Valentine’s Day Weekend (and Other) Reflections…

So here I am, another Monday morning at Laina’s place working and doing my laundry, but after a fun weekend prior.

This was the first Valentine’s Day since 2011 that I have not been single. It’s weird in a way. I guess you can count 2014 as partnered, but that was the day my most recent ex and I split so I don’t know if that even counts.

Anyway, it was the first V-Day in that long that hasn’t totally sucked. Though what we have is the farthest thing from a traditional relationship, it was fitting to celebrate what we have on the day, and that we did. I cooked us a dinner of Salmon, Thai peanut buckwheat noodles (buckwheat is not related to wheat and is gluten-free) and French-cut green beans, after which we went for wine and chocolate at San Antonio’s own Stray Grape winery (review coming soon over on Texas Bite & Sip). It was a night of reflection, affection and looking to the future ahead.

It was crowded so we retired early to my place for a Walking Dead marathon, then continued the theme into Saturday by taking a drive up to “winery row” (US 290 between Johnson City and Fredericksburg) to sample some more wine.

As we look into what lies ahead, of course nobody knows, but I still know I’m in a better place now. To love and to be loved feels great.

Other interesting reflections: my weight is holding steady after a drop, but my body composition continues to change in my favor – to the point I can rock swim briefs at the pool with complete confidence.

I feel even lighter mood-wise also, and would you believe I have completely lost my taste for cigars? I’ve tried a few here and there recently (ones I used to love) and I can’t stomach the taste anymore. Maybe as my body detoxes itself it’s being repulsed by the taste to not introduce new toxins? Who knows, but all I know is I’m pretty much completely cigar-free these days. I’m not complaining – they’re expensive and it frees me up to do other things with my time.

I’m trying to read a novel for the first time since 2017 – Microserfs by Douglas Coupland. So far an engaging read for sure, and this coming from someone who doesn’t get much pleasure from reading novels.

Of course, should a business venture come to fruition, the plan will have to be different moving forward as I no longer smoke cigars. That’s ok – I’m thinking maybe an entirely gluten-free tavern featuring a variety of food offerings and some of the very best wines from Texas hill country (as well as maybe some hard ciders, etc.). That’s still a concept in its infancy, but it’s worth it to explore.

Anyway, that’s what my life looks like now.

Logic Does Not Compute – The Men’s Swimwear Edition

So after years of not having any swimwear, I finally hopped online and got me a swimsuit. It’s about time right?

You might ask yourself why not just go to a B&M and get one? Well, it might be different for my European readers, but in the United States no department stores stock brief-style swimwear for men. We Americans in all our prudishness are all about those heavy, ridiculous, baggy long trunks (which Laina coined the term “sissy-ass shorts” to describe). It’s absolutely asinine.

Luckily I found a really nice one online, which Laina helped me pick out. We looked at the color options for a particular style and she decided that purple would look great on me. So I measured myself, got the correct sizing and checked out to the tune of $30 and change…which was after a 30% discount code!!!

Well, I have to back up and scratch my head at the logic here. Brief-style swimwear is less than 1/4 as much material as trunks, but they’re more expensive? Like how does that make even the remotest amount of sense? My logical autistic brain just can’t figure that one out. You can go to fucking Walmart and buy a pair of sissy-ass trunks for $10, but good luck finding swim briefs for less than $40-50?!?!?

Man, if anyone can figure that logic out let me know. All I know is that’s stupid. Maybe it’s a luxury tax of sorts – pay for the comfort, freedom and aerodynamic advantage of swim briefs. Engineering after all. 😉

When Bad Decisions Add Up…

I’ll be 33 in 2 months and two weeks. I’ll have been a legal adult for 15 years by that point. If I had my way, I’d have been working in the airline industry for 10 years now (minimum age to be an airline pilot is 23, and the flight time requirements to get in as a First Officer at a regional carrier were much less stringent then than they are now) and by this point I’d either be a senior Captain at said regional airline and ready to move up to a junior First Officer position at a major, if not already in a junior FO position with a major. That’s IF I had taken the course I had planned for me.

Well, as we all know that didn’t come to fruition, because at the time the FAA listed autism spectrum disorders as an automatic disqualification from airworthiness. Times have changed, and now the FAA considers them on a case-by-case basis, but it’s way too late for me. I’m shut out.

