Saturday, July 25, 2015

A Biker in the Making and Free Thinking

I'll often use my breaks at work to write my blog but I'm finding little time for that lately. Between the Oshkosh airshow traffic traversing our airspace and the smallest staffing numbers I've ever worked with I've had much less laptop time. I'm not complaining but the thought of retirement has never been more tempting. I think back to all of the false starts I've had with my plans for retirement and how I've been reluctant to call it quits because I just wasn't feeling like I was ready to be done. I always felt I'd know when the time was right and the feeling I'm getting now is that this time it is for real. I'm still focused on my January 2nd date and barring some medical issue I think I'll make it. 161 dtg and no more.

Tammy and I had a mini date last week when Tammy's good friend Brenda offered to watch Elaine for 4 hours so we could go out and spend some time together. That was so nice of her. Brenda is also a nurse. We made the most of our time: a walk around Lake of the Isles, lunch at Chili's and a little shopping at Costco. Thanks again, Brenda!

Rachel had her first taste of distance cycling when she joined a volunteer group she was a part of in college (STLF) for a two day ride from Kenosha, Wisconsin to Chicago, Ilinois. They did some volunteer projects along the way similar to what they did on their spring break trips across the country. We had done some rides together over the last couple of weeks to help get her conditioned and I think it helped.

She's no stranger to the bike having gotten considerable use out of her own bike before getting a car but she told me a few nights ago that she wants to do even more riding now. Good for her!

In keeping with my blog being a place that I'll be returning to in years and decades from now I'd like to make mention of where my head is at with respect to my faith in God and my politics.

I grew up in a family that attended church each Sunday and I more or less continued that routine when I left home. Even while serving in the Navy I'd sometimes attend church at the small chapel on base when my ship was in port in San Diego. It felt right to do in a centering or grounding sort of way.

That's all changed now thanks to a takeover of our congregations by a conservative ideology that has absolutely no resemblance to Jesus. None! I've never been so far from the church as I am today and I see very little chance that I'll be making my way back any time soon if ever again. I've become much more of a free-thinker who now wonders if my previous beliefs were shaped more by man in a Fox News sort of warped way rather than by what God intended.

The most disturbing thing to me though is the marrying of religion and politics. I saw where a Facebook friend and member of our former small-group posted the graphic to the left on her wall the other day. It's this sort of thing that has me so disappointed in the direction my Christian brothers and sisters are moving. This shit happens much more often than it should. It's gotten to the point where I'm spending less and less time online, preferring to avoid having to see such utter ridiculousness and the need to feel I have to respond to it. It's not worth it. I'm much happier without it.

On a lighter note, I did a tour of our yard a couple weeks ago...

Garden Tour, 2015 from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.
A stroll around our yard to check out our gardens at the end of the first week of July. I try to do this yearly so I'll have something to look back on the see how changes evolve over the years.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Disagreements and a Daunting Challenge

Keith, Tracee, Jerry, Jackie, Stephanie and Ryan met at Mom's townhome Sunday morning to sort through her belongings and take to Goodwill anything they couldn't find a home for. It was a huge undertaking. There's still a considerable amount of stuff to go through but they made a lot of progress. Keith intends to replace some light fixtures and possibly the countertops before having her home listed.

All of this hasn't been without some family strife. My youngest brother who has lived with our mom for the past six years is insisting that it's just a matter of time before she will be returning home and that we're all jumping the gun. He's also of the belief that there was never a need for her to have left her home in the first place. I can't disagree more and every other one of my siblings feels the same way. It's been very frustrating as we try to do this in a way that is free of drama and free of stress for Mom. Tim continuing to encourage her that she'll be coming home soon is detrimental to her mental and physical health. She so wants to believe him and becomes agitated with the rest of us when his promises don't come to fruition.

I'm not violating any family trust by mentioning this here as Tim has taken to Facebook to plead his case among his friends while stating that we're all adult children of alcoholic parents and very dysfunctional. I love my brother. I just want him to stop with his agenda and offer us a hand.

