Top Ten Blog Posts of 2011

Each year of this blog’s history, I have posted an analysis based on painstaking collection of data on what the “Top 10 blog posts” have been during the year.

This year, the Top 10 posts are…

… listed on this blog on the right side under the column, “Most Popular Posts of All Time.” Wow… Blogger installed a new widget that does all the hard work for me. So now I don’t have to collect data and rank it. It’s all there. So go visit.

Not a surprise that the Tom of Finland post remains number one. It gets visited regularly because a lot of people (guys?) use an image search and get directed to the Bulges and Breeches post. Hundreds each day. This drawing is very popular because it presents a rugged bravado of the traditional Leatherman, which appeals to many men in the gay community.

Also not a surprise that the post about masculine gay men ranks second. Many, many guys are looking for other sane, safe, normal, masculine gay men. Trouble is, guys who act and look like any other guy but who happen to have a same-sex orientation, do not wear a sign, nametag (Hi, I’m a Masculine Gay Man), or show up at frilly-froo-froo events. But there are ways to find masculine gay men. Go visit the post.

I was rather surprised to find that my blog post titled, “Gay Leather Breeches” got ranked among the top 10. Perhaps it is because I featured a photo of a cop in boots and breeches first — demonstrating that lots of guys wear breeches with boots, and doing do implies nothing about the wearer’s sexual orientation. However, for those into “BLUF” (Breeches, Leather, Uniform Fetish) fear, certainly leather breeches make a statement.

Also another post that always ranks highly is one about the obsession — yeah, an absolute obsession — that many guys have when pondering the age-old question, “should guys wear jeans tucked inside boots or not?” I have posted a lot about this silly question, but the post titled, “Cowboy Boots and Jeans Google Searches” is the one that most visitors find when searching that question using a search engine (provided they do not see my tutorial titled, “Cowboy Boots and Jeans” that has become the most popular page on my website by far.

There are a number of interesting, regularly-visited posts on my Top 10. A new one this year was posted this year by a straight friend who calls himself the “Only Booted Man In Town”. He wrote about being the only unbootedman in an unbooted state.

Well, there’s my usual Top 10 listing… go visit those posts, or others on this blog and see if you can change the dynamics of how Blogger’s widget determines what’s in the Top 10.

Life is short: read blogs! Happy New Year!

Best of Motorcycle Boots By Style

I ride a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and I always wear motorcycle boots while riding (never sneakers). I own a lot of different styles of motorcycle boots, and have worn all of them (one pair at a time LOL!) while riding.

Following is my opinion of the best motorcycle boots of each of these styles: engineer boots, harness boots, “shortie” or tactical boots, and patrol boots.

Each style is listed below — note that the header is a link to the style of those boots in my motorcycle boot collection. Click on the link to see them.

Engineer Boots

Many bikers wear engineer boots. These boots present a solid, rugged, masculine appearance. You can get them in various heights, from as short as 8 inches (20cm) to very tall (as high as “crotch high” of 34 inches [86cm]), though there are two “typical” heights — 11 inches (28cm) and 17 inches (43cm).

My favorite, all-around engineer boots are made by Chippewa in the USA. These boots are available both with and without a steel toe. I have both types. I cannot say whether I like the steel toe better than the non-steel toe versions. I wear the non-steel toe boots in the summer when I want lighter weight boots on my feet. I wear steel toe boots when I may end up on rough terrain, dirt, or mud. These boots can certainly take a beating, and remain sturdy, solid, and water-resistant yet are affordable and a great value for the price.

Some may ask, “you own Wesco Boss (engineer) boots, too, why are they not your highest recommendation?” Good question. Yes, I own (and wear) Wesco boots. While the boots are built like a tank and will last forever, they also feel like a tank and become heavy on the feet, especially after a long day of riding. Great boots, and I highly recommend them, particularly for use in cold weather, because the boots are made with the thickest premium cowhide of any boots around. I just prefer the Chippewa boots for the affordability and rugged durability they present to the average biker.

