Living in Maine…the Quirks

north-church-12-16Today was a true test of my patience.  When I woke up it was only  3 degrees outside, so it was really bone chilling cold.  I went to get water for the coffee maker and encountered the fact that the pipes were dangerously cold…as I couldn’t get water, meaning they had an ice block already!  Luckily by working the water for a few minutes I got it flowing again and all was fine.

I went to work and everything was pretty good.  We did our Friday order at the store and I worked until 11am (I left early today, I usually work a couple of hours longer).  I got off work and got everything together to go register my vehicle.  I’ve been driving for a few days now on an expired registration. So, off to the motor vehicle place I went.  I had to go to the main office because our town hall is closed on Fridays.  I made the long drive up to the main office, which took me about 45 minutes.

I got to the office and found out that I could not register without going to the town hall first to pay the excise taxes.  Bummer!  I drove all that way, and now had to drive all the way back home – without having accomplished my mission.  I did take the time to update my drivers license, which took all of 5 minutes, while I was there.  I needed to update the address and have a new license photo taken.  So at least I got that done and off the list.  But still I am driving on expired plates until Monday when the town hall opens.

When I got home it was a mere 50 degrees in my house.  It seems the furnace wasn’t working.  Fuck.  Just what I needed, a 3rd obstacle in my day.  I had to search out and call the furnace repair guys and get them out here to solve the problem.  The furnace guys arrived and dismantled the unit, to find that I needed a new ignitor and new nozzles.  I had used regular oil in the tank, not blend as recommended, and the oil had slushed up in the filter.  It’s so fucking cold that even oil freezes!  The repair guys had to run for a part, but they did return and got it fixed and running once again.  I cranked it up to a whopping 72 degrees and let her rip.  Man, was it nice to come back from Walmart to a very cozy, warm house!

I got home after my trip to Walmart at around 7:00pm and I was some damned tired.   My eyes were closing as I was driving home – not a good thing!  I had just been at it all day and was beat to shit.  Once I settled in and got everything put away I had something to eat and then laid in the living room on the couch. I fell asleep very fast, and slept very hard.  At about 12:30am I fell OFF of the couch onto the floor in my sleep.  It was comical and luckily I didn’t hit my head on the heavy glass coffee table in front of the couch on my way down.  It startled me awake, that’s for sure!  I  blame Nola.  She sleeps along side of me and steals my space. She kind of “expands” during her sleep, spreading herself out in all directions.  So she had me on the very edge of the couch, thus my easy tumble off of it.

It was just one of “those” days.  Nothing could go right.  I was not letting any of it trouble  me too much, there was nothing I could do except just deal with each issue as it arose.  I kept my cool and managed to make it through the day without blowing a gasket.  Amazing because just a short few months ago I would have been losing it.

It was just a day of some weird luck, on the very coldest day of the year.  I’ve seen it cold here, but rarely does it get this cold ever.  And it’s supposed to start warming up today, then we are going to get a fresh new 6″ coat of snow and it’s going to be up in the mid-40’s tomorrow (Sunday), which will cause some icing and melting.   I need to focus on snow control today, making sure that I am clearing my driveway periodically so that I am not having to shovel or blow the snow all at once.  It’s easier if you go out and clear it up every couple of inches or so.  Once it gets deep and heavy it’s a bitch to clean up!

These are all great examples of life in Maine…we deal with Artic freezes, frozen pipes, furnace issues, snow control and town-halls that are closed on Fridays. I’m not complaining though, I know these things about living here and I accept them as part of the overall package.  Everywhere you can live has it’s quirks.  Plus, I do love living here, despite any of the little “hardships”.  It’s a great place to live and I enjoy it for the most part.

Hope you are staying warm wherever you are on this big blue marble.  What’s it like weather wise where you live right now?  What are some of the quirks you deal with living where you live?

Peace!   ~MB

fort-foster-sea-smoke

This picture was taken by Steve Mutch from Fort Foster in Kittery Point on Dec. 16, 2017. It’s a beautiful example of “sea smoke” on the water.  The structure is the old Coast Guard Station – which is currently being saved by the historical society and rebuilt. 

The top photo was taken by Philip Case Cohen and is of the old North Church in downtown Portsmouth, NH – just over the border, this is the closest city to me.  I love walking in downtown on a snowy day, it’s just beautiful and really puts me in the Christmas spirit.