I went with Rachel to an informational meeting at St Kate's in St Paul on Tuesday night. We were there for a couple hours listening to the philosophy behind the school's graduate programs. Most of the evening was spent within a smaller group going over in detail their MPAS (Masters of Physician Assistant Studies) program.

Just getting selected to attend the school is daunting. The application process for their MPAS program is open until the end of September and they already have nearly 500 applicants. Who knows what the final number will be but of the hundreds of applicants only 100 will be called in for an interview and of those 100 only 32 will be selected for a seat in their next class. This is fairly typical of any school she applies for. It's ridiculously competitive.

We strolled around the campus on our way back to the car and took in some of the sites. It's a picturesque setting.

I'm enjoying one of my riding loops much more than any of the others I do: my loop to Murphy Hanrehan and the mountain bike trails they have there. It's only 21 miles (6 miles to the trail-head with 9 miles of trails then a 6 mile return) of riding but I have so much fun out there. I'm getting more comfortable on my Shaman and that translates to quicker times through the trails. I don't know how much faster I can get without taking too many risks but I'm enjoying trying. The biggest thing to learn is when to let my speed run vs reigning it in. I actually get just a little anxious before going on the ride because I know I'll be challenged in ways my road bike can't.

My Timehop reminded me of my last double century ride I did 4 years ago today and it has me wondering if I'll ever do another. I'd like to think I will but I can't be certain. It may be a worthy goal in retirement. Until then I'll have video from that ride 4 years ago to remind myself what I'm in for should I ever decide to get that crazy again.

This video is a little raw compared to some of my more recent offerings but I still like it.

Solo Double and Then Some from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Memories and Mementoes for the Taking

Tammy and I have summer traditions that we look forward to each year: the Taste of Minnesota; the Uptown Art Fair; the Dakota County Fair and the Minnesota State Fair to name a few. We'll be taking a pass on each of those this year as we care for Elaine. We'll make it back to all of them again some day and I think we'll enjoy them all more than ever when we do.

My mom is slowly slipping away from us. I went to see her Wednesday night and she was so confused and making very little sense. I wondered as I sat with her in her room if she would even remember the next day that I was there at all.

I brought my camera along hoping to get a nice photo of her but I never took it out. She was too stressed to smile and I didn't feel right about taking a photo of her in the condition she was in. I tried to make small-talk but I failed to piece together a conversation from what little sense she was making.

I drove home in silence feeling sad for her situation and wondering (as I have each time I've said goodbye to her these past several weeks) if that would be the last time I'd see her. I watched a couple of balloons floating off to my left as I approached the Elko exit. I grabbed a quick shot. There's a serenity in that photo that I wish for my mom. I'm no longer praying for a miraculous recovery but instead I pray for her to leave this life as her time here is done. But her frail, faithful heart soldiers on. It keeps on doing what it has done for nearly 88 years while the rest of her body slowly shuts down and leaves her to struggle on.

Keith will be putting her town-home on the market soon. My siblings and I have been stopping by there this past week to see if there's anything of hers we'd like to have. The only thing I was really hoping to get back was a Tiffany Peony lamp I'd made for her some 15 years ago. I wanted it for Jackie, my sister. I also found several photo albums that I brought home with me with plans to go through them this winter and digitize them and eventually put them all on DVDs to give to my siblings. I wish I'd have taken time to go over them with my mom while she was still able to give me the history of some of the less familiar photos. It's too late for that now.

Going through her things as we are feels premature but it all has to be done in order to get her home on the market and cover whatever costs she will incur once she leaves the Transitional Care Unit at Three Links. I don't see her languishing in this condition for long but it's possible that she could and we need to be prepared.

I took a few minutes to take one last look around knowing that it will probably be the last time I would see her home looking the way she had it.

There have been lots of gatherings and celebrations here over the 18 or so years that she's called this home. This may be the longest she's ever lived in one place now that I think about it.

I know my dad would have been proud of the way she carried on without him.

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.