Harness Boots

Harness boots are also a classic style worn by many bikers. They present a rugged appearance. Harness straps on boots date back over 100 years, but are only on there for an added decoration; they serve no useful purpose.

Most harness boots are 12 inches (30cm) tall. You can get them shorter or even as tall as “crotch-high,” but most bikers find the 12-inch tall harness boots the most commonly available and typically worn by their peers.

I made a video and comparison of various harness boots a while back (See this blog post). In that review, my overall recommendation for harness boots that meet high quality standards and are affordable, so you get a great value for the price paid, are Chippewa harness boots. A close tie to highest recommended for value and quality construction are harness boots made by Boulet of Canada.

I really cannot recommend harness boots made under the Harley-Davidson label — actually, these boots are made by a third party manufacturer in China that pays H-D for a license to use their name. Cheap labor and materials makes cheap boots. Also, I have not found harness boots made by Dingo, Durango, or Double H to be a good value for the price paid. Again, cheap materials and construction makes lower quality, less-bang-for-the-buck boots.

Again, you may ask my opinion about Wesco harness boots. Yes, I have several pair. Like their Boss Boot brothers, these boots are built like a tank — but they feel like a tank and make my feet tired if I wear them all day. Great for shorter rides and for use when riding in cold weather, but not an all-day warm-weather ride.

Tactical Boots

Some bikers do not want to wear boots at all, but realize when they grow up that they can’t wear sneakers while operating a motorcycle — not if they value the bones in their feet and ankles as well as the skin on their legs.

These bikers look for shorter motorcycle boots. That is, boots that will at least cover the ankle and provide protection, as well as have a sole that will provide better traction than cheap rubber found on the bottom of sneakers.

There are many different manufacturers of tactical boots — many more than I have experience with. For those with which I have experience, I have long regarded my Chippewa Firefighter boots to be the best for this purpose. These boots are built exceptionally well, are leather lined, but do not get hot. They are easy to put on and take off (once you get the zipper installed correctly.) The lug sole provides great traction, while the boot performs well in all kinds of weather. After years of riding, I find myself often choosing these boots over all others when I mount my iron horse to ride.

A close second are station boots made by All American Boot manufacturing. They are great, too, but I do not have as much experience with them as I do with the Chips. Overall, Chippewa Firefighter boots present a terrific value for the price paid.

Police Patrol Boots

There is a reason why cops wear tall black boots. Not only for the commanding appearance that the boots present, but also for the protection, durability, and ease-of-maintenance.

Many cops wear Dehner boots, which have a unique appearance of their own. Classic beauties — but fragile and expensive! I use the word “fragile” when I refer to stock Dehner boots made with a combination of leather for the foot and “Dehcord” (which is plastic) for the shaft. The Dehcord material can crack, chip, and be easily damaged by exposure to a hot motorcycle pipe (i.e., the shaft can discolor and melt.)

I recommend two alternatives to Dehner boots: Chippewa “Hi-Shine” engineer boots, which many cops on the U.S. East Coast wear regularly, and All American “Blue Knight” Patrol boots, which are more widely available nowadays.

The All American patrol boots are winners in my book. Sturdy, durable, and well-constructed with a big lug sole and thick leather shaft and foot. The boots are coated with a light plastic top coat which makes them easy to maintain.

I have worn All American patrol boots for a few years now, and like them a lot. They wear well and have proven their durability. You get a much better value for the price paid compared with Dehner boots (especially all-leather Dehners which cost about double what all-leather All American boots cost.)

You will get the best bang-for-the-buck with a purchase of Chippewa Hi-Shine Boots (model 71418), but if you want the style of patrol boot worn most often by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and many U.S. state and local police motorcycle officers, then you should consider stepping up and into a pair of All American Blue Knight patrol boots with the bal-laced instep.

And yes, anyone can wear motorcycle police patrol boots. You don’t have to be a sworn peace officer to buy or to wear these boots. However, don’t put them on with a uniform and go out in public. Cops take a very dim view of non-L.E. guys doing that. If you want to wear them with a fetish uniform, that’s fine — just keep the cop-look-alike image behind closed doors.

