Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Much Needed Break and Holding My Own

Our hummingbird feeders have gone quiet as of a few days ago. In the days leading up to our little guys flying south our feeders were as busy as I'd ever seen them. I couldn't look out there without seeing some activity. I'll miss them and I hope for their safe return next spring.

Tammy and I had our first extended time away together since her mother came to live with us 4 months ago. (Elaine has Alzheimer's and needs 24/7 care and monitoring.) Tammy's good friend Brenda offered to stay with her overnight in our home to give Tammy a break. That was so incredibly nice of her but then that's who Brenda is. She's the most selfless person I know besides Tammy.

We left home around 5:00 on Friday afternoon and worked our way toward Winona and our room at the Holiday Inn Express. We stopped in Cannon Falls to visit a winery there and taste their assortment of wines while enjoying our temporary independence and freedom. It was nice.

Yelp directed us to a restaurant across the street for dinner but their waiting time for a table was longer than we wanted so we got back in our car and continued southeast.

I mentioned that we could easily drive through Rochester if Rachel would be around. Tammy called and she was available. We picked her up for dinner then went out into the city and let her lead us to one of her haunts where a friend from college waited on us. The east wind was stinking up the town; it smelled like dirty feet. Not to worry because the alcohol and our conversation took our minds off of it.

We spent the next day beginning in Winona working our way from river town to river town as we ever so slowly made our way toward home, stopping in each city to see the sites. I of course had my camera in hand and occasionally played around with a tilt-shift setting to try and capture some photos that lent themselves to that feel. Here's a collection of them that I assembled.

Rather than go directly home from Redwing we decided to venture into Wisconsin and a winery/restaurant I'd heard about that I've been wanting to check out: Vino in the Valley. It opened at 3:00 and we arrived at 3:15 to a 90 minute wait for a table. Not to worry because we weren't in any hurry and there was enough to keep us occupied.

We had an excellent time there and made the most of it, not wanting to hurry home. I should add that Rachel relieved Brenda for us at noon. Tammy really needed this but it was good for both of us to have this time together.

Here's some video from our time at Vino in the Valley.

Rachel has joined the ranks of the fully employed. (Not that she hasn't been working full-time hours already but it's been spotty.) She began her job on Monday at the University of Minnesota, Rochester as an Admissions Representative. Her work will involve a considerable amount of travel as she visits high-schools throughout the midwest generating interest in UMR. She already has 3 hotel reservations for the coming month. This is only a year long position. Her focus is still on trying to gain acceptance to a Physician Assistant (PA) school.

Sunday night I drove out to Keith and Tracee's in Northfield away from the lights of the 'big city' to try and get the best view I could of the lunar eclipse. I've seen many of these eclipses over the last few decades but none of them have come anywhere close to the one I witnessed in 1975 on the front lawn of the Stagecoach apartments where I was living. I remember that night how the moon just seemed to hang in the night sky, looking so eerie and unlike anything I'd ever seen.

Sunday night's lunar eclipse came as close as any I've seen since of equaling that sight from 40 years earlier. It was probably every bit as good but I was looking at it with eyes that aren't as young as they once were. Glasses can only do so much.

This week has been so much quieter than any of the last several and I'm thankful for that. I still have moments where I want to reach in my pocket for my phone to give my mom a call. I don't expect that to continue for long but it still happens.

I got a text from Reid (he was one of my trainees years ago and is now at the tower at MSP) to see if I was up for a ride Monday afternoon. I've been waiting for the chance to ride with him. Rain nearly trashed our plans but we still made it out.

I was happy to show him that this old man can still hold his own.

Loop to Murphy Hanrehan with Reid and Ryan from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Return to Normal

I met with Rachel a week ago yesterday in Rochester. We went for lunch at 5 Guys and then she accompanied me to a couple of appointments at Mayo Clinic. The first was for an audiology exam to see if the hearing in my left ear had continued to improve since the previous exam 12 days earlier. (If you've just stumbled onto my blog, I suffered Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL) in my left ear one month ago.) I'm very relieved to say that the hearing in my left ear is now back in normal range. It's not quite as good as my right ear but it's wonderfully good and it may still get even better. For comparison, here's the exam from September 3rd and here's the results from the 15th. In both audiograms the red plot line is for my right ear and the blue is for my left.

There's still some tinnitus when I stop and think about it but otherwise it mostly goes unnoticed.

