Thursday, September 30, 2021

Error prone

I make mistakes all the time. We probably all do that, but since I talk about nearly everything, I’m maybe a bit more open about that than most people are. Like, for example, I have a reputation in the family for constantly hitting my head on things—not huge knocks or anything, but enough to hurt for a moment or two. There are plenty of other things that I simply mess up, and I talk about those, too so that others can learn from my mistakes—or at least have a good laugh at my expense. Whatever works for them.

One of my biggest mistakes was the window coverings I chose for two of the bedrooms, something I talked about back in July of last year. My technological failures have been more common and often harder to fix than window coverings.

I’ve broken things on this blog enough times that I really ought to have a tag just for such posts, embarrassing though that might be. I haven’t done that lately, however, for the first time ever, I recently accidentally deleted a comment, one from Roger Green. Since all comments are now moderated (because of a problem that had nothing to do with me), I get email alerts whenever someone posts a new comment. I usually see them in the morning when I check my email on my iPad, and then tap “Publish” (I almost never get alerts about what are really spam comments). However, that particular day I did it on my phone, with it’s much smaller screen, and I accidentally tapped “Delete”. I suppose the learning moment was that there’s no “undo” if I accidentally delete a comment—that and to never moderate comments on my phone, with it’s much smaller screen. I was an honourable blogger, though, and emailed Roger to tell him, so, points for that, right?

There’s yet another accident—though one way or another, this one will turn out to be a good thing.

A few weeks (months?) ago, I began getting email alerts from the company that hosted my “amerinz.com” site that they were doing some sort of "upgrade" to a different (and more expensive) server, and I had to do something or other. I don’t remember what, but I think I told it not to do it automatically. Whatever the reality is (and I definitely have trouble focusing on things at the moment), my site was taken offline when the deadline arrived. I didn’t notice for ages.

I noticed recently, though, and I set the URL to redirect to my “amerinzpodcast.com” site instead, which is good enough for now. This mistake (?) will save me lots of money every year, and may lead to more streamlined organisation of my sites.

When I registered the amerinz.com domain many years ago, it came with free basic website hosting, so I eventually set-up the site I used to have at that address (which, by the way, is fully backed-up). Somewhere along the way they upgraded all such sites to C-Panel, which is very expensive—especially when compared to free—and far, far beyond the needs of what that site was and was for (basically, an online brochure). What I wanted to do is—and pardon the meta stuff, but someone may be interested—I wanted to use the domain as my main site with subdomains for everything else, allowing me to drop one or more of the hosting agreements I pay for. Long story somewhat less so, I missed a deadline and then let it slide for another year. The company’s expensive “upgrade” then made the decision easy—regardless of whether I actually “decided” anything or was just lucky.

I may leave it as it is (and save money), or I could set up new hosting (as I wanted it to be), cancelling one or more of my other web hosting accounts (and saving money). The jury’s still out on that (I have months to decide, unfortunately—a very dangerous thing). Whatever I do, I’ll make sure that everything is easy—invisible, actually—for anyone accessing the sites.

So, this domain stuff is yet another mistake I made, but like those window coverings and even accidentally deleting a comment, it’s not a serious one. It’s also far less painful than hitting my head. Apparently, I have a reputation in the family for constantly hitting my head on things. The technical stuff is, fortunately, definitely not in that league.

A blog exclusive!

Last night, I thought I’d take a selfie with me and Leo (photo above). I wasn’t happy with the result: I wanted Leo sniffing me, but it looks like he was more interested in his ball. The bigger issue was how the light blasted out the upper left and top of the photo. So, it would’ve remained among my private photos that someone else will have to delete some day, and then I had an idea.

The photos I post on this blog fall into two broad categories: Ones I take to illustrate a post I’ve written (the majority), or else ones I originally shared elsewhere, like Instagram or Facebook. This photo, in my opinion, wasn’t “good enough” for either, and that’s when it hit me: Why not post it here, instead? I mean, yeah, it wouldn’t stand up to Instagram scrutiny (that’s sarcasm…), but it’s not totally horrible, as photos of me go, so, why not share it here exclusively?

And that’s the story. This is a photo that would’ve been an “also ran”, never seeing the light of day, but what’s the point of having a blog if I don’t share something exclusive every now and then? I mean, aside from the vast majority of my posts?

The serious point in this, though, is that I’ve gotten out of the habit of creating photos and images just for blog posts, and I want to do that again. Since this is a personal blog, why not resume by publishing a photo of me and Leo? It’s my new reality after all.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Waiting patiently

There’s been a lot in the news lately about the huge backlog NZ Post has in delivering packages due to a massive jump in online purchasing because of Covid lockdowns, and how that’s meant huge delays in deliveries. There really are big delays, like, for example, that vintage Mac keyboard I bought on Trade Me took nearly a week to get here from Auckland’s North Shore, somewhere I could drive to in a couple hours or so, depending on traffic (and without lockdowns, obviously).

But now it seems the very space/time continuum has been ruptured.

Last week I ordered something from a major retailer (because it wasn’t available at any of their stores within an 8 hour drive). It arrived at the NZ Post depot in Hamilton early Saturday morning, where it’s been ever since. When I got up yesterday, Tuesday, I thought it might be delivered that day (since it was already in Hamilton). That didn’t happen, but we did enter The Twilight Zone.

When I checked the tracking today (image at right), nothing about its status had changed, except it said, “Estimated delivery: Yesterday”. I’m expecting to suddenly remember it arriving yesterday as I look at the package on the table where I put it, yesterday, though it’s not there right now, of course. This led me to a question: What day will my reality be altered to accommodate a delivery of an item in the past? And will it hurt when the space/time continuum burps?

Those sarcastic questions popped into my head today, but the bigger thing is how noticeable it is that things have fallen apart for NZ Post, so much so that they’re not even trying to keep the estimated delivery date remotely accurate (assuming, of course, that they really can’t travel back in the past to deliver a package…). This same thing is happening to a lot of people I know.

There’s actually a part of me that wonders why NZ Post was caught so ill-prepared for the surge in online orders. They’ve talked repeatedly about how package delivery has become the biggest part of their business, and they even re-branded to promote their new reality. This doesn’t seem to bode well for the Christmas shopping season. Still, this is also a global problem, so I don’t want to be too hard on NZ Post (yet…).

Today I also checked on the delivery status of those Torx screwdrivers I ordered from Amazon for Ye Olde Macintosh Project. They were due to arrive “about October 6”, but today their website said, “Unfortunately, your delivery is running behind schedule,” and then added that the delivery company was “working to make sure the delay doesn’t affect your final delivery time. Your package can still arrive by October 11,” which is nice, but that’s actually five days later than they originally said, and while I’m sure their wording was meant to be positive, I couldn’t help noticing they’d moved the goalposts.

I don’t know what the specific problem was, though the details on the order said it was “Carrier Delay – Operational/Capacity Related”. I have no idea what that actually means, but in general terms it’s happening absolutely everywhere.

After all of New Zealand (apart from Auckland) moved to Alert Level 3 Lockdown, construction could resume, and within a week or two that led to warnings that builders would be running out of various materials because the factories in Auckland were closed due to their Level 4 Lockdown. The industry has had trouble getting foreign-made supplies for months, and, in fact, pretty much any person or business ordering stuff from overseas has probably seen delays, sometimes massive ones. As the world begins to accept that Covid has become endemic, shipping will begin to return to normal, but what about next time? There will be another pandemic and we should take the lessons from this one to better prepare us so that next time we don’t start seeing shortages of stuff and/or massive price hikes.

Before all this happened, I was looking at some specialist New Zealand food suppliers, small businesses supplying NZ-made products that aren’t sold in supermarkets. I seriously considered placing orders to try their products, but I’m now glad that I didn’t: Wouldn’t want food products sitting in a depot for several days.

I was just being silly when I talked about my package’s delay—my life will not be diminished by it taking a long time to get here, apart from the fact that I don’t want to leave the house in case the package is dispatched and their system doesn’t alert me like it usually does. Same with those screwdrivers: If I’ve gone this long without being able to tell if that Mac Classic is repairable or not, then an extra five days (or whatever it ends up being) won’t make any difference.

