Saturday, February 9, 2008

Ever feel like a number?


The following is just something I put up on an online service earlier this week (you know the kind— online dating). {groans} LOL!!! At any rate, this may give you a little more insight into the kind of guy I am – as well as what kind of guy might interest me when it comes to dating (or more)…

About Myself

What to say that’ll make you like me! How about if we just keep it real and if you like what you hear, great; if you don’t, you can simply move on, no hard feelings.

I’m not always the most courageous guy on the block but I have my values which I try hard to uphold. (And if anybody threatens someone I love or care deeply about, well, hell hath no fury… you get the picture.) I suppose my philosophy on objects is that while the material things in life are nice to have around – you can’t take them with you. I’ve made a lot of money and I’ve lost it all and basically, what I’ve learned is this. When my ticket is called the only thing that’ll matter is “how will I see myself when that day arrives?”

On the day I die (many years from now – I hope!)…

Will I think of myself as one who embraced life, seizing opportunities to make every moment count – or as somebody who ‘floated through, unwilling to cause even the slightest ripple in the pond; to make any kind of an impact or leave even the smallest of legacies? Will I be a man of substance; someone who was willing to be a friend to others, able to be counted upon — or just another face in the crowd who’s only interest was “what’s in it for me?” Will family have played a major role in my life – or will my family really even know me? Will I be missed by those I leave behind? Did I take the time to tell those whom I care about … that I truly love and care for them?

I’m a hopeless Romantic. I have strong opinions and I think I have pretty good values. Even so, I try not to judge others when their own values/opinions differ from my own. It’s true we are all a part of the community of man but we are also individuals. We’re entitled to reach for our own dreams and live our own lives according to our values. Also, we each have crosses to bear and vices to feed (we’re not perfect). But… each of us can (and should) take the time to touch another’s life in some small way; to do things every now and again, for somebody else, without any expectation of personal gain.

My Hobbies…

Include camping and getting out on the lake on my Sea Doo. I absolutely love nature and if I ever won the lottery you can bet your [butt] I’d buy about 300 acres (upon which I’d build my own version of paradise, building a spacious, comfortable log cabin right in the middle of it all). I enjoy people, as well, so I suppose such a place could become a bed and breakfast. Getting away to nature is what keeps me sane (if you want to think of me as being so). I mean, what better way is there to commune with God or Spirit than to remove yourself from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, to enjoy the natural wonders this world has to offer?

I also enjoy writing poetry and a bit of photography. Some of my poetry has been published but I wouldn’t make a big deal of it. (I think it was more of a scam to get me to purchase one of their books. LOL! That said, the poem, imo, was quite good.) I’m proud of my photography, as well.

Who I’d Like To Meet

You don’t have to be hopelessly romantic yourself (but I certainly won’t stop you). You should have strong family values and be willing to put yourself out there; for yourself, your loved ones and others. You needn’t be “Mother Theresa” but shouldn’t be selfish either. I’m not interested in narcissistic personalities. If you’re only cute and hunky… you might be a pleasant distraction but if you aren’t participating in life for some of the right reasons we probably won’t date for long. I find myself attracted to younger guys … I don’t know why that is. Maybe I’m attracted to a younger man’s zest for life – but I’m open to a serious relationship with someone my own age (supposing you “live” life). We never know how much time life will afford us; one has to make every moment count for as much as he or she can.

Basically, Life is intended (imo) to be enjoyed so enjoy it for God’s sake!


Some people think, when they’re in a relationship, that they belong on a pedestal (or that they should put their partner on one). If I meet and fall in love with someone, sure, he’ll be my Number #1. The person I’ll think about during those lulls at the office and the one I’ll happily come home to every night, without fail or delay. But, I’ll know he’s a person just as I am; just as prone to making mistakes as I can be. (We’re only human, after all. Neither of us needs to be held to expectations we’re inevitably going to fall short of. We will likely have moments when one will disappoint the other. When that happens, we talk about it and move past, forgiving and looking toward the future.) Communication is key!

Any special person in my life should never have cause to question my feelings for him. I’m not afraid to express my love; he shouldn’t be either. Goes back to being a romantic, I suppose.