Now, I’m under no illusion that airline life is somehow all rainbows and roses. I know it ain’t. It’s a cutthroat business – busy and demanding schedules, a lot of time away from home, lots of paperwork, you name it. There’s a reason the airline industry is exempt from right-to-work laws and why in that industry you can still be forced to join a labor union in all 50 states in the US.

Anyway, being shut out of that led to a series of horrible decisions and why I’m where I’m at now in my professional life. My first intention was to get into horology (clock/watch repair). There was a little shop in Abilene that did that, the owner who called himself “The Clock Doc” was an elderly, yet very unassuming and kind man. I came close to asking him for an apprenticeship and was going to, but was pushed by family and academia into going to college instead. I should have stood my ground.

Needless to say I did not. I went to college, racked up tens of thousands in debt, graduated with a degree that’s all but worthless unless you want to teach, but that’s what I decided I would do so that didn’t much matter. Well, I did wind up a teacher – one year at the high school level followed by two years of teaching at the university level while in grad school. I was good at it, sure, but didn’t really much like it. It didn’t pay that well either.

So I left grad school, even more in debt. When you have an all but worthless degree (mathematics) AND you’re on the autism spectrum – your employment prospects are limited at best, and that showed – being either unemployed or underemployed from January 2012 thru August 2015. By some stretch of unusual luck in what has been a very unlucky life, I managed to get a start into the crane industry as a heavy lift engineer.

And that’s where I’m at today, still. I’ve changed companies once, but nothing has changed as far as my job goes. It’s not a terrible job, pays a bit better than teaching, but there’s still no excitement there.

Make no mistake –  I am not a state licensed professional engineer. My job title might have “engineer” in it but that doesn’t mean I’m a P.E. Nor can I be with my current education – my degree is in straight math, not an engineering discipline. Guess I fucked myself over even more in college too didn’t I?

Had my degree been in engineering instead of math, I could have been a P.E. by the end of August as the requirements are 5 years working under an existing P.E. and a bachelor’s degree in an engineering field. Man would that be nice – I’d make double what I’m making now.

Now, there is still one option available to me to obtain a P.E. license – I would have to go back to school and obtain 20 hours of engineering classes and work under a licensed P.E. for a total of 8 years. I’m at almost 4.5 right now. I still have 3.5 to go, scraping by on what I’m making now, and even less because now I have tuition to afford, plus balancing my full-time job on top of school, among other things. You see where this is going – it simply is not feasible, not to mention I have no desire to even go back to school. I hate school. I pretty much suck at it too – I’m a very mediocre student. I should have never gone.

So where does that put me? Well, this job is all I really know. Well, that and teaching. I’m shoehorned into one or the other, and the latter is not palatable to me in any way. So this is my reality, unless I venture into self-employment, which is also not really feasible as I can’t bank enough to have enough capital to sink into starting one and getting a business loan is tough, not to mention then you’re in major debt to a bank. In that light, that door is also permanently closed.

Sure, I was on fire about it last year, but after I took my rose-colored glasses off I realized I was deluding myself. It will never happen. It can never happen. What the fuck was I even thinking? Holy fucking shit, I go back and read those posts I wrote at the end of March/beginning of April last year and I want to fucking vomit at my own stupidity and delusion.

Alas, I realize that there is only one person to blame for my situation. That person is myself. I fucked up hard, and I’m paying the price and will be for the rest of my life.

The only good thing to come out of my delusion? Relocation. That much I do not regret. That might be the only good decision I’ve ever made. Though I’ll never have a satisfying career, at least I found love again, and that counts for more than a job, career or business ever will.

Oh, and I’ve got my pick of wineries around here I can go to in order to drown my depression. At least I can afford some level of escape. 

 

 

Four Years of Ink

Four years ago today, I got my first tattoo – my little semicolon. What seemed like a small mark has proven to change my life forever. (Read last year’s post for a full recount of why I got it to begin with).

It led to the start of this blog, which started out as a personal diary to think of tattoo ideas. Starting this blog led me to meet people near and far, but above all – this blog was the vehicle for me to find love again, to fall in love again, to finally escape Hillbilly Hell (Abilene) and to start me on the journey to mend my health.