But it would do a world of good for people’s sense of well-being if deliveries could get back to being a little more, well, normal. We’re waiting patiently for that, too.

Update – September 30, 2021: The package was delivered around Noon today.

Update 2 – October 5, 2021: The Torx screwdrivers were delivered early this afternoon—and a day earlier than originally promised. Um, good?

This is based on something I posted on my personal Facebook earlier today, but that was just my starting point for this post.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Projected living

I talk a lot about my projects, some that are big and important, and also those that aren’t. There are all sorts of reasons why I do that (not the least being that, ya know, I’m a blogger…), but the truly important thing about it for me is that those projects provide signposts of a sort, marking my progress on my journey. Recently, there’s been a bit of a shift in the focus of my projects—small, even subtle, but that shift’s important, too.

For most of the first two years after Nigel died, my projects have been about building my new life, often literally—things like getting my house the way I want it, sorting through and reducing the mountains of stuff he and I accumulated over 24 years, and also getting things working (phone, TV, weather station, etc). Other things, like my cooking experiments, have been about doing things that interest me and move me forward in building whatever my life will become (I actually didn’t even know I was all that interested in cooking until I was cooking only for myself). However, all those projects were still related to the life I had, building on that base.

The change is that I’m now taking on projects that are only about me. The shift really began with my Mac project (YOMP). It started out as just another “based on my old life” project, but it’s grown beyond that into something I’m keenly interested in because it’s something I want to do. In fact, it’s now grown beyond just getting the Mac Classic to work so I can access old files, now it’s become about something I want, and stuff that’s about me.

It’s not all about tech stuff, either: My recent project to the replace the wheels of my mobile filing drawers was something I didn’t have to do—I could’ve just tossed it out, or left in the garage to deal with later. But it was something I wanted to to do mainly because I could. It was only when I started working on it that I realised how I could use the repaired drawer unit to better organise my office—though, as with so many other projects dealing with “stuff” in the house, that’s not been a huge priority for me (in fact, I haven’t used all the storage I’ve already created for myself in my office).

Now, sure, I freely admit that this is partly about having a diversion from those mind-numbing, never-ending bigger projects (especially the garage and the gardens), but it’s become an important way for me to carve out space for myself, to stake out some of the boundaries of what my new life may become. It’s also helped me catch glimpses of at least some of what my new life may one day be like. Those are not small things.

While all that’s been gong on, I’ve also had a slight reemergence of interest in some of the activities I used to enjoy—like blogging, for example, and obviously: No matter how many posts I do in what’s left of this month, September is already my most-blogged month of the year. That doesn’t mean that 2021 will be a return to those golden days of yesteryear when I did an average of one blog post a day: To achieve that I’d have to hit an average of roughly two posts per day, every day, for the rest of the year. That seems highly improbable. But, next year, maybe? That’s at least theoretically possible, and the fact that I can see that it’s theoretically possible is just another example of how things are changing.

Over the course of this month in particular, I’ve talked about some of the things that have changed and shifted, and a little about why it’s happened. There’s so much more to say about all that, and over time, I will—especially as I manage to figure it out. I guess my own life has become my biggest project of all. And I’m okay with that.

Another battle in my wars

Today I completed another battle in my war with the lawns. Although the ultimate victory was mine, it made me again question myself. In the end, I resolved to fight another day.

Yesterday started out sunny, so I thought it’d be a good day to mow the lawns, however, my body was still running on NZ Standard Time, so I was an hour latebeginning the day, and the most important thing I had to do was to pick up my prescription refill. By the time I was back home and ready to mow, it was 3 or so, and it was clouding over. I started doing the back lawn, anyway—surprised the temperature had dropped so much (about four degrees).

The lawns were wet and heavy because of all the rain we’ve had lately, and that also made the grass (etc…) grow like crazy. So, it was very hard going. The mower stopped when I was about 2/3 done, so I cleaned out the underside (yet again) and went inside to charge up the battery.

Here’s the thing: This isn’t just about the charge left (I had a bit more than a quarter which could be enough). The battery has what they call a “battery protection feature”, a sort of fail-safe that if the battery starts to get too hot, it shuts down—and that mower was working REALLY hard on that gluggy mess. Since I had to let it cool, anyway, I decided to charge the battery—except that also doesn’t work until the battery cools down. By the time it was cool enough to charge, and then was fully charged, it was getting darker because the clouds had thickened.

This morning was another sunny start, so I went back outside and finished the back lawn. Then, I came inside and re-charged the battery while I rested and had lunch. Afterward, I went back out and mowed the front weed patch (aka “lawn”).

I gotta admit that yesterday as I struggled to mow the part of the back lawn that’s thick and lush and nearly all actual grass, I thought maybe I should just surrender and hire a service, something I thought about when I was doing the front lawn earlier this month. Three things stop me doing that.

First, I’m stubborn (Nigel and I were a complete set in that regard…). Second, I need the exercise (that’s beyond dispute). And finally, I use a battery lawn mower and line trimmer, and they’re charged by my solar power system, while all the lawnmowing companies use petrol-driven equipment. So, hiring a company just doesn’t work for me, however, I did think about compromising and hiring a company to do the mowing only in the winter months when everything’s wet and gluggy. Maybe, but did I mention that I’m stubborn?

Still, at least at Alert Level 2 I can buy the plants and supplies I need to start the process of making the yards nice, and I hope to do that this week, though the actual outside work may be delayed because, oddly enough, more rain is predicted.

I was thinking yesterday that I would’ve been better off buying a house with established gardens, but not because of a difference in the amount of work they need (once established, both need to be maintained), but, rather, because figuring out what to plant and where at a new house is something that Nigel and I would’ve done together. Doing it alone just isn’t any fun, and getting a friend or family member to help me plan it isn’t even remotely a substitute. In fact, it would make things worse because my stubborn side would take control, making it a very unpleasant experience for everyone (it nothing else, I know myself).

I’m going to follow my original ideas and instincts for the gardens, and then I can change it down the line if I don’t like the results—like everyone else does, but it’s kind of new for me. Still, this afternoon, after I’d rested up from today’s battles, I spent a little while in the garage again looking for the filament for the line trimmer, and I thought, for maybe the billionth time, how absolutely overwhelming the weight of all the stuff I have to deal with is. The garage is basically impassable, despite all my hours spent going through boxes, and there’s extra stuff in pretty much every room of the house. Dealing with the gardens is just another crushing weight on top of the other crushing weight.

And yet, despite often getting discouraged and sometimes dispirited, it doesn’t keep me down for long. That’s when my small projects come in really handy, giving me something to focus on that doesn’t take all my energy and focus, and yet something that’s also a positive move forward, not merely a distraction.

So, yeah, today I completed another battle in my war with the lawns. I resolved to fight another day, as I always do, but the real questions are, which battle of which war, and on which day? And that’s why this is a story arc, not an anecdote. At least it gives me something to blog about.

The graphic above is a screenshot of what I posted on my personal Facebook this afternoon, after I was done with today’s skirmishes.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Ending September: Final songs

The final songs of pop music artists who die often take on far more importance than they might otherwise have had. But sometimes those final songs are a fitting end to a career, wrapping up their career. These are two final songs that do that for me.

The video up top is Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt”. The song was written by Trent Reznor, who is the lead singer (etc.) of American industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails. I must’ve heard that when Cash’s version was released because I’m quite certain I never heard the NIN version before Cash’s. Nine Inch Nails is a group that it’s still quite fashionable to hate, and whether that’s justified or grossly unfair is a matter of opinion, but either way I don’t care for their music. Had Cash never recorded his cover, I’d never have heard the song. I’m glad he did. [WATCH: “Johnny Cash The Story Behind His Cover of Nine Inch Nails Hurt & Trent Reznor's Reaction”.

Johnny Cash’s version is full of melancholy, awareness of his approaching end, and the regret that can come with that. The video, I think, is utterly masterful in capturing all that, and the use of the decrepit House of Cash as a kind of metaphor is perfect. This is the one of these two songs that I sometimes sing to myself.

“Hurt” was the final single released in Cash’s lifetime. The video was filmed in February 2003 and released the following month. Johnny’s wife, June Carter Cash, appears in it twice; she died in May 2003. Johnny Cash died in September 2003.