Undetectable=Untransmittable

Yes, I said it.  Undetectable equals untransmittable.  This is a silent secret evidently in the HIV world.  I have known this for a long time, but the stigma around having HIV has kept me quiet about it too.  I’ve been reading a lot on the topic and I think that if people knew this that there would be a little less stigma and it could also lead to more people being tested, more medication adherence, and much more.

What it basically means is that someone who is undetectable (has no HIV present in their blood when tested) for at least 6 months cannot infect their sexual partners.

I am tested every 3 months.  They do two basic big tests.  One is my “viral load” test, which measures the amount of HIV in my blood stream.  The second is my CD4 cell count, which is also known as the “T-cell” count.  This is a measure of how strong my immune system is.  The higher the number the better.

I have been consistently testing in the zero range on my viral load tests now for over 3 years.  And my T-Cell count is always above 600.  (The average woman without HIV is around 500).

So, basically I am not someone who you can get HIV from in a sexual situation.  This is a huge relief to me personally, as that is always a worry with me.

The hardest thing for me about living with HIV is dealing with having to tell a potential partner that I have this condition.  I am very out with my status.  I have  been since the beginning (1992 for me) of living with this virus.  I found out in 1992, but I had had no high risk behavior for 3 years prior to my being tested, so most likely I contracted the virus in 1988-89 when engaging in IV drug use.  I believe I know when it happened specifically because I was always a very careful user, and didn’t make it a habit of sharing needles.

Telling a person who you may become sexually involved with at some point isn’t easy.  There is so much stigma surrounding the disease.  But I have found in my own experience that the more educated a person is in general the more accepting they are – and this is something that many have grown up with and know a good bit about now.  I am always open to questions, and I stay well-informed so that I have accurate and current information for anyone who asks.

Undetectable = Untransmittable

“People living with HIV on anti-retroviral therapy (ART) and virally suppressed, are not capable of transmitting HIV to a sexual partner.  With successful ART, that individual is no longer infectious.”

Dr.Carl Dieffenbach, National Institute of Health, 8/26/16

 

I couldn’t imagine dating in today’s world without knowing the status of my partner before we ever had sex.  I urge everyone to be tested.  It’s just normal protocol nowadays and something everyone should do. You can even do home testing now.  It’s become quick, easy and stays confidential.

Would you date someone with HIV, knowing this information above?  It’s a difficult question for many, because we remember when people were dying of AIDS because of this virus.  I remember vividly thinking I was going to be one of them a long time ago.  But now with today’s treatments and good living I am looking at living to a ripe old age and leading a normal life. Thank God.

Sunday Snipets

I am so fucking psyched for the Christmas holiday season this year!  Finally a year where I feel so damned good and things are really looking positive in my life.  I’ve got the world by the proverbial balls right now.  My family is great, the dogs are doing well, my house is in order and I have a new woman in my life. What more can a Butch ask for ?  Sure, I still have my share of hard stuff to deal with, bills and the such, but overall life is sailing along swimmingly!!!

I ordered Ivan Coyote’s new book, A Tomboy Survival Guide, and the Barnes and Noble bookstore emailed and said it’s ready for pick up!  I cannot wait to get it and begin reading the latest works of Ivan. I have all of Ivan’s other books, as a matter of fact I just loaned one to my best friend here.  I’ll have to ask her if she’s reading it yet.

I am looking for more good lesbian books to read and review here and on my YouTube channel.  If you have a recommendation or if you are a writer and want me to read and review your book, please contact me at mainelybutch@yahoo.com  Direct email is the best way to reach me.  I tried to email someone who wanted me to read and review a book and I evidently have the wrong email because when I sent it to the email she indicated in her comment it bounced back as undeliverable.  I WISH that WordPress would add an email account to our pages, that way a reader would not even have to leave the page to email a writer directly.  I do know if I would upgrade to a full website for my blog, which is hosted by WordPress too, that I would have that in the webpage package….so perhaps I will soon do that.  I need to register my web name and invest a few dollars into it I guess.  Perhaps I will seriously consider doing this, it only makes sense.

