Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas 2005

I always enjoy this time of year when I’m able to get out on my bike and cheat winter a couple hours at a time. I was able to do that Thursday and I was hoping too again today but with snow lightly falling, it doesn’t look likely.

Rachel and Katrina (from across the street) were out snow sculpting on Friday. I can’t remember the name they gave her but she’s very well made…right down to her chocolate chip smile.

The three of us exchanged gifts Friday night as Rachel’s dad was picking her up Christmas Eve day. So Rachel’s dream of having her own cellphone has finally come true. I’m sure it won’t be long before her little fingers are flying across the number pad as she text messages her friends.

Tammy got me a very nice chair for our den. It has several levers for adjusting it all sorts of ways. I also got some DVDs…Supertramp, Zoolander and Third Day, Live in Concert. Toby and Allie weren’t left out. They got a few stuffed animals and Toby was sure to let Allie know that they were his toys but she could play with them. It’s funny how he’s so possessive of his toys. Allie really doesn’t care much about them but he sure does.

I did just a bit of running around Christmas Eve day taking care of one last item I needed to get. I stopped by Mom’s to take advantage of the warm weather and shovel the ice off her driveway. Mom was busy baking and setting up for later in the day. She put a lot of hard work into making sure none of us would go home hungry. Tim was there and we visited for a bit then went out together and did her driveway for her. For the most part, I had all my shopping done and gifts wrapped well ahead of time. I put the finishing touches on a stained glass cross we made for Mom just before heading out the door for church and then Mom’s.

Tammy and I got to Mom’s around 6:30. We had dinner and opened gifts. Lindsay was going to be there but had to work in Mankato until 9:00pm so she didn’t make it. We all sat around after dinner and talked for a couple hours as nobody was in a hurry to leave. It was good to see Ron doing so well. It was a bit dark for my video camera but I did manage to splice together a couple minutes from last night. Here's a link for you broadband users.

Tammy and I got home and watched the movie, Rabbit-Proof Fence It’s a true story set in the 1930s in Australia about their governments attempt to integrate aborigines into white society "for their own good". I’d never heard of the movie until it was recommended to me by my Netflix account. The recommendation was a good one. 4 of 5 stars.

It’s back to work for me today. Our Christmas tree and other decorations are still up and for some reason I don’t seem bothered by them as I usually am by this time of year. I’ve actually found myself sitting in our living room with only the tree lights on relaxing while I watch the lights slowly fade in and out.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Babe in the Straw,

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

March of the Penguins

I watched March of the Penguins today. Wow! That's probably one of the most fascinating things I've ever seen. Rent this DVD if you haven't already seen it and you will think the same as I. Also, on the DVD there's an hour long documentary about the men who spent a year living among the penguins while they filmed them. That too is very interesting.

While I was watching the movie I was struck by how the entire life of the Emperor Penguin was devoted to seeing that their species survived. Before watching the movie I suppose I assumed that these were your typical penguins which clowned around and took turns jumping off icy shores into the ocean. The hardships endured by both the male and female were enormous. The penguins walk (march) 60 to 70 miles to a specific place in Antarctica to pair up and mate. After laying the egg, the female carefully transfers the egg to the male who will balance the egg on top of his feet while keeping it warm next to his body for the next two months. After the transfer, the females travel back to where they came from to replenish their bodies so they can return in time to care for the chicks after they hatch.

The incubation of the egg occurs in the harshest environment on earth with the temperature reaching lows of -80f and winds sometimes upward of 100mph. The males stand the entire time to balance the egg so it doesn't come in contact with the frozen ground beneath them. When the chicks finally hatch, the males will have been without food for 4 months. The return of the females in time is critical as the males will become too weak to travel the distance home for food.

After watching the movie I couldn't help but think that we as a people could learn something from these creatures and the sacrifices they make to bring new life into our world.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Our Road Trip to Babbitt and Adding Another Phone to Our Plan

My Christmas shopping is nearly done as are some gifts we’ve been putting together for family and friends. It’s been somewhat of a low-key holiday season for us to this point with not much break in our routine with the exception of a quick trip to see Tammy's folks this past weekend...more on that later.

We helped host a neighborhood house-hop, or what some would refer to as a progressive dinner, a couple Saturdays ago. There were twelve couples involved visiting four homes. The first three of four homes on the list served different main course dishes along with various appetizers and side dishes. The last home (ours) was the desert house. Thankfully we had the help of the other two couples in our group to help host. Tammy made a chocolate fondue with all sorts of different fruits and stuff to smother in chocolate…I think marshmallows were my favorite. Tammy had to work during the day so I was in charge of getting the house looking nice and making sure there would be enough alcohol. Thanks to Mark across the street for bringing more beer than I’d imagined they would drink. We were a host house two years ago when our basement was still the color of cement so it was nice to open it up to everyone and to see them enjoying themselves down there. I’d have loved to have played some darts with the guys but it wasn’t meant to be…maybe next year. Everyone headed for home around 1:00am and it was time to hurry Tammy off to bed as she had to be up in 3 hours for work the next day. I stayed up another hour and cleaned as I didn’t like the idea of waking up to a mess.

We finally got our Christmas cards out in the mail last weekend. We were going to send them earlier but Tammy thought it would be nice to include a photo of us. 27 attempts later and this is our final result. Toby’s look pretty much sums it up.

We took a trip to Babbitt and Tammy’s folks this past weekend to celebrate Christmas with them. I could only stay one day but it was nice to get away and see them. We took both vehicles because Tammy and Rachel were staying up there a few extra days. Rachel, Allie and I rode together while Tammy and Toby followed in the Saturn. It was a snowy trip up there (streaming or YouTube video) once we got near Duluth with the lake effect snows. Rachel brought her violin along so she could play Christmas music in church on Sunday as the people were taking their seats and during the offering.

Being up in Babbitt is always a relaxing time. There aren’t many distractions, especially this time of year when it’s typically extremely cold and not much to do outside. We usually manage to do one or two puzzles and play some board games. Speaking of games; Tammy brought a new game along with us to play…this game is a hoot. It’s called, Snorta. Have any of you played this? We were laughing…I mean serious belly laughing playing this. It’s like playing ‘war’ with cards except that when you have a match with another player you have to be the first person to make the sound of their chosen animal. You can add a wrinkle to it by making up an unusual sound which the others have to mimic. Take my word for it, it’s a lot of fun.

Allie and Toby found some good pathways through the house to chase each other. Those little guys have a lot of energy they need to bleed off every few hours.

I got back home Saturday afternoon and got a timely call from Brent just as I was approaching the Burnsville mall on the way into town. He told me to stop by and he’d help me with the purchase of our new cellphone plan. Ours expires this month and we’ve decided to add a phone for Rachel as her main Christmas gift this year with the most important feature of the plan being unlimited text messaging for her. There was a plan which offered 500 text messages monthly for about $6 but for an additional few dollars she could have unlimited messaging. You would think that 500 would be enough but once I did the math (a little less than 17 messages per day) I knew she could easily run out of days before the month was over. It’s a big deal with kids her age so we didn’t want to disappoint her and stifle her messaging ability. So, her phone has a full charge and is waiting to be opened Christmas Eve. Needless to say she’s very excited to be getting her own phone and would love to have it yesterday. I did break down just a bit and give her her new phone number so she can share it with her friends.

We’re planning on getting together at Mom’s on Christmas Eve for dinner although Rachel won’t be with us as she’ll be at her dad’s. Tammy and I will probably attend one of the later services at Hosanna after we leave Mom’s. Here’s hoping you all have a very blessed Christmas and are able to spend time with your family.

I’ll leave you with some Christmas music...It's Christmas Time, by City on a Hill.

Monday, December 5, 2005

The Pickle Ornament and Toby is a Hound Dog

Rachel and I took off for a couple hours Friday afternoon to do some shopping for a birthday gift for Mom/Tammy. We walked around the Burnsville mall and tried to picture Tammy in different clothing items but then we opted for something safe...pajamas. I'm not sure it was something 'safe' though. We couldn't find what we were looking for as most of the pajamas were either too thin or too heavy...not much in between. Rachel suggested we check out Victoria's Secret. "You're not serious are you?" I said... "Sure, we can just act like we're walking by and not really go in but if we see something we like we can go in and check it out." I can't believe that girl sometimes...so that's what we did. We casually walked by the store and I made eye contact with the woman in front. She seemed very approachable (that's her job...I know) and I explained that we were looking for something not at all skimpy but just a regular pair of pajamas for 'my wife.' She showed us to some and we found just what we were looking for. Rachel looks at me as we're standing in the checkout line surrounded by scantily clothed mannequins and says, "So, do you see anything you like?" What a goofball...we both laughed.

