Sunday, November 30, 2003

Sunday Morning

What a beautiful day! So beautiful that snow will melt and that's a good thing. Tammy's reading the Star Tribune and I just got done with my bible reading for the day...Toby and Allie are barking and chasing each other around the house.

Bible reading...two years ago our church challenged the members to follow a study guide which would have you read the entire bible in a year. We did that and have continued our daily reading into this year. I've really struggled with much of what I've read in the Old Testament. It was such a barbaric time where women were treated as goods and not afforded rights we take for granted. I still struggle with King David. He was far from perfect but he would kill others for lesser offenses than those which he himself committed. Fortunately for me my bible does a very good job of explaining the context within which what I'm reading was written. Without the explained background of the times it would be difficult to just accept things on their face. Tammy is also a good source for understanding.

My faith is very important to me and has been for as long as I can remember. I'm not sure even my closest friends (not that there are many) know its role in my life. It's not something I'm embarrassed of but it's also not something I beat people over the head with. I'm not much of an evangelist, I know.

I got called into work for an overtime shift yesterday. That's a good thing as that should pay for the softener I bought Mom this week. :)

Friday, November 28, 2003

Mom

We made Mom's day today. Jackie told me earlier in the week that she and Jerry had bought her a new hot water heater without her knowing and were going to install it today. I mentioned that she also needed a new water softener but she always had several excuses why she didn't want to get another. Her other one gave up the ghost a couple years ago. Anyway, I decided it would be nice to get that for her to go along with Jackie and Jerry's gift.

So, this morning I got up early and loaded up the softener and stopped by Fleet Farm to get 300 lbs of salt to go with it and drove out to Mom's to wait for Jerry, Jackie and Cole. They were late getting there so I helped Mom set up her tree and decorate it while we shared some small talk about the goings on in our lives. I imagine Mom was wondering why I was hanging around so long but she never said anything as I'm sure she was happy for my company. I'm usually in some stupid hurry when I stop by but not today. Just a second...could somebody please explain this to me...I mean, I know it goes from 12 people to 13 people but I can't figure out how...



Okay...back to Mom...so, Jackie calls on the cell phone and starts asking Mom about some store coupon. All the while Mom thinks she's calling from home but she's actually right outside her door leaving an evergreen floral basket and ringing the doorbell. As Mom goes to answer the door she finds the basket and asks me if I know who left this...who me? Now, Jackie, Jerry and Cole are coming in the back entrance through the garage to surprise Mom. Jackie asked Mom if she knew why we were here and of course I hadn't told her. When she told her she was getting a new hot water heater and water softener she began to cry. I gave her a hug and told her I was happy for her.

Mom made us all breakfast then I drove Jackie and Cole to my house so I could take Rachel and Cole sledding. I dropped them off at the hill and went back to see if Jerry needed some help.Aleah and Pat had stopped by and Pat was there to help should Jerry need it.

So while I'm gone, Tammy got a call from her dad saying that he wondered if maybe she should come up as her mother is quite ill with the flu, cold and sore throat. Tammy talked to her mom and decided it would be best to stay home and just let Mom get some rest. I encouraged her to go and bring Toby and Allie with her but after speaking with her mom we agree it probably was best not to go up. Rachel is heading up to Camille's for the weekend so Tammy and I have a couple free nights together. I'd love to enjoy a glass of wine with her tonight but I'm afraid I can't while I'm still in my Cluster headache period...bummer.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Showing Theresa How It All Works

Okay, the meal was great and now we're all down in the shop with three different computers going...showing Theresa how to set up a weblog.

I Almost Forgot

Family Photos and a Family Forum

When I started our website back in the Spring I had this idea to mostly use it as a way to be able to post some photos of some of the stained glass we've done. I have friends who would occasionally ask to see photos of it and I thought it would be nice to be able to give them a URL instead and they could check it out on their own. So I put together the site with that idea in mind.

About this time last year I was busy archiving all of our family photos. I got whatever Mom had and I was also given a bunch from others in our family. I'd scan them and burn them to discs. As I started looking at them I noticed that many were in poor condition and I quickly learned how to touch them up in Photoshop. So I began this huge undertaking of going through every photo and cleaning them up. I imagine I'll still be doing it a couple years from now as it's that big a project and I've got all sorts of other things to also do with my spare time. Anyway, it occurred to me that I could post some of the photos on the site for everyone to see as the work progressed. So the site is now a combination Family, stained glass and photos from my time in the Navy.