While we were waiting for the doctor to come in and see me I was joking with Rachel about how my medical problems are becoming quite a source of experience for her to draw from in the future as she works toward her degree as a Physician Assistant and beyond. From my Cluster Headaches to my Factor V condition and associated blood clots and now my experience with SSHL, I've given her a firsthand look at some rather rare conditions. Lucky her! I would be perfectly happy to not personally give her any additional maladies from which to learn from.

I'm so grateful and thankful for my healing and I would like to thank everyone who offered their prayers, well-wishes or suggestions. Thank you all so much!

Several relatives came into town this past week for my mother's funeral service. Bryan drove in from Portland with his son Tristan and granddaughter Cambria. Tristan's girlfriend Karen flew in a day later on Friday. They all stayed with us. Keith and Tracee had a full house as well, as did Erin.

Having never met Karen or Cambria before; they definitely won us over!

Keith and Tracee opened up their home to all of us for a family get-together this past Sunday. It was a super time. I enjoyed the lengthier conversations I was able to have with several of my relatives that I haven't been able to talk with in quite a while. One of those conversations was with my uncle Martin. He's suffered more than his share of loss during his life yet through it all he's always kept a positive attitude and is quick with a smile or a laugh. I admire him very much. He'll be 86 in February.

A few photos and some video from the day.

We gathered again the next morning at Hosanna in Lakeville for Mom's Celebration of Life service. It was a culmination of so much that has transpired within our families over the past few months. The service was very nice and there was music provided by my aunt Maria, my cousin Deborah and Rachel.

I have one rather big regret in all of it though. I was recording the service and noticed that my camera was still in standby mode after Maria had finished singing Borning Cry with Rachel accompanying her on violin. They did so well with it and I missed it. I don't know how I messed that up but I did. I was able to video the rest of the service though for those who couldn't be there.

I have this thing and it may sound nutty but I believe we all get to attend our funerals before departing to the great beyond. And I'm certain Mom was pleased with how we came together on her behalf to give her a beautiful send-off. She deserved it.

Before the service began I was up in the tech booth overlooking the chapel making small-talk with Fred the technician who was running the audio-visual console. We were coordinating when to start the video I'd stitched together so that it would end just as the service began. He put it on to have a look and he saw Mom and said, "Oh no, that was your mother?" "I'm so sorry...she was such a sweet woman. I'd see her here all the time with the other women and she'd always give me a smile and often times we'd talk".

It's been a couple of years since Mom has been well enough to volunteer with the other ladies the way she used to but Fred had very fond memories of her and it was so nice to hear him talk about her the way he did.

She will be missed by many.

Some photos from the day and a video of most of her Celebration of Life service.

And now it feels like I can try and resume my life where I left off. Or can I? I'm not really sure what normal is supposed to feel like at this point since retiring nearly 3 weeks ago but I'm sure I'll figure it out.

I think I'll go for a walk.

(The video below is 38 minutes long and was played before the start of her service. The photos are loosely in chronological order.)

Slideshow for Mom's Celebration of Life Service from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

20 Years Gone

Twenty years ago today I went golfing at Highland Hills Golf Course with my then stepson Dave. I returned home to a message on the answering machine from Jackie informing me that Dad had died. He was a little more than a month away from his 70th birthday and much too young. But it was expected news as I'd just been up to visit him in Michigan's Upper Peninsula a few days earlier, quite certain that it would be the last time I'd see him. He hadn't been well for years with most of his health problems related to emphysema brought on by years of smoking both unfiltered and filtered cigarettes: Lucky Strike and then Winston.

He was happiest when he was either out in the garage or down in the basement tinkering on whatever project he had in front of him. I can still recall the days before Super Glue when he'd heat a fork or knife over a flame on the stove and use it to melt/weld broken plastic parts together for us.

Of all of us six siblings I think it was Jackie who was closest to him. Although he and I were a lot alike we never had much of a relationship. When I was growing up he never seemed to make an effort to try and get inside my head. I wish he had been able to because I had so much going on in there but I never felt comfortable approaching him about any of it. He was on the road too much for having six kids at home but I had no way of realizing then what I was missing out on. He wasn't all that different than a lot of other dads in that regard. There were key times in my life though when in his own way he would come alongside me and convey a message I needed to hear.

There was the time when my older sister was in the hospital recovering from surgery for melanoma. I was standing on the stairs leading up from the basement while he was sitting in a chair, cigarette in hand watching TV. He asked if I knew anything about the girl sharing a room in the hospital with Claudia. I told him I didn't. He proceeded to tell me that she'd been abusing amphetamines for years and now she was having severe issues with her spine. I don't know if what he told me was true or if it even made medical sense but it was abundantly clear to me that he was wise to my own abuse of the same drug that I'd been dabbling with way too much for the past several months. He wasn't accusing me of anything but I got the message. I remember feeling disappointed with myself for having let him down.

