive!

Maybe one day politicians will take a break from sucking lobbyist cock long enough to figure out how to make health care affordable for everybody.

Because the only people benefiting from the system we have now are insurance companies. And the politicians being paid off by insurance companies. Considering their health care is free and they don't give a fuck about anybody else, I don't expect them to stop sucking that lobbyist cock any time soon.

This is also how the system is designed.

   

Bullet Sunday 463

Posted on Sunday, May 27th, 2018

Dave!It may be the last day of the week, but this holiday weekend keeps on rolling... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Pooh! Of all the movies coming up, I have to admit that Christopher Robin is the one I'm most looking forward to at the moment...

With all the advancements in special effects, it's the ability to make films like this which impress me most.

   
• Whoa! Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder? Sign me up!

I'm not a romantic-comedy "romcom" kinda guy, but this movie will be worth seeing for the casting alone. Not in theaters, of course, but when it hits HBO or Netflix, I'm on it.

   
• Hotness! I've been running across a lot of treasures from my past as I work my way through my garage. As an example... look how brutally hot I was on my learner permit!

Dave's Hot Learner's Permit

Yep... if I were legal in that photo, I'd do me!

   
• Togs! The closer they get to making Mon-El have his iconic comic book costume, the closer my inner fanboy gets to peeing my pants...

Dave's Hot Learner's Permit

Almost there. Just need that waistcoat... then call it good!

   
• Thanks, Obama! Yes, I had problems with some of President Obama's policies... but I never stopped admiring him as a person. That goes double Michelle Obama, who was such an exemplary First Lady. So to say that I'm anxious to get my hands on her forthcoming book is an epic understatement...

Becoming by Michelle Obama

The unabridged audiobook is available for pre-order at Audible. Since Michelle Obama is narrating all 14 hours of it, I couldn't press the purchase button fast enough.

   
• Quilt! Hey OG bloggers! Somebody made this incredible quilt for me back in the day, but I can't remember who it was? Does anybody know?

XXX

I'm hanging it up to display in my room, and I'd like to attach a tag with the author.

   
What are you still doing here? The bullets are over. They're over! Go home. There's nothing more for you here.

   

Madonna Loathes Hydrangeas

Posted on Wednesday, May 30th, 2018

Dave!When I moved into my home, I ended up ripping out a lot of the plant life that was there. Not because I hate flowers, but because I am not home enough to take care of them. And I know better than to ask my cats to water them when I'm away.

The only plants I left were those connected to the automated sprinkler system. They were all healthy and look nice when they come into bloom, so it was kinda a no-brainer.

One of those plants is a massive hydrangea that overwhelms my back flower bed...

Hydrangea Overload

A month ago I got tired of this giant bush setting off the camera alarm whenever the wind blows it. So instead of pruning it back like I usually do, I just hacked it down to the ground.

I felt like Madonna taking vengeance on Hydrangeas of the world...

Earlier this week I was looking out into the catio to see what Jake and Jenny are up to and saw that THE HYDRANGEA IS BACK! Don't ask me how it could recover so quickly. The thing is already 4 feet tall...

Hydrangea Overload

And so... given how it came back from being massacred, I figure it deserves to be there more than I do. After the flowers are gone and I can cut it back again, I'll dig it up and move it to a place where it won't set off my camera alarm. If it can survive being hacked to the ground, surely it can survive being transplanted.

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It’s 5-O-Clock in the Morning

Posted on Thursday, May 31st, 2018

Dave!I had to work across the mountains today which meant getting up at 4:30am so I could be on the road by 5am. Given how horrendously bad Seattle morning traffic is these days, there's really no other option. Gone are the days of leaving at 6am and arriving in plenty of time.

In another 5 years, I'll probably be leaving at 4:30am. It's getting that bad.

I wonder how quickly it will end up being faster for me to fly than drive, even when going through security and driving to the airport are factored in?

Whatever happened to the Star Trek future where we get to just beam ourselves to where we need to go?

Monkey Star Trek

Probably languishing in some vault somewhere along with the cure for the common cold. Shelved because oil companies and airline companies would become irrelevant.

And don't get me started about flying cars...

Monkey Star Trek

   

Poofy Allergy Time

Posted on Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

Dave!Flowers are out everywhere, which means my allergies are exploding, which means I'm drugged up on Flonase, Zyrtec, and Allegra all the time. This is better than the old days when I had to be drugged up on Benadryl all the time. Benadryl makes me so drowsy that I can barely stay awake to work. All I wanted to do was sleep.

If there's a bright spot to be found, it's taking pictures of it all with my iPhone. It's shocking how good the camera is on the X, and it kinda freaks me out that I get better photos from it than I do the last pocket camera I bought...

Dandylion Exploded

Dandylion Exploded

Dandylion Exploded

Dandylion Exploded

When I moved into my new home, the woman who owned it previously planted loads of pretty flowers in my back yard. Including the hydrangeas I butchered which have miraculously come back. Much to my surprise, it looks like I'm going to have flowers again. Don't ask me how. This thing was razed to the ground a month ago...

Hydrangea Ressurection

I had irises on the side of my house, which is nice, but they always fall over and last for only five minutes, so I don't understand the point. What I'd like to do is pull them out and replace them with more stuff like this...

Back Garden Flowers

Back Garden Flowers

Back Garden Flowers

Back Garden Flowers

Back Garden Flowers

Back Garden Flowers

Back Garden Flowers

Back Garden Flowers

Pretty.

Even though it's making my life an allergy-induced haze.

My favorite flowers are crocuses and California poppies. Perhaps this weekend I'll look into getting some of those. It would be nice if the front of my house looks as good as the boack does.

   

Adventure in Florals

Posted on Saturday, June 9th, 2018

Dave!The lady who owned my home before me loved flowers. She had them planted everywhere. Particularly impressive is the flower bed in the back yard, which is filled with roses and other beautiful stuff. She also had a bunch of flower pots in the front yard, but I removed them one-by-one as they died off because I'm not home to water them when I have to travel.

The flowers in the back yard continue to flourish because there's a water line that's connected to the sprinkler system. My front yard flower bed is just a bunch of river rock. I've always felt bad about this, because everybody else in the neighborhood has flowers out.

Last Fall as I was cleaning up leaves, I noticed that there was a water line poking up from under the river rocks. Turns out that there was automated watering there all along but it wasn't used for some reason. So I decided that this year I would plant some stuff so my home fits in with everybody else.

And yesterday was the day...

Flower Bed Construction

I didn't want to completely fill the front flower bed because that would cost a fortune... and I really didn't want stuff growing up next to the house where bugs could breed, so I decided to clear out a space in the river rock for my new flower bed. I found some nice grey brick to keep the rock from intruding. I finished building just as the sun was setting and it started raining...

Flower Bed Construction

This morning I woke up early to start planting stuff. After setting things up I realized that I didn't have the parts I needed to tap off of the water line, so I had to run to the hardware store... where I picked up another couple plants. I didn't notice that one of the of the purple things I bought was badly damaged, but decided to plant it anyway...

Flower Bed Construction

Everything turned out quite nice. I threw away the tags with the names of all the plants, but here is what I got...

Flower Bed Construction

Because I'm old, all that crawling around in the dirt left me pretty sore and I decided to call it a day and watch television.

So there I was... lounging around watching Ask This Old House when it occurs to me THAT I DIDN'T TEST MY NEW SPRINKLERS BEFORE I BURIED THEM! It would be just my luck that I screwed up the install and kinked a line or something, so I managed to get up off the couch (I am SO old), tell Alexa to turn on the water, then waddle out to see if they work. I am soooooo lucky...

Flower Bed Construction

And that's that. Now my house will be pretty just like everybody else's. And since all the flowers I bought are perennials, they'll be back year after year.

Assuming I don't end up killing them.

   

Jake and Mondays

Posted on Monday, June 11th, 2018

Dave!Too sore to get out of bed. Too tired to go to work. Too worried the cats will eat me to die and not feed them. Especially when Jake is looking at me like this...


Flower Bed Construction

   
And it's a Monday...

   

A Pain That I’m Used To

Posted on Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

Dave!I wrecked my legs working on my front flower beds and installing new security cameras last weekend. This morning I thought I was finally recovering a bit, only to find that I had pulled a muscle in my back as I was attempting to walk so I wasn't hurting my legs.

Essentially trading one pain for another.

Albeit a much much more painful one.

Most times Ibuprofen can handle it. But the minute I twist wrong or bend in a way my back doesn't like... unbelievable searing pain goes shooting through my back that hurts so bad I can barely breathe. The worst pain is when I lay down. It's so awful that I've tried sleeping while sitting up, but I can't manage it. My back brace helps, but not enough.

And so...

Not a great time to be Dave2 right now.

It would be great if I could just dope up on pain-killers and muscle-relaxers and sleep all day, but... off to work I go.

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Hardwood Therapy

Posted on Thursday, June 21st, 2018

Dave!My cats have been stalking each other as I sit here trying to figure out how to not say what I can't talk about. Every once in a while, one of them will make a break and a chase ensues. Then they are all over the house. The living room. The dining room. The kitchen. The stairs. My bedroom. Their bedroom. The guest bedroom. The catio. Then the tables will turn and the chase will reverse itself.

Truly the best entertainment that a can of sardines can buy...

And the best therapy.

I don't think there's anything that makes me smile quite so much as kitty claws on hardwood floors.

   

The Hardest Part About Leaving Is Goodbye

Posted on Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

Dave!Another trip over the mountains today.

This will be one of the hardest trips I've had to make in this life. I wish my cats could come with me, because oh so many days lately they've been the salve that soothes my grief... but I don't think they would do well on a car trip.