Along the way I got the idea to attach a message board to the site so we could comment on some of the photos...and so I did. It's been a bit slow to get it going but there are 4 of us who regularly contribute...Bryan, Jackie, Claudia and me. It's entertaining to hear others thoughts about whatever it is we're discussing and maybe some long overdue confessions along the way from our childhood. So the past couple days we'd been discussing Dad and wondering about his childhood. All was fine until Claudia complains that we're not letting Dad rest in peace because we're apparently dredging up a past which should be left alone...excuse me...what is your problem? Nobody is trashing Dad, save for a few comments about his alcoholism but so what. If anything, we were expressing our thankfulness to him for all he did for us over the years.

I believe Claudia is the only one who has any contact with Dad's side of the family. When Dad left home for the Navy he never had much contact with his family the rest of his life with the exception of the occasional phone call and Christmas card. He left with a lot of resentment toward his older sister who cared for him after his parent's died. Not much was ever said to us about his bitterness but I just learned from my mother yesterday that he was sexually molested as a young boy by his sister's husband's brother. That being enough on its own but I think there was more to it all but suffice it to say that he had no desire to forgive and forget whatever came between them. Claudia, however, is sympathetic to those on my Dad's side of the family who want to trash his name...and they do. So who is the one not letting Dad rest in peace?

I was really hoping the message board could be a source of healing and understanding for us as siblings to be able to get together in a fun way and build on our relationships. Maybe I'm thinking too much again. I don't mind a bit of differing in opinions on the board but I was hoping we wouldn't have to deal with the over-the-top reactions like Claudia's yesterday. I think she spends a good deal of time on other message boards and I think she thrives on the confrontation you can find there. I just wish she'd save it for the other boards.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

This Is So Good!

I'm listening to the new Jars of Clay cd today and I have to say that this is such a nice sound. The first song almost has a Jayhawks feel to it. Tammy and Rachel have decided to stay home with me for Thanksgiving as Tammy's mom isn't feeling at all well. I wasn't up for the trip so I was staying home, regardless. It'll be nice to have our own Thanksgiving dinner. Theresa and Tony will be coming over for dinner.

It's been six weeks since I've worked out. Tammy keeps telling me to take it easy while I'm going through this cluster phase and so I do. I'm worried that I'm losing muscle though as well as some cardiovascular strength so I can't let this go much longer. It does feel nice to give myself a break as I'd been working it pretty steady for quite a while. This is the longest break I've had since I don't know when.

I finished the year with 3800 miles on the road. Not spectacular but the last six weeks of riding were very, very good for me. I hope to push the 6000 mile mark next year now that I've got myself into the mode of going long distance again. I'm especially looking forward to using my new wheels. It seems for quite a while now I haven't had much faith in my current wheels. I was overdue for these wheels. Apart from the 6000 mile goal on the road I also have a goal of riding to Babbitt, MN in one day. It'll be a 260 mile trip but if I train right and find a day with a tail wind I should be able to do it. I should begin to map the trip out so I'm ready to go. I know the guys at Flanders can help me with directions to get me up toward Duluth.

The Duplex

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Mellow My Mind



It's been a long weekend and now my work week is just beginning. I got a lot done through and I feel good about that. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...not really. But it is.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Tim and Dad

My brother, Tim, stopped by last Friday. Our relationship has been strained so much the past few years that there was a time when I wondered if there was anything left to salvage. That's twice now in the last three weeks that he's stopped by. A year ago our family was in turmoil and so many of us had for the most part given up speaking with one another. Ours is a classic dysfunctional family. An alcoholic father and an enabling mother. Not only was my dad an alcoholic but he was also a work-aholic.