On the note of doing reviews, I am particularly fond of books about the Butch-femme dichotomy and lifestyle.  Since I am Butch and I tend to date femmes this only makes sense.  But I am also interested in books dealing with sexual identity, Butch and Trans issues and stories.  I blur the gender lines so much that I am often asked if I identify as Trans.  I do identify as Trans-masculine, but not as Trans-gender.  I’ve struggled with my identity for most of my life, and there was a time when I may have questioned my gender, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I am fine being female bodied, as long as I can do it in a masculine way!  I’m definitely the definition of Butch, by stereotype, and that just fits me perfectly.

As far as me writing a book, as I have been told I need to do by so many people, that’s a thought that is definitely in my head. I would love to write a book of short stories of my life experiences and adventures.  I just need to get lined up with a good editor who can push me in the right direction.  I have the stories, some even already on paper or in the computer, but I don’t know how to write a book, or how to put one together for publication.  All things that a good editor would know and would be able to guide me to do.  I suppose I should start looking around and querying as to who I should contact and with which publishing company I should be trying to work with to do a book.  Hmm….2017 is going to be a very big year I think!

Alrighty then, I am off to work on another blog.  What have you read that you think I would like to read?  I’m seriously looking for suggestions!!!  Peace!  ~MB

 

 

 

World AIDS Day 2016

I have been HIV positive since at least 1992 when I tested positive. That’s over 25 years now and counting.  This makes me what they call a “long-term survivor.”–for which I am very thankful. Today was World AIDS Day 2016.  I, like millions of others, stopped to remember those who have been lost as well as those who are still courageously living and fighting this virus every day.And tonight I watched as they turned Niagara Falls red in remembrance. It was very cool.  I watched live on Rise Up Against HIV ‘s live Facebook broadcast.  I liked that I got to participate like that too. It’s always been such a somber day for me.  Many years ago I stood up in front of a large  crowd at the local church, holding my year old niece in my arms, and spoke about living with this virus and wondering whether I would live to see her graduate.  Well, she’s almost 23 now and a marine biologist in Florida.  Not only did I see her graduate high school but cover as well.  I have been blessed for sure.

I know I am one of the lucky ones. I was infected in the late 80s when the drugs to combat the virus were not that good or available.  My treatments early on were horrible. I often suffered with side effects from them and it was miserable.  But I lived. I lived to see this day where I now take 4 drugs once a day to keep myself undetectable.  Which means that no virus can be found in my blood at this time.  My treatment is working.  My t cells are in the mid-600 range and I am healthy as hell.  I’m certainly one of the lucky ones and I know it.  I don’t take this life for granted; I know I have been given a second chance. Today I remember all of those I lost.

I have been blessed with the love a d support of my wonderful family and friends.  This is another respect in which I consider myself very lucky as so many don’t have this kind d of support in their battle with this disease. I feel for them.  I don’t know how I would live without the support and love I get from my family especially.  They have stood by me solidly all these years.  Yes, I am one lucky Butch.

On another note…I am trying to write every day now.  It’s something I have challenged myself to do from now on.  I am in need of topics and questions from you my dear readers!  I want to know what you would like me to talk about in these blogs; what interests you, what can I write about?  Please leave your comments below or email me directly at Mainelybutch@yahoo.com at your leisure. 

Peace.  MB

Last of November

It’s that last day of November, wow has this month flown by!  It feels like just yesterday it was early September.  It’s raining here in Maine and it’s cold.  I am just thankful that it’s not snowing!  I know that snow is inevitable but the longer we go without it the happier I am.  

I’m off from work today and not positive of what my day has in store just yet.  It’s very early and I just got up about an hour ago.  Yes, I am a very early riser!  My body just won’t allow me to sleep past 5am. Sleep is overrated in my opinion anyway.  I feel like I am wasting time if I sleep too long in the mornings.

I have been watching the news reports of Trumpy’s cabinet choices and nominations.  It’s been a virtual who’s who of straight white men parading across his golden carpet.  Sickening  to think that the alt-right is going to gain so much MORE power in our country.  It angers me and makes me want to find a group of like minded people around my area to gather and discuss strategies for us all to be of support to each other and to react to the outrage I am sure is yet to come.  I feel the real need to be prepared to protect myself and others from things I can only imagine are in store for us all.  

