Friday, July 3, 2015

A Retirement Hat-Trick

I had the 2nd of 2 PDT (Photodynamic Therapy) sessions done on my face Monday morning. The recovery this time is going much better than the initial treatment I had 3 weeks ago. I think that's because most of the damaged skin was removed during the first session leaving not as much for the Levulan and blue light to react with this most recent time.

Yes, that's a selfie to the left. I'm using my leg to take it. Don't believe me?

I thought I'd get more done around the house during my stay-cation but I'm okay with just having taken it easy for the most part. I'm back to work now as I write this and while I'm not excited about that, I'm feeling good about getting ever closer to my retirement date. This time away from work has me looking forward to retirement more than ever. It's taken me much longer than I thought it would to get to this point but I'm mentally ready to be done. My end goal is still January 2nd, 2016. We'll see.

Speaking of retirement: I attended a retirement party last Tuesday for a few guys I've worked with for most of my career. Grant Feest, Rob Ralston and Dave Hanson. I can't remember the last time I was tipping back a beer at 10:35 in the morning but it was for a worthy cause. They all arrived at 10:00 when Celts in Farmington opened and began their celebration.

Grant and his wife will be purchasing an RV and doing some traveling. Grant has also been hinting just a little about a reunion with members of a rock band he played with in the early '80s, Wally Cleaver. They were pretty successful in the Racine/Milwaukee, Wisconsin area and points beyond back in the day. I hope he does. Grant knows more TV commercial trivia from the '70s than anyone I know. He was always our go-to guy at work for songs we were trying to recall from our youth. We have plans to play some golf together next summer.

Rob was probably the loudest guy I've ever worked with! No kidding. At times obnoxious but at the same time, loveable. He was one of the main guys at work who (years ago) helped me to see the flaws in my conservative thinking. He was very helpful in getting me to see things from a perspective other than my default mode. I'm grateful for the seeds he planted and also for the help he was to me along the way when I was in need of some guidance with respect to some medical issues at work. I'm sure our paths will cross again.

I'll miss Dave for his quiet, 'Steady Eddie' approach to working traffic. He's not a die-hard cyclist but he loves to follow the Tour de France, so much so that he and his wife were leaving the party to catch a flight to Amsterdam. Dave will be watching this year's Tour in person. I asked him if he'll be the naked guy running alongside the peloton but no, that won't be him he said. Instead, he'll be the guy with the University of Minnesota Golden Gopher's flag, waving it on the sidelines. He said to be sure to watch for him during the Prologue and the climb up Alpe d'Huez. I'll be watching.

A few photos from the get-together.

There goes nearly 10% of our staffing!

Best of wishes to the three of you and I'll see you in the land of happy before too long!


Retirement Party from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A "Doh!" Moment and Other Random Musings

I've been off from work this past week. Typically vacation days always fly by for me but not so much this time. It's been real nice. Lots of walks with the pups, time on my bikes and a good amount of hours spent working in the yard. All of those things I find relaxing and that was what I was after. I'll have one more week off in late August before heading into the home stretch of my career. 

Speaking of retiring, we have several controllers retiring at the end of June: Tim Baker, Fred Damico, Grant Feest, Dave Hanson, Rob Ralston and Mark Anderson.

Me? 188 dtg.

We took Elaine to the zoo on Monday. She was excited to see the monkeys but she probably enjoyed the butterfly garden most of all. I can't remember the last time I was there.

Federal subsidies for the Affordable Care Act (Obama-care) were upheld by the United States Supreme Court this past week. They also ruled on same-sex marriage, making it legal throughout the country. Conservatives and Christians are not happy. They seem to be happiest when we're spending vast sums of money on war but not the health of our citizens. And how is it that we ever allowed someone's biblical definition of marriage to define who in our society can marry whom? The bible is anything but clear on the definition of marriage because it's not just one-man-one-woman.

We had to have both Joe (our contractor for our addition) and Brian (Joe's former tile installer) out to our home to look at some cracking in the tile grout in the sun-porch. We first noticed the problem a year ago but didn't think too much about it. I figured I'd just re-grout the area once it stopped chipping. It's much more serious than we imagined. Either one of the products under the tile (self-leveling compound or anti-fracture membrane) have failed or there's been some movement in the room to cause it. Joe took some measurements and said the structure is within 3/8 of an inch from being perfectly square and level.

If you look closely you can see chipping in the grout throughout the room but Joe pointed out that where we're seeing most of the failing so far is where the structure ties into the house and where there are no footings beneath it that could've possibly moved as seen in this photo. That makes sense.