Summary

So, there you have it — my opinions and my personal recommendations on what I consider to be the best boots for each of the four major styles of motorcycle boots made in terms of construction, appearance, and value for price paid.

Life is short: wear boots when riding a motorcycle!

New Year Planning

As 2011 is quickly drawing to a close, I am making plans for 2012. I am not one to make “new year’s resolutions” as so often these are made then go unfulfilled.

My personal plans for 2012 include, in no specific order…

Ensuring that my partner receives the best medical care available, and that his current condition is resolved. Meanwhile, I am readjusting major things in my life to accommodate a larger role in caregiving.

Getting off my duff to put some boots on eBay that I’ll never wear — my Sendra boots come to mind. There may be others. I have an inventory (ha ha… on-line) and I actually do wear most of the boots in my collection. I need to determine which boots I am not wearing and why I am still holding them. No worries, don’t ask — I am not disposing of any of my vintage Frye boots.

Getting on my treadmill and working out regularly. I’ve been pretty good at it since I got it in early December. I just need to keep working at it. I know that I will not use a gym; I strongly dislike that kind of atmosphere and the cheap side of me detests paying for something that I will not get sufficient return of investment. Walking is what works best for me, so I’ll be walking — a lot! — in 2012.

Finally installing that marble tile surround in our master bath shower. That shower has been out of service for eight months since it sprang a leak. I installed a new shower pan (floor), so now I just have to find the time to fix the side walls, grout them, and finish the project. I have the skills, tools, and materials. I just have to make it the priority that it needs to be. (It has not been a priority because I prefer to use our two-man, two-headed shower in the basement… but our main shower really should be repaired. Really….)

Hoping to find the time to explore some back roads of my home state by Harley with some friends. It always seems that my partner has other plans for ongoing home maintenance that take priority.

Keeping our finances on track, and spending only what I have, left over after putting a full 35% of my gross income into investments for retirement and savings. The rule that I learned from my parents: pay yourself first. It leaves less resources for the fun stuff, but I am not under the false belief that somehow the money will show up when I need it later, or that a major expense (such as expensive repairs to my Harley, truck, or home) will not happen.

Doing some rather major renovations on two small houses that I own and rent to community heroes. The current occupants have given notice that they will be leaving in the coming year, so after they leave, I need to redo the kitchens, refinish floors, and paint the whole house. Twice. I hate painting…. but I dislike paying people to do something that my partner and I can do ourselves. (Again, just call me “cheap,” but I prefer the word, “frugal” LOL!)

As far as my website goes, I will be exploring ways to optimize it for use with smartphones. I see that more than a quarter (25%) of the visitors to my website and this blog visit using mobile devices. I sense that my site is not as user-friendly as it could be for mobile device visitors. I have to wake up and smell the coffee and do something about it. It’s a learning curve for me, since I do not have, nor plan to have, a smartphone. (Did I say, “call me cheap?” Honestly, the convenience of those things does not outweigh the expense. I don’t need nor want one.)

I am certain that the new year will bring change and more things to do than I can think about right now. Priorities will change, projects will be added, some will be deleted or modified. That’s how life is … go with the flow.

Life is short: think ahead!

Maintaining Shiny Boot Shine

One would think that with the extensive boot collection that I have, I may spend a lot of time shining them. Actually, I don’t. Most of my boots are worn “as is” and perhaps the boots show a little dirt. To me, that is “character.”

However, some boots are made to shine and be kept shiny — Chippewa “High-Shines” and All American Patrol Boots are some examples. How do I maintain the shine on these boots — especially if I don’t have much time (or like to spend time) shining them?

Chip Hi-Shines, Chippewa Trooper Boots, and All American Patrol Boots are among the boots in a class that have a thin plastic top coat applied during manufacture that covers the leather on the boot foot and shaft. The plastic top coat is not to be confused with “patent leather” which is made from a different process.