His was a difficult childhood. He had very few memories of his father because he died when my dad was only 3 or 4. His mother took in roomers to make ends meet and would later marry a man named Sid. Tragically, Sid took his own life and my father was the one who found his body in a shed adjacent to their duplex. My dad's mother would die from a botched hysterectomy when he was nine. He was then raised by his older sister and her alcoholic husband. An unimaginable childhood to me for someone so young and impressionable as my father was.

He was raised catholic and although he had mostly uncomplimentary things to say about the catholic school he attended (most of his scorn was for the nuns who were unnecessarily harsh) he carried a photograph of a man named Father Quility (from the school) in his wallet the rest of his life.

In spite of all that my dad endured before leaving home he was able to do very well for himself once he was out on his own. He joined the Canadian Navy and worked as a radarman, the same job I would do when I joined the Navy although I had no idea that it was also his job until it became mine, too.

He was a financial manager for Control Data for most of his career and was apparently good at what he did based on the many awards he received over the years. For years I had the impression that he was conservative in his politics but I honestly don't know. I tuned in the Rush Limbaugh show for him once when we were driving but I got a sense very quickly that he wasn't impressed. He had much disdain for all politicians and religious leaders. I can't say I blame him.

He would say that meeting my mom was the best thing that ever happened to him and I'm sure it was. I can think of only one time in my youth when I knew they were in a disagreement about something and for a day or two there was tension between them. One time. I'm sure there were others but they hid them well from us if there were. (That harmony though suffered greatly in later years as alcohol took over and made a mess of things.)

They had a routine where after my dad got home from work and before dinner he and my mom would sit with a drink in the front room and talk about the day. For maybe an hour my dad would fill her in on all of the office politics or whatever it was they talked about and we kids knew to not bother them. After dinner he would retreat to the seclusion of his basement work area or out in the garage and his workbench there. Compared to his childhood I'm sure he felt that he had created a safe and comfortable place for my siblings and me to flourish, and for the most part he had.

His job took him out east to Pennsylvania when I was a senior in high-school during Christmas break, 1974. I was given the option to stay behind in an apartment with my older sister and finish school. It was a gutsy decision on his part because I'd given him no reason to believe I wouldn't soon fall flat on my face. I remember walking out of the apartment with my parents and Keith and Tim as they were leaving. My dad in a somewhat loud voice telling me as he was walking down the stairs with me standing above, that I was a man now and to not let him down.

I don't think I have.

Home Movie 1 from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Will Work For Free

I've taken hardly any time to put my feet up since signing my retirement papers 11 days ago. As most people who've recently retired will tell you, it's hard to distinguish this absence from that of being away on vacation. I think it will begin to be more real for me after my mom's Celebration of Life service one week from today. It sort of seems like a part of my life is on hold until that's behind me.

We've got several family members coming in from out of town in the next week plus a family reunion planned for next Sunday at Keith and Tracee's. I'm looking forward to so much of what the week has to offer but there are several things about Mom's Celebration of Life / funeral service that I need to tend to. So many people are stepping up and taking on big and small tasks to make this happen. Mom would be so happy to see this because to be honest, we haven't always been so united.

I spent the better part of two afternoons last week power-washing our driveway in preparation for seal-coating it. I last sealed it about 15 months ago but I rushed through the power-washing process as I hurried to return the pressure-washer before my 4 hours had expired, and it showed. This year I decided to purchase my own gas powered pressure-washer and take my sweet time. And it shows!

It's a nice unit that puts out 2.5 gpm and 3000 psi. I can see where it's going to be a handy thing to have around as I was using it to clean other things within range when I was doing the driveway, such as parts of our house and my mowers and such.

Our deck is abuzz with hummingbirds and we're loving it! We've got at least 4 and maybe more that are continually feeding at our two feeders and several hanging flower baskets. I have to laugh as I watch them chase each other in some quite cool aerobatic maneuvers often times doing some ridiculously close flybys of my head in the process.

Here's some video of them from a few days ago.

I actually used the alarm function on my Motorola Maxx (apparently I'm not totally done with alarms) Sunday morning for a 6:30 rendezvous with some friends to ride the St Paul Classic Bike Tour. This year's event attracted 5000 riders of all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities. I rode my Shaman and attracted some double-takes from people not all that familiar with a "fatty" as they're affectionately known. 30 psi and I was good to go!