Because I always mention such things, the song hit 39 in the UK and 56 in the USA.

Next up, the last song by David Bowie, “Lazarus”:

“Lazarus” was the final song to be released in Bowie’s lifetime. and Bowie’s producer has said that Bowie intended it as his epitaph, which at the very least seems plausible. I have to be honest: This video, and the others songs from his Blackstar album, made me very uncomfortable because he was clearly unwell—though we had no idea how sick he was until he died. In the time since then, I found out that he died of liver cancer—the same thing that killed my Nigel, but Bowie got 18 months, while Nigel didn’t even get 18 days. Because of all of that, this particular final song caries far more meaning for me now than it did when it was released.

Coincidentally related – WATCH: David Bowie and Nine Inch Nails perform “Hurt”

The song hit Number 72 in Australia, 14 in Canada, 9 in New Zealand, 45 in the UK, and 40 on the USA’s Billboard “Hot 100”.

As I said up top, the final songs of pop music artists who die often take on far more importance than they might otherwise have had. These two songs have taken on new meaning for me because of what I’ve been through, and I can relate to them more now than when they were originally released. To some extent, that happens with all music, but when it’s a final song? Maybe the meaning becomes a bit more.

Dinner change

Tonight I made a Stovetop Chicken Casserole (well, that’s what I call it, anyway—though I'm sure it probably already has an actual name). I had some things to use up, and added on from there. I was very happy with it.

This came about because I had a leek I needed to use, and I thought about making chicken and leek pie—but I was too lazy to make the pastry. I also knew I had a box of low-salt chicken stock that was at the “either use it or toss it” stage.

So: First, I chopped a small red onion (I have too many, but they’re also milder than ordinary onions). I also sliced a carrot and some celery, and, of course, the leek. Next, I took a chicken breast out of the freezer. I cooked that while the vegetables softened in another pot. If I’d been more patient, I could’ve cooked the chicken, removed it from the pan, then put the vegetables in. But I was hungry, so, two pans.

When the vegetables were softened, I added the chicken and pan juices, a little freshly ground salt and pepper, a pinch of mixed herbs, stirred it and, once it was heated through, I poured in the chicken stock (one cup). I then added a cup of water and one cup of dried rice (I used long grain, which I have the most of, but any kind would work).

Next, I controversially added a prepared packet of name-brand instant gravy mix (also nearing the end of its days). I did that because I wanted the dish to be rich and hearty (it’s going to a cold night!), but when I mixed up the gravy I had doubts because the herbs smelled quite intense. But, I stuck with my gut instinct and poured it in and stirred everything, and put the lid back on the pot. Once the mix came up to a near boil, I reduced the heat and let it simmer for about ten minutes, then reduced it to a quite low heat for about 5. Then I stirred it, turned off the heat, and left it with the lid on for another 5 minutes.

It was perfect—exactly what I wanted. If I’d planned it all out, I could have skipped the gravy (and it’s salt) and thickened it in an ordinary way, or I could’ve used more chicken stock instead and given it a bit more time simmering. But this was more about using up some odds and ends, and, besides, it was yummy.

This little story is also about change. Over the past two years, I’ve been braver about trying new, unfamiliar recipes, and especially about trusting my instincts/judgement when cooking. I’ve had a few failures along the way, but I learn from those, too. I did a little bit of this sort of cooking experimentation for Nigel, especially in later years, but that’s taken off over the past two years.

Apparently, this is part of the new life I’m building. And that’s a great thing, I think—especially when my experiments work!

Friday, September 24, 2021

Another project rolls to completion

I have a lot of small projects, ones that have nothing to do with the garage or the gardens or anything other than things I want or need to do. This week I completed another one of those. It's unimportant, in the overall scheme of things, but it’s an accomplishment all the same.

Several years ago I sold the large corner desk I had at the time and replaced it with a more modern table-like desk with powder-coated steel legs and white top. Then I bought the matching mobile unit with two stationery drawers and a filing drawer (the old desk and mobile unit were both that fake light coloured wood sort of plastic veneer). I really liked the new desk, and so did Nigel, so I got him one, too.

We moved the desks to our last house, and I had them moved here, too, but gave them to family: At 1.8 metres long, they were simply too long for my office in my new house. I bought a new desk before I even moved in, so I was ready to go. It turns out that at 1.4 metres wide, it’s a bit too small, but this isn’t about the desk (that’s a future project). Instead, this project involved that mobile filing unit.

That unit and I have history, and it’s not been altogether amicable. A few years ago I noticed that stuff kept falling out of the stationery drawers and getting stuck behind the filing drawer, sometimes preventing me from closing the filing drawer. This was annoying, not the least because the drawers weren’t easily removed.

The disagreement between that unit and me over where those stationery items should stay came to violence one day: Stuff was stuck behind the filing drawer, I couldn’t get it to come out of the unit, not for the first time, and that particular day I could take it no longer. When I couldn’t get the drawer out, I yanked on the handle as hard as I could and, of course, broke it. Specifically, I destroyed the drawer runners, and heavily greased ball bearings flew everywhere—or, they would have except that being heavily greased they couldn’t fly more than a centimetre or two.

At this point, I could’ve given up and brought a new drawer unit, throwing the now-broken one into a landfill somewhere. But, of course, that’s not what I do. Instead, I bought new drawer runners, ones that mounted underneath the drawers, not on the sides as the old ones did, and ones that were designed to make it very easy to remove the drawer whenever I wanted to. It was an upgrade, and a nearly perfect one, except my skills weren’t perfect and the drawer doesn’t sit completely flush anymore. Still it’s “good enough”, and, I might add, not bad for a first-ever attempt at installing drawer glides.

A couple years later, more or less, I was moving to Hamilton and, apparently the movers thought it wold be a really good idea to pile lots of stuff on top of that mobile unit. They apparently also thought that weight couldn’t possibly be an issue, and even that using the unit as a sort of trolly to move stuff into the garage was an even better idea. The result is in the photo above: One wheel was snapped off—though I didn’t know that for awhile.

After I moved in and the movers had left, I found the wheel laying on the floor in the garage, but I didn’t know where it came from: I had three of the drawer things: The newest one, along with my old mobile unit, and also one that had been Nigel’s (his was two-drawer, and my old one had no bottom for the filing drawer, and an additional flaw for both of them was that fake light coloured wood sort of plastic veneer). I didn’t realise the wheel was from the white one’s until I moved it into my office and noticed that it was slumping down in one corner. At the time, I just assumed I could put the wheel back on my pushing it into place.

all five old wheels after removal.
Once I finally flipped the unit over, I realised that the missing wheel had been snapped off, and that some of the other wheels had been bent, both presumably because of too much weight on them (it had to be the movers because it was under my desk for years, with no weight on top of it). Such wheels were never designed to be repaired, so, again, I either had to replace the broken parts or chuck the mobile unit into the rubbish. However, that’s still not what I do. So, I decided to get new wheels, and I did: Three times.

The first wheels I got were much more robust than the old ones and two of them included foot brakes to keep the unit from rolling around. Unfortunately, I didn’t take the lip of the sides into consideration (the sides end nearly 2 centimetres below the actual bottom of the unit), and there’d be no way to be able to access the breaks.

So, I decided to replace the wheels with the same sort that were broken, and without bakes (it sits on carpet; it’s not rolling anywhere all that easily, anyway, even with me pushing/pulling it). I’ll use the first set of wheels for storage under my workbenches in the garage when I get to that point, so they’ll be useful.

However, the wheels I bought were 50mm, and the originals were 40mm. This meant that if I used the same screw holes, the wheels would hit and rub against that lip below the base. I returned those wheels and bought 40mm ones, instead. I was able to put those in without any problem.

Because of all this, I noticed something odd: The wheel under the filing drawer was set about 10mm below the bottom of the unit, where the other four wheels were mounted (photo below, after the new wheel’s first installation). I kept one of the 50mm wheels to go in that position so it can actually support the filing drawer, apparently for the first time ever.

