Saturday, March 19, 2011

Better late than never

Yeah, I'm running a little late on the picture post. It really has been a whirlwind of a week. We'll get to that in a little bit though. For now lets see if I can get some images on here without having a mental breakdown.

When I was sitting in my wife's craft room the other day I noticed how inefficiently everything was set up. It wasn't her fault, she just didn't have the proper work spaces to do what she needed to do. So this whole concept started with the idea of building her a new desk. The one that was being replaced was approx 2 x3. I built it a few years ago out of an old dining room table. It worked at the time but that was before Highland Handmades took off. Fast forward to now and just one of her pieces of equipment can consume that whole spot. That's when I decided to come up with this.

The size of the room made it difficult to get a good picture but here it is. All 7 feet of her. For being built out of 2 x 4's and plywood I am quite happy with the way it turned out. As much as I would have loved to spend the time building my wife a truly hand crafted table out of cherry or maple, it really didn't make much sense. To build a desk the right way out of hardwood lumber would have taken me 30-40 hours of labor and probably doubled my cost. This table and the two sets of shelves you are about to see cost me about $65.00 in material and a total of about 10 hours labor. I'm a little bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my wood working. I have to keep telling myself that this is only a work table and it's going to get dinged and nicked up. It DOESN'T need to be made out of high grade lumber. I've become very spoiled working at the mill. I get to see some of the most beautiful hardwood lumber that would have most craftsmen drooling and I get first pick. In the end what it all boils down to is this...She's happy, so I'm happy.

Next we get onto the shelves. Obviously when you decide to build something you start with a plan. Whether it's a plan you find online, in a magazine or one you come up with yourself. You need something basic to go by. I sat down for the rest of that whole evening with a calculator and a graph paper notebook. I knew when I started I wanted to do a set of shelves as well. Somehow I had to figure out how to get that desk as well as a whole set of shelves out of one piece of plywood. I knew it was possible but my measurements and my cuts had to be dead on. These are what I wound up with...

Standing just a hair over 6 feet tall and 27 inches wide these took the place of the cheap aluminum ones we had. These are 10x stronger and in my opinion look 10x better, especially with a beautiful lady draped over them.

So I posted last Friday about how I was going to get the pictures up here. Well there are 2 reasons that didn't happen and here they are...

First off, as I was drinking my coffee Saturday morning I couldn't stop thinking about a few extra pieces of that beautiful cabinet grade plywood I had left. I have been bored out of my mind this winter sitting at home with nothing to do. Spending the past two days in the garage was kind of a dream come true, and I wanted more.

After a quick trip to the garage to get all the measurements of my left over pieces, I headed to the graph paper. After a few rough sketches and another cup of coffee, I headed back into the garage. Approximately an hour later I emerged with these.

I'm hoping these little guys will come in handy. I fashioned them together in such a way that they were meant to be versatile. 24" wide by 10" deep and 16" tall, these guys will fit on top of just about any desk or cabinet. The way they are built would also allow them to be hung straight from a wall. They are good for just about anything you can think of, books, bobbins, beer bottles. Whatever you need for your upcoming work day.

When I started this whole plan of revamping the work area I had no intention of coming up with this second set of shelves. I am really pleased with how much I got out of the one sheet of plywood with very little waste. And not to toot my own horn, I think they look pretty good too.

By the time I had managed to get these shelves to their finished state and up in her craft room it was about 3 pm. We had dinner plans at 4 so I needed to get cleaned up and out the door.

A little over 14 months ago a friend of mine had a little baby girl. Karlee is one of the sweetest little girls you will ever meet, but there has always been something wrong. She's had jaundice for months. They have gone to doctors all over the state and are now going to Boston to try and figure out what is causing her liver problems. Well they finally nailed it. The problem is, no one has ever seen it before. Their best solution is to give her a liver transplant.

They have all been through so much that some people decided to throw them a benefit supper. It was a donation at the door spaghetti feed with a 50/50 drawing, ticket/prize raffles and auctions galore. People and businesses really stepped up for this one. There were over 50 items donated for the silent auction. 2 dozen $25 gift cards donated for another raffle and at least 30 themed gift baskets donated for the basket raffle.

We tried to help out what we could by donating this little beauty to one of the basket raffles...