Not well at all. Though they love to sit and watch the occasional car drive by, I think a highway full of cars would be too much...

Cats on Lookout

Sad to be leaving. It's so hard to say goodbye.

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Mom and Me

Posted on Thursday, June 28th, 2018

Dave!We were best friends from the start.

So many days spent being so grateful that I had such a kind, caring, wonderful person as my mom!


Mom and Me

   
Love you always.

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I Love You Around the World and Back

Posted on Friday, June 29th, 2018

Dave!A lot of people can tell their moms "I love you around the world and back," but in my case it's literally true. She's been traveling the globe with me for almost twenty years on an annual vacation we take together. And since it's her Mother's Day gift, she gets to pick where we go and what we're going to do once we get there. Riding a camel at the pyramids of Egypt? Done it. Trekking the rainforest of Costa Rica? Done it. Climbing a glacier in Alaska? Done it. Exploring temples in Cambodia? Done it. Taken a safari in Zimbabwe? Done it.

My mom's love of adventure has always been a never-ending source of joy in my life

And tonight I had to say goodbye to her.

Losing a parent is a soul-crushing, heartbreaking ordeal which creates a wound that will never heal. But as I sit here looking through hundreds of photos of all the places we've seen and all the things we've done... it's hard to stay sad. What time we had together on this earth was put to very good use, and you can't ask for much more than that.

The travel bug was something that bit her late in life. She ended up enduring a horrific tragedy that would crush most people, and her way of putting it behind her was to roam the planet. Mom wanted to see as much of the world as she could while she was on it, and would pour over travel magazines and TV shows for ideas all year long. And the things she would come up with for us were always interesting. I could write a book about it... maybe I should write a book about it... because the situations we often found ourselves in make for great stories.

But as many times as she would come up with something out of the blue (Vietnam?!?) she was not above wanting to return to old favorites. We ended up in Rome four times because she loved the city. Especially The Colosseum, for some reason, which we visited all four times. She also had this weird love of helicopters, and was always looking to see if there were helicopter rides available wherever we landed. I've lost count of how many times we'd end up lifting off into some incredible places with chopper blades whirring above. Maybe it was just being able to see the world from a different perspective? I dunno. I never thought to ask her about it.

About the only thing Mom didn't like about traveling was wrinkles. She was always up long before I was, ironing away on the day's clothing. When I finally bought her a travel steamer you'd think it was her own personal helicopter, because getting those pressed-in wrinkles out was just so much easier now. Anybody who knows me knows that I hate ironing and couldn't care less about wrinkled clothes, so that was the one thing I most definitely did not inherit from her.

But the wanderlust to roam the planet? That's all her.

Thanks for a lifetime of adventures, Mom. I'll love and miss you every day...

Travels with Mom
We had traveled to places like San Francisco, New York, Orlando, Los Angeles, and the like... but this was the first international trip we took. My mom had to get a passport, which she was very proud of.

Travels with Mom
My mom will rarely ask me to take a photo. Like... very rarely. This was one of those times. She really wanted a photo of her coming out of a phone box for some reason.

Travels with Mom
Obligatory Eiffel Tower shot. I knew that this is what mom's friends would most want to see when we got back, so I made her stand there for way too long so I could be sure I got a good shot.

Travels with Mom
My all-time favorite shot of my mom. Arizona was our first trip after a horrific ordeal she endured, and it was great to see her smiling and having fun again.

Travels with Mom
While in Sedona, we took a "Pink Jeep" tour out in the rocks. Mom asked our driver for this photo because she wanted to remember the time we took a trip together. Little did she know... it was just the beginning.

Travels with Mom
We're on a Caribbean cruise here at a stop in Tulum, Mexico as it rained and rained. We had a great time anyway. I am not a cruise person, but my mom loved them because you get to stop in a lot of different places without packing and unpacking.

Travels with Mom
Dunn's River Falls in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Mom was terrified of slipping and falling on the climb up because she wasn't sure-footed. She made it just fine, I, however, slipped twice. This was a triumphant moment for her.

Travels with Mom
New Orleans is my favorite US city, so of course I had to take her for beignets at Cafe Du Monde!

Travels with Mom
Obligatory Leaning Tower of Pisa shot on one of our five trips to Italy (which I think was my mom's favorite country to visit... it's certainly one of mine!).

Travels with Mom
Trevi Fountain in Rome. My mom threw in a coin and made a wish but wouldn't tell me what it was because she wanted it to come true. Years later when she saw this photo, she told me that she had wished for more vacations like this one. See, kids... wishes can come true!

Travels with Mom
A foggy day in Tuscany. Out of all our travels, this was probably the most disappointing stop. We really wanted to have our "Under the Tuscan Sun" moment, but rarely saw the sun the entire time we were there. Still had a fantastic time though... the food and history are incredible.

Travels with Mom
My mom wanted to go to Greece and bought a whole book to plan out the stuff she wanted to do... mostly centering around visiting the Greek islands. I said okay, and started planning. Then one day at work my mom calls me. She was looking at a map and "...noticed that Egypt is really close to Greece, so we should go there too!" I was going to explain that an inch on the map was actually hundreds of miles, but thought "Hey, I'd like to see Egypt too!" The logistics of such a trip were a little crazy, but about a week later I got a cruise brochure which included Greece, Egypt, and Turkey. So there you go.

Travels with Mom
As we were making our way around the Acropolis area, this dog comes running up. Here is where I told my mom to stand still so the dog wouldn't feel threatened and possibly attack her. Then I took this picture for some reason. I was walking towards them when the dog ran up to my mom and she was petting him, so I missed that shot. She thought it was hilarious that I thought she was in imminent danger, but stopped to take a photo.

Travels with Mom
At the Mosque of Muhammad Ali in Cairo. Mom absolutely loved mosques because the interiors were always so gorgeous... and very different from all the churches she had seen. We visited quite a few over the years.

Travels with Mom
"I thought they would be taller!" said my mom... and most every other person that visits the pyramids.

Travels with Mom
Be fore we leave on a trip, I always ask my mom if there's something special she wants to do so I can be sure to arrange it. Since she was obsessed with reading travel magazines and watching travel shows, I didn't want her to miss something that made her choose to go there in the first place. For Egypt the only thing she cared about was riding a camel at the pyramids. She later told me that it was the reason she wanted to go to Egypt because it looked like fun.

Travels with Mom
The camel's name was "Daisy." As mom was forgetting things and our travels were fading away, she rarely forgot Daisy. Even when she did, I'd remind her of Daisy and she could start pulling memories out of the experience. Thank heavens I asked about what she wanted to do, because this became one of her most enduring travel memories and I would be gutted if she had missed it.

Travels with Mom
Mom was disappointed that Cairo was so close (it literally comes right up to the pyramids, which you can see if you look at Google Maps). She thought that they were out in the dessert somewhere and we'd be riding camels out to see them. We actually went inside of The Great Pyramid, which is a good story unto itself. I'll have to blog about it one day.

Travels with Mom
A stop at Ephesus in Turkey. The crowds were insane, and it took several attempts to find a spot where I could get a shot where people weren't walking in front of her. I thought it funny that she wanted to bring her purse for this excursion, but she did that a lot. No idea why. I had all the money. Guess she just liked to be prepared. She had everything in there.

Travels with Mom
Mykonos, I believe? Not the first time mom asked a total stranger to take our photo... with my pricey camera. I was always worried that somebody might run off with it one day, but it always worked out!

Travels with Mom
Gorgeous sunset in Maui, one of my favorite places on earth.

Travels with Mom
I had my mom bring a jacket and gloves to Hawaii because I knew we'd be going to the top of Mt. Haleakala and it's cold. She was upset she didn't bring a hat and scarf, so we improvised with a Bad Monkey cap and a beach towel that were in the trunk of our rental car. We looked ridiculous, which is why mom insisted on getting this photo.

Travels with Mom
I have been to Hawaii many, many times. I always hope for an eruption so I can see lava. This is as close as I ever got.

Travels with Mom
This photo is deceptive on a number of fronts. First of all, the volcanic rocks are sharp, and falling could cut you up good. Second of all, you can't tell here, but there is a massive drop off a rocky cliff behind my mom, and if she had slid on loose rocks, she'd probably go over the edge and end up dead. Or severely broken. I was distracted taking photos and the next thing I know... there she was... being a total daredevil and completely unaware of it. So naturally I took pictures.

Travels with Mom
One of many, many helicopter rides we took. This time on Kauai. Mom loved helicopters to a crazy degree, so I always tried to get her a front seat. Sitting next to the pilot was her favorite thing.

Travels with Mom
"Do you think we can go down there?" Um, sure mom... we just need to rent a boat or hike miles and miles! From a previous trip to Kalalau Lookout, I knew that the it was mostly cloudy most of the time and that the saw-tooth ridge there photographs as a jagged black blob. And so I looked into HDR photography so I could pull some detail out of the shadows. This is the result.

Travels with Mom
Neither one of us were beach people, but hanging out on a really nice beach was still a great way to spend time in Hawaii... especially when there was nobody else there!

Travels with Mom
I had work in Orlando for many years... both for contract jobs with The Mouse and later for charity presentations. I'd often ask my mom if she wanted to tag along and we could stay an extra three or four days to play at Disney World. She never refused, as she loved to have something to do that wasn't work or sitting around the house.

Travels with Mom
I love Mickey Mouse, and will gladly stand in line for a half hour to get a photo op with him. Mom always thought I was nuts, but would stand in line with me without complaining. And she had to do so many, many times.

Travels with Mom
Of the many helicopter trips we took, this was our hands-down favorite. A ride up the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska. Amazing scenery and a fun hike on top!