We stopped by Nick and Willie's to pick up a pizza order Tammy had phoned in. They have the best 'we make it, you bake it' pizzas! It's even better that they're only 2 miles from home.

After dinner we got busy putting up our Christmas decorations. Rachel and I worked on the tree while Tammy did all the other stuff. It's a several hour job but it looks real nice. Of course, Tammy and I had to give Rachel a hard time about the moose bell ornament she broke several years ago...it's become a part of our tradition. Rachel and I laughed when she unpacked the starfish with one broken arm as we remembered how Toby got a hold of it last Christmas and thought it was one of his chew toys.

Toby had the sweetest breath as he'd found a branch of eucalyptus on the floor and was chewing on it.

I had to run to Fleet Farm to get some more lights and Rachel came with me. She spotted a pickle ornament in a clear plastic box and wondered who the heck would buy that. We would! She thought it was so funny that we were going to buy the pickle ornament and put it on our tree and not tell her mom. We'd wait to see how long it took her to find it. The laugh was definitely worth the $4 for the pickle. The guy at the checkout counter told us that there is a story behind the pickle ornament and he's right. A little story book came with it and goes like this...On Christmas Eve the parents would hide the pickle on the tree and the child who finds it first in the morning is given a special gift. The checkout guy told us that when his parents began this tradition was when he began to lose hope.

I woke up Saturday morning feeling like crap. I think the air is too dry in the house and my head was feeling the affects. I let the pups out in the freshly fallen snow and Allie noticed the neighbor's dog was out so she let her know that this was her territory. Toby joined in with a ouwwouwwouww-ooooohhhhhhhhooooooohhhhhhh I'd never heard from him before. Usually all you get from him is a little wuff, wuff but this time he sounded like a regular hound dog. It was so funny. I think he was more frisky than usual with all the snow.

Rachel's dad picked her up around noon on Saturday. We all went out to a Vietnamese restaurant, Little Saigon, in Burnsville and had lunch together then said goodbye. I got to try pao, pronounced 'faahh' with an upswing in your voice at the end. It's a meat and noodle soup which Tammy has been telling me about for years. It was good and reminded me a lot of some of the Thai soups I used to have years ago. Rachel's dad, Thien, was wondering if we had any extra firewood for his fireplace. I told him I'd put together a load in the truck and run it up to his house. Tammy and I did that a little later in the day. It's nice to be on good terms with him.

Tammy and I left his house and headed to the Mall of America for a couple hours. I love that place...especially in the winter. It doesn't matter how many people are in there, it never seems crowded. The mall is so large that it's able to absorb the mobs nicely. We found a couple things for Rachel for Christmas and I got a couple pair of shoes. My $35 shoes from over a year ago had finally seen enough. I love the Christmas decorations and the festive atmosphere. Before I met Tammy and Rachel I'd often go there on a weekend night and kill a couple hours.

We headed to Timber Lodge around 9:00pm Saturday for dinner and my head was still not right. It's Tammy's birthday on Monday but our schedules don't work at all so we celebrated early. I think of all the restaurants we go to, Timber Lodge is our favorite. We go there a few times a year and almost always get steak with some spicy wings for an appetizer.

We got home and gave Rachel a call as I wanted her to be on the phone when I gave Tammy her birthday gift from us...an iPod Nano. I gave it to her early so she could spend part of the weekend learning how to use it and uploading her music to it. She's very happy to have it. She's been working out at a health club in Farmington a few nights a week while she waits for Rachel at dance class and she thought her workouts would be nicer with some music. Plus, sometimes the guys at the gym have some heavy metal stuff playing and this way she can drown it out.

We're co-hosting a house-hop this Saturday night. We were hoping to not be the last home on the list so Tammy can opt out early if it gets late as she has to work the next morning...we're going to be last. Tammy said not to worry as she doesn't think it will go much beyond 11:00...I hope not.


Thursday, December 1, 2005

Confirmation class and Bush bashing among other things

You've heard the analogy of the frog in a boiling pot of water? I think that's where Christians are in our society today except that the temperature is getting to the point where we're beginning to notice and speak out. I understand that the government can't endorse a religion but in a lot of the cases where Christmas symbology is being squashed, government endorsement of Christianity isn't happening. From the removal of the Ten Commandments in court rooms to the current court case trying to have the words 'In God We Trust' removed from our currency, the Judeo-Christian principles our country was founded on are under attack.

I tend to agree that the workplace is probably not the place for overt religious expression but I worry that we'll some day become a society which has pushed God so far off into a corner that He may one day treat us in kind. I think we've been so blessed in our country and I don't think it's because of dumb luck on our part. God has been there with us all along and I also believe we're hardening our hearts toward Him in a way which saddens Him.

Should we not have a Pledge of Allegiance because of the words 'under God'? Is it a good thing or a bad thing to try and instill in people the belief that there is a higher power?

What do you say to your child when they come home from Confirmation class and tell you that their teacher says they're biased against the bible because their spouse is in a science related field and they just can't bring themselves to accept the writings/stories in the bible? What do you tell her when she tells you that they don't even pray in Confirmation class? What do you tell your child when you pick her up after Confirmation class and she's in tears because they've been studying the 6th Commandment (Thou shall not kill) and she stood up to say that abortion was killing but nobody agreed with her and no adults agreed with her? Do you sense as I do that the water temperature is rising? At what point do you begin to say enough and stand up for what you believe?

Tammy sent off a letter to the teacher last night and told her that Rachel would no longer be attending classes there. I asked Tammy if maybe Rachel should continue there as she could be a beacon of light for some of the kids who may need some inspiration. Tammy disagreed as there would be no support for her from anyone and with Rachel being the 'baby' Christian which she is, she didn't want to see her in that position as it would be bringing her down. This morning when I got home I read the email she sent and I went one step further and sent it to the church's lead pastor. I anticipate they will write or call later today. Here's what she wrote...

My family does not go to Shepherd of the Valley but I enrolled my daughter in your confirmation class as she really wanted to compete in Dance classes and they conflicted with confirmation times at Hosanna Lutheran Church in Lakeville. Her dance instructor offered up your confirmation classes when we told her that we would have to drop out of dance this year due to the conflict. I thought the compromise would be ok as we would enroll back in her confirmation classes at Hosanna next year. I also thought that a traditional Lutheran Church would be a good source of reference for her Lutheran heritage as you would be focusing on Luther’s Catechism.

My daughter has a vital relationship with the Lord. She knows Him as her personal Savior. She has however conveyed to us an uneasiness with the lack of enthusiasm about the Lord in Confirmation class at your church. I understand that you are reaching out to a lot of kids and a lot of kids may not know the Lord but when her teacher states that she is biased about the Bible as she is married to someone in the science field…I find that troubling. I take that to mean that she doesn’t take the Bible as the whole truth. She also stated that she knew that the kids were only there because their parents made them go. My daughter stated to me …” Mom, I want to be in church”. We prayed about it and I told her that maybe she was there to help some other kids know Jesus. But….

Tonight was extremely troubling to me when she got into my car in tears. (She cried off and on all night. She is not a crybaby and can handle teasing and is physically tough…she does have a tender heart though) I asked her what was the matter. She said that you were talking about the commandment “ Thou shall not kill”. She said that kids stood up and said they thought abortion was ok and that it wasn’t killing. She stood up and said she thought it was totally wrong to kill a baby. Then kids talked about rape. Rachel said it still didn’t make it ok to kill the baby. She wept as she relayed this to me. What bothered her was that no one stood up with her against abortion. She felt alone…….was she?

What exactly is your stance on Abortion? No adult stood up and supported my daughter for her stance which is Bible based. No one explained that abortion was a violent end to a life. No one explained that God had a plan for every human life and that all humans are precious in his sight, even the unborn. Adults did however stand up and say that “Sarcasm “ was like killing. Please explain this to me. How can you throw out debate about war and abortion and not offer guidance to these precious seeking minds. You are supposed to be the Light. If you don’t stand on the Word of God as total Truth, what are you there for?

I am just extremely dismayed and disappointed in your leadership. I am taking my daughter out of your confirmation classes. I would really like a response. I fear what you might be teaching my daughter next week on sex. (Please Jesus, let it be on abstinence and not choice and birth control.)