Rather, this top coat is durable and flexible enough such that it does not crack when natural creases are made in the boots during break-in and service. It is this top coat that makes the boots look so shiny.

To maintain the shine of boots with that plastic top coat — you need to remember that you are treating the coating, not the leather under it. Applying wax polish to these boots does not actually adhere to the leather — it forms a waxy layer on the plastic top coat that comes off with buffing with a brush or towel.

Cops who wear these boots have told me that the best way to care for the boots and to maintain a shine on them is to use household furniture polish, like Pledge. After a day’s wear, they spray the boots lightly with the spray furniture polish, and use a lintless cloth to buff the boot surfaces. This removes the day’s grime and returns the boots to their original lustre. That’s what I do, too.

Once in a while, when the boots have been exposed to road spray — or worse, winter road salts — I will use a damp cloth first to remove the grime, then apply a very light, thin coating of paste wax. Again, this wax does not adhere to the leather. It forms a thin film which produces a shine when buffed with a good brush. The wax also fills in small surface cracks as well as light abrasion that may be caused by damage from pebbles, cinders, and road salts.

I only apply this thin wax polish about 3 – 4 times a year, and only when the boots have been crudded up with grime. Otherwise, applying wax polish more frequently only causes a wax build-up which attracts more dirt and makes the boots look dull. Furniture polish sprayed lightly will remove that wax build-up. Also, if you use wax, make sure to pay attention to places where it can gunk up, such as in the instep of bal-laced boots, along the sole of the boot where the foot is attached, or along the laces or buckle on the top of the shaft. You may need to use an old toothbrush to remove waxy build-up, mud, or dirt.

It doesn’t take much to keep these boots in good condition, and show a shine that demonstrates the wearer is proud of his boots and his appearance in them.

Life is short: wear your boots well … others notice well-shined boots.

Is Christmas Hard for Gay People?

I found this search that landed a visitor to this blog on Christmas day: “Christmas hard for gay people.”

This search provoked a random stream of thoughts, which I will share.

Christmas inspires thoughts of gathering with family, friends, and neighbors… most if not all of whom are straight. There are some gay gatherings held on Christmas by and for gay people, but that’s not what this blog is about.

In my observation, Christmas can present a range of challenges for a gay person.

First, Christmas observes the birth of Jesus, and in Christian religions, is (besides Easter), the most holy of holidays. There are many challenges, though, with various Christian denominations. Some (not all) abjectly reject gay people. For many gay people, the religious aspects of Christmas can make the holiday difficult to deal with.

For example, if one grew up in family that followed Catholic or Evangelical faith teachings, then have to hear and deal with rejection, intolerance, and expressions of hatred often — just because one chooses to love someone of the same sex. For me as a gay man in a same-sex relationship that to me is as equal to an opposite-sex marriage, this is one reason why Christmas is hard for me. Hatred and intolerance are not values that I grew up with. (Note: not all Christian religious are the same with regard to gay people. Unitarian/Universalist and Episcopalians are about as open and accepting as can be, while Evangelicals convey hatred and hypocrisy at almost every turn.)

For some gay men, dealing with family can be difficult at Christmas. I am not among those who have family strains, thankfully. However, I realize that many gay men have become estranged from their family and have to deal with forms of rejection — just because he/she is gay. Some families do not invite gay siblings or children to family dinners or gatherings. Some gay people choose not to attend family gatherings, either, because they always feel uncomfortable.

While my brothers and sisters and their children and I get along well, there have been instances where I have had some issues with a few of my siblings’ spouses. But we have come to an understanding: my brother is my brother, my sister is my sister, and their spouse is not. I can love and be close to my siblings, while I don’t have to be close to their spouse who doesn’t like the fact that I am gay. (BTW, this applies to just a few. I am very close to many of my in-laws; just not all of them.)