Travels with Mom
Mom had this photo on her dresser for years, but it got lost when we moved. I always meant to print out another one, but never got around to it. I try not to have regrets, but that's one of them.

Travels with Mom
On top of the Mendenhall Glacier. If you look next to my ear, you'll see hikers scaling the glacier in the background. We actually got in trouble here. The guide told us to have fun wandering around but stay close. So we headed out. Then the guide yelled at us to come back because he wasn't done talking. We were both rolling our eyes at that one.

Travels with Mom
My mom fell in The Icicle River when she was a kid and nearly drowned. She has been terrified of moving water ever since (but joined the Navy!). When I booked this eagle-watching rafting trip in Alaska, my mom (who was usually fearless and up for anything) was constantly telling me how worried she was and saying she didn't want to do it. I told her "fine, you can ride with the trailer driver to the pick-up point and I'll meet you there. When we got to the drop off and told the guide our plan, he walked out into the river... which was around six-inches deep. "If you fall out, you can always just stand up... it's not much deeper than this the whole way." Mom was then all "Well I can do that!"

Travels with Mom
You can't see it here, but our vests have names written on them. Mine was "Digger" (or something like that) and my mom's was "Buzzard" (which you can kind of see in the previous photo). She absolutely loved it, and I had to call her "Buzzard" for the rest of the trip. I got a lot of Eagle shots, which was amazing. We loved this so much that mom said she would do it again.

Travels with Mom
We took a float plane to a fish hatchery for bear watching... and I got some fantastic black bear photos. Mom had to inform me that the plane ride was more fun than she thought it would be, but she'd still rather ride in a helicopter.

Travels with Mom
We had a day's layover in Atlanta before flying to Barcelona, so I took us to World of Coke. My mom was a serious fan of Coca-Cola, so it was kinda a no-brainer. She loved bears, so we had to stand in line so she could get a photo with this one.

Travels with Mom
My mom decided she wanted to go back to Italy after watching the movie "Only You" starring real-life couple at the time Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei (decades before they would appear together in Spider-Man). In the film Fisher Stevens plays a roofer trying to find out what happened to his wife, so he calls the credit card company to find out where the charges on it were from. They tell him and he says "Positano? Where's That? It-lee? What's my wife doing in It-lee?" And, just like that, my mom decided that we needed to go to Positano on our next vacation. And so we did. This is actually Amalfi, but we went to Positano too.

Travels with Mom
My mom told me on several occasions that The Colosseum was one of her favorite spots. And so we went back again and again. I'd ask her why she loved it so much and she'd say "I don't know... I just do." When I told her that maybe she was a gladiator in a previous life, she thought that was funny and started telling people that when showing this photo.

Travels with Mom
After standing in line for yet another Mickey Mouse photo with me on a Disney Cruise, mom saw a line for Donald Duck and said she wanted to get a picture with him. "Really? You like Donald?" I asked. "Sure! We were both in the Navy!" she replied. What you don't see here is that "The YMCA" by the Village People started playing and Donald grabbed my mom's hand to get her to dance it with her. So, yes, I totally have photos of my mom doing The YMCA with Donald Duck.

Travels with Mom
Eating Fettuccini Alfredo at the restaurant where it was invented... Alfredo alla Scrofa in Rome. It is my favorite restaurant on earth, and I never pass up a chance to eat there.

Travels with Mom
Santa Margarita Legure, I think? I was trying to gain weight in preparation for a medical ordeal where I'd always drop 12-16 pounds, so we ate a lot of gelato this trip. Like... gallons of gelato.

Travels with Mom
Pirate Night onboard the Disney Magic. Mom and I were totally up for the pirate bandanas they handed out. We were probably the only ones who kept them on for the whole dinner. We were goofy like that.

Travels with Mom
Okay... on our first trip to Venice, all mom wanted to do was take a gondola ride. But when we arrived in the city on a gorgeous day, I was not feeling well and asked if we could wait until tomorrow. So we did. And it rained every day afterwards. So she didn't get her gondola ride and I felt awful about it. So when I got free tickets to Europe anywhere British Airways flew, I asked her if she wanted to go back to Venice for that gondola ride. Of course she said yes. I was worried the entire flight that it would rain the whole time (again)... but the weather was absolutely gorgeous. We're in the shadow of a building here, but once we got out on the Grand Canal it was fantastic. It ended up being a really fun trip, so I was glad we went back.

Travels with Mom
Aruba. I love taking pictures of storm clouds and was taking a lot of them when I looked over to see where my mom was. That's when I saw this, her pink sweater and blue jeans standing out against the gloom!

Travels with Mom
At a turtle farm in Grand Cayman. I asked mom if she wanted her photo taken with a turtle. She said "no" because she thought it would be mean to the turtle... but a guide there said they weren't bothered by it, so she relented. After we got home and she saw this photo she told me "I'll bet that guy was lying, that turtle doesn't look happy at all."

Travels with Mom
After a dozen trips to Disney World for work, I was tired of doing the same thing over and over and stopped going to the parks. This trip my mom came along, so I knew we'd be visiting them and so I was asking co-workers if there was anything new to do. I was asked if I had done the "Wilderness Trek" in Animal Kingdom, which I hadn't. It's a kind of "behind the scenes tour of the fake 'Africa' they had built. We both absolutely loved it. Here we are harnessed up and ready to go.

Travels with Mom
Mom climbing on a hanging bridge over gators (or crocodiles?). She thought this was an absolute riot. Me, being afraid of heights, was slightly less enthused. Disney went to great lengths to make the journey seem perilous... breaking boards on the bridge and having the netting fall away and stuff... but it was Disney, so 99% safe. But it looked dangerous and cool.

Travels with Mom
After we finished the "Wilderness Trek," my mom was gushing over how much she loved it. One of the cast members said that if she liked this, she'd love an "Adventured by Disney" vacation! You know... one of those hideously expensive vacations where everything is Disney-fied and the opposite of what I want on vacation? Mom, of course, loved the idea.

Travels with Mom
Mom got the Adventures by Disney brochure and declared that she wanted to go on the Africa trip. It was heinously expensive, but I thought "Hey, I've always wanted to go to Africa!" and so I called them up. Alas, the only times I could go were sold out, so I asked mom if we could do it next time and have her pick somewhere else. So here we are at a cooking class in Vietnam.

Travels with Mom
We made those lanterns! Adventures by Disney is geared towards families with kids, but they have trips which are "Adults Only." Needless to say, I booked the first "Adults only" trip because the last thing I want on my vacation is a bunch of screaming kids. But here's the thing... even though it's an "Adults" trip, the itinerary is the exact same as the "regular" version... so there are lots of activities geared towards kids that you get to do. Like lantern-making. We both loved it.

Travels with Mom
Mom loves animals and won't hesitate to get her picture taken with them. Our resort in Hoi An has an ox that rakes the beach smooth each morning. When my mom found out about it, she wanted to go meet him. And so here we are... up at some gawdawful time in the morning. Mom asked the guy what the ox did when he was done with work... "eat and sleep!" we were told.

Travels with Mom
Another crafting project. This time we got to pick out a paper maché mask and paint it. Mom had them hanging in her room for a while, but I eventually took them down when she didn't know what they were any more.

Travels with Mom
Remember what I said about mom hating wrinkles? Here we are in our perfectly-pressed tai-chi exercise outfits, because mom was up ironing them at some ridiculously early hour. Oddly enough, it was while ironing these that I remember my mom having her first serious memory lapse. She was standing there with an iron in her hand and it was like she forgot where we were and what she was doing. It passed quickly, and so it was forgotten. Little did we know that it was just the start.

Travels with Mom
Mom rubbing a turtle's head for luck in Vietnam. She always thought the perspective on this photo was funny.

Travels with Mom
The mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi. Normally, you can get a ticket to view his preserved body inside, but "Uncle Ho" was out for his annual cleaning, so we didn't get to do that. Mom said "I don't know why, but I would have liked to have seen that."

Travels with Mom
Getting ready to offer Buddhist monks some rice as they make their morning processional to a nearby temple. Mom and I were totally into it... nobody else seemed to care. That happened a lot. We loved new and different things.

Travels with Mom
Many great photos as we climbed up to the temple. Here we are taking a break along the way.

Travels with Mom
Mom having big fun with an ox again. And once again she was concerned that the ox was working too hard and was asking if he got to have fun after he got off work. "Of course," the Adventures by Disney guide said.

Travels with Mom
"Do you want to feed him?" they asked. "Sure!" mom said... "Do you have some soap and water so I can wash his face first? He can't have lunch with a dirty face!" Holy crap I loved traveling with my mom. If you ask me why, it was moments like this.

Travels with Mom
And here we are in Cambodia. As we went hiking around from temple to temple, I kept asking her if she was tired and wanted to go back to the hotel. "No. I want to see them all!"

Travels with Mom
The next day, still trying to explore every temple in Cambodia.

Travels with Mom
And... Africa (two years after mom had asked about going... we had a cruise around South & Central America and through the Panama Canal before this). At this point my mother couldn't make new memories. Our lovely guide was so wonderful about it, and never let on when my mom would introduce herself five times a day. Eventually he told me that one of his wives had the same condition, so he was used to it. Fate, as it turns out, is always the best guide.

Travels with Mom
Mornings in Africa were surprisingly cold. Fortunately, we were well-prepared. Because she got cold easily, I packed her different sweaters and jackets for layering. As it started getting warmer and warmer each day, our guide would say "Pat, aren't you getting hot? Can I take your jacket?" Mom, without missing a beat, would respond "I just put it on because I'm cold."

Travels with Mom
When you can't remember where you are or how you got there, seeing elephants outside your window is an amazing thing. Which means my mom was in a constant state of disbelief... "My goodness! There are elephants out there!"