Tomorrow is World AIDS Day 2016 around the globe.  The theme this year is Hands Up for #HIVPrevention. I was reading that the new push for self-testing will help to give people better access to testing and information on accessing treatment and prevention.  I don’t know about self testing…mitt seems to me that having a test done by someone who understands the ramifications should that person test positive.  And taking someone with you when you get test results is a good idea.  I went alone 25 years ago.  I remember it like it was outlast week.  It was the day I felt like I had an expiration date stamped on my forehead.  I didn’t hear mush after the woman who told me I was positive told me.  I started immediately to think of how I was going to ever tell my girlfriend and my loved ones. And I asked for a retest on the spot.  I had to make sure that there was no mistake. But there was no mistake and I have been living with this virus in my blood for over 25 years now. In the first few years I did a lot of outreach and prevention work trying to get others to not make my mistake and to protect themselves.  Nowadays I keep up on thing and concentrate on keeping myself healthy and happy with my second chance at life.   Before the availability of the medications that I take every day to stay healthy and virtually HIV free, I lost a lot of friends to AIDS.  At the height of the epidemic there was no good  oh gmail like there is today. If only we had moved faster when this started they might all still be alive.  I’m one of the lucky ones. I managed to stay alive, suffer through many failed treatment options and live to see this day where we now have the potent drugs needed to sustain a healthy life living with HIV.  

SO…I am truly thankful for my life and for all of the support I have in it. I feel like I am certainly blessed in so many ways.  Tomorrow I will pause to remember those who weren’t so lucky and those who we have lost, but I will also remember that this fight isn’t over until we find a cure and make it accessible to all of those who need it.  I shall light a candle of remembrance.  And I will thank God for giving me a second chance and a chance to make a difference in the world.  

Purging before Christmas

I spent about 2 hours tonight rifling through the in-box of my email account.   I then deleted the entire in-box contents…after discovering that I had saved emails from people who I don’t even know anymore.  Disturbing to see them still. But all the emails are gone now, and my in-box is clean as a whistle.  Yay!  Feels good to have a fresh slate there.  I think I’ve been purging some pent up feelings lately, and doing that was just part of me getting rid of stuff that I didn’t need to be keeping for any reason whatsoever.

It was a good day to be Butch.  I raked leaves for 2 hours this morning and bagged them for curbside pick up.  I then hauled everything out of the shed (because I couldn’t get in there!) and neatly put it back in – after sorting through thing and making 3 piles, one for donation, one for keeping and one for the trash.  Then I reorganized things and got the stuff taken to it’s proper places, i.e. donations and trash.  I felt very accomplished after getting those two big tasks done.  And I worked alone today because I needed to do these things myself.  I needed some alone time, and I needed to exert myself physically to work off some pent up rage.  It worked, I am cool as a cucumber tonight.  My world is organized and I feel good about it.

I’m all ready for the holidays I think.  My tree is up and decorated real cute.  I spent some time by myself on Sunday after work decorating it.  Nola and Lulu just watched from their designated couch spots and thought about how insane I was being to be decorating a tree in the house!  haha.  I chose all of my favorite ornaments and then sorted the rest and donated what I no longer wanted to the Salvation Army store with the rest of the stuff I purged.  I have been working through my address book and writing out Christmas cards.  I find that to be a cool thing because it makes you think of every person who is in the address book for a few minutes, where they are in your life and what they mean to you.  It’s a good exercise I believe.  Of course there’s always the line through those who are no longer around, because of death or just plain ghosting (those that just disappear from your life for one reason or another).   2016-11-27-17-12-14

I need to look back through my blogs here and do some study on which posts garnered more views than others.  I would like to up my readership and need to figure out how.  I know these posts about my general life aren’t that interesting and it’s hot topics that seem to get more hits here.  Thus I am thinking of doing more blogs about those things and perhaps just a weekly update about life in general.

I watched a TED talk about How to Speak Up for Yourself by Adam Galinsky.  It was really a good talk and I highly recommend it to everyone, it’s a 15 minute long piece and the time will be well invested.  Personally, I learned that I need to have more self-confidence if I am going to stand up and ask for that raise at work that I feel I so deserve.   Perhaps today is the day I will find the confidence to ask for it.

 

The Truth Hurts Sometimes

I’ve met more than one woman in my life journey that could not handle all of the technicalities of being with me.  I admit, I am not easy to process.  I have a bit of a troubled history.  Don’t read me wrong, I’m a good person with some high morals and ethics, but I’ve taken some forks in the proverbial road of life that others have managed to avoid.  I’ve had issues with drugs and addiction.  That’s probably the one thing that I’ve struggled with most in my entire life.  When I was young I sought out a safety net for myself and found it substance abuse and the people involved with it.  I wised up in my late 20’s and got clean and sober for many years.  I did the typical “mid-life crisis” shit in my mid 40’s and backslid a bit.