I don’t expect fireworks at first sight, but if the attraction heats up it’d be nice to know we’re both working toward something long-term. If you’ve problems committing, you should say so up front. I won’t hold it against you but it’s always nice to know where one stands, in the grand scheme of things. If the dating does [eventually] work into something long-term, know that monogamy is the ONLY word in my dictionary. If you’re a slut, keep walking. {laughs}

This is probably as good a place as any to mention I’m HIV-positive. It’s part of the reason why I’m insistent on monogamy. Right after I ended my last serious relationship, I discovered my partner of 6.5 years had been lying to me about his own HIV status. For lack of discussion, just know I accepted him at his word and as a result, made some bad decisions while he and I were together. Those decisions led to my being infected with the virus. I’m healthy now but others should be aware of this up front. To some, it’s a deal breaker. To those who are better informed, it’s a matter of me being honest about my health status; one which precludes anything BUT safe sex. Just know that I won’t stand for behavior by anyone I care for (we’re talking “boyfriends” here) which could put that person at risk of being infected. If you’re already HIV-positive, it’s a matter of taking precautions to avoid your being re-infected; if your negative, it’s a matter of keeping you this way.

(Oh, was that a tad bit of a let-down? Sorry..
Better to get it out of the way now if it’s a deal-
breaker -but on to more pleasant talk… )

I enjoy getting together with friends but generally don’t prefer to be the “center of attention.” Anybody I’m dating can have as much or as little of the stage as he requires or desires. I won’t be competing. {winks!}

I’m not interested in loners or total introverts (again, I enjoy spending time in social gatherings) but I also enjoy down-time. I can fully appreciate those quiet, intimate moments where we just stay in, snuggled up in front of a good movie or roaring fire. I suppose it could sometimes be said that I live for those moments, being the hopeless romantic that I am.

My Accomplishments

In the twenty+plus years since I moved to Dallas, I’ve done my fair share of dating and have had a couple of serious relationships, as well. I’m single so (obviously) the relationships failed for one reason or another. Feel free to ask why but understand that I [try] not to dwell on those periods of my life. Doing so serves no real purpose (which isn’t to say I haven’t learned from my mistakes or even that I won’t talk about them). That said, my last serious relationship was particularly difficult so be prepared to earn my trust slowly. If you enjoy playing mind games, move along (I’m simply not interested in mind games or drama).

In closing, know this— While I lost pretty much everything seven years ago, I went on to rebuild my life. It isn’t everything I want it to be [yet] – but I’m getting there slowly and surely. Make no mistake about it, I’m not perfect but I have my self-respect. I demand no less from others; for myself as well as those I love.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Feeling nostalgic (Thinking of Grampa Smith and Gaga)


Well, a friend of mine got me to thinking today when he blogged about memories of his grandpa so I thought I would share a couple of memories of my own. The first is of Grandpa on Mom’s side of the family. Sadly, he was lost to me early in life when he died. The last memory I have of him is there in the hospital. I can STILL see the box planter with all of the plants within, located just next to the stairs leading up to the higher floors of the hospital.

At any rate that wasn’t the memory I wanted to share. This grandpa liked his cigars. My cousin and I, who pretty much grew up together for the first six years of our life, would sometimes get into Grandpa’s cig stash. One day he caught us and (I think in an effort to dissuade us from smoking in the future) he made us smoke an entire cigar each. We went GREEN (and you know, I don’t think we ever did touch another cigar of his after that).

The other memory involves us being VERY naughty. Grandpa would NEVER spank or discipline us. We were HIS boys! …Um, but one time my cousin and I sort of got a little bit out of hand when we filled up the gas tank of the lawnmower with gravel. Oh, poor Grandpa. He had to take the lawnmower apart and clean everything up. When complete, Grandpa went into the house to tell Grandma and my mom not to let us anywhere near the lawnmower again. (Meanwhile, we had gone out the back door and …. you guessed it; filled up the mower with gravel [again]. )

I don’t understand why but Grandpa gave BOTH of us one gentle swat on the hindquarters. (You would have thought Freddy Krueger had just come after us. We went running inside to “tell on Grandpa” and let mama and Grandma know what he had done to us!) LOL!!!! I never did anything like that again, though my cousin did later try to help Grandma out by filling up her car with water. See it was always my cousin’s fault!) ;-)


Now, a memory of my grandfather on the paternal (sperm-donar) side of my family. Gaga was great! Quiet but kind and loving. Most of my memories of him involve him being out in his workshop. He LOVED to work with his hands, building one thing or another. I have two cedar chests and one cedar bedside table that he built for me. (I was the first-born grandchild and … um, given a little bit of preferential treatment I s’pose. I deserved it. ;-)

The funniest memory of Gaga involves my return with an ex-boyfriend of mine. That side of the family hadn’t [quite] figured out that their oldest grandchild was … um, shall we say it(?), GAY yet! I needed to return home to visit family and I really didn’t want to leave Charles to his own devices here in Dallas. (Long story; I have a bad reputation for picking “good” relationship material. {sigh} never mind that… back to the memory)

So Charles and I are visiting my grand-folks. Some of my aunts and uncles (who QUICKLY figured out what the story was) were there. My grandmother and I think even my great aunt figured out the score fairly early but not Gaga!