Travels with Mom
The sunsets in Africa are some of the most beautiful I've ever seen. After this photo, my mom asked if we were going back to the house or if we were going out to eat, which I found really funny for some reason. "Well, we're in Africa and our house is thousands of miles away... but we might be able to find something to eat back at camp." "Oh. That would work too."

Travels with Mom
Hiking around Victoria Falls (or Mosi-oa-Tunya, as the non-colonizer locals call it). We also took a helicopter ride over the falls, of course. Her memory may be screwed up, but she totally loved it... as I knew she would.

Travels with Mom
The end of our last trip together... high tea at The Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe where we were staying. It was a good run.

Our last vacation together was to Africa in 2014. When her health declined too much for trips like that, I tried to come up with something a little closer to home. I had booked us a trip to the Dakotas, since North Dakota is the one state I haven't yet been to, but it had to be canceled. In many ways I'm thankful for that. Africa is a heck of a place to go out on, and the memories made that final trip are some of the best travel memories I have.

Where my mom is at now, I don't know. Hopefully it's someplace at least as amazing as all the places we've been.

   

The Elephant Out the Window

Posted on Saturday, June 30th, 2018

Dave!When you've unloaded your life on the internet for fifteen years, it probably seems hypocritical to claim to be a "private person," but for me it's still true. Rarely does my blog touch on my personal life, my work, my family, or my offline friends. That's entirely by design, because there are some things I'd rather keep to myself. Not just for me, but out of respect for the privacy of everybody else connected to my life.

Long-time readers were probably surprised to find out that so many of my travels which have been documented here on Blogography were made with my mother, because I never mentioned her being with me at the time. The reason for this is long, complicated, and nobody's business... but... at the same time it really should be everybody's business. Partly because it may help others who are going through a similar trajectory, but mostly because there's a lot of inspiration to be found there.

And so...

Mom, Mickey, and Me

For all the time we've spent together over the years, my mom was never given to talking much about her life before I came along. I know practically nothing about her years growing up, and I honestly don't know why that is. What little insight I have is from old photos I've run across or out-of-the-blue comments that would pop up. Once while we were out for breakfast I ordered my eggs over-medium instead of scrambled like I usually do. Mom took that as an opportunity to mention that when she first got married and was cooking breakfast for my dad, she'd throw out eggs with broken yolks because she didn't want him to think she was a bad cook.

And so it went for as long as I knew her.

When things didn't work out between my mom and dad, she moved to a neighboring city. I ended up moving there with her because I was attending college there at the time. After a year of starting a new life for herself she spent most of her time with her boyfriend and was rarely around, making her the perfect roommate.

I spent way too long trying to figure out what to do for a career, but eventually found my way to graphic design. Once that had been decided, I took a job offer with a brand new company that was starting up in San Diego. It was sent my way via an ex-girlfriend who was living there, and seemed like an opportunity I couldn't pass up. The opening was seven months away because offices were still being built, so I asked my mom if she wanted to take a trip before I left. She had accompanied me on work-trips around the US from time to time, but this was to be a grand vacation in Europe... visiting London, Edinburgh, and Paris. We went. We had a great time. And I was happy to have some terrific memories before leaving home.

Not long after returning, it came to light that her boyfriend was a heinous, abusive, shit-stain on all humanity. And my mom's world fell apart. I'd say this "man" was garbage, but that would be an insult to the bag of cat shit I just tossed in my trash can. I maintain to this day that prison was too good a punishment for the atrocities he committed, and consider anal warts to be a higher form of life than him on his best day.

My mom never fully recovered.

She blamed herself for not seeing what he was... blamed herself for not knowing what he was hiding... blamed herself for everything and anything because that's all she had left. On the day she got a phone call from her now-ex piece of crap demanding she come bail him out of jail, I knew that San Diego would have to wait. First I had to try and get her the help she needed. This involved attempting to carry her down the stairs of her apartment, which I was not capable of doing. I essentially ended up dragging her down the stairs as she was sobbing uncontrollably. She couldn't walk. She could barely breathe. Days later I saw how badly she was bruised because I was not strong enough. It was the first time I felt as if I had completely and utterly failed her as a son. It would not be the last.

Months later as she was slowly... so painfully slowly... recovering from the trauma that life had thrown at her, she asked me if we might go on another vacation together one day.

You know how that turned out.

You also now know why she was never mentioned as I documented our travels on my blog.

I didn't want her disgusting pig of an ex to know anything about her or what she was doing, even though deep down I loved the idea that he would know she recovered from his abuse and managed to live a great life without him in it. She had crawled out of the wreckage, picked up the pieces, and did the best she could to carry on. Sure all the fantastic places we traveled had helped, but make no mistake that it was her strength, determination, and drive that were ultimately responsible.

This was not the life she had hoped for, but it would be good enough.

At least for a while.

A decade after our European vacation, her memory started failing her. She would chalk it up to having "senior moments," but after a while it was becoming a problem. She would write herself notes constantly. More notes than anybody could ever read. She'd go through a pack of Post-It's in a week (eventually she'd go through a pack in a day). Then, three months before we were to leave for Africa, I woke up and found her wandering around in a daze. She was so confused that I thought she might have had a stroke, and rushed her to the hospital. But it wasn't a stroke.

The specialist was not entirely sure what had happened to have caused the "permanent brain injury" which my mom was now dealing with. He didn't think it was Alzheimer's, but couldn't know for sure. Subsequent sleep studies found that she would stop breathing for dangerously long periods in the middle of the night. Her doctor felt that oxygen deprivation was most likely responsible for her brain trauma. He immediately started her on a CPAP machine, but the damage had been done.

There was no reversing what had happened, and her slide into dementia had begun.

And now it was my turn to have my life fall apart.

First thing I had to do was get a note from her doctor so I could cancel our trip to Africa and get a refund from the insurance company. "Why would you want to do that?" he asked me. Well... probably because her brain was incapable to making new memories and it would be a horribly confusing ordeal for her. But her doctor thought canceling would be a mistake. Since her older memories would be preserved for a while, he thought she would be able to go and still have a good time. Sure she would remember absolutely none of it, but that wouldn't stop her from having fun at the moment.

And so we went.

It was bizarre, tragic, and beautiful all at the same time. Every morning we'd wake up and she wouldn't know where we were or how we got there, but then she'd see an elephant wander by our tent (or whatever), remember that we had been planning a trip to Africa, put two-and-two together... and, surprise, we must be in Africa.

Mom, Mickey, and Me

And, no, the irony of an animal that supposedly never forgets helping me come to terms with a mother who always forgets is not lost on me.

It's funny how things sometimes work out.

I am beyond grateful that we had taken that first trip to Europe, because that showed her she could have fun in life without her boyfriend in it... right before her boyfriend was carted off to prison.

I am even more grateful for her doctor encouraging me to take her to Africa despite her brain damage... because it showed me that her life was not done yet. Yes, things would continue to fall apart, but I didn't just writer her off after diagnosis like I probably would have if we hadn't gone to Africa.

Everything after returning home is a blur of heartbreak and tears as I struggled to figure out how to help my mom have the best life she could when life was throwing every possible obstacle in her path.

Eventually her apartment wasn't safe for her. Those same stairs I had dragged her down years before became a barrier to getting her in and out of the apartment. So I bought a home in the old neighborhood I grew up in where she could be in a familiar area (so that's why he bought a new home!). I had to install security cameras all over my home so I could keep an eye on her while I was at work (so that's why he has all those cameras!). My mom was scared and lonely when I wasn't there, so I decided to get some cats to keep her company (so that's why Jake and Jenny are there!). It goes on and on. Every day was a new challenge. But it's my mom and I love her, so what else was there to do?

Mom and Jake

Mom and Jake

I'm not going to sugar-coat it, dealing with dementia is a horrendous ordeal, and just when you think you have a handle on it, things get worse. They always get worse. And then there comes a point where you don't think that your life will ever be anything but worse.

After six months in my new place, my mom was declining badly. She was on a host of drugs to help her with the depression and confusion, but they sometimes only worsened what they were supposed to be helping. Mom would become angry for no reason. She'd scream at me because a son shouldn't be kidnapping his mother. She'd pound on windows to try and escape. She'd start crying and couldn't stop.

One day she complained of chest pains. Thinking she was having a heart attack I ran her to the ER. It wasn't a heart attack, it was constant stress generated by never-ending confusion. Her doctor was very concerned.

But not for my mom.

He was concerned for me.

"What are you doing? You can't take care of her like this." And he was right. My entire life had become about trying to keep my mom from going off the edge, but I didn't realize she had already fallen off. And I was falling with her. It was then I knew that she should have been put somewhere that could help her months ago, but I would never admit it to myself because admitting it would feel like I was giving up on her.

After weeks of searching, I found a place I could live with where she could live.

Driving her across the mountains to her new home was about the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Maybe it is the hardest, I don't know. All I do know is that it felt worse than any heartbreak I've ever had and I spent a lot of time after wanting to die.

But it was just a warm-up for what was to come.

When it comes to dementia, things always get worse, remember?

There is nothing... and I mean nothing... that can prepare you for that moment where your own mother doesn't recognize you. You can read all the books that exist on dementia... you can think you are prepared and be able to accept it when that day comes. But you're wrong.

If you want to know what that's like, there just aren't words to describe it. There is no pain... no suffering... that will cut you quite like it. This video might give you the smallest inkling of how it goes. The whole thing is worth watching, but you can fast forward to 23 minutes in if you want to see what it looks like when somebody has been completely and utterly destroyed...

And that was me.