One final twist: I noticed the new wheel under the filing drawer was slightly touching the front of the drawer when in the position for the drawer being pulled open (the wheels are mounted off centre). This isn’t an issue when the drawer it closed. I decided to move the wheel further back, so I removed it and when to get my drill bits—and quickly found out that I couldn’t find any that were small enough (most of them are, apparently, “somewhere safe”, as so many things I need tend to be; I refused to go buy yet more drill bits). I ended up putting the wheel back on (and, yes, the second time I made sure that one screw was in straight). I figure if it’s really a problem, I can fix it later, once I (again) find the rest of my drill bits

And, what about the other two drawer units? Nigel’s old one is in my office wardrobe and I’m using it for storage and to, er, um, put stuff on top of—not heavy stuff, though! The other one is still in the garage, and I’ll probably use it there to store stuff for ongoing projects all together in one place. I always try to reuse things until they can no longer be reused, or I find a new home for them (as I did with the desks)

And, that’s it: I fixed a set of office drawers for the second time. I don’t plan on there being a third. Instead, I’m just going to roll on to my next project.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Slower than I thought

Progress is progress, right? Well, Ye Olde Macintosh Project (YOMP) has moved even slower than I expected. Which doesn’t mean that nothing’s happened, just that not much has happened. Which makes a short post all the more possible, for a change.

in my first post on the project, I talked about some of the things I needed in order to be able to get the Mac Classic working. There are updates on two of those.

I said I needed a long-handled Torx screwdriver, and I thought that Nigel might have some. I haven’t found any, and I’ve since realised that what I pictured in my head were probably hex drives because they were used for the machines that Nigel built, like his CNC router and his (many) 3D printers. Torx are kind of a specialty thing in computers, and I can’t think of a reason he’d have needed one.

So, I started searching for them in New Zealand, but true long-handled Torx screwdrivers weren’t available here. I bought an ordinary one from the home centre, even though I was pretty sure it wouldn’t work for the two screws that need the long-handled screwdriver, and I was right (though it did work for the other two, not that it helped anything with two than couldn’t be reached).

It was back to the search, and I finally relented and went to order a set from a New Zealand site that imports them from the UK, only to find they were out of stock. I surrendered: I ordered a set from Amazon, and they should be here on October 6, give or take. Oh, well, I tried to buy in New Zealand. As I learned from watching Nigel, it’s all too often impossible to source specialised tech stuff in New Zealand, and now it’s even worse because of all the Covid-related disruptions.

Another thing I mentioned was that I needed a keyboard and mouse that could connect to Macs of that era (they use a standard called “ADB”). I also said that the only place I found vintage keyboards was in the USA where prices could be many hundreds of dollars. Then, my luck changed.

Someone put an ADB keyboard on the New Zealand auction site, Trade Me. It was from Power Computing, which I knew had manufactured “Mac Clones” in the mid-1990s (until Steve Jobs returned to Apple and killed off the clones market, acquiring Power Computing’s assets). I knew it was a Mac keyboard from that alone (the listing didn’t say), but it had a photo of the connector, which I could see was ADB (because of the number of pins and their configuration), plus the key combinations to the left and right of the spacebar (I used one every day for years, after all). The asking price was $15 (!).

I was all set to bid on it in the last few minutes of the auction—and then I forgot to go there and the auction closed with no bids. I sent a message to ask the person to relist it. Then I got an email from Trade Me touting various auctions, as it does, and one of them was for the same sort of keyboard from the same person, but not as yellowed (a topic in itself). Another lucky break! I got that one (photo up top) for $15, plus $10 for shipping (it was in Auckland, and I couldn’t go there to pick it up due to Covid restrictions). It took six days to get to me because of local shipping delays (apparently caused by people buying lots of stuff online during the Covid lockdowns).

I was sure that the delay didn’t matter, because without the Torx screwdriver, I can’t open the Mac Classic to see why it won’t boot (I’m betting the logic board is munted). Nevertheless, I hooked up the keyboard (after giving it the first clean it’s getting), and, as I suspected, nothing happened. Back to waiting for the screwdrivers.

A keyboard alone isn’t enough: I’ll need an ADB mouse, too. I keep having visions that I still have an ADB mouse packed away, but I don't know if I do or if it's a displaced memory or something. I looked through some old boxes where I thought it might be, but so far nothing. I did, however, find the AC power adapter for my Zip drive that I brought from the USA (once here, I had to get one that would work in New Zealand), and also the US power cord for my old Mac Performa 637 that I brought from the USA. If I kept those, then the mouse, if I do have it, will be packed away somewhere—and so, too, there may be some SCSI hard drives I had back then, too. After all, I still have the modem I brought with me.

Meanwhile, in my first YOMP update post, I talked about not being able to access old diskettes. I said that “somehow getting access to a working vintage Macintosh” was an option if I can’t get the Mac Classic working. The jury’s still out on whether that Mac Classic will work or not, but I made progress on the back-up option, something I’ll talk about in a few weeks (those same Covid restrictions are delaying the completion of this mysterious development). But I think it’ll be a good development.

So far, though, that’s all that’s happened—or not, depending on your point of view. And there’s much more yet to come—or not. For me, the not knowing is part of the fun of the whole thing.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

The month persists, with a new mission

Monday was “officially” the second anniversary of the day Nigel died, and the Friday before marked 104 weeks, which is two years. The the date itself, September 20, moves around the calendar, while weeks are cumulative. They’re just different ways of marking time, and I don’t think either one matters for something like this. So, I don’t plan to publicly talk much about either measure of time every year in the future: I want to carry what Nigel and I had into my future, and not just think about the day it ended.

Which isn’t to say I could ever forget about the day or date—of course I’ll remember it!—it’s just that I don’t want to focus on the loss of Nigel and of our life together. The more time that passes since that September Friday in 2019, the more I want to focus on the things that make me so grateful for Nigel’s life and our life together, and I want to focus on that.

Besides, the measurement of time is a weird thing, anyway. When I posted last year about the 52 week mark, I said:
I’m noting the anniversary in weeks mainly because I have several times before, but I know that in future years I’ll remember it mostly by the anniversary date, and not the specific week or day of week, just as I have for all the happy anniversaries we shared. I think that if that’s so common with happy memories, maybe it’s a good idea for bad memories, and especially horrible ones.
I still think that—though I know I’ll remember the day of the week. Even so, I won’t be pointing out weeks anymore, not the least because keeping track of the number of weeks gets more and more complicated as time passes. For example, the next time that September 20 will fall on a Friday will be 2024, but that will also be 261 weeks later, not 260 (260 weeks will be the week before, September 13, that year…). That takes far too much head space to contemplate (and Google to calculate…). That effort would be far better spent on remembering Nigel, not trying to be pedantically precise about how long it’s been since he died. In fact, obsessing about that would mean focusing even more on the end. Nope, not me.

Obviously, thinking about Nigel and our awesome life together will inevitably mean remembering the end, especially on every September 20. I can’t imagine a time in which what I wrote last year won’t still be true:
I think of him every day, cry sometimes, miss him always, smile at memories of good times, and laugh about his cheeky humour and how he could be such a loveable jerk when he wanted to be. I’m not sad just because he died, I’m sad because all of the good stuff that went with him.
That’s just my reality, and I don’t actually need a particular day to experience any of it. However, as I was saying on Monday, I’m also keenly aware of how much Nigel wanted me to be okay, and that’s now my mission, for lack of a better word.

My intention, then, is that I’m not going to be making a big deal out of this “anniversary” anymore. Making it to, and through, the second year without Nigel is a big achievement, but that work is now just an ongoing part of my life and reality, not something that only has relevance in September. If I want to carry what Nigel and I had into my future, and not just think about the day it ended, then I both need and want to focus on the future.

All that, yes. But I’ll still hate September.

Monday, September 20, 2021

The second horrible anniversary

By date, today is the second horrible anniversary of my Nigel’s death, but dates on a calendar don’t really matter: Nigel’s been gone two years, and my life was utterly ripped apart when he died.

In the time since then, I’ve tried to figure out how to rebuild my life, and while I’m a long way from achieving that, I continue to make progress. My goal is to make sure that that the thing Nigel said over and over in his last days comes true: That I’m okay. Most days and in most ways, I am okay, and I’ve worked pretty hard to get here. I had to: I owed it to both of us.

I miss Nigel like crazy every single day, and there’s still literally nothing I wouldn’t do to get our life together restored. What I’ve learned over this second year without him, though, is that all of that can be true and I can still be okay. The secret is that our love for each other gave me the strength and determination I needed to take this journey.