We're not sure what the final solution will be but Joe is hoping to have an agreement reached with all parties concerned in the next month or so.

Rachel and I had a "Doh!" moment earlier in the week. We went to pick up her mattress at her storage locker and proceeded to tie it to the roof of her car not realizing that we were tying her car doors shut. If this helps to affirm that I'm not her go-to guy for any future moves I'm okay with that.

I was out on my Sarma Shaman fat-bike quite a lot this past week getting acquainted with it. I'm still riding too tentatively to say for certain how much benefit I'm getting from the front suspension but so far, so good. I'm liking my new ride a lot.

I was planning to go for a few hour walk Friday afternoon and just as I was leaving I changed my mind and got on my fat-bike instead. I was glad I did. I had so much fun out there and whatever worries about our tile floor that were preoccupying my thoughts increasingly faded away with each mile I put behind me.

Video from my ride.

Tuesday's ride had me in some of the tallest grass I'd ever seen. The Shaman made easy work of it but I did have to stop a few times to extract grass from my drivetrain.

Surprisingly I only found one tick after I got home.


Shakopee to Jordan Loop from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Meet the Shaman!

Maria, Norm and Eva (my mother's sisters and brother-in-law) came into town last week to see Mom. It was nice to spend a couple of hours with them at Keith and Tracee's home. I think Mom did her best to be there in the moment with them but she's really not well. Between the C-Diff and her medications there are a very limited number of hours in the day where she is okay to have visitors. Mostly she's exhausted but often times she's confused. Sometimes I want them to stop treating her and just let her leave this life as comfortably as she can. But then there are times when I feel more optimistic for her and see her overcoming the C-Diff and bouncing back close to where she was before this all began nearly 5 weeks ago. The longer this continues, the more I feel it's both wishful thinking and selfish on my part. It's a very difficult time for her.

Tammy and her mother and I went to see her earlier in the week. We're still required to wear a protective robe when we're in her room and we're supposed to refrain from any physical contact. That didn't stop Tammy from trying to position her more comfortably in her bed.

I said so-long to my Mukluk after 3.5 years together. I sold it to Reid last week but not before giving it one last bath. It was a great bike for me and one that introduced me to a whole other world of riding. I'll never forget the first time I ventured down along the Minnesota River bottom trails with it and the smile on my face as I soaked in the scenery. I'll miss my friend but I've been itching to get something a little lighter and with front suspension.

I'm now the happy owner of a Sarma Shaman!

It's a carbon-fiber frame manufactured in Russia. Being that it's from Russia did cause me some hesitation but the reviews I read about it were all very good. Carbon-fiber rims, seatpost and bars along with a Rockshox Bluto front suspension fork bring it in at an impressive 27.6 lbs. My Mukluk was 34.4. It doesn't sound like a lot but 7 lbs actually does make a noticeable difference, and one that my knees will appreciate.

I took it out for its maiden ride this morning before work. I felt like I was flying out there on the trails in some spots. I had to tone it down a little because the grasses are so tall that it's hard to see what's coming up the trail especially around some of the sharper curves. I had a blast and I was still on a high when I got to work 90 minutes later. It's really everything I was hoping it would be.

I made it out Tuesday for a fun 97 mile effort into Wisconsin on a route I hadn't done in the last couple of years. It's one of my favorite routes but I typically like to go into the wind on the way out so I have it at my back when I turn for home and an east wind typically brings rainy weather with it. Not on this day. It was a gorgeous day to be out on the bike!

Come and see what I mean...


Loop into Wisconsin via Prescott and Redwing from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Our Moms and a Yikes!

We're beginning to find a rhythm to the new dynamics of our household. Elaine was resistant to staying with us at first but in the past week there's been no push-back at all. She gets a little lonely for her home and Cindy at times but a phone call to Cindy helps. We have yet to set up a video chat for her to try but intend to do that soon. There's no reason not to use all of this great technology available to us.

We purchased a season pass to the zoo less than 15 minutes away. Tammy and Elaine have already been there once and her mom really enjoyed it. They'll be doing much more of that. Tammy has also been getting her out for walks around the neighborhood. We're feeling very glad that we're in a position to be able to do this for her.

My mom hasn't been faring so well. We had a family care conference last Wednesday that seemed to me to gloss over many of the health issues she's having. She continues to be dehydrated due to a persistent case of C-diff. Why they haven't had her on an IV is beyond me. I want to trust the staff that has been caring for her at Three Links Care Facility but some of us can't help but question some of what's happening (or not happening).