Please contact me,

In Jesus, His Love, His Truth,

Tammy


An update...The pastor in charge of youth studies phoned Tammy this afternoon and said that he was in attendance last night and thought the whole thing was a simple misunderstanding. He went on to say that the kids were given subjects to talk about and to voice their opinions with respect to the 6th commandment. Because nobody agreed with Rachel did not mean that she was wrong. Tammy asked him what the church's position (elca) on abortion was and he stated that they oppose abortion. She asked if any of the leaders or did he himself stand up and explain that to the kids, especially after Rachel stood up and was the only person voicing that belief. He said he did not. Tammy told him that he really needed to clarify the church's position for the children and to give them scripture they can refer to. She stressed that the leadership to conduct this sort of discussion was nonexistent last night.

At one point the class got onto the subject of war and the pastor stated that the war could also be considered a violation of the 6th commandment. (I'd have to disagree here also as I think the commandment is about murder rather than war and there is a difference between the two.)

She also mentioned that after the large group had broken into a smaller group there was a lot of Bush bashing among the kids in Rachel's group. Not once did the teacher stop and ask the kids to consider praying for the president.

The pastor closed by saying he was glad that she contacted him and that he would consider what she told him.

I asked her if the phone call changed her feelings about Rachel going back and she said it did not.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

1975

I wasn't ready for college when I graduated high school in 1975. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. High school felt safe and I knew what was (or wasn't) expected of me but I was glad that it was over because I was getting nothing out of it. Thomas Jefferson HS was a lab experiment of sorts and we students were the lab rats. Modular scheduling was the latest improvement and for students who loved to screw off, this new structure, or lack of it was our friend. Modular scheduling divided the school day into 24 'mods' of 20 minutes each. You would schedule your classes and where you didn't have classes you would have free mods to do with what you wanted. I remember on Wednesdays and Fridays having a class for the first 3 mods of each day and no classes the rest of the day. I learned early on that in a family of 6 siblings all I really needed to do was to maintain good enough grades to keep the folks from having to get involved. There was very little incentive to do any more than what was necessary. I chose the path of least resistance and found myself ill prepared for college in the fall of 1975. Paying for college would've been a whole other issue and I never got that far in my thinking.

Since January of 1975 I'd been living with my sister, Claudia at the Stagecoach apartments in Bloomington. My dad's job had relocated him to Pottstown and I was given the opportunity to remain behind and finish high school. I suppose I gave it some serious thought for all of 2 seconds before deciding that it would be in my best interest to stay behind and finish the education I wasn't getting at Jefferson HS.

Dad took me out and got me a green, 1970 For Maverick with 3 on the tree shifting and plaid seats. It was a great little car with 50k on it. AM radio was about all I knew of back then and it suited me just fine.

After high school I moved 30 miles north to live with my sister, Jackie and her husband Jerry in their apartment in New Hope. I'm not sure where I would've gone had they not offered me a place to live. Possibly out east to PA.

I worked a job for the first month or so out of school at a place called, Minter Brothers in Golden Valley. We put state government licensing stamps on packages of cigarettes. I couldn't have lasted long there because I remember working most of the summer at Northland Aluminum in St. Louis Park. If you've got a bundt pan in your cupboard there's a good chance it came from Northland. In their break room was the place where I first experienced the joys of microwave cooking. I remember heating a poptart with the foil wrapper still on and having it catch fire. I didn't do that again. I worked the late night shift and while on break I used to sit in my car and listen to Radio Mystery Theater on wcco. I used to wear a pair of large, bulky headphones while working the line and listen to Hobbs House on WCCO...anything to pass the time.

In the fall I took a job at the Holiday gas station west of county road 18 on highway 55. That was back in the day when gas was priced around 60c per gallon and kids not sure what they wanted to do with their lives pumped it into your car for you...in addition to cleaning your windshield and checking your oil. I also enrolled at Hennepin County Vocational school in Plymouth to study drafting. Drafting was about the only job I could think of which held any interest for me as a possible career. I went through the motions at school for a couple months but I never really threw myself into my studies. I wasn’t necessarily striking out but I wasn’t getting any hits either.

It was around this time that Jackie suggested I go and talk with the Navy recruiter. I’d never before given much if any thought to enlisting in the service but I figured a talk with the recruiter couldn’t hurt.

I went to the recruiter's office in I think Robbinsdale and talked with a guy named Chuck Wilson. We talked for a bit and he scheduled me to come back and take an exam which if I decided to enlist would help determine what sort of job and schooling I would qualify for. I took the exam and scored well enough to get a seat at the Radarman school near Chicago after Bootcamp. I still wasn’t convinced that I would enlist and then the time came for me to go in for the physical. I remember asking Chuck how far into the process I could go and still back out. It was then that he told me I could go until I signed my name and raised my right hand but that when a guy goes for the physical they like to think a prospective recruit has made a commitment at that time. I remember thinking about that as he drove me downtown for my physical. I think it was in his car on the drive that morning that I decided I would enlist.

Three weeks later was New Years 1976 and I remember being in bootcamp thinking how just three weeks earlier, joining the Navy was the furthest thing from my mind…but there I was…no hair and quickly leaving my old world behind.

I don’t know that I ever talked with Mom and Dad about my decision to enlist or if I sought out their advice...I suppose I did, I just don’t remember. Bryan and Jerry were encouraging to me at the time. I’d learn later that Dad was also a radarman while he was in the Canadian Navy. Being a radarman I suppose paved the way for me getting into air traffic control because I doubt I would’ve shown much interest in the field had I not had some previous radar experience.

Anyway, those are some of my thoughts from 1975.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

50+ Degrees, Trail of Terror and Christmas

Just when I think I've seen the last of the 50 degree days for the year, or even 40 degree days, another one happens. I got up yesterday thinking that maybe it was time to set up my indoor trainer for my bike but I didn't want to. I never before disliked the thought of riding in the basement on my trainer but this year I do. If there is any chance that I can ride outside that's where I'll be. I figure I'm okay to about 10 above zero for an hour anyway before my toes go completely numb. I was out for a couple hours Thanksgiving day in 18 degree weather with winds gusting close to 30 mph. Yesterday it was rain which had me sidelined but only until about 10:00 am. There was a break in the rain and I got in a quick ride before I had to go to work.

Turning off Jalisco on to 170th st I noticed the car in front of me slowing. He'd slowed to watch a beautiful majestic buck standing beside the road. At first glance I thought it wasn't real. I quickly pulled over and took out my camera but not before the deer ran from us and stopped to look back from between the houses. I wish I could've been 5 seconds quicker with my camera.

The roads looked like the roads you see in the movies or car commercials...they were wet with a blue sky. Not something you commonly see unless you're watching TV. So why do they do that in the movies and commercials...make the roads wet? I think it's supposed to give the scene a tranquil affect...sort of like the calm after a storm...I dunno.

I headed south on Cedar ave which is my usual way out of town when the winds are blowing from the south. I continued south for 10 miles and headed east on 235th st...the same way I used to take to get to my parent's home in Farmington over 20 years ago. This road was dirt then but it's a nicely paved road now with very little traffic. Just up on the right across from the house was where you'd take a right turn on to Essex to go to their home.

I had to make a short ride of it and hurry home so I could have time to spray the mud off my bike and get a shower before work. Sorry Toby and Allie...no time for licking the sweat off me today...I've gotta run.

I got to work and while on break I plugged an external hard drive into my computer which I hadn't checked in a while. I'd sort of forgotten what was on it. I knew there were some photos and a few shows I'd taped from A&E but I'd forgotten about the 4gb of video from our vacation two years ago in Orlando. I spent some time sifting through it and had to laugh at our adventures through the Trail of Terror at Universal Studios. This is like no other spook show you've ever been to. The park is full of people in full costume who do their best to keep you on your toes. We debated about going as we knew it would be toward the limits of what Rachel would be comfortable with. In the end she wanted to go but she stuck close by us as you can see in this video...Wmv or YouTube

At one point we went into a house of horrors which Rachel opted out of and it's probably a good thing that she did. Tammy took it like a trooper as it's obvious that the women are the focus of the spook's attention.

I came home last night to Rachel playing Christmas songs on her violin. She's playing at her grandparent's church in Babbitt in a few weeks. I think the plan is for her to play for 15 minutes before the service as people are taking their seats. She's reading music very well now and can take the song book and play any of the music from it. Sometimes it takes a few times before she gets a feel for it but I thought it sounded great.