Another challenge that Christmas brings has nothing to do with the holiday itself, but with shared interests. Often, football games are being shown on television. For some gay men, including me — clueless about football — trying to join “the guys” in the rec room who are watching football is hard to do, because I do not know what they are talking about and don’t care. Hanging out in the kitchen trying to help cook is sometimes viewed as a gender role reversal, and that doesn’t always work. For me, I usually go play with the kids until my old body can’t take it any more and I need a break. (The energy, flexibility, and stamina of youth is wasted on the young. LOL!)

Finally, in my opinion, Christmas can be very hard for a gay man (or woman) who has not yet come out to his family. He shows up, single, at a family gathering, and inevitably, Uncle George asks who you are dating, or Sister Mary, with best intentions, tells you about a girl she wants you to meet. These well-intended comments or suggestions make for many awkward moments.

Christmas (or other big holiday events where families gather) is not a time to come out to the family, though. Think about it — everyone is all together (good), but distracted by lots of things going on. If you blurt out, “uh, I’m gay,” it may take some people by surprise, and change the whole dynamic of the event. While there are some movies that have shown what can happen in a dramatic and sometimes hilarious way — what I have observed is that when someone comes out to a large group all at once, the rest of the group is taken by surprise and doesn’t have time to process it, so they react. Their reactions often tend to be withdrawal and silence. That silence can be perceived as rejection — when likely it is an indication that the person needs some time to figure out how they will deal with this news.

What I recommend if you’re not out yet is to wait and tell family at another time, preferably one-on-one, and in person. Give the family member time to come to his or her own terms with the news. Accept that some will treat you as they always have, and some may back away for a while. That happened to me in my family of 14 siblings. However, with time, consistency of behavior on my part (that is, I remained the same guy that I always was), and not taking withdrawal personally as rejection, we re-developed our relationship. I am happy to say that I am close, really close, to all of my siblings now.

I think Christmas is easier for gay people who have come out — whose sexual orientation is known. They can choose to interact with the straight loved-ones in their lives in a way where they do not feel as if they are living a lie. Or, they can simply choose not to interact, and watch a movie or surf the web. I have to be honest, the stats for my website and this blog skyrocket on Christmas day — and I have a feeling that many gay guys who are choosing to be alone are among the reasons for the spike in visitors.

However, it all comes down to how one chooses to be. One can wallow in self-pity, or feel alone, lonely, and sad. Or, one can choose to think about how to make positive changes for the future. Christmas day is not really a good day to “come out,” due to the distractions of what else is going on that day. But perhaps making a plan, deciding when, to whom, and how to come out, will be time well-spent in making positive plans for one’s self-improvement in the near future.

Think about it: you have one life, and the people in your life are going to be there for a long time. You can choose to make a positive difference in how you feel about it if you give yourself a chance.

So put your boots on, stand up, smile, and say, “I can do this.” It really does get better when you decide you want it to be so.

Christmas presents a unique blend of circumstances that can make for a range of challenges for the gay person — from awkward moments to the silent treatment from loved-ones. But remember, it is one day of 365, and life marches on. Make your own plan on how to move forward positively. If you don’t, then the struggles, hard feelings, and emotions of the holiday being “hard” will persist.

Life is short: be happy with who you are and how you will choose to live your life — positively and productively.

Breaking In New Boots?

Was Santa good to you and brought you a new pair of boots?  Perhaps you’re not accustomed to wearing boots that often, and want to know how to break them in?  Take some simple tips from a guy who has been wearing boots for well over 40 years as his exclusive form of footwear….

First, after you take the boots out of the box, make sure that there is no paper or cardboard stuffed deep in the foot of the boots. Better bootmakers do that sometimes.

Next, before you try to pull the boots on, check your feet — make sure you are wearing a decent pair of socks. The best socks to wear with boots are made of a combination of three components: cotton (for comfort); rayon/dacron/nylon synthetic (for longer wear and durability, as well as maintaining shape); and wool. Yes, wool. Why wool? Best for absorbing sweat and wicking it away from your feet, so your feel feel comfortable in boots all day long.