This basket consists of two of our bulky weight yarns dyed up in Autumnish colors and aptly named "Bushel". We also put in a brand new set of bamboo needles and the 'Harvest Wheat Scarf Pattern' that my wife designed herself. I won't lie..I sneaked a peek in the can to see how the response was to the basket...I was pleasantly surprised...sssshhhhh

The turn out was amazing. The dinner was held at the Brownville Elementary School in the gym and let's just say, it was probably a good thing the local fire marshal was attending as a dinner guest and not on business. They served a little over 400 meals and they estimated that there between 100-200 people came that just came to socialize and put in for the auctions, etc.

In a small town area where the two closest towns combined only equals about 3200, a 600+ turn out in my mind is extraordinary. When it was all said and done they raised just shy of $10,000 dollars for baby Karlee. A true testament of how small town life can step up, even when the world and the economy are going to hell. On that night I was proud to say I was born and raised in Brownville.

As I stated this week has been a roller coaster ride and a half. I would like to explain more but this post is already long enough. I will come back sometime in the next couple days and try to get everyone caught up on the happenings as well as the regular segments.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend, folks!

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Great Flood of 2011...

Actually it's a pretty minor flood. Some of the smaller streams and rivers are supposed to spill over from the inch and half of rain we are getting today. But, the rain is melting this @$#%$*! snow therefore it's GREATTTTT. Yay for springish like weather!!!

Let's just jump right into things shall we. Health wise I am still in a complete holding pattern. I still don't have any answers to anything and I still don't have any appointments booked with the cardiologist or the weight loss clinic. I know for a fact that both places have received my referrals so I'm not real sure what the hold up is.

Also, both my primary care doctor and my knee surgeon have reneged on their promises to write me letters of clearance to go back to work. The letter my knee surgeon sent to the mill is not what we discussed when I spoke to him. He maintains that it is and isn't willing to budge. The primary has decided she will not clear me until I meet with the cardiologist. I expected this to begin with. What upsets me is that she told me she would clear me and got my hopes up only to turn around and change her mind. At this point I don't know when I will be going back to work and it's looking like the knee surgery might have to get put on hold until next year.

I am on short term disability through my job. I am only allowed 26 weeks of disability a year. Right now I am already on week no. 6. I am afraid that by the time I meet with the cardiologist and figure things out with them and what may have to be done with my heart I will not have any time left for the knee surgery. I don't like the idea of this but right now there is absolutely nothing I can do. The mill isn't running to full capacity right now due to the economy and they certainly aren't willing to take any chances of bringing me back without clearance. I'm in a hurry up and wait kind of mood.

It's no big secret that I love wood working. My love of building things started at a young age being around my Grandfathers who were both master carpenters. Over the years I have built everything from cribbage and cutting boards to chairs, bird houses and book cases. I love working with my hands and there is a deep, deep satisfaction when you get to use something that you yourself made. We are into our third year of Highland Handmades and as it has grown it has slowly and unstoppably consumed our home. I give my wife quite a bit of grief about it but in all reality I don't really mind. She loves what she is doing and I have to fully admit, I enjoy it too.

on Wednesday as we were trying to get some packages put together and sent out it became all to apparent that our "work station" aka a desk, wasn't working at all. So being the completely bored out of my mind craftsman that I am, I devised a plan of building my wife a whole new work area.

After hemming and hawing for a few hours and trying to pry some ideas and opinions from my wife I came up with a plan. Thursday morning I made a flying trip to Home Depot with my trusty sidekick, Jax. We made it home about 11a.m. and I spent the next 5 hours toiling away in the garage. The end result is a 36" tall table that measures 24" deep and 84" long. It's built out of 2x4 frame work and topped with a 3/4" piece of cabinet grade plywood that is trimmed out in basswood. I have to admit that I am quite pleased with how it turned out. Today when I am done blogging I am headed back into the garage to try and fashion together a new set of shelves. Currently we have a set of the cheap aluminum ones which in all reality the sewing machine that is setting on them is too much weight.

When Heather has a moment (hopefully tonight or tomorrow) I am going to ask her to help me post some pictures on here of the two pieces. I would try to do it myself but the last time I tried posting pictures on here I damn near had a fit.

I do have more to say but since I will be posting again tomorrow I am going to cut this one a little short.

Have a great day folks

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The next edition

My life is changing.

It's happening in both the ways I have wanted and hadn't. There's not much I can do about the things I didn't want except to try to heal, fix and improve them for the future.

I've come to the realization that with these changes are permanent. Again some because they have to be, some because I want them to be.