It’s amazing how the smallest of decisions can alter the courses of our lives in such huge ways isn’t it? It’s been one amazing journey to say the least.

Right now? I’m at a standstill with the ink (out of ideas) but I hope to add a couple more this year too. The itch is slowly returning, but I think I will be slowing down now as I’ve made up for lost time with my 11 current ones (and a few more sessions for add-ons to older ones). Of course I’ll catalog them as I get them.

Stay tuned.

 

Holiday Fun, Some Personal Updates & A Look at 2020 Ahead

So I’m chilling in my apartment this morning resting up from a past two fun-filled days. They’ve worn me out for sure but wow has it been fun.

Our holiday fun started on Saturday the 14th when Laina and I caught up with my best friend from high school and one of her close friends for a stroll down the San Antonio Riverwalk to see the lights. They do it up in a huge way, let me tell you what! We walked down and up, stopped in for a quick bite to eat on one of the restaurants on the strip (and a couple of spicy margaritas for me – which were heavenly) and just took it in on a lovely, warm-ish December night.

Christmas Eve we went over to Laina’s BFF’s house for some fun and games as well as food and drink. Upon Laina’s BFF’s request, I made what has become my signature dish – a paleo-style Asian stir fry using spaghetti squash instead of lo mein noodles, boneless chicken thighs, sliced carrots, onions, celery, zucchini, red bell pepper, chopped portabella mushroom and diced peanut and garlic bits, with a mix of San-J (all gluten/MSG free sauces) Thai peanut and spicy Szechuan sauces. (Oh, and sliced green onions on the side for those who wanted them). Everyone seemed to love it.

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We ate, I cracked out my new Taylor 12 for awhile, then we played some Bullshit (a hilarious card game where the object is to lie like a dog and get away with it!). After having killed two full bottles of wine and some Peruvian brandy, I was in no condition to drive so we stayed the night.

Laina and I woke up at 6 AM sharp yesterday morning to run back to our places, tend to a few things and then hit the road to Abilene to see my family. We stopped in at my parents’ place first thing for some small gift exchanges and to fill up on my mom’s famous ham/pineapple before heading over to my paternal grandmother’s house for her last Christmas in her place before moving to assisted living.

Needless to say yesterday wasn’t as fun as the day before, but I made it through. I’ve always been the black sheep of my family but I felt obligated to go. After some light conversation with the group, Laina and I got right back on the road to SA (in which I promptly changed out of awful full-length jeans back into my signature Dukes – lord knows my conservative, Bible-thumping extended family would have thrown a fit over me wearing them!) and met up with Mr. Kitty for dinner and hard ciders at Flying Saucer. It was a great way to cap off the night.

As far as other personal updates, I continue to heal as my health continues to improve. I’ve lost a considerable amount of weight without even trying – no calorie counting or anything. Take this photo as a prime example. These “light wash” Dukes are one of my smaller pairs. This time last year I struggled to button them. This year, I need a belt with them!

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Now that’s progress!

Sorcha is doing well. She goes into the vet again tomorrow (Friday) for her third round of vaccines and to schedule spaying/microchipping. She’s become a little Houdini – she’s snuck out on my back deck once and out my front door once, going halfway down the stairs. Methinks she’s wanting to chase some tail (as do most female cats when they hit puberty), but the last thing I need is a litter of kittens so that’s not happening. She has stopped pissing on my bed (after switching her to a full-sized litterbox) and sleeps with me in bed at night – on my pillow behind my head!

Here’s a cute little picture I took of her exploring my wine glass. Like father, like daughter I guess!

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So, what’s on the docket for 2020 for this blog? Well, more of life in San Antonio as I continue through this major transitional step in my life, exploring a newfound love life, and some collaboration work! Laina and I have been visiting several wineries in the hill country lately (mostly on Highway 290 between Johnson City and Fredericksburg), doing like a superficial once-overs and some tastings. We are planning to launch a joint venture in which we review the wineries we’ve visited, from atmosphere, decor, staff, and of course the wine itself. As our wine palates run totally opposite (she’s into light, sweet whites/roses as well as ports whereas I’m more of a big, heavy, dry red type person) we’ll each have a different angle to approach with to give you more variety. Stay tuned, you won’t want to miss this!