Tracee took her back to the ER at Ridges this morning after speaking with her regular doctor. She was so dehydrated when she arrived that they couldn't even get a urine sample from her. Again, I just have to say what a blessing Tracee has been to our family for all she's been doing behind the scenes to make sure that Mom is getting the best care. I should add that Mom is too often reluctant to tell the nursing staff when she has a problem. She didn't want to bother them one night last week in the middle of the night because she felt they needed their sleep, too. She fails to realize that that's what they're there for.

I had my appointment yesterday for my Photodynamic Therapy. It's been probably 5 years since I last had it done and I don't remember my face reacting so strongly to it. It's like a really bad sun burn. The entire procedure takes about two hours and begins with a scrubbing of my face with an acetone followed by the application of a chemical that needs to be allowed to soak into my skin for 75 minutes. I was then placed in front of a blue light that wraps around my face. The first few minutes are kind of intense as the chemical reacts to the light and begins to burn my skin. I couldn't help but wonder how I was going to endure it for the full 16 minutes and 40 seconds but after a few minutes the pain subsides a little and becomes manageable. I'll have the process done again in three weeks.

I got a phone call for an overtime shift this morning. I told Lenny I could make it then went into the bathroom to get ready and looked in the mirror. Yikes! People are gonna freak out when they see me I thought. I think some maybe did a little. But they paid me well to be embarrassed so I didn't mind all that much.




Saturday, May 30, 2015

Transitions

We drove up to Babbitt early Tuesday morning to bring Tammy's mom back with us to live. Her dementia seems to come and go but for the most part she's enjoying her stay. Rather than try and explain to her at the outset that she was coming to live with us, we're easing her into the idea. There's been some resistance but it soon passes and she's once again content to sit in front of her makeup mirror and primp herself. It calms her. She'll work on her makeup for the longest time to the point where she overdoes it but it's not something we would want to deny her, not if it brings her peace.

We had a funny moment a couple days ago. We were all in the laundry room on the way out to the car when Tammy asked me to hold on to Elaine while she gathered up some things. While we were standing there Elaine noticed the large mirror attached to the bench seat. She shuffled closer to have a look and asked me for some lipstick. I looked at Tammy and she rolled her eyes before reaching in her purse. We waited patiently for her mom to finish but knew we'd have to walk her away and toward the door to the garage if we were to ever get to where we were going. We did just that as she craned her neck to continue to look. It was both cute and funny.

It's a beautiful thing to watch Tammy care for her. She's so sweet even in those moments where her mother isn't very receptive to the attention Tammy is giving her.

I noticed a hummingbird at our feeder a couple days ago. I tried to get a photo of it but I wasn't quick enough. I want to be that guy in retirement (218 days from now) who has the little hummers waiting in line to get at the ports of our feeders. Just wait!

My thoughts keep returning to the fatbike I talked about in my last post. The quieter part of me wants to hold off to make the purchase but the louder part of me says I'm gonna get it eventually anyway so why wait? I'd really like to be out on the trails with it not only in the winter but now. What's that I feel...is that someone twisting my arm?

Rachel has some friends lined up and a 15 foot U-Haul reserved for her move back home tomorrow. She had a couple of job opportunities present themselves to her recently that (if she takes them) will keep her busy throughout the summer and beyond. She's not one to sit around and watch the world pass by. We're looking forward to her ever pleasant presence around our home again.

I was out riding for a few hours on Memorial Day intent on doing a 75 mile loop to Lonsdale. Somewhere around Webster I decided to venture off my planned route and instead stop and see Mom at her temporary room in Northfield. While she may not be recovering as quickly as we'd hoped to see, she is slowly getting better. Whether or not she'll ever be able to return home is still an unknown. We have a family care conference set up for Wednesday where we'll sit down with a social worker to talk about where she's at in her recovery and what her options are.

How does one come to terms with trading the comfort and solitude of your home for the hospital-like feel of a much less private room and gracefully accept this new phase in life? That has to be a most difficult transition.



Memorial Day from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Riding and Reminiscing

My plan has been to buy a kayak when I retire and use it on some nearby lakes to get an upper body workout. I'd have done it already but there's not enough time in my schedule between my riding, walking, yard-work and what remains of my career. I'm glad I waited. My want for a kayak has been replaced by something more appealing: SUP (Stand Up Paddle). In the land of 10,000 lakes I think this could be something I can enjoy for many years. I hear it's a very good core workout and that's what I need.

I also like how easy it is to lift one of these boards as they're considerably lighter than a kayak.

SUP is not new but I would guess it's new to most of those out there doing it. I found a link to this video on Wiki. Too fun! Now, where do I go to find waves like that around here?