Sitting in the parking lot of my mother's memory care facility trying not to die of a broken heart.

They say that when it comes to dementia you say goodbye twice, and that's absolutely true. I said goodby to my mom when everything that I was to her was gone. I said it again last night when she died. The first time was a lot harder because it was the one that matters. Relatively speaking, the second time was easier because it was just saying goodbye to the body of who my mom used to be.

And so now you know.

The reason my blog stopped on June 4th, 2016 is because I had to find a home for my mom. The reason it didn't really start up again until October 31st, 2016 is because that's how long it took for me to recover from it. You can fill in the blanks on all the entries after that where I'm having a bad day or feeling depressed or didn't feel like blogging.

Tomorrow's Bullet Sunday will be bullets talking about what I have learned in dealing with dementia. Which is almost nothing, but it still might help somebody out there who is going through the same thing. I don't think it will be published tomorrow, but when it is published, that's what it will be.

To my family and friends who have helped me so much over these past years... sometimes without even knowing it... thank you. I could not have made it through without you.

To my mom's doctors, nurses, and all the people who work at The Cottages Memory Care in Mill Creek... thank you. I cannot fathom how you manage to do what you do with such compassion and grace, and am more grateful to you than you will ever know.

And to Jake and Jenny, who gave me a reason to get up in the morning after my mom had moved out (and almost certainly kept me from killing myself on more than one occasion)... thank you too. I mean, I know you're just cats, but you're still far better humans than a lot of people I know.

And so... until whenever I start feeling a little more like myself, take care of yourself and each other.

   

Warm Cookies and Cool Jewelry

Posted on Monday, July 2nd, 2018

Dave!When it comes to death, we humans have a crazy variety of customs, superstitions, and rituals. Most people would agree that a lot of them are really weird, which is to say that they're weird to you To other people, maybe it's your customs that are weird.

My beliefs are a bit complex, largely falling into Buddhist ideals, but sometimes straying into the other belief systems which have shaped my thinking. Buddhists believe in reincarnation, so death is just a natural thing that happens... like a flower that blooms, dies, then returns year after year. While I don't know that I believe in reincarnation, I do believe that death is natural and nothing to be afraid of. I also believe it's not the end of you, though what happens to the energy that was you I do not know. I'm actually glad about that because it means there's one final mystery solved when you leave this earthly plane.

When I die, I honestly don't care what becomes of my body. I'm not there anymore, it was never anything really special to me, and it can get tossed in the garbage for all I care. I do like the idea of having my ashes spread over Mt. Haleakala in Maui though... just in case my friends want an excuse to take a vacation.

My mom was raised Catholic, so I am doing my absolute best to act according to what I believe her wishes to be. The whole "last rites" thing was a bust because apparently Catholic priests have better things to do than serve their flock now-a-days, so I'm already off to a bad start. I know she wanted to be cremated. I know she didn't want a church service. I know she wants to be buried in her plot next to her parents. Everywhere else I'm just filling in the blanks the best I can.

And it's been a bit weird, I don't mind telling you.

The local funeral home here went out of business one week before my mom went into hospice. I was really saddened by this, because the guy who ran it is the brother of a friend and I really appreciated how he helped me out when my grandmother passed. And so I found a new funeral home by doing a Google Maps search near my mom's care facility, picking the one that looked the nicest, and then dropping by to take care of everything. Years ago I had bought my mom's car from her and put the money into a funeral insurance policy, so the money to pay for everything was already there.

I sat down with the funeral director where I was served a plate of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies. Assumably to provide comfort to grieving clients. Which... I must admit... it actually did. Or maybe I was just hungry because I hadn't eaten breakfast that morning. In any case, they were some really tasty cookies.

While the lovely person handling my mom's final affairs was off photocopying her birth certificate, Navy discharge papers, and all that kind of stuff, I started looking around at all the urns and casket options when I saw this...

Love Ashes!

That's right... for a hefty chunk of money, you can turn your loved one's remains into jewelry! Remember when I said that this was all a bit weird? This is what I was talking about. I mean, how does that go? "My that's a lovely pendant you're wearing!""Oh thanks... it's grandma!"

But that's just the beginning. You can also get your loved one fingerprinted and turn that into jewelry...

Love Prints!

"Do you have any wishes for your mother's remains?""Yeah... book 'em, Dano!"

And lest you think that your pet has been left out of the fun... you can also get paw-print jewelry and even nose-print jewelry made! I mean, hey, I love my cats and all, but I can't picture a scenario where I would want to wear Jake and Jenny's noses around my neck.

After nearly an hour of cookies and paperwork, it was ultimately decided mom would be cremated then put in a nice metal jar I selected. I'll then pick up her ashes at a later date and have them interned in her plot just before concrete is poured for her marker, then say one last goodbye to the remarkable woman that will always be my mother. And check in with grandma and grandpa next door, of course.

I have decided against any kind of graveside service. I feel badly about that because I'm sure there's many of mom's friends who would like to say goodbye and have closure. But it would be just my luck to have her fucking pig of an ex-boyfriend show up, and I think it would be in bad taste to have a murder occur as she's being laid to rest. So... instead my family will set aside some time at the next reunion and remember her then. I like this idea anyway because a lot of people will already be there and not have to drive hours for a ten-minute goodbye.

And so... plans made. I guess I'm done with all the weirdness then, right?

LOL. No. There was a call from the medical examiner which was another bucket of weird to deal with. I won't go into all the details of my spilling details... but I will say that it was surprisingly thorough and specific. As if they suspected foul play. Which had my mind racing in a dozen different directions. Have there been a slew of "accidents" at mom's care facility? Has there been a chain of suspicious deaths surrounding my mom's doctor? Who knows. But my mom used to read mystery novels by the hundreds, so I kinda like the idea of her getting one final mystery before leaving this earthly plane.

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Facial Unrecognition

Posted on Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018

Dave!I currently have 146,427 images in my photo library. And while they are all fairly well organized by date and location, I tend to rely on the facial recognition in Adobe LightRoom if I'm trying to find a picture of a person. It does a pretty good job, though there's a lot of room for improvement. Fortunately there's a "training mode" where you can fine-tune the algorithm's picks.

Take for example pictures that LightRoom thinks are me that are actually me.

And... some pictures not so much of me.

XXX

So... pretty good job, actually.

And yet... Apparently I look like a skeleton doll... a painting of a grody old saint... a statue of some Thomas Jefferson looking guy... a drawing of a woman in curls... and a black blob.

Among other things.

No accidental comparison to Ryan Reynolds this time, however. Just a woman in curls.

Sometimes technology lifts you up.

Sometimes technology kicks you in the balls.

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Primed for Disappointment

Posted on Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

Dave!I have long wanted a dash-cam to record all the crazy shit I see while driving. It's all so wacky that even I don't believe it sometimes, so it's good to have photographic evidence.

Since I didn't want to invest a ton of money in tech that was going to be obsolete in five minutes, I decided to buy the cheapest camera I could find until the newest generation of cameras with all the cool bells and whistles dropped in price. I ended up paying $28 on Amazon for a dash-cam that was usually $70 (I think it was on closeout?) and that would be good enough. Sure, the picture is crap and it doesn't have many features... but it would be better than the nothing I had at the time.

Three problems...

  1. I keep forgetting to press the "save" button when something interesting happens, so the video gets overwritten.
  2. So much of the crazy happens just outside of the range of the lens, despite it having a fairly wide angle.
  3. Removing the tiny micro SD card to get the video off of it is a huge pain in the ass.

Last night while I was waiting for an email response, I ran out to the car and grabbed the card. Turns out I had four videos saved. Two of them were of my garage door when I installed the thing and kept accidentally pressing buttons. But the other two were from my last drive back over the mountains...

The first was of a guy peeing on the side of the road. Didn't bother to go in the bushes or nothin'... just whipped it out and was peeing. At least his back was turned, but still. Problem is... all the camera captured was his car. And since the video quality is crap, you can barely see that...

Dash-Cam Footage

Dash-Cam Footage

The next video I saved was a deer...

Dash-Cam Footage

Dash-Cam Footage

   
I was hoping that Amazon's Prime Day would have a massive discount on a camera with a GPS, voice-activated save, and wireless download... but it was not to be.

And speaking of Amazon Prime Day, it was a total bust. The only thing I really care about is gift cards at a discount but I can never snag one. I set my alarm... wait for the card I want to be offered... then click to purchase the second it shows up as available... but it's always, always, always sold out. I couldn't get Petco. I couldn't get Panera. I couldn't get American Eagle. The only card I managed to get was iTunes, which is great... but it's insane that Amazon doesn't offer enough cards to last more than 2 seconds.

The only real bargain I managed to find was a white SONOS One speaker for my bathroom. I had a $100 gift card that was gifted to me when I watched a friend's dog plus I had $65 in Amazon Credit Card points... so I only had to come up with $35 to buy it (except I didn't have it, so hello credit card). The Prime Day Special was the speaker bundled with a $50 gift card, which I could not pass up because SONOS rarely goes on sale, and this is as close as it gets.

Now all I need to complete my SONOS home experience is a SONOS BEAM for my bedroom and two SONOS One speakers (one for the guest room and another for the main-floor bathroom). Then there will be no corner of my home that can't be blanketed in sound... or that's not Alexa accessible. Gotta tell you... this SONOS stuff is addicting. It's just too amazing to have your television or music playing everywhere you want so you can move around the house for chores (or whatever) and not miss anything. If only they made some kind of a SONOS-style video device for my kitchen so I could keep up with television video as well as audio.

That way I won't have to miss a minute of Love It or List It when I am unloading the dishwasher or making dinner.