I guess you could say that after two years on that journey I’m okay and slowly getting “okayier” all the time.

But I absolutely do miss Nigel as much as I ever have. AND I’m okay.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Songs that can make me cry

It’s Sunday of a weekend in which I’m marking the second anniversary of losing Nigel, and since I began this month with a video of a song that’s now my September theme song, this seemed like a good a time to share a couple songs that can make me cry. Both have special resonance with me, but also personal connections. The truth is, though, that sometimes I now just enjoy the songs, remembering things, but not crying—not always, anyway. 

The song above is "Years From Now" by American band Dr. Hook, a track on their 1979 album, “Sometimes You Win”. It was released as a single in 1980, and was their least successful of the four original singles on the album.

I had the album at one point, but I don’t remember that song from it—but, then, in 1979/80, I was avoiding thoughts about relationships, since I was still closeted. Nearly 30 years later, however, I heard it (again?) when our niece sang it. It made me think of me and Nigel, and I told her she had to sing it at our wedding. Getting legally married was something that relied on what at the time seemed like an unlikely law change, but in the meantime, in 2009, Nigel and I held our Civil Union ceremony, and our niece sang the song for us.

For years, even before that ceremony, I always got teary listening to it, and after Nigel died, it made me cry. Sometimes, it still does. So, I had and still have a particularly strong personal connection to that song [Read the LYRICS].

The song hit Number 72 in Australia, 63 in Canada, 47 in the UK, and 51 un the USA. It didn’t chart in New Zealand. Not that any of that matters to me, of course.

Next up, a song by Irish singer/songwriter (etc.) Ronan Keating, his 2002 cover version of Garth Brooks’ 1989 country music hit—and his first country Number One—“If Tomorrow Never Comes”:

Keating’s version was never released in the Canada or the USA, but it was successful in other countries I write about: Number 3 in Australia (Platinum), 3 in New Zealand (Gold), and Number One in the UK (Platinum). It was also Number 3 in Ireland.

Keating’s version was, I think, the first I heard, but I didn’t especially like it (I probably said my usual noncommittal, “It’s alright…”). I liked other songs by him (and I liked some less than this one), and I also liked songs from Boyzone, the band he was co-lead singer of before his solo career. This particular song just wasn’t one that I especially liked.

Nigel, who knew pop music far better than I ever could hope to, knew it was by Garth Brooks, and he played the original version for me [LISTEN]. I prefer Brooks’ version, if I’m truly honest, but YouTube doesn't have a decent copy of the original video made for his version, and vidoes that are there are often of poor quality. Besides, in the pop world where I spend most of my time, Keating’s version was absolutely the one I heard the most, by far. So, Keating it is.

The whole point, anyway, is the lyrics, which is what made this song reappear in my consciousness when Nigel died. I could clearly imagine him having similar thoughts in his last couple of weeks, and I also wondered if the love he gave me would “be enough to last” (so far, yes).

Music provides the soundtrack to our lives, as so many have said, one way or another. It’s no surprise, then, that songs like these two can affect me because of my current particular reason. These aren’t the only two songs that do that, of course—I’ve shared some others in previous posts—but these two still stand out. Others will come along no doubt, because that’s what happens with music. Maybe those songs will get a post, too. Anything’s possible with music.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

There are always firsts

The thing about profound grief that people can’t understand if they haven’t experienced it, is that it’s never actually “over”. It definitely changes over time—searing pain diminishes, missing them softens, the ability to carry on without the lost one increases—but it’s always there, the embers waiting to be fanned into full flame. Anything can do that, like a memory popping up, finding something belonging to the one lost, and, maybe least obvious, firsts. Firsts never actually stop.

Anyone who’s lost a particularly important person will immediately know what this means, but to illustrate this, here’s the sequence of firsts I experienced after Nigel died: The anniversary of when we got legally married, the anniversary of my arrival in New Zealand to stay, Christmas, New Year’s, my birthday, the anniversary of our Civil Union, Nigel’s birthday, and then the first anniversary of Nigel’s death. Those are the kinds of things that most people who haven’t experienced profound grief are at least vaguely aware of, but there’s so much more.

How about the other, less obvious firsts? Like the first time I did the laundry after Nigel died, or the first time I bought milk, or the first time I ran out of peanut butter and had to buy more, or the first time I drove anywhere, or the first time I had pizza, or the first time I had a doctor’s appointment. The first time that such everyday things roll round, they’re reminders of what we’ve lost, both the person and their place in our lives. The reminders don’t actually stop, though, over time, we’ll probably notice them less.

The photo above is actually an example of how the silliest, most insignificant and utterly banal things can trigger an awareness of a first. It’s of a mangled, empty box of baking paper. I bought that box at least three years ago, possibly more, and refilled it many times since. The box was ratty from use when I moved into this house, but it started to get really bad here (the drawer I keep wraps in isn’t ideal for that). I knew I had to get a whole new box, not just a roll of baking paper, so I tried one that’s supposedly more “eco friendly”, and when I put the new box away, I was instantly aware that it was the first time I’d replaced a box of baking paper since Nigel died—baking paper!

This isn’t just a silly example of how firsts can pop-up unexpectedly, at any time, and triggered by anything (even a box of baking paper!), because there’s something else in that example: Evidence of change. If I was still in the depths of grief, I probably would’ve replaced it with exactly what I’d had before, but I didn’t: I decided to try something that might align with my values (jury’s still out on that), and that’s something I also probably would’ve done if Nigel was still alive. In this case, the first wasn’t really a reminder of what was or of what I’ve lost, it was, in a sense, a sign of a return to what’s normal for me, and my awareness of that, I’m pretty sure, was also a first.

The other side of these firsts is that they’re not always about remembering loss or pain or despair or how empty one’s life is without the one lost in it, they can also be a sign of moving forward, of shifting into the life one is trying to build without the loved one. Such firsts can be big—buying a new car, shifting into a new house, getting a new job—or they can be tiny and unimportant, like, yes, buying a new box of baking paper. The what doesn’t matter, it’s the why, and moving forward is always an important why, regardless of how small it may seem.

I’ve completed all the first anniversaries since Nigel died, and right now I’m beginning the cycle of second ones. So far, the seconds seem to be much easier for me than the firsts ever were. The firsts that still happen for me now aren't usually about events, nor even about the basics of adjusting to losing someone so important to me in every sense. Instead, they're now starting to be about the first steps toward whatever my new life will end up becoming. That’s an enormously positive thing, and one I probably wouldn’t have believed was even possible last year, as the first round of first anniversaries drew to a close.

It’s true that for anyone experiencing profound grief, firsts never actually stop. However, with time, patience, and probably a lot of deep breaths, those firsts can actually be opportunities for growth, not grief. Two years ago, people basically told me that when they said things would get eventually better. I, of course, didn’t actually believe them. At all. Turns out, I had to experience it myself, first.

Friday, September 17, 2021

104 weeks ago today

Today is 104 weeks since I lost love of my life, Nigel. By date, the second horrible anniversary will be on Monday, but it’s today when measured by weeks. That’s really just semantics, and changes nothing about the reality of what’s being remembered. But that was about an ending, and not about what happened before it, so this horrible anniversary is really about me, and those who mourn Nigel. Which is why I’ve been so surprised by this day today.

I don’t want to oversell, over promise, or in any way raise expectations, but, something feels different today, and positive. Nigel’s been on my mind all day, of course, and I’ve missed him like crazy, like always. However, I’ve also been okay.

I planned a quiet day today: I needed to pick up a prescription refill, and I wanted to pick up a few things for a couple projects. I also thought I might get a haircut, but, in the end, I found shopping under Level 2 restrictions somewhat confronting, and I’ve never gotten a haircut at Level 2. So, I decided to just be kind to myself and skip it for now. Especially because of my next stop.

I had to go to Countdown to get my prescription, and I’ve never been to a Countdown at anything other than Level One because I found it too stressful (I've been to New World under other Alert Levels, though). I did some grocery shopping while they got my prescription ready.

Then, I went home, because what I wanted most was just a quiet day at home with Leo, and for a simple reason: Today wasn’t only about Nigel, because we lost Jake one week ago today. Leo and I had a good afternoon, in the end. Dogs are really good at making us feel good, even when they're not trying.