Our Christmas decorations go up today...Department 56 villages and all. Has your home been taken over yet?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Powers of 10 and God of Wonders

I was in a discussion this past week talking about infinity and the universe. I mentioned how as a kid I used to try and grasp the idea of infinity and I'd feel like my brain was going to throw a circuit breaker as I couldn't get my mind around it. In church today our pastor talked about this very thing and made reference to a website called The Powers of 10. The website not only reaches out into space by a power of 10 but it also goes inward by the same multiple until you're looking at the trails of Quarks. Here's another site I found...begin at this page and travel outward from there. Read the instructions and explanation provided.

This whole thing is a bit intimidating. To imagine that our sun and solar system are just a speck among other similar specs making up larger clouds of combined galaxies appearing again as specks from points more distant. Pretty amazing stuff to ponder for sure.

God of Wonders by Third Day,

Friday, November 25, 2005

Thanksgiving 2005

Did Friday seem like a Saturday to you? It did to me. Rachel and I went out and shoveled a few inches of snow off the driveway this morning then proceeded to see who could slide the furthest after a running start. She won...it's all in the shoes I think.

My truck never left...oops...I was about to say that my truck never left the garage today but that would be wrong. I did make a very early morning trip to Circuit City with Tammy before retreating to the safety of our home empty handed. Internet shopping is still the way to go if you know what you need...heck...even if you don't know what you need. What could be better than having a delivery guy bring your item directly to your front door for a nominal fee? One problem with that though...we were trying to get on Circuit City's website tonight and it was overloaded to the point where they weren't accepting any online orders at the time. So much for the dismal news about the economy.

I spent some time down in the shop working on some stained glass crosses we're doing for a guy who works with Keith. He gives them to his nieces and nephews as baptism and confirmation gifts. He wanted 5 of them and we've got them all done. We did a few extras with the idea that we'd maybe put them up on ebay and see what sort of attention they get but I think we may not even bother. Tammy was looking at the stained glass market on ebay tonight and it is very pathetic. Why bother, was the feeling we had after looking at some of the offerings and what they were getting for bids...very disappointing.

I had to go out today and fix some of the Christmas lights on the front bushes which didn't light last night. They didn't light tonight either but that was just something stupid on my part. They're looking good now. I went out and got some of the newer LED lights this year from Target. They use a lot less electricity and they burn brighter and longer than standard bulbs...but they're more expensive. I hope that by getting more than one years use out of them they'll be saving me money in the long run. It's gotten to the point with the regular bulbs that I've been throwing them away after one or two years because of their failure rate. I thought if one bulb burnt out that the rest of the string would still light?

We've got a guest coming to stay with us this week and although I'm looking forward to their arrival I know that I'll also be looking forward to when they leave. Who is our guest you may be wondering? Our Christmas decorations...tree and all. Don't you feel that after a few weeks it's time for the stuff to go? Yes, it looks nice and warm and festive but after a couple weeks I'll come down in the morning and it's almost as if I want to tell it to go...you've been here long enough...it's time to go back where you came from. I really shouldn't say that because we've made a lot of memories surrounded by our Christmas decorations. They're a part of us and a part of our tradition. Some of the ornaments we put on our tree have been purchased when we were on vacation and they hold a significant memory or meaning for us. There's the glass bell with the moose inside which Rachel accidentally broke some 4 years ago or so and every time we unwrap it we have to give Rachel a hard time for causing a crack in the ornament...we smile and move on to unwrapping the next ornament.

We're moving into the heart of winter now and if you're not careful the blues can take hold. Between the short daylight hours and the demands of the holidays it can be a bit taxing on any sane person. I'm going to try and do my best to not get caught up in the material aspect of Christmas any more than I have to and just enjoy the season. The culmination of the focus of our Christmas celebration is about Christmas Eve service, celebrating the birth of Christ and being together with family.

When you greet your friends don't be afraid to tell them 'Merry Christmas' and eschew the 'Happy Holidays' greeting. Fly in the face of political correctness and put up a 'Christmas tree' and not a 'Holiday tree'. In case you hadn't noticed, the holiday period we're beginning to celebrate is about to be neutered and made virtually meaningless...if we let it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Great Show!

We saw the David Crowder Band along with The Robbie Seay Band and Shane and Shane last night at Maranatha Hall at Northwestern University. Great show! For anybody who is into rock they're missing so much great music if they haven't heard Christian rock...it's really that good.

It was an ugly weather day here with snow in the forecast and winds gusting to 40mph. We left early so we were sure to get there in time as we had to go through Minneapolis during rush hour and we had all of 40 miles to travel. Surprisingly the traffic wasn't a problem at all and we got there with plenty of time to spare. We checked out the T-shirts and other stuff being sold then took our seats.

The Robbie Seay Band took the stage first and did about a 30 minute set. They didn't get the applause I'd like to have seen them get. We thought they were very good and only disappointed that they didn't play longer.

Shane and Shane took the stage next and got quite a loud and warm welcome from the crowd. They obviously knew something we didn't as we weren't familiar with their music at all. Their's is an acoustic sound with some rich harmonies. They played a song toward the end of their show which totally blew me away. I can't remember the name of it but it left me in awe. After they were done playing I walked out front to where the T-shirts and CDs were being sold and bought 3 of their Cds. I can't find the song on them so maybe there's another CD I'll need to find.

The David Crowder Band took the stage and right away they made sure to not disappoint me by playing my favorite song from them...Do Not Move. What a great song...it's quickly become my favorite tune to ride to on my bike. They put on a very fun and at times moving show. Their songs were every bit as powerful live. David Crowder mentioned that all three bands on the stage that night were made up of friends from Texas who go back many years. The Robbie Seay Band and David's band attend the same church in Waco. David mentioned that they were all hit hard a few weeks ago when one of the ministers from their church was while preparing for a baptism when he came in contact with a microphone while standing in water. I remembered hearing about that when it happened. The tour continued and he spoke about how his Pastor's death wasn't an end at all but a beginning.

Toward the end of the show they were playing some bluegrass music and had the crowd on their feet. I looked behind me to see a guy dancing in the isle with a woman on his arm doing a sort of ho-down-spin-yer-partner move. He looked at me and put out his arm for me to dance with him. How could I say no? I did a couple spins with him and then he saw Rachel and said...'Hey, I know you!' Rachel's eyes lit up when she recognized that it was Dan, her favorite counselor from Bible camp this past summer. She got out of her seat and danced with him too. She later told me that seeing him there was a 'God thing'. I'd say she was right. She had a very good time. I asked her later how it compared to the Backstreet Boys concert I took her to for her birthday. She thought tonight's show was much better. These are fun times we're sharing together.

We got home a bit late for a school night...11:15. I told Rachel I'd take her to school in the morning if she'd like to skip the bus and sleep in a little later but she said she really wanted to take the bus so she could tell her friends that she saw Dan at the show. I got up in the morning before she left and I was singing a tune from the night before. She smiled at me and said she was doing the same thing.

Tammy and I spent a few hours down in the shop today officially marking the start of Grapevine Art Glass...well, sort of. We're working on a project for a guy who works out of Keith's shop. He wants 5 crosses as gifts for relatives. I've done 2 or 3 for him in the past. These are pretty detailed multi colored stained glass crosses. We're thinking of making some more and putting them on ebay to see what happens.

Monday, October 31, 2005

7000 miles and the David Crowder Band

I went over 7000 miles on my bike this morning before work. I've slacked off some in the last couple months but I had a good week this past week. It was a beautiful day for riding. Most people might call it cool at 45 degrees when I left home but if you've got the proper clothing it's not bad. Anyway, I managed 51 miles this morning to get me to the 7000 mile mark before the month was over and that was my goal.

Tammy, Rachel and I are getting psyched to see the David Crowder Band in a few weeks in St. Paul. They came out with a cd last year titled, Illuminate, which was excellent and just a few weeks ago they released another called, A Collision. There's so much good music on it but my favorite song is Do Not Move. It's got a bit of a techno feel to begin which I like but then it really rocks. They're playing with the Robbie Seay band and they too have got a very good cd they're touring with. It should be a lot of fun.

Tammy and I are hoping to take the plunge soon into the world of glass blowing. We went out to Foci Studios in Minneapolis a few weeks ago where they were having an expo We got a chance to meet some of the artists and watch them work

I've got a friend, Bill, who works out of the same studio and he invited us to come by and watch him blow glass a couple Saturdays ago. Bill has been blowing glass for about 8 years and working with stained glass a bit longer. Here he's adding some glass twists to the vase he's working on. It a fascinating medium and one which I've been wanting to try my hand at for quite a while. We've got several other projects we need to complete before we get going with it so it may be several months yet.