Charles and I had gone out front for a moment and, I’m told, Gaga was heard to say to some of the rest of my family, “I’ll bet Michael is interested in dating Charle’s sister.” LOL! Poor, sweet, misled and innocent Gaga. I am certain he is up there right now looking down on me and saying, “I’ll bet Charles DOES have a sister … who would be better for you than Charles was” (and he wouldn’t be wrong about that either – Charles was a disaster … LOL!!!) ..but I digress.

I miss both of my Grandfathers, for different reasons. Grandpa (on Mom’s side) because I just didn’t get enough time with him and family is really important to me. I miss Gaga because; well, Gaga could be so sweet. Such a small-framed man who had not a bad word to speak about anybody. That wasn’t a trait that rubbed off on his kids, wife or sister-in-law. While I loved all of them too I (sadly) have to admit they could definately talk trash about others behind their backs. It wasn’t something I cared much for much and I let most of them know my feelings on the matter.

That’s all for now.
Best and Blessings…

Monday, February 4, 2008

Good News Comes With a Warning From the Surgeon General

Today’s blog entry began as a message to a good friend of mine on myspace. (Several of you fall into that category. ;-)

I had received some wonderful news last week but have been holding off on talking about it because… Well, I needed to verify the news. It was a bit “too” good to believe confirmation in the form of a re-test. (It has to do with my health; when you get to be an old fart of 44 it’s always your health that you find yourself talking about … well, most of the time!) That and, if you’re gay, all the cute guys that [still] catch your eye (regardless of whether you catch theirs or not). {grins}

So… the confirmation has been made and while the news is not [quite] as astonishing as it initially seemed, it’s still astounding!

As friends will recall, I’m HIV-positive. My ex infected me with the virus some years back unbeknownst to me. I discovered this two days after I left my partner (in early March of 2001). For now, we won’t dredge up all of the feelings of anger and betrayal I felt during those first days.

While I am very angry with my ex for his part in all of this, the bottom line is it takes two to tango. He did lie about his status but I should have taken matters into my own hands and insisted on real proof in the form of test results (when we FIRST met!) … I didn’t. Whadda’ ya gonna do? Part of this blog entry will take the form of “advice to my friends/readers” — so if you don’t like advice, “change the channel NOW!”

So, here begins the Story…

I was diagnosed as HIV-positive in March of 2001; I found out two days after my 38th birthday (which coincidentally was the day I left that sorry asshole ex of mine). I had gone in to be tested because I was confident I was HIV-negative and just wanted confirmation of this; a bit of expected “good” news in the face of all the shit I was and would be facing now that I’d finally made my break from an abusive relationship (6.5 years of abuse, I might add). Instead of good news, the news I received that Wednesday was … well, quite the opposite. (I remember those two hours vividly, as well as my reaction to Greg (my ex) when I first heard he had been trying to reach me. I called him back; you don’t really want to know what I had to say to him during that conversation – trust me!

(I remember his first words in response to the news that I had just received… Never mind, I’m rambling for the moment. Let’s get to the point of this entry. If I allow myself to get side-tracked into a long discussion surrounding my ex; well, I just wouldn’t get to the real point of today’s blog entry if that’s allowed to take place.)

My friends know I’m HIV-positive; I don’t keep it a secret. It’s not something I always talk about (because doing so reminds me of what a lousy judge of character I have been in the past – and of my own sense of failure in making good, sound judgment calls that could have prevented this story from occurring in the first place). So, I discovered I was/am HIV-positive and because of that my immune system would, as time progressed, become suppressed. I would come to be diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in late 2006. The cancer, in this case, falls into the category of “an opportunistic infection.”

My battle with cancer was well-fought and bore favorable results. I went through chemotherapy and am now in remission, having been so since late February of 2007. However, even that is not what this entry is about.

When they diagnosed me with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, the doctors recommended I go on meds for the HIV. I was NOT happy about this but my t-cell (CD4) count was far too low and the doctor knew the oncologist would like order a number of rounds of chemotherapy for treatment of the cancer. Such a treatment would likely suppress my immune system further.