I suppose I could’ve expected something positive today: The sun was shining this morning, after a week of rain and clouds, and that’s always a good thing. But the skies grew cloudy, and the temperatures stayed stubbornly cool. That could’ve ruined things—but I still felt okay.

I don’t know if this is the start of a new phase in my grief journey, or just a calm patch; maybe things will be worse on Monday? I have no idea. But I do feel like something has changed, something I can only think to call, I don’t know, peace? No wonder I’ve been so surprised by this day. I’ll soon know if the surprise continues.

Still, Nigel’s been on my mind all day, and I’ve missed him like crazy, like always. However, I’ve also been okay, and that’s just a surprise, whether it lasts or not.

”52 Weeks”
– My blog post from last year.

The image above is something I posted to my personal Facebook this morning. The original text of a short comment I made on that post is incorporated into this blog post, though revised, expanded, and updated.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Careful adaptations

It can be hard to adapt to changes, especially when it means adapting to sad changes. It’s even harder for our furbabies who can’t discuss things or even understand what’s happening. I have strategies I’ve been forced to learn; I hope they’ll help others.

The first and most important thing to know is that dogs in particular can and do grieve the loss of one of their pack—human or animal. Even so, individual dogs can seem, or actually be, unaffected. Cats may mourn, too, but they’re less social by nature, so grief, it it’s there, may not be as obvious as it is with dogs. In either case, watching a furbaby’s behaviour can direct how we can help them.

The most important thing is to try and stick to routine: Feed them at the same times, take them for walks or let them out into the yard as normal. Treats are best given like normal, and no extra treats. Furbabies don’t tend to “feel better” just because they get a treat, even though they’ll no doubt like the treat.

While keeping normal routines, it’s also important to not move too quickly to remove the things associated with the one who’s been lost. My own advice is that when you do start removing things, do so as surreptitiously as possible.

Here’s how I’m doing all of this for Leo.

First, I haven’t removed the towel Jake was wrapped in, nor have I removed the blanket he was laying on when he died. I planned to start that this evening, beginning with the towel: When I let Leo outside after his dinner, the plan was, I’d go get the towel and put it in the laundry area in the garage. Then tomorrow I planned do the same thing with the blanket. One step at a time.

I left Jake’s bowl alone for a full day, but over the weekend I picked it while Leo was outside, did a quick wash by hand, then put it in the dishwasher. Later, I took the bowl out of the dishwasher after the drying cycle was completed, and quietly put in the bench to cool off. Later that evening, I put away the step stool Jake’s bowl was on while Leo was outside. The following morning, again while Leo was outside, I put Jake’s clean bowl in the garage with Sunny’s bowl (and this is where it’s obvious I’m a human: I can’t yet bear to do anything with those bowls).

The common thread in all this is that I remove things when they’re out of Leo’s sight. This works because they’re not stuff he’d normally pay any attention to, anyway. Removing the blanket may be challenging because he jumps onto the blanket box, and crosses that blanket, every time he jumps up to get on the bed. So, he’ll notice that it’s missing while it’s in the wash, and that’s precisely why I’ve left that until last.

One other thing I do is to try to make sure I give Leo plenty of attention. I’ve always done that, of course, but I’m making sure I do it. Part of that’s about sticking to routine, but also making sure he feels safe, secure, and loved amid the confusion and the unsettling events.

Still, I do make mistakes. The first night after Jake died, I put Leo’s dinner bowl in the kitchen, rather than in the lounge, where he’d always been fed (because he wouldn’t eat unless he was fed well away from the others). He didn’t want to eat. It took a couple more days, and some moves back and fourth before he adjusted to eating in the kitchen. We got there, but it was a slow process, and probably more difficult than it needed to be.

The bigger failure was tonight. I picked up the towel as I’d planned, but Leo came back into the house much faster than I’d anticipated (it was raining). He caught me moving the towel, so I dumped it on a different part of the floor, and he duly gave it a thorough sniffing.

Ultimately, the important thing is to do the best we can, not try to be perfect: No one’s perfect, obviously, and we’ll get some things wrong. As long as we try to make a furbaby’s adjustment to loss as easy for them as we can, and as long as we try to help them feel safe, secure, and loved, they’ll be fine.

One last bit of advice: All grief, human or furbabies’, is highly individual. There are no timelines or timetables, and things will take as long as they take. If we focus on helping our furbabies get through their grief, they’ll be fine. And so will we.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Honouring an important stranger

Wrapping up 24 years of my life has been hard to do because it necessarily means dealing with so much stuff from Nigel’s life. And then there’s the stuff from Nigel’s life before me, something challenging in its own way. Today is a good day to reflect on that, and to tell a tale I’ve never told before.

On September 14, 1993, Nigel’s partner before me, Gary, died from complications of HIV/AIDS. Nigel had spent a lot of time at the hospital toward the end, but wasn’t there when Gary died. “I think he waited until I wasn’t there,” he told me. The one thing he didn’t tell me, though, was the date Gary died: I found that out when I found Gary’s death certificate among Nigel’s papers.

Nigel was broken by Gary’s death as I was by Nigel’s, but he’d just turned 29, and was far too young to remain alone, something his mother specifically said to him. She was right, of course, and Nigel dated some guys before we met, breaking off those efforts when he and I became serious.

I arrived in New Zealand as a tourist on September 12, 1995, and Nigel played host and guide, showing me the sites as we waited to see if we were really compatible. He took me to Rotorua (of course!), and I noticed that he seemed to have become distant. I felt even communication was becoming strained, so when we were sitting in the motel room in Rotorua, I finally said to him, “Look, if you don’t want to continue this, that’s fine—just say so. We’ve both got a lot riding on this, and if you don’t want to go on, we don’t have to, but we need to decide before we go too far.” I was specifically thinking about me moving to the other side of the world, which is a rather big deal. I don’t think I’ve ever spoken so bravely in my entire life, before or since, but it was important to not waste time.

He came round, and the Nigel I’d fallen for was back. What happened after that point was our 24-year-long story. However, at the time I never knew why Nigel had started acting differently in Rotorua, not until I started going through Nigel’s papers recently: Nigel started acting differently, I now know, because that was around the time of the second anniversary of Gary’s death. I well know how present that date is in a widower’s mind.

Nigel would’ve had mixed emotions: He probably had feelings of “betraying” Gary, but he would’ve seen that as irrational when he knew that Gary wanted him to live his life and be happy. And, he also knew by then that he wanted to be with me, and that I wanted to be with him. It must’ve been very confusing and even upsetting, but he never told me, not then or ever. That's not all that surprising when he never even told me when, specifically, Gary died.

This was actually typical for him: He didn’t talk about Gary all that much (apart from a few happy memories) because he didn’t want to upset me, and I didn’t ask very much because it was his business to talk about and I didn’t want to force him to talk about painful things. In other words, we were protecting each other.

When I arrived in New Zealand to live, Nigel had photos with Gary in them all over the house. I didn’t mind because I knew Gary had been so important to Nigel, though there were times I felt like I was sort of “competing with a memory”.

A few years later, after his older brother and his father died, Nigel began grief counselling. He told me the topic of the photos had come up, and he asked me if they bothered me. “Not at all,” I told him, because by then it was true: They were part of the environment we lived in, and that included lots of stuff from his life with Gary (furniture, artwork, books, classical and opera records, all sorts of things). They were also part of Nigel.

It took me years to notice, and after a few moves to new houses, that the photos of Gary had disappeared, all apart from one he kept on his nightstand. It began, I now think, when he told me he wanted to put away the family photos because, he said, he didn’t want “all those photos of dead people” sitting out. It’s possible there was nothing more to it than that—and we never did have many photos out after that—however, I also think it was evidence that Nigel was moving forward.

None of that extended to dealing with personal stuff that had belonged to Gary. There were some clothes, a box of various things, a couple old briefcases with personal papers, those sorts of things. Because Nigel didn’t deal with them, I had to—and I found that incredibly hard to do, as I first wrote about in February when I said, “I felt like I was erasing Gary’s life.”

That feeling got worse the farther I got into my “Biggest Project Of All”, and I ran across the truly personal stuff.