December 19th, 2002 – “The Day”

December 19th is no doubt the toughest day of every year for me. For the past 17 years, I’ve kept why largely under wraps as I’ve not really felt open or comfortable discussing it with anyone. Sure, I’ve mentioned in passing the very unfortunate significance of this day, but I feel I can finally open up more about it and maybe this can help someone suffering from a similar type of feeling.

So the story actually starts a few days before when I contract some upper respiratory illness that was very much like the flu, even though I question whether or not it was actually the flu. I was a Freshman in high school and a manager for the basketball team. We had been traveling for a tournament and I swear I picked up the virus probably in the course of that travel (close quarters and all that). Well, with myself and four others living in a little trailer house, someone was bound to get it from me, and the person who did was probably the worst person it could have happened to: my 84-year-old great grandmother.

Though she was active and seemingly healthy, my great-grandmother had recently been battling early stage kidney failure. Her nephrologist actually wanted to put her on dialysis but she adamantly refused (and quite frankly I don’t blame her – that just sounds like a miserable existence).

Anyway, I digress. The evening of the 18th comes around and I get home from school and my great-grandmother is incredibly ill. Of course, this shook me hard and combined with the stress of upcoming finals in school, I was freaking out probably too much over my own situation instead of worrying about hers. I probably shot my mouth off in the process (as I often do under extreme stress) and my mother got pissed off at me and said I was being selfish because the illness could kill her (as if I didn’t already know that). What she said next are words that have repeated in my head nearly every day for the last 17 years: “and you’re probably the one who gave it to her!”

So then my dad gets in on the action, pulls me into my bedroom and told me if I didn’t shut up he was going to ram my head through a wall (yes, he had physically abusive tendencies in the earlier days and that was starting to resurface given the situation). Anyway, needless to say the evening of December 18th, 2002 was high-stress all around and my nerves were fried. How I was ever going to take a final exam the next day totally fried me.

Anyway, I wake up the morning of the 19th and go to school for finals. I actually only had one final exam – 2nd period. First period was gym and I had chosen to exempt my 3rd period final (biology).  This was good, as I just had this sick feeling within me.

So I was done that day by 10:30-ish if I remember right, came straight home and saw my great-grandmother. Her breathing was very labored and heavy, drifting in and out of consciousness. She asked me for an ice cube to suck on as her mouth was extremely dry. I gladly went to the freezer and got her one.

As the day wore on, I would frequently check back with her, and she asked for a couple of more ice cubes as the hours wore on into the afternoon. I stayed with her as much as I could (balancing that and study time, which was largely unproductive) knowing I probably didn’t have much time left with her. As time wore on, she spent more time in an unconscious state and her respiration was tainted with sounds of sloshing fluid (is that what they call “aqualung?” – I know it’s a medical term and not just a stupid song by Jethro Tull). It was at this point I held onto her hand for the last time, silently saying my goodbyes, then left the room as my dad called 911.

First responders came and wasted no time strapping her to a gurney and hauling her to the ambulance, but it was too late. She died in route to the hospital – DOA. When my parents got back, they broke the news. I was crushed to say the absolute least.

However, I didn’t have much time to dwell as I had another series of finals the next day. I had to shelve my own pain and power through my next round of finals. As such, I never really had a chance to grieve initially, but my mother’s chilling words never left my head. They stung like daggers through my heart, and on some level I came to believe she was right. I felt 100% responsible for her death. The guilt was crippling and would remain so for the next 16 and a half years of my life. Though I’ve kept it mostly under wraps, I’ve largely suffered from “complicated grief” over the loss since.

Fast-forward to Sunday, March 24th of this year. Laina and I had just gotten back from the IndyCar race in Austin and stepped out on her deck for some wine (and a cigar for me, of course). This topic came up in passing. Something I’d bottled up since that awful day. Yet somehow, I felt comfortable opening up to her about it – something I hadn’t felt with anyone else. She felt “safe” to me.

So I did just that, but out of my pain (and it was painful for me to talk about – I will admit that) the floodgates got opened. Floodgates that would spawn something beautiful out of my pain – the bond we share today. Opening up and telling my story to her set the stage for us to bond the way we have.