I've tried hard never to take my life for granted. I admittedly fail at that sometimes. I can't anymore. I have known for a very long time that life can be snuffed out quickly and I think the last couple weeks has been a stark reminder of this.

I'm not trying to sound all down and depressed here, it's really quite the opposite.

I want to do more with my life. Do all the things I've dreamed of and go to the places, see the things, experience the experiences. That way whenever I do have to move on. I can do so saying I did things my way.

Part of the change I have decided is to open myself more to people. Share the things I experience and discover. So on that note, I give you the newest edition of "A Bear's Tale". Gone is the generic black theme and up comes something a lot more personal and something I love. I love maps, old, new it doesn't matter. I can sit there for hours and paw over them. I love seeing how things used to be a century or two ago and how they are now. I think it's kind of a fitting theme to my new outlook. Old changing to new.

You'll see I've also added a couple lists, which I will be updating regularly and may be adding more categories as things go on. Music is something I haven't really talked about much on here which is amazing because it is a huge part of my life. I have loved music for as long as I can remember. I listen to it every day, I used to play several instruments. I love the making of the instruments and everything about the whole industry in general. It's time I start passing a little of that love along. I'm also thinking about putting up a places to go and events list. What do you think?

I'm trying to make this place, my little blip of the internet more personal. Before it felt like just a blank canvas to throw out a few stories and updates. I want to make this place my online home. I want to make it feel more like me and not something everyone has.

We'll see if I can succeed in my new mission. I'm glad I've got you all here with me because it's definitely going to be an interesting ride.

Have you ever...

had that feeling that so much is going on and you're trying so hard to make sense of everything and what to do that when you think of it, you just feel tired?

That's kind of where I'm at. The last time we talked I had said how I had made the trip to the ER with the chest pains, etc. Well, over the last few weeks I have been put through a battery of blood tests, stress tests, imaging test and the works. So far what I know is that my blood pressure is running a little high. Nothing extreme but they have started me on a low dose of hypertension meds and a daily regiment of aspirin.

The second thing that I know is that there IS some damage done to my heart. After completing both a treadmill stress test and a nuclear dye/adrenaline test they have determined there is some damage from a past cardiac event even though my heart seems to be functioning as properly as it can at this point. I DO NOT know the extent of the damage or what might have caused the damage. It could have been a heart attack, a weak muscle, anything and I don't know. I am being sent to a cardiologist in the city and I don't even have the appointment date yet.

Right now I am beyond frustrated with my lack of knowledge. I have a doctors appointment in a week and half with my primary care and I'm hoping I'll get a few more answers then. Tuesday I met with my knee surgeon and we have both agreed that the surgery has to be put on hold until this whole mess can be cleared up. He doesn't want to take any extra chances since he is putting me in an extensive surgery for 4 to 5 hours which will be hard enough on my system to begin with.

He is adamant about the surgery, however. After talking it over with him there is no real other treatment route to go. He hates the idea of doing this extensive of a surgery because there are risks involved but as he put it "you've got a set of tires that are way out of alignment and have been for a long long time, sooner or later those tires are just going to blow and there's no repairing them at all". If we can repair my knee the way he wants to Now I should be good to go for a replacement later on down the road. If I don't do anything and suffer through it, he said the chances of doing anything in a few more years will be nil.

So I guess thats about enough of the health crap for now. The weight loss has been pretty much non existant since the heart issues started because I was told to do no strenuous activities except light walking and lets face facts. It's Maine. It's winter. It's -25 fucking degrees. I'm not walking. I have been gingerly riding the exercise bike but its not moving me forward just keeping me where I'm at which I guess is better than going up.

So what else has been going on? This past weekend Heather and I made our way down to Freeport to the first (that we know of) fiber/yarn show of the year. We weren't vending at this particular show, just going to check it out as neither of us had ever been. I was impressed with the venue and the amount of people that were there. We met up with some other vendors we had talked to and got to know at previous shows. It was fun catching up with our friends and it really got us geared up for the show season this year. Our first show isn't until May. Now we're trying to find one in April cause we just want to do it that badly.

Since we are on the subject of fiber and yarns, I have made a very big decision in my life. We, at some point in the future, are going to own a buffalo. Yes, you read that correctly. I said a buffalo. I have always loved and admired buffalos. There are a couple different buffalo/bison farms in the state which I have visited over the years just because I love watching them so. Well, it turns out that buffalo down is a very desirable fiber. It is all harvested very ethically which I love and when I found this all out I decided I wanted a pair of buffalo down mittens. Heather took to the task of finding some down and then we both said in unision "Holy Shit".