Although I seldom saw my dad without a drink when I was a boy, I don't think there was necessarily abuse occurring. I can never recall seeing my dad falling down, or obviously drunk. I'm sure he was feeling a buzz and taking off an edge but nothing more. It wasn't until he lost his job in the Spring of '85 that his drinking became a problem. He'd been a financial planner with Control Data for most of his career and in the Spring of '85 his division was bought out by a company named VTC. Dad was let go by the new group within a few months of the buyout. It was then that he crawled inside the bottle from which he would never emerge. He filed an age discrimination suit but he was really on the leading edge of that sort of thing back then and he simply didn't have the money to follow it through. He ended up settling for attorney fees and walked away with a much smaller pension than he'd planned for.

I remember he and Mom were in the middle of planning their retirement home with an architect and those plans were quickly shelved. They sold their home and moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where we have relatives from my Mom's side. I don't know if my Dad gave up by running away so to speak or if he really thought he could begin again in Michigan. My parent's found a home to rent for a couple years and then bought a home They also purchased an old barn in a beautiful location on the road into Houghton. They renovated it and turned it into Landmark Rental. I'll finish this later...

I was living in Huron SD at the time but I was getting home ever 6 weeks so I wasn't totally detached. I can remember driving in my car in Huron while listening to WCCO on the radio and hearing of the merger/buyout/whateveritwas and wondering if it would affect Dad. It was sometime in early 1985. I think he lasted maybe four or five months before they pulled the rug out from under him. We look back today and wonder if maybe Dad had begun to drink more heavily after the merger and that maybe the new people saw him as a liability to be gotten rid of. It's hard to know. Just the previous year he'd won an award for his performance and I can't be sure but I want to say it was 'Employee of the Year' for his division. Not something they just give to anybody.

So he and Mom sold their home and moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where Dad started going through money like there was no tomorrow. He spent a large amount getting the business going. It was to be a tape rental as well as equipment rental shop. They also operated a Ryder Truck rental out of their lot. Tim (my brother) moved up to help them run the business but between my dad and him and both their drinking excesses the business never got off the ground. They kept it going for a couple years but eventually had to sell the building.

It was a very difficult time for my mom. I think she just hung on to the hope that things couldn't get any worse and that tomorrow would be better. On a couple occasions she left Dad and drove back to Minnesota to stay with Noy and I. She'd last a couple days then have to go home as she was too worried about Dad being on his own and what might happen. She was so tired on one of her trips to Minnesota that she fell asleep at the wheel and ran off the road and through a fence.

Meanwhile, Dad had fallen into a routine of driving to Mass City everyday for whatever he needed to keep himself drunk. It was sometime in the early '90s that Mom finally called the police and had him pulled over. How he never killed anyone only God knows as his blood alcohol content was around .3. His license was taken away and I'm not sure he ever forgave Mom for that although he should have thanked her. All the while he was suffering more and more from emphysema and it wouldn't be long until he was pretty much confined to his chair in the living room tied to his oxygen tank. It's the side of smoking you usually don't get to see because the people who suffer with it have a difficult time getting out in public. I'm sure fewer people would smoke if they had a clearer picture of the end game.

As I sit here and write these thoughts of my dad I realize that I'm just touching the surface with most of this. My thoughts and memories go much deeper than these words. I'm dwelling on mostly negative things about my dad but I do realize that he had some very good qualities about him as well. He loved to help out the underdog and try and give a hand up to those he felt could use it. He was a bit of a dreamer and I admired that quality in him. He was a pretty simple guy when it was all boiled down. He had difficulty with authority and that never served him well especially when it came to the corporate world. He could have had a VP designator in front of his name but he wasn't one to play the game to make it happen. He remained a financial planner/manager and it paid the bills. More later...

Sunday now and I have no idea how long this ramble of mine will last.

I came across some of my dad's writings recently where he talked about some of his earliest memories. His parents died when he was a young boy. I think his father died when my dad was 4 and his mother died when he was around 8. He was raised by his older sister, Vi and her husband, Joe. He carried with him a lot of resentment toward both of them. Here's an early photo of my dad and his mother and brother and possibly and aunt...not sure.

I used to feel that I never had enough individual time with my dad when I was growing up but being one of six kids in the family and knowing how much it takes to maintain a household I now realize he did the best he could. We always lived in a nice home and never lacked for anything important.