   

Sweet Cats and Disinfectant

Posted on Friday, July 20th, 2018

Dave!Jake has adapted to living at my place a little better than his sister. Where she's still nervous and runs away from anything and everything, Jake is a little more adventurous. Front door opens? Jenny runs away and hides. Jake will watch... from a distance... to see who it is. If it's me, he runs up for butt scratches. If it's not me, he will run and hide with his sister.

It's sweet.

But he's a sweet cat. Just look at that face...

Jake!

Jake!

   
Except...

My cats haven't been on the kitchen counters since I started letting them in the kitchen nearly a year ago. I was so grateful to not have to keep disinfecting my countertops. Then... for whatever reason... probably chasing a fly or whatever... here we are...

Jake Busted!

Time to pull out the scrub brush and cleaner, I guess.

And speaking of cats named Jake... Fake Jake is still around.

Yesterday I was testing my lawn sprinklers so I can figure out why parts of my lawn are brown. Little did I know that Fake Jake was wandering through when the sprinklers activated. He was Not Happy. I decided to show him some love to cheer him up...

Jake!

Jake!

Jake!

And now?

A new season of Trial and Error is starting! Woo hoo!

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Mainetenance Protocols

Posted on Friday, July 27th, 2018

Dave!Breakfast was leftover pizza. Lunch... was also leftover pizza. For dinner there was no more leftovers to be had, so I decided I'd wait 3 or 4 hours, put down my laptop, and venture out for a late supper. But then I heard thunder booming around 4:00, and decided I would rush out to eat before a torrential flood of rain unleashed like it did yesterday.

Dinner was uneventful... thank heavens.

The walk back from dinner? Mostly uneventful...

• There was a scuffle in the parking lot between two guys whom, it would seem, arrived together in the same car. It was more verbal than physical... except for one poorly-timed slap that landed badly and a spit-response. Then one of them ran off while the other got in the car. Apparently to give chase and run him down.

• Whenever I come to the Auburn/Lewiston Area, I note that the Androscoggin River (which divides the two cities) is bordered by "Great Falls Boulevard" on the Auburn side. Problem is... in the years I've been coming here, I've never seen the "Great Falls" be that great. I'm guessing it's great in the Spring, but I'm here in the Summer and Winter when it's just rocks. Today I finally asked about it. "Well, it's not really that great most years any more."

• Today I finally decided to make a quick stop at Veteran's Park next to the above-said-not-so-great-falls. I knew it was here... never stopped. It's dedicated with a marker, which I sadly noted didn't have any women in service on it (sorry for the glare)...

Veteran's Park

Until I took a closer look(?)...

Veteran's Park

The hands-on-hips should have given her away.

• Other than the odd choice to have a gun firing at a jeep(?) it's actually a nice little park...

Veteran's Park

In case you are wondering... off to the right there are the Great Falls.

• As I was nearing the end of the bridge, I noticed that there was a Trump Protest going on across the street, almost all of them (I'm guessing) being senior citizens. They were calling for his impeachment...

Veteran's Park

Maine, like my home state of Washington, is a Blue State. But Androscoggin County, like my home county of Chelan, is a Red County. Meaning more than 50% of the people voting voted for President Trump. Don't know if that would be the case today.

• As I walked up to my hotel, the thunder was growing in intensity, but there was still no rain. As I walked in the sliding doors to the glass-enclosed vestibule, I saw a poor little bird flying back and forth. He was smashing into the windows from one side to the other, and I felt terrible about it. And so... I spent the next five minutes corralling the little fellow until I could shoo him out the front door. Time well spent, even though everybody in the lobby thought I had gone insane.

• When I got back to my hotel room, I noticed that there was a photo of the Great Falls (where there were actually falls) hanging in the bathroom (sorry again for the glare)...

Veteran's Park

Okay, I have to admit that this does look pretty great!

   
And thus ends my big day. Tomorrow it's back to work again.

   

Smoking and Spider-Man: Homecoming

Posted on Friday, August 17th, 2018

Dave!It's Friday! And I'm heading over the mountains again! Where, hopefully, there will be a lot less smoke than there is here. I'm having a hard time understanding how there's anything left around us to burn. We've had fires every summer for years now. Is it too much to hope for just one summer where I'm not having to struggle to breathe?

I need a vacation from smoke. But that's just over six weeks away. Hope I survive that long.


Continuing on with my revisiting of every Marvel Studios movie...

MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 16: Spider-Man: Homecoming
Original Grade: A+ • Today's Grade: A+
I thought that the first two Tobey Maguire /slash/ Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies were good. Then it all turned to shit in Spider-Man 3, and I was kinda done with the character. Then came The Amazing Spider-Man and its awful sequel and I was really done. At least I was until Captain America: Civil War came along and showed that Spider-Man could not only work in a movie... he could be exceptional in a movie. Then it was just a matter of waiting for the solo film to drop. Say hello to Spider-Man: Homecoming. So many things were perfect about it, but the biggest thing they did to get me onboard was make Spider-Man a kid. That's how he started, it's what made him unique, and the comics went off the rails when they had him getting married and all that. Here we are at the beginning, which is the best part, and it made for a fantastic entertainment. It's also good to see Spider-Man look, move, and act like you'd imagine Spider-Man would look, move, and act. Giving the film an A+ almost seems inadequate.
   
SCENE TO BEAT: Every scene between Tony and Peter is gold... especially the first one. But when Peter opens the door to Liz's house and you get that reveal? Then the follow-up drive to the prom? Sinister.
   
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: I question turning the Spider-Man suit into Iron Man suit light. They address this in the film when Stark takes it away, but it still seems to go against the character. Not nearly as much as the suit he gets in Infinity War, but still.
   
SIDENOTE: Having Tony Stark be Peter Parker's mentor was yet another stroke of genius from Marvel Studios. What I was unsure about was turning Aunt May from a decrepit old woman to Marisa Tomei in Civil War. But once you see how it works, it's actually really smart. And now that she's found out that Peter is Spider-Man? Well... no old woman having a heart attack. Instead we've got Aunt May saying "What the f#@%?" more genius. Aunt May is fun instead of a wet blanket on the movie. That's a good thing. An observation... I noticed that the principal in Peter's school is the same actor who played one of Cap's Howling Commandos, so I Googled it. Sure enough, it's the same guy: Kenneth Choi. Relative? Descendant? Another observation... When Happy Hogan is loading up the transport plane he talks about a new shield prototype for Captain America. Why would he be making a new shield for somebody he took the original shield from? Weird. One last thought... Michael Keaton's The Vulture was far better, scarier, and capable villain than we got from Ultron, which makes me appreciate this film even more. The great soundtrack was just icing on the cake.

   

Bullet Sunday 475 and Black Panther

Posted on Sunday, August 19th, 2018

Dave!Attempting to battle my way through the smoke... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Fires! The weather over the mountains was a bit hazy, but the skies were clear much of the time which was a nice change. Looking towards home this morning revealed what was awaiting me. At the top of the pass it was socked in and it never let up all the way home...

Smoke and Fire Summer 2018

Supply trucks are on the road, headed towards the fire front...

Smoke and Fire Summer 2018

And... I'm home. Such as it is...

Smoke and Fire Summer 2018

The largest of the fires, Cougar Creek (currently 36719 acres), is just 16 miles north of me. It's spread a bit since I last checked, but is now 35% contained, which is pretty impressive work by our firefighters considering it was just 5% contained on Monday...

Central Washington Fire Map Summer 2018

Central Washington Fire Map Summer 2018

I guess now is the time we pray for rain. But no lightning, which is what started this fire in the first place.

   
• Entertainment! Turns out the best toy for a cat is still a cardboard box...

Jake and Jenny in a Box

Anything I can do to keep the cats entertained inside the house instead of out in a smokey catio is a good thing.

   
• Soul. Aretha Franklin passed away which means the Queen of Soul has left us. There are many songs she's given us which put her on the throne... but my favorite is her duet with George Michael for I knew You Were Waiting...

Too many classic artists are leaving us too soon. Rest in peace, Miss Franklin.

   
• Bears! This video came across my newsfeed and I had to watch it multiple times...

I always feel bad for animals who have their territory encroached on by humans. The least we can do is let them take a dip in our pools from time to time.

   
• Outrage! Oh... I am outraged alright, Pat. Don't you worry your foolish old head about that.

Lock children in cages and separate them from their parents perhaps never to return because of a line on a map = God's work.

Reading to children = Work of the devil and the end of all humanity.

Just die already you vile, worthless, repugnant piece of shit.

   
• EnChroma! Instead of spending billions on a stupid wall that won't work... and a military parade to compensate for a tiny, tiny penis on a fucking lunatic... why not buy these EnChroma glasses for everybody who needs them? There are literally thousands of things that are a better use for money this country doesn't have...


And yet... here we are. Getting exactly what we deserve.

   
And that's a wrap on bullets for this week. Tune in again in a mere seven days...


Continuing on with my revisiting of every Marvel Studios movie...

MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 18: Black Panther
Original Grade: A+ • Today's Grade: A+
"Hey Auntie." =sigh= As I had mentioned, My favorite Marvel heroes have always been Doctor Strange and Black Panther. To get movies this amazing for both characters was a dream come true. Though calling Black Panther "good" is an epic understatement. This film was sublime. Steeped in African culture, we got something truly different than the Western super-hero fare which had come before. The fact that they were so painfully faithful to the source material is just a bonus. It was all here. The vast hidden wealth and mind-boggling technical superiority of Wakanda. The Dora Milaje. Character references old and new. And then they went and made T'Challa into a super-hero James Bond!
   
SCENE TO BEAT: That casino fight and subsequent car chase in South Korea was pretty spectacular.
   
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: Not a dang thing.
   