I've also got my eye on one other toy; a newer, lighter fat-bike. There's a small shop in Rosemount called Wheelie Awesome Bike Service that offers a carbon fiber bike from Sarma called the Shaman with a Bluto front suspension that comes in at around 25 pounds. The reviews I've read about the bike are very good. My knees will appreciate the reduced weight considering how my Mukluk tips the scales at just over 40 pounds. I'd like to have this in my stable by fall if possible.

Speaking of my knees, I recently heard about a relatively new and much more refined partial knee replacement procedure called Makoplasty that uses a robotic arm in conjunction with infrared positioning of arrays that guide the surgeon for a much a more precise surgery. Here's a video that describes the procedure. It doesn't guarantee any more longevity out of the new knee when compared to other knee surgical procedures but I think recovery is faster. I hope to have my right knee rebuilt some day but I figure the longer I wait the more I increase my chances for a better outcome.

I was in to see my dermatologist on Tuesday to rid my skin of any suspect areas that could become cancerous. His focus was on small, scaly areas referred to as Actinic Keratoses which he freezes off with super-cold liquid nitrogen. It leaves my face looking like I lost a fight with a clawed animal but I don't mind. It's a small inconvenience for what it does for me. He wants me back in three weeks to undergo Photodynamic Therapy and again three weeks after that to repeat the process.

I was out riding Friday morning under a blue sky with light winds. We seldom have calm wind days here and it reminded me a lot of a San Diego day when I used to ride out there while in the Navy. Those were some carefree times for me. I couldn't help but reminisce about those days because it's what I do.

I took a detour and rode out to Emerald Hills Village trailer park in Inver Grove Heights to have a look at where I lived for my first year after returning home from the Navy. The trees are a lot taller and the home I used to live in has been replaced by another but it's still the same place. I enjoyed standing there straddling my bike and thinking how much has happened in my life since I lived there.

Yes, so much has happened but I'm still the same kid-at-heart. I hope that never changes.



Northeast Loop into Eagan from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Friday, May 22, 2015

We Just Want What's Best For Her

Lots has been happening this past week for our family. My mom is in the Temporary Care Unit of Three Links Care Center in Northfield where she'll hopefully be for several more days or better yet, weeks. I say hopefully because there's a strong possibility that she'll be going home sooner than she should. She's still not strong enough to get around without help but she's determined to go back home and resume her life as she left it last Saturday.

I had been trying to get a hold of her Saturday morning but her phone was off the hook. I texted Tim (he lives with her) and he told me she wasn't feeling well; he suspected food poisoning. It concerned me because her health is frail to begin with and who knows how much her heart can take?

I was able to get in touch with Tracee and she offered to go over and check on her. It's a good thing she did. She rushed her to the emergency room at Ridges Hospital in Burnsville. Her heart was beating much too hard at 145 bpm, her blood pressure was dangerously high and her temperature was elevated. She was very dehydrated and some of the other values they check for were also out of range. She was in tough shape.

She spent the next few days at Ridges before being discharged to her room in Northfield where she remains.

As much as we'd like to see her remain there until she's better, the decision to leave or stay is up to her. The facility she's at has no ability to keep her from returning home no matter how weak or unable to care for herself she is.

We talked about getting her into an assisted living facility but she would need to be considerably stronger than she is for that to be an option. The other option we have is long term care or what's often referred to as a nursing home. It's not where we'd want to see her but it's a much safer environment than her home where I envision her sitting in front of the television watching Fox News and too weak to make it to the bathroom or kitchen without a huge effort on her part, say nothing of trying to bathe herself. It's very worrisome.

When all of this began to unfold we offered to take her in rather than having her return to her home but I began to have second thoughts about our offer. With Tammy's mother coming to stay with us next week, Tammy can't afford to have her back go out on her trying to lift my mother. With Tammy's fragile back, that's a real possibility and not a risk I want her to take.

This incident has weakened her quite a lot. I'm hopeful that she'll bounce back as she has in the past but that may be asking too much this time. This may be a new-normal that she's going to have to adjust to.

I want to say a special thank-you to Tracee for getting her to the hospital and quite likely saving her life. I don't think it can be overstated just how important it was that she received the medical care she did without any further delay last Saturday.

Also, a special thank-you to Tammy for putting in three full days with her making sure she was comfortable and easing her fears through it all.

I'm not sure how this will all unfold. We're working with a social worker to help us navigate these waters and discuss the options available to our mom. There's so much to consider and her options change as her health improves or declines and on the availability of rooms. We just want what's best for her.