My dad died in September '95 from a combination of emphysema and heart failure. I had been up to see him the week before but I wasn't there when he died. I remember how hard it was to say goodbye to him knowing it would be the last time I'd ever see him. I remember looking back at him as I left the room and feeling the weight of knowing he would die soon. There had been many close calls in the year leading up to his death but I was certain I wouldn't see him again. When he finally did die I came home to an answering machine message left by Jackie saying that "Dad died at 3:15 today". She was crying and that's all she could say. My stepson, Dave, was in town and we'd been out golfing. I remember thinking how I was out enjoying myself and my dad lay dying in the hospital.

Noy, Dave, Snickers and I drove to Michigan and met the rest of the family there. We all stayed in the same hotel and I remember how the grandkids had fun being together ordering pizza and running through the halls to each others rooms. The photo to the right is of Dave and Snickers from the trip.

I think it was a year before I ever broke down and cried for my dad after his death. I'm not sure why I did at that time but I recall it happening. Mostly I was relieved when he died both for my mom and my dad. His life had become a painful existence and I know it was hard on my mom in so many ways. She's not at all a selfish person and I'm sure she was happy to be there for him but it was consuming her.

After Dad died, Mom remained in Winona for another year before moving back to be near us kids in the Twin Cities. She eventually bought a townhome about 5 miles from me. She's a busy lady these days with not enough time in her day. She's volunteers 3 to 4 days a week at Hosanna and has really found a new depth to her faith there. She's got such a servant's heart that I can't begin to say enough good things about her.

This started out being an entry about my brother, Tim but I somehow got sidetracked talking about my dad. I hope to see Tim this Thanksgiving as well as my sister, Claudia and her family and continue the healing.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

So Far So Good

Still taking the Prednisone and doing well. It's when I begin to back off the stuff that it gets difficult. I managed 4 hours of sleep last night and 3 the night before that. My heart beat was elevated yesterday...72. I didn't check it today. Usually it's in the mid 40s. Tammy happened to check it otherwise I'd have never known.

I tried recording a show with the laptop tonight but I don't have it configured correctly yet. I think I may have to plug it in directly to the cable box where the signal comes in. The media center with my laptop is very cool and I'm looking forward to using some of the features. It would be a waste of money not to take advantage of them.

It snowed hard today for several hours. Tammy brought Toby and Allie out in it and Toby was having fun trying to catch snowflakes in his mouth. I'd like to have seen that. Those little guys are sooo cute. They really bring a lift to you if you're not having the best day.

Sunday, November 9, 2003

They're Back

My Cluster headaches have returned like I as afraid they would. I woke up last night to the beginnings of one but it subsided just as quickly. It came back this morning at 11:00 and I could tell it wasn't going away. I inhaled an Imitrex and started the Prednisone. It stopped it nicely but left me with a lingering achy head. I don't like the stress that me having them places on Tammy. I think she wants so badly to take them away but she can't. She's a Registered Nurse and she's very intuitive to my needs. They typically last 4 to 5 weeks so there's light at the end of the tunnel.

Tammy and I went out to get the new Jars of Clay cd last night and ended up coming home with a new laptop from Best Buy. My nephew, Brent, is a sales manager at Best Buy and he sold it to us. I'd been looking at a Dell so I've been researching them a bit. We got a wide screen Toshiba, 2.8ghz, 60gb hd...very nice unit. Tammy will inherit my Sony Vaio so now Rachel doesn't play second fiddle to anybody for the desktop computer. I'm going to reformat it tonight when I get home from work though as the guy who set it up misspelled my name in the registry and it can't be changed and I just have to have spelled right don't you know...it shouldn't be a problem as I haven't added much to it.

Not only did we get Jars of Clay new cd but we also bought Coldplay's live cd. It comes with a dvd of some concert footage which is very, very good. I'd recommend both. If you've never heard Jars of Clay you should give them a listen if you're anywhere between the ages of 12 to 62.



Saturday, November 8, 2003

Men Without Hats

Hello

This past week has been a struggle for me. I've been getting some indications that my Cluster headaches are about to return. I suppose I'm overdue for another cycle of them but the thought is a depressing one.

It's been one month since I've felt strong and healthy. The trip to Disney World took a lot out of me. The Bronchitis and now these headaches looking like they're ready to take over. I have a feeling it's going to be some time before I'm where I want to be.

As I write this, Toby and Allie are going nuts running around the shop. So full of energy and dickens.