I tried to talk the guys into the 48 mile loop but they weren't having any of that. We did 33 miles and had way too much fun, especially for someone my age. We'll be back again next year and I think there's a real possibility that Rachel will join us. She saw the video I stitched together of the ride (below) and said she'd like to do it. I can't wait!

I hurried home from the ride so I could attend a small family reunion at Tammy's cousin's home in Bloomington. We don't get that side of the family together often enough. It was a real nice time and Elaine was a trooper through it all. She told me that many people were coming up to her and talking to her like they know who she is but she doesn't recognize them. It's sad and we don't like to put her in positions like that. She commented to me today that it was a nice time yesterday. That surprised me some. She's such a sweetheart.

I have a new favorite walk; my Orchard Lake loop of 7.3 miles. It's a mostly quiet walk with the exception of my time spent near 35W. I was walking it this morning when I came upon a guy in front of a house as he prepared to get a drone airborne to get some aerial photos and video of a property that's about to go on the market. My eyes got all big as I watched and all I could do was think how I'd love to do this sort of work!

The drone was airborne for about 7 minutes as he made several passes with it behind the house and out of view but fully in control as he monitored the live video (via a tablet fastened to his controller) it was sending back. I'll be watching for the listing and the video in the next couple of weeks and if I find it I'll link to it here.

I seriously think I'd work for free and offer my services for a year if I could study under his tutelage. I think I'd be good at this sort of thing.

I'm not kidding!

But for now I've got bikes to ride and walks to walk...

St Paul Classic Bike Tour from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Flying the Nest Again and Mom's Obituary

Rachel just left for her new home after having spent the summer with us. It goes without saying that it was nice to have been able to spend as much time with her as we did. We'll both miss her presence and her perspective as well as her input into our lives. I don't have any of my own children but if I did I can't imagine being capable of any more love for them than I have for her.

My first day of retirement was a success! Rachel rented a 17 foot U-Haul and we got busy moving her stuff into her new diggs on the north side of Rochester, a little further removed from the bustle of downtown than she'd like but the new place has its advantages as well and I think she's gonna like it there.

She's excited for her new position with UMR as an Admissions Representative. It will involve travel and I would imagine that will be to high-schools and college informational fairs as she reaches out to prospective students. I can see her thriving in the position for the year that she's contracted for.

We've been enjoying the warm nights out on the deck sipping on Pumking beer. It's a little treat that Rachel turned me on to the other night. So smooth. It's not something I'd typically buy but based on her recommendation I was all-in. She's yet to steer me wrong on a beer and I like to think that I'm teaching her a little something about wine.

While on the deck the other night I noticed that I was hearing crickets in stereo. I closed off my right ear and they were coming through loud and clear in my left. That's not something I'd ever expected to hear again. My hearing continues to show improvement and I'm so grateful for every bit of it that returns. I was out walking the pups this morning and a jet was flying right to left overhead. I easily pinpointed it whereas just a week ago I'd have had the most difficult time doing that.

Our hummingbird feeders are getting nearly nonstop activity lately. I don't think 30 seconds goes by without at least one bird at one of our two feeders. I think we have a mating pair and one or two offspring. It's hard to tell but I did notice a smaller one along with an adult a couple weeks ago. I'm enjoying this because it seemed to take most of the summer before we had much activity from the little guys. I'm careful to replace the sugar water every few days.

Cindy, Tammy's sister has been staying with us for the past two days. It's been nice chitchatting with her and catching up in ways that we don't typically do over the phone or through social media. They're in the sunporch watching Big Brother while I'm covering up the sound with Phil Collins, Face Value. I'll watch it later as it's my only guilty pleasures on TV these days. I know, pathetic!

Tammy and I had a few hours away today while Rachel, Cindy and Elaine went out together. We thought about going into Minneapolis for a walk around Lake of the Isles but it felt too hot and humid for that so we opted for a stroll inside Mall of America. It's a spot we like to frequent but haven't taken the time to since Elaine came to live with us a few months ago. We got some coffees and lost ourselves in conversation.

I was surprised at how much progress has been made with the construction on the north end. The entire food court has been redone and opened up to the north. I like what I'm seeing. The noise level at times made my hearing a little difficult so we decided to forgo the 3rd lap for the quiet of our car and lunch at Davanni's.