SIDENOTE: I want sequels to all the Marvel movies. All of them. There is not a single film that's left me thinking "Well, that's enough of that." But when it comes to the sequel I want to see right this minute... it's Black Panther. Things could head in a hundred different directions and almost all of them are going to be fascinating. And then there's the Wakanda outreach program, which has fascinating implications for the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Surely another movie is coming soon, right? The first one made like... a billion dollars!

   

The Magic Hat

Posted on Friday, August 24th, 2018

Dave!As a kid, I was obsessed with magic. I saw all those David Copperfield specials on TV and dreamed of being a magician just like him. Whether he was walking through the Great Wall of China or making a Learjet disappear or vanishing the Statue of Liberty, he made the magic of magic entirely too cool.

My attempts at becoming a magician were not terribly successful (as you probably guessed). My parents were really supportive about it... ordering magic sets from the Sears & Roebuck catalog for Christmases and birthdays... but all of the mass-produced toy crap in the world wasn't going to turn me into a master magician.

Don't tell that to me at the time though.

I was convinced that all I really needed to be successful was the latest and greatest magic set. It all culminated with "The Magic Hat," which was a fairly expensive toy that I was certain would get me my own television special when I saw it in the catalog...

The Magic Hat
Photo Credit: thargoids/eBay UK

But when it arrived, it was pretty shitty. The "hat" was hard plastic... and heavy. There was no way you could ever actually wear it. The tricks were crap as well. There was a hidden compartment for a wand in the sides that was obvious... a hidden swing-door compartment in the bottom that wouldn't fool anybody who bothered to look at it... and it had a tank in it so you could pour in a glass of water which would "disappear" that you could then pump out with a hidden bladder under the band. Awful, awful stuff.

Eventually I graduated to more professional tricks. Most of which were purchased from a magic shop hidden away in Seattle's Pike Place Market. Well, I say they were professional, but they were pretty much crap as well. You'd get a plastic baggy with some kind of prop inside that came with instructions mimeographed on colored paper. Perhaps tons of practice would make the investment pay off down the road, but I guess I wasn't patient enough.

Eventually my obsession with performing magic died out (as most obsessions do) and I went on to whatever was next. I still enjoyed watching magic though.

At least I did until Breaking the Magician's Code: Magic's Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed started airing in 1997. It revealed how all the most famous tricks were done and all the magic kind of died after that.

But magic was always in the back of my mind. Whether it was seeing a Penn & Teller show in Las Vegas or seeing their television show Fool Us... or watching shows like Deception (now canceled) which had magic at its core... there was always something magical going on somewhere.

The latest is a Netflix show from Justin Willman called Magic for Humans which is pretty great...

Another show on Netflix that approaches magic from an entirely different angle? Magicians: Life in the Impossible. It's actually a bit depressing, but interesting as well...

What I really need right now is not magic... it's some kind of miracle to save us from all this smoke. Two weeks of feeling sick and not being able to sleep is more than enough.

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Two Months Past Passed

Posted on Thursday, August 30th, 2018

Dave!It's been two months since my mom died. It seems like it was years ago. It seems like it was yesterday. Sometimes it seems like it was just a bad dream.

Most days I come through it just fine. Her mind was gone long before she passed, she's no longer suffering, and I have so much to be grateful for in the time I got to spend with her. Whenever a wave of despair comes crashing down on me because I don't have a mom any more, I remember this and manage to keep from being overwhelmed. It doesn't mean I miss her any less, however. My heart still aches and that's something that's never going away. But my life seems less and less defined by her passing as time goes on, so I guess I'm going to survive this.

What's been going on with all that over these past months...

   
ASHES.
Funeral planning was pretty easy. My mom wanted to be cremated and buried in the plot next to her parents which they gifted her many years ago. I had bought her a funeral insurance policy, so most everything was set. Two weeks ago I drove over the mountains to pick up her ashes, which were kindly placed in an urn I bought to match the one I got for my grandma back in 2015. My mom said that a graveside service was all she wanted, but I decided against it. The last thing I needed was her piece-of-shit ex to show up. I figured mom would be okay if I didn't end up going to prison for murder over a service she didn't even care about, so that was that. The next time there's a family reunion, I'll show up with all my mom's travel books and that will be a better way to remember her anyway.

   
MARKER.
Because my mom was a veteran, I was able to get the VA to provide a memorial marker for free. When you order the marker, you get to select a "symbol of belief" to put on it. Since the Catholic Church didn't seem to give a fuck about providing her last rites, I was not going to put a Catholic cross on her marker. I thought I might compromise and choose a Catholic Celtic cross, since she absolutely loved the cemeteries in Ireland we visited, but I didn't feel comfortable with that either...

VA Marker Symbol of Belief

I briefly toyed with the idea of putting the Hammer of Thor on it, but I don't know that mom would find that particularly funny so I decided to leave it blank...

VA Marker Symbol of Belief

Then I noticed that the form said you could go online and find an updated list of emblems. So I visited the site and saw that they had added a heart to the options...

VA Marker Symbol of Belief

How perfect.

Interesting to note... my mom served in the Navy during the Vietnam War. When I filled out the paperwork, you can check a box for wartime service if the person qualifies. I checked the box and didn't think anything of it... until a week later when it popped into my head and triggered a panic attack. Should I have checked that box? So I called the VA and asked if it was disrespectful to veterans who fought in the war to be having her war service added to her marker since she was a state-side doing paperwork. Turns out that it's not. All parts of a war effort get recognized, and he encouraged me to leave it on her marker order. So I did.

And so now I wait for the marker to arrive so I can bury her ashes under it on the day they cement it in.

   
NOTICE.
I decided to not post a notice in the newspaper until after mom's been buried. I have, however, written her obituary already. I wrote it the night she died.

   
TIMING.
My mom died with only one day left in the month of June. I did not realize how significant this timing was until I started dealing with the paperwork. Since there was just the one day, everybody is content to just write it off. No repaying of benefits. No weird requests for pro-rated reimbursement of coverage. No letters to cancel stuff. Pretty much no anything. I closed her bank account the next day and everything else just took its course. Insurance companies could just be ignored and, after a month of pestering, they went away on their own because there was no money in it for them. Ditto for her various memberships and such. Given time... they just... disappeared. This is a massive change from the nightmare I faced when my grandmother died. She passed with a little over a week left in the month and that drama went on for months. So... note to self: when it's time to go, be sure to die on the last day of the month. It's easier for everybody. I mean, it really shouldn't be... but it is.

   
MAIL.
I don't get much physical mail. All my bills are paid online and the vast majority of what shows up is junk mail. Once I had to start checking my mom's post office box to get her mail, I changed my address to the same box so I'd only have one spot to worry about. Now that she's passed, I've switched my address to my house and will close down the post office box when it runs out in December. In the meanwhile I have the key to the box around my neck so I don't forget to check it. This morning when I woke up the key was gone from my nightstand and could not be found, even when I moved everything to search for it. When I went to feed the cats, I saw that the key was laying on the stairs. Sure enough, checking the security cameras revealed that Jake had hauled it off at 2am. And he was so stealthy about it that I didn't even wake up.

   
KITCHENWARE.
My mom was not a foodie, nor was she overly-fond of cooking. She cooked when she had to, but most of the meals we preferred were ready-made canned or frozen that got microwaved. I took her out to eat as often as I could because it offered a bit more variety over the soups and peanut butter sandwiches she would usually end up eating. I would love to eat out every day myself, but A) I don't want to drive 20 minutes into The Big City just for myself, and restaurant options in my small town are minimal... and B) I can't really afford to eat out very often anyway. So I cook a lot. Which is difficult given that all my mom's kitchenwares are so old that they're falling apart or worn so badly that they're tough to cook with. And so... I've been slowly buying all new stuff. Muffin tins... cookie sheets... bread pans... that kind of thing. My latest acquisition? Mixing bowls! I splurged and bought stainless steel bowls with non-skid bottoms and lids. They are so much nicer than the beat-up old warped plastic bowls I've been living with. And while I would much rather spend my money on new power tools, my next purchase will be a nice set of new pots and pans. Really looking forward to that.

   
PHOTOGRAPH.
As I mentioned previously, I bought loads of photos of my mom and her travels to put up around the house so she would understand that she lived there even if she didn't recognize the place. It worked so well that I transferred them to her memory care facility when she moved out. Once she died, I ended up getting them all back. Some of them I've got hanging in my kitchen and hallway. All the rest I've decided to hang in Jake & Jenny's bedroom... which I may end up turning into a combo cat bedroom /slash/ second guest bedroom. They are some awesome travel photos, so they would make for a nice decoration for a houseguest to look at.

   
BELONGINGS.
After I had to move my mom out of my house, I managed to slowly work my way through most of her belongings... tossing or gifting or donating them as appropriate. After a while it got to be too hard to keep going through her stuff, so I packed it all up into cardboard boxes and shoved it in the closet that's in Jake and Jenny's bedroom. My plan was to go through them this weekend. But now I've changed my mind. I'm just not ready. Maybe in another two months. Maybe never.

   
MEMENTO.
I had already given mom's best clothing (jackets, sweaters, and stuff) to family. Anything that was left got donated. When she died, the memory care facility said I could leave anything I didn't want and they would go through it all... giving anything worth saving to residents in need. Which leaves two items hanging in my closet. 1) Her high school sweater, and 2) A Mickey Mouse sweatshirt I bought decades ago that she loved so much that she wore it only for special occasions to keep it in good shape. I think I might build a shadow box for the sweater. Like what they do at Hard Rock Cafes for their memorabilia clothing. That would be kind of cool. I'm not sure about the Mickey sweatshirt. I might just leave it hanging in my closet. Maybe I'll build a box for it as well one day. It's strange to be so indecisive about "stuff." This goes against the Buddhist concept of detachment that I strive for, and I'm not sure how I should feel about it. Maybe I shouldn't feel about it at all? About the only thing I'm certain of is that I don't want to part with it. At least not yet.