Between that and going on my recent health journey, I’ve begun to finally come to terms with it. It isn’t my fault. She was ready. She stuck around long enough to make sure I’d be alright before she crossed over (as I had gotten my diagnosis of Aspergers not too long prior and things with my parents were finally starting to smooth over). She made sure they understood me on the level she did before her departure. She was my rock growing up, as I’ve mentioned prior. She stuck around long enough to make sure my parents knew who they were dealing with, and for that I am eternally grateful to her.

It’s been 17 years to the day since my great-grandmother departed this world. Though gone from the physical realm of the living, she lives on in the little things – my tattoo, my peony scented soap, her old clock. As I continue to heal physically, so does my inner brokenness. I’ll always miss her. I’ll never stop thinking about her. However, I’m finally starting to come to terms with it, 17 years later. I couldn’t have written this post even last year. I feel a lot “lighter” finally being able to tell the story without the feelings of sheer guilt coming back.

Well, thanks for those of you who read this post to the end. I’ve gone on for 1,200 words now, which is probably way more than enough so I’ll shut up now, go light some candles and reflect. Have a good day everyone, and always remember to remind those who mean the most to you just how much they mean to you, for they might be gone tomorrow.

A Day For Reflection

So I’m taking today off of work, for a dual purpose. Today is a day of reflection, celebration, and mourning all rolled into one. Two major events happened on this day, 98 years apart.

First things first, my great-grandmother would have been 101 years old today. I think back to my childhood and am so relieved she lived with us growing up. She seemed to be the only person who understood me. Not even my parents understood me nor did they really try to until my high school counselor pleaded with them to have me evaluated for autism spectrum disorder. In that way, my great-grandmother was my rock growing up.

She passed away 9 days shy of 17 years ago, at the age of 84 years and 9 days. Not a day goes by I don’t think about her. It’s the little things, too – the peony scented hand soap I have in my dwelling place (her favorite flower), the tattoo I have on my left calf, her old anniversary clock that I’ve kept even though it quit working years ago, those kinds of things.

Though she’s gone from the realm of the living, I feel her presence still. Her energy is with me. Sometimes at night, when it’s really dark and quiet and I’m lying in bed, I hear her voice calling my name.

It’s been a long 17 years, and I’m still processing. So much of my deeper-seated feelings about the whole ordeal I’ve bottled up all this time as in a lot of ways I’d always felt responsible for her death (contracting a flu-like illness myself, then she contracted it – I assumed from me). Alas, it could have happened anywhere. I’ll never know for sure. All I know is I’m finally to a point I no longer blame myself and can begin to really heal from it.

Anyway, another major event today. Three years ago today I stumbled across a certain blog that seemed to catch my eye. One with a life story similar to mine, yet different in its own way.  I felt inclined so I left a comment. Little did I know what that little comment would blossom into 3 years later.

We started off by having a lovely dialog on WordPress, commenting back and forth, which then found us in the world of Facebook where we messaged each other through the blog “page.” Eventually this led to us exchanging numbers, blowing each other’s phones up by text, friending personal pages, and continuing blog dialog.

We finally met in person for the first time in April 2018 when said blogger adopted two kittens from my family (who have grown up to be quite happy and healthy I should add). We would meet again in person toward the end of March 2019, which set up my move, but something else was happening too – we were falling for each other hard.

Little did I know three years ago today I encountered who I truly believe to be the love of my life. My twin soul. Happy WordPress anniversary, Laina. You mean the world to me and then some.

Here are some pictures from this past Sunday. We went out to the Japanese tea gardens here in San Antonio, very close to the zoo. It was a lovely, sunny afternoon with a high of around 75 degrees so it was something to take advantage of. It was so serene, and though much colder today we might be heading back for a bit today.

All photos credit to Laina Eartharcher. signal-2019-12-08-180020signal-2019-12-08-175955-3signal-2019-12-08-175955-4signal-2019-12-08-175955-2signal-2019-12-08-175955signal-2019-12-08-175955-1

It’s very interesting to note how quickly my body composition has changed in just a few short months, and I haven’t counted a single calorie or struggled/toiled at a gym either. I’ve only changed the way I eat – going gluten/dairy free, more fruits/vegetables, cut processed foods. My Davy Dukes are actually kind of loose now – not loose enough to go down a size, but loose enough to need a belt. Laina swears I’ve aged backwards even.

Anyway, she just dropped in so I better jet – we’ve got some celebration and reflection to do. Have a good day everyone.