Mom's obituary is in today's StarTribune. Here's a link for however long it remains on file. I'll attach a screenshot of it below. Thanks, Tracee for doing such a nice job with it.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

An Emotion Filled Day

I can't think of a more emotion filled day than the one I just experienced. I woke up out of a deep sleep at 3:45 and checked to see if there were any texts from Keith regarding Mom. There were none. I couldn't fall back asleep so I got out of bed and went downstairs.

I received a text from Keith an hour later: "Mom passed at 5:10". I've been expecting such a notification. Sitting there in the quiet of the den illuminated only by my laptop, all of my thoughts turned to her with wonder for what she must be experiencing in that moment. I was sad about her passing but only briefly. I was more relieved and happy for her.

She decided a few years ago that she wanted to donate her body to medical science. She arranged for the University of Minnesota to receive her remains and they'll be in possession of them for the next 18 months while medical students learn from her by dissecting and studying her body. It's such a selfless thing to do and I'm so proud of her for doing this. At the end of 18 months her body will be cremated and her ashes will be returned to us.

See the video below of my mom and all of us in some younger times.

I had to be at Mayo Clinic in Rochester this morning for a follow-up hearing test. I followed Rachel in the fog to Cheap Charlies for breakfast and then she accompanied me to Mayo Clinic before heading off for a job interview as a certified nursing assistant at a long term care facility. I need to add: Later in the day she was offered and accepted a salaried position from the University of Minnesota working as an Admissions Representative. She signed a one year contract with them and is very excited about the position. It's a nice place for her to work from while she continues to apply to Physician Assistant schools, waiting for an offer. We're very happy for her.

I knew I had regained some small amount of hearing but I couldn't be sure if it was useable at all or would it maybe just be distorted and possibly interfere with my good ear. I was a little anxious about this appointment. I recalled in an earlier post here how I had been willing my ear to hear the beeps from the imaginary hearing tests I'd conducted in my mind.

Now it was happening.

The technician explained for me how the test would proceed before placing the headphones over my ears.

First the right ear. I heard the tones and clicked the clicker as they faded out of range.


My left ear sprang to life with the sound of a tone. CLICK! Again. CLICK! I was hearing them just as I had before although likely not all of them. But this was so much better than not hearing them at all. I was excited because they appeared very clear without any distortion whatsoever.

Then came the test for hearing comprehension. A word was spoken into my ear and I had to repeat it. "Airplane" "workbench" "houseboat" etc. I scored 100% in both ears. I had to work harder at interpreting the left ear because it wasn't as loud but I got them all. It was such a strong emotion for me to know that I was hearing again from an ear that I'd pretty much written off as deaf or dead less than a week earlier.

After the hearing test I met with Dr Carlson to discuss the results and talk about an additional injection of steroids just as I'd had the previous week. He looked at the audiogram from the 24th of August, just 10 days earlier and said: "I don't typically tell this to my patients but when I see a test result like this I often think to myself that there's little if anything we can do for this person". He followed up by saying "You're a lucky man".

Let me show you what he's referring to. Here's the audiogram from 10 days ago. Check out the graph in the bottom left. The numbers along the left side are decibels. The plots along the bottom of the graph are of the decibels needed for me to hear at a given frequency (annotated across the top). My test from 10 days ago shows that I'm in 'severe hearing loss' range based on the chart in the bottom right in this image. And here's today's audiogram. The red plot is my right ear and the blue is my left. You can see the marked improvement that has me so excited. My hearing loss has been upgraded form severe/profound to mild. That's just so amazing to me and I am so thankful for this progress and for all of your prayers and encouragement during this difficult time for me and my family. I really don't have adequate words for how I feel.

I received another injection of steroids today that will hopefully continue to work to improve my hearing even more. The doctor cautioned that these values can go down as well as up. Still, I'm hopeful.

And that brings me to the final emotional event of my day. I officially retired! Actually, it wasn't as emotional for me as I anticipated it would be and I was glad for that. I arrived at work around 2:30 and checked in with Tracee and the office staff to let them know I was there and ready to sign myself into a life of Saturdays but that I needed to quickly make the rounds of the facility to say some goodbyes. And so I did.

A brief stop at my mail-slot to see that my name had already been stripped from its placeholder. A photo of the hallway for old time's sake and a totally unplanned photo of Megan. "KAY-GEEEE!" I'll miss that, Megan!

A quick run through the control room and Area 5 to shake hands and wish much success to those who remain. Also, a photo of our area's retired controllers list and the order in which they left. Okay, I am absolutely going to miss this place. I just will, but it's time to go!