Contrary to popular myth, you do NOT need “boot socks” that come up high on your calf. If boots are made well, they will not rub on the inside of your legs, so regular socks (made of the three materials listed above) will work fine. Most of my socks are “gold toe” socks that I buy at KMart. I don’t spend tons of money on socks when what I can get at my local KMart will last me just as long.

Now — to your boots. Feel how stiff the shaft is. If the shaft is rather stiff — that is, if it doesn’t bend easily because the leather from which it is composed is thick, then I suggest breaking in the crease at the ankle manually. This is a rather simple but very important thing to do: hold the boot in one hand and crease the back of the boot shaft straight by bending it backwards, then forward, then backward again. (Please see this post and video for visual demonstration — it works the same for cowboy boots as it works for Dehner Patrol boots).

If the leather on the boot shafts is soft and bends easily, you can skip the manual ankle creasing method described above. But that manual creasing method is very important for stiff-shafted boots, because you want the crease to come straight across at the back of the ankle, and not at an angle. If the crease forms at an angle, it will probably rub against the back of your ankle inside the boot and cause sores. Once the crease forms it cannot be “retrained,” so get the crease right from the beginning.

Then hold the boot by the boot straps (or if necessary, use boot pulls attached to the boot straps) and pull one boot on one foot, then the other, by pointing your toes into the boots and just pulling. The boot should come on rather easily, but it may take a bit of a tug. That’s okay. New boots are stiff and aren’t easy to pull on or take off before they are completely broken in.

Stand up. However, before you walk in them, try wiggling your toes. Can you feel your toes inside the boots? Do your toes feel squeezed, or do the feet feel like they are swimming? Try flexing your foot up and down within the confines of the boot foot. Again, does it feel squeezed or like there is too much room?

If the foot feels like it is squeezed, then the boots may be too small. Even if they are marked your regular shoe size, there is no consistency from manufacturer to manufacturer on actual size. If the boots are small on you, you won’t wear them. See if you can exchange them for a half-size larger.

If the foot feels like it is swimming — that actually is a good thing. Get a pair of gel insoles (such as made by Dr. Scholl’s) that you can find at any drug store or well-stocked grocery store. Follow the directions to trim the gel insoles for the insides of your boots, then carefully fit them in. I think you will find — as I do — that gel insoles provide much more comfort and allow the boots to be worn all day long with comfort.

Then stand tall, walk proudly as the Boot-wearer you should be. Be careful where you step — for example, if you got new cowboy boots, they probably have all-leather soles, and therefore do not provide traction if you walk on wet, snowy, or icy surfaces. If you got motorcycle boots with a lug sole, you won’t have trouble with traction, but you probably will have trouble with mud and dirt getting stuck in between the lugs. If you don’t take your boots off before coming indoors, then once the mud dries up, it will fall out — and you’ll be in a situation that I have been in too often — the other half has words with you about being such a slob. (ooops!)

At the end of the day, use a boot jack or ask a spouse/partner/friend to pull the boots off. It’s hard for one person to pull of a pair of boots by himself if the boots are still stiff and not broken in.

Leave the boots in open air but out of direct sunlight for at least a day, so the boots can air out. Sweat from the feet and legs absorbs into the interior of the boot and takes a while to evaporate. If you don’t let boots “breathe” between wearings, then it may turn into a growth medium for fungus, which can be bad for your feet. So guys — if you like to wear boots as I do — use this excuse to justify having at least two pairs, if not more, of boots in your wardrobe.

Soon enough, you will find out that boots are far better for your feet, and you look better in them, too. You will find a place to donate your dress shoes and begin wearing boots to work each day of the year (as I do.)

For more tips and information on wearing boots (including wearing boots with khakis or business suits), visit my “Cowboy Boot How To” on my website.

Life is short: wear boots!

Family Christmas

Okay, I know I said the other day that I wouldn’t be back until after Christmas, but I had to post this photo that was taken yesterday. Great Uncle BHD with his twin great nephews….

I rode my Harley on Friday to visit them. 100 mile round-trip in 48F (9C) temperatures. The sun was supposed to come out, but it didn’t. Kinda chilly, but manageable in full leathers and tall boots which kept me warm.