In his last days, Nigel asked me to take all of the letters that he and Gary had exchanged when they were courting, when Nigel was still in New Zealand planning his move to Australia, and “put them in the box with me”. The trouble is, I had absolutely no idea whatsoever where they were, or what I was even looking for, and by that time Nigel was feeling pretty bad and I didn’t want to push him too hard. I never found them until “The biggest project of all” began. I’ll now honour Nigel’s wish by burning them and will eventually have those ashes added to his, as he wanted. However, that won’t be right away because there still could be more I haven’t found yet.

I was trying to figure out what to do with Gary’s more personal stuff, something other than just putting it in the rubbish as if he never existed and never mattered. I was talking about it with a good friend of mine, and he asked if there was something I could do, as he put it, “to celebrate Gary while getting rid of his things, too.” And then it hit me: I could honour Gary by doing for him what I was going to do for Nigel, and burn those personal papers. Gary’s ashes were scattered in Sydney Harbour sometime before Nigel returned to New Zealand in 1994, and there was nowhere I know of in New Zealand that was special to Gary. So, I’ll take the ashes from those papers and mix it in with my garden compost to help nurture life with the ornamental plants I’ll be planting on my property: Life from death to honour a life.

I’m keenly aware that lots of people simply won’t get why this matters to me so much, and that, as I said back in July’s post, “Some might say I care too much, but I wonder, why don’t others care as much?” The reason I care is that Gary mattered to Nigel, and Nigel mattered to me. That’s really all there is to it. Gary loved Nigel and helped him become who he would be when I met him. I’m grateful because it helped prepare the way for the wonderful life that Nigel and I had. So, I need to honour Gary’s life by symbolically closing the book in a more respectful way than just dumping the bits and pieces in the rubbish. Clearly this is all about me and my values, and I’m okay with that: Rituals surrounding death and mourning are always about the living, anyway.

I’ve learned a lot about Nigel and his life through dealing with all the stuff he left behind. It’s been fascinating to learn more about how he approached his career, and also to finally be able to fill in some of the gaps (like the date that Gary died, which answered a decades-old question for me). I even feel like I know Nigel a bit better now, and that’s probably surprised me the most about this gargantuan job of sorting through stuff.

I’m determined that this project will honour the life of my Nigel, just as he tried to honour Gary. It’s not always easy or straightforward to work out, and it’s often exhausting, but finishing the “mission” is what’s important to me. That, and honouring the man who was important to me by honouring the man who had been important to him.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Jake is home

I posted the photo above on my personal Facebook this afternoon after I got home from picking up Jake's ashes. As is so often the case, there’s a lot more to the story.

It begins at the beginning, oddly enough: The place rang me around 10:30 this morning to tell me Jake's cremains were ready. I was ready to head out shortly after lunchtime, but I realised I didn’t know the actual address so I could have Apple Maps guide me there (it’s a part of Hamilton I’m not familiar with). Apple Maps couldn’t find it. I Googled it and Google Maps could find me directions, and told me it would take me more than two hours to get there—until I realised it was set to give me walking directions. It was about 17 minutes by car.

Once I was ready to head out of the driveway, I realised that Google Maps was sending me toward a road that doesn’t exist (though it’s under construction, it won’t open until somewhere toward the middle of next year). I went the correct way, though I was worried this was a bad start.

As I got close, I found out that the road I was headed for was closed for construction (as so many are in that part of Hamilton). I missed my turn and it seamlessly directed me in a big loop back to the turn I missed. However, it turns out the road I missed was no more than a few hundred metres from my destination—a win.

I parked my car and rang them, as I had on Friday. There was no answer. I waited a few minutes and rang again. Same result. And also a few minutes later.

I moved my car out on the road and rang again. Nothing. I knew the place has a small staff, and I thought that if they were dealing with someone dropping off a furbaby, there might not be anyone to answer the phone. I completely understood that, and how some folks could have trouble leaving after bringing in their loved one.

However, that was the worst possible thing for me, that sitting here waiting. It made me picture Jake lying there when I dropped him off, and also remember leaving him there. Remembering such things is always a trigger for me, and sitting there like that, watching the front door to see if the person left, just prolonged the possibility that I might lose it.

Luckily, after waiting more than half an hour, I was annoyed, and that cancelled out the rest. Though I couldn’t be sure until I was back in the car with Jake.

I rang again and let it ring, and finally someone answered. I went to the door, she joined me, and I collected Jake. I had another stop to make, so I put is ashes in the boot of my car where I knew they’d be safe, and then left. A few metres down the road I stopped: I realised I was so anxious to get out of there that I hadn’t properly looked at what they handed me to make sure it was Jake. It was, and I continued on.

My next stop was the vet which had offered to give me credit for the medicine I bought for Jake only hours before he died. I tok a credit to use for future vet services. Meanwhile, I also had a large bag of Jake’s dog food that I’d never opened, and the pet store in the complex agreed to a refund (they don’t do store credit). Then, I got a harness for Leo so we can go on walks and I can secure him when we go in the car. That wasn’t smooth.

I’m still on a diuretic, and sometimes, with little warning, I have to go to the loo. Except, due to Covid restrictions, their loo was closed. I knew if I was there much longer I’d wet myself, but the very friendly and helpful clerk was explaining all the benefits of the various harnesses, then, when I picked one, she told me all the colours available—it would’ve been hilarious if it hadn’t been my pants that were about to get a big wet spot. When I sat back down in my car, I was much better.

Traffic was a bit heavy (school was out by then), but not too bad. I got home, gave Leo his welcome home treat, went to the loo, and then we sat down and I took the photo above. How I got to that point was a bigger deal than I’d expected, but there’s even more to it, a background to everything.

Nigel and I had all our late furbabies cremated and put into small cardboard boxes because we always planned to do something with them.

They all ended up in our buffet cabinet, and we often sadly joked about our “collection”. We talked about getting a big rimu box to put all those little boxes in, but we also talked about what, ultimately, should happen to them.

We weren’t going to scatter them because there was nowhere special enough to them or us. One time we even talked about which furbabies should go with whom when we died. Years passed.

In Nigel’s last few days at home, we talked anything and everything, as I’ve said many times. What to do with the furbabies’ ashes was one of those things.

“I want you to put the furbabies ashes in the box with me, and you can take Jake, Sunny, and Leo with you,” he said to me—and immediately interjected, “Unless you want to take Curzon!”

Curzon was the cat Nigel gave me for my 40th birthday, and he was my special boy: I was the only human he allowed to pick him up outside where the other cats might see. But he was also Nigel’s special boy: Every night when Nigel went to bed, Curzon would curl up beside him, Nigel’s arm wrapped around him. Then, when I went to bed, he’d move over and curl up against me. It was pretty magical for both of us.

“No, that’s okay—you can take Curzon,” I told him. I was happy that our beloved babies would be mixed with Nigel’s ashes—it felt like the perfect thing to do. Besides, I thought I’d have a long time with the other three, and they’d all live out their lives with me. I now completely understand that there are no guarantees whatsoever in life.

I’ll keep Jake and Sunny’s ashes right next to Nigel’s for now. Eventually I’ll put them all away, just not now, not yet. I’m not ready.

The bigger question is what will happen to Nigel’s and my own ashes. Nigel left that up to me, which is actually one of the biggest burdens I faced, even though I’m pretty sure I know what I’ll do (a topic for another day; some details aren’t settled yet).

My advice is to think thoroughly about what you want to happen with your mortal remains and write it down so no one has to guess. Still, since Nigel and I did talk about everything, I instinctively know what’s right, and what isn’t. I also know he completely trusted me to make the choice that was right for us both, me in particular.

Our furbabies never had to think about such things, of course, but they were always a part of our plans, just as much as they were a part of our lives. Working out what to do with their ashes and our own was just another, logical part of that.

Collecting Jake’s ashes was hard on me, and incredibly sad in what’s already a sad month for me. But I carry the strength of certainty that comes from having spent so many years talking about so much so often with Nigel. I have no confusion or uncertainty. So, sad, yes, but the truth is that I’m incredibly lucky to be so centred.

And all of that carried me through the entire day. I’ll take it.

This post includes revised and expanded parts of something I posted to my personal facebook this afternoon, and is also based on notes I wrote while waiting in my car.