Back to the administration wing and some time chatting with Shirley before processing me out. Tracee grabbed a photo of us then I had them switch places. Tracee was actually going to be the one processing me out but with all that's been happening with Mom she took the day off but came in to watch me leave. That was really nice of her.

I shook hands with Kelly, our facility manager and chatted a little then it was time to walk out on the best career I could've ever hoped to have had.

I emailed Kelly a submission for our facility's publication, ZMP Contrails.  I'll leave you with it:

I can still vividly recall sitting in the auditorium at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center that March morning in 1982. There were maybe 500 of us, all excited, nervous and with eyes wide open taking it all in as we filled out the many forms and listened to the academy director tell us of the slim chance any of us had of actually becoming a successful Air Traffic Controller. He had our full attention. I was more worried about simply making the grade then; how could I have known the blessing this life of quick-turnarounds and midshifts would eventually become to me?

It’s been such a rewarding career and although I’m looking forward to life as a retired controller I can honestly say that I will most definitely miss this place, the people and the art of making sense from chaos on the radar scope in the ultimate of video games.

Today marks the end of 37 years and 5 months of government service for me and I just want to say thank you. Thank you for being a part of this journey with me and for adding to the color and flavor of this place, of this career that I literally thank God for each and every day.

Best wishes to you all!


Kevin Gilmore (kg)


Home Movie 3 from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Catching Up

Many of us spent a fair amount of time at Mom/Grandma/Great Grandma's bedside the past few days, certain that she would be gone from us sooner rather than later. She is one tough Finn!

She's comfortable for the most part but it seems once each hour we need to alert the staff that she's in pain and needs morphine. She will open her eyes and get the most desperate look on her face, maybe reach out with her arms as her whole body goes rigid with pain from her broken pelvis. The staff is quick to respond but it's often 10-15 minutes of agony for her until the medicine is administered and begins to work. That was my main concern as I left her tonight; that the nursing staff will be there hourly to check on her and give her the drug. I hate to think of her lying there any longer than necessary in that sort of pain.

I just phoned Keith who is still by her side with Tracee where they've both been all day. He said her breathing is down to around 4 shallow breaths per minute and he doesn't think she can last much longer. I hope he's right.

Tammy and I had plans to attend the Minnesota State Fair today but we had to cancel them. It was to be our one and only day this summer where we'd be together with no cares to concern us. Rachel was going to tend to her grandmother for us all day and night while we enjoyed ourselves but we decided to forgo our plans due to a concern about the noise at the fair and how it would be detrimental to the fragile hearing in my left ear. It's probably just as well because this way I was able to spend most of the day with Mom. I don't think we'd have enjoyed our time at the fair all that much with our thoughts continually going back to her. It was the right thing to do.

Catching up.

We had Vineland Tree Care service back out at our home last week to trim four of our trees. Three of them are Ash trees and I was hesitant to put any amount of money into maintaining them with the Emerald Ash Borer lurking out there in the not too distant future threatening to devour them all but I opted to have them trimmed anyway. I hope to get at least another several healthy years from them.

When the bug finally does make its presence known I don't think I'll try and save my trees. I'm planning to have them taken down and replaced with Evergreens or some variety of slower growing Maples.

I've been heating our garage during the winter months for the past 6 seasons since we had it insulated and sheetrocked. I don't let it get much above 40ºf (4.5ºc) inside the garage in the winter but even at that temperature the heater runs a considerable amount when the outside temp plummets. Our garage doors were standard 'builder's grade' stock with no reputation for retaining heat until we had them replaced last week by the fine folks at Action Overhead Garage Door with a much more insulated and robust door that I'm confident will help to show a marked reduction in our heating bills. They're nothing fancy, just your typical style door that most everyone else uses but they work well with our home's look. The guy installing them said they're the best doors they sell. Perhaps he was just trying to curb any buyer's remorse I may have been feeling.

But what I really like about our new doors is the Liftmaster opener with some quite cool technology that lets me know via an app on my Droid if the garage door is open or closed and also allows me to activate it from anywhere. Imagine the peace of mind I could've had if only I'd had this sweet app when Rachel was in high school and sometimes forgetting to close the garage door at night? I had to laugh because I was out with friends recently and someone was talking about leaving their garage door open. What a perfect segue. I showed them the app on my phone which noted that my garage door had been closed for 47 minutes! They were impressed!

I couldn't have scripted that any better!