I strive to keep that stuff out of my life now.  I stay away from the “friends” that I have that are involved in that world now.  That’s a big part of how I am staying clean and following the good road now.  I tend to let myself be influenced by them if I hang around them, so now I avoid them and I avoid the whole drug scene.

It’s really hard to meet women as you get older.  Being single isn’t easy in your 50’s, believe me.  But add a history of drug addiction to the menu and it becomes even more difficult.  I completely understand that some people do not understand me or understand addictions.  That is just the way that it is.  When I begin to show interest in anyone I make sure that they know 3 things about me right up front – why?  Because I would rather they walk away sooner rather than after I become attached to them – or God forbid, fall in love with them.  what are my 3 things?  1.  I am Butch and that will never change.  2.  I live with HIV infection, which is under control but it’s a fact of life for me….which leads me to #3…I am a recovering drug addict.

Those 3 facts put me into a whole new space with people.  Either they are able to handle it, and give me a chance, or they are not, which is completely okay.  I get it.  Those are 3 major pieces of who I am.  I can’t hide them very well.   And I don’t want to pretend that I can.  Those 3 things are only a small fraction of what I am made of, but they are important if you are going to be involved with me – or even be a friend to me.  It’s important that you understand that I struggle with all 3 on a daily basis.  That doesn’t mean that I am unhappy – quite to the contrary, I am very happy in general.  But I am well aware that these 3 things make me “different” than the typical 55 year old lesbian with 2 dogs and a college degree.  I bring a whole different scene to the table.

I have lived with my addiction and my HIV for many years.  One lead to the other obviously.  Yes, I was an IV drug user and this is how I contracted the virus.  I’ve been clean for many years, fell off the wagon and got back on a few times.  So what is involved for me is knowing what triggers me to fall off and avoiding it altogether.  I’ve gotten pretty good at that, and I am proud to say that living clean and right is what I strive to do every day now.

It’s not easy being with someone who has addiction in their history, and it’s even harder when you add HIV.   I know the precautions to protect my partner from HIV but there is no protection from addiction.  No guarantee that I won’t relapse again, except for my sheer determination to stay on the straight path.  I don’t know how to reassure someone that I will stay on this path.  I guess they either have to believe me, or not.  There is no magic bullet or cure – for either condition.

I don’t want to pursue anything beyond a basic friendship with anyone who can’t deal with the baggage that I carry.  I know everyone has their struggle in life and their burdens to bear, mine are just a little more difficult for some people to understand, and that’s perfectly fine.  There are zillions of other people out there to be involved with, I am just one.

I have been fortunate to have been involved over the years, with women who gave me the benefit of doubt; who trusted me and tried to understand my complications.  I’ve sincerely appreciated them.  I’ve been lucky.

Right now I am trying to deal with quite a full plate of issues in my personal life.  I’ve avoided bringing anyone else into my life for this reason.  But I so want someone special in my life on a regular basis.  I would like to let down that wall that keeps me by myself.  I’ve punished myself for the past 2 yeas now and I’m sick and tired of it.  I’ve seen people who say they care disappear more than once.  I built a wall around myself, insulated myself from hurt and despair.  But it’s not a happy place all the time.  I want to learn to trust again, and to love again.

I’m a good person, I am strong, sensitive and caring.  I deserve to find someone good who can deal with life with me and who won’t be afraid of my past.  Someone who sees me for who I am now and not who I once pretended to be.  But how can anyone believe in someone who has such a history?  I don’t know if it can be done, which is exactly what I fear the most.  (although my ex did it for almost 14 years and never let it sway how she felt about me…so perhaps it could be possible again.)  I long for a good strong relationship that will endure.  Something beyond “just friends” –dammit, I want to be loved and understood.  Maybe it’s just too much to ask for at this point.

Ok, let me close this up before my mind explodes.  I am trying so hard to just be cheerful for the holiday season, and to keep on keeping on.  But tonight I was reminded of my flaws (see above) and it stung hard.  I am hoping for the best, but prepared for the worst – as always it seems.  Sometimes the truth just hurts.  There’s no way around it.

Peace.  ~MB