The Supreme Court nomination sort of put Liddy out of the spotlight for now. I'm glad that Bush has nominated a conservative man for the position. It's going to be an uphill road to get him confirmed and it may never happen. If he doesn't make it I hope the next nominee is equally as conservative and that Bush doesn't back down.

I made the mistake last week of showing my support for the pro-life movement on a liberal oriented stained glass message board. The subject was birth control and it eventually evolved to abortion. I added that it was my hope that someday we as a people would look back on these times and see the people who support abortion then as we now look back on people who 200 years ago believed it was their right to own slaves. People then didn't look at slaves as being of equal value as them and deserving rights much the same way the proponents of abortion look at the child in the womb and say it's not deserving of life. We as a nation were wrong then to condone slavery and we're wrong now to condone abortion. For stating that belief I was banned from the stained glass message board. Whatever...the forum I was in was called 'The Bully Pulpit' and it carried a warning, 'Enter at your own risk'. So much for a free exchange of ideas. My views were too harsh I was told and that they were aggressive and insulting to people. I didn't really intend for them to come off as warm fuzzys for them to feel good about. It was quite a pathetic display on the moderator's part. I wouldn't have minded being banned if I truly had been rude and insulting. She (the moderator) called my views 'radical' and I referred to hers as 'twisted'. Because I used the word twisted I was apparently crossing a line and being insulting. I'm not quite sure what's radical about wanting to stop partial birth abortion but I can tell you what is radical about going inside a mother's womb and crushing the life from a living being. I'd say that's also a bit twisted.

I was out on my bike last Saturday on a busy 4 lane highway when I saw a chocolate lab trying to cross the road. He barely made it as the last car missed him by only inches. I circled back to see if I could coax the dog toward me being careful to not cause him to head back in the direction of the highway. Thankfully he let me approach him and I was able to slip my hand around his collar. It looked like he'd been out on his own for at least one week, maybe longer. His ribs were very evident and he was so thin through his rear. I called 911 and they were able to send a car out to meet me within 10 minutes. I'm not sure what became of him but I was glad that he was going to get some needed care.

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Please Wake Me

I got up early this morning and headed straight for the shower. As I stood there with the water falling over me my mind suddenly turned to New Orleans and for a moment I thought I must've been recalling a bad dream I'd just had. Those thoughts quickly passed and I could feel this pang develop in the pit of my stomach...once again. I don't think any of us who aren't directly involved with the nightmare which is New Orleans can begin to understand what they're living and dying through. I know I can't. The stories are so heartbreaking. I was watching Oprah yesterday and they showed a 25 year old man hugging his 14 year old dog and nuzzling its face. He would soon have to board a bus for some far away place and leave his beloved companion, aged and scared to fend for itself and to say goodbye forever. I had tears in my eyes watching this as other dogs ran in and out of camera view having already been left to themselves. Finally, the producer of the segment interrupted the scene and told the man that he would take his dog for him and two other dogs he'd found and care for them until they could be reunited. How sad is that? I feel guilty even mentioning pets when there are hundreds if not thousands of children who have been separated from parents possibly forever.

Thursday, September 1, 2005

Katrina

What a desperate situation Katrina has created. I'm sure there are some real good people who are reaching deep to help their fellow man but the stories which are having the biggest impact on me are the ones of looting and kicking your fellow man when he's down. I'm not refering to the people scrambling to try and feed their families. I'm thinking of people returning to homes to find them not only left in a shambles by Katrina but also picked over by looters. I can't say that this is any sort of low for humanity because it's not. I just need to see some stories which assure me that there is more good than bad occuring there amongst those who remained.

Having said all that, the looting is such a minor occurrence in the scope of what the area has to contend with. It's no doubt a sickening response to a tragedy. The larger concerns are how do you reintegrate one million people who until the storm were contributing members of society and are now for the most part wards of the state? How do they pick up the pieces when there are none left to pick up? Do they rebuild the city or just plow it under and start anew knowing that this won't be
the last time the area will face a similar storm and resulting catastrophe? Make the city some sort of Venice where they embrace the water rather than fight it.

We're a resilient people but there's a perfect storm developing which has the potential to send our economy into a recession which could take us years to come out of. Maybe it's late and I need some sleep. Maybe I've just had my fill of bad news for a while. I'm not very optimistic at the moment. I need to ride.

Monday, August 15, 2005

It's a God Thing

I was to do a 200 mile ride with Silver Cyclists on Saturday but it didn't happen. I left home in the dark at 5:30am to make it to some guys home by 6. I found the neighborhood but couldn't find the house. They were leaving at 6 sharp so I decided to soft pedal it south on Cedar ave and figured they'd eventually catch me. I got to Northfield 25 miles later and hung around at one of the main intersection expecting to see the group. Jeff Thompson showed up 5 minutes after I got there and we headed to the coffee shop expecting them to show up there any minute. 15 minutes later we figured they must've rolled through town and skipped the java knowing that they weren't going to get 200 miles in by sitting in a coffee shop. We headed out with hopes of catching them along the way. An hour later we were in Kenyon where we spoke with a couple other cyclists and they said they saw our group 30 minutes earlier about where I'd expect them to have been. They were probably less than 3 miles ahead of us but Jeff wasn't interested in doing 200 anyway so I decided I'd just shoot for 100 and call it a day.

We had the best time talking along the way. We go to the same church and much of our conversation focused on our Christian walks. We talked politics some and realized we're both cut from the same cloth...conservative. I first rode with Jeff maybe 10 years ago but only raced with him once...8 years ago at the Headwaters 100 mile race in Park Rapids. We both finished in the pack that day. Jeff does a lot of racing...I think he said he races about 30 times a year. He's a cat 2 which puts him one less than the pro category. He's a very good rider.

We decided that we should get together with our wives sometime and go out to dinner. We both also realized that maybe we weren't intended to meet up with the group that day as we likely would never have gotten to know each other as well as we did.

Yesterday morning I was going to take a pass on church but at the last minute I decided to go. As we were leaving our seats and walking toward the exit doors we happened to run into Jeff and his wife, Tracy and their two kids...another God thing. The service we were at probably had close to 750 people and for us to run into them was not likely. It's been a couple years since I've last run into Jeff at church. Tammy and Tracy were able to spend some time talking which I thought was nice. I do think God intends for us all to become friends.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Lotsa Riding

I've had 3 of the last 5 weeks off from work. It's been nice to be away. Tammy and Rachel were at the Sonshine Music Festival in Willmar, Mn for 3 days last week. I stayed home with the pups and spent some extra time on my bike. I managed to put in over 500 miles last week. I'm on track for 6000 miles by my birthday in late August...that's sort of been my goal...same as last year.

I found a wallet on my ride yesterday. I was flying along country rd 46 at about 33 mph when I saw it laying on the shoulder. As I drove by it I could see a driver's license. I put the brakes on and circled back for it and put it in my jersey pocket to check it out when I got home. I had no idea what it contained other than the driver's license. It was loaded with cash...$286 worth as well as a credit card and some other IDs. I'm surprised nobody else had stopped to pick it up as the area was very busy with traffic. It had been run over several times. Tammy gave the owner a call and drove out to meet them with it. They were very grateful to have it back. The wife of the man who lost it said she had been praying all day for its return. He'd lost it the day before but couldn't imagine how it got to where I found it. He tried to give Tammy a reward but she refused. I'm just so happy that God let me find it.

It was an interesting ride for me. I also found the tiniest little sparrow along Blackdog road down by the Minnesota river. It had fallen out of its nest and was standing in the road. He was smaller than a walnut and could flap his little wings but I think he was still at least one week from being able to fly. I noticed that one of his siblings was flattened next to him. It could be that they were knocked from their nest during the previous night's storm. Anyway, it wasn't practical for me to try and get him home so I set him in the woods and said a prayer for the little guy.

Monday, July 11, 2005

I'm Part of a System I Am

US intelligence under Clinton was drastically cut. If the intelligence Bush used was bad you can look to Clinton to own a good deal of the blame for that. His administration was more concerned with prosecuting Bill Gates than they were the threats which really mattered to our country. It was also the Clinton administration which made regime change in Iraq a goal. Bush followed through and made that happen and he did it with the best intelligence information he had to work with.