For those who are not well-versed on immune systems, I’ll provide you with a short lesson. Your immune system is comprised of cells that fight off infections. Those cells are called “t-cells” (commonly referred to as CD4). A healthy, non-infected person’s CD4 count can be anywhere between 1200 and 2000 (or more). Once infected with the [HIV] virus, however, your CD4 count is suppressed. Thus, your immune system and its ability to fight off infections is suppressed/hampered. My understanding is the number of CD4 cells in your system is slowly lessened/depleted because the virus makes it difficult for such cells to multiply (and the existing cells have a finite life span, so they eventually die off). As your CD4 count falls lower and lower, you become more and more susceptible to opportunistic infections.

Once diagnosed as HIV-positive, it is imperative you be tested regularly to see what kind of shape your immune system is in. Two factors are most important; the number of copies of CD4 cells (the GOOD cells) in your system and your viral load (percentage of BAD/infected cells). Basically, your viral load is the number of copies of HIV in your system. So long as your CD4 count is high and your viral load is low, you’re in good shape. If however, your viral load goes up and your CD4 count goes down – this means your immune system is basically getting worse and you may well be facing some important decisions regarding your health at some future point in time. When I was diagnosed with the cancer, my viral load was VERY HIGH and the number of copies of CD4 cells in my system had fallen to below 300. This is why my doctor recommended I go on meds.

As it turned out, it wasn’t the diagnosis of cancer that had me most upset. What was most upsetting was being told I needed to start a regimen of meds to boost my immune system. I remember the thoughts racing around in the back of my mind, at that time, were that “this was the beginning of the end.” (That wasn’t the case – but it was what I was thinking at the time – and it had nothing to do with the cancer.)

The good news is the medicines HAVE been doing their job and the further out I get from having had chemotherapy (which “beats down” the number of copies of CD4 cells in your system), the more rapidly my immune system shows signs of improving (see table below).

Date: CD4 Viral
297   173,733 First diagnosed w/cancer;
viral load is extremely high.
291 5,102 Undergoing
chemotherapy for the cancer; drop in viral load is a result of the HIV
219   <
continues to cause my CD4 count to drop while HIV meds lower the viral
load (and provide support to immune system, preventing it from dropping
more rapidly).
256 <
completed. Viral load holds steady at less than 400 copies while HIV
meds boost my CD4 count by 37 copies.
302   <
distance is put between last chemotherapy session; meds continue to
boost CD4 count and suppress viral load to less than 50 copies.
count drastically improves, improving by an increase of
204 copies; viral load holds steady at less than 50.

Some may ask, “Why are you putting all of this out there for the world to see?” I’ve considered keeping it private but my problem is that FAR TOO MANY people believe HIV is no longer a real issue. I hear about the numbers of cases increasing in the straight community as well as with younger adults. Far too many believe they are not at risk. Everybody who is having sex and is uncertain of their partners HIV-status “is at risk” of being infected! I can’t stress that enough. I’m not saying “abstain from sex.” Hell, even I have a difficult time saying no to my hand …. she’s a great lover! (Okay, bad joke …. sorry.) I’m just saying “be aware!” Don’t take unnecessary chances with your health. Some of you reading this are dear and near to my heart. Some of you, on myspace, are like sons to me so as your “papa” don’t ass-u-me that the person you are sleeping with is “negative!” They may have become infected and simply don’t know – or they may be lying about their status. {sigh}

I told a young friend of mine on myspace earlier today that before you even consider having sex without a condom – make certain that: (1) You are in committed, MONOGAMOUS relationship and (2) both you and your partner have not been infected (get tested (twice, once now and again in six weeks). Then and ONLY then can you even consider having sex with your partner without a condom.

I know— We all want to believe the best about those whom we fall in love with but please insist on seeing test results which clearly indicate your partner is HIV negative before you even consider having unprotected sex. I know I sound like a harping old father (wish that I were) but I’d like to know my young friends are being careful and not taking unnecessary risks. I often send my hugs to you and I tell you I love you often enough but perhaps I’ve fallen a little short on impressing upon you the importance of not taking this particular risk (regarding HIV). I’d like to know you’ll be around for many years to come, enjoying life at its fullest and NOT having to be concerned about an immune system which isn’t performing fully.

At present, a diagnosis of HIV-positive cannot be reversed – it’s my hope that you NEVER have to worry about all of the ‘what ifs’ which come along with a diagnosis of being HIV-positive. A diagnosis of “positive” isn’t the death sentence it used to be — but being “negative” damn sure beats being positive, hands down! Please be careful.

Sorry for the lengthy entry but I wanted friends to know I’m doing much better, health-wise. I also wanted to impress upon you the importance of using good sense while still following your heart. Don’t let your guard down only to repeat my own mistakes for I did not wish to “rock the boat” (with my partner) and the consequences of that is I must live with being HIV-positive for the rest of my life. If such is not your circumstance at present – don’t make it so.