Buffalo down goes for on average $100 AN OUNCE. not a pound...not half a OUNCE. It takes roughly 4 ounces to do a pair of mittens. Now its understandable that you really don't get that much fiber from a buffalo in one shot because basically you just walk around picking up pieces that have shed off. It takes a while to collect enough worthy of spinning.

So we let the idea of the mittens go and after many days of pondering to myself I said that I would really love to own a buffalo one day. I got online and did some research and I found out that although they are huge animals and do require a little room they are quite easy to maintain and a lot more affordable than most people think. A heifer costs on average around $1200 and a bull costs around $1400.

I know I'm not very smart but it seems to me that in reality you should be able to recoup your costs of the animal within a year or two just on the fiber alone. I could be wrong. I think though, if we had the right piece of land with good grazing and watering capabilities a buffalo would sustain itself for the most part, and most of my research backs me up on this. So yes. I will own a buffalo. a big furry cuddly buffalo. and I will hug him and squeeze him and I will name him George.

So reading is a big part of my life. Ever since I was a wee lil one I always preferred books to toys. So I thought as a new addition to my blog I would start a little snippet about what I'm reading and what I think of it. If any of you who read this enjoy reading as much as I do (and yes, Heather this even means you), tell me about it. I love hearing about new books and am open to suggestions. Well except for really sappy romance novels, sorry guys I just can't do it.

So currently I am reading two series but for now we are going to stick with the one I have my nose in today. The series is the "King Raven" trilogy by Stephen R. Lawhead. What Lawhead has done has taken the Robin Hood legacy, flipped it upside down and made it all grown up for us big people. The books are aptly titled "Hood", "Scarlet", and "Tuck". Hood starts off the series with a young Welsh prince without a care in the world except attracting the attention of Merian. Normans have taken over England and are making conquest for Wales. His father the king is killed trying to save his land and the prince himself becomes the hunted as well. Almost killed after being captured by the Normans he is taken deep into the greenwood of Wales and brought back to life by what he deems an old witch. Towards the end of the book you start to see the formation of the hero but in a far different light. Also in this book you see how Lawhead has taken the classic characters of Little John and Friar Tuck and breathed a new life into them.

I am currently about half way through "Scarlet". I love it. I can't say enough how much I love it and how much I thouroughly enjoy the way that Lawhead writes. This book starts off with Will Scarlet in a Norman prison relaying his story to a priest of his adventures with the hood. I can say with all honesty, in the thousands of books I have read in my lifetime that I believe this Will Scarlet is my favorite character ever. As I read this book I can so clearly hear Will Scarlet's voice in my head it's like I'm sitting there in the prison listening in on the conversation. If you at all enjoy the idea or story of Robin Hood and you can keep an open mind, please, please, read this series. This is a stripped down, raw, taken back into the earth, natural version of Robin Hood.

Stephen Lawhead is very quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I began to read another one of his novels, The Skin Map, but quit halfway through since the next book isn't due out for atleast another 9 months. I'm the type that likes to read them bang bang boom style. From what I read however, I would recommend it as well.

I know this is a long post already but I need to keep with my commitment of sharing a little snippet or story of mine that brings back a happy memory. I know my wife loves this one so I'll put it out there for those of you who haven't heard it yet. I was a little bit of a hellraiser when I was younger. I always had a good time one way or another, usually at my own expense and other peoples amusement. If you dared me not to do something or told me I couldn't, I proved you wrong.

So one night I was in Bangor with my brother and a friend of ours. It was about 7:30pm and we were at McDonald's. It wasn't packed but there were a few people in there. As you probably know most McDonald's are nothing but plate glass windows on three sides and as we were walking out my friend dared me I wouldn't do a belly press on the glass. Now you got to remember..I weighed about 340 at the time. It took me about .5 seconds to decide and sure enough a guy half way through a bite of his mcchicken got a site I'm sure he still hasn't forgotten. I'll admit the glass was a bit cold and it was hot out so it left a nice ummm "outline" we'll call it on the glass. As we jumped in the car and sped off laughing we did a lap around the McD's to find that the outlines of my curvacious upper half were still dominantly steamed into the glass and the guy as well as a couple others looking at the window horrified.

The moral to this story? Don't eat at McDonald's...It's bad for your health any way you look at it.