If you disagree with our invasion (I prefer to call it a liberation) of Iraq for the purposes of regime change, is it also wrong that we had sanctions against Iraq? The sanctions only hurt the little people. Was it wrong for us to put any restrictions on Saddam at all? Did you ever believe there were WMD in Iraq and that more were being assembled? What happened to them? Everyone who was anyone in Washington was saying that Saddam had them and they needed to be taken out of his hands. Would it have been smarter for Bush to ignore the cries of Democrats that there were WMD and instead hope that there really weren’t any and if there were that they wouldn’t be used against us or his neighbors? I have a hunch that if Bush was to have ignored the claims of WMD and they were actually used, he never would have heard the end of it from the Democrats. Do you agree? Don’t forget, the onus was on Saddam Hussein to prove that the WMD were destroyed and he never did that. Lacking that proof, Bush would have been a fool to hope there were no WMD. I really never had much faith in the inspectors…did you? Oh sure, there were no WMD in the end but if there were do you really think the inspectors would have found them? Remember…the onus was on Hussein and not us.

I’m curious to know why bin Laden was considered a threat to us but Hussein wasn’t? Hussein was some toothless bogeyman while bin Laden was the real deal. Maybe someone on the left here can help me to know what to look for in a guy so I’ll know when we need to take the next threat seriously.

I realize that a minority of our oil even comes from the region but one thing that is important to me is that we apparently have a limited amount of oil and not a lot of emphasis being put on alternative fuels. It’s not hard for me to imagine a time when the oil in Iraq becomes a vital source of energy for not only us but for the world. I think that having the control of the oil in Iraq in the hands of someone a bit more stable than Hussein or his sons is a good thing. And no, we’re not taking anybody’s oil. Last time I checked we’re paying dearly for it.

Monday, July 4, 2005

Happy Birthday America!

Happy birthday America! I'm back to work after being having a couple weeks off. I love my job and most everything about it but I really needed to spend some time away. We didn't plan any extravagant out of town trips this summer as we indulged ourselves a bit more than we planned on our basement project

On my first day off we went to Valley Fair and had a blast. There were very few people there and most rides had little to no waiting. Power Tower here we come! I can't get enough of that ride. Tammy and Rachel love it too so that makes it triple the fun. Rachel brought her friend, Katrina along. Another ride we like a lot is Steel Venum..."steel venom is launching in 3...2...1...Scream!!!

Rachel and I posed for our annual caricature drawings. I think this is the 3rd year we've done this. We all thought hers was the best...very cute.While we were there I had a guy come up to me and ask me if my name was Kevin. I knew right away who it was...Frank Coburn. We used to be neighbors 14 years ago when he was in elementary school. Funny thing because I'd just been thinking about him and his family a couple days earlier. I should give his parents a call. We've been exchanging Christmas cards all these years but nothing more. Jim has MS and I don't know if he's able to get out and around very well. I need to call them and stop by.

On Father's Day and I got up early and snuck in a ride before Tammy and Rachel made it out of bed. We'd gone out to dinner the night before to the Outback Steak House. Good food and the price wasn't bad. My one wish for the day was that we could go out and bicycle the Cannon Valley trail in Cannon Falls. It's one of the rails to trails projects in Minnesota where they take old railroad beds and pave them for bicycle traffic. There are never any hills to speak of on them so they're just fine for those who don't get on a bike much. Tammy and Rachel bicycled while I roller bladed. We took the trail 10 miles to the town of Welch where we stopped and got ice cream. Another 10 miles later and we were back in the truck trying to find a DQ or more specifically a Mr Misty! We didn't find a DQ but we found Cannon Falls' version of a DQ and their version of a Misty. They must've used well water or something because they were bad...I mean there was something seriously wrong with these things. We went out of our way on the way home to hit the DQ in Farmington and get the real thing to wash the bad taste out of our mouths.

So that was Father's Day for me. Tammy and Rachel gave me a few gifts...some new cologne, some tools from Sears and some bicycling socks...I can never have too many cycling socks. I watched a bit of the US Open from earlier in the afternoon to wind the day down.

We've been kicking around the idea of getting a tattoo for a few years...all 3 of us. Rachel drew it out on her ankle and this is perfect. A Christian fish symbol...nothing obvious but big enough so you can make out what it is.

It was nice to have some time off with no plans. Rachel and I headed out to the Mall of America one day and kicked around for a couple hours. She's gotten too old for Camp Snoopy but she enjoys stopping at Beadit for some different beads. We decided to catch a movie after the mall. We saw Bewitched and were both a bit disappointed in it.

I finally made it out to see Jackie. I brought Mom and the pups along too. Toby and Allie have a blast there as her yard is fenced in and they can run around and go nuts playing with her dogs. A little later in the day Tammy, Rachel and I headed out to Stillwater to kick around some. Stillwater is a small town on the St Croix river which divides Minnesota and Wisconsin. There are a bunch of antique shops and stuff. We goofed around for a couple hours and then found a restaurant for dinner. We also stopped in a tattoo shop to see if they could fit us in but they were booked. They had an opening at 6:00pm the next day but we passed. We also found out that Rachel will have to be 16 before she can be tattooed.

I've been a bit lazy in my riding for the last few weeks. I'm just shy of 4000 for the year on the road and that's very good but I was on track to be closer to 5000 at this point. I haven't been doing much in the way of long distance stuff this year as I did last year. I don't want to force it so I'll just do what my body is comfortable with doing. I went out last Thursday for a long ride and beat myself up pretty well. There was a west wind at 25 to 30 so I figured I'd pedal into it for a few hours and make my way to Glenco...50 miles west.

The ride to Glenco pretty much sucked. I thought it was going to be a windy but sunny day. As I headed west the sky became cloudy and I'd occasionally get rained on. The wind was so strong that it nearly knocked me over a couple times. My wheels have bladed spokes and they catch a lot more air than normal spokes.

I got to Glenco and was happy to turn for home with the wind to push me. I was about 5 miles out of town, cruising along at 31 mph when I heard the sound of my rear tire blowing out. My bike fishtailed just a bit before I got it back under control. I pulled over and got busy removing the rear tire and tube. I carry a spare tube with me and a patch kit in case I have two flats...which is very unlikely. Anyway, I tried putting a bit of air into the tube to give it some form before placing it in the tire and to my surprise the tube wasn't holding any air. There was a hole in it larger than the hole in the tired which had just gone flat. I got out my patch kit and soon learned that the patches were too old to be of any use. There I was, on the side of the road 45 miles from home with my bike which was in need of more help than I could give it. Just when I decided the only option I had was to try and thumb a ride, a guy in a white pickup truck backed up along the should and asked if I needed any help. I explained to him my dilemma and he got out to take a look.

The first thing he says is "Oh, nice custom Serotta Ti...wow, and SL2 wheels too" Hmmm, I think this guy is an answer to prayer. He was a total bike nut and he was heading in my direction. I climbed in and we talked about the European peloton. the Tour de France and other bike stuff. He drove me about 25 miles to a bike shop in Chanhassen where I bought a couple tubes and got my bike back on the road. I was still intent on getting my hundred miles in but I'd have to pay dearly for it as it meant I'd have to head back into the 30 mph wind again. So much for having a tailwind to complete the ride.

It was a long day but I was glad I stuck with it and completed the ride. Tammy and I went to the Taste of Minnesota on Saturday. Dennis DeYoung and the Music of Styx was the headline act. She's not much of a Styx fan but I've always liked their music. He's been working with the same musicians for quite a while...21 years with his lead guitarist. He's a bit of a character on stage. There was a guy standing in front of us who had Tammy and I looking at each other and smiling. He was so into the music and he would pump the air with his left arm/fist as the base drum pounded out the beat. It was a good show and Tammy walked away with a better appreciation of their music.

It was a good couple weeks off for me. I'm a bit bummed about having to go back to work but I really can't complain. I imagine my life without my job and it brings me back to reality.

Monday, May 30, 2005

What's New?

It's good to feel the sun on me when I'm out on the road...the heat helps too. It's been cloudy, rainy and cool almost all of the month of May. The sun and heat are exactly what I need to help lift my spirits. Coming off the prednisone took a solid month and I think I'm totally back to normal as of a few days ago.

Rachel had a violin recital a couple weeks ago. It was the first time she played with an orchestra. The piece wasn't very difficult according to her and she really enjoyed the experience. She was sitting next to the first violinist who is also the most senior member of Dakota Valley Symphony. She had some nice compliments for Rachel. I asked if she gave her any pointers but she didn't. Rachel was hoping she might. Tammy and I were so proud of her.