The ride home wasn’t nearly as cold as the ride on the way there due to the warmth in my heart from time spent with my family. I am so lucky to have the family that I have. Warm, generous, loving, thoughtful, and caring people who warm my heart every minute of every day.

Fortunately, my partner is stable, but still not well… but he was able to rest at home and I felt secure enough that I could leave for a half-day to visit family and that he would be okay (and that his mother would keep an eye on him.)

Merry Christmas to all… see you after the holiday!

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

Tidbits, Updates, and Pause

Best wishes to visitors of my blog, returning or new. Things have been kinda topsy-turvy at the ol’ BHD household, so this post will hold until after Christmas.

Whassup?

Man, I *dislike* that expression. It’s so sloppy… I am such an English snob. But I digress.

My partner and I are hosting his mother in our home. She has been with us since 18 December. Let’s just say… this year … we will be delighted to take her back home right after Christmas.

While this blog has been on a temporary off-topic off-schedule, I have received a few questions or suggestions that will become great blog articles, which I intend to write and to post in the near future.

Some questions have included:

  • If you don’t like the white stitching on boots like Chippewa harness boots, what alternatives are there? (Hint: just dye the white stitching black — don’t get a different, lower-quality brand like Chinese-made Frye boots just because their stitching is black).
  • What kind of leather jacket do you recommend that is masculine in appearance yet doesn’t have too much bling–chrome zippers, snaps, etc.? (Hint: a motorcycle cop jacket).
  • What do you do when boots are finally broken in and you discover that the support for your arches is no longer there? (Hint: Dr. Scholl’s gel insoles.)
  • I received a pair of boots won on an eBay auction, but the seller sprayed them with something that has left behind a strong smell of fragrance. Should I try to get the seller to accept a return of the boots and refund my money, or what? (Hint: gel odor remover from your local building supplies retailer will do the trick).

These are some examples of legitimate questions that I have received and would serve as good posts for this blog. I just need to find some time to write them.

My last day of work-work for this year is today, Thursday, December 22. I hope to spend time with my family on Friday, visiting the youngest members, twin Great Nephews. Friday afternoon will find me in my chef’s kitchen, preparing The Feast of the Seven Fishes for my mother-in-law, who requested the meal. It’s a rather large production. Thankfully, one of my senior pals who is a retired pescadore (fish monger) brought me 13 varieties of “fishes” to prepare for M-I-L to enjoy with her usual (noisy) gusto. I just hope she eats eel — yuck!

Friday evening, spirits and my partner’s condition willing, we will enjoy a Christmas concert by a national celebrity at our county’s community college that my partner has wanted to hear for months. I just hope his mother enjoys the concert; regardless, the concert is for my partner’s enjoyment. Perhaps the heavy meal of many fishes will put M-I-L to sleep (LOL!).

Christmas Eve, my family is switching its Friday Night Family Dinner to Saturday, when we will enjoy festa dei sette pesci (again!) with about 70 siblings, nieces, nephews, the “greats,” in-laws, and probably some out-laws, too. My partner and his mother will remain at home because my family overwhelms them with the noise, loud conversations, camaraderie, and fun. But Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the fam… and they know it. We all feel it. So I’ll feed M-I-L and my partner early, then take off.

Christmas Day will be quiet. Tell you the truth, it will be rather dull with no surprises. My partner and I gave each other a gift this year by buying a treadmill, which I have been using now for about a month. I’m getting better at it, and anticipate it will help with weight maintenance (or better yet, help me shed a few more pounds.)

I will visit a few senior pals on Christmas Day, and weather permitting, I hope to ride my Harley to visit a few kiddos in my family. However, I’ll be home in the early afternoon to begin preparing our Christmas dinner for three. M-I-L will enjoy it — she always does — with mannerless, loud gusto — and we’ll once again retire into the basement and watch — more sappy Christmas movies! Aaaak!

Well, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or whatever you celebrate — have a good time, be safe, be well, be-lieve in the spirit that brings us together at this time of year.