AmeriNZ Blog is fifteen

Today, this blog turns fifteen years old. Whooda thunk it??

I published my first post, “I live in a land downunder. No, the other one…” on September 13, 2006 at 10:53pm NZST, and the journey ended up being quite a bit different than what I expected. In fact, I’m nowhere near adjusted to my new reality

This is one of those anniversaries that meant more to me than to most people—obviously—but as long as I keep blogging, I want to acknowledge it. It’s something I’ve done for a long time, something into which I’ve pored too much time and effort, and ended up with hundreds of thousands of words, most of them, I think, entirely forgettable. But it’s the effort, and the record all those words created, that matter to me even now.

With so many bad memories in this month, I’ll take whatever positive ones I can get, and, to me, this definitely qualifies. That’s kind of an incentive to keep going, I think. Maybe. I can’t know that for sure any more now than at any point over the entire 15 years.

Some traditions continue despite it all. I wrote this post in advance of its publication, as I’ve done most years, so that it’ll auto-post at the exact moment I published my original post fifteen years ago. It’s one of the few traditions I have left. That, and acknowledging this particular anniversary.

As always, thanks for joining me on the journey so far.

Previous posts on my blogoversaries:

Anniversay Time (2007)
Blogoversary 2 (2008)
Anniversaries Three and Fourteen (2009)
Fourth blogoversary (2010)
Fifth blogoversary (2011)
Sixth blogoversary (2012)
Seventh Blogoversary (2013)
Ten years of the AmeriNZ Blog (2016)
The AmeriNZ Blog is eleven (2017)
The AmeriNZ Blog is twelve (2018)
The AmeriNZ Blog is thirteen (2019)
The AmeriNZ Blog is fourteen (2020)

An AmeriNZ Video I made in 2015 explains the origins of the name “AmeriNZ”:

Sunday, September 12, 2021

26 years ago today

26 years ago today, September 12, 1995, I arrived in New Zealand as a tourist, marking the beginning of the story arc I lived for 24 years—until 2019. Since then, it’s been a changed story arc, but it’s one based on, and a continuation of, what began on this day in 1995. That’s precisely why it still matters.

I’ll be honest: After Nigel died, I wasn’t sure I’d keep acknowledging this date, and I seriously considered make the 25th Anniversary post last year the last one ever. But September is such a crap month for me, even more so now with the death of my beloved boy Jake, that I think something positive within the month is the best I can do to sort of balance things out a little bit. A teeny, tiny, little bit, but still.

I stand behind everything I’ve said in previous years, and I've noticed how often I've repeated something I said back in 2012: “Never underestimate the power of love to make the improbable possible, or to transform the unlikely into an entirely new life.” I still believe that’s sound advice, not in spite of what I’ve been through, but because of it. And yet, there’s more.

In 2013, I posted  about the day on my personal Facebook (an image of that is at the top of last year’s 25th Anniversary post, linked to above and at the bottom of this post), and I quoted that same line from 2012, and added, “I still believe, despite everything, that love always triumphs. Always.” That, too, is a conviction I still have, and, again, it’s because of what I’ve been through.

Today, I wrote on my personal Facebook why this day still has importance:
September 12, then, will always be an important day for me because it was the start of the adventure I’m currently riding, and also because it was the last anniversary of one of our important days that [Nigel and I] were able to share together. Because of what began on September 12, 1995, I’ve always said love is powerful, and that it always wins. I still say that. I now know that love is more powerful than death, too. But damn, I wish I hadn’t learned that lesson.
And that’s why I’m not going to stop talking about this day—not yet, anyway. My tragic experience has taught me far more about the power of love than I could ever even have guessed had I not suffered such a huge loss. It’s the secret to why I’m still here and still moving forward. Damn right I’m going to celebrate it!

So here I am, 26 years after I arrived in New Zealand as a tourist, now completely anchored in this place—and whatever my life will become. This is now me, my story, my place in the world. I can’t change the horrible thing that happened two years ago, but I would never give up the 24 years before that horrible day, because it’s all part of of the core of who I now am. And the date that really started it all was September 12, 1995, 26 years ago today. There had to be one good thing about this month.

Previous posts about this anniversary (the first three only mention it):

Anniversay Time (2007)
Blogoversary 2 (2008)
Anniversaries Three and Fourteen (2009)
Where it began (2010)
Anniversary of the beginning (2011)
Another anniversary (2012)
18 years ago today (2013)
19 years ago today (2014)
Twenty years ago today (2015)
21 years ago today (2016)
22 years ago today (2017)
23 years ago today (2018)
24 years ago today (2019)
25 years ago today (2020)

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Just the two of us

It’s kind of hard to get my head around this: Leo and I are all that’s left of the family of six we had on February 14, 2019. Bella died that day, Nigel a bit more than seven months later, then on February 2 of this year, Sunny left us, followed by Jake yesterday. So, roughly two years, seven months ago, we were a happy family getting on with life, but on Valentine’s Day, 2019, life started to leave our family. And now it’s just the two of us.

I think that, in a sense, I’m shell-shocked by all the loss and grief over that time. I never get the chance to just sort of adjust to my new reality because death has been always hanging around, just out of view in a shadow somewhere, but I could sometimes catch a glimpse of it, and usually sense it, just waiting to come and take away another member of my family.

This leads to unpleasant thoughts: What if something happens to Leo? What if something happens to me? Something will happen sooner or later, but is death still hanging around waiting to harvest one or both of us sooner rather than later?

The truth, as I so often say, is that none of us has the slightest idea when, precisely, we’ll take our last breath, unless, maybe, we choose the time and method of our departure, but even then nothing’s certain. That’s why I keep harping on about living for the moment, not the hour, day, week, month, or year, because sooner or later the very last moment for ourselves or someone we love will arrive.

At the same time, we can’t live our lives with the expectation of imminent death because it could be years or decades away. Focusing only on the possibility of death would waste the moments we so have, every bit as much as if we ignore our mortality completely and pretend we and those we love will live forever. The balance, I think, lies in being prepared for the inevitable, but to also try to pack as much life as we can into however many moments we end up getting. In other words, I think we should focus on every moment, not on how or when it, or any other moment, might end.

I’ve been trying to do that for the past two years in particular, often succeeding, actually, but sometimes failing miserably—I’m not perfect, shocking though that may be for some people to hear. But this parade of tragedy and grief I’ve been enduring keeps me determined to continue striving to live every moment, not just pass through them.

Toward that end, yesterday we gathered for dinner at my brother- and sister-in-law’s house, and I brought Leo. I could never bring three dogs, especially with Sunny’s lengthy illness, nor even Jake as age began to catch up with him. It also had to be all three (then, two…) or none.

Leo has a history of being carsick unless someone is holding him (no, I wasn’t driving last night), and my plan is to slowly try to get him used to riding in the car so I can bring him with me when I go visiting some people. That, and maybe to take him for walks in different places.

Leo hasn’t been on many walks since he came to live with us. Jake and Sunny were much older, and Jake was already getting arthritic, when Leo came to live us, but even so, Leo was too little to be able to walk as far as them. After Nigel died, I knew I couldn’t handle walking three dogs by myself, then Sunny got sick and Jake got even more arthritic, and walks with them became impossible. Leo will get them now.

I need to add here that my fully-fenced yard is quite large by Hamilton standards, and the dogs were always able to wander around the yard as much as they wanted to, and Leo often ran around the yard—or insisted that I run around inside the house chasing him. All of which means that they had lots of opportunity for as much exercise as they could tolerate, but Leo will now get to come on walks with me, something I need to do for health reasons. That was something I’ve put off mainly because I didn’t want to leave the dogs alone, sitting in the front window watching me walk away, and them not understanding why I was leaving them behind (they were used to seeing me drive off).

Life for Leo and me will be very different now that it’s just the two of us in our (very) little family, but I’m going to do the best I can to make sure it’s a good one for him—us—so that we can have many wonderful moments together for however long the fates allow. And if I do catch a glimpse of that dark, figure lurking in the shadows, I’ll do what I’ve always done: I’ll ignore it. Leo and I have far too many great moments to experience, even though it’s now just the two of us. I intend to make the most of as many as I can.

Leo and I took the photo above earlier this evening.