Violin Recital, 2005 from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

The weekend before last was Rachel's dance recital weekend. She did four performances over three days. She's so poised up there. I asked her how she feels being on stage and she said she's not nervous at all and that she actually enjoys it. She was sad when the weekend was over, wishing she could do it all over again. Tammy's parents made their once yearly journey into town to watch her dance. We meet them about 90 miles north of the cities and drive them in as Tammy's dad isn't comfortable driving the busy freeways anymore.

Last week was a busy outdoor week for Tammy and I as we spent a couple days buying flowers and getting them planted. It's always such a big job but it looks so nice. I should get some photos in a few weeks when they've had a chance to grow some.

We went to see Star Wars over the weekend. I'd never seen a Star Wars movie and Tammy has seen them all. Yes, I was doing it for her. I saw all the hype the show was getting in the media so I imagined it was going to be pretty good. I imagined wrong. Okay, the special effects and all are pretty cool but that alone can't carry a movie. The fight scenes with the light sabers were all the same. According to Tammy it was all too predictable. She was telling me not even half way into the movie how it was going to turn out. She was right and I didn't mind her guesses as it was becoming a bit ho-hum to me. We also rented The Aviator. That was the one movie I wanted to see in our new entertainment room. It was pretty good. Actually, there's a second disc which comes with the dvd which includes the History Channel's one hour documentary about him. That too was quite good.

Okay, back to work.

Friday, May 6, 2005

Abortion

Mat Kearney, Tomorrow

I hear a voice crying out from the bellies of their mammas
Hold on for today don't worry about tomorrow
Though the rains of today seem to fall with sorrow
Let me be and we'll see this life for tomorrow

I hear a cry going out in the middle of the night
Under the scatter of the stars from a voice cracked with fright
And as the tears stripe cheeks from pain running south
The taste of salt hits the corner of her mouth
Resting on tied tongues with no breath left to speak
Sick of throwing up with no bread left to eat
Tired and confused from disillusionment
Sunny days turn to grey and away he went
Ripping the hooks out your heart from the promises at dark
The words found their mark as the sheets came apart
Every spoken word broken
As he flipped you a token
Kiss on the cheek as his feet found the open door
What's in store for you he didn't question
Shook his burden to the floor to leave you guessing
About the future and what it will unfold
But your still standing there rockin' it so bold like

Holding on these songs of hope I cannot sing them without you
You can't just point a finger and say it's all right
Make a trip downtown and put it out of sight
Because two came together so strong one night
And two wrongs don't make one right
Giving a voice to the voiceless saying it's choiceless
'Cause they're priceless my princess
I feel the kicks and the churns give me a turn
And a shot at this world to fight the fight
To beat my plight and let my light shine
In this dark time with all its ways of wearing crime
And let this world drown in these ultrasounds
Hearing this heart beats speak sweet so profound
From beat down to higher ground
Where hope abounds with love that astounds
Les Miserables this ain't no miserable daughter
Calling you Cossette 'cause God will be your father

Sunday, May 1, 2005

A Lousy Week

Here's some blog listening music...Beautiful Love by The Afters.

I'm glad this week is over. The weather was cold, windy and rainy which didn't do much for my depression as I try and come off the Prednisone which took me through my headache cycle. Every day was an effort to do anything other than just sit on my butt. It made it easy for me to make excuses for being lazy but I'd rather have the normal me back. There isn't much information online about prednisone withdrawal but they do mention dizziness, tiredness and irritability and I've definitely experienced those. I was hoping to find something which would tell me how long I can expect to feel this way before I'm back to normal. It really depends on how long a person has been on the drug and at what doses. My adrenal gland which produces steroids for my body shut down as the drug did its job. Now that the drug is no longer there the adrenal gland needs to wake up and begin production. It's different for everybody. I was hoping that exercise would cause it to kick into action sooner and maybe it does but not soon enough for me.

Anyway, I was able to get out on Friday for a 40 mile ride. It felt nice to be out and I didn't have the nagging feeling I've had lately that I'd rather be home. Although my route through Prior Lake changed quite a bit since I was last though a couple weeks ago. They've begun a 5 mile stretch of construction which left me with no shoulder at all. I came through the area just ahead of rush hour so I was glad I didn't put this ride off till later in the day. There was a fair amount of traffic out there to contend with and it was no place for me to be. I stopped and asked some surveyors how long the job will take and they figured through the summer. That's too bad because that stretch of road I use quite a bit. I finally had my camera with me to snap a photo of this barn I've been wanting to photograph. It's not far from Orchard Lake in Lakeville. It's a cool looking barn with some interesting signs and decor on it...it's also got some sagging to it which gives it a lot of character. I've never seen it in the winter but I notice they light it for Christmas.

I was a total bum all day yesterday. I was going to get out on my bike but I laid down and took a couple hour nap instead. Most of the guys from Silver Cyclists were racing today and I'm feeling like I really want to get my license and join them. I think I could work my way through the cat 4&5 categories pretty quickly and race with the 3s where I think I could be competitive. Tammy would rather that I didn't...especially after crashing on the group ride a couple weeks ago. I'm sure there would be crashes along the way if I got into racing and that's one of the reasons I haven't I suppose. The main reason though being my knee. I know without question that I would push myself too hard and cause more damage to my knee. It's what ended my running and got me back on the bike. The crashes in bicycling can sideline you for quite a while. It's not a good thing to be throwing a 47 year old body against the asphalt...nothing much good comes from that.

Toby and Allie got me up around 7 this morning. It was so cute on Friday morning...after taking the pups out and feeding them around 6:30 I went back to bed with Tammy. We slept in much later than normal and at 9:30 Toby had had enough. He got up on the bed and barked for us to get up. I of course didn't scold him and promptly got out of bed no doubt reinforcing his behavior.

I took the little guys for a walk this morning and made my way to church. Hosanna is working with World Vision to try and sponsor 800 children from Tanzania, Africa. Theirs is such a sad story with the pandemic of AIDS which has ravaged the country. Every 10 seconds a child is orphaned. It's a place which doesn't have much of anything to begin with and when you take away a child's only means of support they're literally left with nothing. We already sponsor a child in Indonesia through Christian Children's Fund but we felt we had to sponsor another through Hosanna's drive. Our new child's name is Alicia and she's 2 years old. We'll learn more about her and begin to exchange letters with her family. It takes about one month for out letters to reach Anna in Indonesia; I wonder if the letters to Africa will take about as long?

I was very tempted to crawl back in bed after church. It was lightly snowing and the temp was in the mid 30s with a 15 mph wind. All I could hear in my head was to forget the bike but I had to get out. I actually enjoyed my ride even though the weather was crappy. It felt like an October day as I approached the Minnesota River bottom underneath the Cedar Ave bridge. I didn't have much time for the ride so I kept it short at about 25 miles. That's probably a good thing because I'm working till 10:30pm and I know I'm going to be whipped without some rest. I hope the old me shows up this week...that would be so nice.

Monday, April 25, 2005

No Hurries and Kevin Barbour

I was hoping that when I came into work today I'd have my medical back but that's not the case. Actually, I'm expecting a call at any minute telling me I'm good to work traffic again. I can always hope. I met with my doctor last Wednesday and he gave me the green light to get my medical back as it appears my cluster headache cycle is over. I'm waiting on the regional flight surgeon from the faa to act on it and get back to me. In the mean time they've got me doing some menial stuff in the control room which I don't need a medical for and which needs to be done anyway. It's not all that bad but I'm anxious to work traffic again as this is the longest I've ever been away from the boards.

Coming off the Prednisone hasn't been fun. The injuries I received in my crash 10 days ago hurt more now than they did then. I'm not sure if that's because the Prednisone was helping to reduce the swelling and overall pain. Anyway, last Friday I decided I was coming off the drug to give myself a couple days over my weekend to allow my body some time to adjust. I felt lousy yesterday but I'm much better today.

My sister sent me a link to an old neighbor of ours when we were growing up. I think Kevin was maybe a year and a half younger than me but we used to play a lot together when we were 9-10 years old. Their family was our family's first exposure to black America. This was during the late '60s and I can remember the talk amongst the neighbors was not one of embracing this new family. As it turned out, the Barbours' were probably some of the best neighbors we ever had. Our mothers were best friends and even though they moved apart decades ago they still stayed in touch until Kevin's mom died a few years ago.