   
I wish I had something insightful to say in order to wrap up this post, but I don't.

I just really miss my mom.

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Lazy Labor Days

Posted on Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

Dave!Yesterday was Labor Day in the USA, a holiday meant to honor American workers and give most of us a day off work. Or something like that. Other countries have Labor Day too (or, as some spell it, Labour Day) but I don't know much about that.

What I do know? I had to work over Labor Day holiday weekend.

But once I was done? I decided to take Fall seriously and get my Fall-looking wreath hung on my door. I usually wait until October to put my Halloween pirate skeleton in the middle, but... eh...

Fall Wreath Halloween Wreath Time!

It doesn't seem like Summer could possibly be over... didn't we just start Summer a few minutes ago? But it has been getting noticeably chilly out in the mornings, so I guess Fall is really here.

My cats will be thrilled.

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Birds and Memory

Posted on Thursday, September 6th, 2018

Dave!The bird feeder is not depleting as quickly as it once was so I'm guessing the smaller birds are starting to head south? Still going through a lot of seed though. And Jake and Jenny still spend hours watching them out the window too.

This morning when I went out to refill the feeder (again) I saw a small gold bird sitting on the rocks around my flower bed. Usually birds take off the second I open the door, so this was puzzling to me. Thinking he might be hurt or stunned, I thought I'd fill a shallow dish with water and put it next to him. Alas he hopped away every time I tried, so there wasn't much I could do except grab my camera...

Small Bird

Fake Jake would pounce on him in a second, so I did my best to shoo him under a shrub so at least he could rest up in a spot that didn't make him an easy target. Most cats just kill birds for fun. Fake Jake will actually eat them. Which doesn't make me any happier about it (he has food, he doesn't need to hunt!) but at least the poor things aren't being killed for sport.

When I was downloading that bird photo off my camera, I noticed the photo before it was this one...

XXX

No idea where I took it. On the date that was time-stamped on the image I wasn't traveling anywhere, so I'm guessing I shot it somewhere close to home, but I have no memory of it. Boy does it suck getting old. I wonder how long until I forget how to wipe my ass?

Hopefully before I forget how to pay somebody to wipe my ass for me!

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Luck of the Irish

Posted on Monday, September 10th, 2018

Dave!Today I walked to work because my foot was stiff after having elevated it all weekend. I also chopped off a chunk of my damaged toenail because it was itching UNDER the nail. That hurt. It probably would have hurt less if I managed to keep my eyes open the whole time I was performing home surgery, but the blood was freaking me out. After coating it with antibiotics and bandaging it, I felt much, much better.

Until I walked to work. By the time I got there my foot was on fire and I felt like I was going to pass out.

But I'm still glad that I walked. I should do that more often.

Also? On the walk back home I saw this rock next to the railroad tracks...

Rock that says Luck of the Irish

Awwww. I'm guessing this means I'm lucky now?

I could use some luck!

And so could the East Coast of these United States of America...

Hurricane Path

Yikes. Scary. What does God have against The Outer Banks? Or maybe it's because North Carolina voted for Trump. Because that's the way it works, right?

   

Feline Assistance

Posted on Monday, September 17th, 2018

Dave!Going through my mom's stuff has been an awful ordeal. No matter how much I sort through, there's still so much left to go. I thought that waiting would make it easier, but two-and-a-half months later and it's far more difficult. It feels as though the more time that passes the more I realize that I'm never going to see her again, and the more the weight of it crushes me.

This weekend I sorted through some clothes I had forgotten about. It was a bundle that I didn't want to send with her to the memory care facility because it was special stuff... like all the B. Kliban Cats T-shirts she had collected. They're so cool that I was worried they would be stolen and some stranger would be wearing them. Now I'm donating them to Goodwill where strangers will be wearing them after all. Had I sent them with her, she might have at least got to enjoy them once or twice. It's the stuff like this that is so damn hard. It doesn't matter how much I did right, it's mistakes like this that my mind wants to focus on.

After that trauma, I decided to go through all of her recipes and cookbooks. When I was a kid, mom cooked all the time. Later in life she barely cooked at all. Most of her recipes are ones that I won't eat (meat) or shouldn't eat (sweets) and got tossed. Jenny was a big help in sorting things out...

Jenny Helping

Some of the recipes she was happy to rip out of a binder for me...

Jenny Helping

Recipes she really didn't like got chewed on and shredded...

Jenny Helping

There were two recipes I was hoping to find. The first was her Applesauce & Walnut Bread, which is sublime (found it). The second was her Spanish Rice, which was very different than what I've had in restaurants (never found it, dammit).

What I was surprised to find was the recipe for my grandma's enchiladas (from my dad's mom). I have refined her recipe over decades in order to come up with my own vegetarian version. They're awesome. But they're not the same. Now I am very interested in going back to her original recipe and substituting Beyond Meat crumbles for hamburger to see if they're the same as I remember. Wouldn't that be a treat? And speaking of treats... grandma made a marshmallow popover roll that was divine. You roll a marshmallow in melted butter, shake it in a cinnamon & sugar mixture, wrap dough around it, then bake. The marshmallow melts, which causes this amazing gooey mess in the middle that ends up being the kind of thing I'd imagine they serve in heaven. I can't fathom what the carb load must be for something like that. I'm sure it's substantial. But what a way to go!

I have great memories of my grandmother and her many pets, but my favorite memories are of her cooking. She skinned tomatoes by sticking them on a knife and holding it over the flame on a gas-top stove. She opened enchilada sauce cans by chopping into them with a cleaver. She laughed a lot while trying to teach me how to make the food I loved so much. She called me "her little politician" because I liked to talk so much when I was a baby. I didn't get to see her very often because she lived in California and I live in Washington, but I remember an awful lot about those moments.

I also found recipe's from my other grandma (my mom's mom). Including her award-winning apple pie. I've had the recipe for ages... but it's not the same when I make it. Grandma would taste the apple then decide what it needed to make a great pie. More sugar. Less sugar. More lemon juice. Less lemon juice. How much spice got added. It wasn't just a recipe... it was a complex negotiation between ingredients until grandma's apple pie became grandma's apple pie.

My grandpa's pickles can't be duplicated either. He used a measuring cup, but it was never a level measure. He always seemed to over-pour on everything. His specialty was dill pickles and hot pepper dill pickles, but he also made sweet pickles because my grandmother wanted them for her macaroni salad. I remember him measuring out the sugar and watching it spill out over the measuring cup for what seemed like forever. The recipe says "one cup sugar" but there was a lot more than one cup in that brine. It's what made grandpa's sweet pickles become grandpa's sweet pickles.

I suppose I shouldn't even attempt to duplicate foods where the best thing about them was the people who made them. It's an endeavor that's certain to be met with failure.

Today I started putting away my wood shop so I can park my car in the garage now that it's getting frosty in the mornings. I'll still be working whenever I can... at least until the snow comes... but The Big Projects are done for the year. Really hoping that next year I have more time in the shop.

Among the things in the garage that need to be put away are all the photos I had canvased for my mom. I made them when we moved into my new house so she'd understand it was where she lived when she saw pictures of herself... and it was a fantastic investment that actually worked. They worked so ell that I took them with her when she had to leave. After she died I brought them all back home with me so I could hang them... somewhere.

Ultimately I decided they should go in Jake and Jenny's bedroom. When I relocated the guest bedroom to the main floor, I ended up with blank walls, so it was the perfect spot. And just like Jenny "helped" me out with the recipes, Jake decided to "help" me decide how the photos should be arranged...

Jake Helping

He did a pretty good job...

Mom Travel Photos
TOP ROW: Trevi Fountain in Rome, Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska, The Grand Canyon, Temple of Poseidon in Greece, Beach at Natural Bridge in Aruba. BOTTOM ROW: Amalfi Coast in Italy, Southmost Point Key West in Florida, The Colosseum in Rome, Mykonos in Greece, Angkor in Cambodia.

Mom Travel Photos
LEFT: Kauai Beach in Hawaii, Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana. MIDDLE: Neets Bay Float Plane in Alaska, Chilkat River rafting outside of Haines in Alaska. RIGHT: The Great Pyramid in Egypt. The Sphynx in Egypt.

Mom Travel Photos
LEFT: Wild Africa Trek in Walt Disney World Florida. RIGHT: Phone booth in London, England.

One of these days I really need to put together the bed I bought so this could become a second guest room if I ever needed it. There's always One. More. Thing. isn't there?

I had two canvases left over, so I moved the photos of Mom with Donald and Me & Mom with Micky to my bedroom next to the Mickey patent reproduction hanging on my door...

Mom Travel Photos

And then...

Remember when I was lamenting that I didn't know much about my mom when she was younger? She just delivered! I found over a hundred letters she wrote to my grandparents when she left home. Guess there's stuff to know if I ever want it...

Mom Letters

I honestly thought that this small suitcase was filled with sewing stuff! Of course I never looked inside when she was here... I just put it in her closet for her. Then when she left, I put it into storage with the rest of her stuff. I was getting ready to throw it out but, of course, I had to open it first to make sure it was just sewing junk. Guess it's a good thing I did.

And that was enough fun for a Monday. More than enough.

Now I get to hammer out a guard for the feeding station so Carl the Robovac will stop ramming into the water fountain and pushing food dishes all around the house. Not the best pick for the last project I create before putting away my wood shop for the year, but a necessary one!

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