See you around the bend…

Life is short: believe in what you do, in who you are, and in what the future will bring brightly to those who believe.

Positive Focus

So yeah, my last post on this blog was a bit of a downer and uncharacteristic of my usual nature in writing more positively and/or instructively. Sorry about that; nobody likes a gripey sourpuss, myself included. However, it is my blog, and it serves as a bit of a catharsis to write about how I am feeling.

I received some direct email messages as a result of that blog post, and I appreciate what my friends had to say in expressions of concern.

Where do we go from here?
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A Different Christmas

This year, everything is different. Priorities have changed, the feeling of being on pins and needles, tiptoeing on egg shells… all that. And more. Yep, this year, it is a different Christmas.

What is different?

My partner is seriously ill with a recently-developed disabling illness that cannot be treated to make it go away or chase it into remission. His mother is staying with us, but that is for her benefit, not ours — so she will not be alone at Christmas. Actually, she is making things more difficult. Each time my partner has an outwardly visible spell of his disease, his mother breaks into tears — blaming herself and genetics for making her son so miserable.

So there I am, trying to help my partner by calming and reassuring him while I have to balance his mother’s behavior and calming her, too. She cannot understand that while her daughter’s arthritis may have a genetic link, her son’s chronic, debilitating, ailment has nothing to do with genetics. To her, everything is black-and-white — she did it, it’s her fault, and the world will end.

Yeah, this Christmas is different. No holiday cheer. No visits by family to our home. Nope, no way. My partner doesn’t want to see anyone for any reason. I don’t blame him; I understand.

But while this situation has shaken me to my core, I think, really, how fortunate we are … My partner has good health insurance, which pays some rather hefty bills for expensive tests and medical specialists. While dealing with the insurance provider is aggravating, I learned from helping my aunt and uncle in their last years of life with whom to ask to speak at the insurance company, what to ask for, and how to advocate for the proper care. That is a load I willingly take off my partner’s mind, as he should not have to deal with the shenanigans of his health insurance provider’s procedure-following drones.

I think how fortunate we are … that we have a comfortable home that we built (literally). My partner can be comfortable in different rooms — a quiet one in which to rest, a comfortable one to watch his serene backyard forest, a spacious eat-in kitchen in which he can have meals, and a comfortable basement media room where he can watch all his Tivo-recorded programs.

I think how fortunate we are … that my partner has someone willing, able, and wanting to help, and I am that someone. I don’t know how single people manage when they have a health crisis. (That’s why I volunteer to help widowed seniors so much… everybody needs somebody.)

I think how fortunate we are … my partner has longevity from his employer with ample sick leave. If he needed it, he can take off nine months. He also has short- and long-term disability insurance, too. That will defray the usage of his sick leave so that he could remain employed, receiving his full salary, yet not have to go to work for up to two full years. Then he can retire, if need be, and get a good pension. Ah, the benefits of staying with the same employer for 36 years.

I think how fortunate we are … we owe no debt. Being financially stable and sensible, we never spent money that we didn’t have. We did not take on debt that we couldn’t pay. We don’t have a car note, second mortgage, home equity line, or credit card debts carried month-to-month at exorbitant interest rates. What we own cannot be taken away from us through foreclosure or debt liens. There is tremendous relief in knowing that a major worry — financial problems — will not compound our current situation.

I think how fortunate we are … that I have a loving, caring, and thoughtful family who are right by my side, offering to do whatever I ask … or even if I don’t ask. They’re there. They love both of us, even as ornery as my partner gets when he isn’t feeling well. Having that family bedrock does wonders for my soul and sustains me during this trying time.

In this season of Christmas, I think seriously about my faith. My spirit is one of deep faith that keeps me going when the going is rough; keeps me focused on the positive, rather than dwell on the negative; keeps my spirits pleasant, regardless of outward forces to the contrary. This is one thing that is not different this Christmas: I still believe. I have faith. We will make this situation better.

Life is short: show those you love that you love them… and try to enjoy the holidays, whatever you celebrate.