I think Kevin's relationship with his parents has not been a good one. The last I heard, his father was trying to reach him but Kevin would send back his father's letters and packages unopened. Kevin's been working as a musician and has released a couple CDs. I ordered his last years release. Rooms is very nice as is the entire CD.

I gotta go...my medical just came through!

Okay, so it's good to be working traffic again but I felt like a fish out of water in my first stint back at the sector. 5 weeks away from the boards is quite a while...heck, sometimes just coming back after a weekend can be difficult. Anyway, I'll keep plugging away and hopefully my feel will come back and my comfort level will rise before too long.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Crash

I crashed my bike today in the rain on our group ride. I have an idea what happened but I can't be sure. There were about 15 of us die-hard types in a steady rain. I was talking with Rob next to me as we rode side by side (much the same as this photo from last week's ride) in a pace line with plenty of room between riders. I saw up the road that a couple guys had broken off the front and were maybe 20 seconds ahead of the main group. The next thing I noticed was that one of them was turning back in the direction of the group and at the same time I could see that the riders in front were beginning to slow. Out of nowhere I began to go down. It all happened so quickly but in very slow motion. From what I can tell, the rider behind me was a bit too close and was unable to slow in time to avoid me. I talked with Rob later and he said that Leonard Dolentz made contact with me from behind. He said it looked like I was going to be able to keep from crashing but with the wet roads and all I wasn't able to keep my bike up. I hit the deck pretty hard but got up right away to assess damage to my body and bike. I don't know if Leonard was embarrassed or what because he sat on the ground for over 5 minutes and still hadn't gotten up by the time I headed for home. It turned out he had no injuries whatsoever so what's up with that? I had some areas of road rash which bled nicely on my ride home. I banged my knee pretty hard but all in all I came out of it okay. My jersey got torn up pretty badly which sucks but it ought to look pretty tough. I didn't break anything except for a twisted spoke on my front wheel. I got it to Hollywood's shop and he had me fixed up later in the day. (great new shop in the Minneapolis area btw)

When I went to Hollywood's later to pick up my bike he said that Leonard had been in and that he was fine. His rim was messed up but he wasn't hurt. I didn't think he looked bad as I saw him sitting up after the crash. I think he was a bit dazed and that was all...maybe a bit embarrassed too. Anyway, Leonard was saying that he thought he was behind me so that would make sense that he touched wheels with me from behind and washed my rear wheel out. Hey, it happens.

Saturday, April 9, 2005

Cycling, Prednisone and Cluster Headaches

Where does the time go. It's not like I have't been at my computer...too much so lately. I'm redoing our website so it renders itself in browsers other than IE. I've got it all done now except for the family photo pages and I hope to have those done over the next couple weeks.

I rode with Silver Cyclists again today and had a good ride with them. We had 30 of us at the start and finished with half that. The winds were southeast at 20 gusting to 30 so there were many people who were blown off the back in the early miles. We attempted to wait for them a few times but we finally realized there was no way to keep a group like that together. Too much variation in abilities to expect that to happen. It was tough to keep a paceline with the quartering crosswind and at times we simply had to form mini echelons and find cover from the wind where we could. Sometimes though with more of a direct headwind we were able to form a nice pace-line and work together. The final 25 miles home were a blast with speeds steady at 30 to 35 mph for miles. This is a fun group of guys with some very strong riders. They were pushing me to my limits but I could tell that they were all frying out there. I've got over 1800 miles in my legs on the roads this year and I'm glad for that. Jeff was telling me I've got May form in April...I just hope June form isn't too far off because I have a feeling next Saturday's ride is going to be a 'take no prisoners' ride. I finished the day with 64 miles.

I haven't written much lately. I've been in a Cluster headache phase for the past 3 weeks. I've been aggressive with the Prednisone and so far it's been working fine...no headaches. They pulled my medical at work so I've been doing assistant duties. It's been nice to not worry about getting a headache in the sector and wondering how I'm going to get through it. I hope to have the prednisone down to 20mg a day later in the week and that should allow me to get my medical back providing I don't have any headaches. Hopefully the regional Flight Surgeon won't drag his feet in reinstating my medical.

I've been listening to some great new music lately. Tammy got me several disks for Easter of some Christian bands. A favorite track of mine, Beautiful Love is by a group called, The Afters. These guys are excellent. They started playing in a Starbucks coffee shop where they all worked together. When things got slow they'd start playing for the customers and it grew from there. I'm not sure how the coffee got poured but I have a feeling the customers didn't care.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Pope

He's just a man. He's not a god. It's time to move aside and let somebody else lead the church. The pope is becoming a joke. Why is he so stubborn to relinquish power to his successor? Is he that important that the world can't get along without him? He's just a man.

Monday, February 21, 2005

If I could freeze time

Do you ever with that you could freeze time? Tammy and I were sitting on the couch tonight listening to Rachel play her violin and that thought occured to me. I would love it if we could freeze time for the next 5 or 10 years. I love our lives as they are now. The most rewarding thing I've ever done is to be Rachel's (step) dad. I could go on and on and on about how happy I am that she is in my life. She is the icing on our wedding cake. I love the relationship the three of us have together and the love we share.

Friday, February 11, 2005

A fun day

Rachel and I went skiing to Welch Village today. Each winter we try and get away at least once. She plays hooky from school and we spend a day on the slopes when nobody else is there. It was a beautiful day with the temp near 40 and the snow plentiful. She's a natural on skis. It may be that all her years of dance class has given her such good balance which translates well to the slopes. We went out once together last year and my concern then was that she knew no fear and carried too much speed for her ability. She wasn't that way today. She always kept her speed in check and showed good awareness of others around her. Our plan is to buy her skis and boots for her birthday and possibly a season pass to Buck Hill next winter. We have a fun time out there together. It's nice because we spend the whole day talking about whatever is on her mind. We called it quits after 5 hours because she needed to save her legs for an early morning dance practice. The dance practices require a lot of her and it's not something she takes lightly. It worked out well for me too as I didn't want to push myself too much and risk injury because of tiredness.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Mike Maughan

Man, I've been ignoring my blog. Anyway, I've been coasting on auto pilot for a while as I try and avoid the mid winter blues.

Tammy had a large party planned for a dozen or more friends from work last Friday but 7 inches of snow put the brakes on that. She may try again for this Friday but it will only be for a few friends.

I've been trying to locate a friend of mine from my Navy days for several years and tonight I finally got a hit. A Google search turned up his photo and email address. He's now a Major in the Army from what little information I could find. I sent him an email so hopefully he'll find it tomorrow and get back to me. We were very good friends way back when. We used to cruise around San Diego in his Toyota in the mid to late '70s. He was such an easy going guy and a hoot to hang around with. I'm not quite sure how we lost touch with one another. Here's Mike from a photo taken on our '76 Westpac cruise. Here's the current photo of him I turned up tonight...

I sent out an email to the rest of my Navy buds to let them know I've more or less located him. I won't be able to know for sure until I hear back from him.

Allie had to have 3 teeth removed today and a small fleshy growth on top of her head as well. She's doing okay but I've got a feeling her next trip to the vet will have a reluctance she hasn't had before.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Dreams

I continue to have the recurring dream with different variations. A couple nights ago the dream morphed into one where the fish in our fish tank had jumped out and were dying on the floor. It got more foreboding when I was standing with Rachel watching as large cliffs of sand were falling over and burying people. I noticed a snake on top of one of the cliffs and in the next scene I'm holding the snake in my hand and nibbling at its tail. I look down to see that the snake has bitten into my thumb nail but it didn't draw any blood. There was no pain but then I've never experienced pain in a dream.

I mentioned the dream to Jackie and she immediately came to the conclusion that my dreams are about Noy. When I first began having them I too thought the same thing but I discounted that idea. The more I think about it though the more I think Jackie may be right. These dreams are about neglect and abandonment. I hadn't neglected my obligations to Noy but since my support payments to her were final a few months ago I suppose it could be interpreted that I abandoned her. It's a very sad dream which leaves me with a very heavy feeling.

A couple weeks ago I exchanged a some emails with her son, Joe. I hadn't had any contact with him in two years so it was nice to see how he was doing. He mentioned that his mother was in Thailand visiting her family and was nowhere near the tsunami. I contacted Joe because an old friend of his mother's was attempting to contact her. Susy is a good Christian person and the type of person I've been praying would find their way into Noy's life. I hope they're able to connect.